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What If We Said “NO” to 1:1?

Last night, I had the opportunity to present in front of our School Board on the state of technology in our district.  We reflected on the first three years of our LEAP initiative that brought 1:1 iPads to hands of every student at Eanes ISD.  We talked about successes and we talked about mistakes and how we’ve fixed them. While we are still far from where we would like to be, I am blessed to have such a supportive staff, community and board that have helped make this program a success.  In the coming months there will be discussions about what to do with future technology funding.  While I made a strong case to continue the program, we know it costs money and that money has to come from somewhere.

As I slept last night, a vision came to me in the form of a dream.  It was a vision of an alternate universe that would have been my life and the life of this school district if we decided in 2011 not to pilot this innovative idea of 1:1 iPads.

In this dream my life was pretty boring.  I was doing a lot of training on Powerpoint.  We were constantly struggling to buy enough digital cameras for classes.  My budget was getting burned up on licensing Adobe software for film-producing and photo-editing. But as boring as my life was, it was worse for kids.

As I visited classrooms, there was no technology except for the A/V equipment and the teacher’s desktop. The computer labs were still there, but they were now 7-8 year old machines that barely worked.  Teachers fought for 45-minute time periods in the lab when they could, but ultimately, many decided it was better not to even go. We had mobile technology in the form of netbooks (maybe this was more of a nightmare than a dream) that were really nothing more than expensive paper weights.

When I woke up this morning, the dream/nightmare stuck with me.  I started thinking…what if we didn’t go 1:1? What if we took the easy way out?  What would be different?  What would be lost? Here’s just a few things that came to mind:

Apps would disappear

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ASL App no longer exists…

When we first bought the iPads, the common perception was these were solely consumptive devices.  You could read books with them and that was about it. I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve seen students creating amazing works of art, publish books and produce movies because they had the power to do all of that at their fingertips.  One very creative example came from Westlake High School Student Michael Bartmess. He was in need of an app to help himself and classmates with ASL finger spelling.  When he couldn’t find one in the App Store, he decided to make his own.  Where would his motivation to create this have come from without these devices?  In this alternate universe, his app wouldn’t exist and thousands of kids would struggle with finger spelling in ASL classes around the world.

The library would just be a library

One of the most inspirational spaces in our district is the “Juice Bar” at Westlake High School.  It’s a unique mix of Starbucks cafe and Apple Genius bar all-in-one. Digital librarian Carolyn Foote’s vision for this space was transformative and ahead of its time.  It provides students with a place to plan, collaborate and troubleshoot. In the world without 1:1, this area of the library would just be a sleepy corner that exists for 10-year old reference books to collect dust.

The iVengers would just be computer lab teachers

I am blessed with the best team of Educational Technologists on the planet (a.k.a. the “iVengers”). In a 1:1 environment, the role of a Ed Tech as technology integrator is vital to success. Prior to our 1:1, this position was based primarily in a computer lab (because that’s where the technology was) and was centered mainly around delivering 45-minute lessons once a week. Now they are truly coaches working to collaborate, co-teach, and design lessons with teachers in the classrooms.  In this alternate world, I think this position and the highly successful rock-stars holding the Ed Tech title would be long gone from this district and our teachers and students would suffer as a result.

Sir Ken at iPadpalooza in 2013

Sir Ken at iPadpalooza in 2013

A Global Learning Festival Would Not Exist

iPadpalooza was born out of the idea that we need to gather as a group and share our successes. While it’s turned into a global event, at it’s core it’s still based on that idea that learning and sharing can be engaging and fun. In my bizarro world, this festival wouldn’t exist and the thousands that attended would have missed the inspiring words of a Sir Ken Robinson, the creative madness of a Kevin Honeycutt, and the thought-provoking questions of Sugata Mitra and the creative conversations amongst colleagues.  After all, who would want to attend “Netbook-a-palooza?”

Parents would be in the dark about digital footprints

Having a 1:1 means having continual and ongoing conversations with parents about their role in the lives of our digital kids. I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking with parents, working with parents, and now teaching parents online about what it means to raise a kid in the 21st century.  While I’d like to think that would have happened regardless of our 1:1, the reality is, in a world where every kid doesn’t have a device, what is the motivation for a district to support parents in this realm?  We blurred the line between school and home, so we need to be the ones helping in both fronts. Without this initiative, the parents of our 8000 students would be left on their own to figure out how to navigate the world of social media, how to balance screen time, and how to help their children build a positive digital footprint for themselves.

There would be a few less trees in the world

We are far from a paperless district.  However, we have more and more content being moved digitally across our network then ever before.  Pulling up our Google Drive stats today reveals that we have have more than 170,000 files, docs, sheets, and forms that have been uploaded or created digitally since 2011. Moreover, we just had our 50,000th document shared.  That’s a lot of collaboration that doesn’t take place if everyone doesn’t have a device.   If you take into account that many of those files would have likely been photo-copied and distributed and that a typical tree is made of about 80,000 pieces of paper, think about how many trees would not be here now if we said “no” way back when?

Students’ voices would be muted

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Blank screens instead of blank stares

While it’s nice to save paper, create an app, redesign a library and connect with community, this one to me is the most important. Students that are trusted with a device are also empowered.  Traditional schooling exists to teach kids how to answer questions rather than ask them.  Empowered students can amaze the world and we’ve been lucky enough to have multiple examples of this over and over again in our 1:1.  From an entire class of 3rd graders becoming published authors in the iBook Store to a student creating an entire website to help her nephew with his illness, when you give students an opportunity to express themselves, you’ll be amazed at what they produce.

In this no-student-device universe, their voices might not be heard.  A universe like that means that a teacher’s job might be a little easier because they don’t have to change anything about their practice.  It means a parent doesn’t have to even think about what their child is putting on-line.  It means that administrators don’t have to wrestle with Apple IDs or filters or restrictions.  It makes the lives of all of those people a little more easier and a little more boring.  But who are we forgetting in that scenario?

Students.

They are the reason schools exist, not the other way around.  We need to do everything we can to prepare them for an uncertain future and that means NOT taking the easy way out.

For me, it means never resting until that becomes a full-fledged reality for this world.

It means more work and less sleep.

But in reality, why do I need to sleep when I’m already living the dream?

Bowling with Bumper Rails: iPad Restrictions in Schools

"Pin Sweeper of Shame"

“Pin Sweeper of Shame”

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:

Eanes iPad Restrictions PosterThese 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:

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Casper Focus on a lane

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)

Managing Distraction:

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!)

Our new App Deployment model

Our new App Deployment model

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?

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!

What iPadpalooza 2014 Meant to Me #iplza14

One of my last "Views from a DJ booth" photos

One of my last “Views from a DJ booth” photos

Planning a wedding is tough.  As a (somewhat) retired wedding DJ, I have seen all the good and the bad of a wedding.  From a bride’s father refusing to walk his daughter down the isle to a drunken uncle “mic-bombing” the reception, it’s a celebration of life while coupled with an undercurrent of stress.

Now take that and multiple it by 37, lose your voice and you have my experience at this year’s iPadpalooza. It was all the fun mixed with all the stress.  Only instead of obstinate fathers we had some amazingly inventive teams of teachers in our first ever APPmazing race.  We had our own drunken mic-bombing uncle close out the show (only without the drunk part) in the ever-entertaining and inspiring Kevin Honeycutt.  All of this and my voice never fully made its way back from a weekend cold which made things madly frustrating at times for me.

This was our third year of the ‘palooz and we tried to continue to make it not only a happening event but also one where learning was fun and at the center of everything.  Last year’s keynote of Sir Ken Robinson was very much the highlight of the  2013 event. While it’s great to have one-of-a-kind keynote speakers, making this event different than others is the experience around it.  From the food trucks to the live music to the wide variety of speakers from all over the world (including our new friends Janelle and Terry from Australia!), making the experience innovative is always the toughest challenge to event organizers.

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My attempt at a “Vendor Rap” without a voice

Like any other innovation or invention, we got some parts right and we failed on some others. Regardless, the feedback from attendees has been OVERWHELMINGLY positive with more than 98% saying they would return next year, which speaks volumes to the success of this year’s event. Here are some highlights from both my perspective and from those of that sent in feedback.

New additions this year:

APP-mazing Race –

Whenever I attend an event or conference, there are times where I feel like I could and should be a little more active in my learning.  The APPmazing Race was born out of the idea that we have a lot of “minutia” that we could be utilizing. (such a great idea I hear Pearson used it at ISTE a week later). I also feel like at times we don’t make a point of getting to know others and instead just talk to those in our inner-circle or Twitter PLN.  The APPMazing Race was a chance for 3-4 person teams to complete a series of challenges in a 36-hour period starting at Midnight on the first night.  While we may have shot a little far on our series of app-based challenges, we did have 18 teams complete the race which far exceeded our initial expectations.  In the end it was a couple of Minnesotans joining forces with two Aussies to create the winning team “FargoFromDownUnder Appletes” each of whom when home with an HD iPad Mini and a great story to share. Blog coming soon with more details on how we did this.

Youth Film Festival –

Without a doubt, the youth film festival film screening at Alamo Drafthouse on the second night of iPadpalooza was my personal favorite moment from event, and not just because I was able to take my wife and oldest daughter along with me. Keeping with last year’s theme of creativity, we decided to join forces with Pflugerville ISD film guru Humberto Perez to create our first every youth film festival.  Much like the APPmazing race, the film festival wasn’t without it’s set of challenges, but in the end, we got to witness first-hand the joy of film-making from the minds of children of all ages.  The teams had only a few rules – create a 2-4 minute film using only an iOS device, make it have something to do with this year’s theme “UP” and put a balloon in it as a prop.  The final results were magical and the winning team “Up, Up, and Away” was also the team that traveled the farthest (coming to us all the way from Illinois).  We can’t wait until next year’s event where we’re sure we’ll see the bar raised even higher after this year.

Kids on stage for the Youth Film Festival (credit: Richard Johnson)

On stage with the real stars of the show from the Youth Film Festival (credit: Richard Johnson)

iLead Academy –

Leadership in any type of mobile-device initiative is vital to its success. While iPadpalooza offers many learning opportunities for leaders, it’s still teacher-focused at its heart. We created the iLead Academy as an opportunity to get like-minded leaders in the same room hoping to make change happen on their campuses.  We mixed in a variety of world-renown speakers, expert panels and activities focused around the 4C’s.  Having an opportunity the hear from so many inspiring leaders, much like the kids from the film festival, really reminded me of what this is all about.

Expert Lounge & Human Library –

With all of these great speakers and variety of expertise in one place, it would be a shame not to at least have 5-10 minutes with them in 1:1 conversation.  For those buffer times in the schedule, we created a “human library” where you could check out an expert in a field and sit down and have a conversation to help with your growth and learning. We hope to expand and advertise this much more next year as feedback from those that attended these times was extremely positive.

Challenges

One of the goals of iPadpalooza is to really focus attention on the attendees and make their experience an enjoyable one so that learning can happen more freely.  Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong.  Here are a couple of areas we’ll focus on improving next year:

Schedule –

I tried a “staggered” schedule much like that of a movie theater instead of the standard 60-minute session/15-minute break approach.  The idea was to leave some wider gaps in between sessions and to cut back on traffic flow.  Based on attendee feedback, this was either loved or hated.  Add to that the limitations of our Sched app and there were times people got up and walked out of a session because they didn’t know another was starting a few minutes later. We also tried an evening keynote on the night before the event with the thinking that many people would be in town anyway for the next day.  Sadly, many people missed this because they didn’t schedule to come in until the first full day. Next year, we’ll look at keeping some of those wide gaps but possibly syncing up more of the session starting times, we’ll move the keynotes back to the daytime and improve (or likely change) the scheduling app.

Out of retirement for day 3! Views from the DJ booth

Out of retirement for day 3! Views from the DJ booth

Music – 

With a couple of last minute cancellations, our music this year was a mix of good and bad.  At one point I even came out of retirement to spin the 1’s and 2’s as a morning DJ.  While we had an eclectic mix of music, next year we’ll look to keep that flavor but possible have it either in a different area or possible turn the sound down on the amps so people can enjoy conversation and music at the same time.

Old Fave’s

Food Trucks –

Having an event with “personalized eating” when it comes to food trailers is still very much part of the fun experience of this learning festival and very much an attendee favorite.

Session diversity –

This year we had sessions from “I fear I’m becoming a Tree-hugging Hippie” to “Guilty Pleasures…Apps You Just Can’t Delete.”  There were presenters from all over the U.S. and beyond bringing their own unique perspectives to learning with mobile devices. We had a little something for every attendee out there and can bet that we’ll increase on that diversity next year. We’ll be adding both a “Poster-Session” option for presenters and  possibly a 15-minute “TED-style” option for talks in short bursts in a certain area of the event.

Keynotes –

Sugata Mitra and Kevin Honeycutt provided the perfect bookend speakers for this year’s event.  Both spoke about the ideas behind global outreach and also brought us back to core of why we are here…kids.  Like Sir Ken last year, they’ll be tough acts to follow, but we already have some interesting leads already in the works!

Sneak Peak toward 2015

While I won’t spill all the goods on next year’s event, I’ve already alluded to the fact we’ll see some different types of session offerings, a change in our keynote structure, and improvements on the APPmazing Race and Youth Film Festival.  We’ll also likely keep our old faves of live music and food trucks in place. I know that not every innovative and “weird” idea will work next year. Like a wedding, there will be all sorts of magical moments happening throughout the event (only hopefully without the tears). What I can guarantee people walking “down the isle” of iPadpalooza will experience something they can’t get anywhere else…and learn a thing or two along the way.

Come to Austin June 23-25, 2015 and say “I do”.

Here’s a word-cloud of all the 1-word answers attendees used to describe this year’s event:

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Here are some other blogs and articles about the event from local news and attendees:

iPad Convention Trains Teachers from Around the World – Austin American-Statesman

Top 10 Things I Learned at iPadpalooza – Summer Len Diamond

Inspired by iPadpalooza Visual Notetaking – Wes Fryer

iPadpalooza 2014 Highlights – Mathy Cathy

Digital Parenting 101: An iTunesU Course For Parents

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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:

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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 Moot.it 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.

Enjoy!

Eanes ISD Digital Parenting 101: iTunesU Course

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. 

K-12 iPad Deployment Checklist

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

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

– Administrative Duties – 


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

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

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

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

– Instructional Duties – 

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

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

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

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

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

– Technical Duties – 

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

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

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

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

iPad Deployment Checklist

iPad Deployment Checklist K-12

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Ctrl

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers without a CMS

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

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

Webinar on iPad deployment and the WIFI project

Here’s a link to a webinar I hosted through Region XIII. It’s about 45 minutes long but you get to hear my pre-flu dulcet tones as I talk about the project from start to finish.

http://bit.ly/ideviceregionxiii

Enjoy!

A journey

I’ve been on a journey to a magical land where the world is positive, the weather is always 72 degrees, and the food comes at you in loads that you don’t have to pay for. You may think- is this Heaven? Or is this a scene from Albert Brook’s underrated comedy “Defending Your Life”?

No Meryl, this isn't heaven, it's Cupertino

No. This is Cupertino, California. The words “yes, but” never enters their vocabulary. The phrase “you can’t do that” doesn’t ever weed it’s way into the vernacular here.
I was recently honored to be part of a select group of 15 administrators from 11 different states picked to be a part of “Apple Academy”. I know what your thinking – there goes Carl taking big gulps of the Apple Kool-aid again. Normally, I’d agree with you. Or worse – say “yes, but”. However the enlightening part about this trip has nothing to do with Apple products or their world of 350,000 apps (over 20,000 in education alone).
It’s in their attitude.
It’s in the people they hire.
It’s absolutely contagious.

I came away with greater knowledge of how Apple will improve our education, but more than anything else I wanted to bottle their “Yes, and” attitude and feed it to my staff.
While Apple didn’t develop the mantra “Yes, and”, it’s certainly a part of their life’s blood.
We in education become too hung up on the “Yes, but’s” in the world. We use as a way to scapegoat to avoid change.
Yes, but we have state testing to worry about.
Yes, but we have too much distraction in the classroom already.
Yes, but what will the community think about all of this change?

These are all things I heard upon return from my journey. While it grounded me quickly and forced reality on me in a way that almost made me hurl, I could now palpably taste the negativity in the air. We’ve grown so adapted to the extra burden of “yes, but” that we are accustomed to carrying the extra weight.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

My journey to Apple-land freed me of those weights.

And while I will try my best not to put them back on again, I also want my co-workers to experience the freedom of living in a “yes, and” world. Life becomes so much more livable. Work becomes so much more enjoyable. You just have to commit to it.

And a journey to Cupertino wouldn’t hurt either. 🙂

Editor’s note: This article posted from my iPhone.