There is little doubt about it, iPad workflow is a nightmare. To the many technologically unsure educators the process of distributing, collecting, marking and redistributing student work on the iPad remains somewhat of a minefield. There are certainly lots of options – see this slideshow by @gregkulowiec and this excellent PDF guide by @john_larkin titled ‘Sharing your iPad Stuff: Not that easy’. Sometimes lots of options can be a bad thing. Especially when none of the options are particularly effective.
Have a look at this well versed workflow model:
- The teacher distributes a worksheet/assignment
- The students complete the worksheet in their books/on a sheet
- The students hand their work in to the teacher
- The teacher marks the work
- The teacher hands the work back to the students
- The students (supposedly) read the helpful comments the teacher has written on their work and learn greatly from the formative feedback that they have received
The question is, can that model be improved upon using an iPad? As it stands at the moment, the answer is a resounding no (if you believe this is not to be true, please get in touch).
This blog post is largely inspired by a post I came across yesterday about one of my favourite models for technology integration – the SAMR model of Ruben R. Puentedura (see below). As a general rule, redefinition is the aim; if you can only achieve substitution then integrating a technology probably isn’t worthwhile.
When you consider the integration of iPads purely in terms of a traditional workflow model, the iPad is nowhere near achieving the lowly ‘substitution’ status afforded by the SAMR model above. It clearly isn’t a direct tool substitute; to achieve the equivalent six point ‘traditional’ process would actually result in a functional loss, given how difficult replicating the process currently is on the iPad.
Of course the iPad offers plenty of other opportunities for redefinition and modification, otherwise presumably it wouldn’t have been so heavily integrated into education already. The problem is that formative assessment is considered a hugely important part of the learning cycle and it seems that this part of iPad pedagogy has largely escaped without consideration. There seems little point in teachers printing off student work completed on the iPad to re-enact the time honoured workflow model with pen and paper.
So lets take a bit of time to pick apart some of the potential (free) iPad workflow solutions that exist.
- Dropbox - great for sharing work with students, which can be done via a shared folder (Otixo and WebDAV can provide access to Dropbox from iWork apps). The problems begin when students need to return work to the teacher. This can be done by the shared folder again, but then the class will be able view each others work. Each student could share a folder individually with the teacher, but having a shared folder with every student you teach is likely to cause more confusion than it is worth unless you organise your shared folders with pinpoint precision. Using sendtodropbox presents similar problems with vast quantities of email addresses required. It is possible to recreate a traditional workflow, but I wouldn’t like to try and convince any newcomers that it is possible with ‘no functional change’.
- Edmodo - again, great for sharing work with students. Great for posting links to video content and can work in tandem with Dropbox using copied links. Unfortunately, using Edmodo to try and recreate the traditional workflow model involves a process that can only be generously described as lengthy, since you can’t upload to Edmodo from your iPad.
- Evernote – again, pretty good for sharing work with students. Work can be submitted to the teacher using the Evernote email address, but unless you are a premium user (£££) you are somewhat back to square one when it comes to marking and returning work to your students.
- Email – the classic fallback option, always there if all else fails. In fact, if you are prepared to put up with a serious increase in inbox activity that will result in each student in each of your classes emailing you work it isn’t a bad solution. Presumably though you’ll still want download each piece of work and save a copy for yourself at some point.
- Google Docs – have you tried using Google Docs on the iPad?
When you consider both the options and the resources created on iPad workflow, you will notice they concentrate almost entirely ‘sharing and submitting’. What comes next, which is surely almost as important, appears to have been largely ignored.
- Web version for staff/student access
- New iPad app
- Very straightforward setup method of creating a class and sharing a code
- Students only have access to files shared with them as part of each ‘assignment’
- WebDAV access to files and folders from a huge selection of apps
- Ability to access submitted work and provide feedback to individuals
- Teachers can ‘archive’ assignments for future reference
- In-built voice feedback tool (currently only in the iPhone/iPod touch version but soon to be on the iPad)
It is by no means perfect but definitely represents a huge step in the right direction. The new iPad app has a bit of a propensity to crash at the moment and it would also benefit from allowing links to be submitted as assignments. It also deliberately has no social aspect, but could function happily alongside Edmodo. The good news is that as far as workflow goes, it works and it isn’t complicated either. It might even achieve ‘substitution’.
Moving forward, with tools like Showbie functional improvements may even be on the horizon with workflow and feedback. Feasibly, student presentations created in Keynote could be sent via WebDAV to the teacher, opened, annotated with voice recordings by the teacher in Notability and returned to the student using WebDAV at their leisure (I say feasibly because Notability appears to have WebDAV issues at the moment). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
If you have any alternative iPad workflow models that work, please please get in touch.