Monday, September 9, 2013

Reflections after the first year of an 1:1 iPad Initiative

This past summer I spent alot of time reflecting on the first year of our middle school 1:1 ipad program. What went right and what went wrong was subjective and answers differed across the various stakeholders in our school community. Students had the most positive things to say about the program. I mean, we did give them their own an iPad! Most students wouldn’t normally have one of their own and they got one “for free” from their school so their superficial feelings towards the program was positive. However, some reflective students did have meaningful opinions about the program one way or another. Some embraced the organizational options that iPads gave them and others enjoyed the creative freedoms they were allowed to explore using ipad tools like iMovie and ScrapPad. A minority of students just couldn’t manage this new skill in the classroom.
Teachers were the in-between group. Those that valued technology in the classroom embraced it, learned from it and tried to used it to elevate the learning. Those teachers used it well in the area of student-teacher and student-student collaboration and communication. One major challenge was classroom behavior management. This was a huge added strain in the classroom and was never really mastered.
The majority of parents were against the whole ipad program. Saying it was a waste of time, upset when their child shattered their ipad screen and they had to get it replaced and were overall annoyed with it. They did not fully understand the goal of the program and how it is not an end result but a means to an overall goal of elevating student learning in our middle school.  As a result, it made the administration very anxious about how we were doing and now, as our first year begins, we are taking precautionary measures to ensure that we have learned from our year-long experience. As we begin this tightrope walk back into our iPad program, all of our school community stakeholders can see that we are missing something without these mobile devices in our students hands and that we still have a need to pursue becoming a 21st century school.

I have learned several key points after experiencing our first year of a 1:1 ipad implementation. The first one is patience. Having patience with all 4 major stakeholders is key. Patience with our administrators to get on board, with our students and parents to be able to understand the goals of the program and with our teachers who are apprehensive about altering the way they teach. Not everyone is tech savvy and even those who are in their personal or business world, may not understand it’s place in education. You need to be patient while giving them as much information as they need to get on board. This leads me to my next area of improvement, communication. Communication with the entire school community is critical. What are we doing, why we are doing it and how are we doing are essential questions to answer over and over again. In particular, to our parent body who is the most cynical of the bunch. They do not see what our students and educators see is going on in the classroom. They are missing out on the amazing and positive learning outcomes achieved from using ipad tools. It is our job to communicate it to them on a regular basis. Because, let’s face it, it doesn't matter how old a child is, when you as them “What did you do in school today?” the answer is usually, “not much” or “same old thing.” They are not getting information from their students and it is our job to share the classroom experiences so that any of their negative thoughts can be balanced with some positive aspects as well.

Finally, I learned something that as adults, we don’t often know how to do well, learn to fail. After reading  Aran Levasseur’s 5 Lessons for 1:1 Integration on Common Sense Media, I have come to the realization that our first year was a success!!! “All scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs understand that failure is part of creativity.  If you’re not willing to fail then you severely limit your creative capacity.  When integrating a 1:1 program there will be failures. Yet, for the most part, schools have an aversion to failure. Learning to fail, and how to recover and adapt, is an essential skill if you hope to be resilient teacher, student, or school.”
So as an educator and proponent of education technology, I embrace any and all “failures” and look forward to Year 2 of our 1:1 iPad implementation with more experience, a carefully thought out plan and a positive attitude.

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