Thursday, February 21, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

Partner apps can be motivating and a heck-of-a-lot of fun for our students. The noise of 5 iPads talking at the same time, however, can be very distracting to the center and the students around it. This morning, I delivered two goodie bags to the classrooms piloting our cluster integration. It contained five smaller bags with a headphone splitter and two pairs of ear buds. (Yes, the idea skeeves me a bit...but the Library Media/Technology Specialist is letting me use hers until I can get the money to buy foldable headphones. I want to keep the cluster set of iPads and accessories as mobile as possible, so 10 sets of full sized headphones won't work.)

I trained the three "iPad Monitors" in each class how to set them up and put them away. Since I dislike the "spaghetti" of tangled wires, I showed them how to hold the splitter up and then gently shake the ear buds until they hang down. (Shake, shake, shake) When putting them away, they hold up the splitter and then fold them in half until they can be put into the bag. (Half, half, half). Any ideas on how to manage the "spaghetti" would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CARE for Your iPads

iPad Clusters in Primary Grades

Last winter, our district was finally able to roll out the 14 iPads acquired for Searingtown. Housing them in the lab seemed the perfect place for storage. Our lab assistant could take them out to install apps pushed by our Casper server, we knew they were locked up at the end of the day and teachers were able to sign them out on our school's Google Apps calendar from school or home. There were very few teachers who borrowed them that spring, however. I tried hosting BYOLs,(Bring Your Own Lunch, where I'd show them an app or two during the various lunch periods.), generating video tutorials stored on the shared drive where teachers could watch at their leisure. I even started attending grade level meetings for 5 minutes to show them something grade specific.

After reading about iPad implementation over the summer and attending an amazing conference in utilizing mobile technology to increase classroom performance, I decided to take on a different approach. Having the iPads living in the lab wasn't working, so having a cluster of them living in a classroom seemed to have more potential for usage. This way, teachers didn't need to plan ahead, reserve the iPads on the schedule, then transport them down to the room. With some collaborative time spent with me to plan out where they would best fit in the daily routine, we've now pushed out two clusters into the school. Once cluster of 5 are in a 1st grade class, one cluster of 5 are in a third grade class and the other 4 are still in the lab. This covers primary, intermediate and three different hallways.

Two weeks ago, I started meeting with the first grade teachers to learn more about how they structure their day. Learning centers tend to occur more frequently in the primary grades, so I thought this would be the best way to push into the class; I'd lead a center using the iPads. Last week, I started teaching my first, grade 1 class, the expectations of how to use/treat the iPads (CARE) and two math apps the teacher and I decided to start with. (Top-It and Tric-Trac, both my McGraw Hill)

Today, I pushed in for the first learning center and the students were self sufficient from the start. I helped distribute the iPads, reminded them of the names of the apps they could choose from and they were off. The 30 minutes went by very quickly. Working in pairs, they found the activities engaging and fun.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Google Apps for Ed- Templates

Making templates available to our research students, in the most secure and time efficient way, has been something Karen Kliegman and I have been playing with this year in research. We've tried creating collections for each teacher (like making a folder) and sharing the collection with the students in that class. When anything is place inside that collection, it is automatically shared with all the students that the collection was shared with. Students then have to "make a copy" of the document and rename it. They can then share that document with their partners, as well as Karen and me.

What we discovered this morning was how to "submit to template gallery." If it is a document template, you have to click "Create, from template." They can then navigate to templates saved into our domain. Students still need to rename and share, but it makes accessing the document easier.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

iPad Investigations, Navigations and Reflections

Last spring, our school was gifted with 7 iPad from our Indo-US Community. Their implementation has hit a few roadblocks. Here's the funny thing about roadblocks; they eventually crumble. The key is not to give up but to "keep calm and carry on!" It takes a group effort and trust to get something new off the ground and running.

The traditional policies regarding purchasing software with purchase orders didn't jive with purchasing apps for the iPads. Without being able to use a district credit card to set up an iTunes account, we couldn't even download the free apps to get us started. Roadblock number one! Just like many school districts, the business office has very strict guidelines. They need to be audit-conscious and the way digital goods are purchased was something our business office wasn't ready for.

With the help of a contact given to me by Karen Kligman, our library media specialist (and also my partner in crime and ed tech innovator), we were able to gather more information about the relationship between Casper, by Jamf, and iTunes. The district's network specialist and our high school tech integrator/interim tech director, were already investigating how Casper could provide the audit-friendly, over-the-air device management system we were looking for. Anthony Martini, was able to share with us his first hand experiences with Casper. Right now, we only have 7 devices. The way iPads in the classroom setting have taken off, especially with the special ed community in our district, we are bound to get more. Before we purchased more, however, our districts tech folks wanted to make sure we had a system in place to manage our devices. Now, we are waiting for the Casper/iTunes connection to finalize before we can take advantage of Apple's Volume Purchasing Program and Casper to get us going!

This doesn't mean that the iPads are sitting in a box, doing nothing. No, that was last spring, when the tech integrator failed to recognize, on her own, that the best people to have the iPads at that point, were the teachers. (I can say that without fear of retribution since that person is me!) Roadblock number two!

When I was in the classroom and about to introduce a new manipulative to my students, what did I do? I gave them time to free explore with the item. Teachers need the same opportunity when new technology comes their way. They were the ones who would be using the iPads with their students. Summer vacation would give them the time to play and investigate. My principal gave her OK to allow for extended loans, something our district had stopped allowing. It is now October, and we are still waiting for the Casper/iTunes relationship to finalize. Teachers continue to experiment and provide feedback on what they find valuable. Paul Michaels, one of our Speech teachers, is using it with some of his groups as conversation prompts. Gale Vanore, an ELL teacher, has tried it with a student with limited English.

It takes a group of folks to work together when implementing new technology. What one person might over look, someone else can bring it up. Honestly, it takes a lot of trust to be open to suggestions, trust that no judgements are being made. One person can't do or think of it all, especially when we juggle so much during our days. I am surrounded by motivated, knowledgeable and fearless tech supporters in my building and for that, I am grateful. We also have to go about implementing new technology as informed and prepared as we can. Even if that means having to wait after the items have arrived. Implementation needs to be a thoughtful process. As much as we want to get them in the hands of the students who will benefit from their magic, we need to be sure it is done in the most efficient way.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

1st Grade Blogging

Lindsay Kohart, a first grade teacher, and I have started a blogging project with her class. We are using Classblogmeister for the blogging tool and Vocaroo for the tool of expression. Since her students were only in the beginning stages of being writers, we thought it would be easier for them to record their thoughts and then embed the code into the blogmeister article. So far, we've set Lindsay up with a blog account and created all the student accounts. She has also explored how to use Vocaroo on her own. Our next step will be to teach them how to use Vocaroo.