The iPad Adventure Day 1
Ok, so day day one was a couple of days ago, but here's the run down. I had the clever idea that my staff would feel more relaxed if I put food out. I thought "How could they get nervous and uptight if they are busy staying away from mini candy bars and cookies?" I could not have been more wrong. Ouch! We knew the first thing we had to do was decide on the best apps for what we wanted to do. We started with the basic word processing, excel and ppt. I know what you are thinking. Why didn't we just use Google Docs? In the world of laptops I would agree completely and we have used Google Apps for a few years, but I wasn't happy with how smoothly Google Docs worked on the iPads and neither was my staff.
I knew we would want to use something more robust and user friendly than the standard Google Docs interface on the iPad so I first turned to CloudOn. CloudOn is a great office type tool for the iPad. If you are using DropBox as your storage I continue to suggest CloudOn for text documents and spreadsheets (not so much for presentations). Unfortunately, when connected to the new Google Drive (Docs is now Drive) it would sometimes make duplicates of the file instead of a smooth sync. (on a side note, I have discovered that DropBox (in general) has a smoother syncing experience than Google Drive) Next we turned to the app OfficeHD. Not only could we connect multiple Google Drive accounts as well as DropBox accounts onto the single app, we could use OfficeHD as a pivot point and share documents between DropBox and Google Drive! So we chose OfficeHD for our official office type product.
With this done, I thought I was in the clear and could start to breath (that first decision took us a while) so now it's on to journals. Instead of having each child have a separate spiral bound notebook for each class (how 90's) it seemed appropriate to supply the iPads with a journaling app. We originally decided to use PaperDesk for this purpose due to it's simple user interface, and it's ability to auto-sync to DropBox. Unfortunately my educators had decided that as much as humanly possible they wanted all of the student apps to sync with Google Drive. (each student will create a share folder with each educator giving them their own individual link to their teacher and a place to turn in their homework) So the search began, but in the end we didn't find anything we liked as well and tabled the discussion so I could explore our options that night. At this point my educators were getting stressed and trying to solve detailed questions about how things would work without understand the big picture so I had to stop them and force the candy on them (I knew that had to help at some point).
Finally, the pdf app. This was a doozy. We wanted the ability to share pdf files with our students in our learning management system (Fronter) and instead of having the students print them out and fill them in, we wanted to (as much as possible) keep them digital. (this has taken up most of our time) We started with an app that I love and have used often called Remarks. Remarks allows students to draw, type, annotate and all kinds of things to a pdf file and you can set it to automatically update to DropBox. Sweet! Awesome! But my people want it all in Google Drive. GGGGGRRRRRRR. Foiled again! Ok, at this point I stop the conversations. We are going in circles and I'm concerned that my staff is going to freak out a bit so I send them on a break. Breaks are good, it helps people decompress and process.
After the break I had us leave the journal and pdf annotator discussion behind and we discussed presentation apps. I am a believer in concepts such the Universal Design for Learning which, in very basic terms, states that students should be given the options to present what they know in a way that fits that child. It may be a speech, a video, a poster, a book or standing on their head balancing tea cups on their left foot. If they can demonstrate they have learned the objective, they are good to go. Sooooooo, we need a variety of apps (and I wanted to make sure we all had the discussion of allowing different options with my staff). So of course we looked at OfficeHD's PowerPoint, then I showed them some other options. This was a relaxed discussion about the different options we can use on the iPad for presentations. So we ended our day by playing with new apps without a specific agenda.
This day would have gone easier if I would have simply chosen the apps for the educators to use. I could have dictated what apps were used, how they were used and how students would share files with educators, but I don't believe that would be appropriate. I also believe I would have made some poor decisions. I know a lot more now about what goes on in their classrooms than I did back in the spring. Now that I have a more thorough understanding of the workings of the different classrooms, I am able to guide my staff better in choosing technologies and can offer better advice when they seek me out. I also believe that the technology department in a school should not dictate the technology in a classroom. Too many classrooms are limited in their technology by the rules and regulations of the technology department. Too many times a teacher is told they may not do something that is educationally valid because the technology department forbids it. I take the reverse approach. I work with my staff and design my department (I'm using the term department very loosely here) around the desires of the teachers and the movement of technology in education as a whole. So our first day was frustrating, it was long and I really need a nap. But, because we went through this process today, the school year will run much more smoothly and most importantly, our students will be given better opportunities to learn.
Next up: annotate, annotate, annotate, pop quiz!