As Director of Instructional Technology, one of my most important responsibilities is to ensure that our teachers understand how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom. Our teachers participate in PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities) where they are given dedicated time to learn new technology, and how to more effectively use existing technology. Teachers can also make appointments with me to meet one-on-one, or for me to visit their classrooms and coach them as they try new tools or teaching strategies. Even with all of these opportunities, fear of distractions can still be a factor in why teachers are hesitant to use iPads in the classroom.
One of the tools our teachers have recently explored is Apple Classroom. According to Apple, “Classroom turns your iPad into a powerful teaching assistant, helping a teacher guide students through a lesson, see their progress, and keep them on track. With Classroom, you can easily launch the same app on every student device at the same time, or launch a different app for each group of students. Classroom helps teachers focus on teaching so students can focus on learning.” I firmly believe the most important part of this statement is, “…helping a teacher guide students through a lesson, see their progress, and keep them on track…”
The biggest negative of using devices in a 1:1 classroom is the distraction. Students can easily change between apps, and even with a teacher moving throughout a classroom or standing behind the students in an effort to see their screens, the distraction factor still exists. Responses to these distractions have ranged from ‘take them away’ to ‘only allow older students to use them’. However, the reason we have a 1:1 iPad programs is to better prepare our students for their future. Their future will always involve devices and distractions, and we are working hard to teach them how to do more than just avoid these distractions. More importantly, we are teaching them how to use these devices in ways which allow them to take their learning farther than we could ever have imagined. In order to do this effectively, we should encourage teachers to use strategies that “guide students”, and teachers are using more tools to help them “see their progress”. This combination allows teachers to be more aware of learning gaps, close them sooner and create an environment where students are at the center of the learning process.
These features are very important because it helps reinforce the idea that the iPad should only be used during the school day as an educational tool. As this idea is reinforced throughout the day and teachers’ fears of cheating and distractions are minimized, students will be encouraged to use the iPad in ways that will take their learning and understanding to higher levels. Because teachers can see what apps their students are using in the classroom when iPads are not locked, this can become a deterrent to students who are off task and opening non-educational apps.
Apple Classroom can also be used to lock students into a certain app to take online tests. Teachers are now able to utilize tools for assessment that were previously beyond our comprehension. These tools not only give students faster feedback, which is extremely important in the learning process, but they also allow teachers to use assessment tools that we previously could not have even imagined.
Lock Feature Clarification
When teachers use the lock feature, it only locks student devices while they are in the classroom. Even if a teacher forgets to unlock an iPad, the iPad will unlock when they leave the classroom, and because it works with Bluetooth, the teacher can only see a student’s device when it is in their classroom. The phrase ‘see the iPad’ is key because the teacher can only see the screen and what apps the student has opened while in their classroom. Apple Classroom doesn’t allow the teacher can’t go into a child’s iPad.
Only the teacher uses the Classroom App. Students will join the class through the Settings app where Classroom appears on the left side – below WiFi and Bluetooth.
The requirement for a student’s iPad to use Apple Classroom is that the iPad must have a minimum of iOS 11. iOS refers to Apple’s operating system for their mobile devices. To run iOS 11, the iPad must be an iPad Air or Mini 2 (both released in Nov 2013) or newer.
Apple’s release last week at Lane Tech in Chicago, indicated there are going to be improvements to Apple Classroom – including the ability to run it from a teacher’s Apple computer and not just their iPad.