Is it worth it?

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This year, we introduced 1:1 iPads across our Years 5-10 students. Our school decided to implement such a program at the request of our School Council, wanting us to increase our technology and ‘keep up’ with other schools. A class had trialled iPads. Our tech support team had developed confidence in the area of Apple devices. Class sets of iPads were purchased for the lower years. Professional development was offered to all staff. Documentation and information was written, edited, and rewritten. All staff purchased their own iPad. More professional development was offered to staff. Information evening were held for all parents of the school.

Our rollout was in stages.

Term 1 – Years 9 & 10 students.
We dabbled, dipped our toes in, as we stumbled upon issue upon issue. Student behaviour. Consequences, or no consequences? Staff trying to introduce iPads meaningfully. There were breakages, inappropriate usage and the beginning of device addiction. PD was offered to staff on a variety of apps, behaviour management strategies for the ‘connected classroom’ and app sharing sessions. All staff were asked to allocate one of their SMART goals to an IT-related goal. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students – we answered their questions and offered advice.

Term 2 – Years 7 & 8 students.
Armed with more knowledge and loophole awareness, the next cohort of students were introduced to iPads as a learning tool. Student behaviour was still an issue. The question of consequences was still an issue. Games in class – appropriate or inappropriate? The issue of screen time was being raised, so we set about asking teachers to record their students in-class iPad usage for a 2-week period. Nothing extreme – Year Level, Subject, Approximate percentage of class time iPads were used, and maybe the app/apps they used. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to ease their fears and reassure them that technology was something that our school values.

Term 3 – Years 5 & 6 students.
Our knowledge as a staff is becoming stronger and there are less and less loopholes for the students to find. Students behaviour regarding iPads is less of an issue. Consequences are becoming tighter. There is a no-gaming policy unless it clearly relates to class work. Screen time is still a concern. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to tell them how successful our initial roll-out had been and what we have learnt from it to try and improve it for their children.

After two terms of iPad use, we surveyed the teachers and the Year 7-10 students on their iPad use at school. The results were fascinating. After such eye-opening results, my principal requested that we survey the parent community as well. The results were indeed fascinating, but for less positive reasons.

Some of the main concerns were that their child was now not interested in school since the iPads were introduced. The issue of screen time seemed to be on the tip of every parent’s fingers as they typed their negative responses into my Google Form. Other parents were frustrated that they seemed to have taught their child more about the iPad than the teachers at school.

Funnily enough, we have run PD sessions on integrating the iPad effectively. The SAMR model has become so frequently referred to at our school that I am sure I dream of it at least once a week. The issue of screen time was a factor that we wanted to address, hence our request of staff to record their usage for a two-week period. Out of all the staff asked (at least 20), only 5 responded. How could we present that information to parents?

After nearly 3 years of being involved with the iPad program and imminent technology rollout, the responses I read from our parent community made me wonder, “Is it worth it?”

  • Is it worth putting so much time and energy into trying to inspire other staff to try something new on their iPad? Or use an app a second time, to build confidence?
  • Is it worth running optional technology sessions for staff to try and reach their SMART goal, but then have nobody turn up?
  • Is it worth holding parent information nights to present information and try and teach them about the world their children are moving into, only to have parents whinge behind our backs on an anonymous survey?

Sometimes, no matter how much you are supported by your leadership team and how passionate you are, you still wonder “Is it worth it?”

5 responses »

  1. Hi Fee,

    I hear you! Sometimes I wonder why on earth I bother and then someone will tell me a “feel good story” and I realise there is hope. It’s really difficult to keep up the enthusiasm with a small staff too – we only have 6 classroom teachers. I guess we do it for those few staff members who will give it a go, those few students who will flourish and those few parents who actually do appreciate all we do.

    I’ve just started working with a small group of children from other classes – like a special focus group with children I know will LOVE anything tech! I work with them on an app and then they go back to their room to teach others. It’s only early days but they’re keen.

    Keep doing what you’re doing – you amaze me!

    Karyn

    • Thanks Karyn…it’s tough!! I always thought teaching was about helping students, but it’s disappointing to sit back and hear that they are the ones who are being let down…and with that, their parents also.

  2. Hi Fiona,
    For all the parents that whinge there are usually twice as many who are quite happy with the ways things are going and so they don’t need to say anything.
    Optional sessions with staff who are prioritising and juggling time are never well attended even if staff mean well and want to come along unless something is programmed in with an expectation of attendance . (I would be there in a heartbeat. :)) Maybe they think they can ask you whenever it suits them rather than when it suits you.
    We have bought multiple port jacks so our Ipads can be used for Reading Groups like listening posts. Air server helps us to share with the rest of the staff on the IWB, what our students have been doing. We love our tablets.
    There are a few favourite phonics apps, educreations, Imovie etc that I wouldn’t be without. In fact I would hate for the Ipads to be taken away. Its so good to be able to use them to pull up pictures of things to explain. SO many uses as you will appreciate. Maybe you should train up your support staff who will then take the Ipads around and demonstrate how to use them in class. I have introduced quite a few staff to my favourite apps.
    Don’t give up! People just haven’t caught the vision yet.

    • Hi Anne,

      Thanks for your response. We also have Airserver and I know that it does get used, but not sure to what capacity. The phonics apps and recording apps like Educreations are invaluable to us, but it’s the other apps that have so much potential that lots of staff don’t know about. Despite these sessions being on the meeting schedule and all of our staff having an IT related goal, it’s not a priority.
      Unfortunately it’s the students who are suffering, as they are becoming frustrated with their teachers lack of skills and interest in using the iPad…
      Hopefully getting some more student involvement will help…

  3. Hi Fee,
    Firstly, I’d like to let you know how much you are not alone. Thanks for putting into words how I, and many others, can feel.
    I remember when my school decided to introduce the 1:1 netbook program for Grade 5/6. The decision was made through school council and leadership with (to my knowledge) no consultation with classroom teachers. Which really annoyed me being that we were the ones expected to seamlessly integrate this new technology the following year with no preparation. We also had changes of staff in the team so that was another difficulty to contend with – getting everyone comfortable with the constantly changing curriculum of a new year level as well as developing the confidence of the staff to plan and use the net books.
    It has taken about 3 years and I am no longer in that team so I’m not sure as to how effective the technology is being used. And I am absolutely spewing that I no longer have access to 1:1 technology – I’m currently in a team of 7 classes and we need to share 30 netbooks amongst us across the week! I have heard whispers that change is coming though…
    Anyway, it’s unfortunate and it needs to change but you will always have staff who are reluctant and lack the confidence for whatever reason to give things a go (sometimes despite promises and enthusiasm in PD sessions!) How do we change it? How do we support staff so that they can use the tech better, giving the kids the confidence so that they’re not in the dark with their learning and henceforth making the parents feel better about it all?
    It needs to start somewhere so thank you for taking the step forward and continuing to be that driving force. All schools need someone like you!
    Katelyn 🙂

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