“What if I only had one iPad for my classroom?”

(This post originally appeared in my previous blog, “thatothereduguy.blogspot.com” in January 2016, but since I only post to this new site, I am moving some of my most popular posts and republishing here in this location.)

The pre-kindergarten teacher was from a small elementary school in Arkansas. She had created a project and placed it on DonorsChoose.org in hopes that it would be crowd-funded into reality by December 31. I first noticed it on December 30.

The tag on her project announced that it would expire in just one day. What was her project? She was looking for help to buy an iPad for her students. That’s right. An iPad. Just one. Not a cart of 24 or 36 so that every student would have their own iPad. Just one iPad. And a case.

Here’s a takeaway for this post: By considering students as individuals, we will find that even meager resources can accomplish more than we ever imagined.

I was moved by the simplicity of her request. I thought about how the junior high school where I taught for 10 years had more iPads than we could keep up with. I thought about the math teacher there who was two years from retirement, and whose school-issued iPad still had the cellophane wrapper on it when she left our campus. She refused to learn how to use it. I also thought about my current campus where every high school student has a new Dell laptop and we have a cart of 36 Chromebooks “just in case we decide to use them.” Obviously, I work in a very technology-rich district.

I mentioned the Arkansas teacher’s project to a friend whose personal iPad is the only iPad in her classroom. “It just doesn’t do a lot of good to only have one,” she said.

I felt a little challenged. What if I only had one iPad? What could I do? What could this Arkansas teacher possibly have in mind, asking for only one iPad?

So, after some consideration, here’s what I came up with. Here are 10 things I could do with my students if I had only one iPad in my classroom.

  • The iPad has a camera. My students could take turns making videos of their work or taking photos to use in their work,
  • I would install the Class Dojoapp and make it part of my classroom management system
  • I would use the Sock Puppet app to help my students create sock puppet shows about books or stories that they had read.
  • I would use the Explain Everything animated whiteboard app to create short lessons that my students could use for extra help.
  • My students would learn to use Google Maps and Google Earth to expand the boundaries of their own personal world.
  • Without having to buy a full subscription, I would install the BrainPOP feature movie app and open the door to more than 750 science, math, social studies, English, Arts & Music and health videos — all with closed captioning to assist reading skills.
  • I would use the Virtual Manipulatives app to help teach math with visual, digital objects.
  • Khan Academy’s more than 3,500 video resources would become available as lesson aids for me, or tutorial sessions for my students.
  • The Too Noise Light app would become another staple of my classroom management system.

You may have noticed that most of these apps are installed for direct student use. A couple of them would help me as a teacher more than they would help the students. All of them could be used with either small groups or with individual students one at a time. And all of them are free.

Having only one iPad in a classroom is not a problem if a teacher is thinking about individuals. If all you see are 30 shining faces, then you might conclude that you need 30 iPads to accomplish anything meaningful. If you see them one at a time, then you know that Sally would benefit from a tutorial or a game, and you know that Juan’s math skills could get a boost from a solid math app.

I’m not trying to judge anyone, and I realize that I have never had to take this minimalistic approach to my classroom. I have been blessed. I AM trying to say that this Arkansas teacher had a vision and a workable plan. Sadly,  I think her project expired before funds were raised to get the iPad for her classroom. I hope she finds a way to get her iPad. I rather suspect that she will.

By the way, here are several links to some sites where some people ever more creative than I have put some ideas for the one iPad-classroom;

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