iPad Music

My daughter, a soon-to-graduate senior in high school, is taking a well-deserved change this last trimester. We purposefully encouraged her to cut back formal high school learning (which she eagerly accepted) and instead, to set up a trimester learning about things she wants to in ways that work for her. (Perhaps I will blog more on this plan in the future.) Less homework and less structured activities has not, as I feared, led to a rampant increase in Netflix.

One of her goals was to increase time at the piano. She’s no longer taking formal lessons, but loves to play on her own and work through piano and vocal pieces.  She’s been playing over an hour a day – which never would have been possible with a super busy high school schedule. This is good not only for her as a musician, but good for her mind and soul. It’s good for creativity. It feeds an area of her that is not met in formal school

pianoipadI heard her playing something this morning that I didn’t recognize. As I walked into the living room, I see her with her iPad on the piano. She found an app that had guitar chords and the lyrics for hundreds (probably thousands) of songs. She was taking this info and playing them on the piano. She was having to refresh her music theory skills to remember all the chords, figure out the melodic line and then make the songs more complex by changing the chords.

Definitely a worthy learning experience, and a lovely accompaniment on a Sunday morning!

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.

Called to the Office

Well, week #1 and we’re getting called to the principal’s office.

Our disruptive technology experience (the iPad Project) has been an interesting experience. My son was really nervous about a couple of the teachers, but so far that’s been just fine. One teacher he was really nervous about was just amused when my son pulled out his iPad when they ran out of calculators. All the teachers have seen him use the iPad, no one has had a problem.

He’s exploring apps that work:

  • My Homework allows him to enter all his homework assignments, sort by due date, get notification of upcoming or late assignments. He far prefers this to the paper planners.
  • Evernote: all his notes for all his classes are right there. One spot. No forgetting notebooks.
  • Kidblog: he’s doing his journal in Kidblog.


Back to why we were called to the office. Day #2 brought the technology policy home. I didn’t sign it last year, and wasn’t about to sign it this year. It’s just the first paragraph I can’t sign, as it says that all personal electronic devices must be off and put away except when instructed by a teacher.

Here’s the email I sent:

I can’t sign the Tech policy as it is. I’m fine with most of it, but I can’t accept the first point….
These devices can be incredible learning tools, and we do a disservice to our kids by refusing to allow them to use them in school. Kids need to learn how to use them, and to learn that there are appropriate times/uses and inappropriate times/uses.
Given that we’ve allowed xxx to bring his iPad to school this year, it seems hypocritical for us to sign the policy as it is written.
Will post the outcome of the meeting.

Maybe Google is ok?

I have posted about the fact that my daughter, a freshman in high school, isn’t allowed to use the graphing calculator on her iPhone. We paid $1.99 for this app, and as you would imagine, she has it with her all the time.

Instead, she has to tote around a second $100 device. I had to buy this device last year. If I had had to buy it this year, when she had an iPhone, I would have refused. This is crazy.

Just saw an article about Google working as a graphing calculator. I wonder what the math teachers would say about using Google!!!  HAHA!  I can only imagine!

Seriously, though, should kids pay for and carry around a device that has one function: a graphing calculator. (OK, I realize that has many functions!!) Or, would it be better to teach kids to use the tools they already know and have? Teach them how to use Google to their advantage.

However, this won’t happen. I just found out that they reuse the tests. My daughter didn’t do very well on a quiz, so she had the chance to fix her mistakes (this is something I do like.) She couldn’t take the test out of the classroom  — because they use these same tests in all the geometry classes every year!! So, what did she do? She took a picture of a problem so she could work on it at home. While I commend her for her resourcefulness, this is NOT a good idea in the current culture. (Picture was deleted.)

While I understand that this provides consistency because all kids are tested on the same material and it saves the teacher time, is it really the best option? Does it teach the kids how to solve problems using the tools at hand? Does it teach thinking and problem solving? Are the problems related to the real world, or do they come straight from the textbook??

No wonder she struggles with geometry homework. It has absolutely no relation to her day-to-day life. I know many kids do find motivation in the academic exercise (I did, but only to keep my straight-A average), I doubt most kids do. Go check out Dan Meyer’s blog and TED talk. Then tell me if it’s a good thing that the tests are repeated every year and she’s can’t use her iPhone app.

Project 365

20120321-212805.jpgWhile on vacation last week, I grabbed a few of those MacWeek magazines in the airport…. a little geeky light reading for the plane. One of them mentioned an app I’ve seen discussed in the education circles: Project 365.

My daughter (an avid photographer and teen-age iPhone user) and I both downloaded the app and got started. I found it to be an interesting exercise while on vacation. Some days I took lots of photos, so the choice of one was difficult. Other days, I had to remind myself to stop, think, and take a picture of something that summed up the day.

Now that I am home, it’s even harder. What is it about my day-to-day life that is photo worthy? What do I do that sums up the day? It’s only been a couple of days, but so far I seem to be looking for outdoor shots to capture the change in seasons (an unseasonably early spring.)

Both my daughter and I are finding this a fun experiment. We each find very different things to document, which in itself makes this a worthy experience. We enjoy sharing our choices and talking about why we selected something. It is making both of us look at things in new ways, and to seek out the “special” in the humdrum of daily life.

Why post about this here? As a parent, I am happy to have found something to share with my daughter that we both enjoy and allows us to talk about something. I enjoy looking at her photography, which is far better than mine.

How could you do something like this in a classroom setting? Is it educational? I can see many ways this could be used in a specific class or as a bigger assignment. Most kids have some way they could photograph some moment of their day. What a great opportunity to teach about responsible photography (no pictures of anyone else w/o permission, etc.) It could lead to writing assignments, blogs and more.

I know I’ve seen Project 365 on other education technology websites, so just looked. Sure enough, Richard Byrne just posted about it with the awesome idea of this being a way for kids to build up a copyright free library of images to use. EAR.org posted a bunch of ways to use it.

I’ll check back with you in a year to see how it went!