Tablets | Feature

Flash Sites and iPads Stimulate Students and Parents

As a Title I reading specialist, Paula Rogers is often looking for ways to engage and motivate struggling students. She said that job got a bit easier when she introduced iPads to her classroom two years ago.

Though Rogers had been teaching with the tablets for a while, it wasn't until the summer of 2011 that the schools she works at, Langdon Area Elementary School and Langdon Area Middle School in North Dakota, began providing a pair for every classroom.

It was also around that time, as the teachers at the schools were going through staff development centered on the use of the iPads, that Rogers found a way for her students to access Flash-based resources through the devices.

With a little help from Google, Rogers, who also teaches graduate students how to integrate iPads and interactive whiteboards in the classroom at the University of North Dakota, found a cloud-based browser for the iPad that converts Flash material into video before streaming it to the iPad.

"At that time it was iSwifter," Rogers said. "It was free for a trial base, and so I downloaded it and I put in TumbleBooks. Just like that it played on my iPad."

These days, Rogers uses Rover, a browser iSwifter developed specifically for use in education. In addition to streaming Flash-based material, the free app filters websites for compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act. The company released its newest update, version 1.2, earlier this month.

Among the many Flash-based websites Rogers said she likes to use in the classroom are One More Story and TumbleBooks.

"Both of them very much engage the students because they're actual books that are in our school library," Rogers said. With TumbleBooks, the books are read by the original authors, which gives her the option of pausing and having students reread passages in an effort to help them build fluency.

Raz Kids, another site that animates books for reading practice, "also has a wide variety of books and I can do the same thing on the iPad or the smartboard," Rogers said. "I can stop it, ask the children questions, ask them to reread to build fluency."

Aside from the fact that she can easily differentiate instruction with them, Rogers said the biggest benefit of using the iPads in her class is their intimacy. "It's so personal," she said, "when they have the little tablet in their lap and they're manipulating it and changing pages."

When she needs to, however, Rogers can also involve the entire class by using the iPad 2's mirroring capabilities, a Promethean whiteboard, and a VGA cable.

"It's a wonderful way to display so a large classroom can see what you're doing on the iPad," Rogers said. With this setup, "they can't manipulate the smartboard, but they can manipulate the iPad. So I have them take turns, and yet the rest of the class can still see it on the smartboard."
Rogers said she thinks the devices are even improving parent involvement.

She explained that if she asks parents to read a book with their kids at home, "they may do that, but if I share a website or a technology resource, I know they're going to use it with their children at home. The technology is an area that our parents aren't afraid to attack."

She also said that her students are immediately able to share their progress with their parents in multiple ways. Some apps include an option to e-mail scores and updates to teachers or parents, but for those that don't, Rogers said her students will take a screen capture of their score and e-mail it to their parents.

"The children are just so motivated when they come in my room," Rogers said.

To learn more about how Rogers is using technology to engage students, visit ndreadon.com. On the following page, Rogers shares some of her favorite Flash-based sites for her students.

Paula Rogers' Flash Resources for Readers

Grade K-3: Starfall (starfall.com and more.starfall.com) are interactive sites with support for research-based teaching. Hard cover books and additional resources are available for purchase through the site as well.

Grades K-4: topmarks.co.uk is a United Kingdom-based website. "My kids love the British accent," said Rogers. "I have found the reading tools to be very effective," though there are resources for other content areas as well.

Grades K-4: Roy the Zebra features interactive reading games, guided reading stories, and literacy worksheets to complement them.

Grades 1-4: Into The Book features 8 interactive reading comprehension strategies.

Grades K-6: Mr. Thorne’s Phonics is a YouTube user profile with hundreds of literacy-related videos for children.

Grades K-7: learningupgrade.com is "great for RTI Intervention as well as the Title I setting," said Rogers. "Whole classroom instruction can be done via their whiteboard versions or multiple iPads."

Grades K-7: learninga-z.com features  response to intervention (RtI) tools "Raz-Kids and Reading A-Z are my two favorites," said Rogers, she recommends "all of their products for differentiating instruction."

Grades K-7: Read Write Think is the International Reading Association webpage and features resources designed to support research-based teaching.

rbeaudoin333.homestead.com is a sight words website created by a Title I teacher based on the Fry List of Words. It's another great tool for differentiating and gathering data, according to Rogers.

ndreadon.com/digitalbooks is a page Rogers created with digital book resources.

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