Multi-tasking Struggles

Have you ever tried to watch a video on YouTube and take notes on your iPad at the same time?  I often ask my students to watch short videos on YouTube for flipped lessons (have you heard of it?  I’ve had great success incorporating it into my Algebra 1 class).  But my students take their notes in Notability on their iPads.  So in order to complete this assignment, they have to use two devices (one to watch the video, one to take notes in Notability).

When Lia wrote about the Downside to Digital Textbooks, my Algebra 1 students were using paper notebooks.  Now that they are using Notability and have an iPad based textbook, we’re running into the same problem when they do their homework.

My students seem content enough to screenshot the problems and insert the image into Notability.  Others use the four-finger swipe/gesture to go back and forth between apps.  I don’t really like either of these solutions.  They seem more like temporary work-arounds rather than true solutions.  I’m coming to the conclusion that the only true solution will be when the “textbook” provides a work space for students to complete problems.

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iPads as Notebooks? — Part 1

The Pedagogy

During the 2012-2013 school year, I started turning to my iPad more and more, rather than paper, while during personal work.  I stopped making paper answer keys, choosing instead to annotate PDFs, wrote up solutions to share with my students using digital ink, and kept track of my own notes about topics I was teaching in my iPad rather than a notebook or binder.   The better I got at using my iPad and the more organized I became, the better this system worked for me.

Did this mean my students should stop using notebooks and switch over completely to their iPads?   After giving it some thought, my answer is:  it depends.

In choosing whether to use an iPad as a notebook, here are some things to consider:

What other resources do the students need to use while working on their iPad?

My Algebra I students are using the HMH FUSE series, a comprehensive Algebra I resource built for the iPad, instead of a textbook.  When they are doing problems from FUSE, they need to be looking at them from their iPads.  Even for the most adept multi-tasker, switching back and forth between this and a note-taking app would be inefficient and frustrating.  So, my Algebra I students do problems and notes in notebooks, but whenever I have something that I would have passed out to them on paper in the past, I deliver it to them electronically.


What are they used to?

I teach a Pre-Calculus course to honors level juniors, motivated students who focus on academics and have already discovered the habits that work for them by 11th grade. They have a regular, hardback textbook, so they are required to use their iPads as their notebooks for our first unit.  After that, they have the choice of switching back to a regular notebook.  They have the freedom to make an informed decision.

Will it actually help the students?

I also teach a geometry course (without a textbook) with students who are less set in their ways.  Here’s what I am trying:  they aren’t allowed to use notebooks, and they do everything on their iPads:  all notes, all homework, all activities, unless they are physically making things.  My hope here is that if they always have something to do for class on their iPad, they won’t be tempted to be doing something else – iMessaging, live Tweeting everything I say, etc.

How does all this look from a workflow point-of-view?  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post – The Tools!