We recently conducted a three-day workshop for teachers who are using iPads with kids in grades K-12. Although all of the teachers worked with ELLs, some of the teachers were ESL teachers, others taught ELA, Math, Social Studies, or Special Education. You get the picture. We were all over the map as far as our audience was concerned.
So, the obvious question is how do we train teachers from such a wide variety of settings to use the iPad effectively in their classroom? This answer lies at the very core of what makes the iPad so unique: differentiation through apps!
Once the initial how-to session about the functions and features of the iPad is completed, the emphasis must switch. Professional developers must model differentiation for the teachers, just as they would do for the students in the classroom, through the use of solid apps.
This begins by exploring applications that are truly educational and useful for each teacher in their subject area or focus. First share the apps that are basic tools for instruction such as reference tables, calculators, readers, and dictionaries. Introduce apps like iBooks, Stanza, Periodic Table of Elements, Google Earth, and CalcMadeEasy.
If you are part of a district wide initiative using iPads, there should be one set of student tools for managing notebooks, submitting classwork and studying for all students. You must decide as a class which tools you will all use. Index Card is a great app that allows users to customize flash cards and organize them into categories for studying.
Ideally teachers should create a paperless system. (Can you imagine a world where you do not have to carry home 5 classes worth of assignments on Friday night?) By allowing students to submit their work via the iPad, teachers begin to model one of the true 21st Century learning protocols.
The buzz at ISTE 2011 was that Evernote works very well for this and is a robust app for creating, storing, and sharing documents. The native app Notes is a simpler note-taking tool. Of course, you always have the option to print out assignments when necessary.
As for instruction, remember that oftentimes the best apps cross over into many disciplines. For example, after we distributed our best apps list for ELLs, a teacher shared with us her best apps for Special Ed and we discovered a whole new bunch of apps that can be used with a variety of students. Apps for brainstorming and mindmapping such as iThoughtsHD and Popplet are universal tools for differentiated instruction.
Finally, teachers have to establish a classroom routine that works for them and their teaching style. Whether you have an iPad center a few times a week, or each student uses an iPad every day, the priority must be to set up classroom rules about how and when the iPad is used to achieve the instructional goals the teacher has designed.