Thursday, February 19, 2015

The One Where I Share 10 Random Thoughts About My 1:1 iPad Experience

Our iPad Classroom:

Ten Random Thoughts, in no particular order whatsoever:

10) One of the most difficult things I've had to deal with is time management. I think it might have to do more with the group of students I have now, but teaching since 1995, I have an good idea of how long certain assignments should take. Many of my students this year take *much longer* to do *creative* assignments on the iPad. This would be things like making an iMovie or Keynote to show understanding of a concept or using Minecraft to help demonstrate comprehension of certain story elements. Balancing what I "have to teach" Vs. "Giving them time to create" is a tough task and it is always something I am mindful of.

9) The opportunity for differentiation is amazing. Last year I let my top Math students work on Khan Academy during Math class. They were still accountable for taking the topic and benchmark tests but would be working on other lessons of their higher ability during actual Math class. This was a huge success. By the end of the year, my top two 4th graders had MAP scores that were in the high school range. They were learning about math concepts like graphing functions and parabolas. On their own. At their own pace. The biggest lesson I learned through this is sometimes I need to get out of the way so that my students can fly. Trying to control everything they were learning ended up being the biggest roadblock to their success. Once I stepped aside, they were absorbing knowledge at a tremendous rate.

8) The iPad is NOT a magic pill that will save education. IPads are great and have transformed the way I teach. There are many amazing projects my students have done with them that would not have been possible without. However two years in and I still have high, middle, and low students. Two years in and I still have students that are sad/angry/emotional when they come to school. Two years in and I have many students who can't do basic multiplication. No, the iPad is not a cure-all for education. But then again, it wasn't meant to be. 

7) How much paper have I saved over the past 2 years by doing so much digitally? I know it has to be well over several cases. Students take all of their weekly, topic, and benchmark tests using Drive/Notability combined with Clickers. It is a GREAT combination that I highly recommend to anyone who gives a lot of multiple choice tests.

6) I don't ever have students type long passages on their iPads. Well, at least I don't any more. The iPad just isn't a good keyboard and it takes waaaaay too long to have students type out journals on them. I save the typing for 1-2 paragraph responses..... otherwise kid frustration rises. Of course I figured this out through trial and error. In the beginning I had students typing in lengthy responses into KidBlog and found what I thought should have taken maybe a hour tops, was taking 1-2 days.

5) I know a great concern for all involved is how iPad classrooms will perform on tests. How can they do well if they are just "playing" on an iPad?  For two years now, my students have continued to perform well (in some cases, extremely well) on all of the standardized and benchmark tests they have to take (MAP, NeSA, Reading & Math Benchmarks). Even in the NeSA Writing test. It was of particular concern because they weren't doing as much pencil/paper writing. Despite that, last year I had 96% of my students meet or exceed the state standards in writing. That was my highest class percentage ever for this test.

4) It amazes me that I have had students in both classes who don't realize just how good they have it. These are students who don't realize they are part of maybe 3% of all 4th graders in the country that are using iPads on a daily basis. These are the students who have repeatedly dropped them, "goofed around" on them, and not followed directions regarding their use. Maybe I need to revisit the idea of a "Privilege Vs. a Right".....

3) Student's Favorite App: Minecraft. Sadly, I don't implement this as much as I should. I need to work on that.

2) I am a strong believer in the way my district implemented the iPads. To be considered, teachers had to undergo several days of training and then apply. In the application process, teachers needed to outline some of the various ways they planned to use them in the classroom. I've heard too many stories of students in other districts (where they did a 100% implementation) solely using them for research and to take notes. 

1) The iPad is a Tool, not a toy.  This is our motto in class. It takes a lot of time and effort to get the students (and parents) accepting of this idea. At home all most kids ever do with their iPads is play games. However in class we make movies, create presentations, film video, take pictures, draw animations, research topics, take tests, and compose music (among other things).

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the comments above!