Voices writer and Texas teacher Jen Carey served as Ed Tech Teacher’s live blogger at the most recent iPad Summit in Atlanta, Georgia (April 10-12). Jen shares some of the conference highlights here. If you’re interested in learning more about specific presentations, be sure to check out her live posts.
This past week, I had the privilege of once again attending Ed Tech Teacher’s iPad Summit, hosted this spring at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. I wrote about the first iPad Summit here at the Voices blog last November. This spring’s conference of about 700 attendees was surprisingly intimate and complex. The summit drew together professionals from all over the country — educators, administrators, and educational consultants from both public and private institutions.
While the theme of the conference centered on the Apple iPad, it was educational theory, not the hardware, that was the focus. The conference gave priority attention to innovations in learning, and that’s what made it a worthwhile experience for me. As Ed Tech Teacher co-founder Justin Reich states:
“Technology doesn’t magically change teacher’s practice. You can have students use iPads in much the same way that they once used slate boards. But what new technologies like tablets or laptops can do is open new avenues for conversation. In schools where every child has a portable, multimedia creation device, what can we do differently? What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?”
Among the keynote speakers was Angela Maiers, a popular author/educator, who talked about the important role of keynote address talk about the role of passion in education. Maier highlighted what would be the pervasive theme of the conference: while the iPad can be a great tool of innovation, what we as professionals in education need to understand is that students must to be inspired to fully pursue their academic endeavors. Rigorous assessments and standards are not enough to motivate students; we need to tap into their passions.
Session topics were varied, focusing on the role of the iPad in administration, how to use the iPad for student directed learning, how to roll out an iPad 1:1 program or use an iPad cart model, etc. It would be impossible for me to sum them up in their entirety in a brief article here. Rather, let me focus more on some of the broader themes of the speakers of the conference.
A Single Device Will Never Be the “Solution”
Many administrators and districts are looking for that single device that will define or even transform education. It simply does not exist and likely never will. While the iPad is certainly a popular tool right now, it does not replace the skill and understanding of teaching professionals. Before you adopt any device (be it iPads, tablets, Chromebooks, laptops, etc.) you need to really explore what your learning objectives are and then examine which tool will most effectively meet those needs.
If you decide to go with iPads, then you must invest
If you are going to adopt iPads in your institution, then you can expect to make significant investments of money AND time. You must ensure that there is a robust, up to date wireless network that can handle the traffic of a school dependent on untethered digital devices. You must look at standing elements like interactive whiteboards, projectors, and system networks to confirm that they will support your new learning array. If you do a half-hearted hardware investment, your institution will struggle with implementation (and the frustrations of students and staff).
Additionally, you must invest time – specifically in professional development. You must ensure that your staff knows how to use these devices — and not just the nuts and bolts of email and web surfing. Teachers need to think through the pedagogical possibilities of apps, mobility and connectedness, and they need to do so within your curriculum and standards framework.
Recognize that your learning environment will change
If your school does decide to invest in iPads or similar pervasive digital devices, the learning environment (physical and ideological) will change. It is the evolutionary consequence of bringing disruptive innovation into your school world.
You should expect this, not fight it. Make classroom structure more flexible and adaptable (some faculty replaced desks with bean bag chairs, some administrators developed rooms with modular walls). Additionally, your pedagogy and curriculum will also change – it will become more student centered and driven. The versatility and connectivity of tablet technology will inevitably reward teaching/learning strategies that emphasize creativity and inquiry and move away from rote practice. As you might guess, I think this is a good thing!
A stimulating event
All in all, the conference was an stimulating event where like-minded colleagues were able to gather and discuss the exciting things they are doing in their schools and classrooms not only with technology, but by revising and refocusing their pedagogy and curriculum. If you would like to learn more about the iPad Summit, please check out the website here or my live blogs of the event.
The next iPad Summit will be held in Boston in November. Keep an eye on Ed Tech Teacher’s website for registration information.