English 11 Papers on the iPad

My English 11 class wrote a literary analysis of A Raisin in the Sun on the iPads. I assigned this paper last year, so I posted some student samples (names removed, of course) on my class website. Models are helpful with students who, for whatever reason, often tell me they “are bad writers.” I don’t know where they get the idea they can’t write, but that’s a different post for another time.

Writing a paper on iPads proved more difficult for this class than my AP class. Several students struggled to master typing on the touch keyboard (though I wonder if I’d asked them to type the paper on their phones if they would’ve been able to do that).

A major limitation of Google Drive is the lack of spell check and limited formatting options. I double-spaced all the papers from my MacBook since that’s not an option in Drive. Sure, I could have had them enable the desktop version via Safari, but it’s cumbersome. Another major limitation of the Google Drive app is that students could not see the comments I made. The primary reason I switched to Google Docs four years ago was the collaboration potential. Without access to those comments (again, unless they switched to Safari), that element was lost…and frankly, it was reflected in many final products.

For students whose only online tool is a phone or the iPad in class, making time to use a desktop for some of the essential revision features was an afterthought. I’m fairly confident that had some of my students thought to log into their Google Drive account from a desktop, many of the spelling and grammar errors would have been fixed and the feedback I gave on drafts incorporated into the final copy.

In short, I was disappointed in the final papers I received from this class. But again, I keep in mind that it’s not an easy culture shift, that I haven’t found every workaround, that students don’t have the iPads every minute of every day so revisions had to happen in class (for most of them).

We start poetry portfolios tomorrow, and this time I’m trying Pages. The Pages app has more formatting options, so perhaps some of the deficiencies from the last paper will disappear. Here’s hoping.

Click here to read how the paper assignment worked in my AP class.

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