Beyond Apps

We hear a lot about iPads and Apps in educational discussions. Plenty of people are more than willing to share their opinions about which app is best for school, or why we should use a specific app, but there is very little focus on workflows and combining a number of apps to achieve a desired outcome. I actually believe this is the most important part of the conversation about using iPads (or any other tablets, smartphones or computing devices).

This is all about moving away from the ‘one size fits all’ model of education that many teachers cling to as a the proverbial life raft. iPads are no different from any other tools and devices – Teachers can dictate specific apps and workflows OR they can assist students to develop a range of workflows and combinations of apps to achieve numerous and varied results. I certainly prefer the second option. (I still don’t understand how teachers can cope with marking 27 iterations of the same thing.) Surely it is more exciting for teachers to have a variety of products to assess, let alone the impact on students who can have the flexibility to express their thinking and learning in a format that works for them at the time.

30.3 _ choose love? [EXPLORED]

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Workflows should be part of the ‘teaching’ that goes with using iPads. Students should not have ‘lessons’ about how to use an app. Technology is not separate from subject or curriculum areas. It is one of the amazing array of tools and resources that teachers do (or should) have at their disposal.

In writing this post, I have been considering some of the workflows and app combos that I have used or witnessed others using. Even the simple process of creating a product and sharing it with your teacher has a minimum of 2 steps in the workflow (and that’s without planning!)

Consider this scenario… A student intends to make a short video to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.

A simple workflow would include planning, storyboarding, filming, production and distribution. In this instance, a sample workflow could include Popplet Lite for planning the event, Strip Designer for creating an annotated storyboard, filming relevant material using the Camera app, producing the movie in iMovie and then sharing the finished product by email or YouTube.

This is just one example of a workflow for this task. It could easily be achieved in a number of ways with a different collection of apps to achieve the desired outcome. In the end, it is about leveraging the potential of the apps you have available on your device. This is especially necessary in schools where iPads are shared devices. You don’t need to download hundreds of apps. A small collection of apps with developed workflows will be more powerful in the hands of students than devices loaded with hundreds of apps to choose from.

It’s time to move beyond apps and focus on workflows that enable quality teaching and learning.

Let Them Create

Over the last few months I have worked with a number of schools and teachers to support them in the use of iPads in a range of classroom settings. From these experiences I can group people into two broad categories – those that are excited by the simple creative potential of the device and those who are trying to make the device conform to their existing practice.

Those teachers who are genuine in their pursuit to harness the creative possibilities of iPads are experiencing plenty of great success stories with student engagement and learning outcomes. Their students are inspired to participate and are regularly challenging themselves (and each other) to express their learning through a range of apps. These students are exploiting the capabilities that app developers have made possible. Making a movie is no longer a laborious task. Apps like iMovie, Sonic Pics, Sock Puppets and Silent Film Director have made simple multimedia production a positive experience for students and teachers. Even better – the learning curve for each of these apps is almost negligible so the focus is on the content of the production not on mastering challenging applications.

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To the other teachers who are diligently moulding iPads to their traditional views on education, please try something different. Your students will be inspired and you may well be amazed at what your students can achieve.