“Teacher, I’ve finished your work”
It can be easier for a teacher managing a class of iPadding students to design projects where students own their own learning and thus care about the quality of their outcomes. For me, ensuring students care is my primary goal when designing tasks and programs. If they are doing ‘the teacher’s work’ then any motivation to produce the best result will probably have to come from external sources, like material rewards from the teacher or even as simple as making the teacher happy (Teacher’s pet). The teacher’s work is always seen as ‘work’ and genuine engagement is difficult.
Here is a list of ideas for adding incentives to tasks to help the kids intrinsically care about the outcomes.
- The success criteria should be devised by the students themselves before commencing any task. These should be discussed and agreed upon by the class or group. Design a success criteria template that’s always filled in by the group.
- The teacher only asks questions. Give no answers. Students should find their own answers and be taught to confirm them with more than one source including each other’s research.
e.g. Try to always prompt for output with ‘Why’ questions and never start a lesson with “today class we will…” because who knows what the kids will do in todays lesson!
- Choose a creative & fun task for all and / or allow freedom of expression (choice of app) but remind students of the success criteria.
e.g. You must record a TV news story containing an interview but it must explain how X affected Y. This will be shown on the class TV channel.
- Focus on the students producing ‘products’ that could actually be used to benefit others, be they classmates or the community. Even if it’s not used in the end, work should seem purposeful and be seen as usable in the real world.
e.g. If you are writing stories then ensure they look into how one self-publishes online. This opens the possibly of a real audience with real feedback. student blogs are an obvious starting point but why shouldn’t a child consider starting their writing career now, earning real cash? (There are examples online of this happening)
- I think the world is getting to a point where evidence of all student work should be stored / published online. My students always react with amazement when they first realise the videos / animations are going onto Youtube on my dept. channel. This creates an environment where students can easily peer review and encourage but also parents too, which I find has the biggest impact on motivation.
I have started to have a go at this with my year 7s and 8s and am now considering how future senior classes who have iPads will also own their learning whilst still working towards the national qualifications. I am lucky as the New Zealand assessment system if very flexible and I look forward to the challenge!
PRIORITY NO.1 : LEADERSHIP FROM THE TOP.
The initial goal is to ready a school for the quick iPadding of all daily school tasks carried out by Teachers, Admin and students. The first emphasis must be to get staff and students to move their daily routines onto the iPad and not look back. This realignment will only be quick & successful if staff and particularly members of the leadership team understand iPad best practice.
BIG DECIDER: ONE COMPETENT SENIOR LEADER (AT LEAST)
In the beginning, at least one senior leader must become fully fluent in how the iPad deals with the daily school tasks. My experience to date tells me that this will be the key decider on iPad success. I find that most school technicians charged with readying school systems for iPads only ‘fully respond’ to senior leaders. Here’s a check list of good iPad practice the senior leaders must understand:
5 EVERYDAY iPAD ESSENTIALS THAT LEADERS MUST UNDERSTAND AND PROMOTE:
A) DOCUMENTS: How to convert and ensure all documents (forms/worksheets) are shared in PDF format. This includes on the Website, LMS and in shared folders on the servers. We all use apps like Word to create documents but once finished, Word/Pages/Powerpoint should not be the file formats that are shared publicly or internally. Don’t continue to think that because a form or worksheet must be filled in, it needs to be shared in Microsoft Word format. Most PDF apps (both Free and Bought) will allow the staff and students to view, complete, sign or annotate the forms & worksheets and will really start to make the school paperless (a serious ‘Green’ issue). One problem area will be uploading PDFs to the existing school websites / LMS directly from iPad. Some of the LMSs are creating iPad apps and this can help but without clever design, the website might need to continue with desktop updates.
B) COMMUNICATION: Email is dead! Students certainly don’t regularly check emails. New communication tools must be considered. Internally, it’s best using messaging tools like iMessage, your LMS’s messaging service, if its iPad app runs such a service or even Twitter. I find adults like ‘texting’ messages as much as the kids do, you only have to look at Facebook to know that. Externally, the school should also run a Facebook Page for people to follow for community announcements and this too can be run by the senior leader directly from the iPad. It might be with the best intentions that every school aims to run a good website, but for communication, parents rarely check school websites and it’s not the way 21st Century communication takes place. This is one reason iPads have never needed the facility to update website HTML.
C) IMAGES: The leadership must decide on how staff iPads will upload, store and organise photos. This is good for teachers as they can share pictures with students directly from the iPad and good for all staff to share images of student work and activity. Using online services like Flickr or Google’s Picasa, there are ways to ensure images can be uploaded and organised by staff iPads to appear embedded on the school websites etc, without the need for separate login. (See my previous posts)
D) VIDEO: This is quickly becoming the new ‘paper’. Young people are experiencing online video as a first step to understanding anything. They also create multiple videos using devices like phones on a weekly basis. If harnessed, this can make any school a lively exciting place where students really show-off their understanding and even start to learn and leach each other through video. The school must have an official system for staff to organise the videos for the courses and where the school can showcase student video work. The one system that the iPad and all the available apps work seamlessly with is a Youtube account. The school should setup a Google account from which it can organise its Youtube channel with playlists for different courses, classes or general school activities. Students and staff can now login or be logged-in to upload video content to the channel. This channel can be embedded in school websites etc, and will automatically update as the content arrives.
E) LEADERSHIP BLOG & ADVICE: This is a great idea to ensure genuine engagement from all staff and students. A senior leader blogs the schools experiences and advice on using iPads from day 1. This blog is linked to on the school website and can be used by the whole community to find out the latest news in how the school is operating with iPads, including any problems that have arisen. A school “How-to” page is also setup to cover all the basics.
If you can get your school performing the daily basics on iPads, the creative stuff will follow naturally. The more they stick to their old ways, the harder the transition will be. Success and collaboration between members of the iPadding community rely on full understanding and engagement from all parties. And this starts with the basics and from the top!
[Update] Other Considerations:
1. Don’t waste time looking through the App Store. Focus on tasks. Start with only considering all the daily tasks within the school for students, teachers and admin and focus on collaborative systems like Google Accounts and Twitter to bring the new iPadders together.
2. Ensure that all the departments have the basics mentioned above working before you worry about adding extras. The first issue is about building confidence and when staff & students see they can at least do all that they did before but better, the project will really take-off.
3. Get the whole senior leadership team fully immersed by the end of the first year. This will build respect for both the individuals and the project. The school will really come alive if the community see the leaders themselves start moving forward.
4. Build an open approach to web filtering. Like all major businesses, 1000s of schools are now using Social Media and Youtube in the classroom. Other than blocking the ‘obvious’ negative material, it is important that schools are able to teach digital citizenship within school and this requires positive role-modeling in how the internet can be used.
So, you’re in your classroom and annoyed that the kids are playing games on the iPads. You have devised a strategy and at random intervals, you ask them to double-click the ‘Home’ button to see the last apps used. Great! Well done on controlling the situation so they can get on with:
- writing their notes;
- Reading their e-textbook;
- completing their essay or
- ‘Researching’ on the Internet.
The only step forward you’ve really seen is the ability to use that Shakespeare app or Dissecting Frog app. You are also worried that the iPad’s ‘distracting’ tools and games are removing rigour from your teaching process.
The parents too, have complained that all they seem to see is game playing and maybe your school is considering limiting the apps allowed on the devices.
Well done on introducing iPads. But it’s teacher-centred pedagogy that encourages gaming, not their maturity level.
Now you have introduced a radically new and powerful learning device, you need to update your pedagogy to match it. The iPad is revolutionising education, not because it is replacing paper & textbooks or offering new gadget-style apps, but because it:
- returns power to the student to personalise the process;
- offers tools to collaborate quickly and smartly;
- allows for mobile, continuous learning;
- can bring about faster feedback;
- widens the possibilities with how to approach any task;
- Is a productive and creative device and;
- is unobtrusive to any learning space.
Why are these issues the most important?
Like the iPad, learning is personal
As I have previously mentioned, you can’t encourage the idea that learning is a lifetime occupation, if you centre your education delivery around the teachers. If you need to have a teacher to learn, then your learning must stop at the end of the school day. I have witnessed a number of classrooms and teachers having problems with iPads. In every case the classroom was teacher centred and generally students were reading issued text, making notes from lecturing and definitely all working at the same task in the same way. In these teacher-centred environments, any iPadding at home will consist of mainly gaming as only a teacher-issued piece of structured homework could possibly indicate that home was a place to be productive with an iPad.
This is not what the iPad was designed for. Even outside the realm of education, the iPad was only designed to be personal and this should be the only approach when considering how one learns with or even without an iPad. Any approach where the iPad is a paper or textbook replacement, within these traditional teaching methods, wastes 98% of the iPad’s power to reinvigorate education for a new century.
Solution: Stop asking the class to do the same thing and you’ll (nearly) remove all gaming.
I’ll cover the potential for gaming itself to advance learning in a future post, but for now, you need to
- Only consider the specifics of what you want your students to understand;
- Pose questions that demand the students link aspects together;
- Set challenging work that asks for all the required detail but;
- Offer almost complete freedom in how they prove their understanding; (see Student apps)
- Encourage creativity & fun in all student output. This will result in genuine rather than imposed engagement.
- Often encourage the production of a “learning product” that their classmates might utilise in the future.
- Issue the learning objectives to engage and inform peer assessment. This makes assessment against the original objectives more meaningful.
When students are working on a creative project of their own design that will prove to the teacher just how powerful the iPad can be, then genuine engagement in learning not only takes place in the classroom but returns home with the iPad and will often continue. Tactics like these, readdress how the student views the iPad’s capabilities and in doing so, reduces the desire and time for gaming.
I do hope you work in an organisation with friendly, relaxed IT support staff. I hope they speak to you as a normal human being and only focus their efforts on creating an environment that fulfills the organisation’s primary concerns. In regards to schools, we need to access and share information and learn about the world we live in, within a flexible 21st Century leaning pedagogy.
…hum… Why are so many people reading this thinking “not my school”…?
Teachers around the world are discussing updating the teaching model to match the rapidly changing world we live in. The tech-staff simply need to do the same (and yes, it’s a global problem).
Young people and increasingly all generations are developing new expectations:
- They will have access to their online world 24/7 as much as their real world.
- That social media sites like Facebook are an integral part of life and used by many universities and schools for communications.
- Personal ownership and control of the device is the default model. Schools are dismantling their computer labs and in one form or another adopting BYOD (bring your own device)
- If the iPad is managed personally by so many grandmas in the world, why would a younger professional or student in 2012 require a secondary support system in Tech-services.
- The apps on the iPad are all built to connect directly to a number of standard online services such as Youtube, Dropbox, Google Docs, Twitter and Facebook. It is time consuming, more complicated and costly these days for schools to employ numerous people to maintain parallel systems and then spend extra cost working out how to connect the mobile devices to these bespoke school-maintained systems.
- New 21st Century teaching pedagogy calls for a wider variety of options and flexible learning environments and this is at odds with the older tech-model of tightly controlling a limited number of possibilities within the system.
During the 90’s, schools launched into serious adoption of ICTs with a very limited knowledge base. This created a generation of school technicians, who, having an amount of knowledge, relevant or not, easily built up a power base for themselves within the school. This power over others is a model they are reluctant to relinquish. Their manner of ICT support stems from the 70s & 80s where IBM and then Microsoft developed the approach of “We are the experts and computers will be what we say they will be”. They survive in many schools due to leadership teams not having the knowledge themselves to argue against the many out-dated structures these “old-school” techies suggest, that of course would maintain their power and requirement.
The new paradigm of personal / consumer controlled ICT is understood by your technicians at a technical level and most will be using the same online systems themselves. But the realisation that this new paradigm removes the need for most (not all) school technicians is uncomfortable for people who are used to wielding so much power.
My mother is 59, retired and likes taking photos of her grandchildren and writing poetry. She:
- writes a blog like this one (She’d love more readers! Click here);
- edits photos & movies, storing them in private online accounts;
- uses both iCloud and Dropbox for backup and sharing files;
- produces presentations for writing club;
- emails using Gmail with Google docs.
She does all this without a technician and says she’s “clueless about IT.” The world is changing fast and if school leaders don’t get to my mother’s level of expertise soon, we’re all in trouble!