Better Than Butter on Toast: A Trial of iPads and Laptops Together

Nowadays, it has become the norm that teachers use technology to enhance teaching and learning in their classrooms. At Chatsworth International School, every teacher receives a laptop for school use.  It is used for  planning, creating resources, building websites, assessments and communicating with parents and students. This year, the Year 6 team (Steve Snell, Serrin Smyth & Daniel Withington) took on the extra challenge of trialling the use of an iPad as a second teacher device to determine whether having an iPad, in addition to a laptop, would change the workflow, documentation of student learning and instructional practice.

The Hardware

Each of the Year 6 homeroom teachers were provided with an iPad Air and an Apple TV. The three teachers collaborated with the education technology coach (Emily MacLean) regularly throughout the first semester to document and reflect on their experiences through the guiding questions of the trial. After an initial list of apps were generated, the apps were installed and maintained through the IT department. Occasionally, the technology department would suggest apps but most app requests came from the teachers. The teachers chose to only include educational applications on their iPads, used these devices strictly for school purposes and left the devices at school. During the collaborative times, professional development was provided to the teachers as well as an opportunity to share ideas. The professional development was not too extensive as the teachers involved were quite tech savvy. However, if this was to be rolled out whole school, other professional development models would have to be explored.

“The teachers quickly adapted to their new devices to the point where they now can’t imagine doing formative assessments without the iPad”

Throughout the semester, the use of the iPads in the classrooms became more prominent and an extension of the technology integration that the teachers had previously been doing. The Year 6 teachers appreciated the mobility of the device, allowing for ease of integrating it into their daily duties, documentation and flow around the classroom. The teachers found the classroom management applications like Pick Me and ClassDojo to support their classroom expectations and motivate students. In addition, teachers could easily keep themselves organised through email, calendar, Evernote and Google Drive.

It’s Often About Assessment

Two of the biggest benefits with using the iPad was assessment and documentation. GradeBookPro was primarily used for quick assessments, anecdotal notes and to easily see the spread of the students within a class. The teachers set the rubric grades to be similar to our reporting model based on our standards. With the information in their hand wherever they were, assessment was truly able to be used to inform teaching and support students in their next steps. Further to assessment, the iPad was used to document learning in videos and images that could be shared with students to reflect on and include in their e-Portfolios as well as share experiences on the class website. The workflow became more efficient for sharing, which in turn, created faster and more frequent communication with parents.

There were some surprises along the learning journey. The teachers quickly adapted to their new devices to the point where they now can’t imagine doing formative assessments without the iPad as it has become such an integral part of their assessment process. Another surprise was that the teachers never handed their devices over to their students until it was suggested one collaborative meeting. From there, it became another resource to students for quick video and photographic documentation that could be shared through Google Drive and accessed on their laptops to further manipulate and use.

Success, But Should It Continue?

Overall, the iPad trial was a success in showing that the use of the iPad improved the classroom experience for the stakeholders involved. There are still many questions left to be answered. Would all teachers benefit from two devices to enhance their teaching practice? Would we have similar results with early years or high school teachers? Would some disciplines benefit more from two devices than others? How would new teachers cope with learning two devices at once?

For now, the Year 6 teachers are continuing to use them even with the official trial having ended and it will be interesting to see how their use evolves throughout the remainder of the year. A laptop still has its benefits with ease of creating content and accessing information but using an iPad for the right job, in conjunction with a laptop, can effectively enhance the teaching and learning experience as a teacher.

Disclaimer: Ideas and opinions in the blog posts are the work of the author and do not necessarily reflect the ideas or beliefs of 21CLI.

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