Giraffes: A Popplet and a Project

It’s giraffe week in our class.  We’re learning all about them! Did you know they only need to drink every few days?  We have a collection of giraffe facts that we always share with our class and thought it would be fun to spice things up a little bit.  I started scrolling through Pinterest and the blogs on my reader to see if I could find a fun way to present all of our facts.  One of the first things I found was this Laura Candler Post, 20 Terrific Presentation Tech Tools for Kids. I clicked on a few of the different tools, and decided to go with Popplet.  It seems similar Prezi, which I’ve seen other teachers use.  The first thing that appealed to me about Popplet was the way that it linked to Flickr’s collection of creative commons pictures, making it easy to grab some giraffe pictures to go with our facts.  It only took me a few minutes to create a short little giraffe Popplet which combined all of our facts with fun giraffe pictures. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

Giraffe Popplet overview

You can click here to see it and interact with it. On the Popplet website you can zoom in and out to see the pictures and text up close.  It’s a very simple, linear presentation. There’s a lot of room to go much deeper and more complex with Popplet.  Hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time with it and explore all it has to offer. When I’m logged in to Popplet, I’m actually able to click on the setting icon to put it into “presentation mode” (under the “view” tab) for a slide show.   That’s how we shared our Giraffe Popplet with the kids.

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DSCN7081In the picture above, the kids are spreading their legs apart to drink water just like a giraffe might.

After we shared the Popplet with the class, we put the kids to work on our favorite giraffe activity.  One of my very first Pinterest pins was the adorable giraffe painting below.

giraffe pinIt’s a canvas painting that was for sale on Etsy but is no longer available. We loved it so much that we turned it into an activity for our students. They cut out the white head, pink ossicones and pink nose and then paste them on to a piece of 12×18 construction paper.  We have a collection of buttons and ribbons that the children use to embellish their giraffes. They add the eye with a black marker  (and sometimes another nose and a mouth 😉  )and we end up with an adorable collection of giraffes for our hallway!

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Giraffe

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5 Best Apps for Math and Counting

Best Math Apps for Pre-K & K

As a follow up to my post about writing apps (which you can click here to see) I thought I’d share some of the math and counting apps we’ve discovered. Again, it’s been challenging to find the few jewels among the plain old rocks. I really hadn’t realized how many apps were out there, nor how terrible some of them could be! The ones I list below (in no particular order) are the ones that I like because of their educational value, and that kids like for their entertainment value. Each of these apps (except for Count Sort Match) offers a free “lite” version and a full price version. Click on the title or the picture to see the app in the app store.

Count Sort Match

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This app showed up on Free App Friday last week. It’s been a big hit with my class. They find it very engaging. I like that in the “count” area of the game, they ask children to count objects and then teach the numeral (1) as well as the written number (one). (Small pet peeve: I think the way they ask children to write the lower case ‘e’ is off, but since this is a math app, I won’t hold it against them. 😉 ) My students don’t find the “Sort” game particularly compelling, but they do like the “Match” game. It offers an opportunity for them to match a collection of items to the numeral represented. Great for reinforcing accurate counting.

Hungry Fish

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This app is particularly popular with the boys. A fish comes into the coral reef “hungry” for a particular number. It’s the job of the player to feed that number to the fish. This in itself is plenty of challenge (and entertainment) for some of my students. They love watching the fish grow as he eats each number. What takes the app up a notch is the fact that you can combine two numbers to get the target number and then feed that number to the fish. That concept is a little above some of my students, but they still love the app.

Math is Fun Ages 4-5

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I review this app here, and it’s still a favorite among my students. As I was trying to encourage them to try out some of the new math apps I’d downloaded, they still kept gravitating back to this one. There are a variety of activities which teach a variety of skills. My students enjoy all of the activities.

Butterfly Math

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The kids drag a target number of butterflies into a bamboo cage. They check their work and adjust it if need be. I like that this app allows children to make mistakes, and then fix them. A lot of the counting apps I’ve downloaded only offer the correct number of items to be counted. Often I’ve watched children simply touch all the elements to be counted but not actually count them.

Park Math

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It took me awhile to discover the depth of this app. Actually, it took one of my students to show me where all the “good stuff” was. I love how their young brains often see so much more than mine does. There are seven different activities for the child to explore. Those activities focus on counting, sorting, patterning, addition and subtraction. The counting activities were a little too simplistic for my children, but they enjoyed most of the rest of them.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite math apps for the Pre-K crowd are! If you’d like to read about my five favorite writing apps for Pre-K and Kindergarten click the picture below to see that list.

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St. Patrick’s Day QR Codes for Counting to 20

St. Patrick's Day QR codes

We had so much fun with the QR codes the other day, that I decided to make up another set with a St. Patrick’s day theme. Once you’ve made a set of QR codes, it’s pretty easy to re-use them for different variations on the same activity. You can read my post about the first time we used QR codes and I how I set up the activity by clicking here. I went with a shamrock theme this time.

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You can download a set for your classroom use by clicking the picture below. Enjoy!

QR Codes for counting

You can also find my original “how to” post for QR codes with another free set of printable QR Code activity cards by clicking the picture below.

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I linked up to Freebie Friday at Teaching Blog Addict. Click on the button below to check it out!

Freebie Fridays

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QR Codes for Counting

Counting with QR Codes
I linked up to Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies. Scroll to the bottom of the post to download your own set of QR code activity sheets.
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Ever since I discovered how teachers in upper elementary grades were using QR codes in their lessons, I was desperate to find a way to make it work in our classroom.  I think QR codes are just so much fun! I mean really, what kid doesn’t like to scan things? I still get excited when I go through the self check line in the grocery store and get to scan my own groceries.  In case you’re not sure what a QR code (quick response code)  is, here’s a picture:

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You can scan that image with a barcode scanner and the image will give you information. Sometimes it will give you text, sometimes it will link to a website. There are a number of other ways that a QR code can connect you to the internet, but I haven’t figure out all of those ways yet. The QR code above links to text. You can scan it to find out what it says. 🙂  All you need to read a QR code is a smartphone. There are a number of free apps that you can download that will allow your smartphone camera to scan a QR code, and also “old fashioned” bar codes.  Search “barcode scanner” or “QR scanner” in your app store to find one. The one that I liked for our ipads was this one.  It was really simple to use and seemed to be pretty reliable.

There are also websites that will allow you to *create* your own QR codes.  That’s when I think things start to get really fun. Here’s a link to the website I used to create the QR codes for this activity. Many teachers have been creating activities where students complete a task and then scan a QR code to check their work.  I knew my preschoolers would love an activity like this but I struggled to find one that didn’t require any reading, adding, or complex math skills. (My students aren’t able to do any of those things.)  Finally I thought of a way to make an activity that would use QR codes and be appropriate for their level. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’ve been working on learning the teen numbers in our class. It takes us pretty much all of the Spring semester to master this, so we’re always on the lookout for ways to spice things up.  I decided that I could making a counting activity that allows the children to check their counting by scanning a QR code.  Here’s an example:

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The child must count the kitty cats. Then they write their answer in the space that says “How many?”  Then they scan the QR code to see if their answer matches the one that comes up after scanning. If you scan the code above, it will tell you how many kitties there are. I made cards for numbers 11-20.  You’re welcome to download them for your own use. They are shared here using Google drive. 

One of the tricky aspects of this plan was figuring out which tools the students would use to scan the QR codes. We knew that we could put a scanner app on the ipads, but we were worried that the size of the ipad might make it a bit unwieldy. Turning over our cellphones to preschoolers wasn’t our first choice.  Finally we also had our underutilized ipod. We decided to start out with ipads and the ipod, but be prepared to switch to our phones if the ipads just weren’t working. In the end, there really wasn’t much difference between using the ipads and the ipod.  It was easy to scan with either device, once they got the hang of it. If anything, scanning with the ipads was easier.

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What did turn out to be challenging was the multi-step process that this activity required.  When you break the activity apart, it really is a lot for a preschooler to handle.

  1. First they had to count the items correctly.
  2. Then they had to figure out which written number matched the spoken number they had used when they counted. (They used the number line to help with this. Boy Mama Teacher Mama is offering a free number line on her website if you’re looking for one.)
  3. Then they had to write the number correctly.
  4. Finally they had to scan the number to check their answer. 

Most of our kids could do it, but a few struggled, particularly the ones that are still forgetting 11 & 12. They would get bogged down on step 1. Our HeidiSongs helped with step 2. For example if the child counted “sixteen” but couldn’t remember what a “sixteen” looked like, we’d just start singing. 🙂 “A one and six is a sixteen…”  There were also a few kids getting bogged down on step 3. We realized that we need to review number formation with a some of our kids. Happily, scanning proved to be the least challenging of all the steps, so hopefully they saw it as a reward. We’re thinking we may go another round with QR codes to see if the multi-step process gets easier with practice!

Click on the picture below to download your own set of QR Code activity sheets:

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Update: I’ve made another set of QR code activity sheets.  Click the image below to see them and download your own set.

QR Codes for counting

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These headphones aren’t gonna be the ones.

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So today before we started centers I remembered that I’d seen some of our older students using headphones when they used laptops. Turns out the upper grades have a whole container of headphones that they use. They are what I call “Walkman style” and were all the rage in the 80’s when the Sony Walkman revolutionized the way we listen to music.  I  borrowed 3 pairs from third grade for our preschoolers to try out today with the ipads.

While good in theory, these headphones just weren’t a good fit for such young kids.  They struggled to get them on, and then struggled to get them to fit properly.   Adjusting each set of headphones for each student took away from learning time, and truth be told, a couple of the kids still found them uncomfortable and hard to wear even after we adjusted them. It was definitely better than last week when we had all 3 ipads “talking” at once,  but I think it’d be even better still if we we’re able to track down the kind of headphones that a lot of teachers use at listening centers.

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The kids were just happy to be using the ipads again and weren’t too concerned with the headphones. Engagement was as high as it had been before and boy, were these ipads a motivator!  Each child had to complete a short journal entry before they could use the ipad.  Children who had before taken 25 minutes to finish their work were completing high quality journal work in 15 minutes.

Today we tried out new headphones.

I’ll keep you posted on the headphones.  The yellow pair in the picture above belong to my son and I was able to find them for just a few dollars.  I’m hoping we might be able to find something similar for our classroom.

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Using the Kindle App for a Lesson: Put Me In The Zoo


Using the Kindle app ipad and document cameraPut Me in The Zoo Stacked Collage2

                                                                                                                             

My teaching partner is incredibly organized. She’s almost always planned and prepped at least two weeks out. It’s a rare day when we have to scramble to come up with an activity at the last minute.  For whatever reason (perhaps the holiday weekend threw us off) that happened this morning.  We’d seen this idea on Pinterest yesterday.

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When we clicked on the pin it took us to Kangarooboo.  (They give the detailed instructions for this project on the blog part of the website, but also have an online toy store. I haven’t shopped at their toy store.) We loved the idea of doing this lesson based on the book Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire and knew it would be the perfect activity to fill the empty spot in our schedule.  There was just one problem: We couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere! We checked our school library and checked with all of the primary teachers in our school and no one had it!

That’s when we decided that we could solve this dilemma with our ipads. I’ll confess that I am not native to Apple products.  I was “raised” on PCs and my smartphones have always been Android based. So when I started looking for a way to put the book on our ipad, my first thought was to use the Kindle app. We could have gotten the book through itunes, but Kindle was easier because I knew the system, and we were in a hurry.

We quickly downloaded the app to one of our ipads and synced it with our existing Amazon account. We then purchased a Kindle version of Put Me In A Zoo.  We connected our ipad to our document camera with the ever versatile dongle, and we were ready to roll!

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The children settled in on the rug for the story.  We projected the book onto the big screen and the kids loved it. The pictures were far bigger than they would have been had we simply been sharing a traditional book. We were also able to double tap on the pictures to eliminate the text and make the pictures fill the screen.

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After the story, we did the activity in a traditional classroom manner. We provided each student with a tray of supplies.Talented teaching partner had quickly sketched up a template first thing in the morning. We were also incredibly lucky to have 2 high school volunteers in our class today who quickly punched out all of the colored spots for us with a paper punch. I’m not sure we could have pulled it off without them! We added eyes and a pom pom nose to each tray, along with brads for the legs, and the usual paste and scissors.

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We ended up with an adorable collection of animals.

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While I know many of you could sketch up your own pattern in a flash, I absolutely could not. For those of you like me,  talented teaching partner generously offered to let me upload her template.  You’re welcome to download it. I put it on Google Drive and shared it. Click here to see my post about how to share something with Google Drive and Click here to download your own template.

So what do you use to share digital books with your students? Kindle? Ipad? Something else? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for ideas!

I’m linking up to Technology Tailgate again. Lots of great techie posts over there.  Click the picture below to check them out.

Tech Tuesday

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Smart Apps For Kids with Free App Friday

I made a great discovery today! It’s a website called Smart Apps For Kids and each Friday they offer “Free App Friday” where they give away a select number of educational apps for free! Today, they’re giving away Montessori Letter Sounds HD, which I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time. I keep seeing it recommended on some of the different blogs I read, but it’s usually $4.99. Today, it’s FREE! They’ve got 11 other free apps today, and you can even sign up for their free app alert so that you’ll know about any of the free apps they are offering.20130215-103505.jpg

 

Why Blog?

pencils found.  ransom sought.

So yesterday was the first day that I really started  telling people about this new endeavor of mine, blogging.  For someone who is somewhat private and reserved, opening myself up like this made for a rather overwhelming day.  This is all a bit of a stretch for me, even if it is more of a professional endeavor more than a personal one.  As I shared my plans with different people, I got a lot of different responses and affirmations.  One of the best questions I got though, was “Why?”  “Why are you starting a blog?”  So as I sit here a day or so after telling all the world (or at least what feels like all the world!) about my blog and I am feeling just a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, it seems a good time to examine the question of “Why?”

*I want to dialogue with other educators. I know there are other people out there that are trying to use technology with young children, particularly ipads, but they are hard to come by with just a quick internet search.  There’s a lot of trial and error involved in this whole process and I think it is helpful to figure this out with others who are experimenting in the same realm.  I know that if I get involved with the educational blogging community,  it will be easier to find those people that are trying to accomplish the same goals as we are in our program.

*I want to grow as an educator and the kind of self reflection that happens with blogging encourages that. One of the first people I told about this blogging experiment was our technology coordinator.  When I asked for her advice she sent me several articles about blogging in education. They expressed something that I hadn’t really considered before: writing is a form of self reflection, and self reflection leads to growth. I was only a few posts into this blog when I realized that indeed, writing about which apps we’d used or what our management strategies had been, had caused me to consider them more carefully and then find ways to improve them.  Even if no one ends up reading what I write, I think the way that we use technology in our classroom will still be better because of the time I’ll have spent writing about what we’re doing.

*I want to help other people who find computers confusing and overwhelming to perhaps understand them a bit better.  I consider myself lucky to have grown up with computers. I can not remember a time when our family was without one. I started watching my dad build them when I was a toddler and still enjoy helping him when “we” (really he) replace a motherboard or get my wi-fi situated. Technology has always been such a big part of my life that I forget that it’s still very new and intimidating to some people. I like helping people make sense of technology. It is fun for me to find ways to simplify seemingly complicated programs so that technology novices can master them.  Of course there’s still plenty for me to learn too. I’d be hard put to replace a hard drive, and am quite the novice when it comes to blogging, but I do know more than some and I like to help.

So I think those are the main reasons I’ve started this blog. And I think they are good reasons. Reflecting on them has helped me feel a little less anxious about the fact that I am sharing so much with potentially so many. So hopefully now I’ll experience a little bit of that growth I mentioned above.

Using Pinterest as an Educator

How to Use Pinterest as an Educator
What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is the social networking site that has swept the nation, quickly rising in rank to stand alongside long time players Twitter and Facebook. People, particularly women, are drawn to the very visual interface.

How does Pinterest work?

Pinterest is a collection of ideas. It can be used to store and organize your own ideas, or it can be used to find new ideas. The ideas are represented initially in picture form, but the pictures often link to information on a website about how to implement the idea. A Pinterest user will have a collection of bulletin boards that are organized by category. The user can then “pin” any ideas they encounter on the internet to a board of their choice. Users can also browse other users’ boards and re-pin any pins that they find interesting. Pinterest is similar to Twitter in that one user is “followed” by another user. A follower sees anything that the user “pins.” A follower can then “re-pin” anything they see that strikes their fancy.

What do you do with Pinterest?

I have a personal Pinterest account where I follow any of my Facebook friends that have Pinterest accounts. Most of my friends pin things like recipes, craft ideas, decorating ideas, and fashion ideas. We pin & re-pin one another’s ideas. If I want to branch out, I can click on “Everything” at the top of the Pinterest page and see things that other people besides my friends are pinning. I’ve tried countless recipes, and more than a few decorating ideas that I first discovered on Pinterest.

How do you use Pinterest as an Educator?

I also have a professional Pinterest account. This is where I pin all of my teaching ideas. All of my “boards” are like file folders you might have in your drawers. I have one board for every subject and theme we teach in our class.

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When I find something that fits a category, I “pin it” to a board. I made a special effort on my teaching account to only follow other teachers. In fact, I know very few of the people I follow on this account in real life. Often, I simply stumbled across their posts when I was browsing Pinterest using the “Everything” button and liked what I saw. I then visited their Pinterest page so that I could “follow” their boards about teaching. The other way I’ve found people to follow on my teaching Pinterest board is by reading teaching blogs. I follow close to 30 teaching blogs on my “Reader.” (More on how to use a blog reader in another post.) I follow many of the bloggers from my Blog Reader on Pinterest. Following all of these other early childhood educators ensures that whenever I open my professional Pinterest account I will see lots of posts relevant to my field and that there will be lots of things I want to pin.

In addition to simply browsing Pinterest for ideas, my teaching partner and I also use the “search” function a great deal. For example, when we were studying “spiders” in the fall and needed spider related activities, we simply entered “spiders” or perhaps more specifically “spider activities” in the search bar and pinned anything that looked interesting. As a result, we now have 23 spider craft ideas on our “Spiders” board. We’ll be able to refer to our spider board next October when our spider unit comes around again and we want to change things up a bit.

The third way I use Pinterest is when I’m browsing the internet, or reading teaching blogs. Pinterest has a “Pin It” button that you can add to your computer. When you find something on the internet that you would like to add to one of your pinterest boards, you can click the “pin it” button and choose a picture to represent your pin. Then you’ll be able to find that same idea on the internet again just by looking on your Pinterest board. I interact with Pinterest in this way least often. In fact, I know there are many Pinterest users who never pin anything from the internet. They simply repin things that are already on Pinterest.

Implications

In all honesty, I’m surprised by how much Pinterest has revolutionized our teaching and planning. Finding new teaching and learning activities that are relevant to our themes and age group has never been simpler. Current ideas and best practices are flowing into our Pinterest feed and we’re discovering things we might have overlooked before. Have you discovered Pinterest yet? Are you using it for your teaching?

We’re gonna need headphones.

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So here’s the thing about working with young children: you can’t depend on them being able to read directions to complete a task, even with a fancy schmancy device like an ipad. The majority of four and five year olds need verbal instruction to succeed. One of the things I’ve been looking for is an app that will offer that verbal guidance and instruction. Another of our hopes in using ipads in the classroom was that it would help us individualize our instruction so that we could better meet each students specific learning needs. We used an app today that I think will really help us meet both goals. Teach Me Toddler allows each kid to progress at their own pace, which is fantastic. Additionally, it is really good at giving verbal instruction to students, also fantastic. Where we ran into trouble was when we had 3 different ipads talking to three different students about three different tasks. No one could hear a thing. I turned around to find one student with both his hands over his ears. Another student had his eyes glued to his neighbor’s ipad, not his own. Unless we made some quick changes, the ipads were not going to be the engaging instructional tool that they had been yesterday.

As a quick fix for today, we moved one of the three students to an empty table across the room and moved the other two to opposite ends of the table. Honestly, they were still sometimes distracted, but they were better able to maintain their focus. As we move forward in this ipad project, we’re going to have to think about what kind of headphones will be most practical as well as whether we want kids to use headphones all of the time, or just some of the time.  Despite the fact that there were three ipads going at once, I was getting useful information from listening. I could tell when a student got off track and found his way to the app store and I could hear when another student was struggling with the content.

Review of Math is Fun 4/5

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Math is Fun for Ages 4 & 5 has a lot going for it.  After trying the “free” version, I upgraded to the full version to use it with the kids. There are a variety of games to choose from, and all of them require just a bit more skill than number identification. It required more complex thinking.

It was also easy for my young students to navigate.  They quickly learned to use the “house” button to go back to the main screen if they wanted to change games. It did not however, offer any verbal instructions.  This meant I had to sit with each student to explain how each game worked.  It was a little time consuming, but do-able because the games were not complicated, and only needed to be explained once.

While there are no overt, obnoxious ads, there is a small bar at the bottom of the home screen (see above) that offers links to the developer’s other apps.  As a teacher, I liked being able to find other apps by this developer, but I know this will be distracting for some of my students.

There was not much redirection when children made mistakes.  Objects will “bounce” back when they are incorrect but I watched one child try to drag the same object to the same wrong square at least 10 times, and then become frustrated.

I do think we will continue to use this app in our learning centers.  It is one of the better apps we’ve found for this age group.

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Using the ipad at Centers for the First Time

DSCN6909Today we officially used our ipads as a part of our Learning Centers. I chose two math apps that I thought would be challenging, but not too hard.  I picked Hungry Fish and Math Is Fun 4-5.  I had noticed that a lot of the apps were full of ads or opportunities to upgrade. These two seemed free of ads and the material seemed appropriate.  Math is Fun was perfect for my pre-k kids. I plan to review both apps in a later post.

I tried to think ahead a little in how I was going to manage the ipads. Last time we’d used them informally, I’d had a student ready to download Angry Birds from the app store within 30 seconds. He was just waiting for my password! I wanted to avoid that this time so I put the two apps I wanted to use into a separate folder and told the children that they could only use the apps that were in that folder. My Angry Birds fan still managed to find his way to the app store, but I think it was a function of pushing the home button too many times. (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt! 😉  ) I’m realizing that for children this young, I’m going to need to find a way to either limit their access to parts of the ipad, or teach them to only use certain parts of the device at certain times. I’m wondering if I can dedicate one of the home screens to apps we use in the classroom and keep the rest of the apps on another page to help simplify things a little.

We had two ipads in our center groups today.  Right now, we have 2-3 kids in each group so it was perfect for one group, but for the second group, a couple of children had to take turns. A 1:1 ipad ratio definitely works better.  The children who were working independently were able to get more practice time in. I had the children who were sharing an ipad take turns. One would play the game while the other watched.  After one “round” they would switch.  This really wasn’t ideal. The two boys working together had different skill levels, both in terms of math and technology. One boy was feeding math answers to the other. At the same time, the boy with the  technology skills (my angry bird fan) was able to help his friend navigate the app when it was time to change games. I am looking forward to next year when we’ll have one ipad for each child.

Over all, I think the ipads were a success. The was lots of individualized learning and the children were really motivated by the opportunity to work on the ipad.

New ipads

In January, our school’s technology coordinator knocked on our door with two brand new ipads.  The idea was for my teaching partner and I to become comfortable with them so that we could find the best way to integrate them into our Junior Kindergarten curriculum.  Honestly, while I have always loved technology, I’m not an Apple person,  so I knew that learning to use this new system would involve a bit of a learning curve for me.  I decided to start this blog to record my experiences as I unlock the mysteries of Apple and its ipad, explore new apps and figure out how to introduce them to my four and five year old students.Image