I've decided to document our experiences as we venture into the wonderful world of touch screen technology known as the iPod and iPad. Would you like to know how this all came about? I will give you the short version. :)
Last Christmas, my wife gave me an iPhone. I was amazed at how simple it was to use and the enormous amount of applications that I could use on it. In no time I was downloading tons of free, educational applications that could be used in my classroom. I used my iPhone with individual students with some good results. When it came to touch screen technology, I realized that this was the way to go with students who had difficulty using conventional computer hardware and software. We still had some fine motor issues with the smallness of the iPhone, but it was better than what we had.
In short, it was the answer to our current technology woes. We had computers, but they were OLD computers. They crashed daily and there were only a few programs we could run on them any more. Internet was totally out of the question as Web sites had evolved past our Mac OS9 machines.
As spring turned into summer, Apple came out with the iPad. It had the same technology and the same apps only super-sized! So, as it turned out, iPods were the answer, and iPads became the dream. As I figured it, we needed four iPads to replace our down-and-out iMac computers, but how was I going to fund it?
I started my quest with the Pepsi Refresh Project. I knew if I could get my iPad project accepted, it was sure to be voted through. The only problem was getting it to that point. I tried all summer to get a submission in, but the sheer volume of people doing the same made it impossible to do. I went 0 for 3 during June, July and August.
Just as I was about to give up, a friend suggested that I try DonorsChoose.org. This is a Web site that allows teachers to post their needs online for possible sponsors to pick up. Since the organization requires teachers to earn their asking potential, I had to start small with two iPods. My plan was to get some successful funding going, earn merit points, then write up a proposal for a couple of iPads.
About this time, DonorsChoose teamed up with Sonic Drive Inns with Limeades for Learning. This is a promotion where people can vote for the DonorsChoose project of their choice to be funded by Sonic. I already had my iPod project online, so all I had to do was enter it into the contest.
Enter Ms. Kelly Wickham, Asst. Principal of Guidance from Lincoln Magnet. She contacted me to let me know that she saw my project in the Limeades for Learning contest, and that she was going to work to get it funded through her blog. She didn't disappoint. Within 24 hours of writing an article about our class on her blog, our iPod project was funded. VICTORY!
It was just the beginning though. Ms. Wickham encouraged me to put a second project on DonorsChoose for two more iPods, which I did. We only have about $350 more dollars to go to acquire two more devices.
We also had another ace up our sleeve with the Antioch Basketball Program from Antioch H.S. in northern Illinois. They had previously sponsored us to fund a materials take home program I began this year. They had pledged to help us again this year, so it was just a matter of letting them know that future funds would be used to buy two iPads. That left two more to go.
I also submitted a proposal for two iPads to the Springfield Public Schools Foundation. Each year, the Foundation accepts proposals for Teacher Grants. We should receive notice if our proposal was accepted by next week. Cross your fingers!
So, that brings us to today. The first two iPods came a couple of weeks ago, and I began working with students to see what their skill levels were in using the devices. I used a simple rubric to assess their level of use. Each student was given one of the following scores:
1- Novice User. Student needs practice with operating the iPod and needs cues to assist with patience and perseverance when using applications.
2- Basic User (Almost There). Student is able to operate the iPod's basic features but needs cues to assist with patience and perseverance when using applications.
3- Proficient (You Got It!) Student is able to operate iPod and is able to use applications for appropriate means and length of time.
Out of twelve students, I have four students with a rubric score of 1. Five students earned a rubric score of 2 and three students have it down pat with a rubric score of 3.
Future blog posts will focus on our experiences as we learn to use the iPods to practice early learning skills, and the trials and tribulations of getting more funding for the devices we need. Hopefully, this blog will serve as a "how to" guide for other special educators to follow concerning the funding and use of iPods and iPads in the special needs classroom.