Independent school leaders from the Washington Metropolitan Area met on October 25 for Independent Education’s (IE) 2012 Heads conference, “The Art of Leadership and Learning.” Green Acres’ Head of School Neal Brown joined Heads and teachers from Washington Waldorf School, Bullis School, and Aidan Montessori School for a panel discussion, “Blended Learning at Independent Education Schools.” Bruce Friend of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) moderated the panel.
The session gave panelists the opportunity to share how their schools are using technology to engage students and to support their school’s mission. Neal emphasized that while good technology never replaces good teaching and while iPads are merely a tool, they are very effective tools for enhancing instruction. He pointed to the ways that iPads have increased instructional time with their quick on/off feature, how they have opened up a world of engaging and interactive applications and resources to teachers across many subjects, and how the iPads have enhanced communication between students and teachers. Neal mentioned the ways that iPads have helped teachers to differentiate lessons, how they have helped many students organize their assignments and their time, and how they have increased student and teacher excitement. Neal cited the way that the teachers on the 5/6 team, in particular, have collaborated in an even deeper way as they shared strategies for using the iPads in their weekly meetings.
The panel conversation with over forty Heads of School in attendance was a rich one, which focused on each school finding the right balance in using technology. All of the panelists acknowledged that we live a new era where technology is part of the air that we breathe. Neal commented that educators “can’t put their heads in the sand” and must teach students to use technology both effectively and ethically. Particularly in a Pre-K to Grade 8 schools, students can learn from smaller technology mistakes than they might encounter in high school and beyond. At the same time, Neal and the other panelists acknowledged the limits of technology and the need to continually assess whether new technologies are serving the needs of our students.
Green Acres’ 1-to-1 iPad program, launched last school year, issues iPads to all students in grades 5-8. Fourth graders also receive iPads but do not take them home, and students across the lower school have access to iPads for use at school. To learn more about the program, visit http://www.greenacres.org/ipadprogram.