NJASA: iPads – From Pilot Program to Positive Pupil Performance

The New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA) will be holding their annual Spring Conference this week in Atlantic City, NJ. On Wednesday, May 23, I will be sharing, along with Jason Weber, my two years of experience with a revolutionary device, the iPad. Now I know exactly what everyone is thinking…”Just what I wanted…another sales demonstration about an iPad…or…I’ve had just about enough of this iPad stuff…can we get over it now!” I promise you that this will not be your typical presentation. At the very least, you will walk out of this event knowing WHY you absolutely need a tablet device, quite possibly the iPad, in your classrooms and how you CAN make it happen instructionally without being a technological wizard. You should leave that wizardry (you know the “back end” complications) to your tech staff anyway.

What is on the list to discuss? First and most important is the construct that the result of any technology implementation should be a more effective and efficient instructional process. If it does not fulfill this requirement, stop using it and rethink. As absurd as it sounds, districts have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on large implementations of technology with little positive impact on instructional practice. This is not because the tools are inappropriate or inherently flawed. It is because we have forgotten that the priority in the classroom should be on instruction and not the tools of trade. Sounds obvious, but everyday thousands of teachers allow the tools…tablets, laptops, interactive whiteboards…to rule the classroom. They forget to ask WHY they are implanting their existence into their lives and the students they touch. Every teacher must start with these questions when they begin there integrations:

What is the technology enhancing?

What is the technology allowing me to do more quickly?

Why can’t I teach as effectively or efficiently without this device?

The preceding questions are critical to successful implementations. Technology cannot be a bolt on. It cannot be simply a superfluous engagement tool that invokes the short term novelty effect in students. It needs to serve a purpose or function that elevates the quality of instruction. My last post (Are you on the correct road to a 1:1 implementation?) highlighted the functions or capabilities that I wanted from a piece of educational technology. Content creation, access to resources, communication channels, assessment tools, and personalization for efficiency are all necessities for a student and teacher device. If you notice, these are also all the activities that we expect from students and teachers alike. Students need to demonstrate comprehension or mastery of content and be able to construct new individualized knowledge sets. Teachers need to create content for support resources. Students need to research and validate information efficiently using appropriate resources. Teachers need this same access for all the reasons you would expect. Students need to collaborate with pears and content experts to empower the community brain. Teachers desperately need to collaborate with experts in the field, administrators, and colleagues in order to produce the best results in their classrooms. Both teachers and students need to have access to efficient and effective assessment methods that quickly quantify results for more informed instruction and learning. This type of focus places the teacher in control of the device and not the reverse. It is the function of the device that should rule the thought process.

With iPad implementations, it has become an app game. Apple boasts some absurd number of apps and hopes that they can get you to purchase them all. I am here to tell you that you can substantially change instructional practice with around ten…that’s right, just 10 apps. How can that be? When you take into account the above feature sets or activities, you begin to purchase (many are even free) apps for the iPad that allow the device to perform those tasks or functions. Take a look at the list below:

Content Creation:
iWork: Pages, Numbers, Keynote
iLife: iMovie, Garage Band
Skitch (Free)
iRecorder (Free)

Resource:
Safari (Free and a default install)
iBooks with ePubs (Free and a default install)
iTunesU (Free and a default install)

Collaboration:
Apple (or comparable) wiki service (Free) – Not an iPad app, but a complimentary server tool
Apple (or comparable) WebDav service (Free) – Not an iPad app, but a complimentary server tool
WiFi Photo (Free)

I guarantee that these apps will serve most if not all of your instructional needs. They are not teacherless apps and they all can provide an instructional purpose or function. The only category not represented is assessment. This is intentional. Although there are classroom polling tools available for the platform, they are either very expensive or do little on the data reporting side. That said, I have seen many in beta that have the potential to be an addition to the list. As well, let’s not forget that the tools listed in content creation are also a very effective method of demonstrating comprehension, application of skills, or the ability to evaluate.

Last on the list for this presentation will be the discussion of professional development. How do we meet the needs of the teacher? How do we get this grand concept to happen in the classroom? The discussion will center on the deployment of authentic, informal versus classroom based, formal learning environments. It will also dive into the frameworks such as Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPaCK), the Princeton Model, and quantitative scoring tools. In addition, it will touch on co-teaching or coaching with regards to content delivery.

I hope to see you at NJASA!

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