Sunday, September 26, 2010

iPad in education?

So, last spring my Assistant Principal asked me if I thought we should pick up an iPad or two to investigate their educational potential. At the time I didn't see any immediate reason to. Sure they're great for content consumption, web surfing, and the battery life blows away all laptops, but these things only make sense if you have a classroom set or are going 1:1. None of those really justify the expense of buying one or two.

Now, enter this year. Over the summer I spent three weeks in a workshop learning a teaching technique called modeling. You can read reflections of my implementation of modeling over at FLOSScience, my blog focused specifically on science education. Anyway, at the center of modeling is Socratic Dialog. The instructor challenges students to explain what they mean in their own words beyond simply parroting back the vocabulary. In order to really be effective I need to know what level of mastery each of my students have demonstrated on each concept, so I've been keeping notes on our discussions.

I have 120 students who are taking physics or honors physics this year. After two weeks I've amassed a stack of sheets of paper trying to keep track. But I can't really do any analysis unless I spend quite a bit of time entering data. Enter my new idea.

What if I had some sort of device that I could easily carry around my room? One that I could easily enter data in on so that I could track individual student progress. My iPad was ordered last Friday. I plan on carrying it around and using it to collect data as I go. I'm still working out exactly how I'll do that, but that will be easier once I have it in my hands. I'll probably go with Google Forms (assuming I can enter data in forms on the iPad). If that doesn't work I'll likely go with Bento.

I will also be investigating some other ideas including:
  • Using the iPad to replace my Bluetooth Wacom Tablet
  • Recording discussions with a note taking app that will record audio along with any notes I take. Like a LiveScribe.
  • Creation of next generation text books. My electronics website is a start, but it can go further. PDF files are only slightly better than paper.
  • Creation of iPad apps. I have a group of students who are starting an iOS programming club. A pair of them have already submitted an app to the iTunes store!
  • Other ideas will come to me I'm sure
I'll be sure to share everything I use my iPad for here. If you know of any educators using iPads or of any other cool things I can do with one please let me know.

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