One of the great things about my work place is that I have the freedom to try new things. While attending the Technology in Education Conference at Saint Rose last month, I participated in a great session that showed us how to incorporate iPads in the classroom. At school, we have about 6 iPads in our laptop cart that were not being used, or at least not being used to their maximum potential. I left that session inspired and determined to use those iPads.
I came home that day and bought my own personal iPad to experiment with free science apps at home. This week we had our professional development days and I immediately secured a work iPad from our technology director. I have 7 weeks to experiment with how to use an iPad specifically in the science classroom and laboratory. Tomorrow is the big debut!
I haven’t done a lot of research yet, but I do know that initially I will use the iPad in 2 ways–1) to project science apps and 2) to control my desktop remotely. Setting up the work iPad took relatively little time and minimum equipment. To project the iPad, I obtained an Apple VGA adapter ($30) to use with my cables and Activboard. I also downloaded the Splashtop Whiteboard app ($20) for my iPad and the accompanying Splashtop Streamer on my work laptop. Somewhere down the line, I will get a stylus for annotations.
I experimented with the iPad, laptop, and Splashtop at home earlier, and I like the mobility it provides. I can walk around, talk, pull up graphics, annotate and highlight notes. One of my problems this year was that I was limited to the “t-zone” during lectures and direct instruction because I had to be near the laptop. I hope this eliminates that problem.
Some of the organizational apps I downloaded are Dropbox and Evernote. I use these tools all the time because they give me instant access to my files any time, anywhere. Earlier I was excited about incorporating QR codes in my lessons for scavenger hunts and the like, but that quickly died as I realized we have the first generation iPads and they do not have cameras!
I had more trouble looking for appropriate middle school level science apps too. There just didn’t seem to be many of them in iTunes. I saw many life science apps, but not many that focused on earth science. I downloaded Qwiki (reference) too; I thought it was a good way to explicitly teach vocabulary through audio, video and text. I will combine it with my visual word wall in class. If you’re a science teacher who has used apps in the class, please share your favorites (and how you apply them in teaching and learning)!
My goals for starting this iPad adventure on my own at school are to find ways to really differentiate science content for my students, to integrate more technology in my teaching, and to encourage colleagues to venture out and be more creative with the available tools we have at work. I am hoping that this experiment will help me learn how I can later incorporate more iPads next year for a 1:1 program.