Reading & Notetaking

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Today’s assignment is to use the Prologue & Chapter 1 of Friday Night Lights (really just the Prologue) to identify descriptive language and how it used. The class has a paper due on Wednesday in which they describe their most memorable competition (either participated in or experienced), and one of the grading criteria is use of descriptive language.

Originally,  I was going to use mini-white boards. Students find quotes, write them on white boards, share, and discuss. But of course that seems silly given that they have iPads. So I had them download MyScript Memo, a free notetaking-by-handwriting app (similar to Penultimate but I wanted to keep it free), and that will become their new ‘mini-white board’. That went fine; they downloaded the app in class and off they went.

Problem #1, however: how to cite the book? As an ebook, there are no fixed page numbers. So we agreed on a font size for the book, based on the last word on a chapter page (the last word on the first page of the prologue in landscape format is ‘how’ today), and will then cite pages that way. A bit cumbersome but all we have. We also can’t copy and paste from iBooks for copyright reasons, which makes quoting a bit more cumbersome, but we’ll just use ellipses to do that. Finally, the toggling between apps (iBooks & MyScript) is a bit cumbersome but the double click switching that Apple instituted with iOS 4 (or 3?) makes that much easier.

So growing pains but an interesting process as we actually start to use the iPads as our day-to-day device.

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Some Initial Observations

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Here are some anecdotes from the first week of students having the iPads.

I saw one student in the Commons who, after we had stressed the importance of securing bags and not leaving them behind, pointed out how he was sitting with his backpack strap over his leg. Another student said she was freaked out by having the iPad in her bag and had never been so paranoid about her bag being stolen.

One student, in another class whose teacher allows his crossover students to use their iPads, apparently entered class the day after getting his iPad insisting that they have a notes-focused class so that he could take notes with his iPad.

Speaking of note-taking, I had included Evernote on my apps-to-get list but one student today showed me NoteTaker (spelling?). I don’t know much about it but he says that he prefers it to Evernote (and another student mentioned that he didn’t like Evernote either, though we didn’t get into the specifics).

And a more general observation: Certainly the concerns about the distractability of the iPads are valid; the minute students get into class, the iPads are out and the games (or ESPN or YouTube) are fired up. But, in general, they have been good about putting them away / getting out of the games when I tell them to do so. On the other hand, they are quite simply very quiet because they are buried in their iPads. Now this might not necessarily be a plus (especially depending on what’s keeping them in their iPads) nor am I suggesting that the cost of the iPad justifies its use as a classroom management tool, but the focus on the iPad is very high (now I have to channel that focus) and the distractability is of a much quieter sort; the class without iPads is now a louder class than the class with iPads, largely due to the iPads.

Roll Out Week

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We rolled out the iPads this week. Students received them Monday morning during class, with admonitions to take care of them (because they would be case-free for a couple of weeks until we decided on a keyboard-case combo; we had advised both them and their parents to invest in an inexpensive sleeve for the interim). Their ‘homework’ was to take them home, sync them to their computer, and purhcase the list of apps I included. On Thursdsay, the tech people were on hand to put the iPads on the network, when they became fully functional in terms of class. And today was the first day of using them in class (though we didn’t use them much, because we were finishing a video that they couldn’t play on the iPads because it was Flash).

One interesting tidbit from today, however. I had planned about 2/3s of the class with the last 1/3 reserved for them to work on their three writing assignments or the reading assignment. The class without the iPads, for whom I brought in a laptop cart, almost to a student, worked on the writing assignments. The class with the iPads, again almost to a student, read their Friday Night Lights ebook. My buddy suggested that the focus of the iPad class on the books was due to a lack of a keyboard, which I thought was a good point, but I still found the discrepancy an interesting suggestion about the kinds of observations this experiment will create.

More specifics on roll out and equipment to come.

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