Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why iPad?

In recent years, many school districts have made the shift to a one-to-one district.  In most cases, this shift has been made with the use of iPads.  I have heard many people question this decision, and wonder why school districts are spending so much money to purchase a toy for students to use.  I am always quick to point out the benefits of technology, and what I have noticed in my own classroom. Our district recently started having one-to-one classrooms with iPads.  Unlike many districts, where teachers are just given the iPads without any training, teachers in our district must go through a 6 day training period and then apply for the iPad Academy.  If a teacher is chosen for the iPad Academy, in addition to receiving a classroom set of iPads, they are assigned a coach from our district technology team.  This coach is available to help in the classroom, answer any questions, and provide any additional training the teacher might need.  Teachers in the iPad Academy also attend meetings once a month where they are able to work together, brainstorm new ideas, and share what is working in their classroom.
This semester, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in an Apple Foundations Training through my school district.  As a result of this training, I was given an iPad to use in the classroom, and will have the opportunity to apply for a class set of iPads in the future.  I have always enjoyed using technology in the classroom, because I've seen how engaged my students become, and it's been a great way to reach those students that tend to "zone out" during lessons.  The AFT trainings have increased my knowledge of the technology available to my students.  Our final assignment for AFT was to create an iMovie answering a driving question that we had about the use of iPads in the classroom.  My driving questions was: How can we, as teachers, differentiate instruction using the iPad to encourage students to continue creating and learning at their level?  We had to find research to answer our question, get teacher opinions about the subject, and record video of students in a 1-to-1 iPad classroom to support our findings.  I was amazed at the information that I found.

The amount of research available supporting the use of iPads in the classroom is astonishing.  I found some wonderful quotes from newspapers and magazines that documented the impact of iPads and technology on student learning.  Here are some of the quotes that I found (sources at the bottom of this blog):

"With innovative instructional design, iPads can work especially well with inquiry- or problem-based learning modules." (Bennett)

"Technology makes it possible to pace lessons appropriately for each student's learning level and can be used to promote learning in the multiple intelligences." (Tenkely)

"It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere." (Hu)

"[iPads] can deliver content in an interactive way, but on a one-to-one level." (Bennett)

"…technology is seen as a benefit and described as helping to reinforce critical skills." (McKenna)

"Throughout it all, both teachers…saw students become more engaged and 'blossom' into deeper thinkers at a younger age." (McKenna)

"Technology…also takes learning one step further because it can offer so many supplements to plain text." (McKenna)

"One of the major benefits of using technology in the classroom is the ability to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every student in every lesson." (Tenkely)

"The interactive aspect of the iPad appeals to the kinesthetic learner because the apps motivate students to manipulate the content." (Bennett)

I also looked through teacher blogs from the teachers that are a part of the iPad Academy in our district.  I am always inspired by what I read on these blogs, and came across many great quotes that supported my driving question.  Here are some of the quotes that I found:

"The students have taken over the role of teacher and not only have become strongly motivated to learn new things, but also to make the jump to help each other learn." ~Michelle Boyce

"I was able to work one on one with students that were struggling with the concept, while others that were understanding it moved at their own pace…" ~Jenn Manning

"Differentiation of instruction, individualized and small group instruction, and student engagement happens at its best on a daily basis!  I feel I am meeting all students' instructional needs each day." ~Monica Evon

"I have been using the iPad to work with students at ALL ability levels and have observed excellent growth and progress!" ~Michelle Klamm

"The iPads have allowed me to act as more of a coach, letting the students work on their projects while moving around and guiding them when necessary.  It also allows kiddos the ability to work ahead and move beyond grade level - truly differentiating their learning.  Giving more Project-Based assignments allows each student the opportunity to work at the level they are at.  With the integration of technology into these projects, it allows some students to shine who otherwise may not have had many chances in a traditional classroom." ~Garrett Sims

Finally, I asked the students what they thought about having iPads in the classroom.  Monica Evon works across the hall from me, so I pulled several students from her third grade classroom and interviewed them.  Mrs. Evon's class started the year as a traditional classroom, and received a classroom set of iPads in January, so they have been able to experience both types of classrooms in one short school year.  Here is what they said:

"I think [our learning] has changed because we used to, during our free time, read or do a challenge sheet of math, but now we always have something to do." ~Kaitlyn

"It's changed our learning because of the great creativity and all the...learning we have done." ~Jaxon

"It has changed our learning because everyone is doing the same thing, but we're all on different levels, so it helps with our curriculum in math and science…I feel like more of a teacher…because we're teaching the class new things and new improvements on some apps." ~Madison

"Having iPads in the classroom has changed my learning because on normal paper and pencil I wasn't being challenged enough, but then on the iPads it got...harder for me…I'm being challenged by having harder questions and getting the answer is a little bit harder than it usually was with paper and pencil…with paper and pencil we didn't have all of these apps that let us use our creativity on how we think our learning is." ~Hayden

"…It's changed our learning because we can be so creative, and the iPads challenge yourself.  Everyone is at a different level in our classroom, so some people might be working on addition while some people might be working on division.  It's so great to have these iPads!  It really, really challenges us." ~Natalie

"My favorite iPad app is Front Row.  It's personalized learning math.  Since everybody in our class is on a different level.  I might be on level 27 and everybody else could be…on level 8 or 9, so we all do our different learning level." ~Ava

This final assignment for AFT was wonderful.  I feel like I was able to confirm how beneficial iPads and technology can be in the classroom.  Hopefully this helps others realize the benefits of including technology in the classroom!  If you would like to see my iMovie with video clips of students utilizing the iPads in the classroom, click here

Research Sources:
  • Bennett, Kristin Redington. "Less than a Class Set." 1 December 2011. International Society for Technology in Education. 31 March 2014 <>.
  • Hu, Winnie. Math that Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad. 5 January 2011. 31 March 2014 <>.
  • McKenna, Corey. "There's an App for That: How Two Elementary Classrooms Used iPads to Enhance Student Learning and Achievement." 5 February 2012. Scientific and Academic Publishing. 31 March 2014 <>.
  • Tenkely, Kelly. "Using Technology to Differentiate Instruction." 1 June 2009. Teaching Community: Where Teachers Meet and Learn. 4 April 2014 <>.

Teacher Blogs:
  • Michelle Boyce, Boycetown iPad Class Blog,                 
  • Jenn Manning, miPad Classroom Blog,                                
  • Monica Evon, iPaddling through Third Grade Blog,     
  • Michelle Klamm, iCan iPad in 2nd Grade Blog,             
  • Garrett Sims, Our iPad Classroom Blog,                             


  1. Thanks for writing such an excellent post, Brittany. It is evident that you spent considerable time researching your driving question. I love how you included quotes from magazines, newspapers, articles, and even blogs from our own iPad Academy teachers! The iPad is a powerful differentiation tool and allows all students to the freedom to learn at their own pace, have choice in how they demonstrate understanding of learning objectives, and have the opportunity to create. Thanks for including the link to your video at the end of your post. I like how you included student testimonials. The kids are darling and are so articulate. I like how you followed the testimonials with several class examples of students either creating with apps or sharing completed projects. These examples make it very clear how the iPads are used as a learning tool and that it allows students to demonstrate mastery of learning objectives by creating projects. Well done!

    1. Thanks Ann! I had so much fun researching my driving question and talking with all of the students. It is amazing what they are capable of doing with the iPads!