Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Five Twits of Twitter. Which one are you?

The Five Twits (Twitter users) in the known universe, in no particular order.

1. Consumer

A Consumer is a quiet user of Twitter. Following lots of tweeters, or just a few prolific ones. The Consumer takes in every tweet like she is reading a story. Perhaps she is. This Twit is not out to make a mark on Twitter, and may be in the early stages of learning what Twitter is all about.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why The 1:1 Debate is a False One

The computer revolution has slowly reshaped the landscape of education. In my personal experience it started with Apple IIe's in my middle school. It was the mid 80s and we were taught some basic programming. It was not an effective use of technology, but it was the first trend. The third trend is the move to one to one learning. From where I sit, this is not a fad any more.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

iPad Presentations - The perfect answer(s)

Creating presentations with the iPad in ways that are educationally sound and that can easily be shared with a broader audience, requires a little bit of a thoughtful approach. While there are always more ways to do things, this post presents the most common and comprehensive options including tips on sharing, exporting and more. In this post I explore 3 formats and highlight several apps for each:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

PARCC - Common Core Test Will Require Students on Computers

Beginning in 2014-2015, there will be 23 states adopting the new, Common Core driven, PARCC standardized assessment. While the Common Core has been adopted in 45 states and the replacement of current high stakes tests with this new multi-state tool are common knowledge, there are some things that are not common knowledge.

As of December 2012, the expectations of PARCC will be that all students are taking the exam on a computer device with few exceptions. This is a quote directly from their technology FAQ:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Twitter is 4 U! Here is How

The question in this post is how do you find success using Twitter? How do you get in the game? While you will find lots of writing out there on how to be successful in social media, I am going to tell you the simple secret to Twitter success in two rules.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fantasy Teaching - A Real Sport - A real Twitter chat

Today I participated in perhaps the most amazing chat I've been part of on Twitter: Fantasy Teaching (#fantasyteaching - hashtag creator? Josh Stumpenhorst @stumpteacher). This spontaneously started hashtag was created out of a conversation I had no part in and quickly developed as a discussion around creating a fantasy team of teachers. What would you look for? How would you score it?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Educational Tablet Decisions

With so many tablets on the market, it is important that educational institutions make decisions that are sound educationally and financially. What can they do? What do we want them for? The evidence is pretty clear that just choosing a cheaper tablet to save money is not a good plan. Instead we need to weigh functionality, apps, cost, support, and other decisions important to your organization. Through my own experiences and extensive online research, I have put together this guide. The final decision will be yours. While there are several tablets on the market, this post will focus on what are widely considered to be the best options as of today.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

iPad: A Creative App Combo for Learning

Using iPads with students? Consider this... If you do nothing else with your iPads, may I suggest Explain Everything and iMovie (or similar apps).

Let me explain...

iMovie ($5.99) is the classic, intuitive editor by Apple. In the iPad form it allows for bringing together multiple video clips created on the iPad along with:
  • Microphone input (narration, sound FX, original music recordings, etc.)
  • Video recording (talk to your audience directly, record a skit, record anything!)
  • Insert photos
  • Insert sounds
  • Add text to any of the above
  • Add transitions to make it all smooth
  • Export the final product as a self-contained video and upload or email it

Explain Everything ($2.99) is a whiteboard app, and what I would consider the best on the market to date. While similar apps are free, this one may offer enough options to make it worth your venture. Highlights include (features set for upcoming December release are in green):
  • Record a video presentation one slide at a time
  • Insert photos, drawings and images from any of several sources
  • Insert a movie (to create a commentary and mark up with drawings)
  • Timeline editor
  • Download final product as a movie (then import to iMovie for further editing)
  • Use a 'laser' pointer
  • Export individual screen shots as images or PDF
  • Connect with Dropbox, Evernote, Box, Drive, and many other apps
  • And so many more features

(jump to about 1:30 to start seeing a demonstration of the features)

These two tools should be in the hands of students (and teachers) at all ages. They should be helping students harness their intrinsic motivation to learn and show-off what they know. Students engaged in this type of learning are going well beyond consumption. They are synthesizing knowledge, creating, developing 21st century skills, and most importantly, they are engaged in their education.

So what could you do with these tools? (enter raffle for free EE Compressor or EE)

  • Keep it simple and explain how to do something, math, science, etc
  • Use a map image and create a photo tour in history or literature
  • Create a video presentation with questions left open ended for audience interaction
  • Book reports
  • Flipped lessons
  • Students can film and analyze each other doing tasks
  • Create and edit skits
  • Whatever your heart desires

As I prepared to demonstrate these tools to a class of 8-10 year olds, I tested the process on my daughter. It was clearly one of the most challenging things I had ever asked her to do on the iPad. This was not a simple, press a button to get positive feedback type of adventure. At first, she struggled to make the transition into this type of creating.

Even though she was frustrated, she was fully engaged. She had no interest in stopping. After helping her through a slide, she then made a second slide all on her own. These slides are not like PowerPoint or Keynote. They are dynamic. She is creating an experience for herself and for those she shares with. We stopped after two slides (though she is ready to do more!) Then I helped her move the outputted movies into iMovie for some light touchup and to add a couple of sound effects (she loves this part :) and then sent it to YouTube.

What excites me is not what she and I created, it is the thought of what teachers and students around the world will create when these tools are in their hands. If you are one of these teachers, please give this a try and let me know what you create! Post links and comments in the comment section so others can gain from your experience.

 Compressor for Explain Everything - $14.99 (helps compress movies via Mac)

Win your own copy of Explain Everything or Compressor for Explain Everything! Enter here. (Generously provided by the makers of Explain Everything.)

Chad McGowan is a high school technology teacher and professional development specialist in technology. Over the past 16 years, Chad has taught a variety of math and computer course from 7-12. Since 2000, Chad has been guiding other professionals in technology by staying current and learning from those around him. Follow Chad on Twitter @ahstechteacher and through this blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

iPads: How Young is too Young?

During the day I help others integrate technology in classes from pre-k to 12. At night, I parent a 10 and 7 year old with very little media integration taking place. I love technology and do believe it can have a profound influence on the quality of education when properly implemented. I also believe that as a parent, I have an obligation to help my children learn how to consume in moderation. After spending two long days in a wonderful iPad conference recently (edTechTeacher iPad Summit), I was left with this question (among others): How young is too young for iPads?

The three part answer:

  • Age 2 and Under
  • Engaging with proper guidance and well designed implementation
  • Managing the time kids spend on devices

1. Under two years, screen time is detrimental. End of story

I know kids under age two can do fun and sometimes amazing things with these intuitive devices, yet there are no known long-term benefits from this opportunity, only known detriments. The American Academy of Pediatrics ( has long held that media input is detrimental to infants and toddlers to age two. They have recently reaffirmed their position(Washington Post, 2011), and still, parents plug kids in, turn a blind eye, or simply don't know the research. I'm going to err on the side of caution here. While my own children were rare screeners at this age, the TV was never used as a device to entertain them and their interaction with computers and other devices started at a later age.

2. With proper supervision and well designed implementation, iPads are powerful tools

As children get older and they begin to use the devices in controlled circumstances, the benefits can be seen. What we need to ask ourselves is whether we are engaging the kids in meaningful activities with proper guidance, or are we simply pacifying them with media consumption. Kids learn by doing. They can get amazing opportunities from educational situations that parents and educators shape to build creativity, and higher order thinking skills utilizing the iPad. Using apps that encourage drawing, painting, building, and using photos and videos to digitally tell stories, kids can get the best the iPad has to offer at any age. There is also evidence that suggests iPads in kindergarten classes can improve literacy test scores (Center for Digital Education, Feb 2012).

There are several people who believe the iPad should not be used at this age. There are concerns about technology addiction and replacing real-life playing experiences with devices (Center for Digital Education, June 2012.) These concerns appear to be legitimate and until further scientific studies are done, we won't have evidence on way or the other. Until then, it is becoming increasingly clear that iPads and similar devices are invading classrooms at all ages in growing numbers. Learning is a process at its best in creativity, not consumption. The following video, from Park Tudor School, highlights a great example of what is happening in iPad deployments across the globe.

3. Kids, like adults, only have so many hours in their days

In addition to the quality of iPad integration, educators and parents should consider the time-on-device. Time-on-device is in significant need of management. Reasons to manage time on the iPad are various.  One key reason is that life has so much more to offer than screen time. As parents with so much to do, it is way too easy to give over to kids who want "twenty more minutes", or even unlimited time with the devices. Kids learn by playing, in the real world. I'm not a fatalist, but I do believe in slippery slopes. I believe in the power of playing outside, the power of building with cardboard, wood, and legos. I believe the benefits of being active and well rounded will be hard to see when our children are four or five years old. As they grow beyond these ages though, the habits they develop in childhood will linger. It will be more and more difficult to change those paths the older kids get. While some children will be easily able to give up the device when it is time to do something else, others will fall too far in, getting a hit of dopamine, making giving up the iPad a painful battle for parent and child (Wall Street Journal, 2012). Since our children only have so many hours in their childhood, my final words of advice would be, fill them with experiences vast and deep, everyday, and leave the iPad to specific, well designed tasks.

iPad Kindergarten Research Starts Turning up Results; Center for Digital Educaiton; Feb 2, 2012
Learning and Creating with iPads in Kindergarten; Park Tudor School; Indianapolis, IN; July 31, 2012
Should Kindergartners use iPads in the Classroom?; Center for Digital Education; June, 2012
What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out on the iPad; Wall Street Journal; May 22, 2012 
All photos and screenshots are the property of Chad McGowan, with the exception of the video screen shot for Learning and Creating with iPads in Kindergarten.

Chad McGowan is a high school technology teacher and professional development specialist in technology. Over the past 16 years, Chad has taught a variety of math and computer course from 7-12. Since 2000, Chad has been guiding other professionals in technology by staying current and learning from those around him. Follow Chad on Twitter @ahstechteacher and through this blog.

Friday, November 9, 2012

iPad Summit: Your Take Away

On two cold New England days, the first edTechTeacher iPad Summit USA was held in the middle of Boston. Inside the conference center, 400 educators from all over the globe gathered to share best practices, battle scars, and a vision for the future.

This vision for the future was not a vision of what education could be like twenty, ten, or even five years from now, it was a vision of what education would look like today and tomorrow. It was a vision we could only imagine five years ago. This vision is coming true today because of the revolution brought on in education by the arrival of iPads and other quality touch devices. What we had dreamed of for years in Star Trek, Ender's game, and other visions of the future has come to life in our lifetime. No longer science fiction, it is science fact and educational experience.

Were you there? Did you follow activity online at the #ettipad hashtag? Have you taken a look at the website and speaker materials? If not, I highly encourage you to do so!

An extremely quick after-summit survey for all (even if you followed online!)...

Now is your chance to ask yourself, what did I learn by listening to those who were traveling along the new frontier? (Participate: Survey / Results)

Here are ten things that come to my mind in no particular order...

  • When properly employed, iPads absolutely can revolutionize education.
  • When improperly employed, iPads could hinder what educators are trying to do.
  • No integration model fits every situation.
  • iPads allow students to more effectively access higher order thinking skills.
  • The iPad is a tool. In students hands it can be as seamless as paper and pen.
  • Classrooms still need teachers. Teachers still need to teach.
  • Parents need to be part of the process. They need to be educated and they need to be empowered.
  • Kids can do so much more than we give them credit for.
  • Private schools are significantly outnumbering public schools on the iPad journey.
  • Without a proper plan, iPad implementation will fall apart.
I'm looking forward to learning more, bringing best practices to my school district and beyond. Thank you to every keynote and presenter! You make a difference in the world because you care enough to share.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

iPad Summit Day 1 top 10

Recently I have been on a professional development roll. From attending to delivering, this year is shaping up to be a non-stop drag race to the finish line. This weeks travels take me to the first ever EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. With a norEaster rolling through New England, several hundred visitors from across the country made it to Boston for this two+ day event. I missed the pre-conference fun, but wanted to share some great insights from my experience of day 1.

My top 10 of day 1

10. Tech breakdowns. Don't get me wrong, these aren't moments of joy, but satisfaction. If a professionally run, Harvard hosted, tech summit can have techy glitch moments (and talk about them openly in their sessions) then so can the rest of us!

9. Meeting people facing the same challenges from every corner of this country and beyond. San Francisco,  Canada, Cleveland, Cambridge, and those were just the people I bothered to ask.

8. iDiary - While I saw plenty of apps, this one was one of the best creation tools I saw today that was geared to the lower elementary group. As a father of, and a provider of PD to teachers of this segment, it was nice to come across this tool today.

7. Something I heard today that sums up the difference between iPads (or similar) and more traditional hardware: "iPads get technology out of the way."

6. Having a realization: The last time there was a revolution of this magnitude in education was probably when Apples were first brought into schools, or maybe back to calculators. Not only is this revolution bigger, it is more impactful, more widely adopted, and it is happening much more rapidly. Tablets in the hands of millions of students is occurring in the educational equivalent of the blink of an eye. And we are all going to better for it.

5. Brushes - With some art study, an animation course in my daily routine, and as the liaison for my high school art department, finding a new art app was a little appealing. I was not amazed by the ability to draw on an iPad, I just appreciated the simplicity, the price, and the ability to watch the development of the piece of art as an animation when done. Not convinced you can make art on the iPad, watch this.

4. In a day of innovative ideas, this non-tech one stood out to me: Why not get rid of AP courses and develop our own rigorous Advanced Topics Curriculums and get away from standardized testing that is not helping to develop critical thinking skills. Imagine the freedom this could create! Shared by the AM keynote, Tony Wagner (@drtonywagner), author of "Creating Innovators" - watch the book trailer

3. A presentation by Vince Delisi (@ipadvince) on iPads in project based units. From week long field trips journaled in Notability, to urban planning with SimCity, Vince covered a lot of ground in a small amount of time. For me, this is valuable use of my time.

2. Session with Beth Holland (@brholland) on how we don't all have to agree on a 'Best' tool, and that every situation may result in a best tool of its own. "It's not about which one, it's about which one When, and Why, and How."

1. After lunch keynote with Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec). He spoke to the heart of the matter: The iPad is just another tool at the end of the day. In the right hands, it blends seamlessly into the environment.

I also wanted to give a little honorable mention to the staff at the center today. Food moved in and out seamlessly, the place was cleaned constantly and their were unlimited cookies to end my day :)

That's all for day one. Follow me, Chad McGowan, on Twitter @ahstechteacher and follow the summit at #ettipad to see what happens on day 2 or to read through the archive after the event.

Monday, November 5, 2012

iPads: Stop motion, Vernier Probes, and Google Maps

Any integration of new technology is bound to have its ups and downs, bumps, bruises and maybe even broken bones. Fortunately, in this story, these painstaking steps are experienced by a staff dedicated to progress and the belief that a little pain now, will result in long term gains for the students and an ever improving process for the staff. This is the summary of the experiences shared by a small pre-k to 8 school in central Massachusetts, during a typical faculty meeting in which they discussed not-so-typical practices.

As a participant in this meeting, I was able to share about my role in the classes, and I was able to hear the feedback, questions, and concerns of the faculty as they plan to continue their pilot. What I came away with were two key points:
  • Integrating iPads with AppleTV units, various apps, scientific probes, and projectors was a frequently frustrating and time consuming task for the teachers
  • The level of student engagement and success in reaching and perhaps exceeding classroom expectations was evident in every situation where the iPads were implemented

3 Case Studies

Stop Motion

An art teacher shared about her experience of putting together stop-motion videos. What she took away from the process was not only fun, artistic videos made by students, but also an opportunity to help students learn about and better understand sequencing. This is a critical skill that is frequently employed in math, writing, and science. Through the simple app, iMotionHD, she helped students experience sequencing in a non-threatening, highly engaging environment.

Vernier Probes

An elementary teacher shared about how she took several weeks to figure out how to integrate Vernier Probes with the iPad. She was dedicated to this task, and by the end of the unit, found it all worth her time. Each probe, when connected to the portable Vernier device would send its data to any iPad accessing the data on the network. The results were that students could be on the go, around the school, outside, or in the classroom, and all reading the same data on multiple devices. Students could create multiple graphs, compare and contrast data, and draw scientifically based conclusions on what they were observing. 

Scientific Cataloguing

Another science teacher at the 7 and 8th grade level, utilized the iPads,, and Google Maps to create a unit around having students identify different trees on the school campus. Using an app called LeafSnap, students took pictures of leaves, uploaded them to the app and then used a little deductive reasoning to determine which trees they were identifying. Students kept a scientific journal through Edmodo and posted photos of their findings here as well. Finally, the teacher was able to take all of the student data, including lattitude and longitude of the tree locations and enter it all into a personalized Google Maps. The end result was a Google Map, that not only located individual trees around campus, but also provided a description of and photo of the trees. 


These three teachers all experienced tech troubles. From files that wouldn't upload, to lost photos, to hours on tech support calls with various companies. The key was in their dedication to making a richer, more engaging experience for their students. Each teacher concluded their sharing by indicating just how engaged their students were in the entire process. They also spoke about being able to create a learning environment in which students could complete tasks that would not have been possible in a more traditional setting. The use of the iPad was in most cases something the students handled with ease. In many situations, the students gained more knowledge and were more comfortable with the technology than the teachers, and these teachers were happy to roll with this role reversal.
*This post will be updated soon with more links and media!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Summit Learning: Google Apps for Education Day 1

Today I had the great joy of participating in the New England Google Apps for Education Summit at Burlington High School in Massachusetts. From the keynote to the individual sessions, the presenters were all top-notch, professional and highly knowledgeable. I tweeted throughout the day along with several other attendees, and decided to put together a top 10 list from my day.

10. Google Scripts: I learned how to create simple Google Scripts for integrating into Spreadsheets, Drive and more. Click to get started.

9. Chromebooks: I am not sold, but I am quite interested in learning more about this technology. I sat in on a session and saw many amazing things. Could be a nice addition in certain settings. Perhaps even 1:1 schools could find a good use for these.

8. Lunch: Not exactly learning time but I had time to sit with other professionals and discuss/digest what we had seen so far and where we might take it. It was a well needed break at the end of four intense hours.

7. Google Appointments: Add appointment blocks to any calendar. Only works well if all users are on Google accounts, but could be a great tool.

6. A cool visual website that shows how the Internet has grown in users and how browsers have changed. It is completely visual and quite impressive. Something fun to share with students.

5. What could be an amazing tool for creating automatic notifications for you when things change around the Internet.

4. Talk to your Doc: No link for this, so just imagine... Open a Google Doc, name it, and then open it on a mobile device in edit mode. Click the microphone button on your Android/iPhone keyboard and watch your Doc fill in. It seems so simple, and yet, it was breathtaking to watch during the Demo Slam.

3. Jamie Casap: Our morning keynote speaker who did a great job in reminding us why we are here and what the world is really like. Inspired to start my day and continue making a difference with students and technology.

2. I'm not 100% ready yet, but I think this classroom management system, free to teachers, will soon be a replacement for Edmodo in my classrooms. I was very impressed by the features I saw.

1. The Demo Slam: In less than one hour, 12 presenters demonstrated one great/fun/useful technology tidbit in less than three minutes. Great way to end the day!

If you want even more insights you can ready my Twitter feed (@ahstechteacher), check out the summit hashtag (#gafesummit), and read my notes from day 1.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

iPads - The election issue

Recently, I worked with a teacher to develop ideas on how to best utilize the iPad to teach 10-12 year olds about the presidential election process (and much of what we did could be done with almost any age group). She had never used iPads in her classroom before, but was determined to take advantage of the school's investment in this technology. The challenge would be to take as few as six iPads and give the entire class an opportunity to use the tool in a meaningful and enriching manner.

Her strategy ended up having three phases to it.
  1. First, bring some learning apps and websites to the students' fingertips that would allow them to learn about the states and the presidential election process. 
  2. Second, have the students put together a booklet that would highlight info on key issues with perspectives from both major candidates. 
  3. Third, create a political ad using a combination of photos, videos and voice overs, allowing students to synthesize all of the knowledge they had gained throughout the unit.

Phase 1

She and I met several times over the course of this unit. We researched and found a variety of apps and websites that would help students learn about the states and how presidential elections work. Our favorite state app turned out to be by Discovery, US Geography. With video clips, trivia questions, and a variety of factoids, students were able to research different regions of the country with various interests in mind. We combined this with various free apps and links to websites at appropriate reading levels, where students could learn about various issues, the Electoral College, and where each candidate stood on the issues. Students were able to use the iPads independently at their own pace, and with a projector, the teacher was able to showcase and share particular apps and websites that she wanted students to see.

Phase 2

As the class moved into phase two, we decided to use Pages as a way for students to design their booklet. Each group took on one issue and designed one page. The pages were designed with images, a breakdown of the issue and a comparison of where each candidate stood on the issues. The final result was a six page booklet that could be emailed home to families as a PDF and printed to share with classroom visitors. Throughout the process, students were engaged in research, analyzing and summarizing their findings, and creating a final quality product to share what they had learned.

Phase 3

This week, students are working on the third phase. In small groups, the students are writing their own political advertisements supporting the candidate of their choice. This assignment is designed to engage students in synthesizing their acquired knowledge into a product reflective of turning understanding into a persuasive argument. Each advertisement will combine images from the Internet, photos students take with the iPad, videos students film with the iPad, and voice overs students record with the iPad. After a brief look at different options, it was clear that iMovie for iPad was the tool for this assignment. While the final products are not yet complete, the students are once again combining 21st century skills. From their use of technology, to creative problem solving, and collaboration, this project is proving to be fun, educational, and skill building.


Why was this unit successful? The goal was not to teach students how to use a new tool, it was to teach students about the presidential election process. Bringing the iPads into the classroom allowed the students to utilize various apps and websites to achieve this goal. The level of student engagement remained high throughout, with many students commenting on how much they were enjoying what they were doing. In addition to the students learning, the teacher learned how to integrate new technologies into her classroom. This verteran teacher spent several hours preparing on her own and in meetings with me. Instead of fearing the unknown, she embraced it, and accepted that the bumps and bruises along the way were worth creating a rich classroom environment for her students.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On the Fly Data Collection

To celebrate my fifteenth year of teaching, I am making an enormous effort to boost my one-on-one time with students. Working in a predominantly project based environment (as I have designed it to be,) I know the students can get loads of work done without me looking over their shoulder. I also realize that taking the time to spend three to five minutes with every student, almost every day can have a monumental impact on how far they go in absorbing class content and beyond. To help me along my journey, I am bringing my only iPad and a host of on-board tools.

I am currently collecting data from several of these interactions. Using a classroom management system, in my case Edmodo, I attach comments to assignments, scores, and grades on the fly. I can also use other apps to collect notes and data that I don't want to share immediately with students. Using the iPad in this manner allows me to be in contact with students directly, collect information on student progress, and evaluate individuals, the class progress, and my own performance at any point in time.

While I don't always want to be typing notes, I am finding that doing so is like flexing a new muscle. The more I stick with bringing my iPad around the room, the more frequently I have something to say to myself or to a student in comment form. These notes can be feedback, hints, links to websites, informal evaluations, or any other number of data collection and sharing I wish to do.

Having owned an iPad for well over a year now, I am glad to finally be bringing this technology to life in my classroom.

Next week...I will look at the struggles one teacher faces as she attempts to integrate a small number of iPads into her class to study the election.

An iPad in Every Classroom

Over the next few months I will be spending a significant amount of my 'free' time studying how iPads and other mobile devices are being implemented and making a difference in the classroom. I am highly interested in models that are not only one-to-one but also one to a classroom or even one cart to a school. While I see great benefit in the one to one model, it is painfully obvious that this just is not a reality all school systems can achieve under current funding.

However, with the help of local PTOs and organizations such as, teachers are bringing more and more technology tools into the classroom, even if it is only one at a time. Also, many teachers invest their own money into these technologies for personal use, and may not understand all of the advantages available to them in the classroom.

As I begin my search into this realm, I will be looking for any research, assistance, anecdotal evidence, that other teachers can provide to help convey all of the enriching possibilities mobile devices can provide in the classroom. What I won't be doing is simply posting links to websites that provide a list of the 50 best apps for this or that. While I will undoubtedly highlight apps along the way, the real goal is to give a fundamental set of pedagogical ideas that can help every teacher and classroom embrace these technologies.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Instantly cite images with new Google Research tool

Google recently introduced a new feature for Google Docs, called Google Research. The premise of this tool is that users can quickly do further research on a topic right from the document they are using. Although it has not received much attention, one of the best features within Google Research is the instant citations for images (and scholars). Below are the simple steps for using this great feature.

1. From a Google Document, open up the Research tool TOOLS>RESEARCH

2. At the bottom of the Research window, change settings to search only through images that are free to use, share or modify (this is not required, but recommended to avoid copyright infringement)

2. Type in your search term in the box that pops up on the right

3. Select 'Images' from the search box drop-down menu

4. Choose an image and drag it into your document

5. Double click on the footnote number to see the citation

6. Add the footnote to your bibliography as needed in your preferred format

Please comment below about this and other great features you find in the new Google Research tool. Read more about the Google Research Tool for educational purposes on Mrs. Chuhran's blog

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

One to One (1:1) Computing Trends & BYOD

The trend of one to one (1:1) computing has received a new boost of energy thanks to tablets, especially the iPad. Below is an analysis of the trend in Massachusetts K-12 schools.Today, 1:1 computing tends to involve one of two models: either all students bring their own mobile devices (BYOD/BYOT/BYOL), or the school provides the device such as a laptop or iPad. While there has been slow growth in 1:1 computing in K-12 throughout the past decade, rapid changes are occurring now. The iPad is definitely at the center of this trend. Are we reaching the tipping point of an exponential growth pattern, or is this an isolated trend? Will more districts jump on board in the next three years than have in the past twelve years combined?

Here is a list of schools that currently support either a 1:1 or BYOD model from across Massachusetts. A link to related media is provided where available. Some of the schools listed have not fully adopted the program and are only in pilot phases. If you have information on a school that engaged in a 1:1 or BYOD program and is not listed below, or if you have an update on a program listed, please let us know!

PRE 2008
Dorchester Lila G. Fredrick Middle School - 1:1 Laptop since 2006 (pdf)
Huntington - Gateway Regional High School - 1:1 laptops since 2007 (pdf)

Burlington - 1:1 since 2009
Newton Beaver Country Dayschool - BYOL Since 2009 (website)

Beverly HS - 1:1 Macbooks since 2011 (blog) (article)
Burlington - 1:1 iPad since 2011 (article)
Cambridge: Cambridge Friends School 6-8 - 1:1 iPad in-school only since 2011 (article)
Marblehead Tower School Elementary 3-8 - 1:1 iPad started 2011 (article)
Millis Grade 8 - 1:1 iPad Pilot Fall 2011 (blog)
Natick Grade 8 & HS - 1:1 MacBooks program started 2011 (article)

2012 and beyond
Bedford HS 9th grade pilot - 1:1 iPad pilot (website)
Grafton HS - 1:1 iPad starting in Fall 2012 (website)
Holliston HS - BYOD starting Spring 2012 / required by 2014 (website)
Ludlow district - BYOD pilot starting 2012 (article)
Millis HS - 1:1 iPad program starting 2012 (blog)
Reading MS & HS - BYOD optional - pilot program 2012 (article)
Upper Cape Tech HS 10th grade pilot - 1:1 iPad pilot (website)
Uxbridge HS - 1:1 iPad - Beginning 2012 (pdf)
Wayland HS - 1:1 MacBooks(?) to start in 2012-2013 (blog)
Westfield HS - 1:1 Laptops program in development (website)
Worcester Bancroft 6-12 - 1:1 iPad program starts Fall 2012 (website)

Here are some recent articles and blogs that discuss 1:1 effectiveness and other topics.
Is the move to a 1:1 model worth the time and expense? Research is showing that there are two key factors to the success of implementing a 1:1 model. The first is training and development. All teachers need to be involved and receive both technical and pedagogical training early and often. The second key factor is creating true 1:1 models. This means that the devices travel with students wherever students go--both in and out of school.

Research says that 1:1 is nothing if the teacher's aren't ready or capable - article
Mass 1 to 1 works with schools to implement affordable lease programs - website
iPads in School blog - blog
iPads improving literacy scores at the kindergarten level - article
CybraryMan's 1:1 Resource Page - webpage
CybraryMan's BYOD Resource Page - webpage

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Four P's for Twitter Newbies

This is a guide that has been put together based on personal experiences. While it is targeted at educational minded Twitter newbies, the principles certainly will apply to people from all walks interested in getting started on Twitter. These are the Four P's for Twitter Newbies.

It is rare that someone will understand how Twitter works in their first usage. Instead, newbies should be patient with themselves and with Twitter and take in advice from different websites and from users they trust. While there is no right way to use Twitter, there are certainly pitfalls and things to avoid. If you want to get something out of Twitter, spend at least three months actively reading about Twitter, discovering educational sites that tout the strengths of Twitter, and, most importantly, being an active participant on Twitter.

The people you follow will lead you to topics of interest, to follow more people, and to read blogs and websites of interest. Therefor, you will want to choose wisely. Don't be afraid to follow a lot of people and then unfollow people who don't tweet much, or who tweet things that annoy you. Are they tweeting more about breakfast than world languages? Unfollow. Are they tweeting every minute with bits of info that are unhelpful to you? Unfollow. While there are artificial ways to get lots of followers, you will not get value unless the people you follow and the people who follow you will further the discussions you are interested in. Some good ways to get new followers include:
  • Follow people who are tweeting frequently on topics that are of interest to you
  • Click on people you follow to see who they follow (and follow those that interest you)
  • Leave your account public - you can always boot people you don't want to have following you
  • Be interesting in your tweets and true to yourself and your interests
Getting involved in Twitter can be well worth the time investment. Increase your participation by tweeting at least once a day. Increase this number every couple of weeks until it feels natural for you to want to tweet about things you read and experience. Participation will be one of the top ways you can gain followers and get the most out of Twitter. Including hashtags and links to topics that interest you will draw people into your circle who are interested in similar topics.

You will also find that joining in on Twitter discussions can be a great way to participate. Every weekday there are multiple educational chats that take place on topics of all types. Topics range from discipline specific, to age level, to pedagogy and general interests. You can find the entire list  of topics on Jerry Blumengarten's (a.k.a. Cybraryman) website as well as a calendar with scheduled chats.

Finally, you can also participate by being social. After all, this is a social network. Be social by...
  • Following people and occasionally retweeting what they have tweeted (if you really like it)
  • Replying to other's tweets...if they say something interesting, you hit reply and make a comment
  • Sending direct messages to followers, and thanking people who follow you
  • Recognizing anyone who retweets you or mentions you in a way that you appreciate
Remember to use @ when mentioning someone by their Twitter name.

Increasing the probability of your tweets being read will increase the number of followers you have and the more followers you have the more influence your voice will have. Improve the probability of Twitter working for you by increasing your interactions on Twitter. The probability of any one of your tweets being read is completely dependent on three factors:
  1. How many followers you have
  2. How well your words and hashtags are chosen and
  3. The time at which you tweet
Get more followers in ways that are legitimate to your interests. This will provide the most professional value to you. Read above for ideas on how to get more followers.

People who know how to use Twitter to gain information also know how to search Twitter. This can be done through hashtags and any words included in tweets. Therefor, when people are searching, they will find your tweets if you are including appropriate hashtags and key words or phrases relevant to your topic of interest.

Timing your tweets can be an art-form. In general, if you are including hashtags or you have several followers, people will see your tweets. Knowing your followers will allow you to improve your odds with timing. In education that can mean tweeting during the school day. I find tweets that land in the mid-morning are more frequently read because there are less tweets at that hour. Therefore, whatever I have to say may stay in search results longer. The lunch hour is also a predictable time that all teachers will have at least 20 minutes to be on Twitter and more than you can imagine, actually are. You will have to practice this and get a sense of what works best in your area of interests.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teachable Moment: Being Inappropriate on Collaborative Documents

This blog entry was inspired by a class I run in which I recently introduced using a collaborative Google Doc. While the intention and ultimate success of the document has met my expectations, the trip could have easily gone down a different path. The views expressed in this blog are completely my own. I respect and appreciate those with similar views or different views who are able to express them in a respectful manner. 

Having students working online, I am constantly confronted by teachable moments. I feel it is my job to teach within the moment, instead of snapping to conclusions and handing out punishments for momentary lapses in judgement on the part of my students. Facing this choice recently, I was reminded of the importance of my job. While my students are of the cyber-generation, they do not yet have the years of experience that we, as teachers, have.

It all happened in an instant. One moment I was demonstrating to the students how we would be utilizing a shared Google Document for our classroom bibliography on the current project. The next moment I was restricting student access, shaking my head, and reassessing what we would be doing next. It was in my reassessment that I was able to see the teachable moment.

Just after I had introduced the Google Doc, three students decided to use the document inappropriately. Beside the names of their classmates, they were adding descriptors that were offensive and completely inappropriate for the classroom setting. They had a good laugh and quickly erased their transgressions. Almost immediately, I restricted their access and told them to knock it off. Had I left it at that, there would have been no teaching. Had I chosen to punish them by giving a detention or by sending them to the office, I would have missed the moment. Here is what I did.

After gathering my thoughts for a couple of minutes and sitting at my desk contemplating my next move, I chose what I felt was the only course of action that would really have an impact on student behavior. I shared with the class how the Internet works. "Everything you ever do online is recorded on multiple computers instantly. Facebook, email, Edmodo, Twitter, etc." I said. "When you decide to be silly or stupid or offensive and put something online that you may later regret, you have lost the opportunity to change your mind. It already exists, permanently." In their minds they were feeling skeptical about what I was saying, so I showed them the proof.

I asked all of the students to open our shared Google Document. I returned the user status to 'can edit' for my offenders. Then I had all students go to File > Revision History. They instantly got it. Even before finding their offensive edits that they thought had been erased, they knew I was telling the truth. It was in that moment that the teachable moment was captured, utilized and had its impact.

I concluded by telling the students "What Google has done here with your Google Document, every website is doing on the Internet whether you want it to or not. Your words, your postings, your actions are being recorded. What will you choose to do next time?"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Google Apps Changed Our Culture

In 2009 our school officially adopted the Google Apps for Education platform. It was our second major change in about three years. The reception at first was luke-warm at best. Now, three years later, there is a clear shift in the culture of our school system. More teachers and administrators have websites, email usage is through the roof and tools like Google Docs are helping to shift the norm from teacher centric to student centric classrooms.

Google has turned out (with a little time and patience) to be everything our previous platform, FirstClass, wanted to be and much more. Most importantly, it is easily accessible anywhere and that coincides nicely with the expansion of hotspots, mobile technology and a variety of online Web 2.0 tools. Unlike previous rollouts of email and web development tools in our district, the Google Apps rollout was met with much less resistance and a faster rate of adoption among teachers.

The culture shifted away from naysayers and into action. Communication was at the center of it. Easy email organization, simple to create and edit websites, documents that could be posted to websites and shared with parents. The culture revolution was on.

In the three years of implementation, our training has evolved from how to use the tools, to how to effectively integrate the tools into the curriculum. This shift signifies a change in culture. We are getting away from being scared of using the tools and into a place of curiosity and possibility. While the fears are never eliminated, mainly because the technology never stays static, the fact that teachers are signing up for professional development that focus on developing a 21st Century Classroom, says that we have come a long way.

Today we see Google Apps used for a variety of purposes in classrooms, main offices, and for communication with families and the greater community. Our district administrators participate in a weekly blog, many teachers have at least one website/wiki, if not multiple, and we use Google Docs unendingly to create lessons, collaborative activities, and whatever other things we need. No printing, no files lost on thumb drives, and no excuses.

Teachers are now creating lessons and units that require online interaction with Google Docs, or wiki style websites. Teachers are flipping their classrooms and showing others how to take baby-steps forward. Teachers are trying to develop ways to interact with the global community, not just the local one. While not all of the credit should go to Google Apps, the timing of our emergence is not just coincidence.

Next, we will bring the students fully on board with the teachers. All students (grades 6-12) have accounts as of this year. Now, they can create just as easily as the teachers. In many ways, we know the students can lead the way for us. Collaboration can take on a whole new level of partnership from student to teacher, student to student, and student to world.

Not everything is perfect. There are always features that teachers would like to see, and no one loves how frequently they have to adjust to a new Google layout, but the key here is that the teachers do adapt and the community thrives. It took us the right tool at the right time, and now the culture at our school is one waiting to try new things and find that next tool that fits just right in the educators toolbox.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Participating in Online Discussions on Time

As an avid moderator and participant of online discussions for both "traditional" classes and online professional development, I am often faced with the question: "Is it too late to post?" My response: "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?" Or, in relation to our discussions, if a participant submits a response a week after everyone else has left the discussion, is there any value in the post?
discussionconsideration of a question in an open and usually informal debate  (source)
I love to read what participants have to say, even when they are late, but the truth is that the point of an online discussion is missed when participants post after the end of the discussion. The debate has ended.

Why do participants think it is OK to (chronically) miss the discussion?
Everyone can make excuses for missing a discussion, but the truth is that everyone in the discussion usually has a busy life with lots of good reasons to be doing something else. The majority are still able to participate on-time. What is missing for the chronically late participant? The missing ingredient is the sense of urgency that should be present in his or her participation. The late participant gets to read what everyone else said and still gets to say something. The big deal is that online discussion is not just about reading thoughts and posting a thought, it is a two-way street, or more often it is a ten-way street with lots of people posting lots of thoughts, providing critical feedback to each other, furthering understanding, and knocking down the walls of old limitations. This all takes place in the immediate aftermath of the discussion getting started. It lasts until the end. Then everyone moves on to the next topic.

The second culprit of the late participant is poor management by the moderator. This comes in the form of not having well-stated expectations. It also comes in the form of not following through on those expectations. Troubles arise too when the moderator is too distant and is not actually aware of who is and who is not participating. These factors can make a huge difference in increasing on-time participation and, more importantly, increasing the value of return for all the participants.

Why is showing up well into the discussion different from being late?
It is one thing to show up well after the discussion has started or halfway through the dance. These participants may have missed the early meaty debate, but they also have an opportunity to stoke the fire anew. Their participation can renew and refresh the conversation with a different take, leading the entire group down a path less taken. They can be truly, fashionably late. But, missing the dance entirely is a bummer. Showing up in a newly purchased three piece suit with the most amazing thoughts and insights will be completely wasted if a person arrives when everyone else has left to attend the next party.

How can we better foster on-time participation?
The moderator can take control of participation in a discussion by following two steps:

  1. Set and follow strict expectations that do not give credit for participation after a discussion has ended. Each moderator can decide what this window is, perhaps even allowing for a day or two of overlap with the new discussion.
  2. Be in communication with participants on an ongoing basis regarding their participation. This can be done through grading, comments, and direct messaging via email or other methods.

It would be inaccurate to tell the late participant that their post will have no value. If she or he has done research, put together a meaningful post, and wants to share it, at least the participant, likely has gained something. Yet this person needs also to understand that the post cannot be considered part of a discussion because, by that point, the discussion has ended.

If creating valuable online discussions is important to a class, then the leaders have to take a stand for full participation in a timely manner. The online discussion is not a throw-away portion of a course; it is potentially the heart of the course, the source of inspiration and the nexus of what comes next.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

6 Keys to Fostering Quality Online Discussions

If there is one thing I know about fostering quality online discussions with students, it is that thinking about having them won't make them happen. Creating an online discussion that is more than just functional has been a quest of mine for several years now. I started four years ago with a high school video production course. Every year since then I have worked to develop the quality of the discussions, and I have been willing to shift platforms to find exactly what I want.

 Fostering a continuous, quality online discussion requires these six key ingredients:
  • Relevance
  • Teacher involvement
  • Student involvement
  • Schedule
  • Expectations
  • Commitment & Patience


The most important part of an online discussion is holding a discussion on something that is both relevant to the course and relevant to the students. Teachers should avoid creating online discussions just for the sake of doing it. Why hold a discussion online if it could be completed in five minutes in a classroom? Students are much more interested in participating when they are interested in the topic and there can be a lot to say about it.

Teacher Involvement

Fostering quality discussion also means modeling quality discussion. While trying to create an online forum for most of my classes, I find that I can burn out quickly in trying to be part of every discussion. Instead, I find a balance that sustains the conversation and sustains my participation. I do this by trying to read everything (Edmodo makes this really easy) and by only replying when the conversation needs a boost or when there is a direct question I should reply to. Three things to remember:
  1. Don't get in the way.
  2. Ask good questions to foster more thoughts and discussion.
  3. Respond as needed, focusing on student questions, misguided responses, and items of interest.

Student Involvement

Students are often only asked to be involved in the discussion through posting responses to the teacher's questions. To enrich students' participation, the teacher can hand over the reigns of developing online discussion to the students. Ask all students to develop questions, pick out five favorites, then let students decide on the top ideas each week. This can be done through online polling, response systems, etc. The teacher can also have a student or a group of students responsible for moderating a discussion. This technique is particularly effective after students have had some experience with online discussions, and is great to experiment with later in the year or in courses that are offered at different levels (i.e. Web Design 1, Web Design 2, etc.)


If both teacher and students are new to online discussion, they will find it is like flexing a new muscle. Creating a schedule of discussions and keeping to it can make a huge difference in the quality of the discussions. I highly recommend requiring participation be complete within one week. Also, try to keep to a schedule that includes posting a new topic each week. Getting it down to a habit will keep the students coming back!


Establish clear expectations in the beginning. If the discussion is not required, some students who may actually love getting involved could end up never logging in. Have a clear set of guidelines that indicates if participation is graded, how it is graded, and what is considered participation.
Things to consider are:
  • How students initially respond
  • How they respond to the ongoing conversation
  • How they use the Internet to find resources, post links and even videos. 
I grade each weekly discussion on a ten point scale. I give up to eight points for student initial responses to the topic of the week, and up to two additional points for how a student engages with classmates in further discussion. Teachers should experiment to find what works best for their class.

Commitment and Patience

Have a clear commitment to fostering quality online discussions. Allow for the patience to struggle, fall down, and most importantly, get back up. Each time this happens it will be a valuable lesson to carry forward. It took me two years of discussions with the same course content before I felt confident enough to expanded to all of my courses. Everyone takes a different path. Those who are committed to online discussion as a tool for improving learning AND have the patience to try different things will have the most success.

Choosing a Platform
There are several platforms that people use for online discussions. I am currently an avid user of Edmodo. In the past, I have tried Google Groups as well as Yahoo Groups. I also know other teachers who dedicate space on their websites through Moodle or a wiki, such as Wikispaces, to hold online discussions with students. These are just a few.

Today I have three different discussion groups going with three different courses I teach and they continue to improve and expand. Just last week I had a student feed a tweet into our discussion by using our class hashtag (a commonly used technique among those who use Twitter.) As my experience with social media expands and the boundaries breakdown, the future of online discussion becomes brighter and the possibilities become endless.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Web is My Website

I started my first website for teaching when I got my second job as a teacher. It was 1999 and I had just started in Massachusetts as a middle school math teacher. I wanted to post my homework, and so I did. Within two years I had several teachers joining me (somehow it still lives!)

Over the years, my use of a single home-base website has had its ups and downs. There have always been some teachers that I look up to who create and maintain immaculate websites. Mine, on the other hand, has always tended to be a mess of links to documents and maybe a calendar or two. I recently added my Twitter feed. While I still have a website, and it still has important documents, I don't know that it serves a major purpose in my suite of online classroom tools anymore. Instead I find that I am finding several different tools to fill several different needs.

Edmodo (link): Currently I use the site as a homebase of sorts. While it does not provide me with a face for the public, it does give me a great online launching spot for all of my classes. I post assignments, related documents, classroom discussions and much more. My online presence doesn't stop there.

Google Docs (link): I also use Google Docs. I now create all my new assignments in Google Docs. I am slowly uploading and converting all of my old assignments. From Google Docs, I can share whatever I want and I can grant editing access to various people, students included. The collaboration and interactivity are what make this tool so enticing. I also use it for the free storage. The tool continues to grow and is now getting integrated into other websites. See Edmodo's latest integration

SchoolTube (link): All of my video students have accounts with and all of the videos they upload fall under the umbrella of our school channel on that site. It is one more place for students to post and for me to observe, comment on, and enjoy the growth of my students. I moderate everything they post. If I don't like something, I block it, have a discussion with the student, and have them resubmit the video based on the outcome of that discussion.

Twitter (link): Twitter is allowing me to interact with professionals from all over the globe. I can share thoughts with people who have similar interests in education and in technology. It is an amazing platform that is only becoming more powerful. Two years ago I was ready to dismiss it as a fad, yet it is not. I strongly encourage others to check into Twitter. I have integrated my Tweets into Edmodo so students can see tweets relevant to our discussions. I keep it professional, and it is not always on topic for students, but it is a great way for them to see me as a professional.

Blogger (link): This blog is a place where I can voice my thoughts and people can read or not. This is a natural tool to transition technology into the classroom. Students can create blogs, write stories, summarize learning, share insights, and comment on other blogs. Whether it is Blogger, Edublog,  Wordpress or some other platform, the interactivity of these writing spaces is raising the education bar. Students are reading, sorting, and developing critical thinking skills when the tools are applied properly.

CONCLUSION: I have accounts on dozens of websites for various purposes. Many are educational, some can be educational if I wish, and others are just for personal or entertainment purposes. What has been lost in the abundance of quality options, is my classroom website. I am not ready to abandon it just yet. There are still a few things that work about it, and when a parent wants easy access to my expectations and grading policies, all the information is right there. However, reality says it is only a matter of time until I abandon it for something better and more fully featured, something that makes me say "That's what I've been looking for!!" Until then, the web is my website.