We are currently in the middle of what is known as the Apple Digital Learning Program.  I first learned about this program at a technology workshop sponsored by Apple way back in December, and through communication with my local sales representative, we submitted an application to host the DLP at my school.

How the program actually works is that you submit applications, or a set of joint applications from your school.  If Apple approves your application, and they have the hardware available, they will send you a set of very new Apple Macbooks, 10 iPod Touches, 1 digital camera, 1 digital camcorder, and 1 airport extreme base station.  You can use these devices free for a month, and then ship them back to Apple, of course if there are any problems during the month, your school is liable for any damages.

The process of getting applications back from my staff wasn’t too difficult, although it took a couple of times of putting out the word to the teachers to get some applications in.  We ended up submitting a set of 6 applications from our school, one from each of an outdoor ed teacher, a humanities teacher, a music teacher, a science teacher, and two math teachers with myself included.  

The box that arrived a couple of weeks ago looks like the picture on the left when you first open it.  The objective is to get it to look exactly like this as possible when you return the box.  There’s a decent lock on the outside and wheels on the bottom of the box.  We’ve discovered that moving the box around a lot is a pain, so we’ve moved classes of kids instead.

We had a workshop that where we worked with a wonderful instructor from Apple, her name was Julia Leong.  She was brilliant, I highly recommend having her attend your school for technology PD, even if you aren’t able to participate in the DLP.  The feedback from the teachers after the workshop was very positive, although most of the teachers are fairly technologically minded people so they didn’t have too much trouble picking up the skills and ideas Julia shared.

During that workshop, I even made a movie which was loads of fun!

The feedback from the students has been tremendous!  They have LOVED being able to use the Mac computers and have definitely appreciated that the teachers are learning with them.  The projects the teachers have been working on with the students have almost all been about creating and sharing ideas.  One of the nice things about having all of the teachers we do involved in this program is that it actually means that every student in the school, with the exception of our 12th grade students who are currently engaged with their IB exams, will get a chance to work with the laptops at some point.

We are only a couple of weeks into the program, but already I can see some possibilities that these computers offer for technology.  The first is that iMovie is extremely powerful software and makes editing movies a breeze, including some pretty advanced techniques.  My favourite part of the Mac iLife suite is how each program on the computer seems to communicate so easily with each other.  The integration between the programs is nearly seamless.

For example, I had students film themselves throwing a ball to a partner using the built in webcam on the laptops, they then learned how to crop the movie and overlay a transparent image of graph paper over their movie.  From this they collected data about their graph, which we are going to use later to determine the equation of of the motion of their graph.  We did all of this in a single block, with a group of students who had mostly never used either a Mac or iMovie before.

I recommend trying out this program at your school, it can be a way to really show your staff that educational technology is a really valuable way through which students can learn advanced ideas and skills.