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iPads in Education – Implementation Stories and Lessons Learned (continued)

by Kelly Walsh on July 17, 2011

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Part Two of our look into results and best practices being generated from iPad rollouts in education.

ipads in education hows it going so far picture of ipad

Last week we started looking at rollouts of iPads in schools by searching out, reading, and summarizing findings in articles discussing these types of programs. This week we continue our examination of this topic by sharing take-aways from this excellent article in the March/April 2011 Educause Review. Educators Mary Ann Gawelek, Mary Sparato, and Phil Komarny from Seton Hill University wrote this highly informative overview of the recent introduction of iPads at their university.

Objectives
What was Seton Hill out to accomplish with this effort? The program had among its principle objectives:

  • Increased student engagement in learning
  • Widespread adoption and use of mobile technology, providing instant access to information
  • Creating a teaching and learning environment that goes beyond the traditional classroom
  • Enhancing creative and critical thinking through the development and use of interactive teaching strategies
  • Displacing some textbook costs by moving to less expensive electronic texts

Getting The Environment And Personnel Prepared
The article shares a wealth of information about some of the keys to positioning an effort like this for success. First among these is the proper mindset for both leadership and faculty. “Visionary and nimble senior leadership”, and faculty who are “committed to teaching excellence and becoming active learners in emerging technologies”, are essential. It also calls for an innovative technology leader (“predicting what technology will be like three to five years in the future and which investments will pay off then, requires leadership willing to take risks”). To ensure that a wealth of resources were directed towards support of this project, Seton Hill developed a strong collaboration between academic leadership, teaching faculty, and students.

On the infrastructure front, knowing how critical network throughput would be, the university completely refreshed their network, providing 300 access points, and significantly increasing bandwidth on the campus Internet backbone (they went from a 25 mbps connection to their provider to a full gigabit connection!).

Additionally, a program of comprehensive and ongoing faculty development was put in place. This includes training in skills such as the use of the iPad as an instructional tool, working with multi user virtual environments (like Second Life), a variety of Web 2.0 applications, assistive technology tools, and the use of gaming in the instructional process.

How’s It Going So Far?
This effort is still in its early stages, but there has been a lot of encouraging feedback so far.

  • Early assessment data show that  66% of faculty use the iPad in the classroom at least once a week.
  • In the classroom, the iPad is being used for instructional reinforcement, “immediate and authentic information gathering”, interactive presentations, educational gaming, podcasts, and more.
  • Faculty and students report that they appreciate the iPad for its convenience and portability, and that they use it for communication, information gathering, note taking, reading, interactive work, and “staying connected”.
  • 52% percent of students reported believing that the iPad  has had a positive effect on their communication with faculty.

Seton Hill intends to leverage student and faculty focus groups, surveys, and evaluation components of the professional development program to further assess the effectiveness and impact of the “Griffin Technology Advantage” (as the iPad program has been formally titled by Seton Hill).

The article provides much more detail, so click through to learn more about this well planned project that appears positioned to enhance engagement, improve communication, increase information access, and provide useful feedback through robust assessment efforts.

Next Steps (here on EmergingEdTech)
Among the comments on last week’s post was one particularly interesting one from first grade reading teacher Sara Getting, who explained the she and a colleague have recently completed a research project focused on 3o at-risk readers and how the iPad might help them. Sara has kindly agreed to share more about her work, and I look forward to publishing an article about this research here shortly.

In a couple weeks, I’ll be attending Campus Technology 2011, and there are a number of great looking workshops being offered that focus on the iPad, including one by the authors of the article above, which I am really looking for to! As always, I’ll be sharing much of what I learn here. (I’ll also be presenting a workshop at Campus Technology, “Using Popular Social Networking Tools In (and Out Of) The Classroom” on Thursday 6/28 at 9:45 AM. I hope you’ll stop by if your attending!)

In the meanwhile, if you have experiences with the iPad in educational uses, or questions or comments, don’t hesitate to join the conversation!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
iPads In Education – How’s It Going So Far?
10 Excellent iPad Applications for Teachers
Someday students will carry a tablet computer instead of books (it’s just a matter of time)

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave W. November 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

I thought the most important comment on the original article was the one by Jim, who simply asked, “Any evidence of improved academic performance?”
I have heard lots of gushing about the iPad’s portability, ease of use, cool-factor, etc., but none of this speaks to the issue of whether or not it improves learning. I’m not even sure anyone has defined what they mean by “improved learning” or how they would measure it scientifically. Seems to me that for the tens of thousands of dollars that schools are spending on these devices, there would be some serious attention paid to conducting rigorous, quantifiable, replicable studies to demonstrate that the money was being well spent. But I have not seen that in all the reading and research I have conducted.
As I survey the articles, most of what I find are anecdotal reports about how much more motivated and engaged students are, or about how it is easier to carry and iPad than a text book, or that x tons of paper are being saved. While I do not question that these things are true, I do question the way these outcomes of iPad use are being uncritically accepted as justification for the heavy investment in this technology. The only outcome, to my mind, that would justify such an expenditure by a school or district would be a clearly demonstrated improvement in students’ intellectual and academic skills.

Disclaimer: I’m not a tech-curmudgeon – I own a MacBook Pro, an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod Touch, etc., etc. and find them extremely useful in both my professional and personal life. I have used technology many times in my teaching, and have had positive and negative experiences doing so. The only time that I felt the technology was actually being used as a tool for encouraging better thinking (as opposed to a tool for making neater graphs, quickly finding facts, easily revising an essay, etc.) was when students learned a simple programming language which they used to explore various mathematical concepts. That defined for me what “interactive” should mean in an educational setting.

As someone said below–a tool is just a tool; it’s what you do with it that counts. However, tools are designed to accomplish specific tasks; each has its limits. I don’t feel the academic community has done a good job of critically evaluating technologies before investing precious time and resources into their adoption.

Trent July 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

Teacher Tyler Camp at JE Ober Elementary in Indiana has seen increased engagement and improved performance from his 3rd graders since the school launched in iPad program last year.

In addition, he has created and published six decks of SAS Flash Cards for his students: four for vocabulary, one for contractions and one for plurals. Camp’s decks have been downloaded more than 1,500 times in 34 states and 24 countries including Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Oman, Russia and Vietnam.

There’s more about the school’s iPad program in this YouTube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eBTsPra1T8

The free SAS Flash Cards app lets users choose from more than 3,000 flash cards or create their own custom decks that can be published for public download. Pre-loaded card decks covering core educational subjects offer blank, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true-false and audio options. User-created decks cover a variety of topics inside and outside education.

Full disclosure, I work for SAS. However, I’m talking about a free app so I hope you’ll forgive the promotion.

Adam Coccari July 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm

This is an excellent article, thanks for sharing. I am glad that they mentioned educational gaming in their report, because I have found that to be a particularly strong use for the iPad in education. I’m not exactly what kind of games those college students were playing, but I have found iPad games to be very effective learning tools for k-5 students.

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