Thursday, August 5, 2010

Here we go!

We just completed our first day of iPad training with Helen Hoffenberg from Apple, and I am already buzzing with new ideas about how these incredible devices will fit in to our classrooms. Today we learned some basics of navigation and syncing and began to delve in to accessing, creating, and sharing content. Time spent exploring iTunes U and the Podcasts (both audio and video) in the iTunes Store introduced teachers to the wealth of content available for students and teachers. We practiced creating pdf files for later access in the iBooks application, which I think will be a great way to store teacher-created resources on the iPad devices for students to access anytime they need them. I also spent some time during breaks experimenting with the free Dropbox and $0.99 Goodreader apps to think about how students could access and share teacher- and student-created content. I think there is incredible potential for students to create content for one another using the iPad! Tomorrow we will practice using an app called Caster to create podcasts right on the iPad. I have experimented with the Blue Fire app to record audio but am interested to see how Caster works and what teachers and students can create.

Our team also spent some time watching the incredible videos created by Ben Meyers, including Empty School and One Man Band. He's a young man with musical talent and an amazing drive to create, and when I see his work, I think about what kind of learning environments we can create that will open the doors to this kind of passion and creativity. What conditions make it possible for a student to pursue his or her curiosity and vision in this way? What tools enable a child to develop a personal interest to the fullest? It's clear that Ben has had access to musical instruments, high-quality technology, and of course, time and freedom. Helen shared with us that his digital portfolio has helped him earn a scholarship at the Berkeley School of Music. Not every child is a musician, but every child has something they love, and something that would energize them to continue to learn and innovate. Tapping into that is a challenge in a typical classroom, but I think it's an essential one to undertake -- and one that technology like the iPad can certainly help bring about. Just the wealth of free content in iTunes alone creates exciting possibilities for personalizing learning and supporting students' questioning and curiosity.

So I am thinking about many things after our first day of professional development. I am thinking about how to ensure that students develop a sense of ownership over these tools, and how to foster students' drive to explore their ideas and interests. I'm also wondering about logistical issues, of course -- syncing, charging, transferring files, routines and expectations -- since many of those things will be at the forefront when we are first getting started. Because we are working with first and second graders, I am thinking about all the ways audio and image can be used to support young children, both in their learning and in their expressions of what they know. I am energized and excited, and I think this is going to be a fantastic adventure for teachers and students alike.

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