Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t give up the iPads in my classroom for anything. It has been a phenomenal experience putting the world into the hands of my students and seeing them grow by leaps and bounds. Despite the WiFi problems, the ups and downs of trying to manage 25 devices with a program intended for only 1, and the frustrations of EVERYTHING taking longer than it used to – I have never had so much fun with my students.
I have never given them so much control, and therefore never had the opportunity to be so delighted by their creativity.
We experiment, we make mistakes, we learn – and we laugh.
Is it all because of the iPads? Of course not. As much as my students are evolving as learners in this environment, I am evolving as a teacher. The iPads are really only the catalyst – I am approaching the processes of teaching and learning differently. Partly because we have an amazing tool at our disposal that we didn’t have before. Giving students more freedom and control, and asking them to create and collaborate, is just easier and more convenient when you have a 1:1 classroom. But mostly, having the tools readily available sparks my own creativity.
The opportunity to pilot this program pushed me to do more research, to think bigger, to try new ideas and methods – and to expect more from my students. I recently read a speech in which someone made the statement that it’s not really the devices that create this incredible learning environment – but how the devices spur teachers to recreate themselves and their classrooms. I couldn’t agree more.
So here I am, creeping up on the midpoint of the school year. There are amazing things happening in my classroom. My students have really become comfortable with their devices, and the technology component is finally helping us more and slowing us down less. We have reached a point where my students can pretty much figure out how to use apps and perform simple tech tasks without needing much help. The technology is becoming efficient to use. And it is simply wonderful. I love having assignments, projects, and quizzes emailed to me. I love being able to just tell my students to find a website, and they get there within a couple of minutes instead of a half-hour struggle in which I want to pull my hair out. I love the ways my classroom has evolved in the last 6 months.
And then I realize – the year is almost half over. My amazingly adept students will be leaving me before I know it. And come August, I will have 45 newbies again. Most of my students have limited access to technology. Some have no technology experience at all when they come to me. Next year, I will once again go through this process of teaching my students how to use their devices, in hopes that by December we can incorporate the technology painlessly. And then the next year I start over…again.
This kind of makes me want to bury my head in the sand and pretend it isn’t really going to happen. That these wonderful kids aren’t going to leave me behind come May. And I imagine it will be just as difficult for them – to return to the world of having to wait until they have a class period in the computer lab to be able to access the technology that they are now accustomed to using constantly. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons that 1:1 classrooms shouldn’t be isolated. I realize that I am participating in a pilot – that the whole point is to try it out in a few classrooms before taking the plunge and buying devices for an entire district. I get it. But starting from scratch every single year wastes SO much valuable time.
I absolutely will continue to do it – the payoff is worth it for my students and myself. And the time we take isn’t exactly wasted – my students are learning valuable technology skills. But I just keep thinking – if only the 5th graders had iPads, and we could just jump right in on Day 1 next year. An isolated 1:1 classroom doesn’t allow for the full potential of technology integration to be realized. It is inefficient, and if the technology skills can’t be fostered in future years, students will lose many of the benefits.
So while I really love my iPads, I feel strongly that a 1:1 district would be an even better situation than a 1:1 classroom. Since I don’t get to make those kinds of decisions, I’ll just keep hoping.
After all, a year ago I was searching for funding and thinking wistfully of all I could do with a classroom full of iPads.