The biggest challenge when implementing new initiatives into International schools is the prospect of transient staff. The ease that information and knowledge can walk out the school gates is a disappointing prospect. We always hope that the staff coming in have just as much enthusiasm, knowledge and skills as those before them.
An important element in our school is the Teaching Assistants. Their role alone has had dramatic changes in the past 3 years, moving from primarily an administration role to that of partnering the teacher in the day to day academic requirements for the children. This group of nearly 50 hard working and enthusiastic ladies was to pose my biggest challenge for implementing iPads into the curriculum. A group of ladies who played such an important role in lessons yet 96% of them had never touched an iPad.
2 issues now exist – transient teachers taking skills and knowledge with them and technology reluctant teaching assistants. With a few conversations with peers, it made sense to target professional development towards our teaching assistants, as they are a consistent element within the school, therefore, potentially fixing the 2 issues that exist.
3 weeks ago we invited the Apple Education team in to conduct a 2 hour workshop on iPads for our teaching assistants. The initial response to the invitation for professional development was one of hesitation, nervousness and fear. Comments such as “How on earth can we push buttons on an iPad for 2 hours?” The Apple team took the TAs through the iPad settings, the camera and how to use iMovie. The hesitation quickly turned to laughter and excitement. Comments such as “Where did the time go?” were pleasing to hear. The TAs were extremely proud of what they had achieved and had a new found confidence in handling the device. We decided to ‘showcase’ the wonderful movies during our staff briefing. The teachers were impressed with what had been achieved in 2 hours and felt confident that they now had someone in the classroom who could manage or even lead small groups of children with iPads.
Phase 2- ‘Empower the TAs’ was to introduce an app that the teachers had targeted as an essential for the year group to use. I began last week with the Year 2 TAs. We spent time together reminding ourselves of how to use the camera, we learnt how to save images into the camera roll and finally I introduced them to the ‘book creator’ app. I gave each of them their own iPad for 2 weeks, I asked them to take it home with them, spend time exploring it, take it shopping and take photos of family events. My only rule for them was if family members wanted to use it, they had to show them something new on it first!
Finally I set them a task. They had 2 weeks to create a book on book creator, the topic was anything of interest to them. I suggested a family album, a recipe book or even a ‘how to book’. We have encouraged them to pop by and ask questions, which a few have. The most pleasing aspect is how they are supporting each other with the devices. We have a session planned in 1 weeks time to show off the amazing books they have made.
My main aim was to have them confident with the device and to have a basic understanding of important apps. That aim has already been met after 1 week with the devices in their hands. This week they have asked to learn about the Video FX Live app which the children will use. The smiles and enthusiasm are priceless.
Next step – Empower Year 1 TAs with the devices!