Why we implemented the iPad and iTunes U program at Eastwood International School in Beirut
At Eastwood International School, we aim to be best Beirut modern school you can come by. We believe that education is not just about content, or books, but about the conversations that happen between peers, faculty, teachers and facilitators. And so, 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. We also use learning apps in the App Store, iTunes U and Google Classroom to manage learning with our courses.
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 lectures at their convenience.
It might sound like a radical move, but we have found in our experience, and through modern teaching methods, that this works wonderfully to enhance the educational experience of a modern school. 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.
Therefore, our iTunes U program facilitates learning both in school, and for students who are unable to attend classes due to medical ailments. Our initial tests worked so well that the school decided to implement the technology (as any Beirut modern school would do), for all classes, and across all grades. All our teachers now create their courses in the iTunes U or Google Classroom systems.
How does it work?
Students enroll in courses online. They download all their lectures, notes, apps, interactive books and video content. The course material gets implemented as homework. By teachers 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 and Google Classroom programs allow 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 and Google Classroom courses conducted in a progressive, modern school setting, 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 same online courses for review and discussion, without the need for proximity to accomplish this.
iTunes U and Google Classroom courses let teachers give each class a customized learning experience. Teachers can create and manage their course online, and students experience it all from apps on their iPad.
Teachers can also transfer their current online courses to another teacher (such as for faculty switchovers, sick days, or when a temporary replacement teacher is needed). The course transfer comes complete with existing student enrollment rosters, too.
In other instances, teachers can simply offer inspiration by sharing a copy of their online courses (the outlines, posts, assignments, and materials) to help others get started.
The training that was required of our teachers to adapt to a modern school philosophy with the iPad apps was minimal. We are happy to say that all our teachers are tech savvy! Creating iTunes U or Google Classroom 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 online, using the course platforms.
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 education is a right, not a privilege. And, students across the world should have open access to quality course content, 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.