This week I was thrilled to finally see a little bit of technology being used in the classroom. At the end of science lessons about the water cycle and temperature, my cooperating teacher had the students take turns using the Seasons app on her iPad under the docucam so all could see. (I did tell my cooperating teacher about how she can reflect the iPad on to her computer for future use). Even though this app says it is for preschoolers and kindergarteners, our first graders loved finding the unsuitable clothes or items in each picture for whichever season was showing. This app is definitely better than a worksheet where students might circle what was out of place for the season, because when they clicked on the incorrect item, it changed to an appropriate one. All of the students were engaged and dying to have a turn!
Jeff Utecht’s blog Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom and Steve Inskeep’s interview with Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy about the district’s $1 billion iPad initiative have me wondering if technology is often used as a Band-Aid by administrators to show they are keeping up with the times and working towards improving their students’ understanding of technology. This is not to say that technology cannot aid teachers and students immensely in the classroom when used correctly and productively. My bigger question is can it be used properly when adequate and ongoing professional development for teachers is not provided or sufficient. In a Los Angeles Times article, it states that teachers received three days of training for the new iPad use AND the state’s new learning standards. (Curriculum by Pearson Publ. adhering to the Common Core came preloaded on the iPads). These seem like two enormous topics that perhaps should not have been lumped together, and after witnessing experienced teachers in their new multi-million dollar school struggle with a new literacy curriculum after only receiving a few hours of training regarding it, I wonder if money would be better spent paying teachers for their time to really learn new teaching methods well instead of on fancy devices or facilities (or most preferably in addition to).
Prior to starting this teaching certification program, a friend on the board of my daughter’s previous elementary school’s foundation complained that hardly any of the teachers attended training on how to use the iPads the foundation had purchased for the teachers. What I failed to think of or ask at that time was, “When was this training? Who chose the type of training? Did they know it was quality training? Were the teachers paid for their time? Had the teachers told the foundation that iPads were something they wanted in their classrooms?”
It seems to me that the same evidence based teaching methods that teachers are required to practice (rightly so) with their students also should be required of teachers’ training and ongoing professional development. Right now, LAUSD teachers are enthusiastic and gave the training high approval ratings, so hopefully this $500 million project ($30 million spent so far) will be an example of how to do technology in the classroom on a broad scale the right way (LA Daily News & LA School Report). I’m sure every tax payer in Los Angeles, especially the school board and Superintendent Deasy are hoping so, but I’m mostly hoping so for the teachers and their students.