Creativity and Tech

Here’s an article in Forbes about how Google and Chromebooks have overtaken Apple/iPads in the classroom.

I’ve seen this shift. When I started building content for schools, it was nearly 100% iPads with very few laptops. Chromebooks didn’t exist. Five years later, we see over 50% Chromebooks in classrooms. Although we started building for iPads, thankfully, we built something that is accessible to iPads and browsers (including Chromebooks). (We have never had a request for an Android app.)

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I see the reasons schools move: Chromebooks have keyboards. Chromebooks are cheaper. And – I think most importantly – Chromebooks are much easier to manage from an IT perspective.

Chromebooks have come a long ways, but I still see the iPad as a more creative tool. Critics say it’s only a device of consumption, and the Chromebook is a device of creation. I disagree. The iPad is much stronger in video, audio, music and photography production.  You can’t beat iMovie or the plethora of photo editing apps. Garageband is beyond compare for music production. Chromebooks can do these things, but not nearly as easily or as intuitively.

So, who drives the move to Chromebooks? Is it IT? Admin? Finance? Or is it the education teams that are choosing them for pedagogical reasons? Somehow, I don’t think so. Is technology becoming just really expensive paper? Are computers just a fancy Xerox machine, allowing worksheets to be delivered digitally instead of on paper — without expanding education beyond fill-in-the-blanks teaching, avoiding creativity? This is a broad overgeneralization of course, but….

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iPad Implementation

Interesting piece in edudemic.com about successful iPad (or 1:1) implementation, “5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads.

I’m watching my daughter’s district get ready to roll out iPads to 7/8 next year. Since my daughter is older, I’m not directly involved, although I have a good sense of what they’re doing from conversations with teachers and admins.

The five errors this article addresses:

  1. Focusing on content apps
  2. Lack of teacher prep in classroom management
  3. Treating the iPad as a computer/laptop
  4. Treating iPads as multi-user devices
  5. Not having a good answer to “Why iPads?”

From my vantage point, the district is handling a few of these well, while falling right into these errors on others.

Apps: I’m not totally sure what apps they’ll be recommending, but from my conversations with teachers and the questions I hear at a couple of committees, the focus is on content apps. I’ve reviewed a few grant requests for iPads, and they tend to list 20+ content apps. As this article discusses, the powerful apps are the “consumption, curation, and creativity” apps, such as iMovie, Educreations, etc. These are the apps they should be requesting.

Teacher Training: I definitely see a lack of teacher prep, both in classroom management and in how to use the devices to provide better education (and isn’t that the goal?) The district did give teachers an ipad, but as the blog post suggests, that isn’t enough. I was at a recent meeting about professional development, and it was painfully obvious that the teachers want more training. How sad that the Tech Training in next year’s PD schedule was in February. FEBRUARY!!! iPads are rolling out in September!

The best PD is training teachers do themselves, but they need to provided with that paradigm. They need time to work with the devices, to see the tools modeled and used in setting that are not threatening or have 30 kids sitting in the room. I’d love to see them do an EdCamp (I’ve offered to run it) or to create learning cohorts with teachers teaching themselves.

I have seen the admins at conferences, but have yet to see a teacher from this district. That, to me, is a big error.

Multi-user: Fortunately, they are going 1:1. They did a limited pilot last year, and found that classroom sets didn’t bring much change. The best results were in a 1:1 setting. I agree, and am happy to see them going down this path.

Communicating “Why?” There has been some good communication and reasoning around why they are using the iPads. One principal said it was to improve “individualized instruction, immediate assessment feedback…” Another said, “…to go beyond the classroom, giving kids a world view…” These are good goals.

I am concerned about this message, “…the iPad initiative will be monitored to see whether student learning increases and test scores rise.”  Student learning is not best measured by tests.

Yup. The Students Need Tech

Another blog post supporting the need for students to have technology — not just the teachers. In his post, “Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology,” Ryan Bretag echoes the findings of the study I referenced in my last post where personal ownership of the tools is the best indicator of success.

In one district I work with, they made a concerted effort to get white boards in all the classrooms, at least at some of the schools. I know there are some teachers who have them who never use them, other teachers who would like them but are reduced to asking for grants to get them. (Oh, that irritates me. Why should a teacher have to drum up the money to get tools that they need? Whether or not I think IWBs are the answer, still!!!)

But moving to getting tech in the hands of kids is a slow, arduous process. It’s been painful. In past posts, I’ve referenced how hesitant teachers are to have kids use cell phones for educational purposes. Nearly every classroom has a NO CELL PHONES sign. They say they are BYOD, but wow — there’s no evidence. My daughter could have an iPad, and even has an accomodation that says she can have it, but she won’t because it sticks out.

Those fancy white boards? They don’t do much if it’s just the teacher and one or two students who can do stuff. I loved Mr. Bretag’s comment about converting a lecture to powerpoint to IWB….

I’m working on a curriculum. We get many requests for prepared IWB slide shows. I can only hope these slide shows are being taken apart and used for something besides lecturing — even with fancy white board slides.

The Power is Personal

Over the last few years, I have been studying how schools adapt to the 21st century through technology implementations. It’s all over the board: 1:1, BYOD, classroom sets, iPads, Chromebooks, iPods, laptops, etc.

The one thing I have really noticed is that while any technology (used appropriately, and not just for substitution) is a great step, the real power is when students have their own personal device. It doesn’t matter if it’s a school owned device or their own device — but that it is theirs alone to use. To personalize, to explore and to use how they use it best. This has been clear at the couple of schools who are, in my mind, the front runners of this device adoption.

I’ve seen it at my house. We bought my 7th grader an iPad to use at school this year. His school was going no where when it came to tech integration, and it made me furious. Because they had no policy about devices, there was no reason he couldn’t bring it, so we sent it. Within a week, I could see the real power in making it his own tool.

He explored a variety of apps, and figured out what worked best. He played with different planner apps, notetaking tools and email apps. He found a blogging platform that worked for his journal. The power really was in his being able to make it his own.

He was able to select his own wallpaper, put his own apps that work for him. He organizes his apps in folder very differently than I do. It’s quite fascinating, and it works because it’s his own.

I’ve been saying this to both my kids’ schools – but as I’ve posted previously, it falls on deaf ears. Perhaps I’m too pushy, perhaps they aren’t ready to go this way. BUT – I was so thrilled to see this post from Tony Vincent’s blog “Learning in Hand” about a study in Scotland (key findings of the study) which comes right out and says that personal ownership of the device is the number one factor in determining the successful use of the technology.

 

Personalized

Ran across this blog post this morning, In BYOT it’s the Y and O That Matters, by Peter DeWitt. Wow. It rang true for us. I just have to share a couple of quotes:

I feel that it is our job as educators to teach students how to use something properly rather than ban it because it makes us uncomfortable.

He quotes from a report by Karen Greenwood-Henke, “BYOT: How Personal Technology is Transforming the Classroom.” (MDR EdNET Insight.) I must get my hands on this report. These quotes are powerful, and this is where the Y and O part come from — Your Own.

Personal technology is loaded with your calendar, your contacts, your preferred applications, and organized the way that makes sense to you. Students become better organized, more productive, and have the potential to be self-directed learners when they use their personal technology. “It’s a piece of you” (Greenwood-Henke. MDR. 2012).

 

While it’s only been three weeks, we’ve really seen this with my son and the iPad we got for him at school. As I’ve said in previous posts, he’s taken true ownership over the tool – and is using it well. He’s found things that work for him. He tested and rejected a couple of planner apps, he’s set up Evernote, his apps are organized in folders in a way that I would never do, but it works for him. While I’m not sure I think BYOT is the best way, I do think a 1:1 is the only way. Shared devices don’t allow the ownership, the personalization, the 24/7 access and the immediacy that 1:1 programs promote. And these are what makes it work.