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IPads and Other Tablets in the Classroom: How to Get it Right

Kathy SchrockEducation technology leader Kathy Schrock has long believed all students should have their own devices.

Schrock, a fan of portable technology since the days of the PalmPilot, argues that handheld devices and software have become so economical and widespread that schools finally have the opportunity to make individual technology available to their students.

“Right now the price point is there,” said Schrock, an instructional media professor for Wilkes-Discovery’s master’s program and Arcadia University. “The great apps are there. The time is right to make sure that every student has a device with them.”

The reason to do so is simple: On-demand access to information. If a student gets lost in a conversation or becomes confused, an individual device makes it simple to get a question answered and then join back in.

“Students can access information at the point of need. They can conduct research and get information when they need it” with tablets, Schrock said.

A tablet also replaces several potentially expensive tools. “In one device you have a camera, a video camera, a ruler, a calculator,” Schrock said.

Schools have lots of options for ensuring these tools are useful for students. Schrock’s tips include:

  • Give kids access to tablets at school in a way that allows students to personalize them and have a standard operating system and hardware throughout a classroom. But that’s not always possible.
  • Host bring-your-own device classrooms if your school can’t provide access to tablets but your students have smartphones. (Use browser-based tools to make up for differences in operating systems and platforms.)
  • If possible, avoid a cart of tablets that students share. Schrock believes that makes it too difficult to personalize the devices in a way that is most useful to students. If that’s not possible, try cloud-based desktops, where student can see the same configuration and their own work when they log in to any of the devices.
  • If your school has a limited number of iPads or other machines, keep them in a single class rather than moving the tablets throughout the building. This allows teachers to document long-term success so that best practices are established
  • Teachers, technology specialists and others should have a standard evaluation process for apps.

Schrock’s a fan of educational technology. She’s been a public librarian, a technology specialist for a district and more. She’s always excited to get her hands on new technology. Once the tablets are in classes, here are few tools, apps and tricks she was excited about the day we talked:

  • Have students use the tablet as a whiteboard for taking notes. Ask them to highlight things they don’t understand or have questions about. Using streaming or sharing technology (or simply having students take a screen shot), teachers can quickly access which areas need further review.
  • Infused Learning allows teachers to set up classrooms and quizzes ahead of time and to create projects on the fly. Also, teachers can track student progress or share student work with the classroom.
  • Ask3 creates screencasts which allow students to annotate videos so that a classroom can comment on student work or ask questions about a teacher’s presentation.
  • Nearpod sends students teacher-generated videos students with built-in questions.
  • Justand is a favorite of Schrock’s. It’s a sturdy stand that allows users to work with the iPad or other tablet while using it as a document viewer.

With affordable devices in the classroom, teachers can help students answer questions they have now, document their learning and engage in new ways to learn, Schrock said.

Want to keep up with Schrock’s latest reviews? Check out her blog here: blog.kathyschrock.net

Follow her on Twitter @kathyschrock

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