Why we implemented the iPad and iTunes U program at EIS
At Eastwood International School, we believe that education is not just about content, or books, but about the conversations that happen between peers, faculty, teachers and facilitators. That’s why we value our iTunes U program to the point that we supplement our textbooks. Yes, that’s right, at Eastwood International School, all our students use iPads and learning is done without traditional books. And we’re proud to say we were the first school in the entire Middle East to do this.
It might sound like a radical move, but we have found in our experience, and in modern teaching methods, that this works wonderfully to enhance the educational experience. Don’t forget that historically, learning was done in the home. With online courses, we are able to create a hybrid situation where students get the best of both worlds: at-home learning and classroom-based social interaction.
Our move to implement iPads at school was not just about being technologically advanced or flashy; we had serious and very practical reasons to do this, and we have seen positive results from it. Kids can actually learn better when classroom time is spent discussing material that is learned at home. This is known as the ‘flipped classroom’ model of teaching.
We first stumbled across the idea to allow for in-home learning when some of our students were not able to attend classes most of the year due to severe illness or other legitimate reasons. We often take for granted the ability to attend classes at a physical location. And it’s not just because of economics either. Parents with professions that require them to relocate to remote places, or even just to move frequently, can also face difficulties creating a continuum of learning with their child’s education. Switching schools and teachers often is known to be an unhealthy approach to child development. It takes time for a child to get settled, make new friends, and get accustomed to a new teacher’s methods and expectations.
Eastwood International School is also the first school in the Middle East to create Arabic iTunes U courses for Lebanese Brevet and Baccalaureate classes. Most of the History, Geography and Ethics courses have been recorded and uploaded on the iTunes U platform so our students are able to watch their lectures at their convenience.
Therefore, our iTunes U program facilitates learning both in school and for students who are unable to attend classes due to medical ailments. The system worked so well that the school decided to implement it for all classes and across all grades. All our teachers now create their courses in the iTunes U system.
Students enroll online and download all their lectures, notes, apps, interactive books and video content. The course material gets implemented as homework. By uploading recorded lectures, students have access to content at their discretion, and can review lectures as many times as they need to, to understand a concept.
This is where the ‘flipped classroom’ model comes into play. With lessons being learned at home, time spent in the classroom is focused on dialog and discussion. This is what education is all about. Let us explain:
Everyone can read the same book and memorize a portion of it, but is that real learning? Instead, we aim to create those ‘light bulb’ moments as a result of discussing lesson plans and topics. This is the real learning experience. When students share and collaborate with one another they enhance their ways of thinking and improve their logical progression. This opens their minds to alternate aspects of a situation or an idea, and that is how higher orders of thinking become possible.
Our iTunes U program allows for enhanced collaboration and efficiency among teachers
We know of course that teamwork, and putting our heads together always wins. The more input, the more improvement we see, and that’s not only the case with teaching.
With our iTunes U courses at Eastwood International School in Lebanon, multiple teachers can collaborate on course creation, management, and enrollment with up to five course contributors. For example, department leads, teacher’s assistants or district curriculum developers can all have access to the online courses for review and discussion, without the need for proximity to accomplish this.
iTunes U courses let teachers give each class a customized learning experience. Teachers can create and manage their course online and students can experience it all from the iTunes U app on iPad.
Teachers can also transfer their current course to another teacher (such as for faculty switchovers, sick days, or when a temporary replacement teacher is needed), complete with the existing student enrollment.
In other instances, they can simply offer inspiration by sharing a copy of their online courses — the outline, posts, assignments, and materials — to help others get started.
The training that was required from our teachers to do this was minimal, as all our teachers are tech savvy. Creating iTunes U courses is extremely simple. Enrolling students in courses is even easier. Homework and assignments can be submitted via e-mail and collaborative discussions can even happen in the iTunes course platform itself.
In short, it saves us time at an administrative level, so we can spend more time focusing on your child’s learning experience, professional development, implementing new teaching methods, coming up with ideas and of course, personal one-on-one attention.
Expanding our reach: aiming for better education in the entire Middle East and with other schools
We now host over 50 courses on iTunes U. Eastwood International School has published some courses that it believes to be good content for other schools. Teachers and educators around the world may use them at their discretion. Our publicly published courses are completely free of charge to use, and we hope to expand our library of these types of courses. Why? Because Eastwood International School believes that education is a right, and not a privilege, and students across the world should have open access to quality courses free of charge.
We can’t wait to move on to our next goal, which is to make more and more online courses accessible to educators around the world, especially in places where quality of education is hard to come by.
To view our iTunes U courses please click here.