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.