Category Archives: iPads

The Best App For Monitoring Students

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)

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.19.37 AM


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:

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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.


The Infamous “2Eyes” app

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?

Why Your 1:1 Deployment Will Fail

keep-calm-and-prepare-to-fail-1So 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….

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Drive-by Training

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.

giftoftimeHave Patience and Give the Gift of Time

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. 

Why This Sequel Will be Better than the Original #iPlza13

iPadpaloozaLogo1Despite 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?


Are We About to Experience an Ed Tech Bubble?

Bubble BurstIn the late 90′s to around 2001, the internet boom was on.  Venture capitalists were experiencing meteoric rises in revenue and stock prices because the internet was taking off all over the world.  It seemed that this new avenue of commerce was as close to a “can’t lose” scenario when it came to investment.  Back then, companies were funded on the idea that “growth of profits” would rule the day in this new economy.

Well, I’m here to tell you, I see another bubble coming and this one is in the Ed Tech market.  I don’t have any hard evidence to support this theory other than my own experiences in the last 2+ years.  There’s a lot of money in the field, as Bill Gates spoke of during his SXSWedu keynote, so everyone is trying to rush to market in order to capitalize. However, some signs are pretty glaring that this market place is about to implode.  Let’s look at three examples of Ed Tech fields to see if these trends mirror those of the late 90′s.


Early Apple Tablet

Early Apple Tablet

What was a blundering area of the tech market over the 90′s and first decade of the 2000′s has blown up all around us in education.  Much of the reason for this can be singularly pointed to Apple’s launch of the iPad in 2010.  For the first time, a consumer-centric device was useful enough and cost-effective for educational circles.  Back then, there were really only a couple of choices on the market other than Apple’s iPad. The HP Touchpad with WebOS caught fire before quickly burning out in late 2011 and RIMs Playbook followed a similar trajectory and as of this year no longer exists.  Little did we know this would just be the beginning.

Once the Android and Windows 8 operating systems caught hold, a whole new market of tablets hit the market place with furious demand.  Nook, Kindle Fire, Samsung’s Galaxy, Microsoft Surface, Asus Transformer, and Google’s Nexus tablets now all hold some share of the consumer market but little break in educational circles to the iPad.

Enter the new world of the “educational tablet” with the LearnPad and Fox NewsCorp’s Amplify.  These, and their consumer counterparts have all hit the market in the last 6-9 months and continue to increase at an exponential pace.  Where the consumer models have some staying power over the long haul, the fickle purchasing of K-12 educational systems spells some rough roads ahead for those in this new educational tablet space.

The biggest reason? If we are focusing on authentic learning and digital wellness with our kids in the every day world, will that be able to happen on a tablet built to just be used K-12? Sure, tech directors get more control of the device and teachers can control the screens and learning from their desks, but isn’t that just a digital extension of the militarized structure of teaching we’ve had for hundreds of years? In the words of 2013 TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra, “We need schools…not factories”


ClarisWorksBack in the early 2000′s when I was teaching first grade, my software choices were pretty simple.  I could go with a read and repeat type of game like Reader Rabbit or focus on creation using a tool like Clarisworks.  In order to get some highfalutin software like Adobe Photoshop, it would take several committees, an act of congress and the blessing of the Pope to purchase it and add it to my 3 computers in my class. This process usually took about 2-3 years and tech departments banked on teachers becoming frustrated and giving up or the software becoming obsolete before it was even installed.

Welcome to the wild west of apps in 2013.  All the sudden, having 10 CD’s or 30 floppy disks aren’t required to install software.  In fact, most software isn’t even loaded at all, it exists on the web.  Apps aren’t seen as software, but they are in essence.  Of course, with apps, it only requires a quick couple of taps and BLAM!! Instant installation and gratification.  This consumerization of IT has a lot of benefits to personalized and customized learning, but there is a downside.  When are these apps and web tools being vetting for educational value?  Who is making the district purchasing decision now?

It seems that in the last year especially, app and web-based tools are praying on the “first one is free” approach to break into school districts.  I like the idea of organically grown tools being brought up by the end-users, but wonder if there isn’t some sort of legal line that’s being crossed in all of this.  I mean, we had 80 teachers using Edmodo with their Eanes email address when Edmodo finally called me to say “Hey, we noticed a lot of your teachers using our product, want to have your own domain with us?”  While Edmodo is a great (and free) service, many other companies are following that lead and giving away “30-seat classroom licenses” for free in the hopes that enough users getting hooked will over-power the purchasers.

With over a million mobile apps on the market, how can our teachers hope to sort through all of that to find relevant, useful educational tools?  Add in the new tablets hitting the market, along with the expansion of Google Apps for Education, and the market is ripe to burst.

Learning Management Systems

The race to build the perfect LMS has almost become so flooded its hard to make sense of it all.  This market place was dominated by two choices about 5 years ago: the paid route of Blackboard or the free route of Moodle. While Blackboard was still focused on higher ed, it was the first to really jump in with both feet in the K-12 market.  However,unlike the tablet market, just because it was in there first, doesn’t mean it will win out.

While there it’s hard to determine how many K-12-centric LMS companies are out there now.  Findings from this June 2012 Education Week study show that there 163 commercial educational LMSs and 66 Open source LMS platforms. Those numbers alone are staggering, but when coupled with the fact that I have personally seen at least 6 start-up LMS-based companies since then, tells me this market is over-flooded.

This level of healthy competition can spawn some amazing advances in a fairly dull field, but there is a lot of risk for the administrator taking a gamble on a company that might not be around in a couple of years.  I think a company that is device-agnostic, web-able, and inexpensive on a per-user basis has a firm ground to stand on in K-12 space.  But in terms of staying power, it has to be transformative for teaching and learning, not just digital extensions of the classroom.



What does all this mean for us in the Ed Tech field?  It’s obvious the iron is hot.  As Gates said in his keynote, there is upwards of $9 Billion dollars available in this market place so someone is going to grab a large slice of that pie.  The question for the users and purchasers of these devices and software packages is, will it have any level of sustainability?  Does that even matter any more? Maybe instead of looking for stable-long term solutions, we need to start being more flexible and able to pivot when the situation calls for it.

Then again, we are in education and the reality is this growth is exciting but while the Ed Tech marketplace is exploding, we need to take the focus off the “what” and focus more on the “why” when it comes to anything we do.  That’s the key to surviving any future bubble that might be coming our way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some .cwk files that need converting…

Want to run your own Ed Mini-Con? 10 Tips to help you out

peaceipadslogoAfter last year’s successful iPadpalooza, we learned a few things.  One is, never plan a conference or event like that in less than two months. It was successful, but only because I had people like Carolyn Foote (@technolibrary) to help out when I was drowning in details.  What started out as an idea and a website in January had turned into a major head-ache and full-time job by April.

I loved the event, but I had little left in the tank when it was over and was determined not to make the next year’s event anywhere near as stressful on myself or my team.  You should enjoy these opportunities and cherish them when they happen but I could barely remember the actual day.  How often do you get to create and take part in a major movement like this?  You should come out feeling stronger, not exhausted.  So, after learning lessons in little failures last year (a common theme of mine), I cleaned up my act and got started early.  Here are some tips of things I’ve already done this year that will make iPadpalooza 2013 even more successful:

1. Delegate – As a man, I suffer from CAFD Syndrome (Can’t Ask For Directions).  As someone in a leadership role, I suffer from a bloated ego (I am kind of a big deal) and think I can do everything myself. Combine those two traits and it’s a recipe for disaster and inefficiency.  To make amends, this year I started “sub-committees” for iPadpalooza.  While I still serve on pretty much all of the sub-committees, it’s been great to have someone else drive and organize a particular part of the event. Beside having help with minor details, it keeps you sane.

2. Give your self plenty of time - As I stated earlier, throwing everything together in two months was not ideal. This year we started planning in December (iPadpalooza is in June) and formed sub-committees before the winter break to start planning and organizing various parts of the event.  While I’m sure crunch time will still happen in May, taking care of things like presenters, sponsors, registration, food, t-shirts, etc all before hand will not make it seem like a head-ache.

Tony Vincent!

Tony Vincent!

3. Invest in talent - You need a headliner to sell tickets but you also need familiar faces to drive interest.  Last year we had about 80 people registered before I announced Tony Vincent as the keynote speaker. Within a week we had doubled registration and in three weeks we were sold out.  Part of this was word of mouth, but a big part of it was promo-ing the heck out of who was going to be there presenting.  Since iPadpalooza started as an idea for Eanes teachers, we made sure to have a couple of them listed on the official site as featured speakers.  Something we liked doing so much, that these year, they will have their own feature section.

4. Do something different - In a world full of no original ideas this is hard.  For me, I wanted this event to not be just another conference. Being located in Austin, Texas, it was required that we have live music, BBQ and t-shirts.  We really wanted people to feel like it was a festival, much like ACL or SXSW here in Austin.  This doesn’t happen overnight but there are little things you can do to make your event unique and make others feel special.  This year, we are upping the ante.  We are bringing in food trailers from around Austin and bringing in even more live music. (including a potential headliner band to close the show!) Whenever possible, capture some uniqueness of your community and let that “flavor” be a living part of your event.

5. Make it exclusive and buzz-worthy - Social media is great for driving buzz, but how do you do that when only 5 people follow your event’s twitter handle?  Word of mouth is important, but only works if you have something to actually talk about. (see point #3)  Reach out to contacts in other area districts and offer them access to the event for a discount if they bring a group.  Put a cap on registration too.  If 15 thousand people can come, they won’t. However, if only 500 can come, 1000 will want to get in.  Once you have a core group of attendees, they will spread the buzz and share the love for you, but just know that takes time and individual communication, no sending out an email blast to all your contacts.

Poster for this year's event

Poster for this year’s event

6. The price is right - If you make an event free or cheap, people won’t expect much which can work in your favor. The downside of that is you limit what you can do in some cases and who you can bring in.  The flip-side of that is that if it’s too expensive, no one will be able to afford to come.  Consider offering the first year of an event for cheaper than an average mini-Con.  The average price of many 2-day mini-Conferences in the U.S. is around $250.  If you take that as your benchmark, make it half that to start and build the budget and buzz for the next year when it’s a huge hit!

7. Details, details, details - I can’t mention it enough but the details will DROWN you and your team if you don’t stay on top of them.  Who is in charge of designing and ordering the shirt? Who will reach out to vendors? What’s the cost and deadline of registration? Who will be speaking at the event and how do we come up with a schedule?  These are all questions I fielded with about a month to go last year.  This year, details have been delegated and are in motion.  We have some deadlines set for certain things (food trailers contacted, t-shirts ordered, etc) that way it’ll go smoother closer to the event.  The sooner you can get to these, the better your life will be on event day.

Gotta have help!

Gotta have help!

8. Volunteers are invaluable -  The bigger the event, the more people you will need to help out.  Again, thanks to Carolyn here.  She took charge of this for me and really thoughtfully designed where volunteers should be placed throughout the day and what shifts they would run.  Basic rule of thumb; for every 25 people, you’ll want a volunteer. You can try to do it with less, but in our case that meant 20 volunteers.  They ran registration, gave out directions, manned the information booth and helped monitor room limits.

9. Know your venue backwards and forwards - If you are hosting a mini-Con offsite, tour the event location regularly.  You’ll want every detail taken care of BEFORE you arrive at the crack of dawn on the day of the event. Parking, WiFi  signage, booth set-ups, etc.  - all should be set-up and tested the day before.  Consider getting some walkie-talkies for the event day so that your team can communicate quickly when issues arise (and they will).  We ran out of toilet paper in the women’s restroom by lunch time.  Talk about a paperless conference! (rimshot…thank you, I’ll be here all week!)

10. Enjoy it - A midst all the chaos of the actual event, make a point of taking time with your team to soak it all in.  Capture the moment in video or pictures to review later when it’s all over. This will feel very much like a reception on your wedding day.  You’ll sort of remember showing up, seeing people, and watching stuff happen, but it will go by in a blur. Take 5 minutes to sit, breathe, and take in what you’ve just accomplished.  You deserve it!


10 MORE Things NOT to do in an iPad 1:1 Initiative

Trying to be a mobile Djay

Trying to be a mobile Djay

At the end of last school year I reflected on the 10 things NOT to do in an iPad 1:1 program.  I was blown away with the amount of responses and views the post got from all over the world. It seems that it was at the right time, and right moment for districts out there planning on entering the Fall with a new 1:1 implementation.  That said, it’s almost too late by that point to make real swift changes to your implementation.

I felt assured we had ferreted out all the little details that make things go astray during this process and hoped by providing a list of the 10 things, other districts could learn from our mistakes.  Since that article, we have now collected the student iPads, re-distributed them, rented them out over the summer, distributed them to the rest of the high school, all the 8th graders, and now 2 grade levels at each elementary.  Needless to say, we’ve learned a WHOLE lot more about both what to do and what NOT to do.  Don’t get me wrong, the level of personal learning and shift in instructional focus, while slow at times, has been breath-taking to behold.  I have no doubt in my mind that shift wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t take the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach to putting these out there.  That said, here are 10 MORE things I wouldn’t do again if we had to do it all over:

1. Do NOT pick them all up on one day -

Talk about a nightmare scenario.  Imagine trying to collect and assess 1800 iPads from high school students in just one day with limited staff?  Talks with the high school administration and the technology department determined that this would be the way to go, and it didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time. Knock the whole thing out in one day and rip off the bandaid.  The only problem was, this was happening a few days before final exams and kids weren’t exactly thrilled to give them up.  We actually started our rental program (“rent” your iPad over the summer for $30) because of the feedback from staff and students. I was lucky enough to be in one of the rooms collecting the iPads.  We had a gallon zip-lock bag where they would write their name and iPad number and then put their charger, case and iPad in there.  Not only did we end up with about 4 or 5 missing chargers per class period, we had to assess each iPad in the class during a 52-minute class period.  Talk about stressful!  This year we are planning to work with students well in advance and over several days as well as discussing the possibility of letting all high school kids take them home over the summer.

2. Do NOT try and build the “Charge/Sync Stations” by yourself at the beginning of the year

Our Elem iPadStations

Our Elem iPadStations

For the elementary classrooms, we knew 1:1 would look different.  They wouldn’t be going home with students and they wouldn’t need to be stored in those $2700 Bretford carts since they were going to be stationary.  We decided to build our own “Charge/Sync Stations” modeled after those wood letter-sorters we used to have at elementary school.  Build the shelving,  attach a 32-port Charge/Sync device on top (we used this one), attach it to a wall and voila! Done.  Only problem was, there were 55 of these we had to build, and it was the beginning of the year.  In retrospect, it would have been better to outsource this to parents, volunteers, hourly workers, rather than tie up our tech department’s time at a crucial point in the year.

3. Do NOT fall in love with a certain app too quickly

We’ve all had an app so cool, so inspiring, we just had to share with everyone else how great it is.  As with anything in the tech world, change happens quickly.  With apps, it is even faster. Here’s an example: We were trying to select a comic strip app to put on our elementary iPads back in July.  We had a pretty good process for rating apps, but the only problem was, the apps selected in July weren’t installed until the end of October.  In the course of that time we discovered Strip Designer and decided it was superior to the other, more expensive app that we had purchased back in July.  This will happen from time to time, so I encourage everyone to try out apps in small doses before buying 2000 of them.

Courtesy Paulo Signorini

4. Do NOT forget to communicate with everyone ALL the time.

While it’s certainly possible to over-communicate, we are much more guilty in education and administration of under-communicating.   Collection day for the iPads? Oh yeah, we sent out an email a couple weeks ago about that. Restrictions on the student iPads? We put that info on our single website for everything iPad.  No matter what you are doing, 1:1 or otherwise, be prepared to communicate in multiple mediums with multiple distributions and repetitions.  Spreading the word will help decrease confusion and frustration and increase trust and clarity.

5. Do NOT be surprised by parent concerns

One day I will write a book about both parent concerns I’ve heard over the years when it relates to technology and interesting ways in which teachers have broken their iPads.  When you start a 1:1 program where students take the device home, realize that there is a real sentiment that the school is “invading” the parents’ home.  While the intended purpose is to extend learning to the home environment, it adds a new dynamic to parenting and home life.  “I have to use my iPad for my homework” can quickly turn into a 4-hour Minecraft session when the mom and dad aren’t monitoring. Think of the shift (in sound mostly) when a student brings home a musical instrument to practice.  This is like that only it doesn’t make a lot of sound and can be highly distracting if proper frameworks and parenting techniques are employed.  No matter how ludicrous the stories are, they are real and it should be our role to educate and listen to all, including parents.

6. Do NOT take all other technology away for months in advance

A technology desert

A technology desert

Getting rid of the old to replace with the new is a tried and true method every technology department spends the summer doing.  However, I would never recommend taking the old (desktops in the backs of classrooms) and then waiting a few months before you put in the new (1:1 iPads in our case).  While it will increase appreciation for technology, it’s not necessary and just adds stress to the beginning of the year.  You want them thirsty, but not at the expense of crossing the desert to get water. Consider a transition time when both are in the classroom and remove the “old” only after the “new” are in.

7. Do NOT assume students know how to use them

Sure they can play Angry Birds and check Facebook, but can they create, edit and send a Pages doc? Kids can pick up technology must faster than adults, largely due to the programing in their brain, but don’t assume they know WHEN and WHY to use it even if they know the HOW.

8. Do NOT give elementary teachers iPads without some grade-level apps on them

Last year, we were able to give most teachers a few iPads or even a cart to share and experiment with on the elementary level.  Teachers loved this extra access and converted many of the shared iPads into centers of sorts.  Since these are meant to be personal devices, the idea of creating and keeping work on them wasn’t really emphasized in the shared environment.  That all changes when they become 1:1.  When we distributed the 1:1 iPads we put a “trunk image” of apps on there and encouraged teachers to suggest other apps to be installed that were more grade level specific.  This meant that the 1:1 iPad classrooms only had 40 or so general apps on them and not the 120 or so shared apps they had in the previous model.  Not having the grade-level apps they were familiar with to start made some teachers hesitate using the devices.  I actually think it’s a good idea to start with just the core apps, but you need to make sure that is communicated to those teachers as well as expectations of early use in class. (See point #4)

9. Do NOT underestimate Middle School students ability to break your restrictions

With the high school, we left the iPad fairly open.  We didn’t restrict app or music purchases with the thinking that teaching the students responsible use before they head off to college isn’t a bad idea.  For middle school kids though, they aren’t quite ready to comprehend that level of power, so we placed some age appropriate restrictions on them.  It took a couple of weeks, but soon a small group of students figured out how to remove them and the word spread.  Luckily we have it written in their Responsible Use document that removing restrictions or jail-breaking is an offense and our MDM can detect who has done it.  That said, it’s a good idea to make sure kids are aware of this when you distribute them, otherwise they will eventually be done in with pre-pubescent curiosity to try and break the system.

10. Do NOT short your count of iPads on distribution day

I had to put this last one on here, even though it’s pretty embarrassing.  On the second of our high school distribution days we had pretty much accounted for everything, or so we thought.  We changed the way distribution took place, centralizing it, rather than going room to room which was a great time-saver.  However, in the course of handing kids back their iPad from the year before, rental iPads, or new iPads, our student count got lost in the shuffle. An order was placed (not naming names here) for what was thought to be the right amount, but in the end, it was about 200 short.  As incredibly embarrassing as this is to share, it shows you that every minor detail can become major if not accounted for.  I captured this video of our assistant principal telling the last class period of students that we had run out.  Not a great moment, but on the bright side we had some put aside for elementary so with a little extra effort, we were able to repurpose those in a few days for those kids without.  Lesson learned though, always triple-check your counts and allow for a few extras!

K-12 iPad Deployment Checklist

School has started for most of us around the country.  Alarm clocks are set, bleary-eyed kids stumble their way to class, and iPads are being handed out.  Just a typical day here at Eanes and many districts across the country.  As the amount of 1:1 schools and districts continue to grow with many different devices, but specifically the Apple iPad, I thought it might be good to reflect and share the laundry list of items we’ve prepared in getting ready for our roll-outs.  (all high school students, 8th graders, and 2 grade levels at the elementary schools are 1:1 this year) I’ve already written about 10 things NOT to do in a 1:1 here (the list is growing in year 2) but  what about things we SHOULD do?

I’ve broken down the check list into three main categories -Administrative, Instructional, and Technical.  There are parts of each that intermingle, but needed some general categories to go off and these are the main three components.

- Administrative Duties - 

Communication -  This covers everything from Board presentations to community dialogues to basic stuff like making the campus aware of when deployments are taking place.  I can’t stress enough the amount of communication that will be needed in this entire process which is why it’s in all three components. Face-to-face communication is extremely important and should always be anchored in district goals and strategic plans.  Remember, like Simon Sinek talked about on TED, it’s the “Why” that’s more important than the “What”.

Documentation -  This almost goes hand in hand with communication, but these are areas where districts should seek some legal input.  Handing out expensive devices, while the total cost may be less than a stack of textbooks and a TI-83 calculator, needs to be properly documented for each and every iPad that is distributed.   Each student and parent should sign a Loan agreement and acknowledge the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).  In our district, we updated our AUP and turned it into a Responsible Use Guideline for all technology, whether it be BYOT, iPads or computers.

Budget -  These devices, their accessories and their apps cost money.  There needs to be time spent on the cost to fulfill a vision of 1:1, which grade levels to start at, and ultimately, which funds will be used to sustain it once it’s off the ground.  Depending on the model of deployment that is used, there will either be a lot of money put towards apps or personnel to manage the apps.

Process - Having a core group of educational leaders on campus and throughout the district is an important part of the buy-in phase.  Part of the beauty of these devices is surrendering control in some senses to allow students to personalize based on educational needs.  That means there needs to be a process for getting apps to them and an idea about what happens when they break their loan agreement or have discipline issues.

- Instructional Duties - 

Staff training - It can’t be overstated enough that these devices need to be in the hands of teachers well before the student models arrive.  They need to feel comfortable with them and start thinking of ideas to integrate them into their instruction.  Summertime is an ideal time to get most of the level-based integration training, but consider putting training in an iTunesU course to revisit at a later date.  Throughout the year, provide opportunities to share what they have learned with their peers in an informal setting (which we like to call “Appy Hours“).  The collaboration doesn’t have to be face-to-face either, set up grade-level teams in Edmodo so they can share ideas across the district as a way to virtually meet.

Student training - Don’t assume that every kid knows how to use the iPad.  These kids may be digital natives, but most of their exposure to these devices has been for entertainment more than for education.  Lessons of digital citizenship and internet safety will need to be developed and taught, but also don’t overlook the fact that many students will need tutorials on how to set up their email, submit assignments, and backing up their data.

Tutorials - To assist with the high-level of training, both prior to deployment and during the year, instructional teams should build a database of resources and FAQs for all staff, students, and parents to access.  This will help take care of some of the little questions that can really bog things down once distribution has happened.

Process -  Like administrators, teachers and instructional folks will want to develop and deploy processes for purchasing apps. There will need to be clear expectations for teachers and students in terms of use and what happens if that is violated.  In conjunction with these processes, devoting time to research an ever-growing list of apps and online textbooks is important to better inform future decisions.

Communication - Teachers are the conduit to the parent.  They are the first person many parents see in the morning and last one they see in the afternoon.  It’s important that they have a clear understanding of district mission and how apps/iPads are distributed.  They’ll also want an avenue for sharing exciting projects as the year progresses.  These projects help with both campus and district-based communication.

- Technical Duties - 

Prior set-up - Prior to even thinking of deploying iPads, evaluation of wireless infrastructure is a must.  Nothing can bring a network down quicker than the sudden introduction of a few thousand devices into the system.  The devices will need to be prepped with some form of identification (we went with this laser etcher) and a profile if distributing these to younger students.  Apple configuration can help with some of these profiles and detection of iPads lost on campus, but it’s advisable to have a form of mass deployment for apps pre-established.  Entering these devices into a student information system helps with tracking all the pertinent data, so forms and fields will need to be established prior to distribution day to make that process run smoothly.

Communication -  The common thread in all three components is also extremely important from the technology department.  Any glitches, issues, budgetary discussions, and processes for repair will need to be constantly communicated to campus staff and leadership.  The actual process of distribution and pick-up can be pretty cumbersome as well.  This is where a type-A person comes in handy for organizing these events in making them as trouble-free and emotional-less as possible.

Repair - The first few weeks after deployment be prepared for any and all issues.  Technology departments would do right in finishing any other campus projects prior to these distribution days as the amount of issues will spike immediately following deployment.  Most of these are workable with proper training and tutorials in conjunction with the instructional department, but it doesn’t stop little Johnny from coming to the help desk to ask about a certain app.  Ideally, there would be a service desk (ours is called the Juice Bar) that is centrally located and manned during high-density times for student off-periods (lunch, before and after school, etc.).  The final piece of the puzzle is having a plan for processing insurance, getting spares from Apple, and having a quick way to assess and turn-around repairs so students are without this instructional tool.

There you have in a nutshell.  I tried to make most of this list as district agnostic as possible, but some of the “Eanes way” snuck in there.  I’m also attaching this handy checklist that details these above duties in greater detail for you to use or adapt.  Best of luck in all your iPad launches and I hope you have a successful program putting this technology in the hands of kids.

iPad Deployment Checklist

iPad Deployment Checklist K-12

Top 10 Things NOT to do in a 1:1 iPad Initiative

Part of the benefit of jumping forward with a 1:1 iPad deployment like we have tried is that we get the opportunity to impart knowledge to other districts looking to do a similar initiative. While that might not seem like a benefit, it actually also means we can make some mistakes because there is not a long history of this type of deployment in the world. Many districts have had 1:1 Laptop projects, which we have benefited from and could easily be applied to this list I’m about to share. However, for the sake of our specific district, and the questions I get from other districts on a daily basis, I’m going to break down the ten things you should NOT do when implementing a 1:1 iPad program.

1. Do NOT wait until the last minute to give them to staff.
Due to the timing of our bond package and when funds could become available, we didn’t actually have iPads in hand and branded until mid-July. That means many teachers only got to experience the iPads in their hands for one month or less. Not ideal when trying to make your staff comfortable. Perfect world they could have them a year to a semester ahead of time. Or at least before the summer starts.

2. Do NOT expect it to go perfectly on the first day students get them.
We planned the launch day as perfectly as we could have, but there are always a couple of issues to deal with. We had iPad cases held up in customs at DFW airport, so we had to fill a last-minute order of 1500 cases the night before. We crashed our Casper server 3 hours into the first day as hundreds of kids were downloading their apps at the same time. Both of those issues are fixable, but you can’t always anticipate those things during planning.

3. Do NOT roll out all your apps at the same time on the same day.
See item #2 above. If you are doing a 1:1 model like ours, where the end-user gets the apps, you don’t want to force-feed all your apps down on the same day. This is especially true with larger apps like Garageband, which we left off the initial day list and released it on the weekend, when kids could download it from their own bandwidth at home. This spreads the downloads out over time so you don’t have 1500 kids downloading a 1.7 GB app during 3rd period.

Don’t Ctrl

4. Do NOT try and control everything about the iPad.
There are several models out there for deployment of apps – A personal model, an institutional model, and a layered model being the most common. The beauty and educational relevance of these devices is the personalization of learning that can happen. That is null and void the second you turn this into just another “system” to manage through your technology department. These are NOT PC’s. Do NOT try and manage them as such. You destroy the value-add by doing that. Because of age restrictions with Apple IDs, you can only have students 13+ manage those accounts. I encourage you to do that (this is the personal model). Students under 13, you’re likely to be forced to use some version of the other two models. In the personal model, the worst thing that can happen is they walk away with an app like Keynote. God forbid they actually want to use an educational tool to make presentations after they graduate.

5. Do NOT expect teaching to change immediately.
I have long been preaching the SAMR model by Dr. Ruben Puentedura as how teaching should progress in a 1:1 (or any) environment. Apple has also relied heavily on this model and I figure they know what they are talking about. Teachers can’t be expected to change the way they teach overnight. However, most of the tools we’ve given them in the past (Smartboards, document cameras, etc) were teaching tools. This tool is in the hands of kids, which means it’s student-driven. Teachers and students will lean heavily on substitution in the SAMR model to start, but have patience. Redefinition of teaching and learning does NOT happen overnight.

6. Do NOT assume the entire community will be on board.
As great as the idea behind personalized learning can be, it can be a pretty severe mind-shift for those lay-people in the community. Add on top of that, budget cuts with staff time, and you can see how this can quickly turn into a no-win scenario. It’s important to stress what the goals are in all of this and also to get both parents and teachers working with you to find solutions to little problems. However, that doesn’t mean you give them the option to not participate. The most successful 1:1 programs have a universal understanding and expectation across the district about what can and should be accomplished. In the community, there is a common misconception that an iPad isn’t a computer. If you pass a bond to buy computers, you need to make sure they understand that these are in fact tablet computers. The other item to stress is that this is a powerful classroom tool that now takes the place of the textbook, calculator, dictionary, etc. It might not do everything, but for the cost and what it will do, it’s well worth the investment.

It’s not all about scores kids…heh heh!

7. Do NOT evaluate the program solely with test scores.

It may be the easiest and most publicized metric to measure kids with, but it’s far from the most accurate when you are talking about changing the culture of learning and customizing a student’s school experience through a 1:1 program. Engagement, motivation, collaboration, communication and the desire to dig deeper into subjects were all items we measured through anonymous student and teacher surveys. With all of those improvements, it’s what happens next when the student goes on to college and post-college life, that’s a thousand times more important than how they did on a random test. This item is closely tied to item 6 above when talking to the community about how the program is going.
8. Do NOT limit staff training to the summer.
Due to budgetary cuts, our high school teachers lost an extra planning period which was considered “PLC time”. This time was framed around Dufour’s Professional Learning Communities and allowed for same-subject area teachers to have a common planning time to grow and learn. On top of that, we cut back our instructional technologists across the district. Both of these factors could have killed the program and definitely kept us from transforming teaching and learning as much as we would have liked. The research of Robert Marzano and the findings in Project Red talk about how one of the key traits to successful implementation of 1:1 is a monthly training at minimum lead by the Principal and key leaders to give teachers the tools they need. Research also suggests that teachers will ultimately determine the success of the program, so it’s worth investing in them. We have seen the error in our ways and will implement back some PLC Time next year as well as add some support staff.

Teachers without a CMS

9. Do NOT expect email to be the best option for submitting work
Being paperless has been a great cost savings for us. We’ve cut back on paper use by 22% in the first few months and that’s only with 2 grade levels having 1:1 technology. While that’s a great cost-savings, management of all those digital files can be an issue for teachers. They no longer have to tote 187 papers back and forth to school, but now all of those papers will crowd their inbox of their email. Teachers at our high school have figured out how to use Gmail’s filtering to help with this organization, but ultimately, a good content management system is needed. We just purchased our system (eBackPack) to put in place for next year, and hope that not only will paper be saved, but also time.
10. Do NOT let fear overcome your mission
Everyone will go through a point in time where they doubt the idea of a 1:1 iPad program working. They’ll think it’s a fad. They’ll think it’s a waste of money. They’ll complain about having to change. All of these and hundreds of other concerns will be raised throughout the implementation process. It is easy to get dismayed by the loud minority of critics out there. If there is any hope of your program being successful, the core team of administrators, teachers and students need to be on the same page, speaking the same message. That message is plain and simple: This is not a technology expense, it’s an investment in our students and their future.

This blog is cross-posted at
Note: A follow-up of this post was written in December of 2012: 10 MORE things NOT to do

Radio Interview – TECSIG, iPadPalooza & Zombies!

Before I share the link to this recent guest spot on “Appy Hour 4 U” on Blogspot Radio, let me set the scene with a series of tweets that happened about 25 minutes before we went on air:

A couple of notes here -

1. You have to marvel a bit at the power of social media.  Sure this is just a direct message on twitter, which is similar to email, but it amazes me the different ways people can communicate with each other.  Carolyn Foote (@technolibrary) and I have even carried on a tri-modal conversation via email, text  message and twitter.  Not the easiest of conversations to follow, but not as hard as you might imagine.

2. As you can tell by her response, that I do have one form of kryptonite that also works well as bribes for last minute requests.  Monster’s Low carb energy drink is one of many odd items that you would find in a visit to my office (along with a bin full of wigs and real longhorns).  It’s a staple in my diet around 3:00 pm most work days.  However, recently when I discovered that mixing it along with prensidone (a medical steroid for my back) that not only did I suddenly have super-human strength, but I could also type a 750-word blog post in less than 10 minutes. (Should be out tomorrow on the site).  That said, if Monster Energy wants an Ed Tech sponsor, sign me up!

So with those two excuses….er…..reasons out there, I submit my last-second, near flawless interview with Lisa Johnson and Yolanda Barker from NEISD.  In this interview I discuss the 1:1 iPad pilot and progress, where we are going next, the spring TECSIG meeting on April 19, iPadpalooza, UT Flip Teaching and of course, The Walking Dead.  (see last blog post)

Please take a moment to listen, it’s 45-minutes of fun conversation and I promise you’ll laugh at least once.

BlogTalkRadio – Appy Hour 4 U – April 5 Episode – Carl Hooker

iPad Screen Record on a Mac via Airplay!

Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been begging for an app that let’s me screen capture everything I’m doing on my iPad.  Ideally, this would be on the iPad itself, but I realize that might be a couple of revs away.  Today I heard about Reflector App ( a $12.99 app that your run on your Mac that lets you mirror your iPad on the screen via Airplay.

Now you can screen record (via Quicktime) everything you do on your iPad or iPhone!  Gone are the days of recording in a dark room with a camera over your shoulder and a bad glare on the screen.

Some items to test out before using this: (Step-by-Step Instructions here)

Option 1: Network Connection

Are both devices on the same network? Does your network allow Bonjour and Multicasting? These are protocols that need to be enabled for Airplay to work on the network. One way  around this is to have your receiving MacBook “Create a Network” and then have your iPad join that network. Of course, this means internet will not work on the device.

Option 2: Bluetooth pairing

Another option is to “pair” your iPad to your laptop via bluetooth.  This means you don’t have to be on the same network or have any of those protocols enabled. (This will keep your crabby network guys happy)

See sample video below:

Note: This post updated.  More options now available since the writing of this post including a $3.99 app called AirServer.

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