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2010-2011 Bert Church - Mobile Learning Findings


Prepared by: Derek Keenan, Teacher

Objective

To further enhance classroom practice and school-wide implementation of 21st Century Learning through technological innovation in my own classroom, contributing to school wide technology innovation, divisional knowledge sharing and comprehensive technology implementation in my classroom. In addition, this project will initiate an intensive study of student learning and technology use with tablet technology providing research and feedback for future initiatives.

Result: This objective has been reached through consistent and effective implementation of iPad tablets in the classroom and innovating lectures and assignments to create new learning opportunities for students. Divisional connections have been facilitated as schools who were awarded grants connected to facilitate implementation. To that end, I connected with Kim Serhyenko to discuss apps and methods for managing the devices in the classroom.

Goals

To enhance the implementation of mobile learning begun with the last technology innovation fund grant in the school by updating the program with devices that offer alternative input and applications for learning.

Result: Student engagement was generally quite positive for this project. Some students were hesitant to work on the virtual keyboard in the classroom, particularly with longer written pieces. However, the benefit of having the devices for ALL classroom activities quickly outweighed the perceived drawbacks. Many of the benefits observed in my iPod project were also apparent with the iPads: battery life is exceptional, Engagement is high, interface is simple and allows students to begin using the device immediately.

Additional Feedback

I have enjoyed implementing another mobile device into my practice, and the iPad offers an effective option in light of many of the common educational concerns (usually from educators rather than students) about screen size, built-in microphone, and lack of educational apps availability. With the release of the iPad, larger educational institutions and groups began buying in to the idea of a mobile device as being an effective standalone device for education. App developers followed suit with apps designed to take advantage of the screen size and multitouch capability of the iPad. With these foci, the iPad has gained much more traction in the educational market than the iPod before it. For this reason, I believe innovation and growth with these devices will continue well into the future, with the iPad as a viable educational option alongside laptops and cell phones.

Positive Results of the iPad Program

This program continues to be very effective in allowing me to create a consistent, appropriate use of technology in my classes, leading to very effective results particularly with my non-academic classes in assignments where specific design and implementation of iPads is completed, results for non-academic students go up. Results are forthcoming for the current semester, but it appears that the benefit is also transferring to my academic classes as they become familiar with this new technology as well.

As with the iPod Touch, though in a much more rapid and purposeful way, the iPad is becoming a tool that school divisions are excited to implement and use with students. Much of the current app development for education is centered on early literacy and math, though all subjects and levels are receiving focus. With my experience and in sharing many of my results and challenges with these devices, other school divisions have shown interest in what is happening in my classroom. I have had visitors join my classes from within our division and without, had online and telephone discussions and even presented at an international conference on the implementation and use of mobile technology in education. These experiences have shown me that without a doubt, education is changing and moving toward the implementation of mobile technologies. There are very compelling reasons to continue this research, and ensure that RVS is being very thoughtful about the use of iPads in the classroom.

Challenges of Using the iPad as a Learning Device

- As opposed to the iPod Touch, students see these devices as ‘foreign’ ! until they get used to them. Engagement is certainly present, and students enjoy them, but fewer students have these devices at home or use them on a regular basis. This concern is partially mitigated by the fact that it runs the same operating system as the iPod and iPhone, making it easy for students to pick up. - While there are benefits to the App Store and iTunes structure, (ability to sync one purchase to multiple devices for example) the iPad still is not built around an enterprise system. As such, data maintenance, syncing and updating are very manual processes that must be managed carefully. There have been improvements since the iPod Touch program, namely being able to ‘lock down’ certain functionality on the device that students do not need.

- Device management and security must be carefully maintained as these devices are small and can easily fit in a purse or backpack. It is highly recommended that a MobileMe account with device tracking be purchased and installed on each device.

- As highlighted in 21st Century Learning Lead discussions this year, these devices (so far) cannot be used for governmental exams, and as such students and schools need to have alternate technology for students to write exams on.

Outcomes of this Proposal and Recommendations

I still believe that students in the 21st century must be working with and using the technologies that they are interested in and use most effectively. The interface of the iPad meets this need as many students use and own devices with this operating system. Students should have the ability to use the technologies that are most in tune with their abilities, needs and desire. This project saw students working in their way with their technology, and from the evidence I have gathered this lead to further engagement and achievement by students. My own experience with the iPod touch and now the iPad has guided me to the conclusion that with appropriate planning and careful implementation, projects such as this one can provide exceptional experiences for students, particularly those who would not otherwise have access to such technology. I believe that the mobile category of digital devices is working hard to be effective for schools, with hardware manufacturers, app developers and research groups all looking at the implications of these technologies on education. Student feedback was generally positive, with student concerns focused on the lack of physical keyboard and file interaction (mainly before systems like Google Docs and Moodle were implemented)

Recommendations:

- Tools such as Moodle and Google Docs are essential components of the program, and have supported the new mobile framework very well. Students can access their work anywhere, and it is becoming platform-independent. It is truly the benefit of ubiquitous access to course material, and the ability to collaborate and work from whichever device they currently have that makes mobile devices and learning shine.

- An RVS policy surrounding mobile devices including tips for effective use and management to support teachers and schools implementing them would be beneficial to schools looking to begin utilizing mobile devices, and a framework for device uses and limitations would be helpful as well

- For schools interested in large-scale deployment, an initial purchase of mobile devices of choice for staff. Staff familiarity with the devices before a larger rollout will support successful educational use of the devices and comfort level with the new technologies. This recommendation was in my iPod results last year, and is just as important with iPads.

- Appointment of a divisional point-person with dedicated time to pursuing connections with developers, more expedient methods of implementation and familiarity with devices students may wish to access. This would include testing and working with other platforms and devices such as Android, Google Chrome and Blackberry Mobile OS.

In Closing

I have seen great benefit from this program in student learning and in my professional learning and practice. I am grateful for the gift of these tools in my classroom and enjoy using them each day to engage and inspire students. This program has created connections for me with the online Mobile Learning community, developers, students, educators and administrators with the common purpose of pursuing the most effective learning possible with innovative technology. I am appreciative to work in a school division with the foresight to create innovative opportunities for educators, and am also glad to have been the recipient of funding for such innovation. Please see the addendum on the following page for an update on the implications of the iPad 2 versus iPad in terms of functionality and usefulness in education.

Regards,

Derek Keenan 21st Century Learning Lead, AISI Lead, Embedded Coach Bert Church High School

 

Addendum

Functionality Comparison for Education iPad 2 versus iPad

With the release in 2011 of the iPad 2, Apple Inc. revised and updated its mobile device and mobile platform in essential ways that may serve to benefit education even further in integrating mobile devices. Following are some key areas of educational interest in the new iPad 2 device that differ from the original iPad:

-Increased processor speed enables the iPad to complete more advanced processing tasks. Of specific note is the video architecture allowing the iPad to present and process multiple video streams simultaneously. This means that the iPad is now a very capable video editing device.

-Inclusion of front and rear facing cameras with the rear camera able to capture video in High Definition makes data collection and even video arts valid activities to engage in with the iPad. Apple Inc’s iMovie app is a solid video software package to support this work.

-Ability of the iPad 2 to connect with full video projection using both VGA and HDMI standards. Whereas the original iPad could project specific apps, the new processing components of the iPad 2 allow it to project the entire screen at all times during use. This feature is particularly important to teachers who at times will need to display instructions or show app functions to their classes.

-New software solutions that offer use of multiple functionalities of the iPad 2 (for example, a note-taking app that allows for audio recording, taking a photo/video, diagram drawing and typing all within the same interface) allow students to express themselves in multiple modes within the same platform and apps.

-New Garageband application offers music creation using interactive and enhanced controls, allowing anyone to create studio-quality music, yet offering enhanced support for those with a more comprehensive knowledge of musical composition.

-iOS platform enhancements include the ability to stream video and music wirelessly, which may support the ability to stream on-demand content to students.

All of the enhancements above come in a smaller form factor and at the same price points as the original iPad, making this upgrade exceptionally worthwhile.

Note that the above are not all of the features the iPad and iPad 2 bring to education, but a synopsis of their differences for comparison.

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