Monday, December 29, 2014

Pick a Device, Any Device!

I am frequently asked "What about other Tablets? Chromebooks?  My district just bought us tablets but they're not iPads.  Can I still use them to teach my students?"

YES!  While I am biased towards using Apple devices after years of using them professionally and personally, any mobile device can still help you enhance and even transform your teaching and student learning.  

Not all devices are created equally though.  There are pros and cons to any device- primarily their capabilities, apps available, and cost.  I still encourage schools embarking on a new mobile technology journey to seriously consider adopting the iPad.  The higher (sometimes) cost pays off in quality and cost of the apps available, especially for primary grades.  

If you or your school has already invested in a non-Apple tablet or laptops, don't worry though!  My goal for the new year is to dive into alternatives to the iDevices, and to share my learning with you!
Today I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4, 8inch version.  My favorite iDevice to use is the Mini so I purchased the Galaxy Tab 4 that was similar in size and memory.  The 7inch tab was cheaper but only had 8mb of internal memory!  The other tablet I considered was the nabi DreamTab, but it wasn't in stock at my local store.  

I had an Android smartphone before I became addicted to all things Apple, so using the device and app store was familiar to me.  My kindergartner has already nabbed my new tablet so I know it will entice my students just like the iPad does.  My biggest concern upon opening the box was how would it compare in quality and quantity of applications available?  

So far I've located some apps I use on the iPad- mostly games, play apps, and productivity apps.  I'm downloading free and lite versions for now- I'll start exploring unfamiliar paid apps after I've tapped out the freebies!  
ABC Mouse has a few apps- two CVC books and their ABC Mouse learning portal app.   Starfall has their family of apps available, with the Free Starfall More app offering several activities.  There are play apps available by Toca Boca, My Playhome, Dr. Panda.  There are lego apps as well.  We especially like the Story Creator. Evernote and GoogleDrive are available to help teachers out.   

My biggest disappointment in the Android tablet so far is that Flash websites don't work on it like they used to.  Now, like the iPad, Flash is unavailable so some of my favorite websites won't work. So... my main reason for giving other tablets a benefit over the iPad is gone.  I have a Surface computer/tablet, that does allow me to use Flash websites, but the operating system and navigation aren't as easy as regular tablets.  The surface looks like a tablet but acts like a computer.  

I'll be adding more information as I explore my alternatives to the iPad over the next few weeks.  In the meantime here's what to look for when purchasing a mobile device:

Does it have forward and rear facing cameras?  Having cameras are important for classroom use. The camera is a powerful tool for reading and math skills, vocabulary development and storytelling. Definitely make having a camera on the device a priority.  

Does the device have a wide  range of apps, especially open ended apps available?  Some devices made for children require a subscription, or come with a handful of learning apps that are primarily skill practice.  Having a variety of apps, at reasonable prices is important for classrooms.  The best apps are those that allow children to create, tell stories, document  and share learning.

Please let me know what tablet you're using... What are it's pros and cons?  Your favorite apps?

Friday, December 26, 2014

My iPad isn't working right! Now what?!

My iPad isn't working, now what?!

Anyone who has attended one of my seminars or talked with me about technology in the classroom knows I'm appnoxious about Apple products. Yes, I know that other tablets are usually cheaper. IPads and MacBooks are investments in my opinion. While they may cost more initially I believe they more than earn their way once the user is trained and had learned how to effectively use them in the classroom. 

One of the reasons I love Apple products is that they work. They are reliable and sturdy and are quick to turn on, ready to use almost immediately. All three important qualities for classroom use. However, they are electronic devices, made from lots of tiny parts and run by complicated (to me) processes. Sometimes those tiny parts and complicated processes don't work together even on an Apple device. So what do you do when you have a problem with your iPad, or for that matter, any piece of technology?

Do what I do and Google it!  I will explain a few iPad specific tips below for solving some common issues. However, if your specific issue isn't mentioned, before you email me, just Google a brief description of the problem. Almost every problem under the sun will have a few possible solutions somewhere on the World Wide Web. Most often a Google query about problems with the iPad will result in many pages with fixes from the Apple Support Community. More often than not one of the first suggestions solves my problem. 

If you still don't have a solution that fixes your problem try using one of Apple's many support options:
The time I called (after searching for solutions on their webpage) 
I was given the option to wait or schedule a call back time. I chose the call back since it was late at night and got a call within two minutes of the time I had requested. 

So your iPad (MacBook, tablet, computer) is misbehaving- what now?

Today's problem that prompted this post was all my third party apps (apps not made by Apple) were crashing as soon as they were opened. After restarting the iPad and closing all the apps that were open I Googled 'apps won't open on iPad' or something similar. The first solution on the Apple Community page was to install a new third party app. This was such an easy solution and worked immediately.  I may have skipped having to find an app to download just me signing out of the iTunes Store and re-signing back in, but I won't know until the next time if I have the same problem. The solutions I'll post next are all iPad specific, but just keep in mind for any question or problem- Google. If Google doesn't have an answer for you I'm not sure it exists! ;)  Ok, so I'm goonoxious too. 

Simple iPad fixes: 
An app isn't working right:
1) Close by pressing the HOME button (round button on bottom of screen). Reopen the app. 
2) Swipe up OR push the home buttons quickly two times in a row. This will bring up all the open apps running in the background on your iPad. Swipe up on the image of the app to close it.  Reopen the app. 
The iPad isn't working right:
1)press and hold down on the home and power buttons (round button on bottom of screen and oval button on top right of the iPad) until the screen goes black and the white apple icon appears. It will take 5-10 seconds. When the home screen comes back on swipe and see if it's working again. 

If those solutions don't work, be sure to Google the problem. Check for updates on the apps and iOS. Occasionally an app or iOS updates and doesn't play nicely- you may need to be patient and wait for a fix. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting iPads into Your Classroom

One of the most common questions I am asked is "How did you pay for your iPads" or "Do you know of any grants to get iPads (or other technology) into my classroom?"

I was lucky enough in 2010 to have administration whose priority was to update and increase technology in our district.  I wasn't in on the process so I'm relatively clueless on how they got them- I do know they applied for grants and used general budget funds to purchase our iPads, initially for a 1:1 program in our high school.  Once I saw how perfect the iPads for Kindergarten I begged and pleaded and justified how I would use them in my classroom.  Here is some of the original email I sent to the administration team:

"I am requesting 3 to 6 iPads to use with my 26 kindergarten students.  I use the three computers in my classroom on a daily basis; the kids are very engaged in the learning activities available.  In addition to some programs on disc I also utilize multiple websites that reinforce skills we are working on.

My students intuitively touch the screen when they use the computer and I think that the iPad is ideal for kids of this age.  My students use computers/would use the iPad daily at literacy and math center time (6 kids share 3 computers currently)  and at choice time.  Using computers/ iPads allow my students to work independently on important skills while I differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the diverse learners in my class. 

Some of the apps I would like to use (I would have to try them out first) would be:
Read, trace words
Count write numbers
NOTE: I did buy this app as it was featured in Apple's iPad commercial but almost immediately deleted it. As a learning to read, count and handwriting app it was no better than a worksheet. 
Read books for advanced readers (not sure what’s available yet, but I have several kids currently reading  well above my advanced leveled readers.)
Interact with web pages
abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words
See Read Say sight word practice
iWriteWords (Handwriting Game)
KidCalc 7-in-1 Math Fun  (I would definitely like to find some good math practice apps to use during math centers.)
There are multiple other applications I’d be interested in:  such as Super Why, Tangrams, and I am sure I’d find more once I start exploring the app store."
NOTE: most of these apps are not on my 'favorite' app list as my criteria for what makes a good app has changed so much since I started using the iPad. From the original list the only one I really use is Pocket Phonics. 

They eventually gave me ONE iPad.  I started using it, researched apps and iPads in K (I started this blog when I found nothing helpful on the web).  I kept justifying why I needed more iPads- I REALLY wanted 6 so I could have an independent center.  They gave iPads to the other elementary teachers, all of whom seemed ambivalent about them (they were still adjusting to new Mac computers and had no idea how to use the iPads).  I offered to take them until they were ready to use them ;) and they agreed!  Needless to say I didn't give them back.  My husband bought me an iPad2 when they came out in early spring, so then I had 7.   I attended a training that cost $700, paid for with staff development and got another iPad2.  By the end of the year I had 11 iPads to use, and 22 kids so I had a 1:2 situation.  Over summer I explained how a 1:1 program would benefit my students.  Some of the ways I justified:

At that time we were spending about $50 per student for consumable reading, handwriting and math workbooks.  Every year we bought packages of dry erase pens, and every few years new boards.  I totaled those costs up for 5 years and compared it to the cost of purchasing more iPads, and the handful of paid apps I wanted loaded on the iPads.  I explained how handwriting on the iPad offered support for children and helped them individually work on proper formation at their own pace.  The apps I wanted to buy and had found for free gave students opportunities to practice and learn skills with support, at their own differentiated level of learning, and at their own pace, unlike worksheets.  After using iPads for years now I would also explain how many of our learning goals would be met by using the iPads.  They help me do authentic assessments and share those with parents.

So how can YOU get devices for your classroom?  Many teachers have told me they have had great success getting iPads donated through  Others have set up GoFundMe accounts and asked family and friends to donate.  You can ask families of students and your own circles of friends and family to donate older devices when they buy new (keep in mind old iPhones can be used as iPods!)  When all else fails, buy one for yourself- get a good cover- and teach with it and let the kids use it.  You won't regret it!  

I've mentioned before if money is a constraint (and when isn't it, really?) go for the iPad mini's over the full size.  They do everything the full size iPad does and cost less!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Have you 'Liked' Facebook yet?

Just in case you haven't, follow the link... this busy iPad loving teaching momma is much more likely these days to post information about how I'm using apps or free apps on Facebook- it's just so much easier!  And it's more interactive!  Pop on over there today and 'like' A Digital Kindergarten on Facebook.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What's New!

I've been busy working on updating and improving the handbook that accompanies my seminar (along with taking care of the new baby and his three siblings and LOTS of baseball games); I turned it in Monday and thought I'd share a sneak peak of what's included by sharing three pages from the handbook.  The pages are step by step directions for using (eliminates ads from YouTube videos) and starting a Symbaloo account.  Enjoy!  Here's the link to the BER brochure to find out more information about my Fall 2014 seminars: Using iPads® and Other Cutting Edge Technology to Enhance Learning and Teaching in Your KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hooray for a May Giveaway!

A giveaway has begun thanks to and featuring:
Speck Products one lucky winner will get an awesome Speck Case!
Rantek's Mobile Montessori apps
Digital 24x7 apps 
Pxywise apps
Artgig apps
Apps In My Pocket apps
iTrace apps

Stick Pick

The giveaway will end June 2nd, to give the attendees of my next 7 seminars a chance to enter...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A few notes from Mobile Montessori, an app developer who contributes codes to giveaways and seminar attendees often!  

Our new website:  Browse through everything we have, easily.

We have free worksheets that go along with our Asia apps:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Collage apps to share info with other classes, parents...

Using a collage app to share about our country/state flags with other K classrooms... Here I used Frame Magic, although almost any collage app will do the same so find one that's free and has good ratings. It took only seconds to make the picture and share on Twitter with the other classes.  I use collage apps often to condense multiple pictures into one for newsletters, webpages, etc.

Spin and Write with the Decide Now app for quick skill practice

Lily needed to work on recognizing and writing some sight words and numbers. I quickly made a spinner using Decide Now app and a hand drawn recording chart that wasn't too pretty (I need to print some blank ones off!). Within a minute she had an activity tailored to her learning needs. I used to do this with blank dice but didn't make them for individual children but rather units. I love how easily this app can be changed to meet a child's individual learning needs. This could be a center (spin and write together) displayed on the board as kids write on white boards or at desks, or used individually.  The app costs $.99 and comes preloaded with silly spinners- delete those and add your own words, numbers etc.  link to Decide Now in iTunes

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Awesome "getting started' videos for Teachers New to iPads

If you're in dire need of an iPad 101 session, here's a playlist by GeorgetownISD that will help you tremendously!

iPad Basics Video Tutorial

because while it may be simple enough a toddler can use it, us adults need all the help we can get!

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