Thursday, February 28, 2013

iPads and Science - A Chronicled Experiment

We’ve got a teacher here at Lewis and Clark Middle School, Mr. Benson that has changed the face of his classroom.  He has three sessions of science and the current topic is Astronomy.  Mr. Benson is working on conducting systematic research for his graduate work.  The hope is that his experiment will prove that using ipads to teach science will increase test scores, as well as student engagement.  

You might be thinking that his experiment is heavy on some really cool apps.  But in fact, what Mr. Benson has done is create an environment that allows students to take ownership of their learning through the use of this great device and specific tools.  He did use some great apps like NASA, Moon, 3D Sun and so forth but he also used some basic apps like Google Drive, Pages, Audio Notes, Socrative, and Popplet Lite.  He had days without ipads and days with ipads and then compared student engagement and achievement.  His results are promising for those of you searching for “concrete data” in the field of ipads in education.

The content apps allowed the students to research information in a very structured construct as compared to reading Google search results.  The workflow apps like Google Drive and Audionotes provided the students a place to create, share, and collaborate.  He did an excellent job of giving the students choice when it came time to create  products to share with the class on a particular topic like meteors.  I love going into his classroom and seeing all the kids working away silently and sometimes collaborative on their ipads.  It is so exciting to see these kids taking the responsibility of learning seriously with a tool that truly empowers them.  These five weeks with the ipads have been nothing but extraordinary for Mr. Benson and his teaching and for his students engagement and success.  His data is going to tell a very positive story and I can’t wait to see it in published format.  I will be sure to tweet it out as soon as I have it!  

Written By, Jennifer Krzystowczyk

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Twenty Seconds on Twitter Today

In 20 seconds on Twitter today, I read a tweet from @tomwhitby where he shared this link to an excellent blog post about the top 100 Educational Blogs.  I clicked the link, gave it a once over, and deemed it worthy of pinning to my Pinterest board and Scoop.It page!  I clicked back to Tweetdeck and hit the retweet to our #tt4t hashtag.  That’s it, 20 seconds on Twitter today.

20 Seconds 

Because of the 20 seconds, I now have a free resource that I can explore anytime I want.  Free professional development at my fingertips.  Because I pinned and scooped it, this resource is available online anytime to anyone to read, re-pin, or re-scoop.  

20 Seconds

The 20 seconds on Twitter allowed me to re-tweet (RT) this link.  Who knows how many people saw the link, but let’s say just one person did.  That is one person who may take a moment, read a blog, be inspired and SHARE the link!   The nature of social media makes one idea easy to share to hundreds, thousands, or millions. The power of one tweet.

20 Seconds

The 20 seconds on Twitter will now feed me for months.  This one link alone is rich with educational content from the best minds in the field.  Now when I have more time, I can click one blog, read, comment, and incorporate new ideas into my daily workflow.  I am a better professional because I took the time to learn and grow.

20 Seconds

My challenge is, do you have 20 seconds?

-Written by Ann Feldmann

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Journey with iPads in the Classroom - The Honest Truth

I have been working with Jeff Bernadt (@jbernadt) and Breanne Campbell (@breanneshay) at Bellevue East the past four weeks using iPads in their history and English classrooms respectively. This blog post was created by the three of us with our take aways after a few weeks with them in the classroom.

What we have learned so far....
The iPads are personal devices not laptops. They work best in an ownership model where the students use the same iPad every day.  It takes considerable time to sign in and sign out of accounts when the iPads are shared. Also there is a tendency for students to mess with the settings and saved work of others when iPads are shared. - Ann

Block scheduling at the high school is a must to utilize class time more efficiently. This week when we had blocked class periods due to NeSA testing, the students were able to get so much done in class. It is my hope that when all students receive these devices the district will consider and advocate the need for block scheduling.  I do think, however, that if students had the ability to take the iPads home, the need for block scheduling would not be as great.  - Bre

Just because a student is absent, doesn’t mean she cannot collaborate with her partner. I had a student today who was absent and her partner who was present texted her and they were able to collaborate on their research together. This totally blew my mind.  - Bre

iPads gain valuable class time by minimizing time to transition between activities, hand in homework, and receive quiz/test results.  Additionally, there is no lost class time traveling to a computer lab or waiting to login to a computer.  No longer does lab availability drive when technology can be used in the classroom. Having quick access to the web and creation tools are essential to learning.  It is imperative the iPads be equipped with carefully vetted apps so students are not limited and can synthesize, create, collaborate, and construct new meaning with the information they are studying. These devices can transform learning as we have always known it. - Ann

To fail is to learn!!  What we have learned in failing?

  • Always have Plan B (and C, D, E, F, and G too).  Jeff and I thought we would be able to have students leave comments on Jeff’s website.  We ran into issue with our Internet filters and quickly went to plan B. Instead we had the kids use the back channel at This turned out to be a hit! We loved the way the back channel worked for the class and we were delighted in how every student had a voice in the discussion!  It was fantastic.  We learned that it is important to roll with things and that there are multiple solutions to issues that arise, we just need to be creative in problem solving. Click HERE for our post on using Todays Meet. - Ann
  • If you want students to have something for a lesson, don’t forget to email it to them. I had students completing Venn diagrams for our Revolution Research project and I forgot to email them the JPEG of the diagram. Some students didn’t even tell me, they just created one in Skitch and went from there. I didn’t realize it until halfway through the project. Oops! (Click here is a link to our post on using Skitch to annotate over charts.) - Bre
  • We failed by not giving the kids enough time to learn the app.  It is important to understand the difficulty for students as they are learning a new app and at the same time they are interacting with new material.  When planning, teachers must plan time to teach the app and build in extra time to interact and play.  Keeping the material and expectations simple the first few times you have students using new apps is key.  I have learned this the hard way on a number of occasions already.  - Jeff

Written by: Jeff Bernadt, Bre Campbell, and Ann Feldmann

Friday, February 1, 2013

a Google Mind

Roughly 2 1/2 years ago I became an Instructional Technology Trainer.  It was then when my colleague Ann showed me Google Docs.  I had never heard of it up to that point in my illustrious
life and career.

and so it happened . . . .

My Google Docs Birthday was August 2009.

Like the birth of any of my three children, my world was forever changed.  The same was true in the birth of my journey into the Google World.  To be totally honest I don't see how I survived without it for so long and I can't believe I did.  I truthfully cannot imagine LIFE WITHOUT GOOGLE now.

Nick Provenzano, otherwise known as the Nerdy Teacher on Twitter wrote this brilliant post once upon a time and I remember reading it and thinking he had hit the nail on the head and there was no way I could ever be so clever as to write something some witty as the master #edubro mind had.

But I have a GOOGLE MIND now.  The evolution of my Google Mind has come a long way in 2 1/2 years.  Two more years of learning Google under my belt, a trip to New York City Google Headquarters, a presentation here and there, and o yes, times have changed my good friends.

Yes, my initial learning of Google Docs blew my mind that I could be on a "Microsoft Word Document" at the same time as someone else online from anywhere in the world.  As a teacher / trainer I still love to see this amazement of the first time a student or teacher is on a Google Doc and goes "I see you typing" or "Look I can see Mr. Cat typing on mine".  It makes me smile every time and warms my Google Heart!

Google is so much more than Search.  A free GMAIL account can take you places you have never been.  It can connect you with people across the globe in an instant.  The thing is, its not about the GMAIL account, its about the GOOGLE account.  The Gmail account is a means to the "Suite Life of Google" as I like to call it.  The Suite of Google Apps are amazing, collaborative, and intuitive.

I have to be brutally honest here, it pains me when I see people that cannot let go of their old ways and use of Microsoft word.  They are missing out on so much.  The printing that goes on within schools is terrible.  Although, I believe you actually can teach an old dog new tricks.  I'm just not quite sure how yet and nor have I perfected it.  Collaborating in Google Docs can make a project go twice as fast or include many voices.  I struggle to understand why people would not want the advantages that come with the "Suite Life of Google Apps".

My district adopted Google Apps for Education this school year and in my Google Dream World we will someday fully embrace it.  No longer will the days of kids printing typed out essays be needed.  Teachers will see the light and their Google Mind will be filled with DRIVE and naming structures on Docs within it.  They will be running Scripts like Flubaroo, Doctopus, and Autocrat.  Student presentations will be blasted up on the big screen via projectors and students will be collaborating world-wide via Google Plus Hangouts, or perhaps even in a Google + Community.

With Google, the sky is the limit.  We are only as good as we want to be or as stagnant as we want to be.

Help me help you.

Contact me and let's talk Google.  You can tweet me, email me, call me, text me, or message me.  I'm not hard to find.  Let's brainstorm on how we can utilize Google to its fullest potential.

I use Google personally on all kinds of levels like sharing a Calendar with my beautiful wife that keeps me on track for not missing any family events.  I use Google Plus Hangouts to hangout with my friends I met at the NYC Google Certified Teacher Academy and locally with all kinds of amazing educators across Nebraska every third Thursday of the month.  I collaborate on Google Docs on all kinds of different projects that I work with my colleagues on.  The list goes on and on.

Just do me a favor and rethink how you are doing business today in your personal life, your classrooms, your principal's, curriculum, and superintendent offices and ask yourself if you could do that business with Google and my bet is you can.  Try not to get hung up too much about how some little feature is not there that you are used to and how Google doesn't do this or that, because I guarantee you the product you use does not do what Google does!  Flip the script.

Think about it.

And let me leave you with this question:

When will you have a Google Mind?

Spongy Learners Need to Get Moving!

Here is an interesting observation that I’ve been having while coaching our teachers in the #ipadacademy.  We’ve conditioned our students to sit, be still, and listen.  We expect them to be little sponges that will just soak up everything we say at them.  And don’t get me wrong, a lot of students are now really good at this.  What’s wrong with that you ask?  Well, now we are attempting to change the face of education with the use of ipads in our district.  

What my colleagues @techiefeldie and @catlett1 and I are finding is that the ipad requires a more active learner.  Students must tap here, tap there, look up information, create presentations, do some mind mapping, video taping, and publishing.  It’s an interesting change in the classroom and one that doesn’t happen as seamlessly as one might assume.  

What if those kids who were never good at listening in the first place start to make leaps and bounds, while the students who got really good at listening and taking notes suddenly start to slip?  Be on the lookout for the telltale signs of confusion at these new demands.  

Symptoms might look like this:
1.)  A look of panic when a student is told to log into “Drive”  Drive What?
2.)  Squinting at an online article, because a student didn’t know zooming was an option.
3.)  Taking an obsessively long time checking out images, because there are so many choices
4.)  Whining for attention from the teacher when he or she is supposed to be defining a word in the Dictionary App

These are just a few of the behaviors I’ve noticed recently and I hope that they begin to diminish soon as our learners becomes more active.  This environment also increases the opportunity for collaboration and students need the time to talk to each other and share ideas.  It’s a great time for education and I am hopeful that as they become more accustomed to these new demands students will inevitably become less of a sponge and more of a take charge kind of learner!  

Written by Jennifer Krzystowczyk