Category Archives: Technology as Tool For Learning

Technology as Tool For Learning

We Thought We Were Pretty Good Tech Integrators, Until We Met Jennie

Our team of technology integrators is very experienced and does great work. At least we thought so, until we met Jennie Magiera. 😉

Jennie works with teachers in Chicago Public Schools on leveraging technology to engage and motivate students, as well as strengthen their learning. We were fortunate enough to have her join us for last year's Leveraging Learning Institute: iPads in Primary Grades. She not only keynoted, but led several sessions, collaborated with participants, and worked closely with our middle grades twitter reporters. She even convinced us all (in the middle of the Institute!) that a panel of our student reporters should do one of the evening keynotes! (We took her advice, and the kids were great!)

Her energy and positive attitude are contagious (although there is a chance that the Energizer Bunny is exhausted by having her around!), and her great ideas about teaching with technology are so numerous, you just can't try them all at once.

But that's ok. Take your time. It's worth the investment of practice and the effort to make them part of your repertoire.

This is her keynote from last year. Her slides are here. I hope you get as much out of it as we did.

 

The Leveraging Learning Institute highlights Auburn's experience and “lessons learned” from the country's first district-wide 1to1 iPads in primary grades initiative, and helps participants learn how to successfully design and implement an iPad initiative to customize learning for students. This year's Institute is Wednesday Nov. 13 through Friday November 15, and registration is currently open.

 

QR Codes & Fostering a Strong Home/School Connection

Mauri Dufour is one of our kindergarten teachers in Auburn, an early adopter of iPads in primary grades, and is an Apple Distinguished Educator. Over the past year, Mauri has explored the role of QR codes in her classroom.

Last March, she took some time to tell me about how she uses QR codes to connect with her students’ families.

Highlights from Mauri’s video:

  • Each Friday, her students each make a video for his or her family about that week’s literacy center
  • Students must explain the “why” of the lesson, as well as, what they did in the center
  • The QR code makes it easy to share the weekly video with the family
  • This has helped foster a strong Home/School connection
  • Mauri describes how she worked with parents to make this happen

Despite working in a high poverty school, the QR codes have helped create much stronger parent involvement and communication than might otherwise be expected.

What Do Veteran Teachers Think of iPads in the Primary Grades: The Series

Veteran teachers and teachers who are at first skeptical of an initiative may have a more balanced view of how an initiative is going. Our own School Board had heard plenty from our Advantage 2014 leaders and “shining star” teachers, and wanted to know what our veteran teachers thought of the initiative.

Last March, I interviewed 4 of those teachers and captured their thoughts in three videos:

 

iPads in Primary Grades: What Veteran Teachers Think – Stephanie

This is the third installment in a series of interviews with veteran teachers to get their perspective on our iPads in primary grades initiative, Advantage 2014. Is the initiative really having the impact our early adopters would have you believe? Would our more cautious or hesitant teachers agree? Here are the first and second posts in the series.

Stephanie Hathaway teaches kindergarten. Here are her thoughts on the initiative.

Highlights from Stephanie’s interview:

  • She felt there was a lot of pressure to succeed, which she found daunting, since she wasn’t familiar with iPads before the initiative.
  • But the district provided lots of professional development
  • Impact: Assessment (time 0:48)
  • Impact: Like having 18 teachers in the room – interventions & individualization (time 2:18)
  • Impact: Motivation factor and creativity factor (time 4:07)
  • Also supports the learning of handwriting.

iPads in Primary Grades: What Veteran Teachers Think – Sheila

We’re all used to some teachers being enthusiastic about a relatively new initiative. It’s no different with Advantage 2014, Auburn’s iPads in primary grades initiative. But the “enthusiastic teacher” view might not sell decision makers, since it’s probably not a representative perspective (and keeping in mind that not necessarily all decision makers are fans of any initiative). “What do veteran teachers think?” is the question whose answer is more likely to sway decision makers.

So last March, I interviewed some of our veteran teachers to get their perspective. This is the second in my series of three such interviews (the first is here).

Sheila Ray teaches first grade, and was admittedly skeptical of using iPads with students, when the program was introduced. She shares her perspective after her first year of teaching with iPads, especially for reading and math. She notes that not only did using the iPads contribute to greatly improved test scores, but parents also noted student enthusiasm.

iPads in Primary Grades: What Veteran Teachers Think – Jean & Chris

Auburn has had some real success with Advantage 2014, our iPads in primary grades initiative. Although many folks like hearing about the enthusiastic teachers who have done many inventive things with the iPads and their students, others wonder what veteran teachers might think; teachers who may not be so enthusiastic.

In March of 2013, I interviewed a handful of such teachers to see what their perspective was. This is the first in a series highlighting the veteran teachers' perspective of teaching and learning with iPads in kindergarten and first grade.

Both Christine Gagne and Jean Vadeboncoeur have taught first grade “for a long time,” as Chris says. Both were skeptical of having to use the iPads with students, and Jean admits that she is not a “pro screen kind of person.” In this video, Chris and Jean talk about their experience in the first year of using the iPads, and the impact the iPad, apps, and their professional development had on their students.

 

Highlights of their comments:

  • By March, all their students were meeting or exceeding standards.
  • The apps and using the iPads generated a lot of excitement in the students.
  • They saw students try harder and work more diligently to figure out the work on their own.
  • They were surprised at this year's students' progress compared to previous years.
  • They thought the amount of practice and the immediate feedback were secrets of the success.

 

The Series on the New MLTI: Choice, Auburn, and Learning

Maine has long had the first (and, unfortunately, only) 1to1 learning with technology initiative: MLTI.

The MLTI contract was up for renewal this year, and, for the first time, Maine is allowing each district to choose from 5 finalist proposals, producing a lot of conversation about the choices and how to choose.

Below is the series of blog posts I have written about the MLTI renewal, Auburn's choice and choice process, and my interest that MLTI selection focus on learning:

 

Strengths of the Early MLTI Program – Let’s Keep Them Going

Maine's learning with technology initiative (MLTI) is going through changes this year:

  • The contract renewal framed it not as a Maine contract, but as a multi-state contract, in hopes of making it easier for other states to do their own statewide initiatives.
  • When our governor announced the new contract award, it wasn't for our 12-year partner, Apple, but rather for HP.
  • The governor is allowing districts to select from any of the 5 finalist (Apple is included).

I'm not sure how all these changes will play out. My hope is that Maine's educators will rise to he occasion and take MLTI to the next level. My fear is that this will eventually kill what has been an internationally recognized learning program.

But it has made me think back on MLTI and what we identified that made the early MLTI such a powerful initiative. I found a couple old articles that address that question:

What we identified then as the strengths of this initiative include:

  • Access to technology
  • A focus on learning
  • A focus on leadership
  • Context-embedded professional development
  • Technology as a tool, not a curriculum area
  • Thinking how technology can change/improve teaching and learning

I hope Maine's educators, including the DOE and MLTI staff, continue to place an emphasis on these areas, and, despite the changes to program, MLTI continues to be the strong impactful initiative we had 8-10 years ago.

 

Is the iPad a Viable Solution for the High School?

As districts are deciding which MLTI solution they would like to choose, there have been a lot of questions asked about if the iPad is a viable solution for high schools.

Note 1: I'm not trying to convince folks to choose iPads, but there have not been the same kinds of questions about viability for the HP laptop or the MacBook Air, so I am simply trying to address the question at hand.

Note 2: For folks outside of Maine, MLTI is primarily focused on 7th & 8th grade (the State pays for those two grades), but districts can buy into MLTI for other grade levels at their own cost, most commonly at the high school level.

Two high schools, recognized for their 1to1 iPad initiatives, would seem to be evidence the iPad is a viable device for high school:

 

What We Want from Technology – MLTI, Customized Learning, and School Vision

There have been many discussions around Maine since the Governor announced schools would have choice over which solution they select for MLTI for the next four years. But most of those conversations have focused on the device, or its capabilities, or why it is “my preferred device,” or why people are worried that the device they aren't that familiar with will not be sufficient for the task at hand…

I wish so much more of those conversations had instead been about school visions for learning, and what we hope to get from technology for learning. What role can technology play in learning? What is your school's or district's vision (ours is here), and what is the role of technology in fulfilling that vision?

And for Auburn, as I would guess for other districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning, we are concerned about technology's role in helping us succeed with implementing Customized Learning (such a critical part of our vision).

Here is what we think the roles for technology are for learning, especially for Customized Learning:

  • Instructional Resources for Building Foundational Knowledge
  • Instructional Resources for Using Knowledge, Creating, Complex Reasoning, and Projects
  • Learning Progress Management
  • Supporting Independent Learning
  • Assessment
  • Home School Connection
  • Student Motivation

How are you currently using technology for each of these? What are teachers doing (maybe in your district, but maybe in another) that shows you exciting ways technology could be used for each of these? What is best technology practice for each of these roles?

But much more importantly, as Maine's districts think about selecting a solution for MLTI, how does each proposed solution measure up against each of these roles for technology?

You don't have to be interested in Customized Learning to be interested in these roles. But I don't beleive a school can make a satisfactory decision about which solution to select if they are only thinking about the device or the operating system…