Friday, August 3, 2012

iTalk iPads - Guide

This post is dedicated to my new bloggy friend Erica from Minnesota.  Erica sent me the following email:

Hi Camille,
I came across your blog and am in LOVE. I am feeling your adrenaline as I recently found out my teaching partner and I were awarded a class set of iPads for our kindergarten class.  AHHHHH!!!  I am sooo not ready and we start in 3 weeks! Exciting and scary.  Do you have any other advice for newbies just getting started- organization wise/setup etc?  I am all ears in case you do.   Erica

Well, my life has been crazy and my head has been spinning so fast that there was no way I could think of one single thing to post about.  Erica to the rescue!  Seriously, how could I not respond to this sweet email?  So here goes ....

Camille's Quick Guide to Getting Your iPad On  :)

Disclaimer:  I first touched an iPad on March 26, 2012.  A class set of iPads arrived in my K/1 class on April 16, 2012.  GULP!  My kiddos used iPads for 7 weeks.  So repeat after me:  Camille is NOT an expert!!  Camille is NOT an expert!! Camille is NOT an expert!! 

Okay, onward we go:

1)  Smile!  Smile and enjoy the moment.  Magic happened and you, yes you, are getting a class set of iPads!!

2)  Practice! Get your hands on one of the iPads as soon as possible.  Give yourself permission to play with it.  Get comfortable using an iPad.  If you already have one, great, but make sure it is the same (1, 2 or 3) as your students are receiving.  This was super important for me because I had never used an iPad before. Luckily, I have a MacBook and an iPod so had a beginning familiarity.  

3)  Be Aware That Your Students WILL Become Experts!  No matter how much time you have spent using an iPad, you WILL have students (yes, even kinders) that will know more than you.  Accept it, celebrate it, rejoice in it and learn to ask your kiddos for advice.  I learned the true meaning of "digital native" when I placed iPads in my students' hands.  Also, your kiddos will automatically became collaborative when using their iPads.  It is amazing to behold!  Have your camera ready at all times!!!

3)  Learn to Download Apps the District Way! Find out how you are going to download apps.  Talk to your IT people about that. You will need a special iTunes account.  Find out how this is going to be handled.  Our six teachers were each given our own account and password.  I am making this sound very simple, but it can become super complex.  In some districts teachers are not allowed to download apps, that is up to the IT people.  We were given free rein (lots of trust here and I LOVE that).  We were given a small budget to work with, but strongly encouraged to seek out free apps.  (More on that in #3.)

3)  Investigate Free Apps!  Know that apps can be very, very expensive.  Two dollars may not sound like much, but multiply that by 26 iPads and OUCH!!!  If you do find apps you want, look into the Apple school voucher program which gives you half off when you buy in quantity.  (Note: Not all apps qualify for this, but most do.) However, I would encourage you to look for free apps.  In the primary grades, we have thousands of free apps to choose from.  Some of them are fantastic!  Here is my post on my favorite free apps.  Get connected with a free app website or email list.  There are many out there and they work in different ways.  My favorite is Smart Apps for Kids. I have signed up for their daily email and each day receive a summary of their "Free App of the Day".  I like that there is not a long list, but just one app so I can make a quick decision as to whether this app would work for us or not.  They also send out emails if a great app suddenly becomes free for just a day.  (Companies like to do that to boost their numbers quickly.)  If I see a free app that might work for my class, I quickly download it because it may not be free tomorrow.  Then later, I try it out and may end up deleting it.

4) Plan!  There is not one right way to set up your iPads.  However, iPads are different than desktops or even laptops because they are personal devices.  You will want each child using the same iPad each time.  So we numbered ours and the students always knew which iPad was theirs.  Here is my post on how I organized my iPads.

5)  Questions to Ask!  Become good friends with your IT people.  Really, really good friends!   (The six teachers  involved with the iPad Academy in my district have nicknamed our IT guys "The Magic Men".)  Here are some questions to ask:
  • What is the procedure for downloading apps?
  • Is there a budget for downloading apps?
  • What is the procedure for syncing iPads?  (Syncing allows you to add apps to ALL of your iPads at the same time, rather than individually adding them for each iPad.  See #7 for how I go about this.)
  • Is there enough bandwidth in my room for all students to be on the internet at the same time?  If not, what is the limit?
  • Are we allowed to use an app like Rover so that students can access sites that use Flash?  (Since Apple and Flash are mad at each other, you have to use a third party app like Rover to deal with this.  Rover basically streams the Flash sites onto the iPads.  My IT guys checked out Rover and approved it.  It was created for teachers and is free.  It does NOT keep information on students stored anywhere.)
  • Where will the iPads be housed at night?  (I take them to the office at the end of each day because it is the only building on campus that is alarmed.  Oh, side note:  I am in California and out here, our schools are typically not all under one roof.)
  • Will the iPads go home with the students?  (We do not send the iPads home ever.  But some districts do allow for that.)

6) Glitches Will Occur!  Not only are we dealing with technology, we are dealing with new technology.  Be prepared to be frustrated at times.  You cannot just go down the hall and ask a veteran teacher what to do.  Your questions may even stump your own "Magic Men/Women".  But together, you will prevail.  (How cool that there are two of you that are beginning your iPad journey together!!)

7)  Accessories!  Yes, even iPads need accessories.  What you get will depend on your budget.  But here are some ideas:
  • Cases - Ahead of time a friend told me I had to get "grippy" cases.  I didn't know what she meant, but now I do.  You need cases for the iPads that are not slick, but instead are "grippy" so that the students can hold onto the iPads.  If given a choice, get them in different colors to make the cases easier to differentiate.  Mine are all black, so I used four different colors of tape and ran a strand along the front of each case.  The tape won't hold up forever, but it will help in the beginning.
  • Stylus- Since my kiddos are just learning to write, I use several handwriting apps and want them to practice the correct grip.  Using your finger to practice making letters just doesn't cut it for me.  I looked around and picked the AppCrayon from Dano.  These are pricey, but Dano gives a 50% discount to schools.  There are much less expensive ones, but I liked Dano because it was fatter and triangular in shape so it helps primary students grip correctly.   Dano also has a free app called AppCrayon that is good.
  • Charging / Syncing Cart - My district provided a cart that allows us to both charge and sync.  I LOVE IT!  Syncing is a pain, but this cart makes it manageable.  There are some glitches with this cart, but still it makes it possible to sync all my iPads at once.  (Glitch: Sometimes the cables don't connect correctly and a few iPads don't sync so you have to go back and manually sync those.  The first time this happened it caused tears in my class because one sad girl didn't get the new apps that everyone else did.  After that, I knew to check.)

7) Think about your philosophy!  There is no right answer here.  My decision was to view the iPads as tools.  Just like my kiddos use pencils, paper, etc. so they use iPads to aide their learning.  They got their iPads out of the cart first thing in the morning and had them available in a team tub on their desks all day.  I feel like I only scratched the surface in terms of using the iPads as tools.  This year, I plan to integrate them far more.  Not sure what that will look like, but I will keep you posted.

8) Prepare for Negativity!  I hate to bring this up, but want to forewarn you.  Please realize that there may be jealousy and misunderstanding from other teachers.  It has nothing to do with you, so just let it go.  The teachers at my school were supportive, but not so at some of the other schools.  Comments were made about our students not using pencils, paper and paintbrushes, but instead sitting and playing Angry Birds all day.  I typically stayed very quiet at district meetings, but looking back I wish I had shared what it actually looks like in my classroom.  The fact that my students do use pencils and paper and paintbrushes.  They also use clay and crayons and construction paper.  They build with blocks and legos and Lincoln logs.  You get the idea.  We found humor in the anonymous quote "You can always tell who the pioneers are because they have arrows in their backs and are floating down the river."    

9) You ARE a Pioneer!  You are taking part in something that is so new and different that there are no manuals to help you on your way.  I told my students that it was our job to do research for the district.  The question we were supposed to answer was, "Do iPads help students learn?  Of course my kiddos all knew the answer before I did.  (A resounding YES!!!)  

Here is a quote to leave you with:   “A pioneer is not someone who makes her own soap. She is one who takes up her burdens and walks toward the future.”  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich 
So there will be glitches, there will be issues, but your iPad journey will be amazing!  So just start walking!

Whew!  Longest post ever!  Hope this helps!

Love to all,

Links to learn more:
I Teach With iPads - Katie has been using a class set of iPads for a few years and I feel like she is my mentor!!!  (I have only met her in Bloggyland, but I think she is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Camille! This is great, grounded, practical information that will help avoid reinventing many wheels!

    I have attempted to start blogging several times now but drop it when the year gets hectic. I thought perhaps I should just give up but your profile info. is making me think that perhaps I should just keep trying and maybe one day I will persist even throughout the year!

    I look forward to reading more about your class and iPads.

    Mahalo, Kristin