After letting the dust settle on Mike Fellows’ Parts of the Cell project at Lakewood High School in Arlington, Washington, several things became apparent to me.
The students didn’t have enough time with the iPads.
There were only two classroom periods for the students to work on a presentation. We unfortunately didn’t have the enough iPads to allow students to take some home and continue to work on their projects. We also didn’t have the man power to support an after school session. As it stood they had two 50 minute periods to furiously construct a five minute presentation on their cell and its parts. They didn’t have time to explore the apps that weren’t obviously familiar to them. Keynote was the safe choice and the creativity the of presentations suffered.
Another related problem was that we only had 11 iPads for the students to use. This means in a typical class size of around 30 students there’s one iPad per three students. Fortunately, this didn’t seem to cause problems with this particular group of kids as far as sharing goes, the kids that wanted time with the device seemed to be able to get it an acceptable amount.
It became obvious that the iPad works best as a personal device. The documents created aren’t automatically prompted to be named and are placed in a “common” space when sharing the iPad with multiple groups. So when dealing with multiple groups using the same iPad we run the risk of someone’s documents being altered or straight out deleted and with no downtime to sync them back up to my laptop this could be a real problem.
The learning curve was an issue.
Some of the students obviously had access to iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads to some capacity. This however seemed to be more the exception than the rule, which was close to the opposite of what I had assumed walking into the classroom. It turned out that the unfamiliar students were quickly split into the the students that were excited and engaged with the technology, and the ones that resented it and wanted to go back to the old way of doing things.
This learning curve really hurt the engagement level. A whole week could of been spent just doing some hands on lessons on how to use the apps and iOS. Some groups were able to really get into the project and just enjoyed their time in contact with the iPad no matter how drab the project seemed.
The presentations were varied in content and quality. There weren’t any that stood out from the crowd and generally it seemed as though the presentations weren’t of very high quality. There was plenty of misinformation and some of the students weren’t really able to fully complete the assignment based on the rubric that was handed out on the first day.
The iPads thrived where we expected them to, which is the “new shiny toy” factor. Many students were definitely engaged, even if it was only on the surface level. Most of the students were able to look past the short comings and really embrace the technology but overlooked the science, which, was the point all along.