Thursday, October 11, 2012

What is the Hallmark of our iPad Program?

In our second year of using iPads in the classroom, we are are recognizing how much our vision of the role iPads would play has evolved. Had you asked us last year, “What is the hallmark of your iPad program?” we would surely have described our successes teaching handwriting to kindergarteners and how helpful teachers find Evernote for classroom documentation. Even then, we would have insisted that it’s not “all about the apps”, but rather it’s about including iPads as a classroom tool when it fits the curriculum, or a moment where the iPad offers the best option for learning.

When we first began to teach with iPads, we sought out apps that solved the challenge of improving how we teach specific skills in Kindergarten, beginning with handwriting. This led to the inevitable search for the “best app” for the purpose, and we learned a lot - specifically we learned that there is no perfect app, and that perhaps our search for such a thing was distracting us from the real opportunities iPads provide.

With early writers and readers, we want to create multiple ways to help them share their knowledge and make it accessible to others. We use Book Creator to make books about their experiences in class and on field trips. We used iStopMotion to record events in the the classroom, and to tell stories in a new way. We create our own illustrations for our stories using Drawing Box.

As we began this year, we realized that we had a very different view of how the iPads would be used. We have expanded the program to include a set of iPads in each first grade, and 1-to-1 iPads in fourth grade. We chose a few apps, and grouped them in a folder on the iPads called “Creativity”. This group includes those already mentioned, and writing apps, presentation apps, and photography apps.. Students are using their iPads to create written projects, to do research and take notes, to express themselves, create collages, prepare books to read aloud to younger students, and to create presentations. The iPads are thus becoming a useful, accessible tool that fits the need when the need arises. The single-use, single-purpose apps are rarely, if ever called for.

There seems to be a divide among iPad teachers between those who seek the “killer app” for every job, and those who seek to find the apps that offer the most open-ended, creative possibilities. This is the similar to the divide between teachers that seek the “best” curriculum package to teach a subject and those teachers who pull from all the resources they find, and embellish their curricula with their own touches to fit their students’ needs and to match their classroom and school culture.

The hallmark of our iPad program? Encouraging creativity and self- expression; offering multiple ways for our students to make their thinking visible. It is so simple, and so rewarding!

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