When Is It Time To Put The iPad Down?

For anyone who follows our class on Instagram or through our Documentation Blog, it’s clear that my teaching partner, Paula, and I record and share a lot. The iPad is almost always in my hands, and from snapping photographs to recording video snippets, it’s usually down to less than 10% battery by the end of the school day. Not only do we love that families can see their child in action and the class immersed in play, but the two of us love re-looking and re-listening to the video footage to see what we missed (or misinterpreted) in the moment. With both masks and a shield on each day, sounds are often muffled, and we learn a lot from our numerous video recordings. But this week, I chose to put my iPad down for a significant period of time, and I really liked what happened.

On Wednesday, I did some painting with one of our students. While I had my iPad with me, and certainly recorded numerous moments together, it wasn’t long before my hands, the back bench, and the wall were completely covered in paint.

Paint on an iPad screen is not a new experience for me …

… but I became so immersed in the painting process with this child that I decided to put my iPad down. And I became aware of something wonderful. With the technology down …

  1. I played more.
  2. I painted more.
  3. I watched and listened more.
  4. I lived in the moment more.

There’s nothing shared here that will be new for many other individuals who have worked through the problems of living life through a screen. I get it. Paula and I also try hard to connect with kids, even when we might be recording learning, which explains our shaky view on our classroom world. But on Wednesday, I realized that eye contact even behind a screen is different than eye contact without one.

I definitely don’t want to stop recording and sharing as we do, for our learning by rewatching the video footage each day and reflecting on comments shared by others, is huge! But I’m going to try to have a little time — even just for a couple of hours each week — where I put the iPad down. Where I get lost in the play. Maybe my reflections from these moments will make it into our nightly blog posts in a different way or maybe they’ll make it into our daily reflective conversations, but Wednesday showed me that they’re valuable. I don’t want to miss these kinds of valuable moments either. How do you decide when to record, when to observe, and when to get involved? As someone who almost always has a device in hand, letting one go is hard, but there’s something to be said for messy hands and a full heart.


8 thoughts on “When Is It Time To Put The iPad Down?

  1. Hi Aviva – I certainly do not have the same volume of documentation that you do! However, I feel like I have more than I can do justice to on many days. When you ask yourself those important questions – will what I learn in my unplugged & fully immersed encounters make it into discussions with my partner? & Will the experiences somehow be reflected to parents? I would say yes. These immersive engagements mark us, drive into our psyches and we are made full in these relationships. That ALWAYS comes up in discussions (provided we make the time for discussions) and often we will want to write about it. It may be our words (although sometimes what a student says is very, very memorable) and it may be our interpretation as an educator but the experience will usually be one that you feel compelled to share with others. About a month ago, I initiated a pirate imaginary role-play activity with mapping outside. I was a play partner with my students. It was truly memorable. No iPad. Instead I shared a narrative story with our families of the experience so that they could read, discuss and re-live the excitement. Last week, we had a snow wall building experience that was very emergent & child-driven. I alternated between being an outsider (standing as inconspicously apart as possible) to document using tech, and being an insider with tech in my pocket and fully engaged in the work with the students. How do I decide what my priority is – in each moment? That is hard to say. But I would much rather make a very deep connection, eye to eye (sans tech) to listen first and decide after that I would like the child to re-tell a second time for a video vs. start by recording. There is learning in the re-tell. When I say that their words are significant and I don’t want to forget them – there is value in that. With 22 (or more in other years) I will miss some moments. I explain to them early in the year why I am documenting and what that looks like. They understand I am not looking for posed photo opps (usually) & I want to capture their process. This helps, and they somewhat learn to ignore me when I wander with tech in hand. This year, I am probably missing more of the moments because I need to spend time sanitizing materials and reinforcing protocols. Perhaps that is why those “unplugged” moments feel even more precious and restorative to me (and maybe to students too)?

    • Thanks for your comment, Nadine! I love hearing about some of your unplugged experiences. I feel as though I could still “story” them and reflect on them with Paula, even if in a different way. I wonder if taking the time to capture some of these moments on another day through photographs and/or videos might also extend the learning for us as well as for the kids.

      I’ve tried in the past to listen first and encourage them to retell certain stories if I do want to capture them, but they always sound so different in the retell. Often what I was hoping to capture never quite makes it into the retell. Maybe there’s learning in this too, but it’s why I often tend to listen in and record simultaneously, and then choose if to follow up with a recording or not. Our kids have certainly learned to ignore the iPad now, and they know that we also tend to photograph the process versus the product. I do love this, but Wednesday’s experience makes me wonder if we sometimes change with the tech in hand even if the kids do not.

      This year has certainly been different for us as well, as we are really moving between moments with individual kids (in most cases), so they seem like shorter moments to connect. Maybe this is why I really love what happened on Wednesday, as I got some longer moments to connect. It makes me wonder how I can carve out more of these longer moments with other kids. Hmmm … Thanks for helping me reflect more!


      • Hi Aviva – I love professional dialogue! Agree – often the re-tell changes the story (but if we are aware of the changes we can certainly add original wording as we recall it – in some way). For me, the documentation that is staged can function more of as a memory aid so that it stays with me if I am worried the events of the day might cause me to forget. I also often just type in notes (using tech a few minutes after an encounter) that no-one but me could read LOL. Just to capture the essence so I can revisit at the end of day. Documentation is certainly a process & pedagogical documentation includes that reflective process both with students/other educators & where possible family. You continue to share valuable evidence/experience that helps the rest of us reconsider/rethink/REFLECT. Deep gratitude for your openness. Wishing you a week full of connections to fill your heart.

        • Thanks Nadine! This dialogue has been really valuable for me too. Maybe I need to come up with a way to record these stories that might not necessarily be captured through photographs and/or videos. Then they can still be revisited by Paula and I, as well as by kids and families. I love your Notes idea. This exchange makes me realize how important it is for all of us to share what we’re doing, and how much we can learn from each other. Another reason that I love β€œsocial sharing” … Have a great week too, Nadine, and thanks for the ideas!


  2. This happens to me most when I am documenting math. I get try to have the iPad remind me to be an observer only. But when I don’t have it I sometimes get really into the math! LOL And I never, ever remember to document art because I am always busy painting or drawing and chatting with kids while I share their paint.

    In my board, sharing documentation with parents has been restricted to using only one platform and it’s a platform with MANY problems. If I want to download everything and share it in individual emails I can, but I find that very dysregulating (makes me so annoyed!) I need to get better at this though because I know parents would like to see the photos and videos.

    Years ago I worked with a Student Work Success teacher who would come to my class for one week every month during math. She would do the pedagogical documentation – writing, videos and photos – while I taught. Then we’d go sit in a room and discuss what happened. It was the best PD I ever had. I need to figure out how to have that again.

    • Thanks Lisa for sharing about your experiences! After what happened on Wednesday, I’m thinking it might be a good thing at times to get lost in the learning. Reflecting can happen after the process, and by being so immersed in it, I’m guessing that you’ll have a lot to think about. Photographs and videos don’t necessarily make reflecting better, although I do wonder with videos, if they help us see what we might have misinterpreted or misremembered during the learning process.

      It’s interesting how you mentioned about your experience with the Student Work Success teacher. I’m wondering if the pedagogical documentation actually happened as a result of your team reflecting based on the photographs, videos, and notes. Is there a space in your room to set-up a webcam or even an iPad that records over a period of time? I wonder if watching some of the recording afterwards or even watching it with someone else (from a distance of course) and talking through observations might provide you with something similar to what you had before.

      As for the documentation sharing, that would be hard! While we do have our Documentation Blog (and use Twitter and Instagram in many cases), we also have student folders on OneDrive. Every day, from my iPad, I upload the photographs and videos into the individual student folders. We’ve shared these links with parents, so that they can view them without another email each time. They work well for the few kids that don’t have Photo Consent for social media options. The app is great too, and it doesn’t seem to take too long to upload everything. I know that you’re a Microsoft Board. If you can email photographs to parents, I’m just wondering if you could use OneDrive in this way. Hopefully you’re able to figure out something that’s not too onerous.

      Thanks for getting me to think some more on this topic, Lisa!

  3. I do occasionally make videos of me teaching. I remember having to set up a whole tripod and VHS recorder when I first started in 2000. It is so much easier now! I really value the conversation though. Maybe I need to find someone to be my partner and we can watch each other!

    Thanks for your ideas for sharing photos. I have been hanging on to the “I can’t do this the way I want!” thinking long enough I guess. I need to find another way.

    • Thanks for the reply again, Lisa! I hope that you can find this partner. Having the reflection time with Paula these past five years has been incredible. It really helps me to have a different perspective.

      I also hope that you can find a way to make sharing the documentation work. It’s hard when there are restrictions, but I do love to find work arounds. πŸ™‚ Good luck!


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