Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Using the iDiary for Kids App As A Thinking Book

My classroom, for the most part is paperless.  My students do not have notebooks, or binders, or folders that contain copious amounts of paper that will end up in the recycle bin as soon as they are able to bring it home.  My students sit at desks, however, they rarely use the inside of them.  My students all have a book box that contains the books they are currently reading and a writer's workshop folder that contains a few pieces of writing they are currently working on.  For the most part, students' work is stored on our iPads using Dropbox, Kidblogs and Youtube.

I wanted to offer my students a way to share their thoughts, feelings, questions, and  problems.  I also wanted to encourage my students to express their thoughts about what is going on in the classroom and at home.  I wanted them to have an option to keep their work private from their classmates.  I wanted them to learn that not everything they wrote or produced was intended for an audience.  

Notebooks were a great idea, however, we have 20 iPads and going to my administration to ask for money for notebooks was not something I wanted to ask for.  I searched the app store and asked my PLN for any suggestions for "diary type apps."  I bought a couple to try and was pleasantly surprised with the iDiary for Kids app.

This app allows students to write personal entries, upload photos and draw pictures.  The journals are password protected and you can have multiple users on the same app.  When you first open the app students fill in their name, password, email(we did not add an email) and Title of their book.  They get to choose their cover color, picture and text color. 

Once students have filled out the preferences page and saved it, they can enter the app,  and choose the book they want to work in (if you have more than one student using the iPad or the student has more than 1 book you can have multiple books on this page).

The student chooses their book and enters their password.  The book opens to the current date and the student has the option to write, draw, or upload a photo to their book.

A great addition to this app is when the student starts to type, the book automatically enters a time stamp to the page in the column.

How did I introduce this book to my students, you ask?  I read this fantastic blog post by Rolan Lee, where he explain how he incorporates thinking books into his program and he posted this picture:

Source: http://spicylearning.wordpress.com

I took his idea and started modeling to my students different ways to use their thinking books.  Their thinking books have now become their everything books!  They doodle, they pose questions and answers,  they sketch what they visualize while I'm reading to them, and they use it as a journal and take pictures of their work.  Some of my students have been taking screenshots of things they want to share with others and posting them onto their blogs.  They love that they now have the option to share or to keep it to themselves as they work through their thinking process.  One of my grade 1 students said to me today, "Mrs. Wideen, our thinking books are like our blogs, but we can choose our audience for our thinking books.  It could be a friend,  the teacher, the world if we post it on our blog or just ourselves.  I like that we have the choice."  


  1. I actually read about your post in Doug Peterson's blog this week, and I'm so glad that I saw the link. Surprisingly, I actually wrote a post on the paperless classroom, but from a different point of view, that I hope will be appearing on the We Inspire Futures blog soon.

    You see, I completely understand where you're coming from and why you chose to find an app such as you did. I probably would have done the same thing. Reading about the iDiary app, it actually sounds like a great one to use. The only thing is that I don't know if I agree with you about the paperless classroom. I think that paper can be a good thing.

    I also have access to lots of technology and often use technology with my students, but they also write on paper and write in notebooks, and I'm all for this. I guess I'm concerned in two regards:

    1) When it comes to EQAO, students need to write with a pencil and paper. Shouldn't they be encouraged to do so before this to realize just how much they can share in this way? Then they can always take a photograph of their work and keep it for an individual portfolio or share it with the world. Some of my students even tweet their work, and this just bridges the gap between paper and technology.

    2) What if they don't have access to the same tools for next year? Should we be showing students just how much they can do with paper as well as with technology?

    3) What would happen if you gave students the choice? Would they all choose the iPads, would they choose notebooks, or would there be a split? I think this choice component is so important. It's another way that we can differentiate instruction for our learners.

    With your writing folders, I'm guessing that students have some opportunities to write using paper, but it seems like you're close to paperless, and this is why I ask these questions. I would be curious to know your thoughts. I'm continuing to reflect on the paper versus paperless classroom.


  2. Aviva, thank you for your thoughts! I have been meaning to add to this post because of the events that took place in my room this week. I team-teach with another teacher, and she put a few math questions on the board for a quick mind opener on Wednesday. She had math problem notebooks from the beginning of the year and passed them out to the kids to complete their math questions in. What happened shocked us. Our students did not know how to write in a notebook. They wrote in their books like the books did not contain lines. They didn't know to use the next blank page or where to write the date. It was a huge eye opener for me! On Thursday I gave each student a notebook and told him or her that we would use it just like the iDiary app.

    I now give the students the choice on what they use in class. I do have a few that have been choosing the notebooks instead of the iPads. I’m not sure if it’s because the notebooks are new to them or if they really do prefer writing with a pencil. Either way is perfectly fine with me. When I read a book, I prefer the paper version over the digital version.

    Aviva, I totally agree with you on the topic of EQAO, some of my students will be writing the test next year. I actually just had the conversation with my principal (when I was telling him why all my students now have notebooks on their desks). I want to prepare my students in anyway I can and them not being able to write on lines in a small box on a test would be horrible.

    I looped with most of my class this year because I have seen so much growth with them and they amaze me everyday with what they can do. The technology has definitely helped and using iPads to show their learning is just “normal” in our class. The question about what kind of technology will they have next year is an ongoing question. There is a very good possibility that I won’t have the same amount of technology in my classroom next year. However, that won’t change how we use it and incorporate it in meaningful ways. If I don’t have the same tech next year, I will still teach the same way. I will still encourage innovation, inquiry and student driven projects. I may not have 20 iPads but we still did fantastic things in my class when we only had 1. I can’t worry about what teacher they are going to have next year, I can only educate and lead the people in my building to embrace technology and innovation and encourage them to take a few chances for their students.

    Thanks again for your questions. This is a learning process for all of us.

  3. Thanks for your reply! I'm glad to hear that you made the changes that you did. You responded to the needs of students, and you made changes accordingly. You're also preparing students to be successful regardless of what they need to do, and I have no doubt that they will be!

    I also agree with you about the uncertainty of next year. This can always be hard. It sounds like you are supporting the teachers well though and working together, and this will result in changes (even if sometimes they can be slow). You are doing what's best for kids, and this is what's most important of all (technology or not)!