In week two of our iPad pilot, the power (and efficiency) of having a more paperless learning environment is becoming abundantly evident.
Students and teachers both are exploring ways to interact paperlessly, using apps and a little ingenuity to do so. And the fact that the iPad is portable enough to be with the students and staff everywhere means an unprecedented amount of access to the information they need. And while the point of this pilot is not to develop a paperless environment, it is already amazing how that ha become a very immediate result and benefit.
Some of the helpful methods/tools being used?
1. Paperless document/project creation– Using Keynote, Pages, note-taking apps like AudioNote, Penultimate, or Sundry Notes, iMovie, etc. students can create their work and share it paperlessly via email with the teacher. No more, “I forgot it at home, or incompatible software preventing files from opening, etc.
2. Paperless assignments–Standing at the xerox machine running off review packets?–Gone! Because iPads deal with pdfs so easily, teachers can share out their assignments as .pdfs, either via their websites, qr codes, email, etc. iBooks can store teacher syllabi, review packets for students, handouts, etc.
3. Paperless assignment “turn in”– Students can turn in their assignments paperlessly. We are using a variety of tools. We have Google Apps, including email, so one option is students emailing their assignments to the teacher. By setting a different subject line for each assignment or class, the teacher can use filters on Gmail to sort the different ones into separate folders quickly. Other tools we are exploring to do this with are Evernote, eBackpack, Dropbox, Box.net, etc. Our network is accessible through the app WebDav also, so students can store or turn in their papers on our own network as well.
4. Paperless assignment grading–Once student papers have been returned to teachers electronically, teachers can also grade them that way. Using Google Docs on a desktop, the teachers can easily grade and comment on the assignments via Google Docs tools. Or teachers can open the papers/assignments on the iPad and use additional apps to comment on them, such as the free app neu.annotate, which allows markup of a document.
One of our teachers uses neu.annotate effectively by utilizing the tagging feature of the app. Each students’ assignment can be tagged with a unique tag for that class, the teacher can write on the paper, put a stamp on it, etc. and then “share” the paper back with the student via email out of neu.annotate. Similarly in Google docs, papers can be shared with students and they’ll see the comments. Similarly students can conduct peer editing or peer review or collaborative projects in these same ways.
5. E-book use– Some of the online materials for classes can be used via Safari. Students reading classics for their literature courses can download them from Project Gutenberg’s site easily. And the Follett e-books we had already purchased that are in our library catalog? Now Follett has a button that allows them to be read without Flash! So they are accessible too. And pull any books into the .pdf viewer, like those from Gutenberg, and they can be highlighted and marked up in neu.annotate or other .pdf annotation tools.
6. Communication– Teachers are exploring new ways to communicate with other campuses (like our Alternative learning environment) or with faculty or students at other schools via Facetime or the Skype app.
Sure much of this efficiency has so far revolved around document consumption and relay, and communication. But this is just in 7 days of students having iPads. And it also is a tremendous budget savings to the school–reducing the amount of paper passing hands and time and money spent printing, xeroxing, shuffling papers, etc.
But the happiest and most powerful benefit of all is seeing all the staff and students coming together to problem solve. Students helping teachers with utilizing an app, students sharing apps with one another, teachers showing other teachers new methods for doing things, teachers sharing with students, and tech staff and library staff all in the mix as well. It’s opened the door to a more collaborative and experimental environment in general as we all learn together. And the fact that the learning is fun, and new, and totally outside of the box for many adds to the shared energy.
The other powerful piece is that because of the district’s policies, students and teachers have really been empowered to solve problems, use iPads as they see fit, experiment, play, explore, and the environment has been very supportive, rather than reactive or fearful.
For the library, as week three approaches, we are working on adding Overdrive’s library collection to our offerings, so that students can check out books to their iPad from our collection. An area in the library has become the iPad help desk, and will be eventually staffed with student mentors. We are hosting “lunch and learns” that the tech department (and we) will be putting on. We’re planning to start an “appy” club for students and staff combined to foster sharing, and we’re planning to video some tutorials of teachers and students who have come up with unique solutions to some of our problems. It’s taking a village to make these changes and the library is a key component of that village.
Now on to week three…..