Tag Archives: wikis

Apps in Early Education – The Big Questions

With the start of the school year right around the corner, I wanted to take some time to explore the use of apps in PreK through 2nd grade. I realized that a number of my thoughts about apps for this age level focused on questions. Such as:

  • How are educators currently using apps?
  • How are young learners using apps (at home and/or school)?
  • What are the best review sites for educational apps?
  • What rubrics exist for evaluating apps for this age group?
  • How can app devices (e.g., tablets & smartphones) be used to connect with other tech tools (e.g., interactive whiteboards)?
  • What type of teacher PD resources exist for new app users?
  • What resources exist for young children learning how to use apps?
  • How can apps best be used when you only have one device?

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when examining how and why to use apps with young learners. I decided to start with some of the key questions above and did some web searching. Here’s what I found:

How are educators currently using apps?

out a bout app

Out-A-Bout App by Fred Rogers Center

To start, I reviewed the initial survey results from the Early Childhood Technology Collaborative, which show that only 35% of surveyed teachers of young children are even using tablets. So I realized I needed to narrow my focus to my #ECETech PLN to get information about how teachers who are actually using these tools in their practice work with apps. From there, I discovered a great post by @mattgomez detailing the apps he uses with his kindergarteners and links to how he uses many of them. I also checked out the Fred Rogers apps, which provide suggestions for how to use them and reviewed some other app collections, such as these two pinboards, iPad Apps for Early Childhood and Early Childhood/Preschool Apps, with suggestions for how to use each app. I also found a helpful post of how apps are being used in a 1st grade class and overall,  teacher blog posts seemed to be the most informative to learn not just what, but how teachers are using apps with this age range.  How are you using apps for education? 

How are young learners using apps (at home and/or school)?

Aside from teacher blog posts about how they are using apps with their students, this question was hard to answer through general online research. I did find a very cute video of kindergarten children talking about how they used iPads in a butterfly study in their classrooms. I would love to see more of these types of active examples of technology used as a tool to support or enhance a project/learning from the child’s perspective. How are your young learners using apps? 

What are the best review sites for educational apps?

My go-to sites (in no particular order) are:

kindertown logo

Where do you go for trusted reviews of apps to use in school with early learners?

What rubrics exist for evaluating apps for this age group?

Some rubrics that I’ve found recently (and I hope more and more will be created to meet different needs!):

Do you have other ways of assessing educational apps? What criteria do you use?

How can app devices (e.g., tablets & smartphones) be used to connect with other tech tools (e.g., smartboards)

Apple VGA Adapter

Apple VGA Adapter

It can be helpful to display apps on a larger screen, such as a SMART Board, so large groups can share ideas and see content at the same time. To display your iPad/iPhone screen on a SMART Board or other large screen, you need either a VGA adapter or an HDMI /Digital AV Adapter if you want to connect to an Apple TV/HD TV.

If you want to actually control what’s displayed on your screen from your iPad instead of just mirroring the image on your mobile device, then you’ll need an additional application, such as Doceri or Splashtop. These are helpful if you want to access your computer programs on your iPad.

I want to continue investigating these options because it seems like one of the best uses of the an interactive whiteboard (IWB) and a mobile device  – using the IWB to control your device (e.g., interact with an iPad app on a SMART Board) – isn’t currently possible. This combo could be especially helpful for early learner’s fine motor skills and large group collaboration so hopefully it will be available in the future.

What tips do you have for connecting app devices to other tech tools?

What type of teacher PD resources exist for new app users?

This is one area where the Internet provides a rich treasure trove of resources! In addition to Twitter and a PLN full of other educators who are experimenting and playing with various apps and sharing their tips and tricks, there are numerous articles written on this topic. For example, this site is full of professional development resources  for teaching using iPads in the Classroom. Apple provides a page of resources, as well as ongoing webinars for educators using their mobile products and Android4Schools is a good resource for those with Android devices. 

Successfully finding professional development resources is connected to creativity. Be creative in selecting platforms to search. When looking for resources, include wikis, Pinterest boards, LiveBinders, Twitter, and other networks, as well as news sites, video-tutorials, and of course, colleagues!

What resources exist for young children learning how to use apps?

Although I feel like any technology should be used as a tool to enhance learning and simply another language kids can use to express their creativity, there are still some basics that can be helpful to review before handing a mobile device to a child. For example, how to: turn it on, control the sound, understand when it needs to be plugged in, swipe, click, and so forth.

It was tough to find resources to help with this but I do like the suggestions in the book Teaching in the Digital Age, by Brian Puerling, about how to introduce an iPad to young learners.

I also found these colorful posters about acceptable use, which could be helpful reminders for older children who can read and serve as a good reminder about building in time to discuss digital citizenship and acceptable use with even very young learners.

How do you introduce apps to early learners? What resources have you found?

How can apps best be used when you only have one device?

Finally, working in an environment where children may have access to app-filled devices at home and teachers often have them for personal use but there are no classrooms full of mobile devices, I wanted to consider this question. Luckily, this  has been a popular topic lately and there are many resources online for working in a “one tablet/iPad classroom.” Some only include app suggestions, others take the form of podcasts, blog posts, articles or collections of project ideas and links to explore in more depth.

Do you have suggestions for using only one mobile device in the classroom? 

My head is filled with many additional questions, such as how to use mobile devices to facilitate global collaboration, creative expression, and documentation but those might have to wait for later in the year. I’m excited to keep exploring and to hear from others about their experiences and ideas!

Global Tech Courses Are Not Built in a Day

Everyone has heard how “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and I can now confirm that graduate courses on Technology as a Global Learning Tool are certainly not either!

I have devoted an inordinate amount of my time recently to creating and preparing for this grad course that I will be teaching on March 3-4th. I knew that designing my own course would be time-consuming but I underestimated the amount of time I would want to put into building the course wiki, where I have compiled related articles and resources for at least forty different tech tools.

The longer that I work on the wiki, the more I realize that there is just so much content that I could cover! There is a seemingly endless number of technology tools on the web that teachers, trainers, international development and exchange workers and others in the field of global education could use for global collaboration. I want to share them all! But I know that’s not possible. So I have worked to streamline the content to include tools that I feel will be most valuable for the participants, based on a needs assessment I conducted about their learning goals, and based on the ease and usability of the tools.

I want to prepare and empower my students to begin using any of the new tools we will discuss (e.g., Voicethread, Google Docs, Lino boards) as soon as the course is complete and yet I also do not want to overwhelm them with too many new technologies and websites. I have struggled to balance the more boring “how-to” type aspects of learning new tools with opportunities for student participation and involvement, and active discussions of the practical applications for these tools. Additionally, I have scheduled time for us to discuss sustainability and ways for course participants to continue using their new skills and tools after the course has ended.

I think one of the things that I am most excited about is the course community I hope to establish with students and then keep alive via our newly formed digital networks. The course is built around a private wikispace that will house all of the resources and assignments but it will also be a space for collaborative exploration and learning. The hope is that the wiki itself will be a new tech tool which participants can learn and practice with and then use with future global learning projects. By using a wiki, which everyone can add to and edit, students will have an opportunity to truly take an active role in shaping our course space and contributing to the content and discussions. Additionally, I will be introducing the class to Twitter and using a hashtag (#T4GL12) throughout the course so that students can begin to explore the vast, global network that a platform like Twitter provides. Through class activities and tweets, students can begin learning more about the sharing of resources, support, and ideas that can occur on Twitter. Since both Twitter and our wikispace are virtual platforms, even after the course is finished and students are no longer together, my hope is that we can continue sharing and exchanging resources and building on our new relationships with one another through these mediums.

To me, those relationships are what help shift a standard exchange of knowledge and resources from a single “sage on a stage” to the students below to more reciprocal exchanges of teaching and learning. I am eager to see what the participants of my course can teach me about different technologies they use or new ways of seeing and using the tools that I teach them. By forming a community of learners who want to find ways to use technology as a global learning tool in diverse setting around the world, we can ideally create a group motivated by curiosity; united by our goals of global exchange and education; and inspired by one another.

Now, back to making the final touches on the course schedule and wiki!