How Keynote for the iPad has Transformed my Classroom
January 02, 2013Tips and Tricks
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experiment with iOS devices in my 8th grade Earth Science classroom for years now. I began with a few 1st generation iPod Touches, then a class set of 4th generation iPod Touches, and, for the past two years, a class set of iPad 2s. From the start, I approached the integration of the devices with an “app-centric” perspective. That is to say that I thought all of my classroom needs could be met by the thousands of talented developers represented in the app store. Of course it is true that there is a plethora of incredible content available for download, however, I quickly found that I was designing activities around the apps, rather than finding apps to support or enrich the activity. I always felt uneasy about this. I am a true believer that the technology should blend into the lesson, it shouldn’t stand out. It should enhance and support the students experience, bringing content to life in ways that would otherwise be impossible. So, after months of exhaustive searching and planning, downloading and experimenting, I knew that I had to make a change.
I was yearning for a way to be in control of the content that my students were exploring. I needed to escape the ball and chain that is the app store. So my colleagues and I began to explore different ways of building, from the ground up, our own content. It was a challenge at first, seeing that none of us are programmers, nor did we have the time to both learn X-Code and begin building native apps. One day, it hit me like a load of bricks...what about Keynote? My most favorite app of all time, a powerful content creation tool sitting right there in the iPad dock, was waiting to be used in new and exciting ways. In the past, I have had students create presentations as projects, but I had never even considered designing content for them to explore on the iPad. And so I tried it out.
At first, I built simple linear slideshows that students would navigate through. Keynote for iOS allowed me to include rich multimedia like video clips and high-resolution photographs. Then Apple updated the software, allowing for linking of slides. This was a pivotal moment as it allowed me to create content that was no longer linear. I could include buttons which link to different slides, allowing students to explore what they wanted to and in whatever order they desired. Some problems remained, however, including the fact that students could easily alter my presentations, that is, there was no way to make the files read-only. This issue was addressed with the recent addition of locking to Keynote for iOS. Now I can create the activities, complete with multimedia, builds and transitions, and then lock the content into place. Of course, students can still make changes if they want to, but it is at least somewhat more difficult. I was finally able to easily create awesome content for self-guided tutorials, lab explorations, and even assessments, using a tool that I’m already familiar with. My students love working at their own pace, and proceeding in a manner that best suits their learning needs. And I now have the opportunity to work individually with struggling students, while the others are moving on to enrichment activities. Keynote for iOS has allowed me to completely differentiate my very diverse classroom.
Here is one of my recent keynote decks for you to check out. Try running it on your iPad to get the true experience that the students get.