Sunday, June 27, 2010

iPad as a Tool in Education- Edubloggercon 2010

My first trip to Edublogger con was great and disappointing all in one day. After wading through and walking away from the conversations about wikis, I took on iPads as an educational device.

The organizer of the discussion chose to go ahead and examine the iPad's size, weight and specs. This was something that we all knew and was a complete waste of time. His intention was to spend 10 minutes on the physical structure, and he was true to his word. My colleague, Terry Kaminski even tried to steer the conversation to the apps and teaching with it, and was told that was coming, let's talk about the screen size. #fail

Next the apps were discussed and people shared which one they were using to take notes with and check Twitter with. I shared how I think the app TaptoTalk would be great on the iPad for non verbal special needs students because often there are fine motor skills that need help as well. The size of the iPad is perfect for special ed!

The most entertaining aspect of the discussion was how the educators in the room banded together against "the tech guy" who kept going on about the security of the device and how it could be authenticated on his networks, but not without great difficulty, and that netbooks were the cost effective answer. He clearly was alone in his thinking.

Finally the talk went to teaching with the iPad, and from my observations the jury is still out on this one. Many praised it for it ability to be what the kids would love to use, but few have experience with it over a period of time in the class. If a student showed up with one this coming September I would be happy to try and make it work. With HTML 5 coming soon, I would hope Google Apps and other cloud programs would work better on the iPad. It's almost like it's ahead of it's time by 9 months.

Another issue that came up was synching and getting apps loaded on the devices (if you had a class set). This is a big concern due to the user agreements that restrict each purchase of the app to only one installation on one iPad, and how to synch many devices with many purchases of a single app. Hey, most of these awesome apps are under 5 bucks and as teachers we don't mind paying a small amount 30 times for a class set as long as it's easy to do.

So do I have an iPad? The answer is no. The reason? There are 2. First and foremost I have a lot of gadgets and my wife would kill me if I bought another one this year. Also, I wanted the camera in version 1, but it won't be there until version 2 or later. Think of the amazing possibilities for students to video blog, take video and edit it in an iPad specific version of iMovie, use iChat (Facetime) and Skype to work with other student around the world, the list goes on and on. I'm a media arts teacher and so anything that takes video and allows me to edit it and post it within a short amount of time is golden to me.

Ideally the iPad will transform from a media consuming device to a media creating device with newer versions. This is why the iPhone 4 is so attractive as a viable video camera and editing solution in one. If you need proof, watch this video filmed entirely on an iPhone 4 and except for some audio, edited entirely on it as well! No camera for me is a serious misgiving of version 1. I guess that's easy to say from my point of view as I sit here on a Macbook and type on the old keys!

I took the last 10 minutes of the conversation as where we should have been from the beginning: looking at the iPad as another tool students are going to show up with and want to use. We need to be ready for it and allow it on our wireless networks! Overall the device is so new that I don't think anyone fully knows how it can be used as a tool in education.

How could it be used in your teaching?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wikis Dying? Not Likely

I had a great day at Edublogercon. I love the format. As a newb, I've known about it since the first one, but I'm as fresh as a daisy this year.

The original title of this blog was going to be "The Fan Boi Stuff Has to Stop". I sat on the post for a night and then thought about changing my title. Here is what I originally wrote. I left it here because part of me still feels very strongly about the topic of wikis in the classroom:

My favourite quote from the event was that we are not to be in awe of anyone. It was commented we should not feel intimidated or fearful to go up to talk to any of those who we admire so much because of their contributions to education and ed blogging. This is awesome!

Then I went to the "Are wikis dying session".

I voted with my feet on this one. After a few minutes I found that there was this Wikispaces fan boi-ism that was going on. Before I go any further, let it be said, I could be seen as a hypocrite here because of my own fan boi tendencies. I do have an Apple tattoo after all.

So there it is. My first impression of the session was that it was a bunch of people who were sucking up to the Wikispaces founders. And partially it was. It appeared to be a shameless opportunity for Wikispaces to do some market research and plug their product. And why didn't people say this is what sucks about wikis? Why didn't anyone mention pbworks or other wiki prodivers? Maybe I should have stayed longer. But you have to look on the bright side of things, right?

Positive discussions ensued about the process of introducing other peers to wikis and their uses. One person hit the nail on the head by mentioning that we might even have more success with wikis with newbs in schools if we show them Google Apps first. I agree with this entirely. There are few better ways to introduce a rookie to web tools than Google Apps.

Perhaps my favourite comment was from Jeff Utecht who said " A wiki with four attachments is just a web page with links. A wiki is about allowing people to collaborate and create content around a specific purpose or idea." Go read his blog about wikis. I have often fallen into the trap of saying I'm using a wiki for my classes, but in reality it's just a way to disseminate information and links to my students. I will be very mindful of this now because of this session.

Are wikis dying? No, I think they are still one of the most flexible web tools that we have at our disposal today. I will continue to use them as a communication tool and as a tool for student learning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Value of Listening at ISTE 2010

So it's almost here. If you're living under a rock and haven't heard, one of the biggest and best is once again happening in Denver. I missed out last year but was fortunate to go to San Antonio two years ago. ISTE is my technology refresher since I am unable attend the Apple Summer Institute

The conference has continually opened doors for me in terms of collaborating with others and completely taking my perspective on approaches to education and turning them upside down. That's why I love going to ISTE.

So many people have blogged about the sessions and what they have taken away. Others have said that it was the un-sessions, the informal gatherings that make ISTE great. Honestly, I'm with the latter group.

If you're heading to ISTE this weekend, consider this. It's not about your title. It's not about your achievements and awards. It's not about where you teach or what you teach. ISTE 2010 for me is going to be about listening. Those informal discussions that will occur while waiting in line to go into a session. It's the tweet up that happens randomly that will spark something in your mind. Go to socials that people are talking about and introduce yourself to as many people as you can. Lean in and truly hear what other have to say. Reflect each day in whatever way you can.

Value these interactions. Don't be afraid to miss that sessions you think you just can't miss. Conversations over a pint or water could be just as fruitful as those who attend a facilitated session. Get to Denver early and go to Edublogger Con!

If you're heading out to ISTE and you see a big guy with an Apple tattoo on his leg and portrait tats on his other, it's not a nerdy biker, it's me- a nerdy teacher who'd be happy to have a conversation with you! Tweet up?