I have long been an advocate for bring your own device (BYOD) in the classroom. I figure that if kids have tools that know well and use well, then there is no reason to restrict them from using them in the classroom.
Key word there: tools, as in apps for learning.
Too many of the teachers who are frustrated with dealing with personal devices often don’t take the learning tools approach. Instead of allowing for specific purposes they end up policing. They collect phones ahead of class or insist on no devices being out at any time. Kids at our high school have even started bringing old phones to turn in at the beginning of class so they can still access their working devices.
I’m not naive enough to think that every time a kid has a device out in the library, they are using it solely for a learning activity. What I do know from 20+ years in the classroom that kids for the most part respond well when you give them some clear expectations and put the responsibility on them to do the right thing.
Despite spending a lot of time on this early in the year I too have had some frustration with our students in the library who are taking online classes. Too many are “forgetting” or just seeing how much they can push our guidelines with personal devices. Usually a friendly reminder gets everybody back on track. Sometimes it takes a few reminders.
Here is a new poster adorning our work stations. The kids got a laugh out of the devices I chose but more importantly the “got” the message.
If you grew up in the era of Oregon Trail, Galaga, Defender, Blades of Steel, and NBA Jam then you might have a little place in your heart for the nostalgic look of 8 Bit graphics. When your creative juices start mixing with your love of old school games, check out these tools.
64 Yourself – Upload any image under 2 MB and convert it to something that looks like it was made on a Commodore 64.
8BitPhotos.com – Simply upload a picture and let this site convert it for you.
Pixlr – If you want a little more control over how your pixels come out, use the free Photoshop-ish Pixlr. Upload a pic, find the “Pixelate” filter, and tweak until you have it just right.
You can also create from scratch online with Make8BitArt.com (below) or on the BitDraw – Pixel Art Tool for iOS devices and Android. The basketball player above was made on an iPad with that app.
Here is a great opportunity to utilize some movement lessons and videos to promote healthy living this winter.
Not only has Discovery Education teamed with the American Heart Association to provide fun lessons and videos with a member of the Washington Redskins, they are now giving you the chance to be featured with your students on their new site.
Apple CEO Tim Cook calls Chrome devices “test machines” – Buzzfeed Photo
On Wednesday in a Buzzfeed interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Chromebooks “test machines” and cited Google’s take over of the education market as primarily a result of schools just buying hardware for standardized assessments.
There is no denying that recent mass purchases from school districts have been in response to needing more equipment for tests that have moved from paper to web browser. What is in question is why schools are choosing Chromebooks over Macs and iPads. Cook sells educational leaders and teachers short when he implies that testing is all that went into the decision making and all that is being done with the products once they reach schools.
Now, don’t write me off as a hater. Heck, one of the proudest recognitions I have received is that of being named an Apple Distinguished Educator. I am a huge Apple advocate and I truly believe that Cupertino builds the most durable and best designed products in the tech world. For a long long time Apple won the classroom because its stuff “just worked” and it still does. The six-year-old Macbooks I teach with just hum along. The three-year-old cart of HPs…don’t. The iPad has opened worlds previously un-explorable to people with disabilities. Apple has done great things in the classroom and I still believe schools need a number of Macs or iPads around for tasks Chrome devices can’t. I am just not convinced anymore that Apple products are the only solution.
Here Mr. Cook are 10 reasons why educators are choosing Chrome devices over Apple products…and they don’t have anything to do with testing.
The Reality of Classroom Technology Integration – “We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level,” Cook stated in the and he’s correct. iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and other high level apps are the staples when it comes to kids creating high level content. The only problem for Apple is that the vast majority of students and teachers don’t learn and teach constantly at this level. As great as all of these Apple tools are, right or wrong, they have taken a support role to the tools students and teachers use most.The SAMR framework discusses how teachers use tech at varied levels between basic “substitution” and creating previously inconceivable activities in a level defined as “redefinition”. The Apple stuff excels in the hands of teachers who have mastered ways of getting to redefinition but the vast majority of educators are somewhere in the middle and most of the learning tasks they ask students to do with technology doesn’t require the high end apps.
Price – Chrome devices continue to drop in price to the point where schools can buy five Chromebooks with touchscreens for the price of one Macbook. It’s hard to justify the extra cost if the job can be done with a solid device at a fraction of the money. I just bought a fully functioning Chrome computer in the $85 Chromebit. $85! Yes it requires me to connect it to an HDMI display and I have to supply the keyboard and mouse but that price point alone makes it wildly affordable for a number of functions around a school.
They Just Work – It is still the number one reason I always choose Apple stuff over Windows stuff and I was very suspect of the Chrome products when they first hit the market. Aside from getting used to the layout of where everything is on these devices my experience has been that the simplicity of the Chrome “just works” as well. With less operating system there are less hassles.
Ease of Management – Managing a cart of iPads is incredibly time consuming and not something most classroom teachers are entrusted to do. Apple has put out a series of management solutions but none have been the silver bullet that actually make life easier for teachers. With Chrome there is virtually no management because when a kid logs in with their Google Apps for Education account, all of their stuff is available.
Google Apps – No, the free suite won’t let you make your documents as cute as Word or Pages will, but with a little skill you and your kids can get darn close. Cute isn’t deal closer on GAFE though. Storage is unlimited for schools and with a little foresight educators can help kids set up portfolios that will follow them all of the way through high school. No one will ever lose their work due to a dead laptop battery because Google saves every few seconds. Plus, it’s just automatically already set up with every Google account. Yes, Apple offers a version of its iWork suite online for free and it can do a lot but space is limited and the sharing options aren’t close to what GAFE does. What is really cool though is that if you want to use the online versions of iLife you can do it on a Chromebook.
Collaboration – The whole game changed way back in the day when Google bought Writely from an upstart called Upstartle. Simply being able to edit something simultaneously ten years ago was groundbreaking. Google has used the last decade to further enhance the collaborative capabilities. Apple is bringing that to iLife but are essentially playing catch up. The collaboration built into a Google Apps/Chrome environment helps teachers better communicate with students and provide useful feedback. The same is true with students communicating and collaborating better with each other.
Google Classroom – From its introduction teachers have been flocking to the free learning management system. As it evolves and becomes more stable it is becoming the go-to, even by die hard Edmodo and Schoology users. What is the big deal? See all six of the previous reasons. Seriously, you can apply all of them. As a classroom teacher, paper was my Achilles heel. In Classroom it’s all digital and the interface shows who has completed work and who hasn’t. Once it’s turned in, it’s locked until the teacher grades and returns it. Apple offers iTunes U which is a beautiful way to present content and develop courses that don’t rely on Internet connectivity but they only run on an Apple device. Classroom works everywhere.
Access Everywhere – Speaking working everywhere, students and teachers can access the work they started on the Chrome device at school anywhere they can find a web browser with an Internet connection. It is something kids have come to take completely for granted. Ubiquitous access is their normal. A perfect example was when we were making book report trailers on iMovie and my students all wanted to know how they could find their work when they got home so they could continue working. They were put off when I told them it was only available on the one device they’d been using.
Open To Innovation – Google Apps has evolved at light speed because of the way individuals can create add-ons. Doctopus and Goobric are examples of innovation created by a user that have made the product better fit teacher needs. This isn’t just in Docs either. There are a ton of new Chrome apps being developed that bring a lot of the creativity and depth of exploration to the Chrome browser. Apple obviously innovates all of the time too but doesn’t adapt as fast as Google because the innovation all takes place within Apple.
Big Yet Nimble – Lebron James and Cam Newton are special athletes because they are big yet have uncharacteristic speed. Google Chrome and the devices that run it are a lot like that. Google is massive with unlimited resources to support its products yet has retained a simplicity that makes stuff work at the highest level of efficiency. There is no reason to expect that won’t continue to be the case.
Ultimately schools have to find the platforms and devices that work best for their needs. I always have a Mac nearby because I use so many levels of its functionality. My students don’t always need the firepower and Google is picking up a lot of believers in educators who see all of the benefits Chrome devices can deliver at a fraction of the cost.
I understand and appreciate Tim Cook’s passion for giving educators and learners amazing stuff but if Chrome devices are just “test machines”, he needs to Think Different.
It’s one day away! Tomorrow Madden, Discovery Education, and the NFL Players Association launch their “EA Sports Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers” interactive site to promote math and science in the classroom through football.
Brandon Wislocki and I share our experience of getting to preview the site and the simulations. We talk ease of use and some of the key features of the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as we preview some of the core math and science skills being explored.
As a huge chunk of our population sits down tomorrow and eats way too much, how many will think of the hours, dollars, sweat, and luck that went into producing the bounty in front of them? Probably not many.
Through video and print resources, the site is broken into four lessons (45-60 minutes each) that explore a wide array of farming and ranching topics that are important to not only the sustainability of the industry but also our food supply and the cultural heritage of farming and ranching that has been a part of America since its first settlers.
You might also really strike a chord with one or many of your students who are already passionate about farming or ranching like my former student and Hamilton (MI) Middle Schooler Nate Freyhof, “What got me interested in hobby farming was having a good environment and having fun playing outside instead of sitting inside all day. I also think gardening and training or working with animals is fun to do. It is sometimes good to have technology around like tractors to pull a plow or dig up something.”
Here are 7 great things about teaching with the Discovering Farmland site.
The videos and the lessons really put a human face on farming and ranching. This is done visually but one whole lesson focuses untangling stereotypes.
The four lessons fit nicely into a variety of units. Teachers can spread it out to where they spend an hour per week on top of their prescribed curriculum. Think of it like Google 20% time where you step away from “what has to get done” for a little bit to supplement with projects based on interest or that might be especially impactful. Teachers could do two lessons a week and be done in two weeks or maybe full week is dedicated to a deep dive through the entire set of lessons.
Resources provided make these units ready to roll out, even if the teacher knows nothing about farming or ranching.
Teacher guide for each lesson
Student activity sheet for each lesson
Formative assessment exit ticket or activity for each lesson
Video snippets of the Farmland movie to support each lesson
Web links to extend the research and learning for each lesson
All lessons are vocabulary rich with words that fit into science, social studies, and technology.
Even though each lesson is well designed, each can be modified to meet more personal or curricular needs. For example, an economics class could research where its county ranks in terms of agricultural production or what the taxable value is on a 40 acre plot of farmland.
Discovering Farmland transports students who may have never left their own urban city limits to a completely unknown and almost foreign seeming part of our world. The virtual visit is one of the truly transformative things educational technology can do and this site and resources are perfect for creating those learning opportunities.
There are great resources already in place but there is still more to come from Discovery and the USRFA. Both are committed to showing not only how important our agricultural heritage is but how there are exciting high-tech careers to be had in farming and ranching. There is no food without farming and there is no farming without great science, technology, engineering, and math skills.
Somebody somewhere grew the potatoes, the turkeys, the cranberries, even the cinnamon for the apples sauce we will be feasting on tomorrow. Why not use the resources in Discovering Farmland when you return to the classroom and challenge your students to find out more about who and where our food comes from?