Blog Archives

A Whole New World of Apps (for the Under 13 Generation)

Green PG-13_Hv_CS3As 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.

App Provisioning

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!

App Personalization

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:

Content Distribution

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.

Parent Involvement

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!

K-12 iPad Deployment Checklist

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

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

– Administrative Duties – 

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

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

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

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

– Instructional Duties – 

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

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

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

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

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

– Technical Duties – 

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

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

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

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

iPad Deployment Checklist

iPad Deployment Checklist K-12

Radio Interview – TECSIG, iPadPalooza & Zombies!

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

A couple of notes here –

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

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

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

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

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

iPad Screen Record on a Mac via Airplay!

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

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

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

Option 1: Network Connection

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

Option 2: Bluetooth pairing

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

See sample video below:

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

5 Apps That I’d Like Invented in 2012

I’m always running across people saying, “don’t you wish there was an app for that”.  Sometimes I’m surprised to find that actually is an app for “that”.  With over 500,000 apps in the iOS marketplace, it’s hard to imagine that we could even need any more.  So as the new year begins, here are some I think should be created this year.  Some of these are very pie-in-the-sky and require quite a bit of other things to happen in order to be used effectively, but hey! It’s the New Year!  Anything is possible right?
1.  RefriderMinder – Just in time for those New Year’s weight-loss resolutions out there! Ever wonder what’s in your fridge but your at the store already?  Ever get surprised by that old tub of sour cream that’s gone green earlier than you thought?  That’s where “RefridgerMinder” app comes in handy. This app can actually detect what’s in your fridge! (Note: “SmartFridge” and optional bar code scanner readers and weight sensors not included) Imagine it, when you put food in your fridge it instantly scans it and let’s you know the expiration date. Enable push notifications to warn you when something is reaching expiration or running out (via weight sensors). With an optional upgrade, you could even have the nutritional information fed to your favorite weight-loss app. If you purchase accompanying  tupperware with an electric date/time diode on the lid, your left-overs could communicate to you as well.  Finally, if you really wanted to go all out, mini-cams could be installed on fridge shelves that let you actually look at what’s in your fridge via this app.  There will also be a companion app called “PantryMinder” coming out not too long after this.

2. BreadCrumbs – During our recent visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, my wife commented to me while we were driving by landmarks, “wouldn’t it be nice if we could have an audio tour happening right now that tells us what significant stuff is around us?”.  With the geo-location feature on iDevices, it would be easy enough to enable audio to come on based on your location and the direction your are facing. In fact, there are already a couple apps out there already that already do that. This app would take it even a step further.  Users could input their own images, videos, and audio based and geo-tag the location where they are for other users to experience what they experienced.  Volcano not erupting the day your are there? No problem! Click on a user-video from the exact spot your are standing and experience an augmented reality version of the volcano erupting.

3. YouTube Ed Edition – This one is exactly what it sounds like.  There are a lot of “filtered” apps out there like Kideos, which will categorize some YouTube videos by age level.  However, with the recent release of, I hope it’s only a matter of time before a separate YouTube Ed Edition app appears on our devices.

4. GreenLightGo – I know we are not supposed to check email or text in our cars.  In fact, many states are outlawing the use of any cell phone while the car is in motion.  Playing by the rules means we are stuck reading or responding to as much as we can in the 2 minutes it takes for a traffic light to cycle through.  Often times, I’m so into my response or research that I don’t notice the light has changed until I’m gently reminded via a driver’s honk to my rear.  This app solves that problem.  Simply run this app in the background of your device, then when the light you are facing turns green, the screen flashes and sends a small audio alert letting you know it’s time to move.  Sounds simple enough right?  The trick would be getting the highway department to let this app access their traffic signal cycles.

5. URL in a Flash – The one GIANT roadblock/question I get when talking about iDevices in school or anywhere else is the “yeah, but it doesn’t run flash” response.  There are currently several apps that claim to enable some sort of flash integration on the iPad. (Photon being the best, albeit a little clunky and not cheap.  Rover is a more limited free option.)  With the recent openess of Adobe towards Apple I think a true everything app that runs flash will be out there soon, only in all reality it likely won’t look like this.  It will probably be blue with a compass on it and be called “Safari”.

So there you have it.  Just enough to wet your appetite to the possibilities. I know I might be giving away a ton of money in free ideas, but the reality is I just want to see these apps invented.  (I also didn’t share my top 3 ideas as I do actually hope to invent those :-)  The scary thing is, I think we all have these rattling around in our heads.  I just chose to create fake app icons and put them on a blog.  What app have you thought of?  Please share via comments below or invent it and share it with me!

Fighting Perception

In the past couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a great many community members, teachers, students and parents about the role of technology in education.  The one commonality that continues to amaze me in all of those interactions is the perception that technology either “isn’t necessary” or that we shouldn’t become to “technology dependent” in education.  We are all becoming too “plugged in” to everything.  The immense amount of information and access is overwhelming, we have to unplug ourselves and just go back to the basics of education, the nay-sayers would suggest.

While I understand the worry with funding in the current climate, I hold that these beliefs are a direct result of everyone’s remembrance of public education when they attended.  I find it hard to believe that other professions would avoid technology innovation like some do in education.  I’m sure folks in medical field weren’t at all excited to discover the recent announcement by Surgeon Anthony Atala and the ability to actually “print” human organs.  Lawyers that can now access documents digitally by keyword searches rather than piling through hours of papers probably aren’t at all pleased about the time they save on their cases.  (ok, so maybe lawyers really aren’t happy about that)

Despite the advances in digital information, the K-12 institution still shows reluctance in some parts of embracing this change, even though public education is the largest entity for delivering information literacy. Teachers will exclaim, “Why do we keep having to learn new stuff?” to which my response is, “Did you just hear what you said?”  I wonder if a teacher in 1800 was really worried that the chalkboard would replace his/her need to be a teacher.  After all, couldn’t we just hire a bunch of chalkboard writers?

While parent support for technology is great in my community, there are still a few that feel that the chalk and slate would get just as much accomplished as a Smartboard and iPad.  While content and instruction are still extremely important in education, the mode with which they are delivered has changed.  The mode with which the world receives information has changed in advance of this.  I recently had the pleasure of hearing Scott McLeod from the CASTLE Institute speak about the trends in education and the national job market.  Manufacturing and Agriculture in serious decline while jobs based on services and creativity continue to sky-rocket.

Yet we continue to present a model that prepares kids for the latter rather than former.  The Kaiser M2 Generation study shows that kids are spending 31 minutes getting access to technology at school vs. 429 minutes of access at home.  Of course, the stats are reversed when it comes to print media.  Is this disparity not disturbing to anyone? We are quickly becoming irrelevant, yet we continue to dig in our claws when change is staring us right in the face.

So how do you fight this perception that more technology and access is bad?  I for one am using all of the tools available to me.  Twitter, Facebook, my blog, list-servs, community forums, and generally anyone I can stop in the hall and talk to about it.  I’m fortunate to have a very supportive administrative team that knows and accepts that we have reached a tipping point in terms of what information literacy looks like.  In order for this to work, in order for this change to truly happen, we ALL need to be on board.

So for now, I’ll continue to forge ahead with their support and the support of many who believe and are embracing this change. I’ll continue to try and convince one person at a time that education is not what it was 20 years ago.  I’ll continue to open their eyes to the changes in our world and the instant access we now all have for better or worse. (see: Sheen’s Korner on UStream)

I’ll continue until there is no fight left in me, and when that moment comes, I’ll pull my own plug.

How "iPad Ready" are we as a district?

I just received my “official” iPad.

Lookee what just arrived!

Lookee what just arrived!

Now what? How is this going to be utilized in our schools?

The eReader part of it is a given. The view-ability and usability of it compared to it’s smaller cousin the iPod Touch is glaring. Reading books and magazines will be easier than ever before. Heck, looking at all my social networking content just got easier with the introduction of the Flipboard app earlier this month. Typing may take some getting used to (I had a couple of demo ones to test out with before getting this one) but I think my hands and thumbs will eventually adjust.

Educationally, there are TONS of apps available for the early reader and writer. There are even some for the artist and creator. So where do I start? I’ve scanned several blogs and websites for the top 10 iPad apps, but how many of them are must-haves?

In an educational environment, I feel like we’re just scratching the surface of what this can be used for. The default answer of the techie nay-sayer is, “it can’t produce content like laptop” or “it can’t do flash”. This would seem to be a big hindrance in an educational environment that pushes for content creation (i.e. turn in your homework paper). Some tech departments are even a little bit concerned about the lack of enterprise control over the OS. I personally am concerned with the inability to work with Google Apps, but I’m told Apple and Google are begrudgingly working that out.

I think the future for this device is far greater than we can even begin to fathom. Imagine a classroom full of these! Teachers become “Content Negotiators” – They find the sources and distribute to the kids. Or, better yet, the students find the content and collaborate while the teacher moderates their interaction. With this kind of accessibility and mobility, the level of interaction would increase remarkably. This all still hinges on the teaching style and philosophy of the teacher in the classroom.

We’re only now starting to reach a point where cell phones aren’t completely banned. Some forward thinking teachers at our own Westlake High school are utilizing smartphones to communicate globally (“text someone in the world this math problem”) or to interact directly with polling websites like Poll Everywhere where students can text their answers. With this feature, the iPad becomes a student-response system instantly.

So does this content-collecting, eReading, artistic, student-response gizmo have a place in EVERY classroom?

Is this new digital backpack?

With so many possibilities out there, my question to you, my loyal readers is two-fold:

1. Where do you seeing these being used most effectively in the coming year?

2. What are the “must-have” apps that I should download?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,517 other followers