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How can Standing in Place be Interactive – or – how we sold our Interactive Boards & Redefined Our Classrooms

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Tony Perez of the Atlanta Girls School: How can standing in place be interactive – or – how we sold our interactive boards and redefined our classrooms.

I saw Tony speak at the last iPad Summit and today was eager to hear more about what the Atlanta Girls School was doing. I love the fact that Tony starts out this discussion by being honest – that this was not an easy transition, and in fact he categorizes it as a “tale of whoa,” at least in its early stages.

The Atlanta Girls school is a young school that began as a wireless school, so it started out in an innovative framework and continues on that path today. The reason that they are able to do what they want to do is because they have a top down model of using and integrating technology.

Tony shares the fact that they do not make technology changes without real, pedagogical and curricular reasons to do so. As much as we may be “gadget people,” we need to have a reason to implement change. Tony says that in 2009, he was told “the Promethean board is the most under utilized technology resource we own.” They had made a huge financial investment for Promethean boards, though they require a sophisticated skill set for ready application in the classroom. As such, many educators were not using them. Teachers felt as though they did not have the time to self-train, master the complex software suite, and then update lessons when the software updated (sometimes making them obsolete). I feel his pain here. I’ve never been a Smart Board or Promethean Board fan for this very reason.

As iPad evolved to incorporate cameras and mirroring, Tony found that it could take on the roles that the Promethean Board was meant to fill. Though it initially “wasn’t quite there” because of the need to be tethered via the HDMI cable, in 2012, the new iOS 5 unlocked content from iPad and provided the portability, versatility, and creativity that he needed for his school. He then showed us this amazing NAIS viral video made by his students:

Not only does it provide great information about how girls learn best, but it also demonstrates the creativity and research capacities of iPad.

As a result of the wireless elements of iPad, coupled with Apple TV, the classroom makeup and construction began to change. At the same time, AGS felt that their students were falling behind in terms of technology. They had once been a beacon of technological innovation but now felt as though they were floundering. Why?

As a faculty, they decided that the issue was the “centralized” teacher via the interactive whiteboard. Removing the board from the front of the room also removed the teacher from the front, allowing them to move around, lower their voices, talk with students, and focus on the individuals. Ultimately, the school decided that the Promethean Board did not support a student centered and collaborative learning environment. So… why do we have them?

Tony then approached the administration, board, and donors. He explained why it was time to get rid of the Promethean board with the curriculum and pedagogy as the key rationale for the decision! Putting teaching and learning first is critical when approaching any broad and wide change.

The school made the decision to get rid of the Promethean Board and replace them with Apple TVs. Educators are no longer tied to the front of the room with their laptops (Mountain Lion will stream to Apple TV) or iPads supporting the creation of the ideal learning environment. It also wasn’t a hard sell when Promethean Boards cost about $4,000 each and an Apple TV classroom is about $1,500. In schools, we all know that money talks.

By decentralizing the classroom, teachers found that it freed up the white board, promoted collaboration, allowed the teacher to work more one-on-one, and supported their overall vision of authentic learning. For the majority of the educators, this was a truly freeing experience.

In the summer of 2012, they sold off their Promethean Boards and ordered all of their hardware. Sadly, shipping was heavily delayed… until mid-September. A scrambled new hardware plan resulted in last minute, late night installs. It seems like a painful experience. Because of this, training was delayed and not as in depth as they originally planned. Tony also ran into problems with the wireless network communicating with the iPad – resulting in disastrous early months. To correct the connection issues, they hardwired the Apple TVs onto the network. They also discovered that other schools were having the same problem. The fix required a new access point in each classroom. As the year continued, they doubled access points in the densest points and hard wired where necessary. The problems have essentially disappeared but they occasionally still have problems.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 3.47.54 PMBy replacing the Promethean boards with iPads and Apple TVs, Tony found that teachers not only interact and partner more with their students in learning, but also that the space physically looks and feels different as the students sense that the teacher is alongside them in their learning. Tony emphasizes that if you decide to make any drastic change, you have to understand the why. You need to support your faculty with robust professional development. Additionally, you have to ensure that your wireless network and system will work. Know what success looks like in your school and then aim for it.

You can view Tony’s presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.

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The Curated Classroom: Finding and Sharing Great Online Content with iTunes U

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Day 2 Concurrent Session with Douglas Kiang – The Curated Classroom: Finding and Sharing Great Online Content with iTunes U

I am a big fan of iTunes U, so I was thrilled to learn about Douglas Kiang’s presentation on creating and curating content using iTunes U in your classroom. He started out by telling us that teachers are storytellers, curators, and publishers.

Storytelling

Being creative, a designer, is what is key in this new world. Storytellers, or concept bearers, are the purveyors of information in not only the modern world, but also throughout history. The problem, however, with the written word is that our stories become “static.” We cannot change them as we evolve. The internet age has changed that drastically. Our stories are becoming dynamic; they have the ability to change. At the same time, we have an expansive audience. Bill Rankin, Ph.D. rather provocatively addressed the issue of the death of the written word:

We are in a new age!

Curation

Douglas returns to the topic of curation, as it is the core focus of this discussion. A curator is not a master artist or scientist. A curator is someone that shares knowledge and groups information in a way that can best convey knowledge. A key element of curation within education is personalization. We can create individual exhibits for our audience (students). We know our students well enough to create the best play list of material that will work for them, and ideally, we will ultimately provide them with the skills they need to curate for themselves.

iTunes U itself is simply a collection of multimedia artifacts (video, audio, and/or PDFs), and everything within iTunes U is FREE. Some of the top academic institutions (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc.) are avid contributors. Douglas demonstrates different ways that you can use already existing content in your courses simply by using the links in your course assignments or assigning students to find content.

iTunes U

iYunesUApple has recently released the iTunes U App, so individuals are able to browse and download content via the iTunes Application. However, to get the full experience and content of iTunes U, you must download the iOS App. If you create an iTunes U course, you can then add PDFs, links, audio, video, textbooks from the iBooks Store, and other content from within iTunes U. Douglas does recommend, however, that when building a course, be cognizant of what does and does not require a wireless connection.

What can/should you do within the iTunes U course?

  • Deep link
  • Upload original content
  • Duplicate your course (you cannot edit once its published)
  • Send in-session announcements (only works on an iOS device)
  • Preview your course on an iOS device while you are building it

What is not supported within the iTunes U course:

  • Track individual students’ progress
  • Give synchronous quizzes
  • Have students turn material in
  • Create a discussion forum
  • Have more than one (official) course author

Douglas notes that while iTunes U may have limitations, it is the easiest and most simple platform for producing and disseminating high quality content. If you would like to see a sample of K-12 course content created and published on iTunes U, see the list that he has on his content site. He strongly recommends taking a look at what other people have completed before going forward and drafting your own iTunes U course.

Douglas then walks us through Course Manager (Apple Guide). He points out that while he loves iTunes U, he does not use it on a day-to-day basis. He feels that education requires true face-to-face interaction. Right now, this is effective for small chunks of information or conducting workshops.

You can view Doug’s presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.

Tom Daccord Keynote: Keys to Building a Successful iPad Program

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Day 2 Afternoon Keynote with Tom Daccord: “Keys to Building a Successful iPad Program”

Tom’s keynote focuses on redefining not only the physical classroom, but also the cognitive and metaphysical classroom. He states that he will explore, though briefly, what this means for educators and administrators.

“What does learning look like?”

Tom asks us. In other words, how do we know that learning is going on? We certainly have an idea of what it is and what it looks like, but the modern world no longer reflects the image that many of us have previously known. With technology, Tom argues, we are “trying to fit that proverbial square peg in that proverbial round hole.”

So should iPad be made to fit our classroom or should our classrooms adapt to fit iPad? We need to help ourselves and our colleagues realize and understand what a creative learning space could look like. Tom highlights the iLab with Don Orth’s team at the Hillbrook School. Their transformation of the physical space meets our objective of using iPad in creative and collective ways on many levels.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 11.59.30 AMTom moved next to discuss the Ed Tech Teacher team’s experience working with the Singapore school system. In Singapore, because the schools’ physical design is so malleable, it encourages interaction and collaboration. He also highlgihts another program at Trinity School Atlanta called the “idea wall.” Students write an idea on a wall about a topic that really interests them – like rock music. Paired with a mentor, the student explores and tries to articulate essential questions about their topic and explore its academic relevance. They then present their response to that question in a myriad of ways (digitally, visually, orally, etc). How we augment our environment effects our learning.

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Tom then asks us to open the app Layar on our iPads and then to scan our iPad Summit flyers. This app allows objects, when scanned, to launch a myriad of multimedia. He asks us to imagine the possibilities – a Civil Rights poster leads to an audio file of Dr. King, a Shakespeare text leads to a scene from MacBeth, etc. Technology can help us, as educators, to assist students in learning the material more thoroughly and with greater depth. What we should be asking ourselves is how can these tools help us to augment learning? If Tom walked into our iPad classroom, would he be able to tell what our learning objectives were?

“If you could put only one thing on a student iPad what would it be?”

Tom very pointedly did not ask the room to put an “app.” An app is merely a thing – an add-on for the web or another tool that may be useful for us. When we are building our iPads (from the “app up”) we need to examine “what are our objectives and goals?” Before we build the tool, we need to know how it is going to be used. In Singapore, for example, they focus on collaboration first, because they feel that communication and cooperation are essential skills for effective, national citizenry. The Singapore government, and thus their schools, view this as essential for the survival of their state.

In our institutions, what are our learning missions and do these missions align with a broader (perhaps national) mission?

“In our modern world, learning seems useless unless it prepares students to be creative.”

Tom highlights that the American system no longer nurtures innovation and creativity. Rather, we focus more on standardization and rigorous assessment. Our system stifles risk taking.

When we look at the needs of the job force, employers are looking for individuals who can creatively solve new problems, adopt to new challenges, and take advantage of new opportunities. Technical knowledge and rote skills are significantly less important. iPads can help us to change this by using it as a tool, not as the end all be all.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 12.35.13 PMIt’s not about the apps. It’s about what you want to do with it. Check out Ed Tech Teacher’s iPad as… website. Our focus as educators should not be on content specific apps, but on “ever green” apps: applications that are flexible enough to never “go out of style” in terms of course content or level. We should choose applications because they will help students perform an activity.

Tom states that we can differentiate and individualize the learning experience by “hacking education.” Dale Stephen’s argument is that the money spent on higher education is largely wasted. Rather than go to school, students can “hack” their own education via open and free resources. In some ways, this is happening right now. While accreditation and certification are still vital and important to individuals in pursuing their education, we should be aware that these systems can and will still create disruption. Of course, this element cannot take into account the vital relationship between students as well as students and their teachers.

Tom finishes his talk by sharing his hope that we think deeply about the processes we employ in education.

“If we rise to the challenge of using technology to explore, interpret, and communicate deeply reasoned thoughts about our complex world, then we will open doors to experiences that we cannot even imagine.” – Tod Machover

At the close of his talk, Tom announced the next iPad Summit will be November 13-15, 2013, in Boston.

You can view Tom’s presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.

Redefining the Classroom: The AUSL & Chicago Public Schools

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Day 2 Morning Keynote: Redefining the Classroom: The AUSL and Chicago Public Schools by: Autumn Laidler Anita Orozco Huffman Jennie Magiera

Please see their presentation content here and on the iPad Summit Site.

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Autumn, Anita, and Jennie are all veteran and distinguished educators with the Chicago Public School System as well as a network of schools within the Academy for Urban Schools in Chicago (AUSL). These teachers are clearly excited and enthusiastic. Those of who saw them at the last iPad Summit are excited to see them again. The AUSL is a network of 25 neighborhood Chicago Public Schools. The majority of the schools are low income and high need. These are not contract or charter schools.

The women characterize the National Teachers Academy as a “regular neighborhood school.” Their journey with iPads began in 2010 when the devices were first launched and well before they were being used as a teaching tool. An initial grant paid for several iPad carts.

SAMR-model Jennie, Autum, and Anita begin discussing their journey with iPads following along Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model. When they first brought iPads on board, they decided that they didn’t want to just “duct tape iPads into their curriculum”; rather, they wanted to ensure that this program had meaning. To prove this, they provide several examples of using iPads at the higher levels of integration according to SAMR: Augmentation and Modification.

The ladies’ infectious enthusiasm is also sprinkled with humor. They highlight the fact that iPad implementation is a journey, and there are a lot of struggles and challenges along the way. While their polished presentation looks fabulous, they ensure us all that they struggled as well. Thank goodness! I was starting to feel like a terrible teacher.

One of the most effective elements of their presentation is that they use short video clips of their students to help explain what they are doing in the classroom. The students clearly understand the processes of their assignment as well as the intricacies of producing dynamic, multimedia products. By using iPads to replace traditional media (such as the Science Journal), it allows students to be better organized. By using the Mental Note App, Autumn’s students can choose a paper that they need (lined, graph, or blank), can type or annotate, include voice notes, insert photos, tag their notes, incorporate PDFs, and present an effective workflow end product. author_iconNot only does this make their work better organized and stored, but it makes the life of educators easier. Their students’ work is more accessible and portable. Autumn even asserts that students can create their own books of their completed projects via iBook Author – consider the power of students creating their own science textbook!

iPad has also had great success in the realm of Special Education as Anita explains. Again, we see a video of the students explaining what is going on in their classrooms with iPad. Anita highlights that her students regularly know more than she does when it comes to the technology, and noted that one of the greatest impacts of incorporating iPad is that her students experienced a significant boost in self-esteem. Students take pride in the work that they complete in the classroom, and have even taken on leadership roles to “teach grown ups how to use various applications.” Additionally, iPad allows her to further differentiate and individualize her classroom. Using iBooks author, she curated live reading materials for her students. She demonstrates, using a video, how her students used iBooks to do reading more independently (using the book to help her sound out a word for example). Her students also use iMovie to create videos and presentations on topics they are exploring in class. Anita showed us an amazing clip from a film that they constructed about the Freedom Riders. This is an activity that would have taken a lot of work and expense without iPads.

The group finished up with an example from an elementary math classroom. Jennie highlighted a great program called Schoology which she likes over competitor platforms. With Schoology, she feels that the focus really is on the learning. I’ve played with Schoology a bit, but have yet to incorporate it into my own classroom, looks like I need to do that…

The nice thing about Schoology, in conjunction with iPad, is that it allows you to incorporate not only text, but also rich media (images, video, voice, etc). Students can them show their work in a discussion. If you would like to learn more about Schoology and the iPad in Ms. Magiera’s classroom, check out her blog article: Schoology vs. Edmodo.

In terms of recreating her math classroom, Jennie demonstrates a problem put forward by Dan Meyer: the Three Acts of the Mathematical Story. After watching the video by Mr. Meyer, her students demonstrated the mathematical problem using the app educreations. By watching a student’s screen cast of their mathematical process, you aren’t just looking at the answer, but rather can see their entire thought process. Screencasting provides educators a deeper understanding of how their students are thinking, and also allows students to better self assess.

The Chicago team finishes up their keynote by telling us how they are not only revolutionizing their classrooms, but their professional learning network. They maintain a blog and have a Google group that allows them to share ideas and meet virtually.

For more about this talented group of educators, follow them online:

You can view the team’s presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.

The iPad for Leadership by Patrick Larkin

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Concurrent Session #3: The iPad as a Leadership Tool with Patrick Larkin

I saw Patrick Larkin first speak at the iPad Summit last Fall. If you would like to read about that, see my blog post “Getting Your Entire School Community on Board with iPads (1:1).” Given that experience, I could not pass up an opportunity to watch him again. Patrick starts out his discussion by telling us about his journey implementing iPad into a 1:1 environment. He recognizes that we are not doing what we could with iPads. As leaders in education and educational technology, iPad provides a unique opportunity for leadership.

One of the key elements of leadership is the necessity of modeling tools and behavior. In the case of a massive transition in technology and pedagogy, you need to be not just the lead user, but the lead learner! Given that, what should school leaders be doing with iPad? If we ask teachers to build their curriculum off of their desired outcome, we need to do the same with technology as educational leaders. Leaders have different needs than educators (although there can be some overlap). They need to serve as evaluators, record keepers, communicators, organization, and professional growth.

ISTE provides a great structure and framework of skills modern administrators need to have:a-indicator

  • Visionary Leadership
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Systemic Improvement
  • Professional Practice
  • Digital Age Learning
Visionary Leadership

This is a collaborative experience and process involving administrators, educators, students, and parents. Broad initiatives need the input of learners. You also invest in key people – those who will help to share the vision and expand on ideas.

Digital Citizenship

We need to model what it is to be an effective digital citizen. He asks, “What would you think of me if the following Tweets were all that you knew about me?” He then showed us an example of various tweets from students (with expletives bleeped out).

Many administrators are uncomfortable with social media. Students are largely navigating this arena without adult supervision or guidance. If we ignore this aspect of education, then we are being negligent educators and not fulfilling our mission as educational institutions. Right now, litigation is a concern for many institutions and schools causing districts to legislate social media rather than teach and model it. Patrick makes an interesting point that we are regulating social media in a way unprecedented with other learning tools.

Digital Age Learning

This is another element of modeling tools and innovation that we want to see with our educators. We need to adopt digital learning tools in our own lives, training, and practice. For example, data collection can be done digitally via a google form, subsequently modeling an assessment technique that we may want to instill in our faculties and students.

Patrick’s argument is that learning should be an individualized experience. We need to empower educators in their own classrooms and provide them the tools that they want and need. One educator made the point that iPad can magnify problems that already existed. Patrick pointed out that the problem is generally neither iPad nor technology, but rather an underlying issue that is now brought to administration’s attention.

Outreach to parents about all of this is also critical. It allows parents to understand the objectives and goals of technology in the classroom. Ultimately, working with parents can help them to understand that we aren’t just “playing Angry Birds.”

Professional Practice

Administrators must provide an environment for professional learning, adequate resources, and direct professional development support for their faculty. Instruction can and should be differentiated (as we expect educators to differentiate their teaching). In addition to access, we need to provide teachers with time to do work.

Patrick outlined a 20% rule that he implemented for faculty. During the school year, he designated a chunk of time to be used for self-development. Two rules governed this time:

  1. Do not listen to your department head
  2. Do not grade papers.

He also stressed the importance of sharing our professional development innovations with one another.

Systemic Improvement

Administrators and educators must continuously use digital tools and technologies to improve organizations, communication, and overall systemic structure. We can engage the community in these conversations as well – technology firms, businesses, communication experts, etc. – to provide support. For example, Patrick uses Evernote (one of my favorite applications) to provide instructional feedback and support and highlights several other applications that he regularly uses.

In the end, I was surprised at the number of social media applications in his repertoire. Surprised, but thrilled. I love transparency in education and leadership. As school leaders continue to encourage their faculties to innovate, experiment, and transform learning experiences for their students, it will become increasingly critical for them to model the desired behavior for their teachers. Largely what I took away from this session is the importance of this modeling.

Keynote Speaker Greg Kulowiec – What is the Answer with iPads?

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

What is the Answer with iPads? from Greg Kulowiec

400px-Djhero_playedHow does iPad support teaching and learning? How do they give students a voice? How do they get children to focus on things that matter? Greg starts out his talk by telling us about his days as a DJ. The “menial task of carrying turn tables and vinyl records in milk crates” occupied his pre-teaching years. Just as the 21st century has redesigned the life and tools of a DJ, the internet, and specifically mobile technology, has revolutionized education and the life of a teacher making skills of only a few years ago are now useless (albeit they can be nostalgic).

We live in a world where we do the same thing (listen to and mix music), but we use different skills to get there. Using iPad is still creation but through a different medium. Creativity does not need to look the way it did twenty years ago. Greg argues that just because technology makes some things easier, that does not make the process less creative. In fact, the technology works to remove hurdles so that individuals can exercise creativity.

Still, we need to look at how we are using iPads. Are we using them in new and innovative ways, or are we simply plugging them into the same old same old? Greg takes a quick poll of the audience, asking to what extent iPad is being used to its potential in education. The general consensus was that iPads were being severely under utilized in our educational institutions. He seems genuinely surprised by our pessimism.

“The idea of school in many of its features is so deeply ingrained in people’s thinking that when they look at technology to discuss it in relation to computers, they see it in a particular and very narrow way dominated by the nature of school as they’ve known it.” – Seymour Papert

We have a concept as educators, parents, and former students about “school” that is very narrow. We think we understand “school,” and so we view technology through that lens. So the question becomes, is iPad helping us to do new things or are we simply strapping a jet engine to a stagecoach?

Right now the trend in education is control. iPad is designed to allow sharing online, collaboration, and expansion. However, we are currently stripping it of its features and abilities to fit into the mold of the classroom. Does this make it a solution or a problem in education? By strapping new technology onto antiquated systems, do we create more problems or are we finding new solutions?

If we are going to view iPad as a solution, then we are using it the wrong way. We are placing it on top of an existing structure, but largely ignoring the forest for the trees. If we view it as a problem due to the conflict that it produces with what is going on in our schools, then we need to examine what it is that we are actually doing in our schools.

One of the key issues that we have in academia with technology is one of academic integrity. The ability to readily access information has teachers and administrators scrambling on how to address its use. Leaving out “copy and paste,” when do we view collaboration as cheating? When do we see “looking something up” as a problem? Students can now find the answer instantly, so should we hide this content from our students? Is that the solution? Perhaps we should instead show them appropriate ways to use the tools and to demonstrate their understanding.

“Technology doesn’t magically change teacher’s practice. You can have students use iPads in much the same way that they once used slate boards. But what new technologies like tablets or laptops can do is open new avenues for conversation. In schools where every child has a portable, multimedia creation device, what can we do differently? What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?” – Justin Reich

We should be examining: “What are we asking? Who is asking? Who is the audience?” We need to get the content off of our devices and to a broader audience. Let students know that there are eyes on their work that aren’t just our own. It’s time to come back and think about this issue: is iPad just a fancy device that we’re throwing into the existing structure or is it creating a new environment?

“Maybe the force for change that will really be effective in the end is the kids who have had something better at home won’t stand school as it is anymore. Kid power will force school to change or go out of existence.” – Seymour Papert

Students can access content and material now on the web easily and quickly. How do we make the time that they spend with us, as educators, into valuable and meaningful experiences? For example, take a look at The Independent Project.

Students are certainly capable of developing and driving their own education. What we need to do as educators is to use these devices to make our classes more meaningful and to allow students to access and explore their passions. We need to condense what we’re doing on iPads and focus on them as creative devices. We don’t need to be on App overload. It’s about what we can create with our devices, not the device itself.

You can view Greg’s presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site. Greg will also be leading sessions at the 1:1 & Mobile Learning Summit in June as well as during our Summer Workshops.

Redesigning Learning Spaces

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Concurrent Session #2 – Redesigning your Learning Spaces: How Mobile Technology Demands a New Classroom – Don Orth, Director of Technology at Hillbrook School, Christa Flores, MS Science & iLab Director, Tim Springer, Founder & President Hero, Inc.

What should classrooms (physically) look like with the learning that is happening now? The Hillbrook School is hosting an iPad School 2.0 Summit this summer. Big Picture questions:

  • Where do you go to be creative?
  • When is the last time you reinvented your classroom, your teaching, your assumptions?

Don played a short video of Tim Springer that highlights our need as educators to be adaptive and flexible. We need to mold our learning environments to meet the needs of our learners. We need to ask ourselves, are we designing a solution that helps students?

When Hillbrook adopted iPad, what they found is that it shifted the learning environment. Suddenly, students were not fixed to a place. They could readily move around and collaborate. In fact, the classroom was getting in the way. Students now want to be self-directed. They live in a different learning environment than we know. Should schools tell children to “deal with it” or should the schools adapt?

Instead of a computer lab, Hillbrook has a multimedia lab or, what they term, an iLab (Idea Lab). It’s a space without a set function, and thus it allows for greater flexibility and ownership. When teachers ask, “what kind of space gets you, the student, excited for learning?” the children then make the environment. Currently, as a school, Hillbrook is still exploring how the learning space is changing and evolving.

The primary focus here is student directed learning and allowing students to own their experience. This takes more time and requires greater adaptability. In a video of student reactions to the iLab, the students consistently discuss its flexibility – the fact that they make the classroom for what they need at the time (discussion, working quietly, etc). The premise is that when students walk into a room and build a space to work, they are more engaged and invested in the material. The iLab is not a space owned by the teacher, rather it belongs to the students.

“Learning needs an engaging context.” – Tim Springer.

affective_context_model2Tim Springer highlights the research behind the iLab. Movement is not a distraction from learning, but rather is conducive to it. Engaging the body helps with attention and concentration. Movement and mobility, in conjunction with technology, becomes incorporated into the learning space and further engages students in the learning experience. When students are bored, they quickly become apathetic and disinterested in the material. By challenging and engaging students, they get into the “zone,” and feel successful. When we look at affective learning, when students “pull” material, we see that they gain a deeper and more enduring understanding. Engaging multiple senses in a challenging context ultimately provides a more enriched learning experience.

While the iLab can be used by all subjects, currently it serves as the sole Science classroom for the Middle School. Students meet in the iLab for all science classes. This makes the science class about doing rather than absorbing content. Students need autonomy to develop intellectually. Learners should make mistakes. The iLab context allows them to learn and to feel successful when they ultimately achieve their goals.

Flexibility is the key element of the iLab. Its environment allows students to build a space that fits the needs of their learning, and iPad, being mobile by nature, has been readily adopted into it because students can easily move and implement it as they need.

You can view these presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.