Experiment for Spring 2010: iPod Touches in Grades PreK-1

The day has finally arrived!  This morning I got to introduce our first class to pilot having iPod Touches in their classroom.  This experiment went from concept to actual in just a couple months, which is absolutely amazing.

A little history of our project~
Back in January my technology director called me in and asked what I thought our teachers and students would "do" with iPod Touches in their rooms in place of our old eMacs.  We ran through the pros & cons of making the change instead of putting laptops or new desktops in to replace the old.  The pros that swayed us to try it were the fact that teachers would gain more room in their classes (sadly, we like many others have had class sizes grow as the economy tanks), the portability of the Touches, and the cost of software ($1.99 for an app that goes on all 32 Touches sure beats paying several hundred for an application per desktop).

Our Touches arrived in March, and while the technology director worked on all the hardware, network, and software logistics, I began to plan the implementation of them in our classroom.  This started with a discussion with the teachers that were the potential classrooms for the pilot.  I'm not sure, being a former high school teacher, but maybe the enthusiasm of elementary students infects their teachers?  The teachers ALL expressed a desire to be the one to be the volunteer guinea pig.  Their solution and  compromise was that each teacher would get them for a week.  While I would have liked to have been able to track their use and usability for learning within a single room, I can also appreciate how involving all can help in other ways.

Post-spring break we were ready to go.  They were imaged & ready to be in the students hands.

Walking into the first grade room this morning has got to be the equivalent of being Santa Claus :-) You could feel the excitement and anticipation from the students.  We had planned for 15-20 minutes the first time of using the Touches, including getting them out and putting them back.  After about a one minute explanation of how to unplug the Touch and get it out of the cart, the teacher called the students up one at a time to come get theirs.  Now, first graders do not necessarily have fine motor skills, but this pick up took only five minutes for a class of 25 students whom were just learning the location and number of their assigned Touch.

The truly priceless moment happened when the teacher looked up from telling students their assigned number.  She was mentally prepping herself for giving the students some directions on using the Touches.  (We had talked the day before about what the day would look like.  While I'm there if needed, I try to just provide support or hand-holding and have the teachers do the lessons/activities we plan together.)  At that moment she actually looked at her students and realized that all of them were already using their Touches.  Beyond that, some were quietly sharing how to use some of the apps or directing each other to particular apps that they liked.   She turned to me with a laugh and said she wasn't really needed.

We had designed this time as exploration time (or what I like to call sandbox time).  We walked among the students to see if there some particular apps they were drawn to.  I was surprised at the number that picked math and language apps over the games (it was nearly 2:1).  I also was amazed at the interaction between the students.  Perhaps this was because it was a change from the norm, but it seemed to level the playing field again for all the students.

I left the classroom reminded about why I love being involved in the process of learning with young people.  Their excitement and enthusiasm is certainly admirable, but their willingness to take risks, try new things, and listen to each other is something I wish none of us would grow out of.

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