Top Posts #10 – Our School’s Apple School Profile Video

As I look to unplug a bit during the first week of summer vacation, I am continuing to repost my top posts from last year. Below is #10 which was first posted last month.

My daily google alerts notified me that the school profile video of Burlington High School posted on Apple’s Education page in March is now available on You Tube.  The video was posted on May 30 on a You Tube Channel titled Every Apple Video.

Top Post #9 – The iPad In Schools: Is It A Solution Or A Problem?

This was cross posted on Edudemic

As I look to unplug a bit during the first week of summer vacation, I am continuing to repost my top posts from last year. Below is #9 from April of this year.

 Slide via Greg Kulowiec 
Slide via Greg Kulowiec 

 The question above comes from Greg Kulowiec’s Keynote Presentation last Thursday – What is the answer with iPads? – at the iPad Summit in Atlanta, and it is a critical question for educators involved in iPad initiatives (or any 1:1 initiative) to reflect upon. Thinking as a school administrator who pushed for the deployment of over 1,000 devices in his school, I have to admit that I initially responded somewhat defensively as I went with iPad as a solution. However, as Greg allowed the question to linger and began his rationale for looking at iPad as a problem for schools, I began to cast aside my blinders and look at this question from a broader perspective. When Greg asked the following question, “Are we just taking iPads and slapping them into our existing structure?” I knew I had blown it with my initial answer: Of course, I knew that looking at iPad (or any device) as the solution infers a pretty simplistic look at the issues inherent with our current educational system. It also takes away the ownership of the issues from the people in the system, especially if we think simply adding a thing will improve teaching and learning. But what about looking at iPad (or another technological resources) as the problem? How can this help us? Well, the slide below is just one example of what is happening within educational institutions due to the development of technological resources that can change the way we learn. The slide references a situation that occurred at Ryerson University in Toronto when students formed a Facebook study group to help them prepare for exams.

  Slide via Greg Kulowiec 
Slide via Greg Kulowiec[/caption] 
 This is just one example of the countless issues that not only crop up when we bring new technology into static institutions, but also when those who think about how they can do things differently are stifled by those who cannot immediately escape their traditional thinking. I believe that educators need to understand that their initial discomfort is not just about the technology, it is also about the fact that the way learners access information has changed forever. Due to these changes, educational institutions will need to look long and hard at their practice in order to assure the success of the students whom they serve. Justin Reich described this scenario last week in a post on his EdTech Researcher Blog titled The iPad as a Trojan Mouse :

“…what new technologies like tablets or laptops can do is open new avenues for conversation. In schools where every child has a portable, multimedia creation device, what can we do differently? What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?”

In Burlington, we built a formal mechanism for the conversations with the formation of a 1:1 Implementation Team comprised of staff, students, parents, and community members. The ideas that emanated from this group have set the stage for our professional development plans for teachers and parents, leading to summer-long edcamp opportunities, our digital publishing collaborative, technology workshops for parents, and the BHS Help Desk student support team just to name a few. There is no doubt that the conversations surrounding the arrival of iPads into our classroomss have been about much more than just how to use a piece of technology. These discussions have opened the door to deeper insights surrounding student (and adult) learning that have begun to change the way we operate.

Here’s to hoping that more school communities open their doors to these problems as well as the meaningful conversations that follow.

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Top Posts #7 – Pew Survey Shows We Are Not Adequately Preparing Students

As I look to unplug a bit during the first week of summer vacation, I am continuing to repost my top posts from last year. Below is #7 from last November.

Analog Digital
Analog Digital (Photo credit: DigitalAlan)
A very interesting study, titled How Teens Do Research In The Digital World, was released by the Pew Research Center this week.  Unfortunately, the part that seemed to get the most publicity centered around the fact that the majority of the teachers surveyed, 64% to be exact, said that “digital tools do more to distract students than to help them academically.”
A Mashable post by Neha Prakash caught my eye with a headline title Technology Creating A Generation of Distracted Students.  
A More Accurate Headline in my mind would have been – 
Majority of Teachers Take No Responsibility For Lack Of Student Classroom Engagement

The feelings of teachers surveyed are contradictory. On one hand, those surveys say the following:

“Overall, teachers who participated in this study characterize the impact of today’s digital environment on their students’ research habits and skills as mostly positive…”

On the other hand those surveyed said this:

“some teachers worry about students’ overdependence on search engines; the difficulty many students have judging the quality of online information; the general level of literacy of today’s students; increasing distractions pulling at students and  poor time management skills; students’ potentially diminished critical thinking capacity; and the ease with which today’s students can borrow from the work of others.”  

The findings in the excerpt above leave me with the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for teaching students how to judge the quality of online information?
  • Whose definition of literacy are we using here? 
  • How many educators can meet NCTE’s definition of literacy?
  • Are students distracted because of technology or because of boring lessons/assignments?
  • Can’t increased access help us improve the critical thinking capacity of our students?
While many things have changed for learners and things have certainly become more complicated on many levels, one thing that has remained a constant is the fact that who we know is a critical facet in our learning journey.  We need our students to have access to people who see the possibilities and are willing to embrace some of the struggles that are inherent in a world where learners have so many options.  
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Memorial School Celebrates Mrs. R – VIDEO

It has been a gift to work on the administrative team with Memorial School Principal Karen Rickershauser for the past six years. She is one of the most caring educators that I have ever met and she wears her love for her students, staff, and colleagues on her sleeve. 
I was fortunate to be at Memorial School on the final day of school this past Tuesday when she was recognized by the staff and students with a special send off (check out the video below).  As she heads off to Texas to be closer to her grandson Otto and other family members, I know that I am one of many that will miss her presence (and her hugs).

Top Post #4 – Is The iPad King? It Is For Us And That’s All That Matters (For Now)

(This post originally ran in January.)

BHS students on their iPads

I have seen a few posts lately on the topic of which device is the best device for a school looking to go 1:1 and put a web-enabled device in the hands of each student.  One that caught my attention yesterday was  5 Reasons The iPad Will Stay King Of The Classroom which was posted on Edudemic.

The Edudemic post, written by Adam Webster, notes that the iPad has the following advantage over a laptop:

“The iPad, its workflow and its apps, allow for real change and makes it easy. Your students will create work that not only wasn’t possible before their innovative use of the technology, but that you as their teacher had never even thought of.”

From my own experience in year two of an iPad 1:1 program here in Burlington, I agree wholeheartedly that the newness of this device and the necessity of creating new work flows leads to more innovative uses than we would see from a laptop.  However, this can only happen in schools and classrooms where students are allowed flexibility that is not common in many traditional classrooms.

My point is that neither the iPad nor any other new gadget or gizmo will allow students the type of discoveries that Adam describes in his post unless it is coupled with a mindset that is still atypical in most schools. This change I am talking about is one that does not lead students in step-by-step processes to complete the most rudimentary task, instead it is a learning environment where students have clear outcomes to achieve, but are left with many ways to achieve these outcomes.

So I guess I continue to worry about schools that gobble up iPads (or any other digital device) thinking that it alone will have a transformational effect on learning.  Greg Kuloweic made the point very well in answer to the question “Why iPad?” on the EdTechTecher Site.

“Fundamentally, I believe that an iPad can neither be good or bad. All it can ever be is an iPad. I argue instead, that when used effectively and with specific goals in mind, iPads can have a positive impact on education.” 

So after a long lead in to reiterating the fact that people change schools, not devices, I am at my second and larger concern.  This one revolves around our ability and the ability of our students to think outside of the platform that we have chosen.  Personally, I love Apple devices and have a an iPhone, iPad and MacBook to prove it. However, when it comes to the iPad, I do worry about creating a school full of iOS “app-dependent” students and staff. I worry that our choice of platform will limit the thinking of our students down the road and box them in.

Adrianna
Adrianna (Photo credit: patricklarkin1967)

While I believe that we have made the best decision for our school today, things change quickly and we need to create organizational and individual flexibility to adapt to these changes when they occur.  So for the immediate future I  believe we are on the right path, but there is no discounting the fact that there are forks in the road that we will need to anticipate.  No King rules forever…

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More Chatter about Cheating

Cheat sheet in a juice box. Español: Chuleta o...
Cheat sheet in a juice box. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The conversations around cheating have taken off since yesterday’s post Cheating is Cheating, but why does it happen?

My good friend George Couros nailed one of the key points from my perspective with the comment below. Those of us who have spent any significant time working in schools need to make sure that we have not lost touch with what is happening outside of schools. If we are preparing students exactly the same way as we always have then there is a problem

This morning I was excited to see a blog post from a Paul Huebl,  a teacher in Adelaide, Australia who wrote a great post titled Cheating v. Inspiration.  While I encourage you to read the entire post, the portion that stuck out for me was where Paul talked about assessments.

“What are we assessing when we give a test? Is it whether a student has good memory? Whether they can apply knowlwedge  to a new situation? Whether they can perform well on tests…? I propose that any situation where a child is able to cheat, is not a very good assessment (*most of the time).”

Finally my friend Tony Baldasaro shared a story from his first year as a teacher this morning in a post titled One of the Worst Decisions in my Career… . Tony recounts his experience having “no mercy” on a student he caught with a cheat sheet and giving an otherwise top student an insurmountable hole to dig himself out of as one of his veteran colleagues urged him to hold the line.

Again, I am thankful for a PLN with so many lifelong learners (like Tony, Paul and George) who reflect on their practice and are flexible in the interest of students. Tony’s question is one that all of us who have ever given a zero to a “cheater” should consider.

“What would have happened if I taught differently, assessed more creatively, and engaged the (student) in the learning in such a way as to emphasize learning and not the grade?”

While I know there are many different directions that this conversation can take based on the unique circumstances of individual cases, I think we need to ensure that we are emphasizing learning and not punishments.

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What do our middle school teachers think about the iPads?

Reposted from the Marshall Simonds Middle School Help Desk Blog:

Mrs. Barkley (Spanish)

What is the best part about having the iPads?
Variety of lesson plans
What is the worst part about having the iPads?
Sometimes technology does NOT work
How are the Ipads helpful in the classrooms?
They give the students and teachers a variety of teaching and learning strategies
What apps do the kids use most?
Study Blue- flashcards, Google Drive- paragraphs, Evernote- notes & projects
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Sometimes
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Teaching Tool
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Yes
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
I prefer to have them as an everyday option
Do you think the iPads would be more helpful if the students could take the iPads home?
Yes, I think it would be easier, 8th graders especially if they could take them home
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
Fruit Ninja, Scrabble, and Boggle
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
I think that they can help students stay organized and more engaged
 
Mrs. Cerretani (Science)
Best part of having the iPads?
Google Search
Worst part about the iPads?
Secretly getting on the internet
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Notes
What app do the kids use most?
Notability
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Some
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Notes and Search
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Limited use; too much tech is not good for anybody
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
Not at all; over used, don’t need
Do you think the iPads would be more helpful if the students could take the ipads home?
Take the iPads home
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
None
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
Useful



Mrs. Dearden (Art)
Best part of having the iPads?
Search – Resource – Tracking
Worst part about the iPads?
No printing
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Research and tracking
What app do the kids use most?
Safari
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Some
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Research
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Yes
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
In class
Do you think the ipads would be more helpful if the students could take the iPads home?
Not necessary
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
None
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
Lucky kids


Mrs. Hewitt (Language Arts)

Best part of having the iPads?
Something New/ Challenge

Worst part about the iPads?
Feeling like I want to be the best with the iPads
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Used in so many different ways
What app do the kids use most?
Notability and Google Drive
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Not Really
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Writing Process
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Yes, because it is making Burlington stand out
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
I prefer and can NOT see class without them now
Do you think the iPads would be more helpful if the students could take the ipads home?
There are positives and negatives; but over all it would be good
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
No
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
It is a good thing mostly because we all learn from it and it is helpful and makes us more flexible
Miss Mirabella (Spanish) 

Best part of having the iPads?
Quia
Worst part about the iPads?
Distractions
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Hands-on
What app do the kids use most?
Safari
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Few kids
What do you use the ipads mostly for?
Vocab
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Yes
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
In class
Do you think the iPads would be more helpful if the students could take the ipads home?
Yes
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
No
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
They are helpful


Mrs. Molina (Family Consumer Science)

Best part of having the iPads?
Instant access to information
Worst part about the iPads?
Distractions
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Helpful to get questions answered quickly
What app do the kids use most?
My fitness pal
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
No
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Resource
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Can be if it is used properly
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
Rather have it
Do you think the iPads would be more helpful if the students could take the ipads home?
Yes, a lot more helpful
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the ipads that you think should be on them?
I do not know
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
When used for the purpose of educating and not just used to be used than it is helpful

Mr.Pearl (Language Arts)

Best part of having the iPads?
Research
Worst part about the iPads?
Distraction
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Debate,Research
What app do the kids use most?
I do not know
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Yes, a little
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Research
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Yes, to a degree
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
In classroom
Do you think the ipads would be more helpful if the students could take the iPads home?
No
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
None
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
Good Start


Mr. Powers (Language Arts)
Best part of having the iPads?
Research
Worst part about the iPads?
Games
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Storage
What app do the kids use most?
Evernote
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Yes
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Notes/ writing/ research
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Good for the future
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
In class
Do you think the ipads would be more helpful if the students could take the iPads home?
Hopefully
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
None
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
Useful and distraction


Mrs. Tate (Math)
Best part of having the iPads?
Easier to move around the classroom
Worst part about the iPads?
None
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Note, organization, making learning fun
What app do the kids use most?
Notability
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
No; I could take the ipad away if someone was distracted
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Notes
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education?
Yes, helps organize and more freedom
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
In classroom
Do you think the ipads would be more helpful if the students could take the iPads home?
Yes
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
Dictionary
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
They are helpful and fun

Mr.Vitale (Math)
Best part of having the iPads?
Share folders and submit homework
Worst part about the iPads?
Distraction
How are they helpful in the classrooms?
Yes
What app do the kids use most?
Notability, Evernote, Google Drive
Do you find that the students get distracted easily by having the iPads on them?
Yes
What do you use the iPads mostly for?
Notes, some worksheets
Do you think the iPads were a good addition to the school and the students education
Yes, because it changes responsibility
Do you prefer having the iPads in class or not at all?
Prefer
Do you think the iPads would be more helpful if the students could take the ipads home?
Yes
Are there any apps that you have used previously that are NOT on the iPads that you think should be on them?
No
Overall what are your thoughts on the iPads?
Good enhancement to school

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Thinking About More Relevant Schools and Classrooms…(Part One)

photo
How can we make sure that their work in school pays off for our students?

(Disclaimer – The concerns I have are not just about the school system where I work or the one where my students attend, they are systemic issues that everyone of us who is impacted by the education of our youth should consider.  Oh yeah, we are all impacted by the education of our youth!)

As I continue to read stories about what is happening in the “real world,” you know the place we are supposed to be preparing our students for, my concerns about the level of preparation that our students will have as they exit our doors.  While I have a good level of confidence that our students will be able to do the basics well (i.e. reading, writing, and arithmetic), I am fairly confident that the learning environments that they inhabit within our school walls have not changed and will leave them lacking the skills they will need to prosper in a world where things are changing.

Andreas Schleicher, The Education Director for The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), describes the dilemma as follows in his article The Case for 21st Century Learning:

It is about how knowledge is generated and applied, about shifts in ways of doing business, of managing the workplace or linking producers and consumers, and becoming quite a different student from the kind that dominated the 20th century. What we learn, the way we learn it, and how we are taught is changing. This has implications for schools and higher level education, as well as for lifelong learning.

While educational policy makers scream for “accountability,” our students continue to lose out on the relevant experiences that have been ignored or brushed aside as we prepare for the next round of standardized testing.  If you don’t believe me just read the account of Bill Ferriter, a science teacher from North Carolina, and how his classroom will change for the worse next year because of our nation’s test-driven reform policy. 

It is time for local communities to come together and focus on a vision for students that will allow teachers to veer from a test-driven agenda and ensure a relevance-driven agenda.  If you agree with Schleicher and his vision (below) of the successful student:

They are capable not only of constantly adapting, but also constantly learning and growing in a fast-changing world. In a flat world, our knowledge becomes a commodity available to everyone else. As columnist and author Thomas Friedman puts it, because technology has enabled us to act on our imaginations in ways that we could never before, the most important competition is no longer between countries or companies but between ourselves and our imagination.

As someone who has worked in public education for 20-years, I know the biggest challenge for me is due to my past experiences in school and a lack of imagination to think beyond these experiences. How can we, the adults in the school, overcome our own hurdles to set the stage for a more meaningful experience for our students?

A concluding thought from Schleicher:

Value is less and less created vertically through command and control-as in the classic “teacher instructs student” relationship-but horizontally, by whom you connect and work with, whether online or in person. 

Touching Video Shown Before Last Night’s Bruins Game

Image via http://bloguin.com/ 

Words cannot really express the levels of sadness, anger and confusion that have resulted following the acts of terror that were perpetrated on Boston on Monday. However, one thing that has been clear is the amazing resilience of all who have been impacted by this unfathomable act. The actions, words, and tributes that have been shared in the few days following the bombings have been touching and extremely helpful in the healing process.

Below is the video shown before the Bruins game last night. Feel free to share links to anything that you found touching in the comment section below.

  http://nhl.cdn.neulion.net/u/videocenter-v1/embed.swf

File This Under – The Hidden Talents Of Burlington Administrators

Back in February I learned that Francis Wyman Elementary Principal Susan Astone was also a musician when I came across a post on her blog that showed her playing the guitar and singing to one of her classes (See Picture Below). Now, just a few months later I learned that Pine Glen Elementary Principal John Lyons is a dancer.

This news comes after Principal Lyons led his students in a rendition of the Harlem Shake last week during a visit by the Harlem Superstars basketball team.  Check out the video above of Principal Lyons performing “The Pine Glen Shake.”

I can’t help wondering what other hidden talents have yet to be discovered regarding our Burlington administrators?

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