Dan Meyer – A Few Words – Says A Lot

Inafewwords

I enjoy reading Dan Meyer’s blog as he is both a deep thinker and a great writer. He is also a teacher in his core fiber no matter where he finds himself these days. I thought this post was both thought provoking as well as summed up well the description of the role of a teacher in today’s classroom. Well said Dan, well said. Emphasis is mine.

 

Khan Academy acknowledges the difference, though, and attempts to split it by saying, in effect, “We’ll handle the math that plays to our medium’s strength. Teachers can handle the other math.” So Khan lectures about things that are easy to lecture about with computers and his platform assesses procedures that are easy to assess with computers. Teachers are told to handle the things for which teachers are a good medium: conversation, dialogue, reasoning, and open questions.

 

Assignments That Do Not End

Revisions

In my Digital Learning Classes students have written reflections after watching movies in our course. They share these Google Docs with me using a template I created. The reflections are not meant to be in depth and for the most part are done when the unit is over. However, the sharing never stops, unless the student stops sharing the document with me or deletes it. A couple days ago when I opened Google Docs, I noticed that this particular student had edited a long ago “finished” assignment. He is no longer my “student” but he is clearly still thinking about role models as he updated his reflection from May 4, 2011 to include the following new information.

Not only is he a brilliant scientist but also a perfect dad. I learned that every role model has his problems.

I felt a jolt as I looked at the revision history to see what caused this student to open up a long ago closed assignment for a class that he is no longer in. Clearly, he wanted to adjust his role model to more clearly define his current definition of what role models are as it relates to his dad. He left the first part, but deleted the last sentence. As a teacher, I think there are two really great things going on in this revision. 1. Connected learning as the student is still thinking about role models. 2. His realization that every role model has problems is profound and will serve him well as that was a hope of mine when I posed the question.I also felt sadness and am curious as to what happened with respect to “his problems”, but am not sure if I should inquire as the assignment is over and perhaps he did not mean to share it with me. What if he did mean to share it with me and is waiting for me to ask him about his revisions? In a world where documents are not deleted each year and learning continues, the relationships with students do not always stop just because a class ended. Welcome to connected learning.

BTW: I will be talking to the student, but not sharing what I find as that will be between us.

How would you handle this situation?

UPDATE: I did speak with the student and he assured me everything was OK and I assured him that if he ever needed to talk with me about anything, my door and document was open to him. I believe, and studies show that the best way to improve education is to improve the relationships between teacher and student. I would like to think this is an example of how we have one more area to connect.

Why SOPA and PIPA are DUMB Squared!

wikipediadark

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wikipedia_Blackout_Screen.jpg

On January 18, 2012, the Internet began to live up to the collective tool that many of us think it is by unleashing it’s power on Congress. With many sites going dark or putting black banners across their name along with links to Congressional Members many members of Congress withdrew their support. Read more at Wikipedia (if it is not blocked) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

After you listen to Clay, read about ACTA which is ACT II but on a world stage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement

Reading The Spicy Learning Blog, I came across Clay Shirky’s TED Presentation. Very good for the full story of why SOPA and PIPA are DUMB Squared. (Doing Unknown Mischief Because you are Dumb).

No honest person supports piracy so it is a false argument. As Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Book Publishing, discusses in his post, SOPA and PIPA are bad industrial policy, piracy has always been around and in fact publishing started that way.

But history teaches us that it is primarily a result of market failure, the unwillingness or inability of existing companies to provide their product at a price or in a manner that potential customers want. In the 19th century, British authors like Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope railed against piracy by American publishers, who republished their works by re-typesetting “early sheets” obtained by whatever method possible. Sometimes these works were authorized, sometimes not.

The Internet will not be the Internet if any of these laws are passed which also means that the new ways that learning can be changed by the Internet will not be available as many companies will for certain go dark. Call your representatives and let them know how you feel after you get informed yourself. In addition, this is a teachable moment that our students will connect with more then a historical fact although if you want to do a historical fact on the early printing, you might discuss the piracy that followed the invention of the printing press.

iPad – Like Other Inventions Too Different To Be Understood Fully

apple 2e

‘Apple IIe’  http://www.flickr.com/photos/41894164051@N01/297508829

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.

itunesu

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.

Permission to Go Off Lesson Plans

Permission

‘Seeking Permission’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/50614028@N00/3827632898

At the last Innovation and Learning Cohort meeting, I suggested we could write a chapter called “The Permission Not Taken” after many members, and myself, expressed the reluctance to stray from a lesson plan that has always worked or that we just felt we had to do in order to meet our goals or the curriculum goals. All of us agreed that we have the luxury and support to experiment and adjust our classrooms as we best see fit. This is a benefit of working at a private school that trusts their teachers to be the professionals that we are. So I took a slight risk and decided to tryout the Pixton for Schools accounts I had purchased as I wanted to try something different. I knew I was onto something when students began to remix the assigned comic and were saying how it was awesome, fun and the best thing they had done. I was also learning how the Pixton Teacher Console works so I could show it to other teachers. We were in all ways, learning with myself modeling to my students by doing it myself.

After the initial introduction comic, I asked them to create a comic based on the Martin Luther King, Jr., themes of Equality, Freedom or any other concept they felt important since we had been discussing that all week at school as part of our Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations. I want to share a couple below as they created some wonderful ones while I learned how to use this awesome teacher friendly site.

My advice is to take the permission granted as we all might learn more.


Are Schools Ready for Post PC Laptop or iPad Programs

Ipadvchromevair pages

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.

Jeff Bezos Owns the Web in More Ways Than You Think | Magazine 1

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.

Using Google Docs on iOS Device – Eureka!

Google Search

Those of you who have been reading this blog since the iPad was announced have read my posts about the issues with using Google Apps for Education on an iOS device. Sure you could sort of use them if you were willing to do equal parts troubleshooting and lowered expectations. I have tried various apps that purport to be the best with being able to connect to our Google Apps for Education accounts to create, edit, share and use without limitations or at least few limitations. Most of the apps come close but when any number of students report having lost work, I believe the system is not a true system. Granted in baseball, .400 is a good average, but if you only have 40% of the work you did, you would agree it is not a system.

Because of this issue, I have been concerned about what we would loose from our normal educational routine if our school adopted iPads for students over laptops since there is virtually no issues with Google Apps for Education from a non-mobile computer. While I am still not sure what is the best device, I have been able to solve the main issue with creating, editing, and sharing Google Apps on an iOS device. I used the new Google Search app and clicked on Applications to select Documents. Once I did this, I could do in iOS what I can also do on a non-iOS device. The only caveat yet to overcome is that when the document is shared with another user they can not see who has shared it with them. Until that is resolved, yes I am talking to you Google, students or teachers may need to add their first name to the title of the document.

If you have yet to update to the new Google Search App, [iTunes Link] do so now as it is really slick with other features as well.


Client Software Downloads When You Do Not Own the Device

upload

‘Upload / Download’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/59158146@N00/1229138273

Our students use FirstClass Communication for their school email and messaging system. As part of my Digital Learning class, I assign the act of downloading and configuring the client software so students have the best possible experience with the system. There is a web-based interface which to their credit has become pretty good. However, it is not apples to apples between the client software and the web interface, so we still prefer that students download and install the client software on their “home” computers. For many students this is not an issue as siblings may go to school here as well so the software may already be setup. Others share computers with their parents and while many parents do allow the downloading and installing others do not for any variety of reasons. Perhaps the laptops are the parents work computer or perhaps they prefer to only install software that is needed for their use. It may also be a case of the real fear of being infected with malware or viruses. Computers for the most part become quite personal and must be dependable since new software can cause issues with other software. Again, great strides have been made, but yet the client is more powerful.

Here are some responses I received from my 5th and 6th grade students. You can see that the success and reactions are all over the place. If this were the class textbook, how would this be handled?

Dear Mr. Schaefer,

Success! It was very easy. However, if we ever have to download more downloads, my mom needs to know what we we are going to be using it for. Thank you and I can’t wait for another fun day in Technology!! 🙂

Best wishes,

N

Dear Mr. Schaefer,

Sorry but my mom won’t let me download first class on my computer, sorry once again

Your friend,

I

Dear Mr. Schaefer,

I tried to download First Class they way you told us in class, but it still would not work. I usually would ask my dad to help me but both of my parents are out of town right now. My dad gets back on Thursday and I will ask him to help me then. I apologize if this causes any trouble and I will do my best to install it.

Sincerely,

J

I have had it since the begining of the year. In fact, my mom is the one who thought of getting it on my computer!

See you later,
C

Firstclass is downloaded on both of my computers, my ipod, and my ipad.

Thank You,
D

The most telling part of our class discussions around email is that while almost all of the 5th grade students use FirstClass, almost all of the 6th grade students use a non-school Google account for their personal Gmail. FirstClass is only their “school” account. Since FirstClass has Instant Messaging, I asked them if they use it. Their response was, uh no, we use GTalk.

How are schools supposed to work in this new frontier when the approved tools become outdated because newer ones are available faster then schools can adapt and/or adopt? Is this OK since should schools attempt to be responsible for all aspects of a students technology?

As our school continues to contemplate issues a device to students there will be more questions like these that will need discussions. A good point of issuing a device is there will no longer be a need for students and parents to do homework that involves downloading, installing, and configuring software. Or will it?

 

 

Directing the Rider

Direct 1

At our October Faculty Meeting I gave a presentation entitled “Motivating the Elephant” based on the book Switch by the Heath Brothers. See this post for that presentation. At our next faculty meeting, my presentation will be on Directing the Rider which is the second strategy for preparing an organization for a switch. The feedback from my first presentation was mixed in that some colleagues felt that they were doing all they could with what they had to work with while others had concerns that a decision had been made without any discussion. I am attempting to address the first concern with the first slide in the presentation as I was not talking about teachers not doing enough, rather I was talking about the need of our organization to do more. We teachers are often too willing to attach messages to ourselves instead of seeing them as institutional. I can not fully address the decision being made as I do not have all of the information. My sense is that the decision is very much in flux as a group of teachers are traveling next week to Webb School in Knoxville TN to see that school’s iPad deployment. Another school they will visit is Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga TN which recently switched from Windows Tablets to MacBook Airs. Teachers and administrators are going to learn how these two schools utilize the devices in their learning community. Our Middle School Director, Jon Meredith, French Teacher, Teresa Engebretsen, Algebra and Pre-Algebra Teacher, Gib Fitzpatrick, and Sixth Grade Language Arts Teacher Patti Donnelly are part of the group. Patti is also one of the two teachers testing out laptops and iPads with their students. I look forward to hearing what they have learned and how it will help our school determine if we want a 1 to 1 deployment of a student device.

I believe my presentation on Monday will help address some of the concerns raised and move the conversation to helping us all use what we presently have available in addition to new ideas and strategies for learning in this modern era. I will be using a Google Presentation but recorded this VoiceThread version ahead of time for colleagues who cannot attend the meeting on Monday.

 


Middle School Device Reflections Week 4

The Calatrava Eye

‘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

Evernote

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.

iPad only

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.

Google Docs

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.

Blogsy

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.

Laptop only

  • 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.