iPads in the Junior Classroom

Here’s my attempt to share my own 3-4 year learning journey in the use of iPads (teaching use, not management use – managing a class sets of iPads is a whole other post that I will write sometime!)

So, I’ve been using iPads in my Junior Class (5-8yr olds) for maybe 3 years now. Certainly in the first year, I fell foul of adding a billion apps, categorising them into folders ‘Maths’, ‘Reading’, ‘Writing’, ‘Games’, etc. I thought it was awesome, look at how engaged the children were in number bonds to 10!! Well, so I thought!

The main purpose for using iPads was for the children to have an independent activity, that kept them engaged (i.e. away from me and the group I was trying to teach – vital in a multi-age class!), and some constructive learning thrown in too.

I quickly realised that many apps certainly engaged the children, but not in a meaningful way. For example, they’d find the pairs that made 10 by ‘random tapping’ to hear the funny sounds (getting as much pleasure from the incorrect sound as the correct one!), rather than actually learning any pairs to 10. Hmph. So, I set about finding cheap (i.e. free!) apps that provided self-correction, as in the children really wanted to get it right, not just play a random tapping game. That was tough – I can probably list on one hand, really good apps that do this that don’t cost a small fortune (small school – our budget is teeny weeny!).

Over the last year, I have come to the conclusion that this is just not the way to use iPads. I was beginning to use them as a reward – finish this and you can go on an iPad. Egh – not the teaching attitude I wanted to adopt and definitely NOT what I wanted the children to associate iPads with – reward only. I have tried to use the SAMR model and although I understand it, and have made a concerted effort to truly be transformational in their use, it is tough!

I feel now that I have finally made the leap from knowing all of this ‘good practice’ with iPad stuff, to now really figuring out how to apply it. So, what I’ve done is remove all the ‘babysitting’ apps from the tablets and only added apps that allow research and creation. As an independent activity in Maths for example, the students no longer play a pairs to 10 game, they make their own pairs to 10 lesson in ShowMe. Well, this is the plan – I’m a week into binning all the babysitting apps (for all the iPads in the school).

As I’m writing this, I am remembering all of this stuff that amazing and inspirational people have told me over the last few years and I’m finally at the stage where I can apply it. So, my advice to you, whatever stage you’re at, is to take your time, keep pushing yourself and challenging the boundaries of the box you’re in, but don’t expect to create this incredible transformational class overnight! It’s a very cool journey to be on, enjoy it.

Digital Citizenship Challenge

So, I launched a digital citizenship challenge with students in Year 4-8 today. It consisted of a shared Google Doc (I learnt how to smart share through Hapara!).

The challenge consists of 5 smaller challenges, and through completing each one, students learn the main elements of being a good digital citizen. They accumulate points and bonus points as they go along. The winning student will receive a Digital Citizen award at our end of year prize giving.

I talked a small amount about the importance of digital citizenship, then showed them the Doc on the Apple TV. I didn’t discuss any of the challenges with them – part of the challenge is recognising when they need help and asking for it. Time wise, they have about 4 weeks. They can complete it in their own time and in negotiated time with their teacher.

Well, it seems to have struck a chord with a few. As I write this, I have emails flying in from several students as they begin their challenges.

I am very excited about this, but also, as a bit of a control freak teacher, a bit scared as I feel I’ve unleashed something that will grow of its own accord. I shall keep you updated!

Year 3 Digital Writing

So, update on my first post. I explained to my 8 Year 3 students that as they were moving into the next class in the new year where they would be receiving Google Drive accounts, they would be required to do far more typing. Therefore, their ‘challenge’ for the remainder of the year was to complete all their writing digitally.

They would use ‘Popplet’ to plan their writing (my Year 3s LOVE Popplet!), and then Pages on an iPad to do all their writing. As we are not using cloud storage in this classroom at the moment, they have all been allocated a specific iPad for the duration of each writing lesson, so all their writing is saved on it.

So far so good. They worked on a piece of descriptive writing called ‘Magic Leaf’ last week. Then, 3 boys presented their completed writing to an audience of students and parents at our sharing assembly. They had written so much! I hazard to say, far more than they would have written by hand. There were the ‘normal’ issues that arise during writing, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, structure issues, but as they had written more than usual, there was more material to use as learning points. Redrafting was a simple case of selecting and retyping a misspelt word, or adding a comma, instead of copying the whole lot out again to publish! Publishing can now be as simple as printing out.

Future thoughts … I would really like to get next year’s Year 3s set up with their own Google accounts. It will really push the typing skills and I can learn the best way to teach younger students with email accounts and cloud storage. Good way to get parents involved, as they can access it from home too! Watch this space …

Writing Epiphany!

Have meant to start a blog for ages, as over the last few years have developed and grown as a teacher a lot! Anyway, here’s my first post.

Setting the scene: These thoughts were inspired as I made my way through a stack of writing samples to form my OTJs before moderation with another school. At the start of each assessment, the children had to rate how much they liked writing, how good at writing they thought they were and how good I and their parents thought they were.

Train of thought: Despite varying reflections on the answers, the common theme was that none of them liked writing. From my struggling writers to my high flying (writing 2 years above the standard!) type, they all agreed on one thing. They don’t like writing. So I began to think about why, and stumbled upon this train of thought … Maybe because they only associate writing with old school pen on paper. Maybe, if I reminded them that writing on a computer is still writing (and I know they enjoy that!), maybe their enjoyment of writing would increase.

I began to reflect on this. Do any of us like writing? I asked my husband who was nearby. A resounding NO. “I do not like putting pen to paper”. And you know what? I DON’T EITHER! And I’m a teacher!! I asked myself this question: When did I last hand write a piece of writing as long as what I have been asking my Year 3 students to write? (FYI about 1 side of A4). I can’t remember when I last hand wrote that much!!!!

Epiphany! So, WHY THE HELL AM I ASKING MY CHILDREN TO DO IT, WHEN THEY MAY NEVER HAVE TO DO IT IN THIS TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED WORLD?!!!
I ran this thought past hubby and he said, well, they’re children, they should learn to write using pen and paper. I agree, they should be able to form letters, etc. but once they can write in a legible way, should we always get them to write reams and reams of hand written stuff? Hubby pointed out that technology is transient and ever changing. I argued that although that is true, the one thing that technology has been consistent with is the ability to word process – be it the first typewriter, to the latest wireless, flexible keyboards.

Result: I reckon that once my Junior Students have got to the stage where they CAN write an A4 side of legible writing should I ask them to, then I encourage them to write everything digitally. You could also argue that it is more vital than ever that they learn to type sooner rather than later in their education, as in the Senior class, they are set up with Google Drive and Gmail, so they need to be able to type efficiently. I’ll keep you posted on how this pans out … will be trialling this for the remainder of this term with my Year 3s!