Needed: A focus on teaching and learning

The success of any 1-1 implementation lies less in the choice of computing device, but more in the difference that it can contribute to the overall teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. This is so important to remember, especially as more and more schools follow through with an “iPad initiative.”

While the selection of educational apps is vast (the Apple in Education website currently reads “Thousands of apps. Endless potential.”), I have come to understand that teachers shouldn’t focus only on the apps that can help with learning (intriguing as they may be). The key is to expand student thinking, not restrict it by working only within a choice selection of apps.

Appropriate instructional decisions are needed in order to take student learning to the next level. How are teachers challenging student thinking and inviting them to use their device in productive ways that will help them learn better? To what extent are students using the technology to curate their knowledge, collaborate with others, and create their own content? These are two important questions to keep in mind before deciding on an “app for that.”

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The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 3

“Let’s not leave the developing world behind.”

This message resonated deeply with me today during our third day together. Cellular and Internet connectivity is worldwide, and as Christian schools work to prepare our students for the world they will face, it shouldn’t be too difficult for us to partner with missions and/or local schools in the developing world. They have access to the connection; they need to be provided with the opportunity to interact more together.

Imagine a learning partnership where our children are interacting with less-advantaged children in the world via the world wide web. Imagine how these children may be reached with the Gospel by our Christian school students demonstrating their beliefs as they learn together. We may be able to teach them through our interactions, but, more importantly, imagine how much our students can learn from them as we partner together.

Today’s ‘a-ha’ for me was that it shouldn’t be too difficult for each and every Christian school to have a ‘sister school’ in the developing world. As I think about some of the mission partnerships with my home church alone, I realize that at least two of them are with missionaries in their local school systems. Why couldn’t the new Monroe Christian High School partner with these schools, especially if we consider offering (for example) English as a Second Language tutorials online, service learning opportunities to benefit these sites, or mission-related study trips?

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 2

This was a good first day for the ‘official’ symposium. By the time I was back at the condo, I was both tired and rejuvenated from the interactions of the day. Each session was worth my attention and focus. I think this was why I felt so exhausted by the time I left the discussion center! Rather than address each session directly today, my biggest take-away was the realization we are actually talking about my daughter’s graduating class when we talk about the class of 2025 and whether or not they will be ready and equipped to face their future. This personal perspective hit home for me. I want to help prepare this next generation for academic success and to equip for service in God’s world as ‘salt and light’ (Matt 5:13-16). We are working together here for children like my own.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 1

Today was the pre-conference day to discuss specific elements of digital learning strategies and methods as applicable to the Christian School. It was a good day together. Unlike other conferences that I attended, I found that the day included quality breakout sessions and meaningful conversations all around. I was impressed by the sense of collegiality that permeated the various sessions and I had a chance to meet some very dedicated professional educators. I chose to attend three specific sessions.

Success Strategies for the Business of Education helped us reconfigure the business and marketing end of schooling. Of the many insights I gained, I thought the most simple and practical was to get students involved in the touring process for prospective students and families, especially at the middle and high school levels. This can definitely help students see themselves “fitting in” which is so important when families enroll or transfer to the school. I realized that we do this on our university campus, so it makes sense here. I wonder why we didn’t think of this before.

Physical + Virtual = Space for Learning challenged us to reconsider our use of physical and virtual space in teaching and learning. This was a brilliant presentation of what can be, especially with regards to self-directed, competency-based learning. I like the emphasis to keep relationship and community deeply centered in the learning landscape.

Change Leadership for Dynamic Times offered some insight into leading change in a school where some resistance may be encountered. An eight stage approach to ensure effective change was shared. I found the first step, namely “creating a sense of urgency in what needs to be done” as one of the more important steps since it helped focus energies on initiating the process of necessary and better change in the school.

This was a good day to start the symposium. I will definitely need to review and consider my notes and ideas a bit further, especially as they apply to the high school project.

What if we worked together?

What if a number of smaller K-8 Christian schools decided to partner together to share resources as we develop our own high schools based on a 21st century learning model?

This question was behind a special meeting today to discuss a proposal for the Pacific Northwest Christian High School Consortium. The leaders from four Christian schools in the NWCSI region met to start developing a shared vision for working together. With great appreciation to CSI Online Academy for hosting the event, we were able to envision how the academy can play an important role in this partnership.

There was interest in the room, as each school has faced the incredible organizational and financial hurdles of wanting to expand 9-12. I enjoyed meeting with building leaders who share a similar passion of excellence in Christian education. I have a feeling that the schools will be watching Monroe Christian School very closely as we “break new ground” in our attempts for a new high school.

A fund-raising idea

An animated discussion over coffee led a small group of people interested in the MCS “high school project” to suggest holding a fund-raising dinner to raise some necessary start-up funding.

We are envisioning a professionally catered, semi-formal, banquet-style dinner held in a unique and welcoming location. The event will include dinner, entertainment, a possible testimony, an overview of the high school proposal (including benefits for students and Monroe Christian School as a whole), a summary of the anticipated start-up budget, and a formal appeal for funds.

The audience for this event will be a targeted subset of MCS alumni and donors. The focus will be on those alumni and family members from the founding generation of Monroe Christian School who typically no longer have children or grandchildren enrolled at the school.

I was surprised at how quickly these ideas came together, and encouraged by the interest and excitement that is spreading in the community. I continue to pray for God’s will and success in our efforts to follow God’s whisper for a new school.

The Apple “Edu-Announcements”

Apple made big news yesterday with a number of education-related announcements. The first was the launch of iBooks 2.  iBooks 2 is an upgrade to their iBooks app that will now allow users to access electronic textbooks on an iPad. The app itself is free and Apple announced that all textbooks on its shelves would be priced at $14.99 or less. Interestingly, a number of publishers have already committed to producing e-textbooks for Apple and the iPad, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. These publishing companies alone have a significant stake in the textbook market.

For Apple, the future of textbooks is meant to be electronic and not a significant drain on the wallet, either. No longer will students and schools need to pay expensive prices for books and their special add-ons, especially since these e-textbooks will have interactive features built into them. It is expected that these elements will include features such as videos, diagrams, active links, photo galleries, questionnaires, quizzes, 3-D diagram models, etc. Another benefit for students will be the ability to highlight, add notes and search definitions and terms electronically on the text.

As one who has been involved in the textbook adoption process in higher education, I can agree with others who note that Apple is trying to change the paradigm in terms of textbook use in the classroom. Some even suggest that Apple is “reinventing the textbook market” or that this will “kill the sale of paper textbooks.” It will be interesting to follow what happens to textbook production and sales, especially for those who are preferring to use their iPads. With over 1.5 million iPads being used in k-12 schools and more than 20,000 educational apps for the iPad alone so far, this may have a significant impact.

The second initiative with this announcement was the release of iBooks author which is a free tool that allows people (teachers) to become authors of their own (text) books. While this app is not workable on an iPad, it does allow those with operating a Macintosh computer to create e-books for the iPad in a streamlined manner. It includes basic templates, the ability to add multimedia including 3-D objects and HTML, and ease of use to import text from common word processing formats. Of course, there is also the ability to export to iBookstore for publication.

Even though I don’t currently use a Mac, I am interested in learning more about iAuthor textbook development process for teachers. Imagine being able to develop highly personalized textbooks for my students that would  focus on the specific material we prefer to use in the classroom. Imagine, too, being able to integrate interactive video and links to outside sources. We wouldn’t need to sort through the excess information that doesn’t necessarily apply to my course which often appears in larger texts.

The announcements are based on the assumption that all students either own or will have access to a mobile device using Apple products. Indeed, this could have a big impact in a 1:1 initiative for a school. The impact may be less certain if students do not have 24-hr access to a computing device or if schools are choosing to use Windows operating systems. Other issues, such as textbook use policies, may need to be reconsidered in k-12 settings where the school typically owns the books, rather than the students who may own the iPads. Still, as it has been noted “For now, it’s an exciting step in moving education further into the 21st century.”

References:

Biggs, J. (2012, Jan. 19). Sea Change: Apple Guts Textbook Publishing.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 19, 2012). Apple Schools Education Market with iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 20, 2012). Hands On with iBooks 2 and iTunes U.

Khan, J. ( Jan. 20, 2012). McGraw Hill CEO gives credit for iBooks textbook vision to Steve Jobs.

NPR staff. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple pushes interactive textbooks on iPads.

Provenzano, N. (2012, Jan. 20). What Apple’s Edu-Announcement Could Mean To You.

Sohn, T., & Nagel, D. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple Launches iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Takahashi, P. (2012, Jan. 19). New iPad app for digital textbooks excites Clark County schools.