Tag Archives: integration

One Week In.

Last spring my school decided we were going to begin transitioning our elementary school to iPads. While many schools went with iPads initially, we were using Windows 8 tablets and mini laptops. But we decided that our students, especially our youngest learners, needed a platform with more ease of use and ability to work between apps.

Last week, we rolled out 9 iPads (8 students, 1 teacher) into a 2nd grade classroom. We made an initial purchase of 50 iPads and we’ll be using four other K-2 classrooms to extend this pilot. Assuming all goes well, we hope to make a larger purchase of iPads to include the remaining K-2 classes and move into grades 3-4.

Learning how to make a stop motion video

Learning how to make a stop motion video

Here are some of the successes: (comparing to our other tablet options)

  • Battery life…the iPads last SO. MUCH. LONGER.
  • App options…even the free options on an iPad beat the Windows 8 store apps by miles. We tried Lapse-it and Kids A-Z in the first few days. The stop motion videos were a success and so easy! The students were already familiar with Kids A-Z as a “listen to reading” option (part of the Daily 5 reading program) so this was an easy transition.
  • Ease of sharing across devices…using AirDrop is like heaven when you’re used to much clunkier means of sharing…using USB keys, our network dropboxes…a few clicks and we could share all the videos to one device.
Using Kids A-Z to "Listen to Reading"

Using Kids A-Z to “Listen to Reading”

And still a few issues to work through:

  • We’ve started with managing the Apple IDs of our teachers, but this is proving problematic, as they can download nothing on their own. We’re curious…what do other schools do? In a conversation this weekend, another school told us their teacher Apple IDs are not managed by the school. We wondering if this is standard or how other schools have tackled this issue.
  • The storage boxes we bought from Griffin require their own short charging cable so that it is easy to close and lock the door. So, when they arrived we hadn’t realized this would be the case and now we have an ugly mess of cords to contend with inside this beautiful storage box.

Overall, I’m really happy with how things have started. We still have a long road ahead of us, but I believe that this new platform will make the road to redefining their classrooms much more smooth. While the technology is only a tool, the right tool can make all the difference.

We’re still really early in our iPad adventures. If you have any suggestions or favorite apps to share, please comment on this post!

New Year, New Start

I always love the beginning of the school year.

flickr photo by big t 2000 (Tony Heussner) https://flickr.com/photos/big_t_2000/8330140003 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license


It’s awesome to work in a job that has the sense of new beginnings each year.

Because this allows each of us to recalibrate our ideas and adjust for the new year.

This provides such hope and passion in trying again.

With that being said, I’m getting my 6th year underway at the American School of Milan.

How it is, in fact, actually my 6th year is beyond me.


This year I’m taking a more relaxed approach with my coaching of teachers. I used to set goals with everyone, write them down and write out a set of actions to accomplish those goals.

Instead, this year, I simply put an open invitation out to everyone to invite me into their classrooms, even when there is no technology involved.

flickr photo by alnicol2000 https://flickr.com/photos/27870539@N07/8539454604 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

I’m thinking that just being there will allow me to generate ideas that might naturally fit within the classroom and hopefully allow a more natural transformation to take place.

So, we shall see. I’m satisfied with what’s happening early on and hope that it continues moving forward. Most teachers responded to my email and I’ve been in and out of classrooms over the past week. Others need just a little more nudging and I’ll continue to encourage them foward.

The Student Tech Team is also something I’m taking on as part of my role. Last year we had the skeleton of a team, but used them primarily as presenters for our Learning2 conference. The results of that, however, were not great and basically we had a lot of chaos with a big ol’ group of teenagers, which is never pretty.

One of our Student Tech Team members during the Little Bits workshop

One of our Student Tech Team members during the Little Bits workshop

This year, there is an official application process, a quick interview and a selection of team members. We’re trying to keep our team small in an effort to help organize them and our plan for the year. I’m hoping to set the standard that being part of the tech team is kinda like having a job, with responsibilities, work that needs done and expectations to be met.

I did a fair amount of research on this topic and discovered that many schools have the tech team as an official course in their curriculum. I was really surprised by this as it requires having a teacher available to supervise each set of students in the different periods. Our school, quite simply, doesn’t have the staff for that at the moment. So we’re making the best of our situation and moving forward with a small and manageable plan for the year.

Students will be asked to submit a website/app review, podcast or tech tutorial of some kind each month. I’m planning on once monthly group meeting/training sessions, quick individual check-ins to review the work they’re doing, and optional monthly sessions of fun stuff, like learning more about the workings of computers or discovering more about 3D printing, gaming and coding. They will also work a shift or two in the Help Desk, so that they can learn the ins and outs of computer repair and customer service.

I hope this sets us up to start the year out right and find success with an awesome group of excited kids!

Do you run a successful student tech team? What are your best tips? Other suggestions we might consider?



ISTurin Presentation Links

Tomorrow I’m presenting at the International School of Turin. They’re putting on a technology conference as part of their 50th Anniversary celebration and they’ve brought in the one and only Jeff Utecht as the keynote speaker. It’s a small conference, but I’m pleased to have been offered a spot presenting by Greg Read, Head of ICT, after meeting him this summer at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in Cork, Ireland.

My presentation is entitled “Connecting Students Globally.” Here’s my Google Doc of resources I’m sharing with the attendees.

Connected from the Start

Recently, I finished reading Kathy Cassidy‘s new book Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.

image from Powerful Learning Practice website

Kathy’s book talks about using various collaboration platforms in a primary years classroom, like Skype, blogs, and Twitter. She gives numerous examples of ways that she has done this and I like that her ideas help remind teachers that you don’t have to have time intensive projects and well rehearsed kids before sharing and collaborating with others. Kathy’s stories also share the learning that was happening in her classroom through these collaborations.

This book would be a great read for anyone working in an elementary building. Kathy demonstrates the power of connections between primary classrooms and gives plenty of insight for you to begin making these connections too.

Kathy says, “Our connection…was a unique and authentic learning experience for all the students. It was a chance to make my classroom more culturally diverse than it could ever be without this global window.” (p. 10)

I’ve recommended this book to the staff I work with and I hope that they’ll add it to their summer reading list for inspiration when starting the new school year in September!

Kathy Cassidy’s classroom blog

Kathy Cassidy’s professional blog

Have you read Kathy’s book yet? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts too!

ECIS Technology Conference Presentation

This past weekend, ACS Cobham in London hosted the ECIS Technology Conference. I was proud to be a presenter in a program that contained the names of Marc Prensky, Julie Lindsay, and our very own Jeff Utecht!

It was great to meet Jeff in person! He is an amazing speaker and really had the crowd excited by his keynote. Jeff also took the time to attend the session I presented- no pressure, right!?! He even gave me a “limited edition” CoETaIL sticker and made me promise to put it to good use. So now I’m providing the proof.

I presented a session entitled “Using Continuums to Foster Technology Integration.” I wanted to share the technology continuum we developed at ASM and how we are using it to further our technology program in the elementary. I’ve written a post about our continuum before that you can find here.

My presentation is embedded below (hopefully!) or you can access a version of it at this link. Since it was designed with the ideas behind Presentation Zen in mind, it won’t mean much without me! But, nonetheless, it will give you access to the images I used if you ever need them. All Flickr and other citations are found at the end of the presentation.

Here are other documents that you might find useful.


Continuum Appendix This is the document that was created to assist teachers in taking the elements from the continuum and bringing them into their classroom. Some screenshots are seen in the presentation. This is a fluid document that we are constantly adding to, revising, and editing to meet our needs.

Padlet from the workshop session

My Helpful Resources List

What ASM teachers have to say about technology integration and the continuum…

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What are your schools doing at the elementary? Stand alone labs? Full integration? Could the continuum be useful to you? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!

We’re happy to share our work, as I’ve licensed it through Creative Commons. Please share the work your school does with others too!

Course 4 Final Project

This “project” is designed to sketch out the plans for my Course 5 and final CoETaIL project. We were asked to think about some possible ideas and detail them here. I have what I’m calling Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A will involve working with a third grade teacher who is perhaps the most veteran on our staff. Surprisingly, she has shown the most interest to learn and willingness to try, and fail, if need be. Since I am not a classroom teacher, I must rely on others to implement my ideas and see where they take us. With that in mind, Plan A, is my best and most thought out option. This teacher has given me a basic sketch of her “Children in the World” unit. Personally, this topic is almost too easy to embed technology into, but, hey, I’m not complaining. This is what she chose.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by angela7dreams: https://flickr.com/photos/angela7/294746254/

The classroom teacher has some basic things listed, like journal entries, book sharings, research, use of maps.

My first reactions are to turn the journal entries into blog posts. This class is beginning to start with blogs, so this unit will be a good opportunity to transition into really using them for something meaningful. Mike Nonato in Ukraine has been asking for blog buddies, so maybe this class will be ready to get that connection rolling.

There’s a mention of a day in the life project. I’d like to turn this into a video diary by the students.

Since the topic is “Children in the World” I’d like to set up some Skype chats with other classes around the world. There isn’t a better way to learn about different cultures and regions than from first hand information.

I’d like the research portion of this project to really focus on strong Internet searching skills- using keywords, looking for reliable websites, and finding “just-right” sites for their reading levels.

There’s an activity listed on the original plan that mentions marking on a map. I’d like to try and do this activity through Google Earth, so that we can view places in 3D, streetview, and with the pictures that have been added. I’ve had a little training with Google Earth, but will definitely need to refresh my memory of all that it offers.

Some of my concerns about this unit is the idea that I’m at the mercy of the classroom teacher. She might not want to take on everything that I have in mind. But, I’m hoping that she will try most of it and we’ll work with what we’re able to accomplish. This project will require the teacher to leave a few more trusted methods behind, like journal writing, in favor of moving the written word to an electronic format.

My Plan B is to find a way to make Plan A work.

Do you have a 3rd grade class or similar aged group that would like to connect during this project? Let me know!

The Best of What’s Around

If you hold on tight
To what you think is your thing
You may find you’re missing all the rest
She run up into the light surprised
Her arms are open
Her mind’s eye is
Seeing things from a
Better side than most can dream
On a clearer road I feel
So you could say she’s safe
Whatever tears at her
Whatever holds her down
And if nothing can be done
She’ll make the best of what’s around

-Dave Matthews Band “The Best of What’s Around”


While everything in the technology world keeps changing at a rapid fire pace, I’m pretty sure that there’s one thing that has stayed the same.

The need for classroom management.

If you’re lucky enough to teach in a classroom that has gone 1 to 1, then you’ve developed strategies to manage those devices.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by SpecialKRB: https://flickr.com/photos/specialkrb/6819695609/

I think that this is no different from the strategies you developed to manage a classroom without 1 to 1 devices.

And, hopefully, this starts with engaging lessons that your students find interesting. I believe that this is the key component. If you’re not developing and planning lessons that are meaningful and authentic, you’re upping the likelihood that you’re going to need some really great classroom management strategies.

Just as you would in a classroom without any devices.

I really liked Lauren Teather’s post about management strategies and specifically some of her top tips of being present, staying in proximity, carefully allocating time for projects and setting forth consequences. I also found this post from the Dangerously Irrelevant blog interesting, especially the section near the beginning entitled, “It’s the pedagogy not the technology.” Redefining the curriculum in your classroom to allow for new experiences and opportunities because of the technology that is available to you will help work towards more effective learning experiences for our students.

I think the question to ask ourselves is, “What can we do now that we couldn’t have done without the technology?”

But, the rewards come to those who push forward, who take risks and try new things. The rewards come to those who risk allowing themselves to fail.

Doing this, however, might just help you find “the best of what’s around.”

To be or not to be…integrated, that is

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by dullhunk: https://flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/4013357661/

The path to integration is not clearly laid out on a map or a sheet of directions.

But, the road to integration is one that must be discovered.

I believe in integration. I believe that stand-alone instruction of most topics is no longer relevant for the society we now live in. I believe that every teacher is a technology teacher.

Integration is my job. It’s what I spend every day encouraging.

Some days are good. On those days, I feel like some teachers “get it” and are really making progress moving forward.

Some days are not as good. On those days, I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job helping other teachers “get it.”

But, you keep your feet moving forward, knowing that perseverance will succeed in the long run.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Jonathan_W: https://flickr.com/photos/s3a/467735433/

When reading about technology integration, I found a few tidbits here and there that were worth keeping. For one, the Stratford Board of Education website stated that integration is an “instructional choice” and “includes collaboration and deliberate planning.” I like how this Board of Education uses the word ‘deliberate’ as part of their definition. I think that is an important idea that is often not considered. This year, in assisting the teachers in changing the role of technology in their classroom, I’ve tried to use our Technology Continuum to open the lines of communication and plan for ways to restructure some activities to allow for use of technology in their classrooms.

I also found Maggie Hos-McGrane’s website and posts about the SAMR model especially useful. I have heard about this model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, and like to refer to it when thinking about how teachers are using technology. In the SAMR model, the first two steps Substitution and Augmentation, simply enhance the classroom experience. While this is not the long term goal of technology integration, it is certainly a good beginning point. The transformative side encourages modification and redefinition. The activities that fall into these categories would not be possible without the use of technology.

Over the next few months, I hope to keep defining and strengthening my argument for integration. I’ve submitted a proposal to present the aforementioned continuum at the ECIS Tech conference in March. I plan to share how we’re using this document to foster integration in our elementary building and hope to share our experiences since moving in this direction.

To be or not to be integrated? It’s time to stop thinking about the ‘should we’ and move towards the ‘how can we’…

The Disconnect

It’s my second year as an integration specialist, but it’s really the first year working towards getting everyone on board with the idea that every teacher is a technology teacher.

Last year, I taught weekly lessons and tried to coordinate with the classroom teacher to work on things they already had planned or on ideas that could add a technology component. But, at the end of the day, I was the technology teacher. I was responsible for grades, conferences and the actual lessons.

This year, the teachers have gained most of the responsibility and my job has become to insure that they are prepared and ready to help their students gain the technology skills they need.

And, so, we’re rolling along. Some weeks, I feel satisfied with the progress we made…other weeks I wonder if I accomplished anything at all. But, that’s the mark of anyone who recognizes that the day you think you’ve got it all down is the day you should quit. So, we keep moving on.

We do have an issue of a disconnect at our school. The parents still look at me as the “technology teacher”. Some of the students ask, “Why haven’t you been coming to our class?” A school employee questioned, “Why isn’t technology on my son’s schedule?” This is evidence to me of a failure on our part to communicate clearly with all stakeholders the ideas and research behind the new approach this year. I’ve written a statement for our school’s website to explain our philosophy. I’ve offered to hold sessions at our upcoming parent conference day to help explain the shift.

But, for now, the disconnect remains.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by bondidwhat: https://flickr.com/photos/bondidwhat/214659923/

But, this all ties in with the discussion surrounding the NETS standards from ISTE and the AASL standards. As schools transition from a technology model with a stand alone computer lab to one where the technology skills are taught in the classroom setting, the teachers must become familiar with the two documents above. They need to know that they exist and their relevance to the classroom curriculum.

Using these documents, I worked last year with a team of teachers to write a technology continuum. I wrote about it in greater detail in this post and feel confident about its role in our classroom implementation. Many teachers have responded that it is a helpful tool in their planning as they work to find ways to teach technology skills and allow students to demonstrate their knowledge through technology.

This week several blog posts have been written about the responsibility of teaching technology and where it belongs. Jeff Utecht wrote a post that continues to push the notion that technology must be taught where it fits, not in a stand alone class. This same topic was the focus of David Warlick’s post over three years ago.

All of this can be summed up, I think, in this quote I wrote down from Stephen Heppell in the “Future of Learning, Networked Society” video that’s been floating around this past week.

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Heppell said,

“Learning prepares you to cope with the surprises. Education prepares you to cope with certainty. There is no certainty.”

I think this hits the mark. We can use technology to teach kids how to create, evaluate, synthesize and so much more. We can prepare them for whatever comes.

Can we do this with pencil and paper? Sure. But, having technology as an option opens many more possibilities.

Want to see what a street in Cairo looks like first hand? Go to Google Earth.

Want to learn what Japanese kids eat for lunch? Connect with a class around the world.

Want to have kids excited and engaged in their learning because it actually means something to them? Become a “technology teacher.”