Saturday, April 5, 2014

What have iPads done to my room?!...Come Take A Look

My classroom has had 1:1 iPads since December of 2012.  The iPads have brought a dramatic change to the way I teach my students and the way my students learn.  When I tell community members, teachers, district administration, college professors, board members, etc. that I have 1:1 iPads in my classroom, I often get a smile and a "wow, that's really nice" but in my mind I'm shouting "YOU have NO idea!"  When I start to explain some of the things my students are doing in my room with the iPads, blank stares or fake smiles appear on most faces because they just don't understand what the iPads are doing for education.  I then invite them to come into my classroom and observe, but NO ONE comes.

iPads in my classroom are raising some eyebrows.  I've been questioned on how I'm teaching and if my students are learning, concerns that the time on the iPad takes away from peer interactions, questions about how I grade all of my students' work and if I'm teaching all of the curriculum, and now budget cuts preventing the possibility of more iPads in other classrooms.  Which send me the message that you really don't care what's going on in my classroom.

My response....come spend some time in my classroom and you will see how our classroom works. Your doubts will be erased and you'll have the desire to change teachers' pedagogy like I do and want to create learners that are exploring and creating not sitting at their desks listening to a teacher lecture and filling out worksheets.

Jenna's PicCollage about Vitamin C
In my classroom, my students are collaborating together on projects, proudly sharing their creativity, asking thought provoking questions, celebrating classmates successes, and mending disappointments.  I spent some time this week just watching my class.  My students were having conversations with each other and as I took the time to listen, those conversations were revolving around students' work. Through these conversations, my students are learning!

These are some of the things I observed:

Students laughing with each other about funny images in the collages they created with the PicCollage App and discussing why they chose to use those particular images to represent their learning in Health.

Students solving Stick Around puzzles their classmates created to help them review their reading story for the week, spelling words, or math skills.

Students complimenting another student on the iMovie she created about our Mystery Hangout and asking her how they can add those special effect to their iMovies.
Madison's iMovie                                  Haylee's iMovie

Students debating and discussing which objects would be measured with which unit of measurement and why.

Alex showing what his mind is thinking in math
Students sharing about the chapter book they have been reading and what images they are going to add to their iMovie to help describe their book.

Students discussing which teams are winning in the NCAA basketball tournament and who they are going to write about in their next blog post.

Students creating math projects together that explain their thinking and show understanding of how problems are solved.

Reviewing spelling sentences together

A student asking another student to review his spelling sentences for the week to make sure the words are spelled correctly.

These are just a few of the conversations that are happening in my classroom on a daily basis.  These conversations are evidence of my students learning, creating, and building relationships.

So yes, the iPads have changed my classroom.
My students are learning by discovering, not by having me stand at the front of the room and lecture. My classroom is student focused not teacher focused.  My students are working together, collaborating and building strong peer relationships.  I'm not stuck at my desk grading piles of papers. I'm walking around talking with my students and having them share their creations with me.  Through those conversations I'm able to assess their learning.  The learning in my classroom is completely different from the school we have all known, but this change is a good thing.

So, if by chance you are a millionaire, or a superintendent, or work for congress, or a school board member, or a community member, or any other interested stakeholder, please (I'm begging) come take the time to visit my classroom and see how much iPads can change a classroom!


  1. Powerful words Sharae! I must say I am proud and humbled to work with you within the #ipadacademy! I appreciate your post as you might guess because of the hundreds of conversations you and I have had since December of 2012 when we started this journey together!
    I have watched this transformation take place in your classroom and for you as a teacher and have been so lucky to be a part of it! You are doing amazing things and the iPads are allowing that to happen!
    You know that I too wish our administration, stakeholders, or community leaders would come out and truly visit your classroom or any classroom in the iPad Academy at any time, but not just fly in and out, sit down and soak it up and talk to kids too!
    I really appreciate that this post comes from your heart and your passion for what you are doing and what is happening in your classroom! Well done my friend and colleague!
    Super well done!
    Keep doin' what you are doin' because you know your students are getting the best possible education within our curriculum that is feasible!

  2. Amen!! My BIGGEST validation for what we do is the STUDENTS and their genuine love of learning and quest to learn more! The most frustrating part of the 1:1 iPad implementation is the feeling that we have to validate all that we do! I find that the passionate drive and the curricular connections are well documented in our Google+ Hangout. While "research" is used to make decisions, it should not be the ONLY way that we decide what is best for kids. I think that 21st century skills are imperative and you articulated quite clearly the collaborative nature and empowering possibilities of what kids can do with choices in their decision making about their learning!! To know that we fight an uphill battle to share what we know is BEST...we have to be resilient and optimistic and continue to prove to those who question and scrutinize that we will continue to do what we know is effective! That is why I love our AFT days (thanks to +Greg Boettger) and Edcamps (that we attend on our weekends) for the opportunity to collaborate with such dynamic teachers!! We have to stick together and support each other and one day we will look back on our educational journey we will know that we did what was best for our students!

    1. Thanks Michelle! I'm so happy to have you in our #iPadAcademy. You are such a valuable resource and I love sharing ideas with. You are doing amazing things in your classroom as well. Keep up the good work. Hopefully we will start seeing a change happening in more and more classrooms.

  3. Sharae-ray... I'd like to make some time this summer and see if you, Smeby, Manning, and I could get together and maybe help each other out mapping out a 4th grade workflow for next year. I'd love to pick your brains and collab to make next year an even better opportunity for my students! Maybe see how we can work the new RLA curriculum in with the iPads? I'm free Memorial Day and July 4th. Beyond that, I'll have to check my schedule. ;)

  4. As an outsider who works in a curriculum department for a (very) similarly sized district, and who has some background on the entire iPad Academy from someone you work with, I don't feel like you should be offended when someone asks you how it fits into your curriculum. Maybe offended isn't the right word, but you did use it as your jumping off point. more important than curriculum objectives. How you get from point A to point B is what separates teachers apart. Your district has been very supportive of the great things you, and those like you, are doing - as evidenced by how many iPad Academy classrooms there are (we can discuss district support vs districtwide support later :)). Not everyone understands TRUE technology integration like you are doing. When someone asks you how that ties to your curriculum, look at it as an opportunity to brag about how much more engaged your students are vs others. It shouldn't be viewed as a negative, even if it was asked in a negative tone. It's an opportunity to impart your wisdom upon someone. It's an opportunity to enlighten them that instruction doesn't have to...SHOULDN'T...look the same as it did when they were in school. Maya Angelou has a great quote that says "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." Some people need more concrete examples that they can relate to. That's where your class comes in. And they won't take you up on it right away. But in time, you'll have lots of examples of why this works and why it's better then the way instruction has been done in the past. Great example - I've been talking about the ShowMe app since the day we got our first iPad. This year is the first year I've seen widespread use. Not everyone "gets it" at the same time, whether you're talking kids or adults. But if you continue doing what you do, and blessing the world with the ability to peek into your classroom, others will get it. In time... :)

    1. Josh,
      Thank you for reading my post. I agree with you that I have been fortunate to have amazing trainers and support in our iPad Academy. My frustration/disappointment comes with those that aren't directly involved in our iPad Academy. I believe we have wonderful things happening in our classroom that are changing the way teachers are teaching and students are learning. I LOVE it when people ask about what is happening in my classroom. My frustration is that after asking, they aren't taking the time to come to my room and see what is happening. I want to enlighten the curious and those that are unaware but seeing is believing and I only wish they would take the time to see! I will keep pushing on and hope that one at a time change will begin to happen.

  5. Sharae, your words are beautiful and so truthful. Before iPads in my classroom, I would not have wholeheartedly believed your struggles with getting others to be on the same page with the incredible rate and depth of student learning going on inside an iPad classroom. And although I have had them a much shorter time span, I have also felt the doubting and questioning of my teaching and the student learning by my colleagues, and others. I too, believe that with inviting them in, showing off first hand what learning is taking place, communicating through public promotion, email, google plus community, twitter, and all the other ways we show what we are doing, it is still frustrating to not be able to shout our students' triumphs from the rooftops and feel confident and supported by all. We KNOW how much learning is going on, and the great depth of what they are absorbing, because of how they are learning it. I too, wish others would take curious notice, instead of defensive or uninterested notice.

    It is difficult advice "to stay the course" and feel the support of those who do "buy in" and continue to put yourself out there. But I think there is no other way. I love the Maya Angelou quote that Josh wrote just above this..."I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."

    We know better, so we do better. It may not be right for every teacher, nor every learner. But we are making a significant impact on some. It reminds me of the starfish story. A little girl and her dad are walking on a beach littered with starfish that have washed up. The little girl bends down and picks up each one that she comes to and throws it as hard as she can back into the surf. Her dad leans down and says, "you know there are hundreds of starfish out here on the sand dying. You are not really making that much of a difference." And the little girl replies as she hurls the next starfish out to sea, "I made a difference to that one."
    That is what we are doing. Making a difference to that one (or twenty-one). Regardless of the naysayers, we are doing what is best, what is right. So my friend, stay the course, remain true to what you are doing, and know that I and many are behind you!

    1. Here's a link to an image where I found that quote, although maybe it's a good creative writing prompt to have kids make a better one?

  6. Sharae, I often read your blog as inspiration for my iPad classroom. Truer words have never been spoken. As the only one working with iPads in my building, I struggle with this. When my principal spoke to our staff about what I was doing and the process I went through to receive iPads, another colleague, said, "Wow! I didn't realize you had to do so much work to get and use the iPads!"

    Yes, it's A LOT of work, but look at our students' growth and learning. Look at the connections to standards, curriculum, and CCSS.

    I love this post, Sharae! Thank you for sharing.