iPads for JK/SK students

Earlier this month I had a chance to visit Central Public School (website) with Rebecca Rouse (@rebrouse) to have a first hand experience observing our JK/SK students using iPads. Central P. S. is one of 5 Waterloo Region District School Board sites participating in a focused study on the impact of the use of  iPads to support early reading and early literacy development in our students.

Upon arriving at the classroom, we initially stayed off to the side to observe without interupting the natural flow of the classroom. A kindergarten classroom is a busy space, and I was immediately struck by my initial observations. There was certainly an air of energy and excitement in the classroom. Students were checking with staff to see when it was their turn to move to the iPad station. Clearly, they were motivated and did not want to miss their turn.  I was very impressed with preparation and organization of teachers Brenda Fowler Mandy Serpa. They had really thought through the physical logistics of managing the iPads within this busy environment. iPads were numbered via the screen background for easy tracking. Cases were used for protection during storage and transportation from room to room. A picture book of app (application) icons was created to assist the students in locating the correct software. Screens were cleaned regularly to maintain the sharp image and reduce germs. I also noted how careful the students handled the technology – impressive!  With guidance from the staff, students used a variety of apps (applications) for word recognition, spelling, personal exploration and story creation.

Eventually we joined the student table and sat next to the students. I asked one student what he thought about using the iPads. Without a pause, he enthusiastically stated that iPads were ‘fun and creative’. All of the students were eager to share their work and successes with us.

Teacher Observations:  After watching the students in action with the iPads at the learning centre in the classroom, teachers shared their observations from the first month of the project.

  • lesson preparation time had become more streamlined (less paper based)
  • time spent on learning activities increased
  • students spent more time on task during guided reading sessions
  • there has been a significant increase in student engagement levels
  • reading skills are developing more rapidly compared to a more traditional approach
  • the built in audio support enhances student learning
  • a notable increase in student confidence
  • students are eager to demonstrate something new they have learned
  • 5 iPads is a good number of devices for managing the student group
  • students were keen to assist each other with problem solving
iPad Rules

Spelling words

Sample App Icon Card

iPad Centre

This project has certainly had a positive start. Thank you to Principal Jennifer Crits and teachers Brenda Fowler and Mandy Serpa for sharing their experiences to date.
If the results of this proof of concept project  show a strong correlation to improved early reading and early literacy then we revise how we allocate technology for all JK/SK programs.

A Tribute to Ron Millar

On Monday June 13th, I had the pleasure of attend Ron Millar’s retirement celebration. It was a great event and I appreciated the opportunity to provide some remarks about Ron and his career.  Having worked with Ron for most of my career, I also wanted to share my comments here in a more public way.

Ron Millar


Ron, the Millar family and guests,

I thought it was fitting for this event, that I have my speaking notes on an iPad.   This year I celebrated my 30th year in education with the WRDSB.  I have known Ron and had the pleasure and honour of working with him in a variety of capacities for almost my entire career.

For those of you that know me, you are aware that it seems things always work out in threes. Fittingly, there are 3 sections to my remarks tonight: Things in Common/stats, Memories and Going Forward.

Things in common & stats:

Ron and I have many things in common, and I thought I would highlight a few of those things today:

–       glasses & beards: we delighted in saying if you can’t tell us apart, Ron has a beard and I wear glasses

–       an appreciation for black: the dress code is embedded, no memos or phone calls 🙂

–       curiosity

–       passion for learning

–       and one additional point that I would bet most of you don’t know.

Ron and I both taught mathematics at Glenveiw Park Secondary School. On the theme of numbers, I wanted to share a few of Ron’s statistics from his amazing 44 year career.

–       he has worked 2332 weeks or 11660 days, factoring his continued summer work

–       he has been granted 880 sick days, and being blessed with good health,  most have not been used

–       since the beginning of email, Ron has received approximately 544, 000 messages in his WaterWorks (work) account. I know he often teased about declaring email bankruptcy and deleting them all, but I know if fact that they were answered.

–       Ron bought the first instructional computer for the Board, a TRS 80 I believe. Since that day, he has piled up some impressive stats:

–       $44 million spent on computer hardware – about 47,000 computers

–       $4.5 million spent on software

–       $4 million spent on staff development activities – this year is CATC camp #20

–       oh yes, and the number 15 is important. In the days when WaterWorks (our email system) was just starting, Frank & I  were assured that it would take about 15 minutes per day to manage the WaterWorks project needs. I think in reality, it took all of our daily time except for 15 minutes – but well worth it when you look at what is has become today.


–       the days of the modem workshops, stringing phone line cables in the Education Centre on Saturday mornings as part of workshop prep

–       thank you for starting my passion for iDevices

–       ITS events always have a picture of Ron taking of picture of Mark who is taking a picture of Ron (tradition)

–       Our ‘water cooler’ time – starting everyday talking about some new thing that one of us learned

–       Ron teaching my daughter Charlotte her first Latin pun – sempre ooby sub ooby – always wear under wear

–       Listening to Ron talk enthusiastically about a new technology

–       Zipping to Buffalo to get those first precious iPads into Canada

–       Arranging amazing system events for the Computer Contacts with speakers such as David Warlick and Alan November

–       Joking that if Ron got up a little earlier and I stayed up a bit later, we would offer 24 hour coverage for ITS

–       Dilbert – in one of my favourite cartoons,  the IT department raids Dilbert of his desktop, laptop, disks and USB key. After they leave, Dilbert points out they missed the wireless pen!

Hats:  Most of you, like me, have never seen Ron physically wear a hat — but he does wear them. I think of them as the hats of the master learner. Ron has excellent people skills and has a wonderful ability to pop on the right hat at the right time. He might wear:

–       a question hat and ask a probing question at just the right time

–       a support hat, sensing when you need help

–       a friend hat when you need a listener

–       an energy hat to get some new project going

–       an experience hat to guide a process or project along in the right direction

–       a research hat to validate our work

–       a mentor hat to share knowledge or help you see a new insight

–       an R&D hat to look into the future

–       a smile hat – time for a little humour or practical joke to keep the mood light or

–       a passion hat to keep the learning and energy high

Going forward

When I thought about how to wrap up my comments, of course I came back to the theme of 3 buckets. Ron, each bucket has a wish for you.

Bucket #1: a wish that you will enjoy a happy retirement for as many years as your career

Bucket #2:  a wish that you will continue to be as passionate about your retirement activities as you have been with your work

Bucket #3: a wish that you will stay connected – don’t be a stranger.

Thanks for bringing your ‘A game’ everyday to learn, facilitate, problem solve and make WRDSB a great place to be.


iRon says iRetire


Congratulations on an outstanding career Ron.