The missing piece
Posted by lpearle on 8 January 2014
Just after my school went on Winter Break I headed off to my former school (easier to see everyone in one place!). They, like several schools I know, are struggling with the question of going 1:1 with some device, as well as the question of if they do, what device should it be? Since my school is nearly 1:1 (they did a slow phase-in, and by next year it’ll be 1:1 with iPads for all grades) some of my former colleagues asked my opinion and for my reaction to what I’m seeing now. Some of my answer was informed by serving on the Professional Development Committee and hearing departmental responses…
Here’s the thing: yes, using the iPad can be helpful. There are drawbacks, like thinking about privacy issues (do the apps track student use? what information is being collected and share without our knowledge?) and whether you’re being forced to change a text that works really well but isn’t available digitally for one that might not work as well but is available digitally, and how to distribute apps/resources to a large number of people. There are pluses, like lightening the load for students in terms of textbooks. Cost is another issue, especially if you’re asking parents to pay for an iPad when they’ve just bought a new laptop for their child, let alone replacement/upgrade costs. Etc.
I don’t need to cover all that here, because others have done it better earlier. For me, the biggest challenge, the biggest “missing” has been teacher training. It’s more than merely rethinking classroom management, keeping students engaged in class despite having a machine linking them to the world “outside”. It’s completely redoing your pedagogy and revamping lesson plans: how does this homework assignment look if we’re using digital resources in class? should the class “flip” and if so, how? what multimedia resources should be integrated to best make use of the new tool? It’s also about training teachers to help students use the new tool: if it’s an iPad, how are they taking notes (using a keyboard? with NotesPlus or Penultimate or ??)? how are they organizing their digital notebooks? how do they access your downloadables and do they really need to print them out? And finally, who is making the decisions, the tech people (deciding what they think will work best) or the teachers (which may mean more work for tech support, but would lead to better teacher experience).
The departments at school all have different approaches, with only one truly embracing the possibilities the iPad presents. Another department is using it, but the teachers are struggling with all of the above. Still another seems to be refusing to really use it, staying with “tried and true” for now. Training would help – having the teacher who really rocks a specific app or process work with those who can see some way to use it but don’t know how to get started. More than a mere introduction at the start of the year would help (Genius Hours for teachers, anyone?), and when a major application changes (as NotesPlus did just as school started) then PDO time is not just nice, it’s a necessity.
All too often I’ve seen this rollout done poorly: tech department, plus the administration, decides what device and which applications without teacher input. Teachers don’t get the training or time to effectively integrate the new tools into their curriculum, just a mandate that This Is The Way Things Will Be and are hesitant (or resentful). Students sense that the teachers haven’t fully embraced the tools and don’t try, either. Result? Failure.
I’m hoping that we can change and improve what’s going on at my school, and that my experience can help others heading down that road. Stay tuned as we move forward, finding the missing. And, as always, if you have thoughts and suggestions, the comments are open!