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While K-12 schools around the country search for funding to provide iPads to every student, an education researcher in North Carolina has found that even a single iPad can make a huge difference in the classroom.
The results of her experience with student teachers at Wake Forest University appear in the December/January issue of Learning & Leading With Technology, the magazine of the International Society for Technology in Education.
“Because they’re truly part of the digital generation, our pre-service teachers and the K-12 students they teach have a natural aptitude for tablet devices,” said Kristin Redington Bennett, an Assistant Professor of Education at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Though iPads can cost more than $500 with 3G access and a budget for apps, Bennett said, “Don’t discount the device because of its price. We found that just one iPad allowed teachers to design creative lesson plans tailored to individual learners.”
One of her pre-service teachers even used the iPad to solve a problem with a disruptive student who made trouble in the reading center every morning. When the teacher showed the student how to download books on the iPad, he read with focus for 20 minutes each morning – a goal he had not achieved until then.
“Anything new and different is engaging for kids,” said Nancy Davidson, a senior elementary education major at Wake Forest who used an iPad in her student teaching last semester. “Tracking student growth through apps, pictures, and videos became more efficient for me and more interesting for the children. Using the iPad in class started as a luxury, but quickly became a normal part of their learning process.”
Bennett’s pre-service teachers used the iPads in three ways:
*Comparing students’ progress on identical tasks using the iPads, interactive whiteboards, and desktops to see if the less-expensive iPad would work as well.
*In groups of two or three, working out a problem together. This approach required a set of rules (only one set of fingers on the iPad) and specific tasks for each team member. The group would capture an image of their work and store it in the iPad’s photo album for teacher review.
*For the teacher only, taking the place of other digital displays. One teacher took photos around the school and flipped through as she explained geometric shapes occurring in the school and in nature.
“What often happens in schools is that they purchase this new technology and expect teachers to use it with little training in how to design successful instruction with it,” Bennett said. “My goal is to train our elementary education candidates to graduate from our program with the skills and fluency in the use of mobile technology to support teaching and learning. This has allowed many of our graduates to be leaders in their schools even as a first-year teacher.”
Based on her experience, Bennett recommends these top 10 apps for use with elementary-school students:
1. Google Earth: (all ages) Take a virtual field trip to anywhere through this app that uses global satellite and aerial imagery with a swipe of a finger.
2. DoodleBuddy: (all ages) Students and teachers can use this across all content areas as a whiteboard equivalent to paint, draw, sketch, and write.
3. Story Buddy: (K-2nd) This app allows kids to create, read, and share stories that they create with the iPad.
4. Stack the States: (2nd-6th) An animated, game-based way to learn state locations, capitals, shapes, abbreviations, and nicknames.
5. Geocaching: (3rd-6th) In this global treasure hunting game, participants hide and seek containers, called geocaches, outdoors, then share their adventures online.
6. Numberland HD: (PK-1st) Twin heroes teach numbers using the Montessori Method.
7. Corkulous: (2nd – 6th) This app allows students to collect, organize, and share ideas through notes, labels, and photos.
8. iThoughtsHD: (3rd-6th) This mind-mapping tool can be used to sequence ideas, write mind-maps, organize thinking, and assess interrelatedness.
9. Coin Math: (K-3rd) Students learn both sides of a coin, how to add them, and how to pay for something with the correct coins.
10. StarFall ABC’s: (PK-1st) Students learn to recognize letters and develop skills as they begin to learn to read.