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Why your journalism program NEEDS a tablet

My last post was all about my love for paper & pens, and that is still so true, but I am also a super fan of technology! My campus has quite a few iPads available for check out, and the journalism program owns two. We have an iPad mini that’s a few years old and just got the snazzy iPad Pro as a reward for selling out of yearbooks last year. (Had to justify that chunk of change somehow!)

The beauty of a tablet is amazing portability with more screen real estate, memory, and processing power than a smartphone. Even the very cheapest tablets will accomplish all of the tasks listed below. Here are some ways my kids and I use tablet technology.

  1. Report live from the sidelines. With a tablet it’s super easy to live tweet sports games, post from fine arts performances, and interact with the student body on the go. Yes, these things can be done from a cell phone, but it’s usually faster and easier to type from a tablet – especially is you have a case with a keyboard embedded.
    Additionally, students are able to capture audio interviews without it being distracting. They can pull up the recorder, and leave it to run in the background. Then they pull up the note taking app and the interviewee is less likely to get all awkward when they see that they’re being recorded. (Although, we do always tell them they will be recorded – it’s just less daunting SEEING the recorder open… it’s funny how quickly they forget about it!) PRO TIP: Many note-taking apps will simultaneously record. Notability is our fave.
  2. Post photos of like, everything. I am ALLLLLLL for using our good cameras for virtually everything, especially if we are going to print it. But let’s be honest – the cameras on modern tablets (and phones) are pretty stinkin’ good. I preach the ‘use what you’ve got’ method, and that the kids are essentially reporters 24/7. If something happens, I expect them to whip out their phones and capture what they can. In the same notion, posting iPad football game photos live from the sidelines, increases credibility and encourages interaction with the student body. We’ll get lots of retweets from kids in the stands who see us out there posting live and want shout-outs. Getting the masses to interact positively with each other (even virtually) is a win in my book! Having it directed by our Press account is a double win, because it puts us in front of them, which leads to community trust, which can ultimately lead to more yearbook sales.
  3. Photo edits. The amount of apps that Adobe has is ridiculous, and they all do AMAZING things!! It’s super quick and easy to edit photos on tablets so your social media posts are high quality and engaging.
  4. Attendance. I don’t know why, but I am not joking when I say that one of the hardest things about teaching is remembering to take my dang attendance! Every single period, guys! Who has time for that?! Ugh. Anyway, I have multiple notes around my computer to remind me, yet I still struggle to remember. I’ve found that if I stand at the door, I can take attendance SUPER easily on the iPad as they come in! Full transparency, I still forget sometimes. Ok a lot of times.
  5. Grading. We use Google Drive like it’s going out of style. Kids submit their rough drafts, then editors collaborate with the writer using ‘suggestions’ to make edits before I see it, then I can submit suggestions as well. Depending on the size of the tablet, it’s basically the same size as a paper copy – which is my issue with doing this on my phone. (However being able to edit on my phone while waiting for my car’s oil to be changed is more than a blessing.) AND! Bonus if you have an Apple Pencil – the Notability app will let you grab Google Docs, markup/highlight like you would with a PEN, and return the doc to Google Drive. I especially love this because it satisfies my need to be able to make little punctuation edits easily. (Not a huge fan of the “comment” function for little stuff like that.)
  6. GOOGLE DRIVE. Take a photo on the iPad, upload to Google Drive, login from computer, download image. It literally takes less than a minute to get a quick headshot back to the classroom from the field. Especially helpful when we’re on deadline and sending runners to get headshots. (Whyyy oh whyyyy do we always leave this to the last minute?!)
  7. Technology integration. These days, kids are so comfortable using their phones, I’ve found that they have lost some know-how when it comes to using an actual desktop computer. Which seems crazy, because just a few years ago many districts took out basic computer classes as a requirement because kids already knew how to operate them – often times more efficiently than the instructors! But now we’re seeing a regression on desktop use, and things are moving mobile. This is still a problem we need to address because kids WILL be using computers in their careers, but they also need to be comfortable with tablet and mobile technology. It makes them more marketable.
  8. College. These days, it’s hard to find a college student who exclusively takes notes using pen and paper – they’re all mobile! The apps available for tablets to help with schoolwork (note taking, organization, productivity, etc.) are AMAZING. The more they learn about that in high school, the easier the transition will be to college. 🙂
  9. It’s fun, man! Sometimes during a stressful deadline, you just need to unwind with a fun game of Head’s Up. It’s HILARIOUS and sooooo fun! You can also incorporate all kind of artsy doodles into your publications by using apps like Procreate with your Apple Pencil!
  10. Lastly, having a separate device for school-based accounts lessens the chances of a student forgetting they’re logged into the wrong account and tweeting all their angsty teenage feelings from the journalism account. More than one time my principal has sent us screen shots from irrelevant (or worse – inappropriate) things “liked” or posted from our school account. It’s too easy to just forget to toggle back and it happens ALL the time… having personal accounts on personal devices and school accounts on school devices helps A LOT.