Friday, August 2, 2013

Encouraging Words for Surrey Bringing Innovation to Schools

Bringing Innovation to School by Suzie BossBringing Innovation to School – Empowering Students to thrive in a changing world by Suzie Boss

Reading the first half of the book, I couldn’t put it down.  In my limited spare time, I have completed the rest of the book this week.  My first response – Wow.  With some reflection I see that Wow as affirming what we have already been moving towards and that it is a very practical book to help us get the rest of the way there.

With chapters like: See Educators as Innovators, Growing a New Global Skill Set and Seeding Innovation this book so resonated with my beliefs and my actions for the past several years as a district helping teacher or consultant.

This was one of the books that I had to keep something to write with nearby while I was reading.  So many ideas were generated, and honed that I had to stop reading until I wrote them down.

Some Affirmations
-       We have been working for 3 years to provide Innovative Learning Designs projects with a focus on inquiry.  While the projects are extremely varied, they look for unique solutions to the differentiated needs of the classes involved.  The whole project has created an incubator for innovation to occur in our classrooms.
-       The climate within our team has been “Yes and” thinking.  We have worked to make the impossible possible – When barriers to learning  were identified, we strive to eliminate or minimize them.
-     We have provided iPads to teachers that have taken on leadership roles within the schools as Information and Media Literacy Representatives.  They have been able to explore, tinker, take risks before schools purchased class sets.

New or Extended Ideas
-       As a large district, it is hard to do things small.  We have started to create amazing networks through our larger events; however, we need to empower smaller networks.  For relationships and trust to build, we need to foster groups of 12 or less. 
-       A favourite expression of mine that will be used more often

What would it look like if …

o   We helped coordinate / host book groups of up to 12 with fantastic  books like this one
o   We provided and supported additional (inexpensive) resources such as Computers for Schools computers targeted as Tinker Stations.  These could be single purpose machines for tinkering. 
o   We provided low cost computers to be used as Display Kiosks – What would it look like if we left a cheap computer at the front lobby to display student work.  Photos, programs, movies, multimedia would constantly fill the entrance to our schools
o   We need to bring students into our Professional Development.  If we are to change from the holder of all knowledge to the connector, we need to stop being the holder of all knowledge.
o   We hosted Innovation events for students and teachers.  We could celebrate success and share failures.  We could encourage risk taking.   We could encourage out of the box thinking. 

Each idea we explore, risk we take, opportunity we offer we have done to benefit the learning culture of our district.  We have a great resource in this book to catalyze additional opportunities, explorations and risks.  I am charged up to return to my position as an enabler of innovation in our district.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Dumbest Generation - NOT

After hearing Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) speak at a Surrey Engaging the Digital Learner dinner series (#sd36learn), I was encouraged to read the Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein.  I was fore warned to "read it if I dare."

I eagerly purchased the book (as I like to read books in physical form still) (and to be able to share with others - so not from the library).

I started reading it, read the first chapter and a half - then put it down discontented.  It was hard reading page after page explaining how dumb young people are. 

I understand the point that is being made of young people not knowing what older people think is important; however, I disagree with the conclusions entirely.  If you try to evaluate the value of a car based on the view that trains are the best mode of transportation - Cars are dumb.  I think most of the book focused on providing evidence of the "dumb young," through application of data that answered the wrong questions.

Education has changed and continues to change.  I am excited to teach in a time where we are testing assumptions.  We can't even agree on 'best practices' or even settle on promising practices.  We now live where there isn't necessarily a right answer.  This is a great place to be.  We are forced to look beyond the answers and ask - What is really important?  What is the core understanding?

Seeing that ONLY 2.1 million 13 to 19 year olds kept a blog in 2004 as a negative shocked me.  This instead provided me a chance to look back and ask - How many had a blog in 1994, 1984, 1974?  If students aren't reading, why are they blogging and who is reading their blogs? 

How has the ability to share your ideas with the world changed your reading, writing, thinking, citizenship?

Identifying youth as dumb because only 52% could identify the authenticity of a website again misses the mark.  20 years ago, I would assume 95% of youth would identify all printed books as 100% accurate and never question authenticity.  We are so much further ahead now that 1/2 question the authenticity of what they read.

Society and culture has stayed much the same regardless of Bauerlein's assertions.
We still deal with bullying in the workplace, community and schools,
We still deal with poverty,
We still deal with crime.

I am an eternal optimist so I see major societal and cultural shifts as well
We are more accepting of differences,
We are open to new ideas,
We are developing social justice lenses,
We are developing social responsibility lenses,
We are changing schooling to be about learners and not delivering content,
We are starting to explore learning for learning sake.
I accept that we are learning and making mistakes.  I don't believe you are learning if you don't make mistakes.  Let's not cast off a generation as dumb because you use the wrong tools to access their value and access their learning.

 (This is a follow up to the first draft of my thoughts after reading (most of) the book.)

First DRAFT - The Dumbest Generation - I disagree

I have published this as a first draft.  I chose intentionally to do this.  I have shared more of my raw feelings and specifics here.  The next post will be more of a polished look and short read.

After hearing Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) speak at a Surrey Engaging the Digital Learner dinner series (#sd36learn), I was encouraged to read the Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein.  I was fore warned to "read it if I dare."

I eagerly purchased the book (as I like to read books in physical form still) (and to be able to share with others - so not from the library).

I started reading it, read the first chapter and a half - then put it down discontented.  It was hard reading page after page explaining how dumb young people are.  The subtitle is "How the Digital Age Stupifies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future."

When I first started writing this post, I decided to be concise, but that was not possible with how fired up I was by the assumptions.  I chose to write a synopsis above and leave the rest below as my first draft and detailing my reading journey.

My journey  (Assumptions and themes from the book - with my commentary
- Students are stressed and anxious because they are focused on success.
We are trying to change learning to be engaging and relevant but measure the time spent reading a book and doing homework with college professors expecting 25 hours per week

Students live their lives "passing stories, pictures, tunes and texts back and forth living off the thrill of peer attention.  Meanwhile their intellects refuse the cultural and civic inheritance that has made us what we are upto now."

The premise is immediately believing that the activities of today's youth is refusing the past. 

Chapter 1
Knowledge Deficits

"They are encased in more immediate realities that shut out conditions beyond - friends, work, clothes, cars, pop music, sitcoms, Facebook."

I can accept that youth today generally has different priorities than older members of society.  A reality check - what has the older part of society done to engage youth in the important things of "facts of government, foreign and domestic affairs, the historical past, and the fine arts.?"

I find it first ridiculous that these are the important things that youth are not engaged in.  When a US election takes 2 years of bad mouthing the other side, and politicians are doing what is best for themselves instead of the greater good, or the citizens they represent - no wonder the facts of government doesn't rate.  When we have thousands of years of historical past, what part do you expect a teenager to learn in a couple of years.  When there are many forms of art, why do you expect only the ones that you like are the ones you expect youth to embrace.

In my experience, students are engaged in living.  They are growing up with more opportunities to be socially responsible than ever before. 

Educationally priorities have changed because they needed to change.  It is more important to understand in Grade 7 how Egypt impacted the world today, than to be able to list the names of a bunch of dead people who lived in Egypt.

The book provides extensive research proving just how dumb students are:
NAEP History Exam - 57% scored below basic knowledge and skills
National Constitutional Centre Survey- only 41% could name 3 branches of government
10% could identify the speaker of the house of representatives
National Election study - 25% could identify who the vice president was

countered with
64% knew the latest American Idol

It may be true that youth can't answer questions to things that aren't relevant to them.  That begs the question for us non-youth
1.  What is relevant to youth
2.  What do I think is so important and how can I make it relevant to youth

Chapter 2
New Bibliophobes
"Adults read significantly lower rates than previous decades."

I am sure you guessed that there were some measures of reading:
- Not reading the Great Gatsby about the 1920s
- rarely read newspapers or books
- Kids only read Harry Potter (The fastest selling book ever) because other kids are reading it 

I agree there are less books being read; however, reading is deep within every aspect of our lives.  One aspect is considering other places that text is alive to youth.  There are text in graphic novels, in online games, in HTML programming, in blogging, in twitter, in facebook, in pintrest etc.  What is not caught by these statistics showing dumbness is the growing abilities to read other forms of text such as music, videos, mashups, pictures, created images and more.

(I stopped reading at this point because I was too frustrated.  I dreaded reading.  )

About two weeks later I picked it up and skimmed the first couple pages of the remaining chapters.

Chapter 3
Screen Time
Blogs have altered campaigns and elections - but in 2004 less than half of the 4.1 million blogs were kept by 13 to 19 year olds.

This just shows how far the book misses the point.  Over 2 million blogs are written by 13 to 19 year olds.  These young students are not only writers but readers.  Go back to the 'good old days' where everyone read books and ask how many 13 to 19 years wrote blogs, wrote for a world audience, read what other 13 to 19 year olds are writing - NOTHING.

The measure of dumb is based on a premise that a book written by an older person about something that interests an older person should be intrinsically valued by the next generation. 

Screen time is considered a problem.  They are watching screens and not reading.  (I concede there are lots of wasted hours watching screens; however, there are great opportunities as well.)  I believe there are some social aspects that go beyond reading that mess the data interpretation.  Poverty rates are on the rise.  More two parent families need both parents working to make ends meet.  More families are becoming single parent families.  The rich are getting richer, and the middle class and poor are getting poorer.  If reading of the previous generations was so wonderful, why has western society progressed to have the greatest spread between the rich and poor EVER.  (While I don't agree with it, TV is a cheap or free babysitter for many families - not out of a desire, but need)

Chapter 4
Online Learning and Non-Learning

ETS (Educational Testing Service) developer of the SAT
- even though students can use technology, they don't seek, find or manage information well.
- students don't cite resources
- don't compose organized responses

52% of students correctly judged the objectivity of certain websites.

The key missing here - how many people correctly judge the objectivity of a printed book.  I know that growing up - every printed book was 100% correct.  We never questioned the encyclopedia (Encyclopedia Brittanica had similar errors than Wikipedia but nobody questioned it.

Chapter 5
The Betrayal of the Mentors

A case study is provided where Fine Arts was valued (funded) and students were supported, mentored, enabled.  The results are impressive for many at risk youth.  There are certainly ways of improving life success for our young people.  They do require a conscious decision to value (funding is part of that value) kids and the impact of their education.

We can do things differently and better.  As a teacher, I take to heart providing the best opportunity for growing children to be the best they can in every aspect of their life.  I live in a reality where the government claims to value education but passes a status quo budget - even though there are 134 million in additional costs.  That means yet more cuts to kids while they spin doctor it, to say highest funding ever.

Chapter 6
No More Culture Warriors

I found this interesting and read more of this chapter.  In short it is an example of Rip Van Winkle - displaced 20 years in time.  Major events change the world in 20 years.  Many of the visionary technology ideas of Star Trek are now our daily realities. I don't think our cultural visionary ideas have come as far. 

We still deal with bullying in the workplace, community and schools.
We still deal with poverty
We still deal with crime

I am not a pessimist so I see major cultural shifts we have made as well
We are accepting of differences
We are open to new ideas
We are developing social justice lenses
We are developing social responsibility lenses
We are changing schooling to be about learners and not delivering content

Monday, July 16, 2012

What was the best thing I did this year? What I hate is....

George Couros challenged myself and my colleagues to blog about what was the best thing I did this year.  I was very challenged with what to write because it was a year of wonder in our office.  While we were in Job Action most of the year and there were tensions around Job Action, we made incredible strides in learning opportunities.

My struggle was to identify what my best could be narrowed down to.  I am proud to have been involved in: (not in a specific order)
1.  Innovative Learning Designs (technology inquiry focus)
2.  Innovative Learning Designs (pedagogy inquiry focus)
3.  Supporting several other inquiry projects
4.  Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series
5.  Strength of my Union colleagues standing firm
6.  Our team going to ISTE and presenting 2 session at the international level.

This Sunday, Pastor Tom challenged us to identify what we hate because that tells just as much about a person as asking what they like or love does.  Answering this challenge was easier and lead me to understand why I didn't have a 'best' from an event.

What do I hate?
Bureaucracy that blocks
Not doing for fear
People making bad choices and then wallowing in results. (hungry but have $100 a month cable or smoke a pack a day)
Hearing the Lords name in vain

My list was written as a personal list, but I realized that most applies directly to my work as well.

I hate bureaucracy that blocks -  This year we have been able to get beyond massive amounts of bureaucracy.  The iPads provided a platform where we could empower the teacher in the school to directly make software decisions.  (Software evaluation is a valuable process to ensure pedagogy and functionality.)  Teachers were empowered to explore the pedagogy with low risk and that functionality was almost guaranteed with all apps coming from the iTunes App Store.  

Not everything just works as it needs to communicate through our district resources.  This was frustrating; however, in most cases we were able to work through the bureaucracy to open up new worlds of innovation.  AppleTV is a great example.  We are poised to release at least 2 AppleTVs into each school this year.  The power of this device is having students from anywhere in the class being able to display their work / thinking / learning / ideas on the projector in their class.  Another benefit is being able to project through Skype or FaceTime other learners from around the globe.  I hate delays but the results will be stunning once deployed.

I hate not doing for fear - As an educator, I am a risk taker.  Fear may be too strong of a word, but it is the most suited word I could think of.  Schools often don't do amazing learning because of fear.  Ski trips are all but memories of the past.  Yes accidents have happened in the past and there are risks.  Unfortunately, risk management often becomes "Just don't do it."  I grew up with trampolines in schools.  Every year they moved between schools to share the resource.  Did kids get injured? Yes.  Did I learn? Yes.  Did I engage in a mindset of physical activity? Yes. 

My mindset is that No is not an answer.  If we are afraid of 'possible' results, then we need to actively manage them or come up with creative solutions to provide equivalent alternatives.  

In some cases, students are expected to wash their hands before touching an iPad.  Why?  Are your hands going to damage the iPad?  Students are punished if they carry the iPad with 1 hand? Why? Do accidents happen? Yes.  I was recently teaching summer school and student fell with the iPad in his hands.  I would rather he protect himself, than worry about the iPad.  As he got up, he had a horrible face and said, "I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to drop the iPad, Is it broken?"  My response - "I don't care about the iPad - Are you okay?"  

Let's spend more time using the iPads than worrying about how to carry them - beyond - "Be safe."  People are more important than technology.  When we focus so much on carrying a device, it shows just how important it is in our eyes.  When a child comes in crying from recess, do we give them as much care and attention as preventing an iPad from possibly falling?

This is such a big one for me.  Whenever I see injustice, it makes me fume inside.  Sometimes it is when students are mistreated.  Sometimes it is when students bring to school the challenges of their home life.  Sometimes it is when students aren't allowed to use technology to write (when they have writing challenges) because it would be unfair to other students.  Fair isn't always equal.  Using technology isn't about getting a reward or a treat, it is about using a tool - the right tool at the right time.  

A while back my wife and I wanted to change the disharmony between our children.  The biggest change that we made was to eliminate YouTube viewing in our house.  YouTube is a great resource but when kids have large volumes of garbage in, then you get garbage out.  After a month we have come to a new balance with limited YouTube viewing of choice, but educational and artistic (music) are not limited.  This made a world of difference to our life.

The corollary is that I prefer students working in partners with iPads.  I want the students to learn communication skills.  I want them to talk in class.  I want to build their oral fluency.  Setting the right guidelines makes a world of difference.  In general, I find students want to have the tool to themselves.  They want to always be the driver of the iPad.  It takes time to build the understanding and compassion to work together.  Initially some students just can't work together.  When you give every student an iPad, they are self interested and are not motivated to support each other in the task.  It is easier to use 1:1 iPads, it is better to use 1:2 iPads.

Making bad choices
This is a pet peave of mine.  I have always been held accountable for my choices.  I have made bad financial decisions and had to live with the consequences.  I am very aware of my decisions and the potential consequences.  I try to think through various scenarios, apply what I know and predict the outcome.  I hate to see bad choices in process and no willingness to change.  I was very glad to see that we changed some plans through the year that prevented what I thought would be disastrous.  Disaster was averted.

Hearing the Lord's Name in vain
While it is self evident that this is offensive to some.  Many others swear and curse.  Schools have understandings that swearing is not acceptable, but sometimes at school I still hear it.  I often will say something to the individual, but just wish it wouldn't happen at all.

Outside of school I hear it sometimes as well and when appropriate I will make it clear I am offended by the language.  Most people are respectful, some not so.

My best this year... 
Being vocal about what I believe is right and making a difference.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Preparing for ISTE

It is that time of year again. I had some great ideas to share and applied in September to present this June at ISTE12. I love the conference and I love being able to contribute. My challenge is that I have learned so much since September that what I planned to present needs to be redeveloped. I am doing a session on "empower students oral, reading and writing fluency with apps.". I planned to highlight 10 apps; however the 10 I was thinking of need to change and even the idea of 10 specific apps is now odd to me. One example is that I believe using the right tool at the right time and I believe students should be writers with blogs. When I blog, the iPad is not my choice (first) to type. I am purposefully blogging this post on my iPad to reinforce for myself that it can be a valuable tool to blog (especially when other tools aren't available; the iPad becomes the appropriate tool) When the iPad is capable of so much more, should we Waste valuable access with just typing tasks?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Challenge the Literacy Quo

George Couros challenged us today to define / redefine literacy.  I have asked this question to many groups of teachers.  I have them brainstorm what does it mean to be literate.  At the end, I ask if a monkey could be literate by those definitions.  In most cases, a trained monkey is as literate as many children.

I have been an advocate for Information and Media Literacy for 8 years.  I even started a Wikipedia topic for it in 2007.

As a leader in the district, I need to think about things different.  In the way our district is organized, we have silos of learning and silos of support for the learning.  Secondary school is all about learning within 8 different silos a year.  We know from research that Project Based Learning is a better way to go.  Learning is deeper and more meaningful.

How can we understand who is a Literate student?  Understand that there are many strands of literacy and they are not independent silos.  What does that look like at the district level?

Currently we all work within a silo and have events to celebrate or share learning within the silo.  As Helping Teachers in our district we are overwhelmed with the volume of work that needs to be accomplished every year.  If we are to support a fully literate student, we need to eliminate silos and move students forward in their learning to be a more literate citizen.

Solution - Modelling Project Based Learning through Project Based Celebrations rather than Silo Events.

In our table conversation today, we talked about some of the silo events.  Our roles need to adapt to support growth toward integrated full literacy.

What if...
Speech Fest became Presentation Festival
- Do students have to live present?  Can students support their speech with visuals, with audio, with multimedia.  Is a 'speech' a real-world skill?  Have we not moved to sharing learning?

Dance Festival became Multimedia Festival
- Is dance only about movement to music and costume?  What about creating music to dance to?  What about live performance of music that is choreographed?  What about short drama (with or without music)
- Do all students need to be in the same room.

Science Fair became Inquiry Fair
Do we only learn through science experiments?  Isn't Science really about inquiring?  Is a 1m poster board the best way to showcase learning.  Does it have to happen in the same place at the same time?

Jazz Festival became Multimedia Mashup
- Performance is one aspect but it is also limited to one room in space in time.  What if we had the festivals but filmed / recorded them and then schools mashed up the performances with movies and art from the schools then published to youtube or even shared on iTunes?

Art Showcase in Mall became Roving Art Kiosks
- What would it look like to share the physical art with an audio or video of the student creating the art and sharing their learning.  Is art just about the final product?  Sharing only the final product reduces it.

Elementary Science was taught with real experiments and Real Grade 10 Scientists
- What if Grade 10 students worked with Elementary students doing experiments that are beyond the comfort zone of the elementary teachers. (igniting a balloon of hydrogen and oxygen to create water vapour)

What if we created a new event called Plethora of Passions Portfolio
- This be an entire district event where we support students passions being profiling.  How can a hockey guru have their passion acknowledged.

We need to stop preparing students for a 10% chance of graduating university with a degree - Let's learn with our students for TODAY.  Let's make sure every event and project we do is grounded in the current real world, not the real world of years ago.

iPad Experiment - A Learned Mistake

I entered February bright eyed and ready to tackle doing everything on the iPad.  Very soon I realized it was not the right tool for everything.  I do still use my iPad almost daily; however, not for everything.

The iPad has many great features:
- Creativity
- Communication
- Easy
- Convenient

The laptop is better (for many features of my daily life)
- Management of large amounts of email
- Management of large amounts of text document creation
- 'I know how to do everything' - (when I get overwhelmed - I revert to the comfort tool.)

I do believe that in a classroom and as a learning tool, I could use the iPad for everything.  I also believe that the traditional essay is dead and should be dead.  Does this have the same impact as a 5 page essay.  Which took longer to 'write?'  Which is more meaningful?

I also believe that the iPad is less about being a productivity tool and more about learning.  For me and for now, I will keep both the iPad and MacBook.

So can I use only the iPad?  Yes.  Can I do what I do now with only the iPad? No.  Somethings I should change what / how I do them.  Somethings I should use the most appropriate tool.

I was wrong to think the iPad could do it all for me in my current position at my current level of productivity.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The continuing mission, to ....

I love my iPad but it is not the full answer. Even though I am dedicated to using it, I yearn for the full power of a laptop. I have allowed myself flex to do menial tasks like sorting and putting into folders 75 emails etc.

While an ad can recapture productivity times when you just have 5 min before a meeting starts or suring the meeting, it loses in other areas with functionality and data entry.

My goal this weekend was to be creative. I went for a walk with my girls(iPad and a camera in hand). Boy did I feel awkward carrying the iPad in the trails. I did some filming as they played by the strem; however they were more interested in the woods than the ipad( yeah:)

A bit later we fed some ducks and geese. The iPad was functional but I preferred making photos on my point and shoot camera. I held it just off the water to get some creative shots. Not as simple to be creative at the shore with a bulky low res iPad camera.

I have now began to look at telling a story with the raw footage. Walking, talking, ducks, geese, feeding, stills and video.

First up. IMovie (4.99)- easy to use, I would feel comfortable teaching k/1 to make a movie no problem. The finger gestures are easy to learn. I made a movie quickly.

Aha moment - you can transfer the raw movie between devices with iTunes sharing. You can export the final movie to a service like YouTube or the camera roll but you have to wait for it to render. I started it and switched tasks... Returned to have to restart the rendering.

Next. The Avid Studio app(4.99) - pretty powerful. I would not use this with K/1 (at least at first). The expanded features and options in comparison to iMovie allow for much more fine editing and higher quality end product

(high quality end products should not be the goal though. We want students to be able to create and communicate - both do the task and iMovie is simpler to use)

Splice (free and 3.99) (with additional in app purchase for special fx) (iPhone not universal app). This is a very simple to use app. The workflow makes sense. Being an iPhone app that does the same as the first two, I would stick to them on the iPad. For an iPod/ iPhone app, I would use Splice

A turn in a different but relevant direction is to film and event and provide a vice and annotation analysis. Coaches Eye (4.99). Let's you film a clip, then record your review and notes over it. Awesome tool. (I will revisit this looking at tools like Show Me or Explain Everything)

My choice for starting with students - iMovie. (I may move to Avid later with them)
My choice for a project of mine - Avid Studio
My choice if on my iPod - Spilce
My choice for annotating or teaching through the video - Coaches Eye
(in short - choose the right tool at the right time)

Now that I had fun creating, I just want to touch on the why again.

I believe that students need to be creative and be creators. These tools allow a very engaging way to do both.
Reasons to have students create a video:

Exploration / wonder
Review of learning
Explaining learning of a concept
Speech practice
Creative writing coming to life
Practicing oral fluency
Describing a piece of their work - author statement
Public service announcements
(feel free to comment and add to the list)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Life on an iPad 2

I have continued using my iPad as my device if choice. This post will be typed with the iPad and no corrections.

OnFriday I challenged myself to type as fast as I could. I tried a passage with a laptop , I typed 43 wpm. The same passage with touch typing on the iPad 18.6 wpm. Then with a stylus still 17 wpm

So typing is slower but when do I Ned to type large amounts?

Great that it has a 10 hour battery but the iPad gets used 10 hours a day and needs charging before going to work the next day.

My goal this weeks to move beyond caring about data entry. Last week I has the pleasure of wattending an iPad boot camp with Bryan Hughes. Teacher librarian in north Vancouver. Some great new apps and ways to consider their use.

Flowing from data entry though is being productive. The top 5 apps I use tobe productive included:
Mail/ First Class
Paper port notes by nuance
Google docs

The obvious reasons fr a mail application apply but the productivity comes from not needing to be connected. I can get so much done in those 5 minutes waiting in line, for the water to boil, or before a meeting starts. I likely gain 2 hours a day having access with a device (I use my iPod touch a lot for that)

Calendar is fat as I don't worry about tomorrow. I always have it in my devices. I also can add information like phone, address, and agendas to the events

PaperPport Notes is much like notes but far better. It allows stickies, voice notes/ conversion, highlights, and drawing all in the same document and syncing between devices

Google docs has been amazing for our team. We organize events collaboratively, have registrations for events and download the lists to print name tags etc. so easy and shared access - anywhere with wifi

Dropbox. I can't say enough about it. It has changed the way I store information If I need to use it once, I don't put it in the cloud. If I just want an archive, such as a YouTube video, I store it locally, the best part is that the three of us on the team all have a shared Dropbox folder, we all can work on our documents and see them to answer questions for others when we aren't there. I even have a share now with my wife to keep some documents accessible at home or work for us both

I don't think I can live without these tools anymore. It does say some things about my life though. I rely on the technology and expect it to be there. To quote Lisa Domeier de Suarez, 'Internet access is the new electricity'. A teacher at a nearby school was allowing students to bring in their devices. They could take pictures of their notes or homework, until the admin heard about it and said,'they would have to discuss it.' which meant. Once I talk to your teacher the answer is no. Sad that a passionate knowledgable educator making connections for his students got shut down.

Just try to have an electricity free school.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Living on an iPad.

I have tried very hard to just use my iPad as my computing device for the last two days. It really is challenging. I dietary and prepare by enabling print sharing the night before. It configured at home but not within the district network. Took some MacBook time to try tweaking but to no avail(I have submitted a service page and will see if that provides an option)

I needed to break from the plan to:
1. Try tweaking a printing solution
2. Create a fireworks logo that needed printing. Since I had one that needed editing it was easier than creating a new one in a new software.
3. I also needed over the last two days to print.

Printing is not going away. When I work with teachers new to iPads I ask why you would need to print. I have now got several answers..
Printing posters for bulletin boards
Printing expense claims ( that I have to attach receipts and submit))
Printing a document requiring a signature
Printing an attendance sheet for a workshop. (I could have used an app and have them sign in on my device; however I would then dedicate a 500 device to act as a $0.05 piece of paper and not be able to use it myself while they sign in.)

Beyond the basics...
I am trying to be true to the concept; however, I find myself wanting to 'quickly' do some multitasking work while I was on my laptop to print. It brought to my attenttion that I multi task heavily. If a website takes time to load, I move to another task. If a file is uploading, I switch and do something else. If I am answering email, I like to have my calendar open at the same time (without switching)

Creative work ...
I haven't had time to do any today... My IPad is being used as a small laptop without a tactile keyboard. I am doing quite well atyping and allowing autocorrect to do its magic. Still slower than using a keyboard (when I am focused on typing I can type 60 wpm). Currently I am able to type about 30 wpm on the iPad. The iPad is not the best typing device. I personally miss the tab key, the underscore on the main keyboard, and cursor keys

Internet ...
Most websites are working fine. You learn some quirks like entering dates on calendars that are not optimized for mobile devices - zoom and slide etc. We are doing a pedometer challenge in our building and that site must use flash as it just appears blank. If it was just me, I would use a different site, but I have to use the site provided. (and they dont have an app).

I needed to edit a web page but the wysiwyg editor did not show properly on the iPad I managed to accomplish it but not as easy in a full browser.

I didn't realize just how much I did in emails / paperwork in a day. It was harder to be as efficient getting my regular work load done. That is real aha though.

I need to spend more time in the classroom. We have several key events coming up that require a level of productivity, but I will stick to using iPad. It will force me to think differently.

What if the iPad was the only device available to a teacher, a student, a class. Should it be wasted on productivity.... Perhaps there are other ways to get the desired result on an iPad by doing it differently or to quote APPLE Think different

Off to finish my emails today. Tomorrow I will do my blog without backspace for corrections...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Does an iPad replace other computers ?

I have bantered the idea of using my iPad only for the month of February.  If I am going to be immersed in supporting iPads with our teachers, I need to make the mind shift to use it for everything.

Currently my iPad is used less than maximum; however, I have access to a MacbookPro for work and a PC at home.

The question rises for schools - what if I only have an iPad?  Should we buy desktops or even laptops anymore?

I haven't quite decided myself if I will take on this challenge as there are challenges that I know will arise.
- What if I want to print?  Do I send it to a colleague? (not fair to them)  Do I try to get the district to have a new printer that accepts AirPrint?
- Can I create everything I need to on an iPad? - (Pages on iPad can't export to ePub)
- Will I be as efficient?  To search in First Class, it takes more steps on an iPad...

I am thinking that I should try this, but allow 30 minutes a day access to another computer.

Any thoughts or advice?

Monday, January 23, 2012

iBook Author - Where is the real power?

I was very excited to hear the foreshadowed Apple announcement changing the textbook world.

This has the potential to change learning resources in the same way that the printing press did almost 600 years ago.  The printed word became accessible to a broader audience.  Now the multimedia world will become accessible to a broader audience.

We already have access to the individual pieces of information and media; however, there hasn't been a crisp way to staple all the resources together.  Now there is

I have already read some criticism that the power of the multi billion dollar textbook industry will still remain with the publishing giants.  While I can see that as try for content rich textbooks that have every detail for entire courses, I see greater potential outside of the publishing companies.

I see the real power being brought to the students and teachers.  As a teacher I can now create custom content for the course I want to teach.  (Unfortunately, this is still living in the old paradigm of teacher experts but better than a business as the expert).  The most amazing power will be what students can create.

A huge frustration for me is when teachers create an awesome wiki with their students, then ask how to erase it all at the end of the course.  Why do we make students start their learning journey at the beginning.  All current innovation is built on previous innovations.  Why should 'textbooks' of the future delete those previous learnings?  Wouldn't it be better to create a 'textbook' resource with a class, then have the next class spring board to adapt old learning and explore new learning.

Please don't waste previous student's learning.  Acknowledge and honour the previous learning and move forward.  Textbooks are dead resources from a snapshot in time.   The content in a textbook is not the value; the process of learning and engaging with the content is the value.   Living iBooks can and should develop a life of their own

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Technology as a change driver

Always fun to read something and see it with a different perspective.  This (  article from Finland shared that "Frequent surveys of Finnish teachers' use of technology in instruction, however, demonstrated that technology can't be the main driver of change in education."

This could be read as - 'Don't expect technology integration to result in changes to education." or "Technology doesn't drive change." or "Don't bother spending money on technology because it doesn't make a difference."

Using the driving metaphor, I support technology is not the driver of change; however, I would propose that it is the highway change is driving on.  The bumpy dirt road of the internet and pentium 100 computers of 15 years ago were dirt roads - they still got you places - but slower and maybe with some bumps and bruises along the way.

It was incredible today as I was talking with an incredible teacher colleague.  In one year, the work of his students has gathered 101, 000 views in their youtube channel.  The automotive industry is one of the most high tech in the world, yet schools often send their struggling and disengaged students there.  Mani Grewal at Frank Hurt Secondary School ( has grown his program into an immensely popular program at the school and engages students with real world learning experiences and sharing their learning with the real world.  His shop functions as a shop with customers bringing in their vehicles with unknown problems.  The learning output of his students is phenomenal.  During this semester, they have overhauled 2 engines, did 6 cylinder gaskets, 3 clutches and numerous smaller jobs.  On top of it, they produced 6 more videos explaining their learning.

Students are learning with technology constantly in this 'classroom.'  They use All Data to assist with diagnosis and repair, they use power points and videos regularly in the classroom, and they use their personal devices to assist them writing tests.  

Returning to my premise though... Technology has empowered this awesome teacher to engage students, provide them extensive life skills, and provide a world audience to their work.  The driver is good thoughtful teaching.  The learning is deep and fast empowered by technology.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Response to - To Gel or Not to Gel

I read the blog post noted above, and posted a comment.  After seeing what I was able to articulate, I thought it was worthy of its own post....

1.  Living, Learning and Teaching in Transformation is tiring and uncomfortable.  I believe that new learning doesn't occur unless we are a place of transformation.  If we are not uncomfortable, we know it already and are not motivated to learn.  Equally though we may learn every single day; we don't need to be learning every moment of every day.  Everything I know says if I want to learn French, I need to be immersed in French and not have English as an option.  Certainly uncomfortable but I would learn the language better than being a 'Language Tourist' where I can step back to being comfortable.

2.  Digital is a language.  Many of our students are Digital Natives and speak Digital fluently; however, just like our classrooms, not everyone comes to school with the skills to speak and learn with the language proficiently - even though it is the expected norm.

With Marc Prensky's work came the term Digital Immigrant and Digital Native.  The concept was native speakers and second language learners.  Research shows learning multiple languages is easiest before 6 years and dramatically difficult after 10 years old.  If we remain as a Digital Tourist that can use the language for 'excursions' of learning but return 'home' and revert to our old language, then students lose the immersion experience and we actually make it harder for students to learn the language as they get older.

Many students are bi-lingual with English and Digital; most teachers are too old to be Digital Native speakers.  Rather than being a Digital Tourist, some teachers have chosen to immerse themselves in Digital.  These teachers can become fluent in Digital and English.  Ideally all teachers will be fluent in both languages, but the most impact would be for helping students be bi-lingual by the age of 10.