“What’s a girl gotta do around here to get an iPad?” I said to a friend who works in the Ed Tech department of our school district.
She said she was working on something and two months later I received my own iPad and a date for training. Two other teachers and I embarked that day on a journey that still amazes us even today.
Our training, which began in January, consisted of awesome Apple trainer Greg Hall, our class set of iPads and one MacBook Air to be shared between the three of us. We had to go to someone’s house because we couldn’t even access iTunes and the App store at school. We set up the iPads and left with no directive, no expectations and no road map.
We launched iPads in our classes the very next day. Immediate engagement. I spent hours and hours outside of school searching for apps. I spent every planning period syncing apps, and putting them in folders. I had Greg on speed dial. He continued to be awesome and supportive.
I worked on integrating the iPad to be part of our classroom, not a separate tool. Kids starting excelling as I was able to differentiate and personalize activities for their needs. In May, just four short months later, my kids all went to first grade reading above grade level for the first time in 22 years of teaching. We were all blown away.
My epiphany came when I went through Literacy Leader training. My school district, in conjunction with the state of South Carolina Department of Education, offered a year-long cohort. I went to monthly training and all that I ever believed about how children learn was reinforced, deepened and celebrated during that training. I had found my passion.
I knew the iPads could be teamed up with great teaching and the Reading and Writing Workshop model. I began to focus on creating content, redefining workflow and focusing on each child’s abilities and needs. My kids started using the iPad for reading response journals, science journals, research, and creating projects. The iPad use was seamless.
I started blogging. We joined KidBlog and my kids starting blogging with me and with each other. I found even more ways to increase rigor, incorporate standards, personalize learning and truly transform my classroom. At the end of the 2011-12 school year, once again, 100 % of my students went to first grade reading above grade level.
This year, we are incorporating iBooks Author. I’ve created several leveled books for their personal iBooks libraries. They always have just right books at their fingertips. They are creating their own books in various apps. They are teaching other kids how to make books. They are taking charge of their own learning and they are 5 years old.
I am mentoring other teachers around my district as well as my state. We receive visitors and tours on an almost weekly basis. We applied for, and was awarded, the Apple Distinguished School award, one of only 87 schools in the United States, and currently the only school in SC to achieve that. In February, I was chosen as an Apple Distinguished Educator.
The final chapter on this 2012-13 school year has been written. For the third year in a row, we have 100% reading above grade level. My students are beyond proficient. They are readers and writers. They are leaders. I’m glad I just get to come along for the ride!