We are two weeks into this project, and are behind in the blog postings for various reasons. Let me make a first post without much formality.
Curtis and I were able to get our tablets a month early, and we played a lot. We looked for apps that we thought we might want to use, tried to figure out how to access settings, wifi, pdf readers... all the important things we could think that we wanted for class. I don't think I was prepared for the reality of using the tablets in class even after having them for a month!
The first day of class went very well. Campus Tech had outfitted our classroom with our own wireless access point, and we felt ready! We gave a general overview of the class, and were surprised that some students didn't know that they were going to be loaned a tablet, and some students didn't know this was a paperless/ textbookless class.
Halfway through the first class, we went to the Parkland Library to allow students to check out the tablets. This process went extremely smoothly thanks to DVL and the Library Staff. Students got their tablets (and signed away their transcripts and ability to register for more Parkland classes if they lost, destroyed, or damaged their tablet and did not pay for it), and gingerly carried them to the classroom.
The tablets immediately equalized the class and created a working community. Curtis and I were prepared for class, but it was obvious we were still learning and needed the students to be flexible and creative throughout. I think this really empowered them to be part of a learning community, not just sit and be lectured at. I had to remind myself several times (as I was embarrassed I couldn't explain how to find the settings again) that learning how to use the tablets was one of the objectives of the course. Unlike most other classes I've taught or been a student in, it was okay to use the tablet in this class, which is no more than a glorified smart phone. At one point, I started laughing because all 14 of us were glued to our tablets not speaking.
The second day of class proved that this was going to be a great group to work with. We didn't mandate that they put down the tablets and focus on the movie we showed, but the students all did. They were going to be an interested, and interesting group... perfect to work with on this project!
Last week, we finally got some important details worked out as to how we were going to communicate and assign homework for the class. Angel is much more clunky than we had anticipated, so we've migrated to google. We had the students make a google account on their tablets, and have utilized many of the google features because they work nicely on the tablets and sync everywhere. We have created a google calendar with assignment due dates on it, and we require students to use google+ to communicate with each other outside of the classroom. We have also been using google docs for presentations, documents, and lab spreadsheets. We are constantly trying different apps, but the google features work well as long as wifi is available.
So, this week, I am feeling like we have made it through a lot of the simple tech issues we've had trying to find apps that work for general things. For example, I didn't even consider that reading an instruction sheet that I made in MS Word would be difficult on the tablet, or that students wouldn't be able to see a powerpoint presentation. We are trying to use free apps, and that makes some of these things a bit tricky.
Today, I was thinking that we should make coming to class with a charged tablet mandatory, and we should look at all the machines at the beginning of the second week to make sure everyone has the apps on their tablets we've asked for them to download.