8 Mistakes I’m Apparently Making.

I read this article about the mistakes that schools make when implementing iPads. According to this article, I have made each of these mistakes, and the word “mistakes” made me pretty defensive. And sometimes when I get defensive, I write.

Mistake #1: Underestimate the power of the iPad
Sure, I underestimate the power of the iPad, just like I underestimate the power of my iPhone and my MacBook Pro. The nature of technology lends itself to humans underestimating their power. What I emphatically disagree with here is the author’s assertion that “kids do not need to be taught how to use the iPad.” I’ve used iPads in my classroom now for two semesters, and I can say with great certainty that to introduce iPads in a classroom without teaching kids how to use them is the biggest mistake a teacher can make. This past semester, I busted out the iPads for a class without doing any front-loading instruction whatsoever. These were juniors and seniors, most of whom had smartphones. If I had spent even 20 minutes going over some iPad basics, it would have saved both my students and me some major frustrations.

Mistake #2: Neglect to make real world connections
I happen to agree that one key element of using the iPads is connecting with others. But what is “meaningful”? I write on this blog (not as much as I should) and I also write on my personal blog, and I tweet, Facebook, and Instagram different elements of my life. None of these have proven (and maybe I should add here–yet) to create meaningful connections. My mom and sister read my blog (and if I trust analytics, it gets about 300 visits a month), I have over 400 Twitter followers, yet most of the time I feel my writing exists in a complete vacuum. There’s very little engagement. And I’m the same way–my Feedly delivers about 200 articles a day. I read about 25% of those, and comment rarely. How we define “connections” for our students–that’s the real trick.

Mistake #3: The iPad alone will not help kids think deeply.
Here the author suggests that students learn a range of apps instead of a handful. And that new technology leads to new learning (I don’t disagree). But anyone who thinks that apps and iPads will help kids think deeply isn’t, well, thinking deeply. Thinking deeply is work–hard work–and regardless of the available technology, it’s more important to allow students to struggle with the hard work of thinking. (Or if you’re more into video than reading, it’s all about grit. Not apps.)

Mistake #4: Treating the iPad like a computer.
The author might not know the loveliness of the Google Drive app. Yes, typing on an iPad takes some acclimating. Which again, is why I disagree with mistake #1. Give kids time to “learn the iPad,” and some of the word processing angst goes away.

Mistake #5: Not taking advantage of the mobility of the device.
My main disagreement with this mistake is the author relies on visual media to support his point. My counterargument is this: smartphones take better visual media than the iPad–at least the iPad 2s that I have in my classroom. When talking about mobility, my students love that they can move around the classroom, sit on the floor or in the hallway, and just be comfortable while working instead of being stuck in a chair and a desk at a computer lab.

Mistake #6: Sharing iPads between classes.
Admittedly, this mistake made me the most defensive since this is my reality. And I totally get where the author is coming from, that iPads were not designed to be shared and that managing accounts can be a pain. However, with some basic classroom management strategies, “disbursement of the tool” doesn’t have to be time consuming. The way I see it, in a district with limited monetary resources, sharing iPads is better than no iPads at all. I tried to use the iPads with just one class last semester. I hated it. If I have access to these devices, then all of my students should use them. In a perfect world with a perfect filtering system that allows students to take the iPads home, maybe I’d feel differently. But in the current reality, sharing iPads is not a mistake.

Mistake #7: Resistance to change.
Okay, I actually agree with this one. Especially making sure students understand why they have access to the iPads in the first place. Each semester I’ve used them, a small percentage of students complain about the iPads and wish we didn’t use them. Maybe if we’d had a discussion about why we use them, clearly defined the purpose of using them in class, they’d be less angry about using them.

Mistake #8: Overuse of eBooks
I can’t really speak to this, since in my content area I have no eBooks to use.  But I have moved to as much of a paperless classroom as possible. Between Notability, Google Drive, and Adobe Reader, my students don’t have a whole lot of paper in class. I worry that this alienates my more tactile learners–even as I revise some of my writing, I prefer a hard copy to scribble on. But in the name of digital skills and literacy and all that, I march on in my mostly paperless classroom.

So what do you think? Am I making a ton of mistakes using the iPads? Or am I just too defensive?

3 thoughts on “8 Mistakes I’m Apparently Making.

  1. HA! Thank you so much for this post! I am just starting iPads this semester and I am interested in all kinds of posts of what works and what has failed and what failure has taught. I teach fifth grade and am so glad to see that you support spending a bit of time teaching iPad basics. Do you have any other suggestions of what works? I love that you are almost paperless, as that is my intention as well. I hope to love them as much as you do. Consequently…I will not be sharing them, but am excited to see what these kiddos can do in just 5 months.

  2. Julie – Great article and very well written! I have experienced several of these “mistakes” as well. I agree with you on your point for #1 – When I first received the iPads, I was unsure of how much guidance I was going to have to give students in regards to their use. Quite a bit, it turned out. Just about all of them knew of how play games on the iPad… very few knew how to use it as an educational tool. I spend quality time with the class each time a new app is introduced and then I let them work in groups to teach each other some of the other features of the app. Over break I updated each of our iPads to iOS 7.04 and some of the apps received major upgrades for the new iOS. I anticipate several programs (like iMovie) will have to be reintroduced as they are offering loads of new features.

  3. Michelle–so excited for you to have iPads! I should probably keep a list of suggestions, but nothing is coming to mind right now. I guess be patient with yourself and the kids. Some days will feel like total failures. Embrace the failure–that's something I needed to do in many aspects of my life. 😀 Failure, for me, has often been a starting point to finding a better way…and I think I have the hard sciences on my side with that mindset. Garrett–I didn't even think of the app updates! Luckily I teach all semester classes, so all the kids will be new to me and we can learn together. And one of my favorite things is walking around after introducing a new app, seeing a kid do something I didn't know how to do and asking, “How did you do that?” I like to think it humanizes me to my students a little, and creates a safer classroom environment, to know that I'm still learning too.

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