iPad teaching is NOT about iPads

Although this is geared more for K-12, I like the “What I often do now” section. It’s about best practices in teaching and not so much the tool.


Priority no.1 ? 


I’ve covered technical and workflow ideas on this blog a lot but it’s time to properly summarise a teacher’s first priority when the kids have iPads. Now here is where I have an issue with terminology…

Maybe not an issue of “Pedagogy” (As many know it)

Until a few years ago, I would have used the word pedagogy in this post but this now has the wrong connotations for me as it is linked more strongly to ‘teaching’ and not ‘learning’. To many I’ve worked with, the word pedagogy still implies “the way in which I deliver the content to the students”

The tiers collapse

The one-way ‘dumping’ of teacher knowledge into students has never inspired and is just not the way the world operates anymore. Traditional hierarchies of age, resource ownership and societal prejudice are being eroded and we need new generations to be adapting…

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Meeting Sophia

Do you know Sophia? I have actually known Sophia for years but only recently decided to visit her again for my current course. I am teaching Technology for Teachers in a flipped classroom format and have tried sharing my videos in several formats including  Zaption and Educanon. I do enjoy both – but wanted to continue looking at options. It was then that a co-worker mentioned Sophia and I decided to visit again!

Sophia  offers free tools for teachers to create multi-media tutorials OR choose from a library of over 37,000 lessons. Teachers can provide the videos along with discussion material and quizzes. Track student progress every step of the way with analytics.

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Teachers can set up groups and share the content with their students only – or the world. Here is a picture of a tutorial I created:

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Another great thing about Sophia?  They offer FREE Professional Development courses. You can get certification for the Flipped Classroom, iPad Prepared, or Chrome. Hey – you even get a cute t-shirt for completing the certification!

Surviving 2nd Semester

I’ve taught for many years and know that certain seasons can come, and go, and sometimes come and stay.  Do you know what season I am talking about?  You trudge out of bed, into the car, and into the classroom wondering how you will survival all the way until the end of the year.  Let’s face it – sometimes teaching can be really hard…and tiring…and it keeps us busy. The second-semester blues can set in.

There have been a few years where I have fallen into to a rut and I have felt teacher burn-out. Most years I have been full of joy and energy – ready to tackle on just about anything! This year, I am happy to say, I am SO excited for this second semester. I truly love what I do. As a teacher, this is important. You really need to love teaching. Most of us know that our demeanor transcends out to our students.

What are some things that you can do if you find yourself in the blue zone – or burn-out land – or whatever you want to call it?

  1. Start a thankful log. (Also known as … count your blessings!) It’s hard to focus on the negative when you are full of the positive. Think about everything you are thankful for – even small things – and write them down. (I am thankful that I have my health. I am thankful that Julie is in my class. I am thankful that I have resources for technology. I am thankful for my garden.)  If you have students or subjects in which you are struggling, combat the negative thoughts with positive ones.  Find something you can be thankful for. (Even if it is your own personal growth!)
  2. Try something new.  Sometimes we can get into a rut; it is boring doing the same thing day in and day out. Why not change it up a bit? Branch out and try something new! Whether it is a new technology, new classroom arrangement, or new route to work…try doing something new. Need a simple technology idea? Create a poll for your next class using Poll Everywhere and allow students to respond via text. Or, try a jigsaw activity.
  3. Bless someone.  This goes along with number one – count your blessings.  It’s easy to concentrate on our own difficulties. When you go out of your way to make someone else happy, you will find that it will make YOU happy, too! Really! Organize an activity that brings joy to others.  What about bringing treats for your classroom? Bless a colleague – or a total stranger.
  4. Create an engaging lesson. Go out of your way to spice up your class. Create something fun and unique to do that supports your curriculum.
  5. Create a personal learning network (PLN).  Find a new topic that you would like to learn about and keep growing! It might be a professional topic, or it might be a new hobby. Find others that want to join in with you and start learning.  Follow leaders in the field through Twitter, sign up for a class, or research on your own.
  6. Enjoy your off time. Do something fun! Balance your work and play. As a cyclist, I usually spend my weekends outside riding. I recently decided to take up mountain biking – just for fun! I’m terrible at it…but I love it and it gives me something new and challenging to do! Yes, here is me being a goof-ball…5 hours on a Saturday riding in the middle of our empty Folsom Lake…and loving it.

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If you ever find that you are unable to “move” out of your burn-out stage, perhaps it is time to move on. (My suggestion – pray about it!) We want to make sure we always present our best to our students!

Here are some more articles regarding the topic:

Cynicism is Contagious – great read!

Second Half Survival

Staying Positive in Trying Times

Teacher Burnout

4 More Apps to Try!

I love trying new apps. Here are my latest discoveries…

1. My Moodle

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Our university uses Moodle for its LMS. This app now works with our new Moodle upgrade! Woo hoo! Although this app cannot serve as a replacement for the Moodle interface, it does have useful tools. You can view the participants in your course, send a memo, upload pictures and video to your private files, and download class material for use off line.

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2.  Notegraphy

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 2.28.14 PMAre you tired of your online posts looking boring? Whether it is Twitter or Facebook, the posts all seem to look the same. Liven up your posts with Notegraphy. Type one word, one line, or even paragraphs into Notegraphy, choose a format, then share instantly. Your post will appear, in beautiful writing, to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Here is an example of a post I created and shared on Twitter and Instagram:

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3.  Rhonna Designs

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This app costs $1.99 but I love it! In fact, I used it to create the graphics for this web site. Edit photos or backgrounds with Rhonna Farrer’s exclusive frames, designs, fonts, and filters. I use it all the time. You can add the fonts and designs to images or any background. Here is an example of a picture created in less than a minute:

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4. Subtext

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Subtext is excellent for any instructor. Engage your class with any eBook, PDF, or article. Create private groups and embed discussion questions within the text. Notes are linked to specific passages so there is a “natural emphasis on close reading, citing text evidence, and supporting claims.” Read the material on or offline. Paste tagged passages or annotations in Google Docs. It’s FREE!

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Managing Class in the Age of Distraction: 6 Ideas


Managing your class in the age of distraction? It’s a quandary for many teachers. Do I allow them to use their device? What if they surf the web or go to Facebook? It’s easy to give the answer I commonly give – make your class engaging enough and they will pay attention. But this may not be fool proof.

I recently read a blog by Dr. Maryellen Weimer The Teaching Professor.  Dr. Weimer is a highly regarded authority in effective college teaching. She wrote about a study  by Kuznekoff and Titsworth (2013), and described how students who use their mobile phones during class lectures tend to write down less, recall less, and perform worse on multiple choice tests. Phones can be distracting – for anyone. Many students feel that their device does not distract them from learning.  I read the study myself and these are my take-aways:

  • Devices can be both productive and distracting.
  • Productive uses were using software programs in class such as Microsoft Office, or a web browser to access a course PowerPoint
  • Distracting uses were web surfing, email, and text messaging
  • Simultaneous tasks (like surfing and listening to a lecture) may cause diminished learning
  • Students score 1.5 letter grades higher when they take notes during a lecture
  • Non-linear note-takers had a 20% jump in assessment performance (Sketchnotes)

Dr. Weimer suggests to share this information with students. However, she also notes that just because we tell a student “you will do better when you put your phone aside, listen and take notes” students will still think they can multi-task easily. She suggests sharing the information, then showing them. Give a 5-6 minute lecture. Allow 1/2 of the class to take notes with no distractions, and 1/2 of the lass to take notes and text, surf, whatever they want. Then at the end of the lecture, ask for the 5-6 key points. Compare notes of those distracted vs. those not distracted and see if there is a difference.

There are also great benefits for technology. From the report Engaging Higher Education Students Using Twitter by Dr. Amanda Rockson-Szapziw:

Technology can be used to engage students in the learning process. Means, Blando, Olson, Middleton, Morocco, Remz, and Zorfass (1993) purport that technology, if used to facilitate pedagogically sound instructional strategies, can enhance student engagement and productivity in the learning process. Chen, Lambert, and Guidry (2010) further support this statement in their study which shows a positive correlation between learning outcomes and student engagement and students’ use of Web-based learning technology.

Using technology to facilitate sound instructional practice has been shown to increase student motivation and cognitive complexity of the task at hand (Baker, Gearhart, & Herman, 1994; Dwyer, Ringstaff & Sandholtz, 1990; Means & Olson, 1995). Using technology in innovative in creative ways has also been shown to improve learning (Wisharh & Blease, 1999). Thus, educators have the opportunity to engage their students; and thus, improve their learning, by implementing technology supported, pedagogically sound instructional strategies (Bryant & Hunton, 2000).    Read full article by Dr. Amanda Rockson-Szapkiw HERE. 

So what is my view? I have several thoughts regarding devices in class.

1. I want students to take notes by hand. As a former K-12 teacher, I see the benefit of writing notes by hand. I believe that students will recall more information if they have written it by hand. See this infographic  about writing vs. typing notes.  However, I also see the benefit of typing notes. Some professors speak quickly and it is very hard to write down everything with accuracy by hand. I type quickly, and can record much more information. I think that it is a benefit to offer both to students. Allow them to type if that is the way they can best take (and read) their notes, or write notes.  I like taking notes by hand, using my iPad. That way I have a digital version. I have two recommendations:

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Notability is my favorite because I can write notes with my stylus, choose a variety of colors, type notes, add pictures, and record audio all at the same time.  I like digital notes because I can add tags and find specific details quickly.

My other favorite choice for note-taking is my Echo Smartpen. @livescribe . I am a huge Livescribe fan. I can take sketchnotes  and the notes will be uploaded to my Mac. It records everything you write, hear, or say. The new Sky Wifi looks awesome and it is on my wish list! Read this post specifically for college students. This link will give you 15% off! Wow!

2. Teach students about distractions.  Share with them the statistics. Let them know they will perform better in your course if they listen and participate actively without distractions. If you desire, follow Dr. Weimer’s suggestion to show them how their notes will be more detailed without distractions.

3. Make your class engaging. Best practices in teaching require active engagement. Who wants to sit and listen to talk to someone talk for 1-2 hours? I sure don’t. Shall I say this – it is boring. Even the most interesting speaker will lose my interest after about 20 minutes. Get your students up out of their seats, discussing topics, problem solving, and collaborating. I teach a course for teacher candidates on using technology so my students are often on the computer. This upcoming semester I am flipping my classroom so that my class time will be all project-based, on the computer, and collaborative. I believe they will learn the technology best when they are using it.

4. Take advantage of formative assessment. Formative assessment is a way for students to assess student learning during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning to improve student attainment. (Wikipedia) It is hard for an instructor with a large class to know if all students are understanding during the learning process. Technology can greatly benefit formative assessment! Teachers can take a quick poll to determine understanding using Poll Everywhere, Socrative or Infuse Learning. Teachers can quickly get an entire class view and every student can have a voice. Using Twitter is also a great tool to get a quick summary regarding a lecture or topic. I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw who wrote this article regarding Twitter.  I created a hashtag on Tweebs and widget on Twitter to embed the dialogue into our Moodle course.  It’s easy to follow a conversation right from our Moodle page! Students can share links, pictures, and thoughts regarding our topic.

5. Do not ban devices – but teach procedures.  Using a device is a benefit for note-taking, collaborative work such as Google Docs, formative assessment, and more. All students need to be taught procedures and it is no different with technology. If necessary, create a color system. For example –

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Then, practice what this looks like. Place the marker on red and have everyone put their device away as an example of a test day. Place the marker on yellow and have them practice placing their device on the left hand side of the desk, upper corner, upside down.  Practice what it looks like to pick up the device and perform a poll. “Okay. Device ready.” (Students pick up device.) Then give a poll or direction. Finally, place the marker on green and have them place their device in front of them, ready to use.

Now, I realize this may work differently with laptops. I have a couple of recommendations.

  1. Yellow may be laptop on, but screen down.
  2. Green may be laptop on, ready to use, with note-taking device open or whatever program may be used. You may want to have laptop users sit in one area of the classroom, at the front.

As noted above, texting in class can be distracting if it is for the wrong purpose. But what about giving them a good purpose for texting? Ex. Text your instructor 3 takeaways from the topic or text your answer to a poll question using Poll Everywhere.

6. Learn the students’ language and speak it. Get to know your students and their interests. We do live in an age of technology. Allow them to collaborate with digital tools. They work! Place resources on your LMS (ours is Moodle) so that students will have access to your course information 24×7. Start a class Twitter hashtag or Instagram hashtag. Have them text an answer to you! Make it relevant and be creative.

moodle best practices infographic

formative assessment

Jeffrey H. Kuznekoff & Scott Titsworth (2013) The Impact of Mobile
Phone Usage on Student Learning, Communication Education, 62:3, 233-252, DOI:

5 Things Everyone Should Learn on Their iPad

Thanks, Indiana Jen, for posting this! I agree – these are great tips for new iPad owners.

Indiana Jen

Did you get a fancy new iPad for Christmas or have one that you want to harness for a little more power? Here are five skills that everyone should learn to maximize their iPad:

  1. Cloud sync your Calendar – The Calendar Application is key to maximizing your productivity on iPad. Learn how to sync that calendar to the cloud using your Exchange Server, Google Calendar, or iCloud. If you don’t like the layout of Apple’s Calendar, try one of the various third party apps such as Fantastical ($1.99). Cloud syncing will keep your Calendar up to date on all of your devices (computer, phone, and tablet) without having to think about it.

  2. Download an eBook Reader – Yes, I am a bibliophile and love physical books. However, eBooks have their benefits: you can take dozens (even hundreds) of books everywhere you go, minimize paper weight & transport…

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