Sunday, April 26, 2015

Macbook Content: Admin Lunch N Learn

March Admin Lunch N Learn
Macbook Content

There is so much great content for creation and collaboration offered by the Mac ecosystem.  Since our administrative team just got a Macbook to try out and learn, today's training will introduce them all to some of this rich content.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pulaski Community School District Referendum for 1:1 iPads

On Tuesday, April 7th an extremely important vote is going to the taxpayers within the Pulaski Community School District. This referendum will provide an iPad for all students in grades K-12 (shared access in grades K-3; one device for each student in grades 4-12). It is disheartening to read and know some people in our community want to defeat this referendum not because of the impact of the plan, but because of the increase of taxes.  I understand the hardships we all face, but it is the responsibility of an entire community to provide the best education to our children for direct impact on all our communities as well as the state, nation and world! 

 While information on the dangers of kids using technology is quick to circulate on social media, the benefits are not as quick to circulate. As a result, I’d like to share my experiences as a parent and educator on the benefits I have seen and continue to witness daily.  

My parent hat 
As a parent, my children are growing up in a world where technology is a part of their daily lives. While some parents have concerns with this digital world, so do I. However, I embrace this and see my role as a parent to get involved in their technology use and encourage it in a positive way. Technology will continue to be a part of their daily lives (as much as I allow) as well as even more integral for their success in the future. I want to do all I can as a parent to prepare them for the future to get accepted to the college of their choice and secure a quality job they are passionate about as they compete with other children around the state, nation, and world for those things. 

 More importantly, as a parent, I realize that my children are different learners than I was, than my siblings were, and my parents were- maybe a direct result of technology, maybe not. My children resemble your children. They are curious, want to learn when they wonder, want to engage in their learning with audio, video, and text and want to express themselves in ways they choose. And, they can do these things because of the access at their fingertips to experts and content online as well as options available through apps on the iPad. They can “google it” or watch youtube videos to learn and create. Yet, my husband and my involvement in this discover and discussion is integral. We tune into what they are learning to ensure it is appropriate and learn the technology from them, but also continue the conversations to learn with them. 

I am amazed at the learning and creating that my children do with technology. My 12-year-old daughter has learned how to paint unique nail designs, create experiments like stress balls and silly putty learning how chemicals and household products interact, and produce highlight videos of her gymnastics and her brother’s soccer skills. From watching other gymnasts master new skills and viewing them in a slow motion app, she is able to understand the form required to master the skills herself. 

The title to her gymnastics highlight video
An interactive map she has made of all the states she has visited

 My 9-year-old son uses the Stack the States app to learn capitals of states, facts about each state, where the states are in relation to each other and has become more curious about our nation. He has used youtube to learn how to kick a curveball in soccer, and how to type code to program and create his own soccer field in Minecraft. My 3-year-old son, whose time with devices is limited, learns the sounds and identities of animals around the world, life lessons and new words from Martha Speaks on PBS kids, and puts a variety of puzzles together seeing the final product come to life once complete (and and extra bonus is all the pieces are there- unlike our puzzles at home that always seem to have missing pieces). 

My son's soccer field he coded in Minecraft
Stack the States app
While the educational value iPads can present is great, my husband and I pay attention to our children’s technology use to ensure it is balanced with outside play, hands on exploration and playing games as a family. All are valuable to the development of our children. 

My educator hat 
As an educator, I am advocate for all children. I was hired by the Pulaski Community School District 16 years ago to bring the best education to our students. During these years, my husband and I both have engaged with thousands of students, putting in long hours at work and home learning, researching, and preparing to deliver the best to our students. This iPad plan coupled with our high quality staff, relevant, rigorous curriculum and opportunities and supports for all learners is what Pulaski students need for a high quality education. 

Today’s learners are different. Equipping students with an iPad allows them a device to impact learning in the classroom and extend learning beyond the classroom. It gives them access to information, apps to collaborate with their peers, parents, teachers and experts, apps to show what they know using a variety of media (video, pictures, blog posts, etc), accessibility features to aide them in learning, and mobility and storage to be more organized and prepared. Watch the video below to see how the technology aligns to today’s learners and their learning needs. 

This iPad plan has been created over the course of many years, after thorough research, visits to other districts, a 5-year implementation in 6 model classrooms, lots of conversation with teachers and students, and the involvement of a 35 member team. This plan is not just a theory; it has been put into practice, analyzed, and continues to be modified based on student need. This plan is one that needs to be in place for all students, not just those in model classrooms or those who have shared access to a limited number of iPads as is the case in all other classrooms around the district. 

In my former positions as English teacher, Library Media Specialist, Technology Director, and Instructional Technology Coordinator, I have seen learning at its best! Because of my current position, I have had the benefit of seeing learning in a 1:1 environment in grades 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school. The impact is great! Don’t just take my word for it- 

Where is this going? 
Technology is not going to go away. It’s impact in society, business and day to day activities are too great. Technology permeates how people learn, communicate, bank, shop, as well as provides great efficiency. What we can do is embrace it and put it to use in a positive way. If gaming and social media is all students know to use technology for, then that is all they will use it for. If they are shown ways to use technology educationally and appropriately in a moderated environment, they will use tit in these ways and find a better balance of use. 

The bottom line is balance is needed! As a parent, it’s up to me to select the best learning opportunities at home for my children and balance that with all the skills they need to be successful in life. As an educator, it’s up to me to facilitate the use of technology when it enhances the learning experience. I must encourage the use of the appropriate tool to help students learn deeper, think harder, and create better in ways that best work for them! Sometimes that’s on an iPad, on a computer, on paper, in a book, on a board, in dirt, in a box, with a sewing machine, using legos, or building blocks. The options are endless! 

Let’s raise kids who have a deep toolbox of resources and skills to be successful in school, career and life! Providing an iPad to each student gives access to that toolbox and opens the door for learning! 

For more ways technology impact learning, please see another of my blog posts posted in response to the article The Last Generation of Kids That Played Outside” by Nate Hanson on the HUFFPOST blog.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

YouTube for Kids App

Do you love the wide array of content available on YouTube, but wish it could be filtered for younger children?  

Check out the new YouTube for Kids app for Android and IOS, which incorporates family-friendly content and parental controls.

YouTube Kids App
"The app makes it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore, and is available for free on Google Play and the App Store in the U.S.," Shimrit Ben-Yair, YouTube Kids Group Product Manager, wrote in a blog post.

Not only does the app safer for kids, but it's navigation is easier for little hands.  With the app, kids will experience larger images, bold icons and more.  There is even a voice search so that even if your child can't spell or type, they can still find videos and other content.

Click on the video below to watch an introduction to the YouTube Kids app.

PHS Student Fact Sheet- 1:1 iPad Initiative

PHS Students- see 1:1 iPad Fact Sheet below for information you may be wondering about in regards to the iPad initiative next year.  Community will be voting on moving this forward in a referendum on April 7, 2015.

For more information on the referendum and iPad plan, visit our district referendum website.

Friday, February 27, 2015

ADE's Rocked Our World!

I want to give a personal thank you to the following Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE's) from around the country!  These amazing educators did a hangout with staff in Pulaski Community School District to share how learning has been transformed in the their classrooms with iPads as well as allowed time for our staff to ask honest, relevant questions.

Kristen Wideen, Eastwood Elementary School, Ontario, Canada 

Kristi Meeuwse, Drayton Hall Elementary School, Charleston, South Carolina

Anthony DiLaura, Zeeland East High School, Zeeland, Michigan

Julie Garcia, San Diego iMiddle School, San Diego, CA

Lisa Johnson , Eanes Independent School District - Austin, TX

As we are on the heals of a possible 1:1 iPad initiative, this discussion helped us get more excited about the initiative and learn about all the possibilities.  The ADE's enthusiasm was infectious and honest answers were comforting.  Thank you!

After the conversation, staff read one iBook from the  One Best Thing collection written by ADEs.  Staff in small groups then participated in a gallery walk discussion of questions related to the transformation heard about from the ADE or read in the iBook.

Thanks to Clay Reisler, @recessduty, for organizing these awesome speakers!  For more information on the Pulaski Community School District Raidercamp Inservice, click here or visit Twitter #raidercamp.