History of the iPad Program

How did we do it?

In 2011, iPads in hand, a small group of Chatham Hall faculty met weekly to share what they had learned about this new and revolutionary device. With palpable glee, they demonstrated to each other newly discovered apps that would enhance their teaching and allow for their classrooms to become more student-centered. Veteran teachers, they all agreed that the democratization of the classroom that could spring from all students having an iPad would lead to students studying at once in more depth and in greater breadth. The iPad would also, based on the sheer fun that this group of faculty was having exploring the possibilities pertaining to their academic areas, allow for a heightened level of creativity because there appeared to be no bounds.

Out of the work of this group, and with support from the Board of Trustees, was born the iPad Pilot Program, a two-year experiment that demanded first of six confirmed iPad users and then of the entire faculty, to put iPads to use in classrooms to see if the transformation that they felt possible would, in fact, play out. A spring and summer of intensive iPad exploration ensued. With a stipend and a generous supply of iTunes cards, the core teachers made choices about common apps that all involved students should have, and found those specific apps that would push students in their subject areas. In the fall, iPads were given to about 60 students of those teachers; due of careful selection and scheduling, those students would use iPads in at least two of their classes.  In the second year of the program, all students were furnished with iPads 

What did we accomplish?

We felt the power of learning together with our students. We all saw students taking leadership roles as we navigated this device as a class. We heard discussions probe more deeply with iPads in attendance; when students did not recognize a cultural reference or name in a reading, they were able to reference it immediately if using an e-book. Understanding references while reading brought a much greater depth to discussions. We learned the power of the flipped class by uploading video lectures for students to watch (and rewatch) at night so that more practical applications were possible in class the next day. Science and foreign language classes make great use of the methodology. French students walked down the streets of Paris. We determined that there were as many ways to arrive at an answer or create a presentation or assessment as there were students in the class and iPads in the room. iBooks appeared tailored individually by students. Video cameras in the hand of all students brought forth creativity, precision, problem-solving, and greater understanding of the how and the why. We use apps as tools, apps as references, apps as the gateway to thinking critically.  And in a nod to Mother Nature, many of us have gone paperless.

The iPad is popping up in many aspects of school life. Coaches use them every day in practice. Our order of service for our thrice-weekly Chapel services is delivered via email and opened on our iPads. They serve as teleprompters for speakers, allow students to read books outside on the swing at night.  We see them in dances, and used cleverly in student skits. They have become such a part of life that they are alluded to on student-designed t-shirts.

The future?

Our “pilot” program a success, we realize that iPads have made their way indelibly into our everyday life. In the future, all students and teachers will use iPads as we all continue to learn with and from one another. We have also enjoyed working with colleagues from other schools who have been curious about how we implemented such a successful program. Numerous teachers in all disciplines have traveled to Chatham Hall to observe classes and speak with the iPad Team. We look forward to helping other schools build strong programs which support active learning. Having already presented at the 2012 VAIS Technology Conference, Chatham Hall will present at the iPad Summit USA and at the National Coalition of Girls Schools conference in June 2013. And, iPad in hand, students and teachers will continue to explore, discover, collaborate, and create.