iPads in the Classroom: Start Small, End Big

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.-Chinese Proverb

As with all things new, starting small often helps lead to bigger things.  Many classes with iPads aren’t fortunate enough to have 1:1.  Looking at maximizing learning and use of the iPads is key.  In our early days of the pilot program, I originally was scheduled to have only 12 iPads for use in small groups/centers.  Within the first hour of using them, I knew we needed (and could do amazing things) with a class set.  By the end of that week, we had a class set.  But what of those first few days with 12 iPads?

My first priority was to get them in the children’s hands during guided reading.  That is where we established expectations, learned how to use them, and began the important work of setting up personal learning plans.  Since I had only 12 for such a short time, I didn’t have the issue of storing work on only 12 iPads. However, if we had remained at that number, I would have assigned children to specific iPads and would have had them upload their work to their individual folder in PaperPort.  Beyond guided reading groups, I wanted them to use the iPads for some writing activities and self-selected reading activities.  Kindergarten is never  “all or nothing” learning.  We do some writing with pencil and paper, and some on the iPad.  We read some books on the iPad and some regular books.  We do word work, math, and phonics at times on the iPad and at times with manipulatives.  By starting small, the children (and the teacher) gain confidence in guided use.  Starting small also gives teachers a good idea of which children need close monitoring and which ones can handle a little more freedom.

Even though I have a class set now, I still like small group work best.  I like being a close observer of what the children are experiencing. Where are their successes or their areas of struggle? Are they guessing at answers or do they know them?  With the new iOS6, there is a new feature called Guided Access.  It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. It lets you control what features are available during use.  Just go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility, and turn guided access on.

So, whether you have a class set or just a few iPads, keep it simple, start small.  As you find your children progressing, you will find limitless uses for the iPads.

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Exploring Science

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Young children are curious about the world around them and eager to explore it. This curiosity is reflected in the numerous questions that children pose in everyday conversations at home and in school. However, at the beginning of school, young children are afforded few opportunities to engage systematically and thoughtfully in learning science. On average, less than 10% of instructional time is spent on teaching science in the early grades.  Time is a precious commodity in the classroom…so how do we fit it all in?

One of the ways we incorporate science is through our thematic units.  We also explore science themes through informational texts.  One of my reading groups was reading a leveled book on weather.  The informational text was written on this group’s reading level.  After reading the book and discussing different kinds of weather, we used our iPads as both a reading response/science journal.  Using our Whiteboard App, the children wrote about weather.  Kaylee wrote about a sunny day.  This was their first experience using the iPad keyboard.  They were excited about creating this assignment on their iPads.  There was a lot of good discussion among the children about which type of weather they would choose and how they would represent that on the iPad. One of the best ways to incorporate scientific skills in young children is to help them verbalize what they have observed.  Doing this activity in the small guided reading group made it very manageable.  The children already knew how to use Whiteboard in its basic form, how to change their colors, draw, erase, and save…but had not used the keyboard function before.  We had to discuss a few keyboard basics-space bar, backspace to erase, and how to hide the keyboard when finished.

Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer and writer, said that all children start out as scientists, full of curiosity and questions about the world around them.  We can tap into that natural potential by engaging students in hands-on activities, and in class discussions that help students discover simple but amazing facts about the world around them. The iPads serve as a tool to facilitate and extend the learning.

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