Sunday, December 23, 2012

Exploring Solids with Think 3D Free

We have been learning about solids in my 4+5 combo math class. I use manipulative blocks, but since I don't have Legos, they tend to fall over, end up on the floor, etc. the high-touch blocks are great for some, but when it comes to manipulating the solids, there are challenges.

Enter a high-tech counterpart, Think 3d Free. The kids can create unlimited possibilities of shapes and explore and interact with them. They are sharing shapes and challenging each other to identify properties of their creations. It has really helped them understand perspective as well as volume vs. surface area. And, it's fun! I gave my kids free time on the iPads right before break and they asked, "can we use 3D Free?" Yes, you can!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

To share or not to share

There has been some discussion within our academy, staff and union about sharing our iPad carts amongst multiple classrooms. As discussed here before, teachers in our district were invited to apply for the pilot 1:1 program. Along with the cart of iPads came requirements to help research and recommend policy and procedures for future implementations in our district. For a variety of reasons, some teachers chose not to apply. Those that did apply and were accepted into the program have been an amazing group of pioneers who I am privileged to work with!

Apple designed the iPad for individual use. After all, it is called an iPad not a wePad or usPad. There is no file management system on the iPad. As we in the academy have found out, getting user content off of the iPad is not a straightforward proposition. Each app has its own peculiarities of where and how you can offload or download. It takes a spreadsheet to list and track the logins and work-flow process you need for each app. When we start to think about sharing and adding the layer of multiple logins, the problem grows even more unwieldy.
Some of our cohort are sharing the devices in a variety of creative ways. During her class' music, PE and other out of classroom times, one teacher loans her cart to a special ed class to use a variety of educational game apps. The middle school cohort obviously shares devices across their class periods. She started out using Apple Configurator which has been a less than positive experience. There have been challenges, but she works diligently to train all of her periods to be respectful of each other's work and they continue to work through their challenges. Last year at Bagby, we hosted a sibling lunch where our students invited their school age siblings to come and use the iPads. One group of girls made a 'horror film' in iMovie titled "the Attack of the Second Grade Sisters." I have used the iPads in my Excel/RTI class to expose a greater number of students at our school to the technology. Last year I had 2 4th graders from a combo class join me for Science and they used the devices alongside my home room students.
I have discovered that without the extensive digital citizenship and cyber-safety education from Common Sense Media that my home room participated in, my "visiting students" do not always follow iPad and basic digital citizenship rules. And since I only have my RTI students for 4 hours of reading a week, I simply do not have the time to deliver digital education to them. Further, despite reminders, they do not log off of their accounts when they leave, they walk with the iPads open, they use apps when they are not supposed to and they look at work that other students have created, just like they would look into another student's desk. They do not feel ownership for the devices and do not treat them with respect. My home room students feel that their privacy is being violated and that their work is not being respected.
One of the benefits of having the cart in my room is he immediacy of access. When the shuttle flew over, we could go outside with our iPads, take pictures and interview observers. Students create work over days or weeks. if they are sharing devices, they run the risk of other students deleting or altering their work. Yes, we can have rules in place. And we do. However, adding users adds the potential for confusion and error. One possible help would be apps such as the Our Pad. Kelly Walsh wrote is his blog, Emerging EdTech about such apps. "The basic idea behind Our Pad, HotSwap and the like is that it stores user names and passwords for a couple dozen pre-configured web apps for multiple users. Each user sets a profile used to sign in to the app. When you are signed in as the current user on that iPad, your configured apps are available through a menu." However, these apps are really designed for consumers and not students.
Mark Gleeson, a respected iPad blogger, writes "The most obvious problem with sharing iPads..., is the lack of file system and autosave/store within app functionality of the iPad. It’s great for its original purpose of easy access for the intended individual use scenario. For shared environments, it creates a mountain of files stored by potentially hundreds of users. Will other users delete/ overwrite or edit the file? Will we run out of storage space because of the number of photos, movies, animations, comic strips, documents, drawings, ebooks etc floating around all those apps waiting to be completed?
Again, some of this can be dealt with through a number of file sharing or transferring methods... The biggest issue is consistent adoption of these methods." The "workable solution" requires training of students and staff, not only in the process of file transferring but in the consistent practice of it. And in this case, whose responsibility is it to do the training? Who is ultimately responsible for the cart? The iPad? The user content? Gleeson has implemented overnight sharing for teachers to explore the possibilities of iPads on their own time. The iPads need to be back in the hands of students the next day and he has had to implement a detailed set of procedures to make this work.
Edudemic posted an article, 5 Critical Mistakes and they cite as number 4: 4) Treating iPads like multi-user devices:
iPads were designed as a single-user device and not meant to be shared via carts. Financial constraints have forced many schools to abandon 1:1 aspirations, but sharing them separates the functionality from the user. Carts that rotate through several classrooms force teachers to take time away from learning, create a nightmare of student accounts, and often focus attention on workflow systems rather than learning."
"Instead of sharing iPads across multiple classrooms, schools should be allocating them to a few select pilot classrooms for an entire year. Schools should be documenting pilot group successes and failures and begin to codify iPad integration functionality and elicit best practices to serve as a foundation for future iPad expansion. If a school cannot envision financially moving to a 1-1 iPad model, then Bring your Own Device (BYOD) models may prove much more compelling than shared iPad systems.

An important thing to understand is that this is really only providing access to web based accounts. It does not allow for multiple users on apps. So tracking individual performance data across multiple users on a single app does not generally seem to be possible or at least not easy. Ideally, teachers will be using iPad created work as performance assessments of their students' work. If multiple students are using the same device, we run the risk of accidental or intentional overwriting, deleting, or changing of user data and student work. We wouldn't have two students take a test on the same piece of paper would we?
It seems to me that while sharing may be the only option for some schools, it is not ideal. So, what about a one or five iPad classroom? With a smaller set of iPads, more classrooms could have some iPads. Over time, and once iPads have proven their worth, Home & School Club money could more likely fund 5 iPads per target class than 30. An iPad "suitcase", rather than a cart could utilize one iTunes account that shares apps across 5 devices, which stays within Apple's license sharing rules. And since we are teaching digital citizenship, as educators we should model it and pay for all the software we use. 1-5 iPads could be used in centers, for project based work, for differentiation and reward. Teachers could use one iPad as a productivity tool with apps such as Class Dojo, PowerSchool and Classroom Organizer.Heidi Butkus offers a variety of suggestions for a small set of iPads.
This is still relatively new technology and its significant impact has yet to be measured or quantified meaningfully. As more districts try various implementation methods, we'll have a better point from which to base decisions. Our iPad Action Research Academy recently added a second cohort and we broadened our scope to include two other districts. Our colleagues in Moreland and Union are testing a grade level cart share system and their experiences will provide useful insight? It appears that Apple has plans to release an iPad (or iOS) which supports multiple users, according to Apple Insider which potentially could help address some of the problems with sharing. In the meantime, our cart is staying in our room. It's not that I am greedy. I just worked hard to get these tools in the hands of my kids, and I worked hard to get my kids to be responsible digital citizens. I want to be able to study and quantify the true benefits of a 1:1 environment. I'm happy to work with my colleagues to help them identify ways to acquire and use one or five or thirty devices in their own classrooms.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Student PSAs with iMovie

Over the past few weeks our students have been researching, writing, filming and editing Public Service Announcements (PSA) about issues that concern them. Our principal wrote about students using this platform to address positive behavior. One of my students suffered a concussion during some early morning playground horseplay. He learned about the seriousness of brain injuries and wanted others to know about the risks so he made this movie, Playground Safety. Some students used their iPads and some used our small Sony cameras. All of them used iMovie to edit and produce their projects.

I am constantly amazed by my students creativity, initiative and productivity using 21st century tools!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Substitute teachers and iPads.

A few weeks ago, I met my substitute teacher for the day at my door. I was on site for meetings, but would not be in my classroom. In my plans and in our chat, I told her about how my kids would be using the iPads to work on two different projects that were in progress. She said, "oh we won't be needing those, I have other things planned."

Later that day I saw her and she seemed pleasantly surprised by my students ability to use the devices to meet their learning goals. It seems that despite her 'other plans', my kids knew what they needed to do and use to finish their assignments.

This week I'm out for a whole week for professional development. I have never, ever been away from my class this long and was quite worried about it. I made sure I had a sub who was comfortable with technology. She has been amazed by what the kids can and do accomplish.

It got me thinking about the first sub's initial reluctance to use the devices. I thought it was a generational thing. Although I am over 50, I've found most teachers my age are less likely to be flexible and adaptable to including technologies into their practices. I am an anomaly due to my first career in high tech. ( I really did work for a company that helped invent the Internet.) I realized it wasn't that my first sub was afraid to use the tablets.
It was more that she thought of iPads as a toy, something a sub might use to fill time, like a game of 7-up or a seasonal crossword puzzle. She hadn't thought of them in regards to their educational value. My kids use their iPads to create, collaborate, problem solve, communicate, research, and yes, to play games. But when they play games, it is with a purpose.

Their new favorite game site is SumDog. Sumdog's learning engine adapts its questions to each student's ability helping teachers deliver Common Core State Standards. It is a group of math games that help students learn and practice math concepts. To use the site with ipads, they need ro go through Rover since it has flash animation. I can target the kids activities to concepts we are working on in class. I am also able to gather data on their activities to see which concepts they are struggling with and where they have mastered concepts. they collaborate with each other and strategize how to play the games. They can play against and with each other. Last week we won a city wide contest! I actually had to tell my kids, "stop doing math and go outside to play!"

So yes, they do play games on the iPads, but there is always a learning objective at the heart of the activity.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Show What You know

This week, Katrina Schwartz wrote a great blog piece on the uses of Educreations, and other interactive whiteboard type apps,  in the classroom. She notes that Replay NoteScreenChompShowMeDoodleCast ProKnowmiaExplain Everything and Educreations all offer teachers the ability to record the visual and audio components of a “whiteboard” lesson on their iPads, and share it online. Schwartz is with KQED's MindShift which itself is a great resource for discussions about education trends, but I digress.

Although we have been using Educreations, Explain Everything, ShowMe and ScreenChomp fairly interchangeably over the past year since we got our 1:1 iPads, Educreations really is our "go to" app for this purpose.  In my classroom, students use these tools as a way to demonstrate their learning.  It really has helped them solidify their problem solving process, clarify their thinking and be able to articulate it using academic vocabulary. Last year I had a student who really struggled with math concepts. One day he had an ah-ha moment and declared that he must make a recording to share his discovery of how to solve double digit multiplication with the world!

What I would like to see is an easier way for students to share their work outside of the classroom without having their own account.  Our biggest challenge with almost every app has been the the lack of consistency of process in saving student work, getting it to a place where I can see and assess it and being able to show it to parents.  

So far, all of our used for these apps have been student based.  Students use the apps to share learnings in math, and Science and to develop literacy. Students love being able to use Educreations and other tools to demonstrate their knowledge and share it with their peers.  They are motivated to do their best work on an authentic and meaningful way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Using Public Service Announcements to Resolve Playground Issues:

This article is provided by guest blogger, Kathy Kimpel, principal of Bagby Elementary School

The students of Bagby Elementary School in San Jose, working in conjunction with CreaTV are creating PSA’s to address some tough playground issues.  Teachers Sandra McConnell and Shelia Monger are the innovative teachers at the heart of this program.

The initiative began last year when four boys, who were long-time friends, found themselves in the principal’s office due to teasing that got out of hand.  They were determined to have something good come out of a terrible situation.  They worked together with a volunteer parent, and McConnell and Monger to create our first “Student Initiative” to promote better decision making.  Their screen play appeared in the first “Around Bagby” that was shown on Comcast Channel 28.

This year, the teachers wanted the students to learn how to use story boarding and careful planning to shoot videos.  The students are starting with short Public Service Announcements and are currently working on several films dealing with current playground behaviors that they chose. The topics span the gambit from serious injuries that can result from “horsing around” to the inconvenience of trash left for others to pick up.

This out of the box thinking is a direct outcrop of our work with Project Cornerstone, CreaTV and the Cambrian School District’s 21st Century Learning Community’s emphasis on digital media literacy.  Kids are helping kids make better choices through videography. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Have you ever attended a mandatory professional development (PD) session with little or no relevancy to your position?  How about a class where you left excited to try new things, but just never had the time to try it out, and the binder sits dusty on your shelf?  I attended a PD about differentiation when a colleague turned to me and stated what is now obvious, "why do they expect us to teach using differentiation strategies, yet we are all receiving the same exact training with no regard to our ability, experience or relevancy?"  Why indeed?
Published in ASCA's November issue of "Leadership Magazine", our superintendent, Dr. Deborah Blow and I co-wrote an article exploring the benefits and challenges of the Academy Model for professional development (PD). To me, a huge benefit of this model is providing teachers with targeted PD in areas they are interested in, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach that usually never fits all.  Our article describes the planning and vision that went into creating our academies, as well as some of the problems and opportunities it has created.

It was amusing to me that as we collaborated on writing the article Dr. Blow and I faced many of the challenges encountered by our students. Not allowed to share in and out of our internal  "walled garden", we were unable to collaborate with Google Docs (which we 'require' our kids to use). So then we tried our wiki, (Thank you wikispaces for offering free wikis to educators), but we had multiple user IDs and couldn't connect that way. Laughing as we tried to use 21st century tools, we ended up using good "old" cut & paste and email.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned with having the iPads is allowing students even more control of their own learning. I am trusting my kids and they trust me. The iPads changed the way our classes ran and they way our students learned.... Change drives their creativity, and their creativity fosters change!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Day of Thanks Giving

I am taking a pause from the preparations for our little family dinner to make note of some things I am grateful for that are specifically related to my teaching with technology. I just read a quote that said "it is not what you say about your blessings that matters, but what you do with them."

I have been blessed with a loving, supportive family, both the family of my birth and my family of choice. Having their support has helped me take the courageous leap to 'retire' from high tech at 40, and embark on a new career of teaching at 45. My husband has been so patient, supportive and generous on this new path we've taken.

I am grateful to SUSD for giving me a start as a librarian then teacher, and actually, yes, grateful that I was laid off. After 5 years of annual layoffs it finally happened that I was not called back. So that year, 2011, my mentor called me from her new district and invited me to interview there. What I didn't know in my layoff despair was that my new district would open doors of opportunity for me. So yes, I am grateful that SUSD laid me off so that I could expand my horizons.

My new district, Cambrian, has a lean, mean, IT machine. There is only a paid staff of three, with SysOps teachers at each site who receive a small stipend to handle first level support issues. The vision and insight of our "magic men", as my students refer to them, as well as the leadership and guidance of our superintendent and school board have provided for an atmosphere of technical leadership and innovation.

I am grateful that my background, reputation and enthusiasm are evident enough for me to be accepted into both the iPad and Digital Media Academies, allowing my students and me access to incredible tools, information and opportunities.

I am so thankful for the parents of my students, who trust me to teach their kids, help them navigate the 21st century landscape, but above all, keep their little ones safe in cyberspace and real life.

My heart is filled with gratitude for my creative, courageous, and committed kids who are willing to try anything. Their spirit of adventure and willingness to leap in to the unknown and help each other and me find new ways to do things is inspiring.

I have many blessings, and am even more blessed to have the opportunities to share my blessings with my students.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Monday, November 12, 2012

Yes Teachers Want Tech, Let's teach them how to use it!

I just read an article tweeted to me by Edworld written by Edworld Jason. He points out how most teachers are finally ready to take on tech, and want more of it in the classroom. Buried at the end of the article, beneath some really cool graphics, is this sentence...

Researching costs for technology purchases—ranging from installation to training time—is the first step in identifying what's right for your school.

The training time has been in my experience the biggest block to anyone other than early adopters using technology in the classroom. Teachers I have worked with have dust gathering on projectors, use Smart Boards as screens for their overhead projectors and don't know what to do with laptops, iPads and PCs. I hold dual citizenship, but most teachers are digital vacationers at best. We need to find ways, and finance ways, to help these teachers learn how to use the tools to provide meaningful and authentic learning opportunities for our kids.

I have scoured the Internet for lesson plans using iPads and have come up with very few good examples. New-to-tech teachers need good and easy to find sources of information and resources to help them step across their own digital divide. In our district, where we have a growing pilot program for 1:1 iPads, we have started a wiki and edmodo group to share best practices and ideas. But it is still a challenge for all of us, we are so busy teaching, to find the time to research and learn and share new ways to be innovative in the classroom. Yet, we owe it to our kids to prepare them as best we can 'for jobs that don't even exist yet.'

And, to reward you for reading all the way to the end, here is one of the really cool graphics I mentioned.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Weather Kids Kick Off!

Today we kicked off our Weather Kids project.  We unpacked our equipment and tried it out, including the anemometer, which they were quite fascinated with!  Students also joined our new edmodo group  "weather kids" and they were quite thrilled to introduce themselves to our partner schools.  We now have a daily meteorologist who will record the data for the day. RR found out it was 62 degrees Fahrenheit!  Using the iPad he uploaded the data into our Google doc using the Google weather reporting form.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weather Kids

Weather Whenever, Wherever! I am so energized to be collaborating with two colleagues at two other schools in our district on a new project: Weather Kids. The three of us (Debbie, Camille and I) met last night to create a weather project for our students. We were inspired by a team that Debbie met at Napa Cue teachers Stacy Holder and Julie Berglin. I'm teaching 5th grade science but both my 4th and 5th graders will participate in the project. Debbie teaches a 3-5 SDC combo and Camille, a K-1 combo. Our students will be collecting data on rain fall, temperature and wind speed using a variety of high touch instruments. They will then record and share the weather data using our iPads via a Google form and Edmodo. Weather is a part of the science curriculum in both first grade and fifth grade so it fits all three of our curricula.

Stacy and Julie were warmly willing to share their templates and experiences with us to make roll out for us much easier.

We are also hoping to use either Scribble Press or PaperPort to create science journals that the students can share with one another. But we are still trying to figure that piece out. Everyone in our academy is finding sharing from one device to another to be challenging. We are also hoping to Skype between schools to build some community.

Eventually we'd like to add more tools such as barometers and hand made anemometers. I was thrilled to receive generous funding from friends and families through adopt-a-classroom. We'll be incorporating math with calculations to find dew point, converting between metric and US customary measurements (inches) as well as graphing and creating charts to help understand and analyze data. We will also be writing (we've already started with weather themed parts of speech) and geography as results start to come in from schools we partner with throughout the country and the world!

I just found out from UPS that my equipment was delivered while I was in our meeting so I'm super excited to get started! With the ferocity of Superstorm Sandy, my kids are well aware of weather and have a lot of interest in this project as well! Of course, they think it was named after me;)

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Kids and Candidates

I have been so in awe of my students this week. My fifth graders have an assignment to research presidential candidates' stand on three important issues. They used their iPads to research using Google, YouTube and as their main sources, though several went beyond that. The students got to pick the issues and the candidate. After researching, they wrote persuasive essays, which required them to understand the position of the opposing candidate. They wrote their essays collaboratively using Google Docs, or Drive, mostly on the iPads, though some chose to use the Dino-PCs since google apps are still a bit glitchy in mobile mode. Finally, they are in the last step, creating presentations. Some students are choosing to make commercials or skits using iMovie. They are story boarding, script writing and filming ...editing starts next week.

I am impressed by their ability to collaborate, to move effortlessly between the high tech tools and communicating face-to-face in a meaningful way. They are problem solving, negotiating and demonstrating creativity in meaningful ways. They are able to integrate tools and are finding new ways to show what they know. I am so proud of my 21st century learners!

An excerpt from EL's essay
Site/people: My mom and my partner Paul helped too.

This issue is important to me because is leaning is an important thing.

Barack Obama promotes an assessment program called “Race to the top,” this new assessment is different from the original one because it asks the students to problem solve, it is more in depth so they can’t just memorize everything. Obama supports charter schools by providing more funding for them. This causes healthy competition between the public and charter schools and makes them try harder to keep the students. Obama believes that in order for the quality of education to rise, we need to improve raise the quality of the teachers by sending them to professional training. He also helped the “American Opportunity,” a program that makes going to college easier, give 4,000 dollars tax credit to help low-income students go to college. Obama thinks that teachers should get paid according to how well they do. That will motivate them to do better.

Will post more samples soon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Jose, Ca

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Classroom Management, PD and How do we use these things to help kids learn?!

A few weeks ago, I bookmarked an interesting article in edudemic called 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads (And How To Correct Them). To summarize, the five were (1) focusing on content only (and not being able to see that you could use showme in Math, for instance), (2) lack of teacher prep in classroom management, (3) expecting the iPad to be like a laptop, (4) treating iPads like a multi-user device and (5) failure to communicate a compelling answer to "why iPads?"

I will come back to 4 and 5 in future posts, but for now I want to focus on number two, lack of teacher preparation in classroom management of iPads.

I think we sometimes assume that because the Apple user interface is generally so smooth and intuitive that it should be simple to integrate the devices into our classroom practice. In our school district, we have adopted a pilot/academy model (discussed in previous posts and to the point of number 4 above). One of the outputs of our academy members is to document best practices in the classroom, so that as more teachers adopt this technology, they won't be starting at zero like we did. We started a wiki to help ourselves and other teachers not only by making app suggestions but by addressing issues such as synching our iPads with the cart, to use or not use Apple Configurator, classroom iPad rules and even how to velcro iPads to the cases!

However, the issue raised in the 5 Mistakes article is not so much the practical management of iPads, which we are addressing, but also the more pedagogical issue of how to incorporate these devices into the learning process.
Decades of research has shown that when teachers have access to new technologies, their instinct is to use new technologies to extend existing practices. 
Without guidance, iPads become expensive notebooks used by students in very traditionally structured stand-and-deliver classrooms. Teachers need time for professional collaboration (and often external support) to learn to nurture reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills and to develop strategies to differentiate instruction using a range of apps and tablet-friendly Web tools.

Clearly, we have more work to do!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Space Shuttle Fly Over, Students and iPads

Out on the field today we waited and waited for the Space Shuttle Endeavour to do her final flyby. I was following the #SpotTheShuttle twitter feed getitng real time updates. The kids wanted to capture pictures on their iPads, and used the covers as sun shades to allow them to see the screens better. It was very exciting when it finally showed, though some of my darlings forgot the rule "thou shall not sun with iPads in your hands" Fortuntely no one or nothing got hurt. After we got back inside we talked about what we saw, why they flew by, where they were going and such. There were many unanswered questions so they started researching, mostly on the free NASA app. One of my students came up to me with a huge smile and said, "I love researching!" Yippee!

Later the students started writing about the day and the space shuttle using ScribblePress (also free). The used pictures we took and some also created iMovies with videos they took, including interviews. I hope they remember this day as much as I remember watching moon walks from my 5th grade classroom!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kids for Pads

So, my students decided they wanted to weigh in on the request for funding for a second cohort of our iPad Academy. They used Google Docs to write collaboratively...They also discussed the ability to chat within Google Docs...Here is their letter.

Dear Board Members,

We are Students in Mrs. McConnell’s & Monger’s ⅘ combo class. We are writing to you because we think that more classes in the Cambrian School District should have iPads. We also think that it isn’t fair that only a few classes get to have iPads. We get to have a lot more fun technology and a better learning experience than the classes that don’t have the iPads. We can learn and get smarter in a fun and educational way. Could other classes have them?

On the iPads, we learn where states and capitals are. We also learn a lot of history by studying the states. We practice cursive and we practiced writing and learned how to publish a book in ScribblePress. We’re learning more about addition, subtraction, fractions, decimals, division & multiplication, and parentheses all from the apps. Finally, we learned how to make movies with iMovie which we can use for projects in Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Math, and all sorts of things. The iPads should be available to other classes because it is a great learning experience. Kids in 5th grade might want iPads in middle school, too.

We think it would be a great idea for the district to have more iPads so we can learn in a different way. More classes should get iPads. They are educational and a fun way to open our minds. The iPads might be expensive, but they are a great way to learn new things. It is a very helpful tool for researching for reports and can hold a lot of school related material like A.R and Vocabulary/SpellingCity. Vocabulary/Spelling City is very helpful for spelling tests and practicing spelling. Having the A.R. tests on the iPads is useful because then we could all take an A.R. test at the same time, instead of having to wait for a computer; it’s much faster that way. Most of the apps are very fun and useful. The iPads can be a much quicker way to get to the internet and it’s also more fun with a touch screen, though sometimes it takes a long time to load things. The iPad is an awesome, fun, and educational tool just like the computer.

Thank you for the fun & educational - fun-ducational iPads. We hope that you can buy more iPads for our school district. Thank you!

Letter to School Board

Letter to the school board:

I worked in technology for 20 years before I found my calling. I was excited about the opportunity to teach children how to learn with technology, as well as to teach teachers how to use technology meaningfully. I was absolutely thrilled when I came to Cambrian and discovered that not only did we have technically excellent IT staff, but we had leadership with the vision and understanding to allow for, and yes fund, innovation and creativity.

It is important in discussions and debate to remain respectful and keep the goal of education in mind. We are here to create lifelong learners. We do what we do, however we do it, to make a difference. Technology …is a tool, not a solution.

Brandon Busteed writes in the Huffington Post that "A technological revolution is happening in the world of education; it is changing schools for the better. But, it will never change the definition of and need for great teaching."

In the 6 months that the Academy has been together we have discovered and developed creative learning opportunities for our students. They have made movies about missions to MARS, they have published stories to iBooks, they have been engaged and engrossed in activities throughout the curriculum, all on free apps! My principal speaks of 100 % engagement during personal white board math work, where my students, using Doodle Buddy, know they might get called on to show their work, but more likely because they are hoping to get called on so they can show OFF their work by taking over AppleTV!

In addition to learning in the content areas, students are also learning 21st century skills. It is no surprise that our students are engaged and excited about learning. They are authentically collaborating and creating and teaching each other with apps like “Explain Everything”, and yes, Sock Puppets. Students are able to research topics more deeply. Even though we don’t know what technology will look like when our kids are in the work force, they will have a foundation because of what they are learning now.

Finally, beyond preparing our students, we are working to create tools for our colleagues. We are creating a set of best practices, app recommendations and do’s and don’ts to help teachers as they adopt this technology. We are working to ensure that implementation for these teachers will help all of us to work more efficiently and effectively to provide a high tech and high touch education to our children.

None of us in the academy feel that an iPad replaces a teacher or even replaces the need for good teaching. Neal Brown, principal in Rockville MD put it nicely, “It’s not really about the iPad, it’s about building a facility with technology, and using technology to give kids the opportunity to build their skills, and the opportunity to pursue their passions,”

Technology doesn't make me a better teacher, but it can help me teach better. The message is simple: This is not a technology expense; it’s an investment in our students and their future!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Using iPads Daily - Google Docs

In an effort to document how we are using the iPads in the classroom, I will try at least occasionally to post how we are using them day-to-day.

Tomorrow our School Board will be voting whether or not to fund another round of the iPad Academy. This means 5 more class sets of iPads, along with carts, appleTV and a Mac Book. I talked with my students about whether or not they thought this was a good idea. Since my 5th graders are working on Persuasive Writing, we decided to do a shared write letter to our School Board, which I plan to read to the Board during public comments. Since all of my students have Google apps accounts "inside our walled garden", we paired up students just to make the collaborative writing little less congested. On their iPads, half my students logged in to Google Apps, while the other half helped compose the letter. Students added their own sentences, edited each others and had some great discussions about how to persuade people to your opinion in a respectful manner.

This exercise also opened the door for authentic discussions about collaborative work. Since we didn't get a chance to finish, and to honor the need for think time, for homework students had to log in to Google apps (some did it from school), review the letter, do at least one edit or add, and sign their name, if they agreed to the letter. The students who had their iPads out for the letter writing in class had to "share" the document with a specific classmate.

Skills: Google apps: logging in, sharing, editing
persuasive writing

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learning from ourselves

Debbie R. Has a great idea to keep a daily log of activities she tries with the iPad. I am going to try this!

Today my students used the iPads to take AR quizzes and look up words in the dictionary.

Friday, June 15, 2012

In Maryland, iPad trial has more pros than cons

Green Acres school in Rockville, Md started a pilot with 5th and 6th grades that has been so successful, they are rolling out even more, as reported in the Maryland Gazette.
It’s not really about the iPad, it’s about building a facility with technology, and using technology to give kids the opportunity to build their skills, and the opportunity to pursue their passions,” Neal Brown, head of school, said.
I couldn't agree more. The iPad gives access to technology which will help prepare our students for their future and access to information to help them learn, tools to help them create and problem solve.
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Location:Gaithersburg,United States

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tablets And Assessments

Interesting article about assessments and tablets. There are valid concerns but given the direction technology is going, and the speed, these concerns will have to be addressed by test companies and tablet designers.

Brian Bleil writes, in Pearson's

href="">FWD blog, Tablets and Assessments - A Closer Look. He briefly discusses the obvious benefits of tablets then spends the bulk of the post on cautions about the drawbacks or limitations in regards to statewide testing. Pearson is an assessment provider so they have a vested interest.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Teacher Doc Management with and for the iPad

We have been talking, within the Academy, about creating, sharing and vetting lesson plans and other documents.  There are a number of sites and blogs out there, but we are thinking about how to condense, contain and organize the vast amounts of content out there. 
Escondido has a Google spreadsheet. Since it is in a spreadsheet, you could sort by subject, grade level or price (they are only reviewing free apps going forward).

Today I was thinking about some sort of tabbed web site with a tab for each month of the school year (I am trying to do some forward planning!).  But then again you could have other sorts... here are just a few I thought of:

  • Grade level
  • Content area
  • Month by month
Then you have types of docs:
  • teacher productivity apps
  • student apps
    • productivity
    • learning games
    • production
    • portfolio
  • processes and procedures
  • lesson plans
  • student work
    • samples
    • actual final product
If my 5th grade math serves me, that is 33 different combinations.  A clean looking blog is Apps in Education.

Lisa Johnson, who has the blog TechChef4u  offers some guidance and templates for iPad lesson plans. She sums up her process nicely and even has this graphic (created with an app) to go along with her ideas. She also pins a lot of ideas to Pinterest, which frankly gave me the idea that all of this information needs somehow categorized.

Cave Creek Unified in Phoenix created a website for teachers to celebrate learnings with their iPods. I love the idea of a site but like this one, I am afraid it would just be a list.  

Another review site is  . They also include student reviews which is a great idea.

Lessonopoly, a lesson planning resource from SVEF  has only 14 lessons that come up on an iPad search. I know the technology is fairly new to the classroom. I guess it is up to us!

I don't have an answer yet, but am putting it out there, in case anyone has any ideas they can point us to. Maybe we just find the one we like best and point to that. But I do like the idea of Academy teachers creating something local.

iPads and Reading

As a late baby boomer, When I first got my gen one iPad, I wasn't sure I was ready to read on the thing. I have always been an avid reader and I love the feel, smell and heft on a good book. I have learned to appreciate the portability of books on my iPad, no more carrying a stack of books in my luggage or purse. I also love the fact that I can look up words. I grew up with parents saying, " go look it up" and I tell my students the same thing. But personally I am super lazy about doing that. Until now. I just touch the word and I get a definition! Love it!

So once I got 1:1 iPads for my students, I have been finding all sorts of apps for math, science, history and grammar, but not a lot for reading comprehension. I've been thinking a lot about how to use this tool in my reading class. Enter, iPad Literature Circles. This site is devoted to providing suggestions for a variety of (mostly free) apps to promote student ownership of learning using this incredibly diverse tool.
Conducting Literature Circle with mobile devices such as the iPad, not only provides immediate access to a diverse selection of books, but also to reference materials, research tools, interactive maps, and a slew of creation and dynamic notebook apps. Within this single device, students can quickly check the meaning of a word, run a quick background check on a historic event, or articulate their understanding of text with a range of multimedia apps. Teachers can now easily differentiate the processes students can use to demonstrate understanding.

Just found this, Mr. Gleeson talks in his blog about using Edmodo with lit circles!

Technology can play a big part in this and can also be used to enhance, simply and streamline the whole process. This is where the iPad comes in. ( I’ve been neglecting the star of Mr G Online for a while as I’ve been reflecting on education overall). With its ability to act as the actual book ( or text in general), its connectivity and collaborative capabilities and the tools and apps that it can add to the mix, the iPad can be the all-in-one Literature Circle Experience. Using Technology as the tool for creating the preparation for the discussion means there are opportunities for the teacher to check in on the potential online discussions that may occur and have access to the prep work the students have done for the discussion.

I have my summer project!

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

An investment in our future!

The message is plain and simple: This is not a technology expense, it’s an investment in our students and their future!

Hooked on Innovation

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More on the subject of EdTech, not either or

David Ginsberg has more to say about the debate that shouldn't be a debate, in his post, Technology: Teacher Enhancement, NOT Replacement. Technology is not meant to replace effective teaching. It can enhance it!

I offer this as encouragement for those who feel daunted or threatened by technology. At the same time, you've got no choice. It's our duty now, as it's always been, to provide schools where kids can learn to their potential, which technology helps us do. Change can be challenging, so it's understandable if you're tentative about technology. Keep in mind, though, that just as countless veteran teachers successfully implemented new approaches such as cooperative learning, so too can you learn to use technology to its fullest in your classroom.

But also keep in mind that you'll need the same qualities to be effective in a technology-rich classroom that you've needed to be effective in a traditional classroom. In particular, the human qualities--per theory of mind--needed to achieve what Science Leadership Academy Principal Chris Lehman called "the most important thing that we do" in his closing keynote at ISTE: help children become fully realized people of their world.

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It is technology and education, not technology vs. education!

My amazing friend Tracey just sent me this article. Tracey and I worked together in telecommunications for years. Her husband, Michael Bobrowicz, is another teacher like me who left high tech to become a teacher. Like me, he has faced many of the challenges, and enjoyed the personal rewards of, this change. He is teaching an SDC classroom in Pacifica. The discussion about technology in classrooms is reaching a tipping point in our district, and I'd guess in many districts around the world. It doesn't have to be a divisive issue.
Brandon Busteed writes in the Huffington Post Education Blog that A technological revolution is happening in the world of education; it is changing schools for the better. But, it will never change the definition of and need for great teaching. His article, entitled, In Education, Technology Changes Everything and Nothing, he discusses research findings that show what we (teachers) all know, Simply put, great teaching is about emotionally engaging the learner in a way that is individualized. Our opportunity to innovate and improve education is deeply tied to these fundamentals. A great teacher is a great teacher -- whether she is real or avatar.

It is important in discussions and debate to remain respectful and keep the goal of education in mind. We are here to create lifelong learners. We do what we do, however we do it, to make a difference. Technology isn't a fad, it isn't going away. But it is a tool, not a solution.
The Atlantic forum highlighted that the debate about great technology vs. great teachers is unnecessary. Instead, the conversation needs to be about technology and teaching. So now education leaders need to create a seamless interplay between teachers and technology. This will not be easy, but least [we are] left with a clear sense of purpose.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Didn't see that coming

Even before we got our iPads, we came up with class rules and consequences.  As usual, the kids were very thorough and we thought we had covered every "what if". We have added a few along the way:

  • Don't leave the iPad on the floor unattended (responisble)
  • Don't set the iPad on wet grass (safe)
  • Ask before touching another person's iPad, even if you are helping them
At the end of every day, my CTO plugs the iPads back into the "COWPad" (computer on wheels for iPad).  They have gotten so good at it that I rarely check.  This morning when I opened the cart, I noticed a student's iPad was missing. Sometimes I hold them out for a reason, but was pretty sure I had not held out Jane's (name changed to protect the guilty).  I looked in my usual hiding places and didn't find it. I looked in her desk (since she was absent) and couldn't find it. I had all of the students look in their desks and we couldn't find it. I even checked the COWPad next door, we couldn't find it! Now I am slightly panicking. So I sent her parents an email, asking them to ask Jane where it might be.  this is the response I got back:

She had it yesterday and was using it to do her homework. When she wasn’t feeling well this morning I left it with the office and asked them to return it to your class. 

I was shocked! No one has ever taken, much less asked, to take the iPads home.  They know they can't.  She knows better.  Now I am struggling with an appropriate consequence. The student was not malicious, she was using it to catch up on missed work. But she certainly knew that she should ask before taking it home.  

I guess we need a new rule - The iPad stays in the room! Do not take it out of the room without asking permission.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

15 Favorite iPad Apps As Selected By Teachers

15 Favorite iPad Apps As Selected By Teachers

Hi tech...Hi Touch...not mutually exclusive

There have been several studies, as well there should be, about the impact of technology on learning. It can become a divisive issue between educators.
in the Washington Post this week, Cecilia Kang wrote an article, High-tech vs. no-tech: D.C. area schools take opposite approaches to education. It explores two schools with very different, and perhaps extreme approaches to technology.
I believe what is required is a balanced approach. “We have to stop and think if we are embracing technology just because it is there and new or if it is the best tool for what we want to accomplish,” said Michael Rich, director of the Center on Child Media and Health at Harvard University. “Sometimes the answer is that an iPad is great, but does it really do a better job than a hunk of clay or paper.". In my last district, Saratoga Union, I was proud to be on both the technology committee and the garden committee.
I do not agree that technology investments are made on the 'backs of teachers' and that teachers, like me by the way, who are laid off would not have been if only our district had not invested in those iPads. But I also have seen the folly of "over purchase", where teachers who were not willing, inclined or ready to use technology were forced to have it in their classroom, where usually it sat gathering dust. One of my colleagues used her expensive hi-tech media cart to hold her overhead projector.

Technology doesn't make a better teacher, but it can help a teacher teach better. My kids are not only learning to use technology. They are learning what the Partnership for 21st Century Skills calls the 3Rs and 4Cs- they are learning math, science, social studies, language arts and they are learning problem solving and developing critical thinking skills, they are collaborating, communicating and creating and innovating.
I worked in technology for 20 years and my husband still does. He doesn't understand why teachers would not want to use technology as a tool to help prepare kids for their futures. In Kang's article, she quotes an administrator"Tech is like oxygen,” said Shannan Schuster, Flint Hill’s dean of faculty. “It’s all around us, so why wouldn’t we try to get our children started early?”

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Image from

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

iOpen House

Tonight was the annual open house experience with the parents comparing their child's experience to my class, or shopping for next year's teacher. The good news is that my kids outnumbered all of them and were so proud to show off their work. As I was thinking about what to display tonight, I realized we didn't have as much of the traditional product we've shared in the past. We've gone digital! So tonight, we had an iOpen House prior to the frenzy.

We invited our families to come an hour early to allow the kids enough time to have their iPads out of the cart and show off all the things they've done. They showed their 6- word weekend movies, their ShowMe's demonstrating math solutions, the movies they are making for social studies and the books they are writing with ScribblePress.

Parents worried about their child introverting with technology realized that that was their father's Oldsmobile and kids these days interact with technology, not in spite of it.

We talked about the academy and our roles in evaluating process, value and product. We talked about the goal of 1:1 across grade levels and throughout the grade spans. We talked about the need to remain hi-touch while meeting the demands of a high tech world.

Overall, a very rewarding night.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Jose,United States

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wake up all the teachers, time to teach a new way!

I was driving to work the other day and thinking about a current discussion in my district about whether to improve our use of technology in schools. Some teachers think that the investment in technology is made on the backs of teachers. Some teachers see technology as one tool that teachers can us to improve their practice. Some of us feel that the integration of technology into our practice is mandatory as we educate 21st century citizens. I heard this song, sung by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and just said...yeahhhhhh!

Complete lyrics:
Wake up everybody
No more sleepin' in bed
No more backward thinkin'
Time for thinkin' ahead
The world has changed
So very much
From what it used to be
There is so much hatred
War and poverty, whoa, oh
Wake up, all the teachers
Time to teach a new way
Maybe then they'll listen
To what'cha have to say
'Cause they're the ones who's coming up
And the world is in their hands
When you teach the children
Teach 'em the very best you can
The world won't get no better
If we just let it be, na, na, na
The world won't get no better
We gotta change it, yeah
Just you and me...
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We are not playing on the iPad...

We are learning __________( fill in the blank: math, grammar, circuits, history)!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sharing Stories

Our kids collaborating to tell their stories and use Show Me to teach each other.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Yesterday my students paired up, along with classmates from Monger's 4/5 combo to show what they know about multiplication and division. For homework, they had created and solved some 2x2 and 3/1 math problems. After solving each other's problems on paper, they chose one to demonstrate their approach to solving using ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard Easel. The collaboration was amazing and even the kids who had been struggling with concepts were able to learn and help each other learn.

For me, in viewing the videos, I was able to see where students' misconceptions are. Today the students will be sharing their work with the class on AppleTV.

I love watching them love learning!

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Know and Show

Our kids are working on a Know & Show project. We brainstormed all of the things we learned this year. Then talked about what, of those things, did we learn well enough to be able to show others. They have all mostly chosen a topic and played with story boarding on the iPads. Some of them used Notes, some used Doodle Buddy and one kid found the storyboard option in my iMovie. What is really cool is even for this individual project, they are collaborating on the content, process and creation of the product.

Can't wait to shaper them at iOpen House and here!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bloom' Taxonomy and Apps

Blooms Taxonomy and the iPad

Interesting way to sort apps!

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Those who know me know what a huge support my husband has been though everything, but in this case, through my journey in this, my encore career. The iPad Academy is no exception.  I told him recently I wanted my kids to make movies with the iPad but it is hard to hold still.  Look what he found!

Although the mount is nothing fancy, for the price it can't be beat!  The stylii (Styluses??) are pretty handy too. They really seem to help my left handed kids.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Teacher's iPad Spectrum

Interesting summary to guide iPad integration with curriculum.


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Saturday, April 21, 2012


This weekend I went to a two day conference, Lead3.0 put in by TICAL, CUE and ACSA (my cousin, George Manthey is the  the Assistant Executive Director of Educational Services, of ACSA and the event co-organizer, an amazing guy).  

The first session I attended talked about Common Core Standards. The second session was near and dear to my heart.How Two Superintendents Collaboratively Launched an Initiative to Maximize Classroom Effectiveness in the Digital Age
Dr. Jacqueline M. Horejs, Superintendent, Union School District & Dr. Deborah L. Blow, Superintendent, Cambrian School District: Aware of the importance of collaboration as a 21st Century skill, Dr. Debbie Blow.. and Dr. Jacqueline Horejs, ... decided to initiate a 21st Century Digital Media Academy to provide professional development for teachers in both of our districts.  Teachers from each district applied and were selected to participate in a year long academy to learn how to effectively use digital media in their classrooms.  ...  Management team members are also collaborating on book studies including Trilling and Fadel’s 21st Century Skills, and workshops on the effective classroom use of iPads.

It was so cool to hear Dr. Blow talk about what we are doing and I honestly have never felt more proud of my school district! It was interesting to hear some of the background behind the thinking of the Academy concept & design, which basically is "feeding the rabbits" or as my previous Superintendent called us, "fire-starters".  Find the people who want to use it, they will use it and thus excite and teach others.

The keynote speaker at lunch was Alan November. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, DO IT! Here are some notes I took, but doesn't really do him justice. If you have time - watch the video recording they made.
  • Teach by asking not telling
  • Unlearning misconceptions is a phenomenally difficult thing to do.
  • Math 6th grade teacher site .for kids to make movies about math.  We so have to do this
  • Teach not only content but courage.  We have to teach them to be fearless learners.  Global publishing.
  • Children would prefer content provided by children when they are learning something new.
  • Unleash an army of creative problem solvers creating problem solving across the curriculum.   Kids work for free.
  • Check out Prime factorization by bob on  She says she learns more doing the videos that the kids watching because she "really has to learn it."
  • Kid who per teacher is not a Good 6th grade because she is lazy, as to why she is not doing school work but literally publishing content to a world-wide audience, "I have to decide, do I publish for my teacher or for the world?"
  • What is the proportion of work that has purpose and adds value to the world vs work that is done for a grade?
  • YouTube Dan Pink drive rsa animate   3 motivators...purpose, autonomy and mastery
  • Seed and tree. did it get there?  Kinder give same answer as harvard grads.  And they went to school between then!
  • If they don't have internet access, download to DVD and send home.
  • Mrs. Cassidy classroom blog   In Moose Jaw, 1st graders reaching a global audience creating documentaries of how they learned something.
Later I attended Technology Tools to Support Academics in RTI by Sheri Wilkins, Program Manager, Desert/Mountain Special Education Local Plan Area.
This workshop will provide participants with opportunities to explore technological solutions that will extend the effectiveness and efficiency of a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. The session will focus on tools for assessment and intervention in the areas of reading, writing, and math. Participants will be given time to explore the tools that are shared in the presentation.  I was hoping to find some good technology sources for reading intervention. This session focused mostly on assessment and not strategies.  I did talk to a vendor who has something similar to SuccessMaker but it runs on an iPad, so I might trial it.

I also attended a session with an innovative PD model between San Bruno Park SD and the Krause Center for Innovation.  I am a MERIT graduate so was interested to see what they did, which was produce an accelerated program to create tech savvy teachers. Creating Affordable and Timely Professional Development by Skip Johnson, Principal, Steven J. McGriff, Teacher-in-Residence, KCI, Gay Krause, ED, KCI and two teachers from the district: Providing high quality professional development to promote the use of technology is a challenge. In the San Bruno Park School District we created a partnership with the Krause Center for Innovation housed on the junior college campus of Foothill in Los Altos Hills to provide low cost professional development through the establishment of the Danford Center for Innovation.

The final highlight of my day was collaboration time with Jason and Martin.  We did some brainstorming about apps, they gave me encouragement about being laid-off, again, and then we went to the Apps for Apps mixer, where it was like speed dating but with iPad apps.  We learned about some really cool apps. I'll add links later.
  • App. Home 3d. To build a mission
  • App. Reflection can display whatever is on your iPad onto the computer, than project it.  Not as big a deal if you have appleTV
  • What we then brainstormed is to use a free app...Join me. It shares my screen with the kids they sign with a code.   Can also log in remotely.  This might be the solution Sheila and I were wondering about if we want all of our users on the same "page" at once, for example with a read along.
  • App. Classroom management. Can assign Badges, kids see how they are doing..they get points.  Could display using 2 windows so kids cn always see their status.  It can also be set up to send parent emails.  Maybe useful for 'that kid'.
  • app.  Educreation.  Just like show me. A little simpler. can't download videos with show me so if you want to embed them in something else, you may want to use Educreation ..both are free.
  • App Explain everything. 2. Cool app to annotate presentations, images, etc.
  • Doceri 3 versions can edit with the video then record   Export to an mov. Free $25 no ad, $30 also controls computers
  • If you are going to make movies, there is a Case/tripod mount/adapter for lenses. $64 Makayama. iPad 2. You can attach a 37 mm lens.  Kinda cool.  You can also attach external mic with $20 dongle
  • Cosmonaut. Stylus. A bigger handle for little kids.
  • App and web based tool  take notes and store them in the cloud for anywhere access..  It is where imam typing this!  Evernote. Shared folder so you can share assignments with kids that they can access anywhere...maybe much the same as Google apps though frankly docs is super slow and awkward.  Jon from Minnerette high school.   Taking notes in the cloud. 
  • Assignment: using Ask a friend three questions and record. (t has a voice feature) Then write summary. They have to stay on task because they have to produce soemthing!  
I am so happy I went to this event. It was engaging and re-invigorating. Will post later about the closing session with Steve Dembo 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Re-united and it feels so good...

Yesterday we were able to sort out why my student iPads weren't syncing. It was simple, IT had disabled them to add or delete apps, which totally makes sense. But when toggled off, I can't sync! So we fixed that. Then decided instead of syncing, we'd make a student master then just restore all the machines to that image. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love our IT guys at Cambrian! While he was there, my Magic Man solved another mystery we've been having on our CreaTV Mac. Moving from windows to iOS is quite the learning experience. But what fun!

We are on spring break this week, but five of us were able to come together to sort out the syncing, talk about and try out apps, and share ideas for classroom management and projects. It is an amazing, exciting opportunity to collaborate with colleagues on a program that is so meaningful and important to me. I feel energized!

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