Because I was fortunate enough to win a contest from Best Buy Canada, I got to go on a $20 000 shopping spree last week to purchase technology for my classroom. I chose to buy iPads. Being 1:1 with some sort of device has long been a dream of mine, a dream I was ecstatic to fulfill!
Day One of 1:1
Friday was the big day—the iPads finally arrived in our classroom. To say my students were excited would be a bit of an understatement, but then, so was their teacher.
I don’t want the iPads to just change the way we do things in my classroom. I want them to be transformative. That is, I don’t want to use the iPads to just do things we could have done on paper. An app should not just be a glorified worksheet. I want them to allow us to connect and to work and learn differently. I hope that will happen more and more as time goes on.
Our First App
But for this first day, it was all about fun and about learning some of the possibilities of these new tools. For our first app, I chose Letter Reflex. Almost every child in my classroom is still struggling in their reading to consistently identify b’s and d’s. If you teach kindergarten or first grade, you know this is pretty common. The Letter Reflex app allows students to tilt the iPad to select a b,d, p or q, adding a kinesthetic aspect to learning letters. The students loved the game, and I hope they’ll go back to it often. With so many students trying the game at once, hearing the voice on the app proved to be difficult, so everyone ran to get their headphones. Success, engagement and learning—but no transformation yet.
Creating with the iPads
We next moved to Brushes, a drawing app that was recommended to me by Giulia Forsythe. It is more pricy than some other drawing apps that I could have chosen, but my students spend most of the year learning to read and write something that is readable to people who are not first grade teachers. They show their learning much more often through a drawing than through text. I wanted them to have a great tool that will allow them to show their learning effectively through drawing if that is their choice. The students used this tool to make (and to decorate) the number of their iPad. (I numbered them for organizational purposes.) I helped them to make a screenshot of their drawing, and to set these numbers as their wallpaper and home screen image. I saw this as a higher thinking skill—the students were creating rather than consuming—but not yet transformative.
While the students were not complaining about the restrictiveness of the activities we had done so far, they really wanted to explore on their own, so I let them do just that. Some of them gravitated to games that we had had on the two original iPads that were in our classroom. Others returned to Letter Reflex. Still others began to explore the other enticingly coloured squares they saw on their iPad. They were so engaged, that we all forgot to watch the clock for our gym time (a practically sacred time for my mostly male learners) and missed it entirely.
Taking Pictures–The Highlight
In the afternoon, we had a chat via Skype with a second grade class in Wisconsin about a project we are doing together called A View From the Window. Afterwards, the students and I talked about how we would show them our view. Would we make a movie…draw pictures…take pictures? The students felt that we needed to use a camera, not drawings, so we grabbed our iPads to figure out the camera app. This app is very intuitive, and the students only needed some support to tuck the cover into the back of our cases so that it would not block the camera.
This was their favorite part of the day. We agreed to wait until a sunny day to take pictures out the window for the project, but they joyously took picture after picture of the view from the window, objects in our classroom and each other taking pictures. It was amazing how many pictures some of them were able to take in a few short minutes. One student had dozens of pictures, including sixteen pictures of a computer mouse. Lots of fun, and then, it was time to teach them how to delete unwanted pictures. The student with the most pictures quietly admitted to me that he had taken “too many pictures” and I showed him how to delete them more quickly. The students kept only those photos that they really liked. Most of the students emptied their photo gallery. For them, the fun was in the taking—not yet in the sharing. Sharing pictures—now perhaps that will begin to be more transformative.
My favorite comment from the day was from one of the boys when we realized that our time in the gym had already evaporated while we were so engaged. “Mrs. Cassidy, I guess we really like the iPads”, he said.
I guess they do! We’ll keep on working to make this technology transformative as well as engaging.