Facilitating Learning with Student-Submitted iPad Work

January 15, 2014 Hans Mundahl

Editor’s note: we want to thank the author, Hans Mundahl, from New Hampton School, for sharing this post and his input into our onCampus Attach app.

The iPad is a powerful tool for teaching and learning. But what we’ve found in our three years of running a very successful iPad program is that powerful tools aren’t enough to transform teaching and learning. First off, new technology which is adopted for sales or marketing reasons won’t stand the test of time: trying to keep up with neighbor schools is a losing game. On the contrary, you should adopt new tools because they deeply resonate with your mission, vision, and core values. Be willing to not adopt something new if it doesn’t fit.

A mission congruent program needs faculty to give it life. Faculty will engage with a new technology when they see it solving their problems, making their classrooms more efficient, or when they can get behind the ideas supporting the program. But a device is only as good as the infrastructure that supports it.

The iPad is a powerful tool when it is connected to the internet, when students can get a replacement when one breaks, and when students can easily pass in work to teachers. A robust supporting infrastructure is essential to the success of any device program.

Passing in work electronically is traditionally a difficult step. Sharing flash drives, emailing files, or using third-party cloud based solutions are cumbersome at best, even with a strong laptop program. The iPad makes these tasks more difficult: it’s so easy to create compelling content but so difficult to get files off the device. This is a hidden cost of doing business with the iPad that many teachers and schools don’t consider until they have teacher’s email inboxes filling up with student work.

When I approached WhippleHill about the homework pass-in problem on the iPad, it was difficult to articulate at first what we were looking for. I knew WhippleHill had solved most of the problems we faced: we had already associated teachers with students in onCampus, WhippleHill’s Learning Management System,  and could create assignments and turn on the assignment drop box. We needed a way to open a door to the assignment drop box from the iPad.

It’s impressive enough these days to find a vendor who will consistently communicate, delivers on their promises, and is constantly working to make their products better. I feel lucky for these reasons alone to work with WhippleHill. It’s truly remarkable how far above and beyond these expectations WhippleHill goes.

It took a crazy idea, a few phone calls, and a month’s time, and I was in a design meeting with the president of the company, the product manager, and an iOS developer working on a solution to a problem many schools didn’t even know they had yet. The result, the creation of onCampus Attach. Now, teachers can supplement onCampus by acting as a conduit for attaching iPad files to assignments using the iOS OpenIn feature.

Back in English class, students are deeply engaged with their readings of Acquainted with the Night. They are using the iMovie app to record themselves reading the poem and then adding images from the web of cityscapes, empty streets, and moonlit clocks. The teacher was thrilled to see her student’s creativity and demonstrate higher order thinking. Students were excited with sharing their own ideas in a fun and engaging medium.

After just one class block I wasn’t needed any more, and the students and teacher were off and running. From a technology standpoint, the device, the app onCampus Attach, and the way students were going to pass in work all faded away into the background, and that’s just the way it should be.

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