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Teaching and Learning with the iPad – a 3 Year Review

by David Mahaley on July 14, 2013

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Part 1 – Lessons Learned from the Administrator’s Perspective

In this excellent 3 part article series, Principal David Mahaley shares lessons learned from the 1:1 iPad program that he has overseen in his role as Principle of The Franklin Academy. David has written several excellent articles for EmergingEdTech, and is the author of the eBook Teaching and Sharing with the iPad: Instructor Quick Guide. I am delighted to publish this series of posts in which he shares the perspective of the Administrator, the Teacher, and the Student, after nearly 3 years of experience with integrating the iPad into the Academy’s curricula. – KW

The Franklin Academy, in Wake Forest, North Carolina, completed its third year implementing iPads into the instructional environment.  This has been a blended approach including teacher issued iPads, class sets in the K-8 program, and a true 1:1 format at the high school level.  Over the course of the deployment, many lessons have been learned and benefits reported from the use of the devices.  This article hopes to provide insight into the impact of the iPad on learning through the perspectives of the administrator, teacher and student.  Each of the three key players in the education process have valuable information to pass along to those traveling a similar path.

Shutterstock iPad teacher administrator educator photo

The Administrator

We find that the demands of the education system to teach 21st Century Skills challenging when student access to the tools of technology is limited.  At the Franklin Academy, we have taken a holistic approach towards teaching these skills as part of all disciplines across the school.  Our efforts center around the application, demonstration, and utilization of technology skills, through the learning of curriculum specific content and skills.  We approached the use of the iPad on a small experimental scale at the beginning of the 2010 – 2011 school year with just 30 iPads.  The program has grown to where we have over 800 of the devices out in student and teacher hands.  A complete time line of our implementation can be found at http://ipadfa.wikispaces.com/IPAD+Initiative.  After 3 years, there are many lessons learned about using the iPad in the learning environment.

Lesson 1 – Its About Workflow & Connectivity, Not Apps

Repeatedly, I have been asked by those from other schools and districts to give a list of apps teachers and students need on their iPads in order for success to follow.  Unfortunately, it is not that easy.  Like most technology tools, applications working in concert together within the structure of the learning process will produce the best results.  This means that there will be a list of apps, but these are defined by how they work together to provide many different products for teachers and students to use.  Decisions must be made on what options students and their teachers should have available to them via the iPad and the cost associated with each option.

Workflow becomes the guiding light one needs to move towards effective decisions on app selection.  While there are some great content specific, stand alone apps out there, the value becomes apparent as apps demonstrate the ability to connect to other useful applications and provide feedback to the user and instructor.  So what is my recommendation on this topic after 3 years leading the iPad initiative?  Teachers need apps to produce content (Pages, Evernote, Keynote), this content needs to be shared with students (Explain Everything, DropBox, Edmodo), then students must have ways to mark up received documents (iAnnotate, GoodReader), finally this work must be submitted back to the instructor for evaluation (Edmodo, Showbie, Dropbox).  This is one proposed workflow solution that includes a host of apps suited for the tasks necessary to complete the cycle.  Once workflow is defined, it now can be enhanced with the content specific apps one will find while teaching their subject matter.

Lesson 2 – Staff Development & Support

I have found that when hiring new staff each year, I must make it explicitly clear that our initiative with the iPads requires time and training.  I encourage them to start with a few key apps related to the workflow and learn from there.  Each instructor will find they are partial to a set of apps which best match their own instructional style and purposes.  We also have to accept that all staff cannot be experts in every app.  We now can use staff experts with specific apps to help train new and veteran teachers to our school.  What this does is start to build the pool of on-site experts with specific apps.

It is also important to train in small doses.  This allows staff to take a limited set of skills and practice them within their classroom to evaluate the possible benefit to their workflow and student learning.  We have tiered our professional development related to the iPad to “Technology Tidbits”, offered during faculty meetings lasting no more than 15 minutes, to “Blocked Training” consisting of one to two hours to more thoroughly explore an app and its features, to half-day staff development sessions connected to more intensive exposure to the application reviewed.  The key is to keep all training relevant and sustained.

Lesson 3  – Be A Model

As an administrator you must accept that the burden of success of the iPad implementation in your school rest on your shoulders.  To help support positive progress, be a model for others to demonstrate your own personal commitment to the effort.  When our school year starts I distribute no paper documents to the staff.  All materials are referenced using Evernote and shared with each staff member.  Last year I saved nearly 4,000 copies on the first day staff reported to work by making all of these documents digital through the iPad.

Part of assuming the leadership role in an iPad initiative is to explore apps key to workflow around the school.  The apps used in the classroom can, and should be used when working with staff members administratively.  There are also a number of productivity apps that administrators may find useful each and everyday.  I would recommend a good annotation app (iAnnotate linked to Dropbox), a good note taking application (Evernote, ability to share notes and send things straight from email into your account), and look to find an app connected to the observation and evaluation of staff (this would be specific to what system your school may already have in place).

Lesson 4 – Expect Results

With proper professional development, frequent modeling, and administrative leadership, an iPad implementation can go well and positive results should be expected.  When good things happen across the school involving the iPad, share them with other staff.  Sometimes this is the impetus to get another staff member motivated to do similar things in their classroom.  It is also important to look for ways to qualify and quantify the results of the use of the iPad in teaching and learning.  This can be done through surveys for both the staff and students as well as a review of academic performance related to the use of the device.

So what results did I expect?  And did we get there?  As an administrator I wanted to have the iPad provide increased student engagement, faster and better access to digital content, and support higher quality work by our students.  At the end of our third year, I can say without question that our students are more engaged with the content than before the iPad was in their hands.  I know this through survey results and comments from staff members.  What becomes evident is that the students are working outside of class more intently on their studies.  They work during less structured time, like lunch, because THEY want to!  Students and teachers are able to access content much quicker than our previous technology model involving laptops.  The iPad is ready to go at the click of a button.  The work quality is astounding.  Students become experts at combining applications to produce rich and varied work samples.  Poster projects become interactive books.  Papers enhanced with multimedia, and sharing of work is seamless with the use of the Apple TV in the classroom.  My personal favorite is witnessing students taking the topic of study and using the iPad to explore the topic further, on their own, to gain a better understanding of the subject matter.

Lastly, many inquire about the iPad and more quantitative measures.  How do your students do on their assessments? A very popular question.  We piloted the use of the iPads with our state assessments in the Spring of 2012.  This past Spring all of our high school students took their state assessments on the iPad. We encountered few technical problems and are awaiting the results to be reported back to us.  My expectation is that student performance will mirror the positive results we have seen in the classroom with the device.  With a high level of familiarity in using the device day-to-day, I do not expect the student use of the iPad to be any sort of a detriment to their performance on standardized tests.

In the second and third installments of this three-part review of the iPad in teaching & learning we explore the impact and results as shared through the experiences of the teacher and student.

(*Image used with permission from Shutterstock.com.)

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Book Review – Teaching and Learning With The iPad by David Mahaley
Study Finds Benefits in Use of iPad as an Educational Tool
Apple TV In The Classroom – The New Smart Board

 

About 

David Mahaley is the Principal of the Franklin Academy High School, a North Carolina K-12 Public Charter School located in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Mahaley has overseen the implementation of iPads in the teaching and learning process at the Academy, a program initiated in 2010. Mahaley has also authored the eBook TEACHING AND SHARING WITH THE IPAD: INSTRUCTOR QUICK GUIDE, and has coordinated several regional conferences focused on teaching and learning with the iPad.

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