Reading 21st Century Style

Enjoyed interacting with a book with my nephews today, 21st century style. We read/watched “Big Little Brother“on an iPad. Kevin Kling’s narration is awesome and entertaining. The boys enjoyed figuring out which toys would make noises and move.

This isn’t to say that they don’t enjoy print books – we read lots of those, too.

Project REAL Revisited

I had the good fortune to attend another Apple education seminar at Little Falls High School . Last spring, I attended a morning session where the Project REAL plan was presented and the 5th grade teachers and students who piloted iPads were there to show what they had done. Last year, there were approximately 40 people in attendance.

This year’s seminar was a full day. Teachers presented about what they had been doing, then we had time to visit with students and teachers at tables. The IT staff answered specific technical questions. This time, there were over 250 people at the session, and more than 550 people were watching the livestream. Wow!

Thankfully, they recorded the morning session which had about 12 teachers presenting different aspects of how they have used iPads this year. Watch it for yourself and see the great stuff happening in Little Falls!

It was a great day with many interesting stories. If I wasn’t already convinced that schools need to move to this direction, I am now.

Here’s a quick list of highlights for me:

  • “The only thing I can’t do on the iPad is print, and boy, am I glad.” — from Dave Girtz, the middle school media specialist
  • Carrie Youngberg, 5th grade, sees increased parent communication when the kids produce a weekly video of the “newsletter.”
  • Anjanette Kraus, High School English, uses She’s seen a significant reduction in late work and plagiarism, and thinks the public audience component has improved student writing and engagement. Kids are collaborating on writing.
  • Andy Ward, High School Science, was a sceptic. He was NOT happy about the iPads. He is now a convert. He says he’ll never go back to written lab reports – all his lab reports on done with video. Watch him – he’s quite entertaining!
  • The PE teacher uses an app called Tennis Coach Plus HD to record students practicing skills.
  • Jody Waltman, High School Math and French, demonstrated how she uses Moodle and email. No paper assignements!
  • Gregg Pearce – 5th grade. Gregg was uncertain as he piloted the iPads last year. The tech integrationist suggested just trying it – “unleashing the hounds.”
  • Greg Aker, Middle School social studies, demonstrated how easy it is to create epubs. Little Falls has a goal to not purchase any more textbooks.
  • Nate Swenson, Middle School principal, demonstrated how they use Google Forms for assessment.
  • Adam Smieja, Middle School math, demonstrated Socrative.
  • Karen Warner, High School art, discussed how she has embraced the iPads after being less than enthusiastic. She has student collaboration and student voices as they exchange ideas on the Moodle site. She uses iPads frequently for students to find references to draw.
  • Sarah Shaw, elementary art, has had the kids make digital art portfolios.
  • Shawn Alhorn, 5th grade, had the iPads last year. He loves not having paper assignments. He’s seeing more engagement, students digging deeper into content. He has kids do keynotes for vocab – has seen this reach kids of all learning styles, with significantly improved retention of meaning.


Yup, the Apple Announcement IS a Big Deal

I watched Apple’s announcement with great interest. The expectation was that this announcement would “revolutionize” education.

That’s a pretty tough expectation. Unrealistic. And Apple didn’t revolutionize education.

I’ve read plenty of criticism of the announcement.

Audrey Watters was totally unimpressed.  She wanted the revolution. She quoted Phil Schiller, “ It’s the same great content we’ve always had in textbooks, Phil Schiller said onstage today, just in a new digital format.” For Audrey, that’s the problem. She doesn’t want textbooks.  She has a compelling argument. She feels that primary source material is easily available now and teachers can compile it themselves.

In theory, I totally agree. In my first teaching job (7-8th grade social studies), there were no textbooks. I was allowed to create my own class, totally from scratch – including topic, sources, assignments, outcomes. It would’ve been a great opportunity – except I was 24 years old and had never taught before. I’d LOVE to have that opportunity now. I was in no way prepared for it then. We did end up with a pretty good class, somehow.

Most schools don’t run that way – wish they did. It would take more than a revolution in education to get states out of the business of selecting texts. It would take way more money to pay teachers fair pay for developing curriculum.

Beyond that, Audrey Watters and others complain that Apple’s products are proprietary – they work only on iPads. That the EULA is restrictive. That the “interactive” features are really only frosting, they are just the same type of teaching, just with bells and whistles. There is not social feature in any of the tools introduced.

All these things are true.

But I still think the announcement is a big deal. Why? Because it pushes mainstream digital publishers to recognize that digital texts are reality. It brings these ideas into everybody’s attention. Apple is much more of a household name than Inkling. It’ll take Apple to get school administrators, teachers, parents and students to take this seriously – even if they don’t have iPads.

Most schools aren’t anywhere near ready to abandon textbooks. Jumping to a digital textbook is enough of a revolution. For the schools that are lucky enough to already have iPads, this really is a great deal. It’s a great first step until the software and books mature.

The iBooks Author tool will be another step towards moving away from textbooks – it’ll let teachers (and students!) see that they can collect, curate and deliver content.

Things will evolve. It’s only a matter of time until Apple gets the pressure to have iBooks Author publish to other formats – or someone else will figure it out. The copyright issue will have to change. iTunes U will have to add some social features.

While this may not be a revolution, it’s a great first step!


Next week, my daughter’s high school is hosting a Curriculum Night to give parents a chance to talk to teachers about course options.

I’d like to check with the Social Studies teachers. Next year, my daughter will be taking World History. Having spent the last year researching technology options in education, especially social studies education, I’m hoping to see some great tools being used. I’m concerned, however, that I’m going to see the big ole Holt Reinhart Winston (or other publisher) textbook.

One topic I’m sure (I hope) will be ancient Rome. For today’s learners, I’m wondering which is more effective: pages of text with flat images, or using at something like the Virtual History Roma app that reconstructs ancient buildings in 3D, shows Roman armor on a virtual model, integrates paintings that can be zoomed in tightly, etc.

Take a peek. You tell me your choice. I know mine.


Thank goodness. 3M finally came up with the iPhone/iPad app I’ve been waiting for: PopNotes–  iPhone post-it notes!

I’m sure there are other post-it note type apps out there, but I haven’t found one I liked. I’ve been using PopNotes like crazy since the app was released a week or so ago. I use it every night to makes lists of what I have to do the next day…. make grocery lists…. quick notes about stuff I’ll forget.

It isn’t perfect, although I mostly disagree with this guy’s review of the app. I agree the registration issue is irritating at first, but now I’m done with that. It is true that there are many steps to post the PopNote, and that is irritating.

Here are my complaints:

  • Notes are not editable once you post them. Come on! (although this has been good for me — instead of retyping a task I didn’t complete, I’ve actually just done the dang task.)
  • I have been unable to invite “friends” to PopNotes, as it says you can do. The social aspect of these is somewhat intriguing – especially since they have a geolocation feature to pop up when you drive by a specified place.

Other than that, I’ve been looking for an iPhone feature that might let me do away with the millions of scraps of paper I have on my kitchen table and desk. I love that it has a reminder feature. Here’s a more positive review that points out good things I haven’t used yet.
I’ve tried various “task” apps, such as WunderList, and other apps such as Evernote, etc. I’ve used the Apple Notes app. But PopNotes fits the bill better, and I’m hoping 3M will keep making upgrades so all will be well with the minor issues I see right now.