Auburn School Department just got done hosting what we hope is our first (inter)national conference on iPads in primary grades education. We leveraged our experience with iPads in kindergarten to put on an institute, in Auburn, for 115 people from across the country (and one from India). Visit the institute website to learn more. Be sure to click on the Institute Resources tab to explore some of the presentation slides, handouts, and other resources and check out the back channel and the twitter feed to see what folks were posting about the institute.
So, what the heck do iPads in kindergarten have to do with middle level education?
Well, take a closer look at the twitter feed.
Do you see all those tweeters whose names begin with AMS? Those are student reporters from Auburn Middle School. As we designed the conference, we wanted to support and encourage back channel conversations about the institute and we thought a great way to do that was to use our middle grades students. District Tech Director Peter Robinson and AMS Tech Integrator Carl Bucciantini worked with the students on how to tweet an institute (and I have to say that I was REALLY impressed with how well they tweeted information from my sessions!). These kids did a wonderful job!
Not only did they do a great job of factually reporting on the sessions and keynotes, but their own voice started coming through!
But what made this so cool wasn’t just that we could rely on middle grades students for this important task, but rather the great conversations adults and students had together about teaching and learning!
Our students had some dedicated time with Gov. Angus King, where they were impressed that he really talked with them and listened to me about technology and about their learning.
Another student came to the conference not really believing that kindergarteners should have iPads, but changed his mind after attending sessions (then wrote about it for his school newspaper).
And one student said she wanted to read Inevitable after having further conversations about teaching and learning with Auburn educators and a school committee member and their mentioning that the District has read the book. Someone got her a copy, and there she was devouring the book during open work time at the conference (I don’t know if you can see that she’s already at least a quarter of the way through the book!).
Not only will student reporters (and finding other ways to include student voice!) be included at our future institutes, but some of us, including both Central Office folk and at least one School Committee member, are anxious to tap our students for their voice and input into what our schools should be like so we can better help them learn.
Once again, middle grades students surprise us when we’re smart enough to engage them in conversation and listen to what they have to say.
IT’S YOUR TURN
How have middle grades students surprised you recently? What have they said that made you wish we listened to them more closely?