The Hottest Posts That Everyone is Reading

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Jun 24, 2012, 3 comments                                5,642 Pageviews
How an innovative educator became interested in cell phones ...
Jun 29, 2012, 1 comment                                 2168 Pageviews
Jun 26, 2012, 2 comments                                2077 Pageviews
Two Rules of Instructional Coaching
Jun 28, 2012                                                       1975 Pageviews
How Self-Directed Learners Earn a Living Without a...
Jun 17, 2012, 11 comments                              1835 Pageviews
Meeting the faces behind the minds I love at ISTE
Jun 27, 2012, 1 comment                                  1606 Pageviews
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How an innovative educator became interested in mobile devices for learning

In September 2005 the decision to ban cell phones in New York City public schools was enacted. At the time policy makers saw cell phones as nothing more than a distraction and tool for academic dishonesty while parents viewed these devices as a lifeline to their children.

The “No Cell Phones” rule was strictly enforced with the help of the New York City Police Department, which was enlisted to conduct random sweeps, complete with metal detectors, and to confiscate technology from kids, many of whom were reduced to tears. There were educators on both sides of the issue.  Some were relieved by the policy but others not only trusted their students to behave responsibly, but also understood that cell phones could serve as powerful learning tools.  My friend and thought-leader, Marc Prensky was outspoken on the issue, explaining in his presentations and writing, “What Can You Learn from A Cell Phone? Almost Anything!”

In his blog, Weblogg-ed, my friend and mentor Will Richardson shares some important lessons students learned as a result of the ban.  
“First, the cell phone ban teaches students they don’t deserve to be empowered with technology the same way adults are. Second, the tools that adults use all the time in their everyday lives to communicate are not relevant to their own communication needs. Third, they can’t be trusted (or taught, for that matter) to use phones appropriately in school.” (June 1, 2007)
Despite the ban, I joined Richardson, Prensky, and other educators, parents, students, and even policy makers in being keenly aware that cell phones are an important part of the way kids communicate and learn. We know that if we don’t model and allow students to demonstrate the appropriate use of these technologies, for accessing information, for communicating, in safe, ethical, and effective ways, then we have no right to be surprised when our worst fears come true.

I was frustrated by the ban, and like the students and their parents, I felt powerless. However, while students couldn’t be empowered to use their technology in schools, what first inspired me to take notice of cell phones as learning tools was the day that I spent at the Google Teacher Academy. It was there that I learned about Google SMS, a tool I could use to harness anytime/anywhere without a computer, and without the Internet.  All that was required was the ability to text from my phone.  Exciting!  I could find definitions of words, translations of sentences, currency and measurement conversion, calculator functions, weather, and much more, all with just a basic cell phone.

Next up was when I attended Alan November’s Building Learning Communities conference.  I met up with other innovative educators after the first conference day and we spent an hour or two experimenting with ChaCha. Just text 242 242 on your phone and ask anything at all.  Wow! I thought.  With just a cell phone anyone could find out anything at all that they wanted to know. I saw this as a powerful tool for both teachers and students, many of whom had access to cell phones but not the Internet at home. It was then that I really recognized the power of cell phones as a tool that could help bridge the digital divide for students.

I began integrating the use of cell phones into my teacher professional development.  I showed teachers how they could use things like Google SMS and ChaCha and I also began using polling tools like Poll Everywhere, Text the Mob, and Wifitti.  Unfortunately, my excitement was not shared by everyone. A supervisor discovered I was allowing teachers to harness the power of cell phones and mandated that I refrain from using the banned student devices with teachers.  In 2008 it became a news story. The headline in the New York Sun read Despite School Cell Phone Ban, Course Sees Them as Aid. I was told I could teach the class, but that no one could use their cell phones!  

An expert at thinking outside the ban, while not thwarting outdated mandates, I didn't let that stop me. I used the Google SMS virtual phone and showed teachers how to use tools like Cha Cha and polling from their computers.  Then I explained all of this could be done with just cell phones as well. Teachers were empowered with ways to access knowledge and information through either a phone OR a laptop. They could use this knowledge for themselves and they could also model this for their students who may not have Internet at home, but might have access to cell phones.

Interestingly at the same time I was told I couldn't use real phones when teaching educators how to embrace their cells for learning, the Department of Education was working with Roland Fryer on  the Million Cell Phone program which provided thousands of cell phones to students as incentives for achievement in school.  When they heard of my work and direction, they brought me in to consult with them on how they could embrace the devices as instructional tools. Finally, we were empowered to use the devices in our pockets for learning with teachers, and students outside of school.  Progress!  

In 2009 it seemed we had taken another step back. The New York City Department of Education discontinued texting services for administrators which hindered our ability to build upon what we had started.  Not only were students not entrusted to use technology appropriately, but educational leaders were also suspect.  The lines of communication and strategies I had incorporated into my professional development were swept away in an instant.  

Many of us were frustrated, yet instead of accepting the ban, I worked to educate my superiors by sharing the ways we were using texting for educational purposes. I wrote an article explaining how cells could be used to enhance the work of educational leaders (these ideas are covered later in this book) that was shared both in my blog and in Gotham Schools, a local source for education news.  Good news! After sharing ways educational leaders were using texting to work more effectively, our texting ability was reinstated for those who indicated they were using cell phones for such purposes.

Today I embed the use of cell phones into the work I do with teachers and students.  At my training center I bring students and adults together in an environment of respect, trust, learning and we are a fully “No Ban Zone.”  I have seen first hand the excitement, creativity, and learning that occurs when adults and students are trusted and empowered to use the tools they choose. I’m not alone.  Educators across the world (many of whom you’ll hear about in this book) are harnessing the power of student-owned devices like cell phones for learning with great success.  

I believe we should empower school leaders, teachers, students, and their families to use the best tools they have available to them for learning. It is my hope to inspire others to not only think outside the ban but to work to break the bans that are unnecessarily and unfairly holding our 21st century children in the world of their teacher’s, leader’s, and policymaker’s pasts.  

Check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning for more ideas about thinking outside the ban to harness the power of student-owned devices for learning including policies, contracts, management ideas, and research.
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Two Rules of Instructional Coaching

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Meeting the faces behind the minds I love on Twitter at ISTE

At the recent International Society for Technology Educator’s (ISTE) Tweetup I had the opportunity to meet with the faces behind the minds I interact with throughout the year. With smiles and hugs abound, those in attendance didn’t miss a beat in picking up conversations face-to-face that had begun online.

Those that use social media for learning understand the power of connections and attachments made possible by the platform. Unfortunately many of us work in schools and districts that have administrators and policy makers ignorant about use these platforms, making rules, policies, and guidelines that keep students stuck in the past.

Their conversations are familiar...
Our kids need to learn to speak eye to eye, not thumb to thumb.
Our kids don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.

They shake their heads and nod with understanding  lamenting that allowing these tools will result in the inability of today’s youth to engage appropriately in face-to-face interactions. Of course, when you scratch just below the surface the flawed logic is crystal clear. Did phone calls or letter writing weaken our ability to communicate face-to-face? No! Are folks making deeply meaningful connections using social media? Yes. Is social media necessary for success if you want to run a business, run for office, or change how things are run? Yes.  

So, if adults are powerfully engaging in these worlds, but young people are banned from doing the same, whose to blame when students are not communicating at the level expected by adults? 

Communication in any form enables us to grow and deepen our relationships with other. Our job as educators is to support students in moving with fluidity across multiple communication options i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangout, Skype, IM, text, etc. etc.

Tom Whitby, one of the founders of #EdChat (an ongoing synchronous & asynchronous education chat on Twitter) explained it this way.  I’ve worked at schools and institutions for years with people who worked behind closed doors and barely talked to each other.  Social media opens doors allowing you to connect and develop relationships with those who are enthusiastic about engaging with others to get smarter about the work we do. Online we often make deep connections with others around the world who would be happy to invite you into their home with just a phone call.

The use of social media and digital technologies, does not keep us further apart. These are the tools that can enable us to make important global connections that bring us all closer together.  When we converse online from around the world, it is wonderful and powerful and when we have the chance to meet face-to-face it’s like a great party bringing together good friends.

Instead of blocking and banning our policy makers and administrators must allow us to support students in doing the same and the Tweeps I had the chance to meet up with in San Diego can tell you why we can no longer rob students of this crucial 21st century skill.  

Our job as educators should be to support students in making these global connections and provide opportunities for the face-to-face to occur.  Here are the faces behind the minds I love that gatherings like the ISTE Tweetup makes possible.

If you're wondering what meeting those minds looks like, check out this awesome stop motion video by Ken Shelton.

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Come hear me at ISTE today to discuss literacy magic with mobile devices

Join me today at ISTE Live where I'll be moving at lightening speed to show some ways we can use mobile learning devices to enrich literacy. 

We all know the benefits of a literacy-rich environment. How can we engage today's learners by incorporating the devices young people have into that environment? In this session we'll look at what can happen if we allowed student devices to come out of hiding and into the classroom. More and more teachers across the globe are discovering fun and exciting ways to engage learners by using student-owned devices to enrich learning in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Join me and discover ways educators are engaging in this work by

  • Introducing some commonly used tools;
  • Indicating ideas for how they are used in the reading and writing classroom and;
  • Sharing stories about how innovative educators and young people are doing this work.

If you're in San Diego join me live from 2:00 - 2:30 (Pacific Time/5:00 EST) at The ISTE Live area located behind the Blogger's Cafe in the Sails Pavilion.

If you can't be at the session, please join me via live stream at the following link:
Blackboard Collaborate Room Link

You can see the materials I'm sharing in the presentation below.

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4 ways a new reality is augmenting education

Guest Post by Brendan OKeefe 

I remember being excited by the cool uses of Augmented Reality (AR) in Minority Report and wishing real gesture based computing was here now. I remember the first time I built something using AR tools thinking that this something had changed forever. Being an innovative educator, what excited me most was how this could be used as a tool to engage learners.

It’s been many years since the release of Minority Report and now it seems that finally, there is a shift happening and it’s going to bring some exciting new possibilities to your web browser in the next 18 months or so. You can see a sneak peek here in The Awesome Web.

There are many ways to use augmented reality in your teaching. Here are my top 4 suggestions for winning with the use of augmented reality in your school, community or library.

Add rich media and social media to any book or object. For example augmented reality can connect your books to Video, 3D, Images, Audio, Pinterest, goodreads, Shelfari, Great Book Stories, YouTube, Vimeo, facebook, Twitter, Amazon and more. See examples of Augmented Reality used for education via books here.

Create engaging homework in a neat little digital bundle accessible from most any mobile device simply by scanning an image. Call them digital study bundles, and make them accessible via some of these mediums; posters, book covers, printed photos, places youth congregate, hijacked public posters. See tours for more information.

Posters - Hot Topics/News/Special Days
Bring hot topics, special days, discussion points and recent news to life with AR. How about Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Elections, Natural Disasters, Thanksgiving, Australia Day.
See examples of Augmented Reality for education via posters here on Teachers pay Teachers.

Tours and Public Spaces
Get your students out and about, active and stimulated. The fact is movement aides learning. Find a way to create a homework or study tour using AR.

Embed homework assignments into spaces where young people congregate before and after school. The bus stops, train stations near school or the big transportation hubs. Or how about the food court or other popular areas in the local shopping mall. You could also try placing a weeks worth of homework around town at local landmarks. Stay tuned as I will be piloting this here in Australia and documenting the findings very soon.

If you want to explore more on AR in Education...

Get in touch with Brendan Okeefe to share your thoughts and ideas, request a book to be augmented, or learn how to augment reality yourself by contacting him at
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ISTE SIGs help innovative educators find their people

I flew to the International Society of Technology Educators (ISTE) conference in San Diego with an art teacher from Vermont named Lisa. This was her first ISTE conference and she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My advice was to “find your people” and see what they suggest. If you’ve never been to a conference, how do you do that?

If you’re an innovative educator, one way is through special interest groups.  ISTE’s special interest groups (SIGs) are a great way to find others who share your interests and it’s free for members. There are dozens of groups with thousands of members each from around the world.  You can see for yourself below.

Joining a special interest group connects you year-round to professional development opportunities, resources, listserves, podcasts, discussion forums, webinars, face-to-face forums and events at ISTE and elsewhere and more! SIGs also come together to find like-minded people to do things like write books or create podcasts.  

Each special interest group has a few great ways to connect.

If you’re an ISTE member, check out the list below and join the SIG(s) that’s right for you.
Oh, and if you see Lisa, the art educator from Vermont, let her know she should connect with and join the Arts Educators (SIGAE).
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A Friendly Guide to Deploying iPads at Your School

Guest post by Steve Kinney. Cross posted at 

There is a lot to like about the iPad when it comes to using them in the classroom. It’s light and fast. It turns on instantly. The battery lasts all day. Best of all, it’s about half the price of a MacBook. Let’s face it, price matters when you’re buying at scale.

For personal use, the iPad is a breeze to set up. Turn it on, connect to a wireless network, enter your Apple ID, and you’re ready to go. If you’re already a resident of the Apple ecosystem, your apps are waiting for you in on a “Purchased” list in the App Store and backups of your other devices are available via iCloud for download to your current device. If you’re a new convert, getting started and downloading apps is a relatively painless experience.
There is also a lot to like about iOS. It’s a lean, mean operating system. It’s use of sandboxing keeps it relatively clutter free. iOS doesn’t do a lot, but it’s pretty good at what it does do.

That said, deploying iPads at any kind of scale is just short of maddening. While the process of tapping around to install one app on one iPad isn’t too bad, installing a dozen apps on hundreds iPads isn’t a particularly appealing way to spend a month. If you are going to deploy iPads at scale, you need a strategy. You need a battle plan. In addition, you will also need to stay hydrated. I don’t think I’ve discovered the silver bullet, but I’ll share some of my experiences with you in order to, hopefully, shorten the learning curve.
First, kindly allow me to give you some background. I am the technology coordinator at The Scholars’ Academy, a public school in New York City. This year, we piloted a one-to-one iPad program in the seventh grade. We also have several smaller deployments—including two class sets in the eighth grade, a half-class set for each department in the high school, and a iPad for each teacher. Next year, we’re doubling down and expanding our pilot to include one-to-one iPads in the eighth grade and an increased deployment in the high school. For the sake of brevity and due to fact that the New York City Department of Education haven’t worked out a process for purchasing apps, I’m going only going to cover basic setup and the installation of free apps. In addition, I will be completely ignoring the Assign tab as it requires that you have a Mac OS X Lion Server in place and configured. I do, but many do not.
Consider this a freshman level tutorial. We can cover more advance topics at a later date, if you’re interested. If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.
On paper, Lion Server should work. It might be my school’s Byzantine network setup, it might be false promises and half-hearted attempts (I’m looking at you iCloud), or it might just be me, but I’ve never gotten it to play nicely with our fleet. My current strategy involves using another tool from Apple called Apple Configurator, which was quietly released alongside the new iPad in March of 2012.
Apple Configurator is a fickle mistress. Although the latest version (1.0.1, as of this writing) boasts improved stability, it’s still pretty buggy. There is a zen to Apple Configurator. If you learn how to go with the flow, your experience will be exponentially less frustrating then if you swim upstream and try to bend it to your whim.
Some caveats:
Apple Configurator has three modes: Prepare, Supervise, and Assign. Prepare mode gets your iPads configured to work with Apple Configurator. You can tweak the settings and hit the button labelled “Prepare” on the bottom-center of the window. If all goes well, this will set off an infinite loop that will prepare and all iPads connected to your Mac. Additional emphasis should be placed on the words “if all goes well.”

Prepare Mode

Prepare mode has a few options that you can tweak to your tastes. It can name your devices in sequential order prefixed by whatever text your heart desires. It can install a any one of a number of different versions of iOS. For most features, you will need to be using iOS 5.1 or later.
Theoretically, you can also install applications, restore from a backup, and install configuration profiles in this view—but I recommend against it. I have had little success attempting to do more than one thing at a time with the Apple Configurator.
Step one is to get your iPads updated to iOS 5.1 and turn on supervision. At this point, do not get carried away with any other features. I’ve included a screenshot below for reference.
Once, you’ve prepared all of your iPads. It’s time to switch tabs. Click on the icon labelled “Supervise” in the tool bar. If all went well, you should have three panes. A list of groups on the left, a list of devices in that group in the center, and settings on the right. The groups on the left are a lot like tags in Gmail. A given device can be in as many groups as you need. There is also a special group that contains all of the devices currently connected to your computer by USB.
You can make changes to devices that are not currently connected, but those changes will not take effect until next time the device is connected. You can select all of the devices in a group by selecting “All Devices” at the top of the list. If you scroll up past the top of the list, some secret options will appear—such as sorting options and a search box.
"Prepare Mode"
The right column is where all of the action is. This column is itself broken up into two views: Settings and Apps. All of the options should look pretty familiar, but this time, we’re going to dig in a little deeper.
Our first order of business is to setup some configuration profiles. If you’ve made profiles in the past using the iPhone Configuration Tool, you can import them or you can just start from scratch. If you choose to create a new profile a sheet will drop down with a plethora of options—I’ll focus on only the most pertinent ones.
A quick word about setting up configuration profiles: It’s tempting to make one master configuration profile and use it everywhere. I’ve found that this is not necessarily the best route. Apple Configurator allows you to install multiple configuration profiles.1 I recommend making a set of small, nimble configuration profiles that you can jigsaw together as need. A prime example of this is to make on profile that just contains the wireless network settings. You can use it on teacher’s iPads as well as students’ iPads, which might also get a second profile full of harsh restrictions. In addition, you could also drop the profile in an email to upcoming guests of the school so that they can instantly access the Internet upon entering.
Under General, there are some boring—yet mandatory—settings such as a name for your profile, but there is also one called Security. Previously, students or whoever could remove a profile that they weren’t happy with (e.g. one that restricted Photo Booth). In Apple Configurator, you get a bit more granular control. You can password protect the removal of a configuration profile or even outright deny the ability all together.
The Restrictions section is pretty straight forward. I will say that you probably want to be less Draconian that you’d think is prudent. In my experience, heavy-handed restrictions often lead to headaches later when teachers and students want to leverage a feature for a sound instructional reason. See also: most web filtering policies when all you want to do is access a Shakespeare sonnet.
You can set up your Wi-Fi networks from here and they will be pushed to your device. This is huge. If you work a school in the New York City Department of Education, then the security type is WEP and you ought to be using the automatic proxy.
In addition, I like to set up Web Clips (home screen bookmarks) to various school websites and force a subscription to the school’s Google Calendar on the students. Your personal preferences may vary on this one.
At this point, you probably feel like there is a whole lot more configuration that you would like to do that is beyond the scope of the configuration profiles you just set up. Don’t worry, that’s what backups are for.
Your inner monologue after reading that last sentence: “Wait, what? Backups? I haven’t even peeled the plastic off of the glass screen yet!”
The Restore menu allows you to use a backup of one of your devices as a template for future devices. This is a big part of the reason that we updated all of our iPads to 5.1 before I mentioned about this feature. Backups are not backwards compatible and your perfect iOS 5.1 setup would not have been available to devices with iOS 5.0.
In practice, you will probably want to have your apps installed and configured as well at this point, but I’ll get into apps in a bit. Let’s treat this like a Tarantino movie for the time being. Like configuration profiles, you can make as many backups as you’d like. Unlike configuration profiles, you can only install one backup at any given time. Once you have an iPad set up to your liking, connect it to Apple Configurator and create a backup. You can apply that backup to as many iPads as you want and next time they connect, they will be updated with the new backup.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to focus on installing free apps. Purchasing and installing apps through Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program is another story for another day. Your computer must be authorized in iTunes for whatever apps you plan on installing.
Even if you’ve downloaded apps in iTunes, they still need to be added into Apple Configurator. In the apps pane, click on the little plus sign in the lower left-hand corner. By default, you should be in your Mobile Applications folder. If not, you can find your mobile applications in ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Mobile Applications.
Here’s the bad news: Anytime you update the app, you will manually have to add it to the Apple Configurator again. This is even more of a hassle that it seems initially, as you need to mentally keep track of which apps you’ve updated recently.
"Installing Apps"
Click on the apps you would like to install. If you hold option while clicking on a checkbox, it will check them all. Click on apply to deploy your apps. Any iPads currently connected to the configurator will receive them immediately. Disconnected iPads will wait until the next time they are connected. Depending on how large the apps you are, you should see them begin to pop up on the home screen of the connected iPads. You may now celebrate.
This tutorial reflects my experience with the Apple Configurator. The tool is relatively new and this guide could become wildly out of date and inaccurate in the event that Apple released an improved version. In addition, your mileage may vary. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions and I will try to keep this page as up to date as possible.
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The Hottest Posts that Everybody's Reading

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see the top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired, share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Jun 20, 2012, 2 comments            2330 Pageviews
Jun 14, 2012, 4 comments            2153 Pageviews
Jun 13, 2012, 15 comments          2003 Pageviews
Jun 19, 2012                               1921 Pageviews
Jul 15, 2010, 21 comments           1448 Pageviews
Jun 17, 2012, 6 comments            1426 Pageviews
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