The idea of media branding for schools, innovative approaches to STEM education, flip learning, and the adaptability of iPads in the classroom were just some of the interesting topics discussed at this year's Tech Forum held Oct. 19 at the Westchester Marriott hotel in
The annual forum, which is sponsored by Tech & Learning magazine and the TechLearning.com website, attracts many of the region's educators as well as an impressive lineup of technology company sponsors who use the forum as an opportunity to educate teachers and administrators about their latest products and innovations in the instructional technology industry.
Approximately 50 district TLI members from many of the school districts the LHRIC collaborates with on a regular basis were in attendance.
Similar Tech Forum events are held in other cities throughout the country, including
Austin, Atlanta, Boston and . Chicago
In his opening keynote presentation, Patrick Higgins, supervisor of Instructional Services for Caldwell/West Caldwell Public Schools in
, suggested that schools might want to consider branding their institutions, similar to the kind of branding that is conducted in the business world. Mr. Higgins noted that by leveraging social media, school administrators could learn to grow their districts' brands. New Jersey
Other noteworthy talks included the growing use of iPads in classrooms in our region. Rob Miller, the director of information for the New Canaan Schools, said there's been a lot of innovation throughout his
school district. Its benefits include enhanced learning, more self-sufficiency among students, closer alignment to the curriculum as well as reduced costs. Connecticut
One area that is reaping the benefits of this technology is the special education classroom. Vicki Windman, a special education teacher in
, has been using the iPad for two years. Her students, while technically of high school age, are developmentally between the ages of 4 and 7. Clarkstown High School
With over 67,000 educational apps available for download, Ms. Windman said the choices are endless. She subscribes to a site called Moms with Apps, which shares information each Friday on apps that are free to users. Ms. Windman said her students have adapted quickly to the apps she's introduced, and most importantly, all of them align to the state's Common Core standards. "My kids can't write, but if you put them on that iPad, they're masters on it," she said.
Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, Patrick Fogarty, advisor of instructional technology, said the iPad has been transformative in raising student test scores and generally creating an environment where they have control over their own learning.
The school started using iPads in the classroom after examining the 1:1 iPad initiative at the Cedars School of Excellence in
, the first educational institution to fully engage students with the Apple device. Greenock, Scotland
Administrators at Xaverian got "all fired up about going one-to-one with iPads," said Mr. Fogarty, and in a short few months, the machines were deployed throughout the school. Mr. Fogarty said the device offers a much richer educational experience for the students, something the Whiteboard cannot provide. "We don't want them to cherry pick the knowledge; we want them to be active parts in that creation," he said.
The one-to-one iPad initiative works particularly well at the high school level, noted Mr. Fogarty, with students using it to search for information, do homework, and send and receive emails, among other tasks. According to the Fleischer Research Group at
, 82 percent of teachers said students do more in-depth research when using the device and 90 percent of students said the iPad has had a positive impact on their learning. Princeton University
Despite the fact that some mistakes were made at the start of the project, Mr. Folgarty said schools should not be fearful of the transition to such an initiative. "When we went into this initiative, we purchased apps that we expected to use frequently, and we didn't use any of them. But in the end, we learned what does and doesn't work in a classroom environment."
"Our goal was to untether the classroom from the physical space, to create a cloud classroom and to move from teacher to facilitator," he added.
A number of roundtable discussions kept participants engaged throughout the afternoon, including information on using social media to flip faculty meetings, using the iPad for movie-making in the classroom, digital storytelling, creating iBooks and more. A number of industry spotlights and demos from various vendors were also scheduled during the day.