What If You Have Only One iPad for Your Classroom?

What If You Have Only One iPad for Your Classroom?

The pre-kindergarten teacher was from a small elementary school in the state of Arkansas (USA). She had created a project and placed it on DonorsChoose.org in hopes that it would be crowd-funded into reality by December 31. I first noticed it on December 30.

The tag on her project announced that it would expire in just one day. What was her project? She was looking for help to buy an iPad for her students. That's right. An iPad. Just one. Not a cart of 24 or 36 so that every student would have their own iPad. Just one iPad. And a case.

I was moved by the simplicity of her request. I thought about how the junior high school (grades 7-8) where I taught for 10 years had more iPads than we could keep up with. I thought about the math teacher there who was two years from retirement, and whose school-issued iPad still had the cellophane wrapper on it when she left our campus. She refused to learn how to use it. I also thought about my current campus where every high school student has a new Dell laptop and we have a cart of 36 Samsung Chromebooks "just in case we decide to use them." Obviously, I work in a very technology-rich district.

I mentioned the teacher's project to a friend whose own personal iPad is the only iPad in her classroom. "It just doesn’t do a lot of good to only have one," she said.

I felt a little challenged. What if I only had one iPad? What could I do? What could this teacher possibly have in mind, asking for only one iPad?

So, after some consideration, here's what I came up with. Here are 10 things I could do with my students if I had only one iPad in my classroom. There are obviously more, but these are some of the best ideas I could imagine.

  • The iPad has a camera. My students could take turns making videos of their work or taking photos to use in their work, 
  • I would install the Class Dojo app and make it part of my classroom management system
  • I would use the Sock Puppet app to help my students create sock puppet shows about books or stories that they had read.
  • I would use the Explain Everything animated whiteboard app to create short lessons that my students could use for extra help.
  • My students would learn to use Google Maps and Google Earth to expand the boundaries of their own personal world.
  • Without having to buy a full subscription, I would install the BrainPOP feature movie app and open the door to more than 750 science, math, social studies, English, Arts & Music and health videos -- all with closed captioning to assist reading skills. 
  • I would use the Virtual Manipulatives app to help teach math with visual, digital objects.
  • Khan Academy's more than 3,500 video resources would become available as lesson aids for me, or tutorial sessions for my students.
  • The Too Noise Light app would become another staple of my classroom management system.

You may have noticed that most of these apps are installed for direct student use. A couple of them would help me as a teacher more than they would help the students. All of them could be used with either small groups or with individual students one at a time. And all of them are free.

Having only one iPad in a classroom is not a problem if a teacher is thinking about individuals. If all you see are 30 shining faces, then you might conclude that you need 30 iPads to accomplish anything meaningful. If you see them one at a time, then you know that Sally would benefit from a tutorial or a game, and you know that Juan's math skills could get a boost from a solid math app.

I'm not trying to judge anyone, and I realize that I have never had to take this minimalistic approach to my classroom. I have been blessed. I AM trying to say that this teacher had a grand vision and a workable plan. Sadly, I think her project expired before enough funds were raised to get the iPad for her classroom. I hope she finds a way to get her iPad. I rather suspect that she will. 

By the way, here are several links to some sites where some people ever more creative than I have put some ideas for the one iPad-classroom;


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About the Author
Author: Harrison McCoyWebsite: http://www.twitter.com/drharrisonmccoy
As a business education teacher at Arlington Collegiate HS, I teach computer information applications. Though tech is what I teach, one of the most energizing things about my work is the challenge of making tech exciting and engaging for my students. I also serve as my campus technology coach and work with my faculty and administration to assist with tech integration across our content areas and elective classes. I am excited about developing my PLN through social media (@drharrisonmccoy) and cultivating global connections for my students and myself.

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