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.