Tag Archives: schools

Are (Online) Teachers in the Classroom Even Necessary?

teacher-403004_640Mike Kalin describes the Khan Academy trend in an NPR radio commentary. He describes the transformation of teaching with the advent of these online teaching tools. He states that teachers are no longer the most important conveyors of content. While online learning may seem dry to someone who has never done it, online experiences can be more engaging than listening to a lecture for 45 minutes. In this electronic realm, teachers act as a curator or facilitator to nurture a classroom environment.

Real teachers are still needed to help students navigate the river of online information. More importantly, teachers try to exemplify the civic virtues we hope to instill. These are curiosity, empathy and integrity. When I think of teachers’ primary roles, I think of the connections I make with students every day.

Technology has not undermined teaching. We need to transform our teaching in order to transform the lives of our students. We can not ignore the potential benefits of online learning, nor can we forget the importance of a real person to keep the experience alive.

How do we educate our children for economic reasons and cultural reasons? In Changing Education Paradigms, Ken Robinson (RSA, 2008) gives an interesting look at the educational system as it has been and what it could potentially include. Some of the concepts described include that ADHD has risen in parallel with increase in standardized testing and the arts are the victim of this. The arts are an aesthetic experience. Anaesthetic, meaning shutting off your senses is what the prescription ADHD drugs are doing. Schools are organized by the industrialized world. It’s about conformity and standardization. Divergent thinking isn’t creativity but an essential capacity for creativity — being able to see multiple answers in multiple ways.

It Takes a Community…

People close to me know I’m not a fan of automated toll booths and self checkouts. I still pay cash on the MassPike, and I will wait in line at the supermarket rather than use the machines. I worry we will lose opportunities for human connections, as subtle as they are. A VHS course won’t automatically teach itself. Kids will always need human connection and role models. As we move toward more and more online learning in schools we need to remember that the human educator is still essential, a valued component to teaching and learning. We can not forget that humans require human connection. As the saying goes, “It takes a community to raise a child.” When we fear new ways of teaching, we need to remember that human connections are essential in raising a child.

Are Teachers in Brick-and-Mortar Schools Even Necessary? 90.0 wbur Boston’s NPR news station, Jan 2014

Robinson, Ken. RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms – 2008  https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=21&v=zDZFcDGpL4U

 

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Smart Board with Smart Savings: iPads and Tablets in Education (Part 2)

This article is part of a series of articles about my exploration of the tablet/iPad in education.  This article includes the ingredients, trials and tribulations of the Smart Board alternative.  Find out how I ran into problems with my projector and AirPlay connections so you don’t have to. Links to each of the articles will be posted here or elsewhere inside the blog. It combines a “Leap of Faith” series with reflections on dual-platform knowledge; it will encompass a grant initiative to study a Smart Board alternative, include applications of use for both the Android and iOS, and explore creative ways to use the tablets in schools, including but not limited to, app creation. The series highlights the benefits and limitations of either platform, tips, tricks and workarounds or the technical compatibilities with everyday world uses. I intend to reflect on the social implications, as well. You will find the links to each article at the bottom of this one. Return here for updated link additions. The essential question is: How do we prepare our students for a mobile world and create an inexpensive projection for presentation of material to a broad audience?

Android

I first want to address how I made connection to my existing projector using the Motorola Xoom tablet. My existing Dell projector only has DVI ports closest to the HDMI outputs of the Xoom. The trick was that I needed to put together the necessary adapters. Simple.  The ideal connection was HDMI mini to HDMI to DVI. Great! Well, frustratingly, when the HDMI port is plugged in, immediately the sound is diverted to that port and not played on the device. Because DVI is not a sound-carrying connection (at least not in the use of the projector) sound had been muted. Solution: get a projector with HDMI ports.

iPad

Described in my early related posts, I needed to crossover into iOS; and in doing so, it was time to make the necessary investment in a projector with an HDMI port. Thankfully I found that a professional association I belonged to offered the MassCue initiative grant to educators seeking to enhance technology uses in their schools. I was seeking not only a platform-diverse environment but a Smart Board alternative. At MassCue’s 2011 Conference presented by Burlington public schools, I discovered AirPlay.

It was described at this conference workshop that it was possible to connect an iPad wirelessly to a projector. At that point in the workshop I began to block out the rest of the presentation and began to Google. Yes! I thought, it is what I’ve been eager to find. I envisioned walking around my classroom while projecting the content of my iPad to the screen whenever necessary. With a classroom set, I would ask students to show their work, or illustrate their discoveries on the fly with the help of AirPlay.

Initial Supplies (note errors corrected in this post)

Item

Price

32 G iPad 2 with WiFi

$600

iPad 2 Polyurethane Smart Cover

$39

Apple TV

$95

6’ HDMI to HDMI cable

$10

KanexPro HDMI to composite

Kanex ATV Pro

$95

$60

Projector – Vivitek D538W-3D DLP Projector (seek alternate)

Acer P1303W Professional Projector

$599

$599

Total (with projector)

$1403

Total (without projector)

$804

To make the iPad use AirPlay, the Apple TV is the magic device that makes it worthwhile. For only $100 it is a great deal. Not only do you gain the AirPlay functionality, but you also gain Apply TV experience. The Apple TV contains an HDMI output. Again, it is necessary to have and HDMI output or the necessary adapters. For those with budget restrictions, and who are comfortable with a reduced resolution display, the adaptors with an existing projector will do just fine. I’ve included a HDMI-to-composite adapter in my bundle to maintain the ability to carry out demonstrations in other rooms, and at conferences and workshops. If the projector did not have an HDMI connection, I needed this kind of a flexible solution.

Discoveries

The following describes problems with my initial setup. Please note what to look for in making this kind of connection at your school.

It begins with a projector problem. The projector I listed here contains HDMI in and an on-board speaker. I neglected to note that it did not have any audio outputs. In my years of experience, I have never come across a projector that did not have audio in and audio out. I had purchased the projector months in advance of the proposed setup and by the time I needed to return it, it was past the 30-day return window. The Vivitek D538W– 3D DLP Projector seemed like a great projector and is for any other solution.  But if you are using an HDMI source with audio, it presents a problem. The tiny onboard speaker is insufficient for a classroom and the HDMI voids any other audio output produced by the iPad.  That is, you cannot plug in the mini headphone jack to get audio at the same time.

Furthermore, I had problems with the Kanex Pro HDMI/CompositeVID w/Ster Audio CN.

The product description reads:

“The Kanex Pro HDMI to composite with audio converter is a classic retro-fit device, engineered to transform HDMI signals into analog composite video with R/L audio. Connect your HD sources such as DVD and Blue-ray players … to an analog A/V monitor or a projector. The converter includes front-panel switch that supports PAL/NTSC doormats for different regions and works flawlessly with all HDMI devices that are not HDCP encrypted.”

I was not expecting any HDCP support issues. I didn’t know what that was. Returning online to the place of purchase a month later, the same search provided a new product: the Kanex ATV Pro.

“The ATV Pro allows a VGA projector to use Apple AirPlay mirroring from an iPad to Apple TV. The ATV Pro promises to eliminate the need for expensive HDMI projection equipment upgrades. Join the thousands of classrooms nationwide that can mirror and stream content directly to a VGA projector via an Apple TV – HDCP 1.2 compliant!!”

It is clearly the best product because not only does it have the mini output, but it also does not require a power supply. I only wish I had discovered that a month prior. Geeky-Gadgets.com

I called Apple and they told me to get HOSA 3.5MM-TO-TOSLINK FIBER-OPTIC CABLE, 10 ft. TOSLINK to mini-Toslink ($13). Then I could use speakers. (It is on order. I hope to update this soon.)

So, for anyone who already has a regular VGA projector, all they need is the Kanex ATV Pro Adapter ($60 or less) the AppleTV box ($99), and an iPad ($499+/-) to be effective. For $658 per classroom (plus wireless access), there now is a smart-savings alternative to a Smart Board. If a classroom doesn’t already have a projector, add in about $400 for that for a total of $1100.

Connectivity

There are other things to consider with this or any other tablet setup. The wireless default user setting for the school usually is the same level of permissions as the student user. If these are to use YouTube, for instance, for student projects, there might be a setback. I envision someday this setup in our school auditorium. A presenter might wish to use his/her tablet or phone to present to an audience. If their device does not gain access to an unrestricted/unblocked wireless connectivity, then their presentations may be compromised. One consideration may be to look at how YouTube for schools works within the building.

Alternatives to AirPlay

Although I have not tried this, I believe you can achieve a similar experience using the DoceriRemote app for the iPad. It requires a Mac or PC already hooked up to a projector. While this seems like an inexpensive (free) method, my experience with AirPlay has been very efficient and easy to use and can be used with a classroom set of iPads. I suspect that a third party app and a computer client might slow down the interactiveness. As I stated in my previous post, I believe the more “real-world” you can get, the better. AirPlay works with the iPhone, a more common student-held device.  I’m not certain how the user community will adapt to these technologies in the future. My suspicion is that Apple and AirPlay will continue the momentum for user-friendliness.

There are a number of apps that go well with the projection setup.  Showme, Screenchomp, Replay Note, Timer + are a few.

The Experience        

In the end, using the Android with a 10-foot cord, or the iPad with AirPlay, you are going to enjoy the experience of having the content at your fingertips. Keynote or Google Apps and even Prezi are great presentation tools for this sort of thing. Actually, there are dozens of ideas I could share with you about presenting on a tablet. Perhaps I’ll save that for another post. For the moment, you will have a device that you can bring home with you to prepare and perfect. No longer will you need to configure and prepare for the Smart Board, if you already have one. In my case, I feel good about saving my school $8000 and a service contract that may extend over years. I am happy to know that my students who use the tablets to present or illustrate what they may know or need to know using technology that is well in their reach. Someday they may need to present in college or in their new job. From what I can tell, mobile phones and tablets will be the tool they will use in these future presentations.

Previous posts:

 The Leap of Faith – Android to iOS

 Smart Board with Smart Savings: iPads and Tablets in Education (Part 1) –  The rational behind avoiding Smart Boards as a teaching tool.

Next: (coming soon)

The Leap of Faith – Android to iOS; Early reflections of the iOS transition experience

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Smart Board with Smart Savings: iPads and Tablets in Education (Part 1)

This article is part of a series of articles I have written about my exploration of the tablet/iPad in education. Links to each of the articles will be posted here or elsewhere inside the blog. It combines a “Leap of Faith” series with reflections on dual-platform knowledge; it will encompass a grant initiative to study a Smart Board alternative, include applications of use for both the Android and iOS, and explore creative ways to use the tablets in schools, including but not limited to, app creation. The series will highlight the benefits and limitations of either platform, tips, tricks and workarounds or the technical compatibilities with everyday world uses. I intend to reflect on the social implications, as well. You will find the links to each article at the bottom of this one. Return here for updated link additions. The essential question is: How do we prepare our students for a mobile world and create an inexpensive projection for presentation of material to a broad audience?

Tablet Project Background

I entered the mobile market in the latter part of 2009 with my Droid phone, reluctant to enter the Apple market (as described in my February 2012 blog post TheLeapofFaithAndroidtoiOS. I enjoyed the slide-out keyboard and apps the Google world so nicely integrated into my Google-sphere. The idea of a tablet seemed far out of reach for the next few years that followed. The quest began in the spring and summer of 2011 when I noticed several schools beginning to adopt one-to-one iPad initiatives. As the integration specialist, I began to think that it was time to sort out how tablets might be beneficial to my program or any program. My classes, after all, have been designed to prepare students for technology uses in their high school career and beyond. Tablets were hitting the ed-tech world with a vengeance and I needed to get on board. The problem was, how?

I purchased a Motorola Xoom tablet in the spring of 2011 and explored applications for use in school. Creating apps for the Android with students was easy, thanks to Google’s App Inventor (now acquired by MIT). Having only one available for all of my classes, allowing students time to explore and create using the device seemed cumbersome. Moreover, the initial setup I had on the machine was personalized. App purchases and social network logins were all under my personal accounts. I needed to break away from that. Later in this study I will explain a method I feel best suits this kind of device.

Unfortunately, I may have decided on the platform that everyone else was ignoring. I had resisted Apple for so long. Yet iMacs and MacBooks soon began to enter my life. The ed-tech world seemed to be in love with their i-products, and by that trend so many studies were initiated. I began to feel like the educational community was missing the power of the Android world and weas being beckoned by the shiny glow of the Apple logo on their devices. I thought since the educational trends were headed in that direction I should research these trends for myself. Our school is interested in this trend and my role at our school obliges me to try. When Apple revealed its educational initiatives, textbooks, the iBooks Author tool, and iTunes U, perhaps this was about time to move in that direction.

MassCue Initiative Grant

Thankfully I found that a professional association I belonged to offered an initiative grant to educators seeking to enhance technology uses in their schools. Massachusetts Computer Using Educators Association (MassCue) provided me the edge I needed. Since I passed up opportunities to have a Smart Board in my room. I needed to seek a mobile solution. Something like how I did with a wireless mouse, keyboard and Smart Board tablet/slate in 2008. I was seeking not only a platform-diverse environment but a Smart Board alternative. At MassCue’s 2011 Conference presented by Burlington public schools, I discovered AirPlay.

Project Description

Title: Smart Board with Smart Savings

With this project students will use and create apps and use tablets to present content to their classmates. This grant will fuse with an Android tablet purchased by the school, and recent iMac donations from a local college to create a multiple platform experience for technology classes. Students will have the opportunity to review apps and create an app for Android, or iPad. The project will culminate with students presenting a slideshow using Keynote and Google Docs presentation tools.

The complete proposal can be found at Mass Cue Grant Proposal 2011.

Rationale

The rationale behind the grant was largely a feasibility study to be able to research a Smart Board solution using real world technology. The grant title, “The Tablet: Smart Board with Smart Savings”, grew out of my quest to find an inexpensive solution to the Smart Board giants. I’ve borrowed classrooms where I’ve used Smart Boards and over the years I’ve seen schools adopt Smart Boards with hopes that putting the technology at the front of the room, students would suddenly become technology literate. I found this to be flawed for a few reasons. First, it didn’t seem to make my teaching to be any more effective. For me, turning my back to students to write on the board felt very teacher-centered. Using the board for any other presentational mode made the Smart Board cost-ineffective. Standing 6’ 5”, the light caused me temporary blindness in the older arm-extended models; and more often than not, the projection needed to be recalibrated. Touching the screen didn’t reliably advance a slide, and the reaching four feet in both directions to click links seemed to be inefficient — more of a calisthenics exercise which put me physically in front of the information.

It’s how we read

Reading is an active process. Reading on the web/computers is a personalized experience. The reading we do online is rapid, there is an abundance of eye scanning and “click-decisions” that are naturally instant. We appear to do well with explanations and video tutorials more than teacher demonstrations. Sure occasional demonstrations are needed but children seem to get disconnected with the content when time extends, and if one student is using it, others are just watching and being distracted elsewhere. If there is a flaw in the program that is being used, a lot of time is wasted troubleshooting. When all is said and done, the student’s only technological gain is to now advance a slide in their PowerPoint by touching the screen. More progress has been made in education with the rise of blended learning and flipped classrooms than ever before. Student-centered learning activities continue to provide more engagement and increased motivation since its popularity decades ago. The teacher-at-the-front-of-the-room model is clearly phasing out.

Keeping it REAL

The hands-on world of technology has put mobile technology on the forefront of the mind’s of every individual. Students are facing a future where they will someday need to present to an audience using the most efficient use of technology possible. By the time 10 years passes, they will have forgotten what Smart Board app they have used; they will be far more comfortable using the iPad, iPod Touch or smart phone they may possess at home. More and more business proposals are being prepared on personal devices and brought on location and delivered without preparing Smart Board space. Much of content can now be prepared online for independent review. Often that independent review requires common interactive applications such as a PowerPoint viewer, PDF viewer, YouTube, etc.  A Smart Board software is proprietary to the handful of companies that make them and can only survive as well as their business model. The use of a Smart Board by a teacher or student does not strengthen 21st century skills.

Costs

Fifteen years ago I worked through a school building renovation. The process included a transformation from a two-computer building to a 300+ computer building, all networked with labs and classroom computers. The initial costs were absorbed by building funds and state-awarded capital grants. This conversion to a technologically prepared school was intense. No one really knew where it would go. A total cost-of-ownership had to be created (TCO) and quickly decisions needed to be made on how to maintain it. A full-time IT professional, integration specialist, and hours of professional development soon followed. Energy costs, replacement concerns, and software needs made budgets tighter than ever. Money was thrown at technology very quickly with hopes to improve learning and paint an image that we were, in fact, using the equipment the taxpayers supported.

Smart Boards were introduced and quickly gave the appearance that schools were technologically advanced. Open house presentations glimmered of shock and awe. Unfortunately I’ve seen many Smart Boards not being used effectively, even after extensive professional development has been implemented. These were often glorified PowerPoint clickers. Often the devices would go out of calibration or fail to function altogether.  Because of its proprietary nature, this expensive piece of hardware needs servicing by the installing agent. There are not common repair tasks which can be done in-house, thus creating a larger hole in the technology budget.

Direction

With technology advancement being lightning speed as it has been, it is no longer a question of improved learning but more of a race to provide access to tools. Schools have changed drastically. Knowledge comes from a vast web of resources and teachers now merely guide student learning. Some now play with information every day at home.  Focus now needs to be moving into a direction where we provide opportunities for students to use the tools they will need to know in the creative job market today. Without the support of the school system, and due to economic disadvantages, many students will not have acquired creative 21st century skills as some of their peers have. Schools, community media (television) centers and libraries are becoming more and more united as collaborative media centers providing direction for students’ acquisition of knowledge.

I grapple with specifications and connections using tablets as Smart Board alternatives in my next post. Look for that post and other upcoming future posts in this iPad/tablets in education series.

Previous: The Leap of FaithAndroid to iOS

Next: Smart Board with Smart Savings: iPads and Tablets in Education (Part 2) –  the ingredients, trials and tribulations. Find out how I ran into problems with my AirPlay connections so you don’t have to.

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Teaching Information Literacy: A Reflection

In 2008, upon taking a new position at a new school, I began my new teaching experience having to teach a course given to me with the title “Information Literacy”, or “Info Lit” for short. As an 11-year teacher of Spanish integrating technology and obtaining a certification in instructional technology, I felt prepared for a lot of things, but this seemed a lot like library science.

Even though I had plenty of technical training, this course was a challenge because it presented a look at the Web 2.0 world in a congnitive approach. This concept has been written in the state and national standards as being skills learned by integrating into core classes and day-to-day activities. At first, teaching this in isolation seemed out of place. As I progressed, I learned that this, indeed, became a necessary course of study, and therefore I rose to the challenge.

Research led me to designing a professionally rewarding course which included a blend of Web 2.0 tool teaching and best practice information seeking. The course empowers students with presentation strategies by using a variety of low-cost, user-friendly tools.  The course didn’t come with a curriculum or textbook. I needed to develop on the fly. Talking about information literacy with high school students is like talking about family values. Sometimes kids feel uneasy when there is an awkward family meeting about ab0ut sibling rivalry and puberty. It appears to go over much more smoothly by mixing a little guidance and trial and error.

I needed to teach technology skills. Knowing the importance of computer skills in a changing environment, I saw the even greater need to teach critical thinking skills while using technology. It had to include a focus of how students would discover, assimilate and refine information now and in the future. What civic expectations did they need to know? How were they going to share their knowledge?

I began at the core concept where I felt would make the most sense for the students. What information flow has been most familiar to them?  That would be with traditional print and video like with magazines and TV.  Teaching kids about information literacy had to start with media literacy. Using photos and videos from places like Adbusters and communicating in places like the NING social network, students quickly engaged in an online experience using Web 2.0 tools to read, analyze, synthesize then apply what they have learned in an online forum. A cocktail of tools were then used to illustrate an understanding of the concepts. Toondoo.com, Xtranormal.com, Animoto, to name a few. In addition, the popular photo editing tool GIMP was used. Understanding the working of photo editing helped kids understand images in media through analysis of advertisements, how they influence, persuade or educate.  Students created their own parody advertisements as a way to lighten the mood. Open source software provides easy-to-reach tools to maximize accessibility. To me, information literacy meant having the wits to do with what you have and make the most of it.

As my PLNs grew and I paid closer attention to what core educators wanted. I knew it wasn’t about online tools as much as it was about a skill-set of understanding how to manage information in the digital age. By exposing them to creative options while guiding them through the tangled web, a harmonious behavior is acquired and hopefully carried over into their core classes.

I included a video created by students in my Information Literacy class in 2010 which somewhat summarizes the makeup of their experience.

 

Four years later, I’m pursuing an online teaching certification.  In a Virtual Highschool Professional development class titled Best Practices – Web 2.0

Collaborative Online Instruction (April 2012). Steve Isaacs of William Annin Middle School in New Jersey, encouraged me to visualize Information Literacy using

a cool collaborative online tool: Mind42.com. The following link is to my mind map: Information Literacy Mind Map42

I’ve explored Bubl.us before, but I did enjoy the ease of use with this tool. It was nice to actually try and visualize what my head has been tossing around so much. Often I’ve been feeling scattered in teaching the course. Further readings provided leads to this man, Jason Ohler. His vision nicely illustrates Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy as it applies to information literacy in the digital age.

  Bloom’s taxonomy was developed during a time when the expectation for students were to be handed in and graded. Beyond the teacher grading the works may have been making the corrections and handing it back in. Thus the highest rung in the Bloom ladder was evaluation. In the digital age, when publication tools are abundant, and the new ISTE standards promote innovation and creativity. The result is that the ability to create becomes an important high-end cognitive function.

He states literacy is  consuming and producing the media forms of the day, whatever they may be and that new media goes from powerful to empowering when we can write it, as well as read it. (http://www.jasonohler.com/storytelling/beyondwords.cfm#partI)

This, along with a number of articles in my online certification route, confim the necessity for kids to learn information literacy skills. The important discovery for me is that tools come and go, obtaining a deep understanding of how to adapt in the information age is critical for today’s youth. What started out an ominous perspective of having to teach the course has turned into an exciting experience. It is not my favorite course to teach.

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Words with Family; a new hot App

(Reflecting on Marc Prensky’s Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants)
The digital mind has clearly invaded our society. We need to adapt. We think differently, and will never return to traditional ways of thinking. We read differently now and we are gathering information at rapid rates. Brace yourselves…we will be experiencing much more. As Scott McCloud suggests, industries are changing. We need to prepare kids for those industries. But remember the turn of the industrial age? Remember how factories looked? In a Book I’m thumbing through, Literacy is Not Enough, it compares today’s service jobs to that of the factories of the industrial era. We are performing the same intensity of work but just not getting our hands greasy.  Let’s be attentive to what’s important.
Hybrid learning is the best step to connecting kids digital world to their learning styles. Blended learning should make that connection from the digital world to the real world. My fear is that we will someday lose the physical touch and personal connections, and that we may somehow be overrun by all this digital stuff.  My hope for other hybrid teachers is that you all remember the importance of personal connection. Greet and smile at every student who walks in your room. This should carry over into your personal lives. Remember to turn off “Words with Friends” when there are opportunities for “words with family”. Do these things and you will set good examples for your students.
Hybrid teachers need to be ambassadors for this digital transformation and share what we experience for the greater community. Don’t hold back just because it is new and innovative, doesn’t mean it is right. Think about all of your options and choose the one that maintains a balance. Innovation ≠ Right.
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350.org

I’ve made a shift in my life to do what I can to help clean up or home. Although I’ve always reduced, reused and recycled, I am looking further in my personal and professional life. I’m developing curriculum and collaborating with teachers in Massachusetts to discover ways to improve the school itself to be a model for our community. The centerpiece for four towns and a magnet for taxes. If we could reduce the energy consumption for tax payers, show that we encourage our youth to make these changes by example, our impact on the future will grow.

I plan to host online meetings with MASSCUE members along with experienced educators in other parts of the country. I’ve started a SIG, or Special Interest Group with MAssCue and hope to host my first meeting next month.

Today is BlogAction day. On the 24th is an even bigger event. Our school is participating and students are excited. I am too.

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