iPads as Tools for Engaging Students

(This is a summary I shared with a community foundation that funded two iPads in my building, about my observations when using iPads with reluctant readers.)


Howe Elementary School requested and received two iPad 2s. The purpose of these tools for learning is to engage young learners, especially those who struggle in school and need support, or for those who require more enrichment in their education.

Start Date and End Date
I started using the mobile devices as an intervention tool for two upper elementary students in early October. We ended the intervention in late December. The two students and I met for approximately one and a half hours per week (two 45 minute intervention sessions). Both students were put in more intense interventions for reading after the winter break, and I will be picking up two more students who have made strong gains in a more intense intervention. See the attached lesson plan to see one example of an intervention session, which corresponds to the photo submitted.

A diversion from the intent of these devices was to use the iPads for Able Learners, students who were labeled Gifted and Talented in the past. One 1st grade teacher has been allowing her four able learners to use some critical thinking apps such as Casey’s Contraptions and Rocket Math as a way to challenge them. I’ve asked this teacher to reflect on how it was working for her students. We are also now looking at using iPads because the Able Learner program has been cut to only one position for the district. These devices might provide the classroom support needed at a minimal cost.

Parent and Community Partnership
Using these devices to support diverse students’ learning needs has spawned some innovative ideas at Howe Elementary School. Based on the success observed with the two devices you have allowed us to purchase, the following initiatives are planned for the second part of the year:

Three special education teachers will be using district funds to purchase an iPad in order to accommodate students with learning, emotional and language disabilities.

Fourteen teachers will be implementing an iPad in their classroom to a) discover ways to use the device to increase their teaching capacity, and b) provide another tool for differentiating instruction and facilitating interventions in their classroom.

The Parent Partnership Team at Howe will be hosting a series of Technology Nights in the spring once teachers become proficient at using the iPads. Parents and community members will be invited to explore the devices with teachers and students. The objective will be to share how the school is using them to a) support student learning and b) communicate with families more regularly.

Four iPads will be replacing four desktops in a kindergarten room. This pilot will assess whether these mobile devices are better suited for primary students when compared with personal computers.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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