Sunday, October 18, 2015

Celebrations and Challenges

I was very excited about adding iPads to the classroom at the beginning of the year and have experienced some real successes, but it hasn’t been without some frustration, too. I want to write about a little bit of both in case others are experiencing some of the same frustrations. I don’t want anyone to feel like it is just them who is struggling with the transition.
First, the celebrations:
  • ·        We use iPads every morning during Morning Work (when I pull students for Math interventions). As students finish their review, they are able to choose an iPad or a traditional math game. They are eager to come in the room and complete their work so that they can be one of the students who is able to use the math apps on the iPad.
  • ·        We have completed several PicCollage activities: an American symbols scavenger hunt during the first week of school (great idea, Debbie!), a noun sort (thanks to Jacque Prater who helped us figure out how to put a three-column background onto the app!) and a cardinal directions scavenger hunt (thanks to Sharla and Debbie!).
  • ·        Students love to use Scribblify for Working with Words in literacy stations. They are creating word families and word practice on the iPad and love to practice their spelling.
  • ·        GetEpic! is an awesome reading app that we use in literacy stations. You will need to sign in and set up your class, but it’s really easy. It took me less than five minutes to type all of their names (and this can be done on the computer at www.getepic.com). Students then access the app on the ipad and find their name and icon. The first time they login, they will take an interest inventory and are asked how old they are. I supervised this with my first graders and had them sit at the table in small groups while they completed the login. I think older students could easily complete this on their own.

o   Now the fun part- when students login, they are able to choose from recommended books. They can choose to listen to a book or to read a book. One of my sweet girls figured out yesterday that there is a dropdown box that allows you to sort by “listen only” or by interest areas.
o   Many students brought earbuds, but I also have students who don’t have them, so I have taught them to turn the volume down and to find a quiet spot. This was a bit of a struggle at the beginning of the year, but it seems to be working now.
  • ·        I learned about Seesaw this summer, but didn’t do anything with it until this week until Dewawn reminded me of it. It looks like it is going to be a great resource. I have it on my phone and my teacher iPad right now, but plan to download it onto student iPads once I become more comfortable with it. For now, I’m able to snap pictures of student work for RtI instead of saving it to make copies. This way, I can return it to the students right away to take home on Thursdays instead of creating another pile on my desk!

o   Ideally, I will let my students snap photos of work that they do, especially the work that stays in their Math/Science notebooks or Reading/Word Study notebooks. Their parents will be able to use the Seesaw app to logon and see their child’s work throughout the year.
  • ·        I’ve also opened up my classroom to student technology. I was a little nervous about this, but a few brave parents took the plunge and send iPads with their students. Some send them every day. A few only send them when requested, but when I add student iPads to my classroom iPads (which include three from ESL), then I have enough for two students to one iPad which really seems to help with the sharing issue that we often face in first grade! J

So, I’ve definitely seen quite a few successes within this transition, but I’ve faced (am facing) some challenges, too.
  • ·        I currently have one working Lightning charger in my room, which makes it quite a juggling act to keep the iPads charged. It was a struggle to begin with when only two chargers fit into the surge protector at a time, but I wish I had those two now! We discovered this problem one morning last week when we walked in and neither of the iPads that had been plugged in overnight had any charge at all. I switched some chargers around and found one that worked, so this is going to continue to be a challenge it appears.
  • ·        I have used Lexia on classroom computers for several years and love this program for intervention. I was excited to find that there is a Lexia app for the iPad. I didn’t expect it to take close to thirty minutes to download and to take up so much space on the iPads. Also, it often requires a teacher email address in order for students to login even though I’ve already set up my account on each iPad. It seems to “lose” it on a regular basis, so students have to interrupt small groups for me to login for them again. It also has problems connecting to the server several times per week, taking up to 10 minutes. Some people have suggested not letting the app ever close so it doesn’t lose my login, but when we run out of chargers, this can’t be avoided.
  • ·        When students bring their own iPads, they don’t usually know the password for the app store, so if parents haven’t downloaded the apps we need, then we can’t use their iPad for the lesson that day, which really disappoints them. Or, I’ve spent time teaching students how to download apps when their parent sent me the password.
  • ·        Tracie found an awesome app called Popplet that we were so excited to use in math. I downloaded it on Friday before the lesson on Monday and practiced with it several times over the weekend so that I would be familiar with it. It worked great during all of my trials.

o   Then, the lesson happened. The app couldn’t access the photos the students were taking because I hadn’t used those iPads to practice and didn’t realize they would ask for permission to access photos. Many students pressed no because they weren’t really familiar with what it was asking.
o   I accessed the settings on each of those iPads while the students waited and changed the permissions, but it still wouldn’t let them take pictures from the app. They had to take pictures from the camera, then access the camera roll. It was a work around, but this took up a lot of class time and I felt like we didn’t achieve the math learning we needed that day. This was really discouraging because I was so excited about the use of this app.
  • ·        PicCollage was the app we used for two lessons at the beginning of the year and we really loved it. I stayed after school one day to download this app onto my classroom iPads and looked forward to using it all year. Then we learned that we needed to delete it and install PicCollage for Kids. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was just another item on the ever-growing to do list. I wish my students were ready to download apps for me, but when I’ve tried, I’ve spent time clarifying and helping them out which takes away from instruction with other students.
  • ·        My longest lasting concern has been about student work. How do I know what students are doing on the iPad when I’m not standing over them? We had some challenges in stations, but those seem to have slowed down and students often “police” their friends when they aren’t using the iPads appropriately. I also haven’t figured out a good way to assess their work or save it. I tried to use Dropbox for this, but for some reason, the accounts won’t stay logged in and they won’t automatically upload the pictures like it does with my personal Dropbox. I’ve downloaded Google Drive on my teacher iPad, but don’t know how to get the photos from student iPads onto my teacher iPad. Surely I’ll figure this out by the end of the year, right? J


In sum, I’m still really excited about using iPads in the classroom, but there have definitely been some challenges.  I was hesitant to share them, but when I read only positives on the blog before I wrote mine, I felt a little disheartened, like maybe I was the only person experiencing challenges. I know, though, that this isn’t true, so wanted to share both sides of my experiences. If you have any suggestions that would help, I would love to hear them! 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I love your transparency about sharing both the celebrations and the struggles. We'll all get through this together. :)

    ReplyDelete