iPads in the Classroom at Clay Hill Elementary School
We welcome guest blogger Tracey S. Kendrick, Principal of Clay Hill Elementary, Jacksonville, Florida
In the Summer of 2013 the Assistant Superintendent for Information Services met with me about a district pilot of iPads in one classroom at Clay Hill Elementary. CHE is a Title I school so some of those funds were able to be used to supplement this pilot, as I could not imagine having to decide the one class to receive the iPads. When the Director of Title I found out what I was planning he visited my school to learn the details of my plan. He agreed to contribute funds to expand my iPad order and ordered 90 additional iPads. This added iPads for each sixth grader and one class of fourth graders. As a result, in total, all students in grades 5 and 6 and one 4th grade class received iPads for our 1:1 initiative. Presently, we are in the process of ordering iPads for the rest of the 4th grade and all of the 3rd grade.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks on our road to successful iPad implementation was WiFi coverage and bandwidth. The Information Services department had to install new access points and optimize the access points we already had. We also found that we did not have enough bandwidth. Every time I launched a new App to the 200+ iPads on campus we exceeded our bandwidth and took every other Internet based function off line. Eventually though we did get our bandwidth more than doubled and that was very helpful.
As the building principal, I met with each teacher who would interact with those students carrying iPads and described my vision for the use of the iPads and solicited their opinion and assistance in leading that initiative forward. Together, our vision for iPad implementation is that the device is essentially "owned" by that student and the student uses it as a notebook, textbook, dictionary, and as Internet access, an opportunity to explore the world we live in and share what they learn with the devices.
Faculty meetings included extensive conversations about what this initiative would look like, and what student behavior we expected. We agreed that every teacher would take ownership of this initiative and do their part to move the initiative forward. In the days prior to iPad roll-out a day was set aside for common planning involving every teacher who would be working with the iPad students. This included the classroom teachers, Drop-out Prevention teacher, Media Specialist, Technology teacher, the teacher of the Gifted, Exceptional Student Education teacher, and administration. Teachers reviewed Apps, discussed rules for student use, and how to best begin using the iPads as a teaching tool. This group of teachers participated in several other daylong planning sessions throughout the year. The team decided to not disable iPad features such as the camera but rather teach the students responsible use of these iPad features.
Our media specialist became responsible for buying eBooks. Now, we at CHE have the largest collection of eBook titles in the district. She taught students how to access eBooks. She also taught students how to use Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. This team of teachers also planned a "district-wide share session" to help develop other teachers in the district in the implementation and use of iPads. This was well attended and has led to greater collaboration amongst teachers at various schools.
We agreed to treat the students with the expectation that they would demonstrate responsible behaviors. We gave every student in those grade levels an iPad including the students for whom we had behavior concerns. We were not disappointed. Students worked every day to prove to us that they deserved the devices and were using them responsibly. To that end our technology teacher took on the task of teaching Digital citizenship to the students and also taught parents about digital citizenship at a Technology Night.
There is a continuum of implementation and so we encouraged teachers to start where they were on the continuum and move forward at their own pace. The results of this initiative are far-reaching and measurable. Discipline problems ceased in 6th grade and declined in the other two grades. The sixth grade student, who was the most frequent visitor to my office and at high risk to drop out of school, stopped coming for visits. That same student earned a level 4 in reading on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. That score will enable that sixth grader to be in advanced classes at the Junior High next year. Timely intervention in this young man's life and the knowledge that we trusted him with this valuable device may have changed the course of his life. Other data we have from this pilot is that the 4th grade improved in the percentage of students on or above grade level by 24% in reading, 5th grade almost every student made learning gains, 6th grade had a 22% increase in reading on or above grade level. In analyzing student gains we found that our most disadvantaged students made the largest gains on FCAT. Almost every student made gains in the area of reading in 5th and 6th grades. Those grade levels that were aided by the use of this technology, focused on students' reading. Students synthesized what they read and through the applications used in this technology were able to create productions and presentations which we believe helped lead to these significant reading gains.
My recommendation to other leaders is to begin by developing a vision for the use of technology; funding and support of the IT department follows. Effective communication with faculty and parents are essential. Teachers must be supported, given opportunities for learning and planning. The classroom I envisioned was such a departure from what is the norm, teachers had to be given permission to try and fail and try again. It is working. This has been an exciting year and we are ready to build on our success.