I received a really good question the other day about my blog and this roll out of the 1 to 1 iPad program at my school. The question was..."what educational philosophy are you following?". What a good question! Personally, I generally follow a constructivist approach to education, but I also believe that there is no single "right way" to do anything. When I first decided to push my school to implement an iPad 1 to 1 program, I based my arguments and reasonings on constructivism, but I also used my belief in the Universal Design for Learning, although I didn't know that term at the time.
I have always believed that students should be given information in a variety of ways and allowed to experience learning in a variety of ways and of course, express their learning in a variety of ways. Since everyone is different, it seems silly to force people to follow a single way of teaching and learning. (You can imagine my opinion on standardized tests) From this perspective, supplying each educator and each student with a device that has a variety of capabilities just makes sense. Using the iPad, students can handwrite to fill out papers, type documents, create a variety of presentations, write stories, create videos, collaborate with each other and the list goes on. No single device can do everything, but as much as possible we should provide tools that are as multi-faceted as we can.
I went to a workshop on Universal Design for Learning during the ISTE 2012 conference in San Diego. This was one of the best workshops I have gone to in a long time for a couple of reasons. First, since it's my job to keep up to date and study technology in the classroom, I don't usually get a lot of new information in a single session at a conference. This session, however, was chalk full of wonderful information. Second, the presenter didn't use a lot of 5 and 6 syllable words, she kept it simple and to the point. She took the thoughts I have been having and presented them in a succinct and understandable way.
I was told to take a spreadsheet and fill in the first column with the concept goals of the course. In the second column, place the variety of ways a students can discover the information needed to learn that concept. i.e. links to videos, informational websites, text books etc.... In the third column list the variety of ways the students can show they have learned the class concepts. i.e. discussion with educator, create a movie, write a paper, create a comic, create a VoiceThread etc.... Finally, the fourth column is for educator notes. How simple...how logical...and how amazing! I realized right away this is where I was heading and now I had other people that thought the same way and there's even research to back me up!
I used this information as a basis for all of the professional development I provided to my staff over the summer and I will continue to use it as a justification for the expansion of the program. The educators I have worked with through this process have done a wonderful job and have opened their minds to the possibilities. I have faith that we are on the right path to creating a true modern learning environment. Not just in the technology we use, but HOW we use it. HOW we allow educators to provide vital digital learning experiences for our students and HOW we non classroom staff in order to support this version of education.
More information about the Universal Design for Learning can be found at cast.org and udlcenter.org
If you have stories on how you have implemented iPads in your classroom or how you are creating modern learning environments, I'd love to hear them. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org