Using IT Integration Walls in the Classroom

IT Integration Walls

An IT Integration wall is a great way to support student use of technology for learning in the classroom. You can take many different approaches to creating the wall. One approach is to create a poster of Just Right resources for your grade/students. Here’s an example from a Grade 2 classroom.

IT integration poster

Just Right Resources

In elementary school, we use the concept of “Just Right” apps and websites to help children understand that some websites are appropriate for children, while others are not. Students use bookmarks and QR codes to get to websites appropriate for use in the classroom.

This Grade 2 teacher included instructions of how to use Dropbox, as well as QR codes to resources for the current unit. The space can be as big, or as small as you want it to be. Involve students in the creation process, especially at older grades. If you or your technology coordinator has created instructions for using technology resources, incorporate these resources into the integration wall.

Managing the Wall

Implement the wall at the beginning of the school year, so that students get in the habit of solving problems themselves, and with the help of their peers. Have sections of the wall that will be useful throughout the year, as well as more dynamic sections that change with the unit or term.  Here are some ideas of how to involve students:

  • Have students submit a few websites that can be added to the wall.
  • Model the process for deciding if a site or app is Just Right, and involve students in the decision.
  • Invite students to create instructions for common tasks, to post on the wall.
  • Provide space and opportunity for student to identify their expertise and offer assistance to peers.
  • Track how often different resources are used on the wall, to know what to leave and what to replace. It could be a student’s job to analyze the use of resources.

Using Video in the Classroom

I watched this video from Common Sense Media about improving the use of video in the classroom. Notice that it’s part of a playlist, and you may want to watch some of the other videos as well.

I decided to put the tips from the video into practice.

Watching the Video

The first time I watched the video, I rarely paused, because I wanted a holistic impression of the value of the video to me and my colleagues. I had the essential question in mind: How will this video inspire teachers to use video more effectively in the classroom? The second time I watched the video, I paused it to create this blog post. Whenever I paused the video, the questions that I asked myself were “How is this tip relevant to elementary school” and “What can I share about this tip with colleagues?”.

Review of the Tips

I like the idea of the video that the goal of using a video in class is for comprehension AND critical thinking. This resonates with me as I have been pondering similar ideas recently in listening to podcasts, and my thoughts motivated me to resurrect my personal blog. The video could be a valuable tool for teachers in helping them reframe their questioning when students are watching videos. The tips in the video are practical, and easy to implement so teachers can put them into use right away.

The tips work with each other, because if students are taking notes or backchanneling while watching a video, they will certainly need multiple views to comprehend and think critically about a video’s contents. I know that I struggle with listening/watching and processing, and writing at the same time, so multiple views would be crucial for accessing all the content.

Applying the Tips in the Elementary Classroom

With elementary students, I would pause the video at some natural break points for the students to engage in the backchannel, and reply to each other’s posts as well as record their own thoughts. Otherwise, I think that the cognitive load would be too much. I would also have all student watch the video together the first time or two, with a debrief or conversation about the video, before students move to watching the video on the own, for their particular goal. Students can also apply the strategies when they are watching videos individually, but it’s important to model the strategies to students and have them practice it with guidance, before applying it on their own.

Often, students watch videos for research, when they are trying to answer particular questions. Critical thinking may not be relevant for fact based questions (thin questions), but will definitely come into play with more complex questions (thick questions).

More information:

  • Getting the most out of video Cheat sheet from Common Sense Media
  • Mind/Shift Teachers’ Guide to Using Videos
  • Think critically about video Common Sense Media page

IT Integration Walls

An IT Integration wall is a great way to support student use of technology for learning in the classroom. There are many different approaches that you can take. One approach is to create a poster of Just Right resources for your grade/students. Here’s an example from a grade 2 classroom.

Example of an IT Integration Wall

Example of an IT Integration Wall

The teachers included instructions of how to use Dropbox, as well as QR codes to resources appropriate for this unit. This space can be aa big, or as small as you want it to be, and you can involve student “experts” in creating it, especially at older grades. I’m also creating tutorials for some classes/grades, and those types of resources can be incorporated into the space.

If you’re looking for resources to create QR codes, here are some resources.

Cloud Storage Using Google Drive

ISP assigns Google Apps accounts to children from Grade 3. This automatically provides each child with a storage space in Google Drive. We could use Google classroom, but we’ve continued our legacy processes. Here’s how we set up storage:

  • Each student creates a class folder with subfolders for each subject
  • The class folder is shared with the classroom teacher with edit privileges
  • Folders for single subject/specialist teachers are shared with them with edit privileges
  • Each teacher creates a Class Students 2015-2016 folder and adds each student’s folder to it
  • The teacher creates a folder to share work with students (read only by students)
  • The teacher creates a folder where students can share items with each other or with the teacher

Naming conventions are very important when using Google Drive. They enable users to search and find files more efficiently. We use the naming convention of Class Firstname Description e.g. 4P Damianne Math. When there are 2 or more students with the same first name, we append the first initial of the last name e.g. 4P DamianneP Math. Get in the habit yourself and get students in the habit of naming files and folders accurately when they create them, and putting them in the correct folder from the start.

If you do this in Google Classroom, and find the process to be more streamlined with a similar setup, please let me a comment.

1:1 iPads in Grade 2

Grade 2 was our first elementary class to have a 1:1 device. Last year, grade 2 students shared an iPad cart with one or two other classes. For the 2014-2015 year, we assigned each student an iPad mini at the beginning of the school year.

IMG_7058In preparing for this year’s roll-out, we had an trial of a 2 iPad minis in each Grade 2 class for two months last year. The purpose of the trial was to see how students worked with the iPad mini over the regular sized iPad, and to see how the iPads could be used in day to day teaching. The feedback from the teachers was that the size worked fine for their students, and having the iPads accessible all the time allowed them to integrate it into lessons, mostly for research but occasionally for creating. They wanted more iPads for more meaningful integration into the curriculum. Their greatest concerns were managing workflow and supporting students in using the iPads. We decided to meet at the beginning of the year and make some decisions about iPad management and use in the classroom to help make the implementation smooth. I outline our agreements and plans below. I’m interested in hearing about the steps that you took in implementation, and suggestions of agreements/structures/processes that will facilitate the effective integration of 1:1 devices like iPads in the classroom.

At the beginning of the school year, I met with all three Grade 2 teachers to discuss Digital Citizenship Agreement (DCA) training for Grade 2 students. Our goals were to come up with common language for managing iPad use in the classroom, and to schedule student training in the use of the iPads. From that meeting, we developed a list of tasks to structure our use of iPads in the classroom:

  • number iPads (TA; IT can do this in future)
  • assign iPad numbers to students (teacher)
  • personalize wallpaper (student)
  • put class and student name in About section (student)
  • link Digital Citizenship Agreement to school’s skills and behaviors – link iPad expectations to classroom routines (teacher/DLF*)
    • make sure that classroom expectations address choices that students make when online (teacher/DLF)
  • teach the terms digital citizenship and digital footprint, emphasizing the opportunity to create a positive digital footprint (teacher/DLF)
  • teach basic care instructions (teacher/DLF)
    • unplugging: practice unplugging safely – don’t pull wire, hold as close as possible
    • plugging in: plug in when below 40%
    • headphones: be careful pulling them out
  • Review new tech and workflow skills throughout the year (teacher/DLF)
  • Manage classroom passwords for easy retrieval (teacher)

We also talked about students bringing their iPads to specials. We got input from specialist teachers about student use of iPads in their classes. We came up with the following agreement:

  • Special teacher should send a message to the classroom teacher in advance – teacher will remind students in classroom meetings
  • For (occasional) last minute requests by specialist teachers, talk to the classroom teacher and leave a note on the classroom door reminding students to bring iPad to the special

We clarified Classroom Management Expectations specific to the iPad:

  • Storage – put it away in the cabinet when done using it
  • Charging – check battery percentage when using iPad and charge at 40%
  • Use around the classroom/school – can use the iPad outside the classroom for authentic uses, with teacher permission (no bathroom, outside recess, cafeteria use in general)
  • How we care for the iPads
    • get microfiber clothes/wet clothes
    • close apps when done using them (home button in the app if applicable, then iPad home button)
    • quit apps from multitasking display (double click home button, swipe up)
      • important to do if an app is frozen or if iPad gets slow
  • Messages on the iPad
    • Ask a teacher before clicking anything if you’re not sure what the message means

We identified a list of Skills for orienting students to using the iPad:

  • Turning on and locating specific apps
  • Turn off keyboard clicks (Settings -> Sounds -> Keyboard clicks)
  • Under settings→ general → about → change name to class + student name (ex. 2M Lucy)
  • Under Settings -> Mail (change signature) to Sent from Name
  • Gestures
    • zooming in and out e.g. in Google Earth
    • Closing an app (home or 5 fingers)
    • Quitting an app (multitasking bar)
    • scrolling
  • Plugging headphones and managing volume
  • Taking photos/editing (cropping, saving, mailing, etc.)
  • Taking videos (framing, stability, focusing, etc.)
  • Accessing sites using QR codes – a few websites that you may use throughout the year
  • Adding email addresses to the Contact list
  • Using Explain Everything
    • reviewing tools
    • importing from the photo library
    • exporting to DropBox
  • Using Doodle Buddy app – creating an image and saving to the camera roll to be uploaded into other apps to support projects
  • Making an iMovie – bringing in photos and videos made previously, taking and shooting photos and videos within the app – save to photo library
  • Developing a system for organizing information electronically – folders and tags in Google Drive and/or Dropbox
  • Sending email – to who, when, what
  • Moving items between iPads
    • explore Airdrop
  • Getting an item from Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Naming files – label with information that allows for easy access later
    • Format: class name, student first nameLast Initial, name of task/item,
      • e.g. 2M LucyM SummerHoliday
  • Renaming an item in Dropbox
  • Saving an item to Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Shared Photostreams for home-school or teacher-student sharing
    • explore by teachers

Lesson Plans for use in DCA Training Throughout the Year

Resources for 1:1 with iPads


*DLF = Digital Learning Facilitator