Sunday, June 24, 2012

1:1 iPads and Digital Learning in Belton ISD

Image Source
On Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, I attended iPadpalooza at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. This conference about all things iPad in education was co-sponsored by Eanes ISD and TCEA.

The first session I attended at iPadpalooza was presented by Instructional Technology Coordinators Terice Schneider and Vicki Ventura of Belton Independent School District. They gave an overview of how Belton began experimenting with BYOD and small 1:1 implementations over the past two years, culminating in opening a brand new middle school (grades 6-8) with 1:1 iPads for students in the 2011-2012 school year. Belton ISD is very generous to share information about their innovative projects. You can get a good synopsis of what has been happening in their district on their 1:1 initiatives web page.  Terice has also been posting some very insightful, practical implementation information on her blog. These are both valuable resources anyone considering 1:1 programs of any type should bookmark and refer to regularly!

Full Disclosure: I have a great deal of faith in the information Terice and Vicki share because I was privileged to work with them for several years when I was a  classroom teacher and campus technology facilitator.

In addition to the wonderful resources I've linked to above, here are my notes from their iPadpalooza session.

Lessons Learned from and Tips for 1:1 Implementations

Staff Development is KEY!!! It's much harder to fix the mistakes you make in staff development than to do it right the first time.

Belton is paying for most of their implementation through the Texas Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA). Some district funding also has to be kicked in. They are no longer buying things like dictionaries and calculators because apps can do these things. They still have calculators for state testing until the Texas Education Agency recognizes the home button can now be disabled in latest version of iOS, essentially locking students out of other apps on their devices.

When Belton tried BYOD, use in classroom was at teacher discretion. Devices were not being used. When 1:1 iPads were being implemented at a brand new middle school, only FOUR teachers volunteered to go to the new school where this was happening. The rest were assigned to the new campus. (Read between lines: There was a strong reluctance to implementation at the new campus).

Teachers also had to transition from Windows PCs to Macbooks with only  1/2 day of training in addition to several days of learning about the iPads and integration approaches. Teachers were VERY STRESSED. There were tears. Coordinators learned from this not to try to do too much too soon when it comes to staff development. Take baby steps!

Leadership is key - Principal and superintendent must be on board. You can tell somebody what to do, but you can't make them believe something. You have two choices - move them to a new position or convert them. They had one teacher with 40 years experience and she volunteered to move to the new school and embraced the 1:1 model. Other teachers with similar years of experience retired after training because it was too much for them.

After the school year began, district tech staff had to back off a bit at their middle school and allow teachers to build a culture (they were at a brand new campus building a new culture on top of everything else). Encouraged simple implementations like posting handouts to their websites that the students could download. Or making flashcards for review. Allowed teachers to explore and reach back out for more training when they were ready for more.

By the end of the implementation year, approximately 80% of the middle school teachers were able to move into truly using the iPads in instruction. Give teachers permission to start with supplementing, then replacing, then truly changing instruction. Teachers do not want to look stupid. Give them permission to learn with and from their students.

Next year, the high school is going 1:1. Gave high school teachers iPads ahead of time. Did four one hour sessions to get them comfortable with the iPads. Teachers can do Facebook, Pinterest, etc. - whatever will encourage them to get comfortable with the device. In summer staff development, brought in teachers from middle school to teach the high school teachers. Having experienced teachers teach other teachers provides more credibility and opportunity for sharing practical tips. Training of the high school teachers has been a marvelous experience and drastically different than the middle school teacher training of just a year ago.

The district had a budget of $40 per iPad for apps at the middle school.

Vicki and Terice have an iPadU (staff development) agenda and other documents which they will gladly share.  Belton will let us use/steal everything they have. We can email them for editable copies of their stuff. Many of their resources and their contact information can be found on this web page (also look for more pages in the left-hand navigation of the website.)

Digital Learning in Belton ISD

In spite of the challenges of the first year of large-scale implementation, the 1:1 initiatives have been fruitful in Belton ISD. The video below gives a great overview of the impacts felt by students and teachers alike.