Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Exciting Couple of Weeks at My School

The past couple of weeks have brought a fair bit of excitement to my school, at least as far as I'm concerned.

First off, after waiting almost nine months, my school finally became an open wireless school.  Obviously in a school district as large as mine theses change overs take time and can't all be done at once.  I've also been lucky enough to have an airport in my classroom so while in my room I haven't had too many issues with connecting to the internet for my teaching and my students learning. But having open wireless allows my entire school to do the exact same thing.  The implications of this is huge.  In addition the speed of the internet is that much faster.   I totally  notice it when I try to upload our class videos to our YouTube channel. It's wonderful.

In addition my school has one of the two school district iPad loaner sets at the moment.  In the past months I have booked the iPod loaner set (twice) with hopes of inspiring my colleagues to jump further onto the technology band wagon.  While they were booked out I'm not sure many of the teachers  saw much value in them. It seemed like the same few teachers were booking them out.  But the iPads are different.  The iPads seem to have brought a lot more excitement into the school.  I keep being approached by students asking me where I got the iPads from and if we get to keep them.  They are keen to use them, and are loving them for learning.

Both myself and another teacher offered our students as experts to teach other classes how to use the iPads.  This has worked too.  We were able to get iPads into classrooms where the teachers were not initially interested in signing them out.  We helped make them more comfortable with the technology and allowed their students to be exposed to this amazing technology.

I'm also impressed with what my colleagues have been doing with them.  Some have asked to borrow an iPad over night so that they are ready to teach with them the next day. I figured most would just let their students "play" with them since they are in our school for such a short period of time. But that's not what's happening.  I've been requested to download apps for learning. They are exploring the open ended programs to have students demonstrate their learning in personalized ways.

Here are two blog posts from two of the teachers in my school using the iPads for the first time with their classes.

Mrs. Morrison's iPad Adventures in Kindergarten

Ms. Birdsall's Technology Adventures in Grade Four

For me it's really exciting to see these transformations with my staff.  Right now we have six teachers blogging with their students - whether a class blog, or both a class blog and individual student blogs.  These blogs are all new this year, and there are a couple of other teachers ready to get their blogs on line before the end of  the school year.  In addition we have eight teachers who are using either their personal iPads (or iPods) or the district issued iPads in their classrooms. So things are changing at my school and I'm happy to be a part of these changes.

But the biggest, most exciting thing that has happened at my school these past couple of weeks is that we were successful with our Innovative Learning Design (phase 2) grant proposal.  A few weeks back myself and four teaching colleagues from different grade levels got together to write a proposal for this project.  While we have a very strong group of educators on the proposal we weren't sure if we were going to be successful because of some circumstances surrounding our application.  But we pushed forward anyhow and are just thrilled that we were successful.  What this means is that we will have an infusion of $25,000 worth of technology into our school.  For a school that hovers the inner city school status line that is huge.

Being the most knowledgable when it comes to using technology to transform teaching and  learning I was in charge of putting the order together.  When the proposal was submitted it was decided that the money would be spent for the teachers on the proposal and their students.  We are five teachers teaching at five different teaching levels - K, 1, 4, 5, and 6/7.  We didn't want to just buy bulk technology we wanted to target our five classrooms so that we can explore, learn, and grow with the technology then share everything we are doing with our colleagues.  We want to be able to transform the way we teach and do things that would not be possible without access to technology.  For us it isn't about doing what we always have done, but with technology. It's about changing the way we teach and learn. Our goal is to be the lead teachers in our school.

After a lot of e-mails back and forth to people in my district that are knowledgable with technology and that I highly respect in the end each classroom teacher will have on demand access to an iPad for their teaching, a laptop, a projection device, and a document camera. While my school has about 18 reliable laptops,  and a fully functional 30 computer PC lab we have very little reliable technology in our classrooms.  This infusion of technology will be huge.  In addition the three intermediate teachers will share an Apple TV and the two primary teachers will share another Apple TV.  Each intermediate class will receive five classroom iPads each, but if they decided to combined their iPads the intermediate classes can go 1:2 iPad to student ratio.  The two primary classes will get 4.5 iPads each or a combined 9 for an almost 1:2 iPad to student ratio.

The rest of the staff would still like to see our laptop carts allow for 1:1 use in the intermediate grades and it is something we have to address.  Hopefully our PAC will have access to some money to help us with this.  We'd also love to have a class set of iPads at the intermediate level, and a class set of iPads at the primary level, but again this is for some time in the future.  A year ago I never would have thought that we would ever have this type of technology in our school, and some time this fall we will.  It's very very exciting.

It has been a couple of very exciting weeks at my school.

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