Remember that time I said I’d be blogging regularly about fascinating technology-in-education topics? Before you go scolding, I swear I’ve thought of many interesting things to write about. I just, you know, didn’t sit down and write them ever. But now, with a renewed sense of purpose, I plan to… right after I finish watching The Mindy Project on my DVR… have you all seen this show? It is hy.ster.i.cal.
But really, lots of things have been happening around my classroom that I think are worth sharing. The theme I’ll focus on today is a little something I like to call “what you do when you planned for two weeks for a really awesome few lessons with iPads, iBooks Author and other interactive materials and it blows up in your face one hour before you plan to deliver the lesson.” Catchy, I know. Let me back up to the beginning…
In anticipation of the Presidential election, I planned to spend a few class periods between units in our World History I curriculum to discuss the key issues regarding the election and how it works. Historically, the curriculum for my district’s 8th grade Social Studies classes had included half a year in US Government topics, but as of a year ago, has converted entirely to a World History I survey course. I loved teaching the government curriculum and felt that the election was a worthy reason to delve back into some basics.
Because I am a planner (read type A/ anal/ control freak) I decided to get organized for this ahead of time and dabble in some new technology resources along the way. What fun it would be! I dug back into my old files- not in the cloud people, like actual manilla folders with xeroxed copies and *gasp* overhead transparencies! How archaic, I know.
I perused my old resources and consolidated some key information to disseminate to my students regarding both the executive branch and the electoral process. Mind you, these kids have not had any formal US history content since 5th grade, so I really was starting with the basics.
Once I determined the information to include, I began my adventure with iBooks Author! First off, I should say that this program is fantastic, and offers a lot of very cool features in designing your own iBooks. The newest updates include the ability to make an image interactive (pay attention here, because this is going to come back and bite me…). After about an hour of trying all the features out, I was able to begin constructing a pretty comprehensive and attractive iBook on the Presidential Election. I was quite proud of myself, and even told my students of the amazingness they were going to experience soon (some even smiled politely in response to my boasting, which I took as the disengaged, too cool 8th grader equivalent of “YEAH MS. MCGUIRE, YOU DA BEST!!” Always remember it is important to have a healthy level of self confidence with these things).
When I was ready to test it out, I connected my teacher specific iPad to my computer, pushed out the iBook, and opened it on my iPad. I was quickly prompted to update my iBooks to use the updated iBooks Author features, and did so.
Unlike the cart of iPads over which I have no management power, I can update my teacher iPad at will. With the carts, because of a district fear of the app boogieman (I’m not really sure why teachers can’t have management control over their own cart of iPads) we have no ability to download anything or update any existing apps. Instead, we are expected to create a consolidated, justified, and administratively approved list of apps before each holiday break so that the technology department can update all of the machines. Due to this red tape, my hands are effectively tied in handling any kind of immediate need with the iPads.
I really should’ve seen the next event coming, but instead went along happily testing my beautiful creation. It worked, had interactive pictures and diagrams, a quiz built in, and valuable content. It was SO AWESOME, I swear!
The morning of my epic lesson, I figured out the workflow needed to send out my iBook masterpiece. I quickly began by sending out the file, and planned to go iPad to iPad to download the iBook. I swiftly unplugged and removed the first iPad from its cozy home in the cart, lightly pressed the home button to wake it from its slumber, easily signed into my email account, tapped the email I needed, and with baited breath, touched the screen over the attachment to open my beautiful creation.
After the redness dissipated from the slap I delivered to my own forehead, I began figuring out how to trouble shoot this scenario given that updating the iPads in time was impossible. Luckily an iBooks Author creation can be converted into a PDF as well, and at least I could send this document out for student consumption, and plug my own iPad to the projector to show some of the features as we discussed the issues.
In the end, all was not lost and the students still were able to access the content through the boring, sad, stagnant PDF version. I was crushed, and thoroughly frustrated with the entire system. But, in terms of my journey to effectively implement the iPads, it was a good lesson in early preparations and knowledge of updates. Also, the content sang to the kids, and they were enthralled with the details of the election, giving relevance to the political advertisements and news coverage they were seeing all over their television screens.
As an effort towards future improvements, I sent an email to administrators articulating the ways their chosen method of iPad management effects student access and learning. They were receptive and are now searching for tiered management alternatives.
So really, despite my debacle, there have been many positive results.
A few of us from my district will be visiting Millis Public Schools in Millis, MA in January to observe their integration of iPad technology. I remain hopeful, however cautiously, we will find solutions in the future so I can properly administer my amazing, incredible, awe-inspiring teaching ability with iPads to the future of our society (I already told you: self-confidence is key).