Thursday, February 16, 2012

How iPads have already made our school better (and most people don't even have one yet)

Our school officially announced our 1:1 iPad program for the 2012-2013 school year. We were covered in our local newspaper ( and this has generated some discussion.

As I have been very involved in our preparation I feel defensive about what we have done. I read some of the article comments and the negative ones really stick with me. I want to argue and explain why this is a good thing. A lot of the comments are about using electronic textbooks. I understand the allure of that. Other comments are about why a different device would be better.  I understand that also.

I think that many of these people are missing some of the best things about our using iPads and being a 1:1 school.

I want to share a list of some of benefits that I have seen.  What is particularly interesting about this list is that most teachers don't even have an iPad yet (maybe 5 out of 100) and our student population of 1700 is sharing only 200 iPads.  These are benefits that I have seen just as we are preparing to get iPads.

1. Collaboration among teachers - I have seen and participated in collaboration among teachers of the same class, teachers within the same department, teachers of the same grade level, and even teachers who have no connection other than they work here and are interested in doing new things. The amount of collaboration I am seeing is tremendously encouraging.  I have been teaching for 12 years and I have taught in several different schools from grades 6 to 12. Nowhere have I seen as much sharing and collaboration as I am experiencing this year.

2. Teachers teaching teachers - Teachers have been empowered to share what they know and how they are teaching with their colleagues.  Before this year, faculty in-service days had been "top-down" style. Someone would talk to us (oftentimes a consultant who had been hired to speak) and we would listen and then they would leave.  Now teachers are planning and leading the in-service days and we are learning from each other and gaining a new appreciation of the expertise of our own colleagues.

Also, teachers with varying levels of technology expertise are sharing. Some people are very tech savvy but even teachers who are new to these tools and techniques are willing to share their own successes.

3. New teaching styles - More teachers are moving away from lecture and worksheet based instruction. Even without having iPads for each student yet, this transformation is already happening.

4. New role for students, opportunity to teach teachers - Students are being given the opportunity to act as leaders within the classroom. Many teachers are looking to students to help problem-solve tech issues or suggest tech ideas and this gives them more ownership of their own learning. Hopefully this will continue in the classroom into areas outside of technology use.

5. Facilitating communication using new tools - Teachers and administrators are starting to use new ways to facilitate communication.  We are cutting down on the use of paper and increasing our use of tools like Discussion Forums and Google Forms to brainstorm ideas and provide feedback.

6. More collaboration with other schools - We have eagerly sought out other schools who are doing similar things as us.  Some of these are Catholic schools like our own but we have also benefited from discussions with colleagues at public schools. It feels like we are opening up and joining together in a common mission, rather than closing ranks and treating each other as competitors.

These are just some of the changes that I have already seen. The learning experiences of our students and the culture of our school is advancing rapidly. What is it going to look like next year? I don't know, but I'm very excited to find out.

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