Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lessons Learned - iPad Implementation Week One

I spent more hours than I would like to admit on my lesson plans for week one of my iPad pilot project. It was a little overwhelming with all that needed to be done, because I wanted to present the perfect strategies for my first go at this new venture. I knew I was going to flip my classroom, and my focus was on comprehension and fluency at the seventh grade level. I would create one lesson for each time my students and I met. They would listen to me teach the lesson at home, do a short fluency activity, and email me a recording of themselves reading. Then, they would come to class the next day ready to discuss the more difficult comprehension piece together.

I briefly considered using iBooks Author to create my lessons but decided instead of taking on another new learning curve, I would stick with what I already knew. I used Pages to create three beautifully designed ePub books for my students to use in the free app iBooks. I spent hours getting everything in the right place. My inline objects were perfect, and I recorded and re-recorded my voice for my ebooks till everything was impeccable.  I strategically placed photos of the students throughout my document so they would feel a sense of ownership in what we were doing.
Everything was grounded in research, and I even cited all my sources!  I had created a masterpiece and was confident I was ready for my first day of class!
I arrived at school early. My iPad group would meet first thing in the morning during a 30 minute resource period. We had already gone through all the rules and procedures the week before, so I handed out the iPads. I began the process of helping everyone get their Gmail set up in their Mail App so they could send me their first in class assignment. I was as EXCITED as the kids! 30 minutes later... “What was my password again?” “I need my cell phone to validate my Gmail.” “I forgot my password...” “Me too.” “My email doesn't work.” You get the picture. I never got to my lesson. It was all about the technology!
I arrived at school early. I was excited. On Tuesday I had worked out all our email problems, and I was ready to start my beautifully designed lessons. “I want you to use iTalk Recorder to record yourself reading this short segment, and email it to me.” - - Oh no! Not again! -- “I forgot my password.” “It says I have to re-enter my password.” “Me Too.” Sigh... 

Sometimes I forget I teach 7th grade, and this is so age appropriate! This was a “teachable moment.” We used the always reliable, often used by adults, sticky note method of remembering our passwords. This isn't the White House, so for now we are going to keep our sticky notes right in our iPad cases. (Yes, I reminded students about password safety. At this point, what choice did I have but to stick it to the device, and it was a better option than their foreheads!) Once we have them memorized, we will transfer the sticky note to our locker... in case we forget again.  Remember, I teach 7th grade. 

We moved on to learning how to use iTalk Recorder, and all the kids were successful in emailing the first reading activity to me. I assigned the students the first ePub book and asked them to view it and do a fluency assignment before Friday
The short fluency assignments were due on Friday, but my "In Box" started filling up on Wednesday after school. It was actually quite exciting. I got emails after school, before dinner, after dinner, at bedtime, and even one at 1:00 a.m. (What was that kid doing up so late?) Seventh graders doing homework before the deadline? These assignments weren't due until Friday! What was happening to my students?

I arrived on time bracing myself for the “password issue.” Would I ever get to my wonderful, hand-crafted lessons? Good news; the sticky notes worked! Everyone was able to use email, and we moved on to discuss the take home lesson. I had flipped my first class! The kids were motivated, and I had 100% participation and homework completion!

I often use my only quiet moments of the day (driving home) to think about the success and failures of my teaching. My personal lessons for the week would not be forgotten. 

- First, do a nice job, but don't go for the Academy Award on your flipped classroom ePub lessons. Give yourself permission not to be perfect! Flipping a classroom is a lot of work. On a normal weekend, I wouldn't have 12 hours to plan for the week, and it is okay for kids to hear you make a mistake when you are talking or reading! Take away the perfectionism and allow the kids to see you as human. As long as nobody is flushing the toilet in the background as you speak (I re-recorded this take.), you sound fabulous the first time!

- Second, I didn't really need to learn this, more likely be reminded as it has happened so many times before. The first time you do something technology related, it really is all about the technology. You always hear people saying kids know more than what adults do about technology, but I am not convinced. I think they are more intuitive and catch on faster once they get started, but as far as knowing the technology when they walk in my door – not!
Week one was over! We had all learned, and besides... None of our iPads were broken this week!