Learning Transformed – A Year of 1:1 iPads.

481A4FC5-AC10-4130-99AD-D1535B88AB44I had great anticipation before starting this year.  1:1 devices!  I had ideas as to where I wanted to go with the students, yet did limited reading on the subject because I knew I’d learn alongside my students and wanted to develop an edtech integration approach that would meet our specific needs as we went along.

I quickly learned the difference between when tech amplified learning and when it was simply a substitution.  The SAMR model is one I held myself accountable to.  Substitution wasn’t going to cut it in my room.

I also learned quickly that students are enamored with creating digital products that look like authentic real world samples.  We could communicate our thinking in ways that looked like something a grown up might do, and that seemed quite novel to the students.   Our digital sharing nights for parents were so eye-opening. Parents were amazed with the websites, AR, and multi-modal digital media pieces that seemed so effortless to the kids.  Students wore smiles of pride.

So as I transition to a new role this fall, I leave this beautiful 1:1 environment but can share forward the powerful and authentic learning approaches that engaged students all year.

My list of why 1:1 can revolutionize classroom learning (especially in my present context of a P/J school environment):

1) It’s learning in the go – we took the iPads everywhere with us, uncovering curriculum where the curriculum lies.  We became pro photographers and brought the content back to the classroom in the form of snapshots and videos.  They created the content.  We rarely needed to source videos made by others.  Macro lense clips helped us tune into the world beneath our feet.

2) Lack of tech-access bottle necks slowing us down at any point.  Not needing to continually log in and out was a gift, and privacy concerns became moot points. I was able to have students focus upon the accountability of the use of the device and practice positive digital citizenship behaviours daily.

3) Providing choice in how students shared their thinking was easy.  Here’s the ‘what’, now you choose the ‘how’.  Assess based upon learning criteria and focus upon the process of making thinking visible.  For some activities, up to seven various approaches were selected. Awesome.  Choice = voice.  The tech provided that choice and everyday access to devices meant lots of practice opportunities to become efficient with many iOS and Google apps.

4) Differentiating learning.  I never really thought a lot about the link between differentiation and choice of sharing method before.  Do you like telling, representing or writing?  You choose.  Just provide me with the thinking I need to see.

5)  Language supports in all apps!  Predictive text! Speech to text! Now speech to text is far from perfect, but still requires writers to be active thinkers as they structure responses and ideas.  It’s interesting how Siri became the dictionary and spell check of choice.  I’m trying to remember the last time I saw an adult use a dictionary…

6)  Photography and screenshots means active documentation of all learning – an ever growing e-portfolio that is added to on a daily basis.  We typically gathered our thinking in Google Slides for various subjects.  Videos, photos, text boxes for extra annotations.  Add a slide, insert new thinking.  Watch content knowledge grow.     I called them digital duotangs, and students shared them with me so I could peek in whenever needed.  I’m so proud of their ‘Math Thinking’ slidedecks.  They took seconds a day to maintain. Did I mention NO PAPER!?!

7) Students are able to put themselves and their creations into their work.  Green screen tech is so simple, yet always so fun for kids.  We once put our straw bridge structures into far away locations like the Grand Canyon.  Then, usually using pic collage, students annotated their thinking and created fantastic diagrams worthy of a non-fiction text.  Putting themselves into their art and adding speech bubbles to share learning was effortless and visually powerful.  They could see themselves in their learning…literally.

8) I found that iPads in the classroom reduced the usage of my smart board. Instead of projecting one image for a bunch of eyes, instead airdrop or share the work with students and then interact with it both independently and together.  The Apple TV wireless sharing capability let me ‘de-front’ the room regularly.  Students never tire of showing their work on the big screen.

9) Getting outside! All the time! Outdoor learning! Environmental links to curriculum as much as possible! Otter boxes save the day and reduce any stress of taking devices to the creek, forest or sandbox.

10) Airdropping! I shared work instantly to all the iPads and students took care of each other and would airdrop missed work to peers or offer to share their photographs with those who’s photos didn’t quite work out.  It was neat to think of all the digital files flying around the room every day.  Super cool.

11) Understanding that access is a privilege, and partnering with grade 1 classes as tech buddies to share the wealth and build capacity with younger learners.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and somehow provide funding for all students to regularly have access to their own documentation and learning tool.  Oh, the places we could go!

Instead, I have a year’s rich experience of watching intensive student exploration and have learned a lot of lessons to apply to situations where devices are shared.  The Board is building capacity with tech integration and it’s exciting, and important.

Let’s empower kids.  Let’s provide the tools that amplify voices and make rich tasks real.

I am so thankful to the Ministry for a golden opportunity to be able to explore 1:1 device usage.  It’s changed so much in terms of how I view my role as an educator.






Riding the Wave to Google in Venice Beach

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I applied, and I waited.  The announcement was to come ‘the week of May 28th’ and I know I wasn’t alone in checking my inbox 40 times a day for the first few days of that week.  By Wednesday I decided to move on – it was a long shot, right?  Only 35 Google Certified Innovator spots for all of North America.  The youtube videos created by other applicants were inspiring and it was only my first time applying.  Chalk it up to experience.

Then my phone notifications went berserk.  First I had ten new twitter followers in a span of five minutes (“odd”), and then I looked a little more closely and saw that I was added to a Twitter list entitled “#LAX18 Innovators”.  I jumped on gmail and found the image above waiting for me.

Now, I get excitable.  I do.  But this was ridiculous.  My beautiful wife and kids were jumping up and down, and my phone was ringing.  The list of links and communications from Google was long and overwhelming and I knew that I had to book flights and lodging and all that good stuff, but it didn’t matter.  The relief!  I wasn’t even aware that I had put pressure upon myself, however that feeling of acceptance is unlike any other. Venice Beach, California.  I was invited.  I have something to offer.

I love that it’s 2018.  I made digital connections with the other 34 Innovators (all American except for me!) by night’s end and now have a completely new circle of influence to add to my already inspiring PLN.  Google Hangout Chats, twitter lists, email lists, Google Classroom, FlipGrid, Google Drive shared documents… very connected, very quickly.

Then it sank in.  The wonder.  The wondering.  “Why me?”.  The panic.  Imposter syndrome.  I simply want to look at celebrating teacher voices in a grass-roots, crowd-sourced PD model that works for time-strapped educators.  Is that Innovator-worthy? I’ve decided to tell myself ‘yes’ and MAKE it Innovator-worthy.  My idea was accepted, so my selected challenge must be resonating with others.  Are teachers sometimes feeling diminished or completely overwhelmed with the way PD is sometimes delivered?  Does one model of PD fit everyone’s learning style?  Is there differentiation in the access to PD?  How are new teachers coping with all the new learning?  These are questions worth digging into.

I feel like someone has been hiding horseshoes around my classroom.  I’ve had such good fortune this year.  Ministry action research.  A DREAM 1:1 iPad classroom.  Forest-school alternate-learning opportunities.  A career-sidestep into Instructional Coaching (starting this fall – I updated the blog header just now as I am ‘all systems go’ and simply can’t wait to being this role).  And now acceptance into this competitive program.  I feel like the stars have aligned – I have momentum and the hunger to make things happen.  I have met the most incredible colleagues in the last few years and I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants as I move forward with these new opportunities.

A bit about the Innovator Academy.  It’s 2.5 days of mentorship, coaching, moon-shot thinking, relationship building, and failing fast.  I hope to become emotionally detached from my project in the hopes that I can make decisions that work best for the project, not just for me.  We work in the Google Venice offices, get tours, feel the vibes, bond and pay it forward.  It’s truly an amazing opportunity.

…and I get to sleep here:

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…because there are very motivated people in my cohort.  I’m responsible for my own flights and lodging and an incredible new friend from the US booked this AirBnB for 16 (sixteen!!!) of us to stay in, within walking distance of Google and the ocean.  It is going to be our own version of MTV’s Real World – education style!  I know that I’ll meet some unique people here that could really have an impact on my approach to education.

As a cohort we design our own logo, t-shirts, and swag.  The #LAX18 hashtag will be something that will connect us as we move beyond the Innovator Academy and role out our transformational projects.

Riding the wave, indeed.  All year long.  This is literally sprinkles.  Sprinkles with a GREAT view.

My thank you card list is super long.  Time to get to work on that ; )