In the past few months, Raina Leon has been working with the Faculty Technology Group to create a project proposal for the acquisition of 15 iPads for use with pre-service and in-service Single Subject (secondary) teachers through the Kalmanovitz School of Education. Here is Raina’s account of her experience using the iPad and Apple TV to facilitate teaching and learning at SMC.
Participants in my classes will be broken up into a few groups. In the Spring and Fall semesters, I will work primarily with pre-service teachers. Those teachers, after learning about iPad apps in their classes with me, will be able to check out the iPads for 2 week periods, but there is a catch: pre-service teachers in their first or second placements have to submit a series of 3-5 lesson plans to me first; 1 of which must include educational technology integration; they must to allow me to observe this lesson; and they must receive pre- and post-consultations on the effectiveness of the lessons.
All of these terms were built in to the curriculum to more actively support the professional development of teachers in the use of educational technology like the iPad, especially considering that the vast majority of secondary schools do not offer consistent training in this area to in-service teachers, let alone student-teachers
In the summer months and Jan Term, I will use the iPads with in-service teachers, particularly those in local Catholic schools, to support their ongoing professional development by doing targeted workshops in the use of apps that would immediately benefit them in the classroom. In my commitment to professional development, participating schools will also be able to schedule me for departmental and individual support for teachers over an academic year.
This semester I am using the iPads in my two classes: SSTE 254 Foundations of Literacy and SSTE 356 Teaching and Learning II. In those classes, we have used Apple TV to wirelessly project group and individual work, apps like Type PDF Free (to make modified texts in class, to write Cornell Notes on collective readings, to read common texts, to conduct Think Alouds), Virtual Dice (for vocabulary games for use in the secondary context), Skitch (to create vocabulary posters that can be emailed to students, printed out and posted in a classroom, or posted on a website), Google Drive (for typing flash fiction, peer review, creation of reading comprehension questions, sharing main ideas from a text) and Prezi (use of zooming presentations). One student even used Siri to type his essay in Google Drive, which led to a fruitful conversation on review of essays before submission, dictation, and accommodating students with learning challenges through the use of Siri.
The iPads are loaded only with free apps that have an educational purpose. In my opinion, teachers are too often called upon to spend their personal funds to supplement the educational materials available in the classroom. While there are many apps out there with incredible applications in the classroom, I am most interested right now in fostering the imagination of teachers of students without the added expense of purchasing the flashy tools. I am interested in closing the digital divide, not expanding it.
Some challenges: unfortunately, the main SMC-WiFi, as it is configured now, will not allow Apple TV usage. “SMC-Classroom” is an additional wifi signal that has been added to accommodate the use of Apple TV and must be activated in classrooms to make use of the Apple TV features. Philosophically, use of the Apple TV makes sense at Saint Mary’s. Rather than situate myself and only myself in the position of power at the front of the class, controller of all the knobs and cables, students can share their work with the class merely by mirroring their screens onto the Apple TV, which is connected to the projector as a laptop connection. I can act more of a facilitator of exchange rather than the owner of all knowledge in the classroom. The technology can facilitate a visual and dialectic dialogue … when it works.
What I am learning is that, in addition, to planning on how to tie the iPad in to what I do and imagining and executing even more complex tasks through the use of the technology, I also have to craft alternative activities for those “fried technology” moments. I am a stickler about time. My lessons are often planned to the minute, although I can easily do adjustments on the fly dependent on the needs of my students, but technology complicates things. While my lessons in the last few weeks have used technology throughout the class, I have determined that in the coming weeks I will plan “just in case” scenarios, which may require me to carry some of the handouts, extra pens, and paper to make sure that we continue with purpose. This is something that I advise in my professional development workshops with in-service teachers; I am learning to take my own advice to heart.
I am also learning that students, even those with fears about technology, will quickly adjust to maneuvering the iPad like a pro. The iPad is pretty intuitive. Though, in my two classes, the majority of my students had not used an iPad before the first evening of class, by the end, they had learned some gestures as well as how to operate the apps we were using. Some of them continue to be hesitant, but they are increasingly daring to discover and sometimes outside of the instructions and limits placed within the classroom. This model of structuring the professional development of pre-service teachers is very much in line with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. It is my hope that the Single Subject Candidates will eventually reach independence with technology and grow into teacher-leaders in this area at their placement sites.
I do have to note how grateful I am for the individual and institutional support that I have received to make this happen. Across the college and in my home department, most especially with Michael Allocco (who has a similar lab and offered some initial encouragement and support), my SSTE colleagues, program chair David Krapf and Dean Metcalf-Turner, I have received such support and encouragement.
Just one of the many reasons why I am so happy to be a Gael.