Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gary Abud Jr. nails the essence of #MichEd

Check out the fabulous piece current Michigan Teacher of the Year Gary Abub Jr. created for the Detroit News today.

It is great to see so many people I consider close friends and colleagues featured in the piece as well. We really have something special here in Michigan. In fact it has inspired me to coin a new slogan.

"Michigan public education: #42 in per pupil funding, #1 in heart!"

Friday, June 6, 2014

Photo Friday: No hating on the tablet shooters

Last year at ISTE a trio of us headed down to the San Antonio River Walk for a media safari.

I was "that guy" that some of you make fun of who takes vacation photos with his iPad or other tablet. What you see below are some pretty good twilight shots made with the Sony Xperia Z Android tablet. As much as I love my 3rd generation iPad, the Z made me a believer in the "other side" and I don't think I would produce nearly the same results with my Apple device. Before you go hatin' on "that guy" again, realize they might be on to something. Besides, there are a bundle of post-production apps that can then either enhance of take the photos to a new level of creativity.

Although my tablet has some varied photo settings, the key to these shots was stability.  For each one I found a solid surface to lean the device against. For the "Esquire" shot I employed the self timer so there wouldn't be any wiggle in my image. Camera shake more than anything will derail your low light shooting.  The Xperia Z received a major upgrade in optics over its predecessor the Xperia S and features other fabulous Sony quality components.

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Hacking #ISTE

Last summer I hacked the ISTE conference in San Antonio. Now before you send the federal agents, windbreakers and all to seize my Macbook Air, let me explain what I mean by "hacked".

I didn't hack into any computer system or manipulate any records. I would have no idea where to even start that process other than with some eleven-year-old's instruction video on YouTube. Just think of my "hacking" as attending the massive educational technology conference in a non-traditional way to meet my own personal needs.

San Antonio was my third ISTE but I never did register for the 2013 conference. I still learned as much, if not more than I did in Denver and in San Diego. I saved between $300 - $450  and  had an amazing learning experience. Here is how.

ISTE has gotten so big that I liken it to the Super Bowl. The game or in this case the conference sessions are just one piece of the overall circus. At the Super Bowl there is the NFL Experience which is an interactive fan zone of displays and activities. There are often celebrities and players signing autographs as well as countless other ways to have fun. The NFL's corporate sponsors also descend on the host city and put on tons of parties and promotions open to anyone and not just ticket holders for the game. ISTE is the same way now. The exhibit hall is easily the biggest single gathering of edtech resources anywhere in the United States and free evening receptions will keep anyone stuffed all week. Just don't check your cholesterol for a couple of weeks. Other user-organized, non-affiliated events like the Apple Distinguished Educator photo walks also abound. The 2012 walk in San Diego was my single favorite part of the trip.

[caption id="attachment_650" align="alignleft" width="300"]invaluable learning time with Rushton Hurley and Dr. Courtney Steffens invaluable learning time with Rushton Hurley and Dr. Courtney Steffens[/caption]

ISTE does charge $50 for exhibit hall passes but comped ones can be found quite easily  by checking vendor websites. Thanks to the great people at Spelling City for the two days of passes they sent me last year. By camping out at some of the bigger booths like Google's and Adobe's I caught session after session from people like Kyle Pace and Leslie Fisher, all of which were of the same quality state conferences run up as featured classes.

Most valuable though at ISTE is the chance to spend face-to-face time with some of the most incredible people in the world of education.  During the previous two conferences I attended very few sessions because the social area conversations and networking opportunities were too compelling to leave.  In San Antonio I didn't have that dilemma. Lunch with Rushton Hurley and Ken Shelton ( dropping) was worth the hassle of flying through O'Hare on a stormy day.

Let me state for the record that I truly appreciate all ISTE does for education in general and all the organization puts into their annual epic nerdfest. Without such a tremendous conference program, all of the ancillary benefits I am describing wouldn't exist. That goes also for all who give presentations. These people still endure a significant amount of cost and give their time to make the event what it is. For thousands upon thousands of educators every year the conference provides exactly what they need and if you have never been I highly recommend doing the full boat. I should also add to that record that I was careful in San Antonio to respect physical conference boundaries accessible to full-paying registrants. There was no sneaking past or "just acting like I belong".

I have gotten some kickback from a few people in the edtech world who state  that I am missing the  "intent" of the conference. To me the intent of ISTE is to bring educators together and help them grow professionally. That is exactly what I get from it. The irony lies in the fact that most of us, including the critics take great joy in mastering a digital tool and then McGyvering it to meet our own needs in a special way. Isn't that all I am doing by attending ISTE this way?

Right now I have a few factors up in the air and may or may not make it to Atlanta. I am hopeful a few pieces will fall into place and I can spend a few days with all who will be on their own learning adventures. Make the most of your ISTE experience, however you choose to do so.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Insanely Great Science Journals from 1:1 Android 1st Graders

The first graders in Kristi Zoerhof's class at Bentheim Elementary each have their own Sony Android tablet.

This spring the class studied the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies. Kristi sent the students daily pictures via Chirp and then by using the Skitch app, each student annotated his or her observations. Students then built beautiful journals of the entire process in the Book Creator app.

By using real pictures and annotation tools, students were able to create truly scientific products as opposed to the old cartoonish drawings they used to make in their science journals. The depth of exploration and knowledge displayed is fascinating.

A year ago, Kristi tried this project as part of a pilot with Sony. That class organized findings in Pic Collage. Employing Book Creator has taken it to a completely new level as the app creates an ePub readable on many electronic devices.  To share it here I had to convert the .ePub in Zamzar to a PDF and upload it to Issuu.


Below is one student's beautiful work. Original .ePub to download

Monday, June 2, 2014

#WWDC14 Family Sharing coming to iOS 8

The Apple World Wide Developer Conference keynote is classic Apple showmanship with the promise of many new features coming to OSX Yosemite and iOS 8.

There are some mind blowing features coming to the Mac that may be very helpful in the classroom like the annotation of photos without using Preview, easier search in Safari, and more ways to move content from iOS devices to Macs.

The feature most intriguing to me though is what Apple calls "Family Sharing" on iOS devices.  Up to six family members whose Apple IDs use the same credit card can now have shared access to each other's calendars, reminder lists, media like music and movies, as well as the "find my device" apps.

[caption id="attachment_640" align="alignleft" width="811"]Kids even have to ask permission before they may download apps with the family sharing feature. Kids even have to ask permission before they may download apps with the family sharing feature.[/caption]

As families become increasingly more mobile and each member spends more time on his or her own device, the sharing of this information can help everyone know where the other one is, what is on the family agenda, and who needs to get what stuff at the store.  I know it will help mine.

Thanks Flocabulary!

This year in Hamilton, building students' academic vocabulary has been a primary focus.

Thanks to everyone at for your fabulous videos that have made learning so much fun. Here is a little remix of Double Trouble to show you just how much fun kids at Blue Star Elementary had rocking out during lunchtime.