What a difference! It's been about ten months since the implementation of my iPad cart and I've talked a lot about how my teaching has changed, but this week it hit me like a truck. My finance students are creating books using the Book Creator app on consumer rights and responsibilities, a very dry but important topic. This time around the products being created are steps above last year and this is why......

Sharing my vision and expectations with the students was a struggle. I knew the iPads could deepen their learning and provide for creative experiences, but how could I get them to "see" the possibilities. I talked to them about being creative, thinking outside the box, and stretching their minds, but the product wasn't always reflecting that message. Somewhere along the lines, it was getting lost or jumbled. Sometimes my first instinct was to look at why the STUDENTS weren't getting it. Why aren't they producing what I envision? Well, I am asking them to think, learn and explore in a way they haven't done since......elementary school? toddler years?

I decided to look inward to see how I could do things differently, and I realized that maybe I was the problem. Maybe I was saying the wrong things or drawing the wrong picture. This semester, after using the iPads last spring, I feel like I have a much better handle on leading the students. I'm better at asking pointed questions to get them to explore and think in a different way. The questions I'm asking are different and the results are definitely different. They are experiencing learning in a new way. I feel like I am truly challenging their thought process and hopefully helping them become savvier critical thinkers.

What a difference ten months make!
Projectors are great, especially for sharing student work.....but projectors can be a crutch to help us continue our long standing presence at the front of the class. The front, where we think we must be because we are the ones that know all there is to know about our subject, right? Yes, I'm sure we have a plethora of knowledge about credit cards, the constitution, and algebraic equations. The question is....should we stand at the front with our beautiful PowerPoint slides and colored dry erase markers or is there another way to do it?

I would agree that there are times where we must stand at the front and "teach" the content but many times there is another way. I know that the majority of my students learn by being engrossed in the topic. Not happening when I am constantly up at the front of the room. This isn't anything new, we have heard this before, but it is still hard for us to take a step to the back of the room.

This last year, I have challenged myself to get rid of the crutch and move out of the way. Being part of the iPad pilot and having a classroom set of iPads has helped with this transition. The students are now part of their learning and not a spectator. It can be a challenge to trust the process but that's just what it is...a process. I still use various presentation software programs but in a different way. It takes time to develop these activities and courage to step back, but it is worth it in the end. I'm free to move around the classroom and give individual help more than I've even been able to do. The students, with my guidance, are exploring new concepts and retaining the information better than before.

In all seriousness, I realize projectors are needed in some instances but we n to challenge ourselves to find another way. It's time to get rid of the crutch and try something new! Really, who needs a projector?

Although it's time to start blogging about the iPad implementation (part two), I'm going to start with something different. I'm going to share how I began classes differently this year with one simple thing-a handshake.

This summer I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Hal Urban speak at the NCE conference in Kearney. Some people might call him an "old-school" teacher but I see him as a "new-school" teacher. I wanted to take a few of Dr. Urban's ideas and give them a go this year. Two of the things I implemented are
  1. A handshake
  2. A celebration
The most powerful thing I have done this year is #1. On the first day of class I greeted each and every student with a handshake, smile and eye contact. I then apologized if I made anyone uncomfortable, but I told them they can expect some type of greeting from me, every day. I have two rules:
  1. Make eye contact
  2. Smile
Beyond that the student could shake my hand, give me a high five, give me a fist bump (pound), or anything they came up with for a greeting--within reason. I feel it is my job to welcome my students into my classroom just like I would someone coming to my home. They should feel welcome, important, and safe. Day two of my experiment resulted in an amazing transformation for some of my students. I saw the students coming down the hall, with a huge smile on their face, getting their hand ready for our greeting. The great thing about this greeting is that it not only gives them a good feeling, but it does wonders for my positive attitude.

Briefly, #2 is how we start class each day. A student shares something they are celebrating, or something/someone they are thankful for. They can also choose to lift someone up with encouraging words or compliments. If they want, I even let them stand on the seat of their chair to share.

There are a few more things I am doing differently in my classroom this year but those are for another post. I feel the tone that has been set in my classroom this year is one that offers no confusion--it will be a room of positive words and actions. I think that we all feel of sense of calm and comfort this year. I hope
Sometimes I think I need to take on more, sometimes I think I'm doing just what I need to do, and sometimes I think I'm doing too much but I just can't stop. This iPad journey falls into all three categories. I'd like to share some thoughts on the last category, why I can't stop, and why that's a good thing.

Upon learning that I would be part of the iPad pilot in my district, my expectations grew so fast and so big that I needed the advice of Jenny K. to bring me back to reality. I wanted to start on the first day of second semester with iPads in all five of my classes. I wanted to jump right in and get started as soon as possible. After reality finally set in, we decided that maybe just two classes would be a place to start. It was a good decision while I learned a lot of the little things that go along with implementing iPads--that's for another post! But the entire time I was using the iPads with only two classes, I felt guilty. I felt like I was cheating the system. I had 30 iPads, 5 classes, 125 students and only 45 were using them. There had to be something wrong with that scenario, right? Not necessarily, you can take on too much and taking on too much, spreading yourself too thin, can lead to disaster. So what did I decide to do after third quarter? Take on too much and implement the iPads into all five classes and let all 125 students use them. There were just too many opportunities that I felt my other classes were missing out on by not using them.

I felt like I needed to implement the iPads in all of my classes so I could truly see how it would work if all students had an iPad. Talk about the shared model.....five different students used the same iPad almost every day. Now, of course, this would be different if students could take their iPads home, but nonetheless, I wanted to give it a go. Frustration set in as my fellow iPad Academy educators would share things they were doing that I knew wouldn't work with the shared model I was using. So, I improvised and I found new ways to do the things we wanted to do. Was it always ideal or perfect? No, but the learning opportunities far outweighed the downfalls. Was I overwhelmed and wondering why there weren't more hours in the day? Of course, but don't we all feel like that at times? Also, I have to say this type of frustration drove me to work harder to find a solution instead of throwing up my hands and saying it just won't work---it was a bit more fun. :) I learned so much about the management of iPads and the students learned so much about protecting their work and respecting others that it turned out to be a win-win situation. It can work if you're willing to give it a go!

I have already started thinking about how I will use the iPads next year in my classes. I have toyed with the idea of only using them in my two senior classes, but I always come back to the opportunities they have provided for my sophomore/junior classes that I just can't take that opportunity away. This is not the path for everyone, and I wouldn't expect everyone to do it this way but it's the way I want to do it. Maybe it's too much, but sometimes taking on too much is okay. I just can't stop!
Wow, I haven't blogged for a long time and there are multiple reasons why, at least in my head. :)
I thought it was time to share with you some of the apps and activities we have used this semester in the iPad pilot. Below I have outlined some of the frequently used apps, how we used them, and why I like them. They are probably classified as apps for a secondary classroom.
Google Drive: This app has been fantastic to have on the iPads. The students and I use this for so many things. I share the daily agenda with them which allows for automatic updates. Within the agenda I share links to articles, forms, documents and images. The students created a shared folder at the beginning of the semester, shared with me, and they drop all work in this folder for me to have immediate access to for grading or commenting. Fantastic!

Notability/Evernote: I went back and forth deciding between Notability and Evernote. For what I needed the app to do for me this semester and the types of classes I teach, I went with Notability. (I plan to use Evernote next year also.)
All of my personal finance curriculum, for this year, is in PDF format so this little app has been wonderful. I share a PDF with the students (graphic organizer of notes for example), in their Google Drive, and have them open it in Notability to take notes, highlight and then share back to Google Drive. Poof---amazing workflow---and remember how I loved Google Drive? It's because it links up with so many other apps!

Popplet/Idea Sketch:  This has been a great app to use for mind mapping, sharing ideas, and even taking notes. I used it as an on-task motivator for the students. While classmates were presenting projects (Keynotes for example) the other students were using Popplet to take notes and categorize all of the information. It is also great for quickly sharing ideas after reading an article.

Tactilize: Think of this as a digital poster board with interactive elements! Students create "cards" to share their information which can include video, images and text. My students created a recruitment card for a company on the Top 100 Places to Work list. They researched what made the company great and included that information on the card. Students also created a short iMovie trailer on their company and included it on their Tactilize card. A great app for sharing creatively! Here are a few examples. Be sure to watch where you have a good connection and Vimeo isn't blocked!

Keynote: Although this doesn't seem like an app that would "wow" you, the students really enjoyed using this much more than PowerPoint. They liked the interactivity of the app, which again is a result of using the iPad not necessarily the app. This, of course, can be used a number of different ways in the classroom.

iMovie: The trailer piece of this app is enough to make me vote this as a great app. As a teacher, it is quick and easy to use to spark excitement about a topic that will be covered. It is easy for the students to learn and a great way to have them share their learning in a creative manner.

Haiku Deck: Haiku Deck, a free iPad app, focuses on using images on slides instead of oodles and oodles of bullets! After typing the words you wish to have on your slide, which should be very few, Haiku Deck will find images to match your words. The images are crisp, clear and fun. The students, or teacher, will focus on your message instead of trying to keep up with all of your bullets! The new update has also incorporated charts and graphs.

Apple TV: This is not an app, of course, but highly recommend if you have a classroom set of iPads or a 1 to 1 situation. This works fantastic if you want to display your iPad or student iPads. It is quick, easy, and a great way to assure accountability.

The list is short and sweet, but I thought it would be better to share a few apps rather than bombard with many. There are many others that are content specific. Also, I am sure my elementary friends in the iPad Academy will have suggestions for the younger students but hopefully this gives you an idea of how some are being used at the high school level.
Opportunities. Yep, that's it. That's what the iPads provide both teacher and student. Opportunities for what? So many things. I've talked a little bit about how it has changed my teaching in this blog so I'd like to focus on the students this time.

Having iPads has given students the opportunity to find answers differently, share information differently, show understanding differently, and enjoy learning.........differently.

I gave a survey to my students this week to gauge how they were feeling about the iPads. I gave it with a lot of anxiety. I really wasn't sure what the results would show, because both of the classes that use the iPads are not very vocal. I haven't been able to "read" how they felt about using the iPads. I'd seen their work, which has been fantastic, but maybe that would have happened without the iPads. So, I decided it was time to ask them. My expectations were a 50/50 split on most of the questions I asked. Nope, not even close for most questions. I was blown away! Here is a link to the results, but below are a few comments, the good ones, from the students.

In response to the question: What do you like about using the iPads in class?
  • It's a more modern way of working and is more appealing to us. It makes me excited to come to class and work.
  • They let us be way creative and be independent.
  • It's different, it makes learning more one on one because it is more portable and in ways some what faster.
  • I like how it's completely different to the way other classes work.
  • I like how more visual it is for me because I am a hands on learner so this helps me a lot It makes everything easier to do and more interesting so you enjoy the lesson more.
  • It's more hands on.
  • Everything.
  • Quicker than other methods of learning.
  • They are fairly simple to use and offer different methods of learning and completing assignments.Its easy.

Now, I also asked the question: What do you not like about using the iPads in class? Most of those comments are fixable things or things that have to do with the shared model. FYI: They do NOT like the shared model.

(The following paragraph was written last Monday as I prepared a blog post. It was written before I gave the survey)

One thing I truly appreciate are the options the iPads provide for students and for myself. I deliver my content differently because I can, because I have that opportunity. Students are still learning the same content, just in a different way. Their learning is becoming more unique to them. I can see that they are more engaged in their learning.

(The following paragraph was written after the survey) :)

And now, after looking at the results of the survey, I feel I can say that I know they are a beneficial investment, if done the right way, they provide more opportunities for all. What a week!

Below are some of the things the iPad has allowed the students to do. This was in my original post and the basis for my post, but of course I changed it after the results of the survey.

iPads have allowed the students to....

Find information and collaborate.

Create Keynote presentations and share through the use of Apple TV......

.....while classmates create mind maps of the information being presented by each student.
And have a voice in a class discussion with little anxiety.

I think: Preliminary results are in and here are my thoughts. I think it is working. I think it is improving student engagement. I think it is personalizing student learning. I think it is providing options that weren't there before. I think it is teaching management skills. It = the iPad implementation. Think = just that, I think.

I've been struggling with the answer to this question...How is it going? When I have 30 seconds in the hallway, to answer this question, all I want to say is...Do you have fifteen minutes? I would really like to answer that question thoroughly and with examples, but I can't do it in 30 seconds.

There is a lot I think I know about how this pilot is going. What I'm trying to find and provide is concrete data, things I know.

Well, today something happened and, I think, it may have to do with using the iPads to do something very simple....review for a test. I decided to have my personal finance students use the iPads Monday, for the first time, to review for their credit card unit test. We used Socrative, something you could use on other electronic devices, but we have iPads. Students took a review quiz as many times as they wished and received immediate feedback. I'm able to display a color coded spreadsheet, green for correct answers and red for incorrect. We immediately went over the troublesome questions (red boxes) to correct confusion. This, my friends, drove my instruction! It told me, very quickly, what I needed to cover and what I needed to skip.

I know: As a result, for the first time in a very long time, all of my students (70) passed the test the FIRST time they took it. This hasn't happened all year and I'm not sure if it happened last year. I did a quick word of mouth survey today asking why they thought they did so well. The response---the review. It was better, it was more individualized, it told me what I needed to go over again, it let me go at my own pace, it gave me an idea of possible test questions. I have reviewed with my students many times using a variety of activities. I have never gotten these results. It could be a coincidence or not. Either way, I know, it was success!
As I finish up week two of the iPad pilot, I have a lot of things running through my mind that I'd like to share and they all go in a different direction. So, I'm going to try and focus on one thing and that is.....change.

After being selected to take part in the iPad pilot, I shared my excitement with colleagues, friends and family. I truly wasn't sure how this would affect my teaching and in turn, my students. After two weeks in the pilot, I am blown away by how my approach to lesson planning and teaching has changed. I have always thought of myself as an innovative teacher but wow, I was wrong. Now, I find myself willing and able to push the students harder and higher than we've ever gone. I am willing and able to let my role change into more of a facilitator than an instructor. I see option after option for my students. I feel excitement and life being breathed back into me and my classroom, at a time where I was beginning to feel worn down.

All of this excitement doesn't come without questions. Not questions from me, but from others. I've recently read some articles and been asked questions about why we need these "things" in the classroom. I'm told; Students used to need just paper and pencil. Students used to sit for forty-five minutes and take notes. Students used to.......... My response is always....students have changed and so must we. It doesn't do any good to figure out why today's students aren't like yesterday's students. We just need to accept this change and meet them where they are today. It is our responsibility to prepare them for the future, a future that involves creativity, innovation, and collaboration. These "things" provide opportunities for students to experience just that and it's past time to embrace this change.

I don't even know where to start with this post. It has been a roller coaster of a week with the start of second semester and the implementation of the iPads. Before I share anything about the week, I would like to thank Jenny Krzystowczy, one of our district technology trainers assigned to help Julie and I with the implementation, for all of her help and support. There is NO way I would have made it through this week without knowing that she was going to be right beside me. So, thank you Jenny!

The first thing I learned, again with a recommendation from Jenny, was to start small. I wanted to roll this thing out to all my classes on day one. Thankfully, we decided over break that it would be best to start small. I implemented the iPads into two senior level business management classes. I did decide to go all in with the iPads in these classes. To truly get a sense of how the iPads would work, if the students only had iPads, was to make them use only the iPads.

Did we have issues? You bet we did, but we worked through them and by the end of the week the students had
  • enrolled in my iTunes U course (which is bare minimum right now)
  • listened to a podcast on SMART goals
  • written goals and entered them into a goal setting app
  • used Whiteboard and Google Docs to collaborate
  • and yes, taken some crazy pictures and had fun with the different dialects

The other thing I learned this week.....let them have some fun. Although they are high school students, it is still fun for them to take pictures in Photo Booth, color in Whiteboard and adjust the reading speed to mach one. That's okay, let them play for a while.

One of the frustrations we experienced this week was the slowness of our network while working on the internet, they are working on this, so patience is the key. Another observation is the lack of personalization when using a shared iPad. It is hard for the student's to take ownership of a device if they can't truly personalize it and solely use the apps. I have to be sure to think ahead when working on the apps to be sure each students work will be......protected. For example, I had to find two goal setting apps for the students to use because you are not able to toggle between two accounts, two people's goals. So, when they go into the app to track their goal, every student's goal would be seen. These are very small issues but good things to think about before you begin.

After one week, I am utterly exhausted but I have so much excitement for what is to come the next few weeks. Sounds crazy, but that's how I feel. We made it and we're ready for more!

Tomorrow I will stumble through my first day of iPad implementation in my classes. I was given an incredible opportunity to take part in an iPad pilot program in my district. I am one of six educators that will be embarking on this journey. I'm thankful that Julie Rowse, a colleague and friend, will also be going through this experience with me. Do you think I will sleep tonight? Probably not. I don't usually get much sleep the night before going back to school and with all of this excitement, who has time for sleep?

There are so many things going through my mind tonight. I feel like a new teacher again! I'm incredibly excited for myself but ultimately for my students. I hope that I will be able to guide them through a semester full of challenges where they will experience excitement and learning like never before. Wow-bold statement and a little cheesy but if you don't set the bar high I guess you'll never know if such an environment is possible. Along with being excited, I am extremely nervous about........well, all of it. So many what ifs that I can't even begin to write about them. Those ifs will probably happen and I will learn a lot about myself and my students in those moments. So be it.

So, on the eve of iPad PIlot Implementation, I am going to take some time to read a book that has nothing to do with education in order to relax and get some sleep tonight. I've been prepping for this for about three weeks and now it is time to embrace it and get ready for the roller coaster ride--it's going to be incredible!