I’d imagined that I would be looking for apps to use that would teach something, but what I’m finding are apps which allow me to learn something.
The biggest game changer has been the accessibility the iPad brings. Having a device on me with continuous web access (save the drive to and from work) means that using it is part of everyday life and not an event. This is made possible by the battery life as I no longer have to ration myself or look for places where I can plug in. That seems a very small deal indeed, but the effects are marked.
I discovered Twitter and now the benefits of building a Personal Learning Network are apparent. Using Flipboard to view these is now what I do (with a cup of tea) when I get home instead of reading the newspaper. I’ve tried to build up a ‘follow’ list gradually rather than adding everyone I come across. The conventions of tweeting are still a bit of a mystery, although I found this guide by Brent Ozar something of a help. Most exciting was when I found that some people are kind enough to reply to questions or comments. The ‘small talk’ is a great reinforcer of the potential of collaboration. It still feels odd that there is no difference between someone being in Hull or New York or where-ever; the world really has become local. There is some exciting work going on with Flipping Classrooms, SOLO taxonomy and the whole business of how iPad might enhance learning.
Note making has been the next big area for me. It came as a surprise that there is something beyond the basic wordprocessor. ‘Pages’ looks fine and I’m sure this will replace Word for me, but this is just substitution. What I’ve found far more interesting is the use of Evernote and, more recently, Notability. Their ease of use, ability to organise notes and then their additional functionality with photograph, web clips is just fantastic. I found myself making quick notes on group presentations in class by adding and labelling photographs, writing comments and then emailing them to where I keep information. They are a useful record, and the students could make great use of the app in recording, reviewing and collating their notes. Is this the end of the exercise book? The search facility in Evernote is stunning – particularly when I found that I could photograph hand written notes and search even those.
Do we need to recommend one particular note-maker as a school, a department, a teacher … Or do we simply let students find what works for them? I’m increasingly drawn to the latter.
And finally, for this note at least, the apps for thinking and demonstrating learning: ‘Show Me’, ‘Eduacreations’ and ‘Explain Everything’. These could be so important both for instruction and for demonstration by both students and teachers. Educreations is simple to use and is great for ‘in the moment’, but Explain Everything has more versatility and offers several options for saving and distributing products. These are making me think much more about how we might create resources to help students and personalise their learning. If we are to consider the idea of Flipping – or even just simply putting support material into their hands, then the look like being cornerstones. Mind you, since seeing some of the resources on Cherwell’s YouTube channel I quite fancy going I to full scale tv production!
The most significant feature of the last month though his been how the technology has taken the back seat and learning is driving things along. These are exciting times in education, despite all that is coming from Gove, Ofsted and others (that’s a little reference to education in England, by the way – if you’re reading from elsewhere I’m sure it will be easy enough to insert your own!). I’m really glad to be around to take part in it.