Too many iPads…

In a shift from laptops to iPads, for more mobility, easier use, fewer maintenance issues and lower cost, all our students now bring their own devices. I know it’s a luxury and I am always conscious of how students in less fortunate contexts could benefit from a small fraction of the resources we have at our fingertips.

Yesterday we had an informal visit from Sugata Mitra, educational researcher, proponent of minimally invasive education, creator of the School in the Cloud, dreamer, provocateur…

The Year 5 children tell Sugata they are currently learning about energy. He throws them the inevitable ‘big question’, his signature approach to self organised learning. ‘I’ll give you 20 minutes to find out what you can, in any way you like, about dynamic equilibrium.’

Due to limited space on the whiteboard, the two words appear one below the other and some children ask whether it’s a phrase. He gives his standard response ‘I have no idea’… encouraging students to figure things out for themselves.

Interestingly, the children initially stay in their own seats and investigate on their individual devices. No-one has told them not to move or converse. In fact Sugata spent some time before the question chatting with them about how often and why they move seats.

There is so little talk or collaboration at first that we wonder if they are inhibited by the group of teachers observing in the room or the presence of the eminent stranger.

Eventually, with a bit of encouragement, they begin to move around and interact,  the noise level goes up and the learning is closer to what Sugata calls the ‘edge of chaos‘ as they share their discoveries and develop their understanding collaboratively.

There are too many iPads,‘ Sugata says.

‘Limiting the number of devices ensures that the children move naturally into groups to share and discuss their findings and questions.’

We hadn’t really considered the possibility that 1:1 access could be a disadvantage in some learning situations…

The shifting roles of the Librarian and the IT Facilitator…

Once upon a time (in what seems like a faraway land, in another lifetime) students went to the computer room and the library for isolated weekly lessons.

When we acquired laptops, the roles of Linda and Fiona, eLearning Facilitator and Librarian respectively, changed. They shifted to flexible timetables, going into classrooms, as required, to deliver specific lessons, team teach or support teachers and students with resources or tech trouble shooting.

This year, every student in Year 4- 6 has their own iPad and it’s clear that the traditional Librarian and eLearning Facilitator roles are shifting again. Resources are at the learners’ fingertips, devices are easy to use and apps are intuitive. It’s evident that iPads, by their very nature, promote inquiry learning. As Linda points out, there’s no need for the e in eLearning any more. And the once distinct roles of librarian and technology teacher have blurred, resulting in a dynamic partnership of overlapping skills and ideas.

In this week’s meeting, I ask the Learning Team Leaders –

What’s the most obvious way to eat these biscuits (cookies)?

With that out of the way, everyone writes down as many other ways as they can think of to eat them. Once we’re past the obvious, the ideas get more creative and, the more time people have to think, the more unusual the ideas they come up with. I love this exercise, borrowed from Heidi Siwak’s recent blog post.

The group notes that-

  • creativity takes time
  • looking at things from different angles helps generate new ideas
  • we need to be prompted to think beyond obvious solutions
  • hearing others’ ideas can spark creative thinking

At this point I ask everyone to think creatively about Linda’s and Fiona’s roles. 

Initiatives already in place

  • Active participation in collaborative planning sessions with teaching teams
  • Curation of online resources to support learning (Netvibes)
  • Working together to develop understanding of how to evaluate online resources
  • Establishment of e-book, audio-book and video-book libraries
  • Responding to teacher needs individually, in groups or whole school sessions as required
  • Leading whole grade level collaborations
  • Expanding the use of blogs to promote global interactions
  • Introduction of Twitter, supporting kids and teachers in developing global PLNs
  • Collaboration with the music teacher, using Garageband
  • Animation (collaboration with the art teacher) and film-making workshops for Y6 PYP exhibition groups

Once we’re ready to spend some time looking beyond the obvious, a range of new ideas are generated.

Suggestions

  • Dropping into classrooms and responding to learners at point of need
  • Introducing new projects for small groups of students
  • Becoming involved with learning in other contexts, such as the kitchen garden
  • Working with individual students on personal passion projects
  • Promoting trans-disciplinary learning by building connections with specialist teachers
  • Helping students define and refine inquiry questions
  • Integrating learning in ever more organic, authentic ways, not isolated out-of-context lessons

What’s next? 

Fiona would like to collaborate with the Art and Music teachers on a unit of inquiry exploring multimodal texts and the way eBooks incorporate video and music.

Linda’s next project is to meet with the new Year 4 and 5 tech minions, see what needs they perceive and develop their program with them accordingly.

We’ve only begun to look at new possibilities and we’d love to hear about how these roles are developing and shifting at your school…

And, while we’re thinking creatively, who else in the school has knowledge and skills that can be drawn upon in new, different and innovative ways?

Tech Minions- An authentic opportunity for kids with a passion.

Guest post by Linda Wollan, our elearning facilititator.

We have lots of opportunities for kids in our school to shine and find their passion – We have leadership groups, lunchtime enrichment in everything from table tennis to cooking, sporting groups and so on. A new group however is close to my heart, and I’m thrilled to see how successful it is becoming.

We are implementing a 1:1 iPad program at the beginning of next year, with student-owned iPads, so will need to get everyone onto the network, set up with email and ready to move forward. Teachers also need support with learning the ins and outs of new apps.

Who better than the kids?

We now have a self-selected group of tech ‘minions’ (from Year 4 to Year 10) who are being trained to help teachers and other kids with all things tech.

There are obvious advantages for the school, but also for these kids:

  • They are able to mix with like-minded students from a range of year levels and learn from each other (there are too few opportunities in our school for primary kids to mix with secondary)
  • They are able to interact with our professional ICT tech staff, getting to know them personally and learning from them.
  • They are learning how to explain processes and teach others.
  • The espect they are earning from their peers is leading to a rise in their self-esteem.

It’s great to see these kids, who are often hidden away behind their screens, shine in an area for which they have a passion.