Craig Grannell’s December 30th article for techradar.com, “The school that gives every student an iPad,” presents a compelling summary of the 1:1 iPad project at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock, Scotland. On their school website, built with the open source software platform MediaWiki, they proudly proclaim:
We are the first school in the world with a 1:1 iPad deployment for every pupil from P1 – S5. View our blogs to see how it is being used!
Fraser Speirs (@fraserspeirs) is the Head of Computing and IT at Cedars and also develops iOS apps for Connected Flow. He is quoted several times in the article, noting how the iPad’s battery life is a game changer:
On the first day, it ran and ran. I couldn’t make the battery die, and I realised this alone would transform the technology experience in the classroom.
…describing how he responds to critics of the iPad project:
In reality, we’re sometimes using the iPad exclusively and sometimes not. Truth be told, I’d like to move to the iPad more, but we’re constrained by resources – some textbooks aren’t available electronically, for example. Anyone against such iPad use should bear in mind that society itself is in the process of replacing everything with electronic content – it’s happened with CDs, and Amazon and Apple are doing the same with books.
…and how project leaders have envisioned the iPad fitting into the learning environment:
…”We’ve done something that’s not often tried – we brought in technology and didn’t tell people how to use it”. Instead of thinking of the iPad as a digital textbook, it’s become a research and creativity tool across all subjects; because of this, minds are being expanded and experiences broadened, not restricted. Once, the school focused on iWork, iLife and Safari, but now pupils access dozens of varied apps.
It is saddening (although not entirely unpredictable) that MANY schools considering 1:1 learning projects with iPads as well as other devices predominantly focus on the TECHNOLOGY rather than the LEARNING. Based on the quotations and information included in this article, it seems that mistake is NOT being made at Cedars School of Excellence. To be successful, 1:1 projects must focus on learning, engagement, creativity, project-based learning, and differentiated instruction over the technology tools used to amplify learning. iPads and other digital learning devices ARE critical pieces of the puzzle, but the point of a 1:1 learning project shouldn’t be simply using digital devices. One of the goals should be empowering learners to engage in TRANSFORMATIVE learning experiences, which would not be possible without the technology. Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) research in the 1980s revealed that teachers can progress through a series of stages in their uses of educational technology. Ultimately, educators can reach a creative, “invention” level of technology use… but this can happen broadly only when we (educators) are encouraged and supported to embrace a constructivist, project-based approach to learning.
One of the things which impresses me about Educational Collaborators, which I officially “joined” last year as a consultant and professional development provider, is the focus they take working with schools in 1:1 projects on “learning culture change.” I read and hear this same message again and again from educators involved in successful 1:1 projects: It’s not JUST about the device. Devices are important, but the willingness and support of administrators to transform a school’s learning culture is one of the most critical pieces. Unfortunately, this is overlooked too often by grant writers and 1:1 project coordinators. If your school leadership team isn’t on board to support a truly student-centered, constructivist learning culture, don’t bother buying all your students and teachers digital devices. A lack of administrative vision and support for a successful 1:1 learning project is a certain recipe for failure.
This article includes references to several iPad applications I had not heard about previously, including abc PocketPhonics, Math Bingo, TypeDrawing and Binary Madness HD. I’m going to check these out further. If you’re interested in following the progress of this project, consider following Fraser Speirs’ blog on speirs.org, and following him on Twitter. He posted recently about the iPad apps they’re using at Cedars for primary as well as secondary students.
For more links and resources related to iPads (and other iOS devices) in the classroom, see the workhsop wiki for “iOS Apps for Productivity and Fun.”
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