Sunday, September 2, 2012

REALLY becoming an iPad user--Changing my practice

I got my first iPad last year to use with my residents. I mainly used it for videoing them. I bought a bunch of apps that my own children enjoyed. I had a recommendation for Smarty Pants from another colleague and figured this would last my students most of the year learning sounds, letters, and sight words. I could implement iPads in my room, no problem.

Initially I only had 10 ipads. I used 6 of them during guided reading time for literacy centers. This wasn’t too difficult, I thought. Then I realized that the information on Smarty pants needed to be attached to the same student each time. Okay, so I set up a rotation. These 5 students are on one ipad, the next 5 students on another, etc. I had 10 centers so the 5th and 10th center were iPad centers. Worked perfectly. Students enjoyed the center with the iPads. I reviewed their data daily. I was happy with the results but I realize that I had nothing to compare it to.

In math, I used the iPads for math centers and at the end of the day if students wanted to use them during free choice time. I found a free app called Find Sums. I liked this app and I could differentiate it for each student.

In January, I was given a whole class set of iPads for limited time during the day. Ohhh, I was excited. Now the students could do Smarty Pants for literacy centers every day while my residents and I pulled for guided reading. This app was working with word study and sight words while I worked on reading at their level with them. So, this organization would require a little more thought to make sure all 28 students had their own iPad, clean up, set up, recording data (there was no way I could realistically look at 28 iPads daily). I consider myself very organized and a little over the top with organization too, so I had to figure something out to have the students manage this organization and take on this responsibility—it would take me way to long to do it all. Here is what I came  up with (that all students with varying degrees of ability could accomplish):

·      I bought colored file folders. These colors corresponded to the take home folder. The take home folders were organized by cubbie location. I have 5 sets of cubbies, each having 5 different sections, one for each kid. Since I have 28 students, some students share. The color of the folder eases the handing back of these folders since all the red are together, orange are together, etc. I wrote their name on the file folders along with a number. This number would be attached to their iPad.
·      Each file folder had assessment data inside. One for Smarty Pants, one for Find Sums but more could be added as more apps were used. On the front of the file folder was Velcro.
·      I took pictures of the different apps and the different sections in Smarty Pants. I made 30 copies of each, lamented them and put Velcro on the back. On the front of the file folder, I put the picture of the app/section that the child was assigned to do. Each child could be at a different place of the app. They would know where to go based on the picture of the file folder.
·      The assessment piece inside showed a picture of the assessment data on Smarty Pants so students would see where to get the information from.

Each table had a tub to store iPads, head phones and the assigned file folders for the children at that table. Pencils were also kept in the tubs. The file folder color and number corresponded to the back of the iPad color and number. Children would only have to learn one number. I also had a whole list of students posted in the front of the room. The child’s name corresponded to the color of their file folder. Names were put in numerical order based on the number of their iPad.

So this was working and then I realized that many students were almost done with Smarty Pants. What to do now? Yikes. I had to think quickly. I found TeachMe kindergarten and first grade. My own children were on these apps. I didn’t need an assessment sheet because the app keeps this data for me. I quickly took a screenshot of the app, make 30 copies, and laminated and put Velcro on them. The students easily switched to the new app when the app changed on their file folder.

Well, the school year 2011-2012 ended and the children make really good progress; more than I had ever had in the past. We took the MAP test and the number sense and word study showed great results! Maybe because of the iPads. Hmmmm! What else could I do next year? I needed iPads all day!!! Not just during guided reading.

Be careful what you wish for!!! The 2012-2013 school has started and I have 27 iPads in my room all day. They are all mine! Now what! I was excited BUT very scared!!!! I really don’t know what I am doing. It wasn’t so bad to have an app here or an app there. But to do it all day? I had a MAC book last year too (which mainly collected dust) because I am a PC user. I like my PC. I know how to do everything that I do on the PC. I used the MAC occasionally last year to sync. They put an apple tv in my room (I didn’t even know that wasn’t a real TV when I was trying to figure out where I was going to put it).

I started to not want all this stuff!  I couldn’t do it. I just was so frustrated with this MAC, with all of this. I am a high achiever and also do what I set my mind to do and this just seemed IMPOSSIBLE. My husband would often see me frustrated with this MAC, yelling at it, wanting to throw it across the room. How do you save a document? How can I change that margin?  I can’t even do the simple stuff, how was I going to master anything else? I converted back to my PC. I just don’t have 20 minutes to figure out margins. I’m done with this stuff.

Well, late nights didn’t help my relationship with the MAC, it really just strengthened my stable relationship with my PC. However, I know that I could do it, if I try. I am not a quitter, thought there were many nights that quiting sounded like a good idea to me!

So, I decided to put my friend the PC on a shelf for a little while. I would try to use the MAC all the time (even if it killed me). I started simple and started to do stuff that I was able to do the little stuff.

Now I had to try to tackle the iPad rules chart. Everyone else in my school who was 1:1 iPad had their rule chart made from teachers last year. The problem is that my kindergartners are not reading yet so I need to put pictures with the words. Ughhh! I wanted to cry. This was so unfair. I had to do this on the MAC!!! Okay, after calling around to people that new MAC, bugging my tech person at school for even the stupidest thing, I figured it out. I cheated a little, decided that this is just the way it was going to format and had a finished project.

Know I am using the MAC daily, and I still have my ups and downs but it is going okay. I synced all the iPads with my apps. I know I need to do this again because there are new apps I want and I will have to try to remember but I will do it.

Here are some more frustrations:
1.    Everyone using the iPad in my little 1:1 cohort has big kids. Mine students are little. There experiences don’t always help me and sometimes I feel isolated, alone with my experiences and problems. BUT this is what I have figured out to help me. I have done some searching for others with iPads in kindergarten and am now following 2 other blogs. I initially thought I don’t have the time (I am not a facebooker, tweeter, etc) but realize that some of these blogs will help me and the posts can be sent to my email. I don’t have to search. I didn’t know that.
2.    I have to be more organized and print friendly with my students. The cohort doesn’t. I again feel isolated and alone as they share their rules and other documents that they have made. I can’t really use much of their stuff. BUT this is what I have figured out to help me. I can use the MAC and adapt some of their work. I know that I have to be picture and word friendly to help ALL my students “read” the print. This is the right thing to do and it is all done for next year. I can also share with others and help other teachers who have felt my frustrations.
3.    I can’t figure out how to SAVE, PRINT, or other things. BUT this is what I have figured out to help me. I have gone on YouTube and seen some videos. I write everything that I learn down and make my very own cheat sheet for me. Some PC stuff relates to the MAC. AND when I get to show someone how to “right click on a MAC” and I feel just a tad bit smarter. I’m getting it I tell myself.

My job is not done. I still have a lot to figure out but I have begun.

If I am going to do this, I am going to do this with everything I have got. That is me. I am going to do this RIGHT! And exceed even my expectations.

My next task is to use the iPad all day and not just substitute it for paper and pencil task. I broke down my day into different activities and made a chart of those and worked with my residents on how to brainstorm iPad usage with each activity.
Breakfast in the classroom
Play soft music (classical). No pictures. Initially we had pictures of forests, ponds, mountains that come as screen savers during the music but we found for a few of our children this is a distractor.
Book boxes (independent reading)
Right now, they are just reading books that are in a basket. My thoughts are that there are free books that are leveled. I am planning on having a library for them on their iPad and they could read their leveled books. (I will share when complete.)
Morning Meeting
·      Second Step (character education program)
·      Flashcards
·      Letter to students (agenda)
Second Step is a program so no iPad use right now. Maybe show videos, music to supplement.
Flashcards (Working on making them on my iPad). I would need to be up at the screen when I point to the words and the students read the letters. Is there an program that I can point on my screen and the students will see the pointing? I am investigating this.
Letter to students. Right now I write it on chart paper, we read as a class and at the beginning of the year, we circle some of those sight words. If I project it on the screen, students could stand in front of projector while circling it and the words would be blocked by their bodies. Also, students could circle on iPad but it is seen differently from the board to the iPad, may be difficult developmentally to refind to a new location. All kids could possibly have this on their iPad and circle all of them on their own (OHHH, I just thought of this, have to figure out how to make it work.) But they all could do this and not wait for their turn….
Read Aloud and Content Integration
I read a book and I don’t want to totally get rid of this. They love to read books and is probably the calmest time of their days. They get engrossed and I like to READ.
But the science that can be connected….
As scientists, they need to record their work. We can have them draw and label. We can have them describe and draw and write/record their information to share with the class. Working on the details with the app and how to show all.
I am using educreations app right now. I project it up on the screen (and unlike an overhead I don’t have to be by the projector). I can be anywhere in the room helping one-on-one with a student, redirecting a student, etc and still continue my lesson. The students know where to look—the screen—and I am not always in their view.
This has been very helpful with students that have attention issues where I can be close to monitor. I can really address all their needs and not run back and forth to the overhead. I was just told about Doceri and downloaded that app. I will let you know what it goes. More tools for teachers I am told. (Educreations can be recorded so I can tape my lessons for my residents to listen to or even for me to review and catalog in my library). Possiblity for a long term sub, maternity leave, sick leave, too many options here.
Michael Heggerty’s Phonological awareness
Still just do it with the students. Maybe I can adapt to iPad for students that need accommodation and/or modification.
I have a bathroom in my room and have the students on a math app (right before math time) while we filter through the bath time. I can accommodate and differentiate at this time. They also don’t play in the bathroom because they want to work on their iPads.
I have not done calendar on the iPad yet. Still need to investigate this one. Any ideas? I teach Everyday Math and am incorporating ideas. Have a lot to work on with iPad integration. I have some good apps but they are limited use. Ideas are welcome. I know that we are working on this part in our 1:1 iPad cohort so this piece will improve.
Guided Reading
Explained above but will be using Smarty Pants, TeachMe K, 1st grade, and 2nd grade to meet students’ needs. Also looking into guided level readers.
Will use educreations for the students to write and then record their work with the instruction being recorded as well. Sorta like a worksheet but you get to hear all the instruction too. This will be sent and put in their electronic portfolios.
I had the students read into the iPad so I could assess fluency. This is sorta like a running record. I found I could be in many different places at once doing this.
Word Study
I know a colleague used Words Their Way on the iPad. I did a lot of adapting of WTW last year as I think some students are good at cheating on some of the sorts. I made some myself. Still need to adapt to iPads. I could envision something similar to Guided Reading but not sure yet.

Future Plans: I have a lot as you see above. I guess starting small and taking baby steps is my path. I feel like small successes fuel me to have bigger successes and push me even further.

I feel like I could one day say I was a MAC user and smile about it.

I feel like as hard as this seems on any given day or any moment of frustration or success, my students are benefitting from every baby step. They will meet and exceed all expectations. We can close the achievement gap. They will truly be 21st century learners.


  1. Hi! I am in the process of writing a grant for ipads to use in my kindergarten classroom and found this blog post. HOpe you don't mind...I cut and pasted some of your words to include in my grant proposal and then tweaked them to fit my classroom. I am your newest follower and hope to come back when (fingers crossed) I get my grant approved!

  2. I hope you get your grant! What are some of your plans? Keep me posted.

  3. Hi Carrie! I just found your blog. In April I received 26 iPads for my K/1 classroom. Using the iPads last Spring was amazing! Then in the fall, with a new group of newbie kinders and firsties, I floundered a lot. We are starting to make progress now, but I have so much to learn! I was thrilled to find your blog so that I can learn from you. From time to time I post iPad ideas on my blog also,
    An Open Door

  4. Carrie,
    Me again! I wrote my first post BEFORE reading through your entire post. I should have waited! I have felt many of the same emotions. I was already a Mac user, but never an iPad user. I am the only K or 1 teacher in my cohort. The syncing drives me CRAZY!!! I, too, am working on building a library of free books on the iPads. Right now most of the books are not leveled, but can be listened to or read. I paid for a subscription to RAZ-kids and with the help of the Rover app, my students can use RAZ-kids on their iPads. I have my kiddos all leveled on RAZ-Kids. Hang in there and we will learn together!
    An Open Door