Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Does Somebody Need a Timeout? A Method for Managing iPad Distraction

One of the key skills a teacher in a technology infused classroom needs to learn is how to adapt their existing knowledge of classroom management for a technology rich environment.  Without adequate classroom management techniques, the tools can become a central distraction, instead of central to teaching and learning.

Today an idea floated my way was for a Technology Timeout.  This concept works if the student is working on an iPad, which is (or will soon become) the primary learning tool for students in our district.

The technique is grounded in Guided Access, a function of iPads with iOS 6 and above.  Guided access allows an individual (presumably the teacher in this scenario) to open a specific app, to determine acceptable use for that particular app by only allowing certain areas of the app to be selected, and to password protect that app so that the student cannot leave that app or portion of the app without the teacher re-entering the Guided Access password.  

For a Technology Timeout, a teacher must identify and state to the student the unacceptable behavior being performed by the student.  Then the teacher should request the iPad, open the settings/accessibility features on the device, and set the Guided Access feature for the student.  At that time, the teacher should also identify a time when Guided Access will be turned off if a student's behavior again becomes acceptable to the teacher.

Remember, if you choose to set a Guided Access code on a device, it is CRITICAL that the teacher:
  1. Remember the password used for setting Guided Access
  2. Remove the password lock for the device following class if that student is moving on to another class where the device is in use (unless other concerns or directives have been given)

While the process of using Guided Access may seem slightly complicated, it really isn't.  Try setting Guided Access on your own iPad and you can quickly learns the ins and outs of the feature.  A little practice and you'll be feeling comfortable and, more importantly, you'll be armed with a reasonable consequence (that doesn't entirely remove the device from the learning environment) the next time one of your students refuses to stay on task or to utilize his/her device properly in your classroom.  

Learn how to use Guided Access by reading this article or watching this video.

Remember, the School District of Waukesha owns the student issued iPads, and as such, has every right to recall, search, lock, and alter the iPad in any way a staff member sees fit.  It is definitely appropriate for any teacher to redirect students in their use of the iPad, to search the iPad, to add features such as Guided Access to the iPad, and to collect the iPad if it becomes a distraction or is used improperly.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Getting Ready for iOS 7

Waukesha One is a self manage iPad model for both staff and students.  This means that teachers and students are responsible for updating individual apps and the operating system on the iPad. While this is awesome freedom, it is also a great responsibility.  App updates come out often and can be very useful.  For example, Google Drive had a fantastic update last week.  This update included cool features like a new user interface, the ability to get a link to a Google doc from within the app, and updated search function.  If you haven’t updated your apps in a while go the app store under updates.  It is worth your time.

So, teachers and students will be responsible for updating their iPad to iOS 7.  As we get ready for iOS 7, here are a few tips for you to consider as you update.

1.  If you have wifi at home, please update at home. As you can imagine, with so many devices on a school network it would be difficult to have the updates happen at school. Obviously, if you do not have wifi at home school is the place to update.  However, please try and do it at the beginning or end of the day.  

2.  Make sure you backup your iPad.  You can do this by going to Settings, iCloud, Storage and Backup, then iCloud backup.  While your upgrade to iOS 7 should not affect your files, it is always a good idea to have a backup.

3.  Look through your photos and videos and “weed the garden”.  We all have photos and videos on our iPads that we could delete.  Use the update to iOS 7 as a way clean up usage on your iPad.  Don’t stop with photo’s and videos look at the apps you really use.  Don’t worry, if you delete them they will always be in iCloud in the purchased area of the App Store.  

Take some time to get to know iOS 7.  There are some visual changes, some new features, but the standard layout remains the same.  You can go to the official Apple website to do some reading, but here are some of the highlights:

1.  Different User Interface.  While the structure looks similar, you will see that fonts, colors, and the user interface has changed.  It is a new design that has a different look with the same feel of iOS 6.

2.  AirDrop:  You already have this feature on your MacBook.  AirDrop will allow you to wirelessly share items with other iOS 7 users

3.  Control Center:  Control Center gives you more control over your iOS devices.  This feature will allow you quick access to things like brightness, wifi, AirPlay, and many other awesome features.

These are only three of many new things on iOS 7.  This is a very large update and your iPad will look different.  If you follow the steps above, you should have a smooth transition to some great new options on iOS 7 and your iPad.

Continually Learning How to Teach

I often wonder, "How do educators learn how to teach?"  What are the elements that most
significantly motivate us?  What influences the decisions every teacher makes about how he/she is going to engage with students in the classroom -- about the type of teacher we are going to be?
Photo courtesy of Wesley Nitsckie -- CC

Without question, some of the practices of my very best teachers, and some of the teachings of my own parents, can be witnessed in my teaching style .  I'm certain this is true for most of educators.  For me, these are some of my best (and most valued) qualities as a teacher.

There are other influences, though, that have played a significant (albeit not necessarily a positive) role in shaping who I have become as a teacher.

In my first year of teaching I was determined to break the mold and get rid of desks altogether.  I wanted a classroom that felt FAR more comfortable, homey, and connected than any classroom I had ever experienced.  I remembered being a high school student and wondering why classrooms had to feel so formal and uncomfortable.  I laboriously shifted and stacked the desks off to one side of the classroom (because the janitor just didn't have time to move the desks in the first few days of school) and I moved the used couches and chairs I collected into my classroom in preparation for the first day of school.

As my colleagues walked in and welcomed me during those first few days back for teachers, person after person told me that I would regret the decision -- my kids would be out of control and "once control was lost, it was nearly impossible to get it back."  I respected their expertise and their experience (as I lacked both), and I decided to take their suggestions.  I removed the  couches from my classroom before the first day of school, and on day one rows of desks (complete with seating chart) greeted the students.  My classroom looked just like all of the others!

In my second year of teaching, I eagerly wanted to challenge some long-standing curricular "traditions" in the district.  Ultimately, I did voice my concern (timidly) to members of my department (of which several had been involved in developing that specific element of the curriculum fifteen years earlier).  Not only was I met with scoffing and disbelief at the concept of changing a tradition (from people on my own "team"), but I was also encouraged by my mentor to bite my tongue and teach the existing curriculum.  My principal said, "A day will come when you have earned your stripes and can ask these questions  -- people will listen then." In the interest of developing a positive, working relationship with my colleagues, I stood down and begrudgingly taught plays that weren't necessarily interesting or relevant to me or to my students.  I am certain I brought none of the passion or enthusiasm to those lessons.  Not surprisingly, I was consistently disappointed with the learning artifacts my students returned from those units of study.

What is most interesting, though, is the lasting impact of the decisions I made at those critical moments in my development as a teacher.  I continue to regret my decision to not focus more on purposefully developing the physical space my students learned in (a concept I was toying with in my comfortable, homey classroom approach).  Similarly, I never again revisited or officially challenged the curricular traditions in the department that I taught in (I never really felt like I had earned the "stripes" needed to challenge something so seasoned and important to my colleagues).

I can come up with any number of similar examples of moments that shaped who I was as a teacher (both positively and negatively).  Almost every teacher can.  It is in these moments that we define who we are as a teacher.  The larger point, though, is that each time we find ourselves in these moments, we decide how we will respond.

As teachers are increasingly encouraged to challenge the traditional models of teaching and learning (the same models that exist in many of our classrooms today), and as teachers are being given access to tools that make altering the traditional instructional paradigm possible, educators are given an opportunity to address how we teach and why we teach the way that we do.  Does our teaching style reflect the best of our own experiences, or does it reflect instructional practices, models, and decisions that we have accepted, but may not necessarily agree with?

The time is ripe for every teacher to think through his/her teaching practices, teaching style, and instructional choices.  Many people are asking, "What makes an effective educator?"  Parents and community members are seeing different models of instruction, or there are at least different instructional models to point to when they ask to see them.  Through the invent of social media, we can connect with and get insight from colleagues afar -- no longer a need to be solely influenced by those immediately around you.

It is an opportune moment for you to decide if the teacher you are today is the teacher you truly want to be.  And if not, today is an opportune day to do something about it.