Ideas Worth Sharing, iPad Edition

Yes, I’ve borrowed the TED tagline, sort of. Why not? When you have a good idea, share it.

Apple has put together a small collection of books perfect for our teachers in the iPad 1:1 program who might be looking for lesson ideas that go beyond Google Docs and for teachers who like to check out the shared iPad cart. The books describe lessons that can be adapted to fit different classroom environments. The books are created around specific apps, and luckily, we have all the apps in the collection.

But please don’t restrict your work to this small collection of lessons. If you have a good idea, share it with the rest of the 1:1 teachers. Remember we have the 1:1 Campfire group in Schoology.


And We’re Back!

It has been a while since I posted anything here. I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without writing a blog post before, and I have so much to write I hardly know where to start.

In June I spent a lot of time with teachers who signed up for staff development. I also spent time with teachers who will be in our 1:1 iPad program. I’m excited to see this finally come together at GMS.

In July I participated in the Apple Distinguished Educator Global Summit. It was great to see old friends and make new friends from 31 countries. We spent five days learning from each other and participating in amazing outdoor experiential learning activities. We went hiking, we explored plankton, we learned about reforestation and tracking tree growth, and so much more.

Photo courtesy of Harry St. Ours

We had incredible guest speakers. EO Wilson, naturalist, author, and a hero of mine, spoke about the importance of science and understanding the world that surrounds us. I was very honored to be invited to sit at Dr. Wilson’s table for lunch. He looked at my book on flies on my iPad and seemed to like it a lot. He even drew an ant in the whiteboard widget and signed it. I could not stop grinning for the rest of the day.

Photo courtesy of Chris Penny

We also heard from biomedical animator Drew Berry. He shared his own adventures in learning when he talked about creating his animations. Some of his subjects are constantly changing as new discoveries are made, so learning is a requirement. He made it so clear why we have to incorporate art in education. Visual communication is so important, and having a good grasp of design principles is crucial. Just take a look at his animations. Even if you don’t know much about molecular biology, you can enjoy and learn something new.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President for Environmental Affairs, also spoke at the event. In keeping with the theme of getting to know and caring for our planet, Ms. Jackson spoke about Apple’s efforts to convert as many facilities as possible to renewable energy sources. She also spoke about Apple’s efforts to make all devices more energy-efficient. It was very cool to see our event appear in a few of the Apple news sites.

A few days after the end of the ADE Global Institute, my new book was published on the iBook store. This is my third book, and while I was with people from all over the world, I got lots of new ideas for more books. So, keep an eye out for a release inOctober and maybe another one in December.

At the end of the summer I returned to Goochland to work with our new teachers. We have a really great group of new teachers this year, and I’m really looking forward to a year full of learning adventures.



Transforming the Future, Apple Event

Recently I spent two days with other educators from the county at an event hosted by Apple called Transforming the Future of Learning.  This event was designed to support districts that have recently started a 1:1 program and also those that are preparing to begin one.  We covered a bundle of content that we will definitely use to improve our own 1:1 program.  It was also insightful to talk with teams from other districts that share similar experiences to the implementation of our 1:1 pilot program this year, both positive and negative!

Much time was dedicated to the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.  Dr. Puentedura was even there as a speaker to show us how we can use SAMR to transform learning with digital devices.  SAMR describes varying levels of technology integration.  It was designed to help teachers with technology integration in the classroom.  The initial level of technology use is Substitution, followed by Augmentation, Modification, and finally Redefinition.   Next year we will place more emphasis on this model to support teachers in our effort to provide deeper learning experiences for students using mobile devices.   The plan is to provide both training and instructional support for teachers as they develop lessons in the M and R categories!  Dr. Puentedura emphasized that a teacher’s goal should not be to have every lesson in the modification and redefinition category, but to strive to develop a few quality lessons that fall into this category each year – and each year build upon your bank of lesson ideas.  He said that realistically, after a 1:1 implementation, a school could expect to see lessons in the substitution and augmentation categories within the first year to a year and a half.  Teachers will then begin to tackle lessons on the modification level after about another year.  Finally, teachers will begin to take on lessons at the redesign level within the third year.


I was also interested to hear Dr. Puentedura discuss methods for professional development in the use of 1:1 devices and in working with the SAMR model.  Dr. Puentedura stated that it is beneficial for teachers to work together to develop lessons as a collaborative team.  We have always known that through collaboration we can achieve great results.  Next year I would love to help find time for teachers to plan together.  There is an interesting method for collaborative lesson planning that has been used in Japan for years called Lesson Study.  This model has also been successfully used in some schools throughout the United States.  I would love to try it in our schools, as it would provide professional development and a chance for teachers to develop stellar lesson plans together.


I love this metaphor of the SAMR model!

What are iTunes U Courses?

As we explore as a division ways to organize and offer digital content for students online, it becomes apparent that there are few tools that “do it all.” One I have begun using is the Course Builder for iTunes U.

Course Manager

If you think about an online course with the world’s most popular tool used in higher education, Blackboard, you may know what the concept is like. A professor (or teacher) parks content within a website, along with activities or interactive components that would otherwise be difficult to re-create using a simple website. These include discussion forums, file uploads, and a grading system for tracking progress.

We’ve used Moodle for many years now. Moodle is (the bias of my opinion will creep in here, going forward) easier to use than Blackboard, and is great for a traditional “online class” type of need. It’s not fancy, but it’s also free.

iTunes U is Apple’s portal within iTunes. A couple years ago we were the first Virginia school division to have an iTunes U portal for distributing podcasts. The space started out as a place for colleges to post video lectures, but today it has expanded. They now offer the concept of a “course” that is designed to work using the iPad.

Students download the iTunes U app, and they’re set to go. With the app and an iTunes account, they can signup to participate in any number of online courses. We design the courses through a webpage on a computer (that’s what I snapped above).

The courses can contain audio files, video files, eBooks (including the fancy iBooks), documents, app recommendations, images, and web links. Students using the iPad version of the app can access all of this content, downloaded onto the iPad, and use the content offline. That’s its biggest selling point to me: it’s super simple for students to get access to the online content while at school.

Interaction is weak, however. Students can take their own notes within the app while they view the content teachers provide.

As we move deeper into our 1:1, this tool may be of interest to our teachers who are looking for ways to distribute content in a way that’s easy for students to grab, and use, at home.

iTunes U for Goochland

Working Together

This morning I participated in Apple’s Leadership and Learning event in Richmond. I showcased some of the work our students have done in our 21st Century Classrooms. I also had the opportunity to listen to school leaders from around Virginia who shared their strategies for implementing new technology initiatives in their districts.

One particular issue seemed to stand out from everything I heard. Yes, we know implementing a 1:1 program is expensive and requires lots of professional development and additional support for teachers. We also know all stakeholders have to buy into the initiative. What I found surprising is that, in many school divisions, the people in charge of infrastructure and technology are not working in concert with the people in charge of instruction. In fact, I heard two different people say that they are successful at implementing instructional technology initiatives despite of, not thanks to, their IT department.

I am very fortunate to be working in Goochland County, where our small Tech Team covers all the bases without fighting. We are here for the students, all of us.