Monday, October 3, 2011

iPads in the classroom: Solutions to the headaches of sharing

   iPads in the Classroom: 
Solutions to the Headaches of Sharing 

   

 If you are fortunate enough to have iPads in your school on a 1:1 basis, then sharing is probably not a big problem. However, if you have a limited number of iPads being shared among different students and classes, then you have already likely experienced the headaches of sharing. 


     Apple created the iPad as a personal device which is primarily used by one person. Educators have come to see the wonderful potential of the iPad for teaching and learning, but are also starting the realize the nightmare of sharing content from the device. Not only can you not create multiple user accounts like you can on a computer, sharing content from the device can be tricky. This is extra problematic considering that there is limited memory (our school has the 16GB version).  Hopefully iCloud will make things easier once it is introduced, but in the meantime, here are a few solutions I have come up with: 


Lack of multiple user accounts: 


     Our iPads are shared on a 4:1 ratio and each grade team generally has enough to share among each other to make a full class set with 3-6 iPads in each class depending on the grade. To make it easier for students to create and find their work, I have requested that the iPads be numbered and that one student from each class be assigned to a specific number. That way, only 3-4 students share the same iPad, making it easier for students to know where their work is and to keep working on a project they started earlier. 


Sharing Content: 


iWork Documents to iWork.com 






     The two apps that teachers use the most in our school are Pages and Keynote. We are actually using Keynote as a way to complement traditional portfolios with digital content. One iPad is used to create a Keynote for each student in the class and students will add content to this iPad (video reflections, photos, screenshots, etc) throughout the year. One of the options in sharing from iWork is to share via iWork.com. Each teacher has created an iTunes and iWork account for their class so that students can share work directly to this site. This makes it possible to share work from the iPad as well as for teachers to later share work with parents by sending them the link or downloading the presentation. 






Videos to Vimeo via iMovie 




     Videos are the most difficult media to deal with on the iPad because of the amount of memory they consume. It is not hard to run out of space when you start getting students to record video reflections or use the camera to record events in the classroom. 
Sending videos directly through email is a possibility but won't work if the video is too big. I have created a Vimeo Plus ($60/yr) account for teachers sharing the iPads so that they can share videos off their iPad via iMovie. They simply open iMovie, add all videos they want to share (edit and title them if they want) and then using the share to Vimeo option from iMovie. The other options include YouTube and Facebook which I think lack the privacy options needed in an elementary school classroom. I have teachers share the movie in medium quality and make it viewable to anyone. They can then change the password settings on Vimeo to make videos password protected. These videos can be shared with parents through a direct link or embedded into a class website to parents after sharing the password. 


Photo Library to Email: 


     All photos taken on the iPad, as well as screenshots or photos added from apps, can be shared through email. I have created a class email account for each teacher so that students can share content directly to them. This content can be downloaded into a folder on the teacher's computer for the student if necessary or printed and added to a traditional portfolio. 


Other options: 


iTunes: 
     One option is to plug in the iPad directly to the teacher's computer and sync via iTunes. However, this is not a very practical solution when each child in the class is using a separate iPad. 


Wireless syncing apps: 


     There are apps available which will allow you to wirelessly send content from the iPad to the teacher's computer. However, my experience so far is that these apps are not 100% reliable and can be complicated for younger students to use. It is certainly worth trying but I have yet to find an app which I would recommend to do this with a full class of younger students. 


iCloud:  (soon)






     Apple should be releasing iCloud in the near future and this service promises to solve many of the sharing headaches that teachers are currently facing. I am not sure that it will be an adequate solution for videos but it may be a good way for sharing documents and photos. 


What is needed: 


      Apple would like us all to buy an iPad for every student in the school. The reality, however, is that this can't happen in many schools. Apple needs to make it easier for teachers to manage share content on the iPad by allowing for multiple user accounts on the same iPad as well as a one stop location for easily sharing all content (videos, photos and documents). 


What are your own experiences with sharing content from the iPads? What solutions have you come up with? Please share your experiences.