Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Year Two: Expanding the Vision

Year Two of our iPad implementation has begun!  The decision was made last spring to expand the program to all students grades 9-12, to add 1:1 iPads for eighth grade, and to additionally provide carts to our middle school and elementary students.  Each elementary school selected two grades who would have a stationary cart assigned to a classroom;  the other carts at the elementary schools are roving ones.

Students at the high school either received new iPads, or the iPads they had previously had last year.  (Again, students at the secondary level have the option to self-insure their iPads through a small payment, which reduces the cost of any needed repairs during the year.)  On the day ninth graders received their "long awaited" ipads, their excitement was infectious. Watching students explore and learn through "playing" reminds us how well students learn through experimentation and exploration, and they become their own best "teachers" about the new technology.    And since juniors and seniors mostly had iPads last year, they immediately(Day One) started settling into using their iPads instructionally, even more so than we expected.  But that's because teachers were also taking the lead, more confident in their use of the tool instructionally, and holding students to their expectations to use materials online.

We have added an array of apps to the offerings, finding some that are better suited to classroom use, or with expanded features.  Most notably, we have implemented eBackpack as a solution for students turning in work, DocAS for annotation and handling of PDF documents, and iFiles as well as apps that were heavily used last year.

A few lessons learned from last year's implementation:
1)  Covers--we realized the importance of covers that protected the corners and buttons better, since the iPads do spend a fair amount of time inside student backpacks.
2)  Teacher training--We offered extensive teacher training during the summer--iPad immersion workshops for teachers, a 3 day Apple workshop, as well as the iPadpalooza conference and some online training opportunities.
3)  Tech support remains critical-- the second year of a pilot is where it can really stumble.  It's important to keep up consistent levels of tech support help for students, and not presume our students new to using the iPad won't have the same needs as last year's did. 
4)  iPad rollout process--rolling out that many iPads requires a smooth process, and ours is still in transition.  Using online Google forms to track iPads is helpful, and having forms like "rental car" forms to indicate damage to previously owned iPads was also helpful.  But how to organize the distribution(whether classroom to classroom, or large scale) is still under consideration.

Second year observations

It's clear how our campus has transformed into a 1:1 environment since last year's rollout.  When students received their iPads, they have immediately started being used for instruction.  Teachers had sites like ebackpack up and running immediately, were doing projects involving the use of apps the first week(like the World Geography classes created blogs with the Zapd app), and students were clearly using iPads from the get-go as a learning tool.  E-books from the library are being sought out, PDF uses abound, and apps like Pulse are being used to bring the news to the students in English classes.

Training and support are still more critical.  We have added back instructional technology staff at each campus, and the expertise we have on board is really helping in terms of teacher support and creativity.   And teachers are taking off with using the iPads creatively at all grade levels, not just at the high school.
In terms of continuing ed, the high school is offering Lunch n Learn sessions, for sharing new software and apps, and iShare sessions, where teachers can share their best ideas and lessons with one another.  And in their Professional Learning communities, core area teachers are working on implementation as well.

In general, seeing the technology starting to "melt" into the background, however, means that it is becoming, as Science Leadership Academy principal Chris Lehmann describes it, "invisible and ubiquitous"--standard operating procedure, as it were.   All of which helps the campus pursue the goals of collaboration, communication, creativity, and citizenship more effectively.

We'll continue to share teacher insights, student comments, and initiatives here as we move into year two, because that makes this a learning opportunity for all of us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

iPadpalooza-Ed! So it begins...

Westlake, with the support of TCEA Region 13,  hosted our first annual "IPadpalooza" conference on June 19, and over 500 educators and students gathered to learn, explore, and play from one another.   You can find presenter materials on the iPadpalooza site as well as more photos of the day.

Presenters included both district staff from elementary to secondary as well as educators from around the state and the country.   While there is nothing like seeing a whole auditorium glowing with iPads, the focus was on the learning and how teachers are using iPads in the curriculum from English, to Special Education programs, to libraries, and to third grade classrooms.   We were thrilled that the energy was so positive and so much sharing went on.  Thanks to all the volunteers who made it possible as well!

A few images from the day!  Join us for IPadpalooza 2013 next June!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Come join us in a spirit of learning!

The agenda and speakers for iPadpalooza are shaping up!   Sessions cover subjects for K-12, and range from uses of iPads in math and science, special education apps, libraries and more.  Check out the video that Westlake Film Students created, inviting you to the spirit of the conference.  Hope to see many of you there.   Special thanks to video creators Kendall French Kazen and Sarah Vollman for creating the film and special thanks to Norman Greenbaum for permission to use his classic song for this promo.

Remember to sign up at

Friday, March 30, 2012

Call for proposals

In conjunction with TCEA, Westlake High School and Eanes ISD will be hosting the first iPadpalooza, a learning event centered around iPads, on June 19 at the high school.

The call for proposals has gone out:  sessions will be  45 minutes and  topics can range from presentations about apps to integration into lessons in specific subject areas, to maintaining an iPad cart or large scale program, etc.  Both student and faculty presenters and attendees are welcome. 

More information can be found on the website for the conference:   We look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

iPad pilot in the news

Since they were first issued, iPads have drawn the interest of schools curious about how using them in classrooms can benefit students and about what creative opportunities they offer.  As piloteers(can we coin that term?) an important piece of our pilot is sharing our results with other schools who are interested in their own iPad rollouts.   To help with that endeavor and to further our own understanding (and because we are thrilled with the results of our pilot thus far), several of us are sharing the work we've done thus far, both at conferences and in articles.

Upcoming conference presentations include:

If you are interested in reading our recent articles on the pilot, check out Carl Hooker's in TechEdge magazine, and Carolyn Foote's article in Internet @ Schools.

Also, look for more information about our upcoming summer training event/conference, iPadpalooza, taking place here at Westlake on June 19, and cosponsored by TCEA, which is going to be filled with exploration, collaboration, music, creativity and iPadalicious events.  We have just put out a call for proposals for the conference, and more information will be posted on the site soon!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The WIFI pilot in action: observations from a visitor

In January, Westlake hosted a group of visitors from surrounding school districts to view the iPad pilot in action, taking them to visit classrooms and meet with key staff members who handled the implementation of the pilot.

Lisa Johnson, an instructional technologist and iPad app expert, shares her impressions of the visit on her blog, including some interesting interviews with students and an inside look at the use of iPads in a variety of classrooms.

One of the most powerful moments she shared was a conversation with a student, who commented that having the iPad made them feel like the school trusted them to be responsible.   When we invite students as owners in their own learning and technology, they are very responsive to that.  It's something we've witnessed here as students in all types of classes become more responsible at managing their own organizational methods, learning and creating.

Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your impressions!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Board Presentation--Eanes WIFI Pilot

On Wednesday, January 25, a team of teachers, administrators and students presented results of the WIFI pilot to the EISD school board, sharing the results of individual experiences, surveys done, student and teacher focus groups and the work of the Westlake Vision committee.  Students Arnab Chatterjee and Steven Wilbanks even provided the school board with an example of Facetime at work.

More details will be forthcoming, but this video which was shared during the board meeting provides a portrait of the iPad pilot in progress.

WIFI Update from Westlake Chaps on Vimeo.

The Westlake committee has recommended to the board extending the pilot to 9th and 10th grade students at Westlake for the 2012-2013 school year, using previously allocated technology funding.  Details will be forthcoming!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Incorporating iPads into the Library

Using the iPads has become a natural part of day to day events in the library.  Students use their iPads, desktop computers and their personal devices all together to do research, homework, take notes, create projects and videos, etc.

But what about another library function--providing books?  We saw a real need to be able to offer a virtual e-book library that students could check out to their iPad and read, just like physical books, for those times the library wasn't accessible, was closed, or didn't have a print book available.

So the library has added two tools--Overdrive E-Library and Follett's Shelf (rolling out next week), which allow students to access online e-books and download them to their iPad for short term "check-out."  (We also offer reference books as e-books through our GALE database).

Overdrive runs over the library's webpage but is also an app for the iPad (Overdrive Media Console). It allows students to browse the e-book catalog, select a book, and download it. The book returns itself when due, thus eliminating overdue notices. Overdrive can also be used for audiobooks, and can work with Kindles and Nooks for any students using those devices.  Westbank Library and Austin Public Library use the app as well, so students now have access to a wide-range of books to "check out" to their iPads!

I introduced the app to senior English classes the last two weeks and the reception  has been very positive. It saves students from feeling like they need to buy books for leisure reading on the iPad and we can provide some required titles too. 

One student shares her reaction:

Of course the library still welcomes students to share their enthusiasm for books in the physical library, but this offers one more choice for them!

(As far as e-books in general, many other vendors are working on a variety of e-book models; for example, Ingram is designing a model where schools could "lease" class sets of a novel while the class is studying it, but it's not ready for "prime-time" yet. Many e-book products are evolving as is the pricing and contracts, but Overdrive functions like an annual subscription with an annual fee. Follett is rolling out an app for their Follett e-books that will work with our library catalog this week. If you are interested in e-books, an excellent source of information is the blog No Shelf Required and in this Mindshift article. I have also written about it extensively on