Students of the 21st century live in a world that is immersed in digital technology that allows them to connect, create and collaborate in ways that were previously not possible.
Educational organizations and those within have a responsibility to ensure that students are being equipped with the skills they need to be responsible citizens and navigate the world they live in successfully. We wanted to embrace the tools that students were already using and teach responsible use.
In the fall of 2010, Fairmont Private Schools reevaluated the use of technology in our learning environments. After piloting various devices and ensuring our infrastructure could handle multiple devices we decided to launch a technology-enhanced curriculum initiative via iPads. We immediately realized that if we wanted our vision for 21st century learning to materialize where teachers moved from being the sage on the stage to being the guide on the side where students were using a variety of digital tools to connect, collaborate and create then our teachers would need a few things:
- Professional Development
- Time to create lessons and reflect
- Support while trying something new
- More time :)
Which Generation Do You Belong Too?
Before we launched our 1:1 technology-enhanced curriculum initiative we implemented a full year of professional development training for our teachers. We purchased iPads for all the teachers and a few carts with class sets of iPads. Three years later reflecting back it was probably one of the best decisions we ever made. Many of our teachers knew the iPad as a personal device but were not necessarily familiar with how it could be used as an educational tool in the classroom. After reading Howard Gardner’s, The App Generation, it occurred to me that the concept of “generation” is changing. Today regardless of age many of us belong to this generation known as the “app generation.”
Within this generation are two categories of individuals, those who are app-dependent and those who are app-enabled. Being app dependent decreases the four key skills that the 21st century demands this generation develop; critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration, otherwise known as the 4Cs. The second category of individuals are those that are app-enabled, that encourage the use of apps to enhance and develop the four key 21st century learning skills.
Our goal was to make our teachers app-enabled, where they saw the iPad not as a storage device for apps, but rather looked to it as a creation device where the possibilities for what could take place in the classroom where limited only to their imagination. Instead of becoming frustrated and asking questions like, “Why can't I find an app to teach the Civil War,” we wanted our teachers asking, “How can we use the mobile device in our students hands to have them collaborate and create a screencast with the 8th graders across our three campuses to teach each other about the different events that made up the Civil War?”
Always Begin with Why?
We began with a discussion about why this was important for us to embrace as educators. Many of our teachers used technology in the classroom and to reflect upon our use and to push us to be the best we can be we constantly reflect upon Dr. Ruben Puentedura's SAMR Model.
Harnessing the power of iTunes U and iBooks Author Dr. Rebecca Osborne and I created a course called iLearn. Instead of focusing on specific tools we centered our course on themes that allowed teachers to think about how they could redefine the learning experiences that take place in their classroom. Highlights from the course were:
- iTransfer where we explored Google Drive and Dropbox as a way of working with files
- iExplain where we explored the use of screencasting via Explain Everything and Educreations
- iDirect where we explored the use of creating media using iMovie and Tellagami
- iFlip where we explored the use of Knowmia and Explain Everything
We met once a month on Fridays. Teachers rotated through two different sessions during the first half of the day where we went through the iBook for that day, set up accounts and learned how to use the tool. The second half of the day was dedicated to having teachers collaborate to create lessons that they could use in their classroom. They would sign up to use the iPad cart and bring their ideas to life. We extended our winter holiday by a week for students. The first week back in January for teachers was a weeklong technology boot camp. Teachers rotated through a variety of sessions during the first half of the day and the second half was dedicated to collaboration and creation.
At the end of the week on Friday our teachers had the opportunity to showcase a unit they had created. This was a phenomenal experience and I think we were all so pleasantly surprised to see just how much we could learn from what was happening in other people’s classrooms. This further reinforced the idea that technology tools are not content specific.
The following year we launched our full scale technology-enhanced curriculum initiative with all students equipped with iPads. It’s been a phenomenal experience to say the least. The question we are often asked however is, “Do these mobile devices really enhance the student learning experience?”
Our response is an unequivocal yes!
Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side
You often hear the phrase, “sage on the stage to guide on the side,” well here is a perfect example. We have a wonderful history teacher who used direct instruction as the primary teaching method in his classroom. Loved his overhead projector and transparency slides. He sure knows how to tell a great story and has a vibrant personality that engages the students. He loves being able to jump between his lecture to images to maps etc. With the iPads in the hands of all the students he soon realized that information was no longer a scarce resource and that everyone had access.
This is a very special example because this is a teacher that is slightly older and not really what you would consider to be a “tech savvy” individual. He is the perfect example of what we would call the “sage on the stage.” In this example, he transitions to being the “guide on the side” as his U.S. History class participates in a lesson on the muckrakers and other reformers during the progressive era. In this lesson students will work in groups and each member will take on an assigned role. Students will choose a reformer, muckraker or a reform amendment or movement of their choice. They will choose a minimum of three pictures and three facts about the topics that we do not already know. They will create a screencast in Explain Everything that will be presented to the class. Students did the research and decided what they thought was important for the class to know (great example of teaching historical significance.)
This is proof that when time is made for teachers to create and collaborate and when professional development opportunities that are meaningful and relevant to teachers take place MAGIC can happen!
During Year 2 we moved into launching our 1:1 program at the Junior High campuses. Just like at the high school, the junior high teachers are currently undergoing their full year of PD before the students bring the devices to school. Check out the conference we had for them to launch the professional development here.
Professional development must be ongoing and in Year Two my partner, Dr. Rebecca Osborne and I introduced the gamification of PD. If you are interested in learning more follow our article series here.
Next time you plan a professional development session think about, “how are you teaching your teachers?” Be the change you wish to see and let’s change professional development sessions to unforgettable learning experiences for our teachers.