January 4, 2011

Math and SpEd

In a Special Education classroom, you often find that students can completely understand the new procedures and math in front of them, but continually get the answers wrong. This is a direct result of students never grasping the basic skills of math- being able to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I find that many of hem, especially when its 8th grade, will be afraid to admit this shortcoming, and fake the funk all the way through the lesson or simply rely heavily on the calculator. So in the end, any knowledge they may have acquired is "tainted."

The Math Board application I mentioned in the last post comes in incredibly handy for working with basic skills. The step by step guide and instruction on each of the operations helps students see the proper way to perform basic skills operations, and reinforces the tricks and skills we developed back in September.

Another common issue displayed in my classroom is frustration. For the students who dont remember the old math, and cant quite grasp the new, they can shut down in class or act out because of the frustration. The MathBoard app helps with the basic skills, but often times I pull up a Math game through the game center app and let those students focus on that while working with the rest of the class. It allows the frustrated students to refocus themselves while also building math skills. The rest of the class can refocus on the work at hand, and when the student acting out is ready, he'll rejoin. The other students dont get upset or complain because they know that if they were to ever need teh same timeout, the iPad is there for them as well. With the IEPs, it is easy to customize and tailor activites to specific student needs. And the trackers within the program allows me to mark their progress in their binders and on their IEPs.

Luckily, management with iPad in a 12 to 1 class is rather easy. My students know the rules for access, understand the how to properly care for it, and they use it well. With that trust that we've built up throughout the year and the relatively small classrooms and class sizes, I can easily stay on top of the students and what they are doing on it.


  1. Apologies for the late posting everyone.

  2. How do IPAD's do a better job than laptops?

  3. Can anyone cite any research that demonstrates that iPads improve student learning? For that matter, can anyone point to any research that demonstrates that the use of any computer product improves student learning? I would think that we wouldn't see technology as some sort of deus ex machina come to solve the world's educational woes if we were to look at the fact that we have seen little, if any, improvement in education over the last thirty years--the years in which we've seen the invasion of the personal computer at its most forceful.

    But go ahead and continue to invest your money and your faith in these machines. I'll continue to work with my own children with paper, pencils, and books--and keep the computer confined to a machine merely to be used to research information pertaining to questions that arise and cannot be answered with information already at hand--including the natural world right outside our door. And my children will continue to out-perform their peers and anyone in their age group at your school.

    I just feel sad that your students have to receive a lesser-quality education because of your blind faith in gadgets.

  4. The quality of education is based not necessarily on the tools used but on the actual teaching that is involved. Just because people use the iPad as a tool (or any other computer device, for that matter) does not necessarily mean that the quality of education received has suffered. Like any other tool, the iPad cannot work on its own or perform miracles.

    I personally would not be so quick to automatically fault the device or claim that this school system is providing a lower quality of education just because they are trying something new.

  5. Thanks for sharing your school's experience with iPads. The first-hand reports of teachers are valuable to those of us outside the classroom who have a vested interest in student learning. Will you be featuring any student bloggers? I would love to hear about their experiences with the new technology as well.

  6. I would "be so quick to . . . claim that this school system is providing a lower quality of education just because they are trying something new" and unproven. There is no evidence to show that this money isn't being wasted on a new fad. The resources going into this gadget could be better used by giving each student a musical instrument and lessons for that instrument--music, especially before the age of seven, has been shown to increase verbal aptitude, by reopening shop class and opening a mechanic's garage to help engage those students who are more inclined to work with their hands, by having the students take more trips outside the school into, forgive me for using an industry term, more authentic learning environments, by implementing better physical education and nutrition programs--exercise and good health have been shown over and over again to have positive impacts on student learning, by offering more art and dance classes to engage better those students who have more artistic inclinations, by making sure the teachers at this school have the time to collaborate, plan, and develop as professionals.

    There are so many better ways that these resources could be used, and because they aren't being used in that way, the students aren't getting the education they deserve. Too many adults are too interested in being the first on the block to be the cool teacher/administrator with the new trinket. (And the school does love the press that comes along with the grant money that the school gets to implement the use of their new toys.) I don't necessarily think that these educators do not care about their students. Rather, I think they just suffer from a lack of knowledge about their craft.

  7. I love this debate on this post because it highlights the one ultimate truth in learning: That no two children learn alike."

    I am thrilled to hear that the first poster has been able to provide their children with an extraordinary education without the use of tools such as the iPad. I wish that we could have more parents and adults in our communities that are as invested in the educational needs of our youth. I think it can be said without argument that the more involved the family, and in particular parents, are with education, the better the results.

    The sad reality that we are facing though is that there are not enough parents as involved as the first poster. For some, it may come for a lack of caring or understanding. For others, it may be out of necessity with other issues such as shelter, food, occupation taking priority. But in total, I think it's safe to say that the amount of parental involvement from when I was in school not too long up to now has dipped severely. This lack of parental involvement leads to bigger challenges in the classroom- both with academics and discipline.

    In addition to the change in parental involvement, the world around our students has changed as well, thus changing who our students are. They are exposed to an evolving world with new developments in technology that they themselves are driving. Things like Facebook and MySpace were created by older people, but without the manic use of these products by students such as ours, they wouldn't have the same impact that they do today. The students of today are not only aware of this, but rely on it, talk about it daily, and live their lives in an era where various methods of communication and technology are available and accessible at the blink of eye.

    So what do we do in this brave new world we have found ourselves in? We adapt. The tried and true methods of the past remain and always will remain a tool in teaching. There are a good deal of students that continue to benefit from ways tried before. True professional teachers continue to employ these methods as needed with their students. But when these methods fail with some students, it becomes our responsibility to then adapt what we are doing to ensure that they are learning. It may not be my way, it may not be my mother's way, or my grandmother's way but they are learning. And that is what is important.

  8. I work in many classrooms throughout my district (K-12), with many students, and have found that for some students learning comes easily. However, there are many students who do not have that ease in learning in a classroom setting. School is a struggle for many and over time a frustration. I do not know if it's because they learn at a different rate or in a different way. What I do know is they are able to learn on the iPad in a way that doesn't frustrate them. They can interact, repeat steps, practice, hear it, move it, replay it, create it, etc. and feel success. There is much data on learning and technology and the benefits. Even though the iPad is still new to the world, it is part of the technology data, and should be considered.

    Ralph, I want to thank you for supporting students and learning. Thank you for making a difference in their success. Thank you for making a difference by taking the time to blog about iPads in education.