During the 2009/2010 school year, with the assistance of a team at M&T Bank, we mapped out our technology plan which included provisions for upgrades to our infrastructure and equipment, the adoption of new technology, teacher training, curriculum integration, and identification of student skill competencieis, as well as for ensuring adequate funding for maintaining, adding, and updating technologies. From this initial planning, an opportunity was identified to incorporate iPads into the classrooms as a valuable teaching aid.
The use of iPads in the classroom was piloted in stages during the last school year. Administrators and select groups of teachers were given iPads to test and research. At the same time, the school upgraded our wireless Internet network in preparation for the implementation. Faculty meetings were used to share ideas and ask questions, and professional development days provided opportunities to play, brainstorm, and plan. As iPads were integrated in small ways into the curriculum, feedback from administrators, teachers, and students was overwhelmingly positive. The benefits of using the iPads were clear:
Ease of use: minimal set-up and training; no keyboard, mouse, or wires; touch screen well-suited for young children
Portability: in-classroom access doesnít disrupt lesson as a trip to the computer would; can be used outdoors or at different sites
Interactivity: students are drawn to the hands-on, multi-sensory aspects
Virtual capability: allows users to do activities (for example, in art, music, travel) that would be otherwise impractical
Cost: most applications are low-cost, many are free
Once we identified the benefits, we turned to our community to assist in the implementation. At our 2011 Auction fundraiser, parents and guests overwhelmingly showed their support by donating more than $60,000 toward the iPad Project.
The iPads are now available in classrooms at every grade level, from Prep I to eighth grade. Teachers each received their own iPads at the start of the summer, along with training on how to incorporate them into their lesson plans. The goal is simple: Itís not only about learning to use technology; itís about using technology to learn.
During a recent Professional Development day, faculty members discussed how best to incorporate iPads into the classroom. As part of the discussion, teachers learned about Bloomís Taxonomy as a method for classifying learning objectives. The goal is to address the many different levels of learning while teaching students to not only remember information, but to understand it, apply it to new situations, analyze it, evaluate it, and use it to create something new.
The teachers worked together to evaluate iPad apps they are currently using for instruction, placing them into the Bloomís categories. This allowed us to make sure that we are using the iPads to foster higher level thinking skills. It was also exciting to see how many educational apps we have already found to enhance our instruction!