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Five ways readers are using iPads in the classroom


"Kids have grown up their whole lives with computers, but they need to be taught how to harness the technology for education," says Mitchell Salerno, principal of the Master's Academy in Florida.

Whether you think it’s hot stuff or just fluff, the iPad has caught the eye of many educators. Here’s a list of five ways that eSchool News readers say they’re using iPads in the classroom.

How are you using iPads in your own schools or classrooms? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us your own experience in the comments section of this story.

1. For intervention.

Gabrielle Smith from Etna Elementary has been using her iPad 2 in her fifth-grade classroom for roughly two months. Smith purchased the iPad with her own money and without reimbursement to test the device as a model for delivering Response to Intervention (RtI).

“I found an app called Math Drills, to help students with their math facts. After a school-wide math fact program, there were a certain number of students that still didn’t know their addition facts. Essentially, they had trouble with ‘at a snap’ recall of facts,” she explained.

“I put those few students on the iPad app, which gave them the opportunity to practice and then to test themselves. It kept track of their scores and showed their improvement. I’ve had students BEG me to allow them to practice their facts—under normal circumstances, what fifth-grader do you know [who] WANTS to practice their facts? I’ll take it! Each student has showed improvement in the quick recall of facts, and they want to. It can’t get much better than that.”

2. For enrichment.

Smith also wanted to use her iPad for students identified as “gifted,” as well as to enrich her own life.

“There are several apps out there for the ‘smart kids.’ I found one for the iPhone, which I use on the iPad, called Miss Spell’s Class,” she said. “It gives students a series of challenging vocabulary words, and they need to decide if it’s spelled correctly or incorrectly. I’ve seen my gifted kids get so frustrated (it shows them that they’re not always No. 1), and consequently, so proud of themselves because they’ve finally conquered it. The success is made much sweeter when you have to work for it.”

She continued, “Apps like Penultimate keep track of notes that I take on students. In my RtI groups, I take pictures of the work kids have done and put it into a file with their name on it, and notes for future teaching. The 2Do app helps me organize groups that I’m working with during class, and what we’re doing that day. I assign due dates and stay on track. Then, I know if someone is absent because they’re shown as overdue. TeacherPal helps me make my seating chart without erasing every quarter. Teacher’s Assistant allows my students on behavior plans to mark their own progress as they meet (or don’t meet) their goals. They are responsible for it, and are eager to earn points during the day simply so that they can enter it on the iPad. Regardless of the motivation, I’ll take it, since I’ve seen an improvement in behavior, especially … of fifth-grade [students].”

3. For assistive technology.

One reader, Eva, said she uses the iPad to help a boy in her classroom who has autism. Supposedly, the iPad was the only tool that could engage him for any length of time with his speech therapist.

“Upon first seeing it, he stared at it for a few seconds then reached for it,” she explained. “We gave him the iPad and he immediately started mimicking us by pushing all the right buttons to see the interactive app. We love it so much that his mother, with the help of a therapist, wrote a mini-grant to one of the local organizations so that he could have one of his own.”
4. For digital literacy.

A reader identified as “drthomasho” noted how every one of the 270 students at the Master’s Academy in Oviedo, Fla., will receive a school-issued iPad next school year.

The Christian school is paying for the iPads, because school officials hope to teach students to “engage the digital world productively,” said Mitchell Salerno, the high school’s principal, in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. School officials hope to give students the skills expected of them both in college and in the workplace.

The iPads will not replace all textbooks, but they will allow students to do much of their school work online, reduce reliance on paper, and give teenagers access to resources not available in class.

“Kids have grown up their whole lives with computers, but they need to be taught how to harness the technology for education,” Salerno said.

It’s important to note that before making the iPad decision, Salerno visited a private school in California that had purchased iPads for all its students to learn how the devices might improve education. The staff then spent a year working on the project.

5. For organizing resources—and for reading.

Beau Barrett, a teacher at Crestview Elementary School, writes on his blog how to organize the iPad’s various resources for classroom use with students, and the teacher, in mind. (You can see screenshots and read more about Barrett’s iPad use on his blog.)

“The way I create folders on my classroom iPad is by organizing them with a student focus in mind. For example, I created folders labeled  ‘Free Write’ and ‘Free Math’ so students know what they are allowed to use when they are finished with their writing or math assignment,” he explains. “I also create specific folders for lessons or units of study. The folder labeled ‘Earth’ on our classroom iPad was created for small group work. Students had the task of answering the question, ‘Why are we able to live on Earth?’ The apps in the ‘Earth’ folder were the only apps they could use to find an answer.”

He continued, “However, the most important folder I have is my personal folder. Naming this folder ‘Personal’ tells my students ‘hands off!’… None of my personal apps give any personal information away to the students. If an app does have personal information, it is password-protected.”

Barrett also notes that sometimes folders are not necessary.

“I placed iBooks, Kindle, and USA Today on the bottom bar of my iPad, not in a folder. I put these apps here [because] reading on our iPad is one of the most popular things the students use the iPad for. This way, students are able to easily locate the reading apps with no searching necessary. In a nutshell, I organize our classroom iPad for the convenience of student use and somewhat my own. This way, the students feels more like the iPad belongs to them, rather than something the teacher lets them use.”

More news about iPads in education:

Schools see rising scores with iPads

Sony unveils tablets to rival the iPad

iPads take a place next to crayons in kindergarten

Mobile learning: Not just laptops any more

Kineo: Like an iPad, but made for students

10 of the best apps for education

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