Oct 16

3 Simple Tips to Protect your Kid’s iPad

I’ve been asked lots lately about iPads and our kids. Mainly about how you stop kids dropping, throwing and breaking them!!!! Protecting kids’ iPads so they can use them as long as possible for learning is really important. I have a couple of (easy) tips for you!
First though, let me say that I actually don’t mind when kids are using iPads without kid gloves. To me, if they are tossing it (gently!) onto a table or chucking it on the couch then I think it’s actually become one of their tools in their learning toolkit, not something fancy or just for playing games on.
Of course I’m not saying I want them to damage it or break the screen. I just mean that when I first saw laptops in classrooms, kids (and teachers) were so conscious of using them ‘carefully’ that they weren’t used to full advantage. One teacher I saw had the laptops sitting on plastic bags and gave out hand wipes to clean the screen/keyboard after each lesson. I applaud her thoroughness (and shear ability to care that much) – but really???
iPads are everyday tools now. They should be used whenever necessary (just like pens and paper). I really think a bit of dirt on a screen or a scuff from where it’s been pulled in and out of its case is ok. More than ok. It’s doing it’s job as a learning tool.
BUT…
Of course we don’t want to waste all that money on iPads or laptops. We want these tools to be used and be useful – for as long as possible!
So my 3 Tips for Protecting Kids’ iPads…
  • Buy a case that protects the corners of the iPad.

When you get a cracked screen, it’s usually due to impact from the corner. If you drop an iPad flat, it’s really hard to break the screen, although you will get a scratch or two  (ah hem…I may know this from experience). So the corners need protection. Those beautiful, slimline cases that just cover the front of the iPad and flip back into a stand are lovely. But not tough enough for our kids. Get one with corner protection.
  • Insist that the iPad is always carried in a bag.

So much of the damage I see is from kids walking around, to or from school. They are chatting with their mates, pull out their iPad to show some video on youTube and bang. They get knocked and the iPad’s smashed on the floor. Put.It.In.Your.Bag. is my new mantra.
  • Check the iPad often.

Your kids can go months without telling you about breakages. I saw one iPad that had a broken screen and home button – it was practically unusable – but the child didn’t tell their teacher or parent for weeks….Now the teacher should have noticed probably but the kid did a good job of hiding it! Screens can be fixed, so can buttons. If we know there’s a breakage or damage then we can get it fixed. The longer the kids use the iPad when it’s damaged the more things can go wrong. And I really believe it also means they are less likely to take good care of it. If we get these things fixed, then it shows that their iPad is important and valuable still!! There are shops in every mall these days with screen repair places. My advice is to get a quote from a couple to check you get the best deal – prices can vary greatly!
So that’s it. Get a case, use a bag, get it repaired when you need to. Not too hard. This high-end technology for children is a whole new world – and unique to our generation of parents.
It pays to remember that iPads have only been around for 5 years and this year is the first time I’ve heard schools start to talk about how their iPads are ‘old’ and need replacing. That’s a really good sign. Laptops only ever last 3 years in schools (even if schools hold on to them for longer, honestly, 3 years is about your max). So it looks like we are getting a few more years of learning for our money! Time to check what condition your kids’ iPad’s in – and to check they are looking after it :0)

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Oct 13

What do teachers actually do?

I get asked a lot what teachers actually do. Well, I could give the sarcastic answer of ‘what don’t they do!?!, it’s not all 3pm finishes and school holidays you know!” But I’m not that rude :0). The real answer is that our main task as teachers is pedagogy. It’s the method and practice of teaching.

So just as biologists study life, and geologists study the earth. We study learning. That’s our job. More than that though teaching is about helping others learn by understanding how learning happens – literally how stuff happens in human brains to create knowledge and understanding. How do we look at a flower and are able to say “That’s a flower, it has roots to get water and leaves to catch sunlight. I know this because I saw another thing that looked similar and it was also called a flower.” How do our brains access that knowledge, connect that ‘fact’ to other similar facts and make a judgement. When it comes down to it, our brains are just muscle – highly complex and a huge mystery but a muscle. How does a muscle feel, learn, grow or have opinions. This is what we learn at University. How do we best help all children develop knowledge and understandings?

The most popular theory about how we learn is called Social-Constructivist theory. Fancy words. But it just means that learning happens with other people (socially) and is created through a group – literally for each other and with each other. The theory goes that we are constantly creating meaning about things by talking and observing and interacting with other people. These actions help us make sense of the world. This knowledge and understanding changes every time we interact with other people and get more ‘input’ that we compare to what we know or believe.

So all of that theory is just to say – that’s why working in teams or group projects or partner work is so important in schools. And why we know that rote learning things like times tables isn’t all our kids need to experience – it’s much, much more complex than that.

We need to support kids to learn from and with each other so that real learning happens.

A big thing I say regularly to the trainee-teachers I work with is:

Telling is not Teaching

And it’s not. We can’t tell someone something and have them turn that into knowledge in their heads. Brains don’t work that way. If we tell kids a fact, they will need time, examples, interaction and conversation before it becomes ‘fact’ for them. And then they will be constantly comparing that ‘fact’ to everything else they see and hear and do.

So that’s my little rant for the week – teaching is extremely complex and involves understanding how brains actually make sense of the world, which means that simply telling someone something is NOT teaching.

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Oct 09

If we turn off the device, do we turn off the child?

In the workshops I run with school leaders I do an activity that gets them to look at a lot of quotes around education and technology today. The idea is that they start talking about what’s possible in their schools – based on what the experts say we should be doing.

One of these quotes from Stephen Heppell is always, always controversial:

If we turn off the device, we turn off the child

What do you think? Is that true….?

For me, technology is a tool that supports learning – and it should be supporting good learning that is interactive, collaborative, student-centred, student-driven and focused on individual improvement, not on whole school score improvement.

i also think that if you do turn off the device and the child turns off, it reflects more on us as teachers – not the device! If we have a child in front of us and we lose their attention as soon as the iPads get put away, well, it’s not a favourable comparison is it? We lose to a piece of metal and silicone. Not great.

I think teachers today are MORE important than they ever have been.

Our kids have access to so much information and opinions. It’s up to teachers to help them sift through the endless data that they come across, decide what is valid or true and make sense of it for themselves in their world. Not an easy task.

Good teaching does this. A device is just a tool to get there – so if a good teacher turns off the device, the child shouldn’t really notice. Because a good teacher will use the device to support good learning and use the device when it’s going to add value to the learning.

What do you think? Should we let kids have devices ‘on’ all the time?

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Oct 06

What’s a Selfie? And why do I need to know?

So I posted a while ago about Positive Selfies – and got a few questions about what they are. Fair enough. Sorry for assuming it’s a universal word!
Did you know that Selfie is officially in the Oxford Dictionary now? Imagine 15 years ago – we would have had no clue what this is and now it’s part of our ‘official’ language. Mad.
What's a Selfie? Parents learn tech

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Don’t you love that definition sentence?  You can post everyday but you don’t need to people. Oxford Dictionary may accept that Selfie part of our language – but don’t overdo it people. Please. Love it!

So it’s a photo you take of yourself. Maybe by holding the camera yourself or using a selfie stick.  Yep. That’s a purpose-made stick that you attach your phone to and use the button in the stick handle to take the photo. I think this *may* be the most narcissistic invention of the past decade. It’s basically designed so that you can take your own photo with a fancy sweeping background or with lots of people.

Why do we care? Well, our kids take lots of selfies. As the Oxford Dictionary politely suggest – we are taking A LOT of photos of ourselves these days in all sorts of emotional, dressed or undressed states. We need to know what they are talking about and what they are doing online.

  • Selfie of your and your hockey team after winning the finals? Probably ok.
  • Selfie of you with your best cats-bum face pose and low cut top? Definitely not.
Let’s help kids stay kids a bit longer and keep reminding them about why selfies aren’t always a great idea!
So – my challenge! Can you use the word ‘Selfie’ with your kids today? Without sounding like a d**khead?  Give it a go :0) Let them know you speak the lingo (?!?)

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Oct 03

Improve your skills with Coach’s Eye iPad app – not just for sport!

So just wanted to share a quick app recommendation today. I saw a PE teacher using Coach’s Eye last year and it’s so fun I thought I’d post it here. It’s not just for sport though – I’ve since seen it used for dance, theatre and oral presentations. Great for helping your kids practice at home!

It’s a camera app that lets you review action in slowmo, shows two videos at the same time and annotate videos as you talk.

The PE teacher I saw was using Coach’s Eye to teacher Grade 4 kids how to shoot a basketball. He video himself doing it, then video the kids in the class. Then on the big screen he played his ‘demo’ in slow motion alongside the kids’ attempts. They could see straight away where their form differed from the teachers. Then it was a case of try it again and see how you go!

With more physical learning, often words can’t express what we are trying to demonstrate. How many times have you said to your kids ‘Here let me show you’ when you’ve explained something a million times to them?!?!

I used this app with some students rehearsing a dance last week. I’m in no way a dancer. Like really – in NO way. But I was supervising a lunchtime dance lesson as a favour for a friend (eek!). They wanted to create their own dance based on a YouTube video – taking ideas and movements and re-choreographing them.

So being tech-know savvy (and it being the only way I could help!!!) I pulled up a few videos and showed them in Coach’s eye. They gave the moves from the video a go – (and did sooooo much better than I could do) – and we compared their video to the YouTube ones. I felt like an *expert* without knowing anything :0)

We really used the app as a coach for their dance – which they performed at assembly this week. I hear they were awesome!

I can see how Coach’s Eye could help kids prepare for oral presentations as well. They present twice and show both videos to compare them. Did they jiggle or move too much (a primary school-kid tendency) or never look up from their notes? We teachers try to drill in the basic practices of public speaking, but it is really one of those things that they need to see for themselves – and what better example to learn from than themselves!

It’s a free download and well worth playing with! Let me know how you go with it – would love to hear from you :0)

Oct 03

How is that technology being used? Is it just an expensive pencil?

Every week I work with Principal’s and teachers who have invested (often a lot of money) in technology for the kids in their schools. And every week I have the same conversations about why are we doing this? Why spend all this money and effort if what kids do in the classroom remains the same. And every week I say the same thing. If you don’t change how you teach and students learn wit technology, you’ve just bought yourselves some very expensive pencils.
What do I mean by that? Well, you can read about the SAMR Model for technology use in this post. But basically, most technology use begins (and often stays) at a low level of use.
Substitute & Augment 
Teachers ‘Substitute’ the tech tool for another tool. So instead of working out double-digit addition on pen and paper, they get the kids to draw it on an iPad app. Exactly the same task but there’s some ‘fun-factor’ to using the iPad.
Sometimes they’ll use technology to add something (we call it ‘augmenting’ learning) – like maybe using an app that self corrects the kids’ work instead of the teacher having to collect the sheets and do the marking. It’s really just the same task though. The kid does the question, he finds out if he’s right or wrong. Then he tries again. No interaction with others or demonstration that he learns from his mistakes.
These types of activities really just use the technology as Expensive Pencils. There’s no real changes to learning or teaching or any real benefit at all.
Some folks always argue with me and say that the kids are ‘so much more engaged’ when they do rote and drill on the iPad. That’s great and for some kids it’s really needed. But if that’s the only things we ever do with our technology we aren’t getting enough out of our big time and money investment. Also, engagement doesn’t last that long. We get about 3 weeks and then kids move on to the next thing – the technology becomes a part of the classroom, nothing exciting.
Modifying and Redefining Learning
We really need to see the teaching and learning change so that there’s more in-depth use of the tech. So, that means interactive, creative activities that require kids to talk to other kids and other experts (inside and beyond the school). It means that they might create a maths problem blog where they post complex questions and ask for help to solve it. Where they take on board others’ suggestions
My message to you as parents is to question what’s going on in schools and what the intentions are when you are asked to spend $500 on an iPad or laptop. How is the school going to make use of the device?
As well as at school – what are you kids doing at home? If it’s homework, can it be more interactive, more collaborative, more creative?
We know that if we help kids use technology this way they will be more independent, self-motivated and driven learners – a great set of skills for the real-world, right?

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