iPad Scout Reflections Week 1

Last week I showed you some fabulously happy 5th graders with their new iPads.  And somehow, a week (almost 2!) has passed, and I haven’t updated you.  Man–what was I thinking?  Oh yeah, I’ve been living in iPad mini world!

So…how’s it going?  That question is harder to answer than just a simple “yes” or “no,” because obviously this past week has had both its ups and downs.  Growing pains, maybe.  I realize that some (or maybe most) or our issues are related to the fact that this is all still so new, and figure they’ll work themselves out as we go along.  So I guess I’ll digest it all and share in terms of Highs and Lows.

Here we go:

HIGHS

1. From the first morning after we got our new learning tools (not toys!),  I was rethinking how we’d do things.  Not that it was a huge change, but I wanted them to be able to use their Minis from the second they walked in, and so put our morning agenda on the blog instead of on our screen.  They accessed it via a QR code that I put up instead.  It was really funny to see all the smiles on their faces as they walked in and saw what we were doing.

2. We have used a new app for our whiteboards during math!  We’re used to working out problems during small groups, but usually we’re fighting to find markers that work, spending lots of time getting them out and putting them away (not the best situation, but it happens, right?).  Now kids can easily open their Educreations app and work their problems, using different colors if they want, either writing with the pencil feature or typing with the keyboard.  Even better than that–we used the same app for a pre-assessment for our next unit!  With the recording feature of Educreations, students could read decimals to me, as well as work through multiplication and division problems and explain to me what they were doing while they did it.  A. MAZ. ING.   The only downfall?  I now have about 5 or 6 hours of videos to review…

3. Dropbox is making sharing and turning in documents super easy!  Thanks to my super-smart, tech-savvy friend Genie, who is along in this iPad Scout with me, my students and I share some folders in Dropbox that allow me to upload files to them to download and read (or mark up, using Notability, which we also discovered last week!), then upload to a different shared folder for me to review later.  Crazy, right?  It’s just the way I use Dropbox as an adult, which is great, too, because this is a real-life skill.  They were pretty much amazed by this whole deal.  I found it very cool because we could do something we would have done anyway in a new (and once we learn how it all works–more efficiently) way.

4. Our iPads fit right into what our fabulous art teacher is doing with her photography unit, but she doesn’t have to worry about figuring out a schedule for kids to share digital cameras or worry about taking time to upload all of their pictures.  They can take and then use all of the photographs they want, right on their iPads! Easy peasy. 🙂

5. We can blog at a moment’s notice!  This is probably the thing that I love the most, because we use our blogs to share and reflect upon our learning many times a day.  Previously, that meant making sure that everyone had a laptop (from the cart in our room and probably the cart next door, too), turning it on, waiting for it to turn on and be ready, going to our KidBlogs and logging  in, then writing, and repeating the whole thing in reverse.  Ok, so that’s really not hard, but it is time-consuming enough that it makes it inefficient to do more than once a day.  Now, they just pick up their iPad, which is right near them (and they were probably already using anyway), touch the app (which is always logged in as them and goes straight to their blog) and go!  They are writing more on their own than before, too, since they can add a new post about whatever they’re thinking about without having to go through that big “to do” that I mentioned previously.  WE LOVE KIDBLOG ON OUR IPADS!

6. We now have a way to do two more new things that are a part of our normal routine in a more efficient (and more motivating for some) way.  I have been wanting to look into using Google Docs and Google Forms for a while now, and I finally found a reason to do so!  On Mondays, we do something called It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (which I stole from some way-smarter-than-me people I connect with on Twitter), which is essentially just a way for readers to share with me and each other what they are reading and what page they are on.  I can then use that list to keep track of what readers are doing, and address needs that may arise.  We used to do it on a checklist that I keep, but now, using a QR code that sends them right to the link, kiddos do it on their own and send me the info!

Live view of our Google Form for It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Live view of our Google Form for It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Another thing that we now have in an electronic format is our Read Aloud Journals.  While we will not always complete them online (it’s not the best platform for every learner, nor can you record images you’re having while we read), it’s a great way for me to do check-ins and get a picture of what is going on in their heads during our Read Aloud time.  Kids love this one, too!  Plus, it’s just cute.  But not that that would ever by why I would do something. 🙂

Electronic Read Aloud Journal

Electronic Read Aloud Journal

So, overall, it’s been a great week with in our new 1:1 world.  I’m sure that I’ve forgotten something really innovative and fabulous that we did (and I’ll remember as soon as I post this!), but I couldn’t possibly put it all in one post, anyway.  Really quickly, though, I’ll share some lows.

LOWS

1. They’re new.  Just that mere fact that it’s a new “toy” means that everyone wants to fiddle.  And always touch the screen.  And figure out what settings they can change without breaking any rules.  And forget that they shouldn’t be app shopping during math class.  I’m hoping this wears off soon, as we really focus in on how this device can enhance our learning.

2. There have been some Wi-fi issues.  Even though the district did much up front work and we have amazing structures in place, putting this many more devices on the network at once is going to cause some hiccups.  It’s just annoying when those hiccups come right in the middle of trying to show 20 5th graders how to set up their Dropboxes.

3. Everything takes 10 times longer than you anticipate or want it to.  The Dropbox scenario that I just mentioned was nightmarish on Friday afternoon as we had to keep going back and forth from the Dropbox app to Dropbox.com to their email to access invite messages and back again.  It’s not that it’s anything new, or unlike what I had to do when I set up my own Dropbox, but their understandings are different (they also can’t envision how what I’m asking them to do will work in real life) since they haven’t used Dropbox before.  And then add in those wi-fi issues and we only go through 1/22 of what I wanted to do with them.  But then there’s a lesson in that, too.  Sometimes you have to put down the technology and walk away.  Or just do something the old-fashioned way that you know will work without the wi-fi connection. 🙂

4. Subs don’t have the same visions and understandings about how these devices are meant to be used as you.  They might give your students “free iPad” time, which is just an invitation for problems when you’re talking about 5th graders who have only had their iPad for a few days.  No huge issues, just some bad habits started to form already.  I had to quickly “unteach” the idea of “freetime” and “playing.”  At school these are for business.

Ok.  Enough for now.  My posts always end up WAY LONGER than I first plan, and this one is no different.  I leave with some questions for you:

1. What insights do you have to share with us after reading about our first experiences with 1:1 in our 5th grade classroom?

2. What suggestions do you have for us as we move into Week 2 and beyond?