Keep It Simple

Simplicity will stand out, while complexity will get lost in the crowd. -Kevin Barnett

American Thanksgiving has just passed and we are on the bullet train to Christmas! How are things where you are…busier than ever I am guessing? With all of the “must-do’s” that come with teaching, it is easy to let content design take a back seat to “getting it all in”. Lesson planning can become rote and robotic if we aren’t careful. Put your quarters in the machine and make your selection…

I have just returned from BarcelonaFullSizeRender 18, Spain. What an amazing experience! I went to work with the early childhood teachers at the American School in utilizing iPads in the classroom. The wonderful staff there was particularly interested in making the best use out of a few iPads per classroom. I taught math and reading lessons in their classrooms and watched the thrill of the young children interacting with their iPads. It can certainly seem challenging without a class set of the devices. My advice to them, as it has been on this blog all along, is to start small and take those baby steps. When starting something new, it is easy to get caught up and get overwhelmed. There is initial excitement but then real-life sets in and it just seems like too much work. Be realistic, but keep moving forward.

The truth is, designing good lessons is work. We are “content architects”. We must look at all of our students and provide experiences that reach each and every one of them. Whether you use the iPad or not in your classroom, content design is work. This work can be easier if we leverage the technology in such a way that students are engaged in student-centered learning. In Spain, we worked with the teacher iPad to demonstrate some new concepts to thIMG_2315e whole class and then worked on ways students could partner up to practice the new learning. We also talked about using the iPad in small group centers and small group instruction. My message to those fine teachers was you do not have to hang the moon simply because you are using technology. Short and simple lessons delivered in an engaging manner are just as effective.

Here is one brief example of an activity we did in Barcelona:

Using the Feltboard app, the 4-year-old students used the 4 Square sorting mat background. They pulled over shapes from the shape menu and sorted them by color and shape. Ideally, the teachers would give the children time to explore the app first without instructions. Then, using the teacher iPad projected up front, the teacher could demonstrate a mini lesson on sorting. The follow up would involve the students working in partners to complete the activity. Using the camera option in this app, students can take a screen shot of their work. Ultimately, this could be uploaded to a math journal created in Book Creator. When sharing iPads, my suggestion for this is to create a separate journal for each skill. This way, each child creates a page in the journal. When sorting is finished and you move on to the next skill, a new journal is created. This works for two reasons: 1. It is difficult for young students to create their own books when sharing iPads and 2: As each skill is finished and a new journal is created, it can be saved to the iBook shelf and students can look at all of their classmates’ work and continually review skills that have already been covered.

IMG_2288So, I encourage you to reflect on your own content design. Can it be refreshed and updated? How can you make small changes that might make big impact?

Share your story…do epic stuff!

 

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FAQ’s about iPads in the Classroom

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

We have had several visitors from other school districts over the past few months, interested in seeing iPads at work in the classroom.  From those visits and other questions posed on this blog, I am posting today some frequently asked questions. Hopefully it will help many of you as you navigate the early waters of incorporating iPads into your classroom.

  • How did you get the money to pay for the iPads?

My school district re-purposed funds that were originally designated for replacing computers in our classrooms.  These funds were for technology modernization and rather than purchase 2 computers per class, we piloted iPads.

  • iPads vs other hand-held tablets

Clearly, iPads is my answer.  They are game-changers. They are versatile, easy to use, backed by Apple and there are tons of educational apps available for use.  Having access to the internet is critical…these are more than just e-readers.

  • How often do you use the iPads each day?

All throughout the day for a variety of activities, small group, whole group, and individual. My main focus of use is to increase achievement in literacy.

  • What if the kids get tired of them or bored with them?

OK, seriously?  They are not toys.  They are learning tools that are essential to 21st century learning skills.  If teachers teach using best practices, kids will never be bored with them.

  • How do you get the work off of the iPads?

Legit question here…it’s not always been easy.  We are still unable to email from the iPads.  The best work around at this point for me is Simple Transfer app.  Anything that can be saved to the camera roll can be transferred off of the iPad.  My other option is PaperPort Anywhere.  My kids can save work to their folders on the PaperPort app.  I can access it, print, save or email work.  I’m excited that Pages now uploads to PaperPort!

  • How often do you have breakage or damage?

In 14 months of iPad usage with 3 different kindergarten classes: ZERO. They are very careful with them and I make sure we model and teach iPad procedures regularly.

  • What are your must-have apps?

Ah….these change as I come into new apps.  Currently, I love Montessori Crosswords (ELA), Park Math (Math), Pages, Book Creator, Simple Transfer, and Whiteboard. Oh…and Starfall.  Ok, making myself stop right there.

  • How often do you sync?

In the first few months of using them, A LOT.  I was constantly finding new apps and was a syncing mad woman.  Currently, not so much.  I will sync books or photos if I want them all to have them.  I use my class wiki to get work to student iPads and they then upload to PaperPort to get them back to me.

  • What do you like most about iPads in the classroom?

What’s not to love? I can’t imagine ever teaching without them.  They take learning to a whole new level with personalized instruction.  Being able to meet each student where they are instructionally is priceless.  With 25-30 students each year, I need all of the instructional support I can get.  iPads make it possible to differentiate instruction every day.

  • Are there any drawbacks?

As to the use of the iPads: absolutely none.  The only thing that could be a drawback is the cost of apps when you multiply it out over an entire class or school.  Get your PTA involved.  Hold fundraisers, donate blood (kidding, sort of) whatever it takes to bring in some extra money for those apps.

So there you are…hopefully this provided some insight into using iPads in a 1:1 classroom.  It can seem overwhelming, but it really is manageable.  My students, even at age 5, are quite capable with these devices.  The investment is worth the cost to reach every learner every day.

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