Sunday, January 10, 2016

To TV or not TV? Plus a billion other questions!!

Ever tried to shop for a new TV?  What an Alice in Wonderland of specs and screen sizes and refresh rates and screen resolutions and on and on and on and on.

How does anyone keep it all straight???

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Please forgive!

Okay.  Okay.

So I essentially did disappear.  

Well -- no promises -- but now I r-e-a-l-l-y hope to be better about keeping up with posting here.

The intent is there.  Now I need to prove myself up to the challenge!!!

As they say......stay posted.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Disappeared maybe but I'm still kickin'!!!

I don't know exactly why I never get around to posting new discoveries and cool stuff here -- it's not like I don't make the discoveries or try the cool things -- but I haven't been here to post for (obviously) a long time.

Anyway, I'm still around.  Maybe I'll do one of those New Year's Resolutions to be a more dedicated and consistent blogger!!  It's a thought!   :-)

In the meantime......Happy Holidays to One And All!  We're about to start 2014 believe it or not!!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Post Post-Workshop Thoughts -- iPad Workshop -- -- Hauser Hall/Harvard -- July 8-10, 2013

Since I tend to be one who ruminates about things a bit -- some who know me would probably say that I spend WAY too much time in a state of rumination -- I've continued to reflect on my experience at the tablet conference.  To repeat, it was a great experience and I am extremely glad I went and grateful to my school for making it possible for me to be there.

Something I keep coming back to is the pedagogical rationale for all the talk among educators about the (some would say) radical changes happening in our schools where technology "revolutionizes" the classroom and the subjects we teach.  Some of the terms one hears include:  

  • workflow
  • flipping the classroom
  • video, video, video
  • digital literacy
  • digital citizenship
  • information society
  • information management
  • critical thinking
  • collaboration
  • 21st century competencies
  • programming
  • and so on

In my school, many of the above are oft-discussed, weighed, and touted as necessary components of our classrooms and curricula.  I have heard myself bringing up for discussion plenty of the topics in this list and I would argue that many of my fellow educators reflect and talk about the above with total sincerity.

Okay, so what's the big deal?

Probably nothing or ??????.  But what keeps popping backing into my head is the physical layout of the classroom at Harvard where this tablet workshop was held.  Four or five rows of student seats behind stationary tables in half-circles that descend from the last row of student seats to the first.  And what do we find "down in front"?  A chalkboard (or projector screen) and podium.  This is clearly where the professor "stands and delivers" (which was the case for our presenters at the workshop, as well).  The room did not offer any sort of the physical flexibility that I noticed.  It seemed like a totally traditional classroom that had "teacher-centric" written all over it.

And, on the couple days when we had to vacate the classroom we were using because a Harvard class was coming in, the Harvard class was totally run in that professor "stand and deliver" mode.

This I find quite interesting.


In think back on all the discussion we've had in my school about transforming the classroom, 21st century skills, critical thinking, etc., we talk as if these changes are revolutionzing education.  But, to the extent my school is a "prep" school preparing our kids for college (and explicitly for colleges like Harvard), it makes me wonder if were are doing our job to prepare them for the educational experience they will actually be having in those colleges they go to.

Just wondering.  No solid conclusions on my part.  No empirical studies.  I probably should ask some of our grads and see what their feedback would be.......but I do seriously reflect on what I REALLY should be doing to prepare my Middle Schoolers for their best educational future.  It is endlessly fascinating!!!!

Post-workshop Thoughts -- iPad Workshop -- -- Hauser Hall/Harvard -- July 8-10, 2013

So, dear reader, it’s been a week since I left the iPad Workshop organized and sponsored by and held in Hauser Hall on the campus of Harvard University.  It seems that a few words of reflection might be in order.
First, I tip my hat (figuratively, of course) to the two EdTechTeacher trainers that were running the workshop:  Samantha Morra and Carl Hooker    
For three days I sat in awe of Sam’s total command of all the things she talked and demo’d, along with her highly professional style whenever she was “up there in front” while always maintaining her extremely supportive, non-egotistical, mega-friendly personality.  Carl also had a “command of the facts” and was a very supportive presence always there to help out the 30 or so of us in the room.
Great as the in-class experience was, the question I need to revisit is the one I posed in my post prior to the start of the workshop:  What specific methodologies, techniques, skills brought to students, and apps did I learn about and experience during these three days spent in Cambridge?  What makes a tablet a “killer device” that transforms – or at least enhances – student learning?
Were I forced to answers those question, I’d have to voice a (to me) surprising degree of uncertainty as to the answers.  To cut to the chase, my conclusion, so far, is that a tablet is a very cool piece of hardware – and there is an amazing and impressive wealth of apps available for them – but it is not a game-changer.
Do I love the fact that these tablets are instant on/off?  Yes.  Do I love how light and portable they are?  Absolutely.  Do I enjoy the ways you access and manipulate the screen (swiping, tapping, drawing with a finger or stylus)?  You bet.  Do I think kids would love using these things?  Totally.  Do I find that a tablet can make it easier for people to collaborate?  Yup.
Did the workshop teach me how kids, by using a tablet can perform research projects in ways that are superior to a laptop?  Well, yes, in some ways.  A built-in camera can grab a shot or video of my frog dissection to which I can add an audio narration and then submit to my teacher.  I don’t think a traditional on-paper lab report comes close to showing my teacher how much I know about frog physiology let alone how to properly perform a dissection.  And a laptop often has a camera these days but is not nearly as portable and easy to manipulate as a tablet.  Tablet is way superior to a laptop if multimedia, in-class experiences (and off-campus -- documenting finding my frog in a nearby swamp) need to be captured.
But what about producing a major research and writing assignment about 19th century United States presidents?  Or completing my short story for English?
The goal I keep repeating to my students when it comes to “data entry” to their computer is that I challenge them to be able to type in their ideas as fast as they can think.  This may be possible with a tablet’s on-screen keyboard but I have not seen empirical evidence that this is possible.
In the type of school where I teach, there is enough emphasis on writing and large-scale research projects, for example, that I’m unable to totally buy a tablet is the answer.
If kids could have two devices – a tablet and a laptop – that would be ideal.  Probably 4-5 years from now people may take it for granted to have both devices at hand or the hardware may morph into devices that are as light and easy to use as tablets but make it possible for the productivity efficiencies that are more native with today’s laptop.  Nothing stays still with technology.  Change is the way it’s always going to be.  It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out.
To get back to the workshop, it was absolutely a valuable experience for me.  The breadth of available apps that have to potential for big payoffs in the classroom and curriculum was amazing.  In fact, much of our time was spent on exploring these apps which was rewarding.  I’ve got many hours left of exploring them yet left to do.  Just look again at that table I included on Day 1.  What an impressive list!!
But I also have a lot of reflecting to do about keeping the focus on student learning and curricular development and improvement.

But that’s what’s so fun about this line of work:  there’s never a dull moment!!!
P.S.  If anyone actually reads this and can help me broaden my perceptions and learn ways I have not yet discovered about the advantages/capabilities of tablets in the classroom, please let me know.  I am absolutely, positively a life-long learner!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

iPad Workshop -- Day 3 -- -- Hauser Hall/Harvard -- July 10, 2013

Well, Day 3 has arrived.  In most ways, these sessions have breezed by and now we're at the final session of this workshop.  Kinda difficult to believe.....

The list of "apps on tap" for today include:

We started out spending some time hearing about how to project an iPad on a computer.  Most time was spent on Reflector which is an app that you install on both your computer (which apparently includes both Mac & Windows) and on the iPad you want to project.  More information about that available at:

Reflector is not the only option but, at $12.99, it is a relatively low-cost option for making it possible for a tablet to be mirrored on a screen

A .pdf of some instructions put together by EdTechTeacher can be found at:

Another option for "mirroring" an iPad is AirServer which appears to cost $14.99

A further option with perhaps the most limitations/iffy would be to use Bluetooth

Then we spent a chunk of time watching the movie "trailers" that people made yesterday at the end of the day using iMovie.  Some pretty effective, not to mention entertaining and clever, videos were created in really a very few minutes by folks in the workshop using the Trailer tool in iMovie.  And iMovie makes it pretty nearly a breeze to do.  Easy to get sold on an app with such ease in putting together some video.

It would have been interesting, though, to create something more open-ended using iMovie rather than the trailers.  Those trailer templates are very well-designed and organized.  Again, they are a lot of fun, but I'm not sure the "trailer" approach would be that helpful with a video project in a classroom that has depth to it.  But, there's a lot to say for having fun making a project!!

Staying with the video topic, we briefly weighed the use of  YouTube as an option to upload class videos, particularly uploading and saving videos in one of the private modes that keep student work inaccessible to those who have no business watching them and yet available to all who should be able to see it.  Having this option is reassuring but pointing students to YouTube even with private URLs still begs the question of whether it is wise -- certainly with kids in elementary and middle school -- should be nosing around YouTube.  A number of schools represented by the workshop participants to not allow YouTube access by students at school.

In terms of some other options, reference was made to Vimeo and iTunes U although, a bit surprisingly to me, not SchoolTube.

Today's app expedition and share impressions included the following:
  • Aurasma
  • 30 Hands
  • Haiku Deck
  • Popplet Lite
  • Nearpod
  • Spreaker DJ
  • TouchApp Creator
  • Trading Cards
  • Videolicious

The results of the group sharing of impressions of these apps is available here.

The final project of the workshop was next up on our agenda.  And our task.....

Use Book Creator to create a ePub of your experiences,
notes, resources, etc from the past 3 days
Use the agenda and Today’s Meet to guide you.

This was also a time when Sam and Carl circulated around the room answering some individual questions that people had about what we've explored since Monday.

Near the end of the day, Carl called our attention to a couple videos that speak to starting a movement and doing something to bring attention to an important cause.  Here were two examples of the power of video not to mention the power of the energy, creativity, and commitment our kids can bring to all of our lives.

Derek Sivers shows us how movements get started.  He shows video of the start of a movement all of which happens in less than 3 minutes.  Check it out.

Next came a very powerful video that was spearheaded by two kids with the help of an interested adult who had the means to create a song and record it.  This is a wonderful example of what our students can do not to mention the importance of putting kids in charge of projects that meets their passion. In this case, the idea was to create something to counter bullying and finding ways to help those who are the victims of mistreatment.  

Called "Lend a Hand", it is a YouTube video that was quite amazing to watch.  You can watch it here.

It was a great way to bring this workshop to a close and I'm grateful to both our facilitators for the great experience that was this iPad Classroom Workshop.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

iPad Workshop -- Day 2 -- -- Hauser Hall/Harvard -- July 9, 2013

Day 2 began with a look at another site that offers teachers the ability to poll/quiz/test students. -- an online (free) resource for getting student responses, somewhat more flexible/useful than Socrative (including being able to download quick response items from kids) which you can't do with Socrative.  Also class rosters can be imported.

Another difference is that one form of answer can be a drawing.

Next we spent some time working with a "digital paper" app called Notability.  Notability Intro and Challenge by Sam available here:

We moved on to doing more image capture/screen capture and got some practice using a free avatar creator called Tellegami to narrate a pretend vacation with the appropriate image.  Examples of how to capture those images used both Maps (in iOS 6) and Google Earth.

(Psssst........Wordle and Tagxedo and got mention here for word clouds, of course, but also avatar creation.)

Another app we got practice using is called Book Creator.

In the time before lunch, the presentation moved to Digital Citizenship and Copyright.  A great deal of importance was attached to "empathy" including the teaching of this concept in our classes.  In fact, Sam classified empathy as the 21st century skill and called the presentation she shared with us:  Empathy: The 21st Century Skill

We looked at Common Sense Media and their tools for Education and then Creative Commons.  We were especially encouraged to -- if so moved -- license things we create using Creative Commons licences with the main goal of sharing.

Final thing before lunch was a look at Subtext and what it offers for reading, including free books and monitoring reading by students.

We moved on to some options for accessing a "whiteboard" on a tablet.  Focus was on EduCreations, ScreenChomp, and Skitch.  They even asked us to do a comparison (a Whiteboard app "smackdown") the results of which are here

Next app we visited was Explain Everything.  The presentation shared with us is available at:

Here's a video available on Vimeo that gives an intro to Explain Everying

Explain Everything 2.0 from MorrisCooke on Vimeo.

There is a lot of explore in the things listed above.  It was truly exciting to be introduced to such a wide variety of tools that seem to have the potential to offer teachers (and students) so much that will enhance teaching and learning.  Already, though, the thought keeps bubbling up......when will I possibly have time explore all these great things!!!!????

Next we moved on to a discussion of digital storytelling and to audio recording and video editing.  Garageband was the focus of our audio segment and iMovie for the video.

Some EdTechTeacher slides about iMovie are available here.

The final challenge of the day was to create a movie "trailer" using one of the built-in trailer templates that iMovie offers (many are very cool!) and go out of the classroom around the building -- whatever -- and add video recorded on the iPad or digital stills taken on the iPad to use in the trailer.  Fun!

Difficult to believe Day 2 is already over but looking forward to Day 3!

Monday, July 08, 2013

iPad Workshop -- Day 1 -- -- Hauser Hall/Harvard -- July 8, 2013

The iPad Classroom workshop began today at 8:30 a.m. in Hauser Hall on the Harvard campus in Cambridge, MA.  I did not have 100% of my wits about me and spent way too much time trying to figure out where Hauser Hall is.  May have been in the EdTech materials but I didn't have them with me and there was not a Harvard campus overview map ("You Are Here") to be found.  Thanks to a few kind Harvard-ites, I eventually found my way.

The presenters are:

Samantha Morra on Education
Carl Hooker on Innovation

This list of the EdTechTeacher Summer Workshops 2013 is available here:

The website for my specific workshop is at:

After round-the-room introductions, Sam and Carl had us do a quick look at Padlet --
where you can create a virtual "wall" that kids can post to by name or anonymously (but cautioned mightily about the anonymous possibility)


TodaysMeet --
TodaysMeet sets up a dialog for anyone who knows the URL to the discussion.  It's kind of like a private, members only Twitter feed that you can set up and only have the people you want participating.  One was set up for our workshop but since they only last something like two weeks and then (poof) are gone, I can't include a link here.  However, TodaysMeet does make it possible to produce a .pdf of the TodaysMeet discussion and I have a copy of the comments & resources shared.

Our facilitators had us take a "Getting to Know You" Google Doc survey (form)

Then it was a turn at setting the focus for the whole workshop with the following framework models and EdTechTeacher articles:

Next, Sam covered the basics of the iPad hardware and its basic use with a Google Docs presentation:
She did a good job of covering those topics and even (at least for me) shared some tips that were totally new to me!

There's also a video introduction by EdTechTeacher at Vimeo:

iPad Basics from EdTechTeacher on Vimeo.

From this point on, we began an exploration of a variety of apps that can help fulfill the curricular concepts noted in the introduction.  Rather than comment on each (at least for now), I'm going to let the list of what we explored speak for itself unless I feel I really have to add a word or two.

Some discussion of the SAMR hierarchy (also above) which was part of the framework discussion.  SAMR & the Schneiderman version (below) are both worth much thought as how to incorporate into curricular design:



In terms of apps, the workshop appears to be primed to cover a great many.  The table below is a snapshot of the apps slated to be covered starting today through Wednesday.

From here on we explored a series of apps that are tools that can be used with an iPad to fulfill the curricular goals that we discussed earlier today.  This list is pretty much up there in the table (above).  Maybe because it's the first day, but, in any case, the standouts from today include:

Evernote -- information gathering and organizing tool

Chirp -- an audio version of the qr code

Socrative -- teacher and student versions -- creating quizzes both "on the fly" and scored-and-stored

ThingLink -- creating "rich" images....images with links and other content that enhance and enrich the images you share

'Twas a full day.  Looking forward to Day 2.