Schools around the world have come to see the potential of the iPad and other mobile learning devices in the classroom. Because the adoption of these technologies in education is such a new phenomenon, many teachers are finding themselves struggling to effectively integrate them into the classroom.
Get the new technology into the hands of teachers early
One of the mistakes that is too commonly made in schools is putting new tools in teachers hands and asking them to start using them without sufficient training or lead time.
If you want teachers to naturally integrate the iPad (or any other new tool) into the classroom, you need to sell them on the value of the device. We were fortunate that our iPads arrived before summer vacation and encouraged every teacher and support staff to take one home for the summer. If possible, I would recommend putting these new tools in the hands of teachers at least six months in advance and offering PD sessions prior to using them in the classroom.
I was very eager to get teachers using the iPads in creative ways, but quickly realized that many teachers were feeling overwhelmed and were not ready to take big steps. By attending planning sessions, I was able to find specific curriculum areas where each grade could focus on using the iPads more. We started with the goal of a unit (rather than an app) and then found ways to use the iPad to support the goal. If nothing else, teachers may want to start using the iPad as a way to document learning and class events.
Provide ongoing PD and Support
This is key to successful integration and does not need to involve several formal PD sessions throughout the year. What is essential is offering PD as it is needed and will often involve sitting in with a grade team or individual teachers to help solve their problems quickly. By having a flexible schedule, I was able to get into classes when needed and work with teachers individually when they were feeling stuck. In many cases, this might just be to teach them how to share a video with parents, but the support helps to reduce frustration and anxiety.
Leverage the Early Adopters
Not every teacher is going to be excited to change the way they have always done things to try something new. Many will resist change and will question the value of adding more technology to the classroom. The easiest way to convince these teachers is not to lecture them but to instead work closely with the more passionate teachers on projects that are willing to try. These teachers will spread the word and their optimism can become infectious.
Come with a plan for sharing content
Finding efficient ways to share content from the iPads has been one of the most frustrating parts of using them in the classroom. Since they were designed to be a personal device, it is not easy ways to keep content organized and shared. In a previous article, I wrote about solutions I came up with to deal with the headaches of sharing. Picasa has proved to be a great way to share photo albums and getting a Vimeo Plus account is a good idea for sharing large video files. Apple’s iCloud service can be a good way to back up your photos and documents to the cloud.
Come up with a plan for Sharing among teachers
Before the deployment of iPads, our school had a computer lab which teachers booked at least one period each week. However, this approach was not consistent with our beliefs about effective technology integration and we decided to move away from the computer lab model.
We had enough iPads for a 1:4 ratio so I decided to put at least a few iPads in each classroom (3-6) as well as to make some available in a cart which could be borrowed when needed and returned when not. Teachers were also encouraged to share with each other to get a class set when needed. This has not been perfect, but overall has worked well for most teachers.
Come up with a plan for syncing apps and the devices
When I started my job as a Technology Literacy Coach, I never imagined that I would need to spend so much time managing the devices. Apple has largely addressed this issue in the US with its Configurator App, but the Apple Volume Purchase Plan is not available in most countries. I found the best solution for us is to create a separate Apple ID for each grade level and turn on iCloud and auto syncing of apps. This helps to reduce the need to download apps onto each iPad individually. For each grade, you can create folders for apps they need onto one iPad and then sync the other iPads from this image.
Get involved in team planning sessions
In order to really help teachers integrate technology into their classroom, you need to have a good understanding of their curriculum. By attending planning sessions, I am able to get a better understanding of what teachers want to achieve within each unit and research the best apps and websites to help them. I also keep copies of each grade’s long range plans for the year so that I am aware of what they will be focusing on. It is important to not let the technology itself dictate the curriculum, but rather to find the best ways to use technology to support the curriculum.
Engage and empower the students
Engaging students with the iPad is not a difficult job. If you show them how they can creatively use the device to express their ideas, you will get them on board quickly. Empowering students can be more difficult because many teachers are unwilling to give up power in the classroom. They will argue that their students are too young to do some of the things you are asking of them or that they need to be monitored. Kids pick up things early and are often the best teachers for their peers.
Let others know all the wonderful things that are being done in the different classrooms as a way to promote and celebrate a culture of technology integration. You can show examples of what students are doing in school or classroom newsletters or displays or even through writing your own blog and sharing your successes with others around the world.