Sunday, September 23, 2012

Using iPads in a Primary Classroom

Last year I wrote a grant for one iPad in our elementary school library, and was able to generate additional donations of 3 more iPads from parents. It was fascinating to see how elementary students used these iPads. I was able to share them with students (grades 2-5) during recess, watching what they were drawn to on their own time. I loved the excitement and collaboration that I witnessed. I worked with a kindergarten teacher as she hosted a "Tech Friday" - introducing her students to iPads, MP3 players with audiobooks, and LeapFrog games. We ran small groups through each station for about 10 - 15 minutes.

I was fascinated to read Kathy Cassidy's action research reflections about her experience with a 1-to-1 iPad program in a 1st grade classroom. Cassidy is part of the Powerful Learning Practices Network - an fantastic action research professional development group. Much of what she writes about confirms what I witnessed in our school on a smaller scale.

from Kathy Cassidy, Flickr stream
Cassidy reports that students were instantly engaged in learning with the iPads. While these young students are excited about any new project they undertake with their teacher, I love how she writes, "Having said that, the opportunity to use a technology that is as intuitive to them as playing in the sand has captivated my students." She goes on to report how students collaborated with each other, helping each other learn how to use an app, showing off their work to one another, asking for help if they were stuck. Even though they often worked with headphones, students were interactive with peers as well as with the technology.

In my library, I found that students were especially drawn to math games. They loved the interactive nature, quick responses and fun game qualities of these apps. Cassidy reports that she noticed her students liked using apps that gave immediate feedback, whether it's spelling or math they are immediately rewarded for correct answers or prompted to try again until they get the right answer.

Cassidy's students have also explored creating projects and documenting their learning through the iPads. They've used screencasting tools to draw as they talk - something very intuitive and natural for young six year olds. And they've loved taking pictures with the iPads.

Cassidy concludes noting that:
"Truthfully, management of these devices has proven to be more of a hassle than I had anticipated, but it is clear to me that these devices ARE making a difference. When I see the students’ engagement, their learning, their sharing and their pursuit of their passions, I can’t help but be convinced that these devices have the potential to transform my classroom."
I'm looking forward to following more of Cassidy's action research and reflections on her classroom blog: Ms. Cassidy's Classroom. Even on the first day of school, she had her students from last year (now big 2nd graders) introducing this year's class to using the iPads. Talk about empowering young learners!

Cassidy, K. (2012) iPads in Primary: Does 1-to-1 Make a Difference?, Powerful Learning Practice Network. July 2, 2012. Retrieved from

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