Goodhue Independent School District #253
510 Third Ave.
Goodhue, MN 55027
OFFICERS Telephone 651-923-4447 Fax 651-923-4083 DIRECTORS
Wayne Hahn, Chair www.goodhue.net Ann Buck
Mike Kehren, Vice Chair Tris Danielson
Donald “Rocky” Ramboldt, Treasurer Robert Bangston, Superintendent
Dan Ryan, Clerk Mike Harvey, High School Principal
Mark Opsahl, Elementary Principal
NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grant Final Report
Project Summary. In May 2009, after being awarded the NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grant, applications to participate in a year-long program exploring the integration of mobile technologies was placed in mailboxes of staff members at Goodhue Public Schools. Twenty-two staff members indicated that they would like to participate in this program. Participants received an iPod Touch and in exchange agreed to meet once a month to discuss the potential iPods, mp3 players, cellphones, and personal gaming devices might have in the classroom. They also agreed to participate monthly in an open online forum where they could share their experiences, respond to posts made by members of the online community, share lesson plan ideas, and network with educators from other schools interested in this topic. A couple weeks after the application deadline we passed out twenty-two iPod Touches to these staff members and held our introductory meeting.
At that introductory meeting we established group norms, went over member responsibilities both to each other and to ourselves, and introduced the project website, iTeach Mobile [http://iteachmobile.ning.com]. For the summer, we did not hold any formal meetings. Participants were instructed to get to know their iPods, explore them for personal and professional use, and spend some time testing out applications they could download from the iTunes App Store. We also shared links to podcasts that could be used for professional development.
In the first three months we quickly realized that the iPod Touch, the iPhone, and other smart devices were really more valuable as an access point to other web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter, Delicious, and YouTube. The device sparked increased teacher interest in these other technologies and this was measured by a spike in the number of staff members utilizing our online staff technology training on web 2.0 topics.
We also came to realize that these devices are particularly personal in their interface and are highly customizable to fit one’s own personal needs. The value these devices can provide is maximized through customization. This realization is starting to shape how we recommend policy changes regarding personal computing devices and shaping how we as a district decide to move to a 1:1 school. Whether 1:1 is achieved with laptops, netbooks, iPod Touches, or another device it is clear that students would be best served if they are allowed to customize their own devices to fit their own learning styles and curricular needs.
When school resumed in September 2009 we held our first iTeach Mobile PLC meeting. There we decided on a monthly meeting time and shared our experiences with our iPods over the summer. Experiences varied greatly. Most staff were interested in what applications people found useful. Most teachers in the project were comfortable with their iPods and had figured out how to browse the internet, download applications, check their email, and listen to podcasts. Still, a small number of staff felt lost and required some one on one consultation to catch up with the rest of the group. The shift in digital literacy skills needed to make full use of one of these devices was easier for some teachers than others.
Over the summer of 2009 our school district updated all server equipment and installed a robust wireless network for our school. When we returned in the fall our administration announced a new policy regarding student-owned computers. Students would be allowed to bring their own laptop computers and be given access to our wireless network. It was also decided that, on a trial basis, teachers could allow students to use iPod Touches and Smartphones in the classroom if they were used for learning purposes. The presence of student-owned personal computing devices freed up lab space and gave access to a broader range of students. However, this decision immediately brought to light an equity issue that still needs to be addressed.
In October I began work on a directory of apps useful to education [http://tinyurl.com/n8ml7u]. This directory emulates the iPod Touch and links in the directory are direct to the iTunes App store. On the computer these links open iTunes to the download page and on the iPod or iPhone these links prompt users to download the app. In our October session I gave a presentation on the applications I found most powerful for education both for curricular use and for personal use. These included:
However, I soon realized that there was no way to keep up with the plethora of apps available from iTunes and stopped adding to this directory content with what exists there as a good starting point for beginners. I may go back to this and update this directory from time to time but there is no way it can be comprehensive directory of educational apps for the iPod Touch and iPhone.
At our November iTeach Mobile PLC meeting our attention turned to mobile computing in more broad terms. Rather than focusing on an individual device we posed two distinct questions that apply across all of these devices: What new learning possibilities exist when every student has access to the internet in the classroom? and What challenges does ubiquitous access pose? We had a lengthy discussion that spilled over onto our iTeach Mobile website. We will return to these questions in the spring.
As part of this project it was important to gather some information about the current realities our students face. Specifically, we wanted to find out how many of our students owned mobile devices, how many of them had home internet access, and what capabilities the devices they owned had. We conducted a student survey with all students at Goodhue Public Schools grades 7-12. The following are some of our findings:
In February we noted a sharp increase in many of these numbers following the holiday break. Many more students brought iPod touches and other mobile devices to school they received as gifts over the break.
December 15th, 2009 four members of our PLC presented at the TIES Conference in Minneapolis, MN. Our presentation focused on how we are using the combination of face-to-face PLC and online PLN to facilitate teacher professional development. We also briefly demonstrated some of the tools and techniques we found then broke the audience into four groups to emulate one of our PLC discussion sessions. Many great ideas were shared by our presenters and by session attendees.
In our December PLC meeting we focused on practical applications of cellphones in the classroom. Tools like Poll Everywhere (text to vote polling), Gabcast (record podcasts by phone), and Yakedi! (send free SMS text messages to cellphones from your computer) were demonstrated and we discussed how these tools might be used in the classroom. We will likely return to this topic in the spring with a deeper discussion about the curricular potential these tools provide.
Also in December we setup a Twitter account for our website. This Twitter account searches Twitter for the words cellphone or iPod, and classroom or school used in the same message and sends an auto reply directing them to our website. Doing so has drawn many educators interested in this topic to our site, many have become members. We also started tagging resources related to mobile devices in education and retweeting them with the hastag #iteach. Tweets on Twitter containing this hashtag display on our iTeach Mobile website and serve as an archive of useful related resources.
In our January and February sessions we focused on school policies with respect to student use of mobile technologies at school. Our school was in the process of reviewing and making changes to our acceptable use policy so this topic was timely. Prior to our grant project our school had a zero tolerance policy regarding cell phones, iPods, and social networking. This year-long teacher exploration of these technologies changed most of their minds about the usefulness of them in the classroom. As a result, the policy that was ratified by the school board included an acceptable use definition for cell phones, iPods, and student-owned laptops that made room for their use in the classroom but also gave individual teachers the ability to set their own boundaries and regulations. This I feel was our greatest accomplishment as this change required the greatest paradigm shift in thought and practice. Our project sought to challenge a policy on the grounds of reason and equity that was long held but rarely reconsidered.
Our March and April sessions were open ended. A budget deficit caused by state funding shift to schools meant that my position was in jeopardy in the district. My position was cut back to .1 FTE and I was forced to take a position at another school district. That new position began May 1st. These two meetings were mostly discussion sessions where we shared our experiences using mobile devices with kids in the classroom and discussed what was required of them before the end of the grant cycle. Without my continued involvement in this district it will be difficult to measure any long-term impact this project might have.
Our project was also dealt another major setback in April when Ning, the company that hosted our free social networking website, announced that they would be discontinuing their free option. They did offer a free version for educators but it was too limiting to suit our needs. There were other free options out there that would suit our needs better. Therefore, at the end of April I moved our website to http://grou.ps/iteachmobile. This new site may look different aesthetically but functions the same as our old site did. This move will allow our site to remain up and running and serve as a future resource for those interested in exploring the use of mobile technologies in the classroom. It will also give a platform for our teachers at Goodhue to continue to explore this topic beyond the period of this grant.
iTeach Mobile has had an incredible impact at Goodhue Public Schools. The persistent long-term engagement of the PLC model has made professional development more meaningful. The PLN component via the iTeach Mobile website has allowed our teachers to connect with others in their field outside our district. This, we suspect, will go a long way toward combating teacher isolation. We anticipate more and more of our professional development initiatives to include a teacher-directed networked component. In a survey given to PLC participants at the conclusion of our project only one teacher said they did not find the experience useful or relevant and when asked which component contributed most to their own personal growth the responses were equally split between monthly meetings, online asynchronous communication, and long-term sustained use of the iPod. In reality, none of these by themselves would have had the impact all three modes of staff development has had.
Future Plans. In June 2010, I will present this model of blended PLC and PLN at the ISTE Conference in Denver, CO. The iTeach Mobile project will be promoted as a model that can be scaled and reproduced in other districts. We hope others will do the same and use our iTeach Mobile website as a place to hold their asynchronous component. At this conference we will also encourage others to apply for the Learning & Leadership Grant.
For NEA Foundation Purposes. I would be happy to speak with the media about this project.
(Paid for by the school district)
Support from other sources:
Amount from grant
All additional documentation can be found at http://grou.ps/iteachmobile including: