Saturday, July 28, 2012

The iPad Adventure: the Beginning

The iPad Adventure

Everywhere you look you see an iPad, iPod, iPhone or iSomething.  If you don't see the iDevice, you see the Droid, Samsung, Nook or some other mobile device.  Wether we like it or not, mobile devices are in our lives and in our schools (for the record, I love my iDevices).  Our children can't seem to put them down and many of our educators are afraid the world will explode if they turn it on.  Where does this leave the schools?  Who wins this generational battle?  I'll give you one guess...

It seems that everywhere you look, you see a school advertising that every student will be given an iPad or some other mobile device to be used in teaching and learning.  That sounds great on the surface (as so many advertisements do), but I find myself asking how?  How are you going to implement your devices?  How are you going to train your teachers?  How are you going to help educators use their mobile devices to their full potential?  How will you allow the students to fully participate and lead their own learning with these devices?

To answer this question I started talking to other technology leaders from other schools, both within Arizona and across the country.  What I found left me excited, a little intimidated and unimpressed all at the same time.  Some schools took a very cautious approach by testing iPads with administrators and maybe a few teachers with the intent of implementing slowly and carefully.  Although this sounds good on the surface, if they are taking a year or two to implement technology, they are never going to have current technology tools.  On the other hand, there were schools that just purchased the iPads and handed them out with little or no Professional Development for staff or students.  This way is much easier than the first, and it ensures that technology is getting into the hands of the students, but is this really the way we should implement technology in the schools?  In this model, your best hope for success (success being that every student has access to modern teaching and learning tools) is that every educator is excited to bring new technologies into the classroom and takes the time to learn, explore and implement.  Anyone know any schools like that?  If so, are they hiring?

This blog will catalog my journey in helping my school implement an effective 1 to 1 iPad program.    We are a small independent school in Arizona, but we are chalk full of fun ideas and we have a technology leader that loves to see what we can do with our technology (yes.... I'm talking about myself).  This journey started when I was talking to the Middle School division director (principal) and suggest that we bite the bullet and purchase an iPad for every new 5th grader in the upcoming school year instead of purchasing another cart of laptops.  The educators seemed willing so we moved forward with the project.  We have several benefits to implementing a project like this.  First - we are small.  Our maximum grade size for a middle school grade is 40 and they are broken into two groups so the individual class size limit is 20 students to one educator.  Second - I am working with an administrator who cares and believes children have the right to a modern and developmentally appropriate education that includes working with a variety of technology tools.  The down side is that, since we are a small school, I wear many hats and am a very busy man so my availability to help my educators is fairly limited.  We must also prove the viability of what we are doing to our board of directors and most importantly our finance committee.  Our funding is completely tuition based, and in order to receive funding for modern technology tools, I need to be able to provide evidence that the tools are important and help our students learn to their potential.

Ok, enough hub bub.  This is what I'm going to do.  First, I'm going to train the bejeebers out of my 5th grade educators.  (I enjoy making up words)  I have met with this team of 5 educators 4 times to discuss the more granular things educators worry about.  "What if the child won't stop goofing off with them...", "What if they forget to charge it...." etc. etc. etc.  I felt it was best to allow my people to get their trepidations out of the way early so we can make the most of our large chunk of professional development time.  I also gave each of them an iPad back in March to give them a few months of time to experiment and ask questions.  Now the real work begins.  Starting Monday July 30, I will work with this team for 4 full days.  My goals are simple. Make sure my staff are comfortable with the iPads, Apple TV's, and anything else they may use in the upcoming school year.  They will explore apps, experience using Google Apps and their digital grade books through the iPad interface and they will experience some of the weaknesses of the iPad such as printing and file sharing.

I will dictate some device settings such as Google Drive and Dropbox.  Other items such as student digital journals and organizers are up for discussion.  Rules and regulations may be changed during this time and a list of student apps will be created.  I only have one rule.  Whatever we put on the iPads must engage the students.  This is not a new tool that allows us to repeat the past on a new screen.  This is an opportunity to look at how we teach our students and ask ourselves..."Are we providing our students with the best learning environment we are capable of?"

Over the course of the next week I will write daily about my experiences with my staff.  I'll express my excitement and my fear.  I'll use this medium to process my thoughts and share my experiences. I hope you can learning something from what I'm doing.

Back to my original question.  Who wins this generational battle?  If we do it right, we all do.

Next stop....PD Day 1!

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