Tag Archives: evaluation

iPads and tech in schools update

Since our last post, NYC public school teachers participating in the Arts Achieve pilot have had 3 months to start working with their new projectors, iPads, styli, microphones, and other tech stuff.

Here’s a glimpse into the tech training sessions we did with teachers last March, in close collaboration with my colleague in the education department, Marianna Siciliano.

Our teachers have now had the summer to process the training and in-classroom experience, and share feedback with us about the ups and downs.

Here’s what we gave out to teachers.

What have we learned since putting tech in teachers’ hands?

1. Camera, camera, camera.

The iPad camera is by far the most popular and widely-used feature of any products we gave to teachers. Video and stills are pouring out of the classrooms. They’re handy for more than sharing outward; often the camera is being used as a way to “take notes” or play back video for review locally.

2. When it comes to projectors, quality trumps portability.

We thought the portability factor would be great for teachers who do “art on a cart,” however the pico projectors we provided did not go over as well as we’d hoped. This might be because these guys are in the arts, so strong image quality is important to them. Also, more and more classrooms in NYC are being outfitted with high-res, high-brightness Smar

This is the tech support printout we gave our teachers

tboards, so it looks like pico projectors, with their dim lamps and small images, are not an exciting addition to most classrooms. Additionally, the pico projectors were confusing for the few teachers in the project already fluent with Smartboards.

With teachers, any existing familiarity is priceless, because you can spend precious training hours on other topics.

3. People like DropBox and iMovie.

It’s a really good idea to use services and brand names that are already familiar to people. It lowers the intimidation factor and opens the possibility of finding easy, instant tech support from family, students, colleagues, or Google search. DropBox and iMovie had a level of instant familiarity and both are being used.

Ning Network activity and survey data after three months of tech in the classroom.

4. Play is the way!

In our trainings and tipsheets, we outlined a bunch of best practices. Some teacher frustration has arisen from the feeling that these outlines were the only way to operate. We should have emphasized even more that it is OK to play, poke, experiment, test, and try stuff. This is definitely the best way to learn “tech stuff” (it’s why kids are so good) and It’s really hard to get this ethos across to adults!

Some teachers have also reported to us that they have had great success when they simply asked their students for help with their tech questions. We like to see teaching flow both ways!

5. AirWatch was unnecessary.

We killed our subscription to AirWatch mobile device management. I found the product limited; it didn’t do anything useful for us. In the dream scenario, we could keep all the iPads uniform, add apps and manage media remotely, make changes on the device without user consent (which is hard to get when some users need instructions outlining how to consent), and troubleshoot remotely. None of this was actually possible with AirWatch. When any given iPad gets too far adrift from the original image with crazy apps and settings, we simply re-image it from iCloud. This works very well, and quickly, and it’s free!

Teens & Tech Focus Group

On Saturday, at Cooper-Hewitt, we had a focus group with about 20 teenagers to learn how they prefer to capture and create media. The focus group was held jointly by Cooper-Hewitt and the American Museum of Natural History. Our two museums are connected by MacArthur’s HIVE Learning Network, which aims to create and connect informal and formal learning opportunities for youth in virtual and physical spaces.

My group used exclusively iPads– even when other devices were readily available.

Both museums had experienced some digital follies over the last few years in our efforts to incorporate new digital tools into youth programs. From 3G connectivity woes to buggy beta software, these issues are an educator’s nightmare. Any one who has some experience teaching or running programs for kids can tell you that there’s no time for glitches when you’ve got a room full of students and a short amount of time. Stuff has to work, and you want the focus to be on content, not on tools.

Before diving in to a new season of fashion workshops and biology labs with hundreds of NYC teens, both museums wanted some fresh insight on how today’s teens relate to tech.

We wanted the students to get educational value out of their day with us, so we designed the focus group as a typical DesignPrep program, but with some added surveys and discussions about technology. Here was the structure of the day:

1. Pre-Survey for students

2. Cooper-Hewitt educators’ excellent “What is Design” and “Learning to See” presentations.

3. Ready, Set, Design– a hands-on activity to get the group “thinking like designers.” The activity challenges were tailored to the context of Central Park (“I need to find my way around the park efficiently,” “I want my walk around the reservoir to be more fun and interesting,” etc)

4. Announced the students’ challenge– to collect a diverse array data from a given zone in Central Park, identify something in that zone that could benefit from a design solution, and finally present their ideas to the group.

5. “Hardware Buffet”– we put out Android phones, iPads, still cameras, video cameras, notebooks and pens. We observed carefully while the students chose their tools.

6. We split into 4 groups and headed to the park. The students lead their own processes of data collection while Museum staff observed. Staff also carried bags of “buffet leftovers” to allow any hardware swaps along the way.

Collecting photos, videos and statistics in Central Park

7. We returned to Cooper-Hewitt, where the students synthesized their media and created presentations.

Synthesizing multimedia and ideas for a final presentation

8. Presentations, group discussion about technology, followed by an exit survey for students.

Student presentation using Tumblr

9. After the students left, Museum staff completed a survey to record fresh thoughts on the day.

What did we learn? Here are some excerpts from Museum staff’s surveys: