Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What does "transformative" mean?

You have probably heard people describe the iPad as "transformative" in the classroom. However, it's important to define what we mean by that term and to be clear about the very real benefits that mobile technology can offer. At Burley, we see the greatest transformation in key classroom relationships:  the relationship of the students to their work, the relationship between students and other students, and the relationship of students to the process of assessing and reflecting upon their own work. These are three places where we see real transformation, and these are themes we are looking to expand upon as we enter year three of our iPad adventures.  

1.  Student work and content creation.
 Kids in our 1:1 classrooms are creating more types of content that can be shared more readily with more people than ever before.  This fundamentally changes the nature of student work; kids see themselves as experts, teachers of others, and authors.  This leads them to ask better questions, investigate original ideas, and express themselves with creativity and passion.  I know this is a common argument for the use of technology, but I can't believe the difference mobility and 1:1 make in this area. Media creation and high-quality publishing are seamless parts of the student experience and environment, because the technology is right there with them at all times. The size and portability of the iPad support a collaborative, flexible, and creative learning environment. That makes a difference. Here are some questions to push ourselves in the coming year:
  • What are the best ways to share different types of digital student work?
  • How can we access a wide, engaged audience for student work, and how do we make the greatest educational use of our access to that audience?
  • How can we ensure that student projects have real relevance and meaning beyond the classroom walls?
  • How can we use the iPad to open up more opportunities for students to advocate for issues they are passionate about?

2.  Student communication and collaboration.  With ongoing access to web 2.0 tools, kids have more access to their peers' ideas, feedback, and questions than ever before.  They use their PLN (peer learning network) to solve problems and explore ideas, and peer expertise is valued.  This elevates the role of the student and increases active participation in learning. The PLN changes how students see themselves and one another and gives them a greater sense of agency. Web 2.0 tools also enable students to understand the role of the Internet and social media in communication and learning, and to practice safe and appropriate online interaction in a teacher-supported environment. Kidblog and Edmodo are two key tools we have used in past years, and we look to build in this area for year three. These are among the questions we will explore:
  • How do we scaffold the experience of using online collaborative tools so that we can eventually turn over the content and management of those tools to the students?
  • What is the appropriate balance between teacher-guided blogging and open, student-directed blogging? Is there a continuum for this across grades 1-8?
  • How often do we need to provide instructional refreshers on appropriate purpose and tone for educational social media?
  • How can we continue to use social media to empower students, and to expand the authentic purpose and audience for student writing and communication?

3.  Student self-assessment and reflection.  Using the iPad, kids can capture more of their thinking in more ways than ever.  They can snap a photo of something they have created or record a quick verbal reflection or video.  This opens up rich opportunities for students to self-assess and track their own learning.  When kids have access to vivid records of their own thinking, they can develop habits of mind that promote ongoing reflection and personal academic growth. However, maximizing the benefits of digital reflection by making it systematic and organized will be an area of focus in the coming year, guided by questions like these:

  • What are the best digital tools for documenting, archiving, and sharing student self-assessment and reflection?
  • What role can self-assessment artifacts play in teacher assessment and instructional decision-making, and what are the best systems for streamlining this process? 
  • At what point are students able to take full ownership of their own reflective process?

As often as we hear the word "transformative," we invite all of our iPad colleagues to take a look at your classrooms and identify specific places where you are really seeing that fundamental change in how students learn, share, communicate, create, express themselves, and reflect -- and share what you see! While the iPad offers many valid and valuable classroom tools and resources, we are all seeking that sweet spot where the technology enables something entirely new and better for kids and for learning (think the Redefinition level of Dr. Ruben Puentedura's SAMR model). In collaboration with all of you, we are looking forward to another year of teaching, learning, exploration, and transformation.
5th grade Students working outdoors with iPad devices

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