1:1 Elementary iPads – Reflecting on the First Months

Everyone knew that the transition from 1:2 laptops to 1:1 iPads would be messy. As the person most obviously responsible for the change, it has been an interesting tactical tightrope to walk: enthusiastically promote the transformative power of the iPads while keeping expectations low as everyone adapts to new opportunities and limitations.

Over the summer, I had lots of time to think about our decision to go 1:1, and by the time the new school-year started, I had come to terms with the idea that this would be a two-year project that would look more like a failure than a success for the first 6-8 months. Nothing in the first two months of school gave me reason to modify my projection, but something started to change in early November. It’s too early to declare victory, but there is already a lot to celebrate.

We’ve certainly made some mistakes and we are still learning what works and what doesn’t. Here are four key things we’ve gotten right:

  • Serious setup
  • Training
  • A new integration model
  • Students leading the way
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Stop Safari Reloading on Back Gesture

The Inconsistency

Like countless others (1,2,3), I’ve been frustrated by recent versions of Sarai on OS X Lion and Mountain Lion. It’s great to have mouse-gestures built in to the OS, but why on earth would a “back swipe” be processed by Safari differently than a back button press or key shortcut? Those of you with blazing internet speeds may never notice it, but when I swipe back on my Magic Mouse, a JPG preview of the last page appears briefly while the page is reloaded back to the top regardless of last scrolled state. Even Apple’s cute little demo in the mouse settings shows a page needlessly reloading. This can be particularly infuriating when going back to search results and basically having resubmit the search each time. Of course, if I click the actual back button or use “Command-[” Safari instantly displays the cached page right where I left it.

Why on earth would this be different? What actual command is OS X sending to Safari ? Obviously, it’s not simply “back”.

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iOS App Management

A principal from a neighboring school recently asked for our thoughts on iOS app management, so I have written down some of what we are learning and some of the things we feel are important to consider. We, along with most other schools, are still unsure about what is the best way forward, so we still have more questions than we have answers, but at least we are starting to be able to articulate the questions.

Apple does not currently make their educational Volume Purchase Program available outside of the US. There are some schools (with some sort of US business address) that have been able to get Apple to approve them for a business volume licensing program. This apparently does not include any volume discounts. At a recent tech conference in HK, the regional Apple rep assured a large group of educators that Apple would be rolling out the Volume Purchase Program internationally. (I’ve had the opportunity to speak with high-level Apple reps a few times over the years, so although I’m optimistic, I won’t hold my breath.)

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iPads vs Document Cameras

I sure am glad for competition. We the customers almost always benefit. Where else can that be more true than for educational technology hardware. You know, the stuff: clunky, overpriced, and just plain ugly; The “breakthrough” product to help dyslexic students that now sits in the cupboard because even if someone wanted to use it, they can’t because the special proprietary connection has gone bad.

They’ve gotten better, but just take a stroll through the vendors at ISTE and you will still see a whole lot of junk. Things are changing though, because society as a whole has become much more savvy. People know better now and teachers (and students) won’t put up with it. If you have guessed that I don’t love Smartboards, you’d be correct. They aren’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s hard for me to justify their price. Same goes for document cameras. Teachers love them and they do actually do a good job at one thing. But do we really want to spend that kind of money on something that students will probably never touch?

Speaking of touch, that’s where iPads come in. One of the reasons they are so great for education is that they aren’t designed for education. Instead, they are designed to be amazing, interactive tools that can do just about anything. I know they don’t do everything, but if you had to choose between a document camera with Smartboard and a cart of iPads for the students, which would you choose?

We’ve been in a bit of a battle over classroom budgets over the last month. Teachers must use or loose them. We have some document cameras and several year-levels are pushing to buy sets of them. No doubt they would put them to good use, but is it really the best use of our limited resources? This video is a quick capture of me practicing the demo I will be giving to administrators tomorrow. They may still choose to approve the document camera requests, but at least I’ve still helped advocate for the power of iPads (which we will be getting one way or another).

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#BeyondConferences – a model for multi-school collaboration

I’ve had the privilege to attend four tech/learning conferences this school year: Learning2.0TechEx21CLHK, and most recently, #BeyondLaptops in Yokohama. They are reliably inspiring yet simultaneously frustrating. On one hand, it is always great to get together with likeminded people to share ideas, affirm our hard work, and get some answers. On the other hand, the Déjà vu gets old, and I feel guilty about the money my school spends to send me to another country just so I can have the same conversations I’ve been having for the last 10 years. In a way it’s a bit like a fan club that gets together to talk about their band. (Sure one might prefer Paul to John and some might think Revolver was better than The White Album, but everyone agrees that the Beatles were better than the Stones.)

That’s why so many of us were so excited about Kim Cofino‘s effort to bring people together who were ready to start making their own music. (And to stretch this metaphor to the breaking point before dropping it,) that’s how I envisioned #BeyondLaptops — as a songwriting workshop where musicians get down to the very difficult task of transferring their skills and passions into a recognizable form that the band can follow along to. It’s hard work and some wanted more. Sure, I had lofty goals that weren’t fully realized, but I think Kim was right (and the only one brave enough) to try to start somewhere.

#BeyondLaptops certainly helped to validate some of my medium-term goals, but more importantly, it reinforced my belief that conferences are not enough. They are just a quick introduction to a group of individuals — speed dating, if you like. It’s great to chat and swap a few stories, but now it’s time to choose whose phone numbers we want. Blogs and Twitter are a start, but we need something more substantial. We need a model that will help leaders meet somewhat regularly, not to simply discuss, but to create a tangible, actionable program to take back to their schools. Maybe something like this:

The idea is that traditional conferences are big and people’s goals varied. For those of us looking to do the difficult work of dramatically re-imagining an ICT program or writing curriculum, we need a much smaller group that can meet several times in the year. These people must come from schools with similar challenges and similar goals. Here’s the kinds of schools I would be looking for:

  • IB World Schools
  • Medium sized with existing 1:1 program and solid tech infrastructure across the school
  • An existing integration model that isn’t working as well as people would wish
  • Wide (if not deep) use of blogging or social media
  • Empowerment from administrators to make bold changes
  • A desire to synthesize an integration model (describing what an integrated classroom looks like) with a practical collaboration model (how coaches help teachers)
  • A desire to map major ICT initiatives to ATLs and TD Skills
  • BONUS: Bullish on iPads

I’m sure there are more, but if I could find a handful of other good people from schools like these, I’d gladly give up my tickets to traditional conferences in order to pursue closer collaboration.

Would this provide value to you #beyondconferences? Can schools find enough common ground to collaborate this closely? Is anyone already doing something like this?

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