There is no question that our 1:1 iPad Program is making a significant difference to the learning experiences occurring in our classrooms.
Change is everywhere. It is change enabled by simplicity. iPads are brilliantly simple and are at the same time powerful. This has made technology accessible to both students and teachers.
One of the biggest shifts in our school has been the shift by teachers. This has happened rapidly. It has been a shift that we have hoped to achieve for a long time. We have evolved like many schools through desktops, laptops and interactive boards, but the iPad has impacted most significantly.
Confidence: iPads have taken away the fear factor. Teachers who have lacked confidence in using other technologies seem empowered. Many had iPhones so the jump to iPad was easy. The best thing is that they are starting to take risks. Challenging themselves to do things differently. Here I must observe iPads aren’t perfect while they are simple there is considerable complexity. Issues around interaction between apps and sharing of data / information can add obstacles and difficulty. All apps are different and involve a learning curve,
Teacher Development: Further, this impetus has added power to our drive toward technology in our Professional Development Program – we are able to see a much bigger “bang for our buck”. We have an excellent external professional development provider with strong experiences of iPad programs to draw on. This is crucial to enabling the school to push confidently into new territory.
Mentoring: The other driving force is that we have a technically strong and influential younger cohort of teachers. They are happy to provide support to less technically capable teachers. This is such a healthy thing in developing a learning culture amongst teachers. Young teachers can and should be active in the discussion. They have the skills and vision which can help to drive the change that is needed.
Technical Support and Enablement
Provision of a Technology Coordinator: In our own experience having a teacher continuously available to assist, advise, arrange, support, respond has made the effective roll out possible. The role encompasses management of the technical and pedagogical aspects of the 1:1 iPad program.
External Support: Additional backup support / advice is provided via a two external resources. Apple is also supportive providing an Educational Consultant, expert help and Apple Stores. These support services are also essential enablers. The easy support from the Apple store is invaluable. If a device doesn’t work it is swapped without fuss. Here, I must add, that failure of iPads has been very rare. They have been extremely reliable and robust.
In the Classrooms – The Students
Management: it is really important to establish a code of conduct / behaviour around student use of iPads. In our school we produced a contract which outlined clearly student responsibilities and behaviours. Both students and parents were required to read and sign. In our circumstance the school owns the iPads so we have full control. In a BYOD type roll out this could also be managed, but the ownership by students / families adds a different dimension.
Engagement: This is the most obvious by product of iPads in classrooms. As soon as iPads are in the students hands they are involved and engaged. This is a brilliant aspect and I am constantly impressed by students intuitive use of devices. They are excited to participate and eager to produce, to express, to explore, to create. There can be a flip side, teachers need to be clear about when students should engage with iPads.
Powerful Transformative Learning: Ideas around Workflow, SAMR and TPCK can become a reality in a 1:1 iPad program. I am certainly seeing a host of different apps in play across classrooms. We have not attempted to be proscriptive. Allowing freedom of choice amongst teachers has opened possibilities and teachers are also offering students options which expand the learning opportunities and differentiate. We invested heavily in apps once VPP became available. We tried to tailor apps to class needs, however certain apps became staple across most grades e.g. All the Apple apps iMovie, Pages, Keynote, Numbers etc, also Book Creator, Creative Book Builder, Edmodo, Explain Everything, Puppet Pals, Visualise etc. While we purchased other subject specific apps these were seen as key open ended enablers.
The capability of delivering content quickly through iTunes U, Edmodo, Showbie etc is enabling possibilities and brings into play ideas like flipping learning. Seeing teachers emerging to use class blogs or arranging Skype links with classes in other countries and bringing experts virtually into the classroom are possible and are happening.
When I visit classrooms I see all spectrums of the SAMR Model in action in classrooms. I see movies being made to record learning, I see mind maps being formed, I see students highlighting and summarising, writing, creating ebooks and posters. The possibilities seem endless. It is exciting to see such great moments involving innovation, interaction and collaboration, great moments of engaged deep learning.
Learning Spaces: The way that classrooms are working is changing. Escaping from traditional classrooms to more versatile spaces is another great byproduct of the iPad Program. Students are moving more actively, grouping, sitting, playing, interacting, recording. Traditional classrooms just don’t cut it. I often enter classrooms to see children on floors or sitting in pairs or clusters or just moving and doing and sometimes, too, I see students in traditional formations. What is clear is that spaces need to be able to accommodate anything. We are starting to think about how we can achieve this using existing structures, by adapting furniture, creating movable walls, using glass to open the environment.
Curriculum: The new National Curriculum (Australia) also carries demands regarding technology and as we start to engage with this we are programming to integrate technology like never before. The other sense that I have is that iPads while being powerful enablers will be a part of a tool kit of technology. The students will need to be fluid in their use of technology. We need to be able to provide tools for coding, data, gaming which the iPad my not be able to fulfil completely. We will need to provide students with many opportunities, choices and experiences to enable them.
Here are a couple of short pieces of video of students in action they highlight the collaborative nature of some work and the way space is being used as a result.
One of the great assets which schools sometimes underutilizes are parents. Parents can be powerful allies. In our own situation the school is owned by the parent community so their buy in to initiatives is crucial. Part of our development program re technology is targeted at parents via hands on workshops. We are also trying to tap in and leverage experience and expertise of the parent body to help to recognise possibilities and help to drive change. These are smart people with life and business experience. Their vision has helped to shape the iPad program and will help to evolve the vision going forward.
With many possibilities on the horizon e.g. Google Glass and other device innovations, virtual environments and changing pedagogy the school of today needs to be adaptive and fluid. We can’t rely on old ideas because they will let the students and their families down. We are definitely aspiring to be, and need to be, a school of tomorrow.