My story with iPads begins two years ago, when my class and I won a regional contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Zoo, called the Unless Contest. The contest was all about spreading the word about recycling, global warming, energy efficiency, etc. We worked really hard and were super excited to be the grand prize winners. The reward was $2,500. I used that money to purchase four iPads for the classroom, which have been a huge blessing!
Note: Scroll down if you're looking for actionable advice on raising funds for technology in the classroom.
I work with kindergarden students at an inner-city school in Chester, Pennsylvania. A lot of my students come from households that are struggling financially and as a result, they aren't always exposed to technology. I think the lack of exposure is a huge disservice to my students because technology is an ever-increasing part of our lives and without it, vital lessons and teaching opportunities may be missed.
Technology, and all of it's advancements, are extremely important and ALL students should have access so they have an opportunity to be successful in the world of 21st Century Learning, and the 21st century job market they’ll face down the road!
When the four iPads arrived, I researched all of the best educational apps out there and loaded them onto the iPads. Then I interacted with all of the apps to ensure they were academically stimulating and appropriate.
After weeks of prep, I brought them in and unveiled them to my students. When I introduced them to the class, their reactions were priceless (think of audience members of Oprah's Favorite Things!) I knew they were going to be excited but I couldn't believe how excited they actually were. Their abundant enthusiasm far exceeded the reaction I was expecting.
How we incorporated iPads into the classroom
At that moment, I knew I’d made the right decision to use the reward money for technology in our classroom. Together, we created an anchor chart to set the expectations for how we were going to use the iPads. My students know when they are using the iPads during work station time that they must be using educational apps only (though I did load other fun apps on as rewards or for dismissal time and indoor recess). Other uses for our iPads are for small group research and activities like guided reading, Math (simple problem solving), Social Studies, and Science.
We are fortunate to have a Smartboard in our classroom as well as access to a laptop cart. Over the past year, I really put a lot of emphasis on using the laptops for research. We choose a topic that we’re focusing on in the classroom, decide what else we want to learn about it, and then do the research.
I teach my students to use Google as a resource to look up information and find out more about things they are interested in or have questions about. So when learning something new and a question arises, I ask them, "How can we find out more?" and they excitedly reply, "Google!!!"
They’ve learned how to bring up the Internet, type in Google, type in the topic and then search for images, videos, etc. We do this interactively as a group with me modeling the steps on the Smartboard and them either working as partners or individually at their table spots. This is an excellent way to introduce new topics, new vocabulary, etc.
How Tornadoes Helped Connect Our Classroom to the Real World
We’ve used our iPads and Smartboard to learn about the weather and different types of storms, etc. I gave the students a recording sheet and prompted them to use Google to research the various types of storms, with one being tornados. They recorded the word on their sheets, watched videos, looked at images, and then drew an illustration to go along with their findings. I differentiated this assignment by having my more advanced students write a sentence or so about what they learned. Afterwards, they shared their work with a partner, showing their illustrations and telling each other what they learned.
And then, over the summer, we actually had a tornado and lost power for a few days! I was with three of my former students (they are siblings) and we were talking about the tornado. The older sibling said she didn't know what a tornado was at first and her younger sister, who was in my classroom this year said, "I know, because we learned about it in Science, right Miss Michetti? Do you remember?" I was so excited that she related that event to our lesson, and was excited to share it with her siblings!
I could have just read a book on tornadoes and stopped there but having access to the laptops gave the students an opportunity to research the subject and really look deeper into what a tornado actually is. Being able to interact with the curriculum in such a way really helps students get enthusiastic about what they're learning. That student took more away from that lesson than she would have without technology, and that excites me!
How Technology Has Helped with Behavior Issues—A Model for Success
Additionally, I have students with behavior disorders that, at times, have difficulty following directions or being a part of class discussions. I offer them a chance to earn "tech time" by receiving stamps for their good choices and hard work. Once they fill up a designated amount of boxes, they earn iPad time. This is really a strong motivator for students. Especially if they don't have access to technology at home, because the "tech time" that they earn may be the only opportunity they have to use technology that day.
How I Used Donors Choose to Buy More iPads
After seeing what a difference the iPads have made in our classroom, I thought it would be really beneficial to have access to more technology all day, every day and not just when the laptop cart is available (typically once a week, twice if you're lucky). I had used Donors Choose at the beginning of the past school year for a circle time carpet but hadn't used it since.
I looked into creating a technology project and decided to dream big and request 6 iPads. My hope was that these 6 plus the 4 that I already have would bring me closer to having enough for everyone to share one iPad with one partner. As a $2,900 project, this was a big dream, but with the help of my family, friends, colleagues, strangers and parents of students, I was able to raise a lot of money.
The project was stuck, with a remaining balance of $747 for a while, and it was looking like it might not get funded. I reached out to the giving page, Kindergarten Rocks, and asked if they could help. With the support of all of the amazing people at Kindergarten Rocks, we were able to get the project fully funded! I am so grateful to that community, Donors Choose and everyone else that chipped in to make this project happen. I couldn't have done it without them and it is thanks to them that my students will now have access to more technology in the classroom...every day!
If teachers out there want to gain more technology for their classrooms I strongly encourage them to use Donors Choose as a means of doing so. They are such an amazing organization and I am so grateful for everything they have done for teachers across the country!
Some Advice for Fundraising
Donors Choose gives students a chance to have more resources in their classroom, that they may not have access to otherwise and it is thanks to the generosity of others that this is all possible.
My advice in creating these projects is to keep the cost down. It did get tricky at the end to fund my entire project. Maybe start with 1-3 iPads. Keeping the cost down will make the project more likely to fund. Also, make sure to advertise your project as much as possible through email and social media.
You can't create a project and hope that a nice stranger will find it and fund it. While this does happen, you need to be an advocate for your students and your classroom and spread the word to get the funding you need. Also, while it may be cheaper to go for older models of whatever technology you are looking at, remember that technology is constantly changing and advancing and while you may save money by ordering an older model, it may become difficult to keep up with the apps and software updates as things advance.
How I Will Be Using My iPads This Year
Last year during our Reading curriculum we read about ponds and lakes, so we used our devices to research the difference between the two. Everyone recorded the words and illustrated the bodies of water. Students wrote down a difference between the two and shared with a partner. Having ten iPads in our classroom will give students the opportunity to do this much more frequently. Once they've learned how to Google on their own, they will be have opportunities to independently research topics of interest. (This research will of course, be monitored. J)
→ Spelling City
Sight words are extremely important for students learning how to read. Students are introduced to anywhere from 2 - 8 sight words a week. Spelling City is free for teachers to join and allows you to make as many Spelling Lists as you want, and then creates games based on those words. When students are struggling with their sight words, I create wordlists catered to their needs and set them up to practice those words using the app. This gives students individualized practice to help them reach mastery. Students love using this app because we use it on the Smartboard as well and they are excited when they have the opportunity to work on it themselves.
→ The Daily Five
This is a classroom management system used to help students develop lifelong habits of reading, writing and working independently. During the Daily 5 students are required to "read to self, read to someone and listen to reading." I plan to download apps like Storia and Epic for students to use during this critical literacy block.
There are a ton of apps out there like iMovie where students can be videoed or video each other and then create movies. I was never able to do this on the old iPads because they were too full. I will not load the new iPads with all of the apps, because I want the sole purpose of these iPads to be for the four things outlined here. That will free up lots of space for us to create movies. I also want to look into websites like Prezi for students to create their own presentations of the things we are working on in the classroom.
Technology will continue to be a part of this generation of students' lives. For that reason, it is extremely important to get started in Kindergarten so they are prepared for all they will encounter in their educational careers and as productive members of society. I can't wait to get these new iPads into the hands of my students and see a whole new world of possibilities open right before their eyes.
I hope you found this post helpful. I’d love to hear about ways that you've raised money for technology, and how you use it—please let me know in the comments below!
About the author
Lauren-Marie Michetti has been teaching Kindergarten at Chester Community Charter School in Chester, PA for twelve years. She is passionate about teaching Kindergarten because she thinks it's the best age group in the world! She loves how eager her students are to learn and loves the tremendous amount of growth she sees from their first day of school to their last.
Lauren has formed bonds with a lot of families in her district and has taught up to 5 siblings from one family! She got her teaching degree from West Chester University and her Master's Degree from Widener University. She has been team leader for 8 years, with up to 10 teachers on her team. Lauren says, "I love what I do and I am happy to spend my career making a difference in other people's lives!"
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