The beginning is the most important part of the work.- Plato
I go back to school in exactly 17 days. *Sigh*. The new school year always brings a convoluted mix of emotions. Few advents bring such excitement and dread. However, one thing I have learned over the years is the absolute necessity to start the year right with your students by front loading procedures. Harry Wong is an educator, speaker and author. He states that “The three most important student behaviors that must be taught on the first day of school are discipline, procedures, and routines.” By being vigilant the first few weeks of school in establishing rules and routines, you set yourself up for a successful rest of the year.
Implementing iPads at the start of the year also requires front loading of procedures and rules. Whether you have a class set like mine or a few for students to share, proper use is an integral part of classroom management. Our school year starts on a Wednesday. I spend those first 3 days teaching classroom procedures and do not incorporate iPads. Older grades whose students used iPads the previous year might not need to wait 3 days. With 5 year old students (and some are actually 4), I need all 3 of those days to get classroom procedures rolling. The next week, I begin pulling small groups of students for reading groups. I will introduce the iPads in those small groups. We learn how to turn them on and off, how to navigate screens, how to hold them and how NOT to hold them. We work our way through a few phonics apps and then put them away. We will do that each day for that first full week of school, while continuing to go over all other classroom rules and routines. The second full week, I will usually do a whole group math activity or phonics activity with the iPads. We continue to reinforce proper use and handling and I model desired activities by connecting my iPad to the Smart Board. Students can watch and follow along. This has been successful for me in using the iPads the last 2 school years.
Those without class sets of iPads need to define how you want them used before giving them to students. The old adage “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, comes to mind. While there is nothing wrong with letting students freely explore the iPads, there needs to be a broader vision of their use. This vision should be systematically communicated to students as they integrate them into the classroom.
I also find it helpful to think of what trouble students can get themselves into and be proactive. The iPad has several features which allow you to control student access. The first thing I do is turn off the “in app purchase” feature. You can also turn off the camera, access to Safari and deleting apps features. I don’t turn those off in general, however, if you have someone using the iPad in ways you don’t want, these are alternatives.
Starting the school year with iPads is exciting. Having a firm vision on their use and purpose will help guide you through the first few weeks. When in doubt, go back to the basics!
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