Wednesday, January 9, 2013

One iPad. 28 Students. Here's How to Make it Work

I was fortunate enough to work as a school library media specialist at a school where there were 60 iPads that teachers could checkout individually or in sets of 6 or even in a classroom set of 30.  While more and more schools are acquiring iPads for classroom use there are still many more schools who simply don't have the funds to purchase these magical devices.  So what is a teacher to do if there is only one iPad in the classroom? Is it worth it?

I know, some of you are saying, one iPad would be nice! Right now we have zero... Hang in there. Consider other sources such as PTA and educational grants. Some teachers even use their own personal iPads in the classroom (gasp!). Once you have an iPad in hand, evaluate the apps carefully. Explore educational apps on the iPad (many are free) and take time to play with them.  Consider how user friendly the app is and its educational value for your curriculum and your particular students. Here are a few tips to get you started:

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VGA adapter
1. Whole group activities: Connect the iPad to your digital overhead projector or ActivBoard with a VGA adapter. These cost about $30. This converts your tiny screen into a large screen. Now everyone can easily see the iPad screen.

  • Use navigation applications such as Google Earth and other maps apps to locate places as they apply to your curriculum. Estimate miles from your school to a specific destination and check it with the app using the "Get directions" feature. These apps are also great for building background knowledge for the setting of a story or understanding where specific historical events took place. 
  •  Don't have a whiteboard? There is an app for that! Apps such as Whiteboard and Show Me can serve as a white board that the teacher or students can write on just as you would a traditional dry erase board. Try several different ones out (most are free) before you decide which one to use in the classroom. They all have a unique feel and you will likely find one that you like more than others. Several of these apps have a recording feature that will record your writing or drawing and your voice and play it back for you. 
  • Skype! Use the Skype app (also free) or Face Time (free from iPad to iPad or iPhone) to connect with another class in another state or part of the world or host your own virtual author visit by Skyping an author. You can read more about using Skype in the Classroom and see a video of how I've used it with 2nd graders.

2. Small group / Centers:  Set up the iPad as a center activity or Learning Station. Communicate high expectations for appropriate use and care of the iPad and take away the privilege if it is abused. You will likely find that your students enjoy using the iPad enough to meet or exceed your expectations.

  • Read an e-book together as a class to demonstrate first, then set it up for use as a small group activity or even as an incentive for individuals to reward good behavior. Many e-books are free and run off of various free apps including the Kindle app (my favorite). The highlight and margin notes features work great for taking and sharing notes as you read. Sometimes the most reluctant readers will be the first to volunteer to read an e-book simply because they are attracted to the technology. There are even wonderful e-books for beginning readers. Check out the app I Like Books, which has 37 nonfiction colorful easy readers your kindergartners and first graders will love.
  • Set up the iPad as a small group activity for researching the solar system using NASA's excellent educational apps as a starting place. 
  • Use the camera and video camera on the iPad to document events in your classroom. Set up a classroom blog (there are apps for that!) and assign students to be responsible for updating the blog each week. Be sure to share the blog link with parents and even other classrooms so they can see all the great learning going on in your classroom. 
  • Set up the iPad as a center activity for literature response, creative writing, or to share information learned from a research project. Use creative apps that allow students to create a story while recording their own voice. Students will be actively engaged in the writing task just by having a new purpose and new tools with which to write. Suggested apps: Puppet Pals HD, Sock Puppets, Show Me, and Toontastic.
3. Classroom Management: Incorporate the iPad into your classroom management tool box for smoother transitions and increased student interest.

  • Use a timer app to display a countdown clock on the big screen. Most timer apps are free and you can choose from several fun sounds instead of a buzzer. When students can see exactly how much time they have left for a task, they are more likely to better manage their own time. 
  • Use the iPad as an incentive for good behavior by rewarding students with time to use the iPad as individuals or in pairs. Select specific educational apps for students to explore and create a folder for them on the iPad so students will be certain of their perimeters for exploration time.
  • Explore apps made especially for classroom management to assist with record keeping, grading, anecdotal notes and class calendar. Use clock and calendar apps to set reminders about when small groups leave the classroom for pull-outs such as speech or tutoring or for grade level events such as assemblies. 
Chances are your students know a bit more about iPads than their teachers. Include them in the discussion. Ask them to share educational apps that they find and use at home. Ask them how we could use the iPad to support learning in the classroom. You might be surprised at their resourcefulness! 

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