Category Archives: Techy

9 Tips To Getting the Most Out of a Conference

(Note: this article is cross-posted at

Having just wrapped up a successful iPadpalooza and seeing all the chatter around ISTE 2014 online, I wondered: what makes a memorable and meaningful conference experience?

At iPadpalooza, we had 98.4% of people tell us they would come back to our event next year. Rather than being happy about that number, I focused on what the 1.6% didn’t like. Was the live music too loud? Were the speakers or presentations not what the attendee expected?

I used to be guilty of attending conferences and passively waiting for information or presentations to amaze me. I’d leave disappointed and wonder what attending these conferences would mean for me in the future. However, all of that changed when I started taking a more proactive approach to my conference experience. Here are a few steps to help anyone attending either their 1st or 50th event.

Prior to the Event


Me on stage before the closing event at iPadpalooza

Laying a good foundation of prep work prior to attending a conference on the scale of ISTE or the variety of something like iPadpalooza can make huge a difference.

1. Find Some People to Follow - This doesn’t mean cyber-stalk or physically tail someone during the event. Rather, look at the big name speakers or presenters and start to follow their work on social media. This will give you a flavor of their presentation-style and may indicate what kind of content they might offer during their sessions.

2. Identify sessions ahead of time – Looking at the program guide for the first time at the registration booth puts you at a disadvantage. Most events (especially Ed Tech ones) post their session titles and descriptions well in advance. Take that opportunity to do some early research on topics that interest you and areas that you want to improve upon professionally. Additionally as popular sessions can fill up quickly, always have a back-up plan.

3. Plan on giving yourself time between sessions – George Couros blogged about a conference in Australia that left 30 minutes in between sessions. While that’s a great way to have time in your schedule, most events only allow for 15 minutes or so. When planning out your days, be sure to leave a couple of longer breaks throughout the day. This extra time will allow you to reflect on a session or connect with colleagues and maybe actually have a professional lunch that is longer than 30 minutes.

During The Event

4. Don’t sit in sessions you don’t want to be in – EdCamps have mastered this strategy by the “voting with your feet” way that they run their events. If you are “stuck” in a 2-hour workshop on the theory of how Disney’s Frozen can be applied to advanced Physics, you either didn’t research the workshop well enough or the description was completely off (First clue – it was called “Let it Go: Why Liquid Nitrogen is the Bomb”) Don’t be afraid to walk out to your back-up session. If that one is full, find a quiet place where you can observe and follow the conference hashtag. At least that way you might pick up on some great things shared at other sessions.

5. Meet somebody new and connect – The easy way to do this is to have some virtual introductions via social media before-hand and then approach them when you see them in person (assuming their social media avatar looks like them). The more challenging, and sometimes more interesting way to do this, would be to find an attendee sitting by themselves and just introduce yourself. You never know how their story may help inspire you in the long run and vice-versa.

6. Capture your thoughts and reflect daily – I like to blog about the things that I have learned at conferences. This isn’t so much to share with others as it is for me to identify the things that I found valuable in my learning each day. Not a blogger? Use a tool like Storify to capture bits and pieces of a hashtag and make your own recap with others’ social media posts.

After The Event

7. Go back and share what you learned – As teachers, we know that our students learn by doing. Therefore, take what you learned and teach someone else. The blog that I mentioned in step #6 is a great way to share what you learned. For the slightly more daring, ask to have some time at an upcoming faculty meeting to give your 5-minute Ignite-type talk about highlights of your learning to the whole staff.

8. Follow-up with attendees and presenters online – Now that you’ve made some connections with new people from the event, be sure to send a message in the weeks afterwards to strengthen that connection.

9. Blackmail yourself – Learning new and inspiring ideas at an event can be great momentum going into the beginning of the school year. However, often weeks or months pass before you even get the motivation to apply something you’ve learned and by then you are too tired with the day-to-day of school life. Rather than blow it off, blackmail yourself. Outwardly tell colleagues (online or in person) that you are going to try a new concept that you learned. Then, set a time when you are actually going to try it and publicize this as well. I like to send myself an email in the future using or the like. Setting up that email immediately after the event ends and can immediately reignite you months later.

These steps or tips are not fool-proof, and they do require a bit of heavy lifting on the part of the normally passive conference attendee. But, if you apply some – or all of these steps – you’ll find yourself not only enjoying conferences more but also sharing that joy with other colleagues and students down the road.

Kevin Honeycutt rocking the closing of iPadpalooza

Kevin Honeycutt rocking the closing of iPadpalooza

The APPMazing Race: A Great Way to Increase Collaboration and Learning at an Event

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.19.08 PMThis 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.

Unscheduled Challenges:
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

Digital Parenting 101: An iTunesU Course For Parents


Digital Parenting iTunesU course

Part of having any type of success in a school is to have the support of parents.  While some schools can overcome a lack of parent involvement or support, most depend on the idea that “it takes a village” to raise a child.  The same is true of any successful mobile device initiative.  I’ve had over 50 talks/discussions/trainings with community members and parents in our district since the launch of the LEAP iPad Initiative in Fall of 2011, and that’s still not enough.

We’ve hosted panels of parents discussing their concerns and values with technology use.  We’ve brought in experts on cyber-bullying and internet safety.  We’ve even had back-to-school nights where we’ve invited parents to see and use the device as a child in the classroom would.

Knowledge is a powerful thing and lately, many parents are looking for more and more materials on what to avoid online, what to turn off and restrict, and how to help “stay ahead” of their kids digitally.  The hard truth is parents will never be able to stay ahead of their kids digitally.  Kids have more time and much less responsibility on their hands which means they can spend their free time trying to figure out ways to “game” the system and push limits.

As parents, our job has never been so important, but at the same time, so challenging.  We must now manage the lives of our actual kids and the virtual life they portray online.  One of my darkest moments during our 1:1 initiative was also one of my finest hours.  Following a highly attended parent orientation, I was encircled by about a dozen angry parents asking why we were “doing this to them.”  In their worlds, they (thought) they had control over screen-time, online behavior, obsessive gaming, etc.  Now the district has placed a device in the hand of every student and completely disrupted that well-maintained home life.

As the parents pointed their fingers angrily and voiced their frustrations over this disruption…a strange smile crept over my face.

“HOW CAN YOU BE SMILING?!?” they shouted.

My answer was simple, “I’m actually happy we are having this discussion right here, right now, when we can all do something about it.” I calmly stated. “In a few years, when your child has left for college, there is nothing I can do to help them with their digital lives.  But because they all have devices from our district, we can now join forces with parents to better educate our students.  After all, we aren’t raising children.  We are raising adults.”

Flash-forward a couple of years to this past spring.  While parent turn-out at “Digital Parent nights” and various other events were good, we were still missing a large chunk of parents who couldn’t attend due to their own schedule.  We decided to LiveStream several of these events, which helped with exposure, but I wasn’t sure we were really reaching those parents struggling to “keep up” with their kids.

After much bantering on my part, I finally decided to blackmail myself and set a date by which parents could sign up and be a part of an online course for digital parenting.  Publishing that date and sign up forced me to create the course, hence “blackmailing myself.”

I created the course in iTunesU and did so for a couple of reasons:

itunes U_edited-1

1. iTunesU is super-easy to manage.  The only time consuming part is gathering content and resources.

2. I wanted the parents to use their student’s iPad if possible to take the course. This helped model some of the educational expectations of the device at home.

So, on February 17th, I launched a 6-week iTunesU course titled: Digital Parenting 101.  I broke the course into 6 sections and rolled out content each week to parents that were enrolled in the course (I ended up with 43 parents enrolled). My sections were broken out into the following categories:

Week 1 – Digital Wellness in the 21st Century

Week 2 – Internet Safety, filters, restrictions & security

Week 3 – Screen time & the Brain

Week 4 – Social Media & Gaming

Week 5 – Guidelines for the Household

Week 6 – Building a Digital Footprint

At the end of each week’s content (designed to take 2-3 hours a week), I gave a brief 10-question quiz to check for understanding.  Parents that scored 80% or higher were emailed a ‘secret code’ that they would use to enter in the final exam to prove they completed each section.   In addition, I used a free platform called to create a discussion forum for Q&A and to stimulate some discussion over the weekly topics.

All in all, the course went very well, but still needs some room for improvement.  I’ve asked the “students” in the course to email me feedback and will use that to craft the next course I offer in the fall.

That said, I’ve been asked by several colleagues to share the course with the public.  So, with a little iTunesU magic, I duplicated the course, removed the links to the private forums, and made it public for anyone to use.  I share this backstory and course with you in the hopes that you’ll continue to work with parents on educating them about their children’s digital future.  I also find a course like this strengthens the bond between school and parent in collectively raising their child.


Eanes ISD Digital Parenting 101: iTunesU Course

Taking a Dip in the SAMR Swimming Pool

Dr. Ruben Puentadura in Boston - Nov 2013

Dr. Ruben Puentedura in Boston – Nov 2013

I recently got to watch the SAMR master himself, Dr. Ruben Puentedura take the stage at iPad Summit Boston.  His SAMR model research is based on years of observing one-to-one technology integration in Maine’s Student Laptop initiative (now called MLTI as we love acronyms in education).  At it’s simplest form, the SAMR model states that when you introduce technology to an environment, like a classroom, generally the first thing the user will do is figure out a way to use technology as a Substitute for an existing task.  As you “climb up the SAMR ladder” you see a shift of pedagogical practice from teacher-centered to student-driven.  This is exemplified by the “R” in SAMR which stands for Redefinition – or, simply put, when technology allows for a creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.

SAMR Ladder

SAMR “Ladder” Model

When researching our own 1:1, I kept running into this research and the more I delved into it, the more I understood and realized that in reality, it’s not a ladder at all that we are trying to climb, but something a little more nebulous and fluid.  The problem with the “ladder” visual is  teachers may think they have accomplished all they need to once they reach the “R” in SAMR and don’t know what to do next. This part of the visual really troubled me when talking with parents, teachers and administrators. Enter our middle school Ed Tech, Greg Garner (@classroom_tech).  His approach to SAMR was simple: It isn’t a ladder that we should try to climb, but instead a pool that we need to be swimming in.

I loved his analogy because I felt it provided a better reality of what happens with SAMR in a classroom on a day-to-day basis. It even inspired me to make this clever graphic (see below).

So with full credit to Greg, here’s a quick overview of what I think it means to swim in the SAMR Swimming Pool:

Enhancement Shallow End -

You have to be comfortable wading in the water before you can venture into the deep.  The ideas behind Substitution and Augmentation are that you are swimming in the pool of technology integration, but you don’t have to wear yourself out treading water. As a teacher, you know you can always just stand up and breathe.  These tasks are simply technological extensions of your everyday teaching and if things get really messy, you can always step out of the pool and still get a majority of your goals accomplished.  Sure, it won’t be as stimulating or engaging, but learning and traditional teaching can still happen around the edges. (just NO running!)

Similarly, like when entering a pool that’s not at the ideal temperature, teachers sometimes need to walk in slowly, allowing their bodies to adjust to this shift.  Some can just jump right in, knowing their bodies will eventually adjust, and at the same time knowing they can just stand up and jump out if they need to.  Others need time, going in step by step slowly and at times gasping when their body enters the depths of new pedagogical practice.

This idea of touching their toe in the water of technology integration is not new.  A majority of our teachers want to test the water several times before fully submerging in it.  If something should go wrong and they get water up their nose, it could be weeks before they are comfortable venturing back in.  Eventually, they will get comfortable wading in the shallow end and want to venture out past the rope into the depths beyond basic technology integration.

Transformative Deep End - 

Once you cross the rope, you will not be able to stand up (except maybe hopping on your tiptoes for  a little while).  Someone venturing into this end of the pool, must have confidence in their teaching and know that they can tread water at times, but when things are going right and redefinition is happening, it’s almost like you can walk on water.

This doesn’t happen everyday, but without the practice of stumbling around in the shallow end of the pool, teachers can drown by trying to go into the deep end too quickly. They need to think about the purpose of swimming there.  Some may decide to jump off the diving board straight into the deep end and learn how to integrate from day one with a particular learning objective.  Others, elect to take swimming lessons (Professional Development) and use the occasional swim noodle (instructional technology integrators) to help them stay afloat.   In addition, they will want to make sure that a lifeguard (Principal) is on hand should they begin to really struggle and possibly blow the whistle when they need to take a break.

The bottom line is without time, practice, support, and motivation, rarely would a teacher elect to venture into that deep end of SAMR.  The amazing thing is, once a teacher does enter that realm, they may realize that they aren’t swimming alone.  Swimming in the transformative deep end doesn’t mean the students are on the side of the pool cheering you on. It means they are in the pool with you – working, collaborating, problem-solving, and creating their future with you at their side.


Being Digitally Naked – Are We Too Connected?

The Famous Sign

You ever have that heart-stopping feeling of fright when you leave the house without your phone? What about that feeling of exposure when you are the dentist office and realize you don’t have your favorite tablet to help you pass the time while catching up on episodes of Orange is the New Black?  Isn’t amazing how quickly we’ve become attached to our devices?  They’ve become more than an accessory, they’ve become part of our clothes.  You wouldn’t leave the house without clothes on would you?

In September, I attended the Mobile 2013 Experience in Arizona and was faced with quite a conundrum.  My phone was about to die and we were heading into the networking reception part of the event.  I didn’t want to carry an iPad or laptop around with me, but didn’t want to be disconnected.  It dawned on me the irony that I was about to head into a networking event and felt the need the to carry my phone with me to stay connected. Much like Linus of Peanuts fame, my iPhone is my security blanket.    I figured I had two options at that point – Either stay in my room and communicate and connect digitally with folks or actually go into the event without my device.

I decided take the plunge and leave my room without my “clothes” on.  Something amazing happened during my couple of hours of wandering around “digitally naked.”

No one seemed to notice.

I didn’t get any embarrassing looks from people at the event despite the noticeable nervous discomfort on my face.  Not only was anyone aware of my digital nudity, but some other strange things started to happen while I skinny-dipped around the room:

The “uncomfortable pause” became really uncomfortable

We’ve become uncomfortable with the uncomfortable pause (pretty meta don’t you think?).  Louis CK had a brilliant rant on a recent Conan appearance about the very reason we can’t do this even when we are ALONE.  I realized how hard it was to stand there and look around a room without my blanket to save me.  Now I can see where thumb-twiddling became all the rage in the 19th century! Only now we have thumb-texting to past the time.   After virtual streaking through the room and kicking the invisible dirt on the carpet, I realized what I had to do next.

I had to talk to people

I consider myself a very social, extroverted person.  That said, there’s still something uncomfortable about going into a crowd of strangers and engaging in conversation.  Luckily for me, while I was digitally naked, my social-media presence made it easier to make connections with people in “3D”.   Even if I couldn’t show a stranger the clever ecard or cat video from the web on my phone, I could tell them a story about it and laugh at my own inside jokes.  While this was awkward at first, I harkened back to my pre-Smartphone days to pull in some age-old tricks like eye contact and active listening to make it go smoother.   And whenever that didn’t work, I just verbalized “hashtag”* to get my geeky joke across. (*Timberlake, J & Fallon J, 2013)

I experienced “phantom vibration”

Me and my security blanket

Me and my security iBlanket #LinusChat

Crazy as it may sound, I actually felt my leg vibrate right where my phone would normally be in my pocket.  The eerie part about it was that it felt exactly like the amount of pressure and length a “text vibration” would feel like.  Imagine my embarrassment when I would reach down to my empty pocket quickly and discover there isn’t anything there.  I called it a phantom vibration as it reminded me of the stories of people who had lost a limb yet still “felt” its existence.  This happened more often than I would comfortably admit here, but lets just say I’m pretty sure people at this event saw me as some either a crazy person swatting invisible bugs off his leg or a pseudo-athlete with a reoccurring quadriceps cramp.

I felt exposed and liberated

There was something liberating about not having to check my phone every 12 seconds.  It took some getting used to, don’t get me wrong. At one point I thought I was having a panic attack, which when coupled with my phantom leg slapping probably didn’t help with my approachability.  That said, I almost felt as though reality got a little bit brighter when I didn’t have that tiny screen staring back up at me every so often.

Colors seemed more vibrant.

Smells seemed more acute.

I had gone from panic attack to a euphoric state of being.  I felt myself almost floating around the room.

The world didn’t end 

When I finally did return back to my room where my now fully-charged phone awaited, I was astonished to see that EVERYTHING was ok.  I had told my family what I was doing before heading out of the room and quickly alerted them to my safe return to put their minds at ease.  The district didn’t suffer from any major outages or set-backs.  Sure, I may have missed a couple of emails and tweets, but nothing very pressing.  The world can survive without me being connected to it!

What does all this mean?  Well, you might be saying to yourself, Carl is way too connected.  You’d have a point there.  I mean the very fact that I’m blogging about this is a testament to that need for digital clothing.   However, this brief digital skinny dip taught me something else.  That I can survive, albeit briefly, without that constant connection.

When I returned home after that pilgrimage to the desert of Arizona, I decided that being digitally naked meant being MORE connected with those around me physically.  And when staring down at those 3 little cherubic faces at home, I realized that I’d much rather have them stare back up at me than that tiny screen.

What am I missing out on here?

What am I missing out on here? (p.s. – They are posing for me in this pic, but is it that far-fetched?)

Editor’s Note: October is Connected Educator’s Month

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….

failure quote copy

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. 

Leap Motion: My Non-Minority Report

After months of waiting and anticipation, my Leap Motion finally arrived last week.   I was eager to get started “playing” with it and see if it really is as cool as their promo video makes it out to be and what educational benefits it might have.  What follows is my review of their product and some ideas for potential educational use.

It's finally here!

It’s finally here!

Packaging, Presentation and Set-up: 

From the get go, the box and packaging has a very “Apple” feel to it.  It’s a simple white box with the Leap controller reflected on the cover.  Inside, you’ll discover the Leap controller, two USB cords of different lengths and a simple getting started guide.  The sticker on the Leap controller advises you to go to a set-up site first and download the driver for your computer and the AirSpace store.  This is the app store for the device and it surprisingly already has quite a few apps in there.  Following a brief set-up and orientation, the Leap is configured and ready to go in a matter of minutes.

Early Glitches and Perceptions:

Running through the orientation on my Macbook Air didn’t seem to cause many problems.  I noticed once I launched it my screen resolution changed,(much like when you plug in an A/V adapter)  but didn’t think much about it.  As I was in a meeting when I set this up, I tried not to draw much attention to myself, but I found that next to impossible.  Some people across the room thought I was waving and pointing at them.  Another person asked if I was feeling ok because it looked like I was conducting an invisible orchestra with music in my head.  I could tell right away that the very act of physical motion with this device is new and distracting to others around the room.  Sitting in a board meeting, I can’t imagine my Superintendent using this to look at her computer as it might appear like she’s swatting at invisible gnats.

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 2.57.29 PM

Orientating my hands on the screen

Besides the physical nuances, I noticed some glitches when I installed it on my 27″ iMac.  The orientation didn’t seem to go well and it was very jerky, almost like it was having a hard time processing.  I shut down all other programs and had the same issue, but discovered that my screen resolution was causing problems.  I changed it to 1920X1080 and it started working with little to no issues.  Unlike my MacBook, my iMac didn’t detect and automatically change resolution.  I’m guessing those folks with PCs and Macs will need to adjust this a bit before really taking off with it.

AirSpace Store:

Being a cheapskate when it comes to apps, I created my AirSpace account and immediately dove into the Free App section.   As of this post there were 28 free apps in the AirSpace store. The store seemed evenly split when it came apps for various platforms (78 for MacOS and 82 for Windows) although I was disappointed to see there were no Android or iOS options. One glitch I noticed on my iMac was the lack of icons in the AirSpace program.  I could see the names of the apps I had downloaded but no icons for them. (they do appear on my MacBook which is strange)


While the AirSpace program (which is downloaded on your computer before use) had some pre-installed apps, I decided to try out a few freebies too.  Boom Ball was by far the most interactive and least glitchy.  Imagine the 80′s game “Breakout” only with a 3D element and you use your finger at various angles to control where the ball will go next.  Another game I tried was Roshambo.  Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is: Rock-paper-scissors with a computer generated contestant (in this case a pirate in a bar it would seem). Being a new store, they have “Free App Fridays” where an app will go free for 24 hours on Fridays.  Since there are only so many apps, I could probably get most of the apps in the next few months for free.


While the games were interesting I also wanted to see what kind of tools and learning apps were available.  The Molecules and CyberScience 3D app have some serious potential, especially for kinesthetic learners.  Imagine being able to move an item around with your hands?  It’s almost like we are living in the Minority Report!

One tool that I was most interested in, was the most basic: Touchless for Mac.  This allows me to turn my finger into a mouse.  I know, it doesn’t sound that exciting, but I wondered how this could help my productivity by being able to move windows out of the way and open and close things without the cumbersome need to move a mouse around.  Unfortunately, this was not as great as I thought at first as it does take quite a bit of time to get use to moving your finger around (keeping your hand very still is the key).  Alas, my dreams for Minority Report like control will have to wait, as I wasn’t able to “grab” and move windows around or zoom in and out with this tool.

Pros & Cons:

Cons: As this was a first generation device, I knew there would be some negatives with being the first of its kind.  Here are a few items that I hope will improve with future generations:

  • General glitches and the need to be used at certain screen resolutions.
  • Not a lot of choices in the App store, but I know this is just starting.
  • The device is limited to just two platforms for use.  I’m hoping they think to expand that in the future.
  • The games were fun but I was hoping for more in the educational realm, but I imagine that will expand as well.  One major thing I wish was different was the fact that it connects via usb.  I was hopeful it would have a bluetooth connection so I could really stretch the limits of where I’m using it.  There might still be a way to rig that, but I’m thinking they should make second generation bluetooth capable. (like my keyboard and mouse)

Pros: Being the first of its kind does have merit.  Here are a few items I particularly like:

  • Setup is very easy.  Just launch the site, download the necessary software and the orientation starts. 
  • The AirSpace store is web-based, has a clean design and very easy to navigate.
  • The early apps really highlight the potential of the device.  Between the games and the educational apps, there is some serious creative potential here and you feel it when you interact with the various apps.
  • It’s new.  I know that seems cheesy, but the fact that I’m doing something different, moving things with my hands, it feels different and exciting.  That newness will wear off which is why the app store needs to continue to grow.

Overall Experience:

I will definitely say that the interaction with the Leap Motion is the closest I’ve ever come to the feeling I had when I first interacted with the iPad.  That sci-fi feeling and the newness of maneuvering items through the air around your computer without a mouse, keyboard or screen-touch is pretty unique.   I think the potential educational benefits of this device are great, assuming the address some of the cons listed.  Being in a 1:1 environment, it would be very strange to walk into a classroom with each kid using this device.  It would look like some weird combination of Grease’s hand-jive and “the wave”, but eventually I can really see the kinesthetic learner loving this.  We ask our kids to sit in the same spot for hours on end, and this could really open up the mind through movement.  The potential for this device and the many knock-offs to come is potentially powerful.  I think the early price point is a little steep ($79.99 at BestBuy), but to be expected with a new device.  (For frame of reference a bluetooth mouse is about a 1/4th of the price) That said I’m excited to see where and how this potential fits in our educational space.

Tom Cruise? Maybe not...

Tom Cruise? Maybe not…

The Obituary of the Student Desk 1887-2013

StudentDeskThe Student Desk (known by several aliases, most notably the Classroom Desk) died today when teachers at Bridge Point Elementary school in Austin, TX discovered that learning could happen in a variety of spaces that no longer necessitated their use. “We just feel like kids in this new mobile age don’t need to be confined to a small, uncomfortable desk.” said one teacher who chose to remain nameless for the purposes of this obituary

Student Desks had a rich history in public education. Descended from its “parent” Anna Breadin, who is credited with “birthing” (designing and patenting) the student desk in the late 1880′s, the Student Desk really found a moment of growth and boom during the 1940′s. In this Industrial Age, when the need to put things in neat rows was prevalent, learning needed to take place in much the same way as factory assembly lines. Why would students need to move around the classroom? The only time students needed to move was to go to the bathroom and you better really had to go because it entailed carrying around a large wooden keychain that said, “Hall Pass”. Much like the ballyhooed and unrelated bell curve chart, it seemed that the Student Desk’s middle age was a time of great dominance in the classroom of America.


The Student Desk had a life-long fascination with putting students’ rear-ends to sleep, a trait it mastered by the mid-1950′s. The 50′s were a time of transformation for the Student Desk’s life as it became a tool for protecting students during the “Duck and cover” days of cold war-era America. The Student Desk came in all shapes in sizes, especially by the 1960′s, a time of cultural change in our country. Tie-dye models and desks made from hemp would be built and later destroyed during this time, but one thing remained constant – their severe lack of mobility and comfort.

Through the decades the Student Desk persevered through tough times, like the “Pencil graffiti” years of the 1970′s when students felt like its top was their own personal canvas. The 1980′s were no easier for the life of the Student Desk as numerous spit-puddles attacked their tops by sleeping, drooling teens (a trend made popular as witnessed at the :52 second mark in this scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.)


“Pencil Graffiti”

Despite these rough times, the Student Desk maintained its dominance in the American school system. Indeed, it seemed like nothing could stop the proliferation of the standard Student Desk in our school systems until the dreaded 2010′s. This was the beginning of the end for the Student Desk. This dark time in the Desk’s life began innocently enough. Schools were looking for ways to get more access to learning in the hands of kids. While this seemed like a novel idea to the Desk, one that would pass in time (like those 1:1 Lava Lamp days of 1968-69), this concept seemed to have staying power. The last few years of the Desk’s life would be a blur. Students began to come to class with some smartphone thingy and schools were even issuing tablets to kids. The Student Desk was no longer needed for physical support as it was in the past.

As preposterous as it sounds, this new idea of learning with mobile devices also meant that the Desk’s other primary strength (its ability to create neat rows) was no longer a necessity. Students needed to be able to move around and work in a variety of ways; individually, in small groups, or as a whole. The teacher no longer need to relay information down the rows, instead learning could happen anywhere and everywhere in the classroom.

Depressed and no longer needed, the Student Desk ended its life by throwing itself into a giant wood-chipper behind the school. The Desk is survived by aged relatives like the pencil, the paper notebook, daylight savings time, and as of this writing, the paper textbook (which is currently on life-support in a Santa Monica area hospital). In lieu of flowers the Desk asks that you plant a tree in its honor for the wood that was used to make the desk and offer a donation to the Chiropractors Helping Ailing Inflamed Rears Society (C.H.A.I.R.S.).

Finally, the family asks that in honor of the Student Desk that you write your school board and administration to rid classrooms of its kind. It’s time to move on people.

For more in depth ideas of what the classroom sans Student Desk looks like, see this post on the BPE Bobcat blog. Also see pictures below classrooms by two Bridge Point elementary teachers and watch this news clip recently released following the demise of the Student Desk.

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Cultivating Excellence Through Contagious Passion – My #ADE2013 Recap

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ADE Launch Day

My brain hurts.

It’s not a head ache from lack of hydration or sleep. It’s more like a muscle pain.  Like when you work out for a long time and wake up the next day all sore. That’s how my brain feels.  It just had the work-out of its life.

Apple Distinguished Educator Institute (#ADE2013) ended this past Friday and my brain still hasn’t recovered.  I consider the 5-day institute the best professional development I’ve ever had.  My mind was attacked from all different angles, forcing it to grow and interact like never before. It wasn’t just the sessions (which were extraordinary), it was the people.

Applying to be an ADE is not an easy process.  It includes some lengthy essays about work you have been doing and a 2-minute video showcasing how you’ve used Apple products to help further educational excellence. Thousands of educators across the country apply and only 75 of the best of the best are selected. I described it to friends as being chosen as an ADE is like being knighted in the world of Ed Tech.  This year’s institute got turned it up a notch by including Canada and Mexico for an all-encompassing North American Institute here in Austin,TX.

After you include the Apple employees, past ADEs, and several app designers, there were around 400 people at this year’s event. The amount of amazing educators across our continent was palpable from the the opening ceremony to the wrap-up party.   While I can’t share much of what I’ve learned on this blog for privacy reasons, I do know my district will directly benefit from the material I’ve learned and the connections I’ve made.  Add to the mix that 3 of us from Eanes made this year’s class (Cathy Yenca – @mathycathy & Lisa Johnson -@techchef4u) and I think our district will truly reap some rewards of our time at the institute.

Aside from the amazing sessions, this institute really focused on stretching and expanding your Professional Learning Network (PLN).  One thing I worried about when arriving here were the amount of Type-A personalities being in the same room.  You might think that could lead to some level of competitiveness or showmanship.  While there was a lot of pride in the work we are all doing, I never got the sense that anyone was trying to show-off.  If anything, the opposite was true.  We were all there to share and learn from each other.  As I wrote earlier in the week, excuses were the only thing missing from this event, which was refreshing.

Contagious Passion

The energy and enthusiasm for education here was truly a one-of-a-kind feeling.  I’ve been at other major Ed Tech conferences, but none of them had this level of what I call “contagious passion.”  You could see attendees eyes lighting up everywhere, whether it be a brief lunch discussion or during a passing moment waiting for the next session.  It turns out that much of this doesn’t happen by accident.

Apple designed this event to give the attendees multiple opportunities to collaborate over shared passions.  While our main PLN was given a task, I found myself also gravitating toward others that didn’t necessarily share the same interests, but the same passion for educational progress and transformation.

Excellence Around Every Corner

I quickly abandoned a majority of my assignment for the academy (which isn’t due until next month) when I

realized that working individually would take time away from the brilliant educators walking all around me. I could work on the project later, but for this event, I wanted to make the most out of every minute of conversation.  Besides the lack of excuses, it seemed that all the attendees shared some sort of other talent, whether it be music or art or understated humor (Yes, I’m talking about you Sean Junkins!)

Here is a small sample of some of the amazing folks I had the pleasure of interacting with this past week: (Apologies in advance for all the name-dropping)

Reshan Richards (@reshanrichards @explainevrything)- I first learned about Reshan from Lisa Johnson. She mentioned this charismatic app-creator that I simply had to meet.  He is the creator of the Explain Everything app, but more importantly than that, he’s an educator.  I didn’t get near enough time with Reshan but his enthusiasm is electric.  Not only did he make a remarkable app, but he’s also getting his PhD this November.  Talk about a life-long learner!

Paul Yip (@DarthMacGoogle) – Paul was one of many Canadians I came to know and appreciate.  He’s working on stretching the boundaries of a mobile classroom through Apple TVs. The power of having teachers and students untethered in his classrooms further his vision of student-centered learning.

Rebecca Stockley (@RebeccaStockley) - One of the things I loved about the institute was the opportunity for attendees and presenters to intermingle.  Rebecca is an ADE alumni who also writes on the site  She was magical in getting the energy up in a room full of 400 weary travelers and I made a point of making most of her improv sessions.  I loved the mix of non-tech in an event like this as it really comes down to making connections.  If you ever get a chance to see her in action at an event, don’t miss it. Trust me.

Don Orth (@finddonorth) – Don and I both recently joined up with the EdTechTeacher team.  Don couples his California laid-back style with some serious educational edge. Walking around in flip-flops and discussing classroom design, he’s a bit like the “Moses for Learning Spaces” in education.

James Richardson (@PrincipalJRich) – James is the principal of a “No Excuses” middle school in Maryland. He’s working long and hard at make Fullan’s Implementation Dip non-existent and is a passionate advocate for personalized learning.  We would all benefit from having a campus leader like him in our districts.

Michelle Cordy (@cordym) – I could write an entire post about the Canadians at this event, but I need to mention Michelle.  She has unmatched energy.  I used to fancy myself a “beacon of Ed Tech light” until I ran into her at ISTE last month.  She has no filter and no excuses when it comes to education and I truly feel she could accomplish anything she puts her mind to.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she became the first Canadian female president of the US. (and I’m not kidding, she’s that persuasive)

Patrick Fogarty (@fogarty22) – Patrick came to the event from the great state of Brooklyn.  Yes, I called Brooklyn a state.  His knowledge of one-to-one deployments in schools is unparalleled. He actually beat me to the punch and published a book on one-to-one deployments last April which I can’t wait to read.  Besides being a writer, he’s also a remarkable visual storyteller, as witness by his “3-in-1” presentation to close out day 4. I’m excited to connect with him and discuss the power of one-to-one in schools going forward.

How many ADEs can you fit in the back of a pickup? #ADEBustOut

How many ADEs can you fit in the back of a pickup? #ADEBustOut

Antonio Manriquez (@ajmanx) – I’ll end with another Californian and a class of 2011 alumni.  Tony is video production teacher at Hollywood High School.  I mean, how cool is that first of all?  I was lucky enough to hijack some time with him via our #ADEBustouts for BBQ, bats, and donuts.  While I fancy myself an amateur film-producer, a few minutes with Tony told me I have a lot to learn. I’m hoping to discuss future film projects with him and want him to be a part of our next iPadpalooza event (where we’ll introduce a film festival portion).

There are dozens of others I enjoyed my time with and could probably write a blog just on Chris McGee’s somersaults or Jon Patry’s bow ties and “Vader Glare”, but I’m thinking you get the point.  One message I’ll end with was brought up by fellow Texan and 2013 class member Troy Bagwell (@troybagwell). At our wrap-up meeting, he asked the question – What would happen if all the ADEs were in one school?

I think the answer to that is simple.

Pure magic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go stretch my brain.

ISTE13: Learn, Connect, & Reflect

What a whirlwind the last week and a half have been.  After wrapping up a successful 2-day iPadpalooza, I took a deep breath and headed to ISTE13 down the road in San Antonio.  With all the time and energy thrown into planning and pulling off a big event like iPadpalooza, I had little time to really focus on what I’d be doing at ISTE13.  I knew I wanted to learn from others doing 1:1 iPad implementations.  I knew I wanted to connect with friends, both new and old, from Twitter.  And lastly, I was going to force myself to take time to reflect each day. The idea of reflecting each day was definitely going to be the most challenging but thanks to my new partnership with, I knew that I would hold myself to this.

Day 1 - 

As I mentioned in my Day 1 post, there were definitely some themes that became readily apparent the first 24-hours into this event.  The idea that learning should be fun seemed to be an underlying theme of the whole event.  From Jane McGonigal‘s opening keynote on gaming to Adam Bellow‘s powerful closing on change in the world, one thing is for certain, the pendulum is swinging swiftly away from standardized testing to more authentic learning.  In visiting sessions, there was a sense that we had moved from “here’s a few cool apps” to here’s how to use these powerful mobile tools in effective ways.  I also had a sense that this conference is evolving with the landscape, as there were more Playgrounds, Poster Sessions, and Lounges spread out through the event halls to give attendees (i.e. learners) a chance to connect and have more informal, collaborative discussions.

Day 2 - 

By Day 2, I had made sure to shift some time in my schedule to really build relationships with people I had only met on twitter. One of the great quotes from Adam’s closing keynote was that an event like this is where “our bodies meet our brains”.    This ISTE, much like the past couple since I’ve been on Twitter, really seemed to further that point.  I had a riveting lunch discussion with Michelle Cordy, Shawn Rubin, Holly Clark and Don Orth about everything from writing rap lyrics to when it’s appropriate to cry over spilled coffee.  While this sounds like typical non-sensical banter between friends, what was unique about this conversation is it was the first time I had every actually met these folks in person. We all share a common passion for student-led learning and a real desire to change the world’s views on public education.

Day 3 - 

I spent  a lot of Day 3 recovering from all the learning and collaborating from the previous 48 hours.  I spent a fair amount of time in the vendor exhibit hall meeting vendors both new and old. One thing that really struck me were the overwhelming amount of companies in here that didn’t exist pre-iPad.  I know there is always fast change in technology, but the amount of roll-over in the past 3 years because of mobile devices has really accelerated this rate of turn over.  Mobile device accessories were the norm and all those companies held over from tech-generations past were shifted to the new mobile way of life.

Devices - 

While Microsoft made the biggest splash by giving away 10,000 Surface tablets to ISTE attendees.  I never got a final count on how many they ended up giving away, but it seemed as though early reviews were mixed.  The one thing I did notice was that by the middle of the day 3, as I looked around the Poster session area, there were still 90% Apple products being used.  Whether that’s because they hadn’t been trained or were just more comfortable, I don’t know for certain.  But I have a feeling if 10,000 iPad Minis were given away, I would have seen those everywhere by this point. We’ll see how this Microsoft gamble pays off down the road as I know eventually there will be something that takes the iPad place on top.

Overall - 

I felt like the mix of sessions, interactive spaces, lounges, and vendor space really allowed for a personalized learning environment we all crave in our schools. There we lots of little details that went a long way to making this event really pay off and after running #iPlza13, I can truly stand in awe at the level of organization it takes to pull off that feel. I never felt like it was 14,000 people crammed into a building for a few days and to that I give my kudos to this year’s ISTE organizers.  As I posted here, one thing I’m working on doing this week is codifying all the learning that took place between myself, my team, and my PLN.  The hope is then to use that as a tool going forward to share the learning with my staff that couldn’t be there.

On a final note, after taking the past couple of years off from presenting at ISTE, I plan to throw my name back into the ring for ISTE14 and be more of a contributor to this great event.  With Adam’s final keynote inspiring me, it will be done in some way that gets the crowd going….and maybe even #pantless.

This may or may not be me at #ETK13.  Check out the shirt.

This may or may not be me at #ETK13. Check out the shirt.


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