The article that I read was written by Jennie Magiera, the digital learning coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a network of 25 Chicago Public Schools. In it, she discusses the use of iPads in classrooms (something which has been mentioned more than once in our own class, as well as many other education classes that I’ve taken), and how to best utilize the technology within the classroom. According to Magiera, there are five things which she believes are most important:
1. One Classroom > Three Classrooms
Instead of having a small number of iPads that can be checked out by teachers and circulated throughout the building, much like many schools do with laptops, it would be much more efficient to keep a cart of iPads as a permanent fixture in a classroom. Magiera touches on a caveat of iPads; that in order to share information and programs between the devices, they must be synced, and this requires time and skill to do effectively that wouldn’t be possible through an occasion-checkout system. Allowing students more time with the devices would also allow them to become more familiar with the interfaces. And I must say I agree. A student with more access to any technology will become more literate in its use.
2. Teacher Buy-In Is Half the Battle
This point is a bit more teacher-centric; if a cart of iPads is to be kept in one teacher’s classroom, who is the lucky teacher that gets it? Magiera suggests having teachers share a video or blog demonstrating how they would effectively use an iPad in class, as well as giving an honest expectation of how, and how often they would be able to incorporate the device into their lesson plans. Once again, this seems a good idea. No sense letting the iPads sit in classrooms and go to waste, only being used two or three times a year, when they would be better off in a different class.
3. We All Need a Little Help From Our PLCs
Mageria focuses on the importance of teachers practicing together to support one another. After spending two-days together, teachers learned about the basics of iPads; syncing, apps, certain technical restriction, etc. From there, teachers would meet once a month to discus problems, challenges, and goals.
4. Plan for Incidental Expenses
Apps. While a $1 or $3 may seem like an insignificant expense, keep in mind that number must be applied to all students in the classroom, as well as any other students in any other classrooms that may have iPads as well. Allow teachers to make some decision making; cost of app against how often it will be used. This is extremely important, for the cost off apps can quickly add up.
5. Save Room for Failure
Perhaps the most important thing, Margiera says, is to not be discouraged by failures or mishaps. According to her, her initial failures are one of her most useful learning experiences that she had. As a result of the failures, and the schools giving them the room to fail, teachers are able to grow, and improve their pedagogical practices. Most importantly, and something that I think is incredibly important, is how these failures can turn a teacher into a role model for their students. “I was demonstrating that it is OK to fail, and that it’s rewarding to reflect, learn, and try again.”