Middle School Digital Device Project Has Begun – It is Anything But Typical


Last week we began the iPad phase of the Middle School Digital Device Project. (MSDDP) The week before we started the MacBook project. I am including some thoughts and reflections on the first couple weeks of the project.


Parents had received a letter written by the team of educators at DA that are helping to coordinate this “discovery” project. Below is some text from that letter. The project is only being done with 2 classes of 19 students each so it is not the entire grade level.

Durham Academy has believed that students need access to technology as part of a modern learning environment. We currently have around over 100 computers on campus and, for years, have supported students using their own laptops or other devices on campus. Durham Academy has investigated the idea of a 1 to 1 laptop program in the past and carefully considered how such a program would impact our families and learning community. Much has changed since we began this journey and we feel it is necessary now to go one step further. The school plans to test how consistent access to either an iPad or a MacBook would help our students and teachers fulfil their mission. Karl Schaefer, Julie Williams and Patti Donnelly have committed time to the planning and implementation of a pilot program. The goal of the MSDDP is to determine which device could best meet the needs of the teaching and learning mission of Durham Academy. With that in mind, we would like to inform you of the MSDDP.OverviewBeginning in October, students in Ms. Williams’s and Ms. Donnelly’s classes will have consistent use of either an iPad2 or a 4 four year old MacBook. All other middle school classes will serve as control groups. At any given time in the project, 38 students will have consistent access (on campus and at home) to a school issued device. Other students will continue to use the computer labs, desktops, iTouch cart and laptop carts. Through the use of the MacBooks and iPads, we plan to assess which device more successfully integrates learning and teaching by conducting a pre-use and post-use questionnaire. We plan to use the information gained in the MSDDP to guide the school’s adoption of a student device in the near future.

We will also monitor how the following will impact the learning environment:

  • 24/7 access with a 1 to 1 device
  • how broadly and frequently apps and input methods are utilized
  • increased independence and self-guided learning by students
  • extension of learning opportunities beyond the classroom
  • development of skills and literacy through interacting with digital media
  • level of creativity and collaboration demonstrated by students and teachers

In addition, we plan to collect anecdotal evidence from teachers and students via classroom blogs.


Mr. Hoyt and I worked with the classes when they first got the devices to go over some care and use instructions. We also discussed the school’s Acceptable Use Policy and how the use of the laptop fits within that document. Since then, I have been helping the teachers get going by providing instructional ideas and introducing the different applications. It has been an interesting time as I move from working with the class using iPads as what we do on that device is slightly different then what I do when I work with the laptop group. I thought about this difference last night and can compare it to when I first started integrating technology into my Science classroom in 1994. I had six Macintosh computers that ranged from and LC II to LC 520. Each could do some things but not all could do the same things so my students and I had to work to figure out how to make all the computers do what we needed to do. For instance, the LC II was better for typing and printing while the LC 520 could handle HyperStudio better since it had better graphics and RAM. The iPad and MacBook laptop differences feel very similar. One is not better then the other, but the MacBook is sure more familiar.

We are keeping a series of private Google Docs where we are recording student questions about the laptops. As they ask the questions, I can provide an answer in the Google Doc so all students can see the answer. Since it is a Google Doc, I do not need to be in the room or on campus.

Reflections to date

  • Evernote sponsored accounts are a really asset for all no matter the device. Ms. Donnelly even shared an audio recording in a note last night
  • Never underestimate the resourcefulness of students to be troubleshooters, helpers, and risk takers. Harnessing their energy makes the process both easier and more exhilarating
  • Provide challenges to students as they will seek solutions that make sense to them. For instance, create a Vocabulary Doodle led to students creating drawings, crosswords, Evernote recorded notes, and other methods of learning the words.
  • Students can be natural collaborators as helping each other has been a hallmark of both devices. More so with the iPad I think then the MacBook, but students helping each other removes the teacher as expert stress
  • Students ask good questions and have high hopes for what they would like to be able to do with the devices. Lower the heft of a backpack is one central one. Will we listen?
  • Parents will support projects like these when given a big picture, but more information is always better especially when a device goes from school to the home. Families either have procedures for device use or will be scrambling to come up with ones. We need to help everyone in our community adjust and plan accordingly. Common Sense Media Internet Safety Guide for Parents is a good start.
  • Being able to flow is essential as the teachers have willingly allowed me to direct class time
  • Rethinking instructional methods is as essential as figuring it out where to put a power strip. Devices should change the instructional norms in a classroom and not just automate it.
  • Blogging for students can be harnessed to create standards and guides for future students while also giving a purpose to the writing that they do in class.

Follow Ms. Williams’ class at: http://jwroom211.edublogs.org/ as her class is actively blogging.

Follow Ms Donnelly’s class at: http://pdroom212.edublogs.org/ as the will begin blogging soon. Right now they are working on reflecting in Google Docs and Evernote.

Here is a VoiceThread with images of what is taking place. Check it often as we will keep adding images to it.


DA Middle School has Gone Google Video

Gone Google


Durham Academy Middle School implemented Google Apps for Education in November of 2010 so that all students, regardless of age, could access the powerful collaborative tools. With little training and few issues, students and teachers have Gone Google in meaningful and substantial ways to advance the learning of our students with this transformative collection of tools.

Google launched a Gone Google campaign for companies, schools and others to tell how Going Google has impacted the organization. I also read a blog post by Dean Shareski about how he started this Google Doc. I thought I would combine the two ideas and created my own Gone Google Doc to see if students and teachers would help create a Gone Google Video. After asking a few teachers to nominate students, I nominated teachers who were actively using Google Apps with their students. I created a Google Doc asking for a short video and shared it with the people.

The directions:

Teachers and students, I would like to hear how using Google Docs has helped you with school. The idea is to get short (30 – 60 second) videos where you answer the following statements. I will take the clips submitted and edit them together to create the Gone Google movie. We will do this all in Google Docs.

The idea is for you to create a short 30 second video clip that you shoot on your own with your computer and then upload it to Google Docs and share it with me, I can get it from there to make the Gone Google Video.

The Script:

1. State your first name and grade (No last names as it is going on the Internet)

2. Complete this sentence: “I have gone Google because I ………….

(Talk about how Google Docs helps you or any other comment that works for you).

3. Complete this sentence: My tip on how to use Google Docs is to ………

(Perhaps it is something you do for yourself that helps you be more productive).

4. Complete this sentence: I wish I could do _____________ with Google Docs?

(Optional  –  leave out if you have no wish).

5. Add any other comments you want.

Technical Directions:

1. Use your computer’s web cam and Photobooth or iMovie or any other software to create the movie. (If desired, I can video you at school).

2. Leave a gap at the start and at the end so I can trim it. 3 seconds is a fine amount to leave.

3. Name it lastname.gonegoogle.

4. Upload it to Google Docs and Share it with me. It should be in a .mov format.

5. Have the movie to me by 3/22/2011

6. If you need help uploading the file, see this link: http://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=50092&topic=1153381

I am sharing it via our VoiceThread so if you would like to leave a comment, please do.


Instruction, Teaching, Learning, Change in 1806 Minutes



Atlas, it’s time for your bath’  http://www.flickr.com/photos/73645804@N00/440672445


I read Sarah Hanawald’s post on why are we teaching this stuff and was intrigued. I am in my second rotation of my new Digital Learning class for 5th graders. I calculated how many minutes of face time I have with them to be 1,806 minutes. That is based on meeting 5 times in a rotation of 7 days. The last rotation is just 2 days. There are 9 rotations to a trimester. On average, classes meet for 43 minutes. All of this added up gives me 1,806 minutes of face time or what I have thought of as instructional time. Why do I look at it this way? Is it habit as I my class flows with the others being offered. Is it because I am afraid to try something new? Is it because students have different tools at home and I cannot trouble shoot the issues? Is it because it takes less time to do it the way I am familiar with teaching? I am sure it is a bit of all of these things since I am a human being. Is it the best way to deliver the content to my students by using only the 1,806 minutes allotted by the schedule? Clearly it will not work much longer as I am painfully aware of all that I am not able to teach or expose my students to since the clock is ticking on these 1,806 minutes. I am working on devising the curriculum, projects, and other aspects of the Digital Learning class for 6th graders as I want to adjust it for the older students. How can I maximize the time best and still not burden them with outside work or homework?

There is no way that I can cover all of the topics and skills, nor can I address all of the literacy needs in the 1,806 minutes. What do I cull from the list? How do I help my students be both learners and active instructors in the coursework? I read Jonathan Martin’s post about Reverse Instruction. Perhaps that is the solution or at least a part of it. Could my students create tutorials as part of learning tools? How would that change the nature of the course? Would the work overload their schedule? Lastly, like Sarah mentions, what would happen if I gave my students 5% (90 minutes), 10% (180 minutes) or even 20% (360 minutes) of the class time to create or follow their interests and create learning objects for the class? Would their intrinsic motivation be enough? It might be worth trying a Flip in my 6th grade class. Stacey Roshan has even more flipping going on.

Updated 1/26/2011
I have thought more about how to flip my class around and wonder if it would be worth the time and effort as I teach a course that has a short life span. Tools I teach with today will for sure evolve or go away in a few years. Here is what I mean. I used to teach HyperStudio to teachers from around the state as well as students. While the program still exists, I no longer use it. I need to focus on flipping the broader skills and not the finite skills of how to use the File Menu of software X. The skills of telling a story are as vital as the many other skills that go into using any one piece of software, and have a longer shelf life. I think what I need to flip is telling helping students to tell the story of what they are learning instead of how to use software X. Of course, blended into all of this will be digital literacy skills but not tool skills. Last week I asked a student Kit M. (who I have blogged about earlier) how she learned to make movies. She told me how her brother is into extreme sports and she became the videographer. She then needed to edit the movies so she taught herself iMovie and then Final Cut Express. When I asked who taught her Final Cut, she looked at me, you know the look I am talking about. Uh, no one I taught myself. Exactly my point. I also read a great post from the Electric Educator on flipping your classroom.

Today I got this video link from my director. It shows how Duke is flipping, and I mean flipping.

By the way, if you are interested Jonathan will be the Keynote Speaker at NCAIS INNOVATE 2011 http://ncaisinnovate11.wordpress.com/

The North Carolina Association of Independent Schools Commission on Technology is pleased to announce:

NCAIS INNOVATE 2011: Thursday, April 7th and Friday, April 8th 2011 at Saint Mary’s School (Raleigh, NC)

Keynote Speaker: Jonathan E. Martin, Head of School, St. Gregory School, Tucson, AZ | “Innovative Schools make for Innovative Students”

An independent school head since 1996, Jonathan holds degrees from Harvard University (BA); Starr King School for the Ministry (M.Div., Unitarian ministry); and the University of San Francisco School of Education. He is a member of the board, and Program & Professional Development Chair,  of the Independent School Association of the Southwest (ISAS). A prolific blogger, Jonathan contributes to his personal blog, http://21k12blog.net/ 21k12 as well as for  http://www.connectedprincipals.com/ Connected Principals and the http://www.thedailyriff.com/ Daily Riff. Jonathan has presented on 21st century learning for the Independent School Association of the Southwest (ISAS) Heads, the Arizona Association of Independent Schools (AAIS), and at many Rotary Clubs in Arizona and California.  He has upcoming presentations on 21st century learning at the US Department of Education’s ONPE Annual Private School Leadership Conference and the Annual Conference of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).