Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some thoughts from last year...

As I start the iPad Blog for the 2014-2015 on a July evening, I thought it would be appropriate and informative to post observations made by RMS 8th Grade Learning Specialist Patti Dodds.  Looking forward to the school year ahead!

After completing the first ¾ of our first year of the 1:1 iPad initiative in 8th grade, I think it is an appropriate time for some reflection.  We have been asked by administrators, school board members, community members and, even, each other, how 1:1 technology can transform student learning.  
Here are some things I’ve learned:
1.     The 1:1 environment requires on-going learning, individually and collectively.  Students and teachers learning from each other promotes a culture of continuous learning that builds trust and relationships.

2.     Prior to having instant access to technology, the curriculum was largely limited to what the teacher presented.  It is not uncommon in the 8th grade for students to be researching on iPads and adding to the curriculum as it is being presented. Students should not be limited by what they can access through the prescribed curriculum.

3.     The 1:1 initiative has helped solve an equity issue at our school.  Prior to having iPads, it was challenging for some students to keep up academically and socially without access to the Internet. Web resources, textbooks, and novels are at students’ fingertips. Students who are unable to experience other parts of the world through travel can visit places virtually.

4.     Special education students, along with others who struggle with executive function skills and materials management, have benefited from the iPad’s organizational and accessibility tools. Textbooks, novels, worksheets, assignments and notes are kept safely in their devices.

5.     Students with reading problems can participate with their peers by using apps that read classroom novels to them.

6.     Students seem more engaged and interested in their learning with the increased connection to their teachers and peers. 

7.     We have gained instructional time.  Students no longer spend valuable minutes searching for “lost” homework or other materials.  Teachers do not have to play “detective” to find out whether or not a student has completed assignments.

8.     Students receive immediate (or almost immediate) feedback about their work from teachers.  The portability of the devices allows for anytime/anywhere learning.  It is not uncommon for me to be editing writing at night for one student and answering a homework question for another while watching a basketball game with my family.  Students are comfortable contacting teachers via email/text at night and on the weekends about homework.

9.     The iPads have helped create a culture of anytime/anywhere learning.
We continue to wrestle with questions such as how much freedom is appropriate for students?  Should students be allowed to play games during free time at school?  Should games even be allowed on school-owned iPads?  How can we become paperless school? Do we want to be one? 
No matter how much professional development and planning time we had prior to launching the 1:1 initiative, the real learning began once the iPads were in the hands of students and staff.  I look forward to continuing this journey next year!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Using iPads to Differentiate Instruction and Foster Collaboration

Today, during the English class that I co-teach with Mike Ivanoski, I was reminded of the power of the iPad.  We are just starting To Kill A Mockingbird and were reading the first chapters of the novel aloud in class.  At the start of class, six students volunteered to take notes on specific characters and themes during the reading of the novel by our guest lecturer, Jody Horan.  Some of the note takers chose to write with pencil and paper, others on their iPads.  At the end of the class, students shared their notes via Google Docs and I took pictures of the handwritten notes. Next, I posted all of the notes to our iTunes U course so that ALL students could access them when they fill out their study guides. 
Having access to iPads made it easy to differentiate today’s lesson.  Students who are capable of taking notes and listening to the novel at the same time were able to practice that skill. Their efforts supported peers who struggle to divide their attention between the two tasks as they were able to focus on the reading without the anxiety of trying to keep up with note taking. This was also an opportunity to reinforce the sense of community that we have tried to foster in our classroom. All students will have access to the character/theme notes via iTunes U as a resource when they fill out their individual study guides regardless of their abilities to take notes.
It is easy to take having the iPads for granted as they have become ingrained in the teaching and learning in 8th grade.  Today’s lesson reminded me, once again, of how learning can be transformed through thoughtful use of technology.

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