Getting that digital work everyone is talking about!

Those of us that have taught for a few years understand the “big stack dilemma” very well.  Transporting, grading, logging scores, returning, accepting revisions, regrading,… uhhh, it just doesn’t stop.  To help the students that we work for it can’t stop.  But the process can be improved using some technology around the web and creative thinking.

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Mastery with iPads

There is a large difference when it comes to learning with iPads and that difference has to do with mastery.  A number of articles can be found on exploring the other differences, my latest favorite is Matt Levinson’s  But something seems to get overlooked by outsiders of education in the argument.  Mastery.  I have worked with iPads since 2010 in schools and I was one of the largest advocates for laptops.  Yes, you read that correctly, laptops.  I thought that iPads were simply a consumption device and didn’t have the foresight to see beyond their current iteration.  Also having been a classroom teacher for the previous 10 years I knew how students learned best.  But that didn’t seem to make a difference to my administration.  People in much more influential positions than I in my district decided to get iPads anyway and something amazing started to happen.  Students started learning and retaining the information.  I thought, “But how could they?  They are just having fun with games!”  But I was at a point where I was frustrated with doing the same routines over and over again and not getting the results I wanted with student mastery so I dug deeper and found that I had something to learn about educational technology.

Data, data, data. In this day and age we are all looking for increased test scores and the like to prove our points, but my data on this subject is different.  It is all anecdotal, but to a teacher that has been in the game for a few years I know when learning is taking place.  Last night really got me thinking about it much more.  With yesterday being Mother’s Day, we celebrated with family and after the kids were in bed my wife and I sat down to watch a movie.  Five minutes in to the film her iPhone sounds with a message and she begins to laugh hysterically.  Our son, age the age of 7, used his iPod touch to take a photo of himself and send the following:

“Hi mom.  This is me in my room.  I love you and hope you had a good Mother’s Day.”

As all teachers do I back tracked the train of thought on how that message got from my son’s head to my wife.  And the answer was simple.  I taught him how to take photos the first day he got is iPod touch and he remembered it.  No only did he remember it, but he used it masterfully in context of importance.  That led me to thinking about all of the games my kids play on the iOS devices in our house and it is amazing how the mastery of basic tasks, taking a picture, math, spelling, definitions, writing, and other games had happened without drill and kill.  And so much more!

Walking around the classrooms don’t give me the same sense of learning in my district.  The students that I have are using shared iPads and honestly the learning is limited.  Oh they have fun and do get some concepts down, but there is so much more potential.  What places like Maine and Los Angeles have done with iPads is absolutely amazing.  Now if we can use that power for the greater good we might have something!

If your district is looking at iPads vs. Laptops there are a number of metrics you can consider, but one of the most overlooked is the amount of mastery and the speed at which it is acquired.  iPads are fun.  Students want to use them.  And with each use comes a desired learning that is cleverly disguised in games.  Laptops have games too, but it is the same thing that many of us learned on and laptops aren’t as fun.  Teachers have a unique opportunity to bring back the fun in learning with iPads.  I wish I had more data on the influence of fun in mastery (maybe a research paper worth writing), but I have to go with intuition on this matter.  If I could I would start with how long it takes a student to understand fractions Motion Math instead of worksheets!

It’s March planning season…

It’s March planning season…and no longer are my worries on spring break or end of the year planning.  Now that my classroom days are behind me a bit, I have focused my attention to planning professional development for the summer sessions and next year’s theme.  Why now?  In order to have full admin “buy-in” for the coming year principals and other personnel need to be educated and aware of the plan in advance.  Also, if their help is needed then they will need the “whens and wheres” of the activities.  Now is the time to make it a quality learning experience for our teachers so that our students will be better next year.  For my current school the coming year will bring the first phase of our 1:1 program which has all teachers getting new devices.  Being the Ed Tech guy is often a difficult conversation for some but the idea is to not just implement technology for technology’s sake.  My goal is to put the best tools in place for our future educators and learners. 

Foundational Framework or more specifically the TPACK model is the framework that I begin all PD sessions with.  This model of “technology integration” provides everyone in the room with a great starting point.  


Being a former classroom and technology teacher allows me some credibility in the room, I’ll grant that.  But TPACK brings a larger educational impact than I ever could if it is talked about correctly.  The diagram to right is very straight forward – by blending pedagogical, content, and technological knowledge learners will benefit from the best implementation scheme.  The biggest issue I see is that some teachers have a difficult time with two or more of these areas and the battle is uphill from there.

Sadly many teachers lacking in the “P” or “C”  areas often view the “T” as “one more thing to do”.   They often don’t see any benefit to using devices, until they try it and are supported through successful implementations.   But how possible is a 1:1 learning environment in your school?  Leading my groups through the connecting of the dots between technology, content, and pedagogy and exploring the Venn diagram is usually a multiple hour session and has great results.  This foundational subject (sets of activities) sets up all of the scaffolding for the year and beyond.

Once a teacher challenged me on devices in the classroom and said that the distractions of the devices would take away from her students learning.  I told her that her fear is a possibility, but I have seen good and bad scenarios with technology.  She taught early primary and had been doing so for a number of years.  After my admittance I quickly replied back with a question that I like still like to use from time to time.  “Do you let your kids use glue in your class?”  The reason I ask that question is because I remember how easily kids could get into trouble with glue and often the answer to this question is “yes”.  I then asked how the classroom can be managed with such a powerful tool that has to be kept in workshops.  “Well, we have times and rules…” or something like that was her answer and it usually is by most and I like to remind them that technology is a tool just like glue.  There is a time and a place that it can be really helpful, but unsupervised it can ruin your day.

Working Concepts

Dr. Ruben Puetendura’s SAMR model is a powerful tool when looking at the working knowledge of technology in education.  Now that technology is not really “new” I have heard reports of other coaches that only use the SAMR model for professional development and I applaud that.  Maybe our schools systems are a bit behind the ball out west, but far too many teachers I have supported need more tools to help with the transfer of their knowledge and experiences.   So much has been done with the SAMR model that each year I simply take suggestions of classroom activities and adjust them for each level of the model using technology.

Standards to consider…

If my groups are off and running with TPACK and SAMR and are producing good work then I leave it at that.  But I have worked with many groups that need a more specific type of criteria to help guide them along.  For me, ISTE standards are the ones that I feel have the greatest breadth of technology in education and I have fostered using them.  But they are not the only standards out there.  One could guess that there are over 50 different sets of technology standards that can be used, but most of them are some sort of derivative of ISTE knowledge from a various point in time.    Recently I have come to also appreciate the UNESCO standards but I will get to what I like about them in just a bit.

As teacher trainers we have done a great job of getting our learners to look at standards.  Whether it be school, district, state, or Common Core standards we have done our job in getting teachers to use rational in their planning.  ISTE standards provide a great step for teachers looking to use that same rational when using technology in the classroom.  I have found that the standards and curriculum planning also establish a comfort level in the room and communication increase.  To talk with another teacher on an alike mindset as you allows both teachers to become creative in ways that they hadn’t been previously.

Evaluation is the problem key

It is almost an inevitability that if my PD group talks about standards that they will also get into evaluation and scoring.  While evaluation is the key to understanding knowledge, it is also a problem when it comes to standardization across all disciplines, grade levels, and activities and for a trainer that is a problem.  When my teachers get to this point of their development I like to have small group conversations about developing rubrics, but I focus on ongoing evaluation instead of a “one shot” deal.  Rubrics are great tools to use as long as they contain each part of what the project is to be evaluated on.  That sounds simple, right?  But so many times I have  encountered teachers that see the little bits and pieces of the project (the diorama and 200 word essay), but lack the overall critical thinking and creativity that are needed for tomorrow’s world.

Now that the UNESCO standards have been brought to my attention, courtesy of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator training, I feel like they have a piece of the evaluation of 21C skills that have been missing.  Keep in mind that they are not aligned with any of the ISTE or other standards out there, but they are something to be considered.

The New and Improved iMovie for iPad [TUTORIAL]

If you are looking to do movies with iPads in your classroom, look no further!

With the recent release of the new version of iMovie, my colleague Matt Przybylski (tech coordinator at our school) created this presentation for part two of our iPad workshop series. (Check out part one, iPad filming tips here)

iMovie($4.99, or free on new iOS devices) has gone from a good movie-making app with limited features to a very solid creation tool. Many new features have been added that make iMovie an excellent app for both teachers to create videos for teaching, and also students to create projects. Our staff was excited to learn the new features, and I am anticipating many new videos made by them and our students in the near future.

Matt and I look forward to organizing more iPad workshops in the near future. They will be various workshops ranging from iPad basics, iWork, and class iPad projects. If you are in…

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The STARS of Mass CUE

Jennifer L. Scheffer

My first Mass CUE experience was quite an eye-opener. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I certainly didn’t anticipate walking into a scene that was reminiscent of my days as a recruiter for Southern New Hampshire University. It reminded me of the time I had the opportunity to represent SNHU at the International Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant Show held annually at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan. I knew there would be a vendor showcase at Mass CUE, however I didn’t realize the magnitude of  educational technology companies that would be on hand offering demos, free giveaways and overviews of the hottest tech gadgets and gizmos. To be honest, I passed by every flashy booth because I was on a mission. I was there to showcase something different. I attended Mass CUE because I had the opportunity to promote my students and their involvement in the Burlington High…

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