iPads in the Room!

I do not find the physical management of 22 iPads challenging.  They need a place to charge and sync, they all need to be numbered (iPad, storage slot, charge cord) and a set of guidelines should be agreed upon.  Next year, I will simply incorporate these guidelines in our regular classroom ones.  I am still exploring appropriate consequences for misuse.  Originally, as a class, we agreed that inappropriate use would result in the child not being able to use their device.  Last week we came to a point where I was truly dumbfounded as to what the child would do without their iPad.  (Would you take away a student’s pencil and paper as a consequence?)  It was an exciting moment to recognize how purposeful the technology was, but also an intense moment of realization.  Am I in too deep?

During the past few months I have found there to be three types of management issues.  One I would categorize as learning how to use applications, the next would be technical difficulties, and finally work flow.

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When students are asked to use an app I may explain a few basic aspects, but usually I assume they can figure it out.  In the beginning if they came to me asking, “How do I… ?” I would claim to be clueless.  Oftentimes that was true, but even when it was not I purposefully empowered my learners to be a team and find their own solutions.  As soon as students caught on, that I would not feed them any solutions, they would ask around the room.  If no one knew yet (say how to time their Keynote slides to 10 sec. each) they would hunker down to figure it out.  Now, they have learned to Google it or look on YouTube for a tutorial.  Elation fills the room as soon as one student shouts, “I got it!”  Then the solution spreads like wildfire as they teach each other.  Each time students do this independently their confidence builds.  There is no comparison.  The benefits of this type of learning compared to a teacher at the front narrating each step are paramount.  As a result I do not need to figure out how to manage 22+ problems/questions while other students wait with their hands up.  My student’s brains never go idle (while the hand is up) and they gain experience with those 21st century thinking skills that we always talk about.

Our technical difficulties are solved equally as often by adults and children.  Some students take the initiative to try and figure it out in a variety of ways, but they all know the steps to try before coming to me.  This includes exiting the app, restarting, reconnecting to wifi, etc…  I will always ask the class, “Who knows how to…?”, or “Did anyone figure out how to fix…?” before I spend time thinking aloud to demonstrate how to trouble-shoot the issue.  This models how to use our learning community for support.  When all else fails we have an excellent tech support team that will respond by phone, email, or a pop-in for urgent matter.  Tech support from a coach or technician is essential  for successful implementaiton of any 1:1 program.

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Work flow is yet another management issue.  In the morning the first thing that students do is go to the wiki to read their morning message.  Often times there is a task for them to complete before the day begins.  (One is practicing math facts on MathBoard.  I believe this is how all my forth graders have already achieved 50 facts under 3 min.)  During the day I will occasionally ask students to email me their work so that I can check in on their progress (note taking, math journal pages, essays Pages, audio recordings, reading logs, etc…)  I have filters in Gmail so I do not get overloaded with their work and I do not ask for it daily.  Students can also email their work-in-progress to their parents and discuss it with them as part of their homework.  Published student work is posted on the wiki and on their blogs with a reflection.  Apps like Showme upload student work right to their site.  For work that is on Showme and YouTubestudents can embed it right in their blogs.

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Workflow is my current project.  The tools we have now work well, but my aim is to minimize email use because I do not feel this is good use of it.  I hope to explore GDocs, Edmoto and iCould more.  Any and all suggestions are welcome.


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Independent Education

My educational career started off painful and compulsory.  It has now evolved into somewhat of an obsession where I cannot get enough new information into my brain.  I think that is where my interest in technology has come from.  Tech tools have allowed learning to become such an independent and intriguing experience.

Independent learning is better for me because I am in control of what I want to know and how I want to learn.  I can also (usually) control the rate at which I learn it.  When I first found out about the Khan Academy I was thrilled to realize that I could work to understand those impossible concepts from my high school past.  Such examples of open source learning empower us to go beyond the finite parameters of any classroom.  The Internet is the ultimate tool of differentiation because it allows learning to be:

  • self-directed
  • inquiry based
  • exploratory
  • open-ended
  • self assessed

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I think the formal education experience is still a little tedious, and with emerging organizations like MOOC and University of the People we may just be on the edge of a massive shift.  Also, not because of any organization, but simply because of a simple Google Search or online video, we are able to learn how to cook, dance, play music, and even how to use our tech tools instantly.  As discussed in this Ted Talk by Chris Anderson, video online is one of the most powerful tools for teaching and learning.

A final consideration for the future of education and teaching is that it may no longer be just for the privileged.  If this shift keeps happening, then we might realize that formal classroom settings and one teacher as the passer of knowledge to a class of pupils are not necessary.  An online network can provide equivalent or superior support to that of classmates.  And those with specialties, ideas or experiences to share, not those with teaching degrees, become our mentors even if they are not formally educated or privileged.

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Open-ended Reversed Learning

I am keen to try a reverse model of instruction in my classroom but I have hesitations because I don’t believe giving them video to watch at home is a model of real learning.  I also don’t know how parents would receive this because they often like to see their kids “doing” homework, not just watching a video.

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I think real-life learning, which the reverse model strives to simulate, would not always have students watching a teacher generated video.  Rather, students would be required to use their thinking skills and online networks to find the information they need inorder to prepare for the next day’s class meeting.  Without the teacher spoon-feeding specific information through a prescribed video, the learning would be vast and student directed.  This would be the ideal model of reverse instruction that I would like to experiment with.  Granted, my students are fourth graders and would require some amount of parental guidance while searching for information at home.

More and more we hear about the important role parents play in education because their kids are learning all the time – often at their own will and in unsupervised environments.  Teachers can no longer be solely responsible for student learning.  Many of today’s parents are digital immigrants and because of their unfamiliarity with technology, they might not understand the true magic of the web.  When they do understand how the web works, they give a whole world of infinite learning to their children.  This shift has yet to be realized, but soon enough parents will have to get up to speed to support these young inquiring minds.


I will try to flip my math class in January.  In preparation I will have to search the concepts myself to get a general understanding of what the kids will come up with.  Thankfully my students already have a good understanding of different search tools, reliability and readability.  Even with that foundation we will need to generate parameters for their at home searches (specific search engines, search tools, bank of math sites, etc…)

I will also need to educate parents so that there is less resistance to allowing their children to search the web. My classroom model will also have to change.  I anticipate students working in small groups to share what they know, then applying it to solve problems in their math journals.  I would also like a routine part of class to be spent adding learning to the web, by way of student collaborative teaching in video form.

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Technology Integration

Technology integration is when technology tools are an integral part of the classroom.

This year my room has become more integrated than ever before.  The tools are not shared and therefore are never removed from our learning area.  They do not interfere with learning because I do not plan out what the technology will do for us.   The kids find their own sources of information and the applications they wish to use.  When the tools do not work right it becomes an opportunity for group work and problem solving, which students are more invested in because the instruction is not top down.  If it were traditional top down teaching, I would also be in charge of solving all technical glitches.  With 1:1 iPads internet access is immediate and there is an app for just about everything we want to practice, create, or learn about.  The environment in my room resembles my adult learning environment where we learn from each other and the tools we use are taken for granted.YouTube Preview Image

I understand that the ultimate step of tech integration is to redefine learning experiences, or do new things in new ways, but I also think doing old things in new ways is meaningful.  Typing up an essay instead of writing it with a pencil is a powerful change even though some would call the technology in this instance a very expensive pencil.  Personally, I have moved beyond that but for those who are just starting to use computers in their class it is a great step.  By doing this students are at least using relevant tools that make their task more authentic.  We type up our work because it is easier to edit and revise.  We can share it with others easily and it is more permenant than a notebook.  Once this first step has been taken student work can be augmented or modified.


Tech integration works, but it needs financial and coaching support.

From my generation looking backward, teachers have always been able to choose if technology was their “thing” or not – otherwise known as digital immigrant status.  For everyone younger than me technology is part of life and their brains are wired for it.  At my school there are few digital natives  which means that a technology coach is crucial for successful implementation of a technology integration model.  Teachers need to know what is expected of them as users and in their teaching.  They need to know how to integrate purposefully so that they aren’t just using computers in their class.  Most importantly, they need technical support for the inevitable challenges that technology presents and emotional guidance to know what they are doing is good.

Financially if computers, or even better iPads, can be a permanent fixture in the classroom it is more meaningful for the users.  It becomes a way of learning and not a special event to have computers in the room.

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Cross-Curricular Standards

Technology standards (NETS standards at my school), should really be something bigger.  It does not make sense that we would teach anyone how to use an application without context.

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What I am really teaching kids is how to think; how to access reliable information, how to evaluate the validity of what they find, and how to share that information with an appropriate audience in new and creative ways. Overarching these thinking skills is respect, responsibility, honesty… the school’s Core Values.  These Core Values translate to digital citizenship when my students are online. Why not just call it citizenship?  It shouldn’t matter whether they are online or playing with each other on the swing set.

How I am really teaching is like a coach on the side.  I am a facilitator.  I guide their thinking – prompting and provoking.  I have few answers that they can’t figure out as a community with internet access.

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I would be put to shame if I was determined to teach my fourth graders how to use an iPad.  They teach me the tools.  I teach them how to think, problem solve, contribute, and search.  I support, encourage, and provide opportunity in order to create independent, yet collaborative learners. Life long learners.

I know my school has adopted NETS standards for students and teachers, but it is rare that classroom teachers see them or use them.  Next year when we move to a technology integration model I think it will be much more important for teachers to know the expectations for student learning and what is expected from them as professionals.

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NETS for students, in my opinion, should be labeled “cross-curricular standards”.  The themes we see in those standards stretch across all subject areas.  They apply to technology use, our curriculum and the classroom community.  I developed cross-curricular standards using AASL and NETS as part of my Masters course work.  It made sense that way.

NETS for teachers is a useful tool to help teachers move themselves along the continuum toward being 21st Century instructors.  I have come to realize that simply using technology in the classroom is old news.  It is the way that we teach which needs to change and NETS can be a guide for that.

If you are still giving students information on a regular basis, please stop. Change your teaching style.  Teach them to think about what is important to them.  Teach them different ways to think about it (critical thinking, problem solving AND operations and concepts).  Teach them how to access the world (research and information fluency).  Teach them respect because there are people at the heart of everything we do (citizenship).  Teach them to evaluate everything they see.  Teach them to share as others have done with them (communication and collaboration).  Teach them how to learn from mistakes.  Teach them to celebrate their successes.

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Reflection: Visual implications for my teaching and learning.

By nature we are visual and verbal creatures.  As a means for developing global communication, written text can be seen as a stepping stone en route to our current visual and verbal world known as the web.

I know myself as a visual learner and I much prefer working with people than paper, but I never considered that the majority of people could be like me.  When I read Brain Rules by John Medina a few years ago the chapter, “Vision Trumps All Other Senses” was fascinating to me.  I did not consider how this might apply to education.

After watching Chris Anderson’s most recent TED talk, and because of my CoETaIL studies I now have a deeper understanding of the true power of our visual experiences (especially when combined with auditory stimulus).  There are some huge implications for education, but more immediately, three will be implications for my classroom!

  • My students need to create and contribute auditory and video content
  • My students need to learn from the web text, video, and images
  • I need to teach with images (image+text / image+auditory)
  • Our reading and writing anchor charts need images not just text

Teaching with visual support is commonplace in my room, however I hope to incorporate more infographics because they easily clarify complicated content.  I am reluctant to use reading and writing anchor charts because the amount of text repulses me.  I hope to find a way to make these charts visually rich so I can start using them!

I am fortunate enough to be piloting 1:1 iPads in my class, so it will be relatively easy to accomplish the above mentioned student skills.  We can easily create with intuitive apps (iMovie / Explain Everything), contribute instantly (export to YouTube, blog), and explore with visual apps (Science 360 / Project Noah).

I am so glad to have taken this course because it has opened my eyes to another important facet of the WWW.

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My fourth graders will be embarking on a FOSS science unit next week.  The first investigation involves planting terrariums to learn about the relationship between living and nonliving factors in ecosystems.  Students will be recording their observations through photo and audio recording using Explain EverythingThis is what I have in mind for students to create their visual presentations.

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A Rainforest Story

My students completed digital stories, (mostly) during our field trip in a local rainforest, inorder to demonstrate their understanding of the unit’s three essential questions; what are the unique characteristics of the rainforest, how do we impact the rainforest, and how can we help the rainforest?

We used Zapd, which is an app that creates simple websites with minimal effort.  It allows photos with a caption, text boxes and links with a caption.  While students were making their presentations I was shocked (yet again) at their level of inquiry and engagement.  I give full credit for the excess engagement to the the tool, the iPad.  More about that at The Miraculous Journey of 22+1 and in the clip below.

YouTube Preview Image

Prior to the field trip, students prepared their Zapd with three sections, one for each essential question.  They also sketched out a story board with details and example that they wanted to include in their presentation.  This was referred to on the trip while making the Zapd.

One student's final project

Nearly all photos were taken during the trip and all text written during the trip.  The revisions and editing were completed in the afternoon back at school.

To the left is one student’s work.  I am overall pleased with the demonstration of learning.

Next time I would prepare students with this project in mind from the beginning of the unit.  I would do this to help them to better organize their learning and thinking in accordance with the essential questions.

The visual presentation part of this (Zapd) is spectacular for individuals, class or teacher presentations.  If I were to assign a Zapd project again, I would spend more time preparing the students to take better photos.  Choosing photos from Compfight is more reliable than asking a fourth grader to have an eye for the image in addition to using the app, demonstrating understanding, and protecting the iPad from damage.

My students have explored the idea that images can decorate, inform or illuminate the message or ideas in their work.  I do not think they had this in mind because of all the other aspects that needed attention in the same moment as they were taking photos.  Next time I will focus their attention more on the illuminating quality of visual communication.

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The Power of Presentation (if it’s done right)

It clicked for me today and I wasn’t even looking for it.  I now understand the power of images and the importance of visual literacy.  As a teacher who uses images to inspire imagination and strengthen comprehension, I thought I knew how to create and give a presentation.  Prompted by course three of CoETaIL to open my eyes I realized that wasn’t so.

I found myself wanting to shout, “A-ha” while visiting author Jan Reynolds shared her books titled, “Celebrate” and “The Cycle of Rice“.  I was completely overwhelmed because each of her beautiful photos held so much power.  There were no words to read.  Her photos were Pecha-Kucha-like, on a short timer, and she narrated while allowing quiet time for thought.

Her presentation was simple.  In a darkened room, photo slides held the screen for about 30 seconds each while she sat on a stool to the side of the screen and narrated.  She spoke slowly and kept to the timing of the slideshow.  At times she would say just one word or a sentence and we understood.  Other times she would explain a concept like, all cultures celebrate with dance, by giving details about the specific cultures that she had photographed dancing.  Once she had finished “The Cycle of Rice” story, she told us to reflect on what she shared.  Then, the exact same slides roll on the screen in the exact same order, just a little faster and with music.  Having this time to reconnect the dots and solidify what was presented was so important to my understanding.


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Mrs. Reynolds never talked at length.  She did not control the timing of the slides during the presentation.  She let the images do the teaching.

I thought I would introduce our unit of study, “Human Impact on the Rainforest” with a proper PowerPoint, but I think Ms. Reynold’s model, without text, is more powerful.  It holds the audience’s attention and allows for much more thinking than any wiki, slideshow, PowerPoint, Speech, or Prezi I’ve ever created.

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It’s happening… the transfer of skills

The most rewarding email I received this weekend:

Dear Mrs. Arleth,

This Weekend I created my own QR code for my blog. The link that I posted on this page will take you to my QR code for my blog.



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Visual Imagery

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My students fall in love with the rainforest because of the animals that live there.  Then they appreciate it because because they learn about how they depend on it.  This sets the scene for the strong emotional struggle I hope they feel when our focus of inquiry shifts to the impact humans have on theses forests.  My students know all too well about the slash and burn from indonesia due to the smoke-filled winds that blow over Singapore and compromise our air quality each year, but just through dialogue I don’t think they realize what this is really about.  I hope this image will allow them to imagine the all precious diversity and resources that are lost with the rainforest.

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Some rights reserved by World Resources

The images that follow will allow for discussion about reasons humans slash and burn the rainforests.  When discussing the palm oil plantations that are so common in Indonesia and Malaysia I hope my students gain a good understanding about how human survival and international demand often drive our actions.

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