Recently parents and teachers congregated in the Zeeland East gymnasium and cafeteria for the time honored tradition of conferences. Like most teachers, it is a time great excitement and a little bit of apprehension. The vast majority of conferences go very well and are positive and productive exchanges about the learning that is taking place under the teacher's direction.
Why would should this year be any different? At the high school level, each student has used the Ipad as a new tool for learning. In some classes, this has greatly transformed the way information is delivered and how learning is assessed. But a time honored question was certain to be raised by some parents in conference with teachers; is new necessarily better for learning?
I had several parents ask questions about the Ipad and how it has been used in class. This is a question that is fair to ask and one that I was prepared to answer. Parents were directed to class web pages that I have set up for students to access materials that we use in class on a daily basis. While I have been doing this for several years, parents now took a more keen interest in seeing how materials could be accessed and then manipulated by their student on the Ipad. Many parents were amazed at how easily students could download files, open them in different applications, and produce work that could be submitted electronically.
Beyond this use of the Ipad in my class, each Civics students in my class has created a blog using Blogger or Wordpress. Student Blogs are being utilized for students to share opinions on a variety of topics ranging from the death of Mommar Qaddafi to their stance on gun laws. Both parents and students welled up with pride when I pulled these up in conferences. A lasting comment from conferences that stuck with me was when a parent turned to their child after reading their blog and said: "I didn't know you thought about these types of things. That is so cool." The parent then proceeded to write down the blog URL so that they could read it regularly. What a neat way for parents, students, and teachers to connect with the Ipad and share thoughts on topics that may not have come out in a traditional class discussion.
On a side note: this practice has been a wonderful time and money saver for me personally. I have saved countless hours not running off as many papers for students.