In my experience, school staff are generally interested in what is best for students. However, one should reasonably expect that teachers would be skeptical of significant changes to the way they teach. Especially as it pertains to technology. Technology historically has been problematic in terms of introducing it into an environment where there are established norms. This is true of schools just as it is practically everywhere else. Teachers should benefit from the same level of effort to gain commitment that one would afford any significant organization. Change must be effectively managed in order to increase the chances of desirable results.
No matter the place, change is hard. The larger segment of the population just does not seek, welcome, invite, or readily accept change. Why should teachers and administrators be any different? Even if they are among the smaller set of society that embraces change, it takes change agents and leadership to make it happen. Leadership must provide support and resources, while change agents must understand and have the skills necessary to design and carry out change. In our case, the project only involves one student. A larger student group would take considerably more involvement by the school staff. There is a lot of interest from the school staff on how this project is proceeding. It remains to be seen how much teacher involvement is needed./p
So far, it seems that the first phase has mainly been about the student and parents being engaged. Involvement from the school staff has been minimal. One of the teachers initiated the discussion about using a mobile computing resource during a parent-teacher meeting. Our son needs help getting organized. This theme came up in discussions with each of his teachers. There was another revelation during the meetings. One of the teachers began the discussion by saying, “I finally get it, your son is gifted and talented! His brain is working too fast and he keeps spiking up on exam results where he outperforms most if not all the other students.” The point of mentioning this is the fact that even gifted and talented students fail when there are obstacles to learning. I assert that children are not capable of solving many challenges that they meet in life. They depend upon adults to do that. Parents and school staff will be part of the solution. So far there is no reason to doubt the resolve of either.
On the first day of our son using the iPad in school, I sat in on the first few classes of the day. The purpose was to see how he would use the new tool and to answer any questions from him or teachers. There was little involvement by the teachers as the focus was on our son making adjustments to the way he works. He we would be working less with paper and completing many tasks on the iPad. There was excitement expressed by the teachers, but there clearly is a need for follow-up.
My wife and I have always been very supportive of our son. Like many parents, we send our son to school each day with the expectation that he will learn. This project has highlighted obstacles to him doing so. When I now look back over the years, I recall the many times that we asked him about his school day only to get very little in response. That was a sure sign that there was trouble. How can we hold him accountable for meeting the expectations of his teachers if we don’t know what they are? It was no longer good enough to find out that he was not on track often after he was already in a hole. We kept finding ourselves working with him to catch up on work that was weeks late. This had to change. The good news is, we are a lot less reactive and he is more on track with school work. There is more work to be done, but we are optimistic. This is an area that I think we will need more support from teachers on.
My son, wife and I will be meeting with teachers, the 7th grade Dean, and the assistant principal soon. The decision has already been made to document the use of the iPad in a “504 plan” for our son. To learn more about 504 program, click here. This means that the school acknowledges the need for digital help using the iPad. We had feedback from teachers within a couple of weeks that were already seeing significant improvements. One teacher said “No more twenty-minute searches for homework assignments. Your son is more organized and work doesn’t get lost anymore. I love it! I want to learn more about this technology so that I can help your child.” I can not overstate how big of an improvement this is.
I am truly looking forward to engaging more with the teachers and administrators. I know this project is mainly about our son, but I realize that there is greater value in helping others to meet similar challenges. That is a worthy goal for this project, even if it is an unstated one.
In the upcoming posting, I’ll cover how I configured the iPad for Learning.