iPad Trial Parent Introduction

On the evening of Tuesday 4 March, we held our first parent session about our iPad trial. Although we had a very small group (huge thank you to the parents who came out to YIS at 7pm on a chilly Tuesday evening!), we had a great discussion about this next stage of our Connected Learning Community. For those that missed the session, here are the highlights:

The presentation we shared

Overview of the key content

Reflecting the spirit of innovation at YIS, our Connected Learning Community is continually evolving as we seek to leverage the latest technological advances to enhance teaching and learning. A guiding principle of the CLC is to ensure that the use of technology for student learning is authentic, relevant and engaging. To put it another way, we want students to be able to learn with technology the way they will live with technology.

As mobile devices have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, they are also attracting increasing attention in academic settings. For example, the Victoria Department of Education, citing the NMC Horizon Report 2013 K-12 Edition, noted that mobile devices and apps have been identified “as the two emerging technologies that would enter into the mainstream for schools within the next 12 months. Mobile devices, such as the iPad, and apps can be used in educational settings as an annotation tool; to enable creation and composition; facilitate social networking; and provide rich tools to capture and edit video, audio and images. The portability, flexibility, and natural intuitive interfaces make tablets ideal devices for students to develop their 21st Century skills, such as creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.”

At YIS we have been using iPads in certain elementary grades as well as in our PE and counseling departments, and have received much positive feedback with respect to size and portability, functionality of apps, and overall ease of use. As the next stage in our Connected Learning Community development, we would now like to extend this exploration further by trialing iPad mini devices in conjunction with MacBook Air 11” laptops across a full middle school grade level. The use of laptops together with iPad minis will allow students and teachers to take advantage of two complementary tools: the laptop being stronger for more traditional uses (like research, typing, heavy duty video editing), and the iPad fostering greater innovation (using recording features, native input features like drawing and writing, a more personal and connected environment).

The trial will involve current grade 7 students for about a month later this spring and next year’s grade 7 students during the 2014-15 academic year. As we did with the initial planning of the Connected Learning Community, we will also be arranging community focus groups to include parents and students in the development and evaluation of the trial. Parents who attended last night’s session are invited to join the Community Focus Group.

 Some highlights from our discussions

Although we teachers will explore and use subject-specific apps, we are starting with a focus on several essential apps that work well across all curricular areas. These are apps that teachers and students can use to:

  • annotate documents and images with handwriting, take and share notes using Google Drive (Notability)
  • record audio, like skits, reflective conversations, podcasts, and language practice (VoiceRecorder)
  • record the iPad screen and the users voice as they demonstrate their understanding (ShowMe)
  • access, edit and share Google Drive files (Google Drive)
  • record video for quick and easy uploading to YouTube, where it can be edited and shared (YouTube capture)
  • update their blog anytime, anywhere (WordPress)

Our research shows that these kinds of cross-curricular apps are highly effective and practical because they can be used for many different learning experiences, which builds a solid workflow for both students and teachers. As we continue to develop our skills with these apps, we’ll explore further into subject specific apps.

All students will be given these essential apps, and will have the ability to download additional apps onto their iPad, just like their CLC-provided laptop. If families have any specific expectations for what types of apps they would like their children to use (or not to use) – apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter  came up in our discussion – you are more than welcome to set those boundaries within your family. If those tools are needed for educational purposes your children will let you know.

As with the laptops, we always recommend conversations with your children about what apps to use and when, how to balance time, how to manage homework, and how to make good choices. We are hoping that having conversations about digital citizenship with mobile devices will also help students transfer their skills between their laptop and any other mobile device they have (including their iPad).

At this point in time, we see the iPad and laptop as two complementary devices that work exceptionally well when they are together. Over time, we may see improvements in the iPad which lead us to select just that one device as best for learning at YIS. We will continue exploring, evolving and experimenting to see what works best for our students here at our school.

Opportunities for further learning

Just like with our CLC planning, we will be developing a Community Focus Group that involves teachers, parents and students. This was a key element in the design of our CLC that helped shape the program that we have today – with the input from all stakeholder groups. We are planning for two meetings in late March (before Spring Break) where we can come together to discuss what success would look like from each stakeholder group’s point of view, as well as what we need to do to make sure that happens. If you would like to be involved in the Community Focus Group, please e-mail Kim or Clint.

In early May, all grade 7 students will go through a “Bootcamp” training with their iPad where they are introduced to the device, the apps we’ll use, and the process for taking care of their iPad (very similar to our CLC orientation). At that time, we’ll have another session for grade 7 parents where we will highlight the key themes of the trial and your children will be able to demonstrate the various tools they’ve learned about at Bootcamp. More details about this session to come after Spring Break.

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