How have you as an educator transformed your learning environment?
Throughout my career as an educator in Australia, I have made full use of technology as a primary motivator for engagement in the classroom. I have taught from Kindergarten through to Year 10 and been witness the transformation that has taken place when technology is used in the classroom to open connections with the wider world. From digital cameras to iPods, laptops to iPads, I have used them all to continuously reflect upon the learning ‘Through the Lens of the Learner’.
In 2012, I have been fortunate enough to be the driver of the implementation of one-to-one student purchased iPads in a Year 7 Middle School in Western Australia. This has been the biggest breakthrough yet, in my opinion. The transformative ability to move the classroom beyond an ‘actual’ room has opened doors to new and deeper learning experiences and connectedness, as well as opening the doors of creativity.
The implementation of an individual mobile device has allowed for a new way of seeing the learner and developing in them more accountability and responsibility for how and where they choose to learn. Open learning spaces and choice of seating and the ease of connectedness regardless of where you are, makes for a flexible learning environment where students have ownership and are largely self-directed. In my classroom, the students choose where they work: indoors or outdoors; in class or in collaborative spaces with students from other classes. The iPad allows for ease and portability that is difficult to achieve with other technologies.
Not only has the physical environment changed, but the classroom can now be anytime and anywhere and can capture the attention of an authentic audience through a variety of online spaces. With the introduction of iTunes U, the curriculum can now be self-paced and the students have the opportunity to self-direct in terms of independent work prior to school lessons, or reinforcement through review of lessons. The introduction of iTunesU for my students has been welcomed as a place where all the information is held and students are made aware of the course materials at the onset, allowing for prior download of necessary apps or viewing of videos. The real-time editing and notification are features which are relevant and scaffolded on how students already engage with technology in their everyday lives.
The students use a learning management system to access all information for school on a daily basis. The students socially connect with authentic audience through Edmodo, Twitter, iMessage, blog responses, Pinterest and email. Our recently established blog allows students, parents and the wider community to follow along at http://www.futurelifehcc.wordpress.com to communicate the learning. The students use Twitter and Pinterest for a variety of collaborative activities, research and discussions.
New apps are investigated consistently and the students check for new apps on the blogposts called hAPPyDays. This was previously uploaded on our wiki page as the APP OF THE DAY.
Illustrate how apple technologies have helped this transformation.
I have always been interested in technology in the classroom and have used a variety of computers, laptops, etc; however, I was introduced to the MacBook in 2006 and haven’t looked back. The intuitive functions for the creative brain seamlessly translates the necessary information in a style that complements the needs of the creative thinker.
During 2008 and 2009, I introduced a small bank of iPods to a class of 5,6 and 7 year olds in country WA. The students were enthralled and engaged and used the game functions to consolidate information learned through hands-on activities in the classroom. In 2010, I further introduced a bank of iPods in a low socio-economic preschool classroom of 4 and 5 year olds, many of whom spoke English as a second language. The students loved the opportunities to work together with the gestural movements and were keen to teach one another. The gaming style of learning allowed for the learner to continue to practise the learning until they got it right.
In 2011, the students I worked with were privileged to be part of a one-to-one program with MacBooks. At the time, I considered the use of the laptops and the opportunities to be outstanding but with the iPad released during that year, it was important to trial its success as a learning device. Initially we trialled them as a bank of iPads but soon realised that the power was in having it as a personal device.
During 2012, I have worked to introduce the iPads to a group of 70 students in their first year of High School. Digital Citizenship became our first challenge-based learning topic where the students were asked the big question: Who R U? R U Ok?. This focused on Optimistic Thinking Skills, Resiliency, Tolerance, Acceptance, Relationships (Bullying) Digital Citizenship, Technology for L.I.F.E. (Learning, Inter-relationships, Faith and Enrichment).
The challenge focused on building on the students prior use of technology and their understanding of the global use of technology for learning. The students used their iPads to undertake numerous activities which involved their getting the know and understand the power of the technology in their hands and their responsibility to use it to impact positively on others.
The students were introduced to essential knowledge for the iPads and essential apps for learning through the download of an iBook on their first day. The students and their parents were encouraged to follow the instructions through the iBook to make implementation and the download of apps an easier process. The parents were further encouraged to interact with the technology in a parent workshop where their child worked with them to tutor them in the use of the specified apps for learning.
What successes have you seen with your learners?
My philosophy has always been grounded in developmental learning and the nurturing of different learning styles. The iPad has been a welcome introduction to my classroom for its ease in allowing the students to develop at their own pace and in their own way whilst taking ownership and allowing opportunities for creativity and global connectedness. Initially I would scaffold many of the learning opportunities and activities in order to introduce the variety of apps and their different uses. Using Apple TV, it is easy to model for the students how I would take notes, analyse or construct information on my iPad in real-time and from any place in the classroom. This is especially good for keeping particular students on task who have identified behavioural difficulties or special learning needs as I can sit at their table and be a part of their learning.
I also encourage collaboration as much as possible in the classroom; class building, Team-building and paired work are the norm. The iPad in conjunction with AppleTV allow for a seamless accountability in learning teams as the students can project their work from any position in the classroom. A general strategy to ensure all students are on task and accountable would be to ask the students to number themselves. Using the app, Kid Picker or Stick Pick, the students number or their name is randomly selected to project their work to the screen for discussion.
Students collaborate in online and offline environments using their iPads. In offline environments the students continue their sharing in class circles for consensus, corners, inside-outside circles for sharing of learning, SMS (stand, move, swap). There are an endless number of collaborative activities used where the students share their work on the iPads. In online environments, the students are encouraged to share their understandings or make comments through Edmodo and more recently, our class blog.
The students use Pinterest to create research boards on different topics and also to gather inspirations for project work. They have also posted their own work on their boards for comment by others. The students have recently started to use Twitter as a means for gathering information and sharing their own ideas and opinions. This has been met with enthusiasm and engagement and has also continued to open doors to authentic contribution and the need to fully understand their Digital Footprint and Digital Citizenship.
Learning styles are acknowledged through the student option to select the method that best appeals to them for note-taking, analysis and presentation. Each lesson begins with a five minute quiet learning game. The students use this time to have-a-go with new downloaded apps or to consolidate skills and understandings through learning games, etc. This is generally subject area targeted and the students are encouraged to connect with their peers on multi-player learning games.
Video-conferencing and global connections have always been a passion of mine. I have used this functionality for a number of years for students in country schools to connect with students in city schools and vice versa. I have also used this powerful tool with five year old students through to the students in my middle school class today. I intend to continue to make global connections to develop understanding and perspectives in a wide-range of subject areas and authentic real-world topics.
How do you share these successes to influence the broader community?
Over the past fifteen years, I have participated in a number of pilot projects concerning technology in the classroom and been part of school and state authority committees on the introduction of technology practice in schools. I have also been a presenter in a wide-range of state and national conferences on best practice and innovation with technology. More recently I have used Twitter as a means of communicating my ideas and understandings of the use of technology for best practice in the classroom and have found it invaluable for making global connections and keeping abreast of new innovations, etc.
I have recently begun my own educational blog and classroom blog in order to contribute my ideas and experiences with other interested parties. As I continue on my journey, this will become a source of reflection to enhance my practice and hopefully provide an insight into the continued implementation of successful classroom practice with technology as a key motivator in the learning process. Alongside my own blog, I hope to introduce a blog in the new school year in which the students will parallel the learning experiences from their perspective. This will provide valuable insight through the ‘Lens of the Learner’.
My ultimate goal is to find out what motivates the students in their learning and how they feel success as a learner so that I can continue to reflect on and adapt my practice to provide the best learning environment possible; digital and physical.
Teachers plan collaboratively at Holy Cross College and this has been imperative in the success of iPad implementation for the sharing of knowledge and the indirect teaching between colleagues as to the wide-range of strategies that can be used for success with mobile technologies. This will continue to be an ongoing process as new staff are introduced each year. Alongside this, an iTunes U course will be developed in the coming year to introduce the basics of the iPad for staff and how it is used in the classroom. Coaching in our Vision for 21 Century Learning is also included in our action plan for 2013.
I continue to be interested in the gamification of learning and harnessing the power of badges for learning, social networking, etc and their impact on engaging the disengaged. I feel that this could be a powerful tool for teachers in their learning as well as students and I am interested in developing iTunes U courses for this purpose which will encompass all aspects of the Apple suite of learning: iBooks Author, iMovie, etc.
In 2013, I will continue to present and share my own learning journey through state and national conferences, in-school conferences (where students are encouraged to host and panel discussions on iPads for learning) school visits, tekkie brekkies, peer coaching, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, video-conferencing through Skype and FaceTime and through general conversations. I will continue to encourage and provide opportunities for students to share their learning experiences during system and school visits. I hope to include the Apple Distinguished Educator conference on my list of new ways of networking and developing my personal and professional learning network.
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