In the last four years, millions of iPads have been deployed in schools across the US, generating headlines both for their positive impact on student outcomes as well as stories of more challenged roll-outs. But institutions need to realize tablets represent a long-term project to implement new educational practices in their classroom. The following article touches on some of the key points to transform any iPad initiative into a robust instructional platform drawing from some of the emerging new solutions and best practices in the market.
Simplifying a teacher’s life:
The introduction of iPads in a classroom creates a world of new possibilities for teachers. Opening the classroom to new instructional practices is great, but giving teachers too many options makes it more difficult for them to gain proficiency as an iPad educator. The Apple App Store has more than 100,000 apps in the educational vertical alone. Searching for relevant apps to help students improve their performance in specific topics can be an overwhelming job.
Some districts have partnered with providers such as eSpark Learning, a personalized learning solution for the iPad, to ease the burden of app selection. eSpark’s team of former teachers scour the vast App Store to identify highly engaging and challenging activities that align to Common Core State Standards. Based on standardized assessment data, every student in a classroom receives self-paced learning plans made up of high-quality iPad apps, videos, and quizzes differentiated for their unique needs.
“I’m amazed by eSpark Learning. I know teachers don’t have enough time to find which apps are effective and aligned to each Common Core standard and grade level. eSpark does that for us.”
-Dr. Todd Keruskin, Assistant Superintendent at Elizabeth Forward School District, an Apple Distinguished District
Another area where teachers’ lives should be made easier is in their daily workflow. In order to use iPads in new ways with students, teachers depend upon multiple Apps as well as their interaction with each other. For example, teachers can replace the use of pen and paper when students work on and submit assignments through Apps like Google Drive, Notability and Google Classroom. In this case, the difficulty comes from the multiple steps required to use different Apps to complete different steps of a process, with each additional step multiplied by the number of students in the class.
Sharing files and getting students to work on them and then submit back to the teachers can be streamlined by School 4 One, an app-based workflow for iPads designed to help teachers share, grade, and track students progress by standard in simple steps. This is an example of how a single App can streamline a variety of otherwise complex processes for a teacher, making it substantially easier for teachers to use iPads with their students on a daily basis.
“In today’s connected classroom a teacher needs to focus on creating a relevant, student centered learning environment that promotes inquiry and sparks creativity. That is why developing an easy workflow for content creation, assessment and evaluation is crucial to fostering that environment, School4One facilitates this process in a simple yet powerful way.”
̶ Federico Padovan – Apple Distinguished Educator and Tech Director at Immaculata – La Salle High School
When the impossible becomes possible:
Adaptive learning has been one of the most discussed topics in education for the last 20 years. In theory, information about each student’s performance should help teachers personalize their instruction to better meet their needs. While promising, the implementation of an effective adaptive instructional model has proven to be very challenging for schools. One explanation for this is the sheer amount of data that is collected on each student and how that data is presented to a teacher.
Standardized assessments, such as NWEA or STAR, provide valuable insights about student outcomes along specific Common Core State Standards. But having data on a given student’s performance by standard is not enough. To effectively implement an adaptive learning model, teachers need tools to react to what the information they have about their students is telling them.
To inform decision making, school leaders often look to dashboards to view student data. And as noted edtech investor Matt Greenfield of Rethink Education has observed when it relates to Deep Data, “education is still at the medium data stage, where just getting it all on the same page is heroic.”
Teachers and administrators using eSpark are given access to robust online dashboards that track daily usage, display quiz scores and student created videos, and monitor student progress throughout the year. While presenting information in dashboards is helpful, teachers often do not have time to log in and examine data consistently throughout the week. With eSpark’s solution, teachers receive weekly email alerts synthesizing student information to identify areas for follow-up, intervention, and celebration.
“The whole premise of using technology is to make teachers’ lives easier and not stress them out. Most products now come with a dashboard that gives the teachers a snapshot of all their [students’] information. eSpark has a great dashboard showing the quests and the different work that kids are doing.”
-Dr. Michael Nagler, Superintendent Mineola School District, an Apple Distinguished District
Actionable data for teachers can also come from non-traditional sources that do not resemble standardized tests. Motion Math is a suite of iPad games which gives elementary students the opportunity to explore and master the most challenging math concepts. Teachers value the suite not only because students love to play the games, but also because of the data’s usefulness. Motion Math game data goes to a teacher dashboard which tracks how students how students are performing in the games, and, more importantly, how this performance reflects their understanding of Common Core Standards.
“My students are highly engaged while playing Motion Math apps. By being able to manipulate and work with concepts such as the number line, composing numbers, and fractions, students are able to create meaning and build understanding. The Teacher Dashboard helps teachers take their math instruction to the next level; the data is reliable because students are invested.”
– Sarah Fritzke, Response to Intervention math teacher at Jordan Elementary, Jordan, MN
In addition to standardized assessments and game-based tests, formative assessments also provide important information to teachers about student needs. School 4 One, through its workflow, makes it possible for teachers to gather standards-aligned information on student progress from formative assessments. This provides teachers with real-time data about student performance in specific standards. With this data, the App provides tools for teachers to adapt their lesson plans, search for content, and tailor resources for the specific needs of each student. It also makes it easy for teachers to differentiate tasks for groups of students based on their level of mastery in specific Common Core Standards.
“School 4 One creates an electronic portfolio of actual student work by standard. The app organizes data for students, teachers and parents allowing an intuitive visualization of each child’s proficiency. More importantly the app makes it easy for teachers to group students by mastery level and assign differentiated tasks in just a few steps.”
̶ Dr. Michael Nagler – Superintendent Mineola School District, an Apple Distinguished District
iPads open up the classroom to a world of new instructional practices. These new practices can generate valuable data about how students are learning. In a large class, this information is critical for teachers who need to keep track of how each of their students is progressing. Having the right tools in place such as a simple workflow and key Apps enhances the capabilities of the iPad further by making it possible for teachers to differentiate resources and engage every student at the level that is appropriate for them. Thinking about an iPad implementation as a process where the teacher is at the center, is key in supporting these devices as a robust instructional platform for students.
Photo credits to Maurizio Pesce (pestoverde).