Reflecting on the New Normal of Our iPad Classroom

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The newness has worn of and as we roll into the last month of the semester, we seem to have reached what is, for us, the new normal.

We started with everyone writing everything on the iPads. Slowly, we have moved over to writing notes on the iPad, but an average of eight (29 percent) are using the laptops to write their articles after taking notes. The reason given: It is just easier.

We had one student drop the course in on Oct. 23, stating that the material in his other classes was too hard and he could not devote the time he needed. His parting words: “But I’m going to buy an iPad.”

We have been staging deadline writing assignments in class: a police press conference, speech coverage and a midterm that gave 24 hours to find, report, write and turn in a story based on one of three prompts.

In class, that percentage stayed consistent, but it rose to 68 percent laptop usage when students were faced with midterm pressure.

In the AP style portion of our midterm, students took a 50-question exam consistent with prior semesters. The use of the AP style app as a learning device seemed to better prepare them for the questions, as we had an average of 79.36 compared with 69.4 last semester.

We are also winnowing down the apps that we find useful. Twitter, Hootsuite, Facebook, all useful. The AP Style book, Evernote and Pages are staples.

Evernote and pages are the primary note taking and article writing apps, although some prefer just the notes that come standard on the iPad. The fact that Evernote is accessible on all IOS devices makes it almost magical.

We have found too many bugs to make WordPress worth using, and it has impacted the blogging section of our classwork. We have edited on iMovie, although the desktop version was vastly preferred and will likely be used for the remaining assignments.

Limitations with iMovie include being unable to bring in outside video, limited lower thirds and labor-intensive editing tools.

Tripod usage has increased as the video demands continue. Four of the six were checked out for the midterm. Keyboards are not being utilized as I expected, with students opting to go for the laptop first.

I plan to introduce immediately next semester and see if there is more interest.

Although six people have bought styluses, few are intended for fine writing, and they are not using apps to take hand-written notes.

Finally, we have finished watching all the class lectures assigned this semester, but I have just started reminding them to revisit certain lectures, as we write features articles and prepare for a multimedia final project. The fact those resources are maintained in their entirety and so easily recalled is proving popular.

As our semester winds down, it is amazing to see all the work they have produced, but also all the ways in which I can improve understanding and use of the iPad, as well as more ways it can sing and dance in our academics.

I am already looking forward to Spring 2014.

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