I remember my elementary school days where my favorite part of class was getting to write on the laminated papers on the overhead projector. That was about the only engagement I had with the “technology” in the classroom in those earlier days when the teacher spent most of the class time glued to the projector as they fed information to the class. Eventually, those overhead projectors graduated to video projectors where teachers were able to project their computer screens and display physical papers using a document camera (this was roughly middle/high school for me). From my high school days to my current teaching days, I have seen teachers glue themselves to their technology carts, where their laptop, doc cams, speakers, and any other devices are stored. This setup, I believe, limits teachers from fully engaging with their students and creates a clear divide between who the teacher and who the learners are. In reality, I believe that in a thriving classroom everyone is a learner. My goal as the technology director at my school is to free the teachers from their technology carts to reach their full potential as educators, not just regurgitators of content.
The first step to being able to walk around the classroom while teaching and learning with your students is to go light and wireless with your devices. For the past three years I have been primarily using an iPad within the classroom (currently using the iPad Pro 9.7”). I connect my iPad to my projector wirelessly using a generation 3 Apple TV. This has allowed me to have my projector mounted on the ceiling so it leaves far more space in my class for my students and myself to create a flexible learning environment. The projector itself is aimed right at my whiteboard which allows me to draw directly on whatever is being projected. The iPad is an integral teaching tool in my classroom because it is essentially a blank slate that allows you to adopt various learning management systems (I primarily use Google Classroom) and has no shortage of apps available on the app store.
The one teaching app that I cannot go without is Notability. Its user-friendly functions, simple interface, and familiar tools make it the perfect way to free yourself from your document camera. Instead of projecting a physical paper through your doc cam on the screen, you can use notability to take a picture of the papers you are using, or if it is an electronic file, you can simply upload them directly. Once your pages or pictures are uploaded, it is a simple process to begin writing or typing directly on them. Notability also allows you to zoom in and out of your pages in order to fit your writing in smaller spaces. Organizing your notes into different subjects and categories is a cinch. It is now the tool that I use on a daily basis and is well worth the $9.99 price tag.
While there are plenty of other tablets and light laptops that you could use to teach in a similar manner, I am simply writing from my own experience of the tools that I have had the privilege of receiving from my schools and this post was not sponsored by Apple or Notability. Both of my schools received grants or raised funds specifically for the purchase of these iPads, luckily there are plenty of technology grants available for school districts nationwide. The most important piece is receiving quality professional development with any new technology or teaching strategies so be sure to visit my blog or other online resources, or search for the nearest teaching technology conference.
Go wireless in the classroom! Get an iPad and Notability and free yourself from your document camera.
Roughly halfway through my first year of teaching, I began lamenting the fact that there were very few practical resources for a first year teaching about life outside of the classroom. I began to compile a list of all the things that I felt a first year teacher should know going into one of the most difficult yet rewarding chapters of their lives. But, somewhere along the way I lost that list.
Regardless, going into my fourth year of teaching, I have picked up far more tips and nuggets of wisdom that I am alway eager to pass on to others. While I am far from a veteran teacher (usually still feel like a newbie) I am excited to pass on some of my keys to living a somewhat balanced life as a new teacher.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend Loyola Marymount University (Go Lions!), a Jesuit institution in Los Angeles. Prior to my first day of class, I had never heard of what a Jesuit was, I was simply drawn in by the promise of a good education, beautiful campus, and close proximity to the beach. Throughout my six years at LMU (undergrad and grad school) I was exposed to the concept of Cura Personalis. This philosophy is rooted in the idea of care for the whole person. In order to lead a healthy life one must seek to enrich the mind, body, and spirit of themselves and those around them. While Cura Personalis is clearly inspired by scripture (see 1 Corinthians 12:12) it is a beneficial paradigm for people from all walks of life. Regardless of your faith background, I have recognized that as a teacher, this care for the whole person is essential.
Taking Care of Your Mind
As a new teacher, it is overwhelming to dive into your subject matter and curriculum, pedagogy and classroom management techniques. Oftentimes, it can feel like there is no capacity for any type of learning that does not directly contribute to your teaching, and bingeing on Netflix is an easy stress outlet. While there is something to be said for destressing, it is equally important to continue to persist in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. By continuing to seek education in all of its forms, you not only benefit yourself, but also your students and school community. Pursue depth of knowledge in topics that you are interested in, even if it does not directly connect with what you are teaching. You never know when that comprehension may come in handy down the line. Below are a few suggestions for enriching the mind.
Taking Care of Your Body
As a teacher, you cannot continue your college lifestyle of staying up incessantly late to complete work, eat ramen on a daily basis, or rely on a flexible schedule to get yourself into the gym. It is crucial to consistently set aside time to exercise, at least three times a week. When I used to be extra motivated, I would get up at 4:30AM to head to the gym for an hour, but unless you are a natural morning person, it is difficult to sustain that. Nowadays, I typically head to the gym straight from work, changing at school before heading over so that I have no excuse to go home and get stuck there.
My other coworkers take 30-60 minutes each morning to go on a walk before work, which is great time for both exercise and reflection. Here are a few more tips for keeping yourself in shape:
Taking Care of Your Spirit
One of the most common complaints of new and old teachers alike is the constant feelings of never doing enough, feeling overwhelmed by their multitudes of responsibilities, and simply getting burnt out. Mental health and self-care as a teacher is essential, as it can be the difference between a two year teaching stint and a teaching career.
Taking care of your spirit can mean different things to different people, but it ultimately comes down to sensibly prioritizing your personal care needs in a vocation that asks you to put everyone before yourself. Try out the following resources to intentionally get away and give yourself some me-time:
The Importance of Community
I can say without hesitation that I would not still be teaching if it were not for the resilient support of my community that I have received from day one. Teaching can be a surprisingly lonely job when it is treated as such, especially if you do not have the benefit of having a tightly-knit staff.
Recently, I rediscovered the necessity of community when one of my students had an accident and passed away after several days in the hospital. During that time, I received support from my close friends, my girlfriend, my church community, all in addition to my staff and students themselves. Had I tried to handle this burden on my own, I would have quickly crumbled under the overwhelming weight of leading my students, and myself, through the tragedy. Unfortunately, there is not a good app for developing true and meaningful relationships in community. It requires you to be kind to others and take the initiative to get involved.
As a new teacher, it is important not to forget about maintaining a good work-life balance. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit and get involved with your community!
I have been teaching with an iPad for the past three years (currently using an iPad Air II from $399) and one of the greatest benefits has been that I am completely mobile in the classroom. I have a projector mounted to the ceiling of my room and hooked up an Apple TV (3rd Gen $69) to it which allows me to connect wirelessly to it. Conveniently the Apple TV is compatible with all recent Apple products so in a pinch I can also project my iPhone screen or Macbook Pro screen. As a result, my setup allows me to walk around the classroom as I am teaching, allow students to manipulate the screen, and gives me greater flexibility in general simply not having to be anchored to a projector station in the front of the class.
I often use my iPad to complete basic tasks throughout the day such as submitting attendance as students enter the classroom, project class directions on the screen, project my Google Slides lesson, take pictures of and project student work and examples, project questions and materials on the whiteboard which I or the students can write on, and show Youtube clips.
Flipping the Classroom
This past year was my first time teaching Algebra (typically teach science and social studies) and the struggle was real. I was dealing with a class who fell all along the spectrum of what they were able to do, from those who were solving logarithms to those who still thought Pi was just a delicious dessert. In order to meet the diverse needs of my students, I began to create math lesson videos that walked students through our math lessons and included multiple example questions. These videos were available for students to watch in class and outside of class and covered a range of different skills which allowed me to meet students specifically where they were in their abilities. Using the iPad to create these videos was relatively simple, as there are a number of apps that allow you to record your screen and voice and upload them online without the need to invest a lot of time. The app that I use personally is ExplainEverything ($5.99 on the iOS store), alternatively ShowMe is a free option on the iOS store.
Apps to Use
Before I list a number of apps you can use on the iPad, let me preface it with the fact that apps are constantly going through the reiterative process and improving, or eventually are no longer supported. In all reality, if you are reading this post a year or two from now, many of these apps may be irrelevant.
Google Drive (Free) - If you are are Google Apps for Edu (GAFE) school this is a necessary app along with all the other associated drive software: Slides, Sheets, and Docs. I almost exclusively do all my content direct instruction using Slides, project project instructions from Docs, and record class statistics on Sheets.
Google Classroom (Free) - At some point I will create a whole post just on Google Classroom, but for all GAFE schools I believe that this is an essential app. It allows you to pose questions to students where they can respond to each other, assign projects and directly access your students’ work from the app and project it on the screen (always be sure to ask their permission first).
Pinterest (Free) - I am hardly the teacher to heap praise upon Pinterest but I cannot deny that it is an amazing app to find great teaching ideas and pinspiration (see what I did there?)
YouTube (Free) - Youtube is such a great resource for finding and showing short video clips of different concepts. With millions of videos available, you are almost guaranteed to find an appropriate video that visualizes whatever topic it is you are trying to convey to your students. In addition, it is so simple to upload your own content directly from your iPad. Be sure to always preview the videos you are planning on showing to ensure they are suitable for the students you have.
Twitter (Free) - This is less for the classroom but still is a must-have app as I find it to be the most effective personal professional development tool. There are a million plus teachers on twitter who help to support an amazing network of professionals that share teaching resources, collaborate across international lines, and inspire each other. Use the following hashtags to get started: #EdChat #EdTech #EarlyEd #CommonCore #CCChat #CCSS #BlendedLearning #PBL
Audible (Free) - If you use stations in the classroom, setting up an audiobook listening station using Audible is a great option. Perfect for listening to a variety of audiobooks and podcasts, many of whom are free.
Green Screen by Do Ink ($2.99) - Have green butcher paper? That is all you need to have an effective green screen! Simply cover part of a wall with it, film your students or objects in front of it, and then overlay images or other videos on your video clip to create a fun and innovative project. Easy enough for students to learn quickly!
Prezi (Free) - An alternative presentation tool to Google Slides is Prezi. Similar to Google Drive apps, all your work on Prezi is saved to the cloud. Prezi can be fun and engaging, although beware! Some students may get motion sickness if you or your students get too crazy with it.
NearPod (Free) - This is an interactive presentation tool that allows you to project content and splice in multiple choice and short answer questions that students can respond to on their devices (compatible with smartphones, tablets, and computers, no downloading of the app required). It is an effective and immediate formative assessment tool.
GoFormative (Free) - So I’m cheating a little bit here as GoFormative is not an app necessarily, but can be accessed through a web browser. This program allows you to upload PDF and Word documents and insert questions directly on to them that students can answer. Questions come in the form of multiple choice, short answer, and drawing options. Assessments can also be made from scratch, and all student responses are live and the results are clearly organized and give the teacher a very accurate overview of the class’ understanding of the content and standards being assessed.
Challenges of a One iPad Class
The initial complaint of teachers who have a single iPad is that it is not enough to share with their class. While I understand this issue, the mindset that teachers should have is that it is solely a teacher’s personal teaching tool. Ideally you work in a school where students have access to school devices or have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOB) policy. I will post more about the effective implementation of One-to-one schools in the future, so be on the look out!
iPads are great teaching tools, but even with attaching keyboards they are more limited than what a laptop can do. I do all my lesson planning and content creation on my Macbook. While I could potentially do it on my iPad, it would take much longer and I would be far less efficient. The new iPad Pro (from $599 for the 9.7” or $799 for the 12.9”) solves some of these issues but they are still far from being a complete laptop replacement.
Storage is an issue if you plan on taking multiple photos and videos, space will be at a premium. I have quickly found that 16GB is far too little space to have, even with constantly uploading everything to the cloud (Google Drive). If you can afford it, I would highly suggest splurging on the higher storage options.
Professional Development for the staff is simply not optional. In order to effectively use the iPads in the classroom, it is essential for teachers to receive training in best practices, modeled lessons, and planning time and flexibility to help teachers become comfortable in their use. I highly encourage all administrators to identify teachers who excel in the use of technology and push them to become leaders and exemplars within the staff.
If you could have one personal computer device in the classroom, you should get an iPad. Do not worry too much about spending a lot of different apps, get Google Apps for Education, seek out professional development, and experiment!
Let me know in the comments below what apps you use, how you use your iPad in the class, and any questions you have!