Literacy. Other notable apps for general literacy practice that we loved
included Magnetic Alphabet, ABC
Tracer, Clifford’s Be Big with Words,
Word Families, and Word Magic.
We liked these apps because they
were easy to navigate, engaging for
the learners, and provided numerous
opportunities for differentiation.
Our collaborative effort was essential
to the project’s success. With a continuous cycle of planning, implementation, reflection, and planning again,
we found that meeting twice a week
helped us modify and make immediate adjustments.
Although the two of us had been
teaching together for four years, we
had been viewing some minor details
in common assessments differently.
After discussing the items, we came
to a common agreement.
We planned a staff training session
to offer iPad basics as well as tips and
tricks for management of the devices
with small- and large-group situations. After the training, we encouraged our staff to check out iPads for
use outside of our literacy instruction
time with their own students.
Finally, for app organization and
evaluation, we learned of Harry C.
Walker’s App Rubric on Tony Vincent’s marvelous blog, Learning in
Hand (see Resources). We contacted
Walker, who granted permission for
its use. After completing rubrics on
chosen apps, we let our technology
department know which apps would
be most useful for our learners.
iPads provided leadership opportunities for our first graders. Once the
project was under way, our students
became comfortable navigating the
iPads in no time. With their help, we
presented to our school board in October 2010. We asked a small number
of students to stand between board
members to demonstrate some of the
apps. We then gave school leaders a
short presentation about our plans
for the future.
Our students also participated in
our district’s first-ever Student-Led
Technology Conference. At this public
event, four first graders led a session
on iPad basics. The students presented
an overview of the iPad and gave ideas
about how they could use the device
in their daily lives. Because of this activity, along with support and implementation of action research projects,
the Consortium for School Networking selected our district to join a cadre
of 14 leading-edge school districts in
the nation. The goal of the cadre is to
develop effective leadership and policy
that relates to the use of digital media
by sharing experiences, challenges,
and best practices for innovative uses
of new media in K– 12 education.
Areas of Frustration
There were definitely a few obstacles to overcome. At times, this self-directed project was humbling and
On our own. As we began back in May
2010, we knew we would have to pave
our own path and arrange the action
research to best suit our needs. Our district office offered very little direction,
other than advice on how to comply
with funding requirements. It was our
decision to choose the pace—a leisurely
walk or an all-out sprint—and we’ve
had our running shoes on ever since.
We proposed the plan to our superintendent and had to clearly specify how
it would relate to best practices in action research. An equally important requirement was to show how we would
share our evaluation with others.
Limited by subject matter. We found
that a 90-minute literacy block with
an already demanding daily schedule
was not conducive for modern proj-
ect-based learning activities that could
include critical thinking, systems
thinking, and collaborative problem
solving. We felt limited by the subject
matter and knew we had to be diligent
about making sure to get through our
intense curriculum. Instead, we chose
to be more deliberate about incor-
porating higher-order thinking skills
into our teaching strategies and were
able to document activities for global
awareness, interactive communica-
tion, and data analysis.
Technical problems. We discovered
early on that our devices would not
always sync properly in mass quantities. We were the first in our district
to attempt this type of project, and we
had no previous experience, which
may have contributed to this setback.
We now know that software management is an ever-changing process.
Many of the management tools we use
now were not available when we began. Our district now uses Filewave to
manage our iOS devices.
We had trouble getting our VGA
cord to work properly through our
computers and interactive whiteboards.
We discovered that the iPad 1 was not
compatible for projection with the
VGA cord. Instead, we used our document cameras to project to the whole
group when necessary.
We would have loved to use websites that require Flash, but it wasn’t
until the end of the school year that
we discovered iSwifter, a free app that
allows access to some websites if you
enter them through the app. Cloud-browse is a paid app that serves the
Noisy apps. Although some of the
noisiest apps were also extremely fun,
it made for some distracting learning environments. To combat the
issue, we applied for and received a
mini-grant from our Parent Teacher
Student Association to purchase a set
of 12 headphones that two teachers
shared for small-group activities.
Missing apps. We did not have much
success locating apps for comprehension, although we found a handful of