Our school provided all students in grades 5 through 8 with a iPad in August of this year. Teachers received iPads in April to get ready for a year of discovery and learning together. This was not much time to pull our learning community resources together, but all in all, we are in good shape for the journey we are on this year. I am looking forward to the journey ahead of us this year as I like what I am seeing happen with our school.
As the school moved to adopt the iPad, I began to create resources for our teachers, students, and parents. The Mobile Learning Website gave teachers access to resources for finding apps, restructuring their classrooms, forums for discussing concerns and offering suggestions. In addition to this resource, I created a iPad Passport site that was modeled after Montclair Kimberly Academy’s 1:1 Drivers Manual as I thought it was critical that our school start the year with a common language and community norms. I used our school’s Acceptable Use Policy which we revised based on The Nueva School’s Acceptable Use Policy as a guide as I found the approach to be very user friendly and setting a tone of community important as we gave each student an iPad. I used the book, From Fear to Facebook written by then Middle School Director Matt Levinson at Nueva School to help guide the community norms on when and how to use the iPad efficiently and ethically. I incorporated some of Common Sense Media’s curriculum movies and lessons into the iPad Passport to help guide our students on Digital Citizenship. I also helped to build a portal for parents to get information and questions answered. Unfortunately, the Mobile LEarning Website and the iPad Passport are private so I am not able to show them to you. All of the movies from the iPad Passport are on the portal for parents resource page.
The first two days of school had a special schedule that allowed for work by the entire campus on the iPad Passport together. It was sort of surreal to walk into classrooms and see along with hearing myself teaching the entire school. I think our plan has really worked as we have had a pretty smooth first couple of months given the drastic change a device like the iPad brings to a school. We still have kinks to work out and come up with a better solution for what students do with their iPads during our community meetings, but we heading in the right direction.
We did determine a certian number of apps that we felt all students needed to have with Evernote Premium Sponsored Accounts being the main work horse for both teachers and students. Goodreader was also an app that we knew we would need to deal with PDFs and annotations. Since we also use VoiceThread, Mindmeister, BrainPOP, and Google Apps for Education we made sure these apps were on all iPads. Each grade level added apps that they wanted to include as well.
I have been kept pretty busy each day helping to teach in classrooms, troubleshoot a network issue here and there or just work on creating a workflow for projects we want to do with the students. I am using my sixth grade technology class to experiment with using both iPads and iMacs.
What I love most is how students have stepped into the learning and teaching roles and how teachers have been able to adjust from what was the previous norm. Today, I was helping a student with an Evernote sync issue and did an impromptu lesson on forgetting a network. As I was leaving the room, the teacher went back to her overhead projector which was projecting the vocabulary words for the week. Students already had the words as she had shared them in a shared Evernote notebook. What I noticed and could not have predicted we would use Evernote for is in the image below. Students had figured out and the teacher had given the green light to using the built in dictionary in Evernote. Connecting and learning together is much like learning how to stack blocks.
It is official, we will have an iPad Learning Program in the Middle School next year. We had two parent meetings where we presented information (see presentation below) and answered questions. I have been pretty busy the last few months gearing up for the program. Teachers received new iPads in April along with a day of training. I am hosting an iPad Meetup on June 11th and 12th to offer more exploration and learning opportunities.
I am excited and believe if we follow through with our plans we will create a powerful and connected learning community.
For more information, view the presentation. Some of the links will take you to private Google sites which you will not have access to as our Google Apps for Education is private. The http://www.da.org/ipad is open to the public.
Ms. Donnelly’s class has had an assignment this week that asked them to create tutorials on how to use the iPad, Apps, and other things that teachers should know.
“One minute presentation about specific topic related to Evernote, Voicethread, Google Docs, or the iPad.”
I prompted her to do this with her students as I think our school is going to move ahead with an iPad program for Middle School students. There are still many details to be worked out, but the energy is moving in that direction.
This is one example done on an iPad at school with more then one student working on the project. It also took multiple attempts since even though the apps and technology worked very well, there were limitations to what the students could get off of the iPad because of the setup and the file structure that is not apparent or familiar with the iPad. Perseverance and a growth mindset proved successful.
The iPad is the talk of most schools these days and even crops up in other areas of conversation. On episode #49 of of Hypercritical John Siracusa and Dan Benjamin discuss a three year old using an iPad that someone saw on a subway (18:15 – 21:50). The gist of the conversation is that many of us look at the way young people interact with technology and are impressed with how easy they use it. Their contention is that young people do not view technology as hard to learn how to use while most of us think that computers/technology is or should be hard to use. John goes on to talk about a 3 year old using a jack in the box on a horseless carriage and how amazingly the young child could use it. “being impressed by a 3 year old using an iPad is both the point and missing the point of the iPad. The point of the iPad is that it is the harbinger of technology that is easier to use then the old hard to use technology”. It is a great synopsis of how technology has continued to change and how the older technology users always marvel at how the younger users so quickly adapt. It has always been this way and if we altered our view that technology is hard to use, maybe we could also be amazed at how easily we took to using the tools. We just need to unlearn the knowledge that we learned along time ago that technology is hard and only nerds or really smart people could possibly use it. We should be less amazed at how young users can use the tool, and more concerned with how we can use it and teach with the new tools in new and different ways. I love listening to John and Dan complain and feel like I learn something each week from John.
Apple’s announcement yesterday about the new iBooks2, iBooks Author, and iTunes U app move us further down the road to either living totally in the Apple Universe or somewhere in between Google and Apple. I like Ryan Bretag’s post on Google or Apple: I Don’t Want to Choose. I could not agree more, but frankly see little hope with students and education being put before larger corporate goals. Education is both a market and an institution that people and corporations can say they support. Granted both do offer much support and have helped us move forward in ways we could not have imagined. I know that for the last 3 years or so I have been advocating the use of iTunes U resources to my colleagues. With the app, it will put it on the iPad while still being available through iTunes on the Macintosh or WIndows computer. Here are a few links that will give more information. Edudemic’s Ultimate Guide, Audrey Watters wrote a good Hands on With iBooks Author piece, (Thanks Richard Bryne) will get you started. I started playing around with all aspects of there announcement and what I felt the most was, sadness. I miss Steve, and his energy at these types of events as he would get me so hyped I would look forward to learning how to use the tools so I could share them with my colleagues. I will still do that, but I like having Steve’s wind in my learning sails.
These three resources discuss the iPad as a learning tool and could help schools implement successful programs.
21st Century Fluency Project’s Launching an iPad 1 to 1 – A Primer. A very well written “punch list” of sorts for schools.
A blog post in the Chronicle of Higher Ed journals a professor’s experience using iPads with his students. Good lessons to be learned here.
Scott Meech did a great K12 Online Conference session on the iPad vs iConsumption.
As schools, mine included, look to adopt the latest portable or mobile devices, I am wondering if the decision makers are also considering whether or not the school is ready for a post PC device. I know our school is testing iPads in one class while another class uses MacBooks. Granted, the iPads are brand new and the laptops are 4 years old but the differences are pretty stark. I thought about this starkness more after reading the Steven Levy article in Wired on Jeff Bezos about Amazon and the Kindle Fire.
“The iPad’s design, marketing, and product launches all emphasize the special character of the device itself, which the company views as a successor to the PC—complete with video-chat capabilities and word-processing software.” Steven Levy, Wired Magazine 19.12 December 2011
While the Kindle Fire is not an iPad, I do think it is an interesting device that deserves attention. My observations are that I believe there are 3 strong contenders for device choice in schools today. Sorry Wintel machines, but I am first an Apple Fan Boy and second a Google Fan Boy. I have never been a Windows Fan Boy as I learned on a Macintosh and have made my career using Apple devices and Google services.
The iPad is a wonderful device for consuming, creating, learning, reading, and investigating many of the powerful learning apps that are available. I think it takes a teacher willing and able to invest the time along with her students to learn how to add the device to the normal class routines. Many teachers may not have the aptitude, energy, or desire to allocate the time to not only bring in a device, but one that behaves unlike any device that most teachers are familiar with to date. The iPad is both a computer and not a computer since it is a new category of device. We have had success with putting them in the class we are testing them in although we have also had failures as much as these moments of success. See my earlier Google Docs Eureka post for one example. Something so central to what students and teachers do should not be this difficult if the technology is supporting or advancing the learning. The iPad does not fit neatly into the existing system of most schools, but, can be made to fit into parts while opening up new systems.
The trajectory of the iPad will no doubt continue to take it’s users to places we have not seen before, but is it the best device to put into a school that may not be interested in reshaping it’s systems like the iPad is reshaping the PC and other industries? I am of a mixed opinion as I can appreciate the enthusiasm and willingness of our students to test and work with the iPad. The project is helping them in many ways since we are able to unload some of the items from their book bags, but is it a program that can be duplicated or will the teachers be unprepared for the re-thinking that must accompany a device like this demands. No amount of training can adequately prepare a classroom for the time when half of the students were able to do X while the other half could only do Y due to the device. Granted, this is a rich arena for collaborative learning, but is it replicable? I am reminded of William Stites post about the iPad being a consumer device first and foremost. Managing the iPads is at times similar to yoga moves that you watch the instructor do but realize your body just does not bend that way.
The MacBook Air features all of the things we know and love about personal computers with the advantages of being fast and light weight. We all know how it works so when the device shows up, as it already has for some lucky students, the device fits into the existing structure of the classroom. Of course, classroom management training of a class set of devices would greatly aid teachers going from not using devices into a classroom that is connected. Since our school already uses Moodle and Google Apps for Education, the Air just flows into the system without needing to adjust the system to meet the Air. This is a big difference for the time investment of teachers. It also will not necessarily move a school as far as the iPad since the internal system change will be less. How much of a system shakeup is desired should be a determing factor in choice of device.
Google’s Chromebook is the 3rd choice that I see as viable for schools. While new and very different which could compare it more to the iPad, it is still mostly a PC. The main difference is that the Chromebook behaves sort of like an iPad with the familiarity of a laptop. Another big difference is the approach to business between Apple and Google in how users interact with their particular ecosystems. Using the image in the Wired Article, as a starting point for my thinking, I see Google similar to Amazon in that their plan is not device lock-in, but services lock-in which of course is less then perfect in either case. These differences appear to be here for the long term given that each company has invested a lot of money in developing the services. In the chart below, replace Amazon with Google and you will have a pretty close comparison between iPads and Chromebooks except for the Specialized browser since the Chrome OS is only a browser.
I am intrigued by what Ravenscroft is doing with their Google Apps and Chromebook project. I think highly of the work that Jason Ramsden has done as he is a deep thinker so the fact they are piloting Chromebooks gives it credence in my opinion. I also listened to an earlier podcast from Ed Tech Talk where he discussed the plan.
Before any school adopts a device based solely on cost or screen size, they should also ponder how it will fit either into the current learning system or how it will propel the learning system to be different.
‘The Calatrava Eye’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/22746515@N02/5354806024
We started the Middle School Digital Device Project on October 17th when Ms. Donnelly’s class were given MacBooks for use. The iPads were handed out to Ms. Williams’ class on October 24th. After the first week students were able to take them home if we had the signed form back. I have been pleasantly surprised with how the students have responded and are helping us determine if we should adopt a MacBook or an iPad, or nothing. While the process is still very young, I thought I would share some thoughts.
iPad and Laptop
We are testing this software and service as the iPad presents a challenge to easily transfer files. Teachers have set up Shared Folders where they can add notes for the students which appear when the account is synced. Each class has setup their school sponsored Evernote account. We did run into a few bumps with the iPad group not being able to sign up using the iPads as it appeared to not like the URL for our sponsored account. A quick trip to the computer lab allowed us to use a Desktop to setup the account as well as sync to the iPad app. Ms. Donnelly assigned an Evernote assignment for the students to teach their parents about Evernote through the use of a recorded audio note. Once the note was created/recorded, students shared the note with Ms. Donnelly where she could listen and assess the assignment if necessary. While I am not sure if this software is critical since we have Moodle and Google Apps for Education, the ease of use and automatic syncing along with the ability to move notes between almost any device does have benefits. I will be very excited once Skitch is integrated so students can draw on PDFs or other notes in Evernote. I sent out invites to the entire 6th grade team today so they could also test the software.
Digital Media and Acceptable Use
This does not surprise me but we have had a couple of issues with students making poor choices even after we discussed the use of the many tools available to them. We are talking about Middle School students so boundary testing is part of the mix as is making mistakes. Some issues that we have dealt with include IMing during class, leaving an iPad/laptop unattended or at home, taking pictures of other students without permission, bypassing the filter to view YouTube, and a couple low battery after being at home. All are too be expected and have been addressed and students are helping us to write How to articles so we can have some student created solutions. These are all very teachable moments.
I think we would have been better prepared our community if we had used and discussed the Common Sense Media Family Media agreements before the students were given the devices. I am pretty sure it would have helped our families cope with the addition of the device to their homes. This area should be a focus if the school were to adopt a device or frankly even if we do not adopt a device.
Syncing and Books
While the cases are nice, they must be removed to be charged and synced in the Bretford PowerSync tray. While not horrible, it does mean students must take them out and take off the passcode so we can update the iPads. This is probably not the way we would manage a 1 to 1 iPad environment since students would probably be required to sync over the air or via a different system where they had full rights to the iPads. Since we have them locked to a school ID, students cannot add or delete apps. We struggled with the best way to handle this and decided for the purpose of this test, we would use the Apple Volume License approach where we purchase the apps and install the software apps. Students are using a shared Google Doc to record app suggestions as well as Books they would like to read in iBooks. We will then purchase and sync to the iPads. I am not a big fan of the iBook app as I prefer the Kindle app since I can read the same book on almost any device. Again, for the purpose of this project, we are testing the use of iBooks.
Even with Office2 HD, the use is not the great on an iPad. I read an open letter from Scott Meech where he hoped Apple and Google could make it work better together. Given the competition between these two rivals, I will not hold my breath, but it is a real deterrent on the iPad since the mobile browser does not allow for a rich editing experience.
This app has proven to be a true winner for blogging. While I struggled understanding exactly how to use it, after a few minutes we had a group who knew how to use it and were able to help all of us learn. This is key since the device must allow for writing and we are trying to get our students to write for an authentic audience.
i-nigma QR Code Reader
I love this simple app that allows us to create a QR code and add it to the Moodle course so students just point the iPad at it and they are taken to it. We have used it for the Blog and Discovery Education Mobile site. To learn more about QR Codes in Education read the ISTE article.
- Kernel panics were new to the students and seems to afflict a few each day. Not sure if it is due to 4 year old laptops or the system but we are attempting to solve this issue.
- Cords and power adapters across the floor is an accident waiting to happen. We must have a more elegant solution.
- Storage before, during and after school is in need of fine tuning as many students do not have room in their lockers since it is still full of binders.
- Using a Google Doc where students could ask questions and I could provide answers makes it easy to support and instruct as often the document would show up in my list of documents as bold alerting me to a question. In short time, I could provide an answer, image or link to a solution. Other times, I just walked to the room to assist.
- Transitions are always an issue and having one more thing to stow before students leave the classroom is not ideal.
Things to consider in the future
- Boot camp for students, teachers and parents where we learn how to do manage the devices both from the care perspective but also with respect to digital citizenship and balance.
- Develop activities that students, teachers and parents can do to practice these digital citizenship practices.
- Create opportunities for the exchange of information between all members of our community so we are mostly rowing in the same direction as I believe all members of our community desire what is best even if we have different opinions on how to fast to be rowing.
I am looking forward to the next few weeks as the data we are getting back is providing very valuable.
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.
I have read David Warlick for many years so I am inclined to listen when he says something. I thought this worth the time to add to my blog. We are going to pilot some iPads with sixth grade students. While I think a “pilot” is sort of silly since I think the iPad is a worthy device, where we mostly ask the question worthy of a pilot, is it is enough device. David’s post got me not to think different but thinking differently.
Maybe I’ve been Thinking Wrongly : 2¢ Worth: “I have been reluctant to share the ecstatic delight that many have expressed about iPads and the classroom. It’s partly a sense of skepticism that I am convinced comes with age. I would also admit that part of it might be my own investment in information and communication technologies that have become less emblematic of the digital networked world. When did you buy your last tower computer. Perhaps my problem is that I’ve been comparing iPads to laptops — when I should be comparing them to pencils and papers.”
I have been part of a group of teachers who are looking at the iPad to investigate how our students could learn with them. I love it and see benefits, but think I agree more with these two blog posts. I am guilty of promoting cool tools without working as hard to adjust the teaching styles or the learning environments. Does a SMARTBoard on the wall make the learning different by itself? Is it transformational or just easier to control the computer?
I shared these links with our crew as I have yet to answer the deeper question of how will my students learn differently with this device? Is the iPad the best tool to put in the hands of students? While I like my iPad a lot, I have wondered how I would teach my class if each student only had that device. I think this is an important question to answer before or if we take a leap. I could teach some of what I do now but not the “heavier” lifting topics. For instance, no VoiceThread due to lack of Flash support. Creation is limited or at best restricted and I believe learners need to be creating more and consuming less.
Cathy Davidson has a great post about the iPad and how it alone will not change anything if there is not also a change in learning and teaching style. How would our students learn in new ways with this device? Could they learn more if they either had a laptop or a desktop?
Without the right pedagogy, without a significant change in learning goals and practices, the iPad’s potential is as limited (and limitless) as the child’s imagination.†† That’s great on one level–but it misses the real point of education as well as the full potential of the device.† What iPad and all forms of digital learning should do is help prepare kids for this moment of interactive, complex, changing communication that is our Information Age.† This is the historical moment† that these kids have inherited and will help to shape.† Are we preparing them for the challenges we all face together simply by spending our tax dollars on iPads?
Read all of her post at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/pointed-response-nyt-article-ipads-schools
I am not sure where we will go with iPads as there are still some hurdles to overcome with content creation. Would it be the best tool for all students or are there grade levels where it makes more sense and some grades where it makes less sense. I agree with Mark Belinsky.
“But the iPad will leave students between a computer and a hard place. Indeed, it is a third device. And one that I’m quite fond of. But it’s a poor substitute for computer learning”…. It’s not that I want to deprive young students of these experiences, but when I think of the potential for interactive curriculum, there is so much more than what the iPad can offer. And it can be delivered faster. While the lack of proper mutli-tasking might be good for focus, it certainly slows things down. When I’m researching for an article or a report, I have the virtual equivalent of having books and articles scattered across my desk. When I have several devices, I often do, relegating a content type to each device. Kids who are in the process of learning what the world has to offer don’t need to be doing so with the brakes on.
Read all of his post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-belinsky/horrified-by-schools-that_b_804750.html