A New Year Takes Flight

This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.  -Taylor Swift

My intention was to write this post a few days ago.  Last week was our first week of school and somehow, between teaching all day and enduring 100 degree heat each day, I came home completely exhausted.  The first week is always tough…getting back into the routine.

Usually, on our first day of school, I am asked multiple times, “When can we play?”  “When is recess?”  I was completely expecting that when someone raised his hand and started with “When can we…”   what I was not expecting was the end of that sentence.  “have our iPads?” So we had to have a little  talk about how we needed a few days to get used to our new classroom and routines before we started using iPads.  The kids did a great job of adjusting the first 3 days so on day 4, I started with iPads in small groups.  photo 3-2

I took their picture and saved it as the lock screen and the wallpaper.  That allows me (and the children) to quickly see to whom the iPad belongs. We worked on turning the device on, navigating screens, identifying the folders I’ve created that hold their apps, and opening an app.  After working a few minutes in one app, we closed it and moved to a different folder to try a different app.  Then we learned how to put the iPad to sleep and put it back in the iPad storage cabinet.  These small groups lasted 15-20 minutes.  Each child had an opportunity to get hands on time with the device.  On Friday, we reviewed the procedures from Thursday and worked on a couple of different apps before putting them away.  Some of the children have iPads at home and were quick to point out they already knew how to “work the iPad.”  I reminded them that they use the iPads at home one way and we use them at school in a different way.  We will spend another few days front loading procedures in small groups and then I will bring them into a whole group math lesson.  Starting out in small bite-sized lessons really allows me to scaffold the procedures and set everyone up for success.  By going slow now, I can speed up later.

What was great to see in these brief introductory lessons was the immediate tendency of the children to be collaborative. They didn’t zone in to the iPad and tune everything else out.   They were helpful to each other and they were having good conversations about what they were doing in the app. This collaborative behavior is at the very heart of how we work and play in our classroom.

Starting school is exciting and a little stressful for both the teacher and students.  I am grateful our first week went smoothly and am looking forward to the exciting things these children will do this year.

School year 2014-15 is wheels-up and has taken flight!

Today we will learn exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

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Getting Started

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.  ~John Cotton Dana

photo-12Today was the day…iPad Day.  It was the 5th day with students.  I had been questioned about the iPads every day since day one. I knew they were excited and ready to use them but we had some procedures and routines to get under our belts first.  Front-loading procedures is a “must do” when it comes to introducing iPads to students.  Yesterday, I took their pictures with their iPad and set it as the home screen and wallpaper.  That way, we all know which iPad belongs to whom.

My assistant and I pulled over small groups of 5 and we showed them how to turn on the device, put it to sleep, navigate screens, and how to adjust the volume.  I keep all of my apps in subject related folders.  We opened the ABC folder and we worked with a couple of apps and then we put them to sleep and put them back in the iPad cart.  Wait..what? That’s it? Yes…that was it for today.  Tomorrow, we do a little more.  Each day will build on the day before. I’ve learned after 3 years of 1:1 iPads, that not only do the children need procedures, I need them as well.  It’s very tempting to embrace the idea of “Go big, or go home”.  Taking small steps early on not only keeps me sane, it allows the children to learn in manageable chunks.  I had a few students tell me today they already know how to use the iPad because they have one at home. We talked about how we need to learn how to use them at school also.  Going slow now, means we can speed up in September.

Before long, they will be masters of this device.  But since it is a powerful learning tool and not a toy, it is important we take our time in learning proper care and handling as well as digital citizenship.  It also takes time to integrate the device into the curriculum in a way that is meaningful and not just have “app time”. I want them to be creators of content and not just consumers.  This is why teachers won’t be replaced by technology.

So, we will forge on in the coming days. I’m excited about all of the possibilities. We will learn the names of our classmates and how to work, learn and play together as a community of learners. We will also begin the exciting world of a student-centered classroom that incorporates iPads in kindergarten.

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!