Thursday, June 2, 2011

Apple Study Trip: Day 1

     I had the pleasure this week, to visit Melbourne Australia as part of an Apple Study Trip looking at how the iPads are being used as part of a pilot project in schools. Over two days, we had the chance to visit four completely different schools to see what they are doing.  From the different visits, one message became most apparent: when combined with good pedagogy and curriculum planning, the iPad can be used as a powerful tool to help transform teaching and learning.

     During the first day, we visited Warringa Park School and Albert Park College. The first is a school for children with special needs and the second is a brand new school with grade 7 students (13 year olds). Despite being very different schools, both have had great success stories with implementing the iPads into their schools. 

Warringa Park school

     Warringa Park School is a school for students with special needs and, according to the principal, Mr. Schot, the introduction of iPads in the school has made dramatic improvements to teaching and learning. The school is part of twelve schools in the Victoria Board of Education, which are currently working closely with Apple to pilot the use of iPads on a 1:1 basis with students. At Warringa Park, iPads are being used 1:1 with more than 300 students in addition to each staff member being given one.  The key to the success of the implementation is that it was initiated by the teachers themselves after they had seen the transformative possibilities of the device. 

(Principal Schot introduces the school)

Key objectives of the implementation: 
  • Personalize iPad for each student to best suit their learning style and capability to learn
  • Reach all students regardless of their level
  • Increased involvement of parents to strengthen communication between the school and the home. 
  • Learning for Life: The iPad works on the same platform as the iPhone and iPod and the goal is to help students work with multiple devices to create lifelong learners

Why the iPad:

Touch interface
  • This makes it much easier for students to manipulate than using the keyboard and mouse. This is particularly important for students with special needs.
  • Students who would normally need a lot of instruction on how to use a computer found it easy to navigate on the iPad without much support.
  • The ease of movement is the key advantage as it allow students to use the device in multiple learning environments.
Built in features
  • voice over allows text to be read to students
  • zoom
  • large text
  • white on black - contrast
  • mono audio - for hearing difficulties
  • speak auto-text
Role of the iPad coach (It integration teacher)
  • Helps teachers support students by researching  to find the right applications for different purposes.
  • Works alongside teachers and provides Professional Development
  • Assists in planning, implementation and evaluation of teaching and learning with the iPad.
  • Leads tutorials and iPad sharing sessions with iPad representatives
  • Collaborates with other schools to help find best practices
  • Provides feedback to Apple on best practices 
Downloading apps:

    One important message that was stressed is that students need to have ownership and responsibility for managing their own personal devices. When schools tried to replicate what was on the netbooks with similar apps, the response was not very positive among students. When given the autonomy to find the apps themselves, students were able to find and share useful (often free) apps which worked best for their specific needs and learning styles. 

Downloading at Warringa

• older children are given permission to download apps on their own but for younger students, it it is done by teachers together with the IT integration teacher and IT support.

• Accounts are set up for students using unique email accounts for each student so that they have their own iTunes account. Students are each given a $50 iTunes credit to spend on apps throughout the year.

Some apps and how they are used: 

  • can set up assignments with students
  • online blog - “Facebook of education”
  • presentations - evidence of works
  • can be used as time tabling as well
  • Students can use to create digital portfolios of work
Story Kit:
  • Can personalize stories for children
  • Students can makes stories themselves as well as teachers

Saving work: 
  • on iPad
  • moving to MobileMe accounts (cloud storage)
  • teachers backup work on class computer
  • School’s data saved as iBooks
  • Immediate assessment folders on your iPad

Implications for iPad integration on infrastructure: 
  • One of the key benefits of having iPads is that there is far less need for school servers.
  • However, at the same time, the requirements on the wireless network are increased dramatically. The demand has quadrupled since the introduction of the iPads in the school.
  • To make the program work, it is imperative that the required infrastructure be put in place.
  • There is also a need to have extra iPads on hand so that they can be quickly swapped when a device is not working or accidentally broken. Apple usually provides 2% policy for having extra iPads available for such situations.
  • The school estimates that they may need to roll out new iPads every 12-18 months but argues that, although iPads may not necessarily reduce the overall IT budget, you get far more benefits for the money spent.
  • They have a budget of approximately $300,000 AUD per year for the program.
  • They estimate that they have spent about $12,000 so far on iTunes credit.
  • It is recommended that schools consider getting an insurance policy which includes accidental breakage.

Albert Park College


      Albert Park College is a brand new school which opened in February of this year and currently has a population of 150 students in year 7 of exceptional academic ability. The iPads are being used to help achieve the school’s vision of helping students to “Lead, Create and Inspire”.

     Teachers, students and administration all agree that the use of the iPad has helped to make classes go more smoothly by making access to content more efficient and helping students personalize their learning.

     The school recognizes that students are growing up using mobile technologies in their daily life and strives to embrace these technologies and to combine them with other forms of learning.

     In looking at the devices and talking to students, it was apparnet that they were mostly using apps built into the iPad and Macbooks such as Keynote, Pages (notetaking), Garage Band, iMovie (content creation), iWeb (content sharing and self expression).

     The school uses iPads and Macbooks together and students are given the chance to choose which works best for their particular needs at a given time. It appeared that most notetaking and research related activities were done using the iPad. Much content creation seemed to be done more on the Macbooks and included the
creative use of both included software and apps and others such as one called Frame by Frame and Looptastic.

     Having a chance to view the very different schools gave us insight in the the creative ways that iPads are being used in schools to enhance teaching and learning. The devices are new and it is still unclear to how they will have an overall impact on things such as curriculum itself and assessment, but there are certainly signs that they are helping to increase engagement and motivation which will most likely have a spillover effect in other areas as well. 

     Stay tuned for the upcoming report on day two of our trip where we had a chance to visit two more schools in the Melbourne area.