I’ve been attempting to develop “lifelong learners” for longer than I’d like to admit. The concept has always been there, but the reality of developing learners has proven much more difficult than imagined. Throughout my years in education I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with a great number of extremely dedicated and hard working educators all pursuing the same dream of developing lifelong learners. I have to admit that I’ve become discouraged at times because if seems like hard work and dedication should be enough, but the dream remained out of reach. However, after all these years I now see that we have been working extremely hard and not realizing the benefits we should because the right tool hadn’t been developed yet for the job. I’m now enjoying the most exciting times of my career because I see that the dream of developing lifelong learners can be a reality. We are beginning our 4th year working with iPads and our second year of a K-12 1:1 iPad initiative in our district. We’ve learned so much about teaching with iPad during these 4-years and now have a solid grasp of the true transformational power of the iPad in education. For us, the iPad has proven to be the tool that ties together all of the promises of incorporating technology into education.
The primary message we attempt to send to everyone we talk with about our initiative is the potential for true student centered learning as a result of our 1:1 iPad initiative. While this post is centered on the idea of student centered learning, it’s important to note that our complete message includes a focus on the benefits of incorporating the use of technology for staff learning as well. The idea of staff centered learning provides the same benefits for staff as student centered learning does for students.
A quick Google search of the phrase student centered learning provides volumes of information on the benefits of this learning model. However, to me the most important benefit of student centered learning is that it is truly the road to follow for realizing that most popular and often overstated school mission of developing life-long learners. As a result of our 1:1 iPad initiative, we are able to transition our teaching model from one where teachers and/or the adopted textbook is the source for all student learning; to one where students gain experience with discovering and processing new information alongside their teacher. The focus of this model is actually teaching students how to learn as opposed to teaching them information. This excites me because when we teach students how to learn, we begin the process of developing life long learners.
In the “old” model of instruction, the teacher is seen as the sole provider of knowledge and students are seen as passive participants. This passive model of instruction sends the message to students that the path to learning involves nothing more than sitting and listening. We must realize that the path to deep learning and understanding should place the learner in the role of an active participant actively seeking, interpreting, analyzing and applying information. Clearly, when we follow an active, student centered model we are actually teaching students the process of acquiring new knowledge or “learning”. Teaching students how to learn is so much more valuable than teaching them information. I’m very excited about the future of education because I’ve observed how this shift has benefited our students. As we all become more adept at utilizing this incredible tool for providing anywhere/anytime learning opportunities, the development of lifelong learners will be a dream finally realized.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI@fsitkins
@boyneloper and @carriestanek
With forty-five states plus Washington DC and four territories adopting the Common Core State Standards
(CCSS), I’m a little surprised educators are still questioning the benefits of becoming a connected educator. I’ve enjoyed the privilege of serving as the Elementary School Principal in Boyne City, Michigan for 13 years. I became a principal because I believe in the power of visionary leadership. I love what happens when you get a group of individuals behind an idea and working towards a common set of goals. If implemented correctly, the Common Core presents the opportunity for the greater educational community to work together towards the ultimate goal of educating our youth.
I’ve enjoyed a relatively seamless transition to the CCSS thanks to a hard-working and dedicated teaching staff. In fact, our teachers have overwhelmingly appreciated the shift to the CCSS and have spent a tremendous amount of time building detailed pacing guides and common assessments to effectively teach and assess the new standards. However, our progress would not have been so quick, nor our staff buy in so strong, had we not first learned the benefits of connecting and collaborating. Therefore, if there was one piece of advice that I would offer to school administrators, curriculum directors, classroom teachers, and anyone else involved in the adoption of the Common Core, it would be to help foster connected educators within your school.
Some of the tools we’ve found to be most effective for fostering these connections include the use of Twitter
, iTunes U, YouTube
, and Google Hangouts
. Of course, technology and social media tools are in a state of constant change so the tools we are using today may not necessarily be the same tools we will be using next year. However, one thing is constant; technology has tremendous capabilities for helping individuals to connect and collaborate, and educators should be taking full advantage of these capabilities. Twitter
: Twitter is the engine that drives many individual’s PLN. When it comes to the CCSS, Twitter can serve many roles. I’ve enjoyed watching my teachers make connections with educators that teach their same grade level or content area and these simple connections have spawned a tremendous number of innovative practices that not only excite our students and families, but also invigorate our teachers. Sometimes these connections are a one time sharing of lesson ideas, assessments, or particular tools and resources from a Twitter chat, but other times, I’ve observed strong relationships develop between educators on Twitter where regular resource sharing, inspiration, encouragement and nudging occur. I’ve observed that the teachers who regularly participate in Twitter chats such as #miched
or interact with other educators on Twitter on a regular basis seem to be extremely passionate and consequently infectious. This passion and excitement is contagious and can often have a positive impact on their fellow educators and the students that they teach as well. Edmodo
: Often referred to as the Facebook of education, Edmodo is a social learning platform designed for teachers, students and parents. Edmodo can serve many roles from classroom management, document sharing, communication, to grading. However, one of the services Edmodo provides, which is often unheralded, is the opportunity for educators to connect and collaborate through the greater Edmodo community
. There are many groups built into Edmodo, covering most any topic a teacher would be interested in. For example, I belong to the Computer Technology community and as a result have a constant stream of information being shared from 1000’s of other educators on the topic of computer technology in an educational environment. However, the best part of these communities for me is that they are a powerful forum for getting questions answered. I haven’t found a technology related question I can’t post to this group that hasn’t been answered. These are active learning communities with great potential for building collaborative learning groups supporting the CCSS.
: Apple’s tremendous educational course management tool is a valuable asset to any school working in the Apple ecosystem. While I love iTunes U for the many benefits for student learning, the benefits to staff learning and collaboration are also endless. iTunes U allows teachers to build and share courses which could prove to the wide spread adoption of the CCSS. Our teachers have built many courses
teaching the CCSS this year and through iTunes U, these courses have been shared for free with thousands of teachers wishing to teach those same CCSS’s for their students. Not only is iTunes U great for resource sharing, but it also provides a wonderful teacher professional learning network. There is a tremendous amount of content available for teachers wishing to learn new strategies for reaching their students.YouTube
: As the second largest search engine, YouTube is proving to be a great resource for learning how to do just about anything. Not only can teachers take advantage of YouTube for learning how to use new tools and techniques for teaching the CCSS, but it is also a wonderful place for students to share the knowledge and information they’ve learned through the CCSS. Many classrooms across the country are taking advantage of the wide spread adoption of mobile technology and allowing their students to share their knowledge in exciting new ways and YouTube is often the place where this information saved, accessed and shared. As an example, check out this video
of a 4th grade student using the Ask 3 app to share what they learned while studying morel mushrooms. Another description and examples of using iMovie trailers to demonstrate student learning can be found by accessing Smarter Learning.Google Hangouts
- Google is providing some incredible tools that educators are running to in droves. One of the best tools for collaborating with fellow educators is through the use of a Google Hangout. Google Hangouts is a free video chat for group chats up to ten people at a time. Google Hangouts are already proving invaluable to educators who wish to connect and collaborate on common projects. The fact that it supports full screen sharing, the ability to share documents, images, and YouTube videos with other participants is a huge benefit. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several Google Hangouts like the one below with APPitic
and can attest to their simplicity and flexibility. With the advent of Google Hangouts, traditional conference calls should be a thing of the past. Because the Google platform is completely designed around the idea of connecting and collaborating with others, a Google Hangout is the perfect tool for like minded individuals wishing to work together to meet the needs of the students they serve. To exemplify this point, check out this blog post fromTech Girl Savvy
describing her first experience with a Google Hangout. I see infinite possibilities for teaches wishing to collaborate on CCSS lessons and ideas through the use of Google Hangouts.
Any project covering the scale of the CCSS should come with a fair amount of scrutiny. Like most things in life, there are positives and negatives and I, for one, believe that the potential for the CCSS to connect classrooms across this country is a great positive. The tools available for teachers to connect and collaborate are vast and their potential for benefiting student learning is tremendous. Becoming a connected educator will allow us to take full advantage of the Common Core.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MIiPadPD.com@fsitkins
I’m both in awe and encouraged at the current trend of teacher led professional learning occurring across our country. Our nations’ teachers are taking control of their own learning and are using a wide variety of social media platforms to do so. The spectrum of learning events and tools are broad, but to list a few: a wide variety of educational Twitter chats
occur every day of the week, edcamps
occur seemingly every Saturday somewhere around the country, and Google Hangouts
are becoming the new impromptu meeting site for tech savvy teachers everywhere. It’s refreshing and empowering to think about teachers taking control of their own professional learning. I’m thankful to this growing swell of educators for beginning a revolution that is truly transforming education as we know it. What exciting times we are living in! #Twitter Chats
- A quick Google search of educational Twitter chats will land you with more opportunities to connect and collaborate with other educators than you could explore in a lifetime. Check out this Learnist
to find a sampling. Educational Twitter chats are excellent because they are a great way to be exposed to innovative practices taking place in classrooms across the nation. Avid Twitter users are discovering rich professional connections through their PLN. Even though the majority of learning and collaborating takes place on-line, these connections are so deep that if and when these individuals meet face to face they interact like they were lifelong friends.
I have had the opportunity to experience and observe this phenomena occurring first hand and am convinced that these digital connections create strong relationships. Twitter is a great tool for spreading a revolution. Like any revolution, those in the center of the movement are full of passion and their enthusiasm is very contagious.
- A review of the edcamp Foundation website
will provide you with a great deal of information from explaining what an edcamp is to providing those wishing to host an event the information they need to make it successful. The edcamp experience seems tailor made to those that are excited about the transformational power of technology in education. These individuals are primed and ready for any information they can find about the incorporation of technology into instruction. In fact, they are so excited that they actually give up a Saturday to attend an edcamp. Mind you, they aren’t being paid for their attendance, nor are they exchanging a day of work for training; they are simply happy and excited about the opportunity to learn. That sounds like the type of educator I’d like to collaborate and work with, and as a building principal, these are the types of educators I plan to hire.
- Google is providing some incredible tools that educators are running to in droves. One of the best tools for collaborating with fellow educators is through the use of a Google Hangout. Google Hangouts is a free video chat for group chats up to ten people at a time. Google Hangouts differ from Skype
and Facebook Video Chat
because they focus more on group interaction as opposed to one-on-one interaction. Another feature of a Google Hangout is that users can share documents, images and YouTube videos with other users. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several Google Hangouts like the one below with APPitic
and can attest to their simplicity and flexibility. With the advent of Google Hangouts, conference calls should be a thing of the past. Because the Google platform is completely designed around the idea of connecting and collaborating with others, a Google Hangout is the perfect tool for like minded individuals wishing to work together to meet the needs of the students they serve.
While this new professional learning trend is certainly exciting, I do see one negative to it all. I believe it’s unfortunate that our teachers have been forced to take control of their own learning. It seems sad that this all got started because teachers’ needs weren’t being met by their school district. I’m proud of our nations’ teachers for taking control of their destiny and plea with administrators and policy makers to support this new form of professional learning. I would encourage all school administrators to become familiar with the development of a PLN and ask that they dedicate time and energy to supporting and encouraging teachers in the development of their PLN. Everyone enjoys being a part of a movement and these trailblazing educators are creating a professional learning movement that can transform teaching and learning. Let’s help ensure all educators have the opportunity to be a part of this movement.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Principal iPadPD.com @fsitkins
I’m positive about the future of education and you should be too! Schools across the globe are disrupting the traditional educational model through the incorporation of technology into instruction. I can’t help thinking about how perfect the timing of this technological revolution is as it correlates perfectly with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards
(CCSS). The switch to the Common Core occurring at the same time as this wave of educational technology is as perfect as the combination of Twitter and your PLN. They fit together perfectly!
When each student has access to a device like the iPad, they are connected to the world. This allows our students to explore a topic to a level of deep understanding that is required in the Common Core. Examples of the way technology can disrupt the traditional educational model can be seen in tools like iBooks
and iTunes U
. With iBooks, students can interact with text by writing notes and sharing those notes with their peers and teachers. They can define unfamiliar words as they read them or even have the pronunciation of those words spoken to them. With iTunes U teachers are able to share content with students like never before. These courses contain videos, documents, podcasts, and apps. In our district
teachers are creating courses and are finding great success with them in and out of the classroom. There are courses ranging from woodworking to writing. Check them out at Boyne City on iTunes U
Despite what you think about the Common Core and more federal control over what is taught in schools, the Common Core actually has standards based on the use of technology and for that reason alone, they are a step in the right direction. The following examples demonstrate how the use of technology in conjunction with the Common Core are transforming the way students learn.
W.1.6 With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
With the guidance and support of their classroom teachers, @Erin Mastin
, Boyne City Public Schools have first grade students publishing their writing to a global audience. Our first graders are tweeting and blogging, and through that process are learning that their writing has a purpose and an audience.
Check out this example of a 4th grade student from @RebeccaWildman
describing specific details of an event from text in iBooks. This engaged student is describing his thinking to his peers and teacher while using the Ask3
app. RL.4.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
Not that I advocate teaching students how to be good test takers, but the reality of this switch to the CCSS is that it is also coupled with a dramatic shift in the type of assessment our students are going to be taking. In Michigan, our students are part of the Smarter Balanced Consortium
. In looking at the sample Smarter Balanced test items, it is clear that our students will have to apply the same deep thinking asked of the Common Core to an on-line assessment. I feel confident that providing iPads to students in a 1:1 format will help them be prepared for this type of testing. Check out what our students are doing with tools like Edmodo
At the “core” of the common core is the belief that schools should teach content deeper rather than shallow and broad. This is a welcome change for all educators as we’ve known for a long time that the previous hand grenade approach to curriculum has not served our students well. In addition to the examples above, here are a few additional CCSS that relate to the integration of technology. Notice how students are expected to not only obtain knowledge through the use of technology, but more importantly, they are asked to demonstrate their learning through the use of technology and to share that learning with a global community. These are important components to our new educational model and I am personally thankful for the forward thinking individuals that made these important skills for students under the Common Core. W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
RI.8.7. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.
SL.11-12.2. Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
SL.11-12.5. Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
While at a first glance the Common Core can be viewed as one more thing being done to educators, there is a positive side to this change. It allows educators to teach deeper, it allows us to focus on teaching students how to learn as opposed to remembering, and it provides educators the freedom to take advantage of this technological revolution to transform our teaching practices. The fact that this change is occurring at the same time as the introduction of mobile technology like the iPad is just icing on the cake. Schools adjusting their curriculum in response to the Common Core must give serious consideration to the integration of technology into their instructional model. Not only will the integration of technology allow schools to meet the CCSS, but more importantly it will provide for the deep learning required of our students.
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI www.ipadpd.com @fsitkins
Almost everyone has heard of the concept of flipped learning by now. The related concept of flipped PD has also been gaining traction in many PLN circles lately, but often without many supporting details. The intention of this article is to begin the process of adding those details, and to introduce a new iTunes U course
designed to explain the concept of Flipped PD.
Today’s schools are adapting at a rate never before experienced, and as a result, the need for professional development has never been greater. Our school is no exception. We have made the important transition to teaching 1:1 with iPads and have realized an unprecedented need for professional development. Teachers wanted desperately to know how to use the iPad, and as a school we wanted to understand how to fundamentally change the art of teaching as a result of introducing the iPad into the learning environment. We’ve refined the concept of flipped PD in response to this need for on-going, any time, any place, any pace professional learning. We discovered that if teachers wanted to know how to use the iPad and understand how the introduction of the iPad could change the way students learn, they would have to be placed in the role of a student with an iPad. So, the story of flipping PD began in Boyne City.
Our concept of flipped PD has evolved greatly since we began nearly two years ago. During our early stages, flipping PD simply involved providing background information about a topic of discussion prior to a meeting. Our teachers are now tech experts using tools like Twitter, Edmodo, screen casting, blogging, Pinterest, and more to fuel, not only their personal learning, but the learning of their colleagues as well. We now only have two staff meetings a year and those are far from traditional meetings. The remainder of our professional learning occurs within school based PLN teams, individually based PLNs, and grade level teams. These teams manage their own learning from content to scheduling. While their time isn’t monitored, their productivity is. Each PLN team reports progress to the building wide school improvement team, and the individual teacher reports progress to the building principal during the evaluation process.
Teachers are professionals and therefore should be treated as such. The reality is that the traditional professional development model in most schools, has in many ways stripped this professionalism from our teachers. In essence, we have told teachers that WE (school administrators and other outsiders) know what they need to know. We’ve taught them to sit back and wait until we find the time to give them what they need in the manner we think they should learn it. In order to be successful with an attempt at flipping PD, all professionals within a school must be dedicated to the idea of taking ownership of their own learning.
What we have attempted to do is to change that old mind set of sitting and getting. We have given teachers back the time that they spent sitting in general one size fits all professional development activities and asked them to use that same amount of time learning at the time, place and manner that fits them best. Furthermore, we have provided the freedom for staff to learn on the topic most important to them as long as it fits within our school improvement needs.
I’m very fortunate to work with a group of educators who noticed that with the privilege of teaching 1:1, also came the responsibility to re-define teaching and learning not only for our students, but for the adults in school as well. Throughout defining this new model of professional learning, we have found that all teachers are now engaged and contributing members of our collective team. We no longer see teachers sitting through a staff meeting or professional development activity as passive bystanders simply abiding by the contract. Consequently, the work that is often done by the small minority in some schools is now being done by all staff. This results in much greater accomplishments for our school as a whole and for the individual teachers and students within our school. Furthermore, while this isn’t the reason to implement the flipped PD concept, it should be stated that teachers are dedicating much more time to their professional learning under this model than they ever did within the traditional format. The fact that ALL teachers are now participating and dedicating more time means we are experiencing more professional growth than ever before. The concept of flipping PD is essential for any school attempting to effectively manage the many professional development needs they face. This iTunes U course
should provide a framework for better understanding the concept of flipped PD.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI
iTunes U Library
Previously I wrote an article about the incredible potential of iTunes U for both student and staff learning. I posed the question: Why Aren’t We Talking More About iTunesU?
I was blown away by the many positive remarks in response to this article from others that have also experienced the benefits of iTunes U. I was recently asked if I would write a follow up to that post. In essence, the request was for me to help those interested in learning more about iTunes U to take the next step and explore how easy it is to build a course.
So, here we go, if you are interested in building a course in iTunes U it really is relatively straightforward and easy. I feel it’s important at this point to emphasize what I mean by easy. As an example, I wouldn’t use the terms straightforward and easy when describing iBooks Author. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that iBooks Author isn’t good, in fact I think it’s a great tool, it’s just not as easy to use as iTunes U. I have had many staff members trained in iBooks Author and while several have been successful in creating a book, when it comes to adding special effects, videos and essentially anything that requires the use of a widget, things quickly become difficult. I haven’t observed any of the same struggles with the many teachers in Boyne City that have created iTunes U courses. In fact, it’s so easy that even this administrator is in the midst of creating his own course. So rest assured, if I can do it, the use of the terms straightforward and easy can be associated with iTunes U.
The first decision you will need to make when creating a course is to publish your course as an individual teacher or under an institutional iTunes U site. To help with that decision here are a couple of basic points for each:
If you decide to publish as an individual teacher you will be limited to 50 course participants and the course will not be a part of the searchable iTunes U library for others to enjoy. This would be a good option for a teacher that wants to see what iTunes U is all about and how it might work in their classroom. However, once you realize what an incredible tool iTunes U is, I would encourage you to invest some time and energy into getting your institution on iTunes U as opposed to continuing to build courses under your private account.
If you decide to publish your course under your institution, the first thing you will need to do is determine who will be your institutions Public Site Manager and then apply to include your institution in iTunes U. The Public Site Manager will need to have the authority to contractually bind your institution to the terms and conditions of the iTunes U service agreement. You should also know that this will be verified through the supervisor’s contact information that is provided during the application process. While these are a couple of additional steps, I would recommend that this be the avenue most schools choose to use. When your course is published under your institution you will experience several benefits; you are not limited to the number of participants for your course, you are granted unlimited upload space, unlimited number of courses, and your course becomes a part of the online catalog of free educational content on iTunes U. There is great benefit in educational institutions working collaboratively to change the landscape of learning for our students and this public iTunes U library is an incredible resource for that collaboration to occur. This public iTunes U library represents one of the best things occurring in educational circles today, namely the free sharing of resources to improve the art of teaching without expecting something in return. PLN’s are developing in educational circles across the globe and within them are the grassroots efforts that will shape the future of education.
Once you make the decision to publish as an individual or an institution you are ready to begin building your course. Courses are developed within the Course Manager
module on your computer. The course manager tool walks you through each step in building a course and provides you directions along the way. If you would like additional support building your course, please visit our website at iPadPD.com
we have a wide variety of resources and tutorials that will assist you in the process of building your course. Another great resource you could use would be this awesome iTunes U course developed by our friends at The de Ferrers Academy on how to build an iTunes U course.
Click to Download Course
This course is full of video demonstrations covering each step of the process of building a course. Download this course on your iPad and you get the added benefit of seeing what it’s like to learn through an iTunes U course.
With iTunes U, it’s easy to create your own custom courses for the iPad and teach them in your classroom. And the iTunes U app puts all the materials you create for your course— syllabus, videos, apps, iBooks, class assignments, and more—all in one place. Right in the app, your students can play videos or audio lectures, read iBooks, and view presentations. They can also see a list of course assignments, then check them off as they’re completed. One of the best features is that they can take notes within iBooks and on videos and they are all organized in one location within the course. It’s also nice that the course can continue to be changed after it’s been published. Any time you create a new post, students receive a push notification informing them of the change.
As I said in my first iTunes U article. I know that schools attempting to implement iPads into instruction have a great deal on their plates. However, in my opinion iTunes U can be one of the keys to unlocking the full potential of the iPad in schools. The sooner educators experience the true benefits of the iPad, the sooner they will discover how to truly change teaching and learning for our students.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI
With so many schools adopting the use of iPads I find it strange that we aren’t hearing more about the incredible opportunities available in iTunes U. Well I suppose it isn’t that strange given that schools in the early stages of transitioning to an iPad platform are extremely busy and learning one more thing can seem overwhelming. Trust me, I understand that, but I believe if you were to learn one more thing it should be about the power of iTunes U. The possibilities of this incredible tool are endless. I’d like to provide you with just a few examples of the many uses of iTunes U in the hopes that more schools will join this incredible network of learning resources.
The first and likely most exciting benefit of iTunes U is the multitude of incredible classroom resources at your disposal. If you aren’t aware of iTunes U, it’s a depository of entire courses of educational content for K-12 institutions, universities and colleges, and other institutions Apple terms Beyond Campus, which includes a wide array of institutions from museums to the Washington National Opera. When I think of the potential of iTunes U, the first thing that comes to my mind are the incredible communities that developed around SMART board users. The benefits of SMART board users sharing their lessons for the benefit of other SMART board users are numerous. It appears to me that iTunes U is based on a similar concept, with the primary difference being that the power and capabilities of an iPad are so much greater than a SMART board.
An important consideration to think about is that the individuals creating these courses are cutting edge classroom teachers. These are individuals that are actually in the classroom using the iPad and web 2.0 resources to engage, motivate and captivate our students. Those of us in the trenches of education understand that there is a benefit in obtaining resources from others in the trenches who are actually using the tools for the same reasons we are. A quick search of the iTunes U catalog reveals many incredible courses full of engaging educational materials and resources. I believe it is through avenues like iTunes U that schools will learn to help our students see learning in new and exciting ways while at the same time opening our classrooms and homes to a wide array of exciting new educational opportunities.
I would love to take a minute to highlight a few courses that I am extremely proud. We have some teachers in our school district learning to use iTunes U and what they have produced in these early stages is very encouraging. Check out the attached links to some of our Boyne City Public Schools iTunes U courses.
Students begin this unit by researching the Solar System with an emphasis on Earth, Sun, and Moon. Then, students are presented with primary and secondary sources regarding the Solar System. Students demonstrate what they have learned by collaborating with each other to create an ePub about the Solar System.
Students will journey through books, videos, songs and illustrations to gain a better understanding of Ecosystems Around the World.
Students begin this unit by learning about the Underground Railroad. Next, they explore videos, apps, and books that expand their knowledge about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Finally, students write an opinion piece about slavery.
Your job is to learn more about presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. Next you will investigate what the Electoral College is and why it is important when campaigning to be president. Finally share, in your Keynote, all of your new knowledge of how to become Chief Executive Officer of the United States.
The second exciting use of iTunes U I hope more schools discover are the many exciting opportunities for teacher professional growth. If a school is looking to train staff on just about any topic, or you would like to experience some personal growth, I would encourage the first step to be researching the topic in iTunes U. Again, some of the nations most technologically advanced individuals have been the first to adopt utilizing the iTunes U platform for sharing their resources and as a result, some of the nations best are those that will be doing the training for your staff. I would encourage you to check out the attached courses from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools or the Cedars School of Excellence as excellent examples of some of the quality staff learning resources you will find on iTunes U. A keyword search of the iTunes U catalog reveals a great number of quality resources on most any professional learning topic. School administrators and teachers alike will agree that the learning resources available on iTunes U are truly exceptional.
Creating iTunes U Courses
This course is intended for teachers and administrators to learn how to manage a class or set of classes through iTunes U. The course covers the basics of setting up a course in iTunes U and adding content to it.
Here's the idea. There are a lot of great ideas out there, and we would love to share them all with you. You have started this website as a way to get the information out to as many as possible in a fun, exciting format. Each week we’ll do our best to focus on one concept or one idea. The beauty is for people throughout the district to connect and share these ideas that are presented here.
We have read a great deal about the benefits of flipped learning for our students and are beginning to hear more and more about the same benefits for staff learning. I have already observed many of the benefits associated with the concept of flipped learning occurring with our students and staff as a result of iTunes U. In fact, one of my favorite student stories this school year was from the student that reported to his classroom teacher that he watched her video six times over the weekend. I can’t think of any other time where a student would have the opportunity to listen to a lesson six times. I can’t think of any reason for an educator not to be excited about this return on investment.
One of the things I like most about providing iPads to all students is that for the first time in my educational career I feel we have made a significant impact on evening the playing field for all students. Now, all students have the same access to educational resources and materials. iTunes U goes a long way in assisting schools in creating this balanced playing field because all of the course materials and resources can be downloaded to the iPad at school while the students are connected to wifi. This includes books, PDF’s, Videos, Music, basically any resource provided in the course can be downloaded to the iPad and accessed any time or any place whether or not the student has internet access at home.
Wherever you are in your voyage of implementing iPads into the classroom, I would strongly encourage you to give iTunes U a look. You can search for resources by course type or keyword. Just one more place to get you lost for a little while as you look for new and exciting activities to use not only with your students, but for your own personal learning as well.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI www.ipadpd.com
My daily PLN reading seems to be full of stories about how to use iPads in the classroom. While this is certainly important information, I believe our Twitter feeds could use a few more stories about the positive impact the introduction of iPads are having in schools. Our school has been working with iPads for three years now and I can easily say that these have been the most exciting years of my educational career.
While the decision to share these positive results is a direct result of the positive impact on student learning, it is also important to realize the impact this initiative is having with teachers. I’ve observed the collective knowledge base of our teachers grow at a rate that far exceeds any other period of time in my 13-years at this school.
I’ve never observed anything else that has had the impact on teacher personal learning like the introduction of the iPad.
A Change In Teaching Style
Our focus over this three year period has been to define what it means to teach in a way that allows students to learn differently as a result of this incredible influx of technology. While this project has probably been one of the most difficult things I’ve had to lead as a principal, the changes I’ve observed in teaching style as a result of this project is likely the most amazing thing I will ever have the privilege of being a part of.
I see teachers learning more each day about what it means to become a facilitator of student learning. I see teachers who understand that students have access to unlimited numbers and types of educational resources and teachers that allow students to take more control of their learning. I’m fortunate enough to work with educators that understand our role is more about developing students that know how to learn than it is about filling their heads with rote knowledge.
I believe that the most successful of the students we are educating today will be those that can find information the fastest and know best what to do with that information. I am simply blown away at the impact this initiative has had on the way our teachers teach and the way students learn.
One of the most uplifting things I’ve observed with the introduction of the iPad into the classroom is the way it has directly impacted the learning environment. I’m observing classrooms that understand that learning shouldn’t be restricted to desks in neat rows.
I’m seeing classrooms where students are not only allowed but are encouraged to get comfortable while they learn. It really is an amazing sight to walk into classrooms and see not only high levels of student engagement, but also high levels of student collaboration. I can’t fully explain this observation, but the classroom environment is more peaceful. I believe this is a result of students having their own highly engaging and personalized learning device and their own space to learn in. They share better, problem solve better and most importantly learn that there is more than one way to solve a problem.
One of the first things we noticed as a result of iPads in the classroom is the direct impact on not only the quantity of student work, but the quality as well. The best examples to depict these points would be in the areas of math and writing. We all know that in a typical math lesson students are assigned about 15-problems to complete for independent work. Even the best of classrooms can milk these 15-problems for 15-20 minutes. When these same types of problems are presented in a game format on an iPad, students spend the same 15-minutes practicing, but will complete exponentially more problems during that same time period. Writing is often one of the most difficult subjects to teach and is often a struggle to consistently get high quality products from students. When students are given the opportunity to CREATE written work on an iPad this subject is transformed. I have enjoyed the opportunity to observe students who were formerly reluctant writers flourish when given the opportunity to work in apps like Book Creator. Because students have the opportunity to create beautiful works of art they see the value in sharing their written work with others. Suddenly, students understand that they are writing for an audience and consequently are self motivated to create a quality product. I’m observing classrooms that don’t have to convince students to write and instead have greater numbers of students that choose to write in their free time than ever before.
Maximizing Student Learning Time
Speaking of students writing in their free time, another tremendous result of our 1:1 iPad initiative is the way it has maximized student learning time and extended the learning day for all of our students. In most learning environments all learners don’t finish a task at the same time. This has always caused problems for educators. How do teachers ensure that their students are taking advantage of down time in the classroom and making responsible choices about what to do during that time. The iPad has dramatically impacted student down time. Because every student has their own iPad individualized for their learning needs, there isn’t down time in the traditional sense of the word. When students complete a task, they know what to do next, they pick up their iPad or switch apps and continue to be engaged in educational content. I’m observing classrooms that have dramatically increased the amount of student learning time as a result of having an iPad for every student. One of the interesting side benefits of this is the impact taking an iPad home can have on student learning.
There are plenty of creative homework assignments I’ve witnessed all of which have resulted in not only deep learning but also improved home school communications. However, some of the most refreshing examples of extended learning opportunities as a result of sending iPads home are the many impromptu learning opportunities that have occurred. One simple example of this are the many iMovies I’ve seen created by families at home. What I know about this is that these families spent quality time together all engaged in learning how to use an incredibly powerful tool. I know in each of these situations that our students had the opportunity to shine at home that night. They were the expert, they had the opportunity to show their parents how to do something. It is so easy to see the benefits of this when that child shows up at school the next day and can’t wait to show you what they created the night before.The Journey Continues…
This has been an incredible journey and I’m so excited to see where it takes us. While redefining what teaching and learning looks like in the 21st century isn’t an easy journey, it’s one well worth taking. Not only have I had the opportunity to observe students engaged with their learning to a degree never before observed, I’m seeing teachers engaged and motivated with their craft to a degree never before witnessed. I’ve never seen anything that can have this impact on both students and teaches at the same time. It is certainly an exciting time to be in education!
Fred Z. Sitkins
Boyne City Elementary Schoolsitkins@boyne.k12.mi.us
Featured in Edudemic Magazine-Connecting Education & Technology, October 2012 Issue, Volume 10
This is the third article in a three part series on why every school should be considering a 1:1 iPad initiative. While the first two articles focused on benefits to students and student learning, this third article will focus on staff benefits, especially those related to teacher professional growth. Just as the iPad offers tremendous benefits in the way it can transform student learning, the same benefits apply to the iPad's impact on adult learning as well. Every school, regardless whether they are trying to implement a 1:1 student initiative or not, is in need of a more efficient method for teaching staff, especially with regards to utilizing technology for teaching. In order to achieve this goal, I recommend that all schools implement a 1:1 STAFF iPad initiative.
The first benefit of a staff 1:1iPad initiative is that when teachers use the iPad as a learning tool, they will better understand how their students can use the device for learning. It is critical that teachers and school leaders learn the way they are asking students to learn. Simply said, in order for teachers to truly change the way they teach and the way students learn, they have to change the way they learn themselves! Until teachers feel what it feels like to learn with technology, they won't understand how students can use technology to learn. Teachers have to see and experience all of the alternative learning materials and resources available online, and they have to struggle finding answers to their own problems through the use of technology. When teachers have first hand knowledge of learning through the use of technology, they will see how this generation has the opportunity to learn in vastly different ways than they did. The opportunities for varied learning experiences are endless.
The most common questions that arise when staff are asked to change the way they teach is, "What does that mean?" or "What does that look like?" Those are extremely difficult questions to explain with words. Instead, it's something that has to be experienced to be understood. I can speak from first hand knowledge. I have always believed that it was important to incorporate technology into the teaching process and even felt pretty confident about my understanding of what that meant. However, I have been on a tremendous learning adventure over the last two years where the majority of my personal learning has occurred through the use of technology. It wasn't until this experience that I truly understood the role that technology could and should play in the educational process. It wasn't until I took on the role of learner through the use of technology that I really understood what changing the way we teach, or students learn, could really mean. What every administrator should be doing, instead of describing this change, is strongly encouraging their staff to experience learning the same way this new generation learns. Every teacher should not only have an iPad, they should be encouraged to use it for as many tasks as possible. This is different than using it with students or allowing their students to use it. Until teachers learn to manage their lives, pay their bills, use it to find life's answers and solve difficult problems, they will not understand how those outside of the educational arena are using these devices to manage their lives. When teachers understand how technology can enhance their learning experience, they will be more inclined to use technology to enhance their instruction.
The second benefit of a staff 1:1 iPad initiative is that it provides better learning opportunities for teachers just as it does for students. If we believe that our students can be more successful through fully incorporating technology into the learning process, then we should also believe that our staff could benefit from the same plethora of resources. School leaders have a responsibility to find a way to take advantage of these new learning possibilities and fully integrate them into the professional development plan for their teachers. It is for this reason that I would recommend we completely FLIP the way we plan for staff PD.
Every educator knows that the traditional staff meeting is antiquated and in many instances a frustrating waste of time. Most of the information provided in a traditional staff meeting can easily be accomplished through other means than requiring everyone to be in one location at the same time listening to a list of information. The time is rigid because we have it in the contract. Consequently, administrators are required to, "use it or lose it" and staff are required to attend and be compliant. Technology provides a vast array of resources to deliver this information more effectively to our staff, and the iPad is the best tool on the market for taking full advantage of these resources. Instead of requiring staff to attend a meeting at a set time so that both sides abide by the contract, let's harness the power of technology and allow them to be professional and obtain the information at the time that works best for them. There are countless resources a school could consider to assist with this task; Twitter, Edmodo, YouTube, TeacherTube, iTunesU, blogs, the list could go on and on. The reality is that there is more educational content and delivery methods available on-line than any army of teachers could ever discover.
Using Edmodo as a Platform for Flipping PD
The traditional staff Professional Development Day must change as well. I'm embarking on an exciting journey with my staff this year in an attempt to redefine the way professional learning should look in a school.The model we will be using is one designed around teacher PLN teams tailored to teacher and building level professional growth needs and interests. Let's face it, the biggest challenge for each building principal is the same as the biggest challenge facing each teacher; namely, learners are very different. Just like our students, our teachers all have different strengths and weaknesses. Their learning has to be tailored to meet their needs. However, the traditional PD model in most schools across our nation is one that functions as though every teacher is the same, with identical needs. Administrators train all staff on the same topic, in the same manner, at the same time. The results are that a small percentage of staff needs are met with that approach. Professional development on technology equipment or software is an easy example. Anyone who has been through this understands what occurs. Some teachers are lost within the first few minutes while others become bored quickly because they don't want to move as slow as the presentation. It is impossible and rarely successful, but we keep following this model year after year even though we know it doesn't work. Instead, schools need to individualize staff learning and provide for continuous on going teacher growth. In subsequent articles I will explain how these teacher PLN teams function and how this new professional learning model looks. You can also follow our progress on www.ipadpd.com
It's time school administrators teach their staff the way they want to see their staff teach students. In order for this to occur, the traditional contractual driven model must change and staff must be provided with the best tools possible for their personal learning and growth. We owe it to our students to change the way we teach our teachers!
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MIwww.ipadpd.com
Featured in Edudemic Magazine-Connecting Education & Technology, September 2012 Issue, Volume 9
The device does matter!
It seems like every school considering a 1:1 program or every pundit talking about implementing a 1:1 program attempts to make the politically correct statement that the device doesn't matter, instead insisting what really matters is what you do with the device. While I agree wholeheartedly that the focus of any 1:1 program needs to be on using the device to enhance learning, the fact remains that the device plays a critical role when it comes to the teacher actually using it and a student's ability to learn with it. Consequently, the device chosen for this learning to occur will either allow this to happen or not.
I've benefited greatly from taking the role of a learner with technology over these last couple of years and as a result, I have first hand knowledge of what it feels like to learn with technology. The most important lesson I've learned over this period is that the device does matter! If we want to help teachers and students learn how to harness the endless possibilities for learning available on the web, we need to utilize a tool like the iPad. And since there isn't really another tool like the iPad in versatility, reliability and flexibility, the iPad is the tool. In my last article I made the argument for every school to consider a 1:1 program and the intent of this article is to lay out 7- additional reasons why every school should ensure that the iPad is the tool of choice for their 1:1 program.Natural User Interface-
There has never been another piece of technology with both the power of an iPad and the functionality to allow for such a wide range of users. We have all seen and heard many tremendous examples of children at the age of 1- being amazingly fluent on an iPad. We have also seen examples of those 100 years and beyond learning how to stay in contact with loved ones, learning and entertaining themselves with ease on their iPad. Today's schools represent an incredibly diverse set of users with very different needs. They need a tool that anyone with any range of skills and intellect can pick up and use naturally. There has never been a tool as capable as the iPad for providing meaningful, engaging content to that wide a range of users.Instant On/All Day Battery Life/Ability to Personalize-
Okay, technically these are 3- reasons, but I think they are better all linked together because they all signify incredible time savers to classroom teachers. This is important, because one of the biggest hurdles to using technology on a regular basis in schools is that it hasn't traditionally been an exercise that allows the teacher to save valuable instructional time. Unfortunately, most teacher's attempts at incorporating technology into their lessons involved spending endless amounts of time getting the computer to turn on, logging in to the students' accounts and troubleshooting a tremendous number of "technical difficulties." The result of this frustration and drain on class time is that most teachers, even those with the best intentions, were forced back into more of a traditional instructional model. No teacher has that kind of class time to donate to these types of frustrations. The iPad turns on instantly, begins with whatever task you were using last, and stays powered up all day long. The fact that each student has a device that they can personalize to the degree they can an iPad removes most of the technical difficulties associated with using more traditional computing tools. Students aren't chained to a charging cord and consequently a static location all day. The result of all of this is that this is the first tool available to classroom teachers that will actually allow them to utilize technology to maximize learning time and provide greater ability for students to learn both individually and collaboratively. iCloud-
I've written on the benefits of the iCloud before, but when thinking about which device a school should choose, the iCloud is an important factor for many reasons. Not only does it make storage of student creations effortless,the iCloud also presents the opportunity for significant cost savings for a school district. The fact that school districts would no longer have to provide for copious amounts of storage space should allow schools to experience significant costs savings not only in network space, but also network support. Many schools are looking into cloud based solutions to provide these cost savings. The iPad comes complete with this solution and the ease of use means that little time is spent teaching students how to save and find their material. The iCloud is a tremendous tool which Apple understands and is dedicated to making as strong as possible.
Fourth grade students at Boyne City Elementary conducting research on the iPad
Apple has clearly made the statement to educational institutions that they are dedicated to making the iPad the best educational tool possible through their development of iBooks Author. I see this powerful tool having a tremendous amount of potential. It is in the early stages of use and will have a relatively difficult learning curve for teachers. However, teachers are some of the most creative and resourceful people I know and as a result they will help fulfill the potential of iBooks Author. I expect to see a great deal of educational content available soon because of the development of iBooks Author. iTunes U-
Speaking of tools with a tremendous amount of potential for schools, iTunes U is probably the tool with the most potential. iTunes U allows educators to create and share a wide variety of educational content. If there's anything teachers like to do, it's create and share. Earlier examples of this would include the incredible networks that have been established among SMART and Promethean interactive white board users. With the strong gathering currently being developed around the flipped learning network, the availability of resources, and the sheer number of iPads being deployed in schools around the nation, iTunes U is going to be a location full of tremendous tools for use in any school with iPads. Apple TV Mirroring-
The ability for staff and students alike to use the iPad as a presentation tool is a real asset to schools. Never have teachers been able to present engaging learning material as easily as they can through the mirroring capabilities provided through the use of an iPad, $99 Apple TV unit and a digital projector. This functionality provides a wireless method for displaying content with students and the flexibility to switch between student devices and a teacher device effortlessly. No time is wasted trying to plug in cords and you aren't bound by the location of the cord. What I've observed in classrooms with this technology are levels of sharing and collaboration never seen before. In fact, what I've heard from teachers utilizing this technology is that their interactive white board is no longer needed. Not only is the interactive white board not needed, but the document cameras aren't needed either. With the aide of a device to hold the iPad, the camera functionality serves as a wonderful document camera. Simply turn on the camera app, and whatever is placed under the iPad is displayed for all to see just as a document camera would have traditionally done. The iPad gives teachers one tool that accomplishes everything that a table full of tools were needed to do before. Iconic Status-
Let's face it, the iPad and Apple for that matter are at an iconic status. All of us traditional PC users can continue to turn a blind eye to this fact, but this new generation of tech users can't and won't turn a blind eye. They don't have the same old preconceived notions getting in their way that we do. They simply want the most powerful tool with the greatest functionality available for their needs and in most cases, Apple makes this device. Just look around, most youth and anyone who is anyone is using an Apple device. You can like that fact or not, but it's still true. I can't remember a time when schools could provide all students with a learning tool that they REALLY want. The device does matter
if you really want to transform teaching and learning. If you only want to implement technology for technology's sake, buy any technology you want. However if your want to implement technology for the purpose of changing the way that teachers teach and the way students learn, then the iPad is the tool that will give your teachers and students alike the best opportunity to be successful with this goal. Please check out great classroom examples that showcase the possibilities of student success with the iPad at www.ipadpd.com
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI www.ipadpd.com
Picture Attribution: www.ipadpd.com
Fourth Grade Student Projects Created with iPads