Thursday, October 4, 2012

iPads in the Electives Classrooms

Many times, when there is a new implementation of technology or a new way of thinking, people usually consider core subject educators.  They don't often consider the non-core subject educator, especially when it comes to funding.  When I taught music in a public elementary school, I was very fortunate to work with a principal that saw the potential of the arts and recognized how the non-core educators could help his school reach its potential.  He made sure that music, art and physical education educators were considered in any school plan and he listened to our opinions as strongly as he listened to the opinions of core subject educators.  Since I have left the music classroom and entered the world of education technology, I have attempt to take the same approach.

When my school decided to implement a 1:1 iPad program, I immediately considered the music and art educators.  I knew they could do amazing things with iPads, but I also knew they had a different way of looking at the world.  They would need a different type of support and a different type of professional development.  There were several things to consider in this approach, and which apps to use was the least of it.  I had to consider how technology could enhance their respective subjects and how I could help them manage classroom behavior in a way that having the physical equipment in the room would not get in the way or become distracting to the students.  I also had to find a way to integrate the arts into our classroom management system that allowed them to participate in digital learning without them feeling like they were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  The solution was simple.  Patience, patience and more patience.

First let's talk about the professional development.  The electives educators were encouraged to go to the introductory training given to all of the core educators.  After the initial training (how to use the iPad, find and request apps, share files etc....) they were given the option of staying to learn more, or going off to experiment on their own and working with me directly at a later date.  They chose the latter and that's what we did.  I worked with the art teacher in using a variety of apps and using her Apple TV to project her iPad to the front of the room.  I then encouraged her to record videos of herself completing class warmups (using the app Explain Everything) and posting them online to share with students and parents. That involved learning how to use the schools classroom management system.

Classroom management systems are built with a set of tools such as discussion boards, file sharing, quiz modules and grade books.  These all fit well within the confines of a traditional classroom, but not necessarily in a forward thinking arts program.  The trick was to use the tools that were a natural fit to the arts, encourage the arts educators to be open minded to new ideas on some tools and ignore other tools that are simply inappropriate to an art program.  To date, my art and music people are using file sharing, links (to youtube videos) and discussion boards.  They are using a variety of apps on the iPads as well.

In music, students are using audio recording, a digital metronome and Garage Band to compose music. The art teacher is using apps like Brushes and Doodle Buddy for two dimensional drawing and Cast Drawing and 123D Sculpt for three dimensional drawing, and it doesn't stop there.   She uses a variety of other apps such as National Geographic in order to allow students to experience photography.  The last time I walked into her room, she had the fifth grade students looking at an image on their iPad (from National Geographic) and recreating that image using nothing but a black ink pen.  I'm no art critic (I can barely draw a stick figure) but those students were doing some really neat stuff!

For your further reading, here are some interesting website about the iPad and the arts.

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