A One-On-One iPad Program in Kindergarten!

One-on-One Ipads in Kinder

Last spring, I was fortunate enough to visit Trost Elementary School in Oregon that is using iPads and iPods in one-to-one situations at every grade level!  This school has done so much with mobile technology that Apple now sponsors classroom tours through their school for educators.  As luck would have it, it also happens to be the school that my husband’s sister, Julie Johnson works at as an Intervention Specialist!  So my husband and I flew ourselves up to Portland, and then drove south for about an hour to Canby, where the Canby School District is implementing some very BIG ideas in technology in a beautiful small town setting.  After that, we had a chance to catch up with his “little sister” and her husband that we really don’t get to see often enough.  What a wonderful “excuse” to visit Oregon and his family!  🙂

In addition to these groups, there was another group with the teacher behind the camera.

The Apple Mobile Technology Classroom Tour started out with a presentation by Joseph Morelock, Canby’s Director of Innovation and Technology.  It was extremely interesting and informative, and I enjoyed it immensely!  I don’t have too much time here to tell you all about it, but I think you can find out about their many successes here on their Blog or their Tech Info Wiki.  Also, the achievement data for the classes that are using the mobile technology is really impressive!  You can view the data by visiting their blog and clicking on the link for the iPod Achievement Data.

One Kindergartner Learns on His iPad.

The biggest question most people have when I tell them about the program that I saw is “How did they fund it?”  That certainly was my first question!  My sister-in-law Julie explained that they decided to purchase technology rather than curriculum, and then work together to create their own curriculum that they would need to meet the standards.  So rather than spending many thousands of dollars on, for example, a Harcourt Brace adopted language arts program, they used existing materials and then supplement by creating their own materials together.  This allows them to spend the rest of the money on mobile technology such as iPads and iPods.  Each teacher was also given an allowance to spend on apps from the iTunes App Store.  When the teachers decide what they want, they let their administrator know and then it is purchased in bulk and installed on their devices for them.

Shh!  Everybody’s working!

How many iPads do they really have?
One thing about the program that caught my attention was that they did NOT have one-on-one devices in every single classroom by any means!  The teachers that were chosen for this program were chosen from a pool of teachers that applied for in-district grants for technology money- about $2000 each.  Then, when the quality and innovation of a certain application caught their eye, they would decide to give that teacher enough devices for the entire class, rather than just enough for the $2000!  Talk about hitting the jackpot!  This is great for the teacher that gets it, but it made me wonder about jealousy issues and inequity issues coming up amongst staff members.  It also made me wonder about the possibility of teacher evaluations based on student test scores, and what would happen if one teacher had a much better evaluation due to having better test scores due to better equipment.  However, none of this seemed to be a problem to the staff members that I talked to; they all seemed very positive about the programs in place and happy about them being implemented at their school and district.  As of 2012, the Canby School District has 4,750 students, 1,840 student computers, 850 iPads, and 1,920 iPod Touches.  We were told that of the 850 iPads that they had last year, only one got lost and just one was broken.

The children were so engaged that they barely noticed the 5-10 visitors in the room!

The Kindergarten Program
Of course, being a Kindergarten teacher with a special interest in the use of iPads in the classroom, my main area of interest was the Kindergarten classroom and its one-on-one iPad program.   So my husband Greg and I went to the Kindergarten classroom first to check out their program.

The old meets the new:  wooden blocks next to the iPad storage cabinet!

Dual Language Immersion with iPads in Kindergarten
Because Trost Elementary School serves many Spanish speaking children, they have a very popular dual immersion Spanish/English program that begins in Kindergarten and runs all the way through fifth grade.  And it was this dual language program that was given the one-on-one iPads to use in the Kindergarten program!  There were some children in the class whose primary language was English and many whose primary language was Spanish; however, it appeared that all of the children were being given their reading lesson in Spanish with the teacher.  The children were taught in Spanish in the morning and English in the afternoon.  However, while we were there, the children were using apps in both English and Spanish.  (Apparently there is a real lack of quality apps in Spanish.)  My sister-in-law tells me that by the end of fifth grade, all of the children are able to switch back and forth from English to Spanish quite easily and can read and write in both languages on command!  Years ago when I first started teaching, I taught a bilingual first grade class for five years, so I found it interesting to watch in all of the classrooms.

Each iPad is numbered, and the students know which one is “theirs.”

Organization and Use
When we entered, the Kindergarten teacher had divided her class into four groups.  One group was with an instructional aide that was giving a lesson; another group was getting a reading lesson with the teacher; and the last two groups were at two separate tables and were working with their iPads independently.  They were all doing fine with it, of course!  Each child had a set of headphones on, and this helped greatly in keeping the noise level at a minimum.  With this type of classroom management arrangement, the children spent two different group times on their iPads.

Headphones are cleverly stored in zip bags with pictures in magazine racks, right there with all of the other supplies!

The Apps for the Day are in a Special Folder on the iPad
I talked to the teacher later during her recess break, and she told me that she had the apps that they could work on for the day in a special folder.  She had taught the children to find that folder and work only on the apps that were in it.  I wondered if I would see any children straying from the designated apps in this folder to do something else, but I never did!  They all were following her directions beautifully, with no behavior issues or any technological issues that she had to deal with in the middle of her lesson.   The teacher said that it is no harder to teach them how to use their iPads than it is to do anything else, and they adapt to the rules and how to get them out and put them away quickly.

The children line up to put their iPads away in the correct numbered slot.

I did notice that some of the children seemed to switch frequently from one app to another, though, within the folder.  I’m not sure if it was simply that the apps were not holding their attention very well, or if they just wanted to explore everything in the folder before deciding what they wanted to do the most.  But there was quite a bit of switching from one app to another.  My Kinders do this too, and I assume that it is a result of their itty-bitty attention spans!  Giving them more than one app to choose from during a session is a good way to deal with that sort of problem.

The children also put away their headphones.  Devices are charged in the storage rack.

Transitioning and Storage
I stayed in the Kinder classroom long enough to see what would happen when the children transitioned from one group to another.  Each iPad was numbered and had a slot where it should go that was also numbered.  The children were trained to put their device in the correct slot.  Then they found a zip bag with their name and picture on it, and put their headphones in it.  There were numbered slots for the headphones as well, and the children put them away too.  Then the next group got their own iPads and headphones and continued on with their turn on their devices.  There was a lady that was helping the children with the transition, and we assumed her to be a volunteer.  However, she didn’t seem to be helping them at all with the iPads during the group time.  It just didn’t appear to be necessary!  And I can imagine that this is true;  my students rarely need help, except when they are having trouble sharing the iPads.  And in this case, this wouldn’t be an issue!

A volunteer helps attach the cords to recharge the iPads.

Just Imagine…
I would have liked to have seen the class using the iPads in a whole group situation, but unfortunately, that was not on the teacher’s lesson plan for that day!  My sister-in-law sent me a picture of them using them all for a lesson, though.  (See the photo below.)  It sure made me DROOL with envy!  Just imagine…
*  No need for white boards or dry erase markers.  The children can just use their iPads and write on the white board app!
*  Every child can easily see photos and videos that you put on the iPad, and participate in discussions about them.
*  No need to purchase, color, construct, laminate, set up, or tear down elaborate learning centers; just give them apps for whatever you want them to work on and let them go.
*  No need to waste any paper for practice writing equations, shapes, or numbers, or letters!  All of the children can write them on their iPads, and erase easily.  Nobody needs an eraser!
*  Imagine being able to simply take away the iPad from a child who is misbehaving or refusing to pay attention, and giving him or her a pencil and paper instead!  Do you think he would try a little harder to follow directions next time?
*  Imagine giving your students apps that would challenge them and let them learn and grow at their own pace, rather than trying to keep everyone on the same page on the same day?

This picture was taken on another day when I was not present.  Looks like a dream, doesn’t it?

Are you ready to give it a try?  I am!!!
I loved this inspirational quote from James Cameron that was given to us at the end of the tour:
“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.” 
Now if I only had the power to set this plan in motion and make it happen at my own school!!

To see some blog posts on Heidi’s favorite apps, please click:
Great iPad Apps for Pre-K and K! 
More iPad Apps, and a New Counting Creatures Addition Book!
Seven Weeks Down:  More Fun with Counting Creatures, iPad Apps, and More! 
Three Weeks Down and I LOVE My Class!
Teaching CVC Words:  What to Do When They Are STILL Not Getting It!

I regularly review apps and tell how we are using them in my Kindergarten class.  Sign up for our email updates and follow my blog to make sure that you don’t miss any!



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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. I LOVE this idea!! I think this would help the student learn even more because technology is what they know. I would love to have 1:1 in my class. I was lucky last year and had a parent donate two to my class and loved them but now I want more. Thanks for sharing this. It is definitely and inspiration.


  2. I so want this for my classroom too! I would even use iPod touches to get it started. Thank you for sharing this. Could you double check the link on the data for the school. It gave me an error message. I am writing a grant for some iPod touches and would love to see some results. Thanks!

    April W from Indiana

  3. That program is beyond cool! Thanks for giving us a sneak peek behind the scenes, it was fascinating! If only every classroom could have such an opportunity.

  4. Very interesting! I like the idea of putting the apps they can use in a folder, but my students tend to go where they want to go even when I assign them a particular app. I wishe there was some way to lock a page of apps so they could not go to others.

  5. To Karen@PreKinders,
    I'm right with you! I wish I knew of a way to get them to stick with the apps I assign. With my three iPads going, I often find one child that has deliberately left the assigned app to do something else. I may find this two or three times a day!
    If anyone knows how to lock the iPad so that you can only have access to certain apps, please let us know! I know that the website Zoodles.com can keep them on a certain website, but that's a different thing entirely.

  6. I am drooling too Heidi! I only have some old apple computers in my room and since I am half day we don't really have a lot of time to use them. It also takes forever for them to turn on and upload the programs! Maybe one day…

  7. This sounds so awesome. We are going to have a total of 14 iPads between the two kinder classes. That will allow us to have an iPad center and allow the teacher to have one dedicated to us. We are working on other grants to try to get as many as we can but are excited for the time being with our center of iPads. That pic of the students around the carpet with an iPad is a dream!

  8. I really do not know for sure if the apps are stand alone or web based, but as I looked over their shoulders at their devices, they really looked like stand alone apps to me.
    My sister-in-law said that she would email the teacher, whose name is Gloria Alonso, to try to get a list of apps that she uses. If she gets one, I'll post it.

  9. It's probably just because I'm 54, but I really worry about how spending time interacting with screens rather than people changes the brains of young children. I realize they may "learn more faster" but at what cost to social skills. Can someone help me get over this concern?

  10. To Mrs. Tuisku,
    I share your concerns! I think that only time will tell if the children will suffer or benefit. However, even in this classroom, the children were not looking at the screens all the time. In fact, it seems to me that they could have easily shared the iPads with another class and done just as well…
    In my room, we only have three iPads, so the children simply don't get that much time on them. And they SURE have to learn to share and take turns with the iPads- no question about it! The iPads are THE most desired thing to "play with" in my room, and the children simply MUST share them. They have almost all learned how to do this well, without my intervention. Only a couple of kids are still "selfish" with them and still refuse to share unless I intervene.

  11. So excited about this. We are getting one to one ipads for our kinders in the fall and every bit of info helps. Heidi, do you know if that is just a charging station or if they can download apps to all the ipads at once with it? We are still not sure how that will work yet next year for us.

  12. To Marlene:
    How wonderful for you! Congratulations! I really don't know if it is just a charging station, or if it is also networked to a server. But they did tell us that when a teacher wants to add an app, they let the administrator in charge of this know, and that person purchases it out of their account and loads it for them- I think it is done remotely, so perhaps it they are networked right there!
    If you like, you can email me and I'll give you my sister-in-law's email address, and she can answer your questions better than I can. (She offered to help anyone that needs it.)
    Also, I ran across another blogger that has one-on-one iPads, too! Here is the blog address:
    Good luck!

  13. What an awesome article. Our school district is going to pilot 1 to 1 computing this year. I am really excited about the idea but am sure that kindergarten will have to wait for a few years until the district is ready. I was excited to read that a district would spend curriculum money to help purchase the iPads. I also loved your information on organization, use, transitioning, and storage. I especially liked the app of the day. What a fantastic was to help keep the students focused on what apps they would be using for the day. I cannot wait to start 1 to 1 computing in my own classroom. Thanks for the pictures, the visual really helped in understanding your descriptions!

  14. What an awesome article. Our school district is going to pilot 1 to 1 computing this year. I am really excited about the idea but am sure that kindergarten will have to wait for a few years until the district is ready. I was excited to read that a district would spend curriculum money to help purchase the iPads. I also loved your information on organization, use, transitioning, and storage. I especially liked the app of the day. What a fantastic was to help keep the students focused on what apps they would be using for the day. I cannot wait to start 1 to 1 computing in my own classroom.

  15. Thank you for sharing the organization of using iPads in your classroom! Several teachers in my district are looking into ways of incorporating them. Your blog shows how to utilize this new technology in daily instruction.

  16. Pingback: Using Skype in the Primary Classroom: An Adventure in Storytelling! | Heidi Songs

  17. Hi Heidi! I am very impressed with everything you have done with your K students. We are going 1:1 in the fall. Can we pick your brain with a list of questions? Or schedule a Google Hangout?

    • Hi, Courtney!
      You surely can ask me any questions that you like! As far as a Google Hangout is concerned, I’m sure that would be fine… but what we should really do is get some of my current teammates involved, because they are REALLY the 1:1 iPad experts at my new school, and their expertise leaves me in the techy shadows! So let me see if I can get at least one of them to join in. Please email heidi@heidisongs.com and let’s see if we can find a time to chat that will work for all of us. I’m sure it will depend mostly on whether or not our time zones will match up!

  18. Heidi
    My students will be 1 to 1 next year in my kindergarten class. You mentioned the teacher had a folder for the apps she wanted them to work on that day. Did she spend time to add a folder with the apps to every iPad? If not how did she do this efficiently?
    Thank you

    • Hi,
      When I taught K, I had the apps in folders, and I just did it myself maybe two or three times a year to try to consolidate the task into as few times as possible. But the folders had apps for certain subjects rather than apps for the day! So I had a folder for alphabet apps, cvc apps, number recognition apps, addition apps, patterning apps, and so on. I also had a folder for general math or language arts apps that covered many domains.
      When I taught K, I was using a bank of six iPads that I purchased myself. I know have a class set of iPads in my second grade class, but the districts owns the tablets and only the school/district can add apps unless the app is free. (We get a budget for a few new apps per year.) And as far as I know, there is no way to ask the district to sync the iPads so that the apps wind-up sorted into specific folders. So we work on organizing the apps into folders ourselves, if we want them. BUT… in second grade, (and I bet even younger kids) can learn to search for the specific app they want by swiping down on the middle of the tablet to reveal the search bar and typing the first few letters. My second graders do this all the time… and I noticed four years ago in K, several kids had learned to do it, too!
      Good luck!

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