Ipads in School

My school is trying to decide if we are going to starting using IPADs in school and all I have to say is WHY NOT?  I am so impressed with the learning that can be done using an IPAD I can’t wait to get one in the hands of all of my students!  There are so many great apps and great ways to use the ipad.

Some of my favorite apps are spellingboard, puppet pals, math racer, ithoughts HD, noteshelf (I LOVE THIS APP), and read2Go.

Spell Board lets the teacher or parent or student input their spelling list and then practice the list using a practice session or a word search.  The app will also give the student a spelling test!  The best part is the teacher or parent use the app to see how much time has been spent studying!

Puppet Pals lets the students make puppet shows!  My daughter makes a puppet show for every test she has to study for!  You could also use puppet pals for an assessment on the learning that took place during a unit of study.

Math Racer lets students do speed drills of their math facts.  The number of facts and the type of facts can be switched up every time the student plays the game.

ithoughts HD is a mindmapping app!  I love this app!  It has wonderful graphics and is super easy to use.

Noteshelf is by far my favorite app!  It is a note taking app.  The only draw back with noteshelf is it does not offer the ability to mark-up PDF’s (yet!).  I use good reader to mark up my PDFs.

And last Read2Go is an app for the learning disabled.  My son has dyslexia so I use this app to download books for him from bookshare.com

Independent Learning

I was in third-grade this week for the first time.  It was quite an experience for me to go from teaching 5th grade last year (and for the previous 4 years) to go to a 3rd grade room!  I had a definite learning curve on how to teach the students!  One thing I learned was that I threw too much technology at the students too soon!

We are studying a rock unit.  The end goal of the unit is for the students to present to the class answering the following question, “How does the rock in my hand fit into my world?”  I knew these students had limited computer time, so even when I was planning the unit I had pared down what we were going to do.  The plan on Monday was to introduce the students to the unit and then set them free on a website I had created (located here) to gather information on the three types of rocks.  I also was going to use the website Exploratree to have the students fill out a graphic organizer online.  Well, the students had such a hard time figuring out how to research on the internet that the online graphic organizer completely overwhelmed them!  I think my problem was two-fold.  1.  I expected that the students could do more than they could on their own and 2.  I did not model, step-by-step what I expected the students to do.

For my first problem, that I expected the student could more more than they could on their own, I think ultimately this comes to the fact that, in general, teachers spoon feed students.  Meaning that the students, since they were in kindergarten, have been told exactly what they should learn and when.  The students don’t have any stake in their learning, because it is all doing what they are told!  The students didn’t know how to look at a question and tackle the question to find the answer.  When I told the students to go to the websites and find information, they had no idea what to do!  I quickly figured out that I needed to walk them through researching on websites, step-by-step.  The students needed to understand that if they didn’t find what they were looking for on one website to try another!  I spent the next class period we had together, methodically walking the students through how to research on a website and what to do if they don’t find the information they are looking for.  It was interesting for the timing of this lesson because a 2nd grade teacher was telling my principal this week that she is struggling with teaching guided reading because the students in her class don’t know how to manage independent learning.

I think as we shift from the “sage on the stage” model of teaching and moving into more student focused learning this problem will disappear.  As students aren’t directed in their every thought and action from a teacher, then the students will begin to branch out!  I guess my biggest problem was that I didn’t even consider that students wouldn’t know how to direct their own learning, but just like everything it is a process!  Maybe, if we never forced students to sit and listen to a teacher talk all day, and instead we put kids in groups where they could research and learn in a guided, self-directed way their exploration senses from preschool wouldn’t ever disappear and be replaced by a “you tell me what to do” attitude.

Bring Your Own Device in Elementary School

My school is currently looking at rolling at a Bring Your Own Device program.  We are in the phase of the process where we are discussing all of the pro’s and con’s and working out policies and procedures.  We are having a philosophical debate about weather a BYOD program is appropriate in elementary school.  My school is a k-12 private school so we have to look at a policy that will impact the entire school.  I specifically work with the elementary school so I am trying to determine how this program will affect the younger student’s at our school.

I think fourth and fifth-grade would have no problem with a BYOD program at school.  These students are using these technologies at home and are familiar with how they work.  Third-grade is an interesting question, because I believe they are old enough to handle BYOD.   I think any students younger than third-grade should have technology in the classroom and not a BYOD program.  Younger students have enough trouble getting themselves and their homework to school in one piece, I do not think we should add to their stress by having them bring their own device to school as well.

One idea our school is looking at is off-setting the cost of text books for parents by allowing students to carry “digital” textbooks.  That naturally begs the question – Do students need to have textbooks?  I think that is an interesting question, because I do not think students need to have textbooks.  I believe we have to prepare students for the world they are going to live in, which is one where all of their books are on the Ipad or their Kindle.  However, some in our school believe that students need to have textbooks and believe that we are doing our student’s a disservice by not teaching them to properly handle textbooks.  They believe that working with textbooks is a fundamental reading skill that young students need to have.  I agree with this sentiment as well!  I am having a hard time determining if that mentality is “old school” or just solid educational practice.

There have been a lot of fads in education that have proved to be harmful to students (whole language to name one!) and could reading from an electronic device be one of those fads?  Could we do more damage to young children’s eyes by having them read off of electronic devices, rather than books?  I think these are all very serious questions that need to be addressed and researched before schools allow elementary age students to Bring Their Own Device!