An Update…

So, we are about 9 months into our 1:1 iPad initiative and we are on track! I have not posted here for a long time, but it was primarily due to the fact that I have had my hands full with the roll-out and teacher guidance and training. Our focus has been primarily to get our teachers comfortable with having these devices in their classrooms and to expose them to the possibilities that theses devices offer them to enhance learning and teaching in their classrooms. It has been a slow, but worthwhile process. We started off by requiring our teachers to follow an iTunesU course that I created. The focus of the course was an introduction to the iPad and then a broad introduction to various useful and most popular apps for learning and teaching – with a distinct focus on apps which could be used in a variety of ways and which are not subject specific. The idea is to get our students to create their own content and extend their creativity. Since then we have moved on to looking at how to use this technology effectively, not just for the sake of using it. We are exploring deeper learning and more effective ways in which to engage our students without focusing on the iPad, but by including it as one of the many tools available for teaching and learning in the classroom – albeit a potentially powerful tool. The secret to the success of a programme such as this is when the teachers start asking the right questions for themselves and don’t wait to be shown what the next steps are; when they feel confident to show initiative and try new ideas without prompting. This is slowly happening and it is an exciting time for us. Has it been an easy, plain-sailing journey? Definitely not, and our journey is long not over. There have been challenges, the least not being effective iPad management in the classroom. Some teachers found it more difficult than others to manage how and when the students were allowed to use their devices. Also, creating an effective workflow solution was a challenge, but we have a WebDAV server for iPad work and have recently ‘Gone Google’, so we will use Google Drive too. Helping our parents to help their children manage the number of games on their iPads has been one of our biggest challenges. We have asked our parents to restrict the number of games on the devices to 6 – 8 games only, as they provide an irresistable temptation for the children, and they take up a huge amount of space, especially on 16GB devices. We have tightened our rules around the playing of games at school and we insist that our students use their free time for play and socialising with one another. I read a lot of blogs where teachers share their iPad successes and challenges and I have connected with a number of teachers around the world who are using iPads in their classrooms with huge success. What I see and read excites me and confirms for me that what we are doing is the way to go. There is no turning back! FullSizeRender (4)

 A Grade 6 flipped classroom activity – watch a video and complete a Google form afterwards.

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Ready, steady… GO!

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This year I have had the privilege of attending talks by some of the world’s best iPad “rock stars”, Abdul Chohan from the ESSA Academy in the UK, Sam Gliksman, Educational Technology Consultant and author of  of the book ‘iPads in Education for Dummies’, from the USA, and most recently I attended two iPad talks by, probably, THE iPad rock star, Fraser Speirs from the Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland. Fraser is the head of Computing and Technology at this school, which is the first school in the world to roll out a 1:1 iPad programme – just months after the first iPad 1’s hit the shelves.

Fraser spoke freely about how his school came to the decision to use iPads so soon after they were launched. Cedars had always been an Apple school. They had a computer centre filled with Apple Macs, but the need for a more mobile device which could be used in the classrooms led them to bring in Macbooks, which served them well for a number of years. One irritation was the short battery life of the laptops and the constant need to charge them during the school day. At the end of 2009 a discussion with the Cedars staff was held, where it was determined that a more mobile device, with a better battery life would make everyone’s lives easier. In February of 2010 the iPad 1 was launched – and the rest is history for the Cedars school! Read an in-depth account of their iPad journey on the Cedars School website here: http://cedars.inverclyde.sch.uk/ipad-and-itunes-u.html

Fraser shared his experience of the first roll out, citing the difficulties and the successes. It was not without initial difficulties, the supply of a working wireless network being one of the hurdles, obviously due to working in unchartered waters, but he has made a success of it, and his school only uses iPads now. They have replaced all their computers and are now an iPad-only school. Also, they only very recently (in August of this year), replaced their iPad 1’s with the latest iPads!

According to Fraser the iPad has transformed teaching at his school. It allows learning to be more personalised and lends itself well to differentiation of learning styles. The teachers at Cedars have also noted that their students are “100% engaged all the time”. As has been mentioned by other tech leaders at iPad schools, Fraser also found that the hardest part of the implementation, was convincing the teachers to use the tech!

For Fraser and the staff at Cedars, the success of the iPad lies in the follow features:

* its size and light weight

* the screen size

* the mobility, and

* the game changer – the up to 10-hour battery life

I also attended Fraser’s very informative technical talk in which he detailed the more technical aspects of his school’s iPad roll out. He offered a variety of technical statistics, as well as statistics on iPad damage/loss at his school (2% per annum across the board) and bandwidth implications and usage. We in the audience were totally green with envy when he told us his school has a 50 Megabit ADSL connection, which he admitted was “more than they required”. Only in our dreams here in South Africa…

The audience was given an opportunity to ask questions and it was inevitable that the BYOD hot potato would rear its head. Suffice to say that Fraser is NOT a fan, and he gave some very good reasons why, the most pertinent of which was, the cost of technology integration which is usually carried by the IT department, is pushed down onto the staff in terms of multiple device management, knowledge of various devices and lesson preparation to cater for all devices. Hear more about his thoughts on BYOD here and take a look at his blog here.

In the 18 months that we have had a shared set of iPads at our school, we have, as a team, come to the conclusion that the best way forward with iPads is if each student has a device of their own. Sharing the devices has had its share of difficulties and hurdles. Sharing of devices certainly is possible, but it doesn’t lead to the devices being used to their full potential as a tool for enhancing (transforming) teaching and learning in the classroom. One of the biggest issues the teachers have had with sharing the devices is the length of time it takes to complete a project. Sharing 25 iPads between four classes required a booking system, which meant the teachers booked the iPads for lessons in which they were going to use them. As in most schools, the timetable is often disrupted and lost “iPad lessons” are difficult to reschedule when they are shared between four classes. This often resulted in projects stretching over a number of weeks, by which time they had lost their effectiveness and impetus. Also, time lost in collecting, unpacking and handing out the iPads before lessons and by the same token, taking them in again, replacing them in the baskets and returning them to the IT Centre after lessons, has an effect on the meaningfulness of the lessons. It is for reasons such as these and others, that after much debate, thought and consideration, we have decided to roll out a 1:1 iPad programme at our Senior Primary school. There is much to do before this can happen, the most important of which is the installation of a robust wireless network, which is nearing completion at present. It is also important for us to engage with our parents and in order to do so we set up a series of meetings with them to inform them of the road ahead, and lastly, but very importantly, we will embark on a teacher training programme for all our staff so that they are prepared for the roll out. Since June of this year all our teachers have had their own iPads which has given them the opportunity to get to know it as a personal device. We will now step it up a notch and take them on an “iPads in the classroom” journey. Let the learning begin!

Playing Catch Up!

Okay, time to get this show on the road again! I haven’t given up on this blog, it’s just that Posterous closed down and I have had to move my blog to a new platform. It saved perfectly and now I’ve set it up here, only to find some of my images and videos are missing! I’ll have to rely on my memory, as I cannot refer to my Posterous blog at all. I should have checked earlier, but life happens, you get busy, side-tracked, find new platforms (Pinterest), start new projects etc. and some things just fall off the radar. I’ll just do my best to resurrect this blog, because our iPadding journey is FAR from over. In fact, I’d say we are now truly beginning! Exciting times ahead.