The NTA recently hosted a cocktail party in Pasadena, CA to gather teachers (and any others interested in progressive educational endeavors) to discuss our latest initiative: Educational App Reviews and iPad in the classroom. The results were very interesting.
While everyone is excited of the possibilities of tablet computing, we believe that teachers need to give clear direction what educational apps are most appropriate for the school and home environment.
Our goal is to work with publishers to donate iPad and other tablet computers to schools in exchange for honest feedback of their educational app. You can learn more about our iPads in the class and App review initiative here.
We have been working closely with a team of teachers to fine tune this initiative but we felt it was time to expand the conversation to teachers who hadn’t heard about what we were working on to get their feedback. The goal of the “NTA, iPads and Cocktails” event was to have classroom teachers help refine our vision and discuss the best way of getting as many tablet computers in the hands of students and educators as possible.
We had a nice turnout of teachers with a wide range of backgrounds. We had a everyone from a second grade elementary teacher to a middle school dance teacher to a high school English teacher to a school nutritionist to even a JPL rocket scientist. This was exactly the range of prospective we were looking for.
Number of Tablets in the classroom:
Teachers seemed mixed about how many iPads would be desired, initially wanting them for the entire class, then allowing that any number could be helpful. We heard at 1 could be helpful for teacher demonstrations but 5 seemed to be the minimum for regular student use.
Since there was a wide range of teachers with different technology skills attending the event, some teachers said they would require specific iPad training. Others, who may have been more tech savvy, claimed that the iPad was intuitive and wouldn’t require training. Some wondered if specific apps they were reviewing would require training or was the purpose to review apps.
There was some gray area surrounding what teachers can do with the iPads. Some wondered if they had 20 iPads in their class could they purchasing additional apps in the future. They wondered if they needed 20 itunes accounts. And if they did add new applications would they get to take the iPads to their new classroom next year. Most agreed that the tablet computers could follow the teacher from class to class as long as they stayed in the same school. It was suggested that there is currently many great free applications like those offered by NASA that could come preloaded and that the NTA could partner up with groups that had educational grant dissemination requirements to get their apps on iPads.
Teachers shared that most schools have adopted routine methods of safeguarding computers and computer labs but the same methods are not in place yet for use of iPads. It was agreed that working closely with principals would be necessary. Related to the above, it was agreed by most that students should not take iPads home, but others worried that will this prevent ideal usage of some educational apps. Some participants asked the NTA to take the lead the way in developing best practices usage guidelines for iPads.
Identifying schools that should receive iPads was a large topic of conversation. Teachers said that this should be is a function of teacher-readiness (finding teachers who are enthused and will serve the project well), content-matching (finding schools whose student body and programs match the content of the app), and need (finding schools that will benefit most from the project). It was agreed that not every teacher at a school should participate if some teachers were resistant to using new technologies or was not interested or qualified to review educational apps.
This feedback along with those from other focus groups has really assisted us in the process. If you have any other thoughts please leave your comments below.