by Gale Pryor, Ruckus Media Contributing Writer
Teachers are often the earliest adopters of new technology. If a device or software can help them be more effective in the classroom, they’re all for it. While hands-on learning with blocks and paints will always be a part of their students’ days, many teachers also see how iPads, iPods and other touch screen devices attract and engage kids. They’re putting that attraction to work to teach literacy, math skills and social skills. Parents can put their iPads to work at home in many of the same ways.
How are trailblazing teachers using iPads in their classrooms? It’s early yet, and many more innovations are sure to come. Here are the best ideas we’ve found to date for integrating touch screen technology and early learning:
Top Ten List of Cool Ideas from the Classroom:
1. Create an iPod/iPad activity center. Kids rotate through this new center along with other hands-on activities in the class. Teachers report that kids are so comfortable with touch screens that they teach each other, share and explore independently and that “so much learning takes place when they do!”
2. Collaboration and brainstorming. Because several kids can work on an iPad at once, drawing with their fingertips they can sketch out ideas, showing each other what they mean while they talk. Several apps even give each user a different colored line so kids can see who has drawn which part of their creation. Read aloud The Velveteen Rabbit app from Ruckus, and ask children to draw their best-beloved stuffed animals, each in a different color, then brainstorm a story in which each animal is a different character.
3. Share picture books apps. Our library of classic picture book apps collect all the stories that belong in every child’s memory: The Velveteen Rabbit, John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, and Tom Thumb and the Knights of the Round Table . Read aloud by Meryl Streep, Robin Williams, John Cleese, and other celebrities, each story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations and music by some of today’s best-loved artists. Each story can be listened to, read aloud, or watched as a video. Best of all, you or your child can record your own voices reading the stories, for an intimate reading experience at home or away.
4. Record kids reading aloud. Listening to your child reading is more than heartwarming. When children read aloud, recording and listening to their own voices as they do, word comprehension and pronunciation improve dramatically. When they record themselves at different points in the year, they can hear themselves becoming better and better readers. Record your child reading aloud—and even singing!–the rhythmic lines of John Henry, an American folk hero.
5. Explore the world of game apps: Amazing new educational game apps help preschoolers to practice math, pattern, color and spatial concepts, as well as coordination, concentration and motor skills. Teachers carefully select apps to ensure that every activity supports independent learning. Apps popular with teachers and parents alike can be found at Tech Talk for Moms.
6. Play board games: Scrabble, Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders! Classic board games are now apps for the iPad. Teachers know that playing board games is a rich opportunity for children to practice social skills, develop their vocabularies and practice math skills. And when the board is a touch screen, all those tiny pieces won’t get lost.
7. Share kid-created podcasts. Even kindergarteners can create their own podcasts. A classic story like Johnny Appleseed can inspire a podcast that begins with reading the story aloud. Follow the story with a recording of kids talking about it and everything they know about apples and pioneers. Add an apple recipe at the end, and you’ve got a podcast to share with classmates and grandma.
8. Play the piano. Teachers rarely have space for pianos right in their classrooms, but can easily handle a keyboard app on an iPad.
9. Tell a story together. After reading the tall tales of Pecos Bill, the orneriest cowboy in the west, ask children to tell their own tall tales. If you have a bunch of kids, children can add to each other’s story, each recording for one minute before the next adds to it, making the tale taller with each new teller! Upload photos or use a drawing app to illustrate the story.
10. Subscribe to magazines. More and more periodicals are being re-imagined for the iPad format in amazing ways—and a few of these are for children. A few magazines for sports and science fans may also be appropriate for classrooms.
Pretty cool, don’t you agree? How is your child’s teacher using touch screen technology? How do you support your child’s learning at home? Are you a teacher? Tell us your best ideas and we’ll share them here!