Sunday, August 30, 2015

Student Lead iPad Squad - The Brilliant Bees

With the school going 1:1 iPads, we need to ensure that we have a manageable, sustainable model as far as supporting the devices go. The district sends an IT person once a week to the site who has to manage all the technology helpdesk tickets that arise. The problems with iPads are not necessarily those that require an IT person, in fact very rarely. Teachers have simple questions such as forgetting a password, or photos cannot be accessed from an app or any other simple query or problem that needs a change in the settings. With that in mind, and the fact that for the first time we have a grade level that has already gone through the 1:1 process last year, hence understands the responsibility and the expectations of them, we decided to run a student-lead iPad Squad.

What? After going through various iterations in my head, I decided we had to use the school mascot, which is a bee, and find a positive word that begins with "b", so came up with the term "The Brilliant Bees"

When? For now, we meet on Wednesdays at lunch.

Who? The fifth graders to begin with. The two fifth grade teachers invited me over to talk about this with the class, describe the process, and we just asked for volunteers. I let the students know that they will be rewarded but that I don't do any food rewards :) The students were super excited about this job and about 15 students showed up.

The first meeting

Collaboration? This takes place in person and online through an official course on Schoology, which the students have used for a year and are used to.

Every week the students will have assignments. The first assignments were those to get them excited about the project. They are designing logos, using their iPads of course, for The Brilliant Bees, and they are creating short movies on the student expectations (for the school). 

The hope is not only to have the students learn to deal with basic trouble shooting jobs, but to also be able to model best practices, digital etiquette, logging in procedures and more, whilst learning to empathize with different groups of students. 

We have to see how it goes. This is work in progress and we are all learning together as we go along. We are trying to implement the lessons we have learned from the last three years to the best of our knowledge. It is a team effort and all the classroom teachers are on board with it. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The School goes 1:1 iPads - FAQ

Three years back the first of PAUSD's classes, two fifth grade classes at Barron Park elementary went 1:1 iPads. This was a huge step. The year: 2012-13 and very few elementary schools had tried 1:1. Given that the iPads had started shipping in April of 2010, the first class to go 1:1 would have been 2010-11 and this was the iPad 1 without a camera. Come Spring of 2011 and the iPad 2 with a camera released. This unleashed a whole new potential for the use of an iPad in education. However, even as I searched for various case studies for 1:1 iPads for a capstone research project on 1:1 evaluation, the really few ones I found were based in high school. 

After going through two years of 1:1 in fifth grade (another two schools in PAUSD are now 1:1 in fifth grade), and seeing the benefits on learning for every ability of student, the fourth grade teachers jumped on board last year, with both classes going 1:1. Based upon the lessons we had learned from the previous fifth grade implementation and given the fact that we were all way more prepared, this particular implementation was successful on several fronts: the teachers using the iPads for creative and daily reference purposes, the daily responsibility that students took on and the really positive student feedback amongst several other aspects.

In the meantime, the primary grade teachers had seen the benefit of using 1:1 iPads in the classroom and had been asking to get them. In order to get the necessary funding, they had to wait a whole year. However, in that year, not only were the teachers ready and asking for the iPads (versus me touting the benefits) but we were also able to go through release day professional development in the spring before the end of the previous school year for iPad integration. We barely talked about apps, as should be the case. The focus was on management and learning objectives. A day in the life of....

School begins next week. Thanks to the district IT, district Ed Tech, school administration and PTA support, the school launches 1:1 in grades 1-5 this year. In order to address questions that may arise as well as to explain to families what we do with iPads, I put together an FAQ. Click here to check it out.

Would love for people's feedback and comments on the FAQ and experiences to share.