Community Focus Group Highlights

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

Building responsibility

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.


Documenting our journey with iPads

Trialling an initiative like a 2:1 environment requires a huge team effort. It is important that we are able to learn from others in our team as well as to share our learning with the other teams that have been created. To help with this, and to make sure we are creating a bank of knowledge for the future, we’d like to ask each team for the following:

  • Regular meetings – As part of our learning, each team should be meeting at regular intervals to discuss what they have discovered/learned as well as to share questions that they still have. Please be sure to invite Kim and Clint to these meetings so that (hopefully) one of them can attend. We would also like to ask that each team document their learning/thinking from each meeting. You can use any format that you like so long as it is shareable. If you like, you can use this template.
  • Summary blog post – By the end of the trial, it would be great if each team could write at least one blog post on this blog that documents their journey as a team. Each person should have been made an author to make this easier.  This post could be an overview of what you learned as a team over the course of the trial and the impact that you feel the iPads have had on learning in your classroom. It could also be way to share any apps or resources that you found during this trial. Of course, if you would like to write more than one post you are more than welcome to!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask Kim or Clint in the hallways or to send one of them an email!

cc licensed image by elise.y

Feb – March Timeline

We’re now moving into the next stage of our pilot! Before we leave for spring break, we want to make sure that everyone on the team has had the opportunity to meet in small groups, as well as a specific 1/2 day PD for those teams. So, here’s what we need to (and when) to make sure that happens:

In the next two weeks (before 28 Feb)

Each small team should have at least one meeting.

Please make sure to add your time, date and location on this document so Clint and/or Kim can drop by to see how you’re going.

During your small group meeting (before 28 Feb)

Please suggest a day and time for your half day PD training as a team in March. You may also want to suggest topics and ideas that you’d like to focus on during that half day PD. Clint and/or Kim will be there to support you as needed.

Please add your requested time and date to this document so we can arrange cover & a place to meet.

Also in the next two weeks (before 28 Feb)

We will begin the three projects associated with this trial (community focus groups; bootcamp planning; action research) and would love to have as many teachers involved as possible.

If you are interested in participating, please add your name to this document (more details about the projects are on the document too).

In the first few weeks of March (before spring break)

We will have one more whole-group meeting on Monday, 17 March. At this meeting, each team will share what they’ve learned with the other teams (in a small group rotation, not a whole-group presentation).

Ongoing 1

All teachers involved in the trial have been added as authors to this blog. Please feel free to add posts anytime you have something to share – it can be something quick (like an app you tried that worked) or something longer (like a description of what you did in class), or even just a picture of something useful.

The idea is that we’d like to record as much of our learning in this central place as we can.  As you add new posts, please put them in the category that best represents the focus of your post so that others can find your posts in the menu above.

Ongoing 2

All teachers involved in the trial are welcome to share web resources using this Diigo group. This is an easy way to collect links from lots of people and keep them organized. You’ll see all new links that have been added in the sidebar of this blog.

Ongoing 3

If you still haven’t received the case you’d like for your iPad, please complete this short survey for Genki and then drop by the IT Office to pick up a new case!

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Pedro Vezini