Monday, September 29, 2014

iPads: The Cart Before the Horse?

I've spoken with several teachers recently about ways I can support them as an Instructional Coach. I'm trying to put myself out there, identify what teachers want/need, and work to provide it. One of the most sought-after areas of professional development so far has been iPad support. "I've got all these iPads, I just don't feel like I use them enough!"

Man, that's frustrating.

It seems as though we've gotten really caught up in purchasing technology to be current and high-tech, but it's not until after we have the devices that we stop to think about how they'll actually be used. This is all backwards.

Technology and iPads should seamlessly become a part of our daily routine; they should enable us to do amazing new things we couldn't otherwise do, or even simply streamline work and help make us more organized. Instead, when they're purchased on a huge scale without work beforehand identifying needs and supports for training and integration, we get these shiny toys that we then have to go out of our way to "put" into instruction.

I've written before about my skepticism of iPads. Years ago, my grade level was approached with the idea of implementing 1:1 iPads. At the time, all we could see as the primary use was as a research tool and time sponge. There were plenty of apps that attempted to teach concepts or turn learning into a game, but we couldn't see much more use than that. Now, of course, there are tons of really great apps that enhance what teachers can do in the classroom.

If my principal approached me again with that same proposal, I would most certainly say yes (though I'd prefer MacBook Airs or even Chromebooks). This is the way that it should be, though! I should be asking for technology because of all the possibilities I can imagine, not because it'd simply be cool! I'd use formative assessment out the wazoo with Socrative, encourage and track literature analysis and discussion using Subtext, manage my students' behaviors with ClassDojo, require students to explain and demonstrate their thinking using Explain Everything, grade and guide classwork using Classkick, differentiate reading instruction using Newsela, help students create engaging, well-organized presentations using Prezi, teach programming fundamentals using Tynker and Lightbot, teach keyboarding skills with TypingWeb (and physical keyboards...), fill gaps in students' math skills using Khan Academy, and foster student collaboration using Google Apps for Education and Classroom.

And notice, not a single app (with maybe the exception of Lightbot and Khan Academy) is meant to replace me or do my job for me. These all serve to help me be more effective, to reach more students, to organize my classroom and speed up my workflow to allow me to do more.

This is how iPad rollouts should happen. Not because, "We have some money to spend," or because, "These iPads are fun!" or because, "I really want to do centers."

It's much easier to start at square one asking, "How the device can change and enhance my teaching?", than it is to un-think, "How can the device fit into my traditional way of teaching?"
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