Sunday, February 19, 2012

Grade 1 iPad Inquiry Project

Student Need

In November, 39% of the students in grade 1 scored in the yellow or red on the DRA test.  We found that many of the students knew few or no sight words.  We were searching for an answer that would help us fill this gap in student learning.  We thought that the Apple iPad would be a tool that may be able to help us by guiding student learning, offer instant feedback and allowing student led, collaborative learning.

Overview of the Project

To initiate this project, we borrowed 2 iPads from another Windsor School to use for one month.  We decided that through the use of iPad applications focusing on Dolch sight words, the device would be used to augment instruction, provide differentiation, and allow the opportunity for inquiry learning.  By using the Dolch Sight words as a baseline, it would give us an accurate measurement of student growth.

Student Criteria

We chose 8 grade 1 students working at a level 2 in reading and scored a level 3 on the DRA assessment.  All the students that were chosen were working at the pre-primer level Dolch words.  We chose students with similar attendance patterns and chose 2 boys and 2 girls for each group.


We pretested the students on the pre-primer list of Dolch Words on December 16th. To ensure accurate data collection, we had very specific success criteria.  The expectation was that the word would be counted as correct if the student was able to identify the word immediately without having to sound it out.  Students were tested using flashcards of the Dolch pre-primer list.

We regularly worked with the students in small guided groups. The students were also given the designated words on flashcards to take home with a note to parents encouraging them to practice the words nightly.  When the students were able to read all the flashcards they would bring them back to school and the next list (primer) would be sent home.
The only variable between the test group and the control group was that the students in the iPad test group were given five minutes each morning to work on the iPad when they came into class. The following apps were used:

1.       Word Bingo
2.       Ace Learn 2 Bee: Sight Words
3.       Photo Touch Sight Words
4.       Blackboard Sight Words


After one month, on average the students in the control group made a five word increase.  After the same amount of time the iPad test group made a 57 word increase. See graph below:

The students were also given the DRA tests again.  After the one month test period, the students that were in the iPad test group were all able to move to Level 8 (Benchmark)  DRA  for their reading or above.  The students in the test group made little or no gains in their DRA scores during the one month test period.


Our multidisciplinary approach in the use of the iPads has led to the demonstration of student growth not only in Literacy, but also in Math, (through the use of applications such as Show Me, Top It, Butterfly Math, JetSki) and Digital Literacy (through student directed blogging and use of Twitter.)  Through our board sponsored Professional Development fund we were fortunate enough to be able to attend the Florida Educational Technology Conference.  The FETC  helped us gain many insights and ideas that will help us to fully implement and take advantage of all of the benefits the technology of the iPad has to offer.

Aside from the benefits our students have gained, we have been granted additional benefits for ourselves as educators.  We have found applications for the iPad that have been able to augment our assessment and evaluation of students at an entirely new level.  Now included in our anecdotal notes are photographs of student work, audio recording of students reading and video of student presentations. These tools enable our students to pause, rewind and replay their learning in order to identify errors and comment on their work, and for us to be able to give them authentic feedback.

We are very excited about the results we have seen and the knowledge we have gained.  We are more than willing to share our learning and experiences with other teachers who may also want to take advantage of this technology.

Our iPad experiment gave us results beyond our expectations. The students who were fortunate enough to be in the test group were empowered in their learning. To harness our students potential and educate them to compete globally, it is vital for them to have access to devices such as iPads that enable critical thinking, differentiation and problem solving. We believe that the technology in the iPad can do this for every student in our class, just as it has for our test group.  We are truly excited for the student growth that is possible, and limitless for our students.


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