When I was employed with Killeen ISD, I had the privilege in participating in a nine-year initiative in which we provided hundreds of teachers with iPods, iPads, and additional goodies for them to create engaging activities in their classrooms. The program was planned and designed by two of my brilliant colleagues in Killeen ISD, Helen Mowers and Anna Adam. Throughout the years, the program morphed to fit the needs of teachers and students.
For Younger Learners
Because of the original funding source for the program, we started with teachers of early learners. Kindergarten, first and second grade teachers had the opportunity to earn three iPods loaded with instructional apps and accessories. In addition to devices, accessories and paid apps like Book Creator, Comic Life, and Bitsboard, we provided multiple rounds of professional learning in which we worked with teachers to develop best practices.
In the first days of training, we focused on presenting activities and applications that allowed students to be creative and stretch their thinking in all core content areas. Teachers returned throughout the school year for networking sessions in which they shared their progress and picked up more strategies. In order to remain in the program, teachers documented their learning by sharing activities they had created for their students to engage in.
iPods to iPads and More!
By the third year of the iLearn initiative, iPad minis were available. We shifted to providing iPads with additional accessories. We included Osmo games for each iPad, Dot and Dash robots, and Lego Story Starter kits. We spent endless hours organizing materials, provisioning devices, and managing the inventory. Since we had new devices and additional materials, we also found the need to upscale our professional development, bringing in qualified and energetic presenters. We wanted teachers to feel confidently prepared to use every item in their “awesome box,” which was the huge bin of learning accessories. The new accessories and training encouraged teachers to incorporate digital storytelling and coding skills into their regular curriculum.
As the years progressed, we were able to provide larger iPads, and include third, fourth and fifth grade teachers.
We had so much fun developing activities!
In this photo, Helen and I are practicing Levitagram, a levitation photography app.
Behind us you can see the lunchboxes filled with iPad minis & accessories.
In 2019, due to staffing and funding changes, the iLearn program came to a close. Over the years, we trained at least 500 teachers and provided over 1500 devices with a multitude of accessories. Additionally, we were able to help our colleagues stretch and grow their leadership and presentation skills as we included them in the professional learning opportunities.
We had the pleasure of visiting the classrooms and observing many of our iLearn teachers as they excitedly shared what their students were creating, exploring, and learning. The iLearn program had a significant impact on the development of teachers and the achievement of students.
The investment of effort and time was absolutely worth it as I learned skills that I still apply in my work everyday. Beyond learning and sharing, I also developed enduring relationships with some phenomenal colleagues!