I am very lucky that my school is doing an iPad trial to see whether this pretty desirable piece of kit is actually any good inside the classroom, instead of the (not usually very) trusty teachers laptop. After bowing and scraping and making lots of coffee in the techies office, I managed to get my hands on one to try out last term.
*ahem* The first thing I noticed is that the iPad is somewhat shiny, and the second thing I noticed was that it would not continue to be quite as shiny if it were to be subjected on a daily basis to the unceremonious dumping in handbag/book bag on the mad stampede to ensure that the chocolate biscuits are not all taken when you get to break. If they really made these things for teachers they would probably need to look a bit more like a Fisher Price plastic coated contraption than the executive cool that is the iPad (2, 16GB with 3G in case you’re wondering. Not that I have a SIM card). So I ventured on to the internet and spent lots of my own hard earned cash on some covers to ensure that the precious would stay as shiny as possible.
I have had an iPhone for ages but to be perfectly honest, apart from a few fairly futile Hiragana learning apps (which seem to shout out the answer at the same time as testing you….ehh?) most of the apps I have are not particularly educational. I decided to pick the brains of a few other people who recommended some apps for me to try out.
Splashtop Whiteboard – £6.99
(This is not the same as Splashtop Remote Desktop, so don’t get all excited that the price has gone down to £2.99 and buy the wrong app by mistake.)
This is probably the best app I have in terms of teaching, and it certainly impresses the students. First you must download a small program onto your desktop PC – which I know sounds like a very simple feat but I have also worked in schools where installing any piece of software on a computer results in a lot of umming, ahhing and sucking in of air through the teeth from the techies as if you’d asked them to pole vault over Everest. Luckily our techies are rather nice and allow me to fiddle with most things on our desktops – thank you techies! The app then allows you to connect to your Windows PC via remote desktop – OMG, Windows on an ipad – gets people every time. Well, so what. You have a glorified Powerpoint presentation screen, and not a lot else, right? Admittedly it is extremely useful when presenting, and I am looking forward to using it with the L3 Extended Project presentations this summer, as in another disguise I am a supervisor for Perspectives on Science.
However the best bit of this app and the reason you pay the extra 4 quid for it, is that it has the kind of tools you get with Promethean and SMART boards, built in! You can annotate on the screen, you can add icons, type in text…and even better, you can hand the ipad around in the classroom and have THEM do it! Admittedly there is a little bit of lag which can have hilarious results if the kid is looking on the whiteboard and not on the ipad, but it made for a much more entertaining “spot the mistakes” type intro with Year 9. I did try to use it for a revision class with Year 13 where I asked them to write some code but due to the fact that most of the frequently occurring code symbols (brackets, colons and the like) are on the 3rd page of the on screen keyboard, this did not go so well.
Evernote – Free
Someone recommended I get this because it allows you to take notes and keep pictures in the same place. I thought I would try it out by keeping notes on the progress of my A2 coursework and EP supervisees. To be honest I didn’t last long with using this and it wasn’t through the fault of the app itself which is actually very well made. One of my other colleagues on the trial pointed out that the iPad is extremely good for consuming but not very good for creating, and I agree with this statement. I can touch type and I suspect many ICT/Computing teachers can too. If you can touch type you will find the on screen keyboard SO UNBELIEVABLY FRUSTRATING, especially if you have long nails. If you are someone who cannot touch type but has learnt to type fast with two fingers however, you will probably love it. I haven’t used Evernote very much because of this reason, I find it takes me 3 times as long to write things up on the ipad than it would to log on to the PC and do it. However, it is neat to have things in one place, and the app is thoughtfully made, so you may love it.
Dropbox – Free
This app is so awesome, and the PC version is almost even better (although it does eat a bit of a chunk of my Vista CPU usage, grrah). It is essentially FREE storage on the internet, and you can drag and drop files from your PC and view them on your ipad. Don’t bother printing out the minutes of a meeting, bring your ipad and have it there in front of you (and other much more rock ‘n roll uses, no doubt!) Sadly, I suspect many schools will have blocked Dropbox so you may find you are unable to use the website. Another potential issue is that you shouldn’t use it to store confidential files or information about students – but this is just common sense to me. I use it to save those worksheets I created at home and need to use the next day in school, and it does me proud. And if you’re too stingy to pay for the extra storage, just keep putting stuff up and deleting stuff as and when necessary. It’s like having your own free USB stick that also works on your iPad. Awesome.
Do you know of any apps which would be good for teaching? Have you done something cool with an iPad in your lesson? Let me know on here or via Twitter @codeboom