Middle School Digital Device Project Has Begun – It is Anything But Typical

Nottypical

Last week we began the iPad phase of the Middle School Digital Device Project. (MSDDP) The week before we started the MacBook project. I am including some thoughts and reflections on the first couple weeks of the project.

Background

Parents had received a letter written by the team of educators at DA that are helping to coordinate this “discovery” project. Below is some text from that letter. The project is only being done with 2 classes of 19 students each so it is not the entire grade level.

Durham Academy has believed that students need access to technology as part of a modern learning environment. We currently have around over 100 computers on campus and, for years, have supported students using their own laptops or other devices on campus. Durham Academy has investigated the idea of a 1 to 1 laptop program in the past and carefully considered how such a program would impact our families and learning community. Much has changed since we began this journey and we feel it is necessary now to go one step further. The school plans to test how consistent access to either an iPad or a MacBook would help our students and teachers fulfil their mission. Karl Schaefer, Julie Williams and Patti Donnelly have committed time to the planning and implementation of a pilot program. The goal of the MSDDP is to determine which device could best meet the needs of the teaching and learning mission of Durham Academy. With that in mind, we would like to inform you of the MSDDP.OverviewBeginning in October, students in Ms. Williams’s and Ms. Donnelly’s classes will have consistent use of either an iPad2 or a 4 four year old MacBook. All other middle school classes will serve as control groups. At any given time in the project, 38 students will have consistent access (on campus and at home) to a school issued device. Other students will continue to use the computer labs, desktops, iTouch cart and laptop carts. Through the use of the MacBooks and iPads, we plan to assess which device more successfully integrates learning and teaching by conducting a pre-use and post-use questionnaire. We plan to use the information gained in the MSDDP to guide the school’s adoption of a student device in the near future.

We will also monitor how the following will impact the learning environment:

  • 24/7 access with a 1 to 1 device
  • how broadly and frequently apps and input methods are utilized
  • increased independence and self-guided learning by students
  • extension of learning opportunities beyond the classroom
  • development of skills and literacy through interacting with digital media
  • level of creativity and collaboration demonstrated by students and teachers

In addition, we plan to collect anecdotal evidence from teachers and students via classroom blogs.

Implementation

Mr. Hoyt and I worked with the classes when they first got the devices to go over some care and use instructions. We also discussed the school’s Acceptable Use Policy and how the use of the laptop fits within that document. Since then, I have been helping the teachers get going by providing instructional ideas and introducing the different applications. It has been an interesting time as I move from working with the class using iPads as what we do on that device is slightly different then what I do when I work with the laptop group. I thought about this difference last night and can compare it to when I first started integrating technology into my Science classroom in 1994. I had six Macintosh computers that ranged from and LC II to LC 520. Each could do some things but not all could do the same things so my students and I had to work to figure out how to make all the computers do what we needed to do. For instance, the LC II was better for typing and printing while the LC 520 could handle HyperStudio better since it had better graphics and RAM. The iPad and MacBook laptop differences feel very similar. One is not better then the other, but the MacBook is sure more familiar.

We are keeping a series of private Google Docs where we are recording student questions about the laptops. As they ask the questions, I can provide an answer in the Google Doc so all students can see the answer. Since it is a Google Doc, I do not need to be in the room or on campus.

Reflections to date

  • Evernote sponsored accounts are a really asset for all no matter the device. Ms. Donnelly even shared an audio recording in a note last night
  • Never underestimate the resourcefulness of students to be troubleshooters, helpers, and risk takers. Harnessing their energy makes the process both easier and more exhilarating
  • Provide challenges to students as they will seek solutions that make sense to them. For instance, create a Vocabulary Doodle led to students creating drawings, crosswords, Evernote recorded notes, and other methods of learning the words.
  • Students can be natural collaborators as helping each other has been a hallmark of both devices. More so with the iPad I think then the MacBook, but students helping each other removes the teacher as expert stress
  • Students ask good questions and have high hopes for what they would like to be able to do with the devices. Lower the heft of a backpack is one central one. Will we listen?
  • Parents will support projects like these when given a big picture, but more information is always better especially when a device goes from school to the home. Families either have procedures for device use or will be scrambling to come up with ones. We need to help everyone in our community adjust and plan accordingly. Common Sense Media Internet Safety Guide for Parents is a good start.
  • Being able to flow is essential as the teachers have willingly allowed me to direct class time
  • Rethinking instructional methods is as essential as figuring it out where to put a power strip. Devices should change the instructional norms in a classroom and not just automate it.
  • Blogging for students can be harnessed to create standards and guides for future students while also giving a purpose to the writing that they do in class.

Follow Ms. Williams’ class at: http://jwroom211.edublogs.org/ as her class is actively blogging.

Follow Ms Donnelly’s class at: http://pdroom212.edublogs.org/ as the will begin blogging soon. Right now they are working on reflecting in Google Docs and Evernote.

Here is a VoiceThread with images of what is taking place. Check it often as we will keep adding images to it.

 


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2 thoughts on “Middle School Digital Device Project Has Begun – It is Anything But Typical

  1. Thank you for posting all these posts. They really help in life and with technology issues, etc.

    -Cole

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