Digital native/immigrant notion can be misleading

Prensky’s ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ dichotomy is just one current incarnation of the old “generation gap” cliché. Yes, I do concede that there might be a gap in the general knowledge and skills of what is happening in youth culture and what is happening in the culture of the parents of today’s youth. I also have to admit that Prensky’s notion has engendered a great deal of useful discussion among educators and  the general public about developing new ideas to support learning in 21st century classrooms.

However, I think it is important that educators realize that they need to be very careful about making assumptions regarding student competencies with technology based on Prensky’s natives/immigrants concept.  Often, I hear educators saying something like “my students know so much; they can teach me how to use all this technology.” While that might be true for a selection of specific uses and tools, all teachers still have a significant role to play in broadening student use of technology in the service of learning, collaboration, communicating, creating, and supporting critical thinking.

What follows is a cut-and-paste from the literature review section of a research paper I wrote in 2012 while studying at UBC.  In it, I reviewed a number of academic papers that set out to evaluate the concept of the digital native.

Literature Review

Introduction

The purpose of this review is to ascertain if there is solid empirical evidence that supports Marc Prensky’s generation-based conception of the digital native (2001a, 2001b).  This conception, and the many ramifications for students, parents and educators, is very important to understand and critically examine because it can influence the decisions and policies of educators, administrators and politicians.

Don Tapscott (1998) and Nicholas Negroponte (1995) both laid the groundwork for the digital native concept.  Prensky presents similar arguments (2001a) by stating that today’s students are the first to grow up with ubiquitous digital devices and instant access to information via the Internet: “our students today are all native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet” (Prensky, 2001a, p. 1). These devices, and the information, games and communication inter-activities they permit, have created a generation of youth who think and learn differently compared to the generation above them (whom Prensky, 2001a, labels digital immigrants).   In a follow-up article one month later, Prensky (2001b) asserts that digital natives think in a fundamentally different way to digital immigrants and cites neuroplasticity brain research to support his claims.

Superficially, Prensky’s notions are readily accepted by many educators and resonate with the traditional generation gap cliché.  This is nothing new.  However, Prensky makes a very bold statement regarding the state of education built on his premise:

It’s very serious, because the single biggest problem facing education today is that our
Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age),
are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language. (2001a, p. 3)

Educators and researchers have a serious responsibility to engage critically with Prensky’s proselytism and hyperbole.  Probing questions need to challenge the very premise of his dichotomous digital native-digital immigrant definition.

Selection of Studies

There has been a solid, critical response among academic researchers to Prensky’s digital native notion.  In this review, I will present a balanced mix of very recent studies that seek to find evidence to support the digital native definition.  A systematic assessment of all studies evaluating the digital native concept is beyond the scope of this review.  Of the six studies included, there are three review studies, one quantitative study, one qualitative study, and one socio-historical study.  I will demonstrate that a common conclusion exists in the studies selected.  That is, that the technology use and competence of today’s students cannot be captured by a simple, general description such as the digital native portrayal.  The reality is far more complex and variable.

Review and Critique

In 2008, Bennett, Maton and Kervin conducted a thorough literature review of studies examining the assumptions of the digital native characterization.  They first detailed the claims made of this generation’s general abilities and then carefully examined these qualities and the results of research testing these statements.  In their review of studies of university level students, they found that the primary use of technology were in the areas of word processing, emailing and using the Internet for leisure activities. Only a minority of tertiary students used Web 2.0 applications to create and share content. They also had significantly lower levels of competence than would be expected of digital natives.  In their review of children’s and adolescent’s use of technology, they found a wide discrepancies in the ways ICT was being used with the sources of variation related to a number of factors such as age group, SES background, and the influences of home versus school.  Bennett et al also examined the claim that digital natives prefer a specific learning style—one that is high speed, multitasking, and game based.   Their review revealed that there is no evidence that supports the theory that today’s students belong to a homogeneous generation characterized by an idiosyncratic learning style.  When researchers identified and measured learning preferences, wide variability was found in the group.  The results are clearly at odds with Prensky’s broad notion that current students all learn and operate at what he calls “twitch speed” (2001a, p. 4).

In a related, later study, Bennett and Maton (2010) more closely examined the specific competence-based claims made about digital native youth.  In their review of ICT access studies, a wide variation of access levels were apparent and connected to variables such as age, home, school, location.  The complexities of measuring provision versus access also complicated the understanding.  In terms of technology-based activities, Bennett and Maton state that while a majority of students did use technology to communicate and access information on the Internet, a minority used Web 2.0 tools to create content online.  Interview data from some studies reported that students were often unaware of tools such as wikis and blogs.  Additionally, studies revealed that groups of young people developed narrow competencies, specializing in one or two areas, for example online gaming, social networking, or messaging.  The general conclusion of this review was that there exists wide variation of activities and proficiencies in the various samples surveyed or interviewed.  This contrasts with Prensky’s view that all young people today speak with a new digital language unique to them.

Neil Selwyn’s (2009) literature review of studies examining online and digital technology use by younger students also presents a far more complex and variable reality than Prensky’s.  Aside from other predictive factors that affected levels of Internet and computer use (e.g., rural location, females, and youth from families with a low level of parental education), studies in Selwyn’s review all showed wide variations between 7, 11, and 15-year-old children and their use of technology.  For example, adolescents primarily played games, sent messages, and retrieved information online whereas pre-adolescent use centered on word processing, picture making and playing simple games.  Selwyn also noted that various researchers observed passive activities online rather than active Web 2.0 digital content creation and collaboration activities that Prensky (2010) describes as distinctively digitally native.  Another issue that surfaced in Selwyn’s literature review was the disquieting notion that pre-adolescents had difficulty finding and critically evaluating information found on the Internet.  Prensky (2001a) asserted that digital natives are sophisticated users of information technology but Selwyn research review indicate that actual use and competence does not support this assertion.

Helsper and Eynon (2010) analysed data collected from the 2007 Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) to ascertain specifically what variables best define a digital native.  The OxIS is conducted face-to-face with individuals aged 14 or older.  In 2007, there were 2,350 respondent s.  Helsper and Eynon excluded data from non-Internet users or ex-users thus reducing the sample to 1578.   They closely examined factors such as age (i.e., generation), gender, education, experience and breadth of use of technology.   Their analysis of the OxIS survey data revealed that while generation was a significant variable in determining digital nativism, it was not the strongest:

Indeed, in all cases, immersion in a digital environment (i.e. the breadth of activities that people carry out online) tends to be the most important variable in predicting if someone is a digital native in the way they interact with the technology. (Helsper and Eynon, 2010, p. 515)

In fact, if age were held as the main factor in determining who is, and who is not, a digital native, the OxIS survey indicated that online digital activities significantly decrease after age 55 which would redefine the birth age of the digital native to 1952, not 1980.

In 2011, an interesting qualitative study of authentic adolescent use of technology and the Web was conducted by Thornham and McFarlane.  These researchers saw an opportunity with BBC Blast to actually observe UK’s digital natives in action.  BBC Blast was established in 2002 as both a nationwide touring media-workshop and Web 2.0 site that sought to be the ultimate destination for British teens wanting to learn how to create media, share media, and discuss each other’s media productions.  The BBC Blast web site provided statistical access data as well as actual media productions and online discussion threads created by the age 13-19 users.  A survey was posted on the web site to which 189 users responded.  They also conducted 400 group and individual interviews regarding use of the site.  Results of their inquiry revealed that teens rarely interacted with each other online in a meaningful or productive way.  For example, many online discussions were sharing sessions of likes and dislikes (e.g., computer games they liked to play).  Web site access data showed that the users spent an average of only three minutes on the site.  Almost no evidence of collaboration or interaction was seen in the discussions.  Additionally, questionnaire data suggested that teens would only consider uploading their productions if there was an incentive, such as a competition or feedback from an expert.   The prediction that digital native UK teens would be self-motivated to use an online space to work collaboratively was not supported when this online space was made available to them.  Essentially, cases in which teens were actually operating as digitally natives were the exception not the rule.

David Buckingham (2006) provided historical, sociological and philosophical background to the practice of generational definitions and their origin.  His inquiry was based on a single question: Is there a digital generation?  In his chapter, he chronicles the development of various generation gap assertions over the last century and connects them to well-known (yet hyperbolic) familial, educational, and societal moral crises or imperatives.  He also asserts that generational definitions grounded in technological determinism (such as those from Prensky, 2001a, and Tapscott, 1998) often ignore the complex interplay of other factors such as government, business, and marketing influences.  He also presents a brief literature review of studies that examine actual computer and Internet use by children.  Again, the studies he cites concur with those reviewed because they “suggest that most children’s everyday uses of the internet are characterised not by spectacular forms of innovation and creativity, but by relatively mundane forms of information retrieval” (Buckingham, 2006, p. 10).

Discussion

In the case of Prensky’s digital natives classification, tests and examinations of the current generation of students have been completed over the previous decade by a large number of researchers and it has been found to be an inaccurate characterization of what Prensky called “today’s students – K-12 through college” (Prensky, 2001a, p. 1).  This subset of the population does not speak a language all their own which is distinct from that of their teachers.

It turns out that there are several factors at work that affect the extent to which today’s students develop the knowledge and skills that determine their level of competence with digital technology and Internet use.   Prensky is correct that the current generation of children are the first to grow up in an environment saturated with nearly ubiquitous Internet access, the Internet, Web 2.0, and a myriad of digital devices.  However, this does not automatically create a generation of digital specialists who can multitask and who are naturally collaborative, creative, and interactive.

Today’s students tend to use these tools in a variety of ways, and at a wide level of competencies, for reasons that serve their own individual wants and needs.  Thus, students tend become very adept in select areas such as online gaming, texting, or retrieving information.  Recall that Helsper and Eynon (2010) stated that it was the breadth of online activities that was most associated with the characteristics of Prensky’s digital native user, not age.  Actual studies have revealed that a breadth of use is lacking; students who are using technology, usually do so well but in very narrow uses and in ways that match their interests and inclinations.

Conclusion and Further Study

It would seem that a wide variety of skills, knowledge and learning styles exist in the population Prensky calls today’s students.  It is crucial that educators and policy makers have a solid foundation upon which to make decisions about pedagogy and funding.  The portrayal of today’s students as digital natives does a disservice to both students and teachers because educators and politicians who accept the definition will make assumptions about today’s students that are not accurate.

Building on Helsper and Eynon’s (2010) analysis of the OxIS, and reviews of studies by Selwyn (2009), it seems reasonable that the collection of data regarding the levels and types of Internet access, and the types and extent of Internet and computer use, that today’s student engage in is essential information for educators and policy makers.

Finally, since it is clear that the digital native concept is not supported by empirical research, a problem now exists in the form of an inaccurate depiction of students that has been adopted by educators.   How deeply is the digital native characterization entrenched in the minds of current teachers, school administrators, and school board administrators?

References

Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: a critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786.

Bennett, S., & Maton, K. (2010). Beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate: Towards a more nuanced understanding of students’ technology experiences. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), 231-331. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00360.x

Buckingham, D. (2006). Is there a digital generation? In D. Buckingham & R. Willett (Eds.), Digital generations: Children, young people and new media (pp. 1–13). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Englert, K., Fries, D., Martin-Glenn, M., & Michael, S. (2005). How are educators using data? A comparative analysis of superintendent, principal, and teachers’ perceptions of accountability systems. Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Gay, L. R., Mills, G. E., & Airasian, P. (2009). Educational research: competencies for analysis and applications. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Helsper, E. & Eynon, R. (2009). Digital natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal, 36(3), 503-520. doi:10.1080/01411920902989227

Negroponte, N. (1995). Being Digital. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Prensky, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816

Prensky, M. (2001b). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 2: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424843

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Selwyn, N. (2009). The digital native: Myth and reality. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 61(4), 364-379. doi:10.1108/00012530910973776

Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up digital:  The rise of the net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thornham, H. & McFarlane, A. (2011). Discourses of the digital native. Information, Communication & Society, 14(2), 258-279. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2010.510199

App Suggestions for Learning Activities in BYOD Classrooms

Even with device neutral assignments or web-based creation or collaboration tools, students in #BYOD friendly schools might still be looking for app suggestions to match the particular learning task they are engaged in.  There are some incredibly detailed resources available, such as Allan Carrington’s “padagogy” wheel.  But, if you are looking for something a little less complicated (and one that includes other platforms such as Android), take a look at this comparison chart, created by my colleague @tina_zita. It contains various app/tool suggestions for students using iOS or Android devices, web-based tools, or Ontario Ministry of Education licensed applications (see OSAPAC).  The learning task categories on the chart are:

  • Create a digital story
  • Organize ideas
  • Create an animation
  • Capture thinking
  • Create a game

Only two of the mobile device apps in the chart below are not free, that is, iMovie and Explain Everything. A free iOS-based option for creating a digital story is Puppet Pals HD (note: the paid version, called “Director’s Pass” allows for your own images to be used rather than just the ones that come with the app).  And a free iOS-based option for capturing thinking is Educreations Interactive Whiteboard.  Remember, too, that there is a free VoiceThread iOS app.

Files:  PNG image   ::   JPG image   ::   PDF (with links)

ToolComparison

BYOD: Normalizing PEDs in schools

“Student with iPad studying” by Flickr user UBC Library.

It is old news that teaching with technology is not “about the technology” but more “normalizing the technology” so that it is an integrated part of day-to-day learning for students. BYOD is currently an initiative in many school districts but it is really just the name given for the catch up period for schools. I think one success criteria for BYOD is this: a few years on from the start of a BYOD initiative, will it seem odd to use the phrase, bring your own device? If not, then perhaps, use of these PEDs (personal electronic devices) in schools will have yet to be normalized.

Many non-digital technologies are, of course, fully normalized and integrated and we don’t think about how to effectively integrate them because they already are: written language, electricity, mass produced codices, pencils, pens, rulers, math manipulatives, and so on. I am reminded of this amusing video when I think of the early days of the codex.

As well there are various digital technologies that have been normalized in schools such as calculators, clocks, timers, alarms, meters, and so on. Outside of schools, cell phones and other mobile devices are pretty much a regular aspect of life; BYOD is what we’re calling the normalization of mobile digital devices in schools. There is quite a bit of focus right now on supporting teachers with how to best use these devices in the service of learning, how to manage them, and how to promote and model good digital citizenship. Luckily, conventional computers have been in schools for over three decades; there is the knowledge about how they have been/can be used to build upon when using PEDs.

I was recently speaking to an educator who remembers conducting workshops years ago for teachers concerning the use of calculators in the classroom. At the time, she told me, there was much anxiety and fear around their use. Additionally, she said that some teachers saw it as a threat to real learning of math skills – the argument was that students will just use calculators to get the answers instead of learning how to do it themselves.

The old “calculator initiatives” compare with what is happening now with BYOD. I think the anxiety and fear that some educators feel is normal, expected, and temporary. These emotions will most likely fade as the PEDs become normalized in schools. As well, the wide variety of positive, creative, and constructivist uses of PEDs in classroom are sometimes obscured by anxieties about possible negative, distracting, or irresponsible uses.

Use BYOD to revitalize the WebQuest

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As you are probably aware, a WebQuest is an online, project-based learning activity in which students actively participate in authentic tasks based on web resources using web 2.0 tools. A WebQuest exploits inquiry-oriented learning in which students are not only finding information but also using information to create new knowledge, learn new skills, and explore value systems. WebQuests are engaging to students because they focus thinking on a series of goals and creation activities; time using technology is more effective because it is structured and purposeful. There are excellent resources and links at webquest.org. You can explore some webquests at questgarden.com or by using Google and searching any subject and adding the keyword “webquest.”

Project-based learning via a WebQuest is an excellent fit with the objectives of 21st century learning goals. Students can be engaged and challenged by collaborative activities that focus their creativity and critical thinking skills with a central goal or project outcome. Communication skills are practiced and developed both at the interpersonal level and intrapersonal level. Various media can be employed by learners to contain the content of their project.

One of the challenges in the past using WebQuests or other technology-based project based learning models was the limitation of technology resources in schools, such as computer labs. Many teachers find that there is only enough time in the computer lab schedule to take students once or twice a week for a 40-minute session. The introduction of BYOD dramatically alters access to technology and can support project-based, strategies such as a WebQuest, far more effectively.

The story of our iPad implementation – Teacher reflections and tips

[Note: I am very pleased to include this guest post on my blog.  The following reflection was written by @zikmanistobin and @LynnDesh. It  highlights various issues they faced when implementing iPads into classrooms at the elementary school where they teach.  The tips section at the end is especially valuable, I think, to educators who are either considering the iPad as a teaching and learning tool or just beginning to implement iPads into their classroom.]

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A long process

Implementing iPads in our program has been a long process. Using new technology in education always creates more questions than answers it seems. How will they be stored? Who will take care of the maintenance of updating the software and loading on apps? Should we just have it as a teacher tool or student? What apps will suit our needs?  After six months the majority of the questions were answered, resolved, and set in place.

Initially, it was a challenge to implement iPads in the school. Most teachers were already in the process of integrating the netbooks into their program; so the thought of using a tablet was not a priority.  Some teachers were quite familiar with tablets and some had hardly used them at all.  Quite naturally, there were some who wondered if they would have enough time to learn to use another new technology.

One of our first steps to alleviate these feelings and hesitations were to get the iPads into the hands of the teachers. We encouraged the teachers to sign them out and just “play” with them. This allowed teachers to become more familiar and comfortable with the iPad, and within a short period of time, they were beginning to ask their own questions about potential pedagogical uses. The initial use was just for research purposes through our available databases–something that was already familiar to teachers and students. Within a short period of time, the teachers began using the camera in the iPad to capture student work; video was used to record science experiments and dramatic performances.

The iPad’s effect on learning

The use of apps, such as Explain Everything, Book Creator, Toontastic, and Google Translate, expanded potential learning outcomes in literacy programs. Students were now creating diverse and interactive media texts (these texts had traditionally been completed using a pencil and paper). Student engagement increased, especially for those who found it difficult to maintain interest in certain subjects.  Students became leaders when using this technology. Teachers saw, firsthand, how easy it was for students to create, collaborate and communicate with the iPad. The use of iPads was having a tremendously positive impact on their programs and, more importantly, their students. Within two months, we progressed from the technology being used by only a few individuals to not having enough technology in the school to meet the demand.

There will always be issues and questions with new educational technologies but, as long as teachers continue to experiment and have a clear educational goals in mind, your iPad program will grow in a positive way.

iPad implementation tips:

  • Need wireless solution in place in the school
  • Buy apps in bulk for discounted prices (e.g., voucher program, 20+ installations)
  • Decide on a strategy for introducing the technology to teachers (i.e., will iPads be used as a teacher tool to collect data – 1 per teacher,  or as student learning/creating tool – a bank of 10-12?).  This will help determine how many to purchase and where/how to store the iPads.
  • Our school currently has a set of 12 iPads that can be signed out to use with a class (using the ratio of 1 iPad per 2 students) which has been very effective for grades 3-5. This set of iPads can be signed out using a central, online booking system so that all teachers can locate the iPads and book them with ease from any location using any device.
  • A few iPads are available for sign out to support specific goals mostly related to special needs students and most often used by ELL, ISSP and EA’s
  • Teachers in K-2 are using them as a teaching tool to collect student assessment data.  Grade level teams are also working together to develop ways to use apps to collect student data.
  • It’s important to label the iPads so that students and/or teachers can go back to the same iPad if they are saving work.  We found that the easiest way to do this was to use a permanent marker to label the charger cord and the interior of the iPad cover (easier to see if it’s not black).  Another idea is to use a stick-on label from a label maker.
  • We store all the charging cords in a mobile netbook cart. This means that the iPads have to be returned daily in order to the charged.  This cart is stored in a central place in the school.  Keys to the cart are controlled by teacher volunteers who have chosen to plan/lead/support technology integration in the school.
  • One person on staff is responsible for loading and managing all apps on the iPads.
  • One strategy for implementing the effective use of iPads was to introduce staff to 3-4 highly versatile apps (see above) and then allow time to learn and become comfortable with their application for teaching/creating.
  • Schedule regular lunch and learns (once a month) to introduce new apps and discuss issues around their use, storing/sharing information.  Sometimes, educational technology resource teacher personnel were present to demonstrate, suggest ideas, or make recommendations.
  • Develop a team of student ambassadors who can assist teachers with carrying the iPads to classrooms and then returning them to the cart and plugging them in properly so that they will charge.
  • Purchase iPad cases appropriate for age level to protect the devices from damage; cases that provide adequate protection for daily classroom use are currently not available through Apple; do some research to find a case from a manufacturer that fits your needs.

Boost learning outcomes by transforming student learning tasks

As a teacher, you are probably very interested in how you can more effectively integrate technology into the learning tasks of their students. The most important words in this goal are: more effectively. Every teacher I know does use technology in a variety of different ways and they do promote and model its use for students in the service of learning. However, teachers often want to know what to do next and how they can better use technology to improve learning and boost outcomes.

In order to do that, educators need a way to analyze what they are expecting their students to do with technology during learning tasks. There are a variety of ways to approach this that but the simplest I have found is to think about task outcomes in terms a model called the SAMR Model. This model can provide a language for their analysis. It organizes specific technology use into four tiers according the following chart:

The SAMR Model

The SAMR Model (used with permission: Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, author of the SAMR model. Click on image for original slide source.)

In general terms, the lower two tiers describe how technology is used in the learning task in ways that do not alter the task; the technology only enhances the task. The upper two tiers describe how technology can be used in ways that do transform the learning task into an activity that will have a greater impact on learning.

In the following video, Dr. Puentedura provides an excellent introduction to the SAMR model and the TPACK framework, which is also a useful tool for teachers to use during the planning and designing of learning environments and tasks for students.

The SAMR model is useful as a tool to help educators analyze how technology is used in specific learning tasks and how it relates to student outcomes. It needs to be applied specifically and within the context of the educational objectives from the curriculum you are using. It was not designed as a set of categories that describe technologies, or software, or Web 2.0 tools, or applications, or any task taken out of a specific learning context. For example, graphics such as this one can be misleading; it would appear from this poster that one could simply choose the “Skitch” app and be assured that the task was being “modified”. The reality is that, depending on the original learning task one is considering, one could use Skitch, for example, as a substitute for the original task, or to augment the task, or modify the task, or to completely redefine the original task… it all depends on how the app is used and what the original learning task and context is.

Further Reading

Outstanding iPad Resources for Teachers

[Updated: April 28, 2013]

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No matter what level of educational iPad user you are, the following list of iPad specific web sites provides a depth and breadth of resources.

  • Apps for Children with Special Needs – This link takes you to the A-Z index of app ‘how-to’ videos. This site produces an extensive library of instructional videos of useful iPad apps for teachers and caregivers of children with special needs.
  • ESL Techies – Large collection of ELL specific educational technology posts; many iPad app category posts. Best content: the blog post entitled “iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking”
  • “I Want my Students to:___” – Student learning task matrix connects to chart of suggested possibly relevant iPad apps that might be useful for that task. Also includes summary of app, iTunes AppStore link, cost, ratings.
  • TPACK iPad Project in Schools (TIPS) – An online guide for using iPads in classrooms. Best content: the app recommendations are great and include information about each app such as if it requires wifi to work, cost, and target user (e.g., students, teachers, administrators)
  • Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything – iPads in the Classroom – Massive set of links to iPad resources such as tutorials and deployment support. Best content: Classroom uses of the iPad section
  • iPads in Education – Mostly an app guide but great information about using iPads effectively. This site looks great on the iPad, too! Best Content: iPads in Schools & The ‘Agile’ Space pages.
  • Balanced EdTech: iPad – Excellent iPad wiki with extensive information and resources. This is a great resource to support educators who are exploring the potential of iPad technology for learning and instruction. Best content: self-paced iPad workshop and apps list by category on main page.
  • Naace Case Study: The iPad as a Tool For Education – Research report of extensive study of iPad implementation at Longfield Academy in the UK (students aged 11-18). Best Content: Read the Executive Summary on page 6 to determine if you want to delve deeper into the study.
  • 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (and how to correct them) – Very insightful list that every educator should read who is planning to implement iPads into a classroom/school. Best Content: Each of the five points is worth some serious reflection time.
  • Getting ready for iPad deployment: ten things I’d wish I’d known about last year – Great article with many insightful statements about iPad integration in classrooms. Best content: #10
  • The Teachers iPad Spectrum – interesting examples of how students can use iPads to collaborate, research, and create content. Best content: the ideas in the produce (create) column.
  • Apps in Education: Creating ePortfolios – Some ideas for apps to use for ePortfolio creation. Best app: VoiceThread
  • iPad 4 Schools – Great blog with excellent posts about using iPads in your classrooms.  Topics include iPad vs. iPad Mini, gaming, 21st Cen mLearning, 4Cs (using edtech in the service of learning and to foster creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking), etc.
  • 7th Grade iPad Presentations – Video of grade seven students explaining how they use iPads when learning in the classroom. Best content: the first student presenter; she is very enthusiastic about her use of ABC Notes.
  • Richard Colosi YouTube Channel – Grade one teacher has uploaded several videos showing how iPads are used in his classroom. Best one: Frog and Toad Get an iPad

VoiceThread Example – Grade 2 – Making a Snack

This VoiceThread was created in 40 minutes with a grade 2 class of 21 students.  The objective was to create a media text that captured a familiar procedure, that is, making a snack.  Students were highly motivated and engaged and this was not only due to the fact they would be leaving that day with a yummy snack.  Even though this VoiceThread was created with a paid account, it was done in such a way so that a similar one could be made using a single classroom computer and a free VoiceThread account.

Every student was involved in some way during the session.  For the first 15 minutes, the snack was actually made and photographed at each step.  A student volunteered to take the digital photos but instructed to not get any faces in the pictures so that no one could be identified.  Different student volunteers took turns coming to the central table to complete a step in the creation of the snack baggies. Two other students had an idea to write the steps on chart paper as they occurred (this slowed things slightly but ended up being quite beneficial in the second half when other student volunteers made voice comments for each step.  They could choose to read the text on the chart paper if they wanted to or speak the step as they remembered… most chose to read the step from the chart).

A five minute break took place in the middle of the session. Students put away the snack materials, cleaned up and assembled for the second part of the session: recording voice comments of the steps in making the snack.  Also at this time, the teacher uploaded eleven pictures to a new VoiceThread, added a title and description, and made sure the headset/mic was plugged in and ready to use.

Students who were not involved in the making and photographing of the snack now had the opportunity to speak a voice comment for one of the steps.  All of the remaining students were eager to add their voices the VoiceThread to narrate each step.

Near the end of the 40 minute session, the class watched the full VoiceThread together.  The link to the VoiceThread could be shared with parents and other students.

Blogging for Beginners – ECOO session

Royan Lee (@royanlee) is using student facilitators during his session at this year’s ECOO conference in Richmond Hill. In fact, it seems appropriate that I blog about this because I am sitting here now in the middle of his session at ECOO. He brought with him ten student facilitators, all from classes he teaches, to sit at each table and lead the beginner adult bloggers in setting up their site, answering questions about how blogs can be used, and sharing their own blogging experiences.

Emily, the facilitator at our table, is excellent. She is actively answering questions and helping the participants at the table set up their new blogs. She outlined the advantages of using blogspot.ca but also was interested to hear about other blogging sites. She shared with us her personal blog site about fashion. Royan has just finished addressing the group and strongly encourages teachers to blog personally first in order to get to know how it works and experiment with posting and commenting.

This session is also a great example of how students can be active participants in learning to use social media. This is the subtext of the workshop that I am sure Royan has consciously designed into the session. It is powerful that students are here and can answer questions firsthand about their experiences with blogging.

Here is the link to the Google doc Royan created for this session: http://bit.ly/ecooblog

Useful iOS 6 features for teachers (iPad specific)

[Updated: March, 2013]

With every new iOS release, Apple is building in more and more under the hood.  You are probably aware of many of these features but, in any case, here is a brief roundup of some that teachers whom I work with have found very useful, especially in a one-iPad classroom.  The features outlined below are all available in iOS6 on the iPad (and, yes, some features discussed below were available in iOS5 and/or iOS4).

Finger gesturing

You probably know these already.  Swiping four fingers simultaneously upward reveals the multitasking bar at the bottom.  In reality, this is more of a recently used apps bar as most apps stop running when you push the home key.  Nevertheless, this makes it easier to quickly start the app back up again so you can continue with whatever you were doing.  Swiping four fingers simultaneously left or right changes the screen to the different apps that you have started recently (as shown in the multitasking bar).   This works something like Alt+Tab in Windows or Cmd+Tab on a Mac.  If you turn on Zoom (Settings → General → Accessibility → Zoom) then you can use a three-finger double tap to zoom in and zoom out.  Also, while zoomed in, use three fingers to pan around the screen.

More on gestures here: http://gigaom.com/apple/how-to-use-ipad-multitasking-gestures-and-why-you-should/

Changing keyboards

Adding keyboards in different languages is easy (Settings → General → Keyboard → Keyboards  → Add New Keyboard…) and there is also an emoticon keyboard included called “Emoji.”  Once you install more than one keyboard, a new key is added to the left of the space bar so you can select them.  Remember, too, that pressing and holding various keys on the keyboard (e.g., vowels) will reveal several variations of that letter in the keyboard you have chosen (e.g., o, ö, ó, etc).  Finally, you can also undock the keyboard or split it into two pieces on the left and right (for typing with your thumbs).

More iPad keyboard settings herehttp://ipad.about.com/od/ipad_basics/ss/Ipad-Keyboard-Settings-Help_2.htm

Text SelectionsSpeak & Define

To select text, push and hold your finger on a word.  When the magnifying glass appears, release. Then, choose Select.  After the text is highlighted in blue, you will see more options for what you can do with the selected text.  The small blue dots on the top and bottom of the boundary lines allow you to select more than one word; re-position those with your finger to select more.  If you do not see “Speak” listed, then you need to go into the settings and turn it on (Settings → General → Accessibility → Speak Selection).  Changing the keyboard (see above) not only changes the keys so that you can type in that language, but it also changes the voice that will speak the text.  If you have multiple keyboards added, you can choose available languages.

You might have also noticed that when a single word is selected, you will see a “Define” option.  This can be used to define a word in any app that you are running using the built-in dictionary.  Additionally, if you have changed the keyboard to another language and selected a word, you can retrieve a definition from a dictionary in the other language!

More on iPad text to speech here: http://paulhami.edublogs.org/2012/10/01/ve/

“Reader” mode in Safari

You will have most likely noticed that on some web pages in Safari, the word “Reader” appears in a little grey box beside the web site address. Touching the word “Reader” reformats the web page to look more like a printed page than a web page.  Text size can be increased or decreased by touching the text-size control in the upper left of the Reader window (the AΑ you see in grey).  And, as always, you can use the select text and “Speak” option to read the text.

More on Safari Reader mode: http://itricks4ios.com/read-it-now-uncluttered-with-safari-reader

Offline “Reading List” in Safari

Reading ListThis new iOS6 feature allows you to browse to web pages while connected to the Internet and then save the web page in its entirety on the iPad device so that it can be viewed later when no longer connected.  This is handy for schools or classrooms where wifi is not facility wide.  For example, a student can go to the Library (assuming the wifi access point is located there), connect to the Internet, and save some web pages in the Reading List so they can be read in detail back in the classroom where no wifi is available.  This is also handy for field trips: a field guide can be downloaded and saved in the Reading List for use during the field trip.
Saving a web page to the “Reading List” is as simple as browsing to the page, then clicking on the Safari share icon: shareicon A menu with choices will appear; choose “Add to Reading list.”  The web page will then be fully downloaded, saved, and made accessible from the Reading List icon (reading glasses) in the Bookmarks menu.

More on Offline Reading List in Safarihttp://teachmeios.com/what-is-offline-reading-list-and-how-to-use-it-in-safari-on-your-iphone-ipad-mini-and-ipod-touch/

Restrictions

To turn on restrictions, go to Settings → General → Restrictions → Enable Restrictions.  You will be asked for a 4-digit passcode.  This is so that once restrictions are set, the user(s) you set them for cannot remove them without knowing the passcode.  Once entered, you can now control access to various apps, control content, turn on/off in-app purchases, and most importantly, disallow the installation and deletion of apps. Use of this feature is a non-negotiable in most classrooms where iPads are used.

More on restrictions here: http://bltechtools.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/using-parental-restrictions-in-ios-6/

Guided Access

To turn on Guided Access, go to Settings → General → Accessibility → Guided Access and turn it on. Very handy in one-iPad classrooms, this feature allows the teacher to set up one running app for a student to use so that they cannot exit or switch apps.  Additionally, if there is a button in the app that you wish to be disabled (e.g., a “feedback” button that starts up the mail app), you can mark out a dead zone on the screen where touching the screen will have no effect.  Be careful with setting dead zones – if the app has several screens, the dead zones stay constant and do not change when the screen changes.  (Warning: There is also a bug that sometimes keeps you stuck in guided access to the point of having to reboot the iPad.  Workaround here: http://osxdaily.com/2012/09/26/stuck-in-guided-access-with-ios-6-heres-how-to-escape/)

More on Guided Access here: http://www.toolsandapplications.com/guided-access-how-to-disable-the-home-button-on-ipad/
and here: http://awangshamsul.net/limit-children-app-ipad/

Further Reading: