School Tools and Tips:
Two Standout Schools
Deer Path Middle School and Hawthorn Elementary North are two top public schools in suburban Chicago located about 20 minutes away from each other. The schools regularly come in near the top of the rankings on state tests, and their reputations draw families to the area from all over. Deer Path and Hawthorn Elementary North are close not only geographically, but also in the way they approach education technology.
In recent years, both schools have provided iPads to students. They also both searched for fast-charging, kid-friendly tech solutions to augment the iPads and support academic development. And in the end, both chose Logitech products—the Rugged Combo 3 Touch and Crayon—to help students achieve their fullest learning potential.
Managing Student Devices
Despite all their similarities, to manage the way students use their devices, Deer Path and Hawthorn Elementary North have set different policies. While there’s no “right” or “wrong” way, both schools acknowledge there are pros and cons. At Hawthorn Elementary North, students have the option of taking their iPad and case home, but the Crayons stay in the classroom. This means teachers can be sure the Crayons will be fully charged when it’s time to use them. If a Hawthorn student does take a Crayon home by mistake though, teachers don’t need to panic, since the Crayon can charge enough in less than one class period to last an entire school day.
Deer Path, like Hawthorn Elementary North, is comfortable trusting the Rugged Combo 3 Touch’s military-grade durability to protect the iPads even if they are put through some less-than-gentle treatment when students take them home. However, Deer Path students are also required to take the Crayons home, so kids there have to make sure their Crayons are charged for the next day. This policy creates a culture of responsibility that school officials view as a benefit.
Professional Development and Collaborative Training
While neither school’s staff and students went through much formal training with their new devices, both schools agree that professional development or coaching is important to consider when deploying edtech. Deer Path and Hawthorn Elementary North both say they might do some things differently if they could introduce their devices all over again.
For example, they note that schools might want to provide guidance for teachers, kids, and parents in the form of a practice week, so that users could spend a few days learning a device before it’s brought out for real in classes. That practice period would probably be even more effective if it included formal training or professional development with outside resources. Also, Deer Path and Hawthorn Elementary North say other schools can help all learners integrate new technology into their lives by:
- Allowing for changes to the original plan or schedule drawn up around the tech, and
- Creating a culture where it’s OK to ask for help
Traditional professional development can be a great benefit, but schools should not discount the training that tech users can get collaboratively from each other either. Katie Waggoner, Principal of Hawthorn Elementary North has implemented a collaborative training model, where teachers share tech insights with each other: “We do something here at our staff meetings called ‘Teacher Tips.’ If I find someone who has discovered a new function of a product or done something transformative with it, I give them the opportunity to share that with their colleagues. That has been the primary tool we have in place of what you normally think of as professional development.”
Surprises along the Way
As Deer Path and Hawthorn Elementary North have watched students interacting with edtech, there have been some surprises. When Deer Path first introduced iPads, for example, student and parent feedback quickly revealed that the lack of an external keyboard made certain types of schoolwork difficult. After waiting to see if the difficulty would persist beyond an initial adjustment period, the school began searching for a case and keyboard, and landed on the Rugged Combo 3 Touch.
Mostly though, the surprises have been very pleasant, revolving around students’ innovative uses for the Logitech products and their knack for unlocking new dimensions of technology. Colene Hardy, an Instructional Technology Coach at Deer Path, has noticed how student creativity gives the RC3 a versatility beyond what its designers imagined. Students at her school have made the RC3 part of their daily routines, from green screening with their iPads on the school’s magnetic whiteboards, to recording themselves with the RC3 stuck to their lockers. “The magnetic case on the [RC3] has been really wonderful,” Hardy says.
Final Pro Tips from These Schools
There will always be wrinkles to iron out after introducing edtech. Hawthorn Elementary North and Deer Path Schools agree schools should make gathering feedback from students, parents and teachers a priority, so they can adjust their approach if needed. It might be helpful to use a feedback schedule that winds down gradually, with schools soliciting feedback less and less often over time, but leaving channels open for new comments to come in.
Consider the Curriculum
Choosing the right device and possibly revising the curriculum can allow for devices to be incorporated in multiple subjects throughout the day. John Reid, Director of Instructional Technology at Hawthorn Elementary, puts it like this: “No matter what device we went with for our elementary students, we wanted it to be something they could use just as easily in math, music, art or science.”
There’s Nothing Wrong with Starting Small
At first, students may engage with new tech in small ways, as substitutes for tools they already know, but over time they are likely to discover deeper and more meaningful uses. Colene Hardy has observed her students taking their tablets from mere replacements of old tech to assets that provide unique and powerful benefits. “Sometimes, teachers see SAMR or another educational theory and think it is bad to use technology for substitution, but with us it is okay to start with substitution. Most technology tools automatically augment the old way of doing things anyway, for instance, switching from writing with paper and pencil to writing on a Google Doc is not merely substitution; it automatically corrects grammar and spelling and offers real-time collaboration. Now, students are using devices to work on collaborative research projects and creating virtual reality games. Starting with the basics is not a bad thing.”
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