iPads in Education

Innovating education with technology.

Teaching Teachers iPad Ed Tech. Some reflections on an ongoing process.

(A longer version of this post is on my blog, http;//www.dialogiclearningoz.blogspot.com )

For the past eight months I have been teaching both young students in a Literature course for International students, and conducting regular Professional Development training sessions on new educational technology for teachers. If had I imagined I would be able to easily transfer my teaching skills across the divide between teaching young people and teaching teachers, I would have been seriously mistaken. Fortunately, as I began my second training role I was completing a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching, the focus of which is teaching adult learners in tertiary settings. I had already come to the realization that some of the philosophy underlying adult education theories, such as the belief that adult learners are both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to learn for 'higher reasons,' concerned with their professional identities and personal development, could not necessarily be taken for granted.  Teaching already established teachers new things is a deeply challenging task; one which needs careful and nuanced planning and delivery.

Even with the awareness of the challenge looming large in my planning, I am finding it difficult to meet the needs of all the different teachers attending my PD sessions (25 so far) on learning to teach with iPads. From 2012, all new students to the college will be learning in a 1:1 iPad classroom. I was (and am) prepared to learn on the job and build my knowledge of what I should cover, and how, as I go along. I have been particularly careful never to assume I understand the content areas of the different disciplines, but went to the trouble to try and find out what the priorities of the different disciplines were.

There are many teachers who find the whole notion of using an iPad in their teaching an enormous change filled with anxiety. These teachers find it harder to navigate their way around the device in the PD sessions, and need much more hands-on guidance than those who have already become familiar with the practicalities. This need has tended to slow down the sessions considerably, and / or put undue demand on other attendees to assist their colleagues instead of engaging with the ideas and information being presented. **

Most of the practical sessions I have run have a hands-on, let's do it all together as we go along aim. Some parts have needed more information and explanation than others, as setting the background context is crucial if people are to find ways to engage. I have had mixed feedback about my approaches - some teachers feeling not enough hands-on work is offered, and others that there isn't sufficient context, direction, or guidance about practical applications. I am working with this feedback to alter my approaches in the upcoming term.

There are multiple ways teachers can engage. We also have a Wiki space for teachers to share ideas, post app reviews, share practical suggestions, fixes to problems, links to resources, websites, info-graphics, videos, and discipline specific considerations.

Some particularly inspiring teachers who have embraced this change, and quietly run with it to develop and evolve new and exciting learning experiences for their students, are setting the standards for others to aim for. As I enter the next phase of the process - mostly engaging with small groups in disciplinary areas to focus practical attention on developing learning activities - I aim to give the star performers credit where credit is due, and showcase their efforts to others. If I can involve them in working with teachers in their own disciplines, or enable them to share their approaches and ideas more broadly, then it will feel much more like the collaborative effort it needs to be. 

I'd be pleased to hear others experiences about conducting teacher professional development around iPads

**(In addition to the group sessions, I also offer one-to-one support and am available for drop-in advice and assistance at two campuses several times every week. Uptake of these more personalized opportunities has been slow, whereas attendance at the general (45 minute lunchtime) PD sessions has been high.)


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Comment by mervijansson on September 30, 2011 at 2:55am
I am running similar PD for teachers in Finland. In addition to technology, language can be a challenge as apps etc. are in English. We use both iPod touches and iPads. I usually start with iPods and progress to iPads. We don't have a one-to-one program, so the teachers can (at the moment) choose not to use the devices in class. I think the future is a byod jungle and therefore we mainly introduce cloud based tools.
Comment by Mary Pat Lichtman on September 29, 2011 at 5:47pm
That is what I was thinking of doing. I'm creating a program with four courses and students will need to have mobile devices to complete assignments and to learn to network and use them as research tools and professionals.  I believe the task and assignments will allow them to use various devices. Thanks.
Comment by Jennifer Mitchell on September 29, 2011 at 5:37pm
I think you might be quite wise in your consideration that some students will have different devices - online learning attracts a broad range of people with diverse resources and tools. Is your proposed course about using mobile devices in education, or is it a course in which students can use mobile devices to participate? In an environment where competitors to the iPad are developing (such as the new Kindle Fire) requiring a particular device will restrict you unnecessarily. Specify the parameters of what you require students to achieve with their devices, and enable them the flexibility to meet those - this is more in line with the online context, I think ... but I'm just one person.
Comment by Mary Pat Lichtman on September 29, 2011 at 5:11pm
That is helpful. I'm debating whether to require iPads or say mobile device with certain specifications attached. Do you have any recommendations about this?  Some students may have other devices using Windows or related to other manufacturers.  As long as they can complete the tasks successfully, do you think this would work?
Comment by Jennifer Mitchell on September 29, 2011 at 1:34pm
Hi Mary, having been an online learner, I found clear instructions and visual imagery as guidelines very useful. Students already familiar with mobile devices will pick up the mechanics of use quickly, but those unfamiliar really value one on one instruction. Training students to use iPads online would, I'd imagine, involve making much use of video content, and the step-by-step guides produced by Apple and by hundreds of other people who have made short video and screenshot guides. That said, focusing on guiding students through the steps involved in starting and completing concrete tasks relevant to their teaching / learning / interest areas would be my recommended approach. Our online Wiki is also useful, with our custom made guides and reviews written by peers also going through the process of finding how to best use the iPads to achieve the outcomes they want. This could be a valuable online resource, and a way to set learning objectives for students: complete a wiki post on evaluating a particular combination of application to complete a research / note taking / information gathering activity. Hope that helps, Mary.
Comment by Mary Pat Lichtman on September 29, 2011 at 7:32am
I'm creating courses for online delivery and wondered if you have any suggestions on how to train students on using iPads or other mobile devices in that environment?


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