November 14, 2013

Challenge-Based, One-Screen, & T21: The EdTechTeacher Approach to iPad PD – Jen Carey thoughts from Tom Daccord’s Session

You can also read this post on Jen’s blog.

In keeping with my focus on Professional Development (the life of a tech administrator), the next session I am attending is “Challenge-Based, One-Screen, & T21: the EdTechTeacher Approach to iPad PD” by Thomas Daccord of EdTechTeacher (the hosts of the iPad Summit). Tom’s focus in this session is ETT’s approach to professional development and pedagogy.

Challenge Based Learning

Instead of beginning with instruction, issue a series of challenges along with a time-limit. When asked “Aren’t you going to teach us how to use it?” He responds, “No. You’re going to learn how to use it.” Here is an example of the challenge he issued (FYI all slides can be found here):

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Ironically (or perhaps not so) they want participants to fail and to do so often. It is through failure that we learn to succeed. Otherwise, we foster a culture of dependency, which results in people constantly running to the Tech Director and asking “show me how to do it.” Through failure, you learn that you will ultimately “figure it out.”

In the course of a one or two day workshop, the majority of instruction is learner centric and developing skills through the application and exploration of the device, apps, and/or web. It is a constructionist philosophy – learn by doing. Exploring pedagogy and tools on your own, experiencing it for yourself, and access to guidance allows for stronger development. By putting participants in small groups, the learning environment becomescollaborative – all members of the group must succeed and excel on a task. This process is also differentiated, there are “advanced” challenges you can move on to when you have completed an individual task. It is also highly personalized – less “talk sage” and more “just in time” instruction. It is also goal oriented; there are objectives and end goals in mind.

The particular goal in their workshops is to help educators envision a more constructive learning environment for their own classrooms. At the end of these activities, they ask “How will this help learning?” It is important to set the technology in the classroom not on top of the classroom. Tie the technology to informative assessment. If you are using the iPad, you must consider how the framework of your learning works with the iPad (generally, this is the mobility of the tool). This may mean picking up and moving around the room, reorganizing your learning space, and exploring kinesthetic values (e.g. pinch and zooming). Can this allow us to address all learners in a universal framework?

One Screen Philosophy

When using iPads, people often focus on “the apps.” Many educators focus on subject or content apps. While apps can be useful, they are not the end all be all of the iPad. Instead of being focused on subject level apps, Tom argues you should focus on the EverGreen Apps

“Educators shouldn’t think of iPads as repositories of apps but rather as portable media creation devices.”

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By focusing on a handful of apps, you can focus on what you want students to do, not a content based app. One excellent tool on EdTechTeacher is the link, “iPad as.” You outline what you want students to do (record podcasts, create presentations, curate a digital notebook, etc) and they show you one or two apps that will work for it. You lead with pedagogy, not with tools. You lead with pedagogy because you know what your mission and objective is, you then select the tool (app) that will help you reach that goal. Our goal is not to teach technology, but to help teachers understand how we can create these constructivist learning environments. By focusing on a handful of apps (preferably that all fit on one page), we can avoid getting stuck in the convoluted world of apps and focus on the content.

“Learning seems useless unless it prepares us to be creative.” – Ben Shneiderman, Ph.D., University of Maryland

It’s no longer about what you know (we can find information at the push of a button on a phone) but what you can do with what you know. You can couple content learning with practical creative projects – e.g. students can pair their spanish vocabulary with creating a video of a scene. By integrating creative apps into learning, we can unleash a creative process in the minds of educators.

T21 Program

Meaningful change is often accomplished by day to day instructional and pedagogical practices by other teachers – our colleagues.

“Classrooms are rarely changed in substantial ways by educational policies.” – John Diamond, Ph.D., Harvard University School of Education

A blended environment, face to face combined with asynchronous online learning allows teachers to most effectively navigate their own path and for communities to build a solid relationship (in person and online).

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 11.19.31 AMHaving worked in entirely online environments as well as hybrid workshops, I can tell you that these are the most meaningful for me. It allows me to get an initial understanding and then work at my own pace – as well as touch base with a team that I have a relationship with.

Tom states that with his teams, this allows educators to apply these techniques and tools in their classrooms and workout the bugs and kinks that will arise. This allows for cost-effective, ongoing and sustained professional development. Teachers feel supported and part of a broader team – they get ongoing and “just in time” support. Sustained Professional Development as well as the “just in time” element are critical components.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 11.23.45 AMSo when incorporating new technology (be it iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, etc) it’s important to put the tool in the classroom not on the classroom! If you don’t put it inside the pedagogy and build on the benefits, then your teachers will be frustrated and the process will be a failure. The instructional practices need to direct the tech – a key component in choosing your tool or directing your pedagogy. If you are using an iPad, for example, view it as an iPad – not a substitute for another platform or tool (like a laptop).

Tom highlights that in their PD model, they like to simulate the process they would like the teachers to emulate in the classroom – self-direct, problem solving, communal, differentiated, and creative.  A creative environment allows agency for personalized learning.

Key Elements in Learning

We want to teach students not just to memorize facts, but rather to develop more sophisticated abilities and methods:

  • Consumption
  • Curation
  • Creation
  • Connection

By learning, discerning, creating, and sharing we can build a broader community of learning within our classroom.

Tom ties it all together by highlighting Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model.


We need to move past simple substitution and transform our classrooms and learning environments by taking advantage of the tools around us. We can build these communities by collaborating and sharing with us.