6 Helpful Tips For The 1 iPad Classroom

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6 Helpful Tips For The 1 iPad Classroom

Amalia Kingsbury‘s insight:

good tips

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Level Up


What if gaming was used to solve real world problems?

Jane McGonigal is a game designer that has been studying that very question for several years. She gave an intriguing TED talk on the subject. I must admit that I have not always been a fan of gaming, though I am a bit of a gamer myself. Ironic. But lately, I’ve been thinking about incorporating gaming as part of my instructional practice. Why? Because I’ve come to believe gaming can and is changing the world.

I can tell you don’t believe me. Check this out…

A team of scientists at the Center for Game Science at University of Washington, in collaboration with UW Department of Biochemistry, came up with this concept: what if the cure for AIDS or cancer or other horrible diseases was possible by better understanding the structures of proteins. “Since proteins are part of so many diseases, they can also be part of the cure.” They created a game in which players designed brand new proteins that could be used to treat and/or prevent diseases. Gamers decoded an AIDS protein in 3 weeks which had stumped scientists for 15 years! Amazing.

The USAF created The Air Force Collaboratory an online platform in which participants use customized tools to solve real world problems collaboratively.  The New York Times wrote a great piece on the subject. MIT is investigating the power of gaming as well. They developed Radix, an MMO (Massive Multiplay Online ) game aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core math standards. MIT is tapping into MMOs huge popularity and then embedding even more meaningful content into game play.  Science is already proving that gaming is in fact good for us. How can we make gaming even better?

Dr. Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, studies the effect of video games on our brains, specifically video games making our brains smarter, better, faster. She explains her research in a very intriguing TED talk which debunks a lot of the typical criticisms of videogames: it ruins your eyesight, it makes you slower, etc.

Still not convinced gaming has huge potential to help humanity? “EteRNA is one of a small stable of video games that enlist the collective intelligence of players—most with no scientific background—to solve fiendishly difficult scientific problems. ” What if gaming could help us solve some of the great mysteries of science? The Games for Science article on TheScientist talks about  applications of gaming in science.

So what practical applications does gaming have in the K-12 classroom?  How do we get parents, administrators, and colleagues to get past the negative views games and gaming have in an “educational setting”? And most importantly how do we tap into the “fun” aspects of gaming without losing meaningful content?

I am “just” a third grade teacher and I am searching for the answers above while maintaining fidelity to the programs and standards and benchmarks I’m expected to teach. I am remixing my teaching, redefining my philosophy, exploring possibilities. Gaming intrigues me and it makes me wonder how I can level up as an educator and stay relevant to my students.

Evolution Not Revolution… and No There Is Not an App for That

Walking home today I had an interesting conversation about digital natives and the teachers that are desperately trying to catch up their level of expertise and experience with technology. I can see my own evolution as both an educator and techie.  I cringe at the memory of some of my past beliefs and perceptions about technology.

This past month my school has been implementing a 1:1 iPad program in the elementary grades. It is an exciting time for teachers and students and a time to reflect on our current technology beliefs and practices in the classroom. Teachers, administrators, parents… all hold fast to perceptions about technology, software, and hardware that perhaps need to be revised and adapted to meet the needs of a child born into this century.

Computer or iPad games have no place in school…

Ok. I can understand this perspective… sort of. No responsible adult would advocate using technology as a toy in school or simply as an electronic babysitter. But what about using the passion students already have for gaming as tool for instruction? Minecraft is the perfect example.  Ask your students, your child, your niece or nephew about Minecraft?  What did they say? Did you hear the excitement in their voice? My walking partner, a teacher at my school, shared that her students were so excited about Minecraft, she had to look it up on YouTube to find out what the big deal was about. Did you know Minecraft makes an educational version of their software? Minecraftedu.com offers tools for teachers for implementing Minecraft as an educational tool. Some have claimed that Minecraft can be used as tool to teach… everything (did you follow the YouTube link above?) Amazing, right? Many classrooms around the globe are already using this transformative tool. How exciting for students in those fortunate classes! Starting to change your mind about gaming in the classroom?  If not check read this paper by The Education Arcade  on gaming. They’re from MIT.

There’s an app for that or you should “only” use this app…

Ok. Once again I agree… sort of.  Yes, there is an app for “that” but is it the app you need? Will it do what you need it to do? Take email. We have so many options now Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail, Facebook… which service do you choose? What drives your choice?

Users need to evaluate the task at hand and the tools needed to complete the task. Just because an app is available does not mean it should be used. Technology is a set of tools we use to problem-solve real life issues on a daily basis. Students are often misled and misinformed about technology by simplifying their interaction with it to a handful of apps and applications carefully chosen by the teacher, administrator, tech coordinator, or parent. I’m not saying it should be a free for all. But students and teachers should have the freedom to explore and experiment to ultimately find the right tool for the job. There are many great sites that have already done the research and curated lists of apps for a variety of purposes: iPads for Learning, 60 Apps in 60 MinutesTeach Thought… there are many more out there.

 That’s the way I learned… 

I have often had this same thought. Why throw out the old ways of teaching and learning? What if the power goes out? What if you don’t have a calculator handy? Yes, it’s all true. Here’s the secret: the magic is not in the materials, it’s in the teaching. So it doesn’t matter if you have a SMART Board or a clay tablet, if you are a good teacher your students will learn. And yes, we all need to know our basic facts, a few mental math tricks, and the smell of an old books is intoxicating and every child should experience it. Yet, we must admit that technology can improve our lives if we let it.

Think about Kahn Academy, this young dude had some even younger family members that needed some tutoring. So he thought “How can I help them even when I’m not there?” Voila! Videos on demand. Simple idea, simple solution, huge impact.

Technology will only take center stage if you let it. But if used in the right way, it can make boring, mundane tasks a bit more efficient, Earth friendly, and maybe a little enjoyable. Try Quizlet for making flashcards and quizzes, Socrative makes for a great online response system, Educreations or Explain Everything make great screencasts, and for presentations I like Prezi or try some suggested by the The Daily Egg. I could keep going but I think you get the point.


Technology, apps, iPads are not the enemy. When used correctly they can be a powerful, transformative tools in and out of the classroom. I am reminded of a great car commercial by Buick. So come on you old curmudgeons, evolve and stop being a dinosaur and walk with me, and our digital natives, into the 21st century (ps… you are already here, it’s 2013)… and no there is not an app for that.