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2011-12 Rainbow Creek - Accessible technology supporting Universal Design for Learning

Essential Question: How will accessible technology within the classroom support Universal Design For Learning?

Description of Project

A Grade 2 classroom will explore the effect of  6 iPads and 1 Smart Slate being available and accessible at all times. Students will use iPad technology in literacy activities, constructing narratives, and representing new knowledge in unconventional ways. Students used the technology to support with constructing narratives , demonstrating their knowledge in engaging ways with iMovie, Keynote, Pages, and developed literacy skills through the iBook App. Students who struggle putting their ideas on paper could thrive in some of these activities because it was different mode of representation. For the first time they began to feel like their idea was heard. They could finally express it with a voice recording system on the iPad.

Our hypothesis was that increased access to these technologies will give more students the necessities for success. This is because they will have an equal opportunity to display their capabilities with the supports that these 21st century devices provide and engage in meaningful inquiry based learning activities.


Research Findings

I noticed that students were always excited to be engaging in tasks with iPads. Most were extremely comfortable learning the technologies, new apps, and new tools on their own, and were excited to teach me new things about iPads as well. There was very little time used to teach how to use an app. The kid-friendly nature of the iPad removed the ‘how to’ steps with technology, and replaced that time with more learning.  I often liked to check in with students as to how our iPad research project was going, and one day a question was posed to them, “Why do you like to use the iPads.” A student replied, “Well you can search for things on an iPad, you can’t search for things on paper.

Students are globally aware, and even students as young as 7 recognize that a wealth of information is accessible with the touch of their finger.   After one particular project in Social Studies I wrote a personal reflection regarding Universal Design for Learning. The iPads in our classroom allowed for this project to take place. You can read about it here.

Students created books, videos, audio files, and used apps to reinforce concepts and new knowledge like basic addition and subtraction math facts, as well as Dolch sight words.

It is difficult to explain how exciting some of the products are to see. If you knew the particular group of students that were a part of this project you will know that reading and writing was an area of challenge in September. The reason that I am so passionate about the use of technology in our classroom this year was to give them a chance to share their knowledge, encourage basic literacy skills, and maintain levels of engagement and excitement for learning. Some of the books we created offered students an option to record their voices, and those students who typically wouldn’t experience success at writing activities demonstrated their extensive knowledge in the books that were made. We could even use it as a learning tool because students were able to search ideas with Safari and present on things like how specific animals stayed warm in the winter. You can view some of our products, teacher reflections, and student comments on the link at the bottom of our page.

When using the Smart Slate during lessons, I found that it was often a distraction. I had first thought that it could be used as a tool for engagement and assessment so that students could share their work easier. As we used it I discovered that it was challenging for students to know exactly where they should be pointing or writing. Using it meant that I was interacting with only a few students, and was not capable of engaging an entire class at one time. It allowed for collaboration between the teacher and student, but isolated other peers in the classroom. It would be a great presentation tool, but was not effective in the elementary classroom.


Recommendations for Others

When it comes to working with iPads the first thing that colleagues need to know is that there is no reason to be afraid! When students get an iPad in their hands they can navigate through anything. I even discovered that with this group of students word processing was easier on iPads. There is value in researching apps and seeing just how many fit in to our Alberta Program of Studies. With iPads being available all the time, our classroom was able to research new information and develop new knowledge as a result. A focus to this project was also about being digital citizens and giving credit where needed. Students understand the concept of being fair and it was a good year to instill the idea of digital responsibility. iPads in our grade 2 classroom were a huge success, and they would be in yours as well!


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