Posted in 21st Century Skills, iPads, Technology

New Devices, New Problems

Adding a device into the classroom is like Christmas for the students; there’s excitement, adventure, curiosity and ultimately distraction from the learning goal of the day.

I thought I had prepared for that. I thought I had our first days with the iPad well-planned, anticipating student reaction and guiding it. The reactions 30 young, eager, curious minds, however, can’t always be predicted. It’s a language class, so we began by reviewing and practicing iPad-related vocabulary in the target language. I want my students to be able to talk about their “tool” in the target language, to maintain that focus in the classroom. We then distributed the iPads and practiced using the iPad vocabulary in context: functions, placement, actions, etc. We then did our first assignment with the iPad.

Our first iPad assignment involved students videotaping themselves practicing a dialog. We had been working on the related vocabulary in class, adding the related skills, and were then practicing it all in context. Students were to record themselves. listen to themselves and edit or redo as necessary until they were proud of their final product. My hope was for students to upload their videos to their shared Google Drive folders  (a topic for another post). There was so much technical need during the period, that I decided to have them Airdrop their videos instead. Airdrop is fast and convenient for the students. A couple more steps for me, but easier for them. They loved it – too much!

Let’s talk about Airdrop and other technical difficulties. Deep breaths. 30 Students all asking for my help at once. It often doesn’t matter how many times you say and write the directions, there are so many questions students have! Problem solving, even in this generation, wasn’t one of the strengths this group had. My name was called from all directions of the classroom minute after minute. It wasn’t even because students had problems with how to film – experience with their phones made them fairly adept at this. Most issues revolved around not being able to login to Google Drive, hence the switch to Airdrop (before deploying the iPads, students had gone to their District assigned Google Drive accounts and set up shared folders for the class). The main issue was that students hadn’t logged into our District network, so of course the sharing wasn’t working. A number of iPads were defaulting the an incorrect network that kept logging them out of the District network. Logging in was part of the directions, but the thrill of the new “toy” distracted students from those directions. That meant I was caught going from student to student, from one side of the classroom to the other, “fixing”  issues that shouldn’t have been issues. In the meantime, students had discovered the “fun” of Airdrop and begun Airdropping Photo Booth pictures of themselves.

Did students get their assignment done? Did they enjoy this format? Have they asked to do it again? Yes. Yes to all of that. For me, however, it was an exhausting experience. After stepping back I could see that just because they are having fun, doesn’t mean the students aren’t learning. Even though they were Airdropping and using Photo Booth apart from the assignment, they were still learning how the device worked and sharing their knowledge with each other.

Maybe I’m too hard on myself. A part of myself thinks perhaps I should have gone the opposite direction and not planned anything and watched where students would take themselves.  Ultimately I still think that students need to be guided towards the appropriate doors. That’s part of their digital education. I believe we have an obligation to guide students through the digital craze. Planning is the key.  Anticipating student reaction and actions is also important.

Maybe my experience will help someone else in their journey into a 1:1 program. Maybe my continued experiences will also help.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, iPads, Shift

Hindering Collaboration

“We cannot waste another quarter century inviting or encouraging others to collaborate.” – DuFour

I love this quotation. I mean this in a positive way, but I really do love this. We’ve spent so much time speaking to the idea of collaboration, but have we really taken the dive into what this means and what can really be accomplished if we work together towards our goals?  There are, of course, arguable obstacles that we’ve often heard: scheduling, student contact hours, personality conflicts, etc. But what if we really put our goals first? What if we had administrative support, encouragement, and perhaps even directives behind those goals?

As the summer progresses I’m drawn closer into the launch of our District’s 1:1 iPad Pilot Program. My building has an enthusiastic group of teachers participating in the pilot, each with varying degrees of iPad experience. Additionally, we have an administrative representative who is deeply invested in the program; we have a 1:1 coordinator; we have our library specialist involved in the planning; and, we have our building tech coordinator to manage the apps and the equipment. The equipment will be arriving soon, but not delivered into the classroom until the 2nd quarter.  The structure is there. I’m thrilled to be part of this opportunity. Thrilled, but apprehensive at the same time.

I could say that I’m apprehensive because of the expected accountability.  That may come in time, but not now. I’m apprehensive because of the collaborative element.

I love collaborating with other teachers. While not the most active twitter collaborator, I’ve learned so much from my tweeps and am so thankful for these online resources. I love attending professional conferences. I nerd out at the thought of these. It stands to reason that I would be excited about collaborating on this project, but not necessarily so. I am one of a group of teachers who will need help and direction regarding this launch. The fear comes in because I’m aware that not everyone in this group “plays nicely” with everyone else.

The human factor. One of the largest barriers to collaboration.

We have people in our groups, people at various levels, that don’t get along. They don’t agree. They don’t work well together and don’t want to work with each other. Not only is that a problem in itself, it’s a problem for the rest of the group and the program in general. There are gaps and inconsistencies in the chain of communication and the flow of information. We are the pilot group. What happens with us sets the stage for the rollout over the years to come. If we can’t get it together, work together, problem-solve together, then what will happen to those that follow?

There are goals with this program. There is a group of people that need to meet these goals. We need to work through the successes and failures with congratulations and comfort. We need to be free of judgment within our group so that we can share, learn, and grow together. We are the example. We need to collaborate.

While I may have come close, hopefully I’m not crossing any lines in sharing this. My comments here are meant to encourage collaboration, to encourage going on even when others aren’t yet as willing. There are needs here, ones that have to be met if we are to succeed. Collaboration is requisite. Let’s not waste any more time.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, iPads, Shift, Technology

New Directions: 1st Steps in a 1:1 Program

I’ve taken a break for some time now, not writing in either of my blogs.  It’s time for that to change.

Things do not change; we change.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden (1970)

The school I am a part of is one of the SILT Strand schools, Schools of Innovative Learning Through Technology, in our District. Despite the unfortunate name, these schools have some great potential for 21st Century education, their goal most simple stated in the title: innovative learning, using technology. These school have finally taken a huge step forward – initiating a 1:1 program.

So, one might imagine that a strand of school charged with innovative learning through technology would have gone down this road earlier, but not necessarily. The more recent downturn in our national economy put us back a few steps. With things appearing to be improving, our District had many more urgencies to take care of first. Still, this direction was not lost and here we are!

Our journey is just beginning. First there needed to be the choice of platform. What kind of device will we use? Selfishly, I was thrilled not to have been in those discussions; they were difficult and fused with emotions. In the end, for many reasons, we went with iPads.  Being a member of the church of Apple, I was personally thrilled, though I saw many of the virtues of the other top choices. If you ever get the opportunity to go down this road, be prepared: this may be the most difficult part of your journey!

Today was the first of many trainings. So much material to cover! We went over everything from basic skills, to District devices vs. personal devices, to insurance, to parent and student responsibility agreements. There are so many factors to consider in this process! I’m just introducing the road this blog is now going down. I’m looking forward to sharing every bit of this one step at a time: the logistics, the apps, the device, the colleagues, the learning, the successes, the failures, and everything else.

I am thankful for all the others who have gone down this road before us and have been willing to share their own experiences. We have benefited from your efforts, I know. Hopefully, through what I share here, others may be gain from our experience as well. That’s one of the compliments a teacher can receive, right? Having others benefit and learn from your experience?