While the decision to share these positive results is a direct result of the positive impact on student learning, it is also important to realize the impact this initiative is having with teachers. I’ve observed the collective knowledge base of our teachers grow at a rate that far exceeds any other period of time in my 13-years at this school.
I’ve never observed anything else that has had the impact on teacher personal learning like the introduction of the iPad.
A Change In Teaching Style
Our focus over this three year period has been to define what it means to teach in a way that allows students to learn differently as a result of this incredible influx of technology. While this project has probably been one of the most difficult things I’ve had to lead as a principal, the changes I’ve observed in teaching style as a result of this project is likely the most amazing thing I will ever have the privilege of being a part of.
I see teachers learning more each day about what it means to become a facilitator of student learning. I see teachers who understand that students have access to unlimited numbers and types of educational resources and teachers that allow students to take more control of their learning. I’m fortunate enough to work with educators that understand our role is more about developing students that know how to learn than it is about filling their heads with rote knowledge.
I believe that the most successful of the students we are educating today will be those that can find information the fastest and know best what to do with that information. I am simply blown away at the impact this initiative has had on the way our teachers teach and the way students learn.
One of the most uplifting things I’ve observed with the introduction of the iPad into the classroom is the way it has directly impacted the learning environment. I’m observing classrooms that understand that learning shouldn’t be restricted to desks in neat rows.
I’m seeing classrooms where students are not only allowed but are encouraged to get comfortable while they learn. It really is an amazing sight to walk into classrooms and see not only high levels of student engagement, but also high levels of student collaboration. I can’t fully explain this observation, but the classroom environment is more peaceful. I believe this is a result of students having their own highly engaging and personalized learning device and their own space to learn in. They share better, problem solve better and most importantly learn that there is more than one way to solve a problem.
One of the first things we noticed as a result of iPads in the classroom is the direct impact on not only the quantity of student work, but the quality as well. The best examples to depict these points would be in the areas of math and writing. We all know that in a typical math lesson students are assigned about 15-problems to complete for independent work. Even the best of classrooms can milk these 15-problems for 15-20 minutes. When these same types of problems are presented in a game format on an iPad, students spend the same 15-minutes practicing, but will complete exponentially more problems during that same time period. Writing is often one of the most difficult subjects to teach and is often a struggle to consistently get high quality products from students. When students are given the opportunity to CREATE written work on an iPad this subject is transformed. I have enjoyed the opportunity to observe students who were formerly reluctant writers flourish when given the opportunity to work in apps like Book Creator. Because students have the opportunity to create beautiful works of art they see the value in sharing their written work with others. Suddenly, students understand that they are writing for an audience and consequently are self motivated to create a quality product. I’m observing classrooms that don’t have to convince students to write and instead have greater numbers of students that choose to write in their free time than ever before.
Speaking of students writing in their free time, another tremendous result of our 1:1 iPad initiative is the way it has maximized student learning time and extended the learning day for all of our students. In most learning environments all learners don’t finish a task at the same time. This has always caused problems for educators. How do teachers ensure that their students are taking advantage of down time in the classroom and making responsible choices about what to do during that time. The iPad has dramatically impacted student down time. Because every student has their own iPad individualized for their learning needs, there isn’t down time in the traditional sense of the word. When students complete a task, they know what to do next, they pick up their iPad or switch apps and continue to be engaged in educational content. I’m observing classrooms that have dramatically increased the amount of student learning time as a result of having an iPad for every student. One of the interesting side benefits of this is the impact taking an iPad home can have on student learning.
There are plenty of creative homework assignments I’ve witnessed all of which have resulted in not only deep learning but also improved home school communications. However, some of the most refreshing examples of extended learning opportunities as a result of sending iPads home are the many impromptu learning opportunities that have occurred. One simple example of this are the many iMovies I’ve seen created by families at home. What I know about this is that these families spent quality time together all engaged in learning how to use an incredibly powerful tool. I know in each of these situations that our students had the opportunity to shine at home that night. They were the expert, they had the opportunity to show their parents how to do something. It is so easy to see the benefits of this when that child shows up at school the next day and can’t wait to show you what they created the night before.
The Journey Continues…
This has been an incredible journey and I’m so excited to see where it takes us. While redefining what teaching and learning looks like in the 21st century isn’t an easy journey, it’s one well worth taking. Not only have I had the opportunity to observe students engaged with their learning to a degree never before observed, I’m seeing teachers engaged and motivated with their craft to a degree never before witnessed. I’ve never seen anything that can have this impact on both students and teaches at the same time. It is certainly an exciting time to be in education!
Fred Z. Sitkins
Boyne City Elementary School