Edutouring 2.0 - iPads in the land of milk and honey at Monte Vista
On arrival at Monte Cristo Christian School we were greeted by the charismatic Headmaster Steven Sharp. Turned out in loud yet stylish shirt and matching black and white shoes. Steven was a sign of things to come, this place was, as he was - loud yet stylish, passionate, caring and generally pushing the boundaries of what a school should look like and feel like. The sprawling campus covers 102 acres in Watsonville, California. The facilities have to be seen to be believed. Classrooms have been decorated to resemble hunting lodges...complete with taxidermy, the library and student spaces resemble Abercrombie and Fitch...minus the shirtless men, the student cafeteria is a 50s diner complete with chequered floor and music. Facilities include a horse ranch, a football stadium, softball and baseball diamonds. This definitely felt like the land of milk and honey...with just a dash of Vegas.
But we weren't there to simply appreciate the decor, we were there to check out the learning and in particular e integration of e-learning. Monte Vista is passionate about e-learning, passionate about iPads and working hard to move to being entirely paperless in the middle school. As we moved through the school we saw plenty of this in action.
In the Music suite the teacher shared his favourite apps and demonstrated how they were using Sound Note to allow each student to record an individual track whilst sing as a group. Each student sang holding their iPad, recording their voices and with a touch of a button emailed the file to their teacher, enabling him to feedback on individual performances in away that could only have been achieved through single performances in the past. I'm not a music teacher, but it looked pretty cool to me.
The Math teacher came and shared his favourite apps as well. He shared with us a great online resource called The Fuse, which appeared to be a fantastic series of interactive online Maths text books - stunning in the sense that they had moved well beyond a simple PDF version of a print text book, offering next steps, hints and spaces for working out and sharing with the teacher. These aren't available in NZ, but if I were a NZ maths textbook developer, I would be looking at these very closely!
In other classes we saw plenty of students making great use of Notability to write up work and share with teachers and each other. We saw classes using e-Clicker to administer quick quizzes and others publishing work n Keynote. Tis was a school committed to using their technology and using it well to enable efficient and sustainable practices for students and teachers alike.
On many levels Monte Vista impressed, it was buzzy, it was glossy and it even smelt good (with Vanilla scent wafting through the hallways). However, interestingly, the longer we stayed the more we realised that take away the shiny surface features that we what were seeing was simply good integration of technology. It was a school that liked the iPad and used it well. The desire to go paperless was great, however the pedagogy for the most part was no different than any good classroom I have seen anywhere (with or without technology), the lessons were still teacher-centric and on reflection even the decor was about the adults rather than the students.
That said, there was much to enjoy about Monte Vista and there is no doubt, those teachers and students were receiving an excellent deal in the land of milk of honey.