Monday, February 10, 2014

iPad Site Visit -- Students and teachers Sharing "What Works"

Twice a year, we host site visits for educators in other districts who are interested in the details of our iPad implementation the last few years.   Today we had the opportunity to share the point of view of students in the classroom, staff involved with implementation (the Information Services department, administrators, instructional tech, and librarian) and of teachers with visitors from other districts.

Part of the advantage of inviting these site visits is that not only do we make contact with other school districts, but we are able to see our own school in action.  Always most fascinating is hearing our student and teacher panels and hearing what comments students make informally during the classroom visits.

Today the group first visited Melissa Dupre's English IVAP class.

 Recently, the students have been reading novels in small groups, and collaboratively discussing their reading in Google Docs.  Visitors were invited to mingle with the students and ask them questions individually about their learning.

The visitors to the classroom were particularly interested in how student use has evolved over the last two or three years.   One student commented on the fact that his initial "playing" with the device has now turned into very purposeful educational use for classes.  Another student commented on the way she uses the tool to stay more organized.  Several mentioned using Google tools or eBackpack as efficient methods for doing their work. When asked about how they cope without a mouse, two students mentioned how innate that sort of touch technology was to them and demonstrated the ease with which they use it.  Students were also fans of doing their work paperlessly and suggested that future apps that allow side by side reading and note-taking would be helpful.  The visitors also saw a CTE Child development classroom, Latin classroom and AP statistics class all using the iPad as a normal part of their lessons.

Later in the morning we held a teacher panel where five teachers shared the impacts of 1:1 on their classrooms and how the iPad's technology has been helpful.  In general, teachers commented on the increase in students' "academic talk" in the hallways, in class during free time, etc. --  sharing the device to pore over details from their classes.   All of the teachers commented on the richness of experiences that students can have when they have access 24/7.   Additionally, they commented that the iPads afford students opportunities they might not otherwise have.  In line with Ruben Puentedara's SAMR model, they noted ways the technology can be used to perform tasks they previously could not conceive of doing.

For example, English teacher Lee Bergen shared the power of the Subtext app which allows for 'in-text' conversations, polls, questions, etc. in a collaborative reading climate.   AP History teacher Cathy Cluck shared how she has implemented iTunesU as a gathering place for all of her classroom materials for students.  And recently, she commented, that she realized how transformative a tool like Facetime was when she was able to bring students who were not physically in the building into her classroom so they could still participate.    Band director Kerry Taylor shared some of the transformative apps being used in the music department, like Tonal Energy, which allows students to hear the tone of an instrument, then play their own and try to match that tone, and also the ability to record themselves so they can hear the difference..   Apps like Coaches Eye allows athletics and band to direct and choreograph movements.   Environmental science teacher Bob Murphy uses Nearpod after instruction as a way to gather input from students by posing questions to them via the app and reviewing their responses.   Cathy Cluck reflected her openness to being a learner in her first experience using the Nearpod app--"I told my class we are all learning this together."  It's an important mindset  to see teachers and students as co-learners.

One of the things that the visitors were interested in is the process teachers worked through in their adoption of technology.   Teachers on the panel represented a variety of levels of adoption, but shared how much they rely on their subject area colleagues (either at their campus or contacts they have at other schools) for input into apps and instruction.   Spanish teacher Mari Albright shared an acronym she developed in concert with the World Languages teachers to represent the ways apps can be utilized in the study of foreign languages, from immersion to presentation to authentic immersion.  The model helps her in her own implementation of apps in her classroom.

There are structures within the campus that help support the implementation of 1:1 as well.   Lisa Johnson, instructional edtech, pointed out that common planning times help improve the ability for on campus staff to provide training and assistance to teachers in a timely fashion, for example.  This is an important consideration when planning any 1:1 implementation -- how will ongoing sorts of learning opportunities be enabled by manipulating the schedule so that there is more "teacher learning time?"

Overall, what came across most significantly in the classroom visit and teacher panel is that the willingness of educators and students to share their journey with others is important.  Not only do the teachers involved learn from and inspire one another, but on our campus, the instructional technology department and library also benefit from these sharing opportunities because it helps improve our intracampus collaboration.  One of the most powerful parts of this implementation has been a transformation of educators into learners--willing to learn from students and one another.  Because so many apps and practices are constantly emerging, (unlike the somewhat static set of software that most of us have used on our PCs for years), there is an invitation to keep experimenting and learning from students and from one another.

The takeaways from today:
Talk to students about their thoughts/processes/experiences
Create opportunities for teachers to learn with/share with one another
Create a climate where risk and experimentation are encouraged/allowed
Trust your staff as professionals
Visitors ask good questions--be open
Open up your school doors and be a part of the larger learning community
Seeing teachers and students blooming, growing, and experimenting is inspiring


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