Monday, July 13, 2015

Out $marting the Interactive WhiteBoard. By Kenneth Willers

The transformation to 21st Century instruction is being dominated by the integration of interactive technologies. Over the past few years, classrooms, entire schools and school districts have been investing thousands of dollars into interactive technologies for classroom adoption. The most common device being installed in classrooms all over the globe is the interactive whiteboard.

The instructional benefits of the interactive whiteboard have been well documented and highly praised by many classroom teachers. The ability of a teacher or a student to interact with the classroom whiteboard, to view, manipulate and demonstrate content, to browse the internet with a single tap, to record lessons for web posting and to interact with educational software that engages the student, are all features of the interactive whiteboard that makes its use in the learning environment a valuable tool for 21st Century instruction.

So, why don’t all schools take advantage of this innovative technology? The answer: the prohibitive cost of purchase and installation.

If only there was a way to out$mart the Interactive WhiteBoard and still benefit from its type interactive technology. There is...

The School of the Madeleine recently invested in a tablet device for interactive technology—the iPad. Students and teachers both have the experience of interacting with technology in a manner that is engaging and educationally beneficial. But, this article is not about the iPad...it is about interactive technology for instructional purposes. Let me explain, how the iPad plays a role.

The iPad presented a wonderful challenge to the Madeleine as we were considering the purchase of interactive whiteboards. With the iPad, did we need an interactive whiteboard? Although the individual student or teacher could interact with a device, the ability to share that experience for instructional purposes with the whole class, like the interactive whiteboard would permit, was eluding us. Once Apple updated the iOS for the iPad and updated their software for the Apple TV these two system enhancements opened up tremendous opportunity.

The iPad in conjunction with Apple TV is able to mirror its device to any monitor or projector that has an HDMI input port. The magical piece of this feature is that the iPad is now able to mirror its screen wirelessly. This capability enables the teacher to display any content or App from anywhere in the classroom. This mirrored image can then be transmitted to a flat panel television connected to Apple TV or projected onto the classroom’s existing whiteboard simply through a projection device connected to Apple TV. Since interaction takes place through the iPad-no interactive whiteboard is needed.

But this is not all, depending on the number of iPads at the teacher’s disposal, this feature creates multiple interactive whiteboards in one classroom. Every teacher and student who is using an iPad, has the ability to project their device and interact with their content via the Apple TV by simply tapping the Airplay button on the iPad. Imagine having the ability to demo something on to the whiteboard via the iPad and then asking students to share their content with the class with a simple tap of a button. No cables, no special software and no need to be up in the front of the classroom. Students can interact and share their content right from their desktops. Now, that is Smart. What else is smart is the cost savings.

Out$marting the Interactive WhiteBoard might mean thinking differently about the type of mobile technology the school invests in for student use. For us at the Madeleine, with the integration of the iPad the need for an interactive whiteboard is diminished. But, the iPad discussion is for another article. 

Running on STEAM

Science Technology Engineering  Art Math

“I can build a computer doing this with Piper.” said one of 7th grade students, “This is so cool!”

Piper, a start-up gaming company, is designing kits that allow students to assemble their working computers and begin their journey into creating lights, motors and DIY hardware. Piper is currently partnering with the Madeleine to bring engineering into the school’s STEM curriculum.

Mr. Willers describes Piper this way, “Think: Erector-Set meets Minecraft. Where you build in the real world and create in the virtual.” 

Mr. Willers met the co-founders of Piper at an EdTech Summit, hosted by BrightBytes (a technology company that measures the impact of technology on learning and education) this fall in SF. At the summit Mr. Willers commented when he saw the kits, “Our students would love this. So many of our students are doing Minecraft anyway, lets bring what they’re doing at home into the learning that’s happening at school.”

Wasn’t too long after, that Piper and the School of the Madeleine formed an innovative partnership. As Willers put it, “Think: Where beta-tester and student engineer become one. One of the parents remarked, “What a great opportunity for students to experience engineering while helping the developers create their product for launch.”

On November 21, 2014 Piper’s founders, Mark Pavlyukovskyy, 23, and Alex Stokes, 24, brought their ‘build-it-yourself ‘ engineering kits to the Madeleine for beta testing with our students. 18 Madeleine students, ranging from 3rd to 8th grade, formed cohorts of three to a kit.  Each cohort embarked on a collaborative and student-directed learning experience with out any instructions or guidance from the founders.

“I was amazed at the engagement levels of the students,” remarked Mr. Nagel, eighth grade teacher.

After the visit, one of the founders, Mark, sent the principal the following e-mail, “Working with your kids at the Madeleine actually really inspired us. Your kids not only completed the entire game level we were testing with them, but gave us really valuable feedback that we are currently incorporating into our platform. We really enjoyed working with you and Ms. Anthony and your children are really blessed to have such enthusiastic mentors.”

The Madeleine continues to partner with TechEd companies and Piper is the latest partnership to date. “If we want our students to thrive in the 21st Century, we have to provide them with opportunities of self-directed learning.” Willers believes, that TechEd companies like Piper, inspire students to own and initiate their own learning while developing the critical thinking skills around engineering concepts. TechEd Teacher, Ms. Anthony observed that, “With no instructions, our 3rd through 8th grade students moved through Piper’s entire sequence of challenges of building circuits and semi-conductors using only Minecraft and the collaboration of their classmates.”

The STEM curriculum at the Madeleine is literally, ‘out of the box teaching.’ “If these type of partnerships continue,” Mr. Willers says, “I’m confident our students will be building computers as part of our curriculum—and that is really cool.”