We were able to integrate these different technologies rather smoothly. For example, a senior English class used StudySync’s Macbeth lesson as a final assessment for their unit. The students read the excerpt and viewed the related SyncTV episode homework. The following day, the class was divided into pairs and given the program’s essay prompts to complete as an assessment. The students worked in the TEAL lab, each pair teaming with another duo, and hashed out the content, order, and details of their essays on the writable glass walls. They used the touch-screen monitors to add text and digital ink to annotate their work in a peer-to-peer review session. Those annotations helped each pair add the final edits to their submissions. Then, their teacher used the StudySync-provided rubrics to grade the essays.
Although the technologies work well together, trying to understand them initially can be overwhelming and intimidating. As such, our third and final major change was the addition of a full-time technology integration specialist to train the faculty on new technology and support the teachers as they embark on a new and different way of teaching.
We offer support and professional development in five unique ways. We have full faculty meetings where we roll out new technology. Additionally, we offer department-based training and individual training through Lynda.com. Our technology integration specialist runs a lunchtime technology café with a catalog of classes from which teachers can choose the professional development that will best help them, and we offer an online collection of tutorials and videos for the teachers as quick reference if needed.
We are now two full years into our initiative, and we have noticed positive patterns evolving. One is that when students are in the TEAL environment, no one is off task. Another is that the students’ ownership of the material creates an almost competitive vibe, which ultimately builds collaboration skills and self-confidence. Finally, the student-engaged learning style has led to an improvement in grades. We monitored the students in their English and History classes across 2.5 grade levels, and we saw a gain of an entire letter grade in 80 percent of the students in this environment.
In addition to the TEAL labs, Bishop Moore has made the commitment to move to a one-to-one “bring your own device” model, starting this month. In preparation, our teachers were given school-owned iPads in May 2012. The expectation was that the teachers would become familiar with the iPad, research apps, meet with peers to discuss best practices, and utilize our lunchtime technology training café courses focusing on various apps and their ability to help teachers and students in the classroom.
As we make the transition to a one-to-one BYOD school, Bishop Moore Catholic High School will continue to measure and collect data to help us determine our needs in curriculum and professional development. We are moving from imparting knowledge to facilitating knowledge and encouraging our students to use their technology for far more than leisure activities. Through the use of iPads and the TEAL labs, we are providing the opportunity for every student to connect, collaborate, and learn, effectively purging the classroom of the “bad seat.” We are truly preparing our students for their futures, and it is an exciting time to be an educator!
Pat La Morte is the assistant principal at Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando, Fla.