Thursday, May 5, 2011

Introducing the Teachers to their iPads

Phase 2 of our iPad Adventure has begun! Yesterday the five teachers who will be implementing iPads in Kindergarten next year received their iPads and joined this blog. Here is a rundown of the process so far:

I think of this as Phase 2, because during the last two weeks, (Phase 1), I have been getting ready for yesterday's gathering.

Phase 1:  Setting up the iPads for Teachers
I set up an iTunes account using an email address that is an alias for my own, and a password I could share with this user group. Any activity on the account will send receipts to me, so I can track changes. The central computer for the account is in my Tech Lab and will be the place for teachers to get updates of apps we purchase for the program.

I researched apps, both free and paid, that would give a broad sense of what is out there for the teachers. I learned to use Apple Volume Purchasing (see my previous post). Overall I downloaded a long list of apps for us to try, not just for K's, but also for our own use so that the teachers could try using the iPad for everything. I will post the apps we're trying and reviews as we write them in a separate post. I visited two schools to talk to teachers and students about their experiences. I set up each iPad (these are the 64gig 3G iPad2 models for teachers. Students will have the 16gig, no 3G). I named the iPads for the teachers so I can keep track of them as I update them later. I also purchased the RGB projection adapter for each teacher and the camera adapter.

Phase 2: Orienting the Teachers
Armed with the good suggestions from my friends at Collegiate in NYC, I started the meeting by setting some expectations.
1. Join this blog and post weekly. Post about the user experience, about how children in your life use the iPad, reviews of apps, problems you're having, and thoughts about managing them in the classroom.
2. You can purchase a contract to use the cellular service, but it's on your own dime.  You can also purchase your own personal apps, books, etc. through your personal iTunes account. Consider this your working computer and use it all the time.

Then we went over Melanie Hutchinson's five tips:
1. Play first! Everyone needs to be allowed to play before they are expected to focus on work. Mess around, show your family, observe how different people of different ages interact with it.
2. Build and explore your network - I encouraged the teachers to explore the links I've added to this blog and to share any they find along the way. Expand your circle and learn from others.
3. Find great apps - we will be reviewing the apps I have already loaded here, and seeking leads to others.  The teachers are asked to write reviews of those we have and suggest new ones. In the end, only the vetted apps will be loaded on the 10 kindergarten iPads.
4. Don't lose sight of your learning goals - we are seeking to enhance learning through the use of this technology, not merely to replace what they already have in the classroom with a virtual version. That is what makes this pilot interesting. Of course, I hope that we will find that there are ways we can teach with the iPad that offers students creative and intellectual opportunities they don't have access to now, but it's possible we won't. That's the adventure.
5. Management is key - our first challenge is to name the student iPads. Do we call them simply iPad1, 2, 3, or can we come up with fun names that K's will connect to. Literary references? Shapes? Colors? Still to be decided. From my end, we are looking at the possibility that the new Mac OS "Lion" will have a mobile device management piece. Updating wirelessly would be fabulous. More to come on that one.

Finally I walked them around the device. Those with iPhones knew what to do right away and could help others. We all practiced taking pictures and movies, everyone set a background of their choice, and we practiced consolidating apps into folders. With that, they all went home with their new "toy". I look forward to their observations on this blog!

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