After much research and discussion, it was determined that Eastwood’s kindergarten classrooms needed a device that would not just enhance learning, but also diversify learning for a group of students that arrived in August with an extremely wide range of abilities.
“In other words, some students enter kindergarten knowing all their letters, colors, shapes, sounds and how to write their name; while others may be able to do some or none of these tasks. Our kindergarten teachers wanted an educational tool that would address this broad spectrum of needs,” the school district’s website says.
The district says iPads, when complimented by effective instruction and appropriate apps, allow teachers to adjust, or differentiate, instruction to meet students' individual needs and abilities, as well as help them to gain new skills and concepts.
Shay Nafzinger, kindergarten teacher at Pemberville Elementary, says, “I could have students on the iPad working on building words (Word Wizard app) and sorting words that rhyme (Rhyming Bee app), while others could be working on letter identification (using Magnetic ABC app). If a group of students is having difficulty identifying shapes, I can pull that group for skills practice on the iPads (using LetsMatchShapes) while another group is working on solving addition and subtraction problems (using MathDots)."
The iPads offer students different ways to engage with the K-appropriate content and skills.
"I have enjoyed watching several students at a table during center time, working on a variety of different skills with a variety of different iPad apps, in a manner that makes sense to them," says Dr. Margaret Brennan Krueger, Luckey Elementary principal.
Rachelle Chaffee, Pemberville kindergarten teacher, says iPads "are great for reinforcing skills" and she plans to use the iPads for "writing practice, math, creating stories, practicing letter sounds and listening comprehension,” among many other activities.
Holli Coger, Luckey kindergarten teacher, suggests using the iPad for science exploration.
"Kids could watch a short video, conduct their own similar experiments and video record the results to share with the class," Coger said.
It's about more than apps as well. Teachers can also use the tablets for whole class instruction using an Apple TV. This small device allows teachers to wirelessly display whatever is on their iPad screen, such as a video, a math problem, or a list of sight words onto their SMART boards.
For example, a teacher might open an app that challenges students to build sentences. The teacher then projects the iPad up on the SMART board so the entire class can work to build the sentences together.
The iPad can also be used as a way to demonstrate and assess student knowledge; which is essential in preparing for the new state assessments and meeting the demands of the state’s new Common Core Standards. Students can use the built-in camera to capture pictures of objects that begin with the letter of the week, or shapes and numbers that are the topic of the day's math lesson.
Coger plans to use the iPad to record and track students' progress by videotaping activities such as students explaining their thinking on how they came to their answer for a math problem.
“It's important to note that the iPad is not the game changer here. It's really about how the device is used in the classroom and ensuring alignment of iPad-based activities to all the other wonderful resources our kindergarten teachers provide,” the website states.
Nafzinger is quick to point out that "this type of technology isn't going to replace the essential teaching tools: books, notebooks, dry erase boards, manipulatives, etc."
Instead, Eastwood K teachers are using iPads to offer expanded learning opportunities that aim to help struggling students catch up and challenge the students who are ready to move ahead.
Ultimately, the district says “it is the hope of its kindergarten teachers that the iPad proves to be a 21st century learning device that will help all of our kindergartners achieve success.”
(— from a press release posted on the district website)