My 7th grader has had an iPad at school this year to help him organize and keep all his work in one place.

Yesterday, he came home in tears. His math teacher took away his iPad and humiliated him in front of his whole class. My son admitted he had been deleting music from iTunes so he could update his Notion app (a music notation app for music scores, not for listening to music). He knew he shouldn’t be doing this during class.

Should he have had his iPad taken away? Should he have been humiliated in front of the whole class? This is a kid who never gets in trouble. In 8 years, I’ve had two teachers say one time each to me that he was talking too much in class… that’s the extent of the trouble he’s gotten into. He’s never had another issue with the iPad in nearly 9 months of school.

The teacher emailed us that he’s not sure he can “trust [my son’s] responsible use” now.

Wow. Seriously?

This is a teacher I know has a strong dislike of technology. He feels there is no role for technology for a student. He told me once that the math games on the iPad mean kids are more interested in popping balloons or getting the sharks than learning the math…. You think? Maybe learning math facts isn’t fun for some kids and they need the added motivation to pop balloons. Or maybe they’re so sick and tired of paper timed tests that popping a balloon puts more interest into the process. I honestly think he’s been looking for an opportunity to catch my son doing something so he could take away the iPad.

We feel the punishment was a significant overreaction. Could he not have given my son a warning? Asked him to put it away? Instead he threatened to take it away for the whole day. I give my son credit for pointing out that his entire planner and all his assignments are on the iPad. My son suggested giving it up for the math class, then getting it back.

I mentioned this to two colleagues who know my son. They guffawed. Their first reaction was that the class must’ve been boring and my son (who “gets” math easily) must have known what was going on and was frustrated listening to repetitious instructions.

I’m having a difficult time sending my son back into that class.  In nearly 9 months, this is the first problem we’ve had with the iPad. I have heard from no other teachers about issues of inappropriate use. So why now? Why this? And why this much reaction?


Last week, I attended another Apple event at Little Falls. These are exciting sessions where teachers present things they are doing in class with the iPads. My son asked me what I learned. I told him about the science teacher who was having his students do video lab reports, and we discussed the advantages of using images and video when talking about science experiments. We talked about how a lab report he did last week would have benefited from having pictures or video.

Today, when I picked him up, he was super excited to talk to me about the experiment they did. It involved fire and a hard boiled egg. Hmmm… I was having a hard time envisioning what they did. He proudly told me he had a video of it! The video had helped his group answer the questions on the lab report, as they could watch it over and over to see what happened first.

He also shared it with his teacher, who asked him to email it to him so he can post it on his website. His teacher thought it was pretty great that he had done this!

So, my subversive iPad project continues….  While this is a great example of using the iPad for learning, I am surprised my son is not coming up with more ways to use it. It concerns me that he is just following the teacher lead (which is very little tech) instead of thinking on his own. We will be having more conversations about thinking how the tools on the iPad can help him learn and demonstrate learning.

Two huge advantages to using the camera/video camera in a science lab

  • using in learning: watch it over and over to get data, be able to reproduce the set up, share with others
  • share with your family: it was way easier to understand what he did by watching the video. We had a great conversation about it!

Hereś the experiment:


Not Yet

If you’ve read my posts about our disruptive innovation project, the iPad Project, where we purchased an iPad for our 7th grade son to take to school, you’ll know that we met resistance, yet have worked with the school so that he’s allowed to have it.

Being the fair parents we are, we asked our 10th grade daughter if she wanted one. Her school is working towards a BYOT policy, but as the previous post stated, the mindset at her school is far from ready for this.

I have to say I was impressed with her response. While of course she’d love her own iPad, she said there’s no way she could have it at school yet. Teachers weren’t ready, wouldn’t let her use it. Kids would make a big deal out of it. She’d never really get to use it.

I guess that disruptive innovation project will have to wait. In the meantime, my daughter misses out on all the great things that can happen with approriate use of learning technology.


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.


Called to the Office: The Outcome

As previously posted, our tech experiment resulted in being called to the office because I wouldn’t sign the technology policy because it said that students couldn’t use devices unless directed by the teacher. Obviously, sending an iPad to school with my son violated that rule.

Long story short, my son gets to use the iPad. He has a medical disability that will allow him to have a device as part of his accommodations. (Mind you, I specified “a digital device” — not an iPad — because who the heck knows what it’ll be in 2 or 4 years.)

My son was very eloquent in describing how he’s using the iPad and how it helps him in school (with or without the medical disability.) He demonstrated his planner app, Evernote, Penultimate, all the while explaining how he uses it and why.

I appreciated the conversation, as I learned a bit more behind the school’s thoughts andwe opened the door to additional conversation.

But more, I’ve seen personally  the power in personalized technology and what it can do for learning. My son has taken ownership, experimented, tested, tried new things, thought differently about presenting information. It’ll be an experiment worth watching this year.

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.

Getting Disruptive Technology Ready

We’re at the cabin for one last relaxing weekend before school starts. (We’ll be here Labor Day weekend, but as that is closing weekend, it’s hardly relaxing.)  My son brought his new iPad with him. We’ve had many conversations about how to handle it. Here are some rules we agreed on:

  • No Netflix app on the iPad. While this wasn’t his choice, he understood and agreed that it is too much of a temptation. That is exactly part of why kids need exposure to these devices – they need to learn how to focus even with the distractions.
  • Games are limited to those I approve. While I think games can be a great learning tool (just watch my 6-year old nephew figure out Angry Birds) I know his teachers aren’t at that place yet. We agreed that he will not play the games at school.
  • Handling with friends: as he will be probably the only one with an iPad, he needs to know how to handle this. We agreed that he can’t show off with it. It’s just a tool, like a notebook. He decided that my rule is that he can’t allow others to use it. This gives him an out when kids ask to use it.
  • Theft: We are still discussing how to keep the device secure when he’s at gym or lunch or recess. (Yes, they still get recess in 7th grade!)
  • Charging: he will be responsible for bringing the iPad home every night and charging it.He knows he won’t be able to do that at school.


The big question everyone has is APPS. What apps do you use? (OK, no one has asked us, but I know that’s what we’ll get asked and I see this question all the time in other places.) Here’s what we’re starting with:

  • Evernote: I’ll show him how to take advantage of Evernote. We’re still having an issue because technically he can’t have an account because he’s not 13. I emailed Evernote, but haven’t heard back. We’ll add some other Evernote functions, such as Skitch and Penultimate.
  • iMovie: $4.99 well spent. It’s a powerful video editing tool and can be used for many purposes.
  • Explain Everything: whiteboard recording app for math, mostly
  • Garage Band: for a kid who loves to compose and play music, this is a must.
  • Free Graphing Calculator: $100 less than what I’ll have to spend on the free standing graphing calculator that I won’t buy.
  • Keynote: easy-to-use on the iPad
  • Voicethread: especially useful for Spanish, but also other assignments.
  • WordPress: app that allows him to compose on the Kidblog.org blog I set up for him. Kidblog will have its own app soon.
  • Office HD or other suite: haven’t decided on this yet. Need to do more research about these tools.
  • Planner app: He found a homework planner app. He’ll also try using Google calendar.

There will be more. You’ll notice that there are really no subject specific apps. These are all productivity tools. We’ll add subject apps as needed, but for the most part, this is what he’ll use.

He’s already spent a few hours learning Garage Band and iMovie. As a matter of fact, he just went on a walk to our farm to take pictures to turn into an iMovie. I think I’ll suggest he compose some music for it, too!