The first year of launching the “iPad Initaitive” at my school (2012) as the ICT Coordinator, was very exciting. Due to budgetary reasons the school invested in an iPad cart that housed 24 ipads – to kickstart the pilot program. Ten teachers who volunteered to give their time and were willing to explore teaching and learning through iPads were pleasantly surprised when they also received an iPad each.
It was a year full of exploration- this App and that App- an App for this and an App for that – which was great fun. It almost seemed like a digitized version of Old McDonald’s farm…an App App here and an App App there… with me often zipping around the school corridors with the iPad cart…to deliver the ipads for the teachers (we later fixed this with an on-line booking system that was put in place).
At the end of the year, my reflection on the initiative highlighted that most of our App usage were simply either a one-off usage, or lessons with more traditional modes of content delivered with small pieces of digital interactivity – lessons peppered here and there with some App or the other that the teachers were excited about. Is this what we actually wanted? How were all these exciting lessons with the iPads and App explorations actually helping students in their deep learning and accessing areas of knowledge that they could not access with traditional methods of learning?
I then went back to re-read the SAMR and the TPACK models – models that help us in moving through the process of integrating technology – integrating technology simply for the thrill of it, to thoughtfully and purposefully integrating technology so as to enable students reach their zone of proximal development.
Here’s when I realized and unpacked the potential of iTunes U. iTunes U not only fixed the problem, but revolutionized the way teachers conceptualized and planned their lessons. iTunes U offered the immense and much needed opportunity for students to engage in learning at their own pace. It enabled to contextualize the use of Apps (Apps embedded within the content areas) and also helped pull together the various ‘favorite Apps’ of teachers and students within the context of learning- to access content, to collaborate, debate and discuss, for students to personalize their learning style and pace, and to facilitate higher order thinking and conceptual engagement.
The end of the next year, saw teachers launching courses in Arabic Language and Literature, Islamic Studies, Information Technology in a global Society and International Baccalaureate Higher level Physics, just to name a few. Was a it a ‘project well completed’? Perhaps not. But was it a great project with a huge learning curve that set up the stage for further learning? Certainly YES!!
If you have your own experiences in developing courses in iTunes U or using iPads in general, please do share you thoughts below. I am eager to know and learn.