Two week iPad trial: Part 1

I got a class set of iPads for two weeks.

Day 82: iPads in first grade

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!”

Day 81: iPads in fifth grade

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.

Day 87: iPads in fourth grade

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.

Part 2.

Part 3.

24 thoughts on “Two week iPad trial: Part 1

  1. This is awesome. Thanks for sharing. I am going to look hard at grants to get one-to-one iPads.

  2. What a wonderful recap of the highlights. Looks like some serious engagement was going on. I would be curious to see if anyone has done long-term studies (9 months +) study re: level of engagement with these devices. I’m concerned that we’re seeing the ‘novelty engagement’ factor at play here. I’m also wondering how/when we would stop focusing on learning/teaching for the sake of the device.

  3. Bill – you should have seen me, my principal, and my teacher racking our brains figuring out how to get as many devices as possible for next year.

    Nancy – I’d love to see some longitudinal studies, but I’d imagine they’re difficult to come by since iPads are only a year old. I do give a lot of credit not specifically to the iPads themselves, but to the very idea of being in a 1:1 environment. Like any device, the iPad has its advantages and disadvantages in relationship to, say, a laptop or a netbook, and I think if I were testing a set of those it also would have been awesome, just in some different ways.

    Kev – I think you know you had me at unconference. Edcamp tablet NJ?

  4. I hope you will really get down to the nitty gritty in the next blog – I want to know much more!!! can’t wait. Meanwhile writing grant to get some for my schools.

  5. Loved the post! We rolled out 480 in September to all our students in PK -12 and have simply been amazed at how quickly the technology has integrated itself into what we do coaching students. Granted we started the project in mid-June and to ask our faculty to adapt was a challenge, but they have embraced it. I think the biggest take away for us so far has been the collaboration between faculty and students in discovering this new technology together. We didn’t have an infrastructure and overhauled the entire system. Our students are able to individualize their own curriculum by finding apps, solve problems, instant access to the www, and the use of itunes and itunes U is simply an amazing resource. We didn’t put any expectations on faculty for use. We just said explore it, succeed, fail, but ready to share both in an open and trusting environment as we realize the power of these machines together. It has been great to read about other schools looking at these as possible one to one solutions. For us it has really reinvented the way we teach, will continue to look at teaching as we dig deeper in implementing the 21st century skills we have discussed doing for past 10 years. Congrats again, and let me know if you have any questions about using the “on the ground”.

  6. Great hearing of how successful this was for you and the kids! We are nowhere near this kind of implimentation but it gives me something to work toward. Hearing that others like you are finding it transformative and extremely worthwhile add fuel to the fire and confirm what I was already thinking. Can’t wait to hear more!

  7. Dan,
    So we’ve found ourselves a nice chunk of money due to an award we received and I have written a proposal for about 10-12 iPads for use with our Title 1 students. We were comprehensive with the proposal, in my opinion, but our asst. supt. wants more clarification about how we will measure the effectiveness of the device and the impact on student learning. Do you have any great assessment tools we could examine? We did include many early literacy/numeracy measures because a lot of our students would interact with the iPads for those types of experiences, but I guess she wants more.
    I loved your post! So exciting to hear and see kids loving learning!
    Lyn Hilt´s last blog post ..Sharing is contagious!

  8. Just so I can better understand the excitement of the “very nature of switching” for the children, before the iPad what were they using before? What did they switch “from”?

  9. John, they switched from a pretty traditional classroom setup. Typical setup we’re moving to in our school district right now for elementary includes one teacher laptop, one interactive whiteboard, and one cart with 4 computer stations. So switching to a 1:1 mobile device setup is a pretty big change.

  10. Dan,
    I have had the pleasure of watching our students get excited about learning on iPads and iPods. Our Elementary campus has two class sets of iPods and 1 class set of iPads. I use them on a daily basis with my students and see the great advantages learning on these devices has. Unfortunately some of our faculty members are still very reluctant to try using them in the classroom. These faculty members still see these devices as toys and distractions. This year my administration is not pressuring the teachers to use the devices but next year is a whole new ball-game. My principal is expecting me to begin that transition to 1 to 1 learning with these devices next year. Over the past few months I have compiled so much information on how to integrate 1 to 1 iPods and iPads that I am afraid I am suffering from information overload now. What resources did you use to help promote the use of these devices? I have developed lessons for K-4 and a few 5 and 6 grade lessons but want to have a good stock pile for teachers to use. Do you have a good resource for lessons using iPads/iPods?
    Thanks a whole bunch!!

  11. The excitement that the ipads created with your students seems to be a common occurrence, and a big advantage to us as teachers. I’ve shared that same feeling this year, having 12 ipads to share amongst my 24 grade 2&3 students.
    Its amazing how they have made such a huge impact on education in such a short time…across the world!
    I teach in a rural area near Melbourne, Australia.
    Another brilliant ipad blog, that has lots of helpful info is by Fraser Spiers from Scotland.
    http://speirs.org/blog
    I hope you have more access to ipads in the future!

  12. As a teacher, this story left me cold. None of it pointed to the LEARNING the kids were doing, only to the excitement they showed at having a cool new gadget. Of course, for that teacher the excitement of the students was a wonderful thing to behold. But that excitement will fade as students begin to take the iPad for granted, as the excitement over classroom computers faded in the 1990s. Then you’re faced with the eternal teaching problem of getting kids to use the technology, not to play games and update their Facebook account, but to focus on learning curriculum.

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