by Katie Martin
So this is my journey of a “techless” teacher to a techie teacher. For the past four years I have taught in a 1st grade self-contained special education class. Prior to that, I was an Interrelated Resource Teacher. As an IRR teacher, I never really had a classroom “home” if you will. I was constantly popping in and out of classrooms all day long. When I became a self-contained teacher and got my own classroom “home,” I was super excited … and then my excitement died. I literally had a projector, a Mimeo that didn’t even stay attached to my white board, and one desktop computer for the students. WHAT!!!? This KILLED my technology-loving heart. I had officially become Techless. One thing I knew about my students was that I was going to need a lot of different ways to engage them in my instruction, and a broken Mimeo and a desktop computer were not going to do it.
The first piece of technology I added to my classroom was a SMARTBoard. I LOVE SMART products, and the SMARTBoard was exactly where I needed to start. I was able to involve all my students in interactive tasks all day long. In order to get a SMARTBoard for my classroom however, I had to write a grant. Seriously, a grant? I had never written a grant in my life. Luckily, technology is my passion, so when I wrote my grant, that passion shined through. I was awarded a grant for full funding for the latest and greatest (at that point in time at least) SMARTBoard for my classroom.
As the year progressed, I really wanted to give my students the technology they could use independently. For that I chose the Barnes and Nobel Nooks . . .the big ones that were color, WIFI compatible, and touch screen. I was able to purchase six Nooks for my students. Why Nooks? A traditional Listen to Reading center didn’t work for my students. They struggled with understanding when to turn the page, and because they came to me as non-readers they weren’t able to track the words in the book. The Nook was excellent for transitioning my students to a technology integrated listening center. Since the Nook has “read to me” books, my students were now able to see the words as they heard the words. They could make the connection with how reading should sound and increase their word knowledge. The Nooks were capable of having Apps, which enabled me to create a math and word work profile so my students were then able to use the Nooks during word work and math center times.
Funding for technology that didn’t come out of my own pocket came in the form of completed Donors Choose projects. Among the many things generous donors have funded for my classroom are Leap Readers, Samsung digital cameras, and an Apple iPod. My students absolutely love the Leap Readers, and so do I. They are interactive and have built-in games for the students to check their skills as they go through the book. The cameras were great for documenting the new things we were doing in our classroom, and the iPod gave us a chance to have music, take videos, and snap pictures.
My Nooks have held up AMAZINGLY for the past four years, but technology gets old FAST. Bless the Nooks’ hearts but we needed some technology that had more efficient apps we could start using to produce projects. This is where the iPads came in. For the longest time I tried to avoid needing iPads in the classroom. They were just too expensive. I tried alternative tablets like the Nook and Insignia, but when it came down to quality, performance, ease of use for teacher and students and the abundance of apps and tools available, the iPad won out by far. My students and I have grown SO MUCH with the use of iPads in the classroom. We have made movies, completed PBLs, conducted research, made collages, and shared our learning with others.
Now, I know you’re wondering how I got iPads for my classroom, and I know if you’re a teacher you’re going to hate my answer. I bought the first iPad for my classroom myself. I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t see any other way and investing in an iPad for my classroom was investing in my students’ learning and futures. The next iPads I got were older versions that were donated to my class. Old or new iPads hold their quality excellently. Although I would love to be a 1 to 1 classroom with iPads, I am currently holding steady at 4 and will slowly build on that on my own. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take too long.
I hope you enjoyed my journey from Techless to Techie.
Stay tuned for the next episode of Techless to Techie when I will share how I implemented these pieces of technology into my classroom and our daily routine as well as different ideas for what you can do with various technology in the classroom.