In the last Data Snapshot, we shared views of DPVILS students about this past year and differences technology and the project had made in their perceptions and experiences with school. While student responses were mostly from just two schools, we acknowledged that the picture they painted was limited, but we did find compelling and provocative perspectives from the 800+ students who did respond.
That same week we asked DPVILS’ teachers to share their views of the road just ahead—What new items, tasks, and challenges will you face over the summer as you prepare for next year? and we asked them to take a quick look in the rearview mirror too—What victories, lessons, and concerns can you share about your experience this past year?
One hundred and seven (107) staff helped out, responding from the following schools and in the percentages below.
The importance of what these teachers shared is that they have begun filling in a roadmap for the staffs of 13 new partner middle schools who are revving up their engines for the fall. What can we tell them? If your strongest advice or reaction from the project is not represented below, please let us know through the Data Snapshot blog. Let’s help new staff avoid as many potholes and blind curves as we can, and also point out some of the fantastic scenes that no traveler on the educational technology highway should miss. Here’s what we saw in our responders’ words.
First, 99 responders absolutely indicated that there WERE things they needed to plan for and new skills to gain over the summer because of this project. Only eight said they’d be doing nothing different over the summer. That, of course, just might mean those eight routinely spend their summers learning new things—hard to know. At the very least, we can surmise that this project’s teachers are looking for solutions, strategies, and means to solve problems or improve on the experiences they had this past year.
Second, notably, only five themes were repeated in the data more than 10 times. The clearest and most often cited theme described the importance of applications (apps) for the tablets and learning to use them. Twenty-seven (27) responders said they’d be focusing on or needed to learn new apps over the summer. Twenty-two (22) responders reported on the apps that made the most difference in their classrooms this year (Google Docs, Google Classroom, NearPod, Learning Ally, Kahoot, Edmoto, Adobe Draw, Keynote). Twenty-two responders (22) said they hoped for more and better training in the coming year. Seven (7) responders noted they needed help in finding apps and content worth using. Three others noted that finding and learning to use new apps is a very time-intensive process.
There was an interesting difference of opinion expressed in the data regarding introducing apps to classes for the first time. Several teachers were adamant about the importance of becoming expert with applications before introducing them in the class, while several others pointed to their belief that the students themselves were terrific at figuring out how to use apps and teaching others about them. A small group felt the introduction of a new app or technology should proceed flawlessly; another group felt that there was merit in students and teachers learning together. Characteristic of this latter group was this belief:
“Teachers and students can learn from one another when engaging in innovation, when willing to take risks, and when there is patience and trust.”
In these moments these teachers felt they had a chance to model learning for their students, including how to learn even when things go wrong:
“It’s okay if they struggle–and it’s okay if I struggle, as long as we are learning!”
“Innovation takes risk. Risk takes guts. It is not easy, but worth it.”
In the “worth it” list, 39 responses boiled down to the following:
There was also a long list of caveats and needs. Responders’ caveats are simply those things they believe are important to consider for improving success in the project. Their list of needs hint at problems that occurred this year and what’s required for the project to improve. (See the charts below.)
We hope this Snapshot of the end-of-year teacher Fast Facts might underscore a single message for current and next year’s teachers and staffs: The effort to improve learning and instruction through the integration of the daily use of tablets in our emerging learning culture is NOT easy, but for some—hopefully many—it can be SO rewarding. We end, then, with tales from two responders. The first describes what must have been a terrible day. The second reminds us about our aspirations, about why we’re working so hard at getting this right. Every true saga, every drama, has its low and high points, its tears and laughter. We bet these might remind you of yours.
A very bad day. . .
“Our district wiped and re-imaged our iPads this morning and the students lost everything. We are currently completing a culminating report- and because the district did not notify us of their intentions, the kids lost everything that was not saved to Drive. :0( We need notice before something like that happens- the kids worked hours and hours on their presentations, and now they are gone.”
Why we do what we do. . .
“Watching our students view themselves as capable learners. Recently a few of Armstrong’s Tiger Techs presented to educators and administrators at a technology workshop held at the county’s Intermediate Unit. I watched the kids as they boarded the bus, they were standing a little taller, walked with a bit of swag and they exuded pride in themselves. As a special education, as a varsity coach, I have witnessed first hand that perceiving yourself as capable is the first step in learning. I have watched all of my Tiger Techs grow into more confident and capable learners over these past months. I believe this is the most important goal of the technology!”