Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important. -Bill Gates
Engagement…a critical factor in learning and achievement. When kids are engaged, they are creating, thinking, analyzing, problem solving and collaborating. Recent visitors to our classroom from another part of our state came to see the iPads in action. They saw us during our morning literacy center time with students moving in and out of small groups. Students were involved in both partner and independent activities all around the classroom. Some activities involved iPads and some did not. The visitors comments were, “These children are SO engaged! They are managing their own learning and they know what they are doing. It all seems so seamless.”
Those comments are great! We work very hard to accomplish this; however, it doesn’t happen on its own. Engagement in any learning task depends on the carefully orchestrated classroom environment. You simply can’t place an iPad in a student’s hands and hope it all works out. What visitors see is a result of daily instruction, modeling, guided practice and gradual release of responsibility. My students know how to do many things, but more importantly, they know why they are doing them. Flexible grouping within the classroom and collaborative coaching are also necessary. My job is more important than ever! I can’t just “Skype in”.
High expectations and classroom rigor, along with incorporating appropriate iPad apps, are yielding dramatic increases in achievement in our at-risk students. Narrow curricula and rigid instructional practices hinder these particular students from excelling.
My kindergarten students will graduate from high school in 2024. Lack of student engagement is a major factor in student drop out. The use of iPads as a technology tool, personalizes student learning and addresses learning styles. They are visual, auditory, and tactile. With 52% of children under the age of 8 using iPods, iPads, smart phones and other digital media, it’s obvious what holds their attention.
We are working diligently to provide our students with a variety of experiences that are engaging and meaningful across all subject areas. The great thing about watching my students in action is that to them, it’s no big deal. When I tell them we have visitors coming to see all the great things they are doing, they just shrug it off as if to say, “Why all the fuss? Isn’t everyone using iPads?”
It’s a question worth considering.