by Ravi Bhatt, iAnnotate Software Developer
Teachers can’t escape the growing trend of technology in the classroom. It’s more than just hype. More schools are buying tablets for use in the classroom, with Apple’s tablet sales to the education sector doubling last year.
As a mobile software company whose product is used extensively in education, we dream big about the future of technology in the classroom. We have worked with numerous great teachers who have successfully leveraged tablets to improve the learning experience for students.
Are you tempted to join the trend? Here are ten tips for introducing tablets into your classroom.
1. Strive For A Mobile-Friendly Curriculum
Ensure curriculum is tablet-friendly. Review your syllabus for the coming semester and identify interactive projects that are a natural fit for an iPad. Conversely, pick a few subjects that are in need of a shake-up, having failed to come alive in a traditional classroom setting. Also, format materials to be easily viewed and used on a tablet. PDFs and Word files work the best for sharing and annotation.
2. Test Runs Matter
Practice before you deploy. Once you’ve identified opportunities to utilize tablets, read reviews and cases studies on blogs or social media channels to find the apps and best practices that could make your tablet lesson a success. Then, walk yourself through the app’s capabilities and identify progress benchmarks as you would with any lesson plan. Students are increasingly tech-savvy, but don’t assume that means they know how to optimally apply tablets in an educational setting. Rather than leaving it to the “techies,” develop and refine best practices on your own and in consultation with colleagues.
3. All Tablets Are Not The Same
Nexus 7s and 10s are not iPads are not Windows Surface Tablets. You get the idea.
Accordingly, you’ll need to test-drive the selection of the tablets students will use. Be sure to test your chosen apps on all the tablets your students will use to ensure they work properly. Whatever can fail, be confusing, not play nice, or other create a barrier to learning will. Murphy’s Law.
4. Students Can Probably Find Better Resources Than You Can
While you should take the lead on developing and driving the overall plan for tablets in your classroom, build in time for your students to demo new apps and mobile tech that they have discovered on their own. Not only will it give you new ideas for platforms and course integration, but it will also encourage students’ creativity and engagement.
5. Set Boundaries
Consider limiting access to the internet. No matter how appealing the presentation or activity, students (and, admit it, you too) will be distracted when receiving Facebook messages and emails during class. Even if classroom tablets aren’t loaded with personal accounts, simple internet browsing allows the mind to wander. If necessary, turn on “Airplane Mode” before distributing tablets, or ask students to turn it on themselves if bringing their own devices. It will work wonders for engagement.
6. Organize, Then Organize Again
Teach students to organize their digital work and school materials. Share a cloud storage folder specific to the class and create a folder hierarchy in cooperation with the students. In addition to keeping you sane and on-point with class assignments, schedules and due dates, you will simultaneously teach your students how to organize their digital lives.
7. Mobility Should = Collaboration
Collaboration is a great way to get students engaged in any classroom, and the portability and interactivity of tablets make them an excellent tool for this purpose. For example, you might have students trade their previous night’s homework and use an annotation or mark-up tool to comment on and correct each others’ work. Your tablet can be connected to a projector to help you present problem sets to the entire class.
8. Consider Paperless As A Goal
Don’t print! While the true “paperless classroom” may be a distant, theoretical goal, you can move ever-closer to the ideal by limiting the superfluous paper production you actually have in your control. Disconnect the printer from your computer and carry your notes and readings with you on your tablet or laptop. Encourage your students to do the same.
Grade electronically. You can also encourage your students to move to a paperless workflow. Create a dedicated e-mail address or use your classroom management platform for student correspondence and feedback, especially for submitting assignments. Each assignment that is submitted and graded electronically is one fewer you have to carry in your bag.
9. Support Digital Citizenship
This doesn’t mean constantly lecture students on it, set condescending rules, or make it a wholey punitive thing. But it will help to set models, highlight best practices, and help to underscore the macro-level cause-and-effect of mobile and technology-based learning. Digital Citizenship matters.
10. Plan For Offline Learning
Build in tech time-outs. Given the excitement surrounding education technology and the tremendous learning potential offered by tablets, it’s easy to involve them in each and every lesson in your syllabus. However, as you become more tech-savvy, continue to have regular time with screens off to minimize tablet burnout. Just as you adjusted your curriculum to be more tablet-friendly, be equally strategic with your traditional pens, paper and chalkboard.
Ravi Bhatt is co-Founder and CEO of Branchfire, builders of software and tools that simplify how people work. Their award-winning iAnnotate app allows users to read, mark up and share documents and images via an iPad or Android tablet; image attribution flickr user jgoge and flickeringbrad; 10 Simple Tips For Better Teaching With Tablets