Not So Distant Future

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Not So Distant Future

Piloting iPads in library settings

September 5, 2010 · 8 Comments · Web 2.0

After I saw our students playing chess on their iPads in our library cafe area last spring, I knew that it was time that we get on board and look at the role iPads could play in our technology/e-book offerings on campus.   Watching students using iPads, I could see the engagement and enthusiasm and interactivity that a larger but portable device had to offer.

It’s large enough so students can gather around it, sit with their heads over it watching or reading the same thing, but small enough to be very portable–and that communal, social use is what I’m witnessing in the library and elsewhere.

So we’re fortunate that after some district discussion, our library is piloting the use of six iPads which are housed in and issued from the library.   During the pilot, we are starting with a group of six iPads that can be used in the classroom in small group settings, for individual use by teachers or students, or for use in the library, and we’ll be doing informal surveys as we  assess these uses.

First off, it’s one of those technologies that you bring into a room and every teacher and student immediately wants one.  But it can’t just be about the bling–we want to be sure that we are seeing how it fits into the education picture here and really push the different  applications of it as a tool.

So far, one of the features I really think will have great benefit for library accessibility in particular is the ease with which you can make any website an “app”.  With one click we can make our library homepage, our catalog, our databases each a touchable app on the home screen of the iPad.  How much more accessible that makes our library resources, removing barriers to their use by our students!

There have been logistical hurdles to cover which I’ll share in future posts, but so far, we have been circulating the iPads to teachers for 3 day checkouts (since so many wanted to give them a try) and the teachers have all found very specialized and different effective uses of the iPads depending on their subject area.  We are gathering their feedback in a Google form to compile later on.

Here’s a few  interesting apps that I’ve been testing out so far that are excellent for educators:

iSourceLite ($) allows MLA documentation of sources.  This is the only paid app I have installed.

Mighty Meeting — lets you upload a powerpoint presentation to the iPad, and then invite other iPad users into it for a text chat while you flip through your slides, no matter where they are(Thanks Tim Lauer and Paul Wood for testing this with me!)   There’s no sound on the free version, but it’s a cool way to share and discuss a powerpoint or presentation that is being planned.

Whiteboard — allows you to collaborate between two iPads or more on a whiteboard drawing or communication

Sundry Notes is a really nice note taking/whiteboard app, which allows math calculation, voice recording, whiteboard and text use, and documents can be exported as pdfs or you can import items from Dropbox, Evernote or Google Docs.

AudioNote Lite is a great little app for both audio recording and note taking or drawing.  I used it today to record part of a district inservice in a classroom and it picked up the audio fairly well even though I wasn’t that close to the speaker.

Sketch Lite also looks like a handy note taking, drawing, and brainstorming tool, though it only exports to the photo album.

Photoshop Express(also for the iPhone) is a quick version of Photoshop which lets you crop photos or add a few filters/effects to the photo.

SmartNote Free is another and pretty useful Note taking tool.  It has all sorts of widgets that can be embedded like Venn Diagrams, musical notes, audio recordings, etc.  The document can be converted to a PDF and emailed out of the iPad.

Tap To Talk is an excellent beginning tool for accessibility for students with difficulty in communicating.  They simply call up an icon and press it and it communicates for them.

24/7 tutor is a nice multi-language tutoring program for beginning foreign language learners.

And of course, the iBook app and Kindle app are excellent choices for libraries, along with many other reference apps that Joyce Valenza mentioned in a recent SLJ post so I won’t rehash them here.

I’m also keeping a page on this blog for iPad resources and we’re compiling a spreadsheet of apps we’ll be using that will be shared in a future blog post.    Will iPads or something iPad-like be “the thing” that’s in everyone’s backpack and on every teacher’s desk?   We of course don’t know yet, but it’s fascinating to be at the intersection of so many changes in information/book delivery.

Thoughts, comments, or questions on our progress are welcome.

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