Learning Transformed – A Year of 1:1 iPads.

481A4FC5-AC10-4130-99AD-D1535B88AB44I had great anticipation before starting this year.  1:1 devices!  I had ideas as to where I wanted to go with the students, yet did limited reading on the subject because I knew I’d learn alongside my students and wanted to develop an edtech integration approach that would meet our specific needs as we went along.

I quickly learned the difference between when tech amplified learning and when it was simply a substitution.  The SAMR model is one I held myself accountable to.  Substitution wasn’t going to cut it in my room.

I also learned quickly that students are enamored with creating digital products that look like authentic real world samples.  We could communicate our thinking in ways that looked like something a grown up might do, and that seemed quite novel to the students.   Our digital sharing nights for parents were so eye-opening. Parents were amazed with the websites, AR, and multi-modal digital media pieces that seemed so effortless to the kids.  Students wore smiles of pride.

So as I transition to a new role this fall, I leave this beautiful 1:1 environment but can share forward the powerful and authentic learning approaches that engaged students all year.

My list of why 1:1 can revolutionize classroom learning (especially in my present context of a P/J school environment):

1) It’s learning in the go – we took the iPads everywhere with us, uncovering curriculum where the curriculum lies.  We became pro photographers and brought the content back to the classroom in the form of snapshots and videos.  They created the content.  We rarely needed to source videos made by others.  Macro lense clips helped us tune into the world beneath our feet.

2) Lack of tech-access bottle necks slowing us down at any point.  Not needing to continually log in and out was a gift, and privacy concerns became moot points. I was able to have students focus upon the accountability of the use of the device and practice positive digital citizenship behaviours daily.

3) Providing choice in how students shared their thinking was easy.  Here’s the ‘what’, now you choose the ‘how’.  Assess based upon learning criteria and focus upon the process of making thinking visible.  For some activities, up to seven various approaches were selected. Awesome.  Choice = voice.  The tech provided that choice and everyday access to devices meant lots of practice opportunities to become efficient with many iOS and Google apps.

4) Differentiating learning.  I never really thought a lot about the link between differentiation and choice of sharing method before.  Do you like telling, representing or writing?  You choose.  Just provide me with the thinking I need to see.

5)  Language supports in all apps!  Predictive text! Speech to text! Now speech to text is far from perfect, but still requires writers to be active thinkers as they structure responses and ideas.  It’s interesting how Siri became the dictionary and spell check of choice.  I’m trying to remember the last time I saw an adult use a dictionary…

6)  Photography and screenshots means active documentation of all learning – an ever growing e-portfolio that is added to on a daily basis.  We typically gathered our thinking in Google Slides for various subjects.  Videos, photos, text boxes for extra annotations.  Add a slide, insert new thinking.  Watch content knowledge grow.     I called them digital duotangs, and students shared them with me so I could peek in whenever needed.  I’m so proud of their ‘Math Thinking’ slidedecks.  They took seconds a day to maintain. Did I mention NO PAPER!?!

7) Students are able to put themselves and their creations into their work.  Green screen tech is so simple, yet always so fun for kids.  We once put our straw bridge structures into far away locations like the Grand Canyon.  Then, usually using pic collage, students annotated their thinking and created fantastic diagrams worthy of a non-fiction text.  Putting themselves into their art and adding speech bubbles to share learning was effortless and visually powerful.  They could see themselves in their learning…literally.

8) I found that iPads in the classroom reduced the usage of my smart board. Instead of projecting one image for a bunch of eyes, instead airdrop or share the work with students and then interact with it both independently and together.  The Apple TV wireless sharing capability let me ‘de-front’ the room regularly.  Students never tire of showing their work on the big screen.

9) Getting outside! All the time! Outdoor learning! Environmental links to curriculum as much as possible! Otter boxes save the day and reduce any stress of taking devices to the creek, forest or sandbox.

10) Airdropping! I shared work instantly to all the iPads and students took care of each other and would airdrop missed work to peers or offer to share their photographs with those who’s photos didn’t quite work out.  It was neat to think of all the digital files flying around the room every day.  Super cool.

11) Understanding that access is a privilege, and partnering with grade 1 classes as tech buddies to share the wealth and build capacity with younger learners.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and somehow provide funding for all students to regularly have access to their own documentation and learning tool.  Oh, the places we could go!

Instead, I have a year’s rich experience of watching intensive student exploration and have learned a lot of lessons to apply to situations where devices are shared.  The Board is building capacity with tech integration and it’s exciting, and important.

Let’s empower kids.  Let’s provide the tools that amplify voices and make rich tasks real.

I am so thankful to the Ministry for a golden opportunity to be able to explore 1:1 device usage.  It’s changed so much in terms of how I view my role as an educator.