Training the Trainers

With such an investment into the one-to-one program, the Webster City School District is making sure that teachers will be properly trained to use the iPads before the roll out begins. District Curriculum Director Linda Williams said her role in preparation for the roll out has been to give teachers the training they need to use this new device as best they can in the classroom.

“We’re not just going to give them a tool and expect them to start teaching without some kind of professional development,” Williams said.

Before the iPad was chosen, teachers were given a chance to observe classrooms outside of the district that have implemented different kinds of technology. Williams said several teachers saw how a classroom was run using everything from laptops to different kinds of tablet computers. Since the district chose the iPad as the device for the one-to-one program, it has provided teachers with several professional development days where speakers from other districts have shared their experiences with new technology implementation and trainers to show teachers how to use their iPad and the applications on the device.

Those professional development days gave a broad overview of what Williams said the district thinks its teachers need to know before the roll out. Since the last professional development day, teachers have been sent surveys to see what they feel they still need to learn before the program begins. Williams said this training will help teachers to understand the device that will help students to learn better.

“I think the teachers have had many opportunities. We’ve offered a variety of summer classes that enhance technology in the classroom,” Williams said. “We want students to use iPads as a resource for research and problem solving and higher order thinking skills. It’s not just to do a worksheet on an iPad. We want to get away from the worksheets and do more creative things and let kids become their own learners.”

That shift towards student-led learning can already be seen at Webster City High School. The district has already implemented smart boards that can connect with devices like the iPad and project onto a screen. It also has touch features that students and teachers can use to interact with digital items. For several years, the district has also had a flip class where students use iPads. Students watch lectures while at home and then meet in the classroom to work on activities that was once called homework. How the device will be used once it is in the hands of everyone in the district will largely be up to teachers and students in a continually evolving digital environment.

“Kids are carrying cell phones and they have mobile devices but when they came to school we were asking them to put them away. That’s not the environment they’re growing up in,” Murphy said. “That’s why this is such a huge shift.”