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!

Students at Cedars School of Excellence, in Greenock, Scotland working on their iPads

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.

ACOT Technology Integration Stages

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.

Hat tip to Eric Sheninger and Diane Lauer for sharing this article via Twitter.

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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  • Jennifer @jennmelb

    Thanks for this Wes. It was interesting, and I had already
    read the article to which you refer. Our pre-university college in
    Australia has been trialling a 1:1 iPad project for the past 6
    months, a project initiated by progressive administrators. We plan
    to introduce it to all students in 2012, with this year (yes its
    2011 in Oz already) devoted to staff becoming familiar with the
    devices, and hopefully sharing in a collaborative ‘constructivist’
    project of learning how to integrate them into our teaching. The
    challenge is to get everyone, including the very reluctant
    teachers, to feel included and valued in this endeavor. I’m
    interested in your view about ways to approach changing cultures
    among established, and traditionally minded teaching staff. This is
    my new job challenge for 2011. I’m a committed and still learning
    constructivist teacher, but constructivist thinking isn’t widely
    appreciated among the teachers I work with. The administrators
    began steering our iPad ship, and its time for teachers to take
    over the rudder. But, as a group they are mostly new to the whole
    idea of sharing teaching ideas, and I had a hard time last year
    getting people to contribute to a staff wiki on sharing links,
    reading, and ideas. Some brief thoughts on your approaches to, or
    some reading on changing teaching cultures would be great, if you
    can find time. I’ve already learned much from my own reading, other
    twitter teachers and bloggers, but always seek new views. Love your
    work and your energy. Thanks.

  • http://news.university-bound.com Sarah

    I completely agree about your point in saying that the research seems to be focused more on the technology rather than the learning. My friend Alli wrote a great article about how technology can improve education on our news blog, University Bound.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you enjoy!

  • Pingback: iPad-initial reflections | Teach2Connect

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