Amazingly, we have come to the end of our fourth week of the 2016-2017 school year, a year that began with each student in our middle school building receiving an iPad as part of our 1:1 initiative. Excuse the excessively long first post.
With all due respect to the Wongs, I want to focus upon the events of the first weeks of school rather than the first days. Now coming up for air, I want to share some of my observations and reflections about the transition to a 1:1 environment.
1. Students Are Ready for It, Adults May Not Be
I have taught in a classroom that has been the home to a cart of iPads since the 2011 school year. Worries arose from “Will [insert student name here] forget his/her iPads at home?“, “What if students don’t charge their iPad?“, “Will students just be playing games on their iPads?”
Through 16 days of my 100 or so students having their iPads, I have had two students forget their iPad at home. Two. Not 20. Two. Set the expectation and treat it as an important piece of the learning environment and students will largely follow suit. I have had one student come to school with an iPad that was not charged. One. What about games? Sure, I have seen students playing games on their devices. I see them playing math and logic games between class periods. If a student doesn’t have a meaningful task to complete, can you blame them?
2.”iTunesU is Awesome. You Can’t Lose Anything.” ~8th Grade Student
There was a great debate between whether to utilize iTunesU or Google Classroom. Both offer certain features that are superior to the other. We are a GAFE school but also have many teachers who have a wealth of Apple Education experience. This summer, we decided to proceed with iTunesU to take advantage and fully embrace the Apple ecosystem. Several teachers have jumped right in, and students have offered positive feedback. While Google Classroom has some outstanding features and plug-ins, iTunesU offers a one-stop shop for housing student courses with little to no wait time lag. Teachers have also begun to house their clubs on iTunesU, offering instant push updates to students, a feature that many appreciate. In conversations with students, I had a belief that some may not like having most of their materials in a digital format, instead opting print. When a choice is given, it has been about 90% in terms of students opting to just utilize digital materials with an iTunesU course. But, again, the true power of the iPad lies in designing lessons that allow students to create, collaborate, and respond to real-life questions rather than annotating worksheets.
3. Please work, Apple Classroom
Our system is currently set up in Apple Classroom from data pulled from our SIS and managed by our MDM, JAMF. As a result, we do not have the power to manually create classes. Apple Classroom appears to have so many great features, but sadly, I am taunted by this screen each and every time I open the app.
4. More time! Go Formative as an Anticipatory Set
A bonus of students having their own devices and not having them pick them up from a cart each day and then return them at the end of class is having 3-4 extra minutes of class each day. I have used this additional time to add GoFormative activities to my opening and closing lessons, allowing students to share their prior knowledge with their peers and me as well as reflecting upon what they learned and/or how their views changed as a result of a lesson.
5. Nothing Replaces Relationships
We’ve all probably seen it. Technology is introduced to a classroom and the tech tool (laptop, tablet, iPod, etc.) is provided to students as a lesson delivery tool that completely cuts out daily communication with a teacher. This is simply the wrong way to go about integrating technology. Students needs daily interactions, guidance, and redirection. We can’t expect student learning experiences to be remade if we are simply relying on recorded Keynote presentations and self-grading quizzes. Can those things part of a classroom? Sure. But all of it? No way.
6. Embrace Emojis for Active Reading
On a whim (I would love to say that this was a well thought out plan), I decided to have students break down each part of a reading assignment using emojis. Specifically, each paragraph students read had a theme or a tone. They were to select one emoji that they personally thought did the best job of relaying this theme/tone. What was more important to me? Students were engaged and could not wait to share their verbal explanation defending their rationale of their theme or tone. What may have been a passive reading instantly morphed into one where students couldn’t wait to get to the next paragraph. Embrace emojis!
7. Technology + Physical Objects + Meaningful Task = Purposeful Engagement
This is not some new, earth-shattering idea. Do you remember learning about Jamestown and Salem? I can remember my 8th grade year and I honestly can not. I may have taken a quiz on the early colonies, but, what purpose or meaning did this have to me? Over the past week, students have been creating Stop Motion videos answering one of two questions presented from the DBQProject, using primary sources to explain a viewpoint of historical events. Looking around my class today, the level of engagement was extremely high. Not once did students need to be redirected to the task at hand. Using Stop Motion, along with physical objects like Legos, Play Doh, Toobs, pipe cleaners, and more, students were truly making history and offering their own story in the process. I can’t wait to share what some of my students came up with to share their interpretations in an upcoming post! Want to learn more about how to do this? Download my iBook, Interpreting Primary Sources with Stop Motion for free on iTunes.
8. Find Solutions
Were there frustrating times during the first few weeks of school? Absolutely. We have two choices as teachers: Find a solution when something doesn’t work or find an excuse. Although finding solutions may not be in our official job descriptions, in the end, we are here to do what is best for our students (or as a former boss would ask, “What’s best for the student?”) Are we serving our students by throwing up our hands when something doesn’t work and making an excuse? No. Model the behavior that you want your students to exude: a work ethic to find solutions to real world problems. You always have eyes on you as a teacher. What attitude are you portraying?