iPad Summit

By Celeste Payne, Technology Specialist and Upper School Biology Teacher

In early November, Lisa Cromley, Jennifer Roberts, Alicia Zeoli, & I attended “Leading Change in Changing Times.”  This was the first “iPad Summit USA,” sponsored by EdTechTeacher.  <http://ipadsummitusa.org/about/edtechteacher-ipad-summit-usa-2012/>  Attendees included teachers and administrators from as close as the Boston area and from as far away as Singapore.

When I first learned about this conference, I thought that it was about iPads.  I attended sessions such as:

   – “Building the Successful iPad Classroom”;

   – “Connected Learning with iPads & Moodle”;

   – “Creating an iPad Classroom: iPad vs. Product”;

   – “EvidenceWorks on iPad”;

   – “From Possibilities to Practices: How the iPad is Changing Science Instruction”;

   – “Getting Your Entire School Community on Board with (1:1) iPads”;

   – “iPads in the Middle / High School Classroom Panel Discussion”;

   – “Learning Spaces and iPads – A Paradigm Shift for Educators”;

   – “Planning for iPads: Avoiding the Boogeyman in the Closet”‘ and

   – “Preparing & Supporting the iPad Teacher.”

I learned what other teachers are doing at their schools with iPads and other forms of technology, including what’s working and what’s not working.  Probably the best session that I attended was an all-day pre-conference workshop, “The iPad Classroom.” <http://tinyurl.com/kiangETT>  After introductions, we were presented with our first iPad challenge during which we demonstrated gestures to quickly accomplish a dozen tasks.  Other iPad challenges included: using text-to-speech (in a foreign language) on Safari, annotating documents with Notability, and navigating an eBook downloaded from the Internet with iBooks.  Our final iPad challenge was to produce (in 25 minutes) a screencast introducing visitors to the conference center building.  Over the course of the day, I experienced how to use the iPad in three different ways: 1) to consume information (e.g., digital organization), 2) to curate information (e.g., digital note taking), and 3) to create information (e.g, audio & video storytelling).  The workshop facilitator provided us with minimal explanation about specific applications or workflow to submit our completed assignments.  However, I did not find that this stood in our way.  While some of us in the room had previously used certain tools, nobody was an expert and we all had an enjoyable, productive experience that was focused on learning.

What I took from the session was that control does not always serve individual learners well in an educational or work environment. There are many paths to go from Point A to Point B, and each of us had our own individualized, personal, yet collaborative, journey that day.  By not having a prescribed map, I was forced to think about the choices that I was making and why.  For those who have not yet developed resilience, this can be a challenging experience.  Risk taking and mistakes are essential elements of this process, and I experienced them.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the session and the opportunity to be a student.

The following morning, the conference keynote speaker was Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators, and Innovation Education Fellow at Harvard’s Technology & Entrepreneurship Center.  During this presentation, he expanded upon some of the ideas from “The iPad Classroom” workshop.  Tony began with what we already know: the world has changed and knowledge is now free and easily accessible.  This has rapidly changed the definition of work.  Unlike the past, the nature of most work now is non-routine and highly skilled.

In thinking about how school prepares students, Tony described seven skills that all students will need in the workforce:

  1. critical thinking and problem solving;

  2. collaboration across networks and leading by influence;

  3. agility and adaptability;

  4. initiative and entrepreneurship;

  5. effective oral and written communication skills;

  6. accessing and analyzing information; and

  7. curiosity and imagination.

Within the context of the rapidly changing world, Tony moved on to “innovation.”  Rather than making it a cliched buzzword, he provided a very simple definition: “An innovator is a creative problem solver in any discipline.”  Given this, Tony then described several contradictions between contemporary school culture and innovation.  School culture is traditionally a passive experience in which extrinsic motivation celebrates success, individual achievement, and specialization.  On the other hand, innovation is an active, creative experience that celebrates intrinsic motivation, risk taking, mistakes, collaboration, and team work within a multidisciplinary context.  When considered against the backdrop of the seven skills that all students will need, innovation becomes a compelling paradigm with which to examine contemporary education.  Tony described three strategies (already employed by many parents and teachers) that encourage and foster innovation: discovery-based play, passion coupled with resilience, and a sense of purpose (e.g., giving back and making a difference).  He concluded with the observation that the skills for work, learning, and citizenship have converged for the first time in history, presenting educators with an opportunity.

Since the iPad Summit, I’ve thought a lot about the following questions:

  1. What do change and innovation look like in school?

  2. How do educators go about achieving change and innovation in school?

  3. Why are change and innovation in school necessary to prepare students for the world today and the future?

I would be happy to connect with others who are interested in exploring these questions.

About Westtown School

Westtown School is a Pre-K through 12th grade Quaker, coed, college preparatory day and boarding school in West Chester, PA.
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One Response to iPad Summit

  1. Celeste, I know you found this a wonderful experience. I think Wagner’s definition of an innovator as a problem solver gives a good framework for helping everyone find their inner innovator. What I would like us to work towards are problems that for our students span classes and disciplines.

    Here is another blogger’s take on the summit.

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