April 12, 2013

Keys to Building a Successful iPad Program – from Jen Carey

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Day 2 Afternoon Keynote with Tom Daccord: “Keys to Building a Successful iPad Program”

Tom’s keynote focuses on redefining not only the physical classroom, but also the cognitive and metaphysical classroom. He states that he will explore, though briefly, what this means for educators and administrators.

“What does learning look like?”

Tom asks us. In other words, how do we know that learning is going on? We certainly have an idea of what it is and what it looks like, but the modern world no longer reflects the image that many of us have previously known. With technology, Tom argues, we are “trying to fit that proverbial square peg in that proverbial round hole.”

So should iPad be made to fit our classroom or should our classrooms adapt to fit iPad? We need to help ourselves and our colleagues realize and understand what a creative learning space could look like. Tom highlights the iLab with Don Orth’s team at the Hillbrook School. Their transformation of the physical space meets our objective of using iPad in creative and collective ways on many levels.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 11.59.30 AMTom moved next to discuss the Ed Tech Teacher team’s experience working with the Singapore school system. In Singapore, because the schools’ physical design is so malleable, it encourages interaction and collaboration. He also highlgihts another program at Trinity School Atlanta called the “idea wall.” Students write an idea on a wall about  a topic that really interests them – like rock music. Paired with a mentor, the student explores and tries to articulate essential questions about their topic and explore its academic relevance. They then present their response to that question in a myriad of ways (digitally, visually, orally, etc). How we augment our environment effects our learning.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 12.01.04 PM

Tom then asks us to open the app Layar on our iPads and then to scan our iPad Summit flyers. This app allows objects, when scanned, to launch a myriad of multimedia. He asks us to imagine the possibilities – a Civil Rights poster leads to an audio file of Dr. King, a Shakespeare text leads to a scene from MacBeth, etc. Technology can help us, as educators, to assist students in learning the material more thoroughly and with greater depth. What we should be asking ourselves is how can these tools help us to augment learning? If Tom walked into our iPad classroom, would he be able to tell what our learning objectives were?

“If you could put only one thing on a student iPad what would it be?”

Tom very pointedly did not ask the room to put an “app.” An app is merely a thing – an add-on for the web or another tool that may be useful for us. When we are building our iPads (from the “app up”) we need to examine “what are our objectives and goals?” Before we build the tool, we need to know how it is going to be used. In Singapore, for example, they focus on collaboration first, because they feel that communication and cooperation are essential skills for effective, national citizenry. The Singapore government, and thus their schools, view this as essential for the survival of their state.

In our institutions, what are our learning missions and do these missions align with a broader (perhaps national) mission?

“In our modern world, learning seems useless unless it prepares students to be creative.”

Tom highlights that the American system no longer nurtures innovation and creativity. Rather, we focus more on standardization and rigorous assessment. Our system stifles risk taking.

When we look at the needs of the job force, employers are looking for individuals who can creatively solve new problems, adopt to new challenges, and take advantage of new opportunities. Technical knowledge and rote skills are significantly less important. iPads can help us to change this by using it as a tool, not as the end all be all.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 12.35.13 PMIt’s not about the apps. It’s about what you want to do with it. Check out Ed Tech Teacher’s iPad as… website. Our focus as educators should not be on content specific apps, but on “ever green” apps: applications that are flexible enough to never “go out of style” in terms of course content or level. We should choose applications because they will help students perform an activity.

Tom states that we can differentiate and individualize the learning experience by “hacking education.” Dale Stephen’s argument is that the money spent on higher education is largely wasted. Rather than go to school, students can “hack” their own education via open and free resources. In some ways, this is happening right now. While accreditation and certification are still vital and important to individuals in pursuing their education, we should be aware that these systems can and will still create disruption. Of course, this element cannot take into account the vital relationship between students as well as students and their teachers.

Tom finishes his talk by sharing his hope that we think deeply about the processes we employ in education.

“If we rise to the challenge of using technology to explore, interpret, and communicate deeply reasoned thoughts about our complex world, then we will open doors to experiences that we cannot even imagine.” – Tod Machover

At the close of his talk, Tom announced the next iPad Summit will be November 13-15, 2013, in Boston.

You can view Tom’s presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.