'iPadSammy's' Guide to Integrating Technology in the Classroom

'iPadSammy's' Guide to Integrating Technology in the Classroom
The Editorial Team July 29, 2013

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If you really want to integrate technology into the classroom, asking which apps are best for math or science is the wrong question.

Picture of Jon Samuelson, iPad Sammy blog author

Jon Samuelson, education technologist and author of the iPadSammy blog.

“There’s tons of great math apps if you are trying to ‘skill and drill’, but there’s more to technology than that,” said Jon Samuelson, best known as iPadSammy from his blog of the same name

Samuelson has worked with technology in the classroom since well before apps.

“When I started teaching, we were excited to get the Internet hooked up,” he laughed.

He was a technology leader in a school in Alaska, earning the right to keep a MacBook as long as he taught in the district. At the Austin, Texas, elementary school where he now works as education technologist, Samuelson rolled out iPod Touches to his students before the iPad existed. He later introduced the iPad to the entire district.

Finding Apps that Inspire

So, how does he integrate technology into classrooms?

It’s about creativity, Samuelson said.

“Find three or four apps that really inspire you and build around those,” Samuelson said. “You have to go with what you are normally teaching, but apps allow for creativity that lets you reach students in a variety of ways.”

Teachers don’t have to work with history games, math games or quizzes. They can use videos, photos or anything else that gets the creative juices flowing.

The best part, he added, is that teachers don’t have to master an app. They need only to learn the basics of what it does. Students usually can answer questions when something unexpected comes up. After all, they are digital natives.

Most importantly, teachers must plan a work flow. They need to know where they will save the work, and how to work with their school’s network firewall (so if you plan to save to YouTube, make sure your school does not block the site).

3 Ways to Get Creative with iPad Apps

Three of Samuelson’s favorite ways he’s seen this work:

  • Getting geometric: As a geometry teacher, he had his students take pictures of geometry in real life around the school campus. The students then looked at the images and worked to define what they were seeing: this is a right angle, that is an isosceles triangle. Then they created flash cards with their new vocabulary words.
  • Creating Snapguides: He has his students use Snapguide to create step-by-step guides on how to answer math problems; sort of like those DIY instructions people post on Pinterest. “This way they can distribute what they’ve learned to an audience, normally their parents, and they’ve made a guide on how to do math,” Samuelson said. Students creating books for the Apple bookstore get the same rush of creating for an outside audience, he said.
  • Living history: Finally, his school has done living wax museums in which the students pose as wax statues of important people. To find out more about the person, museum visitors could scan an image and get a full report — including video — on why the person was important.

The most important thing for Samuelson isn’t that teachers copy these ideas or use apps for the dreaded skill-and-drill. Rather, he said, it’s to be inspired by what technology can do and how it can help students better understand their world.

Keep up the conversation. Check out Samuelson’s blog at ipadsammy.com or follow him on Twitter; his handle is @ipadsammy

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