April 15, 2013

View of the iPad Summit from John Umekubo
Last week, we were incredibly fortunate to have Jen Carey live blogging the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit for us – you can also read her posts at indianajen.com. She did a tremendous job covering the sessions that she attended, and we are lucky enough to have the following posts from John Umekubo – Director of Technology at St. Matthew’s School in Los Angeles, CA – to provide another perspective.

EdTech Teacher iPad Summit – Pre-Conference

On the first day, John attended Shawn McCusker’s iPads in Middle/High School pre-conference workshop. His first post details not only the tools and apps introduced, but also reflections on what he learned.

EdTech Teacher iPad Summit, Day 1

Please visit John’s blog to read about his entire day. Below, you can read about one of the sessions not previously covered.
Creating Coherence – Connecting Technology and Learning Goals
My first workshop was facilitated by Justin Reich (@bjfr) co-founder of EdTechTeacher. Justin led us through a jigsaw activity where we broke into initial groups to investigate one of four different scenarios where technology was implemented on a large scale at a fictitious school. The technology included a state of the art computer lab, 1:1 iPads, and more. Each group was to discuss one scenario only, express the pros and cons, and share how this particular scenario related to each member’s own situations back at school. In my group’s scenario, the school had a top-down approach to the implementation, with minimal professional development support (using consultants from the outside). More importantly, there was no plan in place for how the technology was tied to the learning goals or teaching practices of the school. Interestingly, many in the group shared that their own school had a similar approach in that little thought was given to how the technology was actually going to be used. One member shared the opposite approach at her school, where much discussion has already taken place over how to use the technology, but they have yet to implement anything due to lack of funding. My own take on this is that in some cases the “if you build it, they will come” approach can benefit an organization, if done thoughtfully. Often we don’t know the questions to ask, and can’t envision the potential, without getting our hands dirty with the tools first. Here at St. Matthew’s, I have seen how much our teachers have progressed over the past two years, getting their hands dirty and learning along the way, going through (as Tony Wagner describes in Creating Innovators) multiple iterations, making improvements as they go. They are ever on their feet, adapting, adjusting, remaining flexible. This is a reflection of our world, and the world into which our students will grow. We completed the activity by getting into groups that represented all four scenarios. We shared our own, then discussed the differences, and the benefits or challenges represented by each. I realized that the scenario I was given was the most ill-planned of the bunch. Others provided time for academic divisions to gather and plan lessons together, and still others offered professional development and support from within the school. This activity was a very helpful, reflective exercise. It was beneficial for me to hear how other schools in my group each approached technology integration slightly differently, some to great success.

EdTech Teacher iPad Summit, Day 2

Please visit John’s blog to read about his entire day. Below, you can read about one of the sessions not previously covered.
Following a New Path in Math
Christy Stokes shared a practical approach to using the iPads with students in her math class. Prior to teaching in her 1:1 iPad classroom, Christy came from an environment with very little technology. As she described, she moved from paper worksheets to tablets in one year, and more importantly transformed her traditional teaching practices into one that is more engaging, differentiated, and investigative. Christy shared how she integrates many of the math related technology resources into her classroom. More information about the resources and strategies she implements are available in her presentation materials. I particularly enjoyed the free web-based resources, of which many were new to me.
Getting Your iBook Published in the iBooks Store with Josh Allen
If you haven’t already noticed, we are standing at the forefront of a revolution in education. Partly due to the influence and impact of technology tools (social media, cloud-based workflows, MOOCs, mobile devices and more) as well as the realization that these tools make knowledge acquisition a much smaller goal of school or of “learning”. When information is accessible anywhere, anytime and from any device, what purpose does the traditional school serve? Along those lines of tradition sit the hard copy textbooks still produced by the major publishers today. How long will this last? Not only is information accessible anywhere, it’s ever changing, which means hard copy books that are already outdated by the time they hit students’ hands just don’t make sense. How much more efficient and valid are digital resources that can be updated instantly, include links out to the web, allow for student collaboration, contain video and audio enhancements and give feedback to the reader? In fact, to simply say “reader” is insufficient. iBooks Author is just one of many tools today that allow teachers and students to create their own work as a published eBook. For students, it is an incredible way to demonstrate their learning. Our 8th grade students at St. Matthew’s created their own eBooks for their Family Tree Projects, to share with each other and with their parents. For teachers, personally developed eBooks can serve as a curriculum supplement. They can also serve to replace the textbook entirely. They can also serve to replace the textbook entirely. Ponder the implications of that for a moment… I won’t attempt to tackle the topic of publisher-based textbooks versus teacher-grown materials, as much has been written about this already (see Hall Davidson’s blogpost on this very topic). I will say that now more than any time in our history, we have the opportunity to participate in knowledge creation and contribute our own intellectual wealth not only to the classroom community, but to the world community. Josh was a wonderful presenter, sharing from the heart, and from experience. While he touched lightly on the process of eBook creation through iBooks Author, most of the conversation surrounded what one does with the finished piece. There are a few options when looking to publish work from iBooks Author:
  1. Google Sites, which can host eBook files for easy access and download by students
  2. Dropbox (and other tool like Box and Copy App) is a cloud-based storage solution
  3. Publishing to the iBooks Store
  4. Publishing to iTunes U
I was impressed to see the number of attendees in this session who are already creating eBooks using iBooks Author. We all know how much time it takes to write curriculum, develop lessons, find outside resources and build assessments to measure student progress. Now imagine putting all of that work into an interactive eBook environment! While iBooks Author is a tool that runs on the Mac, people asked if you can you create and publish a book solely on the iPad? The answer is yes. There are a few good apps available which allow you to do all of the creation on the iPad. Josh mentioned apps like Book Creator, and Book Writer.  Book Creator provides real-life examples from teachers on the iBooks store, and he showed us one of those. In addition to the above mentioned, here at St. Matthew’s we use Creative Book Builder for various projects in the middle school. It’s intuitive, flexible, works with dropbox and google drive, and publishes directly to the user’s iBooks app for viewing. One difference between these apps and iBooks Author is that interactive elements available in iBooks Author can be viewed only on the iPad, whereas the other book creation apps export their files as ePub and PDF. These files types are much more universal, meaning they can be opened and read in multiple applications and on multiple platforms (iPad, iPod, Mac, PC). However, they won’t allow for the same level of interactivity as that provided through iBooks Author. You will want to weigh these factors when preparing your own content. Josh first published his works to google sites and dropbox, but quickly ran into limitations. File size can be a challenge with books containing a lot of media, like videos and sound files. He said his books average a size of about 600MB, not practical for google sites or a free dropbox account, which as of this writing limits you to 2GB. Enter the iBooks Store. Josh highlighted three good reasons for uploading to the iBooks Store:
  • allows for larger file sizes,
  • presents a real world audience,
  • provides an easier download process for readers
After sharing some unfortunate experiences getting a book approved by the iBooks Store, Josh explained the somewhat meticulous process required to make sure the book is an accurate, complete, and polished piece (even blurry images were cause for rejection). The presentation materials walk you through the screens you will encounter when going through the publishing process. Keep in mind that in order to publish to the iBooks Store you will need a valid iTunes account with a credit card attached to it, even if you are giving the book away for free. Paradoxically, one of Josh’s most recent challenges had to do with his audience. A book designed for his students was rejected at the iBooks Store because it was intended for a limited audience. He wanted it available solely for use by his students. Apple would not allow this. His work around was to publish instead to iTunes U, where it becomes part of the classroom materials for his course.
The Spin Platform: A new era of together learning for the experience age
Tara Lemmey, CEO and Founder of Net Power & Light – home of Spin joined us virtually from San Francisco today, through the Spin Platform. This was the only session I attended that wasn’t facilitated by an educator in the traditional sense, although I would offer up that anyone in the business of helping others learn about something is indeed, an educator. I am both excited and still a bit confused about the Spin Platform. My clearest explanation is that Spin is somewhat like Skype or FaceTime mixed with an interactive whiteboard and media player. That sounds potentially overwhelming, but to experience it you realize how well integrated and blended the platform is. Each participant (up to 10 currently) in a “gathering” can be both listener and contributor. Everyone in the session can write on the board, start and pause a video, and add a new media source. You control your own screen, so you can move and resize other participants’ video windows on the screen. The larger the video window, the higher the volume from that participant. Each person’s experience will thus be slightly different. The confusion comes in when you realize that you can be a part of a gathering with 9 others, but you can also jump out and partake in other simultaneously running gatherings, or even start a new one yourself. In addition, there are three different apps, Together TalksTogether Justice and Together Learn, and you can jump between apps as the need arises or as you get invited to join a gathering. TogetherTalks focuses around content from TED, while TogetherLearn integrates with a number of universities, news agencies and science organizations. TogetherJustice is a specific track that works with Michael Sandel, renowned Harvard lecturer. See this article about Michael Sandel and Spin. If you are still with me here, I will explain why I’m excited. While all of the above sounds incredible, the biggest potential lies in what’s coming. While no release date has yet been given, we will soon have access to TogetherSee, a fourth app that will contain all of the interactive elements described above but allow us to embed our own content into the conversation. For me, this is where to true power of this tool resides. Imagine students from across the globe engaged in virtual discourse, sharing images, videos, sounds. More importantly, sharing thoughts, opinions and ideas. This is why I’m excited.
From Angry Bird to Minecraft: What games teach us about learning
Douglas Kiang from the Lab School@Punahou was likely the most entertaining and insightful presenter at the conference for me. Perhaps this is because of his background (Harvard educated, Apple Distinguished Educator, prolific speaker, dynamic teacher). Perhaps it’s his presentation style, a mix of real world samples and student interviews, research and statistics, and a frank sense of humor. Perhaps it’s because he covered an area about which I know very little. Perhaps it’s because he’s from Hawaii. Maybe a little of everything. Doug’s materials cover the details of his presentation. I just have a few take aways. Incidentally, I am calling him Doug not because I know him, but because everyone around me seemed to refer to him as Doug, so Doug it is. Gaming is engaging for a few reasons:
  • We are all born learning how to play, independent of language, geography, age, and play is fun
  • With games, no one tells you what you have to do, even though there’s probably a list of things you must do, it’s just that you are choosing to do them
  • Players view game rules differently than students view school rules
Doug talked about the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, an online quiz to gage a person’s proclivity toward one of four player characteristics: Explorers, Achievers. Socializers, and Griefers (Killers). I just took the survey and discovered that I’m an Explorer. Maybe that’s why it’s taking me so long to finish this blog post. A list of five titles was posted that represented the most addictive games. In order from last to first; Call of Duty, Civilization, Plants v. Zombies, Angry Birds, and finally, Mindcraft. Doug raised the question, “How can we make our classrooms more like the Mindcraft, sandbox environment?” How can we create an atmosphere that allows our students to build, explore, communicate and share resources? Currently, Doug’s class is working on their own locally hosted Punahou Mindcraft server.
The Goal: Create a self-sustaining community that reinforces trust among individuals and that rewards pro-social behavior.
He gave us a glimpse of this virtual world where things are constantly changing, even since the last time he checked in. Students are hard at work building, sharing, socializing. He showed us the giant virtual Apple Store they had built, the chicken farm, the garden where one student decided to give away food (the only condition, if you take some, leave something for someone else), all of this designed and sustained by the students.
After Thoughts
I’ve been to many conferences during my 20 plus years as an educator, both as attendee and as presenter. Some were great, some not so. I rank the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit right up there with the best. It was well organized (online personal scheduler that gets emailed to you every day), took place in a beautiful city at the right time of year, was stocked full of scrumptious snacks and beverages at all times (loved the chocolate covered peanuts and pretzels), and was packed with an incredibly strong and varied set of presenters/facilitators/educators. Most impressive was the vibe, the conversations, the interactions. People spoke about teaching, learning, kids. Yes, this is an iPad conference by name, but the iPad played second fiddle, as it should. The core of the conference was about how we as educators must continue to adapt, innovate, and energize our classrooms. Regardless of the tools, we must work to provide our young learners with an environment that is engaging, challenging, open-ended, and fun. We must also seek to be life-long learners ourselves. As Angela Maiers says, “Passion driven people are never done.” Thank you to John Umeku for allowing us to cross-post his blog entries. You can view the presentation materials from the sessions that he attended – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.