Parent Technology Night: Foundational Apps and iOS7

Elementary Parent Night.044

The Burlington Public Schools EdTech Team will be hosting a Parent Technology Night on Tuesday, November 5 at Marshall Simonds Middle School. Please join us for information about the BPS Foundational Apps and the new iOS7 for iPads. The session will provide an opportunity to learn about the core apps that we are using in our 1:1 programs. These apps include Google Drive, Notability, Explain Everything, and Evernote. We will also provide support if you are looking for guidance using iOS7 on your own iPad or iPhone.
Time during every Parent Tech Night session is also dedicated to other technology related questions and support.

First Parent Technology Night of 2013 January 22 at MSMS

The Burlington EdTech Team will be hosting its first Parent Technology Night of 2013 on January 22 at Marshall Simonds Middle School. The topic for the discussion will be Google Apps for Education in Burlington schools.

Please join us for an opportunity to learn about some of the powerful technology tools being used by Burlington students. The session will highlight how our students are beginning to use Google Apps during the 2012-2013 school year. Time during every session is also dedicated to technology related questions and support.

The session, led by  Dennis Villano, Director of Technology Integration, will be held in the new MSMS Learning Commons on the second floor.

We Can Learn A Lot From First Graders In Ethiopia About Tech Integration!

I have been using the picture and text above in a couple of recent presentations to educators surrounding the way we support learners (teachers and students) in accessing digital tools.  The picture and text come from a post on Technology Digital a couple of weeks regarding the One Laptop Per Child program.
Shouldn’t the highlighted text cause us to rethink some of our overly structured ways? I’ll cite it again below in case the text from the slide above is too hard to decipher:

OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

In my mind, we spend way too much time walking people through tedious lessons on how to do very basic things with technology in our schools. In many cases we would be better throwing the unopened boxes out to our staff and or students and let them figure it out on their own. But if we can escape our traditional upbringings here and look at the evidence here and the similar finding of Sugata Mitra with his Hole in the Wall Project, I believe we can move much faster.

We are the only ones holding us back!

Answering Questions About iPads In Burlington

English: iPad with on display keyboard
English: iPad with on display keyboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have gotten a lot of inquiries about iPads in Burlington since deploying over 1,000 iPads at our high school in the fall of 2011. As we continue plans for a February deployment at our Middle School and work with pilots at our elementary schools it is interesting to reflect on the questions that we get from other schools and how some of our answers/solutions to issues change over time.  In addition, it is important to note that our answer to a particular question may not be the best answer for another school or district. 

The most important point in all of this is that educators and students in environments that allow the use of digital resources have the ability to connect and share best practices.  This culture of sharing is both valuable and fulfilling, and the best part is that immersing yourself in it can help everyone become more successful. 

Anyway, here is a list of questions I got this week in an e-mail from a fellow administrator in another district. I thought I would share the questions and answers here in the hopes that others could benefit from the responses and expand on them.

1)      What are the iPad’s used for?

It varies from one classroom to the next. In some classrooms they use them for note-taking, word processing, and web searches. Our Foreign Language Department has been able to do away with their former language lab due to the fact that the teachers now feel like they have a language lab in every classroom. 

2)       How many iPad’s are used for how many students?

We have one iPad for each student at the high school (just over 1,000 total). We will be 1:1 at the middle school in February (800 more students). We also have one first grade classroom at each of the elementary schools in a pilot and a fifth grade classroom at Pine Glen in a pilot. 

3)      Are the iPad’s used for administrative purposes? If so what? 

Administrators utilize the iPads to access our student management system and we plan on using them extensively when we implement the new evaluation system next year. 

4)      If apps are used, what subjects use the apps and what apps are the most educationally sound?

We use too many apps to list here and allow high school students to personalize their iPads by adding their own apps and having their music accessible. In regards to “foundation apps,” we promote the use of Evernote, Dropbox, Explain Everything, Google Drive, Notability. You can check out a number of reviews by our IT Staff and our Student Help Desk on these two websites: and

5)      If the iPad’s are used for textbooks what textbooks fi the iPad the best? How are books put on the iPad? How are iPad’s with textbooks distributed the second year (when books are loaded)? 

We do not use the iPads for textbooks. We are in the process of pulling together our own on-line resources, utilizing a company called Net Texts.  At this point, we  feel strongly about not purchasing traditional textbooks or buying e-versions of textbooks from the textbooks companies. We would prefer to support our teachers in the curation of content that they can more readily revise each year.

6)      Do students/administrators type on the iPad? How are documents printed from the iPad’s?

There have been no significant problems typing on the iPad. We did not provide cases for all of the iPads, but instead got a neoprene which was donated by the Burlington Chamber of Commerce with some ads from local businesses. Some students chose to get cases that included a bluetooth keyboard while some choose to touch type right on the iPad. Another group uses the voice-to-text to dictate the rough drafts into the iPads and then makes the changes from there.

7)      What are the biggest positives from a student learning/administrative  point of view? 

One of the biggest positives has been the fact that staff has had to rely on students in many cases to help them learn how to use the iPads and some of the resources we now have access to. I believe that it has helped us become less of a teacher-centered school and more of a learner-centered school where we are all learners together.

8)      What are the biggest negatives? 

I think the concerns are that we address misuse of digital resources and have conversations about balance. We are not promoting an “all iPad, all the time” environment. Thoughtful lesson-planning means integrating appropriate resources whether they are technology-based or not. 

Questions about How the iPad’s Are Deployed

9)      Do the iPad uses depend on regular wireless access? How much of the building/school system is wireless? 

We have wireless throughout all of our school buildings.  There are certainly ways to utilize the iPads without wireless access, but I think the infrastructure of a school or district should be upgraded before the integration of wireless devices.

10)   Are the iPad’s bought or leased? 

We pay for our iPads through a three-year lease to own program. 

11)   Who handles iPad repairs? How are the iPad’s re-charged? 

We have a student help desk which is the front line of handling iPad issues. They are supported by staff who can step in and resolve issues that they cannot.  However, the issues that the schools are unable to resolve are very few. In regards to charging, students recharge the iPads at home after school. Because the iPads are not used every minute of every day, they can go multiple days without being recharged.  Charging of devices has been a non-issue.

12)   What training was done for technology staff? For teachers? 

We spent a great deal of time leading up to the deployment sharing digital resources with staff and offering numerous sessions on resources that we thought that they would find most useful. We have given staff a great deal of time to get together informally as well to share what is working and what is not. Again, having the help desk available throughout the school day allows staff and students to get questions answered and learn about resources in which they are interested.

13)   Are the iPad’s networked in any way? What hardware/software is used in networking? 

All of our iPads access our school network. We currently use a browser from Lightspeed Systems that ensures that the student iPads go through our server and our filtering whether they are in or out of school.

14)   How is software loaded on the iPad’s? How is the software purchased? 

At the high school level, most of the apps utilized are free apps that students load themselves.  At the middle and elementary levels the apps are loaded by the IT staff via a synching cart. Pay for apps that are bought by the school are done through the volume purchasing program.

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Breaking News From The BPS Ed Tech Team! – Google Drive iPad App Update

From The BPS Ed Tech Team:
By Andy Marcinek

After a long wait, Google Drive is now available for the iPad with the full functionality of the web-based version of Google Drive. To refresh, Google Drive is the new name for the Google Docs Suite. This suite includes Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms, and Folders.
The updated version of the Google Drive app allows you to create, collaborate and edit documents with ease on the iPad. Before, this process was rather cumbersome through the mobile view and desktop interface on the iPad, however much has changed with this update. Users can also upload photos and video right to Google Drive directly from the iPad. This will allow students to upload video projects and photos immediately.

The home screen for the Google Drive App

The best update to arrive in version in Google Drive version 1.1.0 is the editing option. Users can edit much easier and with a cleaner interface. Plus, the editing and collaboration features are much faster through the Google Drive App. Users can also see who is editing on the doc at the same time. In addition, docs can now be accessed offline as well. Users can edit a doc offline and once it hits a wi-fi connection, the doc will sync with Google Drive and save in the cloud. This feature will happen automatically or via the refresh button in the upper-right hand corner of the home screen of the app

Editing view in the Google Drive App

The Google Drive app also gives users the ability to organize their entire Google Drive. Users can create and share a folder as well as create and share a doc through this app (at this writing only docs can be created directly through the app). Also, users can move docs to folders and organize their entire Google Drive from the iPad app.

Create a new doc, folder or upload media

While creating presentations, spreadsheets, and forms is still unavailable, I imagine this feature will be added soon. Even though you cannot create presentations, spreadsheets, and forms directly from the app, users can still view these documents within the app. In addition, users can open a Google Spreadsheet and access the “open in…” feature from the app that will allow users to open the spreadsheet in supported apps (such as Notability, Evernote, Dropbox, etc.). For presentations, users can view and present from the app, but not yet create a presentation directly from the app. Again, I imagine these features are not far behind this update.

Open spreadsheets in supported apps

Users also have the ability to share a doc directly from the app and can access a populated contacts list from simply typing in the first letter of the email. The share feature also allows the doc owner to set permissions for “can edit”, “can comment”,  and “can view”. The doc owner can also toggle viewing permissions and completely remove a user from the doc.

Share docs, view and toggle permissions

If you’ve struggled with Google Docs on the iPad in the past, this is update will make your life and classroom work-flow more enjoyable. This is not a perfect update, but it is a giant step in the right direction for those of us using Google Apps for Education in a 1:1 iPad environment. If you have any questions about this update, please visit the help desk for assistance.

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