I’ve been blessed to experience amazing professional development from around the world. I’ve had incredible, powerful conversations with people in my PLN via social media that help me learn and grow. All that said, yesterday’s #Student4aDay Challenge was the most eye-opening and possibly most life-altering experience for me as an administrator in a public school. What follows is my reflection on the day and some major “Aha’s” that I hope will guide both the future of professional development for our teachers but also the lives of our students. For those of you that want a play-by-play recap of the day, check out the hashtag #Student4aDay on twitter.
About the challenge:
I blogged out my predictions and a little bit of the background for this challenge in this post, but the gist is I wanted to “be” a 10th grade student for a day. My main goal was to see what student life is like in this 1:1 mobile world at a highly successful place like Westlake High School. I was also curious about how they interacted with the teacher and each other, the desks they had to sit in, how they used technology, and generally, what their day felt like.
I “borrowed” this schedule from one particular student who agreed to let me shadow her. However, because we had a pre-scheduled site visit, I needed to do take both 4th and 5th period off. It worked out well since World History had a sub and were going to just watch a video. I also had a AP US History teacher request I visit her class at 7th period instead of going to choir. Since I was feeling under the weather and my singing voice was not up to snuff, I took advantage of the opportunity to see her Humanities course in action.
I made 5 predictions (or hypotheses) about how the day would go. Here’s how they turned out:
1. Kids will be on their phones between classes – SOMEWHAT TRUE – There were a few kids texting or listening to music or even talking on their phones (rarely), but for the most part, kids were talking to each other. They were having conversations about a certain class, a movie, a game, or what they were doing after school. I assume some talked about relationships too, but they tended to quiet down when I got close.
2. My lack of a healthy singing voice will hurt me in choir – FALSE – Since I swapped out Choir for US History, this one never came to pass.
3. The desks will hurt my back- TRUE – I suffer from mild back issues, but sitting in these torture contraptions was getting to be down right painful by the end of the day. I found myself fidgeting in them, turning to the side, slouching over, and generally just constantly shifting from one “cheek” to the other.
4. Technology use will be a mixed bag – TRUE – In the English class it was extremely hands on, with the teacher using Nearpod to engage student questions about Catcher in the Rye and even have us draw what we thought Holden Caulfield looked like. Of course, the two computer lab courses heavily used technology as well. Most classes used the projector at a minimum, however one class, Geometry, had a long term sub and so he was relegated to only using the dry erase board. No technology (except for calculators) were allowed out in that class.
5. My “real job” will affect my job as a student – I did miss 5th period for a meeting and during US History I was asked to help trouble-shoot with a Nearpod issue. I tried to claim I was just a regular high school kid, but the class cleverly remarked that most kids could help troubleshoot technology, so I should too. Well-played…..
Class I was best at:
Interactive Media – of course! The class was at the end of a Photoshop project designing a an advertising poster for the college of their choice to recruit students. I observed several students working collaboratively on their posters (and some procrastinating). I came up with my Matthew McConaughey -University of Texas concept (pictured left) and nearly finished it within the 50 minute class period. One of the quotes of the day came when a fellow-student called out another student for procrastinating to which she responded with “I’m not a ne’er-do-well!”
Class I was worst at:
Chemistry – This was a mixture of style and content. I’ve always been a big fan of science and when I think about my favorite high school teachers, science usually comes to mind because it’s so hands-on. However, this particular class on this day was a review class, so it was very direct-teach over concepts I haven’t had to remember since…frankly….the last time I was in high school chemistry. (Quick! What’s Avogadro’s number?) The students had been over this more recently, but my memory was shaky. So much so that I failed the 2-question quiz over a couple of simple molecular concepts. :(
Outcomes (or “AHAs”):
I could probably write a blog post on each class I was in and the overall student life. However, I’m going to try and summarize what I discovered during this day in four major “AHA” moments.
AHA #1 – The schedule is overwhelming
From the amount of time you have (50 minutes) in class to the amount of time you have in passing period (6 minutes), the day flew by without much time for deep thought or reflection. I realize that giving teenagers too much transition could spell trouble, but I barely had a second to digest what I had learned before abruptly moving to the next subject. And in the classes (like English and US History) where we were starting to have a good, deep discussion on a topic, we were interrupted by the bell. I can really see the benefits of having some sort of hybrid block-schedule after a day like today. In the end, I was completely exhausted at the end of the day and, strangely enough, just wanted to go home and play video games.
AHA #2 – The technology may have changed, but the kids haven’t
Sure they were on their phones during passing periods and occasionally they’d listen to music when done with an assignment, but for the most part, the kids were kids. Typical teenagers with angst and hopes and dreams (channeling my inner-Caulfield here). In the chemistry class, there were one or two students that tended to answer every question, while the rest of us (including me) blankly stared at the board. In between classes I even got into a spirited conversation with a 16-year old about how good the latest Tell Tale Walking Dead game is. The girls giggled and the boys sighed at times, but in general, the kids were respectful and attentive no matter what the subject. (save for a couple of girls I noticed texting under their desks during Geometry). One kid did try to use his camera on his phone to take a picture of notes on the board to which another kid called him lazy. His response was priceless – “That’s not being lazy, it’s being efficient.”
AHA #3 – How much of this content will be relevant in later life?
I can understand that taking courses like Geometry and Chemistry and Business Infrastructure Management give you the ground work for some basic life skills. However, I can honestly say I’ve NEVER used Avogadro’s number (6.02×1023 for those of you dying to know) in my real life. In fact the last time I used it was 24 years ago when I was a sophomore taking Chemistry. Why do we feel compelled to still teach the “4 core” subject areas every year in high school? Is it because this is what we’ve always done? I can see it being useful to those with a real interest in Chemistry or Calculus or Poetry but why force it on every student?
AHA #4 – It’s still really all about the teacher (and their style)
I’ve written in the past that technology is the “Great Amplifier” when it comes to teaching. It can make a good teacher great and a bad teacher terrible. In the classes I felt most engaged were the ones where technology was “invisible” in a sense and the focus was on the content and the discussion. I can tell you almost verbatim things I learned about Thomas Nast political cartoons based on the student discussion but I can barely remember what mathematical equation I was told in Geometry. The biggest difference in those classes was both the style in which the teacher facilitated discussion but also the physical configuration of the classroom. Desks in rows tends to imply that it’s all about focusing on the teacher (always exceptions to this too, as I discovered in the tremendously engaging English class). Desks with the ability to turn or face each other made the center of the room the focus, a place where ideas could be shared and discussed without judgment.
All in all, I have learned a lot from this day, much of which I hope to apply and help steer changes in the classrooms and schools for kids in the coming years to make it more about student-centered, personalized learning. It’s been an eye-opening experience that I hope others in my district (and in other districts) will attempt. I even reached out to some law-makers on Twitter to invite them in to do the same. It was both a humbling and frustrating experience that I was honored to be able to attempt and it will live with me forever.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go home and play some video games.
Editor’s note: Tracie Simetal took on the #student4aday challenge as well and live-blogged her results on this Google Doc. Kudos to Tracie and any other administrators willing to take this on!
Update: The Austin American-Statemen ran a report on this experiment and posted it here: http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/administrator-spends-eye-opening-day-as-student/nkHWG/
Tomorrow I will become a high school student. Now I know that some of you that know me well could probably make the case that I’ve always been a high school student at heart, but tomorrow it really happens. No this isn’t some sort of weird Billy Madison-esque thing where I have to go back to school to get my diploma, it’s actually part of an experiment.
Inspired by both Grant Wiggin’s post and our own Kacy Mitchell’s challenge to be a middle school student for a day, I’ve decided to place myself right in the middle of Westlake high school for a day. But before I embark on this challenge, I thought it might be a good idea to reveal why I’m doing this and make a few predictions.
Why Become a Student For a Day?
As an administrator, I’m faced with making decisions about major items on a daily basic. I spend time in meetings discussing and planning those decisions. I spend time speaking to parents about the rationale behind those decisions. And I train staff on the impact those decisions will make in their classrooms. However, the one group I feel I don’t have a strong enough grasp on is the most important group of all…the students. It’s my hope that by becoming a student for a day I can a small glimpse into what their daily academic life looks like. How do they use technology? How well do they interact in class with the teacher and with each other? How prevalent (and often) is their use social media throughout the day? How uncomfortable are those desks they have to sit in?
These are just a few questions that I’ll be focusing on as I go through my day. My schedule will follow that of
a typical sophomore which encompasses the following subjects:
1 – English
2 – Chemistry 1
3 – Interactive Media
4 – Lunch
5 – World History
6 – Geometry
7 – Choir
8 – Business Information Management
I’ve already contacted all the teachers of those courses to let them know I’ll be doing this challenge to learn more about the kids and that it won’t be a teacher observation. I’ve also asked them for any relevant homework that I’ll need to be prepared for when I show up (I was a little stressed to discover I need to re-read Catcher in the Rye all the way through chapter 17). That said, in being a student for the day, I thought it would be fund to make a few predictions of what I’ll discover. Here are 5 that I’ll be looking for:
1. Kids will always be on their phones between classes – I hear that this is always the case so I wonder what it is they are doing. Is it just texting or are their selfies taking place all over? Will I be late to class if I participate?
2. My lack of a healthy singing voice will hurt me in choir – I’ll blame the fact that I’m recovering from a cold, but I’m going to guess I’ll make a lousy choir student. Hoping no one records this class and posts it on YouTube.
3. The desks will hurt my back – I have an ergonomically correct chair in my office for lower lumbar support and a standing table for when I need to stand and type. That won’t be an option tomorrow.
4. Technology use will be a mixed bag – While this schedule lends itself to some high end technology use (I’ll be in a couple of computer labs), I’m curious to see how much the iPad plays a role throughout the day. Although, the English teacher already emailed me to tell me it’s a completely paperless assignment in his class which makes my heart warm.
5. My “real job” will affect my job as a student – This might be the one prediction that will definitely come true. I’ll have access to my email and I’ll know be the “tech guy” in the classroom that can fix any technical problem. Hopefully I’ll be treated like a regular student, but just like Reality TV, that’s not a real possibility.
While I’m going to do my best to be a focused student in the class, I’ll also be live-tweeting the day via the hashtag #Student4aDay. I hope to use this hashtag to help me reflect on the day later but also as a way for those of you on “the Twitter” or Instagram to follow along.
Lastly, while I know I’ll gain a lot of valuable information by doing this, it’s my hope that other leaders will follow suit and do the same. Like I said before, we make decisions all the time that affect kids. I think it would be a great idea for every administrator and teacher to try the #Student4aDay challenge and see the world from a different perspective. If you do decide to do this, make sure you reflect about it in public and then share with the world. We can all learn from each other!
When I was a kid we used to go bowling. No, not Wii bowling. Actual bowling. You know, where you wear someone else’s shoes, put your fingers in some greasy ball and take in your share of second-hand smoke? (smoking was allowed in bowling alleys back then). When I first started out, my ball went all over the place, including backwards once into a group of bystanders. When I finally did get my sense of direction down, I would end up chucking this 10 pound ball down a lane and inevitably it would end up in the gutter. Time and time again I would try only to be met with the “Brunswick pin sweeper of shame”. You know, the one where that rake comes down and knocks over all ten pins that you missed?
My parents were great at letting me fail and learning from that failure, but it led to some frustration. Enter bumper rails! While I still had to have some basic sense of direction, the bumper rails kept my ball from falling into the gutter and I was able to achieve some moderate success and even come up with the occasional strike.
Rolling out iPads in our schools in some ways as mirrored my bowling experience as a youth. We’ve given some basic direction and support but sometimes the ball flew backward (like when we went from iOS 4.3 to 5.0). Sometimes our fingers get stuck in the ball (iPads only being used for simple substitutive tasks). And other times, even when we had students going in the right direction, their feet would sometimes step over the line before they roll(distraction). However, by constantly communicating with our community, teachers, students and administrators, we are continually seeking out ways to positively impact the instructional use of these tools in the classroom and thus have the kids bowl more strikes. One of the early struggles in our deployment was the ability to be balance profiles and restrictions on the iPads so that they would have a successful educational experience. We really only had a couple of choices when we started back in 2011:
A) Let the kids bowl down the lane with the possibility of the occasional gutter ball or B) Set up blanket restrictions which was similar to bowling a ball down the lane only to have the pin sweep come down and block the pins, essentially taking away any of the creative personalization opportunities of the iPads.
Finally, this summer, we were able to use our own set of bumper rails. With the new Apple Deployment system and our revamped Casper JAMF MDM system, we were able to put some better, more secure profiles and systems in place to help further the instructional focus of iPads in the classroom and let creativity flourish.
Here’s a poster of a few of our newest restriction profiles at each level:
These new profiles will help us not only deal with our greatest challenges of the past but also help us push out apps wirelessly to student iPads at a much more rapid rate with an eye on personalizing each students’ device. Here are three things we’re most excited about in the new system:
Locked in “Focus” when needed:
With the new Casper Focus tool, teachers can lock student iPads into a single app. This means that we can use the iPads for testing and even as a substitute for expensive calculators. While we don’t want teachers over-using this feature, it will give them some scope of control when needed to get the class re-focused and on the same page so to speak. (like those directional arrows in the bowling lane)
We are highly concerned that non-educational gaming and iMessages were causing some disruptions to learning and causing kids to be off-task or distracted during the school day or at night. With our new MDM update, we have removed iMessages from the devices entirely and also improved some of the restrictions for gaming. We still believe it takes a village with a team approach of parent and school to teach kids self-control, but this new system gives us the guidelines (Bumpers) we need to make that happen effectively. One student found this out when he tried to turn in his iPad after getting it this Fall and claiming that it was broken. When he was asked why he thought it was broken he said, “Because I can’t download my favorite game. It just keeps disappearing.” (Strike!)
Over the Air App Distribution:
At the secondary level, students could get apps from us via a web-clip called “Self Service.” This was a nice way to make apps available for students, but it meant essentially giving away the app as a consumable because once it was redeemed, the student owned it. With the updated MDM system and the new Apple ID Under 13 program, students K-12 can have apps “pushed” to their iPads over the air without going and looking for them. By that same token, the apps now act as licenses which can be “pulled” back whenever a student leaves or starts a different course (Think rapid ball return and pin set-ups)
While we are always working to make personalized learning the perfect blend of support (bumpers) and guidance (arrows) which will turn learning into a success (strikes). With these new additions, I think we are well on our way to bowling a perfect 300 when it comes to iPads in Education.
Now…if I could just improve my personal bowling score…Am I too old to play with bumpers?
There are some movies I just love watching over and over again. I consider these types of movies “classic”. When I say classic, I mean a movie published before inventing of the smartphone in 2007, so it doesn’t necessarily mean going back to some black & white film or “talkie” from back in the day. However, lately I’ve been amused while watching some of my favorite movies. I start to think about how different it would be if they just had the internet or a smartphone.
What follows are some of my all-time favorite movies and a particular important scene that could have been severely altered if it took place with today’s modern technology. But rather than stop there, I’ll also offer the “2.0” version that could retain some of the major plot points despite modern technology. This isn’t all for entertainment folks…stick around to the end to see some classroom ideas for getting your kids to reflect on this as well. [SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t seen some of these films, I give away some major plot points]
This movie adaptation of a Steven King classic has many of the modern horror movie tropes: Damsel in distress, lack of resources, no one else around to hear, etc. A majority of the film takes place with the mother and child trapped by a large rabid St. Bernard in their Ford Pinto. Unable to escape, they are terrorized throughout before finally making a narrow escape at the movie’s end.
Cujo TODAY –
Discovering they are trapped in a non-working Pinto, Donna takes out her cell phone and asks Siri for help.
“How can I help you?”
“Contact a local dog catcher”
“Let me find that for you.”
Cujo 2.0 –
She’s trapped in the car, asks Siri for help only to hear repeatedly “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that” because of the growling dog in the background.
Silence of the Lambs –
In one of the more tense scenes, Agent Starling is trapped in a basement looking for Buffalo Bill. He kills the lights and dons a pair of night vision goggles adding to the tension.
Silence of the Lambs TODAY –
Agent Starling, shocked when the lights go out, calmly pulls out her phone and turns on her flashlight app, blinding Buffalo Bill and helping her save the day.
Silence of the Lambs 2.0 –
Her flashlight app requires an update to iOS8 that doesn’t work with the crappy wifi in the basement.
The Godfather –
When the family sets up the meeting between Michael and Sollozzo, a stressful sequence follows while the family tries to discover where the meeting will take place so that Michael can have a gun planted there. They discover the location right as Michael’s about to walk out the door and they are able to plant the gun in time.
Michael shares his Apple ID (KidCorleone@gmail.com) with his brother who uses iCloud and the Find My iPhone feature to locate where Michael is at. Michael doesn’t have to find a gun behind a toilet because now the gunman can just come in and mow everybody down.
The Godfather 2.0 –
Michael forgets to enable Find My iPhone…essentially keeping him off the grid. Luckily his brother discovers that Sollozzo is at Louis’ Restaurant when he inadvertently checks in on Foursquare and posts: “About to get my grub on (location: Louis’ Restaurant, Bronx)”
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner –
A great movie about early stereotypes and beliefs around interracial marriage, young Joey is excited to tell her parents all about her new fiance, John Prentice, only to be thrown into the turmoil around their prejudices when they discover the color of his skin.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner TODAY –
Joey’s parents may have still been shocked, but if she had created an Evite to the dinner invitation, they would at least have had a warning by seeing who was on the guest list.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 2.0 –
Instead his face on Evite, John Prentice just uses the default avatar, thus hiding his identity.
In one of the most quoted lines of all time, Cole Sear reveals that he “sees dead people.” This unbelievable declaration drives through most of the film and really throws the viewer for a loop when the final plot twist is revealed.
The Sixth Sense TODAY –
Rather than tell people he sees dead people, Cole starts taking “Selfies with Dead People” to prove he’s not crazy. (or “Cray-cray” as the kids today say it)
The Sixth Sense 2.0 –
He’s unable to post the selfies to Instagram because he’s not 13+, thus rendering his evidence useless since we all know if it’s not on Instagram, it can’t be real.
Norman runs the Bates Motel, a place that seems to have perpetual sudden vacancies and an inn keeper that doesn’t seem to be all there.
Psycho TODAY –
A series of bad Yelp reviews about the blood stains and peep holes drive travelers away from the motel. One yelper reveals “I’ll never go back here again. The owner guy’s mother can be heard hollering at him day and night. #soannoying”
Psycho 2.0 –
Norman’s mother creates a bunch of fake Yelp accounts and sways the rating and feedback to be overwhelmingly positive. One such dummy review states that “long, hot showers are a must” in the spacious bathrooms with tear-away curtains.
Breakfast club –
From IMDB – Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. A major point of this movie is Mr. Vernon checking on them to make sure they are obeying and sitting quietly not talking to each other.
Breakfast club TODAY –
The kids happily agree not to talk to each other, because that can just be plain awkward anyway. Instead they friend each other on SnapChat and have loads of “private” conversations without Bender ever finding out.
Breakfast Club 2.0 –
Shermer High School has a strict policy banning any and all cell phone use. The kids are now faced with an uncomfortable decision of having actual conversations rather than burying their faces in their phones.
When Harry Met Sally –
This classic Rom-com shows the main characters (Harry & Sally [Spoiler]) continually running into each other throughout their lives. These cause amazingly funny and quaint scenes where they share anecdotes of their previous lives and eventually lead to their following in love with each other.
When Harry Met Sally NOW –
After college, Harry and Sally stay connected via Facebook. While this means they can always keep up with each other, it also means that those charming little anecdotes can’t happen because they can always respond with “Oh yeah, I saw you posted that on Facebook.” They stay friends, but never fall in love.
When Harry Met Sally 2.0 –
Sally doesn’t believe in social media and isn’t on Facebook. However, her friends convince her to get on Match.com and her profile keeps matching her with the same guy over and over again, who turns out to be….her old acquaintance Harry.
While this is fun to think about and ponder, how could we apply this to learning? What if a classic fairytale got a modern reboot? Or how about contemplating how a major historical event would have changed if we had modern technology? You could even reverse it and try to get the kids to imagine a recent event and what would have happened if the same event happened in the 1950’s. Lots of potential here….post your ideas in the comment section below.
As students fill the hallways of our schools on their first day back, there is a major change afoot for those kids under the age of 13. Students in the pre-teen realm have always had less options when it came to personalization and use of certain websites/social media. While some of those rules still apply when it comes to the web, Apple’s new system of allowing districts to issue Apple IDs for those students under the age of 13 (with parental consent) means that the days of every elementary students having the same standardized iPad are in the past. Combining that with the new deployment system and (in our case) an MDM like Casper, and we are finally starting to see some of the real powerful potential of the 1:1 iPad platform. While I know there will be some glitches (there always are in technology), I’m looking forward to the improvements listed here this year for our K-6 students.
For the past 2 years, our elementary students have been living in the 1:1 world when it comes to devices, but haven’t really gotten the full-fledged personalized experience of their older counter-parts when it comes to apps. Because we couldn’t have individual Apple IDs on each iPad, we used Apple Configurator to provision “images” to sets of iPads at every grade level. This was a painfully arduous process that entailed having a Support Tech go classroom to classroom with a Macbook and provision the images to each iPad. With the amount of time and man-power it took to accomplish this, we basically had time for one app-refresh cycle every year. Besides the inefficiency of this model, we also had several times when iPads would get “hung up” during app refresh and have to be completely wiped, losing important student work that hadn’t been backed up. Now that every student will have an Apple ID, we can “push” apps out to students over the air (OTA). If a classroom wants an app, they contact our MDM campus manager who loads the app and pushes it out to the class overnight. If it’s a free app, the kids can even download it themselves!
Since we basically had two groups (K-2 and 3-5), that meant front-loading the images with pretty much every app we would think to use for the school year. The resulting images were somewhat heavy (taking up over 6GB of the 16GB space) and many were unnecessary depending on your grade. Here’s our example list of apps for elementary last year. You could have 3rd graders looking at 5th grade apps that they didn’t even need. While we’ve really focused on productive apps vs. consumptive ones, we at least knew that all kids would have the tools they needed to create a finished product. Now that we can now push apps over the air, that means starting with a much leaner set of core apps to start (nearly all “productive” apps) and adding those content or grade-level based consumptive apps as needed. One drawback of not having a set image on them is that iPads are essentially naked to begin the year until the students have their Apple IDs set up. Enter the always clever Janet Couvillion. She’s an Ed Tech at one of our elementary campuses and she created this tremendous Thinglink about all things you can do on an iPad with only basic apps:
We utilize eBackpack as our web-based and app-based content distribution system. However, we’ve also found some successes using iTunesU at the upper grades when it comes to quickly creating courses for students. Now that our students under the age of 13 have Apple IDs, we can have them enroll in a class course at the beginning of the year that a teacher can use to push out content as it becomes relevant. We can also provision specific iBooks or class sets of iBooks to students based on their Apple IDs, something not possible in the past.
Time to Focus
Another potential bonus of all of this is the new Casper Focus feature we had a kindergarten teacher test for us last year. With all iPads in this new system and each student with an Apple ID, a teacher can now “control” or “lock-down” all the iPads in his/her class into a specific app. While I’m not a big fan of the lock-down control model when it comes to teaching and learning, I do know there is a time and place when this might need to happen from time to time. With state and national testing moving to an online platform, we’ll need to have this ability going forward. This year we’ll be pilot testing the ACT Aspire test on iPads for students in grades 4-9 and we’ll also be piloting using a Desmos Calculator app during our 8th Grade Algebra State assessment. None of this would be possible without this new system in place without individually going to each iPad and enabling Guided Access.
In order to make this system work, we have to really rely on parent support. They have to go through the online consent and Apple ID creation process for us to be able to utilize all the advantages listed above. As a parent, the advantages to this program versus making your own Apple ID are many (here’s a Parent Guide from Apple). They’ll be able see what apps their students are purchasing. With their students being in the Under 13 program they’ll have less advertisements and data mining to worry about. As a parent of a new kindergarten student, I was excited to not only set up her Apple ID because we can now mirror the apps she’s getting at school and put them on our devices at home to help with her learning. I’ve always been a believer in the concept of a village raising the child and in our ever-increasing online world, the lines between home and school are no longer clearly defined. This process gives us as a district another opportunity to communicate about the education of their child, which can in the end only be a good thing.
To help introduce parents to this process I made this somewhat silly 3.5 minute video (below) along with some instructions for them on their end.
The future is bright and no longer just for those born before 2001!