Technology is really a remarkable tool for learning, but not the facilitator for learning. Teachers are the best indicators for student success.
The Erie-Catt Teacher Center (ECTC) Policy Board decided that the purchase of iPads for classroom use would be worthwhile IF it could be determined that iPads changed the way teachers taught and the way students learned. The request for iPads morphed into a research project on the impact of technology on instruction and student learning. The program provided 5 iPads for each teacher selected, through application, from the 9 school districts, 5 parochial schools and Erie 2 Chautauqua- Cattaraugus BOCES, which make up the constituency of ECTC, to determine if the iPad would change instructional strategies and impact student success. The original 12 participants attended 3 meetings, a variety of classes, kept a log of how they were using the iPads for instruction on a message board along with concerns they had (most often wireless connections) and what excited them about student use. (‘Imagine a room totally engaged in a project, so quiet you could hear a pin drop” as one of our teachers noted). By the end of the first year, 10 participants requested another year, they felt that it took them an entire year to learn about the iPad and its instructional use, set up classroom protocols, test apps, apply their use to their instruction and adjust their teaching styles. The Board accepted their request and budgeted for a second “iPadders” cohort.
One significant example of how iPads have impacted teaching and learning involves one of the math teachers who completely changed the way she taught math. She began to flip her classes and accommodate students who did not have technology at home. The students became responsible for assisting their classmates with homework assignments through the use of Edmodo and even illustrating to each other how to determine the answers to homework questions on line. When it became time to collect homework at the beginning of the class, one student from each group was responsible for making sure the group had completed the work at the 100% level. When their teacher was absent, students followed the lesson plan posted on Edmodo and video-taped the class working, highlighting areas of mathematical concerns. The teacher knew exactly where the students were when she returned to her classroom. One student said that she didn’t like Math, but she liked coming to Mrs. W’s Math class. Since this first year, this teacher has moved from the classroom to working with individual students, and Middle School teachers on technology integration. She encouraged colleagues to apply for the project, speaks regionally about how to manage 5 iPads in a common core classroom, and changed her teaching style entirely. The district consequently has purchased iPad carts because they have seen the changes in instruction and student learning. Following her example, and with her assistance, other teachers have begun to change their instruction, some even “flipping” student learning. This class demonstrated that technology could change instruction strategies to the extent of students becoming more responsible for their own learning.
Since the project began, over 40 teachers have participated; and at least another 10 classes have been added each year dependent upon funding. “Every year when we meet to share experiences, apps and successes, I am amazed at how a simple little tablet has made such a difference in how students learn and how teachers teach”, Cathie Marriott, Director
Additional reported successes:
- 100% of CTE students have passed the cosmetology exam during the year they used iPads.
- Social Studies and Science teachers reported improved scores in Regents exams.
- One Individual student, reading at the preprimer level in grade 3 advanced to an insatiable reader after only 3 months of conquering Dolce words using an iPad app.
- Middle school students who would have been exempt from a language are now passing the Spanish test for HS credit using the app Duolingo! Their teacher reported she could now speak Spanish since working with them.
- More than one teacher reported having more students learn math facts than in previous years, all meeting set benchmarks.
- One teacher stated that a student who previously would not participate in his 30-minute group time is now on task and participates 50% of the time.
- Teachers reported that students are demonstrating more confidence, no longer afraid of answering incorrectly because of apps like Kahoot and Socrative.
- All teachers involved indicated that student engagement/motivation has increased.
- Moving away from worksheets and pencil/paper assignments to digital copy
- Individualizing instruction more
- Monitoring student progress immediately and changing instructional techniques to meet student needs
- Noticing students taking more responsibility for their own learning
- Witnessing students using iPads independently to quickly access content information
- Noting increased creativity with a variety of apps students used
- Observing students discovering the importance of following directions when they do not get the desired outcome they expect from their work
Through the “5 iPads in a common core classroom” program ECTC has learned that the use of technology can make an impact teaching techniques and student learning IF teachers are given the tools, support, time, and collegial opportunities to share successes and solve problems that may arise. Districts are recognizing this impact by supporting infrastructure needs and adding more technology in their classrooms. Most of the Erie 2 Cattaraugus-Chautauqua BOCES teachers have been given classroom technology after their participation in the project. In June, we will have another group of teachers graduate after their 3rd year and a new cohort will begin our 5th year in September. We have 30 applicants for this project with the deadline still 2 weeks away. We anticipate more success for students and more changes in the way teachers teach. Success, ECTC met its goal!