Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Progress Report on iPads in Kindergarten and as a Teacher Productivity Tool

The iPad implementation group met this week to share experiences with the iPads for students and for teachers. The conversation ranged from iOS5, iCloud, and Evernote tips, to how K's are interacting with the iPads in class and the many ways they are being used there.

Classroom Activites with iPads in Kindergarten

While our two kindergartens are using the iPads in different ways, they are both finding them helpful tools that support their academic goals. The previous post, with a video of the handwriting app, is an example of a way the iPad is impacting the curriculum.  We discussed whether adding a stylus would help with the pencil grip issue, but the teachers pointed out that to use a finger to trace the letters helps the student focus directly on the correct letter formation, and separates the formation from the small motor issues related to holding a pencil correctly, managing other tools like an eraser, etc. They see this as great reinforcement and practice which goes along with the pencil-paper lessons. Our teachers are finding more and more uses for the iPad during their teaching day. While I had thought we could share the sets with older classes as a chance to test them at other levels, one of our kindergartens now says they are just too useful to share. They make them available during math and language arts time so that students who are finished with work or ready for greater challenges can move forward using the selected apps we have agreed on for the program. They are surprised to find that, at this point, they don't use them for informal "choice" time and have not yet used the drawing apps very much. There is a plan to do a project based on a field trip, where students will upload a photo and tell the story of the trip using a drawing and recording app like Screen Chomp. This is where iCloud will be useful, so that all the iPads can share photos.

Teacher Productivity with iPads

This was a great session for teachers to share their experiences with Evernote, including shared notebooks (we have subscribed to Evernote), inked notes, tags, and organizing folders.  Our third grade teacher, who is trying out the iPad as his record-keeping tool this year, has found that he can use his Toshiba tablet PC with the Ink Note feature to hand write notes as he talks to kids in reading conferences or other meetings for one-to-one assessment. He feels that inking sends a better message than typing, and with the syncing ability, he has access to the handwritten notes on the iPad as well. We are hoping Evernote will include Ink Notes on their next upgrade, which would really help make note-taking like this more efficient. Many of our teachers had not understood the value of tagging notes, which serves the same purpose as having folders. We discussed how one could collect all of a student's work in a folder, but sort our notes by topic through tags, such as "Betty reading comprehension"," Betty math", etc. Once a tag has been established, it appears on the list of choices, so you can write a detailed tag once, then never have to write it again. The upgrade to iOS5 has added the opportunities provided by iCloud to the mix. Teachers are eager to try out the chance to share photos and projects across iPads via the cloud. We have already tested the photo stream and can see that it will be a great addition.

In November, one of the K teachers and I look forward to attending and learning much more in Auburn, Maine at the institute entitled: Leveraging Learning: the iPad in Primary Grades 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Handwriting: iPads and Paper and Pencil

The Kindergarten has a weekly guided lesson on the iPads. This week during their handwriting practice, groups moved through the iPad activities on iWriteWords and traditional worksheets. One of our theories about using iPads was that with the right app that gives students direction for their letter formation and feedback when they do it incorrectly, they would get the kind of repeated practice that will eventually make the formation of letters come naturally. This video demonstrates the challenge of guiding a kindergartener through correct letter formation with paper and pencil, compared to practicing repeatedly with feedback on the iPad.