I have been wanting to turn one of my classes into a paperless experiment for a while. This is partly inspired by the great work of @mathletepearce and his Tap Into Teen Minds iPad 1:1 project, partly by the news that we have hugely overspent our department reprographics budget. Again.
The sometimes willing but not particularly able participants – my Year 9 class. As part of our current iPad trial, their classroom happens to contain a set of 16 iPads, a Mac and charging unit. Having chosen my selected apps – which unfortunately all had to be free – Apple Configurator was used on the Mac to sync the apps to the 16 devices.
In order to become paperless, it was essential to find a PDF annotation app that I felt the students would be comfortable with (it also had to export to Dropbox and be free). After a little searching I settled on pdf-notes, which provides most of the functionality of the £6.99 full version, except for a few annoyingly placed adverts.
In order for the students to be able to access the PDF files for annotation, I set up a class Gmail and Dropbox account and shared a folder with my personal Dropbox account. This handy feature means I can put work in the class account by just placing it in the shared folder on my personal account.
For those interested, the slides I used to explain the workflow process to the students are included below. I wasn’t brave enough to rely solely on AirServer to demonstrate the workflow.
The paperless mission began badly. Having failed to properly sync all of the devices, I confidently handed out a set of ‘appless’ (adj. - to have no apps other than those the iPad comes with) devices. Disaster.
On the second attempt, things went so smoothly I left the classroom suffering from mild shock. After considerable instruction, all of my students accessed the class Dropbox account, completed considerably more work than usual using pdf-notes and successfully placed their work back in the shared Dropbox folder for me to assess. Beyond this, their behaviour was unthinkably good and they sensibly completed a Socrative quiz before leaving. One student had their iPad taken off them for taking a photo of someone else, but given the fact that they appeared close to tears I shall not be expecting a similar mistake next time…
In terms of the SAMR model of technology evaluation, using the iPad instead of an exercise book provides no functional change; it is substitution plain and simple. However, the learning has clearly been enhanced, as demonstrated by the level of engagement, motivation and achievement. Of course, the iPad offers far greater opportunities for creativity than an overpriced exercise book. Augmentation, modification and redefinition have to be the ultimate aims.