The iPad as Video Camera/ Notebook

Our eyes are constantly peeled for innovative ways teachers are using iPads in their classroom, and this time, we set our sights across the pond to a school in Switzerland. In a blog post for future tense, a collaboration between Arizona State University, the New America Foundation and Slate, edtech thought leader Lisa Guernsey writes about the Zurich International School, where each of the approximately six hundred first- through eight-graders have been given an iPad.

Here’s the kicker: rather than treating the devices as portable screens or gaming devices, the teachers view the iPads as tools that allow their students to record, capture, and document their learning. Students spend more time producing content – drawing pictures, filming videos, recording themselves talking –  than consuming content. As Lisa writes, the focus was not on what’s coming out of the iPad, but on “what was going into it.”

Allowing students to create content (a process made easier by technology like mobile devices) is a powerful way to engage and motivate them in their learning. As we explore the varied ways teachers are making use of the affordances of iPads, we’re becoming more and more convinced that there is no one-size-fits-all use of mobile devices in classrooms, and that a diversified approach – a recipe including game play, content creation, and content consumption – can work best when teachers personalize for their own classroom and students. The possibilities are endless!

An iPad in the Toy Box

What happens when a parent gives their child unlimited access to an iPad? We’ve heard time and time again that children’s screen time should be limited, that kids left to their own devices will sit for hours in front of the TV, computer, or mobile device, slowly turning their brain to mush. Wouldn’t they?

Journalist Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic wanted to find out for herself whether this fear is based in reality or not. In a conversation with NPR’s Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin, Rosin described how she placed an iPad in her four-year-old’s toy box and regarded it as though it was just another toy car or action figure. Her son was able to choose for himself which toy he wanted to play with, and for how long. What Rosin found was that after the first week and half, during which her son was indeed glued to the tablet, the iPad shockingly “fell out of rotation like any other game.” No parental-enforced limits on screen time, no mushy brains.

What do you think? Would you consider putting the iPad in the toy box and treating it like just another toy, or would you prefer to monitor your child’s screen time?

iPads in the Classroom

iPads are increasingly becoming a staple in classrooms, a fact which has some parents and educators excited and others concerned. In her conversation with Shayne Evans of the University of Chicago Charter School and Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia, Meghna Chakrabarti of NPR’s On Point discusses some of the questions that we’ve heard raised about having the tablets play a prominent role in the school day. Their conclusion is that iPads and other 1-to-1 technology platforms can and should be the way of the future, but like with any new education initiative, professional development and training should be provided to teachers — and, Evans argues, parents — long before the technology makes its way into the hands of the students.

This notion has been in the forefront of our minds as we begin to build out the teacher’s guide that will serve as the backbone for implementing NGPM. The guide will include a whole section for professional development where preschool teachers can brush up on the math and pedagogy behind our games and watch videos that will illuminate best practices for teaching math using technology in preschool. We want this to feel authentic and meaningful to teachers, so over the next year, we’re working with our incredible preschool partners to capture video of highly-skilled teachers integrating digital math materials into their classroom repertoire.

Here’s a sneak preview of our teacher’s guide:

As you can see, teachers will be able to see their students’ progress for each game! Note: This is a very early wireframe!

Stay tuned for more about the teacher’s guide as we build it out in the next few months. In the meantime, check out to the full On Point conversation about iPads in schools here!

WeetWoo! A Safe Video Player App for Preschool Kids

WeetWoo! is a great app for the preschool market. Basically, it’s YouTube for young children. The videos on the app have all been reviewed and handpicked by parents and are deemed safe and appropriate for the age group. The layout of the app is really easy to use and the video content ranges with clips from Sesame Street, Caillou, Blue’s Clues, and many others.

Reviews for this highly rated app can be found here and here.