Why Appy Hours can be a bad idea…

We all know the feeling. Your school is about to roll out a 1:1 iPad program and the first thing you think – and rightly so – is Professional Development quick and fast. So you start by diving into the trove of the app store, getting overwhelmed with the possibilities. You do try to create lists of apps that might be helpful for teachers. Following that list, you start mapping out “appy hours” where teachers get to see how amazing those apps are. And yet it doesn’t work. They feel those training sessions have nothing to do with their everyday practices, and to them it is more a burden that they have to go through to please their supervisor. So why are appy hours a bad idea? Because they should not be the starting point of a conversation about a 1:1 iPad learning initiative. The discussion should start where it matters: the classroom. So how to go about it? I have designed this roadmap that hopefully can help you avoid some pitfalls.

1. What would you like your students to be able to do?
Start brainstorming what skills/tasks you would like your students to be able to do regardless of the iPad. It could be something as trivial as taking notes, to more complicated ones, such as creating a screencast to explain a concept.

2. iCore Skills.
Once you have brainstormed ideas, try to narrow it down to essential skills. I personally call it iCore Skills (NB: There are not necessarily related to the current Common Core). They could be very practical skills such as taking notes or more general one such as create.

3. iCore Apps
Once you have the iCore Skills, start looking at apps that will allow you to achieve those skills. Remember 2 things:
a) less is more. You don’t want 25 apps. You are looking for apps that might cover 2 to 3 skills. (e.g Notability that allows you to take notes on any document but also record audio, add pictures, draw, etc…)
b) Sharing! Make sure that those apps “speak a common language” and can easily share their content from one to another. (For example if you choose Explain Everything, Notability and Subtext all those can be shared via Google Drive, providing your user with a single login)

4. Differentiated and organized Professional Development.
Once you have this iCore in place, you can start designing training sessions keeping in mind 2 factors:

I.Make sure you iDentify the level of proficiency of your faculty. If we are promoting differentiated instruction in our classroom, we should do the same in during PD sessions. For example I have identified 3 levels based on the SAMR model of Dr Ruben Puentedura:

  • iPadawan (level 1) Faculty is still learning the basic of the iPad (e.g how to download apps, check emails, take a picture, etc.)
  • iPad Knight (level 2 Substitution) and (level 2 Augmentation)
  • and finally iPad Master (level 3 Modification) and (level 3 Redefinition)

II. Once those levels are defined, you can start creating professional development sessions based on those levels. For example you can offer a session on Taking and Sharing Notes using Notability and Google Drive (Level 2) or on Flipping the Classroom using Explain Everything and Google Form (level 3). Remember it is important to label those sessions by the skills you are addressing, not solely by the name of the app(s). This will allow you to shift the focus from the apps (“Appy Hours”) to actual learning paradigms and students skills.

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About Frédéric Skrzypek

Teacher
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