Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back at the Reading Center- iPads and pre service teachers

 I come back to Reading Center every summer with anticipation. It is a great place to try out new ideas and examine change in teachers and students over short periods of time. During the last few years integrating technology especially tablets (well really iPads) has been a focal point. Two years ago we experimented with iPads for instructors, coaches, and teachers working with struggling readers. The following summer we purchased a classroom set and integrated technology into every aspect of the course.

This summer technology, when it is useful, is ubiquitous- which ultimately is our goal. During the first day about a third of my students showed up with their own tablets. By mid course it was over a half. As students saw that tablet use is encouraged, almost required, they brought devices they already had. The rest are still using our class set.

I am not a big fan of a random BYOD. It creates more problems than solutions. As a program we moved into defining a requirement that will create enough uniformity allowing faculty and students to find a common path. At the same time I am finding that students are eager to bring their devices and use them to support instruction.

I love hearing comments like: "this is much better when I use my phone" or this works better without using the iPads. It means that teachers (and future teachers) are developing the capacity to use technology and make professional judgements about utility and cost benefit.

The impact can be seen through comment by one of our teachers last week:

Alan lights up whenever I pull out the iPad and always wants to know where I found a certain app, or how I created a game. Alan even goes home and adds the free apps to his iPad at home. I have liked using just the basic Safari browser for Google Images. Alan has a hard time picturing words he's never heard of, so we look up pictures of him. This week I used iCardSort, Safari, Dragon Dictation, iDictionary, and Track and Change. (Names were changed)

Change now is multi level. Teachers are coming with more willingness and more access to devices. They see the connection to devices already in the schools, and finally we can add to their knowledge and flexible implementation of technology integration.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Classroom in Conditional Tense

Last Tuesday we had our summer Tech EDGE conference. It was a great day with excellent presentations, great conversation and participation. We have been playing with formats for a closing section. This time we tried out an "Imagine" session. A forum to ask questions and generate ideas for collaboration and collegial support between university, district, schools, and teachers.

I am still not this session was successful and I think our follow-up next year will tell. I would like to respond more thoughtfully to a question posed during the session. Mary, one of our cooperating teachers asked what classrooms of the future look like. I responded at the time with- I don't really know and by the time I do it will change again.

Later when I had time to reflect I came to understand her question differently: What should/could our classrooms look like now? Now, that is a question I can address and wish I did then.

I first would like to point out that technology is just a small piece of what a great classroom space is and should be. There needs to be enough room for all kinds of real world activities. Virtual is great but it complements and not replaces painting, sculpting, outdoor spaces, a vegetable garden, animals, musical instruments and more. As far as technology I still think the device is a tablet and right now an iPad. The device should be individual (1:1) and students should be able to take it home. This way you can flip your classroom, communicate with parents, and assign digital homework without thinking whether our students have access at home. Classroom technology should  add a few desktop machines with large screen for applications and websites that are not currently optimized on tablets. For example Google Earth is great on mobile devices but some features appear only on computers. Finally the ability to project in the classroom.

The real clincher for me is actually in the availability of software/apps. Not everything teachers need is currently available but needs are going to emerge as we experiment and develop ideas. While districts like creating app packages I would argue that teachers need some flexibility in trying out and downloading apps with a great fit to their classroom and curriculum. I truly believe that our power s schools is through the diversity of experiences we provide to our students and then share with our colleagues.

This is very simple, and actually doable. To make it work though we need two things: room for students and teachers to experiment and ERR. And professional development that focuses on long-term collaboration.
The main obstacle is implementation like this requires trust- community to trust schools, administrators to trust teachers, and teachers to trust students. Can we?