Hey everyone! Ever look at your ipad and think, “hey, I could use this for science”? Or look at the computer and think “you know, I could be making much better use of this, but I don’t know how!” Well, if thats you, perhaps you want to consider making use of the myriad of options available to educators and scientists on the iPad, and Jess and I are here to help!
In all seriousness, our professional development session today covered some of the basics of how to use iPads for educational purposes and ran through some apps that might make your life easier while doing so. The power of an iPad comes from the hugely wide variety of apps that are available, so it is of course not even remotely possible to cover all of them, but we did our best to find useful ones.
The beauty of having iPads (or other tablet devices, really) for students is that they then each have instant access to a wide variety of programs to benefit their growing skills. Armed with the right collection of apps, access to an iPad can grant independence and autonomy in a way that might be difficult to achieve otherwise. If our goal as science educators is to eventually create students who are able to conduct their own experiments and be actively engaged in their own learning, then effectively used iPads can be a great way to supplement/scaffold that growth.
To start with, we wanted to address some of the basic apps that will be on pretty much every iPad out there. These apps aren’t necessarily the “snazziest,” but they allow you and your students to do basic functions; for our purposes we covered the “office suite” of Apple (Pages, Numbers, Graphical, Keynote), Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, and Wolfram Alpha.
The second set of apps we wanted to then make future teachers aware of were some free apps related to curriculum standards. While these aren’t really for your students, they can be extremely helpful as a reference for teachers, so we covered the NGSS app, Common Core app, and Khan Academy.
The third set of apps we then particularly wanted to cover were some that would be useful for a classroom or for camp. While looking for apps to address we were primarily aiming to find ones that (1) would empower students to find out material/information on their own, (2) were simple and reasonably straight-forward to use, (3) would guide student thinking in an inquiry-based science direction, and (4) would supplement activities students would already be doing.
Obviously there are a lot of apps out there that could help students, from flashcards, to educational games, to references, to homework lists, and beyond. Our final selection consisted of Skitch, a science vocab app, Dragon Dictation, and Trello.
And, to encourage all of our professionally-developing-teachers to experiment with some of these new apps, we created our own Trello with all the information from our presentation for you to refer to later, which you can access with or without an account (although without you cannot edit). https://trello.com/b/lTHFpcd8/ipad-pd-project
As an inclusion teacher I also wanted to add a category on accessibility and apps for people with disabilities, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to properly delve into those, and those types of apps would probably be less immediately useful for camp and our student teaching placements. However, we both felt that we would be remiss if we neglected to mention the extremely large variety of supplemental apps available for people with disabilities. There are apps that can help students communicate, help them plan or structure out their day, keep track of behaviors, create reward systems, track progress over time, and I even believe there are some that can help with creation of IEPs.
In general the rule of thumb for iPads and iPad apps is, if you can think of it, theres probably an app for that. It might be a little hard to find, but if you can determine exactly what you’d like the iPad to do for you, you can probably find a program that does exactly that thing.
So what are the possible drawbacks? Well first, iPads are not cheap, and getting a class set could come with a whole host of problems (cost of device, access, internet at home, theft/loss, cost of apps, damage, etc) in addition to the usual technology-related issues (batteries, wifi issues, general technology-refusing-to-cooperate-issues, etc). Also, the time investment required to determine which apps will best suit your needs and then to play around with them should not be neglected either. However, Jess and I both agree that these can be powerful tools if used to direct thinking (not distract it).