St. Paul Pioneer Press 08-30-14: "iPad training for teachers targets personalized lessons"

real hi res jpgResolving the achievement differences among our diverse K12 learners is so like a catacomb that well-meaning reformers hardly know where to begin. They’ve all got hold of a huge, lumbering pachyderm and, being dragged along, are unable to change direction, period.

Tugging won’t do it for the pachyderm-reformers, and neither will the iPads alone do it for the kids. Or the teachers, either. New hammers alone won’t do it for the carpenters….but a good blueprint and a good hammer together can change things. Maybe not instantly, but a lot sooner and more cost effective than the “Ready, shoot, aim!” method. Sadly, we are seeing far too much leaping before they look.

The same holds true for ed-tech strategies in K12 education. First off, what’s the plan (goals, delivery, measures, reports)? Only then should come the question, “What is the best set of tools to make it happen. Is the iPad among the right tools to make it happen?”

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Truth told, I’ve not been in classrooms since retirement, but I’m still going to bet that in a typical class of 30 kids, 5 or 6 will know far more about iPads and mobile technology than many teachers ever will. They know what it’s good for, and what it’s not.

Sure teacher training can help. It’s not necessarily the teachers’ lack of interest in iPads that makes this difficult at best, but they have far too little time and far too much expected of them already.

If someone else has a better idea, We’d love to hear your comments on our homepage: realexperiencesatlife.com/comments

So, what should we do? Well, here’s our Master Plan:  First off, we need a PLAN. Here’s one we think could work, and you are hereby challenged to send us another good idea.

Classroom!What can good teachers do to learn, get up to speed, feel confident about using the iPad productively in their classroom?  Here’s one: enlist those half-dozen tech-savvy kids and put them in charge of teams of 5 kids, each of which has chosen a class project to design, create, evaluate and present to the class…let them choose their own and submit it to you….one that meets an agreed-upon project checklist or rubric.

imagesHere’s what I’ve seen happen: many of your kids will show you skills you thought they never could learn. But with Project-based Learning teaming, they can often amaze you with their projects.

Best of all, they will never forget what they’ve done, especially if they show up at the class reunion 25 years later. “Do you remember our first iPad class project, Josh? Why, I sure do!”

Teachers need software and mobile apps from companies like RE@L who provide much more than the programs that run on iPads. They also need vendor support: lesson plans, goals, objectives, activities, project ideas, resources, checklists to evaluate student projects. Too many vendors simply can’t do this. A few do. RE@L is one of them. Tell us if you know any others and we will feature them here on our blog.

My 5th grade grand-daughter is a tech-helper in her classroom. She helps other kids, and also helps the teachers with their mobile technology issues. Ed Tech is changing so fast these days, few can keep up. I can’t. She can. I’m not embarrassed to say how much I’ve learned from her. I’m just grateful for the help. This is far more like teaching someone how to fish than giving them a fish.

Teams of teachers and students, and other students and other teachers are a wonderful, workable way to learn new things together. Build a team. You and your learners will never forget it! Plan your work and work your plan. Success is a feeling more kids need. RE@L can RE@L-ly help!

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.

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