Innovation Drives Lab School @ Punahou

Christine Donnelly

July 23, 2013

Pedagogy – the science and art of education – became iPadagogy as the Lab School @ Punahou invited teachers from around the world to explore the possibilities of a device that is becoming ubiquitous in homes and schools.


The focus on “The iPad and Personalized Learning” drew educators from China, Japan, the continental United States and Hawai‘i for professional development designed to help teachers create student-centered learning environments. Sponsored by Punahou’s Institute for Teaching, Learning and Instructional Innovation, the Lab School’s technology strand began with optional daylong workshops July 1 – 3 and continued July 8 – 12 with hands-on, collaborative teacher cohorts guided by experienced facilitators.

“Our guiding question is ‘How can the iPad be used to support personalized learning for every student?’ We want to use it to truly transform the learning experience and do things we previously couldn’t even imagine,” Lab School Co-Director Douglas Kiang ’87 encouraged participants the first morning. With that inspiration, the educators were off for a week of iPad training and practice, interactions with Punahou Summer School students using the device, and discussions about how to integrate the technology in their own classrooms this fall.

Every step of the way, facilitators such as Grade 8 English teacher Chase Mitsuda ’98 and Academy Art Department Head Dana Teruya ’91 Len emphasized that meaning and relevance, not bells and whistles, should drive the teachers’ plans. “The first questions in any lesson plan are ‘What is the purpose and what will the kids get out of this?’ That’s true if it’s pencil and paper or an iPad,” Mitsuda said as his cohort joined a Digital Storytelling class on Rocky Hill, where the fourth- and fifth-graders used iPads to shoot photographs and video of flowers, trees, bugs and other nature scenes to illustrate their original poetry, which they turned into film trailers using iMovie. At the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood, cohorts interacted with Punahou’s youngest learners, who used iPads to photograph their favorite places in the Neighborhood and then “finger painted” self-portraits into the digital photographs, using the app Doodle Buddy. Teachers noted that the children were learning about perspective and contour as they mimicked the colorful style of author and illustrator Todd Parr. “I shouldn’t draw my body so big. I won’t fit on the slide,” one boy said as he deleted his first attempt and drew another figure small enough to appear to be sliding down the playground equipment.

“Being able to work directly with students is a plus,” observed Jefferson Elementary School teacher Sheila Bierwert, whose Waikiki school begins implementing iPad minis this fall. “I can bring back everything we’re doing at Lab School. My students are going to love this, and they are going to learn so much,” she said, describing the week as the best professional development she’s experienced.

On the final day, participants presented specific ways they’ll use iPads in the classroom this school year, keeping in mind the credo to give students “voice and choice” as they forge purposeful pathways in the digital world.

Access to meaningful professional development is the single most important factor in determining whether schools successfully integrate instructional technology, Kiang said, which is why Punahou is so committed to providing it. Now in its eighth year, the Lab School “is really about building a vibrant community of teachers, online and in person, who are constantly seeking the best for their students.”


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