With 140 middle schoolers on iPads and her classroom curriculum fully digital, Maritza Avila knew she needed a way to keep her students on task throughout her language arts classes each day.
The Oxnard Educators Association member found Apple’s Classroom app, a Bluetooth-connected tool that gives her control of student iPads so she can see what’s on individual screens. “With 35 students in a classroom, it’s obviously difficult to monitor what they are doing. This allows me to lock their devices into mine,” she says. “I use it every day. I love it because it gives me that control.”
The Oxnard School District started issuing iPads to students more than five years ago, and while there were initial problems with cyberbullying and students downloading games, most students in the district now understand the expectations associated with iPad usage. Avila reports that many elementary teachers in her K-8 school also use the Classroom app, so by the time students reach her seventh-grade class, they are well versed in classroom expectations.
Still, problems do arise occasionally.
“I do have a few students who are tech-savvy enough to get around [the app],” she says. “If they know I am going to lock them in, they will turn off the Bluetooth. But when they see that I will keep coming over to them, they will turn it back on.”
Left to their own devices
While some Educators ban electronic device usage in the classroom, others incorporate them into class research, communication and collaboration. The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning recently noted specific instances where electronic device usage is beneficial for students. Among them:
- Targeted activities, including polls and note-taking. Online poll-taking allows instructors to ask questions as a formative assessment to monitor student learning.
- Shared note-taking, which may be easier with electronic devices.
- Student research on online library databases and other resources.
- Implementation of active learning exercises that require access to websites and online tools, to perform such activities as concept mapping and surveys.
Teachers should support students who do not have their own devices, either with school-supplied devices or by sharing with a partner.
The Yale Center recommends that educators announce their policies on electronic device usage in class on the first day of school and multiple times after that. Class syllabuses should also contain clear guidelines, including consequences for violating policy.
Instructors who don’t want cellphones to be used in their classrooms have a variety of ways to ensure this, including setting up a designated space for all students to put their phones during class.
Apple in Class
Apple classroom works in conjunction with Apple Schoolwork, a cloud-based app that lets teachers using iPads in class create and distribute handouts and other assignments, collaborate individually with students, track students’ progress, and assign specific activities within apps. Apps that already work with Schoolwork include Explain Everything, Tynker, GeoGebra and Kahoot!; more are expected. Both Classroom and Schoolwork are free at the App Store.