Just prior to the end of the school year, we held a meeting of the group the teachers involved in our JK/SK iPad project. The meeting was a great sharing of learnings to date. Much of the discussion centred around criteria for choosing apps for students of this age/grade level. Here is what they had to say.
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
Sample App Icon Card
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.
Are you looking for some tips and tricks for using your iPad?
Here are a few that I have found in the last month or so that I found to be worthwhile.
1. Free from the iBook store (via the free iBooks app), simply search for iPad
- iPad User Guide from Apple
- iPad Starter Guide (Macworld)
- iPad Publishing Guide (by M. Ashley)
2. Secrets for iPad (app) – free and pay ($0.99) versions
3. iPad for Dummies (by E. Baig & B. LeVitus)
4. iPad Wikis
Enjoy the learning. Make the most of your iPad.
In an earlier blog post I commented that the one ‘clunky’ aspect of using the iPad was that the wifi connection to known networks did not happen. With further experimentation, I found that different strategies were needed including:
- be patient and wait, sometimes the connection issue would sort itself out
- manually choose the network from the list stored in the wifi settings panel
- on some occasions, I was asked to reenter my wifi password again
- complete power off and restart
- and in a more persistent situation, I went through the ‘forget network’ process and set things up again.
Interestingly, this challenge seems to be mainly with the combination of the iPad and the newest OS. My iPhone and iPod touch do not have this issue. Yesterday, when this issue surfaced again, and I decided to try something new. In the settings panel, I choose the Safari tab and used the options available to clear the history, cookies and cache. Immediately following this action, the wifi connection worked fine.
Maybe I am on to something here. I will continue to test this process to see if it yields consistent result.
After using my iPad for the last 6 weeks, thanks to @ron_mill, I thought I would share a few first impressions and some thinking about use in education. On the topic of first impressions, I note:
- how much I enjoy using the touch screen interface – very easy to use
- the context sensitivity of having the right options at the right time (such as a pop up keyboard) is amazing
- the pop up keyboard is sized to allow for ‘traditional’ typing (not the fingering poking method)
- battery life is amazing – I am getting 9 – 10 hours per charge.
- the selection of quality apps is good
- e-reader capabilities are strong
- overall, lots of potential
- the only drawback I have found to date, is that the wifi connection process seems a bit clunky as stored known networks do not always auto-connect
With all of these good qualities, I can’t help but think about the possibilities …. iPads for classrooms, staff development, library learning commons, moving the e-books agenda forward all would link nicely to our key initiatives.
Currently, the following iPad plans are in place for the 2010/2011 school year:
- some will be available for staff to try at CATC Camp, our summer teacher PD session
- a number of units will be available for use by elementary classroom teachers
- iPads will be used in our secondary school Futures Forum project, developed as our PLP project
- units will be purchased for our central elementary teacher librarian group for September
Other plans under discussion include:
- iPads preloaded with staff development reading material that could be loaned out
- additional expansion of the iPad program as it relates to our Library Learning Commons project
I am looking forward to supporting these new initiatives!
I began my day by reading @dougpete‘s blog post about David Warlick‘s new book, A Gardener’s Approach to Learning. Based on Doug’s comments about the book, I thought I would enjoy reading it too. The book is available in a print version as well as a downloadable pdf file. Immediately, I started to think about reading the publication on my iPad, so the buy online and read now process was appealing.
This was an easy decision – get the book now, enjoy reading it and take advantage of the opportunity to read on my iPad and learn something new today. I visited Lulu’s online publishing site, updated my credit card credentials, made my purchase and downloaded the file. Next, I used Calibre ebook management software to convert the downloaded file to the epub format. After attaching my iPad to my laptop I chose the ‘send to device’ option in the Calibre software to send the file to the iBooks app on my iPad and presto – my new book is ready to read on the go.
I look forward to reading David’s new book, perhaps sitting on the back porch later today.
The Gardener’s Approach to Learning wiki
Sharing with David Warlick
An interesting ‘event’ happened to me earlier this week. I was mulitasking on a number of projects in my office and had taken a short break to discuss a couple of ideas with staff. On returning to my office, I sat down and ‘it happened’ – I started using my laptop but absolutely nothing happened – weird for sure.
Then is struck me – nothing happened because I was touching the screen on a non touch screen device – yikes! I gave my head a shake, reverted to ‘laptop mode’ and carried on with my work after sharing this incident with staff.
Was this a defining moment in my technology use? Have a used my iTouch, iPhone and iPad enough that a touch screen now seems normal? It would almost seem that way. I must admit, this event really caused me to stop and reflect.
For now, like many, I will continue to bop back and forth between touch screen and regular screen devices. Currently I am spending more and more time with mobile technology – a mix of these 2 worlds. I am writing this post with my new Lenovo x100e and plan to write my next blog post with my iPad.