“Hi Everyone. This is a session about how to get through the first year of the classroom as a teacher.” Begins Shawn. “But I’m not going to talk to you about apps. I’m going to talk to you about your soul, because I LOVE TEACHING.”

A tiger is the perfect example of light and dark dancing across the jungle floor, because some things just make sense. Shawn is a teacher, and so what he’s going to say is just going to make sense. So, Shawn wants us to understand that 1:1 became part of his identity because of his mistakes – he focused on the device instead of on all of the things that matter.


Your idea. What is your idea?! Shawn challenges us. Think about what inspires you and your students and then deconstruct your class so that there is an iPad in the equation. Don’t build your class around the iPad. Build your class so that iPad makes sense.

Think about “how do I get there?” Shawn wants us to recreate our existing environment by imagining it with the device.

RULE #1 – as soon as the iPad gets in the way of developing significant relationships, put it away.

RULE #2 – the second the iPad gets in the way of your learning and starts to prohibit your ability to reach your learning objective then put it away. It is important to remember that “I teach people!” The content is the medium through which he performs his art, and sometimes the tool to work with the medium is iPad and sometimes it’s chalk.

Shawn’s room usually looks like “inspiration threw up on it.” However, on the year that he handed out iPads, the walls were blank.

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The first primary relationship is between you and your students. Shawn talks about how when the device gets in the way, then he started to lose the opportunity to connect. From there, he realizes that there are relationships between students. When they had devices, and were collaborating and working groups, then he had to work on how they established and maintained their relationships. Shawn had to define what was important between those students. Finally, he had to look at the relationship between the students and the content. It used to be a relationship like between a catcher and a pitcher: “I’m going to fling this at you. You better catch it.” However, with devices, it shifted to “there is content, now go figure out what to do with it.”

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The next set of relationships started to be between the teacher and the content. Originally, Shawn had control of the content. However, when he started to give out the content, they had ownership of the pace and what could happen. It made Shawn think about how he could interact with the content differently. “My job became more like putting air in the tires so that they could see the content.” There is also the relationship between the new you – empowered by the device – and the old you. There’s a new economy of information. From there, Shawn talks about how to look at the relationship between the old content and the new content. When students have access to devices they have new content and new ways to engage with it.

It’s important to keep in mind the relationship between you in the pilot and your colleagues who are not in the pilot, warns Shawn.

WARNING: Ridiculous Homemade Graphic

What does on-task look like? Shawn brings up the issue of Rethinking “on Task.”

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Shawn quickly realized that any student focused on him was actually off task vs on task. When they have devices, then the path isn’t necessarily straight like in a situation of direct instruction. Too often, we “power down” a student in order to shut them up and maintain order, but Shawn asks whether or not you are brave enough to let them extend beyond the lesson.

You can be off-task and on-topic if you bring your new knowledge back to the group. If you can’t share back, then you may be distracted.

Pro Tips for Individualize Learning
  1. Teach students to self-differentiate early. Empower them and applaud them to figure out how to meet their needs.
  2. Establish students as experts and allow them to share their processes. Let them prove themselves. “You’re entitled to your own perspective but not your own facts.”
  3. Create a procedure to gather their attention smoothly. Think about how to collect students away from the “tiny screen of digital sexy.” Don’t let yourself be the biggest distraction in your class. Decide how you want to interrupt and bring them back.
  4. Prioritize people over devices and let students know that it’s a promise to put people over things.
  5. Create a procedure for early completion. In a classroom where the economy of information is the focus, then anyone who is speaking becomes the font. With iPads, because students can seamlessly work across devices, they can share information and then the behavior is valued. “Keep learning. Keep earning.” Shawn encourages looping back to previous content or other ideas for students who may complete a task quickly.
  6. Create procedures for enrichment and make it part of the culture. “Go find it, then share it.” If the culture is to learn new things, then topics eventually come back to the task.

Know Your “Why”

Make sure you know why you are bringing iPads in for a specific reason. Don’t make a new identity. Make iPad help your existing identity to explode. The “Why” becomes the umbrella that protects the things that are most important: values, objectives, content, tools, skills…. It’s in the same vein of saying that relationships are more important that the device.

WHY becomes the divining rod to help prioritize values.

Focus on Content over Technology

It’s all about the learning objectives. At the end of the day, it’s about what’s being learned vs the device. The learning objective is then your north star. Those teachers who don’t set clear learning objectives become incredibly evident.

When you had a kid an iPad, you give them a spinney disco ball of games and friends. The question then becomes whether or not you are giving them a learning tool or a playstation. Focus on the #onescreen of apps – most effective apps will all fit on one screen.

In fact, how many apps can a student handle in the first few weeks of school while also mastering the content. Think about what apps you are free to use and which ones your students may want to try.

Socialize Appropriate Tech Norms

“Every class in the world has 30 pairs of scissors – two knives bolted together – which one is more dangerous?!” screams Shawn. Students will correct teachers and students if they are breaking the norms and running with them. However, will they correct each other about technology use?

As a teacher, you have to make sure that you help to address the use of technology within the context of class socialization norms. Who created the norms for tech use? It’s why Shawn and I wrote From Smoke Signals to Tweets. They have established the norms because none of us did first. We have to co-opt the socialization of devices to take the norms that students have created and then rationally teach new norms.

Focus on Nouns not Verbs

Too often we focus on the nouns – the devices – instead of the verbs – what we can do. What is the “doing”? We don’t look at scissors, we look at cutting. Verbs

Focus on the Process not the Product

Do you know if the success is because of the app or because of the learning? Can you see the intellectual work under the shine of an intellectual products? It’s important to engage in the process of getting there.

Think about a paper. If you can watch them do it, then you don’t have to worry about plagiarism. It’s easy to get the product, but can you document the process. The first time that you are exposed to a product shouldn’t be the date of submission, warns Shawn, so how can iPad help you be completely engaged in the process such that the final product is actually a surprise.

Scaffold Tech Skills

Provide support to help them acquire the skills that they need in order to complete the process as well as develop an effective final product. What are the components necessary to help students reach the goal that you would like for them to achieve? Spread out the set up, and do NOT assume that the students know how to do things. Students are fearless and excellent at playing; however, that doesn’t mean they know how to do deliberate tasks.

Individualize and Differentiate Learning BUT Create a Common Unifying Experience

Make sure that all of the students have some commonality. Students need to be able to connect, share, and have a shared unifying activity to bring them all together. Think about content and the topic within that content, then think how to unite everything back together again. Find a universal to join students together.

Does the physical learning space reflect the work and relationships in your class?

You have the most powerful tool for individualization, so what should the room look like. What would it take to create a learning environment where students are not focused on the backs of heads.