Personally, a new year always brings about thoughts of reparation, reflection and renewal. 2013 is no exception for me as a teacher. I have spent the last several weeks thinking about how this school year is going, and trying to come up with ways to improve it for the remainder of Terms 2 and 3.
There are many variables setting this year apart from others I’ve experienced. I am piloting a new math program (Math in Focus & Everyday Counts). We are implementing a new writing program (Empowering Writers). I have an inclusion classroom with two other co-teachers. The new Educator Evaluation system is a challenge. We are acclimating to the Common Core State Standards. I am trying to spin my classroom. We are piloting a BYOD initiative and have access to 1:1 iPads on a regular basis. There are so many facets to consider when it comes to effective reflection.
The subject I wrestle with the most is effective iPad use. We have gotten past the point of “learning” how to use these mobile devices, and are now full-speed ahead in using them as learning tools. Some days, their use is nearly invisible in my classroom (that is ALWAYS a goal of mine). After the holidays, even more students are bringing in devices from home. I’m even finding the learning curve for these various devices gets easier as I forge ahead.
So, as the halfway mark rapidly approaches, I find myself wondering if I am using the iPads “correctly”. I know from endless time spent reading on and offline resources, that there are countless opinions on the “correct” way to put mobile devices into the service of learning. I am very aware that there are no single “right” answers for me to find. However, I do feel we should be advancing on some sort of continuum as we progress through the school year with these devices.
My self-imposed pressure tells me: if we started off “simple”, we should wrap the year up at “complex”. Right? That seems to make sense to me. However, should I be advancing my students through more complex projects on the iPads simply because we have access to them and I think that’s the right thing to do? Probably not. If I’m going to do anything with these students and these devices, it is going to be for the sake of their learning, not for the sake of my teaching beliefs.
I feel as if I am sitting on a precipice of sorts. On our horizon are several projects which we do every year, but have never had the added benefit of 1:1 devices. Book Talks. Living Wax Museum. Book Jackets. Books for Babies. Solar System research. There’s certainly opportunity for effective learning right there. There are mundane tasks (such as fact memorization) that we might find out are improved through the use of 1:1 devices. There are uncharted territories, where projects lay undiscovered at this point. Perhaps some will come to mind, and will be enhanced through the use of 1:1 devices. Or, we might simply continue along, using them as tools for creativity, review, practice and research. Not everything we do has to be amazingly amazing. Right? Right???
I blogged today because I thought it was important to share my thinking as this year goes on. Not everything about this pilot is easy, and in fact it can be down-right challenging. I feel a great responsibility to add value to a district-funded program. It is important to learn whether students will benefit from this technology. It is imperative I create an environment where students learn digital citizenship while taking advantage of creative opportunities. It is my job as a teacher to remain current, open-minded and realistic about the pros and cons of initiatives such as these.
What a good problem to have! I am still committed, excited and ever-aware: the possibilities are endless.