Hey, School District, My Kid Needs an iPad!

For those of us still struggling with  rationale for the school district purchase of an iPad for a child with a disability, know that the struggle is real.

School districts don’t always immediately wrap their minds around iPad technology because it has so much else going on (Angry Birds, anyone?). The purchase of this relatively inexpensive (next to almost any augmentative communication device, anyway) becomes problematic.

Found “Six Steps to Get the iPad into Your Child’s Special Needs Classroom on blog.friendshipcircle.org, in the technology section:

1.Make sure your child qualifies

There is no point in making a stink if your child won’t qualify for an AAC Communication Device.  If your child does not qualify for an AAC Device there is no way a school will provide an iPad.

The iPad is much more than an assistive communication device and is a great tool for children that are verbal as well (For example Life Skills & Social skills apps for kids with Asperger’s etc). Unfortunately most school districts will only contemplate  an iPad for communication purposes and nothing more.

2. Make sure your child can use the iPad

The iPad may not be suitable for Children who have difficulty with fine motor skills. You must make sure your child can hold his or her hand steady long enough to tap and scroll the screen.  On a cognitive level your child also must be able to differentiate between different pictures.

3. Know why your school doesn’t like iPads

Before you make the case for an iPad find out why your school isn’t into it. Knowing why your school won’t provide one will help you prepare your case for getting one. Some of the more common reasons are:

  • The iPad includes Non- Educational Elements
    Schools want to make sure that they are providing  materials that will be used to its fullest potential. Knowing that the iPad could be used for movies and games makes them cringe.
  • Stimming
    A claim is made that kids start stimming while using the iPad. Instead of going from one step to the next the child will start repetitively tapping the same picture or sound.
  • Change
    It takes bureaucracies a long time to make changes and schools can be no different.  Instead of being innovative and forward thinking you may have a school that wants to keep the status quo and not make changes to what is already in place

4. Explain why you need an iPad over other AAC Devices

Prepare a list of pros for iPad and cons for the regular communication devices  Some ideas to inlcude:

Why the standard AAC Device does not work for my child
A. It is hard to program
B. It is bulky and heavy
C. Makes my child stick out and look different
D. A battery charge only lasts a few hours

Why an iPad will work for my child
A. The iPad provides the most sophisticated and up to date communication applications
B. Very intuitive display and layout, making it easy for a child with special needs to use (and makes it easier for their parents to program)
C. Extremely light and easy to transport
D. Battery last 10 hours

5. Speak Out

A. Start with your child’s teacher.  Explain to the teacher why you feel your child needs an iPad. Make sure you are not confrontational. Advocate for your child in a calm and respectful manner.

B. If your teacher is unwilling or unable to help take it to the next level ask to speak to the person who coordinates augmentative communication in your district. If that doesn’t help go up the ladder to the Superintendent of Special Education.

C. If you are still finding the going tough ask other parents in similar situations (parents with a child who goes to the same school and needs an AAC device to help communicate) to work together to change the schools mind. The voice of one may be ignored but an outcry from many parents will not be drowned out.

D. Bring in outside advocates who will stand by your side and will help request, cajole and maybe even threaten legal proceedings. A professional advocate knows how to talk the school’s language and can cut through the red tape.

6. Be Informed- Resources to back up your claims

To further prove your point show them that schools all over the country are starting to implement iPads in special education classrooms. Here are some links to articles and videos about schools all around the country using iPads in the Classroom.


Find My iPad!!!

I can lose anything. I lose keys like it’s my hobby. More than a few of my sentences start with “Where is the…?” or “Have you seen my…?” It is quite pathetic.

Today I lost my iPad. I was on my way back to work from visiting student teachers, and had gotten all the way to our parking lot when I missed it. I started looking frantically around in my car, (not the best idea when driving), and after pulling over, still no iPad. No student teaching notebook, no student teaching binder either. Honestly, I almost grabbed  my head to see if it was still on.

I pulled out my iPhone and tapped the Find My iPhone app. With this app, I could find the approximate location of my missing iPad!

Now, you may guess that the iPad should have been in the school somewhere, but a bit of time had passed and I wondered if someone had seen it, realized this was their lucky day and slinked out of the building with my stuff.

The good news was that it was indeed in the school building. And I didn’t even have to go there to find out! I could see the iPads approximate location on a map. It was right where I left it, at Mayfair School.

I didn’t bother letting the app play a sound on the iPad so I could hone in on it – – I didn’t want to frighten whoever might have been in the ladies room wondering what dip would leave her iPad in the bathroom and walk away.

That would be me.

Have you tried this app?

When Things Go Wrong, As They Sometimes Will…

It took 2 hours to get my iPad updated to iOS5, and 2 more hours to get Nic’s updated last Friday. It took about 5 unsuccessful attempts each before that, and no small amount of swearing. Both my work and home computers would dismissively tell me that they’d “timed out.” Guess they needed a break from all that work. Guess they were bored from updating taking so long.

Thank heaven for people who know more than me coming to my rescue, specifically my peeps David and Rosie.

Things I learned:

  1. Don’t update iTunes with the iPad plugged into the computer (this is obvious to most people)
  2. Turn off the virus protection and firewall
  3. Remember to turn the virus and firewall back on when you’re done
  4. iCloud is a godsend.
    1. After updating my work iPad to iOS5, I lost “Teacher Pal.” Gone, just gone. Not on the iPad screen, not in iTunes. All that information and all those photos, my substitute short-term memory, gone. But I know people. My peep Rosie told me to go back to the app store and look for the apps I’d installed. The “TeacherPal” app had a little cloud beside it. When I clicked on it, “Teacher Pal” fell from the cloud – or something like that.

What is iCloud, anyway?

Meet My New Pal

This semester I have been blessed with 3 really nice classes to teach; 2 undergrad, 1 graduate. There are almost 50 students between the three groups, and it seems they are almost all named Kate. Well, Kate, Kathryn, Kaitlin or Katie/Katy to be more specific. Lovely young women all!

This proliferation of Kates should make it pretty easy to remember names, but  I have to grade each student individually, so  that’s where I need more. I need to differentiate Kate Smith from Kate Jones from Kate Hepburn. Usually I have my students create name tags and I make a seating chart at the beginning of a course. I use the name tags for a week or two, then try to wing it. This usually starts with me calling someone by the wrong name (unless it’s a Kate). The seating chart is only as reliable as the territorial types make it – some sudents like to roam in search of that perfect seat for a session or two, so one week Kate is second row third seat, but the next she gets replaced by Rob, the guy who got to class first and took her spot. I’ve been humbled by my poor memory for names in a too many situations. Enough already.

A colleague at work showed me an app called TeacherPal on her iPad last week. I realized this could be the short term memory pill I needed. TeacherPal is a personal organizer I can use to track attendance, grades and personal notes about each student — and it’s free! But the best part  about TeacherPal is that the information on each student can include their photo! I can even put the photos on a seating chart! So last week the iPad went around each classroom as students took one other’s pictures to add to my TeacherPal file.

The undergrads took my request for photos well. The grads took it like I would, with a grimace and some eye rolling. Some asked if I could wait until the next session so they could look better, but in the end, after I promised not to post their shots on Facebook, they too sent my iPad around the room for Picture Day.

After my initial explanation of TeacherPal, one of my students called out, “Be careful! Apps crash!”

Should I have backup? There’s a lot riding on this, but the format is so cool!

Is this iCloud territory? Is my record keeping safe in a cloud?


This App or That App? More from Kathy Schrock

Here are the remaining 6 of Kathy Schrock’s 10 criteria for a worthwhile educational app, again with my comments in parentheses.  Good stuff to keep in mind:

6. Student motivation: are students motivated to use the app and select to use it often?    (Nic can find his SkeeBall app no matter how deeply I bury it, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. I find that for Nic it helps for me to preview and mess with the app so that I can anticipate problems before they occur and get him so frustrated that he begs off and bolts for the TV.)

7. Reporting: is assessment/summary data available electronically to the student/teacher? (The TeachMe series that Nic keeps track graphically with checks and Xs that we both can look at to see how he is doing in the language arts and math it features. He loves these apps, but their full titles, TeachMe Toddler and TeachMe Kindergarten make me wish the app developers knew how well their software worked for kids like Nic, even though they are older. They have their market with the little ones, for sure, but I have another market for them if they ever wanna talk!)

8. Sound: Does the music/sound in the app add to the educational aspects of the content? (Or do they make your teacher/parent dive into their desk drawer for headphones?)

9. Instructions: Are the instructions included in the app helpful to the student(Do students read the instructions? Do you? Or do we just start tapping around until something happens? Oh, dear, now I’m giving myself away.)

10. Support page: Does the app’s supporting Web page provide additional useful information? (Not just sales pitches for other apps!)

More Kathy Schrock iPad links can be found at www.kathyschrock.net/ipadblooms and on www.kathyschrocksguidetoeverything.com.

Wow, Kathy Schrock has a guide to everything? Can she help me lose 10 lbs.?

Wait, there are apps for that, too. But they’re on my iPad.

Everyone’s a Critic! The App Evaluation According to Kathy

According to ed tech guru Kathy Schrock, there are several things to look for in an education app that’s worth your while. Here are the first 5 of her 10 criteria. My comments are in parentheses:

1. Curriculum connection: Are the skills reinforced connected to the targeted skill or concept? (Sounds like a given, right? Not always.)

2. Authenticity: Are the skills practiced in an authentic format/problem-based environment? (I want these skills to have life beyond the app. Kids like my Nic often have trouble generalizing.)

3. Feedback: Is the feedback  specific and result in improved student performance? (Have you ever noticed that sometimes the feedback for getting something incorrect on an app is more exciting than what happens when you are correct?)

4. Differentiation: does the app offer flexibility to alter settings to meet student needs? (I love it when an app can grow with its user, and offers increasing levels of challenge as targeted skills are mastered)

5. User friendliness: can students launch and navigate within the app independently? (I am old and often a little clueless when an app isn’t immediately accessible because of the assumptions the designers make about what the user understands about its navigation. Do not make me feel older and more clueless or have to call one of my kids to explain it to me. And do NOT frustrate a child so that they refuse to try after too many unsuccessful attempts to get the app going.)

More to follow! Comments welcome. And special thanks to Kathy Schrock for all her work in ed tech through the years. She continues to be a teacher’s pal, and a parent’s too.

My Coke is diet, my apps are lite

I was thinking of calling this entry, “Hey, this app is crap!” but I felt a little skittish about being crude in the title — okay, so I’ll just be crude in the first line.

My friend Helen inspired today’s post because she was disappointed in an app she had found. As a reading specialist, she did not see the app as having a viable purpose — simple vocab but complicated activities…I respect her knowledge of reading enough to know that there was something to this. I forgot to ask her whether she bought the app outright or had just grown to hate the lite version.

I love lite versions of apps. They give me the opportunity to kick an apps tires before committing what are sometimes big enough bucks to its purchase. But no cost, low cost or high, what keeps an app from being crap?

According to tech guru Kathy Schrock, there are several criteria.

1. Curriculum connection

2. Authenticity

3. Feedback

4. Differentiation

5. User friendliness

6. Student motivation

7. Reporting

8. Sound

9. Instructions

10. Support page

I will describe these in future blog posts. In the meantime, send along your favorites — and if you find any crappy ones, let us know those too!

I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it…

If anyone’s wondering, I went with Chore Pad. Both apps were great for the purpose, but Chore Pad was more visual. Nic needs visual.

Anyway, I am so excited! My little blog will soon be linked to the website of the Delaware County Down Syndrome Interest Group.  I look forward to meeting other parents of children with Down syndrome and sharing iPad ideas and experiences.

Meanwhile, Nic and I spent a big hunk o’time today working with new apps that I found. Nic is not the sit-compliantly-and-let-Mom-try-stuff type, and not all apps are SkeeBall or Angry Birds, so we alternated some more seriously themed learning apps with fun apps and YouTube videos from the circus. Stretched the young man’s attention span considerably, and I got to see which new apps I might want to keep and which will be gonners. (New favorite: “SmartyPants School”)

How about you? How do you keep your children on the more serious academic apps when they know “SkeeBall” is just a click away?

Can I Get a Little Help Around Here?

Hope you had a nice holiday: we did, and the house looks it. I am in search of novel ways to get everyone on board with the cleanup thing. Dare I go tech on Nic? Trying out a couple of apps: “Chore Pad” and “Chore Hero”. I used to just make Nic a checklist: so 2005 of me. Have you seen any apps to make chores a little more fun?

It Was the Best of Times…

Between the IT department and Lori, our librarian, someone had the great  idea of bringing iPad newbies, old pros and those somewhere in between, like me, together in one room yesterday to talk of things iPad. We are “the iPad users group.”

We have a Blackboard site.

We have a wiki.

We have a vested interest in getting up to speed.

One of my favorite aspects of this very first meeting was the fact that we were meeting at all. I rarely get to hear from my colleagues in other schools, let alone the staff that is the backbone of the place. I enjoyed hearing what people are doing and listening to people’s questions about the iPad.

But holy cow, I thought I was pretty good on the thing, but after this 1 hour meeting, I feel like I’ve been demoted to “newbie” from my preconceived rank of “somewhere in between.”

What’s your iPad challenge?