Student engagement increasing with 1:1 iPad integration in pilot classrooms
Jennifer Beaty’s second-grade students at Hale Elementary School were hard at work on their habitat projects.
They created a slideshow with images that represented their habitat. Then they crafted a short script about those images, recorded the narration and shared their finished projects with Beaty via an app on their iPads.
Beaty is among the 85 District 54 kindergarten through second-grade teachers at 13 elementary schools and Lincoln Prairie School who began piloting iPads with their students prior to winter break. All three grade levels at Hale and at Enders-Salk Elementary School took part in the pilot, while at the other schools one or two grade levels participated. In the 1:1 pilot, all students have their own iPads to use during the school day.
“The kids are really excited about trying this,” Beaty said. “It’s a different way to present what we’re learning, and give the students creativity in how they share it. They’re very engaged and accountable.”
Teachers have been integrating the iPads into a variety of subject areas to enhance learning. This includes science, reading, math, writing, art and music.
“Our teachers have done a tremendous job of utilizing the student iPad as a teaching tool to augment their already very sound instructional practices,” Associate Superintendent Nick Myers said. “We have seen student engagement and creativity come to life in ways that have surpassed our expectations.”
After Jessica White’s second-grade class at Enders-Salk read an article about mathematician Katherine Johnson, “we thought of a character trait to describe her, recorded or typed our response, and found examples from the text to prove it,” said her student, Ash.
“Now it’s time to respond to my friends!” he noted after submitting his piece in the online classroom space. “I’m going to type some ideas for them.”
“They’re giving each other feedback, such as by sharing another supporting detail a classmate could include,” White said. “They’re helping each other enhance their work.”
Using the iPads for this task has greatly increased students’ engagement and focus because they can immediately see feedback, whether from their teacher or their classmates, she said.
At another table, some of White’s students were using their iPads to research an animal for a book they would write and illustrate by hand.
“I picked pigs. I’m researching what they look like, and different facts about pigs,” Sky said. “We’ll put our facts in our books and show them during the Enders Fair.”
White said it has been amazing for her students to have so many resources available at their fingertips.
“They have learned so many real-life research skills, such as how to evaluate whether something they have found on the Internet is actually a good source,” she said. “Their work has become much stronger, too. In second grade they are working on writing with more detail, and access to the Internet is helping them to do that.”
It is also helping students explore and master math concepts. Amie Edmunds’ kindergarten students at Einstein will be using iPads to explore shapes in the classroom, take photos of the shapes and use a drawing tool to label them. At Lincoln Prairie School, Julie Gale’s first-grade students recently reviewed number comparisons in math on their iPads. Gale said she loves that all students are able to solve the problems simultaneously.
“I can see their learning all at the same time, and I can assess their learning in that moment even more quickly than I was able to before,” she said.
Gale noted that the iPads are another tool teachers can use to enhance students’ learning, but they are not the only tool.
“If using paper and pencil in writing or manipulatives in math are still the best choice for the students, we’re still going to do that,” Gale said.
Lessons can even incorporate the iPad and other tools at the same time.
Allison Cornier’s first-grade students at Link had researched and drafted informational pieces and talked about the importance of their illustrations matching their text. After discussing the cover page, they were ready to use Book Creator on their iPads to craft their finished products.
Cornier said creating their books on the iPads gives students a taste of being a real author with a finished product. She said she has seen students taking more ownership of their work as they use the iPads, which they have done in nearly every curricular area. They even conducted parent conferences using the iPads.
“The iPads are just giving them so many different opportunities and so many different avenues to broaden their horizons,” she said.
For instance, last week they finished a project on Jackie Robinson, and there were numerous books available on the iPads at or near their reading levels. Students can use the text-to-speech function on the iPads. They can have books read to them, which exposes them to even more text in different voices. They love to collaborate, and they can share their learning with one another in a variety of ways, Cornier said.
“We have 100 percent participation, as even the more reserved students can share their ideas,” She said. “We get to hear everybody’s ‘brainpower. Whether it’s writing, texting or talking, that individualization gives every student confidence and makes them feel successful.”
Some were putting the finishing touches on posters encouraging viewers to scan a QR code to hear them read aloud their historical fiction journal entry about life on the frontier. Others were posting their notes from yesterday’s Google Expedition to a fossil dig, which they will use to write a journal entry from the point of view of a paleontologist, and commenting on one another’s notes. Another student was doing online research for a Genius Hour project about endangered species.
“Now we have different modalities and different ways to create, and the kids absolutely love it,” Conway said.
“The iPads are fun to use, and they help us with our learning,” said her student, Naisha.
Naisha’s classmate Suhani said she likes being able to communicate with other students as they work in a particular app.
“There’s a button to raise our hands. We can raise our hands and our classmates will help us,” she said.
Joshua, also in Conway’s class, said he loves reading books on the iPad and “leveling up.” He can rate books and see what other students thought, and Conway makes recommendations as well. Joshua was in the midst of a guided reading book about dinosaurs.
“And look — if I highlight the word ‘bones,’ it gives me more information about bones,” he said excitedly. “You can do everything you can do with a normal book, only way cooler.”
Hale Literacy Coach Jenny Clark said the iPads have helped students take ownership of their learning. For instance, when a second-grade class recently started discussing volcanoes, each student began by choosing to watch one of four videos on the Discovery Education website that they thought would best help them understand the subject based on their background knowledge. Previously every student would have watched the same video together, and some may have lost interest partway through because it was not at the right level for them, Clark said.
“They get to be the leader in their own learning, and I’m more of a facilitator,” she said. “They’ve been so much more engaged with the digital tools. They take it very seriously — they’re not just picking what their friends pick, but rather what they need to move forward. That’s been a really big light bulb that’s gone on as they figure out what’s best for them.”
Teachers in the pilot program are reporting an increase in student engagement, confidence and participation.
“We have seen tremendous successes in our K-2 iPad pilot classroom this past school year and are excited about moving 1:1 with the iPad as an instructional tool in all K-2 classrooms beginning in the fall,” Myers said.