November 10, 2014

The Holy Grail of Graphing on iPad: Trend Line & Coefficient of Determination (for free)

It's been the Holy Grail of graphing problems on the iPad for a long time now: creating scatterplot graphs with trend line and r2 value. The Numbers app is great (and free with new iPads) but for high school science teachers it has one huge epic fail: graphs can't display trend lines or the coefficients of determination. There have been a number of workarounds for this issue but there is finally a simple way to do it using Excel for iPad.

The Excel app for iPad has been free since it came out but it could only open and view Excel spreadsheets, not create or edit them. All that changed a few days ago when Microsoft announced they were making some functions in the Excel app available for free with additional features only available with an Office 365 subscription.

When I did my first test I signed into the app with my Microsoft account but I'm not sure if that's required.

What do you think - will the free Excel app help your students do better work in science class? Were you able to skip signing in with your Microsoft account? Let us know in the comments!

October 30, 2014

Malaga, Spain Reflections

Participants sharing key take-aways at the end of Day 1
It was fantastic to work with the talented educators at the Norske Skolen i Malaga, Spain the last few days! I was very nervous heading over to work with this group because I'm not as familiar with the Norwegian system of education as I am with our own here in the States. I was worried that what I knew about iPad in schools might not transfer to a different culture and system.

I shouldn't have worried - the educators I worked with are some of the most passionate, fun and thoughtful folks I've had the pleasure of working with! Here are a few key reflections I had from the program:

Attitude trumps technical skills every time.
iPad is still new to many folks, apps are constantly changing and the OS gets updates. I love to see educators who have a positive attitude about technology in the face of this change. Teachers who can identify connections between established teaching methods, their students, and new tools will build tech into their classrooms in meaningful ways. As someone who teaches teachers for living my role is to provide the opportunity for these connections to take place.

Consume - Create - Context
A trainer from Golden Mac talked about how iPad can be used to consume content, create content and also to provide context. I love this idea. In fact I think this is how every teacher training should work! Teachers should see from the presenter an idea (consume) and then have a chance to do something with that idea (create). After creating (and sharing what they made) teachers should have the chance to reflect on that idea and draw connections back to their teaching (context).

Thoughtful technology integration should be the same (but different).
Here's the thing - I was an American teaching Norwegian (and a few bonus Swedish) teachers at a school in Spain. Even though we sometimes swapped between four languages we were all speaking the same fundamental language: the language of teachers. Thoughtful technology integration is grounded in engaging teachers in a conversation with academic leadership, students, and parents about what matters in school. The tools, apps, devices, and ideas that flow from that conversation will almost feel inevitable. Technology integration will look different in every school (and every country / culture) but the questions can be grounded in a similar process.

Do you have any questions for me about how the training went? Were you at the training and you'd like to share more of your thoughts? Keep the conversation going in the comments below!

October 16, 2014

How to Produce an 'Authentic Best' Admission Video

It was such a pleasure to work with Sant Bani School (SBS) these last few weeks to produce an admission video. Not only do my children attend the school, but Sant Bani's mission and methods also resonate with what I believe about education. The school had done some student-produced videos in the past (what I call 'authentic style') but wanted to do a higher quality admission piece that was on message, easily digestible, and relatively evergreen.

Here's how we went about it.

Concept Meeting 
The idea for the video concept came from a story the Director of Admission told me. She was talking to a new family who said, "Our daughter has told us more about what she has learned in the first few days of school than she did all last year in public school." That's quite a claim!

Could we replicate that kind of testimonial on camera? Would it be possible to tell a story around this idea?

At the concept meeting we considered broad topics like audience, messaging goals and desired outcomes. We settled on the following goals:

  • Create a video for prospective lower / middle school parents
  • Express the key idea that at SBS, "kids love going to school"
  • Nature-based and experiential education are central themes at the school
  • The desired outcome was to drive parents to the web site and schedule a tour 
After we settled on the desired outcomes it was time to start thinking about format for the video. 

Video Format 
We knew the video wanted to be in the 'authentic best' style but we needed a few more specifics:

  • Length should be under two minutes so the audience would (hopefully) watch the whole thing
  • We needed parent testimonials
  • We wanted to see children learning interesting things in an interesting environment preferably outdoors 
Once we knew the concept and the format we were ready to schedule filming days.

Filming Session 1
We identified two teachers who were doing interesting things outside in the coming week. Our first filming session was interviewing these teachers around three questions:

  • What will we see / hear / experience during the outdoor projects
  • How do these lessons reflect what you believe about teaching and learning
  • How does the overall mission of the school support this kind of teaching and learning 
Including setup, waiting for teachers to be available, and actually filming, this session took about two hours.

Filming Session 2 
The second filming session was B Roll of the outside classes. Because we had interviewed the teachers first we knew what to expect and tried to capture some of the moments we had heard the teachers talking about from the first session. We got footage of a first grade class studying habitats which we ended up using in the video and additional footage of a third grade class at a vernal pool. We plan to use the vernal pool shots in the next video.

This session took the longest because we didn't want to disturb the flow of the classes. All together we took about three hours to get the shots we needed.

Filming Session 3 
Now we needed parent testimonials. We shot these at the end of the day as parents were picking up their kids so we didn't need to schedule an extra time to get a parent to come to campus. While we were waiting for parents to arrive I was able to get a few extra shots that just kind of happened. The kids sitting under the tree at the end of the video and the apple tree sequence are examples of this kind of shot. We were sure this session would be the hardest. We hoped parents would say what we needed but we didn't want to make it sound too coached or forced. We shouldn't have worried, with a minimum of prompting we got exactly what we were looking for! 

This session took about two hours.

Editing and Revisions
When I really get rolling I can produce a minute of finished video in about an hour. I was a little slower with this piece—I was able to produce a first revision within a day of the third filming session. The school was quick with thoughtful suggestions and feedback so we were able to produce a few more revisions within short order.

Once the video was complete the school published it on its YouTube channel and also embedded the video on the Admission page.

What do you think of the video? Do you have questions about how we produced it? Let us know in the comments! Thanks to Brooke for help editing this article!

October 15, 2014

Inspirations and Ideas from #PAIS14 (the maker edition)

Opening Keynote by John Chubb, President NAIS
The Pennsylvania Association of Independent School's annual conference was a fantastic event marked with fascinating keynotes, massive attendance and a beautiful setting. Many thanks to Kim Sivick for organizing!

It exciting to meet folks in real life who I've known for some time on Twitter (hi @jonathanemartin) and make new friends (@fyasharian, @karenblumberg, @adambellow and others!). It was also remarkable to see how much interest there was in project-based learning, deeper learning, and the maker movement.

Here are a few inspirations, ideas and resources I took away from the conference!

Every conference should have a Maker Playground in the vendor area with both high tech goodies and low tech ideas.

Kinetic sculpture in the Maker Playground
I loved the idea of buying a cheap quadcopter, removing the case and asking students to design and build a new chassis. Take a look at this example build with a 3D printer.
Student built quadcopter with 3D printed chassis
How about a design project for makers challenging students to make something interesting from a plastic bottle?

I loved hearing about the engineering process and how it differs from the scientific process.

Invent to Learn seems like a great resource for makers and tinkerers.

Also here is the most inspiring scotch commercial ever (not kidding).

Sadly I lost a great article on educating through failure - help, can anyone point me to it?

And many many thanks to the talented and kind Hadley Ferguson for the ride to the train station. Check out her new book Unleashing Student Superpowers!

Did you attend #PAIS14? What were your favorite memories and most useful takeaways? Let us know in the comments!

October 9, 2014

How Technology is Transforming My Students' Learning Experience (Guest Post)

The following post is by science teacher Sue Houston from Proctor Academy. She was a participant in one of our first iPad workshops and I've been following her journey with the iPad for several years. Recently she was showing me some of the really impressive things she was doing in her science classes. I asked her to write this guest post and she was gracious enough to agree. If you have questions, comments or ideas let us know in the comments! -Hans

A couple of years ago the Head of School where I work posed this question "If you had the opportunity, how would you use Technology in the Classroom?"  My reaction was immediate, visceral and negative and something like "I don't want any screens between me and my students!"  I felt strongly that the classroom was a sacred space for human-to-human interaction and that technology posed a threat to this.

That next summer our school sent a dozen of us to what we dubbed "I-pad camp with Hans."  It was an intensive 4 day conference about how to use I-pads as teaching tools. Dubious, but not knowing what I did not know, I went to the conference determined to soak up everything possible. It was a great experience and that fall I started to integrate I-pads into my curriculum.  I was surprised and delighted to find students' experiences to be enriched.

Now two years later I am finding that much of what I once thought I knew as an educator I am now questioning.

In this age of instant access to information, I have come to believe our job as educators is no longer to stand at the front of the room and deliver the facts.  Students can obtain facts in an instant anywhere there is wifi.  What do they need from us?  Do we still have a role? The answer to me is a resounding "Yes!" We are still very much needed, and in this age of hyper stimulation and information over load, perhaps we are needed more than ever!

We know from behavioral science that organisms are motivated to perform behaviors more by
positive reinforcement than by fear of punishment.  We know from neuroscience that when we light up the "seeking circuits" of the brain there are rewarding neurochemicals secreted.  We also know that the emotional state of the learner is fundamental to successful learning.  Humans are social primates.  We learn by interacting and by doing.  We learn best when we are happy and our seeking circuits are in full swing.

So what is the role of the modern day educator?  I believe it is to orchestrate our classrooms to create the key conditions in our students' brains for learning: happy, seeking circuit activated, socially interacting, positive neurochemical releasing brains! We also need to do all this within a framework for students to learn the material we are teaching.  When you look at it all this way you can begin to see how challenging teaching can be!

So how can technology play a role in all this?  It is simply a tool for students that allows them to experience learning in a much more interesting and engaging way. For example, rather than having my chemistry students simply fill out a piece of paper listing their observations during a lab, and answering a set of questions, now they are working in small groups, documenting their experiments with photographs, inserting these photos, along with observations and inferences, into their own creative lab reports using the app "Notability." Students are using these tools, which they intrinsically enjoy, to create their own piece of unique work.  In the end they own the knowledge at a much deeper level.

In my Climate Science course, students are again working in small groups to explore pieces of the climate puzzle.  My goal is for them to gain a deep and intuitive understanding of all the moving parts that create the Earth's climate.  In the old days I told them "Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas..."  Last week, I gave them the ingredients to make CO2 gas and asked them to experiment until they figured out how to demonstrate several of Carbon dioxide's properties.
They loved this activity, and happily recorded their experiments using I-pads.

The metaphor I like to use right now for education is this. The teacher has scouted the route up the rock face.  Students are climbers, each one finding excitement in the challenge of the climb while peers are on the rock face too, being part of the team. Students know the teacher is on the other end of the belay rope, ready to catch any climber who falls.  Technology like I-pads and computers provide the ropes and carabiners to help the climbers succeed. The learning experience is intrinsically motivating because it is enjoyable and based on relationships of trust.

September 29, 2014

iPad Deployment with Teacher-Led Mini-Lessons

There are many ways to do an iPad deployment. One method I like is to ask teachers to lead mini-lessons at the start of school to train students in iPad use.

This does a couple of important things:

  • It puts training in the hands of the most qualified adults in your community: the educators
  • It engages teachers in a conversation about what iPad tasks are important enough to include in the first days of class
  • It positions teachers as iPad experts
Before you ask teachers to give up class time there are few conversations you'll need to have... okay there are MANY conversations you'll need to have!

For example you might:

  • Gather a deployment working group
  • Articulate goals 
  • Set configuration and deployment tasks 
  • Determine timelines and roles 
  • Develop a training plan and supporting materials 
  • Launch your device deployment and mini-lessons 
  • Assess your deployment process 
  • Provide ongoing support

What do you think - do you like this idea? How did you roll out your iPad program? Let us know in the comments!

The 'Check out what I made on my phone' video challenge!

It's a common trap in communications to not make anything for fear of making something that isn't good enough.

One way to get around this issue is to give yourself permission to make something that is short, fun, not laser focused on message, and with low production value. I call this kind of video 'Authentic' because it is a quick, authentic look into your organization.

Use this kind of video for:
  • Cool things you notice while walking around campus
  • Celebrating events on campus like curriculum night, homecoming or parent weekend
  • Quick turn around when you don't have much time or equipment
Here's how to make an 'Authentic' style video right from your iPhone:
  • Bring your phone around with you all the time
  • Get one of these and tuck it into your bag or pocket
  • When something is happening open the camera app (included with your phone) and shoot a few short clips in the 5-10 second range (longer clips will take too long to edit)
  • When you have a few minutes of footage open the iMovie app ($4.99 or free with new phone)
  • Edit together your clips in 2-3 second cuts, don't make your movie longer than a minute
  • Add some royalty free music you bought on the iTunes store
  • Upload to YouTube
In my conversation with Dan last week I talked about this in more detail:

In case you missed it here is the video I made from my phone to see how it would go.

Go ahead and make something this week! What should you make a video about? How about something easy: whatever is happening this week. Try one of these topics or think of your own!

  • Lunch
  • Getting your kids ready for school
  • Getting yourself ready for work
  • Walking the dog
  • Meetings
  • Classes
  • Arts
  • Athletics
  • Doing homework
  • Helping someone with homework
  • Your room
  • Your house
  • Your campus
  • Your pets
If you make something send me the link and I'll feature it on next week's Conversation with Dan!

September 18, 2014

Should Teachers and Students be 'Friends'?

I spoke with a reporter from with the Today Show web site last week regarding social media guidelines for schools. Her article Social media boundaries: should teachers and students be 'friends'? just hit the interwebs.

What do you think? How should schools and young people interact on social networks? Let me know in the comments!

September 16, 2014

This is too much fun to actually call work.

Here is how I spent my afternoon yesterday. Despite nearly crashing trying to take off in some deep grass and causing a minor disturbance in a classroom by flying outside the building it was a very successful day. For the record I didn't damage any propellers and I wasn't looking in the windows!

September 11, 2014

A Question, an Experiment, and a Suggestion

Photo Credit

Imagine your new view book arrives on campus. You open the first of dozens of boxes and find a slight printing error: in a quarter of the view books the print is very very small. Everything else is fine, in fact if you hold the view book up to your face you can read it perfectly. Here's the question:

How many of those view books do you mail to prospective families?

You probably wouldn't mail any of those view books. You would probably send them back to the printer with an angry note. But your web site might look exactly like those misprinted view books right now! Text could be hard to read, photos might not load properly, and menus could be nearly impossible to select. Don't worry, you haven't been the victim of a hacker attack, your site just hasn't kept up with how people go online.

Increasingly people go online on their phones or tablets. For one of my clients in an urban area the percentage of web traffic from mobile devices including tablets is 40%!

Here is an experiment everyone in communications or admissions should try:

Go to your website on a phone or tablet.

How does your site look? Are you delighted? Are your marketing messages still loud and clear? Is anything broken? Can you find the admission menu? Your site might not look quite right because web designers face a massive number and variety of different screen sizes, operating systems, and devices. Previous solutions to this problem included:
  • Specific apps for specific platforms - it's hard to keep up with the number of platforms, and what casual site visitor is going to go the app store to download something just to see your site?
  • Mobile versions of the site - these work well for people already familiar with your community and who just need quick directions or logistical information but they are usually devoid of marketing messages important for admission.
  • Ignoring the problem - this could work well for a little while longer, but with up to 40% of your site visitors seeing something that is at best annoying and at worst broken can we afford to wait much longer?
The good news is there is an emerging web standard to address this problem! It's called Responsive Web Design or RWD. Essentially what this means is websites can be designed to be device agnostic. The site notices the size of the screen and automatically adjusts to fit the real estate available.

Check out Whipplehill's cool infographic on RWD below and the original post here.
Click to view full size.

You probably wouldn't throw out all your view books if a few were misprinted but you might work quickly to resolve the issue as you carefully used the correctly printed pieces first. Would you wait a whole admission cycle? Probably not, and I don't recommend school sites wait much longer to move to Responsive Web Design either.

 What do you think? Are you worried about how your site looks on mobile devices? How much traffic do you see to your site from phones? Let us know in the comments!