Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ipads: shifting from one to ten

Today I am a busy teacher. Actually I feel like I have been an overly busy teacher since October (hence the hiatus in postings). But, I have been enjoying my busy life. One thing that added hustle and bustle to my classroom was the gift of nine iPads! I'm not too sure who was more excited, my students or myself... However this shift from sharing my one iPad under the document camera to nine iPads, a teacher iPad, and an apple TV created the need for me to seriously think about how this whole system was going to work and function in my room.

The first step I took was searching out other teacher blogs that have created rules and a visual representation of those rules to get an idea of what guidelines I would need in kindergarten. A lot of rules and permission slips were geared towards the upper grades, but a lot of those ideas still applied. I thought that I would have to compile my own rules page and switch into my graphic designer mode until I found this: Heidi Songs Ipad Tips.

created by Heidi Songs
I have used Heidi Songs in my classroom the last two years and my students love learning with the DVDs, so you can tell how pumped I was when I found a connection to iPads through her site as well. The image is wonderful and sums up the basic rules I wanted in my room. The visual is fantastic for my little ones. Of course we had lessons and discussions on the rules before the iPads were touched. I then posted the sign on the cupboard where the iPads are kept, making it right in their sight line everyday when pulling out and putting away their iPads.

Now that they had the rules, I had to work on which iPad would go to which student. I wanted to assign iPads so that certain games that required/ allowed name sign-ins would match the specific students (instead of student one or guest). Some of the apps I use grow with the students as they accomplish certain goals. I did not want a high student to go in and raise the difficulty for a lower student. I wanted it to be more individual. Also, if there was an issue with the iPad I had a limited number of students to address, verses the whole class. Obviously this would be much better if I had one iPad for one student, but we made it work within our center groups. I made the background screen image a giant number. And then wrote the number next to the student's name on their center group list. They knew that was their iPad and not to touch any other iPad without teacher permission. It worked wonderfully. No fighting over iPads and always being able to track who was on the iPad that day.

Sorry, kind of blurry... but you get the gist.
My last step before teaching some basics of how to use them and the apps they would like was to kid-proof the iPads. By this, I went into settings and controlled the content and accessibility of the iPad. In settings> general> restrictions you can prevent students from accessing everything on the iPad. For example my young non-readers see a pop up in a game talking about "in app purchases" and they are to click yes or no. Frequently those fingers just click boxes until the game they are playing reappears. This could get costly on my personal credit card if all 100 apps on all 9 iPads started charging me a dollar or more. I have things like the internet, inappropriate content, camera, and in app purchases restricted on mine. You can also restrict things such as volume limit, deleting apps, and more. The best feature is that if you would like to alter these restrictions you would have to go back into settings and type in the passcode before given that option. I found out that it takes zero time for these sharp five and six year-olds to learn how to move apps around the screen, delete them by accident, and spend their learning time taking pictures of their group mates. I will possibly remove so many restrictions after some time and more teaching, but for the start this was wonderful to have it all locked down.

The last couple issues that we delt with when they appeared (and now I know what else to include for the next class) is communicating when iPads were about to die and have zero battery left so I could charge them in time, communicating any technical issues like apps not responding, and how to control the brightness and volume. I wanted the battery life to last and their eyes not to burn, and one of my kiddos learned how to adjust this by double clicking, so we had to talk about what level of brightness is okay and how to fix it if someone has messed with the brightness; along with loud and quiet volumes.

I also kept the iPads in a locked cupboard so they were safe and only accessible when I wanted them to be.

 If you think you are going to include iPads in your classroom environment or you are not sure about this I have three big BIG pieces of advice: 1. DO IT! iPads have added a lot of success in my classrooms. 2. Explore and know the piece of technology and the apps you place on it. Be one step ahead of those smart brains in your classroom. 3. Everything in moderation. We might use iPads frequently and I am constantly expanding their use, but I am still an advocate of play-dough, real books, and everything children need to experience in real 3D life.