Saturday, October 5, 2013

It's not all bad

It seems that it's always easier to focus on the negative in life. Just watch the news. The same is true for technology in education. While there are more and more examples of how technology makes classrooms more exciting and allows for much innovation in curriculum, there are always those who point to the "distraction and the loss of classroom management." Well, here's a nice article about Tweeting and teaching in the classroom. Oh my.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

29th Anja S. Greer Conference on Secondary School Mathematics, Science, and Technology

Our annual conference ended last Friday and we enjoyed three outstanding evening talks for which I like to provide some links. The Sunday evening speaker was William Dunham of Muhlenberg College who spoke on proofs of Heron's Formula for the area of a triangle. Dr. Dunham is a popular author of books on the history of mathematics. The Monday evening speaker was Bruce Dixon, founder of the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation. Mr. Dixon has long been an advocate of 1:1 computing in schools. And, on Wednesday, Dan Meyer, a doctoral student at Stanford University and proponent of digital media in education, spoke to the group. Dan maintains a very active and well-followed blog. You can also follow him on Twitter at @ddmeyer.

In addition to the outstanding courses we provide during the week, we have always prided ourselves in our evening speaker series and this year was nothing short of fantastic. Please consider attending the 30th conference next June. The dates of the conference are June 22-27, 2014. While our website remains active all year, new courses and registration materials will be available by January 15, 2014.

iTeach 2013

The iTeach 2013 conference at San Domenico School in San Anselmo, CA was, as last year, excellent. Chris Sokolov, organizer of the event and who will be joining San Francisco Day School in the fall, has to get most of the credit for San Domenico's move to 1:1 iPads.

The conference began with a talk by Cecily Stock, Head of School, who spoke about What We've Learned 1:1 iPads at San Domenico. Much like Exeter, San Domenico began by piloting iPads and laptops. They taught lessons with these devices side-by-side and compared notes. When they decided to adopt iPads 1:1, they started with grades 6 - 12 in 2011. Next year they will have expanded the program to grade 1!

Along the way they discovered a lot about themselves as a learning institution:
- They must have patience with students and colleagues
- They must be flexible. iPads are dynamic (this fits nicely with Harkness where lesson planning is different)
- iPads allowed for them to produce curriculum, not just consume information
- They experienced much more conversation and collaboration with colleagues, both within San Domenico and outside.
- They found that iPads created a culture of innovation.

The keynote address, The Digital Classroom: Preparing Your Students for Success, was given by Merve Lapus of Common Sense Media. Mr. Lapus emphasized something I have long believed; we, as educators, are dealing with a completely different kind of student and, moreover, it is our responsibility as educators to guide them in the appropriate use of technology. For today's youth, technology is persistent. The average teenager produces 3417 texts per month! There are 8 million kids on Facebook who are under the age of 13! One in three 10-18 year olds report being cyberbullied. Only one in ten report this to an adult. Kids have always made bad decisions and now they are more public. We need to guide them.

In a session about implementing iPads in a 1:1 program in schools, some very useful recommendations were made. Regarding the question of why iPads, why not something else, there was consensus that the iPad is currently the best device. This could change in five years - a lifetime in the tech world. The advice was to not get "jerked" around by new technology. Get a handle on it, ride the wave, and keep working to stay on top of it. Clearly, curriculum has to change, too. Alan November, an education technology consultant, was quoted as saying, "If you can look it up on the Internet, it was a bad question."

A session on the iPad in the English classroom highlighted some Apps which I will list below.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Only in Education

Ted Lai, an Education Development specialist with Apple, made the following comment at MacWorld|iWorld 2013 this past January: "Education is the only profession in which one can say 'no' to technology." Interesting. And, both ponderous and perplexing. I'd bet all doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital are on board with technological changes. Same for the engineers employed by General Motors, Boeing, and United Airlines. But, in education we typically have schools with a dichotomy between those who do and those who don't. Pick a school and you are likely to see the following: One mathematics class is taught by a teacher who uses graphing calculators, computer software, and, possibly, iPads. Next door, the same course is taught by a teacher who doesn't allow the use of technology of any kind. How is this possible? Part of the problem is curriculum. Technology allows many more mathematical topics to be explored, and more interesting problems to be solved. If schools allow the dichotomy, and most do, the curriculum has to remain the same as it has been for decades.

Here's an example: Last week I covered the final exam in a calculus course for a colleague of mine. She reminded me that no calculators were allowed on the exam. So, I gave the exam which was essentially the same exam that a teacher in 1813 could have given her students. Why do we continue to cater to the lowest common denominator, the teacher who doesn't allow technology?

Moreover, with the introduction of iPads into schools, the dichotomy grows more. Where it used to be primarily in mathematics where arguments over whether or not to allow technology - calculators - in the classroom raged, now it's in history, English, language, and art.

Change requires leadership. Our principals, department chairs, and district administrators need to lead teachers into the 21st century. They need to get into the classrooms of those teachers using technology to enhance education, observe what's going on, and support them. These are the teachers that should be celebrated and recognized for advancing education.

More later, after I attend iTeach at the San Domenico School in San Anselmo, CA later this month. This is a great conference hosted by a school that has committed to removing the dichotomy totally.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

MacWorld|iWorld 2013

The emphasis at this year's MacWorld was definitely on iPhone photography or, iPhoneography. At the end of this post I will list the Apps that were mentioned...there are lots. The best presentation was made by Jonathan Marks, who, on Tuesday, February 5th, presented at Exeter in assembly. Jonathan commented that "it's about making images," keeping a visual journal, and less about the camera and more about your vision, your view of the world around you. On how to process photos, Jonathan commented, "see clearly, compose wildly, shoot respectfully, focus selectively, crop consciously, and process lovingly." 

My feelings on iPhone photography mirror my feelings about eBook readers. Regarding eBooks, the goal is to get people to read. If Nooks, iPads, or Kindles help to get more people to read more, that's a good thing. The same true is for iPhone photography. Here the goal is for people to be more aware of their surroundings, be more creative, and be more expressive. Again, if the iPhone makes this easier, that's a good thing. The iPhone has a very good camera in it and it's always available. Shoot freely!

At the CUE (Computer Using Educators) Apple Educators' Showcase, it was stated that "the future of learning is creating your own textbooks with iBooks Author." Electronic books, ebooks, can bring content to life for students. 

Robert Craven, head of technology for the Fullerton, CA school district stated that "kids are digital from a very young age." He also cited a quote from Paul Houston, "Everyone wants education to be better but nobody wants education to be different." To emphasize his call for radical change, he cited Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, "Reform (in education) is no use anymore because that is simply improving a broken model." Mr. Craven went on to tell teachers in attendance to encourage students to learn effective communication of knowledge through the use of 21st century tools. 

Ted Lai, Apple Education Development Executive, quoted John Dewey, "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our students of tomorrow." He emphasized that technology is not a substitute for what we already do and, further, pointed out that education is one of the few fields in which people can say no to technology. He asked those in the audience to imagine going to an eye doctor who didn't "believe in technology" for laser surgery.

Here I will list some of the photography Apps that were highlighted. There are many more and I encourage you to simply google iPhone photography Apps. Don't go crazy, pick a few and master them.

Camera Plus Pro
Slow Shutter
Dynamic Light
Photo FX
Pic Grunger
Scratch Cam
Blur FX
Bleach Bypass
Photo Manager Pro

Visit to Mid Pacific Institute in Honolulu, HI

On Tuesday, January 29, 2013, I visited Mid Pacific Institute, which is a 1:1 iPad school. Like Punahou, Mid Pacific maintains ownership of each iPad, choosing to have each student sign a three-year lease. Since each iPad is covered by AppleCare +, Robert McIntosh (no kidding), head of technology, feels that a two-year lease would make more sense regarding has to do with how Apple records damage reports, whether it is tied to the device or to a particular iTunes account. When a student does damage their iPad they are issued a loaner while theirs is under repair. Robert said that choosing an appropriate case for student iPads was important, especially ones which protect the corners, such as an OtterBox

Robert indicated that there are expectations for use among the faculty since the ipad adoption was a major investment ($1.2 million cost for implementation) for the school. While there was some resistance from teachers about moving from Dell desktops computers to the iPad, Robert believes the switch will allow Mid Pacific to move from a good school to a great school. 

I observed a digital art class in which students were using iAnimate and ArtRage to create designs. Then, I observed a humanities class in which students were discussing the characters in 1984, Julia and Winston. Students tracked the conversation on their iPads, then posted their comments to Tumblr, where they maintain a blog that records class discussion.

I thought the iPad program and use of technology in general at Mid Pacific Institute was very impressive. They have a beautiful facility, the Mike and Sandy Hartley Math/Science/Technology Complex and Jeanette Weinberg Technology Plaza and have given careful thought to the use of educational technology. When the iPad 1:1 program was being considered, school president, Joe C. Rice, commented, "Just do it. Make it work." Gotta like that.

Visit to Punahou School

On Monday, January 28, 2013, I visited the Punahou School in Honolulu, HI. Punahou is a 1:1 MacBook school and is a featured school on the Apple website. Along with laptops, they are using classroom sets of iPads. I observed an anatomy class in which the kids were using the Apps Pancreas and Liver 3D, Anatomy Quiz Pro, and Pocket Heart, part of a group called Pocket Anatomy.

They manage the laptop program by leasing the MacBooks to each student for a period of three years, thereby maintaing ownership and complete control of what is installed. At the end of each school year, the computers are collected, "cleaned," and reissued for summer school, then, again, in the fall. Each student is charged a technology fee of $575 per year for support, hardware, and software updates. 

Visit to Choate Rosemary Hall

On January 15, 2013, a group of Exeter teachers visited Choate Rosemary Hall for an Eight Schools Association Technology Committee meeting. The highlight of the meeting was hearing from Choate teachers about the 1:1 iPad program, which was instituted in September. I have summarized each report below...

Georges Chahwan, who teaches Arabic, described the iPad as "language's new papyrus." He went on to say, "Technology has become the new language in which our students communicate on a daily basis. We, as educators, should embrace this challenge and keep up with the technological advances." He reported that he makes use of the Apps Notability, Socrative, Educreations, and Explain Everything."

Mathematics teacher Will Nowak reported that the iPad is changing his classroom by "engaging students with more stimulating content and enhancing real-world applications with access to real data." He makes use of free graphing calculators, such as Desmos Graphing Calculator, and demonstrated an App called Tap Towers, which simulates the Tower of Hanoi puzzle.

Tom Foster, history teacher, showed examples of the texts he created for his course on The History of the West and 20th Century Social History using iBooks Author. Using iBooks Author allowed him to imbed video and audio along with electronic selections from the text Letters of the Century. He feels that being able to organize all course materials into one source, electronically, has made his courses much more powerful. This was all the more impressive because Tom was admittedly skeptical of the iPad adoption but is now fully on board.

English teacher Katie Levesque credited the iPad for it's aid in "delivering content, fostering collaboration, and creation of material." While the iPad engages kids in different ways, she felt that quiet kids can find their voice with electronic discussion. Students do peer editing using Notability and create presentations with Prezi. While short readings are presented electronically, she gives students the choice of reading novels either electronically or with paper texts. Citation and page reference between electronic and paper versions of texts was not a problem.

Deron Chang, science teacher, said that a faculty trip to Apple in Cupertino, CA changed his opinion of the iPad which, up to that point, he had seen as a glorified notebook. He said the visit to Apple and speaking with Apple Education folks was eye-opening. He now believes that the iPad helps students to get excited and passionate about learning. Moreover, he feels that the iPad allows students to "learn their strengths and weaknesses, and allows them to collaborate, create, and innovate in ways not possible before."