Beta Testin’ a New Lesson (and New Teaching)

What is it about the phrase “beta test” or “pilot program” that seems to put many of us at ease? When testing out a new game or piece of software, knowing that the program is in beta mode seems to give the person the freedom to test it out fearlessly. If the program messes up, THAT’S OK! It’s in Beta!

Today I “beta tested” a lesson using iPads in my 11th grade English class. I could spend an entire blog talking about the lesson, how it went, and how I will fix it, but for right now, I’d like to focus on what I witnessed. Now, I’ve taken my students to the several computer labs that our building holds, and I certainly see the power of using computers in the classroom, but never have I felt masterless of content than when I had 30 students using iPads. As my school prepares for our massive rollout of 1700 of devices for our students next semester, I’m beginning to see what a massive paradigm shift I will be facing in my classroom, and I need to understand that it’s perfectly fine for my students to have all of the information within their tablets. In his essay, “Why School?”, Will Richardson discusses a time when information was scarce and the teacher was the holder of the valuable information. This information is more plentiful than ever before, and thus our role as educators MUST change. It’s been said before that we can no longer be the “Sage on the stage….” blah blah blah, but this couldn’t be more true than what I witnessed as my students searched for their own information and took ownership of their assignment. While using the iPads, i’m learning the importance of timely feedback (and you thought exit slips were quick) and student ownership.

I’m learning that Beta testing not only allows a person to feel fearless, but it also opens their eyes to some innovative ideas. I’ve read countless articles, essays, blogs, and books about the benefits of 1:1 devices in the classroom, but it wasn’t until I was able to actually do this that I could feel a new definition of learning occurring. I look forward to moving on to next semester!


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