This is a continuing look at the Professional Development that has gone into developing a 1:1 iPad program…
Step Two: Looking Forward
The most common answer to professional development for the iPad is “let the teachers play with the device!” While I agree with this statement, I don’t think it is as simple as that.
In our school, we implemented a 1:1 program for the middle school. All teachers were given an iPad, even though only the 7th grade students were going to get the devices in the first year. The devices were handed to teachers in late July and students received them a month later. Given the lack of prep time, the 7th grade teachers used the devices mostly as a substitution for their previous curriculum (i.e. instead of making powerpoints on laptops, they made keynotes on iPads). The iPads given to the 6th and 8th grade teachers went unused. Many teachers felt uncomfortable with the devices, and furthermore felt that they didn’t have enough time (between daily lesson planning, grading, etc.) to explore the devices for curricular purposes while the school year was going on. Even though the 7th grade teachers had become much more skilled in the usage of the devices, many had not had the opportunity to think “big picture” about the device.
The first step was to bring those teachers who were at “step zero” up to speed. This may be the single most important step in the road to developing a vibrant 1:1 program, and it is one that I believe is ignored most often by those implementing these programs.
Teaching an “intro to technology” session, for a edtech director, is incredibly difficult, as so much of what we do with technology has become seemingly instinctual. We forget how much learned behavior is expressed when we do seemingly simple tasks such as download and use Facebook or Twitter. However, as a classroom teacher, it was important for me to think of this as I would any other situation that called for differentiated instruction. It was a lot like how I, as a history teacher, taught writing research papers to ninth graders: Every step of the process had to be fleshed out and explained.
We decided to develop a short “Intro to iPad” session for teachers with no previous experience on the devices whatsoever. This was as basic as it gets: from the on/off switch to where the mail icon is located, to “what’s an app,” this was the opportunity to get teachers on board with simply how the device operated. And it was probably one of the most successful PD experiences I had ever led. Teacher who had heretofore been skeptical (to put it mildly) of the devices were jumping into apps, playing videos on YouTube, and brimming with ideas about how to work the devices both into their personal and professional lives. Many of these teachers were interested in these devices, but intimidated by the idea that they were too complex, and simply extolling the virtues of the devices was never going to get them on board. We had to sit down and “learn by doing.” I was amazed by the number of teachers who left this training excited about the devices.
iPads and Curriculum Conversations
Once a majority of the teachers were in the same ballpark in terms of the devices themselves, the next step was to move towards the iPads as curricular devices. In an effort to move from the “substitution” model to the “transformation” model, I introduced a series of “Teachnology Discussions,” built around tablet devices, that would get teachers thinking in different ways about implementing iPads into their curriculum. I built our discussions, occurring in the summer to better allow teachers time to process, around the SAMR Model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, in the hopes that we as a school could move away from using technology as a simple substitute for previous pedagogy models.
The most important single piece of information given at these sessions was simple:
THE iPAD IS NOT A LAPTOP.
Many teachers, especially those in schools with laptop carts or computer labs, have a hard time understanding the nuances of this statement. The iPad is a curricular device; in terms of implementation in a classroom (especially in terms of frequency of use), it’s much closer to a calculator than a laptop.
After these conversations, teachers had the opportunity to play with the devices for awhile. While playing with the devices, the conversation focused on apps that might be available and uses of these apps within the context of learning. As such, these Teachnology Discussions were as much about curriculum as they were about technology…possibly more so. However, until they were comfortable with the devices within a context, these conversations would have been impossible.
As we move on, the next step is to begin specific conversations about App implementation, grade-level policy decisions, and common language. It is essential that technology use in a 1:1 program is made up of a series of intentional, pedagogically sound decisions made by teachers comfortable with the devices. Once teachers were made comfortable with the devices, it was time for the deliberation that would hopefully lead to those decisions.
To be continued…