Needed: A focus on teaching and learning

The success of any 1-1 implementation lies less in the choice of computing device, but more in the difference that it can contribute to the overall teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. This is so important to remember, especially as more and more schools follow through with an “iPad initiative.”

While the selection of educational apps is vast (the Apple in Education website currently reads “Thousands of apps. Endless potential.”), I have come to understand that teachers shouldn’t focus only on the apps that can help with learning (intriguing as they may be). The key is to expand student thinking, not restrict it by working only within a choice selection of apps.

Appropriate instructional decisions are needed in order to take student learning to the next level. How are teachers challenging student thinking and inviting them to use their device in productive ways that will help them learn better? To what extent are students using the technology to curate their knowledge, collaborate with others, and create their own content? These are two important questions to keep in mind before deciding on an “app for that.”

Teens hate Twitter, don’t like talking on the phone, and think email is passé

These were among the findings of a recent Business Week report “The secret lives of teenagers online.” Their research observed that:

  • While few teens (13-17 years old) own tablet computers such as an iPad, teens remain very connected through cell phones and other, smaller gadgets such as an iPod Touch.
  • More than 95% of teens own a cell phone and their data usage has increased over 250% since 2010.
  • 68% of teens prefer to text each other as a means of communication. (They don’t really enjoy using their phones for talking.)
  • Teens like to spend time checking social media sites during the day. Top teen activities on Facebook include looking at people’s profiles and commenting on them.
  • Teens don’t read the news online.

In addition, the authors were surprised to note that “teens are way sneakier using the Internet and gadgets than their parents imagine.”  In fact, a good percentage of teenagers “take serious measures to cover their tracks online, and [their] parents have no idea.”

I found this report quite interesting, as it provided a snapshot of Internet use that focuses on teenagers. It is clear that teenagers are incredibly connected. How can we use this knowledge to foster a positive culture of learning that leverages technology and access to the Internet? Are there implications for encouraging positive digital citizenship? Do we need to pay  special attention to policy development with regards to device usage on campus? These are just a few questions that I found myself asking as we consider ways to engage teenagers and their devices in high school. Hmm … I wonder how other successful schools are addressing issues such as these.

And now for something completely different …

Have you ever thought how your email ends up in my inbox? Here is an interesting virtual journey of what happens when you click “send”. Google Green offers a visual explanation of the process. Along the way there are interesting video, image and explanations of all that happens almost instantaneously.

The Story of Send.

The “flipped” classroom

The notion of a “flipped” classroom has been gaining a lot of attention in the past year or so.

First of all, what is a “flipped” classroom? By most accounts, a flipped classroom is one where the instruction takes place online outside of class hours, thereby freeing classtime for discussion, application and/or homework on the online lesson’s ideas and topics that students have previously viewed.

I have been following the development and interest that it is gaining and wanted to collect a number of links to some valuable resources on the flipped model:

This infographic provides a nice overview of the flipped model.

A collection of 10 reasons to consider flipping a classroom countered with 5 reasons not to flip a classroom.

A balanced commentary on the flipped classroom model for learning.

The flipped class manifest outlines the core tenets of a flipped classroom.

A discussion on how the flipped classroom is radically transforming learning.

The Flipped Class Network is a professional learning community to support teachers as they consider flipping a lesson or even their entire class.

Alternatives to YouTube

I attended a webinar earlier today that focused on a framework for technology integration in teaching. A question was asked regarding YouTube alternatives, especially since many schools continue to block YouTube in the classroom. I recall my post that highlighted YouTube’s efforts to address this, however I appreciated learning about other options to consider, especially those that categorize videos by subject area. 47 Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom and WatchKnowLearn.org offers a number of additional good resources for teachers to consider.

The Apple “Edu-Announcements”

Apple made big news yesterday with a number of education-related announcements. The first was the launch of iBooks 2.  iBooks 2 is an upgrade to their iBooks app that will now allow users to access electronic textbooks on an iPad. The app itself is free and Apple announced that all textbooks on its shelves would be priced at $14.99 or less. Interestingly, a number of publishers have already committed to producing e-textbooks for Apple and the iPad, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. These publishing companies alone have a significant stake in the textbook market.

For Apple, the future of textbooks is meant to be electronic and not a significant drain on the wallet, either. No longer will students and schools need to pay expensive prices for books and their special add-ons, especially since these e-textbooks will have interactive features built into them. It is expected that these elements will include features such as videos, diagrams, active links, photo galleries, questionnaires, quizzes, 3-D diagram models, etc. Another benefit for students will be the ability to highlight, add notes and search definitions and terms electronically on the text.

As one who has been involved in the textbook adoption process in higher education, I can agree with others who note that Apple is trying to change the paradigm in terms of textbook use in the classroom. Some even suggest that Apple is “reinventing the textbook market” or that this will “kill the sale of paper textbooks.” It will be interesting to follow what happens to textbook production and sales, especially for those who are preferring to use their iPads. With over 1.5 million iPads being used in k-12 schools and more than 20,000 educational apps for the iPad alone so far, this may have a significant impact.

The second initiative with this announcement was the release of iBooks author which is a free tool that allows people (teachers) to become authors of their own (text) books. While this app is not workable on an iPad, it does allow those with operating a Macintosh computer to create e-books for the iPad in a streamlined manner. It includes basic templates, the ability to add multimedia including 3-D objects and HTML, and ease of use to import text from common word processing formats. Of course, there is also the ability to export to iBookstore for publication.

Even though I don’t currently use a Mac, I am interested in learning more about iAuthor textbook development process for teachers. Imagine being able to develop highly personalized textbooks for my students that would  focus on the specific material we prefer to use in the classroom. Imagine, too, being able to integrate interactive video and links to outside sources. We wouldn’t need to sort through the excess information that doesn’t necessarily apply to my course which often appears in larger texts.

The announcements are based on the assumption that all students either own or will have access to a mobile device using Apple products. Indeed, this could have a big impact in a 1:1 initiative for a school. The impact may be less certain if students do not have 24-hr access to a computing device or if schools are choosing to use Windows operating systems. Other issues, such as textbook use policies, may need to be reconsidered in k-12 settings where the school typically owns the books, rather than the students who may own the iPads. Still, as it has been noted “For now, it’s an exciting step in moving education further into the 21st century.”

References:

Biggs, J. (2012, Jan. 19). Sea Change: Apple Guts Textbook Publishing.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 19, 2012). Apple Schools Education Market with iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 20, 2012). Hands On with iBooks 2 and iTunes U.

Khan, J. ( Jan. 20, 2012). McGraw Hill CEO gives credit for iBooks textbook vision to Steve Jobs.

NPR staff. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple pushes interactive textbooks on iPads.

Provenzano, N. (2012, Jan. 20). What Apple’s Edu-Announcement Could Mean To You.

Sohn, T., & Nagel, D. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple Launches iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Takahashi, P. (2012, Jan. 19). New iPad app for digital textbooks excites Clark County schools.

The Cloud and the Classroom

Cloud computing is gaining the attention of building leaders and classroom teachers, alike. Using the cloud to access, create and/or store information and classroom products is gaining momentum as a viable, and even cost-effective, solution to different challenges that educators are facing today.

The challenge for many new users is understanding how to access and use the cloud appropriately in the classroom. Indeed, it may appear that everything is “more like a thick fog” rather than a cloud!  (I like this analogy that the authors offered.)

THE Journal provided an in-depth guide to cloud computing for a school. It provides a good definition of the cloud, differentiates among types of clouds, suggests six ways that the cloud may be used for a school, and offers some challenges to be consider during a cloud implementation process.

Reference:

O’Hanlon, C., Schaffhauser, D., Raths, D. & Ramaswami, R. (2012, Jan. 4). Diving into the cloud. Accessed through THE Journal, Jan. 9, 2012.