Archive for March 2013

Inspired. -- #Macul13 Reflection part 1

Launching Kids

By NASA/Jeffrey Marino [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
You've seen the image before, a bunch of nerdy NASA dudes sitting in front of monitors while the countdown over the loud speaker hits zero. The flames burst forth from underneath the shuttle lifting it high into the atmosphere. Just as the shuttle breaks through the exosphere the nerd heard throws back their chairs and jumps for joy cheering and celebrating another successful launch and exploration of space. 

Kevin Honeycutt, a Macul Keynote, talks about launching kids, inspiring their goals and ambitions and fostering their whole growth as an individual. I appreciate Kevin's candor and the way he expresses his thoughts. He has a way of connecting with my heart when he speaks about reaching out and teaching the lowly and marginalized student. He does an incredible job of reminding teachers that it is not about the technology, but rather, the relationships we hold with students and how those relationships foster creativity, individualization, and self esteem in our young people.
One of the colleagues I attended Macul with, Shawn Jacob, is really good at this as well. I deeply admire his classroom management strategies and the efforts he makes to keep kids and curriculum moving in the forward direction. He shared with me a few stories of seeing his own students launch and you can tell these are the stories that fuel him and keep him teaching. 

Listening to both Shawn and Kevin reminded me of how much I miss the classroom and being connected to kids. They also reminded me of a few important rules in life and teaching. 
Kids need you/us. They will never tell you this. For as much push back as you get as a parent, coach, or teacher the bottom line is kids need you. They may not admit it now but most likely there will come a time and place when they will. They need you to believe in them, hope for them, inspire them, push them, support them, and most of all set boundaries for them. Adolescence is a time in ones life that can be similar to a row boat in the middle of a wavy ocean. Adults can help students navigate their way back to shore and offer sense of security amidst the turmoil.

This was a great reminder to get out from behind the computer, take some focus of the data, high five a student in the hallway, go out of your way to do something for a kid that no one else would do, and just invest in a student's being well enough to the point that they burst forth from their pad and launch!

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Hack Your Student's Textbook- #Macul13 sessions on iBooks Author

Over 4000 people from across the midwest will descend upon Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI over the next few days to attend Macul13. Undoubtedly they will hear dynamic keynotes, learn about cool apps, and get a peek into top edtech teachers classrooms. And, while there are a plethora of excellent sessions to attend, I want to recommend a few "must see" sessions for those of us in an iPad teaching and learning environment.

Your students next textbook is written by YOU.

The sessions highlighted below pertain to using iBooks Author to create interactive learning modules (think units of a textbook). All are put on by excellent trainers, most of which, will be apart of this summer's iBooks Author Hackathon--a collaborative effort to create K-12 interactive learning mods. Check these sessions out during Macul, they will get you motivated to hack your students next textbook.

Thursday March 21

iBooks Author For Creating Interactive Books for an iPad - Workshop
1:00-3:00 pm W2-70 By: Dave Tchozewski
Dave Tchozewski +Dave Tchozewski is the Director of Information Technology for Jenison Public Schools and has a real heart for innovating the classroom. He will be running this two hour workshop to give teachers hands on experience with using this fascinating tool. 

iBooks Author- Creating iPad Content for Education
4:00-5:00pm O3-45  By: Joanna Montgomery
Joanna is an expert in iBooks Author and did our training for us at Zeeland Public Schools last summer. She also works for Apple and serves as the DE for the east side of Michigan. Joanna will have you hooked on creating iBooks for sure. 

Friday March 22

Innovating with iBooks Author and Pages
8:30-9:30 am D3-17  By: Steve Dickie +Steve Dickie 
Steve is an incredibly creative and innovative science teacher who is partly responsible for this summers iBooks Author hackathon. He has incredible knowledge of the ins and outs of iBA and is looking forward to leading the east side of the state to author high quality content. 

Join the iBooks Author Collaborative 
11:30-12:30 pm DO-01A By: Anthony DiLaura +Anthony DiLaura & Steve Dickie +Steve Dickie 
This is my session, so of course I think you should attend :) Steve and I are hoping to share with you the plans for this summer's collaborative project that is already spreading across the Midwest. Teachers from all over are coming together to create interactive textbooks. If you teach in an iPad environment you should be here as this is the future of teaching and learning!

iPads, iBooks Author, Screencasts, Edmodo & More: New Tools for High School Teachers
11:30-12:30 pm D3-17  By: Julie Kindred +Julie Kindred and Daniel Telgenhof
If you are wondering what the potential is for iPads and iBooks Author, this is a great session to attend. Julie Kindred, self proclaimed tech-illiterate, created her own AP Statistics book this past summer and is using it to teach her students this year. She will give you the full details of her journey and tell you how it is increasing student engagement and learning. She is a wonderful and charismatic personality that you have to get to know.

Creating Impressive, Interactive iBooks with iBooks Author
11:30-12:30 pm Craig Van Ham
Craig is an incredibly savvy ed tech teacher that cranks out tons of video tutorials on different web 2.0 tools and apps. Craig hosts this wonderful collection of helpful tutorials on MiLearning's iTunesU space. Craig also has created tutorials to get you started using iBooks Author.  

So, I encourage you to check out a few of these sessions, get introduced to iBooks Author. And, if you are teaching in a 1:1 iPad environment, or soon will be, then you definitely want to get involved with the iBooks Author Hackathon going on this summer. For more details and registration check out the website here:

Disclaimer: I am not sure if there are more sessions going on at Macul highlighting this tool, sorry if I missed someone's session. Please add it to the comment section below.

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Reflections on iTunesU Course

I've always wanted to be featured on iTunes...I'm just not musical

This past week a way cool thing happened to me. Apple listed my Open Geometry Course as one of the "8 Outstanding High School Courses" in the K-12 iTunesU space. I thought I would take a page to reflect on my iTunesU experience and offer some thoughts on how I went about creating my course.

The journey with iTunesU started last school year when a rep from Apple Education contacted me and invited a colleague of mine, Shawn Jacob, and myself out to Cupertino to work with dozens of other educators from around the nation to develop courses for the K-12 iTunesU site.

While there, we worked in content area teams to break up the work and start in on the process of curating content for our courses.  I had several distinct advantages. First, I had just spent a year teaching in a 1:1 iPad environment. Second, I was equipped with tons of great digital content that my colleagues and I had developed over the year. Third, I had flipped my class and was using my own videos, iBooks Author files, and my own online quizzes that were ready to be inserted into iTunesU. Finally, I was already using an LMS to distribute content to students so I had a good idea of how iTunesU could effectively be used, even though it is not a full blown learning management system.

Thoughts on creating your iTunesU course.

Things to know prior to building. 
- iTunesU is a great place to host content and help students keep their digital artifacts organized.
-iTunesU is not a place to host teacher-student dialogue and threaded discussions (not yet at least- hoping it will be in the future).
-iTunesU is not a place to collect and grade assignments.
-iTunesU works best with the iPad but content can be found in iTunes.

1. Pre-requisites. In order to build a course you will need and Apple I.D. and the link to the course manager site opened in Safari. You can use other browsers, however, Apple suggests using Safari.  

2. Create a descriptive course overview and well defined outline. In your course description settings be very clear about your course.  Use keywords that will lead searching students and teachers to you. List content standards, learning targets, guiding questions in the outline, and other descriptors that will give an in-depth understanding of what your course is about. There is nothing more frustrating than opening up a course and not seeing the course outline or having a very vague course description. Add a nice graphic to your course're on your way.

3. Start small with the idea that you will build your content over the year. Don't feel that you have to have a complete course ready to go at the beginning of the year. Choose to do a course in session as opposed to a self-paced course, this way there will be less pressure on you to post content ahead of schedule.

4. Curate and create. Remember this is a list of resources that you are pointing your subscribers to.  The digital content doesn't have to all be created by you. There is plenty of great content out there on the web already that is licensed under creative commons share-alike code. Be mindful of licensing because you are placing this in your course and if it is public anyone can access it. So, if you're wondering "can I place worksheets from my textbook publisher into my iTunesU course"? I would contact them first and ask. With that said, there are ways to make courses private to your students only and share the class subscription code with them.

5. Add tons of media-rich interactive learning modules. iTunesU course manager allows you to upload links from the web or iTunes/iBooks/App store, documents such as pdfs and keynote, and videos. Students can download video content for viewing offline.  So there are some advantages to uploading the video instead of just pointing at a YouTube link. Apple gives you 20GB's of space so I wouldn't worry too much about running out of room.

6. Create meaningful posts full of descriptive and action oriented words. These posts will show up on student iPads as assignments so it is best to be very clear about what you would like students to do with what you are sending them.  Assignments should start off with action words such as watch, summarize, read, etc. Think about the flow of your posts. Do they make sense for students? Are they organized in a way that is intuitive for students? Do students know what is expected from a particular post? iTunesU is a great place to host and distribute content, however there are no discussion board features for students to post questions and interact.

7. Leverage the note syncing features. Another nice feature of iTunesU is that if you are linking to any books or videos, iTunesU will sync notes from across all these types of posts into one place in iTunesU called the Notes. This makes it really handy for students to go back and review what they have been watching and reading.

Overall iTunesU, while not perfect,  can be a powerful space to help students organize and access their work. If I were to add features to iTunesU I would want to see the ability for teachers and students to communicate, the collaborative and interactive piece of this platform could certainly be developed. I would also like to see the ability to embed widgets (similar to iBooks Author). This would also allow for students to interact with content right from within iTunesU.  Finally, I would love to see the note taking feature support digital inking. While the notes are a great way for students to study, not all information can be captured via text input.

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Achievements are Team Efforts...Thank Yous!

Accomplishments are rarely the effort of a sole individual. Even in individual olympic events such as running, swimming, or diving a successful athlete is typically surrounded and supported by a team, well positioned in life to take advantage of their circumstances, and equipped with certain traits to more easily accomplish the goals. This is no different for many of the non-sporting types who find success' in daily wins and accomplishments. We too are typically surrounded and supported by a cast of players; we find ourselves in an advantageous position and possessing the skills that make us right for the task.

A couple of weeks ago some real cool stuff started taking shape in my life.  Some really cool success, similar to winning a medal in the olympics- at least for me. I referred to these things in a previous post, so I will not mention them here but rather I want to take this space to acknowledge those who helped make this happen and say 'Thank You'

First of all, when anyone is dedicated to accomplishing a task there is usually a huge sacrifice that is paid by their immediate family.  No doubt this was the case for me. My wife and kids probably wondered why I was working extra hours sometimes, but never made me feel guilty for doing so. They backed my efforts and saw that I loved doing the things that I was doing and at the same time reminded me about balance and making time for them and myself. Thank you.

The second group of individuals is our IT department. If you've never gone into your IT department's office before make it a goal to do so, and use that time to say thank you. The one thing that we take for granted on a daily basis is the technology of our classrooms. When I arrived at school in the morning I expected everything to just work and 99.5% of the time it did. Not having the proper infrastructure and resources in place to accomplish daily work would have caused me to abandon my missions. Those guys behind the internet, switches, cables, etc. made it possible to achieve these goals. Thank you.

The third group is my administration. Administration is so crucial to having the feeling of being empowered to go for it. Building principals who release their staff to be creative and explore new and innovative ways to reach various learners are setting their teachers and students up for success. Thank you.

The last group is the community. This might sound cheesy in a way but without the community voting to increase the technology resources in our school district none of this personal growth would have occurred. Thank you.

I feel it is important to reflect and remember those who have helped put you where you are today. These are the same group of supporters who most likely will be there when things aren't going your way. In times of failure they will still be there cheering you on, supplying you with the tools you needs, the space of creativity to explore, and the resources to make it happen.

So keep tinkering. Keep tweaking. Keep thanking those around you.

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Keeping it in Perspective: Leading within the Tension.

The last two weeks of my life have been so surreal I have no choice but to get it out... here...and now.  Here is the short of it.

  1. I was acknowledged as an Apple Distinguished Educator.
  2. My iTunesU course got listed in the Outstanding High School section of iTunesU.
  3. My project seems to be gaining support and interest from teachers, administrators, and colleges. 

First of all being accepted as an ADE is truly an honor and I am absolutely humbled to be acknowledged amongst this class of educators. However...

I struggle with how to handle all this- honestly. I am glad I have this blog to write on because I feel like it is between me and the page. Yet, I want to tell others. If I am truly honest with myself, I fight the tension between being humble and being recognized. If I am honest, the selfish person within me wants to be recognized by everyone, I want glory, yet I want to be the same. I know this changes nothing. I don't want to come across as having it all together, cause the truth is none of us do. And adding a label to my resume doesn't make me a different person today then I was yesterday. However, the question I must answer everyday, is how do I lead with me, who I am, what I believe in, how I care about kids, colleagues, and education; and not from the title Apple Distinguished Educator?

The simple truth is, that a label is just that, few words to categorize an object. Is it fair to say that labels  will create change? Bring leadership? Ignite creativity and innovation? I don't think so. Rather it is the heart of the individual connecting with heart of others that will bring about change, leadership, and innovation.

Wearing this label I must be intentional about leading from the standpoint of a servant. I can't afford to pull out my iPad, hide behind my MacBook, and say do as I do, and look what I know. Rather, I must strive to connect with the passions of others, seek their needs, and put relationships first. I must coach the heart and not the technology. I must see past the devices into the eyes of my students, colleagues, and others around me...I think this is true for all of us, despite the labels attached or positions we hold. However, the label ADE brings one under a finer microscope therefore:

  • I promise never to use this label as way of ranking myself or thinking that I am right because I'm a...
  • I promise to keep learning from anyone; kids, colleagues, ADE's, whoever it is. I must model the behavior of life long learning for others around me. 
  • I promise to use this label for the betterment of education, teaching, learning, and relationships with students, and not for the sole betterment of ME.
  • I promise to be me. I promise to keep sharing my failures. Keep taking risks. Keep seeking what is best for you, your class, and your students. 
  • I promise to be a servant leader. To seek first your passions, needs, & desires. And let you be you. 
I guess I can start to enjoy this great acknowledgement now. I just needed to make sure I promised to still be me. 

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