Friday, June 22, 2012

Teacher Experiences in a 1:1 iPad Environment

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.

Early in the day I attended a panel where I heard the perspectives of four students who had been participants  in a 1:1 iPad pilot which took place at Westlake High School during the 2011-2012 school year. You can view my notes from that panel here.

After hearing about the pilot from the student perspective, I was eager to hear from teachers who had been involved in the project. So, for the last session of the day, I attended a teacher panel. The panel included three English teachers and one science teacher, who told a little about their experiences and took questions from the audience. Below are my notes on the thoughts/experiences which they shared.

A little background: Because of the timing of the approval of the pilot and the time needed to purchase the iPads, the 40 teachers involved received their iPads approximately three weeks before the 2011-2012 school year started. For the majority, this was their first experience using an iPad.

The Teachers' Experience

Two paths to take - embrace it and run with it even thought it is scary or forget it and let others take all of the risks.

Be willing to look foolish and collaborate. Students will have to help you. A mental shift has to occur. Teachers are no longer the keepers and disseminators of knowledge but become facilitators of learning. iPads kick this shift into high gear. (Emphasis in this paragraph mine because that comment stood out so much!)

Academic integrity issues come up. It's possible students can take screen shots of your online quizzes and share with students later in the day. So, put different questions on quizzes for each class.

One trick is reorienting the desks so teacher can see the screens during certain types of activities. It's also important sometimes to say "put your iPads away" when they are not necessary.

Part of the role as educators is fostering face-to-face communication. Closing the iPad and looking people in the eye to converse is important sometimes. Don't feel pressure to have the iPads out all the time.

If the iPads are going to be out, what are we going to be doing with them that makes them useful to learning right now? It takes time to understand this and shift curriculum in the classroom.

Initial misconception was they had to do everything all the time every day with the iPad. It's ok to take baby steps. Take on one thing at a time. First, focus on getting content to the students via the iPad. Then, tackle collecting work via the iPad, etc.

Students are really forgiving as teachers are learning the iPads and like to help.

It's ok to tell the kids to "power down" when they need to focus on you in the classroom. Get their faces out of the screens.

In science one teacher had about 75% of her kids doing things completely paperless and turning in assignments through New Annotate or Google Docs. Sent assignments back to them with grades and comments.

iPads were really beneficial for "backpack filers" (the students who traditionally keep everything "filed" [stuffed] in their backpacks). Now teacher can tell them it's probably on their iPad and if they can't find it they can download it again from the website.

Establish expectations early on. For example, they WILL use their school issued email and they WILL set it up correctly. Put a correct name in there so the recipient knows who is sending the email. English teacher says she will focus on this requirement at the start of next school year instead of giving students the choice to use school or personal email throughout the year. It won't be ok to say, "Oh, I don't check my school email."

Nuts and bolts of using the iPads are not always intuitive for the students. Example: setting up correct servers for apps and WebDav (the app used to access shared network folders). One teacher says she will spend the beginning of the school year getting a lot of those things set up. Through trial and error this first year, they learned a lot about better ways to roll out the iPads.

Teachers also have definite thoughts on when the iPads are taken up. District technology decided to take them up a week before school was out, but finals weren't over. There was some "civil disobedience" as a few students opted to keep their iPads past the turn-in date so they could study properly.

Not all students are proficient with or prefer the iPads; some still prefer paper. One teacher tells students it is their responsibility to print the documents out at home if they prefer paper. She thinks as students get iPads earlier in their high school careers (Eanes is expanding the program to include all freshmen and sophomores next year) comfort levels will increase.

Even with all of the awesome apps, email is one of the best tools they have. They work a lot with kids on proper format, using school email not personal, etc. Some students changed their personal email accounts after being allowed to use them and realizing that their addresses weren't ones that they would give to an employer or professor. (Example one teacher gave was "sexygirl34" as an email address she was not super comfortable sending to.)

Science teacher says she often lectured from apps instead of her PowerPoints. For example, when looking at anatomy of foot, she can use an app to turn a 3D model on her screen and talk about it. Better understanding for students!

Science teacher really loved Google Docs for making quizzes for her students. Used Flubaroo script to set up automatic grading. There is a YouTube video for learning to use this.

Teachers are saving tons of time in the copy room. Electronic docs also good for making corrections if a mistake is found in a handout.

English teachers use Notability app to organize student documents.

40 teachers in pilot this year, so there were no specific campus requirements for how much teachers needed to do with the iPads. As they move forward with all students receiving iPads, more requirements may come along. It was a good way to start since they were figuring things out on the fly.

Kids are still kids, even with iPads. Sometimes you have to say "time out" and take the iPad away if they are off task. It's part of them growing and learning.

More on the 1:1 iPad Teaching and Learning Experience

The panel was amazing. I truly enjoyed the honesty of the questions and the answers and getting a peek into the transformation that the teachers experienced during their 2011-2012 school year.

If you would like a similar peek in addition to my notes above, I encourage you to watch the video below. It was put together in January of 2012, just half-way through the school year, for a presentation to the Eanes ISD School Board.

WIFI Update from Westlake Chaps on Vimeo.