Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Using iPads in Education Setting - creating this workshop

I wanted to take stock of what has been an important stage in my development - the creation of a workshop I'm currently running called Using iPads in education settings.

I began thinking about the possibilities and potential of tablets in the classroom about a year ago.  This was based on a few things I've read and a belief that the seamless integration for this book size device could really work in a classroom setting.  Then I bought an iPad2 and my feelings were confirmed.  I started explore educational apps and made a concerted effort to absorb knowledge from my PLE and PLN.  I then sought and receive some well timed funding to buy 15 iPad2 with a view to running workshops introducing potential tablet use in classrooms.  The great things about having multiple devices was that I could run practical workshops and draw in educators who wanted to try using these devices before bought any.  I went with iPads because this is what I knew about and was the best instance of a tablets available at that time.  Working in central London means that we could easily be reached by a massive number of schools so I thought this could work well.

The whole enterprise has been successful, rewarding but challenging.  I was only ready to run 2 workshops before Xmas 2012 - these both sold out.  This term we are running 5 and they are all full.  It seems that many schools already have a class set or are thinking about buying a set.  The context I went for was apps which enable certain types of activity suitable for cross-subject use.  I could have gone for subject specific apps but I wanted to start with something more pedagogically interesting.  I spent countless hours organising, testing, researching apps and came up with 9 mindmaps of aggregated lists.  I wanted to include the app names/prices but also easy to understand categories.  Refinements are constantly occurring but I'm pretty happy with what I've come up with.  They can be found here -  The categories aren't perfect but I don't like just give app names, I want to present types of activity and then provide apps to achieve the processes involved.

The workshops are run by demoing and exploring a number of apps carefully chosen to represent a certain type of activity.  I've installed the same apps on each device and guides participants through their use.  By printing and handing out the mind maps I was able to put each individual app into the right context and highlight the wealth of options.  I do this as I'm never comfortable endorsing individual apps or bits of software.  Add on a presentation about the nature of tablets and a presentation about device/data managements and I have myself a workshop.  Importantly for most of the workshops so far I have had the support of Gavin Calnan, an ICT teacher in a north London school.  His input has been invaluable and, when he can attend, provides really good real life input.  An important area I need to improve upon is the showing of actual examples.  We have some of this but need more.

Another important aspect of this workshop is the website I've developed -  I've left this public as a supporting resource for past participants and anyone else interested.  There are so many free website on this subject it was pointless closing this off.  Even though anyone with enough time could learn everything they need to know through these type of web resources, there will always be enough people that want a face-to-face learning experience.  By providing this type of resource I am hopefully demonstrating expertise and attracting people.

The learning curve was and is very steep.  Initially the logistics were a nightmare.  For my previous session Using 21st Century tools for teaching and learning, I simply created a website, booked a computer room and off I went.  Although the website took a while to construct you only need the internet to run the session.  For this endeavour there were many, many more processes and logistical hoops to jump through.  It didn't help that the Volume Purchasing Programme wasn't available when I started (this began in the UK in Sept, 2012), also mobile device management service weren't known to me.  The option of an apple server (or their cart thingy) weren't available to me due to budget constraints.  I had to do things manually for each iPad.  For each device I created an apple id and email and bought and redeemed a gift card.  I then got busy downloading about 60 apps for onto them all manually.  In addition, the process of arranging apps into folder and a particular order takes time.  All this was pretty last minute for the first workshop.  Although we don't have time to practice on all the apps I've added I wanted to get a load on there for participants to explore throughout the workshop.

Alongside was the issue of projection.  I got the iPad to VGA cable but was hoping to use apple TV or reflectorapp mirroring.   For the first few sessions I had to make do with the cable as our wifi isn't quite up to scratch.  I've now managed to get the reflector software mirroring to work via bluetooth.  It's a pretty convoluted way of achieving a wireless solution and it can freeze when doing something complicated but its better than the cable.  A DIY spirit needs to be employed with this sort of activity.  IT dept will have rules and security measures to make the system run smoothly.  Quite often my questions are answered in the negative.  What you have to do is keep asking, keep making the teaching and learning case and get others on board.  I'm hoping that eventually apple TV will work but investment is required in our wifi.  Fingers crossed.

A key part of the process of this workshop is the continuous learning process.  With over 300,000 apps its impossible to look at all of the relevant educational apps.  However, a concerted effort to explore as much as possible needs to be present.  I do this by regularly studying the web resources, blogs, my twitter feed, google reader subscriptions, news and talking to others.  For this I mainly use the flipboard app on my iPad which I've carefully setup to include all my aggregated content from twitter, google reader and linkedin.  I try and spend time looking every other day and then consolidating new knowledge once a week.  This consolidation of new knowledge is reflected on my website - and then in my workshop design.  I, of course, would like to do more, but I have to be realistic.  I'm also trying to build links to with past participants to keep learning from their practice and I know I need to do more of this.  It helps that I run the workshop twice a month at the moment as the pace of improvement is pretty quick.

It's great when you get a chance create and then refine something that is interesting and engaging like this.  I hope to continue and develop this project by developing knowledge around subject specific apps.  This way I can run further workshops and create and interesting projects for myself.

Going forward I want to develop an android tablet workshop.  The process starts again.....

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