“Can you find me a scuba diver?”
“I need to cut some frames- the opening is 37 seconds long!”
On Friday the 29th, the Collaborative Inquiry Group I facilitate met at the IU to work on their movie. They’ve never made a movie before. It didn’t stop them. One of the group members owned a Mac, so she went to the Apple store and took a course in iMovie, then the group threw together a pot luck dinner, and we all went to her house with images and video clips and dove in. She continued to facilitate the work, even when our meeting space changed to the IU. Friday morning at 8:00 AM found Mary bringing in her giant Mac desktop wrapped in a baby blanket and rolled in a suitcase. Go Mary! We were struggling with the structure and Jessica took over, designing production shots. Go Jessica! Lauren jumped in to help and the others began searching out data- collaboration! We’re going to use this movie for our CIG playground, the culminating event in this year’s Arts Educator 2.0. Our group will be using their iPads, netbooks and yes, Mary’s Really Big Mac to share our journey this year. Which brings me to the reason for this somewhat random sounding post discussing everything but the iPad on a blog about piloting iPads in Education.
As I watched these and other teachers in the room scurry about, working collaboratively while tuned in to the web on their netbooks, iPads and smartphones, I was struck by the changes. In September some of us had never met a wiki before, some worked with a netbook for the first time, some of us had no technology available in our classrooms due to either resources or district policy, and many were a bit timid about technology, looking to the facilitator to teach them how to use it. Now they teach each other. Now all contribute to a blog and over half maintain a wiki or a website or both. After all, they are using iPads, netbooks, laptops, document cameras and Q-3 video recorders to track student progress, keep track of their calendars, conduct student surveys, document student work, facilitate peer to peer and self evaluation, create multi-media assignments and engage their students.
The success stories are awesome. One teacher saw an urban classroom of disinterested students turn into engaged enthusiastic artists. Another teacher used the 2 iPads given her by Arts Educator to change her school climate. She sent one around the building, sharing with other classes, she sent another home with the students on a rotating basis. She has seen watershed change. Her school district now allows her access to wireless internet in her room. Other teachers ask to borrow her room and the technology in it for their formal observations, and she has partnered with a local university who will be donating 25 iPads and iPod touches to her building for use with special education students. Yet another teacher so engaged her students in their choral music curriculum using technology that they have taken over ownership. She recently had the distinct pleasure of becoming a living metaphor for “guide on the side”. She relates the story of her final concert, during which she stood in the wings watching while her students conducted music they had chosen with student arranged accompaniment. She told me she has had students ask to come and audit any class she teaches during their free period, just to get more of what she is offering. Another teacher drew her elementary students deep into the reasons behind why we create art with a unit on environmental art. Her art students materials were a literal mountain of paper discarded by their school that she rescued from the landfill. Their work resulted in recycling bins being put in place for their building. I could go on- these are only a sample of the stories, and only the stories of one of the six collaborative inquiry groups in Arts Educator 2.0.
But back to the iPads…. I promise I have a point. I have to say that the one thing I can pinpoint as being the most influential in moving my teacher’s professional development forward this year was the piloting of the iPads. The iPad’s ease of use and “eye candy” appeal of the many attractive aps, created an energy that acted as a catalyst. No matter that it could not be or do everything, what it could be was user friendly and that was enough to light the fire. To paraphrase my colleague Leslie Gates “they left behind the fear that they could break it” which was an incredibly freeing and creative thing to do. I am convinced it was the iPad that has created this change in the way that they use technology.
In fact, in reflection, it seems to me that on a deep level, the iPad represented a metaphor for the entire process of shifting the way we think about teaching and learning. Within minutes of opening the box, my teachers had discovered how to download photos to their iPad and they were sharing pictures. No one taught them how to do it. No one made it a learning goal. They created their own learning goals, gathered the tools they needed and taught each other. This process continued each time we met. Even as we explored learning theories for our classrooms that suggested that student centered and inquiry based learning was the most effective, they were doing this very thing with their iPads and the other technologies they were given. It is no wonder that their classrooms have become student centered with a focus on collaborative learning, student feedback and self evaluation.
I began this year wondering how offering a single iPad to a teacher could effect change for the students. I am humbled by the results and shame-faced at my skepticism. Those single iPads offered a way in to a world from which many had been previously shut out. Kudos to the far sighted leadership of Arts Educator 2.0 for making possible this tremendous experiment. Oh, and my teacher’s don’t intend for this energy to stop. We are all keeping up with each other over the summer using Flipboard on our iPads to capture our blog and other arts and technology resources for easy reading by the pool!