Posted on April 21, 2013
Three events are at the forefront in today's blog: an Apple-sponsored visit from colleagues in other schools; a schoolwide professional development day; and the recent April assembly. The assembly: among birthday recognitions and curriculum sharing, we celebrated Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day. Everyone -- teachers included -- carried a favorite poem in a pocket. Throughout the day, students and teachers passing each other would stop and exchange a poem read-aloud. At the assembly, we spent a few minutes reading our poems to one another. Poetry alive!
Sixteen teachers, tech specialists, and administrators visited a few elementary, middle and high school classrooms for a close-up view of iPad usage. This "learning walk" into classrooms, sponsored by Apple, was organized to show colleagues in other schools how MPI teachers and students have been integrating iPads to support and extend student learning. (You may recall that another large group from Kamehameha Elementary School in Hilo spent a day in our elementary classrooms and meeting with teachers on iPad integration.) Earlier this week, a team of two from a public school met with teachers and IT staff to learn how we developed our electronic portfolio.
Mid-Pacific Institute is the first school in Hawai`i to implement a 1:1 program using iPads, and many schools have been keenly interested in how we have developed our infrastructure, professional development, and iPad usage policies. Visiting colleagues have said how grateful they are to actually walk into classrooms and see how teachers and students are using the technology.
What did they observe? First and second graders looking at different habitats on their iPads, and taking notes on their reading. Third and fourth graders creating a blog in response to shared reading. High school students using different mapping apps to develop key points for an essay; biology students presenting their views on using DNA for identification purposes through an interactive app and listening to a recorded student presentation representing an opposing view. Middle school students in small groups writing a co-authored "essay," which could take different forms (video, slide presentation, photos, etc.).
When we committed a year ago to using iPads to support instruction, there were no models for us in Hawai`i. Instead, we have relied on a highly-skilled, cutting-edge team of Information Technology (IT) specialists and teacher leaders whose creativity and "digital native" dispositions have provided the stepping stones for schoolwide implementation. A year ago we leaped into the dark armed with the light of trust and confidence that we would somehow get to the place we are today. As parents, you can and should expect more next year.
This past Wednesday, teachers convened again (first meeting was April 3) to meet in different groups to analyze samples of student work in order to get to the task of aligning a schoolwide, "seamless curriculum." It dawned on me after conversations with an assessment specialist and the other MPI principals that student work is "living curriculum" (per Anne Davies), rather than the traditional view of curriculum as a massive framework or chart of non-overlapping, static concepts and topics. Remember E.D. Hirsch's K-12 curriculum with all the topics, facts, and concepts every student should know in order to be a successful citizen? Curriculum --what students learn -- is not as critical as how students learn. We live in an information flood zone, having the internet to thank for immediate access to billions and billions of information tidbits. How do we teach students to make sense of information, to discern good from poor to wrong information, to synthesize the most important salient points, to use information to promote awareness, to advocate, or to take action on an issue? These protocol sessions are providing meaningful pathways for our teachers to really take a deep look into curriculum (what we call "assessment") by analyzing the obvious -- student work. You'll continue to hear more about how the faculty is re-thinking curriculum.
This blog ends with a couple of photos of state-of-the-art playground materials. Our MPI Reggio-inspired preschool is the first in Hawai`i to use the Imagination Playground. These materials arrived on Monday morning, and the children have already created a spaceship, house, slide, boat, popcorn machine, grass blower, bowling alley, performance stage and more with these oversized, durable foam "blocks." I think the teachers are trying to repress their own inclinations to play with the materials themselves!
For our children and the child in us,
Edna L. Hussey