Community Focus Group Update

We hosted our first Community Focus Group of this academic year (but the third of our trial) this morning. Once again, we had a fantastic group of students, parents and teachers working together.

We started our session by reviewing some of the key highlights from the student and parent surveys. This was a great starting point for our main focus of discussion, reflecting on our indicators of success for the trial.

Indicators of Success

Last year, in our first Community Focus Group meeting, we developed 4 key indicators of success for our iPad Trial. We determined that if these 4 criteria were met, we would have had a successful trial:

  1. Developing transferable skills, as we don’t know what future technological developments will be
  2. Learning from each other – parents from children, teachers from students and vice versa.
  3. Learning in different ways that enrich the learning outcomes.
  4. More learning can take place outside the classroom.

Now that we have had more experience in a 2:1 environment, we spent some time thinking about these 4 indicators: Are they still appropriate and relevant for us? If we achieve these, have we demonstrated a successful trial? Is there anything else we are missing. Each indicator was discussed in small groups (parents together, students together, and teachers together) and then shared, revised and confirmed by all stakeholders. Our new success criteria are:

  1. Develop transferrable and timeless skills that can be used for current and new technologies. (These transferrable skills can include interpersonal skills, communication skills, and balance, as well as technological skills).
  2. Teachers, students and parents are learning from each other – children from adults and vice versa.
  3. We are learning in a variety of ways.
  4. Learning takes place in a variety of locations.
  5. iPads are used intentionally to help students continue to develop their skills, experience and knowledge.
  6. We maintain balance in our lives.

Reflecting on the Indicators of Success

Once we had our new list of indicators, we reflected on some successes so far, and some suggestions for the next semester. Here are a few highlights:

Successes so far:

  • Students feel more confident at risk-taking, learning how to be confident to do different things.
  • Students can choose the best way to combine the two devices – Skype with one person on the iPad for HW, type on the laptop at the same time, for example
  • Voice recording has made presenting skills much easier to develop – easy to practice, listen, revise.
  • Students are feeling more organized by using Notability in maths – keeps worksheets altogether, less chance of losing things.
  • Students don’t have to learn too many new things, many apps are the same as on laptop.
  • We are learning from each other  – for example, students easily taught their parents about frequencies and old people going deaf in science using an app.
  • Teachers are open to learning from students.
  • This is not just a replacement for the textbook, but opens up different combinations of ways to show learning, etc.
  • Students can go deeper into projects and find more details, research, etc. than if we just had textbooks – mandela => apartheid => colonialism
  • It’s not that we are learning more, it’s more the way we are learning varies.
  • The iPad can be used instead of a phone – take photos, notes, record ideas wherever I am.
  • I can work on iPad in different environments like a park or a cafe, practicing kanji on the train.

Suggestions for next semester:

  • Managing projects and multitasking is a good skill we could use for other things, we really have to learn how to manage time and switch between different classes and projects better. The skills of switching between different apps & devices could also be helpful for developing skills of switching between tasks as adults.
  • Expand use certain apps that have been useful in another subject eg Notability.
  • Make better use of, or revise, the “Top 10 Apps”.
  • Sharing our work with others, teaching others how to use things, teaching younger students and even parents how to use apps.
  • Student and teacher teaching sessions for different apps perhaps during tutor.
  • More teacher-directed use of apps for development of new skills and application across subjects.
  • For new people, both devices can be tricky to learn and use – identify support sources (tech buddy in each class, access to teachers and tech support).
  • Make sure to continue to focus on balance – there is value in both the new ways and the traditional ways of doing things.

Next Steps

We will continue to reflect on the trial so far, and plan to implement these suggestions in the next semester. There will be additional Community Focus Group meetings during the second semester to continue getting feedback and reflecting on the process. We are looking forward to seeing our trial continue to grow and develop over the next semester as students, parents and teachers become even more comfortable with having, managing and balancing two devices.


iPad Institute September 2014

On Wednesday, September 24th, we hosted our second iPad Institute to launch this year’s iPad Trial. Once again, the institute was a very successful experience, with the grade 7 students spending a day together exploring and learning about their new iPads. The day was broken down into 4 key parts with a parent presentation the following morning.

Part 1: Reflecting on the CLC Vision

For the first session we wanted to stay focused on our CLC vision to give a clear purpose, focus and framework for learning with the iPads. We started with an introductory presentation to set the stage and highlight some key themes for our trial. Once we had the background and purpose defined for the students, we wanted to give them some time to think about how their learning experiences might be different over the next year, and how that will fit into the framework of our CLC vision. We developed 10 different activities (2 for each of the 5 themes of our CLC vision) that the student groups would rotate through:

  • 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.
    • Activity 1: Acrostic Poem: Write your name in the boxes provided. Use the letters in your name to create a poem describing how you will use your iPad as a self directed learner.
    • Activity 2: I used to, Now I will: For each aspect of the vision statement, explain what you used to do, and then what you will do now. eg: As an inquisitive learner…. I used too…. Now I will…
  • 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.
    • Activity 1: Before & After: Use the small boxes of paper to draw yourself learning in one of the environments given or an environment of your own choice. Draw yourself “before” having an iPad and “after” having an iPad. Glue your pictures on to the big paper. If you can’t think of an example for the places given, use the blank paper to add a new location.
    • Activity 2: App Smash: List apps that help you learn outside of the classroom to: access information, collaborate, and exchange ideas 
  • Actions and Decisions: Our actions and decisions will demonstrate responsible digital citizenship, reflect our school values and create a positive online presence.
    • Activity 1: Manifesto: Write your own contract with yourself describing how you will make good choices with both of your devices. List 5-7 commitments you will make to ensure you will make good choices with your iPad. Sign and date it at the end.
    • Activity 2: Gingerbread People: With this activity, student will label the gingerbread men with statements that show how a persons acts/feels with the ipad. Example: With these hands, I download apps that will help me at school. If time, students can add “accessories” (earbuds, for instance).
  • 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.
    • Activity: Tableau: With your group, stage a scene that shows what you image a learning environment will look like with two devices. Ask a teacher to take the picture using the iPad provided. Upload to the YISCLC Instagram account (already open on the iPad) and write a description of the scene in the caption.
  • Community: Our Connected Learning Community will provide a sense of identity and belonging that will enrich our overall school community and connect us with others around the globe.
    • Activity 1 Headlines: Write a statement about how the iPad will allow you to connect with others. Have a 1 minute discussion, take 30 seconds to write your own headline, then share your headline (identify 1 positive quality for each), and finally create a group headline.
    • Activity 2: Create an App Icon: Create an app icon that represents your community with an iPad. Choose a color, symbol and name that represents the message of the vision statement.

Part 2: Unboxing & Set-up

We learned a lot about this process last year, and were able to set up the iPads in lightning speed this year. Creating their Apple IDs in advance was very helpful, and we went through the process very smoothly. Once the iPads were unboxed and ready to go, the students connected to our AirWatch YIS store (which is how we’re distributing all apps to students) and then they started downloading our top 10 apps. As soon as they had most of the apps, we had them partner up with anyone else who was finished to complete this scavenger hunt to customize their iPad and start familiarizing themselves with our apps.

Part 3: Learning the Top 10

After a lunch break, we had each team become an expert in one of the top 10 apps. They had about 20 minutes to explore with the app, and think about how it can be used for learning. Then we split the teams and they taught each other in a speedgeeking rotation:


Part 4: Wrap-up & Preparing for the Parent Session

For the final block of the day, we did a wrap up of their learning and made sure to answer any remaining questions. We also spent this time planning and preparing for the parent session the next day.

Part 5: Parent Session

For the first two periods the next morning we had about half of the grade 7 parents join us for an introductory session. We showed the following presentation, and the students highlighted their learning throughout.

iPad Institute for Students & Parents

Our 2:1 trial has officially started with our first ever YIS iPad Institute! The Institute was a day and a half, with the first day focused on students and the second day offering a combined session for parents with their children.

iPad Institute for Students

We started our iPad Institute on Thursday May 8th.  All seventh grade students were issued an iPad Mini to compliment their MacBook Air 11″. We had a great day of learning together, focusing on:

  • why we are starting the trial,
  • how we can continue to follow our CLC vision with multiple devices,
  • and how to use the top 10 apps that will be used in many subject areas during the trial.

For an overview of the day, please check the schedule here.

Some of the highlights were:

Students started the day with lots of questions about why we are implementing this trial, and at the end of the day they were able to answer those questions for themselves. They talked about the many different learning opportunities the iPad would give them (particularly to interact with the device, to be able to write and draw naturally, to be more mobile with their learning, and to be able to share their learning in more multimedia formats).

We spent lots of time thinking about how learning could be different in a 2:1 environment, structured around the five key themes of our CLC vision statement. During this time students participated in many different activities which gave them a chance to identify areas of strength and growth for them. Many students highlighted their excitement about being creative, independent, and self-directed in their learning. They also noted the importance of taking good care of their devices, being responsible for their own learning, and maintaining a good balance between the different things they do.

Students set up their new iTunes account and were able to download the top 10 apps, as well as dozens of other apps that the school will provide through our specialized YIS iTunes Store (using AirWatch). Once they had access to all of those new apps, they spent the afternoon learning, and then teaching others, how they work and how they can be used for learning.

iPad Institute for Parents

On Friday morning, we concluded our iPad Institute with an introduction session for parents, joined by their children. This was a great format for our introduction because it allowed the students to show their parents how they will be using their iPad, and it offered a great opportunity for both students and parents to ask thoughtful questions and everyone could hear the responses together.

This session featured a slightly updated version of the presentation we shared at the earlier parent evening (back in March):

Some of the key highlights of this session were:

Students shared their learning from the previous day, particularly about:

  • how their iPad allows them to be more mobile in their learning (for example: using YouTube Capture to record and edit video, rather than walking around with their laptop open to record);
  • how they can share their learning in lots of different ways using apps like PhotoBabble to record their voice over an image, or VoiceRecorder HD to simply record their voice;
  • how they can take advantage of the natural input (writing with a stylus, rather than typing) using Notability or Explain Everything; and
  • how they can really dive deeper into analyzing real-world activities like sports in PE or science experiments using Coach’s Eye.

We discussed concerns about spending more time on devices now that students have two, rather than just one. The goal is that students become more efficient and selective about how they use both devices – using each for the purpose that best suits. For example, if students would normally have a half an hour of homework on their laptop for one subject, they won’t suddenly have an hour, it may end up being 15 minutes with the iPad and 15 minutes with the laptop instead.  This also applies in the classroom where teachers and students are encouraged to view the devices as complementary – they work best when used together, and for the right purpose. We’ve seen some fantastic outcomes already just in the two days since the trial started. Here’s a great video from Alex Thomas in PE:

We talked about the importance of continuing management structures that work for their laptop, both at home and at school. Each family has their own practices to help manage time on devices, and should be encouraged to continue what works for them. Often parents here “you’re the only one that makes me….” and we reassured parents that in fact, most parents follow some sort of structure at home to manage time online – and in fact, you’re not the only one. One of the really effective structures we use at school is no devices at break and lunch (unless they are in the supervised CLC workroom). Some of the parents highlighted some strategies that work for them like:

  • turning off the wifi at a certain time (or turning it off for just one individual person in the home)
  • different expectations for different family members based on age and responsibility
  • a set bedtime
  • starting with homework first, socializing later

We highlighted the value of the iPad as a personalized device – rather than a shared device. The way it’s designed, with multiple apps to log in, rather than just one log in when you turn on the device (like a laptop), makes it extremely cumbersome to share. Plus, the amount of media and data that’s stored on the device to customize it so that it works perfectly for you (ie: your e-mail, photos, videos, and all those log ins) mean that it’s especially challenging to share. This is one of the key reasons why each student has been issued a device, rather than using carts.

Finally, we reflected on the fact that as society changes, and the use of technology in the “real world” changes, it does affect the way that we need to teach and learn. Although this can be challenging, since everyone in the room has successfully completed school and feels a strong attachment to the system they learned within, it’s important to note that our job is to help prepare students not only for the present learning environment, but also the future. When we think back to just three years ago, when an iPad as a device was almost unimaginable, and now today it’s common place, it helps remind us that we really don’t know what the future will bring. Building transferable skills, confidence in learning new things, and the ability to adapt to any environment are all essential parts of this trial.

It was absolutely fantastic to have so many parents and students join us for this session! It was wonderful to hear so many different languages being spoken as students introduced different tools to their parents, and great to have such an open and honest conversation about both the advantages and challenges that we’ll have. Thanks to Adam for this short video that will give you a feel for the session:

We’ll be hosting another Community Focus Group after the end of the trial (after May 30th), and we’ll also provide an opportunity for all parents and students to share their feedback. Please ask your children to share their experiences with you during the trial so you can get an idea of what they’re doing and why. More updates and examples will be posted here on the iPads blog as well.


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.


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.