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.

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