How I Use Apps in a Classroom Setting, by Courtney Rodgers

Choosing apps that will support your teaching objective is a time consuming task for sure, however managing multiple iPad devices in a primary elementary classroom can quickly get out of hand, especially if you have not practiced with the device yourself. Therefore, my first suggestion is to work with an iPad and learn the basics of navigation–I like this video, iPad Basic Navigation. Be sure to learn from your network administrator how to download, delete, and organize apps. Each school will have a different system, however all will be linked to something called an Apple ID. Educate yourself about your school’s system so that you can troubleshoot in the moment and not become stalled when (not should) you encounter a glitch. Secondly, actually play the apps you wish to use with the students. Third, preload names of students, levels of difficulty, and other various settings when applicable. If you are sharing iPads with another classroom or grade level, make labels for the cases with the student names–numerical tags are great for the network administrator, but you will need names and so will the students in order to facilitate easy distribution and return. Other things to consider might be headphones, hand-washing routines, and rotation schedules. Breathe…you are almost ready to witness the marriage ceremony of inspired learning and fun.

Most students will be incredibly motivated to get their hands on an iPad. In our community, many students have iPads at home and even more students have parents with an iPhone–many apps are designed for both. Students know how to use these devices, even if we teachers don’t. When teachers first get their hands on iPads, they tend to use them in small groups as a center activity in which the child practices a skill that has already been taught. For example, many classrooms have math centers for an hour or so once a week or once a month wherein parents, teachers, and paraprofessionals if available, manage students as they rotate (in homo or heterogeneous groups) through various stations and activities. Many teachers I know use stations that include Marcy Cook tiles, an online station utilizing IXL, a Mountain Math station, and finally a reteach or preteach station. For a beginning integrator, simply replacing one of these stations with an iPad app game is the most widespread use of iPads in the classroom that I have witnessed to date. However, this minor enhancement will not yield the deeper learning that we as teachers seek, although it will definitely engage and excite your students. Strive for more.

image by Anthony Armstrong

image by Anthony Armstrong

After an initial substitution phase of iPad integration, teachers could begin using iPads to allow the children to create media–a more transformative use of technology in the classroom. Last school year I taught three reading enrichment groups. I worked with one small group from each grade K, 1, and 2, in which we created, rather than consumed, utilizing the iPad. Students read and researched their topics digitally and from paper books. Next, each student in grades 1 and 2 created their own iBook using Red Jumper Studio’s Book Creator App ($4.99). The students documented their findings and thoughtfully organized the pages with images, captions, and paragraphs. This app was so simple to teach and to use that my 1st grade students were typing up text, coloring backgrounds, recording their voices as narrators, importing images from Dropbox, and lastly sharing their self published books with family and friends within just a few weeks. The Kindergarten students wrote first person personification poems about insects and then performed them using the app Puppet Pals HD Director’s Chair from Polished Play, LLC. Students learned quickly how to manipulate the insect puppets, but the challenge was speaking and manipulating the characters at the same time. This advanced task was well situated within these students’ zone of proximal development. I’m always looking for ways to push high achieving students to say, “Woah, this is hard.” Check out an example here, Puppet Pals Earthworm Personification Poem.

In my opinion, technology is too often used simply to make a final product–i.e., typing up an essay or creating a culminating Keynote about the CA Missions. However, apps provide a way to utilize technology at the beginning of your lesson for the anticipatory set as well as mid-lesson for your guided practice and independent practice. Think about how students can publish their smart thinking and with whom they can share. Many teachers have students create illustrations to enhance poems they’ve written and then display them on the classroom bulletin board. Now students have the power to write or dictate their poem, drop in a photo of original art or draw in Procreate ($4.99), add a narrated student recording of poem, and then publish for the student’s family and friends far and near.

An iPad is a tool. It’s powerful. It’s universal. It’s empowerment for students. Designing and formatting their own words and ideas on the iPad inspires creativity. My ultimate takeaway is that students stay with a more challenging assignment longer when technology is a component. They persevere simply because they are internally motivated to do quality work, especially if the audience has been expanded to include those without a bird’s eye view of the bulletin board. Tekkie and non-tekkie teachers alike can appreciate how difficult it is to inspire intrinsic motivation in their students. So here it is, one vetted way to motivate from within:start leading your students through projects in which they can create their own media on an iPad.

See Courtney’s first post on choosing apps for classroom use here.

Courtney Rodgers works full time as a reading specialist in a public school in Marin County, CA, and last year she also served as the school’s Director of Educational Technology. She has spent 12 years as a teacher, all of which were spent focusing on reading acquisition/intervention as well as technology integration. She loves all kinds of literacy – digital and analog. It’s all for fun and all for learning. After working all day, Courtney loves to come home to her 3.5 year old, 1.5 year old, and stay-at-home daddy/husband to check out what has been read that day.

About Amy Koester

I'm a youth services librarian with a penchant for exciting ideas and engaging programs. It's a sure bet that if you talk to me about STEAM, whimsy, and trying new things, we'll be best friends forever.

Posted on September 23, 2013, in Apps, Education and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. What a cool, informative post! Yes, children and the iPad are a perfect combination…they intuitively understand touch, and how iPads work. Sharing this blog post all over…

  2. Hello Amy,
    Thank you for this post! (and thank you to Roxie for sharing) As an interactive ebook creator, I especially like to hear that more and more teachers are embracing the ipad
    as an educational tool. I’ve also heard that some teachers are utilizing the smart board
    with tablet devices.

  3. So glad you found this useful. I so happy to know others will have a head start and hopefully power through any technological glitches they may encounter.

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