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

Nottypical

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.

Background

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.

Implementation

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.

 


Learning should be the Focus

NewImage

http://www.flickr.com/photos/21560098@N06/4848880460

The New York Times Article, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute has started many conversations this week at school and on the Internet. I think we need to keep our focus on what schools are about: Learning. Granted, as the Digital Learning Coordinator, I favor access to digital tools and am presently helping our school test iPads and MacBook laptops with a small number of sixth grade students. My bias is that students need to have access to these tools and the networks that connect students to other learners and other teachers. Will there be distractions, yes. There always have been as I remember doodling in my English notebook in high school. Should we have removed the pen? Below are some bloggers to have read for years and others who I have found by following the links in their posts about this article. I think the article was poorly written and do not agree with most of it, however, I do agree it should be about Learning and not about the Technology Arms Race where schools purchase technology so they appear to be high-tech. If it is truly about the learning, then teachers, administrators and other members of the learning community must also be learners.

Update 10/26/11 Will Richardson who writes at willrichardson.com wrote a post titled Its not an either or question where among other things he quotes Diana Laufenberg’s Tweets:

Maybe this statement …. using tech will not make your school awesome, not using tech will not make your school awesome, but employing the tools at your disposal to effectively serve the learning in your school community will make your school awesome.

That is the essence of what we should be doing instead of arguing over whether or not a device is the best thing for schools and learning. Besides, how do we make sure our good teachers remain both good teachers and teachers at our schools? Are we really willing to toss aside some folks in our move forward? Note: All of us are getting older and could be seen as excess when a newer model comes along.

George Couros writes at The Principal of Change. These quotes are from The Blur Between Leading and Teaching discusses his thoughts on what schools could use to guide their look to the future.

  1. Anything that we do with technology has to be focused on learning first.
  2. We need to always focus on “why” we are doing something before we focus on what and how.  We also need to clearly be able to articulate that to those we work with.
  3. Any plans that we create must help to build capacity within schools so that all stakeholders benefit.

Later on he lists what he sees as the characteristics of great teaching and great leading:

  1. Give trust, gain trust. As soon as you show that you trust people to do great things, they are more likely to do them.
  2. Provide some clear goals and objectives to the work you are doing.  With those in mind, ensure there is flexibility in the way people achieve those goals.
  3. Let people build and share their strengths and interests.
  4. We can learn much more from a group than we ever could from only one.  Do your best to bring people together and empower them to be leaders.

Jonathan Martin just wrote a rebuke on his site 21k12blog.net where he lists his objections to the article as a parent of a student at a Waldorf school. Solid points are made and it is clear from the comments that sides are being taken as one commenter suggest he remove his son or daughter from the school so someone else with more supportive parents could have the seat. Really, is that the solution? Remember our children are watching us every minute of the day and our behavior matters. When can we disagree and still leave the person we disagree with having some value?

In the comments is where I found a link to this post by Ira David Socol where he adds to the list of issues presented by Jonathan in his post. He titles his post: Class War at The New York Times. While he clearly is tired of the battle of Yes Technology vs. No Technology, (as am I), he makes more good points about learning and change.

“But it is important for Messers Richtel, Eagle (of Google), and Thomas to know is that, despite their claims, the old technology is neither superior nor more natural than anything which has come after. For years now I’ve had to point out that every time new ways of “manipulating the world” appear, those who hold power tend to oppose them. Socrates opposed both writing and literacy. The Catholic Church opposed Gutenberg’s printing press. Alcott had to beg those funding Common Schools to install black-boards and give kids slates, even though the private schools of the wealthy and places like West Point had had them for years.”

We all must be learners in this time and we must as teachers and schools, know when to use technology for the goal of helping our students learn and when not to use technology. Period!

Nothing is really new as it shows in the book referenced by Ira Socol:

 

 

Here is also a nice humorous way to look at the adoption of technology. This movie was referenced in my last faculty meeting when I did my Switch presentation. It is an oldie but a goodie.

 

Middle School Digital Device – Early Reflections

water drop

‘Tranquility’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/27238916@N04/2875665576

Ms. Donnelly asked her students to create a Google Doc as we started the project. Some students shared theirs with me so I could read their reflections. Our plan is to have them blog about them soon, but I thought I would share one students as I think it captures the excitement and adjustments that students are experiencing.

Laptop Day 1
Right now I am really happy because I got the laptop. We have been talking about this for the past two months. I am so excited right now. I am very glad that Mr.Schaefer chose our class to give the laptops to. I feel really lucky that I have a laptop.  Now I have to be more consistent of my things. For example I have to keep my messenger bag empty so that I can put my laptop in it. Also that I have to be more careful with what I do so that I can keep my laptop. Once I am allowed to bring my laptop home I will be doing most of my homework on it. I would mostly be using Google Docs, Word, Pages, or what ever I can use that will help me.  This will be a way easier way to help me learn. I think that technology attracts a kid. I still want to be writing on paper. Having the laptops is really going to help us in the future. People use computers all the time at work. Sometimes people that have to work with a computer don’t know that much about computers and it takes them a long time to get used to it. 

Laptop Day 2

Today as I looked around the room when Mrs. Donnelly said we were going to open the computers every ones face LIT UP with joy! My own face showed a huge smile. Every time I open my laptop I feel like I just opened a big bag of gold. I feel like it shines and its the brightest thing in the room. When I touch the power button its like pushing the launch button on a rocket to the moon. After two or three minutes I look up from my screen and see everyone so engaged in their laptop that it makes me smile a BIG, BIG, BIG, BIG smile ( it makes me look funny)! I am so excited for what we are going to do with the laptops in the future. 

Laptop Day 3

Today we have a really short period because of the half day schedule. At the beginning of class Mrs. Donnelly told us what we were going to do today in class. At the end of the schedule it said laptops. We did our vocabulary and we wrote down our homework in our planner. We did that for one period and now we are doing the laptops for the second period. Today, I felt good when the laptops were out. I don’t know why but whenever the laptops are out there’s just a warm feeling in the room. It makes everybody calm and focused. We have about two more minutes of laptop time till we have to put away our laptops. Since everybody knows we only have two minutes left they are typing really quickly to finish what they started doing.

Emphasis is mine as I thought these statements stood out as to what students think about using technology and even paper. I am reminded of a blog post I read yesterday that discusses how we tend to romanticize the past and what we remember we did as children.

Chris Wejr wrote a very telling post that I resonated with as I watch my grandchildren use digital tools as well as gymnastics and other activities. In addition, they love coming to our farm and going on nature walks or helping to feed the horses. Balance is a goal to most things in life, but we should not block all activities, rather guide those who are watching us to help them make wise decisions.

We often look to our past through a lens of ‘that is how things should be done today’. This past week I have read a few articles and posts about how we need to return to the old, better ways of doing things and how ‘kids these days’ are lazy and have such a sense of entitlement.

Read more ….

Middle School Digital Device Project Begins

Laptopday1

Yesterday, Patti Donnelly’s afternoon Language Arts class took the first step in our digital device exploration program. A parent letter will soon go home to discuss the program particulars. For now, the laptops will be staying at school and primarily used only in the Language Arts class. In time, students will take them home and use them in other classes. Students did take a Pre-Device Questionnaire via a Google Form so we could have some pre-device data with which to base a decsion on whether an iPad or a MacBook Air would be the best device, if Durham Academy, implemented a 1 : 1 program. It was an exciting day for both the students and the teachers as we were joined by Trevor Hoyt, Director of Computer Support who had prepared the 4 year-old laptops with new batteries, power adapters, and configured them to auto-synch to the network. Students asked us many questions and were ready to get going as they have been having discussions in class in preparation for the rollout. Next week, we will roll out iPads with Ms. Williams’ morning Language Arts Class.

Ms. Donnelly sent the above picture with this note:

Pretty much sums up day ONE!
Patti
Patti Donnelly, M.Ed., N.B.C.T. – MC

This is some of the text of the letter being sent home for parents and students.

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 Middle School Digital Device Project (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 studentsextension 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.

 

Preparing for a Switch

Amazon com Switch How to Change Things When Change Is Hard  9780385528757 Chip Heath Dan Heath 1

http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard/dp/0385528752

Durham Academy has considered issuing a digital device to students for many years. Each time, the decision was made to not move forward. At this point, Durham Academy is again investigating that a device for our students but now it is seen as more important to not only the mission of the school but also as a strategic need to remain relevant.

I have been asked to present to the Middle School faculty some ideas or suggestions on how we might adjust to this change. After reading the book, Switch, I thought I would try to incorporate their suggestions into this project as indeed it will be a change.


In order to do this we need to prepare for the Switch to connected classrooms where the obstacle of not having access to technology is removed. What would we do differently if we did not have to go to a computer in order to use a computer?

I am reminded of Liz B. Davis’s post on her Plus One Challenge: http://edtechpower.blogspot.com/2011/08/plus-one-challenge.html

I like how she framed her challenge.
The Power of Educational Technology The Plus One Challenge 1 1
This is what I will be presenting to the faculty today.
Brief History:
In 2004 and 2007 I and others investigated deploying a digital device for our students. We were asked to do this by Durham Academy as part of our school’s strategic plan. For various reason, DA never acted on these suggestions, but did begin to use Moodle (2006) and other web-based tools. We have become known for our high-level use of Moodle and other Web 2.0 tools.
To get us started, I want us to watch a movie featuring David Warlick and David Jakes video: 7:25 http://bcove.me/cgmyua38

A couple typical days at DA Middle School in pictures. Over the course of 2 days, I took images of what was transpiring in the computer labs and classrooms I could get to that had students. I also took some shots of lockers and other items that caught my attention.
Take Away:

Motivate the elephant: We are being out innovated by our peer schools. Cary Academy has had tablet laptops for years. Ravenscroft is piloting Google Chromebooks with Google Apps for Education. We must change or look foolish in the comparison between peer schools.

Next Month we will discuss how to Direct the Rider.


How Did and How Does Steve Jobs Impact Us, Our Students, and Our Institution?

Steve

http://jmak.tumblr.com/post/9377189056

Steve Jobs changed my life with his inventions and his passion for what he believed in even when he was faced with stiff opposition and failure. What can we learn from his passion and how we embrace the changes in our industry. Below are some videos of various times where Steve was talking about much more then just computers.

Steve introduces the controversial Think Different campaign. English teachers around the world hated it. I think it shows a lot about message and connecting with your customers which in our case are students and parents.

This video is from either a MacTopia or a World Wide Developers Conference about the time he came back to Apple after he was fired. I think it demonstrates both leadership in how not to react and how his focus on customers was as least as important as his focus on the design and technology. What can we learn from this in how we both react to parts of the book and the changes we are facing in our school? He admits a lot about himself.

While many folks have talked about the “Apple Tax” when it comes to the cost of Apple products. The video below shows how Steve approaches it. I remember when I told parents at Culbreth Middle School that I was leaving to teach at Durham Academy. One parent was upset and she said “they get all the good teachers”. I replied that they also understood what it cost to educate a student where as public schools struggled to fund what is needed. We don’t teach junk. A lot has changed since 1999. How do we make sure what and how we teach is still relevant?

 

The most watched and talked about speech is his commencement speech at Stanford. If you have not watched it, you should as it tells his life in 3 stories.

What are your thoughts? Add a comment.

Consider Me a Crazy One

FlickrCC  jobs

I sent this message to all teachers at my school this morning and thought I would share it here as well.

I wanted to thank Durham Academy as an institution along with Sheppy Vann and Ed Costello publicly for sending me and others to hear Steve Jobs speak at past MacWorld conferences. His company has impacted my teaching in ways I could never have imagined when I first used his technology in 1993.

I have always liked this message from one of their ad campaigns and I think it is a worthy view of how we look at our students and school.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

The Crazy Ones. Wikipedia. October 6, 2011. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_Different].

The world is emptier today for those of us who push the clouds.

Thanks Steve and Apple employees.

 

Maybe I’ve been Thinking Wrongly : 2¢ Worth

Wrong Way

http://www.flickr.com/photos/64251830@N00/406285615

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.”

 

 

Still Sparkling After All These Years

Me2yrs

Today is my birthday so I am a bit reflective. I was born in Potosi, WI 55 years ago. I have travelled many roads on my journey to where I am today. I was 2 years old when this picture was taken. I see the spark in my eyes at two. There were days, probably years when I lost the spark, but through teaching, I am reminded able to rekindle the spark when I am in the Flow.  I was greeted at work today but some very different tasks. Task 1 was to meet with my new retirement benefit coordinator to determine how best to invest my 410K funds so I could retire in 10+/- years. The next task was to go through my email. I found some gifts that sparked my day due to their thoughtfulness and the fact they took the time to create something.

Besides the sparkles I get from my wife, children and grandchildren, my students give me sparkles as well. Here are some digital versions. I also got lots of bakery and a warm bagel with fresh fruit.

Ellie P. made this for me in Skitch which is a free drawing program we have been using (spell check not included). FYI Technology is in the Fine Arts Rotation and I do not have time to explain that before my next birthday.

EllieScott H. took a different approach as he created a VoiceThread with a simple message. He knows that I see every VoiceThread made at Durham Academy so his gift would be delivered automatically. He created it sometime yesterday.


There have been other gifts and acknowledgements as today, I am the topic. With that in mind, I thought I would share the project I did as part of the NCAIS Master Teacher Project. I was to tell my story and how being an NCAIS Master Teacher has impacted me and will impact my students. Using technological tools that were not available to that little boy of two, I decided to Google it. Enjoy.