Tag Archives: Aubschl

Auburn’s Data Shows (Again) The Positive Impact of iPads

Our School Committee wants to know if there has been an impact of having iPads in the primary grades classrooms, and there has been!

In fact, we recently presented those findings to the School Committee.

All our primary grades students participate in CPAA testing (Children's Progress Academic Assessment). It is a test meant to be used as formative assessment to let teachers know where their students are in their literacy and math learning, giving them information about student mastery of specific concepts, helping inform teachers' instruction.

As we look back over the CPAA data from past years, and compare to the cohorts of students who have had iPads, we found that a larger percentage of students have reached proficiency, and have reached it sooner, than in the years before we had iPads. For kindergarten, this is true for 6 out of 8 concepts. For first grade, it is true for 5 out of 7 concepts.

We know it hasn't just been the iPads. We have done a ton of professional development on literacy best practices, math best practices, and educational technology best practices.

But what this data does tell us, is that when we combine teachers with professional development and 1to1 iPads, then our students learn more, faster.

In other words, Advantage 2014, our literacy, math, and iPad initiative, is having a positive effect on student achievement.

So when we ask for iPads for second grade, we aren't just asking for tech or gadgets. We are asking for a proven educational resource that helps our students learn better.

How Does Auburn Select Apps?

Ever since we started Advantage 2014, our primary grades literacy and math initiative that includes 1to1 iPads in Kindergarten and 1st Grade, we’ve had educators and parents ask us what apps we’re using. (We have an apps page on our web site with 2 links, one to just our list of “district recommended” apps and one with the correlation of those apps to our curriculum – at least for one academic area…)

But occasionally, I’ll be asked how we select our apps.

For the most part, teachers guide our selection.

Teachers are free to use what ever apps they would like (especially free ones), but they are responsible for organizing their app library and syncing the devices in their classroom. This, by itself, eventually leads to teachers being more selective about which (and how many) apps they use! (One kindergarten teacher spent a couple weeks taking home a few iPads each night to spend the evening deleting the couple hundred apps she no longer wanted on the iPads!). 🙂

In general, we made “educational resource selection” part of our professional development. We didn’t want app selection to be some centralized function, and we wanted teachers to get good (and deliberate) about how they selected the resources they used with their students (which never happens if “someone else” is responsible for deciding which resources are ok for teachers to use). In a post about our professional development, I referred to our it as using a Constructivist approach:

As we thought about designing PD for our teachers, we didn’t want to just hand teachers information or resources; for example, we didn’t just want to hand them “approved” apps. We wanted teachers to have an intimate understanding of various components of the initiative they were on the front lines of implementing, including app (educational resource) selection. We decided to take a constructivist approach. For example, we had our teachers start by simply exploring apps. They had a limited budget for apps, but could also download as many free apps as they wanted. Then teachers made recommendations for apps that they thought would be the “core collection” of apps, those apps the district would purchase for every classroom. We would give teachers two similar apps and ask, “which one’s better?” to get them thinking about criteria for app selection; this eventually was developed into a rubric. Finally, we correlated apps to our kindergarten curriculum. The constructivist approach insures a deeper understanding based on their own experience.

We decided we didn’t like the term “district approved” apps, and now refer to them as “district recommended” apps.

Also, with teacher input, we revised our app selection rubric a couple times. Then we came across Tony Vincent’s work with iPads and his fabulous resources. We now use his rubric, since we think it captures our thinking about app selection better than we did. (Here are some other recommendations by Tony Vincent on how to evaluate/select apps.) Now, when a teacher requests that an app be installed on all the classroom iPads, we start by asking how it faired against Tony Vincent’s rubric.

In all cases, we tried to focus app selection (and teacher practice with iPads) on our goals for the program. From our PD post:

Content of Professional Development – All of our PD and training has focused on a couple of topics. We wanted to expand our teachers’ skill at applying literacy best practice, and to insure that our teachers and specialists working with kindergarten students had the capacity to select and apply appropriate apps directly toward student academic needs, as well as how to manage the iPads and work within the unique demands of this initiative.

Through our professional development, we also worked with teachers to create expectations for iPad use in the classrooms (which further helped us with app selection):

iPad Use – Minimum Requirements

  • iPads are used daily during centers.
  • iPads are used daily during whole group and/or small group instruction.
  • iPads are used as an intervention tool with below benchmark students.
  • iPad apps reviewed by the district are used.

This year, recognizing that we need to address both instruction for low-level thinking and higher-level thinking, we have some teachers exploring “Using iPads for Projects, Problem-Solving, and Creating.” So even with new explorations, we are working to link app selection to the best practices.

I haven’t really talked about how we pay for apps (mostly district volume purchase program vouchers, and iTunes cards purchased by various groups), and I recognize that budget does have an impact on app selection, and when a district purchase is involved, we involve the Tech Director in the decision (or the Special Ed Director, if it is a Special Education related purchase). But as much as possible, we try to give the teachers the lion’s share of the say in what apps we get. Leadership’s job isn’t to tell them which apps are ok to use or what best practice is, but rather to support their individual and collaborative work toward becoming their own experts in best practice and educational resource selection.

Where Can I Learn More about iPads in Elementary Schools

I get asked regularly, besides my writing about our iPad initiative, who else writes about iPads in elementary education.

Here are some of the folks I read:

  • Sidwell Friends School (the primary grades iPad initiative at the school the Obama girls attend)
  • Fraser Speirs (Scottish tech integrator. Has great posts about iPads in elem sch)
  • Tony Vincent (great info on teaching and learning with mobile tech, especially iPads)
  • Jennie Magiera (amazing tech coach in Chicago, was one of our keynotes at our Leveraging Learning Institute – not exclusively iPads but on the nose about pedagogy with tech)
  • And this blog isn’t about iPads, but we see our iPad initiative as how we implement Customized Learning in the Primary Grades and Mark Davis is a teacher who writes about his experience with customized learning. Very nice, concrete writing about implementation…

More Indications of Positive Results from Auburn’s iPads

We’ve had iPads in our Kindergarten classrooms for more than a year now. This fall, we also rolled out iPads to our 1st grade students. All in the name of improving students’ mastery of literacy and math.

We know that we have too many students who aren’t demonstrating proficiency, so for several years, we’ve been making sure that teachers are getting quality training in literacy and math instruction, and we’re hopeful that, combined with the access to educational resources made possible through iPads, that we’ll increase that level of proficiency.

And when we examined gains made by last year’s kindergarten students, that’s what we found. Our kindergarten students had made more gains than in years past, leading our Curriculum Director to proclaim that taxpayers’ money is well spent.

Read more about our gains in the Sun Journal article Educators Say iPads Help Scores, and the MPBN radio story Auburn Educators Tout Benefits of iPads for Kindergartners (sorry iPad users; you need flash to listen to the story, but you can still peruse the article).

Learning about Leveraging iPads for Learning

We just wrapped up our second annual Leveraging Learning Institute. We played host to 140 educators from across Maine, the country, and around the world! We had folks from Georgia, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. We even had five educators from two schools in Japan. What we all had in common was a passion for the potential of iPads to personalize learning for primary grades students.

Apple even sent a bunch of their people to learn from us about how we’re doing customized learning with iPads.

We had wonderful sessions on everything from the kinds of apps we’re using (presented by our 1st grade students!), to how to use various kinds of data to support your initiative, to communicating with the community, to what to do if your initiative is having troubles, to figuring out the complexities of syncing apps in a school setting. Check out all the sessions here. Resources from sessions and the institute are available here. (Fear not! Over the next couple weeks more and more will be posted. Videos of the keynotes will also eventually be posted.)

In addition to the Auburn team, Education Commissioner Steve Bowen, trauma suregeon Rafael Grossmann, Apple Distinguished Educator Kathy Shirley, Apple Distinguished Educator Jennie Magiera, and customized learning evangelist Bea McGarvey presented and participated. Get connected to all our presenters here.

We had wonderful press coverage! Stories highlighted the conference just prior to its starting, the Commissioner’s involvement in the opening keynote, trauma surgeon Rafael Grossmann, who also shared the opening keynote, and Auburn Kindergarten teacher Amy Heimerl, who did her own research study on the effectiveness of the iPads.

Maybe the best press coverage was our team of Auburn Middle School students who live tweeted every session and even participated in a few! (Search for the #adv2014 hash tag and be sure to set your feed to receive “all posts.”)

We’re already looking forward to next year’s conference. But I’ll warn you! We opened registration in the second half of August and registration filled in just a couple weeks with a long waiting list. After this year’s success, we expect to fill even more quickly!

Should Kindergarteners Use iPads in the Classroom? Absolutely!

This week, Government Technology posted the article, “Should Kindergarteners Use iPads in the Classroom?

It looked like the article had found year-old news of our starting our iPad initiative, thinking it was current, and raised the question if this were appropriate.

I was fine up to the point that readers started posting “black and white”/”all or nothing” comments…

I have submitted this comment:

I’m with Auburn Schools, and it was actually last April that we decided to move ahead with a literacy and math initiative that included 1to1 iPads in Kindergarten. We’re a year into the program and are finding that student engagement is up, teachers find that they are getting to reading groups earlier in the year than in the past, and that it is easier to customize learning for students. We even did a randomized control trial on the pilot which found a statistically significant improvement in the iPad classrooms.

But it is all about the right tool at the right time. We still teach handwriting with pencil and paper, students still play and pretend and read books and work with teachers (all things that some people thought we had plans of stopping once students had iPads – for what reason, I can’t even imagine).

But now that we have actually done it, we entusiastically say yes, iPads do belong in kindergarten.

We’re on track to add 1st Grade iPads for this coming year.

Auburn’s iPad Research Project on the Seedlings Podcast

Seedlings is a great little podcast that, although about educational technology, is really about good teaching and learning.

So I felt honored when the Seedling hosts invited me to return to talk about Auburn’s research on their Advantage 2014 program, best known for giving iPads to Kindergartners. You can download that podcast and access related links here.

This was a follow up to the previous podcast, where we talked both about Advantage 2014, and Projects4ME, the statewide virtual project-based non-traditional program, where students can earn high school credit by designing and doing projects, instead of taking courses.

Professional Development for Auburn’s iPad Kindergarten Teachers

Auburn is excited that our initial research results strongly suggest that our initiative is extending the impact our teachers are having on their students. It has prompted lots of requests to know more about what we’re doing for professional development with our teachers. Professional development is, clearly, one critical component to any school change initiative, and designing and providing the right kind of PD and support is a critical leadership role.

What professional development did we conduct with our kindergarten teachers?

Content of Professional Development – All of our PD and training has focused on a couple of topics. We wanted to expand our teachers’ skill at applying literacy best practice, and to insure that our teachers and specialists working with kindergarten students had the capacity to select and apply appropriate apps directly toward student academic needs, as well as how to manage the iPads and work within the unique demands of this initiative. We have summed this up at the beginning of each of our PD session agendas with the following goals:

  1. Link iPads to learning.
  2. Problem-solve technology-related issues.
  3. Discuss best practices.
  4. Discuss and review apps.

How did we manage professional development and support that achieved these goals?

PD for Paradigm Shfit – Although teachers can often, sometimes with coaching, apply best practice they are familiar with to unfamliliar contexts, the integration of technology at this level is often a paradigm shift for teachers. Rarely have teachers experienced learning with technology themselves, and many have received very little training with computers, let alone iPads. “PD for Paradigm Shift” recognizes that changing paradigms requires more than sharing information. Schema theory sheds the best light on how to structure professional development for large change: provide models and experiences. See it in action. Live it in action. That’s what we’ve tried to do for our teachers.

Getting Technology into the Hands of Teachers – A terrific first step for professional development is to get the technology into the hands of teachers, so they can become used to it through their own use. We made sure that every teacher had an iPad to use over the summer for this purpose. But it is important to keep in mind that this will develop a teacher’s personal use skill, not their integration for learning skill. That’s not a problem. The problem comes from thinking that if teachers know how to use their iPad that they also know how to leverage it for their students’ learning…

Modeling: Visiting Classrooms – When teachers don’t have a lot of experience with an innovation, one way to get them that experience is by having them visit other teachers who are successfully doing similar work. This can be done in person, or vicariously through videos or stories (not descriptive articles, so much as those that tell the story and paint a picture for the reader – remember, this is not about information, it’s about experience). Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of classrooms for us to visit when we got started. We have tried to make it easy for our teachers to visit each other’s rooms, and we have had teachers video (on their iPads!) and share examples of what they are doing. Now we’re working to make sure that other teachers can come to visit our classrooms so they can begin to expand their experience (although we’re trying to be careful how we schedule and manage such visits as not to distract too much from the learning that is supposed to be our first order of business!).

Modeling Effective Practices – Did we see a teacher do a great lesson? We had her model that lesson to the other teachers in a PD session. Did we learn a better way to sync or manage apps? We modeled that approach in a PD session. Did we think the press might start contacting teachers? We’d review procedures for dealing with press requests, as well as share talking points and provide them language they could choose to use if interviewed. (Our teachers’ favorite talking point: “That’s a great question! You should ask the superintendent.” I think they might be a little press shy!) 🙂

Connecting with other Educators – A different approach to helping teachers and program leaders build models is to provide them opportunities to communicate with educators who are doing similar work. Networking is a powerful way for teachers to develop their own practice while helping colleagues (often in different states or countries!) to develop their own. Although few teachers have taken us up on these options to date, we encourage them to consider tweeting or blogging about their experiences, since it can help build a diverse professional learning network for the teachers who do. Our teachers are more eager to connect with teachers in more traditional ways: on the phone or via email. One avenue which has really opened possibilities for these connections was the national iPads in primary grades education conference we hosted last November. About half our participants were from Maine, and the other half from across the country (we even had one from India!). We’re already planning next year’s conference.

Constructivist Approach – As we thought about designing PD for our teachers, we didn’t want to just hand teachers information or resources; for example, we didn’t just want to hand them “approved” apps. We wanted teachers to have an intimate understanding of various components of the initiative they were on the front lines of implementing, including app (educational resource) selection. We decided to take a constructivist approach. For example, we had our teachers start by simply exploring apps. They had a limited budget for apps, but could also download as many free apps as they wanted. Then teachers made recommendations for apps that they thought would be the “core collection” of apps, those apps the district would purchase for every classroom. We would give teachers two similar apps and ask, “which one’s better?” to get them thinking about criteria for app selection; this eventually was developed into a rubric. Finally, we correlated apps to our kindergarten curriculum. The constructivist approach insures a deeper understanding based on their own experience.

Collaboratively Designed – I think one of our best secrets to successful professional development and support is realizing that none of us is as smart as a group of us together. We have tried to have a team approach to all design work for this initiative. Our Advantage 2014 Design Team includes central office administrators, our grant writer, a couple School Committee members, a couple parents and community members, as well as our some of our teach folk, and one of our elementary principals (and, of course, me, the Multiple Pathways Leader). We have smaller groups working on specific aspects of the program: funding, research, the Institute, and professional development. Our professional development planning group includes our Tech Director, our elementary Technology Coach, an elementary principal, one of our Special Education administrators, and myself. And even though no teacher is officially on the PD design team, in reality, they all are. We solicit their input in a variety of ways and work hard to be responsive to their needs (see the next section). Teachers helped us craft our policies and procedures, our expectations for teachers, our core collection of apps and our app selection rubric, and other significant components of our initiative.

I can’t over state this: this work MUST be a team effort. I can’t tell you how many times in the last few weeks I’ve said, “See! That’s exactly why we have a team planning this!” And not just for PD, but for lots of different aspects of this work. I don’t care how good some individuals in your district are; he or she doesn’t have the capacity represented by a collection of your staff, with various experience bases, perspectives, and areas of expertise.

Continuous Improvement Focus – We’ve tried to be highly responsive to the needs of our teachers. In additional to listening to our teachers, asking them directly, and being tuned in to situations as they develop, we use two tools. On a regular basis, we have our teachers complete one of two surveys we created in Google Docs. One asks questions about how often they used the iPad that week for various types of tasks (these correspond to our expectations for teachers that we collaborately created with the teachers, and essentially gets to fidelity of implementation). The other survey simply asks about their recent successes and challenges within the program. Although quite simple, both provide us with amazing data on what the teachers need right now. Although we plan our PD sessions in advance, we’ve been known to completely redesign a session hours before it starts based on what we’ve learned the teachers need.

Imbedded Support – Our district has three technology integrators: one for the high school, one for the middle school and one serving our elementary schools. As you can imagine, we’ve had our elementary technology coach spend much of her time working in our kindergarten classrooms. A good technology coach is really a good pedagogical coach. She can collaboratively design lessons with teachers, co-teach lessons, model lessons, sit back and observe and provide feedback, make recommendations to resources and otherwise support teachers. Although the technology coach becomes eyes and ears for program leaders, it is not an evaluative position. The teacher needs to feel safe with the coach working in her room, and we only use information from the coach to help direct resources and support.

Built On A Strong Literacy Foundation – Our teachers had been working on literacy instruction for several years prior to Advantage 2014 and the introduction of iPads to their classrooms. Auburn had been part of the Maine Literacy Project out of the Univerrsity of Maine and our teachers had done graduate level work with the Project. Adding the iPads and its apps was a logical extension of this work, and training we conducted specficially about the iPads was intended to extend this earlier work, not replace it.

Where Did We Find the Time? – We used the usual approaches: taking advantage of workshop days, after-school opportunities, and scheduling a couple days in the summer prior to school starting. But we also had the advantage of the district already having “Early Release Wednesdays” available for our elementary schools. We have used nearly every other Wednesday to provide several hours of training. Some days we met just with the “September Teachers” (the first round of teachers to get the iPads). Other times we met with all the kindergarten teachers, or just the specialists, or everyone all at once.

It’s Your Turn:

What are your best strategies for delivering professional development and support to your staff?