Technology Bits & Bytes

The View from the Summit

by: Carla Isenhower, Academic Technology Integration Specialist
November 18, 2014 

On a daily basis Academic Technology Integration Specialist, Carla Isenhower, helps faculty members use technology effectively in teaching and learning.  In the beginning of November, she went to the iPad Summit in Boston.  Here are her thoughts from the Summit...

The overwhelming theme at the iPad Summit in Boston was change - change in teaching methods, classroom focus, and learning spaces.  The educational world is for the most part still utilizing the same pedagogies established decades and decades ago:  rows and desks in a static classroom where the teacher was the single source of information. One of the presenters at the iPad Summit phrased it beautifully when he said we need to "encourage active engagement with a changing world rather than passive gazing in a classroom."

When we think of the future into which our students will graduate, we realize we must introduce some important new literacies into their education.

Digital literacy is needed to ensure our students are competent in finding, evaluating, and sharing information.

Our students should develop media literacy by using digital tools to create and publish. Creating digital products such as videos, websites, games, and books develops organizational, public speaking, and critical thinking skills. 

In addition to the traditional sources of information, it is important for students to acquire global literacy by collaborating with students and experts around the world.  While these literacies are an integral part of the 21st Century Learning framework, it was interesting to learn how important the use of iPads can be in teaching these literacies.

To better teach these new literacies and better engage students, the standard pedagogy must evolve to fit the educational goals. Teachers need to shift their roles from lecturers to learning coaches (flipped classroom).  Students must be coached to become sophisticated self learners who can independently create, communicate, and collaborate. 

The focus of the classroom needs to shift from lectures and worksheets to creating, publishing, and sharing. Finally, we must move away from the "rows and desks" classroom and toward more active learning spaces. These learning spaces can be anywhere - inside the classroom with more conventional spaces and furnishings, just outside the school building in a common area, farther outside the school at the zoo, museum, or medical center.

Probably the most important thing I learned at the iPad Summit is that Presbyterian School is headed in the right direction.

We have teachers embracing the flipped classroom.

We have students using digital tools to create a wide variety of digital products. 

We have classrooms that have modified the rows and desks to include active learning spaces.

We have teachers who take advantage of the neighborhood in which we live to create active learning spaces at the museums, theaters, and medical center. 

We have the future in sight and our students in mind as we navigate this changing world.

A Tool, Not A Title

by Janet Fox, Academic Dean
November 12, 2014

 

Frequently, we are asked, “Is Presbyterian School an iPad school?” If this is a question you've been seeking an answer to, read on! 

Yes, Presbyterian School has a one-to-one iPads for all students in fourth through eighth grades. 

Yes, Presbyterian School begins using iPads with three and four year old students. 

Yes, Presbyterian School middle school students learn time management and other life skills using calendar and productivity apps. 

Yes, Presbyterian School middle school students receive and submit homework and class assignments on their iPad. 

Yes, Presbyterian School students create and demonstrate learning using a variety of education, reference, productivity, photo & video apps. 

Yes, iPads have redefined and revolutionized learning at Presbyterian School, enabling students to do things in the classroom that were previously impossible.

Yes, the iPad is a tool that is used everyday at Presbyterian School by both faculty and students to provide opportunities for outstanding teaching and learning. On an average day there will be over 500 iPads in use on our campus.  Lower School students write and publish books on their iPads, Middle School students practice Spanish by conversing on their iPads with individuals in Buenos Aires, the School’s Life Science textbook is augmented on the iPad by a constantly updated compilation of leading edge research by a practicing scientist, and the list goes on and on. 

For Presbyterian School, the iPad is clearly a wonderful tool, not a title. So in answer to your original question, "Presbyterian School is not an iPad school."

We do not label ourselves as an iPad school because the iPad does not define us.  The iPad is not of primary importance to our school.  The most important defining element of our school is captured in our mission that calls us to integrate family, school and church in the education and support of each child.  We seek to define ourselves by the positive and primary relationships we establish and nurture between our students and teachers.  The wonder of the iPad only becomes significant when our skilled and caring teachers are actively engaged in the process of helping our students learn through guided classroom activities and discussions. We seek to be known as a school that lives out our core values of Respect, Perseverance, Courage, Compassion, Integrity, and Gratitude in our relationships with each other.

As technology advances and new developments arise with the iPad, we will continue to eagerly explore the many ways that iPads can enhance learning.  However, not all of the wonderful, innovative apps and tools will be utilized at our school.  The ones that will make their way into the iPad armamentarium at Presbyterian School will meet our unique criteria: they must enhance the process of teaching and learning first established by our faculty of exceptional educators.

 

Posted by Mrs. Andrea Lawless in Tech Applications for Education, PS: What's Our Response? on Thursday November 13, 2014 at 09:09AM
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iPads: Making a Long-Lasting Impact

by David Robertson, Chief Technology Officer
October, 30, 2014

At Presbyterian School, we value the iPad. On any given school day, there are literally hundreds of these devices on our campus. As soon as the iPad came out in 2010, we began experimenting with them and have increased our teacher and student use every year since. Our growth in use of the iPad comes because we've seen, year after year, significant learning opportunities which leave a long-lasting impact on our students. Consider these three opportunities:
 

  1. As students use their iPad at school, they are able to see the iPad as a tool for learning and not just a gaming device. The iPad and/or other mobile technology devices are showing up in the lives of teens and pre-teens. According to one survey, approximately 66% of teenagers own an iPad.  But in many schools iPad technology is shunned and students are only allowed to use the tablet for recreation at home. Unfortunately, this creates a perception among teens that the iPad is only useful for gaming and watching YouTube.

    At Presbyterian School, we want our students to see their iPad as a powerful tool for researching, creating (videos, papers, drawings), collaborating, and communicating. That's how our teachers use it, and that is how we ask our students to use their iPad at school. Of course the iPad is still a great "fun" device and students will learn that on their own. We want our students to embrace the iPad as both a tool and a toy.  

    Learning to channel the power of the iPad towards learning and productivity is a priceless tool Presbyterian School students gain and get to keep with them long after they graduate from the School.
     
     
  2. As students use their iPad at school, they join their teachers on a journey of discovery and become confident learners. The iPad is still an extremely new device. Five years ago there were no iPads anywhere in use. Now each year, Apple introduces software updates that make the iPad a more powerful device for research, creation, collaboration and communication. All of us, teachers and students alike, are still learning the best ways to use this tool. And oftentimes, it's the students who are able to quickly navigate and be the first one to offer a solution to a problem.

    It's a great moment when a teacher says to her students: "Well, I thought I could use this app, but it doesn't work the way I thought it would. Let me try something else . . ." That is a teacher modeling how to learn. And, if you want to see confidence in our students, watch their faces after they help a teacher with something on the iPad. 

    Our school's message of Confidence in every Child is not merely rhetoric.  As educators, we have a firm belief in each student's potential and that he/she can achieve his/her personal best with confidence.  At times, learning may look like the teacher leading the student, and at other times a student may rise up to take the lead.  This is what Confidence in every Child looks like. At Presbyterian School, students and teachers are on a learning journey together.  Our belief in each student's ability to learn and lead gives him/her the confidence to embrace new intiatives and opportunities after they leave the School.

     
  3. As students use their iPad at school, they learn how to multi-task and manage the many "distractions" of the device. iPads and smartphones can be distracting to pre-teens, teenagers, and adults alike. As an example, just look around you at your next office meeting. The temptation to text, email, surf the web, check social media, or play a game is not reserved solely for teenagers.  Adults face these very same temptations. We all have to learn how to focus on the here-and-now (which isn't always that interesting) while we hold in our hands powerful devices that can connect us with very interesting things. Like us, our students need to learn that sometimes it's okay to have iPads open, and sometimes they need to close them up and ignore them.

    Having an iPad at your disposal 24-7 and knowing when to use it is a learned skill and practice matters. We've already seen this at Presbyterian School.  In 2010 when our 8th grade students first got iPads to use in school, they could barely contain their excitement and some could hardly focus on their work. Today, four years later, our 8th grade students are significantly less distracted.  Our 8th grade students, having used the iPad now for all their middle school years, have practiced managing the use of their powerful device.


These are just three learning opportunities which present far-reaching consequences for our students.  There is no doubt, there are hundreds more learning opportunities which are specific to academic subjects that we have not even broached here.  To be certain, we remain convinced that giving students access to iPads, in ways appropriate to their ages, has tremendous educational benefit and positive life impact for our students.

 

Posted by Mrs. Andrea Lawless in Benefits of the iPad, Tech Applications for Education on Thursday October 30, 2014 at 12:23PM
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