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My first year as an Instructional Technology Specialist has been spent at an elementary school helping implement a 1:1 initiative with iPads. In this series of posts, I’d like to share with you lessons I’ve learned, challenges the teachers have faced, and a few of my favorite lessons I’ve seen with the iPads this year.
Probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned this year is that no matter how excited I get about a new app or website, I’m a tech nerd, and the teachers I’m working with aren’t. They just are not going to get as gung-ho about something as I am. There are, however, those few teachers who will take whatever I show them and run with it. It’s those teachers I’ve learned to go to first. I have found that if I can get two or three teachers on board and trying something new, when it comes time to share with the whole group, we have some tried and true examples that come straight from their colleagues. I have found that teachers are more willing to try something if another teacher has tried and had success with it first. It doesn’t matter that I have 6 years experience teaching; I’m the outsider as the tech facilitator.
A second lesson I’ve learned is that teachers really need the devices that are going to be used in the 1:1 implementation more than a month before the rollout. Every piece of research on 1:1 programs will tell you this. In fact, most recommend that the teachers have the devices in their hands for at least a year prior to implementation. Our teachers had about a month with their iPads before school started. Many of them had never held an iPad or downloaded an app before. I honestly feel that if they had had more time with the devices before they had to introduce them to their students and integrate them into their daily teaching, we would be seeing the devices integrated more cohesively into the curriculum.
The third lesson I’ve learned is to not take things personally. At the beginning of the year, it really hurt my feelings when I’d deliver this great staff development presentation that had taken me hours to put together, and then the staff would spend the hour glazed and dazed and walk out not impressed. I have had to work hard to put myself back in their shoes and remember all the stresses that go along with being a teacher. Right or wrong, I’ve begun to put most of my attention on that group I mentioned earlier who are ready and willing to learn all the positive ways technology can be integrated into their teaching.with their iPads before school started. Many of them had never held an iPad or downloaded an app before. I honestly feel that if they had had more time with the devices before they had to introduce them to their students and integrate them into their daily teaching, we would be seeing the devices integrated more cohesively into the curriculum.
Something else I’ve learned is you might not get it right the first, second, or either third time. I have been so frustrated over the course of the year when it comes time to sync the 12 iPad carts we’ve got here at school. The syncing cart doesn’t work sometimes, the restrictions have been set in such a way that I have to touch every iPad before loading them in the cart, I forgot to set a restriction so I’ve got to reset somethings, and the list goes on and on. At this point, 7 months after we got started, I think I’ve found the best solution for quickly syncing the iPads. My point here is to know up front that the whole deployment/implementation is going to be a learning experience for everyone, not just the teachers.
Lastly, I have learned to be more proactive. At the beginning of the year, I shared with the teachers how excited I was about being there all day every day as support for them. I created a schedule and a Google Doc form for them to schedule time to come to model lessons in the classrooms. I started a weekly memo that reminded them that I’m ready and willing to work with them one on one. I had maybe three or four teachers schedule time with, and unfortunately, only a small portion of those actually stayed in the room to learn along with the students. Frustrated is an understatement to how I’ve been feeling. After talking with my supervisor, I’ve decided to schedule time with the teachers without waiting for them. I have found this to be much more successful, and the teachers are excited about me coming into their rooms. I’m guessing with everything else they’ve got going on, remembering to jump on our 1:1 website and schedule time just wasn’t a top priority. So if you’re experiencing the same issues at your school, don’t wait for the teachers. They’ve got enough going on. Let them know when you’re coming and what you’re teaching and just do it!