As I sat down to write this, I remembered a post from last January. I was feeling nostalgic for my own childhood "neighborhood school" experience and was concerned Dillon wouldn't get that. I wrote: ...in this ever-changing world, as much as I embrace life transitions and taking leaps of faith, there’s a big part of me that wants it all to stop moving so fast. Fast-forward 9 months. So much has changed. We've moved to a new home, in a neighborhood we hadn't considered (I actually resisted it at first). And there's — guess what? — a neighborhood school right down the street. No disrespect to the Rolling Stones, but sometimes we get exactly what we want. It's humbling, really.
And I take back what I said about wanting it all to stop moving so fast. Last week, I visited Dillon's classroom. And when I walked in, this is what he was doing:
Yep. Working on his iPad. His iPad, people.
So much about his kindergarten class felt familiar to me. In fact, it was a mix of what I recall about kindergarten and first grade combined: Students writing on primary ruled paper, breaking up into smaller, focused reading groups and playing in centers (think blocks and housekeeping). And of course, the children were oozing with cuteness.
And yet, so much has changed. There was a child working at the SMART Board, building words by dragging letters from the bottom of the screen. And did I mention they have iPads? His kindergarten teacher, Kristi Meeuwse, was a key player in making that happen.
She and two other teachers attended training, and the minute they got their hands on iPads for their classroom, they developed a program and put it into action. Now, this year, every child in Dillon's school has one. As the pilot program expands to other schools in the district, Dillon's school is becoming a showcase of sorts. What they're doing is truly groundbreaking.
Of course, people were skeptical. Why do we need those toys? Others balked at the expense, considering public school resources (in general) are just plain sad. But here's the plus: the iPads replace desktops (no more waiting for your turn at the computer table) and reading skills are improving. In a classroom of two to three dozen children, teachers can customize the work for each student, meeting them where they are and taking them as far they can go.
I'm a fan because I've seen the iPad program in action. And perhaps because I'd like an iPad for myself. Universe? Santa? Anyone?
But mainly, I find the whole thing reassuring. To watch the "old" and the "new" coexist. It's the natural evolution of things. And when I see my son's face in this TV news report, how can I not support it? Public schools get a bad rap. So I thought I'd give you a peek into some of the good that's happening in one small corner of the world. In my very own neighborhood.
Technology in the classroom: What do you think?