Each year I try to use a little more technology in my classroom, but I try my hardest to make sure it is technology that will help my students, not just being used to use it. This year I had a crazy idea to let the students use the iPads to show their growth on their own. I set up a makeshift recording studio and left it as an option if students wanted to use it. I recommended reading a book in this area or reading their writing. Well, students loved it and before I knew it, there was always a line to show their reading! That gave me the idea to apply for the MassCue grant. I realized that students today love being in front of the camera, and if I could teach them basic steps and give them certain tools, their possibilities would be endless.
With my grant, I purchased 20 iPad stands (making sure they could swivel and bend to show not only the students, but also a book or their work), 20 headphones with microphones attached, 20 privacy screens and a cart to hold it all. I call this my Reading, Response and Reflection Cart! I immediately opened a couple stands and headphones to allow students to record their “published” writing. We had already learned how to record using SeeSaw, so once the stands were set up, students were ready and independent. Those students who hadn’t gotten around to publishing yet, were quickly motivated to finish so they too could record.
A few days later, we attempted to use our “RRR” cart as a whole class. First, we all sat on the carpet and I explained what we had gotten through the grant and why. I then explained everything from how we grab the stands, to how we adjust them, how we connect our iPads, and how to plug in the headphones. From there I explained that today’s assignment was to read their favorite book. I told them how they read it was up to them. As they began, it was interesting to see how some students read “like a teacher” with the book in the air, and others had the book down and would periodically show the camera the pictures. Regardless of how they read it, it was theirs! While this is just the tip of the iceberg, I can see these materials helping us do great things. I often hear teachers say that they are afraid of technology, but it is only as scary as the size you bite off. With this project, teachers can start with one recording station. Teach students how to record themselves, then let them explore. As students become more familiar, you can start having groups go at a time, and eventually the class can all do it at the same time. With this grant, I can now tiptoe into more projects that will allow me to hear every student’s voice, and, if I can hear every student, I can help them grow from where they are. After listening to each student read their favorite story, I took notes of who could work on fluency, where certain students got stuck, and how I could help that student more. When I share this with parents, I feel like we are now on the same team and they can also see where their student is thriving, and where they could support them more.
The timeline was a little difficult for me due to policies and regulations around ordering things for the classroom, but once the best path was figured out, the items were in my room and ready to be used! I am still trying to figure out if the quality of materials was the best I could have gotten, but the only way to really know, is to put them in a real classroom. Now we have our cart ready, with stands and headphones, the privacy offices are folded in their designated spots, and 2 iPad stands are permanently up for individuals to use during their free time. To manage these things, we will only need some cleaning wipes and students that have been taught the cart expectation.
So overall, I leave you with this. Try. If you teach students, and give them opportunities to practice, they will always rise to your occasion. Will you have iPad stands topple over a couple of times? Yes, but the next time you might have a couple less. As this year comes to an end, I know my students know that their voice matters and I know they have confidence to do their best and share it with everyone!
Lisa Felan is a kindergarten teacher in Andover, MA. She is originally from San Antonio, Texas where she taught fourth grade for a year, then kindergarten for 5 years. She enjoys learning about new technology trends and applications, then decides how they can be adapted for kindergarten.
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