Link to the February Update
In the Update:
~Stacy Behmer, Coordinator of Digital Learning - @sbehmer +StacyBehmer
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The King is Dead. Long Live the King?
How important are desktop operating systems to the things we do on computers today? That's the question that we discussed on a recent episode of The Edtech Take Out podcast. Do we really need the power and complexity of Windows or Mac OS to accomplish the things that we need to do, or would a Chromebook or an iPad give us the options that we need? I have been thinking about this a lot recently, based on an article I read called, Stop Using a Laptop in 2017; It’s Time to Use a Tablet. The author doesn't really spend a lot of time pushing tablets over laptops, but he does make you think about what you are using your device for and points out some of the conveniences of using a smaller, lighter device. So, do we still need a desktop operating system for our students?
Maybe not then, but now?
There was a time when Chromebooks and iPads were not an ideal choice for a primary device. Essentially this was due to a variety of factors. Either the hardware wasn't very good, the software wasn't diverse enough or the tasks that we wanted to accomplish just didn't lend themselves very well to this form factor. To add to this, Adobe Flash and Java based websites were everywhere and offline use was still an important consideration for a lot of people.
Today, things are different. The hardware is a lot better, software options are more varied, more plentiful and more capable of accomplishing tasks that we would previously have sent us running to desktop computers. Wi-Fi is everywhere, but we're thankful that it is because more and more of what we do is done online in the cloud because it's convenient, collaborative and can be accessed on any device. Adobe Flash is all but dead and Java applets are no more, so is this the time to finally say goodbye to Windows and MacOS?
On top of that, Chromebooks and iPads are light and mobile. They have all day battery life and a lightweight operating system that is simple to master. They turn on and are ready to go in seconds, they are priced competitively, and both boast some of the best security measures on any device. The iPad also comes with two cameras that shoot hi-res stills and video up to 4K resolution on some models. All of which makes them a very compelling device for schools, or does it?
Wait. Not so fast...
This may sound all well and good, maybe even a little utopian, but at this point it's only fair to say that certain things just can't be done as well on a Chromebook or an iPad when compared to a desktop computer. In fact, some things can't be done at all. For instance, if you are a mobile app developer for MacOS or iOS, you have to use a Mac computer. You have no other choice. You may be able to write your code on an iPad or another device, but you can't compile it and submit it to the App Store if you aren't running Xcode, which can only be run on a Mac. Is this important for the students we teach? It's certainly more important today than it used to be, but it needn't be a deal breaker if you have secondary devices available for checkout.
Other tasks that are traditionally not as easy to do on a Chromebook or an iPad include video editing. This task traditionally requires powerful software and lots of system resources. Chromebook users can use the YouTube Video Editor or WeVideo, but they are reliant on an internet connection for uploading all your video clips and you can only get so far with the features that they offer. On the iPad, iMovie is great. It works offline and is capable of editing 4K video, but again you are only going to get so far before you start to crave something like Final Cut, Camtasia or Adobe Premiere. Will it be enough for 98% of your student needs? Probably, but desktop devices are likely still going to be popular with your journalism and art students.
Podcasting is very do-able on an iPad with things like the Opinion Podcasting app, but once you start to think about how to record multiple people in remote locations, you quickly come up against a brick wall. Similarly, recording iPad screencasts is easy with apps like the IPEVO Whiteboard app, but if you want to show someone how to use a specific app, you need a laptop. Screencasting is easier on a Chromebook, but there are not all that many software options and the extensions that do exist have a somewhat limited feature set.
At the end of the day, none of these restrictions are a reason to completely discount iPads or Chromebooks, but they are things to consider. Instead, it really comes down to what you want to do with your students and the learning experiences that you want to create in your school.
Here in Iowa, 1:1 schools are becoming more and more popular. We have schools that are 1:1 with all kinds of different devices, including Chromebooks and iPads. So, this week I will be using an iPad as my primary device. I am putting my MacBook Pro and Surface Pro 4 to one side and sticking with a 9.7-inch iPad Pro for all my computing needs at work and at home. My colleague, Mindy Cairney, is doing the same. A typical day for both of us often involves working between multiple devices and different operating systems. We switch frequently depending on the task we are working on, but for this week we are taking on the role of a 1:1 iPad student and sticking to one device. Our goal is to report back on our experience on the next episode of the podcast and see how realistic this option is for the things that we do in our work at Grant Wood AEA. I will probably follow up with another blog post too. Until then, you can hear our onboarding thoughts and ideas in the episode embedded below.
Jonathan Wylie, Digital Learning Consultant, Grant Wood AEA - @jonathanwylie
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Several members of the Digital Learning Team, including myself, recently had the opportunity to head out to Garner Elementary to facilitate makerspace activities with several different grades. As many maker activities put students in charge of creating and testing out their creations, I started to really take in how the students were reacting to the maker environment. I decided to start writing down things that students were saying during their experience and captured it in a sketchnote...
I just love the confidence that brewed up with so many students as they were sharing and collaborating ideas that they had an wanted to try out. The open-ended experiences allow students at all levels, with a variety of different skill sets to find success and confidence.
We often get asked, where can you find different activities? There are tons of resources out there to get you started with open-ended maker activities. Follow #makerspaces on social media, or explore websites like Make or Instructables to gather some great inspiration.
But, I have to ask - Have you checked out Think, Make, Innovate? Think, Make, Innovate is our YouTube Makerspace show, where we showcase student makers at different schools around our area. Think, Make, Innovate is designed for educators to share the video with their class and then use that as a launching point to take up the making challenge to get their students started.
New Think, Make, Innovate episodes come out the first of each month, posted on our website and on our YouTube channel. We also release a lesson plan with more background for educators, resources and extension ideas to bring any idea into classrooms at all levels.
Think, Make, Innovate is not just the name of our show, but our maker mentality. We consider it to be our maker cycle. We love to see anyone - students or educators, planning, creating and reinventing their creations and work to highlight that in each episode. We love to see your creations and if you tag us on social media (@dlgwaea) or email us we'll add you to our online maker community.
Amber Bridge, Digital Learning Consultant, Grant Wood AEA, @abridgesmith
What's the big deal about virtual reality?
What can I do with these new VR headsets?
This is really just an expensive toy - right??
Virtual Reality has been everywhere this year. And more than one household or classroom now has VR headsets thanks to the Christmas buzz!
You could say that our DLGWAEA Christmas present came a bit early- when the Google Expeditions kit arrived this fall. We have had a flurry of requests and opportunities to share Expeditions with classrooms and teachers across Grant Wood Agency, including a full day workshop that was held in early January.
Through all this interest one question remains for many educators and parents... "Is this just a glorified toy?"
“NO!” I want to say loud and clear.
But, just saying no is really not enough. Instead, I want to share an experience I had that demonstrates how this tool can be incorporated into the classroom to take student learning in a different direction.
This story begins with my new favorite book - Amplify! by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke! This practical guide provides ways for teachers to bridge the gap between traditional and digital teaching methods. It is one of those books that the more you read the more you want to share with others.
If you haven't picked up your copy - I would highly recommend it! It's great!
I can't take credit for discovering this book - it was recommended to me by Kristine Kliewer, an instructional coach at a local elementary school. Kristine didn't just recommend it though, she also invited me to be part of a book study for one of the schools where she works.
Planning this study has been a rich experience for me - thanks to the discussions and ideas generated by the leadership of Kristine and Ann Langenfeld, building principal. This dynamic team is impacting student learning in so many ways!
As we dug into this book we really wanted to help the teachers compare and contrast different digital and analog tools. Our goal was to help them move beyond digital=good & analog=bad to a deeper conversation. One that focuses on the merits of all tools, since our ultimate goal is preparing students for work with a full toolkit of both digital and analog tools.
And that brings me to the Immersive Digital Experience lesson.
We started with an essential question:
How has climate change impacted coral reefs?
And added a standard:
RI.6.7: I can integrate information from various sources to develop an understanding of a topic or issue.
To set the stage for these Iowa students who are far away from a coral reef, we began with guided exploration of a reef using a Google Expedition. Adding music to this exploration took it to the next level.
Then the group broke into two. The pink group read an article online and created a sticky note chart with their new learning and additional questions. The blue group read a printed article and created a padlet of their new learning and additional questions.
Then we brought the groups together to discuss both the content and the process. We created a pro and con table of the different elements as we talked.
What did we learn?
Bottom line - VR tools need to be embedded in the art of teaching. A VR tool in isolation can just be something bright and shiny. When a teacher pairs a a digital tool with their own depth of teaching knowledge the world opens up for students in a different way.
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