Monday, April 22, 2013

In the heart of Silicon Valley - Castilleja School

A morning of valuable conversations with Teachers, Deans, Director of Technology, Computer Science Teacher, Head of Upper School and Director of Academic Technology at Castilleja School in Palo Alto.

Castilleja School is an independent, private girls school ($37,000 per year) - 6th through 12th grade in the heart of Silicon Valley.  When this school opened over 100 years ago it was with the soul vision of preparing girls to attend Stanford University.

All students at Castilleja BYOD apple MacBook and over the last year school has begun the integration of iPads in 6th through 8th grades.  At this stage the iPads are owned by the kura but girls have total ownership of iPads and their own apple ID.  This ID is passworded by school until girls turn 13 and then they take full control which allows personalisation.  The Kura pay for school apps but students are able to purchase their own too.

iPads implementation was initiated by a history teacher and came about through the planning of a history trip to Washington DC where she was needing a more mobile device than the laptops to support the learning.  The funding of iPads was through the schools innovation grant which gave this teacher the opportunity to 'JUST GO'.

The question of iPads vs laptops was asked of teachers.  They answered with stating that there were big limitations with both tools and it was about choosing the best tool for the purpose.  They both reflected they weren't ready to do away with laptops but would happily do away with text books!  

A few teachers are beginning to use iBooks Author with the vision that their students will create their own books in the next school year.

Successes of iPad integration

Teachers reflected they are thinking about teaching more

iPad allows more options to share what they do know

Opened up doors for struggling kids

Reaching different kinds of learners in different ways

What does Professional learning look like @ Castilleja - an a la Carte model made up of

  • iPad swaps - flipping through each others apps
  • Flipping PL - instructional videos eg padlet
  • Respect that teachers don't have time
  • iPad leaders - champions  (at the grassroots teachers)
  • Student champions
  • iPad newsletters
  • Speed dating
  • Utilising experts
  • Experimentation
  • Internal webinars
  • School visits
  • Conferences
  • TIME to think and explore
  • Ensuring teachers are not feeling like it is being 'pushed' on them
  • React and respond when teachers 
Professional learning is the key to success.
Other interesting stuff

 Liked the concept of iPad islands in the High School - places students could go to access iPads

Steve Jobs was a former parent of this school

The global centre was a strong focus of the school - students were involved in overseas trips/volunteer work

Innovation grants are being used for what we would term, modern learning environments in NZ as well as iPad innovations

Extensive use of scratch for computer programming - hopscotch for beginner level programming - 6th grade projects on scratch incorporated into core curriculum areas - philosophy is to make sure everyone is involved in programming as early as possible. As the teacher stated, it's about 'getting kids engaged in computer science - reasonably fluent in programming just like reading and math'.  I know someone in CORE Education who would LOVE this idea! 

Students are also using Python for programming. 

Groups of students beginning to use Xcode for creating android apps - You Tube clip posted earlier.

Extensive use of Google Apps - teachers also reflected, as we have heard before, the need for Apple and Google to be friends :-)

I liked what Christina Gwin said about innovating and teaching in this environment -  'Great as a teacher to take lots of chances.  I fail a lot in front of the girls, it is important to model - it's about allowing us institutionally to fail!' 

Teachers are talking with teachers across curriculum areas - developing a deeper understanding of what each other is doing and integrating devices cross curricular

Another full on day of listening, learning, questioning and reflecting in an amazing environment.

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