2010 has passed and what an amazing year it was. As I enjoy some ‘analog’ time with the family and recharge the batteries, I thought I would jot down a few of the key events and learnings that I have experienced throughout the year.

Our opinions can change
As teachers, we are sometimes quick to form opinions. Some of the concepts I had formed opinions about have been challenged, some even changed. I think keeping an open mind, listening to other people’s experiences and making time to reflect and process the information are underrated skills.

The focus is back on the learning
While the focus was never really off learning, sometimes I feel that we can be distracted by new tools, programs, software, websites, etc in our desire to engage our students. In our journey into a more Challenge Based Curriculum, where the final product is not always polished or the ultimate objective, I have seen a more productive and exciting working environment. We always refer to the need to engage our students, and often think the tools we use will solve the problem. The answer for me is in how we go about promoting curiosity in the classroom.

One to one & mobile learning
Being fortunate enough to be a part of the Victorian iPad Trial has been a huge opportunity, and I am proud to say that we have not simply placed iPads in students hands and hoped they will do the job. We are changing the way we deliver our curriculum, interact with our 1:1 mobile devices, collaborate with one another, present our learning, assess our students and report to parents. Initially I was not convinced of the collaborative nature of one to one programs, but the iPad has been the perfect vehicle for changing the way I think. The intuitive nature of the software has broken down barriers between generations of students, teachers and parents. Teachers can now get back to creating rich learning tasks that promote curiosity without having to worry about the tech side of it. The kids are using this tool in ways we could not possibly have imagined. By tapping into that, we can learn from the students and empower them.

The mobile nature of learning now truly means students can be using this tool to be accessing and creating content 24 / 7. The way mobile technologies can be used to be better organized and capture authentic learning moments is amazing. The way society is now interacting with their iPhones and iPods, and the range of amazing apps available on Apple’s App Store has changed the way we learn and interact with the web. This is my first post from my 3G iPad, which now allows me to be connected anywhere, anytime.

The role of parents
Parents need a simple and easy way of finding out how their child is going, more than twice a year,and we need to be taking this information to them. The wide varietyof Learning Management Systems around offer schools a way to streamline the delivery of their lessons, track student performance and deliver this information. But does it make sense to parents? Do they have / make the time to log in and view this information, and if so, how much of it do they really understand?

When setting up an LMS, how much of the focus goes into highlighting the
educational benefits of the program, rather than just teaching staff which buttons to press? How many of these systems become a real reflection on student learning and not just another vehicle for assigning activities for students, whether they understand it or not? One of the exciting opportunities for our school with the iPads has been the way in which parents are responding to their child’s work. The iPad lends itself to sharing new learning experiences in a natural and intuitive way. Parents are asked to complete feedback forms on specific projects and return them to their teacher. Parents are sitting down with their child on the couch, viewing and discussing their work with them. They are also given the chance to provide feedback to their teacher on the project, and general thoughts on the use of the iPad. So much more informative, and so much more human!

The power of the PLN
If you are reading this, you probably already have a substantial Professional Learning Network, and have come to appreciate the numerous benefits it offers. I still believe more teachers need to participate in these networks, share their skills, talents and opinions for us all to benefit from.

So, to think of a comment to summarise all of these reflections, I would have to ask the question;

‘With so many amazing tools at our disposal, why are we still transferring old ways of doing things into digital form, rather than truly transforming the way we operate?’

I see this to be our greatest challenge as educators who promote the use of ICT in the classroom.

I hope you have had a sensational holiday and are looking forward to another action packed year. Please keep an eye on my blog at http://applesforkids.org
and my podcast for more about our iPad trial at http://www.applesforkids.net