Students in Alberta are engaging with a unique learning modality this year, thanks to the 1-2-1 Mobile Media Tablet Project. The project, facilitated/supported by Inclusive Learning Outreach (EPSB) in partnership with Alberta Education, is responsible for putting a class set of iPads in four inclusive classrooms across the Province. The four schools involved in the project are Graminia Community School (County of Parkland), Percy Baxter Middle School (Whitecourt), Pioneer Middle School (Rocky Mountain House) and Bawlf School. Approximately 15 Alberta schools applied for the one-year project and the successful candidates were selected based on their ability to meet the project’s selection criteria. During the selection process, schools in rural areas were given preference, as were classrooms supporting a student with a low-incidence disability. As such, 3 students with vision loss and 2 students with hearing loss, ranging in Grades 6 – 8, are involved in this project.
Now five months into the school year, the project is well under way. “The first part of the year we were mainly working out the technical details. Now we are seeing them (the iPads) being used in a much more relevant way – with students getting the maximum benefit” says Belina Pasula, Assistive Technology for Learning Consultant (Inclusive Learning Outreach) and the Project’s Manager. Part of the project’s success could be attributed to the level of support being offered to the teachers who are involved. These teachers meet once per month via videoconference on Skype and share their celebrations and challenges. There is also a wiki for the project helping them to stay connected as well as monthly visits from another Assistive Technology for Learning Consultant (Inclusive Learning Outreach), Toby Scott. When asked about her thoughts on the project, Scott had this to say: “I guess what stands out the most for me, in terms of this project, is the creativity, talent, and the perseverance these teachers are bringing to it. They are able to take their knowledge of the program of studies, technology, good teaching and most importantly their students, and create learning experiences that are meaningful and relevant.” The Alberta School for the Deaf is also involved in the project as their 'Diving Deeper' site and is responsible for testing and evaluating apps in a more formal way. These results are then shared with the four rural sites.
When asked to report on his experience with the project, Jordan Fraser, a Grade 7/8 teacher at Graminia Community School, talked about the fact that the iPad is so ‘captivating’ for students. “Having access to all of these different things – it opens the door to a lot of new opportunities.” Dwayne Inglehart, another Grade 7/8 teacher at the same school shared his enthusiasm, “Kids are used to the Apple technology, they’re already using it in their personal lives… quite often, when there’s a technical problem, they are showing us how to fix it.” Both teachers reflected on the fact that students are more engaged and better able to access the material now if they are better able to tailor it to their individual learning needs.
Part of the beauty of this project is that is puts an intuitive and relatively flexible learning tool in the hands of every student in the classroom. The reality of today’s inclusive classroom is that each and every student has different learning needs. The iPad allows the students to bring more awareness to their own learning needs and make choices accordingly. For instance, some students, choose to continue to work with a pencil and paper alongside their iPad, or choose to enlarge the information on the screen. Feedback from some of the teachers has reflected this, and they expressed the fact that they were feeling as though they weren’t differentiating ‘enough’ for their students. Perhaps the reason for this is that the device is enabling the students to increasingly differentiate for themselves!
Thank you to Belina Pasula, Toby Scott, and the staff and students at Graminia Community School for sharing their experiences and knowledge about this project.