Ideas for Shared iPads

How lucky are we? We recently added 6 iPads to each G3-5 class, augmenting their existing 1:1 Macbook Air laptops.

Planning for valuable use of shared devices requires some creative thinking, particularly when you are used to 1:1 devices. That said, the small number of devices provides a great opportunity to differentiate for powerful learning, maximise small-group rotations and engage in collaborative activities.

Together with some of our wonderful Digital Literacy Mentors (Mike & Jocelyn), Dave and I developed some ideas about how to best manage shared devices and use them effectively to support learning.

We hope you find these tips for shared devices useful.

Parenting in the Digital Age – The Conversation Continues

Being the first group of people to parent the iPad generation certainly is an adventure.

On the one hand, we are amazed by their capabilities to navigate between applications, create movies, build websites and FaceTime their grandparents. On the other hand, we may feel anxious about buzzwords like ‘screentime’, ‘game-addiction’, ‘distractions’ and ‘cyber bullying.’

Keep in mind that advances in technology have helped families in numerous ways. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Communication – We can communicate quickly and easily with people around the globe via messages, email, FaceTime, FaceBook and instant messaging. In our international school setting, this is a huge benefit.
  • Efficiency and Organisation – GPS has changed the nature of travel. We can find any address easily, even if we haven’t been there before. We can use apps to organise our shopping list, to sell our used goods, and let’s not forget do our banking.
  • Learning – Now we can teach ourselves anything with the powers of YouTube, Pinterest and Google combined! Lost the rules to your board game? No problem! Need to change a tyre? Can do! Learning can be 24-7.
  • Entertainment – It’s only in the last few years that Netflix came into being! Developments in movie and video distribution, the gaming industry and the explosion of apps means there is a little something for everyone when it comes to entertainment.
  • Medical – At the consumer end of the scale, fitness monitoring is now built into many devices, and made it easier to be aware of the need to keep exercising regularly.
We are, however, realistic about the challenges facing parents too. We have put together a resource that has information, articles, and apps around common pressure points for parents. We have tried to provide a balanced perspective around some of these key issues so that you as parents can find an approach or strategy that best fits your parenting style.
We encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Inspired by the Key Jar, we have put together a list of questions that might help you begin some conversations with your child around some of these issues. Perhaps print them both off and mix them in together?

Common Sense Media has a lot of resources around parent concerns, so that is also a great source of information.At the end of the day, each family is different, and you need to find the right combination of solutions to challenges that works for you. We hope these resources are a step in the right direction.Please let us know any other resources you think might be useful, and we will do our best to add them.

Life as a Digital Literacy Coach

IMG_9127This year I have changed my role and moved out of the classroom and into the role of a digital literacy coach. Although I have written other blogs in various online places, I decided that I would start here for my new role.

I was initially excited and nervous about coming out of the classroom where I had been for all of my teaching career and start a new job without a classroom to call my own. I had mostly been teaching grade 4, 5 and 7 over my career and changing roles to where I would be mostly working with teachers would be very different.

I originally got into teaching because I loved making a difference in students’ lives. I loved having a connection with the students and being there for them, able to help them through the speed bumps of their lives. My biggest concern was that I would lose this connection and stop being someone who could be influential in students’ lives. Could I still be someone who mattered in the school? Yes. Yes, I could. And I would hope that my sphere of influence would be even wider than if I were in the classroom.

Before I left the classroom last year, one of my colleagues mentioned to me that they really wanted to be more tech savy because he saw what the students coming out of my class could do at the end of the year and was sad that his students were not at the same level. It wasn’t even close. I feel that this was only because I integrated technology into the lessons where it would make sense and be best for learning. Many other teachers, including this colleague, only integrated technology when it was planned for. So the only technology he would do is when we had planned an activity or an assessment. This obviously wasn’t going to help his students as much as mine who used technology when they felt it would be beneficial to their learning.

I really believe that the best person to help students with technology is the classroom teacher. Not an IT teacher who sees them once in a while. The classroom teacher has the opportunity to integrate technology at any point where it can help improve student learning. A separate teacher who takes the class could never do this as effectively.

IMG_9141One thing that I love about my school is my job and how my school values my role. Digital Literacy Coach is my official title or DLC for short. My job is to help teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Although I also come into classrooms to help, co-teach and directly teach, that is the lesser part of my role. My main objective is to help teachers become better at integrating technology because they are the ones who are going to do it on a daily basis. So if I can help teachers become more comfortable and proficient with technology then I am helping the students.

Because I am not always working directly with students and because I am responsible for many classes across a number of grade levels (K1 to grade 5), it may not be easy to measure my impact on individual students. Sure, if I was in a small handful of classrooms on a regular basis I might be able to see and measure the change easier. The change I see might be a teacher’s attitude towards technology or the way a teacher talks about technology to their students. The change I see might be in the students’ skills improving or their excitement towards technology. Ideally, I would love to see students choosing to use technology to improve their own learning without having to be directed to do so by the teacher. That is where the transformation would really take place.

When I originally started thinking about ideas for this blog post, I thought I would write about how the role starts with forming relationships with teachers. How, as a classroom teacher I was in charge of my to do list while as a DLC everyone else is in charge of my to do list and puts things on it for me. I thought I would talk about how I was doing some of the things in this role in past years but also doing my regular classroom work too. I thought I might talk about how much I am loving the role and not really missing the classroom. All those things are still true and valid but that isn’t really what it is all about.

It is all about helping students with technology. And now I am doing that but in a different capacity. I’m doing that through helping teachers.

This all brings me back to why I originally entered teaching. To make a difference and be influential in students lives. As a digital literacy coach I feel that I am doing this through helping the teachers become more proficient in technology who in turn help the students. So am I on the front lines with the students? No, not as much. I am behind the scenes working with a large number of teachers helping all of them to help students be more proficient in technology. The students may not know it, but there I am, working away, trying to make their lives better. That is the life of a digital literacy coach.