A failure and a success

A couple of weeks ago, I had both a failure and a success in my iPad pilot class--good examples, I think, of what doesn't work and what does work when you integrate technology into instruction. 

My lesson went like this:

First, I had the students log in to my virtual classroom on Socrative. I ran a teacher-paced "quiz" as a warm-up, asking them questions about the school rules that they thought were fair and unfair. Everyone had to respond in a complete sentence before we could move on to the next question. Even though there were only two questions, a warm-up that took 5 minutes in my other non-iPad classes as an oral activity took twice as long in this format. The students and I discussed the pros and cons of this format, and they told me that they liked seeing their classmates' responses projected on the whiteboard but they didn't like being made to keep the same pace as everyone else. In the future, they said, they would want to do a similar activity, but at their own pace. I reminded them that since this is a Spanish classroom, we also need to structure time for them to talk face-to-face to each other in Spanish--something that we are really lacking since the introduction of the iPads, and the topic of a future post, I think.

The rest of the lesson followed a bit more of a traditional format. When I do not want the students to use their iPads, I tell them specifically to close their iPads and listen to instructions. (This doesn't always work.) Via a projected PowerPoint, I showed a series of judgment statements (It's fair that seniors have their own parking. It's necessary that students get detentions for arriving late to class.) and asked the students to move to one side of the room if they agreed with the statement and the other side if they didn't agree. I randomly selected students to explain their points of view as we moved through the statements. Next, everyone returned to their seats while I did a brief presentation about the present subjunctive in judgment statements, using hand gestures to reinforce the process of conjugating the present subjunctive. Then I asked students to take out their iPads and open up the Drawing Pad app. I showed them a series of statements, with the verb highlighted in blue, and told students to write "S" on the iPad if the verb was in the subjunctive and an "I" if it was in the indicative. Students showed me their responses and I affirmed their work with "maravilloso", "fantástico", etc if it was correct or just gave a slight shake of my head if it was incorrect. This was a nice spin on the tried-and-true whiteboards comprehension check. It was fun to see how the students personalized their Ss and Is--different colors, fonts, heart decorations (for Valentine's Day). This comprehension check took no more than five minutes. At the end, I directed students to our class website, where they downloaded a PDF of an organization chart for the present subjunctive conjugation and opened the document in iAnnotate. I connected my iPad to the projector via the Apple TV and modeled how to mark up the PDF in iAnnotate, and as class time was running out, asked students to explore what they can do with the app at home by filling in the first part of the org chart.

The second half of the lesson felt much tighter and more organized than the first half. What did I learn this time? In the warm-up, the technology got in the way of a simple activity that would have been more effective had I allowed students to move at their own pace or if I had asked students just to talk to each other. It was about the app, not the students. In the second half of the class, we used the iPad as it was meant to be used--as a tool for increasing efficiency and allowing for the personalization of content.