As our district piloted a 1:1 resource allocation for k-5 over the past three years, this year provided the opportunity for the middle schools to officially enter the pilot! Excited, anxious, curious, and strategizing are all words that could have summed up the summer of collaboration between myself and the other middle school Technology Facilitator in our district. How could we best prepare our students and teachers for the fall rollout of the devices? With lots of discussion, a shared Evernote notebook of resources and ideas, and a shared planning Google Site, it was decided that we would put together some sort of lesson start up for our teachers to guide the students through the first few weeks of school. So…the real planning got started!
Naturally, we began “TPACKing”!
- Every student (Grade 6 in my building, Grade 7 in the other middle school) would have an iPad to utilize as a learning resource. Once a contract was signed, students would take the device home with them every night. This is the first year that the middle school has been in the pilot and none of our teachers or students coming into the pilot have had an iPad experience previously. We are starting at the foundation. Staff had optional professional development that they could be a part of during the summer (See my iPad 201 post) and we created two iTunes University courses for staff to utilize for summer preparation as well.
- Teachers: 21st century teaching/learning skills
- Students: 21st century learning skills
- Guiding Questions: What skills/ideas are essential for students and teachers to be successful and smart users of the iPad?
We had a lot to cover! From executive functioning, to digital citizenship, to Internet safety and everything in between! We started with the basics of increasing the technical skills of the user through personalizing the device (organizing folders, tips and tricks of using the iPad, creating photo albums for each content area, etc.). Then, we “leveled up” to integrating learning how to use key apps by addressing content that teachers have to address at the beginning of every school year (like dress code). We moved on to discussing Internet safety and Creative Commons. It was key to us to create an awareness of proper use of the device and proper use in sharing, as we knew students would be creating and sharing at a much higher level with their devices.
- Guiding Question: How can we model meaningful 21st century learning for students and teachers?
We knew we needed to use this as an opportunity to not only increase the digital literacy of our students, but of our teachers as well. This challenge called for lots of modeling! From citing sources throughout our lessons as a way to reinforce digital citizenship, to providing a clear instructional sequence to model online learning strategies, we kept an eye on details as we created the sequence of instruction. My work with Michigan State’s Certificate in Educational Technology helped to solidify a sound and concrete structure for delivering content. When teaching a course in Winter 2013, I fell in love with the instructional sequence: Explore, Learn, Create, Share (Master of Arts in Educational Technology Program, Michigan State University). After dialoguing with my colleague and discussing observations she had from a visit to Aptakisic Junior High, we also wanted to create a structure to increase engagement and differentiation. Through the inclusion of elements of gamification, we were able to create a structure to allow students to “level up” or move on if they already had an understanding. We wanted to be incredibly hands-on and interactive, as we knew that the only way to really increase digital literacy was for our students to interact with the device and the content. With all of these ideas spinning around, we decided on a mix of structures that we had experienced, which took shape in the following instructional sequence of every learning opportunity:
- iDiscover: Content, as outlined by the learning target for the level
- iExplore: Learning about the content or tool in a more exploratory, hands-on way
- iCreate: Creating an artifact that demonstrates understanding of the content, using a technological tool
- iOrganize: Organizing ideas or the device itself in some way to create personalization (ie., setting up folders, photo albums, etc.). Let’s remember, we’re working with middle schoolers. We know how messy their lockers can get!
- iReflect: Provide an opportunity for students to make connections to content and extend their understanding
- iShare: Provide students the opportunity to share their understanding of the content
All of these pedagogical strategies allowed us to create a focus on individual exploration. We were aware that technology had been taught through demonstrations in classrooms and we knew that, while this can be effective, it would not be plausible when allowing for student choice in demonstration of learning as the year got rolling. In addition, we opened up every challenge to exploration and encouraged the participants to explore, play, and problem solve on their own.
- Guiding Questions: How can we model purposeful technology integration and use this as a learning opportunity for teachers? How can we make the content more accessible to students through utilizing the device?
To make the content more accessible and place emphasis on the exploration and differentiation elements, we decided to utilize a Google Site to house our program, which we deemed “iSucceed”. Affordances of using Google Sites over using our selected learning management system:
- Students would not have to create an account to get to the information. So, we could start Day 1!
- Familiarity with the technology. We would not distract from the content which we had identified as important by having hang ups in dealing with issues of understanding how to navigate content in the selected learning management system.
- Provided a shell that allowed the content to flow in an easy-to-follow sequence.
- Allowed for staff not in the pilot to have access to the content.
- Allows for fluid differentiate for all levels of users by embedding video tutorials and written directions so that content is represented in multiple ways.
Take a look at our iSucceed Program!
The resource allocation roll out at the middle school certainly set the tone for utilizing the device in purposeful ways. Since we took content which needed to be covered−like the dress code—and showed how students could access content, clarify their understanding, and demonstrate their new knowledge, it allowed for teachers and students to see how content could be made accessible in new ways. We have teams at our respected buildings and district level that are still reflecting fully on how we will better prepare for the full roll out next year. I’ll certainly keep you updated!
Master of Arts in Educational Technology Program, Michigan State University. Explore, learn, create, share [instructional sequence]. (Jan. 2013)