Sunday, November 10, 2013

1:1 schools: Why raw data doesn't tell the whole story

As a Principal in a 1:1 school with iPads, I often get asked questions about how the devices are working in the school and the data that we have collected that demonstrates successful implementation in the classroom.  From the perspective of people who are asking me these questions, I can see why this data would be useful.  Many schools are looking to implement some type of devices in their buildings.  The data would be a good thing to show stakeholders for the reasons to implement or not implement the initiative to purchase the devices.  While I may not produce a great deal of raw data for the people who inquire, what I am able to do is explain what we have learned at New Lexington while implementing new resources in the classroom.

1. Teacher practice and methods have improved.
Our teachers use the devices to teach their content.  They have had to rethink how they deliver their content to utilize all of the resources available to them and help students learn.  Rethinking content feeds right into reflection of teaching methods & strategies.  Reflection is an important part of being a teacher.  The rethinking approach encourages teachers to reflect on their methods of instruction and ways to improve the learning process for students. 

2. Teachers face different obstacles in their classroom than they did before.  Change is inevitable.
Our teachers are reflecting on their practices, and as mentioned before, changing their practices.  They are changing their practices because schooling is changing as a whole.  Students are now being asked to think critically and problem solve.  Having the resources available, like iPads, allows our teachers to incorporate new methods & strategies that encourage critical thinking in the classroom.  Not only is it the best learning situation for our students to succeed when they graduate from NLHS, but the state of Ohio and the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System encourages critical thinking instruction in the classroom.   

Teachers and students have to adapt and face change on a daily basis at NLHS.  It is a reality.  Whether it is learning how to use a new app, figuring out how to use new websites, or using different apps to collaborate in small group instruction, teachers and students come to school each day in a culture focused on change.  We always want to prepare our students for change, because in the society we live in, everyone has to be flexible.  Incorporating the latest technology resources in your district allows your teachers and students to embrace change.

3.  Creativity & Collaboration
Teachers and students are able to use resources to differentiate assessments.  Its not the same classroom as it was in years past.  Assessments are not just given out each Friday and we move on to the next lesson.  Students need to be able to demonstrate their knowledge and growth on content matter.  Whether it is creating a video over a topic, teaching the class to the their peers, or creating a blog to enrich a class discussion, students use the resources available to them to demonstrate their mastery.  

Teachers and students collaborate and share ideas using the resources available to them.  Teachers can explain topics and correct errors outside of the classroom.  Basically extending their office hours each day.  Students also help teachers utilize the tools and apps on the iPads as much as the teachers help the students.  Technology can help teachers and students work closer together and not create a divide in less personal interaction as some critics of school technology seem to think.

Increasing the technology resources in a district or building prepares students for success after graduation.  While the number-crunching data may not always point in one direction or the other, increasing growth potential for teachers and students should not always be tied to data.  It is imperative to use school and classroom resources to benefit our students and prepare them for the rest of their lives.  Sometimes you can’t put a number on something that important.

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