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Transforming the Elementary Education Learning Environment
Author: Randy Hansen & Arlene Borthwick, National Louis University | November 27th, 2012

NLUChange is constant and never more present than in today’s classroom learning environment. All over our country, mobile technologies, 1:1 initiatives and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies allow teachers to create dynamic active learning environments. As Paul Rolich (2011) noted in his article on The Future of Mobile, “there are two absolute certainties in information technology: The cloud and mobile devices are here to stay and are forces to be reckoned with and embraced” (p. 12). It is therefore inevitable that classrooms transition to tablets and other mobile devices for instructional purposes. Embracing these new technologies, National Louis University has re-designed Elementary Education pre-service coursework to bridge traditional classroom environments to the mobile-rich classroom of tomorrow.

NLU has a thriving Elementary Education program, but wanted to start a “cohort” of teachers specifically prepared for the 1:1 iPad environment. From the beginning, professional development of faculty was a critical component to the re-design process. NLU faculty participated in year-long professional development sessions starting with review of research articles and discussions around how mobile devices in the hands of teachers and students change the teaching and learning process. The goals for the PD sessions were two-fold. First, was to help faculty become “iPad proficient," building on the idea that our faculty needed to feel comfortable using the iPad in order to fully embrace its use within the classroom. To accomplish this goal faculty needed time to explore the iPad and applications on their own, making connections in their personal and professional lives. A Google group was created to keep track of shared articles, individual faculty progress, and applications reviewed (https://sites.google.com/site/nluipadproject). During regular monthly meetings the group, composed of cross-department faculty teaching elementary education coursework, participated in ongoing discussions focused on incorporating these ideas into teaching, reviewing course objectives and assignments, and planning for engaged learning environments.

The second goal of the PD sessions was to build on faculty’s increasing knowledge and skill base to learn how to use mobile devices for curriculum integration in support of candidate and P12 student content area learning. Faculty re-designed Elementary Education to create a more constructivist curriculum designed to embrace mobile learning, cloud based applications and the use of video including video reflections for preservice teacher growth. The newly designed “curriculum map” builds not only on course content but also on tasks of progressive technical difficulty to be undertaken by candidates.

The Elementary Education iPad program was launched following faculty PD initiatives including discussion of the TPACK framework, examining the interconnectedness of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Over the past year, iPad faculty have formed a strong personal learning network (PLN), sharing discoveries and answering one another’s questions. Already, another NLU program has started an iPad initiative, building on the lessons learned from this initial group. Cohorts at the Academy for Urban School Leadership were required to purchase iPads as they began their 12 month residency-based program. AUSL candidates have been integrating their iPads within the classroom in a variety of ways, including personal productivity and for K12 student use. One candidate, Rebecca Shaw, is using the iPad to record her “mentor” teacher in action, thus providing a video diary for the candidate. During the mentor – candidate debrief at the end of the day, Rebecca uses the video to ask specific questions about her mentor’s instructional methods and classroom management strategies. A second candidate is using the iPad and VoiceThread to create a resource center on different types of poetry that students can review. Rebecca stated she was initially apprehensive about using her iPad but now said, “I can’t live without it!”

For more information on the Elementary Education iPad program, visit:

Randy Hansen is Associate Professor and Arlene Borthwick is Associate Dean & Professor at National Louis University in Chicago, IL.

Rolich, P. (2011). The Future of Mobile. Techdecisions, 13(6), 12-13.

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