Sometimes the most obvious uses for an iPad are the ones that get overlooked. If you ask teachers about one of the potential benefits of having iPads in the classroom, most will mention textbooks. How great would it be to have all of a student's textbooks on the iPad? The books will always be with them and they won't break their back carrying them everywhere.
Well this post isn't about textbooks. I'm saving that until after my school actually finalizes their textbook plans for next year, so keep an eye out for that as we approach the end of the school year. Instead, I want to focus on another thing you can use iBooks for: free class sets of novels.
In my fifth grade Reading/Writing class, I try to have the students busy reading outside novels throughout the whole year. The first book of the year is assigned to them and comes from a physical class set (it varies from year to year, but all of them read the same book). The second book is an option from several choices. The third is The Little Prince. The fourth (and if we have time, the fifth and sixth) are basically whatever they want that they haven't already read (assuming I approve it, of course).
Well, one thing I noticed this year with the iPads is that those first two books (the ones that required me to assign books from out class sets) has suddenly become very, very easy:
The iBooks store has dozens of free classic novels, such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, The Secret Garden, and more. They have free books for elementary, middle, and high school. Since they are free, and since my students already have iPads, it is like instantly having access to class sets of dozens of books.
So when it came time to do that second outside reading assignment, I picked four or five books available on the store, gave the kids the list of options, and let them go and download and read whichever book they wanted. If they got started and didn't like it, they could download a different option and read that instead. It was great.
In the past, every book I wanted my class to read as a group required me to do a bulk order at Barnes & Noble. I often had to use money given to me by the Home and School Association or donated by the class parents. But now I can simply tell the kids to click an app and download a novel.
Many of the kids then used iBooks to find, purchase, and download other books for their future outside reading assignments. They paid for that out of their own pockets, but they were still super enthusiastic to search through the “book store” and get something they were interested in. The sad thing is that I now have dozens of physical books for class sets that are just taking up space in my storage closet.
For safety, using Meraki MDM we have restricted the iBooks store to not allow erotica material.
Oh, and iBooks's feature that allows kids to highlight a word and look up the definition has greatly reduced the number of random questions I have to answer during silent reading time.