It’s Not About the Tool
The biggest question I get after a workshop or training session is how did our iPad roll-out have so much success both in my classroom and for our school. What I tell them is that it’s not about the tool or the gadget. It’s about the school culture and the growth mindset of the teachers and administrators.
No teacher has ever said, “I don’t want to do what is best for my students.” Yet some sit in training and offer roadblocks. What do you do when you have a student that says they are not good at math or cannot do the work? Do we give them an out? Of course not! We offer support, an encouraging word, and extra help to foster mastery. So why do these very teachers, who are so good at getting the most out of students, balk at doing the same for themselves?
These are the questions often being asked at the end of my sessions or emailed to me days and weeks later. For me, when asked, I tell my story of how going 1:1 in my classroom transformed learning. My story is just one of many. There are many great educators that have embraced our shifting classroom geography and footprint.
Five years ago our 6th-grade team was asked to pilot a 1:1 iPad initiative. We were chosen for many reasons including the fact that we were a bunch of teachers who often embraced change, worked well together, and worked with a population that would be both excited and mature enough to handle the new technology. Very little training was given because we didn’t know who to ask and what we needed to know. So as a team we agreed to each learn one app, try it out with our students, and if successful, share it with the rest of the team.
I chose Nearpod as my app. I was intrigued by its ability to control the iPads in the classroom and its already made lessons. It was a huge success, initially because I could convert my lessons over to their platform, and keep doing what I was doing already. Innovative? No, but it was a beginning. Nearpod continued to add features that allowed for student voice in ways I had never experienced before. I could get feedback from every student in the room with every question that I asked. This was new and extremely exciting. I hadn’t heard of the SAMR model yet, but with just one app, my classroom was moving away from direct substitution to augmentation. From there, as Nearpod added more interactive features, my class continued to move toward redefining what could happen within the walls of a classroom.
With student engagement and voice on the rise, I caught the technology bug and dove deeper. That year we tried the Hour of Code. I didn’t know what to expect and knew nothing about coding. My only prior experience with computer programming was making flowcharts when I was in the seventh grade. But, my students and I decided to try it out together. We agreed that failure was an option, and we would try to learn a new skill together. By the end of the first half hour, I realized that this international movement opened up doors and offered the opportunity to all of my students like never before. One student in particular in my class was an ELL student and was very withdrawn prior to that week. He didn’t see the point in school and rarely did any work. By the end of the first 30 minutes, he had almost finished the entire 20 levels. Something clicked for him. He was smiling and became the ‘expert’ in the room. Students were asking for his help and he was up and moving around the room. At the end of class, he asked if he could continue at home! That boy went home that night, and every night afterward and completed the 20-hour program. He started doing his school work and found friends who were also interested in coding. He is now in 10th grade, thriving, and still plans to attend college for computer science.
The next huge success with the 1:1 iPad rollout came with a new little, ball-shaped robot. That year our local environmental group bought my Environmental Club a Sphero robot. We coded the robot to make PSAs about how to recycle in our middle school. My class wanted to try out the robot, so together we designed a lesson that would stay true to the curriculum goals, but would also add in more critical thinking and collaboration. Through the book “The Lightning Thief” and the Sphero robot, we created a lesson that culminated in a video showing a comparison of the main character, the Hero’s Journey, and the Sphero challenge that they created. I entered the lesson into a contest with the EdTechTeam that year and we won! Our lesson is now included in the book “Code in Every Class” and I host workshops at conferences on adding coding and robotics to any classroom.
Behavior issues in my class were never a huge problem, but teachers do worry that the iPad brings a whole new set of concerns and distractions. What I’ve found is that if you are doing a lesson that is challenging, engaging, and allows for student agency, behavior issues decrease naturally. If students are forgetting to charge their iPad, or even bring it to class, I would reevaluate the lesson to see where it fits along the SAMR model and if it hits the 4C’s. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to change the lesson. Student feedback often helps shape a lesson, as well as student choice, in how they show what they learned. I’ve found that by adding inquiry to the lessons, student engagement skyrockets and their devices are used effectively for research and creation.
The iPad rollout now covers most grade levels in our district and have offered many new opportunities for our students. In my current role as an integration specialist, I’ve been able to see students at all grade levels who are using the iPad in innovative ways. Through monthly professional development workshops, one to one training, and coaching, our teachers are prepared to use the technology when and how it makes sense in their classroom.
What does a successful deployment of 1:1 look like? It starts with a teacher who exemplifies a growth mindset, is willing to try something new, and is not afraid to fail. Success comes from allowing students to be in the driver’s seat and by allowing students to persevere, to be challenged, and to think critically. Lessons that offer exposure to future careers create purpose. And most of all, by listening to each child in order to better meet their individual needs. The students of today will create a remarkable tomorrow. Today’s students have the tools, the skills, and the empowerment to create and direct our future.
Laurie Guyon is an Integration Specialist for Schuylerville Central Schools in New York. She is a Google Educator, Apple Teacher, Flipgrid Educator, Buncee Ambassador, Seesaw Ambassador, Nearpod Educator and PioNear, EdTechTeam Teacher Leader and Blogger, Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator, Amazon Inspire Innovator, BreakoutEDU Certified Educator, Recap Pioneer, Osmo Ambassador, and a member of the NYSCATE Social Media team. Laurie was inducted into the Volunteer Hall of Fame for NYSCATE in 2017. She has presented at NERIC Technology Awareness Day, NYSCATE, Learning with Innovative Technology conference, and the NYSMSA conference. She has taught workshops at Skidmore College on integrating technology in literacy, and teaches classes with the Greater Capital District Teacher Center.