I learn, You Learn…We All Learn with iPads!

Before the learning can begin, careful decisions and specific planning need to be done in order to ensure effectiveness.

By Christen Amico

kids using ipads

“Mine won’t charge!” “I can’t get to that screen!” “What does it mean if I lost my connection?” and the ever dreaded, “Uh oh, I dropped it,” are all words no teacher wants to hear in his classroom when using tablets. With more and more school districts and administrators opting to purchase tablets over desktops, laptops, or other types of technology, teachers are going to have to make a plan to utilize these tools effectively and safely in order to maximize student learning. Whether you are head-over-heels-excited to be using them in your classroom, or you prefer the kind of apple you can actually eat, here are some tried and true management tricks I learned from my first year with iPads in a first grade classroom.

More is Better?

Very few classrooms actually have a 1:1 ratio of devices to students. Hopefully you have more than one tablet for your classroom, but more than likely you will have to decide how each device will be used. I chose to designate one iPad as the teacher iPad, and this was used by me for class demonstrations, as well as taking video and photographs. The other eight tablets each had a color star. I assigned three kids to each one (each of the three students were in different reading groups, so there was never any conflict). Possibilities include working in partners, small groups, or setting up an iPad center which children can rotate through daily. You can also design a picture that labels each device with a color and names of users.

Connect Me

By far the most challenging component to using tablets in the classroom for me was dealing with our outdated wireless Internet. Sadly, there is no way to hardwire an iPad directly to the Internet like you can with a computer. If you are fortunate enough to have the latest and greatest in wireless, then you can stop reading. However, many schools are still a few years behind the times and a dropped Internet connection is inevitable. Here are some quick tips that any teacher can do to work around a lost connection:

  • Choose apps that do not require an Internet connection, such as I Love Books or Math Puppy.
  • Try to connect early in the morning before other teachers begin connecting. Sometimes the connection can be lost if too many devices are trying to connect to it.
  • Move around. You may find that in certain corners of your room, or near a window it picks up a better signal.
  • Turn your computer into a mobile hotspot. (Hardwire your connection and then share it with other devices.)

Charge Please

Besides a dropped Internet connection, one of the most frustrating parts of using tablets was keeping them charged. As you may or may not know, it is not good to keep the iPads charging all night/weekend if it is not needed. After a few different set ups, I decided to have two surge protectors (one by my desk and one at the iPad center). I trained my kids to place an “old” iPad at the center and take a “new” one without distracting any other learners. Older children may be able to actually deal with the outlets, but my six-year-olds were too young for this part. Multiple surge protectors, and even extra chargers (amazing how fast these things can get lost), are imperative to managing these devices so that no learning time is wasted dealing with dead batteries.

All About Protection

One of the most debated aspects to purchasing tablets at our school was the extra (and not accounted for) cost of the accessories. In the end, the extra money spent towards protection was well worth it. The first investment made was a very sturdy, protective case that also worked as a stand and handle. The handle allowed kids to carry them throughout the room, and the stand allowed for easy use at a table. Another investment is a lock and password. Tablets are much easier to steal than a desktop computer, and classrooms filled with multiple devices are easy targets. Tablets should be locked up each night, and each one should be password-protected. Use an easy-to-remember number, like the room number or school address for the kids. Storing the devices can also be problematic. After a lot of research, I found that a simple kitchen dish drainer actually worked best. The iPads were not touching one another and students could see and select their color for easy checkout. It is also a good idea to compile a master list of the serial numbers for all the devices in case one is stolen and you need to fill out a police report.

Almost Ready to Go!

It would be a great idea to spend at least a week introducing the devices to the class. Write, post, and review class rules specific to the use of the tablets. Create and model rules for walking, checking out, and browsing on the devices. Decide whether or not you will allow children to bring in their own devices from home to use in class. You may want to require learners to bring in their own headphones to control the noise level in the classroom. If your students will be creating projects, you may want to set up a Dropbox or iCloud account to save work. Also, know that the users will have access to the e-mail account on the tablet. Because of this, many teachers have created a class e-mail to use on the iPads which will not contain any sensitive information. Specific rules, procedures and consequences will help alleviate any problems with pupils using inappropriate apps or accidentally breaking the devices.

More Articles and Lesson Resources:

iPad Apps for Special Education

Read this interesting article for a detailed list of apps that would work great for children with special needs or unique learning styles.

Using iPads in the Classroom

Here is another great detailed article on getting the most learning from each device. Great tips and resources for parents and classrooms K-12.

Friend or Foe?

Check out this article if you or your school is considering the purchase of iPads for the classroom. Although tablets are becoming more and more prevalent in schools, that doesn’t mean that the money spent is worthwhile.