Action Research– Technology Tools for the 1st Grade Classroom with Limited Resources

*Editing– On the video, the class should actually be EDET 636

What are best practices for integrating technology to meet State Standards for 1st grade reading/writing with limited resources?

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.  No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”  ~Elbert Hubbard

Problem Statement and Context

            The ideal classroom would be for every student to be equipped with the most cutting edge technology and everyone had experience using said devices.  But honestly, what is the reality of that happening?  Schools generally have thread-bare budgets.  Lucky classes that are equipped with the newest tech are usually considered “set” for the next few years, and the hardware becomes too quickly obsolete.  Teachers are not only facilitators for 21st century learners.  Sometimes, they must be “survival artists” of technology.  Without the resources or putting a huge dent in her own wallet, what is a teacher to do?

This action research took a look into suggested solutions and attempted to put them into application.  This was not a well-rounded study, as my focus group was limited to two students.  However, the devices can still be utilized in a larger group setting, and this was a good opportunity for some trial and error.  Technology can be tricky—it is fantastic when it works, and but can be disastrous when things aren’t working right.

Literature Review

Suggested hardware.  The purchasing of hardware requires planning and available funds.  But what can a teacher effectively get by with on a limited budget?  Inmon and Vitale (2006) call the modern iPod the “Swiss Army Knife of electronics.”  They offer suggestions in how to utilize these devices to focus on fluency in literacy.  Motivation is created because of the excitement and interest in using such devices in class.  These devices can also be used to approach learning from a multi-sensory angle.  They utilize: video; digital photography; and interactive boards.  Students were able to create their own books.  With proper instruction and support, students showed promising results.  The devices were also an excellent tool for independent practice.

In his article, Limperis (2011) offers a tutorial in how to turn a standard television into a classroom projector for the computer.  He also suggests low-cost solutions, such as using cellphones for digital cameras.  The idea is to use devices that might already be readily available.

Wasson (2012) also emphasizes that digital cameras are considered an absolute must within the classroom.  She also expounds upon how tablets offer a portable device for the teacher in assessing the students.

Software tools.  Choosing the right software can really make a huge difference in differential learning within the classroom setting.  In her article, Hertz (2010) offered some wonderful suggestions on how to accommodate for limited resources in the classroom.  With one computer in the classroom, she suggests how to best utilize it with software at a workstation—creating a class wiki or website but utilizing Wikispaces; Weebly; Google Sites; or other free websites such as Wetpaint.  Students can create audio books by using programs such as Audacity.  She also suggests that student collaborate o n writing a story, using programs such as Google Docs or TypeWithMe.  Students write a portion of the story, then rotate to another author.  She also suggest student blogging with teacher monitored sites such as Edublogs and Kidblogs.  Voicethread is also offered as a collaborative site for peer sharing and interaction.  Students can also use the computer station to create screencasts.

Limperis (2011) recommended sites for story boarding are: Glogster; Preszi; ToonDoon; Pixton; Go Animate; and ZimmerTwins.  He also expounds upon the usefulness of a professional learning network by way of Diigo.

According to Wasson (2012) The advancements in cellphone technology would allow the students access to collaborative sites such as Classdojo and Edmodo.  A single computer could be used for: Airplay; whole-class WebQuests; as a work center; a class wiki and blogging group; and creating a screencast for instruction on independent learning.

Philosophy.  Clark (2013) spoke of how students generally aren’t allowed to make connections within the classroom like they do with social media.  She recommends that this philosophy be embraced.  By making time for more student collaborative efforts, we can elicit more creativity.  Suggestions for making this happen are: working together with another class online; creating cross-classroom books; students blogs; skyping other classrooms and guest speakers; global read alouds; Tweeting sessions with other classes, authors, and scientists; and learning what is happening within networks.



For this particular venue, the research took place in a small private school in Southeast Alaska.  It is small enough to be labeled as a rural community, but often considered a city.  The demographics of the people of this area are varied averaging mostly in the lower-middle class category.

My focus group only contained two students who make up the entire 1st grade class in a multi-grade classroom.  And even though there were only two of them, they were rather diverse in their demographics, learning styles, and academic abilities.  One student was in school on a financial assistance scholarship, while the other student was fully-covered by her family’s income.  One student had high anxiety in any situation that could possibly exude competition, while the other was very easy going and relished a challenge.  One was confident in her ability, while the other would fixate the tiniest error.  One was willing to explore while the other wished to be guided.  One is a native English speaker while the other is an “English as a Second Language” student.  Even though this was a very small group, it was a good testing group for introducing new technology and a great opportunity to work with the teacher in using the tools to increase the students’ learning ability.


Much of this action research centered around a new iPad that was introduced to the classroom.  However, it would be necessary to introduce other devices to make the most efficient use of current resources available.  During this juncture, we had the opportunity of utilizing the following: iPad, iPod, Audio book, Kindle Fire, CD player, and a pocket projector.  I also administered a reading placement assessment at the beginning to determine where my students were in their ability and hoping for a positive trend (appendix A).  There was a classroom computer available.  However, due to some rewiring of the internet and phone system, the computer was disconnected from the internet.  That would be one item that would need to be remedied in order to be more efficient with the incorporation of these tools.


Because this kind of educational technology is so relatively new, this kind of research would need to be a “living entity.”  An idea will either work, or it will not.  If it is successful, then further utilization and expansion would be recommended.  However, if something is not working, it’s best to quickly assess what is affecting it, and either modify the plan or move on to something else.

Also, this is a 1st grade classroom.  These students are still learning how to “be in school.”  Many of the initial lessons with new hardware are going to be introductory user basics.  The students will need to be taught, as well as modeled, in the correct usage of the devices and how to best care for them—especially if the teacher is trying to make them last as long as possible.  Some students have a greater ease with technology than others, but understanding should never be assumed.


            This is a “borrowed” classroom.  And while I am familiar with these students, I don’t know them as well as their teacher.  Therefore, the teacher was an invaluable resource to my research.  I initially followed along with her desired concept of learning, which resulted in her opening my eyes to the world of iPad apps.

I worked with the students during their rotation time, which was a help to the teacher who could trust that I was guiding the students through desired lessons while she worked with the other grades in her class.  I started out with an assessment the student’s reading levels, since I wanted to see the effect technology had on increasing their reading.

We then moved on to assembling the CD player and headphones at the listening station.  The teacher asked that I cover this with the students, since she was already receiving interruptions from the 1st grade students for simple problems while she was trying to focus with the kindergarten classes.  We first took the entire system apart and reassembled it together.  Eventually I have the students close their eyes and I would turn off or unplug one element and have the students trouble shoot the trouble.  Their goal: make it possible for me to hear the book on tape in my headphones.

Next we went on to learn together how to utilize the iPad.  We watched read alouds; played word games; created comics; cooperating in writing stories; and practiced spelling words.  The incorporation of the pocket projector changed the reception of the iPad apps.


Most of this data is analyzed by way of inductive analysis, as observation, teacher anecdotal notes, and teacher interviews make up a majority of information.  The assessment that I took at the beginning of my research is the only piece of descriptive statistics that I have.  When doing introductory work with 1st graders, it is difficult to gain statistically measureable information.

Reading placement assessment.  The assessment did show some signs of improvement within the three week period.  The student who was confident scored 21 out of 25, placing her in the upper regions of 1st grade reading level.  After the three week period, a retest put her at a slight increase of 23 out of 25.  The less confident student initially scored 3 out of 25, placing her at a kindergarten level.  After the three week period, she also increased to 6 out of 25.

However, beyond the descriptive statistics was in interesting discovery.  The less confident student, let’s call her “K,” was the one who showed test anxiety.  She fixed on her inability to read one word on the very first question.  I assured her that this test was not graded; it was just information for me.  However, she collapsed into a fit of tears and she refused to continue on with the test.  Seeing my difficulty, the teacher sat took her out in the hallway for a calm chat.  I conducted another assessment with the other student using the Kindle Fire to get an idea of learning style; giving time for the other student to get in the zone.  It wasn’t until the teacher offered her iPod to the student, with headphones and music set at a low level, that the student proceeded with the test.  She left a majority of the test blank, but she felt that was completed and she was no longer in tears.

At the end of the three weeks, when it was time to retest, I had learned my lesson.  I had the students hook my iPod up to the headphones of the listening station and played low volume, wordless music while they took their assessment tests.  It eliminated any competition they felt from each other and isolated them so that they could focus on their task at hand.  This time, there were absolutely no tears from K.  She may have only guessed on all of the answers, only circling the first option of each choice, but she completed the test—and I call that a success!

Listening station assembly.  The students really rallied around this activity.  Based on interviews, it gave them a sense of empowerment.  They were responsible for something in the class and knew how to fix it.  It was interesting to see the different attitudes that emerged out of this.  One student was eager to try new things and explore the hardware.  The other student, when it wasn’t immediately apparent what was wrong would turn to me and say, “It’s broken.  Will you fix it?”  We had to step away from the idea that just because something wasn’t working, it didn’t mean that it was broken.  And also, they had the power to assess the tech and fix the problem themselves.  After a few sessions of finding the problem, these girls were very proficient at assembling the listening center.

iPad introduction.  The iPad had finally arrived to class, and the students were very eager to get their hands on it.  However, this was the teacher’s personal iPad, purchased with her own money, and there was only one.  Therefore, the students needed to learn how to careful with the hardware and how to use it collaboratively.  They seemed to grasp the basic concepts easily enough.  By the end of our sessions, they were able to locate the volume and return to the main iPad screen.  The teacher had sorted out apps into buckets.  The students were able to find the apps that were meant for them and learned to explore in a collaborative manner.  However, it was a bit difficult to crowd around one device.

iPad with projector.  The projector made quite a difference!  The student suddenly didn’t have to crowd each other in order to see.  When we took pictures they had a fantastic time seeing themselves and what was going on.  We were able to make writing on the iPad interactive by having the students find the letters on the giant keyboard and spelling out loud.


As previously stated, the idea of this kind of action research involving the incorporation of technology devices needs to be a living entity—some things will work while others will not.  If it isn’t a right fit, then the teacher should review why and move on to something else.  However, we shouldn’t allow failure to drive us away from something that is potentially good either.  It’s a brave new world out there, and the students will most likely be the ones to set us on the right path.

At this time, the idea itself of using technology for school activities carries a lot of motivation.  However, they day will come when that’s not the case.  The use of technology tools will be the norm, and possibly less engaging.  Again, this is something to be aware of and prepared for rather than to be feared.

Purchasing hardware can be expensive.  And it is especially difficult to allow student usage when the purchase comes from the teacher’s own pocket.  However, the best thing to do is to look around and see what is already available.  There are number of “Do it yourself” tutorials emerging that demonstrate how to get the most out of old tech that’s lying around.

And being sure to teach and model for the student how to properly use the tech with extend its lifetime.  Students are capable of rising to the trust and expectations that a teacher puts in them.  It may be a slow process at first, requiring monitoring.  But eventually the students will be capable of more responsibilities and delegation.

Action Plan and Conclusion

            With the positive trend and excitement of the students as evidence, I encouraged the teacher to continue what she was doing with her students.  They will benefit from the game-based learning available from the iPad apps, and they expressed a mature responsibility when it came to assembling the listening center.  The teacher is also already very astute in her acquisition of apps, so this is also very encouraging.

As far as technology requisition, the teacher has since then put out a donation wish list for the classroom.  Some parents have already donated money towards the acquiring to educational apps.  An iBook is on its way to the classroom and a pocket projector is available whenever the teacher needs it.  Hopefully this will bring along further positive trends in learning.

There is so much available in the world of technology, but it can be very overwhelming to decide what to go with, especially on a limited budget.  It is important for the teacher to network and utilize her PLN so she can get the most effective equipment on a limited budget.  Also going through an evaluating process to determine the best fit to her classroom is going to be essential.  And finally, not being afraid to try something new would be necessary.  The vastness of technology may be overwhelming, but it is the user that is in control.


Clark, H. (2013). How to redefine your classroom by connecting students. Accessed at

Hertz, M.B. (2010). Integrated technology with limited resources.

Inmon, T. & Vitale, N. (2006). Digital media devices and their effects on student literacy in primary grades. Reading placement test. Accessed at

Kegl, K. (2013) a personal communication on Oct. 16, 2013

Limperis, G. (2011). Integrating technology on a limited budget with little support.

MontessoriTech LLC. (2011). Compound words montessori. (1.1). [iPad]. Retrieved from iTunes store.

Photoinpress. (2013). Friendstrip kids. (1.0.4). [iPad]. Retrieved from iTunes store.

ToyTalk Ince. (2013). Winston show. (1.4). [iPad]. Retrieved from iTunes store.

Wasson, E. (2012). Integrated technology in a classroom with limited resources.

Walsall Academy. (2013). Too noisy. (1.7) [iPad]. Retrieved from iTunes store

Yuan Changbo. (2013). Texts on pictures. (2.0). [iPad]. Retreived from iTunes store.

Appendix A

Download reading placement assessment test from

Appendix B

Research concept map


1 Comment

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One response to “Action Research– Technology Tools for the 1st Grade Classroom with Limited Resources

  1. Wonderful Tiffany, and so well written. You demonstrated very well that you got to know the students and that you looked at the manner in which the technology benefitted them both through their attitudes about school (and testing) as well as in their academic work. I think this is a useful study – and the idea that we must continue to risk, realizing we never really arrive at our destination is a 21st Century Skill I’d say you have mastered! Thank you for the great read!

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