Category Archives: iPads
When I was a kid we used to go bowling. No, not Wii bowling. Actual bowling. You know, where you wear someone else’s shoes, put your fingers in some greasy ball and take in your share of second-hand smoke? (smoking was allowed in bowling alleys back then). When I first started out, my ball went all over the place, including backwards once into a group of bystanders. When I finally did get my sense of direction down, I would end up chucking this 10 pound ball down a lane and inevitably it would end up in the gutter. Time and time again I would try only to be met with the “Brunswick pin sweeper of shame”. You know, the one where that rake comes down and knocks over all ten pins that you missed?
My parents were great at letting me fail and learning from that failure, but it led to some frustration. Enter bumper rails! While I still had to have some basic sense of direction, the bumper rails kept my ball from falling into the gutter and I was able to achieve some moderate success and even come up with the occasional strike.
Rolling out iPads in our schools in some ways as mirrored my bowling experience as a youth. We’ve given some basic direction and support but sometimes the ball flew backward (like when we went from iOS 4.3 to 5.0). Sometimes our fingers get stuck in the ball (iPads only being used for simple substitutive tasks). And other times, even when we had students going in the right direction, their feet would sometimes step over the line before they roll(distraction). However, by constantly communicating with our community, teachers, students and administrators, we are continually seeking out ways to positively impact the instructional use of these tools in the classroom and thus have the kids bowl more strikes. One of the early struggles in our deployment was the ability to be balance profiles and restrictions on the iPads so that they would have a successful educational experience. We really only had a couple of choices when we started back in 2011:
A) Let the kids bowl down the lane with the possibility of the occasional gutter ball or B) Set up blanket restrictions which was similar to bowling a ball down the lane only to have the pin sweep come down and block the pins, essentially taking away any of the creative personalization opportunities of the iPads.
Finally, this summer, we were able to use our own set of bumper rails. With the new Apple Deployment system and our revamped Casper JAMF MDM system, we were able to put some better, more secure profiles and systems in place to help further the instructional focus of iPads in the classroom and let creativity flourish.
Here’s a poster of a few of our newest restriction profiles at each level:
These new profiles will help us not only deal with our greatest challenges of the past but also help us push out apps wirelessly to student iPads at a much more rapid rate with an eye on personalizing each students’ device. Here are three things we’re most excited about in the new system:
Locked in “Focus” when needed:
With the new Casper Focus tool, teachers can lock student iPads into a single app. This means that we can use the iPads for testing and even as a substitute for expensive calculators. While we don’t want teachers over-using this feature, it will give them some scope of control when needed to get the class re-focused and on the same page so to speak. (like those directional arrows in the bowling lane)
We are highly concerned that non-educational gaming and iMessages were causing some disruptions to learning and causing kids to be off-task or distracted during the school day or at night. With our new MDM update, we have removed iMessages from the devices entirely and also improved some of the restrictions for gaming. We still believe it takes a village with a team approach of parent and school to teach kids self-control, but this new system gives us the guidelines (Bumpers) we need to make that happen effectively. One student found this out when he tried to turn in his iPad after getting it this Fall and claiming that it was broken. When he was asked why he thought it was broken he said, “Because I can’t download my favorite game. It just keeps disappearing.” (Strike!)
Over the Air App Distribution:
At the secondary level, students could get apps from us via a web-clip called “Self Service.” This was a nice way to make apps available for students, but it meant essentially giving away the app as a consumable because once it was redeemed, the student owned it. With the updated MDM system and the new Apple ID Under 13 program, students K-12 can have apps “pushed” to their iPads over the air without going and looking for them. By that same token, the apps now act as licenses which can be “pulled” back whenever a student leaves or starts a different course (Think rapid ball return and pin set-ups)
While we are always working to make personalized learning the perfect blend of support (bumpers) and guidance (arrows) which will turn learning into a success (strikes). With these new additions, I think we are well on our way to bowling a perfect 300 when it comes to iPads in Education.
Now…if I could just improve my personal bowling score…Am I too old to play with bumpers?
As students fill the hallways of our schools on their first day back, there is a major change afoot for those kids under the age of 13. Students in the pre-teen realm have always had less options when it came to personalization and use of certain websites/social media. While some of those rules still apply when it comes to the web, Apple’s new system of allowing districts to issue Apple IDs for those students under the age of 13 (with parental consent) means that the days of every elementary students having the same standardized iPad are in the past. Combining that with the new deployment system and (in our case) an MDM like Casper, and we are finally starting to see some of the real powerful potential of the 1:1 iPad platform. While I know there will be some glitches (there always are in technology), I’m looking forward to the improvements listed here this year for our K-6 students.
For the past 2 years, our elementary students have been living in the 1:1 world when it comes to devices, but haven’t really gotten the full-fledged personalized experience of their older counter-parts when it comes to apps. Because we couldn’t have individual Apple IDs on each iPad, we used Apple Configurator to provision “images” to sets of iPads at every grade level. This was a painfully arduous process that entailed having a Support Tech go classroom to classroom with a Macbook and provision the images to each iPad. With the amount of time and man-power it took to accomplish this, we basically had time for one app-refresh cycle every year. Besides the inefficiency of this model, we also had several times when iPads would get “hung up” during app refresh and have to be completely wiped, losing important student work that hadn’t been backed up. Now that every student will have an Apple ID, we can “push” apps out to students over the air (OTA). If a classroom wants an app, they contact our MDM campus manager who loads the app and pushes it out to the class overnight. If it’s a free app, the kids can even download it themselves!
Since we basically had two groups (K-2 and 3-5), that meant front-loading the images with pretty much every app we would think to use for the school year. The resulting images were somewhat heavy (taking up over 6GB of the 16GB space) and many were unnecessary depending on your grade. Here’s our example list of apps for elementary last year. You could have 3rd graders looking at 5th grade apps that they didn’t even need. While we’ve really focused on productive apps vs. consumptive ones, we at least knew that all kids would have the tools they needed to create a finished product. Now that we can now push apps over the air, that means starting with a much leaner set of core apps to start (nearly all “productive” apps) and adding those content or grade-level based consumptive apps as needed. One drawback of not having a set image on them is that iPads are essentially naked to begin the year until the students have their Apple IDs set up. Enter the always clever Janet Couvillion. She’s an Ed Tech at one of our elementary campuses and she created this tremendous Thinglink about all things you can do on an iPad with only basic apps:
We utilize eBackpack as our web-based and app-based content distribution system. However, we’ve also found some successes using iTunesU at the upper grades when it comes to quickly creating courses for students. Now that our students under the age of 13 have Apple IDs, we can have them enroll in a class course at the beginning of the year that a teacher can use to push out content as it becomes relevant. We can also provision specific iBooks or class sets of iBooks to students based on their Apple IDs, something not possible in the past.
Time to Focus
Another potential bonus of all of this is the new Casper Focus feature we had a kindergarten teacher test for us last year. With all iPads in this new system and each student with an Apple ID, a teacher can now “control” or “lock-down” all the iPads in his/her class into a specific app. While I’m not a big fan of the lock-down control model when it comes to teaching and learning, I do know there is a time and place when this might need to happen from time to time. With state and national testing moving to an online platform, we’ll need to have this ability going forward. This year we’ll be pilot testing the ACT Aspire test on iPads for students in grades 4-9 and we’ll also be piloting using a Desmos Calculator app during our 8th Grade Algebra State assessment. None of this would be possible without this new system in place without individually going to each iPad and enabling Guided Access.
In order to make this system work, we have to really rely on parent support. They have to go through the online consent and Apple ID creation process for us to be able to utilize all the advantages listed above. As a parent, the advantages to this program versus making your own Apple ID are many (here’s a Parent Guide from Apple). They’ll be able see what apps their students are purchasing. With their students being in the Under 13 program they’ll have less advertisements and data mining to worry about. As a parent of a new kindergarten student, I was excited to not only set up her Apple ID because we can now mirror the apps she’s getting at school and put them on our devices at home to help with her learning. I’ve always been a believer in the concept of a village raising the child and in our ever-increasing online world, the lines between home and school are no longer clearly defined. This process gives us as a district another opportunity to communicate about the education of their child, which can in the end only be a good thing.
To help introduce parents to this process I made this somewhat silly 3.5 minute video (below) along with some instructions for them on their end.
The future is bright and no longer just for those born before 2001!
I’ve received lots of great feedback on my SAMR Swimming Pool analogy (Taking a Dip in the SAMR Swimming Pool). This was an idea originated by Greg Garner’s take on Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s often referred to “SAMR ladder” and then “remixed” if you will by me. Well…it’s time for another remix because after reading that original post I realized something.
I got it wrong.
I focused on the teacher’s role in the pool the entire time and didn’t think about the students as much. So I’ve decided to take another stab at this and was motivated by my recent trip up to Minnesota for iPadpaloozaMN. They asked me to make my SAMR Swimming pool analogy into an entire 50-minute keynote! Talk about pressure! So, here goes. A remix on the SAMR swimming pool with all new analogies and concepts.
The Baby Pool (Substitution)
While parts of the original analogy still apply, it’s not just about what the teacher is doing with technology. Sure , you still need to test water when it comes to tech. Some teachers feel the temperature and decide it’s too cold to enter. Let’s say you feel the pool is comfortable and safe to enter. You step into the pool and your 25 students enter the pool with you. All the sudden you notice something, you are happy that it’s only so deep. Because it never goes below 1 1/2 feet deep, the kids can safely walk and splash around with the tools. They don’t need log-ins or email addresses. You can control where they go and if any of them are acting up or playing rough, you can just kick them out of the pool (take away their device). A baby pool is fun for really young kids (ages 5 and under) however, older students will quickly get bored in here and want to stretch the boundaries a little. The same thing happens when you take out a device that has access to the entire world and then limit it to just note-taking or e-reading.
The Shallow End (Augmentation)
After some time wading in the baby pool with technology, you feel like you can handle having all your students enter the main pool. They start out around the steps and work their way into waste-deep or even chest-deep water. You give them some freedom to go online (but only to certain sites) and you let them use a couple of different apps to help show they understand the learning objective. Kids can start to be a little more creative here. They can now do headstands under water. They can make a powerpoint presentation. They can play games like water volleyball. They can take a quiz on Socrative. You get the idea.
However, as the water is a little deeper, there is also a little more risk. Someone may fall and drown. You quickly realize that the boundary into the deep end of technology is only a little rope with some buoys on it. But, rather than stop and go back to the baby pool with the kids, you decide to let them stretch their wings. Kids can of pretty much any age range that can swim a little (3yo-18yo) can interact in this part of the pool with some monitoring. You notice they enjoy it much more as there is more to do and you enjoy it more because you know that if someone falls down, they can still stand up safely and breathe. Maybe they don’t need to go to the deep end….
Pool breaks (No technology)
Just like the pool, you need breaks from technology or your fingers will get pruny. Every so often you need to take 10 minutes or so to just get out, walk around, eat a snack and reapply sun-screen. Don’t forget that no matter how great all this tech-integration is, we all need breaks from it from time to time. Some of the best brain breaks are just 5-10 minutes of playing charades or doing a silly dance. While they may fight to get back into the pool, plan these into your technology integrated lessons. The students may not notice it at first, but these breaks spur creativity and interaction essential especially when going into the deep end.
The Deep End (Modification)
Eventually, you realize you have now spent quite a bit of time talking about boundaries and rules with your kids. They are all now very efficient at swimming with technology and are aware of the risks that are out there. You decide it’s ok to send them past the rope with a mission or project in mind without many restrictions except the basic pool rules. As a teacher you realize it’s no longer feasible to be in the pool with the kids as that would be incredibly exhausting trying to tell each of them what to do (sage on the stage) so you elect to go into the lifeguard’s chair and keep an eye on things as well as offer motivation (guide on the side).
You begin to notice some things very different about this part of the pool. Kids can now swim all the way to the 12-foot bottom and touch. They can hold their breath for 2 minutes without much struggle. They can focus on an assignment much longer even with all the access they now have. They start to invent games like sharks and minnows. They start to create Explain Everything examples of how they understand an objective. They start to get in and out of the pool and dive in off the side (as it’s now deep enough). They quickly transition from paper to device back to paper when needed. As kids need to be pretty efficient swimmers, you wouldn’t want any too young (6 or less) in this part of the pool without a floatie. As a lifeguard, you need to make sure they don’t drown and occasionally might need to blow the whistle when they’ve been in the pool too long, but overall the kids are really enjoying the rigor and fun that comes in this part of the pool.
The High Dive (Redefinition)
Kids can not only swim completely independently now, they are also starting to do things you didn’t even imagine when you entered the pool.
They can stay under water for 20 or 30 minutes at a time without batting an eye.
The pool no longer has a bottom.
They see the high dive and quickly decide to go off of it. They begin to design gravity-defying dives that involve their friends doing
coordinated back flips. Not only that, they show their teacher how they collaborated and achieved the dive but also how it identifies mastery in their learning.
The students have now become the lifeguards and invent the rules they feel are appropriate for all the swimmers. Your role is that of a swimming or dive coach as well as pool owner. (mentor in the center) You want to make sure the water is clean and the internet is filtered appropriately. You set some limits as too how long kids can swim in the pool before a break but the kids enforce it. Your pool is now one of the most popular places in the city and kids are building their own crazy slides, games, and zip lines that make it an enriching and engaging place to be.
None of this was possible when you first stepped foot in that baby pool, but without those initial steps you could have never gotten here. Without letting the kids have some level of autonomy with technology, they would have never gotten to the point where they felt they had some ownership in their learning. Just remember, now that they can jump off that high dive, it doesn’t mean this is where they always have to be. Some days the baby pool is all they can handle. Other days, maybe it’s the shallow end.
No matter where they are around your pool you can rest easy in the work you have done to get them at this point.
Now go let them swim.
This year at iPadpalooza we were looking to do something a little different with all that “transition” time in between sessions. Often times, when you attend a conference, you find yourself in complete session-mode. You rush from session to session, never taking time to reflect, interact or collaborate with others at the event.
And so, the APPMazing Race was born. When the team at iPadpalooza started brainstorming ideas, the thought of some sort of app-based Olympics was being passed around. Last year, we did an Aurasma scavenger hunt to get people interacting with their space. It was a great time-filler but was purely for individuals. Inventing a challenge based on teamwork would make the actual event even more meaningful was the hope. We ended up with 47-teams of 3 to 4 players signing up for the race by the end of the opening keynote. At midnight of the first day, they received their instructions of what they had to accomplish in the next 36 hours.
1. CREATE – A logo and team name for your team
2. LISTEN – Create a 15-20 second audio podcast that summarizes your favorite session. (background music/sound effects for a bonus point)
3. CONNECT – One team member must make a new friend from somewhere else (not on their team) and ﬁnd 3 things they have in common. Create a Thinglink to represent your new friend and the 3 things you have in common. (Bonus point for ﬁnding someone from a different state or country)
4. SNEAK – A team member photo-bombs an Eanes iVenger (hint: they will be wearing red crew shirts on Wednesday) Clariﬁcation: A proper photo bomb is when someone sneaks into a photo from behind.
5. CAPTURE – Take 5 selﬁes with vendors and post to Instagram with hashtag #iplza14 and your team name. Capture all 5 for ﬁnal submission video. 1 point per selﬁe.
6. EAT – Create a Canva poster based on your favorite food item from the food trucks.
7. DRAW – Using a drawing app, create your best caricature of another team member.
8. CHALLENGE – Create and post a Vine of a team member asking a presenter a question. (please don’t interrupt a session just for this – that could result in a deduction)
9. OUTREACH – Connect with someone over FaceTime who is not at the event and show them around. Take a screenshot that displays evidence you are here.
10.SHARE – Upload and share your final video submission somewhere visible on the web. Your final video must be no longer than 2 minutes.
We also had two scheduled challenges from 3:30-4:30 in the main room of iPadpalooza on Day 2 where the teams had to complete these -
1. DRIVE – Control a Sphero through an obstacle course. 5 attempts per team. Bonus points to the top 3 teams that take the shortest time to complete the challenge.
2. SMASH – Create an Appsmash LIVE during the day 2 closing activity. Theme of the smash will be given at 3:30. You must smash as many apps as you have team members +1 (so a team of 4 must smash 5 apps).
Bonus points we possible for teams with evidence of the top tweets and creativity of final video submission. While we could have just made it a checklist of items and drawn names out of a hat, we decided instead to judge their final submissions. Rather than fact check every item, the 2-minute video was the proof teams had to submit to at noon prior to the closing.
We had an amazing 18 teams complete the challenge and many were made up of people from completely different districts. In retrospect I would have loved to given every finishing team an award, but we ended up just awarding the top three prizes. Here is what the winning video submission looked like from Team “FargoFromDownUnder Appletes”
While there are always areas to improve, this race was successful in bringing colleagues together (either from the same district or even different countries) to engage and collaborate with an event rather than just being an passive participant. We look forward to even more teams competing next year and know now that the bar has been raised!
Official APPMazing Race Rules & Challenges 2014 PDF
Planning a wedding is tough. As a (somewhat) retired wedding DJ, I have seen all the good and the bad of a wedding. From a bride’s father refusing to walk his daughter down the isle to a drunken uncle “mic-bombing” the reception, it’s a celebration of life while coupled with an undercurrent of stress.
Now take that and multiple it by 37, lose your voice and you have my experience at this year’s iPadpalooza. It was all the fun mixed with all the stress. Only instead of obstinate fathers we had some amazingly inventive teams of teachers in our first ever APPmazing race. We had our own drunken mic-bombing uncle close out the show (only without the drunk part) in the ever-entertaining and inspiring Kevin Honeycutt. All of this and my voice never fully made its way back from a weekend cold which made things madly frustrating at times for me.
This was our third year of the ‘palooz and we tried to continue to make it not only a happening event but also one where learning was fun and at the center of everything. Last year’s keynote of Sir Ken Robinson was very much the highlight of the 2013 event. While it’s great to have one-of-a-kind keynote speakers, making this event different than others is the experience around it. From the food trucks to the live music to the wide variety of speakers from all over the world (including our new friends Janelle and Terry from Australia!), making the experience innovative is always the toughest challenge to event organizers.
Like any other innovation or invention, we got some parts right and we failed on some others. Regardless, the feedback from attendees has been OVERWHELMINGLY positive with more than 98% saying they would return next year, which speaks volumes to the success of this year’s event. Here are some highlights from both my perspective and from those of that sent in feedback.
New additions this year:
APP-mazing Race -
Whenever I attend an event or conference, there are times where I feel like I could and should be a little more active in my learning. The APPmazing Race was born out of the idea that we have a lot of “minutia” that we could be utilizing. (such a great idea I hear Pearson used it at ISTE a week later). I also feel like at times we don’t make a point of getting to know others and instead just talk to those in our inner-circle or Twitter PLN. The APPMazing Race was a chance for 3-4 person teams to complete a series of challenges in a 36-hour period starting at Midnight on the first night. While we may have shot a little far on our series of app-based challenges, we did have 18 teams complete the race which far exceeded our initial expectations. In the end it was a couple of Minnesotans joining forces with two Aussies to create the winning team “FargoFromDownUnder Appletes” each of whom when home with an HD iPad Mini and a great story to share. Blog coming soon with more details on how we did this.
Youth Film Festival -
Without a doubt, the youth film festival film screening at Alamo Drafthouse on the second night of iPadpalooza was my personal favorite moment from event, and not just because I was able to take my wife and oldest daughter along with me. Keeping with last year’s theme of creativity, we decided to join forces with Pflugerville ISD film guru Humberto Perez to create our first every youth film festival. Much like the APPmazing race, the film festival wasn’t without it’s set of challenges, but in the end, we got to witness first-hand the joy of film-making from the minds of children of all ages. The teams had only a few rules – create a 2-4 minute film using only an iOS device, make it have something to do with this year’s theme “UP” and put a balloon in it as a prop. The final results were magical and the winning team “Up, Up, and Away” was also the team that traveled the farthest (coming to us all the way from Illinois). We can’t wait until next year’s event where we’re sure we’ll see the bar raised even higher after this year.
iLead Academy -
Leadership in any type of mobile-device initiative is vital to its success. While iPadpalooza offers many learning opportunities for leaders, it’s still teacher-focused at its heart. We created the iLead Academy as an opportunity to get like-minded leaders in the same room hoping to make change happen on their campuses. We mixed in a variety of world-renown speakers, expert panels and activities focused around the 4C’s. Having an opportunity the hear from so many inspiring leaders, much like the kids from the film festival, really reminded me of what this is all about.
Expert Lounge & Human Library -
With all of these great speakers and variety of expertise in one place, it would be a shame not to at least have 5-10 minutes with them in 1:1 conversation. For those buffer times in the schedule, we created a “human library” where you could check out an expert in a field and sit down and have a conversation to help with your growth and learning. We hope to expand and advertise this much more next year as feedback from those that attended these times was extremely positive.
One of the goals of iPadpalooza is to really focus attention on the attendees and make their experience an enjoyable one so that learning can happen more freely. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong. Here are a couple of areas we’ll focus on improving next year:
I tried a “staggered” schedule much like that of a movie theater instead of the standard 60-minute session/15-minute break approach. The idea was to leave some wider gaps in between sessions and to cut back on traffic flow. Based on attendee feedback, this was either loved or hated. Add to that the limitations of our Sched app and there were times people got up and walked out of a session because they didn’t know another was starting a few minutes later. We also tried an evening keynote on the night before the event with the thinking that many people would be in town anyway for the next day. Sadly, many people missed this because they didn’t schedule to come in until the first full day. Next year, we’ll look at keeping some of those wide gaps but possibly syncing up more of the session starting times, we’ll move the keynotes back to the daytime and improve (or likely change) the scheduling app.
With a couple of last minute cancellations, our music this year was a mix of good and bad. At one point I even came out of retirement to spin the 1’s and 2’s as a morning DJ. While we had an eclectic mix of music, next year we’ll look to keep that flavor but possible have it either in a different area or possible turn the sound down on the amps so people can enjoy conversation and music at the same time.
Food Trucks -
Having an event with “personalized eating” when it comes to food trailers is still very much part of the fun experience of this learning festival and very much an attendee favorite.
Session diversity -
This year we had sessions from “I fear I’m becoming a Tree-hugging Hippie” to “Guilty Pleasures…Apps You Just Can’t Delete.” There were presenters from all over the U.S. and beyond bringing their own unique perspectives to learning with mobile devices. We had a little something for every attendee out there and can bet that we’ll increase on that diversity next year. We’ll be adding both a “Poster-Session” option for presenters and possibly a 15-minute “TED-style” option for talks in short bursts in a certain area of the event.
Sugata Mitra and Kevin Honeycutt provided the perfect bookend speakers for this year’s event. Both spoke about the ideas behind global outreach and also brought us back to core of why we are here…kids. Like Sir Ken last year, they’ll be tough acts to follow, but we already have some interesting leads already in the works!
Sneak Peak toward 2015
While I won’t spill all the goods on next year’s event, I’ve already alluded to the fact we’ll see some different types of session offerings, a change in our keynote structure, and improvements on the APPmazing Race and Youth Film Festival. We’ll also likely keep our old faves of live music and food trucks in place. I know that not every innovative and “weird” idea will work next year. Like a wedding, there will be all sorts of magical moments happening throughout the event (only hopefully without the tears). What I can guarantee people walking “down the isle” of iPadpalooza will experience something they can’t get anywhere else…and learn a thing or two along the way.
Come to Austin June 23-25, 2015 and say “I do”.
Here’s a word-cloud of all the 1-word answers attendees used to describe this year’s event:
Here are some other blogs and articles about the event from local news and attendees:
iPad Convention Trains Teachers from Around the World - Austin American-Statesman
Top 10 Things I Learned at iPadpalooza – Summer Len Diamond
Inspired by iPadpalooza Visual Notetaking - Wes Fryer
iPadpalooza 2014 Highlights - Mathy Cathy
About a year ago, we decided after much input to open up YouTube Safe Search for students. While there can be a lot of mind-numbing videos about squirrels on jet-skis, there is also a large amount of instructional content on there. Want to learn how to do Photoshop? Or maybe just the right way to carve a turkey? It’s all on there.
Being a 1:1 iPad school district means that anything we enable on the filter side, pretty much goes out to all students since it’s all at their finger tips. It’s taken some time for teachers to adjust to this new student-centered focused on learning versus the teacher as “disseminator of all information” model. One thing we’ve noticed throughout this initiative is that a lecture-based, teacher at the front, method of instruction lends itself to more distraction and less educational use of the devices. As teachers have shifted the knowledge to the students, distraction has decreased and learning with iPads as tools has increased. This may seem like a simple enough switch, but we are asking some of the best and brightest teachers to change everything they have been doing the past 20-25 years successfully. Which brings me to last January and the opening of YouTube.
Ten full minutes after announcing that YouTube would be open for students, I received the following email: (Name omitted)
I knew the sender of this email very well and for the sake of this article we’ll just refer to him as Jim. Being a very accomplished teacher, I realized the worry that Jim had with all the distraction and possible off-task behavior. I had a list of apps that allow some sort of screen-sheltered management. Apps like Nearpod or “Focus” by JAMF allow some form of screen control and embedded lock-down. My gut reaction was to seek out one of these apps as a way to help this him with his teaching. Knowing Jim well though, I decided on a different approach and response:
I made sure to include the all important smiley face on my response so that Jim knew I was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek but also sincere when it came to thinking about shifting the pedagogical practice he was employing. I later regretted not adding the statement that you can also use your “iMouth” to enforce restrictions.
While this was done to spark thinking and hopefully garner a bit of a laugh, the overall message has had some affect, even outside of Jim’s classroom. I mentioned this to some colleagues shortly after this and word spread about the “2Eyes” app. Before I knew it, people were actually sending me messages asking what the 2 Eyes app was because they couldn’t find it in the app store. In fact, Jim even responded with “I know that Carl. In fact, any teacher worth their salt knows that. It’s just that…this is hard! Having all this distraction pulls their attention away from what I’m trying to teach them.”
We ended the email exchange and opted for a face to face conversation, at which point I offered some assistance. While I couldn’t ask him to change his entire pedagogical practice, I made him a promise to work with him on changing some of what he’s currently doing to a more student-centered approach. A month later, Jim invited me into the classroom to watch an interactive lesson using formative assessment and Socrative. While this wasn’t a complete shift to student-driven learning, it was a step in the right direction and helped solve two issues:
1. Students felt much more empowered and more engaged in the class and lesson. When I informally asked them what they thought of this new approach many mentioned it made learning fun again. Some said that normally (even without an iPad), they would just check out and day-dream while the teacher asked the kids questions. Now they felt like they needed to participate to be a part of the class.
2. The teacher also left feeling empowered. Jim was able to walk around the room and send out the questions via the app and watch and listen as kids responded. He was able to instantly show the class data on the screen and have discussion about which points the group did poorly on. He was able to focus his direct instruction on those weaker areas in future lessons.
The moral of this story is that changing in teaching practice doesn’t happen overnight. You can put new devices in the hands of kids, but without some adjustments by the instructors, they are little more than expensive eReaders. I applaud teachers like Jim who have the courage to reach out and admit that this is hard. His original email was a call for help and I could have taken the easy way out by just giving him some screen-controlling app and been on my merry way.
That would have benefitted me in terms of time and energy saved from having to work with him on those changes. It would have benefitted Jim because he could have had a quick fix for teaching the kids. There’s one group though that wouldn’t have benefitted, those students in Jim’s class. They are the reason we are all here and sometimes it means taking the more difficult road if it’s for the betterment of learning.
If you are a teacher or administrator reading this, you will experience this exact scenario if you haven’t already when it comes to a “mobile device initiative” or BYOD. While it may seem like that easiest answer is the best answer, take a moment to think to yourself and ask the question: Is this beneficial to student learning?
So your district or school is planning or in the process of implementing some sort of 1:1 device initiative. Seeing as these are all the rage, seems like it’s a given that your deployment will be a smashing success, right? Here’s the truth….
…it will fail.
It may not be monumental failure, but parts of your deployment will not work. Whether it be the MDM that manages them or the rising stack of parent concerns, you will be faced with a choice as a district: retreat or carry on. In the wake of the LAUSD story and the recent Ft. Bend ISD news here in Texas about ‘re-evaluating’ their deployments, I thought it’d be a good time to reflect on why some deployments work and some don’t work. I’ll let you know that our deployment was far from flawless, as I’ve listed here, but we had tools in place to overcome issues before they became an “Implementation Killer”.
The Importance of Buy-In
A leader trying to make a splash in student learning can sometimes forget one of the most simple steps — community buy-in. While giving a device can be a transformative learning experience, without some initial buy-in from teacher leaders and community members, it will ultimately fail. This buy-in is the foundation by which all programs succeed. Having a strong foundation based on community buy-in means being able to weather the storm of students breaking restrictions or teachers being frustrated by initial classroom distraction. In our district we held 27 different meetings/presentations to staff and the community to talk about the program and its expectations over the course of the first couple of years.
Going too Fast
Technology changes by the milli-second, so there is a sense of urgency to go from pilot to full-fledged implementation overnight. This is a natural instinct, especially from those wanting to make sure that all students are on the same model of device. Unless your district is on the small-side (less than 1000 students), figure on it taking 2-3 years before you have widespread effective implementation. Can you deploy all the devices in one year? Sure, but be prepared for multiple fires to put out and for a very basic level of integration of the devices in the classroom. It’s much easier to focus you attention on smaller scenarios and fan the flames of its success into a larger implementation, rather than just have the equivalent of widespread panic throughout your buildings due to lack of support, direction and successful pilot scenarios.
Focusing on the Device
Being a part of an “iPad 1:1″ means there’s immediately a label and focus on the device. If you make your program centered around the type of device you are getting, be it an android or a Chromebook, and not around the “how and why” you are doing the 1:1, you’ll make your program obsolete before it gets going. Focus your 1:1 on district goals and missions with intentional omission of what type of device you’ll use to achieve this transformative learning. By NOT focusing on a device, you can be nimble with future implementations and not pigeon-hole yourself into one type of device. It takes lots of different tools/resources to achieve a higher-level of student-driven learning.
Not Letting Instruction Guide Your Pilot
Everyone is under a time crunch. The tech department’s main job is to optimize the way devices are deployed. This usually means that it’ll be disruptive to the classroom in some form or fashion. If you base your initial deployment on location, demographics, or ease of rollout on the technology department, you’ll have some serious problems. Rather than do that, focus your initial pilot on those teams or grade levels that are the most ready and open to change. Not only will you likely have more successes to share from this group of early adopters, they will also be much more understanding when certain things don’t work. Much like the buy-in comment above, they will also be the ones that ultimately decide whether district-wide expansion is a “Must” or just a “nice to have” for all other grade levels. Choose this group wisely….
Many districts that deploy a certain device to a group also hire built-in trainers from the company that supplied the device. While this is better than nothing, this training is usually focused on how to use the device technically with a couple of classroom examples thrown into the mix if you are lucky. A deeper understanding of classroom integration is needed (and repeated). This doesn’t happen overnight or over the course of a 2-day training seminar. Districts wanting to reach those lofty goals of transforming instruction need to think about investing in either continual outsourced training from a trusted company (ideally one not tied to a particular device) or hiring staff full-time to provide just-in-time training throughout the year. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my work with EdTechTeacher is that they are focused on this kind of transformational integration in their workshop offerings to schools that can’t afford a full-time person. In my district, I’m fortunate enough to have a great team of “iVengers” to provide this, but again, where many districts go wrong is mentality that just dropping the devices into classrooms will make magic happen. These are a gift with a tail and it’s time we made it a priority to pay for that tail.
Investing in Parents
Parents can be an X-factor in any deployment. They can either be supportive or drive your deployment into the ground by strumming up enough negative support. It’s important to realize that these devices are not only disruptive to learning in the classroom but also to the rules and guidelines set-up in the home. While many students that take these devices home likely have their own device, supplying a device from the district means that it doesn’t belong to the family and some parents may feel uncomfortable putting rules and restrictions on this device. It’s imperative that parents have options to control these devices in some format while under their roof. This can be as simple as not letting little Junior install his own apps or requiring the student complete a list of choirs prior to having the WiFi password for the day. As painful as it can be at the moment, some of the most valuable conversations I’ve had during our deployment has come from parents not pleased with what we were doing initially. Giving them the digital tools and reinforcing their ability to “be a parent” go a long way in turning those most ardent critics into supporters of your program. In many cases, the conversations around digital wellness need to be happening before their child goes off to college. Your 1:1 deployment just brought that necessity to light so both the school and the parents should take advantage of the opportunity to dialogue with students on what’s right or wrong in the digital world.
If you are spearheading a 1:1 deployment or a teacher on the leading edge of it, you might be frustrated by the lack of others to get on the bus right away. In order to make the shift to a student-centered instructional model with the device and teacher supporting the learning, it takes time and patience. In some cases you are dealing with accomplished teachers that have been highly successful with they way they have been teaching for the past 30 some odd years. This new disruption could be an affront to their pedagogical ideals if they weren’t involved in the process (see first point on buy-in). While you’ll always have early adopters and innovators with a new device, it’s getting the next group on board that will create a tipping point of momentum towards your goals. This group of accomplished teachers makes up about 80% of your staff and for them, they need to see how this technology will not only make their lives easier, but also will make learning more meaningful for students. In some cases, this may only take one “aha” moment. In the case of the skeptical teacher it could take months or years to convince them there might be a better way. At any rate, have patience and give staff time together to plan and share their integration strategies. Giving the gift of time (in our case common-planning periods) for a team of teachers allows them freedom to think and try out new ideas in a safe environment. Some of the most powerful teaching and learning strategies come from this informal get togethers. If at all possible, build this time into the schedule of those in your pilot or full deployment. It’ll be a gift that keeps on giving.
Bottom line – If you follow all this advice, will parts of your deployment still fail? Yes. There’s no way to account for every single variable that will come your way on this adventure. However, if you have invested in these areas before, during and after deployment, you’ll find that your recovery from little failures are not only possible, you’ll become a much stronger team of teachers and learners as a result of it.Editor’s Note: For those of you that enjoyed this post, please check out its companion post on 7 Ways to Sabotage a Device Initiative posted in Edudemic.
Despite my best efforts of pre-planning, preparing and delegating, I seemed to be on the verge of throwing up on a moment to moment basis. I’m finding large clumps of hair in my hands and seem to have a pain behind my right eye. No, this is not a Shel Silverstien short story, it’s my week before iPadpalooza.
Last year, we posted a web address, picked a date and just went with it. This year, I really wanted to step it up a notch. Food Trailers, more live music, better signage, Sir Ken! While we all know that sequels tend to do worse than the original in Hollywood, (Hello?! Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo?) I was bound and determined to make this year’s event much better than the last.
Besides securing one of the hottest Keynote speakers in the biz, this year’s event will have a distinctly Austin-feel to it. There will be more than 100 sessions. There will be speakers from multiple states and different countries. (Ok, technically only one different country, Canada) The closing band is Blue October!
This is all well and good, but at some point in the middle of all the stress and pressure, I was struck with an “AHA” moment that couldn’t help but me smile. While meeting with our security and safety officer, I realized something – This event has become a true district-wide team effort.
Our transportation department is providing shuttle buses to and from guest hotels.
Our maintenance department is pitching in with signage and power.
The Technology department is offering tech support on the days of the event and even opening up the WiFi network for guests.
Our WHS TEC crew will be handling lighting, filming, live-streaming and all sorts of small touches to make this event professional.
Community Ed is working overtime to handle all the registrations.
My amazing team of Ed Techs have been taking on the load of summer training while my hours have been spent dedicated to this unique event.
This event will be so much better than last year’s, not because of keynote speakers or Blue October, but because it’s become a true team effort. It’ll be better because everyone wants it to be and everyone believes it’s worth it. During a moment of office stress today, my peers in the office took a much-needed break from disaggregating test data and dealing with summer school issues to help me find coffee urns and water buckets.
They looked me in the eyes and asked – “What can we take off your plate?” And for the first time that I can ever remember, I actually listened and gave up some of the load. While this seems like such a simple concept, it’s one I’ve always grappled with. I have a vision in my head of how everything should look and often, I think it’s easier to just do it myself than explain it to someone else. But that brief moment of unloading my plate may have changed me forever. Not only do I work with some of the most amazing and talented colleagues, I work with people who care about me and this crazy idea of a “Learning Festival for All”.
To write a list of all the thank you’s would take too long and not represent the true value of how I feel about all of them. The best way to say thank you is for them to enjoy what I feel will be one of the greatest learning events this state has ever seen. And you know what will make it so great and why it will be a better sequel than the original?