Apologies for the lack of posts over the past few months. It’s been a very busy time for everyone here at Trinity College Foundation Studies. In late April we got the go ahead to proceed to the final stage of our pilot program – the full rollout of iPads to all new students enrolled in our Foundation Studies programs, from 2012. This exciting news and the certainty it brings has given the “Step Forward Program” a new surge of energy and activity.
Foremost among the activities taking up much of our attention is supporting over eighty teachers to further develop their expertise in mobile technology, and integrate the iPad into their teaching practices. We are currently planning and working towards another pilot with students in the August and September intakes in 2011. This will be a chance to further experiment, conduct some quality research and evaluation, and refine our approaches before commencing with our main programs from February 2012.
To this end, the staff training schedule to prepare for this innovative teaching and learning environment is taking a broad approach, with an overall aim of enhancing the considerable experience and professional expertise of our teaching staff. Teachers are the experts in their disciplines, and their insights and reflections about the overall aims of their subjects must shape and guide the development of curriculum. In some circumstances developing proficiency with a new piece of technology becomes a primary goal for professional development – but this is only a small part of the overall picture. A focus on the tool would detract substantially from the main objective of such a large and new kind of training program. Attention much be centred on the outcomes for students, and the creation of stimulating, engaging and challenging curriculum which still meets the requirements of each discipline area in a way which satisfies teachers’ professional standards.
The issue of staff professional development is proving to be a topic of much interesting discussion among many schools and colleges undertaking 1:1 iPad programs world wide – along with the hot topics of deployment, device management, student responses to mobile technology in the classroom, and curriculum development. Trinity feels privileged to be one of the front-runners in a widespread movement embracing mobile learning technologies.
So, what’s on the training program?
So far, we have had a series of introductory sessions on basic navigation and touch skills, device management, file management (importing and exporting), using cloud servers, using iWork – including embedding videos in Keynote presentations (the most popular session so far); using your iPad as a research and resource collection tool, and engaging students with interactive and annotation applications. A framework of building and sharing expertise has supported most of these sessions, with teachers sharing their ideas with one another, and helping their colleagues to master tricky steps and concepts. It is anticipated that much of the discipline specific curriculum development will occur within departments, but the iPadStaff Wiki Server has been a great support for teachers, and enabled much sharing of information and ideas across disciplines.
Future staff training is planned in the areas of integrating the Moodle LMS with iPads to distribute materials, set quizzes, and get real-time survey feedback; developing e-books with Pages, and exploring the potential of social media to connect with students and share resources.
Perhaps most importantly, we are exploring ways to re-design curriculum to enhance students’ abilities to create content, work collaboratively, and develop a sense of themselves as producers of valuable knowledge and ideas, rather than simply being consumers of it. We see the iPad as an important tool to enable this focus, as it can facilitate students’ abilities to build expertise and to collect and evaluate information, but then – with the support of their teachers – students can transform that information into new knowledge which can empower them to see themselves as experts.
Over the next month we will be working collaboratively to determine a set of required and recommended applications for August Entry and September students to have on their iPads. So far there appears to some good intersections which will mean less cost for students, and a good basis for staff to continue to share their experiences of various applications with one another. As we progress closer, we will post a preliminary list of the applications we are requiring / recommending students to purchase. Stay tuned!