The teacher education program at the university where I teach has recently made the decision to require elementary education students to bring an iPad to the first day of class in August. Since January, our faculty has participated in intense professional development to prepare for this initiative. An Apple trainer has worked with us for six days, teaching us how to use both the MacBookAir and iPadAir to create and consume content. We have held weekly iPad user groups, participated in our own virtual learning community, using Edmodo, and practiced creating instructional elements (e.g., screencasts, podcasts, multimedia Keynote presentations). This summer we will host a Pedagogy Day, learning from each other ways to manage in-class activities within the university classroom setting. Some folks will participate in a book study of Magana & Marzono’s “Enhancing the Art and Science of Teaching with Technology.” Over the summer, 18 faculty members are each creating a project to be used in a course this fall. Some are designing ibooks, others are creating a repository of professional articles in lieu of using a textbook.
We have investigated and attempted to sort out:
- issues with etextbooks and legal issues with the campus bookstore
- wireless access on campus
- designs for future classrooms
- funding sources for student iPad purchase
- quality apps for teaching and learning
- tutorial modules for assisting learners new to the iPad
- accessibility issues for students with special learning needs
- effective ways to communicate the initiative to students, parents, colleagues on campus, community colleges, public school partners, and the general public.
The project started with 20 faculty members and this summer will grow to 34 faculty plus a few more from our community college partners. Collaboration has been at an unprecedented level, including faculty from elementary education, special education, instructional design and technology, science, music, art, and math education. The opportunities for professional growth and development have been extensive and of high quality. Some faculty began in January with literally no experience with an iPad or MacBook, while others knew how to use these devices extensively. An atmosphere of supporting each other as learners has been cultivated, as we shared in one another’s success at the simple things – discovering how to airdrop a document or import a photo into a Keynote.
All of this training culminates with a single question, posed by one of our faculty. Marvin (I hope he doesn’t mind me using his name) asked a simple, yet crucial question: “I am working to convert my PowerPoints to Keynote so they can be viewed on the iPad. Is this what I should be doing?” (paraphrased)
I believe technology should help both teachers and students do things more effectively and/or more efficiently. If these two conditions are not met, then we might as well all stick with paper and pencil (and PowerPoint), which have served us as very fine learning tools for many years. So when I am making decisions about how to best use my “technology” time when planning and teaching, I am mentally weighing the implications of my choices. Personally, I would not convert my presentations because these can still be viewed by my students on their iPads. Apps like CloudOn and others let students convert PowerPoints to be viewed on the iPad. I want to put my efforts into designing ways to enhance the learning of my students. My goal is to have my students use their iPads for at least one meaningful activity during each class session. By meaningful, I mean beyond accessing an etextbook or looking up a fact online.
The iPad is highly engaging and motivating for students. I want to capitalize on this with my teaching by crafting ways for students to become more actively engaged in my college class, thus (hopefully) increasing their learning. To do this takes on-going learning on my part – learning new ways to use the technology, learning about new apps, learning about effective pedagogical choices I can make to create class sessions that promote deeper learning.
This is a continual journey. Fellow faculty members, thank you so much for signing up for this mission. Your enthusiasm and willingness to learn has been contagious and appreciated.