Wednesday, April 24, 2013


"You'll be putting on a conference, but we won't know who will be presenting, what they'll be presenting, or know for sure how many people will be there."

As part of our school's Technology Learning Cohort,  we put on an 'un-conference,' an EdCamp conference model where professional educators - you know, those people who put on 5-6 hour presentations every day to young people who may or may not want to learn- are in charge of not only what they want to learn, but what is presented.  It sounds absurd; in actuality, it's brilliant.

Teachers never get a chance to talk about what they are doing in the classroom, and rarely do they get a chance to share ideas and collaborate.  So on March 30th, at 8:30, over a hundred teachers from Maine and New Hampshire gathered together and decided what they wanted to teach and what they wanted to learn. And guess what? It was a huge success.

As it was a technology 'un-conference,' topics ranged everywhere from basic googledoc instruction to how to write code to build a website. In our morning session, people shared what they could offer and/or what they wanted to learn, and then they 'voted with their feet' - they grabbed another cup of coffee and a bagel and dashed off to different presentations and discussions, sometimes staying through a whole session, sometimes wandering from session to session to join different conversations.

Did it work? Ask participants:

  • "I like the collaborative atmosphere of presenting but sharing at same time; like a huge thinktank!"
  • "I love the interactive element and the organic feel. I like being able to interact and contribute. "
  • "I liked how easy it was to pick something, go to it, and leave if I wanted to. It was casual and there was an easy way to share ideas with colleagues and other teachers in other schools" 
  • "The flexibility of topics was helpful.  It was also great to talk to teachers from other schools." 

To go to a free day-long conference,  to teach and learn from your peers, to collaborate for a common goal; EdCampMe was an incredible experience. It was empowering to teachers as they not only got to share their incredible classroom practices with technology, they also got to set the mood and tone of the conference. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with information, practical lessons and sharing of problems and ideas left most feeling refreshed and invigorated.

Here is the video and story from the Channel 6 News report:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Moving Forward

Like a video going viral, (example 1, example 2) the use of iPads in 4-5 is spreading leaving behind a satisfied smile.  Usage has increased as students experiment during their free time.  Learners are exploring iMovie, Explain Everything, Fetch Spanish, Slice It, and the many QR codes hidden in classroom spaces.  These QR codes link to websites that celebrate student work and highlight conceptual understanding across the content areas.

What is most exciting is the thoughtful integration of iPads in classrooms.  Up to this point, the power of the iPad was being constrained to simple substitution.  Apps were just replacing traditional tools.  As teachers have become more comfortable with the iPad and time has been allocated to focus conversations based on student learning and pedagogy, the possibilities have presented themselves and integration in the classroom has improved.  In the past few weeks, the students of 4-5 have used the iPads to generate documentation in preparation for student-led parent-teacher conferences using iMovie and Explain Everything.  Math classes have used Explain Everything to assess understanding of fraction and division concepts.  Science classes have used Nova Elements to provide a powerful visual of what cannot be seen and to begin an investigation of atomic structure.  Finally, Literature classes have used iMovie and the video recorder to capture reactions to reading assignments.  The common thread in all these applications is that the students are reflecting, synthesizing, and delivering their understanding in real time.  Furthermore, teachers can observe those comments later in the day and lead the students towards new understandings.

All if this activity leads me to think about our classrooms of the future.  If there were to be a 1:1 program, how would that impact our work as teachers and the ecology of learning in the classroom?  With 1:1 on the horizon, we have a real opportunity to redefine how we guide learning and provide instruction (not just content instruction but focused teaching on how to use the tools.)  With 1:1 we can really cater to the individual needs of our students and provide real world scenarios.  It’s time to start imagining how technology can create different roles for teachers and very personalized learning opportunities for students!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

8 great flash card apps

"Howard Gardner theory of Multiple Intelligences clearly corroborate the fact that students and learners have differing learning styles and teachers  should aim to appeal to all the different learner types at some point during the course. A large category of learners are visual learners and this does not  need rocket science to prove , you can easily notice it when you use bright and attractive visuals in your teaching, students tend to interact and engage with these visual teaching aids more than than they would do with other teaching materials. Flash cards can be bright and colorful and make a real impact on visual learners. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning has already featured some excellent web-based flashcard making tools and today I am providing you with the mobile version.

Below is a list of iPad apps that you can use to create and share flashcards with your students. Have a look and share with us if you have other suggestions. Enjoy"

Guided Access

This is for anybody working with young students or any other tap happy users.  My wife, who is a speech language therapist and works with young children, let me know about the  "Guided Access" setting. O.M.G. Brilliant!  Once you set it up, with a simple triple click you can restrict students to only the app you are working with and even block buttons within the app, like "going to the next level".  Enjoy.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Here at the vantage point of almost two school years experience using iPads with the EC class, I'm feeling like the "great experiment" has succeeded.  Parents, faculty and students see the iPads as just another tool to be used in our classroom, as we had hoped.  The iPads are used or not as needed by all of us without much  fanfare.  Students use the iPads independently for drawing, writing, reading, music, movie making and research.  Teachers use them for the same purposes.  We have been pleased to start using more QR codes in the classroom to facilitate research for the students.  The minis that we have, have made scanning codes much easier for the students which has encouraged us to make even more use of the QR code process . The iPad has become something that we all use and rely on.  We are able to expand our library of apps organically, as new needs are identified. It is pleasing to note that all of the worry,fear and excitement has largely dissipated leaving us with a very useful tool and no ill effects that I can discern.  Onward!