This past summer, our team of Head of School, principals, IT members and teachers spent countless of hours researching, testing, playing, and learning about iPads in schools and how our school, Brauser Maimonides Academy could jump on the mobile device in education bandwagon. The first hurdle was winning the Administration over. There number one concern was cost and overall benefit. Where are we going to get the money to pay for tablets for all of our Middle School students? Can we ask parents to buy one for their child? What are the students going to be doing with the iPads in class? Lot’s of worrisome questions and concerns came over them. After a generous contribution to support an iPad program at our school and research supporting the benefits of ipads in the classroom, the next hurdle was the teachers. OK teachers, here is an iPad, use it in the classroom to help motivate, collaborate, and integrate technology into your curriculum. Huh? Sitting in the room with 20 Middle School teachers after just giving them an iPad to take home for the summer was a glimpse into how all adults view technology today. Some had never used one before and took some time to figure it out. Others thought it was so awesome and started to download their favorite free iPad apps almost immediately. A couple sat in the corner with a look at disgust thinking “ I am a good teacher, I don’t need or want this thing in my classroom.” An of course, those few educators looked at me with a gleam in their eyes saying “It’s about time!”. Thankfully, after months of “alone time” with their iPads, a full week of iPad in the classroom training at teacher orientation and finally, 2 weeks of iPad classroom experience. Our school can proudly say that our Middle School teachers are 21st century educators! Wow! The excitement and creativity that our educators embraced has transformed their teaching and our students learning. Needless to say that our students have welcomed the iPads into their school day just like the first time a young child is given a crayon and paper to draw a picture! It was so natural for these digital kids to embrace the iPad as an extension of their mind! After initial training sessions on what to “really” do with the iPad in class, for example, note taking and recording homework assignments, and two weeks of school, I don’t think these students can ever go back to the way things were again! The students seem to have a happier aura about them in the classroom. There have been many incidents after only two weeks of teachers sharing stories with me of their success in the classroom and with an individual student who has begun to excel, finally, with the use of the iPad. If this is just the first 2 weeks, I can’t wait for the rest of the year!
After administrators, teachers, students, the final group, the biggest challenge was our parent body. “Are you giving my child total and unlimited access to the internet?” “This is going to be a complete distraction, the kids are going to play games all day long!” “I just don’t see how this toy will help my child in school” After two weeks of school with just a couple of lengthy parent emails communicating their concern about texting and emailing and just one or two positive comments. It was Back to School night. My hands shivered, my knees shook, my forehead was drenched! We had prepared a short presentation addressing only a few key features to our iPad pilot program. What do we want to accomplish during this time. How we want to accomplish it and how this will help our student. We mentioned the few areas of concern that parents were thinking, texting, internet firewalls, and classroom supervision. And then there was silence. The parents did a walk through to their middle schoolers classrooms with their child’s ipad in tow. From class to class, teacher to teacher they were shown by example, how it is to be a kid with an iPad at BMA. Let’s just say that the overall impression from the parents was more positive and thankful then we could have anticipated.
It has been an amazing feeling of achievement for our school in this short period of time and this feeling will inspire us to move forward with our pilot program until we are no longer piloting but soaring!!