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.