I wrote about proven but dull iPad use roughly a year ago and my opinion hasn't changed.

If you ever walk into my room, you'd think it's a technological wonderland. There's TVs and a printer, and I use a non-conventional input method. I generate all of my assignments in house electronically, etc, etc. All of that helps me do my job efficiently. But if you're one of my students, you'd probably hear more about markers than anything else. My method of note giving is actually quite frustrating for the students. I can manipulate stuff all over the screen, shrinking and moving content as necessary. Until I can equip them all with an iPad Pro or something, there's not much they can do but sigh and erase because they didn't leave enough lines empty. The phrase "you KNOW we can't do that" comes up often as I happily rearrange things.

Anyway, a couple of recent events have prompted me to examine just what a student device enhances. One, there's a (slim) possibility a local company might be augmenting what we have on hand. Two, I've started teaching a lot of kids who are incidentally involved in a 1:1 program through their AP English and Eco/Government classes. Leading to scenes like this:

You see that and think, surely they're Google doc'ing or collaborating or making a presentation or something, right? That sort of thing does happen elsewhere in the building and it works well, just not in my room for my subject. Their primary use for me is flipping through scans of handwritten solutions to AP problem sets.

iPads and Desmos still come in handy:

But the struggle remains. Does it pass the pencil test? Do I save something going the electronic route? In very narrow scenarios, that answer has been yes. But most of the time, pencil is still so much better, especially when it comes to feedback.

At a local EdCamp, there was buzz about Google Classroom. But the end result was a lot of people migrating fill-in-the-blank worksheets and debating ways to have students fill in the blanks electronically. Or yet another way to boil math down into computer friendly multiple-choice sets. When asked (I usually just listen at these things), I said it's the wrong approach entirely. You haven't thought about whether filling in blanks or skimming through multiple choice was an appropriate assignment in the first place. Ask any college kid putting up with MathXL.

In some future scenario where all my students have a Chromebook or something, I think I'd stop making copies of my problem strips as a first move. In Calculus it might lead to me writing the workbook I want but no one wants to sell. As far as having students download slides or fill in forms or what have you, I'm just not convinced. Activity Builder is on the radar, but I still don't know if it's my style. In my particular math classroom, the advantages aren't high enough to merit further investment.

AuthorJonathan Claydon