- Emergency Preparedness Distance Learning - October 18, 2016
- Educational Renaissance: Veteran Teachers Vest in Change - October 10, 2016
- Breaking out of the Norm with Breakout Edu - April 29, 2016
- Mini Thought Bubble on Performance Assessments - April 12, 2016
- The Sensibilities of Mind Mapping - March 15, 2016
- Pioneering Nearpod - January 28, 2016
- Classroom Work Flow Before the Holidays - December 15, 2015
- Surviving the Doldrums of Education - December 1, 2015
- E-Sub Plans for Educators - November 17, 2015
- Presenting Missing Histories - November 2, 2015
I have two block classes left for the school year, and I'm wrapping up some successes and challenges in the 1:1 iPad classroom. I learned that I love some educational transformations resulting from that ubiquitous access for all students. No one at our school was left out of an experience or left behind. No students lost their school work or asked for a second copy of a handout. Any student who wanted paper copies or textbooks or some other technology could have it because it was their choice, not because they couldn't afford other options. Choice has been powerful as an instigator for students completing higher quality work.
I can't imagine teaching without cloud storage. Students hand their iPads in for the summer updates and instead of hurriedly shoving projects into dusty boxes in the back of classrooms, their collections of notes and projects are labeled, tagged and filed for easy access at anytime from any digital device. I learned to love that class time when students wonder aloud or ask challenging questions that spark spontaneous, competitive internet searches. I love when students ask to share a discovery with the class. Air Server allowed students to quickly project their own iPad screen to the class projector.
I don't love the addictive nature of the iPad. Students disengage from their surroundings to game. Teachers compete with constant chatting and texting unless they have management strategies honed for intervention. Whether intentional or not student inability to set aside games and messaging must be addressed with expediency. To meet the challenge of digital distractions I learned to have iPad face down time, on the desk in front of the student while other tasks are completed. I use workflow checklists to be marked when tasks are completed. I set timers and embed incentives like earning breaks after a task. I provide activities that require physical engagement and rely on routine uses of other sources of text.
I learned that there are some apps that I can not live without. Notability has been the utilitarian app of the year. It has helped students become adept at color coding and illustrating their notes. it allows for notes to embed audio. Notability has increased the value of notetaking. Students beg to be able to reference notes in writing, tests and presentations. It works seamlessly with Google Drive or our Haiku learning platform. I love how all three of these apps push students to share documents. I learned to enjoy making clunky videos with Explain Everything. The idea of presenting a thesis beyond a written essay is what appeals to me with this app. Students can draw or demonstrate or display images of their understanding of an idea. A thesis is no longer a two dimensional presentation limited to written expression. Use of Explain Everything is a work in progress for me but applications like it are already out on the market.
I am happy for the possibilities that returning to the 1:1 classroom will bring next fall. With only 2 weeks left of the school year I am already experimenting with spending time outside my comfort zone. It sounds cliche to say that teachers need to lose control. Instead I will say that next year, I will lose the controls I am used to by gaining powers only the digital world can afford. My techie husband begged me to pilot the Classcraft gaming platform which has some similarities to World of Warcraft. I play word games obsessively but I am not a gamer so all of the language and rules of engagement were alien to me. Classcraft was designed by a high school physics teacher, Shawn Young, of Quebec Canada, an hour north of the high school in which I teach. In an interview by Spark (CBC Radio), Shawn explained that he wanted students to be engaged and motivated to learn in his classroom with incentives and consequences that carried real meaning for them. He created a gaming platform to help him track student behaviors and actions in the classroom by assigning point values that correspond into virtual gaming points. The increase in gaming points corresponds to an increase in powers that each student's virtual, online avatar could possess. The characters are elaborately illustrated male and female warriors, mages or healers. Their power is displayed through an accumulation of XP points which translate into real classroom incentives like a 2 minute break or consequences like detention. I started the game by sending student emails with a chosen avatars and a team and then some students took over. While students eagerly discovered their avatars and signed in, two other students roamed the room explaining the rules. They became the instructors but relied upon me for providing meaningful connections. I guess that students only progress if they can demonstrate understanding of classroom content knowledge. They sincerely saw the history classroom as a reason for added value to their lives. They were motivated to return their textbooks, clean their lockers, work together on other tasks. I found myself completed lost and confused by this online game but suddenly in control of a large body of curious young minds.
Next fall will be exciting and new as we return to the 1:1 iPad classroom. I can not forsee what opportunities will arise with digital learning but the positive experiences outweigh the negative. Already I have a students who has expressed interest in earning community service credit as a classroom tech mentor. While some peers are still skeptical about iPad uses I feel that the differentiation and personal learning is at a level higher than I have seen in the past. To me, the iPad is a technology akin to owning a dishwasher. While I used to pride myself at washing each dish by hand, I now let my dishwasher take control while I spend more of my evening with my family. There's just no going back.
Spark, a production of CBC Radio. Hosted by Nora Young.