Friday, November 14, 2014

Reflections On the ETT iPad Summit Panel Discussion

Disclaimer: This is a deviation from the usually review and how-to articles that appear on Once or twice a year I get fired up about something and have to get on my soapbox. The blog will return to its usual programming after this.

On Thursday afternoon I was invited to participate in a panel discussion at the iPad Summit in Boston. Greg Kulowiec did a nice job of facilitating the discussion. He also did a nice job of moderating me when I got wound up by a line of questioning about measuring the “success” of iPad implementations. (Greg knows that I get wound up about these things. I think that’s why he put me on the panel). Panel discussions don’t always provide the opportunity to fully elaborate on one’s thoughts. Thankfully, I have a blog on which I can elaborate on the comments I made during the panel discussion.

How do you measure success of iPad implementations?
Someone in the audience insisted on making this answer about test scores. Words don’t exist to express how passionate I am in saying, IT’S NOT ABOUT TEST SCORES!

Success in my classroom is measured by looking at the skills my students have at the end of their time with me compared to those skills they had at the beginning of their time with me. These are some of the questions that I ask in a social studies classroom:
Are they communicating more effectively (writing, speaking, visual communication)? Are they reading something in May that they could not read in October? Have they developed and sharpened critical thinking skills? In my social studies classroom that often means being able to recognize bias and fallacies in media they consume.

iPads, laptops, Chromebooks all offer engaging tools that can be leveraged to help students develop the skills mentioned above. The success of the implementation of those devices could be measured by evaluating whether or not your students are creating things that they couldn’t have developed ten years ago. In answering that question it is critical to determine if the creation process helped students develop a communication or analysis skill that will serve them well in the future.

Will having iPads help our students compete with students in other countries?
This is the question that riled me up more than any other question that was asked during the panel discussion. Dr. Gary Stager tackled this question very well in an article he published in 2005. His points in the article are as valid today as they were nine years ago. During the panel I Tweeted the link to his article and I encourage you to read it on Gary’s blog.

Whether or not American students can compete with Chinese students on standardized tests is not something that I have ever lost a moment of sleep over. Whether or not Tyler (or any number of other students I have had in my classrooms) will have food and heat are things that I have lost sleep over. And once Tyler is fed, my next concerns are helping him think critically about the world around him which for him may only be the county line even though I hope that ultimately he sees the larger world (quick aside, I live in Maine and I had a student in 2004 that had never been to the ocean despite being born here). I want Tyler to develop his reading skills. I want him to improve his in-person and online communication skills. At the end of the day, I want my students to improve from their current positions. I’ll leave the standardized measuring to people like Gates and other "thought leaders" who haven’t spent years in classrooms.

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