The Day That I Hid The iPads

On Friday, I did something that I never thought I’d do. I took all of our class iPads and I hid them in the cupboard. Why? Because the second that the Kindergarten students see those iPads, they want to play on them. They don’t want them to engage in educational activities, to document learning through photographs and videos, or to record their thinking, they want to race Lego cars and quickly add noisy stamps to a DoodleBuddy page. As much as I love technology, I’m questioning the use of it in these cases.

I’ve tried different things since the school year started. At first, I chose some apps to support learning, and I locked the students in the apps. I used them as part of a guided group with some follow-up for independent practice, but as I watched the students listen to sounds and connect them with pictures, I wondered if there wasn’t a better way to develop vocabulary. Were these words meaningful to these students? Would they really help the students with an understanding of initial sounds? Why not develop these skills through play? 

That’s when I took a different approach. One of my students is eagerly starting to write more, and he was very proud of a castle that he built out of blocks. He wanted to write about it, and he loves using the iPad. I showed him how to use the MyStory App, and he created this one page story on his own.


He never recorded an audio component to his story, but I’m sure that he could go back and do so, and maybe even tell more about his castle. Maybe he could even make up a story about the people who live in the castle, and expand on his ideas both orally and in writing. My Story could definitely be a valuable app in the classroom, but for my students that keep looking for games, will they be interested in an app like this one?

The truth is, I don’t want to spend all of my time policing the apps that the students use, and trying to explain to them again and again, why iPads are not just for games. Play is learning, and students can think and problem solve as they create with Lego (making various structures for different purposes), race cars on the floor (and maybe even measure and create a road for the cars), and experiment with sounds (both found sounds and musical instruments), but what is the benefit of them doing these activities on the iPad? In fact, I think that in these cases, technology limits the options and materials, where Lego, blocks, paper, loose parts, and musical instruments, provide many more options. Sometimes technology can be a quieter choice, and I’ll admit that I do like the calmness that comes with quiet, but should the amount of noise determine the tool choice? Is quieter necessarily better? These are the questions that I asked myself before I put away the iPads, and my answers determined my decision to do so.

Will the iPads stay away forever? No. And a couple may even make their way out soon for documentation and creation purposes … even if only to use with a few students. Overall though, I think that our four- and five-year-olds need to look beyond the screen and experiment with, create with, and touch real objects. They need the social interaction and problem solving skills that comes from face-to-face play. As inquiries begin, projects evolve, and skills develop, the iPad will have its place, but technology is not always the best option, and sometimes a little louder may be a little richer and a little betterWhat do you think? 


25 thoughts on “The Day That I Hid The iPads

  1. Aviva,

    I think you hit the nail on the head with technology. The problem is that technology is just a tool unless the teacher understands what to do with it and uses it for a teachable moment. I think as a teacher you have to really think about the curriculum and how you will use this tool to bring out the students work. It has to be the best tool for the job not just using tech. I don’t think that hiding the tech is the right response.

    There has to be proper use of apps and use of technology. I think those game apps should be gone from the iPad or at least locked away for other times. Games that have no instructional purpose just add a distraction.

    Now being in Kindergarten teaching and modeling effective use of technology might be a lot harder but I think it can be done. Why don’t you team up with higher grades and have some modeling of technology and tools.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jonathan! I think that every classroom situation can be different, and for a variety of reasons (all of which I can’t explain here), I can’t totally customize my iPads. (Sorry, I know that doesn’t help much!) Looking at the overall needs of our students, and conversing with them a lot over the past couple of weeks, I think that many of them need real experiences with real objects, and that technology use from them may not necessarily advance the learning at this point. Now I’m making a broad statement, and this is not true for all students. Just like I used the MyStory app with one of my students, I’ve used some photograph and video options with others. I think that in small groups and specific situations, the iPads may be beneficial to capture learning and maybe even help students learn more about a specific topic.

      Right now, my students have largely only experienced the iPad as a reservoir of games. I want them to see this tool for documentation and creation. I think that this does take time and modelling, and maybe, not all students will be ready at the same time. Our Grades 4-8 students are involved in a 1:1 iPad Project through the Board’s Transforming Learning Everywhere initiative, and hopefully, during the year, older students can pair up with our younger ones to show different ways to use technology. I’d really like to see this happen at a time when more of my students have developed stronger oral language and vocabulary skills, and can truly partner with the older students to share learning and learn more.

      I knew that my comment about “hiding the iPads” could lead to some varied responses, but why is it a problem to put them away? Is the learning necessarily better with an iPad? I still have mine to capture student learning, and often, I sit down with the students and we document together. Just like adults sometimes take a break from technology, maybe the same benefits exist for kids.


      • It’s not that it is a bad thing, never want to imply that. I just think that you have to decide what to do with it. However, (and I never think that you would do this) some may see this post as “see iPads are a bad thing!” and I don’t think that is the right response either. Like you said it is a balance for your class but I think we also forget as teachers that ultimately it is how we use them and set up the practise in the first place.

        As a teacher if you are using tech you really have to think about why and for what purpose you are using them.

        • Thanks for the reply, Jonathan! I think that students gain an understanding of the purpose of tech from both what they hear and see at school AND what they hear and see at home. Depending on the strengths and needs of the students, technology may not always be the best choice, or may not always be the best choice in every situation. The more than I explore the benefits of inquiry-based learning, the more that I think that developing these critical thinking skills in students is so much more important than the tools that we use. Personally, capturing learning with the use of technology is fantastic, and it’s something that I will continue to do (both alone and with my students). But I don’t think that using technology in the classroom necessarily leads to a better program, so if rich thinking happens in the classroom without technology, does it matter if we necessarily see technology as “good” or “bad?” I guess now I’m wondering how rich the learning can be without technology, and if eventually, we need the tech to get to the next level? Would this be true in all grades or just some? Now Jonathan, you have me thinking and questioning even more. 🙂


          • For me it has never been about the tech but all about the teaching. However, I do think that we need to be teaching the use of technology in the classroom.

            The main reason is that this is going to be and is an important skill for our students in the future. And second I think that we can do a lot more with technology than we could without it. However, this last statement all depends on what we do with it as a teacher.

            Technology is still first and foremost a tool. Just like pencil and paper it is a tool that needs a purpose. This may look a lot different in Kindergarten but these tools have to be used but with a purpose.

            As a teacher you have to think about your learning goals and how we are pushing the students thinking. It shouldn’t be used to just replace things that can do the same job but to enhance them. In my classroom the tech is there for students to chose and use when they need it. If it makes it better they will, if not they won’t. Don’t know if I am making any sense but to continue your first question:

            I don’t think it is wise to keep the iPads locked up forever, yes I see why you need to do it at the moment but with proper teaching and proper planning the iPad can and will enhance students learning. However, if all we ever do is use tech to play games or just give it to students to play with it won’t. Tech needs a purpose. The lesson needs clear purpose and the task needs to be rich and engaging.

          • Thanks for clarifying your thinking, Jonathan! I do agree with you, and I think that tech can be a very powerful tool. I had many of the same reservations when I taught Grade 1 last year, and by the end of the year, all of my students were using technology to create and document learning. It just took time.

            Technology is often used at home and at school, which means when we want to use these tools in certain ways with students, we may be varying from previous experiences in both places. Learning new approaches takes modelling and time. Even though I may have the iPads away for now, as I said in this post, they won’t be away forever, and they may still be used (even currently) in certain ways with certain students. But the last couple of weeks have certainly shown me that rich learning can come without the use of technology, just like sometimes low level learning can come with it. As you said, it’s definitely “about the teaching.” Thanks for the good reminder!


  2. The teacher in the room knows their kids best. Differentiating for your students gives you more options. Not an easy task. I too appreciate the quiet in engaged kids with their apps but noise prevails here too. Still from the school of thought that at least for our younger learners HANDS ON exploration, the tactile verbal and social emotional aspect of learning is so important.

    • Thanks for the comment, Faige! It’s interesting that you mention about the “quiet” that comes from engaged learners. I wonder sometimes if they’re engaged or entertained. Maybe sometimes it’s both. I have found in Kindergarten though, just like I did early on in Grade 1, that richer learning comes from the hands-on exploration, and many students really need experience with real objects and numerous oral communication opportunities. The iPad may capture this learning, but I find that often the learning itself happens best without the iPad.


  3. Aviva, I love this post, and plan to share it. I am VERY cautious about putting screen-based tech in the hands of our youngest students, and you just described the biggest reason for my caution. Too often, iPads are implemented as a replacement or substitute for real, three-dimensional materials, and I just do not believe that building with digital legos on a screen carries the same rich opportunities as sitting around a bucket of actual lego with a group of classmates. Ditto for pattern block, toy cars, musical instruments, paint, pencils, paper. Children learn best with REAL materials, and yes, those real materials are often noisy, messy, and inconvenient.

    • Thank you, Amy! Getting back in Kindergarten, watching our students, and thinking more about their needs, makes me realize the true benefits of real objects. I definitely see the value in documenting student learning, and yes, technology helps me with this. At different times, technology has also allowed our students to record their thinking or share their learning. But I’m okay with the real materials that are “noisy, messy, and inconvenient,” for it’s as the students play with them, problem solve with them, and interact with others using them, that I see and hear more deep thinking and learning.


  4. Hi Aviva,
    We’ve had our iPads out very minimal these first few weeks. We always have one iPad out for the students to take photos to document the learning in our room. They use the photos to create pic collages for our blog and you know, they have never even asked to use it to play games or for any other purpose!
    We always try to use the SAMR model when using the iPads with our students and are amazed at some of the projects they are able to create. Initially with support but they quickly surpass our expectations and come up with some fabulous creations.
    We are lucky to have some interactive technology in our classroom to go along with the iPads that facilitates and promotes oral language and reaches the Modification and Redefinition levels of the SAMR model. Osmo, Bee Bot and Touchtronic letters and numbers are all great add ons to use with the iPad. You should check them out if you haven’t already.

    • Thanks Anja for your comment and for sharing your experiences! I definitely share your thinking about how technology should be used in the classroom, but my students definitely have a different perception of technology use at this time of the year (i.e., they just want the games). I think that this could change, but it will take some modelling and some time. I do like the coding options that you mentioned, and I hope to do some coding with the Kindergarteners. There’s so much potential here for thinking skills, oral language, and math skills. Thanks for the reminder! The iPads will certainly not be put away forever, but when they are used, they’ll definitely be for purposeful learning that cannot be well achieved in other ways. For right now, most of my students need the experiences and vocabulary development that come from interacting with real objects and people, and I’m happy to support this.


  5. I could’t agree more with the comments that are here on this post. Young children (all children?) need hands on “real tools” to learn and play with. My own students took magnifying glasses outside to really check out what’s living and non-living in our school yard and to see the different types of things growing in our environment (gr 1 and gr 3 science curriculum). But… they also took the iPads with them ( the first time they used them this year) with a clear purpose to use them to capture and document their findings. Never did the iPads replace real hands-on learning, they helped document that hands-on learning so it could be talked about, and shared with others. I think what is troubling me most about this post is how the iPads were introduced to your students in the first place and that they would be used for something other than a tool for documenting (or creating/consolidating) learning. As an educator we can’t assume that our students understand how an iPad can be more than something to keep us entertained, particularly if that’s the only experience they have had with them. I get so tired of adults saying how great their kids are with technology because they know how to swipe an iPad or pick a favourite app. In our school setting technology’s purpose is to supplement and to enhance learning. If your children were not taught that very important difference then I can’t fault them for using the iPads in ways that were counter productive to why they are in your classroom. You are an extremely dedicated teacher, who knows your students best and I agree 100% that hands-on learning is key (heck I brought HANDS ON math manipulatives to the Apple office when I presented a full day workshop on using iPads for numeracy). I am just saddened to know that a tool that can be so transformational is being locked away in the cupboard.

    • And I also know that there are a multitude of opportunities that would benefit absolutely NOTHING from adding technology into the mix. My point isn’t if tech should or shouldn’t be used in a K classroom it’s more that I hope it will be brought out when it can help a student document or create/consolidate their learning. I have seen technology give my selective mute a voice, help a student learn to write, allow a student to feel more comfortable with where they were on their learning journey, capture student thinking when I wasn’t available to hear it first hand, etc… Just remember that as important as hands-on messy learning is, don’t dismiss the tool for the potential it still holds.

      • Thanks for your comments, Karen! Please don’t get me wrong. I always have my iPad with me, and I sit down often with the students to document learning (whether through videos, photographs, podcasts, text, or a combination of the above). At this point in the year though, and based on the needs of my students, I wonder if technology would really add to the learning or be a distraction from it. This is maybe where all of our learners are different. I may choose to use technology with some students at this point in the year, and wait until later for others. Please don’t get me wrong: the iPads won’t be locked away indefinitely. I went through some similar learning last year in Grade 1, and by the end of the year, all students were using technology (but to support learning). It takes time. Maybe sharing this kind of discussion with parents is beneficial too, as how students perceive technology doesn’t just happen through school, but also at home. Matthew Oldridge added an interesting parent perspective in the comments, which maybe makes the “why” behind the games a little bit clearer. I wonder what others think.

        Always appreciate your perspective, Karen!

  6. Ironic that I saw this post this morning, as I am getting ready for school. Today is my grade three class’ first time to use the iPad tub. We get one double period every six school days to share 5 iPads we don’t have wifi so are limited to apps that do not require Internet. The iPads don’t all have the same apps, nor do I have any control over the apps except to make suggestions to our numeracy coach and hope that she agrees and has time to install them. I plan to have the students use them in small groups to record some of their math learning about patterns and/or science learning about structures. I am apprehensive about this lesson. Last year I wanted to do a similar activity with our plants and soils unit (only had one opportunity to use the iPads near the end of the year)but just before the lesson the numeracy coach told a student of mine that she’d been working with that he could show the class all the cool math games she’d shown him. Of course he announced that to the class and my plans were shot. I will try my best to show the students the potential of the iPads to show their learning. I will reflect after the lesson and will make suggestions for new apps when I see what apps are actually on the iPads. I am cautiously optimistic, and will try more than once but if after a few lessons I don’t find the iPads are enhancing learning, I will think about giving up my time slot. It is interesting that several teachers opted not to sign up for the iPads at al. I overheard some commenting that they didn’t have time foe games and some commenting that they didn’t know how to use them, but didn’t engage in any real conversations about their choices. You are right, Aviva, to reflect and question, considering what is best for your students at this time. Your reflections also give rise to thoughts and questions about how these devices are used outside the school setting.

    • Thanks for your comment, Melva! I’d love to know how today’s lesson went, and if you think that you’ll continue with iPad Tub Time. I find it interesting that your school has an iPad tub instead of dividing the limited number of iPads up among the classrooms. I wonder if people would be more apt to use this technology if it was in their classrooms. Would they use it the same way (or differently)? You’re giving me even more to think about here.


  7. My 3 and 5 year old have, several times, taken an iPad and gone and hid in a closet to “play”.

    We limit iPad time, and dole it out sparingly. It’s hard. I feel a lot better about them doing things like Minecraft than watching cartoons (inactive, most of it is utter rubbish).

    It’s just that the addictive side of it scares me.

    The problem now is, when they get that reward, they just want to play Minion Rush (mindless endless runner swipe swipe game).

    Also Callum is hooked on watching Minecraft parody videos, and other peoples’ builds on YouTube. I might argue that’s better than watching Treehouse. But one video had a commercial ahead of it with a zombie, and he had nightmares. Oops.

    When I was building in a Minecraft environment on wifi with him was joyful, though.

    Dilemma: iPads are now “rewards”, and often just games. No idea how to do better at home. I am most definitely not anti-reasonable amount of screen time. It’s part of our world- but playing, Lego, being outside, imagination-that has to come first.

    • Thanks for sharing your parent perspective, Matthew! This is something that I haven’t experienced first hand, and I’d be very curious to hear what other parents think/feel too. How would your thoughts on using iPads in a school environment align (or not align) with your thoughts on using them at home? Should they also be used sparingly at school? Is there a place for games? When? How do we not make iPads just about rewards? Are there situations when rewards might be reasonable though? I’m not sure, but I’d be curious to know what people think about this complicated topic. I can also see the value of creating on the iPads (in Minecraft or other tools), but if students are just eager to choose mindless games, then should the tool be reconsidered? I’m still thinking about this one.


  8. Hi Aviva,
    I just came across this post and keeping saying “yes” over and over! We just took two big computers out of our kindergarten class because the students were not engaged with them other than playing “video” type games even after lots of redirections to more meaningful sites. We are now incorporating iPads into our class, however, I’m holding off on it for a bit…why because I want students to learn first how to think creatively without a prescription for how their play should look. I want to listen to their thinking and Sparks. How they can problem solve over a creative play vs screen time. I will be using the iPads for students documenting their own learning as well as for research purposes. I’m being carful of what apps go on the iPads as to not replace paper worksheets with tech! Thank you for your wonderful post.

    • Thanks for your comment, Maggie! I appreciate you sharing your experiences, and have had similar thoughts as well. I’m very curious to hear how you do end up using technology in the classroom and what benefits and drawbacks you see for students. Right now, my JK/SK students are just starting to take some photographs and record some videos of their work, but they’re definitely far more involved in face-to-face interactions versus technology time. I’m good with that, and even more so, I think that the students are benefitting.


  9. Thanks Aviva. I will post a comment once the students start exploring with the iPads. This is a new re-think for me this year!

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