Classroom technology should have two functions: let you do something not possible with or better than paper and not be the center of the attention. If you want students to create something with technology (presentation, drawing, etc), the PROCESS of creating it should not overshadow the POINT of creating it.

Tablets have to be treated differently from computers, though. EdTech marketing material is clueless on this front, not even mentioning the ways you would do this. Even the official iPad Education site skips ALL of the details of how teachers collect all these great things they talk about.

Tablets will start working like magic if you do a couple things: 

  • sign every device into the same iCloud/Apple ID account
  • enable Photo Stream
  • create 1 new gmail account
  • download Google Drive to every iPad
  • sign this new gmail account in to Google Drive on every iPad

The idea is to clone 1 device however many times you need in a class set. The students does not engage with the tablet as an individual, they engage with it as a terminal to a larger system that doesn't care who they are. 

Photo Stream

Here's the idea. Take a picture on a device. Moments later that photo copies itself to ALL devices in the room. It's incredibly useful for two reasons.

Example 1: locate a picture of [thing] 

Students search for whatever you requested. These are either images on the internet that they save to the local Camera Roll, or through creating new pictures with the iPad camera. How do we discuss these as a class? Downloading them to a computer would take forever. Connecting individual devices to the projector or what have you would take equally as long. With Photo Stream, as the students go about their business collecting photos, the 16 iPads operating as one silently dump the results in one location. You the teacher, plugged into this hive mind, can pull it up with no need to take a device from anyone. I discussed it last school year, here's what the collection looks like in real time: 

Example 2: annotate atop picture of [thing] 

Even with 16 iPads, that's not enough to go around. And if we go wandering around the school for a picture collection activity, we don't need to take them all with us. Just a few days ago, I wanted each student to annotate some things about a right triangle they found in the school. Each student needed their own picture. I sent them into the wild with 12, but we were able to create with all 16. How? Every snapped picture was on the photo stream. The 4 iPads sitting in the classroom were quietly receiving every picture being collected. When it came time to create, I passed out the extras and students were able to find their photos without a problem. The device that took the photo is irrelevant. 

Google Drive

In the last year, Google Drive for iPad has made great improvements. It's a native interface to Google Docs but is a location that can be sent items from other apps on the iPad. In my annotation example, I wanted each student to complete a drawing. Using Adobe Ideas the student brought in their triangle of choice and made their annotations.

When complete, we had some options. They could send the drawing back to the camera roll (where it would be sucked back into the Photo Stream), print the drawing, e-mail it to me (bwahahaha), or send the photo off device for viewing by me on the computer. I went with option three because I wanted to quickly see who was complete (by naming the file with their first name).

Having signed all devices into Google Drive with the same account, the annotated triangles could be dumped in the same location and monitored by me in a desktop browser. The process to send a completed drawing out of Ideas and into Google Drive takes less than a minute: 

Students could verify their work was received by looking at the big screens in the room and watching for their name. I could also glance at this and get a feel for the progress of the room. Here's 10 minutes worth of Google Drive activity in my desktop browser sped up by 10x: 

Collection is quick. Students figured out the procedure quickly. There was a bit of a start up cost to teach the saving process. But it will save me time in the future if I want future work to be submitted this way. Not a single kid ran into a technology hurdle with this. They drew a picture, they sent it to me, and we got back to work. 

AuthorJonathan Claydon