THEY LIVE - Dealing with the #iPad Infected

First of all, I want to apologize to all the technology directors who felt they were improperly characterized as camels in my previous blog entry, The iPad, uh Straw, that Broke the Camel's back. I know this was tough for you to take, and that you would have preferred a different approach. Remember, though, I didn't say it originally (neither did Shakespeare or Anonymous); I just brought it to your attention in K-16 education.

The guilt, which I seldom spend time on, came upon shortly after I hit the PUBLISH button. I reflected long and hard over this while watching television, reading a fascinating series of professional journals. I even reached back to my brief stint as a movie theatre usher, fondly recalling a movie...let's see, what was it? Oh, yeah...THEY LIVE. (watch the whole movie online). 

Of course, whether you believe the iPad--solar-powered or not-- advocates are aliens masquerading as humans or zombie-infected, you still have to deal with it.

In a wonderful list of questions/points, Royan Lee (The Spicy Teacher) discusses Why You Shouldn't Do BYOD. Although all of the points Royan Lee raises in his blog entry resonated with me, I found myself particularly sensitive to one of the points. That sensitivity was sparked by a response my blog entry on The iPad, uh Straw, that Broke the Camel's back given by Wayne Bridges

Wayne writes the following, and at the end of which, asks for advice from myself and others:
I am a new teacher in the 25,000 iPad district [McAllen ISD] you referenced above. I feel this is a unique spot for me to be in, having served in my old district as EdTech Coordinator for a couple of years and arriving here with absolutely no technology clout. I am not even a member of the district's technology cadre that will pilot the iPads this year. 
I enjoyed the post - but let me try to turn the conversation a little more in the direction of pedagogy. These devices have now been approved by the district and they'll be arriving - some now and many more in a year. This is the hand that teachers and students have been dealt. So now what?
Keeping in mind that I'm on the outside looking in, there seem to be some pockets of excellence when it comes to the devices' use within the district, but no overall "plan" that I'm aware of. 
What would you, or your commenters, propose as a means to ensure that these devices are utilized in meaningful ways in all classrooms, even those of teachers who may not necessarily embrace them initially? How can we be certain that teachers will take a few extra steps to employ the technology tool when that tool is the thing that will provide a relevant and valuable experience for the student, instead of opting for what might be easier to understand for that teacher?
When you read the two questions that Wayne asks, it's clear what the challenges he's facing are. Royan Lee's points as cited in The Spicy Teacher blog, shown below, are particularly relevant, aren't they?

  1. Your staff does not understand why or how someone might use personal technology for learning, collaboration, creativity, communication, organization, and productivity.
  2. Your curriculum focusses heavily on knowledge transmission.

Before we jump into anything, let's remember that iPads in schools ARE an expensive experiment. They are expensive because we could be choosing to NOT use technology at all in schools...and many do, no matter that schools receive technology funding. As Stephen Downes shares, such experimentation happens in schools:
 There's no way to get the evidence other than by experimentation - demanding "best practices" with no experimentation is inherently self-contradictory.
Please allow me to consolidate Wayne's two questions into one:
How would one ensure that these devices are utilized in meaningful ways with K-12 and adult learners, even those who may not necessarily embrace them initially or may be tempted to only use iPads for personal rather than academic reasons?
The last part of that question tries to get at the idea that we're bring a rich variety of devices developed to be PERSONAL (e.g. ain't this a cool wallpaper app?) into an ACADEMIC arena. Here's one dramatic example of using technology for personal gain, but there are many others...perhaps, you know of some?
Music teacher Brian Kingrey has won $1 million for throwing a perfect game in MLB 2K11. 2K sports offered the prize to the first person to throw a perfect game after the game's April launch. The teacher says he knew nothing about baseball, and even had to go to Google to learn the basics of the game.
Source: Teacher Wins $1 Million in video game
And, just because a teacher may be expert at using the iPad and all its apps, that's not enough, right? I mean, just because I know how to use the top 10 digital storytelling apps, that doesn't mean I'm ready to use them in a classroom to support curriculum, right? (well, I think I am but if I only tell personal stories for family but never use it in the classroom with students, what's the point?). In schools, we're called on to do more than just consume information...we have to create.

Still, iPads, as fonts of information, offer benefits worthy of consideration:
...access to information. This access has allowed them to shorten their learning curve, make quicker decisions on what’s important to them, find like-minded individuals in far-away places to collaborate with, and develop a deeper and wider vision for imagining a world they want to live in and be a part of creating. (Source: Leading Millennials: What Millennials Want Leaders to Know by Lisa Petrilli via MindDump)

The challenge is that like-minded individuals far away are usually viewed with healthy suspicion a la Stranger Danger. With that in mind, here are some of the steps I would encourage take place in the school district, steps that involve more than one particular department (e.g. Tech Dept) can bring about alone. And, while it's easy to point the way, it's another thing to getting a herd of zombies moving in the right direction, unless it's loud noises pontificators (myself included) make at keynote addresses.
“You can do everything that the iPad can with existing off-the-shelf technology and hardware for probably $300 to $400 less per device,” Professor Soloway said. (Source: as cited in the New York Times)
"As an IT director," shares Matt Montagne (shown right), "I have zero interest in applying classic IT approaches to these devices. They work best when users own them and are able to self manage. When I hear about these schools that have to manually update 180 iPads to iOS 5, I just simply cringe and laugh all at the same time."  
"Hear, hear," agrees Kern Kelly (shown left). "As an educator and tax payer I cringe at thinking of how much money, time, pro dev. etc. has and will go into single user electronic toys. Don't get me wrong, there are absolutely valuable educational uses for them, but the 'bang for the buck' equation tilts too far the wrong way." (Source: Google+ Conversation)
A starting point....

Step 1 - Pick one thing, your choice. 
I would expect all curriculum and instruction staff, including teachers, to spend some serious (at least ten, 8 hour days) getting comfortable with the technology, and then spending time revising the scope and sequence to allow for the learning opportunities. John Holt points out that "Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” What changes do we need to make that change the activity of iPad-wielding learners in classrooms?

Working with grown-ups, one of the things I've noticed is encouraging them to use web-based apps to allow for portability of data. I'm sure the same problem exists for fact, one of the best podcasts never published (I lost the audio file) involved discussion of the use of and an iPad with a special education child in a way that changed their life. Of course, even though has DOUBLED its storage for EDU users, I hope folks are also away of's offer of 50 gigs for LIFE which expires 50 days from 10/12/2011:

iOS users, if you haven’t got your free 50GB from yet, hurry up and do so. A couple of weeks ago, announced that any iOS user that logs into the Box app from an iOS device will get 50GB of storage, for life. (Source:
A point that makes folks feel like, a la It's a Wonderful Life, a warped, frustrated, old man like Potter: Often, central office administration launches technology to campuses without any expectation of change for the district staff that have to support them, especially those in curriculum and instruction. And, if you're curriculum framework or vision doesn't include technology as an integral part, then you need to re-think your approach and who you are listening to.

Obviously, we want kids to do great in a variety of core content areas, but that change isn't going to happen all at once. Let's pick ONE area that having access to technology can help in. 

Step 2 - Encourage reflection and sharing among iPad infected folks. No matter how you do it, it's key that teachers and administrators reflect on what they are doing in their classrooms. Often, initiatives can pick up speed simply because people are working through the problems, possibilities, and sharing those with each other. It seems simplistic but works powerfully.
Reflection can be used as a way to integrate theory with practice and can facilitate insight and stimulate self-discovery. By causing one to question and perhaps even change one’s personal assumptions, reflection broadens perspectives which lead to a more holistic understanding of complex or ambiguous situations (Densten & Gray, 2001; Kayes, 2002). It can assist in developing moral and ethical responsibility by encouraging one to draw upon experiences and values while attending to interpersonal relations, feelings and politics (Grey, 2004). Daudelin’s studies suggest that just one hour spent on reflecting about a challenging situation can significantly enhance the manager’s learning from that situation (1996). 
According to Goleman et. al., self-directed learning which employs reflective questioning throughout its cycle, has been shown to be an effective strategy for developing emotional intelligence and ultimately leadership competency (2002). (Source: Cynthia Roberts' The Role of Reflection)
That's not to say I think everyone in such an effort should blog (well, actually, I DO think so but I also know throwing too much change at folks is a recipe for failure), but that opportunities for reflecting and sharing are critical. If a professional learning community works for you, great!

A quick cautionary note....

Scott McLeod points out that schools strongly emphasize compliance in the name of order and discipline (as cited here)Getting others to swim in the right direction is tough work, but it’s made tougher when some say you can’t do things because it’s against the rules…rules that inhibit teaching, learning and leading at a time when communication, creativity have to be team sports involving online collaboration. What happens when these kinds of polices and procedures–which maintain the status quo and help network technicians do their job, usurping the role of instruction for the role of tech-maintenance–become de facto? 

The idea of co-learners is also fun to consider or cite:
...teachers must become comfortable as co-learners with their students and with colleagues around the world. Today it is less about staying ahead and more about moving ahead as members of dynamic learning communities. The Digital Age teaching professional must demonstrate a vision of technology infusion and develop the technology skills of others.
Dynamic learning communities. In a fascinating article at THE Journal, Crossing the Digital Divide, Sara Bernard describes how the landscape has changed, citing literacy as one important way and quotes Shelley Blake-Pollock (Teach Paperless):

...there is a gap between those who are "getting connected into broader networks, building their capacity and their social capital, creating the new wave of learning" and those who are, for a slew of complex reasons, not doing so. Addressing this means beefing up effective technology-integration programs at schools of education, encouraging and enabling students to create media and to participate in collaborations with others around the world, and making sure that every computer lab -- whether at a school or elsewhere -- has a way for users to tap into an educational component.

So, that brings up to step 3.

Step 3 - Increase digital literacy among the iPad infected. It's hard to make someone learn something if they don't want to but there is one sure way to engage them--get them connected to people who are interested in the same things they are. After all, if the iPad is a device for communication, collaboration, you'd want to see more of that. And, it doesn't hurt that this type of action is expressed in Technology Applications:TEKS for Texas...and it makes sense for core content areas, even though technology isn't part of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP):
The student collaborates and communicates both locally and globally to reinforce and promote learning. The student is expected to:  create personal learning networks to collaborate and publish with peers, experts, or others via current and emerging technologies, such as blogs, wikis, audio/video communication; (as I cite here)
In my inbox this morning, an email from Google is titled, "Zombies Make Over $5 Billion in the U.S." The image of the zombie that appears above is from that email received unsolicited on 10/27/2011.

Now, if a 32gig iPad (WIFI) costs around $600 and Wayne's district bought 25,000 of them, that's approximately $1.5 million. Wow. For 45 million iPads sold, though, that's $27,000,000,000. A billion is 9 zeroes, right? (wink). How many in education? When you figure so much money is being spent, isn't it mission-critical that every stakeholder be "infected" with enthusiasm?

Consider this story from Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson's daughter...would the teacher described in Doug's blog entry be willing to be subject to infection? BTW, in the story below, Paul is Doug's grandson (that's what I understood).

I am looking forward to hearing from Paul's teacher at conferences. 5th grade seems to skew heavily toward doing things the teacher's way procedurally rather than actually learning anything or God forbid, making it interesting. Paul was all ready to bring his Vasco da Gama oral report alive with visuals and lots of fascinating tidbits about the "long and uncertain voyage" around the Horn of Africa when he came home and glumly reported, "No props. And we have to stick to the outline." (Read the rest of the story)
There's a lot--digital reading, digital writing, digital math, screencasting--that can happen with iPads or any digital device. Will we take advantage of it?
Experiencing the profound joy of creating something that has never existed before is not only found in the arts. And I think that when you allow children to experience this feeling, we do them and the world a great favor. (Source: GenYES Blog: Ten Lessons The Arts and STEM Teach by Sylvia Martinez)
I worked really hard to resist the temptation to put recommendations of iPad apps in this post, as well as web-based tools (e.g. GoogleApps for Education, Moodle as a common platform where everyone can find their content, wikis for leadership sharing, playing with media, etc.). 

An instructional technology specialist, responding to a thread entitled, "My Struggle with Technology," shares the viewpoint that I find myself identifying with, that resists falling in love with any one tool and monogamous approach to technology:

I have been a tech specialist/trainer for going on 12 years now – after spending 10 years in the classroom. And I liken that story of teachers to other professions  – say that of construction workers building a house. Not everyone wants to be extremely proficient using a table saw or a jack hammer – some prefer finishing sheetrock or using the tools required to build custom cabinets. The goal is the same – build a quality house. 
There is just too much technology for every teacher to use every piece of technology that many districts (try to) implement. No doubt - a good working knowledge is required – and basic skills – just to remain a valued member of the “crew.” But if they were allowed to choose their tools, I believe it would be more beneficial and productive – for teachers and students. Some become masters of integrating CPS units and projectors – others with video and a MAC Book Pro – others are geniuses with SMART board applications...if we teach the same way we always have – and just use newer tools – we end up building a house no one wants to live in anymore. 
I think the teacher buy-in and acceptance is much better when they have a voice in choosing the tools they use in their area of expertise.

What, you think these steps are insufficient? Well, so do I. Maybe you'd find 7 Slices of PIE more filling? 

However, if you'd like to hire a high-priced consultant (me), I'd be happy to come over and tell you what to do, as well as give you a pair of cheap sunglasses (go watch THEY LIVE online).

Image source:

If I didn't answer your questions, Wayne, then I'm sure you will have better answers for us all in a year or two.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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