On Friday, 14 March, we held our first Community Focus Group meeting for our iPad Trial. We had 6 parents, 6 students and 6 teachers involved in the focus group. The students and parents were a mix of grade 6 and 7 parents, as those are the families that will be involved in the trial. We spent three hours together and had a fantastic conversation, with tons of great input from all stakeholders. If you’re interested in seeing the minutes of the meeting you can read through them here. Here are the highlights:
We are all learning from each other
One of the biggest themes to come out of our conversation was that because iPads, particularly in this kind of educational context, are new to all of us here at YIS, we will all be learning from each other. This means that we can be open to not knowing all the answers, that different members of our community will have different levels of experience, and that we all have something to share and something to learn. This is a great opportunity for us to define what iPads can do for our community, and to focus on our specific needs.
An opportunity for creativity and differentiation
Students, parents and teachers were all excited about the opportunities that we have for allowing students to demonstrate their learning in many different ways, particularly the option of selecting which tool works best for them (from paper and pencil, to their laptop, to their iPad, or whatever else will work best). The availability of so many different types of apps to help students learn in different ways, as well as the ease of creating and using media on the iPad were also highlights. Here are a few examples:
- using Siri for voice to text input
- recording lessons for later revision
- having access to (a more portable than our laptops) video camera and recording device
- being able to handwrite equations and then having access to them digitally
- combining the two devices allows us to use Skype on the iPad to video chat, and the laptop for text input when working on collaborative projects from home
- reading texts and consuming media is more natural on the iPad (particularly on transportation)
- use of Coach’s Eye and other recording apps to improve physical performance (in PE and Drama, for example)
- streamline notifications by connecting calendars and managing to-do lists
- there are many more ways to show what you’ve learned, and students have an opportunity to select those tools for themselves
Over the past three years of the CLC, students have learned a lot about being responsible with a laptop – bringing it to school charged, making good choices during lessons, managing distractions, and working towards finding a good balance between online time and offline time. Having multiple devices will help students make those connections to the use of mobile devices as well. Learning how to manage both devices is a great chance to become more responsible, taking care of different types of devices, so that both can be used effectively. A few key thoughts:
- using the iPad can be helpful for those who are easily distracted because you can only use one app at a time
- there are lots of apps to help manage distraction, like the Pomodoro app that can be used on your iPad to help manage distractions on the laptop
- portability of both devices helps when traveling too and from school
- the iPad is less conspicuous on the train than a laptop so students can study (or play) on their way back and forth to school
- often a laptop screen can be a barrier to conversation, the iPad is a more natural tool to document conversations without adding that screen-barrier
Efficiency, ease of use, and consistency
One of the key highlights of our CLC is that all students and teachers have access to the same learning device. This means if a laptop is damaged or something is not working properly, we have all the support needed here at school to ensure that students don’t loose learning time (loaner computers, chargers that can be checked out, etc). As we’re beginning to take advantage of the mobile devices that students have, ensuring that everyone has access to the same tools will help continue this consistent learning environment with mobile devices as well. Some examples:
- students are often asked to take pictures or video and many use their own personal iPhones (but not everyone has one), this would ensure that all students have access to the same tool
- certain features (like Siri) can allow students who communicate better through speaking to work more efficiently
- all students will be “gifted” apps that are needed for each class, this ensures that students will have access to everything they need (the repair process will be the same as for the laptops)
Revisiting our CLC Vision
Throughout our conversation we kept coming back to our CLC Vision statement (which was also developed through a Community Focus Group of parents, students and teachers):
Our CLC leverages advanced technologies and progressive teaching approaches to enhance student learning, promote collaboration and facilitate the creation and sharing of knowledge locally and globally.
Attitudes and Behaviors: Our community will be characterized by inquisitive, discerning, open-minded, and self-directed learners who use technology in a balanced and responsible manner.
Learning Environment: Ubiquitous access to technology tools and resources will enhance our learning environment, expanding horizons beyond the physical classroom. This will empower YIS learners to access information, collaborate, and exchange ideas within the YIS community and around the world.
Actions and Decisions: Our actions and decisions will demonstrate responsible digital citizenship, reflect our school values and create a positive online presence.
Educational Experiences: Educational experiences will be authentic, imaginative, and provide for different learning paces and styles. Learners will be encouraged to become independent and enterprising in order to meet the challenges of a constantly changing world.
Community: Our CLC will provide a sense of identity and belonging that will enrich our overall school community and connect us with others around the globe.
Framing our student bootcamp and learning conversations around this vision statement will help remind us of the goals for our Connected Learning Community. We had a number of ideas that will help guide this planning process, so that by the end of the trial, we would like:
- to have a sense of appreciation for the opportunities these tools provide
- to know from awareness and experience when to put the technology down
- to value multiple forms of communication (including face to face)
- to feel adaptable and able to transition between different devices (to be prepared for continued technological advancements)
- to feel empowered to express learning in different ways
- to be creative in learning, teaching and sharing
- to feel confident in making good choices – both with tools that demonstrate learning, the amount of what we share online, and the time we spend online
- to be open to the opportunities that these devices provide, and their learning potential
- to have more opportunities to connect with a wider (global) audience
Making it happen
In order to work towards a successful outcome of our trial, we brainstormed a number of focus areas. This will help guide us in our planning for the student bootcamp, as well as provide a structure for the feedback process. Here are some key highlights:
- communication about what we are doing and why is essential – to all stakeholders – this also means that students have a responsibility to share their learning experiences with parents
- balance, safety, responsibility need to be part of the conversations with students, items like location services and notifications are two key features to be discussed
- consideration for privacy, both of the user and those that can be photographed and recorded is important to understand
- providing opportunities for feedback from all stakeholders throughout the process is critical
- creating a supportive, open environment where both students, parents and teachers have an opportunity to learn from each other should be an overarching goal
- building trust among stakeholders for the use of devices will help remind us that we are working towards a common goal
- an open-minded approach from all stakeholders will help us take advantage of all the opportunities this trial will provide
Overall, our Community Focus Group found this time together so beneficial, that we have decided to meet again after the trial is over to reflect on the process. Even if you are not part of the Focus Group, all stakeholders involved in the trial will be asked to share their feedback through (at least) a survey, based on the key themes this group has identified.