Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I've Been Shattered!

Well the inevitable has happened….  As much as my kids have treated their neoprene encased IPods like gold all school year, we experienced our first screen shatter the other day.  As much as I am a fan of Apple Care, as you know, it does not cover screen breakage.  After shopping around online, I found a company in Texas ( that replaced the screen for $59 (plus $7.68 for shipping).  I mailed it on Thursday and got it back today (Tuesday).  It looks great and works perfectly.  All of the student’s settings and data were saved.  Does anyone know of a better and cheaper way to get screens replaced?  I am fairly certain this won’t be the last one that’s gets shattered. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Got Ammo?

I know I am preaching to the choir when I extol the benefits of using IPods and IPads with kids in today’s classrooms.  Unfortunately, there remains a disturbingly large number of naysayers who view this influx of technology as another fad or simply a distraction from tried and true methods of education, like that’s really working for all of today’s learners.   While there are a number of trailblazing school systems out there, we as a group of forward thinking educators have to mobilize to move this new wave of connecting, engaging and creating with kids past the “pilot” stage and into more systemic approaches.  How?  Ammo!  That’s right.  We have to empirically prove technology has an impact on student achievement.  The problem?  The disconnect between what we are currently measuring on high stakes tests and the 21st century skills.  Until the powers that be align assessments with what we know kids are going to need to be successful throughout their lives, we need to pull together any data we can to support the use of technology to increase student achievement.   In the latest edition of ESchool News, I came across this article about middle schoolers using IPads in San Joaquin, California:
When you come across other articles or studies containing empirical data to support the use of IPads, IPods or one-to-one mobile computing, send the links my way and I will start posting them on my blog.  Please share this link, my blog, and your thinking with other like-minded educators and let’s move past pilots, trials, and begging for funding and make this an integral part of every American classroom.  Pass the ammo….

Friday, May 27, 2011

IPads and "IArt"

Painting on the IPad?  Who knew?  Rob Miller, Multimedia Instructor at the Carver Center for Arts & Technology right here in Baltimore sure does.  Rob uses the IPad and an App called “Brushes” to create some amazing still life and portraits.  You’ve got to check these videos demonstrating his technique. 

In this world-wide world we operate in these days, I continue to be amazed at how small it can be at times.  As it turns out, Rob's daughter was a former student of mine, like a hundred years ago, and Rob attended the elementary school where I am currently the principal.  Six degrees of separation... If you would like to contact Rob, here is his email:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Looking For A Great Math App?

Unfortunately, the current approach used to teach math is producing way too many "math casualties."  A national curriculum that is a mile wide and an inch deep is preventing some children from developing a solid foundation in number sense.  Without this foundation in place, algebraic thinking is not possible.  Too many children (and us for that matter), focus on getting the correct answer rather than understanding the process.  We need to teach children to think flexibly about numbers.  Being huge fans of Greg Tang ( ), we are also fans of an App he created for a math game called Kakooma ( )  This App requires one to look at nine boxes, each of which contains nine numbers.  The task is to find two numbers that add to a third in each of the squares.  In order to complete the task, the process needs to be completed 10 times.  My fifth graders, being the competitive bunch they are (and that’s not a bad thing) choose Kakooma over any other App.  I have had four students complete the puzzles in less than 13 seconds.  The lowest score was 9 seconds.  One of my kids commented, “I think I play too much.”  Imagine that, practicing their number concepts too much!  You have got to try it for yourself.  Check it out, you’ll be hooked. See if you can beat 9 seconds, or two minutes for that matter.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

IPod Pilot Project in the News

Two video segments produced by the Baltimore County Public Schools were posted today on the Education Channel Website.

The first piece is the classroom view of the impact IPod Touches are having in our fourth and fifth grade classrooms.  The second segment is an in studio interview conducted by local news person, Mary Beth Marsden.  Chris O'Neal, consultant from the University of Virgina, and I participated in the interview.  Check out both segments when you have a moment.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Got Mobicip?

As promised, here is the link to the filtering browser I mentioned yesterday.  Mobicip is a web-based filtering program that you can load on to each mobile device from the App Store for only $4.99 (and no, I'm not getting any royalties for the recommendation).  Mobicip is a Safe Browser for the iPhone based on a dynamic cloud content filtering engine, designed to provide safe Internet access.  It might be the answer for schools like ours who are struggling with the idea of letting our kids take their IPods home at night.  I'm not as worried about devices being damaged as I am about kids being exposed to inappropriate content.  Until we address how to help kids self-filter on the Internet, this might be the next best thing.  Check it out:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

To Filter on Not to Filter- That is the Question

I regard information literacy as one of the most important 21st century skills we can develop in our students.  A huge part of information literacy is the ability to sift through all of the chaff out there on the internet to get to the wheat.  Unfortunately, some of this chaff is extremely dangerous to our children, and for us for that matter.  What if we filter everything and don't teach our kids how to deal with the dangers?  Shouldn't that be a part of our work?  Can we assume that parents are doing this job and that this is not really our role?  Judging by all of the kids out there getting in trouble on the internet, I'm not so sure.  This issue is one that needs to be discussed opening and honestly by everyone involved with children, especially the parents of our students.  Until we are ready,wiling, and able to have these discussions, there are a number of ways to protect our students from some of the dangers out there on the internet.  I found an inexpensive web-based filtering system at the Mobile Learning 2011 Conference in Phoenix.  Check back tomorrow for details.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just for Fun - Show Your Age

So the other day I'm in one of my fifth grade classrooms, and some of my kids are playing The Oregon Trail on their IPod Touches.  What a flashback!  Most people who read this will likely remember playing this "computer game" while they were in school.   As a teacher who started his career prior to the use of computers in schools (yes I'm that old), Oregon Trail was one of the first games I can recall that went beyond the drill and practice format of early computer applications.  Maybe it was the interactivity of the game that attracted kids to want to play it (or the fact you could shoot buffalo?).  Maybe this game was a "pioneer" on the "trail "to the level of interactivity that we have come to expect in all aspects of computer use today?  At any rate, go ahead and download it from the ITunes Store.  You know you want to.  Bonus - There is a free version.  Have fun and remember not to go too fast or you'll lose an oxen or break an axle.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sandy Plains IPod Pilot News Feature

Check out this piece posted on the Baltimore County Public Schools Website this morning.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sandy Plains IPod Touch Pilot - Year Two

Planning and purchasing for our second year of IPod Touching is well under way as we wind down this school year.  The scope of our pilot will double during the 2011-2012 school year.  We will bring onboard, or should I say online, one additional fourth and one fifth grade classroom resulting in half of our fourth and fifth graders having their own IPod Touches during the school day. 

The overall cost of the Year Two Expansion is $21,206.  This amount is $5,200 less than the cost incurred during the initial year of the IPod Touch Pilot.  While the new generation of IPods went up $39 per unit, we purchased two fewer laptops, as well as 5 fewer IPod Touches.   This year, Apple bundled the Bretford carts with 20 IPods into an IPod Learning Lab.  Professional Development is not included in our Year Two Plan as we expect most of the new learning and sharing to be conducted by our returning Pilot Teachers and students.  This year’s fourth grade pilot students will be split between two fifth grade classrooms in order to have “experts” in each of the two IPod Classrooms.

With any purchase made through Apple. I strongly recommend the Apple Care Program.  The customer service is exemplary and it is easy get replacements or repairs right on the spot at your local Apple Store. 

Here is the breakdown of expenses for the Year Two Expansion:

2          Apple IPod Learning Labs with Applecare      $  13,798
10        IPod Touch 8GB                                             $   2,290
10        AppleCare for IPod Touch                              $      590
4          MacBook Air, 1.4 GHz, 64 GB  Hard Drive      $   3,796
4          AppleCare for MacBook Air                            $      732

                                                                   Total        $ 21,206

During the summer, we will be putting together a summary report of our first year's expereinces including student data, lessons learned, and more detailed plans for 2011-2012 school year.  In addition to increasing the scope of the project, we are looking to make our work more transformational.  Pretty exciting stuff.  Stay tuned.  Please contact me if you have any questions about our IPod Touch Pilot Program and remember to stop by and see our poster session this summer at ISTE in Phiadelphia.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The "M" Generation

Call them the Millennial Generation, the Multi-tasker Generation, or what I prefer, the Mobile Generation.  They are a diffferent breed, the most exciting, as well as the most challegning generation of kids to teach, EVER!  We are in the process of working on a video that will hopefully capture the "gist" of this generation, but until then, check out this commercial I saw on TV last night.  It's all about the promise and potential of this "Generation M", whatever you choose to call them.  How about mind-blowing?  Let's teach them well and then get out of the way.....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

ISO the "Perfect Device"

So what is the perfect device to use with kids in a school setting?  Let me ask you this: What is the perfect device for you?  I often to ask my teachers to reflect on their own use of technology when thinking about what they need to be doing with their students.  Specifically, "How do YOU use technology?"  Shouldn't our efforts to "educate" children about the use of technology mirror our own use?  I mean seriously, when is the last time you used Pixie?  More realistically, when is the last time you had to be a good consumer of information as you surfed that huge sea of information known as the Internet? But I digress...

Maybe when we look for that perfect device, we should remember once again how we use technology.  The bottom line is there isn't a perfect device.  I use my IPhone away from a wireless network, my MacBook as I cruise through the building, an IPad in a data meeting with teachers, my Dell desktop when I have to do most things related to productivity, and a HP here at home where I post most of my blogs (blogspot is blocked by my school's filtering software-ironic). Isn't this the same thing we need to be doing with kids, teaching them to choose the platform, machine, device, software they need based on the work at hand?

When I started thinking along these lines I came to the realization that it's not about Dells, or android, or Apples (although they still rule in terms with Apps and ease of use), but it's about using technology, whatever that might look like like, whenever and wherever it is needed, to enhance learning.

Now that I got that off my chest, I'm off to play some Angry Birds.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teacher Mobile Class Websites

These are great!  You really need to check them out.  Our pilot teachers developed their own class websites hosted on Wirenode.  The websites organize each of their subject areas, including class assignments, web links to build background knowledge, podcasts, homework assignments, etc.  Kids use the websites throughout the day and can access content at home.  Wirenode websites are fairly easy to set-up and maintain.  Out teachers have given permission to use the content on their sites or to use their sites as a template for you to develop your own class page. 

4th Grade Teacher Lauren Haber's Website:

5th Grade Teacher Kay Antley's Website

GT Resource Teacher Jennifer Pfeiffer's Website:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Worries about technology funding a thing of the past?

Check out this post in today's eschool news.  If we could only get all school systems to revise their cell phone, or should I say their mobile one-to-one computing policies......  Kids don't use them for phone calls anyway!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

IPod Touch Pilot - Year Two Planning

As we come down the home stretch of 2010-2011, wrapping up an incredibly successful first year of mobile computing with our fourth and fifth graders, we are looking ahead to next year with plans to double the scope of our year one pilot.  Our blog, still in its infancy (we'll be 3 weeks old this Tuesday), has had over 1,100 pages views from folks all over the world.  Thanks to everyone for sharing and contributing to the goal of increasing transformational technology use in our schools. Check back later this week for, "Sandy Plains Elementary Connects with the World, Year Two."