I had the wonderful app-ortunity to make a site visit to Westlake H.S. in Eanes ISD on Wednesday February 1st. When we arrived, various campus and district officials shared some background on the student-centered learning initiative. They focused on multiple benefits of the 1:1 iPad initiative where high school seniors were issued iPads like textbooks at the beginning of the year. In a time where global communication, inquiry-based opportunities, and self-directed learning is how students manage the information revolution, it was refreshing to get to observe an iLearning Utopia.
When asked what they would miss most about their iPad if it was picked up next week, one student replied “I would miss the responsibility – I feel like the school trusts me.”
- My iPad is my responsibility and I will not leave it in unsupervised areas.
- I will honor my family’s values when using the iPad.
- I will bring the iPad to school every day with a fully-charged battery.
- I will treat the iPad appropriately and will report any mechanical or technical issues to the school.
- I agree to use the iPad for appropriate, legitimate, and responsible communications.
Parent/Guardian Responsibilities: The agreement also included 7 Parent/Guardian Responsibilities (3 of which are highlighted below) which re-stated many of the Student Responsibilities:
- I will supervise my son’s/daughter’s use of the iPad at home.
- I will discuss our family’s values and expectations regarding the use of the Internet and email at home and will supervise my son’s/daughter’s use of the Internet and email.
- I will ensure that my son/daughter reports any mechanical or technical issues to the school.
During my visit, I had the pleasure of observing 3 different classrooms and visiting the Juice Bar.
English 3 AP: While the student task and assignment itself was projected in the SMART board, it was very clear when I walked in to this classroom that the learning had been moved from the wall to the hands of the kids. Students were seated in groups of 4 and 5 (each with their own iPad). Each student was clearly on task and engaged and able to utilize all of the resources around them in a productive and purposeful fashion… including their peers. It was also refreshing to see the teacher, Valerie Taylor, modeling the use of creative commons photos as it is so simple now with an iPad to save any internet image to your Photo Roll for use in a project (without attribution).
AP Environmental Science: The teacher, Bob Murphy, discussed how he had found an article that very morning that he felt was more pertinent and relevant than what he had initially planned for the day. Typically, teachers can not change their lessons on the fly to accommodate new or current findings as additional copies and labs require time and planning. With the convenience of having a personal mobile device, students accessed the article with their Austin American Statesman app (they also have a podcast series) and then proceeded to engage in a discussion on the topic.
Statistics: The first thing I noticed about this classroom was the multiple learning styles supported with the iPad. While each student was taking notes on the same topic, many used different note-taking apps (the favorite was NoteTaker), a stylus, a keyboard. Even in the same note-taking app, students notes looked quite different. Brad Smith mentioned a couple of benefits of the 1:1 such as the ability to analyze and manipulate large data sets and make graphs and charts quickly. He also discussed the ability for students to keep a record of their homework and assignments (as these electronic items are resident on their device even after they have submitted them via email to their instructor).
(See video below for more teacher tips for integrating the iPad into the iClassroom)
Juice Bar: Our last stop before returning to debrief on our findings and observations was the library which Carolyn Foote has turned into hip and trendy spot to share apps, collaborate, and troubleshoot the devices. The carpet was removed, power strips, cafe tables and chairs were added, idea boards were provided to share apps and resources, and a mentorship program was created to self-support the troubleshooting and mechanics of the devices.
- What if you forget your iPad at home? While it clearly states in the student responsibility form that students will bring a fully-charged iPad to school each day, there will be the occasionally day that one will forget. In the event of iAmnesia, students are able to rent one out for the day.
- What happens if a student breaks or damages a device? In the past six months, approximately 60 of the 2,000 iPads have been broken or damaged. This amounts to only 3% of the initial load. Students were given the option to purchase optional insurance for their device for a fee of $30. With a 95% acceptance rate, it is clear this was a popular option.
- Can students access Facebook? No, this site is blocked by the school Wifi.
- Does the device present a distraction? From multiple student interviews, I found the device is a wonderful way to self-manage. Students are aware that they have to complete the assignment regardless and most would rather complete it in class then complete it at home. If students are off-task on the device, teachers have the authority to pick it up and have it returned to the student or parent at the end of the day.
- How do teachers interact with students in this “blurred line” atmosphere? Teachers have office hours a few days a week in which they are available to FaceTime with small groups from 6-8pm to discuss assignments – modeling an atmosphere that closely resembles higher education institutions.
- What accommodations are made for absent students? Many times a friend will video-tape the lecture or students can FaceTime in directly.
- Can’t students cheat with an iPad? Typically assessments are given with an iPad / non iPad section. The iPad section would also allow access to student notes. Many standardized assessments are accessed via a QR code and then completed in Google Forms. (See video below for apps and process used to create and conduct these paperless assessments)
- How do students submit work? While Dropbox is an app that easily allows students access to files, multiple teachers mentioned that the organization and maintenance of the utility as well as the ability for students to accidentally delete or move files and folders led them to rely on submitting work almost exclusively via email. So what might that process look like? Students have a school email. Teachers have a Gmail account in which they have set up files and a sorting nomenclature based on the subject line (e.g. Statitsics: Period 2, English AP: Period 3).
- Is printing from an iPad an issue? Due to the increase in electronic submissions of work, teachers have begun to consider what truly needs to be printed and what does not. In doing so, they have saved $30,000 in paper alone this semester.
- How does the iPad work in conjunction with the existing textbook? The textbook is still used as a resource. However, students don’t always need to lug it around. The beauty of the iPad is that students can take a snapshot of the 2-3 pages they need (whether it be for questions, an article, or vocabulary) or access the online version from the publisher. Eanes is also in the process of setting up an iTunes U channel for the district and investigating iBooksAuthor.
- What kind of covers were issued to protect the devices? Initially students were given a Kensington Padfolio-like $30 cover. The campus had assumed the covers would be turned in once students decided to purchase their own trendy covers but found just the opposite trend occurred. Students were able to personalize and customize the device, home screen, and apps itself and had no need or desire to buy trendy cases.
- What apps were initially purchased for the students and how were they disseminated? Each student received roughly $40 worth of apps including Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie etc. These apps are considered a consumable cost as the apps are now tied to individual student iTunes accounts when they are redeemed. Casper is used as a storefront to disseminate the apps provided.
How are Teachers Integrating the iPad into their Life/Classroom and Handling Student Submissions?
Want More? Visit Eanes’ Wifi iPad Pilot Project Blog and the Westlake H.S. page for more videos and resources. Also Check out the “appy hours 4 u” interview with Carl Hooker for more info on the 1:1 iPad Rollout.