Tag Archives: Teachers

How to Empower Your Faculty in a Mobile Learning Environment


Introducing a new technology into the learning environment can be an intimidating experience, even for seasoned educators. However, with careful and intentional planning on the part of administrators and educational leaders, they can become powerful tools as part of your curriculum and pedagogy. Here are eight ways that administrators and school leaders can empower their faculty to successfully adopt technology in their curriculum.

Is the Technology on Your School or in your School

mobile learning

Greg Kulowiec, in his talks on iPads and other mobile devices, is fond of asking “Is your technology on your classroom or in your classroom?” Using technology because it’s there, or because you’re “expected to” can be a path to failure. Instead, when choosing a tool, be it a device, a software platform, or another instrument, consider your educational philosophy, objectives, and vision. In his article, 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (and how to Correct Them), Tom Daccord argues that you should explore and examine your curriculum, learning objectives and goals, and pedagogical vision. Perhaps you are in the process of adopting technology at your school in the form of a 1:1 or BYOD; or expanding an existing program, however, don’t just throw technology at existing educational problems. Instead, make meaningful choices.

Reexamine Learning Spaces

A traditional learning environment, with students in rows looking at the teacher, is not an environment conducive for learning with mobile technology. Mobile devices are just that, mobile! Look at restructuring learning spaces to be more conducive to your learning environment. This could include having students work in pods or even taking their classroom outside of the physical building. Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs argues that forward thinking schools are fully redesigning the concept of what a school should “look like.” If you want to see some amazing, innovative architecture look at the cutting edge designs of Fielding Nair International. The Hilbrook School has some great tips on this in “5 Steps Towards an Intentional Learning Space.”

Bring Faculty into the Discussion

All of us in education are advocating for the children. We want our learners to be successful. Teachers are also stakeholders in this experience, in fact, likely the most passionate ones! By bringing them into the decision making and implementation process, you foster their investment, promote buy-in, and can readily address their needs and concerns. Teachers are your greatest allies, use them!

Technology Must be Education Focused

The transition of technology in the classroom has been a rapid one. Many schools are still scrambling to catch up. Because of this, technology often still falls under “Operations” (akin to utilities, car-pools, maintenance, etc) as opposed to “Education.” If you are introducing technology into your curriculum, then youmust ensure that your technology has an educational focus. To this end, it’s important that Educators and Educational Administrators be directly involved in the decision making process for hardware, software, filtering, and more, just as they decide other school supplies like notebooks, textbooks, and pencils.

Professional Development and Mobile Learning

The most important and powerful thing you can do to empower your faculty is to provide them with meaningful, relevant, and dedicated professional development time. In a time when schools are experiencing budget shortfalls, Professional Development budgets are often the first ones slashed. However, remember that when introducing a device into the classroom, even your veteran teachers are back to year one. Their curricular thinking, classroom management, and lesson planning are being entirely restructured and shifted. Professional Development should be tiered and scaled appropriately; do not put AP Science Teachers in curricular training with elementary school science; do not train all teachers with an “introduction to email” course. Instead, professional development should be leveled (Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced), as well as focused on appropriate grades and subject matter. I also encourage you to not add training to already busy schedules. This should be dedicated training time in lieu of other experiences. In addition to in-house opportunities, arrange for funding and provide time off for teachers to attend conferences, participate in webinars, and take classes. While it is great to organize internal opportunities for professional development, look to bring in outside instructors such that you can tap their expertise and let teachers hear from a different voice.

Tap Peer Teachers

One of the best resources that you have are your teachers. Tap your power users and those who have greater social influence in your schools. Even if you make it clear that approaching your Tech Director or Department Chair for assistance is not a “penalty,” it can still be in the back of their minds. A peer is less intimidating. Additionally, they know that their fellow teachers have the same students and work conditions as they do. Their advice and ideas often carry more weight than a Tech Director with decades of experience.

Don’t Lock it Down!

If you allow your teachers to be their best professional selves, to personalize their tools and devices, you give them ownership of the technology in their classrooms. If you send the message: “This item is fragile and dangerous. You can’t be trusted to use it properly, install software, or explore,” then you can’t expect them actively want to use and explore with these devices. I am not saying it should be the wild, wild west. However, set a reasonable use policy and trust your faculty to be their professional selves. By managing their own devices they can explore new tools, become more comfortable, and therefore feel empowered to use it in their classrooms.

Allow Time for Learning and Growth

New devices come with a learning curve. While you can minimize it, there will be some growing pains. Do not make technology adoption a high stakes game for your faculty. Allow for mistakes and failure. One of my favorite podcasts,Freaknomics, posted an episodea few months ago entitled “Failure is Your Friend.” By failing, you take risks, learn, and advance. So don’t just tolerate failure, celebrate it! If you want an innovative environment, then you must celebrate the process of innovation, which includes failure.

Building and fostering an environment where your faculty feels empowered to use mobile devices requires an intentional process on the side of administrators. Respect them as stakeholders, support them professionally, and allow them to explore and take risks. You will be amazed at what they can do!

Looking to learn more? Come join us this summer!


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Web Tools for Ninjas

On my second day at Miami Device, I’m thrilled to attend the session “Web Tools for Ninjas.” I’ve been following Tech Ninja Todd (Todd Nesloney) for years, so I’m feeling a bit like a fangirl! This presentation focuses on tools featured on their website: The 3 Tech Ninjas. Todd’s big suggestion is to focus on 1 or 2 tools, otherwise you get overwhelmed.

The first tool he highlights is Vocaroo. This is a tool that lets you record voice and then share via email, embed, QR code, etc. Todd’s school likes to use this for students who require audio tests. This is a free tool. My friend Moss Pike at Harvard Westlake uses this tool for students to submit audio recordings of language assessments.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 9.49.40 AMAnother great tool they are highlighting SafeShare. Safeshare allows you to take a YouTube video and it filters out the video ads that can be a distraction to students before or after a video is shown in class.

A tool I’m excited to use is Canva. Canva lets you produce some amazing designs (documents, letters, flyers, presentations, etc). They make you look like a high end designer! Shhh… don’t tell my boss, I want them to think I’m a Ninja! I’m especially excited that you can use Canva to build a high quality infographic! I love those and want to use them more in my classroom. As its cloud based, you don’t lose content.

Animoto is a web-based video building and editing tool. It produces beautiful videos. If you are a teacher and register with your school email, then animoto is entirely free! This is unlimited videos and links. Keep in mind that students cannot get a free account.

Poll Everywhere is one of my favorite tools. In fact, during my presentation I’ll be using it.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 10.01.38 AMWe are flying through the tools! The next one they highlight is WordSift. Wordsift takes text, highlights the type of words used and highlights them in teresting ways, such as world clouds. I put in the I have a dream speech, and have this cool word map! If you click on it, then you can trace the origin of various words.

Remind is another popular tool. You can use it to text students and teachers reminders. By creating different groups, you can send out texts to appropriate groups, e.g. parents, particular class period, faculty, department, etc. This way, you don’t have to share your personal phone number. Additionally, no one can respond to the text, which is also handy. You’re getting the information out there. It’s very easy. Also, remind curates all of your content, you cannot delete it. This helps to protect you. No one can claim that you sent something that you did not. You can also pre-schedule messages! This is a great reminder for events, tests, etc.

Skype in the Classroom is an education side to Skype. They provide content and tools just for educators. You don’t have to worry about “random people.” Todd describes it as a Craig’s List for Skype People! Skype in the Classroom is free for schools and ad free. The nice thing about interacting with other educators is they understand that sometimes they are tech issues, sometimes kids are Lord of the Flies… we all know what each other’s concerns are!

Classroom Champions is a way for top performing Olympic and Paralympic athletes connect to schools and build effective, mentoring programs for character building programs. During Olympic Years, it’s al athletes participating in that year’s athletes. In the Spring, you apply to be a Classroom Champions Teacher, this means an athlete is assigned to your classroom. In the Spring, an athlete is assigned to compete for your athlete to visit your school.

Kahoot! is a popular tool at my school. It turns “Exit Tickets” into a game. Students rack up points and  have a fun review session.

Blogging is important for students. As an avid blogger, I can attest to its utility. However, many schools are hesitant about blogging. Kidblog is a great way to give young students autonomy over their own writing within a safe environment. Teachers have control and their security is protected. However, students get to play with the visual elements and content. Other tools for blogging are Blogger (a Google Project) and WordPress. Keep in mind that blogging can be a security concern for many people, so be sure to investigate the tools that you are going to use.

If you’re a tech administrator, check out Ninite! It creates an install bott for updating content on your machines. This is great for allowing you to update and/or install content

Cloud storage is very important. I use about a dozen services. The tool CloudMagic allows you to search all of your cloud platforms to find content and files! This is pretty cool.

Drawastickman.com is a fun site that allows students to draw a story as you progress. It’s very cool.

Incredibox allows you to create your own music! While it’s cool, it can be a bit annoying… Beware! You can put different figures together to build a song and visualize it at the same time.

Project Explorer is a non-profit organization that provides virtual fieldtrips. They have recently updated it to include lesson plans. They have some great projects! They’re short, quick, and to the point. Check out what they have going on:

Sydney Harbour Bridge from ProjectExplorer.org in Australia from ProjectExplorer.org on Vimeo.

Google Art Project is another way to take students on amazing digital field trips.

DIY is a site where students share their process of learning something new through other kids. Students teach one another how they’re learning to shoot a bow and arrow or rebuild a motor.

If you want to learn more about these tools and from your peers, check out the podcast Edu All-Stars. Check out their interview with Secretary of State, Arne Duncan:

I have only captured a few of the tools they highlighted. Check out these tools and more on their website The 3 Tech Ninjas.

Common Sense Media on the iTunes Store

image-1360x520I love Common Sense Media. They are an excellent resource for parents and teachers for topics such as Digital Citizenship, Online Safety, Online Ethics, Digital Literacy, and more. Best yet, the tools they provide are entirely free!

Check out their free resources on the iTunes store by clicking here; enjoy free iBooks, Apps, and other resources.

Open Culture – Free Cultural & Educational Resources for Children

Open Culture is a free repository of cultural and educational resources on the web. You can find free online courses, free movies, free ebooks, free audiobooks, free language courses, and more!


Check out their K-12 Educational resource page for selections geared towards students and teachers. The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Anne of Green Gables are but a small selection of free texts available. Check out lesson resources for math, history, science, geography, art, etc.

It is an excellent resource for students, parents, and educators!

How to Use iPads for Personal Professional Development

This article is reblogged from my post on Edudemic.

This post is adapted from a talk that I gave at the iPad Summit in Atlanta. The Boston iPad Summit 2013 is now accepting proposals and offers discounts for early bird registration!

As an educator, when I am given a new tool my first thought is “how can I use this in the classroom? How will I roll this out?” However, I have learned over the years that I need to pause, step back, and think, “Okay, how is this tool going to make my life and job easier? How can I use iPad to make me a better teacher?” Before I rush ahead with how I am going to roll out this device in my classrooms, I need to effectively incorporate it into my life and figure out how to use iPads to make me a better teacher.

iPad for Consumption


It is true that iPad is a great device for consumption. You can easily use your iPad to listen to pertinent podcasts, read news and blog articles, and share what you have learned with the broader educational community. Here are some ways that I use my iPad for consumption professionally.


Podcasts are simply online radio shows. Some are broadcast by professional organizations (likeNPR or Harvard University), whereas others are created by individuals with a particular passion and/or expertise (like Mobile Reach, hosted by educators). Browsing the Apple iTunes Store or using the Podcasting App, you can easily find shows that relate to your professional interests and needs. You can listen at your leisure, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and share! I even assembled a brief list of great Podcasts for Educators to help get you started.

News Readers

News Readers (commonly called RSS feeds) allow you to keep up with your favorite news sites, blogs, and more. They’re pretty easy to navigate and allow you to browse all of your content in one place. With the recent death of Google Reader (I am still in mourning), there are a lot of services that have popped up to fill the void. They’re also free! Try out Feedly or, for a magazine-type interface, Flipboard. By using an RSS service, you don’t have to keep up with a hundred bookmarks or subscribe to numerous email lists. Instead, you have one single way to access a lot of different sources. Better yet, you can share these with your PLN (Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media tools are built right in)! Here’s a brief list of blogs/news sources for educators to help get you started.

Social Media/PLN

In a previous article, I wrote about how to kickstart your PLN this summer. Social Media mobile apps for iPad are sleek, intuitive, and often integrated with many of your other apps (like your RSS Reader). Building and sharing with your PLN on iPad is simpler than you can imagine. Download your favorite tools (TwitterFacebook, and others) to get started. This is a great way to keep in communication with your PLN on the go.

Self Directed Learning

There is a lot of content out there to help you learn about new tools and techniques. I love to use the new YouTube app  to watch videos that I need for my professional learning. I may want to explore a new iMovie technique, learn about the new Evernote tools, or watch a great webinar. Here’s a great, short list of YouTube Channels for educators that can help you get started.

iPad for Curation

ipad free online course

The next key step is learning how to store, organize, and access content and material on your iPad. As iPad is highly portable, it is more reliant on cloud computing and sharing than other devices. There are numerous tools out there that you can use to help keep yourself organized on the go. The benefit of learning how to use these tools is that you can then turn around and implement them in the classroom – helping you to go paperless (or less paper-y), integrate digital tools, or roll out digital programs. Here are a few of my favorites:


I use Evernote to store so many things in my personal and professional life. You can literally store anything in its databases: documents, images, websites, videos, lists, and more. In fact, I wrote a brief article on using Evernote to help myself and my students stay organized. Also, Evernote works across platforms and devices, so I can access the notes on my iPad on my phone, at school, or at home!


DropBox is another great (and free) cloud computing tool. You can use DropBox to access and edit files across devices and platforms. Throw a presentation in your Dropbox folder at school, take it on your iPad to edit, and then present it on a third device (with your changes in tact). It’s highly versatile (and free). Check out some great ideas for employing DropBox in the classroom.

Google Drive

Google Drive is also a great collaborative tool, allowing you to share and edit documents with an individual or a group. You can use the Google Drive iPad App to create, edit, and share documents on your iPad. Like DropBox, items stored in your Google Drive can be access from any device and across platforms. This is great for me as I’m always on the go!

PDF Editors

PDF really is the format for iPad. With the myriad of PDF editors available for iPad (iAnnotate,PDF ExpertGood Reader, to name a few), you can take virtually any document and make notes, highlight, add voice notes, and more. By the way, all of these services also work with Evernote, DropBox, and Google Drive! You can easily access a document, write up comments, save changes, and share with others. When I first got my iPad, I tried to go as paperless as possible and would import handouts as PDFs so that I could keep and write notes on my portable device.

iPad for Creation

ipads in classrooms

iPad is not simply a consumption tool, it’s a powerful mobile creation device. Before assigning creative projects for your students, start playing with those tools yourself! Once you see how easy it is to be creative on iPad, I know you’ll be eager to adapt it in your classroom. There are many ways to flex your creative muscle on the iPad.

Make a movie

Film creation has a myriad of potential applications (documentaries, sharing experiments, observing a monologue, and more). There are numerous ways to make a movie on iPad, but my favorite tool remains iMovie. Try it out yourself – record a home video for yourself, a lesson for your students, put together a digital story, and more.

Record a podcast

Garage Band will let you record and manipulate sound more easily than you can imagine. Try recording a short podcast, something you could share with your students (such as a lesson when you’re out of town)! If you’re musically creative, write a brief song about a topic you cover in class. It’s a highly flexible and easily learned tool.

Make just about… anything

One of my favorite tools is Explain Everything. It gives you a truly “blank slate,” to createscreencasts, videos, images, sounds, and more. If you want to see some great ways that Explain Everything has been adapted in the classroom, check out Greg Kulowiec’s article, “Explain Everything x 4 Ways.” Throw together a screencast of one of your lessons, a step-by-step process for a science experiment, or anything else that is relevant for your class! You really are only limited by your imagination.

At the end of the day, I want to encourage you to explore how iPad can work for you before you rush to employ it in the classroom. Getting more familiar with hardware and software will ultimately help you to employ these tools more effectively in your classroom!

If you would like to learn more about the creative potential of the iPad, check out EdTechTeacher’s iPad As… page as well as their free webinars that cover tools, tricks, pedagogy and application! You can also take their free online course at Modern Lessons –5 Powerful But Little-Known Ways To Use Your Apple iPad.

Apply for KQED’s Teacher Working Group This Fall ($200 Stipend)

KQED Education is looking for highly engaged educators who are interested in integrating innovative pedagogical approaches to learning where students can connect, collaborate, and debate with their peers from around the country on current events. – See more at KQED.

The Fall workshop includes a $200 stipend. To learn more about the project and to apply, click here.

Teachers: Feeling Burnt Out?

Teacher burn out is a huge problem in the profession. Many educators leave the profession within the first five years. If you’re an educator and feeling burnt out, know that you’re not alone. Edutopia discusses the feelings associated with burn-out and methods to combat it.