Last year, I was teaching digital literacy to students from kindergarten to grade three. Then, I was on a cart, wheeling around iPads from classroom to classroom, engaging students in various projects to help get them familiar with how to use the technology as a tool and not as a toy. This year, I’m a grade eight homeroom teacher and also teach media and library on rotary. I’m working on having my students increase their digital literacy by finding ways to get them to use the technology available. The one thing that I have with me every day is my iPad.
Before I get started on how I use various apps throughout my day, it might be worthwhile to describe my kit.
- iPad Pro 10.5″
- Apple Pencil
- Apple Smart Keyboard
- Apple TV
- Lightning to HDMI adapter and an HDMI cable
I can do almost everything that I want to with these six tools. Now, I appreciate that these don’t come cheap and aren’t available to all teachers. While I’m not entirely familiar with Google’s line of products, I believe that they come in at a much lower price point but still offer similar capabilities.
What I love most about my iPad is that it is light, portable, and stores everything that I might need during my day.
Planning with Planboard by chalk.com
I started using Planboard about a year ago after speaking to a friend about my program. I was telling her that I still write out my day plans on paper, but I teach entirely through my iPad. She told me to stop using paper and find a digital tool because I was, after all, the digital literacy teacher. After a bit of searching, I found Planboard and I’ve been happily using it ever since.
It does take some doing to get Planboard set up at the beginning of the year. It can be somewhat annoying having to enter your classes for each day and adjusting the settings to fit your particular schedule. After that initial nuisance, however, Planboard keeps your schedule for you. All you have to do is enter your plans.
Planboard is a cross-platform tool so you can enter your plans on your iPad, phone, or computer, as long as you have an internet connection. If you want to move or copy a lesson, it’s really easy. If you’re going to be away for a day, you can print off your plans and leave them on the desk for the teacher filling in for you. If you’ve got a PA Day planned, just enter it in and Planboard will automatically adjust your schedule.
Taking notes with the Apple Pencil
With the iPad Pro came the Apple Pencil, which is the best stylus on the market for the iPad Pro. Trust me on this; I’ve done a lot of testing. The Apple Pencil basically makes the screen of your iPad a piece of paper. With the right app, it’s hard to think why you’d ever go back to using a real pen and paper.
I’ve tested a number of note taking apps and they all have their own quirks, so it’d be hard to suggest which would work best for all people. I’ve found that Notes Plus and Noteshelf 2 have worked best for me. While they aren’t perfect, they get pretty close. Things like the filing system, pen stroke recognition, different pen types, and general aesthetics all played into my decision.
Between the apps, I have a file for daily to-do lists, staff meeting notes, unit planning ideas, notes from professional development sessions, anecdotal notes on students, and rubrics for student assessments. Essentially, I’ve done away with a binder full of paper and tabs. Everything that I need to write down and have access to is kept on my iPad.
Who doesn’t look prepared when you need to reference that one thing mentioned at an after-school staff meeting from September? Remember the one you forgot to have a coffee before?
Engaging students with Explain Everything
When I first came across Explain Everything, I wasn’t all too impressed. In fact, I regretted having purchased it. I had only just looked through it, trying different things aimlessly. Then, I started using it in class. As I got more familiar with it, I started finding new ways to engage students with it. The app is robust, allowing you to do a little or a lot with it.
In class, one of the best things I’ve started doing is having students write down the class notes on the iPad in Explain Everything. Whenever we have a class discussion, I ask who wants to take notes and then hand him/her my iPad and Apple Pencil. Whatever he/she writes down is displayed right on the whiteboard, because the screen is mirrored through the Apple TV and projected. After class, I can just export the slide deck to PDF and post it to our Google Classroom. The students have even started correcting each others’ spelling and sentence structure. Best of all, though, the students help each other use the app.
With Explain Everything, I make instructional videos for the students. I post the videos on YouTube and then share them with the students through our Google Classroom. If the students are struggling with a concept, it’s a great way for them to review the content. I’ve even put together a few videos that outline a problem for the students to solve.
My iPad has really enhanced how I get through my day and how I interact with my students. The tool has made it easier for me to keep myself organized, to have the things I need readily available, and to communicate with students. For me, my iPad Pro has become an indispensable teaching tool.