We started the school year with a class set of iPad minis and I can’t seem to stop smiling about it! It is so wonderful to have iPads in our room all day to use as we need them instead of worrying about signing up to use them during a set time of the day. It was tempting to just jump right in to using them all day long to blog, screen cast and create. I knew that was not realistic though so I focused our first month of school on teaching students to use the iPads and establishing routines for how to store and care for them. We have limited the number of apps available on the iPads at this time so the kids are not overwhelmed, also because it takes some time to load apps on 20 iPads! My focus for apps this month were content apps that allowed the students to practice skills in a game-based setting while they become comfortable with touch technology. I was surprised that while many students have access to iPads at home many of them still needed help with basic iPad functions such as opening and closing an app, putting the device to sleep and adjusting the volume. We are still working on getting headphones plugged in and adjusting the volume once we do. We also have a set of 10 stylus pens I bought with a gift card from Amazon. (Note: always enter giveaway challenges on Twitter!) The stylus pens have helped students to use the iPads with more success if their little fingers weren't quite up to the task of operating some of the fine touches on the screen.
Here are the content apps my students are using on our class iPads
Endless Reader and Endless Number by Originator
These apps are engaging, easy to use and give students in K-1 lots of good practice reading and understanding sight words and numbers.
Keyboarding Without Tears
We have a subscription to this app purchased with our Handwriting Without Tears Handwriting program. Students practice letter recognition, formation and type on the touch screen. Eash student has a login and password and works at their own pace through lessons that get harder as they work. My students LOVE this app and choose it first most of the time.
Brain Pop Jr. Movie of the Week Brain Pop Movie of the Week
These apps feature short animated films about a variety of topics. We have subscription to the full site so I can login and allow students to watch a wide selection of videos.
We use these two tablet friendly websites to do Common Core aligned math lessons. First graders use Ten Marks and Happy Numbers. Kindergartners use Happy Numbers. Each iPad has a link to these pages on the home screen. All of my students have a user name and a password for these sites. I track their progress each week and send them assignments based on their performance and my lesson plans. I have their user names and passwords written on index cards. When it is time to use these programs I pass out the index cards and students log in themselves. They also have their log in information at home to do lessons there if they choose.
I introduced some creation apps to the students starting the second week of school. My first graders are very tech savvy and have been terrific tech teachers to the Kindergartners. Here are the creation apps we have started to use in the order I introduced them.
This is a painting app students can use to paint using several brush types, colors and textures. Their strokes are recorded as they work so they can go back and see a video of the strokes they used to paint. Paintings can be saved to the camera roll for uploading to other apps. The stylus pens have made using this app even more fun for students as they can create pictures with more details than they could with their fingers.
I Nigma QR Code Scanner
I taught Kindergarten students to scan QR codes the second week of school so they would be able to listen to the books I have in our listening center. I have recorded myself and other teachers in our school reading a variety of picture books using the app, SoundCloud. I created a QR code for those recordings and taped them to the front of those books.
We use this app to write on our class blog. Each student has their own account. First graders are familiar with the blog from last year so they have been blogging since the first week of school. Together we are helping the Kindergarten students post photos of their work on the blog. Our tip for using KidBlog is to always take our pictures using the camera on the iPad before we login to the blog. We find the camera function does not work too well within the app.
This graphic organizer tool is user friendly, colorful and offers a variety of tools ideal for young students. I taught Popplet last week and it was a huge hit. First graders assisted in helping the Kindergarten students use the draw tool, insert photos and text into a graphic organizer. I had them put a picture of themselves in the center bubble and connect three or four bubbles with drawings or photos of things they like.
First graders are familiar with this app from last year so they have taken to using it again with very little instruction from me. We are finishing up our first Unit of Study in the Lucy Calkins writer’s workshop on “Small Moment Stories.” Students take pictures of each of the pages in their story, import them into Explain Everything and then record themselves reading their stories. I upload their screen casts to YouTube and insert them into our class blog.
Next week we will continue our work with Popplet, KidBlog and Explain Everything. I hope to teach Kindergartners to use Explain Everything this week as they publish their Teaching Books. My goal is to move away from the use of Content apps except for during our Daily 5 choice time. I hope to use the iPads primarily for blogging, creating and collaborating. While I see a place for content apps for practice and building on skills, I want my students to see the iPad as tool for showing mastery of the content rather than a device for playing games. I think we are well on our way!