The iPad Mini-A Solution for K-2 students?

Since the release of Apple’s new iPad mini, there has been a bit of debate whether these have a place in the classroom. Right now, we are into budgeting time and just happened to be on a year of a cycle of retiring laptops for K-3 students. Currently at our school, we are 1:1 Apple Macbooks from Grades  4-12 and have a shared trolley of laptops for Grades 1-2. However, laptops present their own host of problems for younger students.

Here are some of the issues with laptops:

  • Heavy and clunky to carry around for little hands and bodies
  • Battery life is not long on older models
  • Software is expensive
  • Difficult saving/transferring files
  • Camera isn’t high quality

There of course many advantages as well but now we have the option of purchasing (roughly) 2 iPads or 2 iPad Minis for the same cost of one laptop (not including software). The question remains, should we purchase double the amount of devices making a true 1:1 digital environment?

I would argue that it is worth it, not only for the iPad but also specifically for the iPad Mini. Just from my experience working with iPads with this age group, they are heavy (can’t believe I just said that) for younger bodies but not only for transporting but for taking photos/videos. The iPad Minis are significantly lighter (50%). Some might argue that the screen size is a lot smaller but I have measured and the iPad screen size is only about 20% smaller but has a better resolution and camera. Finally, there a growing number of apps that allow for true content creation and transformational learning experiences that are not available on computers.

Whether the lightness and thinness actually turn out to be disadvantages, remains to be seen. I am willing to take a gamble and trial it out a year.

Your thoughts??



Apple’s Education Announcement-What does it mean for educators?

Yesterday, Apple announced a further commitment to investing its products in education. Apple would like to get a cut out of the multi-million dollar textbook industry.  Its vision is to make textbooks more interactive, easier to create and more accessible to teachers and students. The three big changes are that they have created a new free app called iBooks Author, revamped iTunes U along with updating iBooks to iBooks2.

Educators who use iPads in the classroom have been collectively holding their breath for an announcement like this as there have been a share of frustrations using iPads in the classroom.  Firstly, there is no easy way to download and manage apps on a large number of devices. Although Apple is slowly changing the volume purchasing program, it only seems to be rolled out in the US, leaving many international schools hanging out to dry.  It has also been frustrating for synching updates and managing large number of apps. The problem is that the iPad is made to be a personal content device rather than a shared device which is how many schools use them.

So with the news that Apple does want to commit to helping education, this is certainly a step in the right direction. So what does this mean for educators?

1. iBooks 2-This is really just an update to iBooks rather than a separate app. The idea behind is that textbooks can be downloaded for subjects which has movies, images and interactive content. This is great as an educator as content needs to be engaging to students in order to be effective in today’s age. You can download Life on Earth for free to see what it looks like.

2. iTunes U-Now educators can now customize content for students so that they have assignments and videos related to the course they are taking. I have yet to see this in practice but it sounds great.

3. iBooks Author– This is probably one of the most exciting changes for me. This app allows for students to actually create their own interactive book and create content rather than just consume content. Although this was technically possible before using the share e-pub feature in Pages, this app does it all for you. Keep in mind that this is an app from the Mac App store and not a mobile app.

I am going to begin exploring these features and see how well they actually work practically. What are your thoughts on these new changes? Please share you comments.


iPads-A new tool for Digital Storytelling

We recently got a class set of iPads after writing a grant to the PTA. We have been trying to use them in different grades and subject areas to maximize learning across the school. They have been used in a Grade 1 class for digital storytelling. Many students love the camera app where they can take photos and videos of different books they read and using another app called Sonic Pics, weave them together into a story.

I also have decided to use iPads as a tool to help struggling writers as my Master’s thesis this year. I am measuring the impact on students’ attitudes, achievement and engagement in Grade 5.

We have been using them in Grade 5 most recently as a tool for writing. Students had already finished writing their memoirs and using an app called StoryKit, they are turning them into digital stories. They use text, photos, drawings and audio. Students were incredibly engaged and very excited to be using these cutting edge tools. They will publish their stories and put them on their digital portfolios when they are finished. Below are some photos and videos from the class.
Edit: Of course we gave them 10 minutes to play with the app before we actually used it in an authentic learning context. They made up their own mini-stories. I didn’t know if using text would appeal to them or not but many of them found it easier than a keyboard!
Here is a quick sample of a published story on StoryKit:

Screen Time-Too Much or Too Little?

I have had a few conversations with early childhood teachers regarding their concerns over the amount of “screen time” students are having. I thought as an Elementary Technology Teacher, I would reflect and share my views on the subject.

Screen time could be defined as the amount of time children are spending in front of TVs, computers, hand held video games, phones and other multimedia devices. In today society, students are spending more and more time with multimedia and less time doing sports, socializing and spending time with family.

The possible negative effects of too much screen time are impeded language development, obesity, aggressive behavior, speech delays, decreased negative behavior among others. It is easy as a concerned parent for these things to have an alarmist effect and lump all electronic devices into one broad category and say they are all bad. Researchers say that we should limit screen time to 2 hours per day.

However, that isn’t exactly true. Lumping together playing hours upon hours of Call of Duty or watching South Park as the same as watching an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy or playing some educational games on Starfall is ridiculous. But people want clear cut rules. Parents want to know exactly how many hours my child can spend per day in front of a screen per day. Well, I would say it depends.

It depends on many factors such as:

  • How many hours does your family spend doing activities together?
  • How active is your child physically?
  • What learning style does your child have?
  • What type of device are they using?
  • What types of games or shows are they playing?
  • How is your child doing academically?

All of these factors come into play when deciding on the amount of screen time. For example, if a child isn’t very active physically, then maybe spending 4 hours in front of a TV isn’t the best use of their time.

I would also argue that there are many benefits to additional screen time. There are lots of educational sites online that can really boost a child’s academic performance such as StudyLadder, Starfall, and RAZ kids that have focussed mathematics and reading activities that can engage and differentiate learning. Other positive effects are improved hand-eye coordination, dexterity, creativity and problem solving ability. Personally, I have seen huge progress of kindergarten student’s mathematical and literacy ability through these sites.

Some research suggests that children between the ages of 2 months and 4 years old who were exposed to more screen time than a control group showed that they spoke less words. However, this was done on TV not computers. I would argue that TV is a very passive process for the most part whereas computers is a much more active process.

Overall, I would argue that keeping things in moderation is healthy. I am not a big fan of the “2 hour rule” but it does simplify things for parents. I think parents and teachers need to examine the whole picture. Some students could use more screen time whereas some students could use less depending on their family situation. It just bothers me that experts try and lump all screen time in the same category when there are huge differences between types of media and quality of media.

What are your thoughts??