Sunday, January 13, 2013

Site Visits and School Walk-Throughs

Our district has hosted several site visits since moving to a 1:1 iPad environment in September of 2011.  Though these visits can be time consuming, I believe they benefit all involved.  Classroom teachers have the opportunities to share their practices with other educators, students engage in authentic conversation with adults and participants get to see, first hand, a school in action.  School visits build collegiality within the broader community and work to improve education by collaboration.

I often get asked for tips about planning school visits or walk-throughs.  Here are a few:

  1. Mix up the sessions and get people moving around.  A little pedagogy, a little technology, visits, eating, etc...
  2. Participants come to see, first hand, what goes on in classrooms so be sure to build in ample time for walk-throughs.  Be sure to let participants know whether it's okay to speak with students and teachers.  I always ask teachers to prep students regarding the visit so when the adults entered they wouldn't be wondering why they were there.  If events can be scheduled on the same day of each week, even better, because then everyone knows it's a school visitation day and they can expect visitors.
  3. No surprises visits.  Let teachers know you are coming.  The beauty of seeing a 1:1 in action is seeing it in action.  If your visit is to be "real," visitors need to see not all students use the iPad every single minute of the day and that everyone uses the device differently.  
  4. The only request I had of teachers was that they did not have any direct instruction going on during the site visit.  This would make it difficult for visitors to roam the classrooms and interact with teachers and students.  
  5. Build in time for Q&A.  Whether you do this in each session or do this at the end is entirely up to you.  A mix is nice.
  6. Student panels/tour guides are awesome.  Everyone likes hearing about the student perspective because it provides the participants a unique view of the 1:1.  I selected students who could handle the makeup work of being out of class and whom I knew had a good working knowledge of the iPad.  This is important as they are representing the school and the implementation and you want them to be good.  I asked teachers for recommendations on students who were eloquently spoken and could work well with adults.  
  7. We had 5-6 school/Apple personnel roaming the hallways during the classroom visits for those who had specific questions.  We included the representatives from technology and administration.  Our Apple Development Executive and Sales Executive were present.  This helps.
  8. A teacher panel adds a nice touch to the end of the visit.  I selected the teacher panels based on availability(planning times) and the teacher's strengths in the 1:1.  Every teacher on the panel had embedded technology into their lessons seamlessly in a different way.  (Some focus on content, some on process, some on authenticity, some on the differentiation aspects of the apps and the device, etc...)  Look for teachers who will provide a variety of methods of doing just this so that it offers a glimpse into the many ways iPads are transforming classrooms.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

iPads at MSES

Yesterday, January 7th, marked a transformative day in some of the Manitou Springs Elementary School classrooms as teachers distributed iPads to students in select first through fourth grade classrooms.  One class in each grade level will experience a 1:1 iPad environment for the next five months of school.
Students using iPads - Day 1
The excitement level was similar to that of the first day of school.  Students were completely engaged in activity.  In an attempt to capture the excitement in writing, Mark Langseth, fourth grade teacher, asked his students to send an email describing their thoughts and attitudes toward learning with the iPad.  One student responded as follows, thought the sediment was the same among all students:
"I love the iPads they are so cool. I think this will be a very fun learning experience.  I think I am going to look forward to going to school now.  iPads have a big effect on kids and how they learn.  Thank you for the iPads we will enjoy them."

All teachers are incorporating a series of digital citizenship lessons to teach appropriate use and understanding of the many platforms and interactions students will experience through out the course of the semester.  These lessons will be embedded in classroom activities.
By the end of day 1, kindergarten students had learned how to author story books, first graders had visited the San Diego Zoo, second graders began blogging with students in Great Britain,  third graders had researched science topics, and fourth graders were emailing and studying comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.
The teachers in the 1:1 environment are already questioning the next school year, wondering how on earth they will cope in a non-1:1 iPad setting.  With only one day of 1:1 access under their belt, they see the impact this access will have on student engagement and instruction.