Illuminating our Learning

Area(s) of Focus: technology
Division(s): Primary
Level(s): Kindergarten, Grade 1

An exploration of the role of iPad minis to deepen and enhance learning. Students learn how to use apps on iPad minis for writing and communicating, as well as documenting their learning. Students tweet out reflections of learning to parents.

As a group of primary educators, we had completed a series of explorations in our classrooms using the iPad minis as a tool to help our students engage in inquiry, use oral language and writing, and to enhance their communication skills. The iPads had been a valuable tool which has allowed our children to reflect on, identify and name the learning that has been captured on the iPads. We had provided numerous opportunities for the children to share their learning with other classes, and also with the parent community. The iPads had facilitated the children’s ability to provide descriptive feedback to each other about their work. We noticed that our children had become more reflective of their learning and also more skilled with using the iPads. As teachers, we had been able to expand our ability to document learning and to share our students’ learning with parents in various forums including class websites and Twitter. As emergent writers, our students had begun the process of tweeting out messages about their learning. This we felt was an authentic reason for writing and acted as a great forum for children to share their learning.

Team Members

  • Lise Hawkins

    Toronto District School Board

  • Lana O'Reilly

    Toronto District School Board

  • Rebecca Toombs

    Toronto District School Board

  • Debbie Halls

    Toronto District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

Our team accomplished the goals we set out to achieve which were to use the iPad minis as a vehicle for capturing and sharing learning with a broad community – colleagues, other classes and the parent community. We felt at the outset that using the iPads would assist the children in reflecting more deeply about their work, but, in the end, we found as teachers using the technology greatly assisted us in becoming more reflective practitioners as well.

Activities and Resources

We engaged in many of the activities we set out to do. These included:

  • conferring with children
  • creating learning goals with children
  • engaging in inquiry investigation
  • documenting student learning and thinking
  • co-editing documentation
  • analyzing the documentation with colleagues
  • eliciting effective questions with students
  • transferring data from iPads to websites
  • using Twitter as a vehicle for writing, documenting and communicating learning

Unexpected Challenges

The only minor challenge we faced was finding equitable ways of sharing the iPads since we were working with a limited number.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

We feel that learning was greatly enhanced in the areas of communication, reflection, oral language and writing. The iPads allowed for greater ability to share work and to “go public” with the learning in ways that tradition forms of communication do not allow. As our students reflected on and shared their learning on the iPads and on Twitter, they both deepened their understandings and communicated for authentic purposes (knowing parents and others would be reading their comments). All round there was a high level of interest and engagement with using the iPads in the learning process.


Our team has shared our work with our entire primary division at meetings throughout the year, and the kindergarten teacher in our project shared her work with the kindergarten team at their weekly meetings. After the sharing time, our colleagues have had the opportunity to ask questions about the content/context of our work, as well as questions pertaining to the technology (how-to, use of apps, training of children in using the iPads). The format of the presentation was informal. We shared our work on the Smart Board and then allowed time for questions and discussion. By sharing throughout the year, we were able to show changes in the use of the technology, growth and extensions of our work. This applied to changes in both the students and in us with using the technology.

Project Evaluation

As we reflect at the end of our project, we consider the project to have been a great success. We feel strongly that this is because we set small, achievable goals (e.g., allowing time to familiarize ourselves with the iPads, researching and identifying appropriate apps, and quickly putting the iPads to use). Indicators of our success are that team members regularly use the iPads to document learning, and children use the apps to draw, write, explain thinking and communicate their  learning with others. The biggest surprise to us was how well-received the use of Twitter is in sharing learning with parents. Students and teachers are able to photograph examples of learning with comments that parents are able to access before the school day is over. Another indicator of success has been increased interest in writing about learning through the apps we used and through the use of Twitter.