Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Push Apps to Your Students: Reviewing the App Approval Process

The current app approval process in the School District of Waukesha is in full use across the district. The goal is to make it easier for students to get access to the apps they need for use in class.

Staff members use this process to have apps pushed out to students. However, there are still some questions about the app approval process, so let's take a moment to review.

Before Requesting an App in Self Service

First, ask yourself: Do students already have access to an app that can do something similar? We always aim to multi-purpose apps when we can. If you are unsure, ask your Instructional Technologies Coordinator for clarification.

If not, just as teachers have always done, staff should check out the quality and safety of the app before submitting it for approval.  There is a 
helpful guide that can get you started as you explore an app that you would like to see students use in your classroom.

Additionally, we ask that teachers of similar grade levels or subjects within a building come to a consensus on which apps will be available to students. For instance, teachers at each building in Kindergarten and 1st Grade across our elementary schools started this process by calling meetings, discussing which apps would be on their approved list, and then submitting these apps for approval. We ask that you work with your colleagues to do the same before submitting an app request.

Request Apps to be Placed in Self Service

App requests must be entered into the SDW Self Service App Request Form available here: https://goo.gl/G7sf7S

Apps will be reviewed for key elements that include:
    • instructional value, 
    • terms of use, 
    • student privacy 
    • data collection

This process may take some time depending on the volume of requests, so please plan ahead. Not all apps will be approved.  Whether approved or not, the person submitting an app approval to SDW Self Service App Request form will receive email notification of the determination made.

Installing the Apps to Student iPads

Once an app has been approved, students should visit Self Service to download the app. No Apple ID is required. Teachers will need to download the apps from the App Store with the professional Apple ID created when you received your district Mac and iPad. 

As students move through the system, these apps will come and go from their iPads automatically (within a reasonable amount of time). 

As  a student moves from one building to another, or to a new grade level (as indicated in Infinite Campus), new apps will become available to the student in Self Service while some previously assigned apps may leave the student's iPad.

List of Approved Apps

For those that wish to view a list of the approved apps, it is available for review here: https://sdw.waukesha.k12.wi.us/Page/2584

Friday, September 14, 2018

Video Contest for Students: Activating Change

Students have something to say, and they should not have to wait until they are adults to say it. Young people can influence change today.

We want to celebrate this with our School District of Waukesha sponsored celebration of the StudentVoice.org video competition themed around Activating Change.

Video Contest

Studentvoice.org is hosting its second student video contest this year. The theme this year is Activating Change.

"Films must respond to the theme of the festival: “Activating Change.” Students are invited to interpret this theme as they see fit, so long as audience members can clearly understand how the theme is utilized in the film. We encourage you to be creative with this theme. Try to think beyond your first impressions and see if you can create a focus for a truly original film. Feel free to experiment with different approaches such as animation, puppetry, silent films, stop motion, etc!"

To encourage greater student participation, and to highlight the ideas and voices of our students, the School District of Waukesha Technology Department will be hosting a viewing party of SDW student video submissions to this contest at The One Conference in January, 2019.

Participation Rules

Please be sure to read the detailed submission rules available here: https://studentvoice.org/filmfest/rules/

Here are some highlights from the rules:

  • Videos no longer than 1 minute (with an additional 30 seconds of credits/citation)
  • Addressing the theme of "Activating Change" -- students may interpret what this means
  • Film must be original work of the students
  • Students must carefully cite work as outlined in the rules (can result in disqualification)
  • Groups can work together (no size limit for group indicated)
  • Three judging categories: Early Ages (5-9 years), Middle Ages (10-14 years), Upper Ages (15-18) -- submissions enter category of oldest group member
  • As videos will go public, students MUST have a signed waiver on file with the adult sponsor
  • Films must be in English or contain English subtitles
For submissions to the contest to be screened at The One Conference in January 2019, submissions must be received to the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form by December 15, 2018.

Submissions received by the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form will be automatically entered to the StudentVoice.org competition. Applicants for the competition only need to apply to the SDW Student Voice video competition form.

The form can also be found here:

Getting Students Excited

Young people are eager to have their voices heard. The StudentVoice.org video competition is a great way to give your students a platform to share their voices with the world. Submissions will be viewed by teachers attending The One Conference viewing party in January 2019.  

Additionally, their submissions will be viewed by a committee outside of our district. And if their submissions are rated highly enough on the scoring rubric, they may even be invited to attend ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia to have their videos viewed in a live release/viewing party.

To inspire them to share their voice, show them some of last year's winning submissions: https://studentvoice.org/filmfest/ .

Safe Words: Empowering students to take responsibility

Summer slide is a real phenomenon, and I can prove it. Witnessing the multitude of students that have forgotten their district-issued password over summer, I am fairly certain that the area of the brain specifically responsible for password storage may be directly impacted by increased exposure to sunshine. 

Directly related to this "forgotten password" phenomenon is another increasing trend: the amount of time teachers are spending looking up their students' passwords.

(Cue the trumpet sounds)
We bring good news for all educators who have lost precious life trying to recover the safe words for their students.  This news will give you back some time (of which teachers have far too little) and  will empower your students to take responsibility for themselves (something we all say we want our kids to learn).

The Safe Word Self Help site allows students to enter information that they should already know, and then it spits out the safe word that they have forgotten.  

The students need to know the first part of their district email address (and this IS something you can look up easily in Infinite Campus if they have forgotten it), their birthdate, and their lunch code. These are things MOST students know and can manage entering.

The address for the site: https://selfhelp.waukesha.k12.wi.us/

Bookmark it, share it with your students, have them create a shortcut on their iPad's home screen, and then when they come asking what their password is, encourage them to help themselves.

Sure, but my students are too young to do this!

Like anything, it may take a little bit of coaching, routine building, teaching, and support, but no matter what grade you teach, I guarantee that your students are NOT too young to do this.  We do provide added supports for teachers in grades K-2, though.

For most students older than that, asking them to enter information they know about themselves into a website to get the password they need -- we teach them to do FAR more complex things in our classrooms. 

Don't undersell their abilities! Set the expectation and see what happens.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Apple Classroom in Action: Teaching Effectively with iPads

If you have not yet tapped into the power of Apple Classroom in your classroom, it is time to see what is possible. We have watched many teachers get their school year started with Apple Classroom, setting a tone for how technology can be utilized in their classroom.  Take a few minutes to see what this powerful tool can offer in the way of supporting classroom management of iPads.

Apple Classroom, probably better named Apple Classroom Manager, is a tool that allows teachers to see what is happening on all student iPads in their classroom, to open apps, websites, and files on student devices, and to lock specific students, groups, or an entire class into apps (or just lock down the iPad while you provide instruction). It empowers the teacher as it aids in classroom efficiency and helps to keep students on task.

Apple Classroom does not replace Google Classroom or Blackboard. It is a different tool serving a different purpose for teachers.

Getting started is the most technical part of using the tool, and even that is a quick setup. The good news is we have plenty of guides and tutorials to get you started with Apple Classroom in a short time. Our newest Getting Started with Apple Classroom one-page guide brings all of the information together in one place.

Learn How to Create Rosters

Our blog post for creating rosters in Apple Classroom is all you need to get started with Apple Classroom in the School District of Waukesha.  Class lists can be created for unique groups of students manually, or educators can use the Intranet - Apple Classroom tool to create classes based on the course rosters in Infinite Campus.

Either way, you can create Apple Classroom courses today, and be ready to use them within 48 hours with students.

Using Apple Classroom with Students

There are only four things needed to use Apple Classroom with Students:

  1. Students must be in class rosters, and the teacher must be assigned to that roster (see above)
  2. Teachers must be on the iPad with bluetooth turned on, and students must have bluetooth turned on
  3. Teachers must download the Apple Classroom app from Self Service on their iPad (not students)
  4. Students must be within the immediate vicinity of the teacher (approximately 40 ft. or less)
With those criterion met, you can begin taking control of your 1:1 iPad environment while guiding student learning, feel empowered by knowing what is happening on student devices, and get excited about all of the ways you can use technology to support student learning.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Consider the consequences when taking iPads away from students

As teachers are getting students ready for the year of learning that is ahead, the first week is a time where educators begin to practice and teach routines/rules to their students. This week I had two separate conversations with teachers who mentioned that they had a clear plan of consequences for students who were not using their iPad properly in class.  In both instances the teachers mentioned that students would lose access to the iPad as a part of the classroom management strategy. 

While I am fully in support of having a classroom management strategy that supports a quick and effective return to learning, we must be mindful of actions, consequences, or punishments that are well intentioned but cause other potential issues. Specifically when it comes to technology, I often find that the initial reaction for educators is to remove the technology whenever student behavior somehow involves the misuse of technology.  Is that a wise response?

For the sake of illustration, let's play that idea out a little bit with other examples to see if this same thinking makes sense in all situations. Below is a fictitious monologue from one fictitious teacher whose classroom policy for student misbehavior centers on removal of the tools involved.

Today  one of my students was really acting up and causing trouble in class. Ahmon kept intentionally rolling the wheel of his wheelchair over one classmate's foot. I saw him repeatedly do this, and even after asking him to stop, he did it on purpose again. Obviously there was only one thing I could do. I took away his wheelchair, called his parents, and told him that he could earn it back in one week with good behavior. That solved the issue in my classroom! 
Another one of my students was also off task today. During our class work time I heard the muffled sound of music coming from one group of desks. I found that Nel was the culprit. She had found a way to pair her permanent hearing aides with a music app so she could listen to her favorite music in class. I had her remove her hearing aides and I placed them in my desk. She will be without them for two weeks. She cannot afford to be continually distracted by her music.
Finally, I gave students the task of reading an authentic text on their iPads that I thought would really intrigue them.  Guess what! I found Leonard off task again watching a YouTube video on his iPad. I know that Leonard likes to use the tools on his iPad to have articles read to him, but he cannot stay focused when he is on that device. I will be taking away his iPad for the next two weeks and I will provide him a paper copy so he can stay focused when reading. 

Let me be clear. The solutions posed in paragraphs one and two, with Ahmon and Nel, are crude, irresponsible, insulting, and unethical. Taking away a student's primary means of mobility, or removing the student's only method for hearing are not suitable consequences in any situation that I can imagine. Those options are recognizably off the table, out of bounds, and moronic.

Yet, that third paragraph in the example may really trip some readers up. At first glance it stands to reason that Leonard is off task on the iPad, and by removing the iPad we can remove the key to his distraction. By removing the distraction we can help Leonard be more focused so he can succeed academically. 

What we fail to recognize about Leonard, though, is that he is a student who struggles with reading. He is several grade levels behind in reading and his comprehension is almost non-existent with text containing academic vocabulary. Leonard uses his iPad as an academic support.  He utilizes the "Speak Screen" function on his iPad to open up the world of text to him. The iPad highlights words/sentences as he reads so he can follow along with his eyes while building upon his comprehension. He can click on a word he doesn't recognize and have it defined for him without raising a hand to admit that he does not understand a word his peers seem to know.

Just as we find it socially unacceptable to remove tools from Ahmon or Nel that open the world up to them in ways that were once impossible, we also need to wrestle with the reality that students like Leonard are using tools like the iPad to open up the world to them in equally important ways.

And no, this is not an entirely fictitious example. While I've changed the name, I met Leonard today. His teacher did not even know that he knew how to use the speak selection tool on his iPad to support his reading. He did and he was showing it to me. He stated that he did use it to help him read. I met him today because he was earning back his iPad for the start of this school year. He lost access to the iPad last year after making a series of inappropriate choices that involved the use of the iPad.

There is not an easy solution to this fundamental question: What are we to do when the tools students use to engage with and support their learning are also tied into student misbehavior or misconduct?

This will be a fundamental question we need to continually ask and turn over with our teams as we consider how we maintain a focused, safe, productive learning environment that is responsive to the needs of all learners. However, defaulting to simply "taking it away" is no longer an acceptable response in all situations.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Students still care deeply; find ways to capture their attention

Not long ago an executive at a large local company said to me, "Kids are truly just different these days. I see it in the young employees that I hire. You must see that all of the time, right?"

I paused. It's something I tend to hear a lot, but not just from people outside of education. Those words have been spoken to me by numerous teachers over the years. These words tend to reflect a genuine belief and they are validated by some of the ways we view young people today.

Then I responded as I always do.  "No, I don't believe kids are different today than they ever were. Society has shifted. Parenting has shifted. Adult expectations of kids and our focus on nurturing young people's growth and potential has largely shifted. But kids have not fundamentally changed. And I know this because I have seen young people who light up, get motivated, and go all in on those things they truly get excited about, even with topics that wouldn't excite most adults at times. I witness it over and over in my work with teachers and students, and that proves to me that kids haven't fundamentally changed."

Put a student in a river with a kick net and a mission to find out which critters live in the river and what that tells us about the river's health. Place a student on a structured, purposeful web conference call with students from across town, across the country, or across the world. Ask them to identify a problem of significance to them in their world and then find a reasonable solution to solve it. Even more simply, challenge them to solve a series of riddles/clues in an in-class competition or an EduBreakout. Have them argue their side in an in-class discussion or socratic seminar, have them teach other students with an instructional flipped video that others will see, or create a presentation they will deliver to an audience of people that will listen and engage with their ideas. These are all examples of things I have seen in the last few years where students came passionately alive in their work.

No, I truly do not believe kids are different today. They may be a little harder to engage at times considering the outside forces we compete with: instantaneous feedback with friends on social media, the ability to binge watch the shows that suit their exacting interest on streaming services, or a constant stream of access to enticing games and music that are their constant companions.

While educators do have to compete with these forces for our students' attention, the kids themselves have not shifted. They are exploring the world, trying to find their place and purpose, and attempting to figure out what type of person they would most like to be. As educators, we have the opportunity to expose them to the things we are most passion about, opportunities and topics they have never experienced or heard of before, and we can be the ones to lead them down paths that they will continue on for the rest of their lives.

However, doing something of such significance might require us all to shift our approach to how we structure these learning opportunities. We have to think more like independent entrepreneurs trying to engage our customers, and less like members of an institution that requires our clients to attend.

Although our kids' ability to dig in deeply and do great work has not fundamentally changed, society has. And it has given ALL of us the opportunity to elect when we will be present and actively engaged, and when we will opt out. We have all benefited from, or fallen victim to that reality. And because we have this experience as consumers of the things we are most interested in, we can use that experience to think differently about how we can best reach our students. The challenge for educators is to find exciting, engaging, meaningful ways to get our students to tune in and give our inspiring "channels" a try.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Encourage Students to Discuss Their Thinking with VoiceThread

Educators know that talking about our thinking is a critical way for us to make sense of our thinking, develop our ideas, and commit learning to memory. Across our system I hear teachers talk about the importance of engaging all students in this kind of discussion. However, we often run into logistical obstacles that make it a challenge to engage all students in active discussion during class.
The good news is that we can utilize technology to support student learning while tackling some of these logistical challenges. For instance, one challenge educators often face is students who are unwilling to speak up in front of their peers for a wide variety of reasons. Whether shy, not confident in their response, or unable to process their thinking in the time allowed in class, we can utilize technology to allow every student an opportunity to share their individual ideas through a video/audio recording.

Another challenge educators face is the question of whether students have engaged with assigned work outside of class. We can utilize technology to ask questions or offer prompts that students will respond to "asynchronously," meaning independent of each other and not at the same time. In this way all students are asked to share their thinking when they get to the topic/work/assignment and the teacher will have a way to hold students responsible for sharing their thinking.

While we can use tools like FlipGrid or ReCap to have students share their thinking, sometimes we need to have students share their thinking in context of the content they are learning about. For instance, perhaps your students are looking at an image of a map, a diagram of a cell, or the sentence structure of an author's work. Wouldn't it be great to have them share their thinking while annotating over the top of diagram/image/video? Using the tool VoiceThread, a tool we have full access to in our district through our use of Blackboard, students can easily record their thinking while annotating over the top of videos and images. They can then share their thinking with their teachers, with other students, and they can even listen to and respond to other students' responses "asynchronously".

VoiceThread is easy to learn and use with a wide array of free workshops. And because it is accessed through Blackboard, you can place VoiceThread assignments right in line with other content you offer students in your Blackboard class.

To see a powerful example of VoiceThread in action, take a look at this video from VoiceThread.

When you are ready to get started with VoiceThread, check out our help articles on VoiceThread. And be ready to have your students start recording and sharing their thinking with you and others this fall with VoiceThread!