I got a class set of iPads for two weeks.
Let me be right up front when I say this: it was the single best two weeks of my entire teaching career, a banner cap to what has already shown to be my finest year as a teacher.
Some of that had to do with just the very nature of switching, even if only for a day at a time, to a complete 1:1 environment with students. giving the students a mobile device for a day and telling them “this is yours for the day, take full advantage of it” has such an immense level of power beyond what I had sincerely hoped to be true. It makes me even more excited for the high school in my district, which is next year switching to a full time 1:1 environment.
Another large part of it had to do with the devices themselves. Scoff if you will, but when Apple sells the iPad as “magical,” it’s pretty hard to doubt it after seeing them in the kids’ hands for two weeks. Within five minutes of handing the iPads over, every student had mastered the basics of using it. They were excited to use such a new device, and took extremely good care of the iPads. At one point, a Kindergartner fell out of his seat, but he hugged the iPad to himself. “I saved the iPad!”
It’s not just the students. I’m never surprised when my technology pros want to try something new. But some of my most tech-phobic teachers were just as excited to get these into their classrooms. Whenever I gave a teacher an iPad the night before I came in with the set, that teacher came back the next morning pumped up for the day, and with some great ideas for how to use them in their classrooms, no professional development required.
So how do I look back on an amazing two weeks? With longing, mostly. For those two weeks, I was able to make school be the way I felt it ought to be, and it was magnificent. The kids were engaged in great, meaningful learning and practice, but each day still had this wonderful sense of play to it that we should aspire to offer to our students. When learning is fun, it becomes something that’s not just work, but tangibly better than work. At the end of each day, I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.
I experienced so many splended moments during these two weeks that it’s becoming difficult to remember them all, but here are some of the highlights:
- Fifth grade: They’re working on math open response questions when the teacher announces that it’s time to go outside for recess. The students all groan. They unanimously inform us that they want to stay inside and keep working on their math.
- Fourth grade: Students using Maps and Google Docs to keep track of clues to find out where their mystery Skype call was coming from.
- Third grade: students gathering around the IWB to watch videos they had created.
- Second grade: Seeing a child who normally struggles in class show a laser-focus intensity while figuring out how to and then developing his own cartoon for 90 minutes straight
- First grade: students sitting wherever they like in the room, some on the rug, some at desks, some at tables, playing and laughing and sharing.
- Kindergarten: the children clapping and cheering and feeling proud of themselves for the things they were accomplishing.
- Phys Ed: children learning and being able to demonstrate exercises they’d never seen before
- More than one teacher describing iPad day as their best day in a classroom ever.
It was a tremendous experience. Now I just need it full time.
In my next post I’ll get into the nitty gritty of my approach to the two weeks and in my third post I’ll talk about the standout apps.