A Visit to Rivers and Revolutions

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those moments where things you always kind of knew and believed were realized in real life. It was one of those moments where your whole perspective on what is actually possible changes; one of those turning points when something you’ve been looking for is tangible. I can think of all of the times I’ve had one of these change moments in my life.

  • Summer camp during my counselor in training summer #1- learning that my world wasn’t just about me, and that I had the power to impact and improve the experiences of others.
  • Day 1 of my first college education course- I’d always known what I didn’t want to do… this was almost more of a “duh” moment than an “ah ha!”
  • Project Based Learning professional development in my third year teaching- Talk about meaningful experiences in the classroom
  • Attempting to leverage my first Learning Management System- there’s free tools that can make your teaching life better. Free. Tools.
  • Sitting at MassCUE and listening to a discussion on gaming philosophy and gamifying a classroom- this just made so much sense as I continued to be stymied by the handful of kids checking out of my class
  • Friday November 6, 2015- visit to Rivers and Revolutions…

I don’t have any physiological data to support the claim I am about to make, but in each of these instances, I believe the chemistry of my brain changed. The connections between synapses functioned differently after one of these moments. I realize and understand things and can create from this new environment like I never could before.

Rivers and Revolutions:

On Friday, I visited Concord-Carlisle High School’s Rivers and Revolutions program. The program was created by Michael Goodwin -Doris Kearns Goodwin’s son… cue history buff fan girl geek out.


It seeks to flip traditional education on its end. Or maybe, it seeks to return to the philosophy of education before the systematic approach was developed. The program is based around skills- based synthesis. It is fundamentally interdisciplinary and based on student inquiry.

The students, Juniors and Seniors in an academically driven upper middle class school district, spend a semester only taking this single course with about 50 students total. There are 5 teachers involved in the program- English, science, math, social studies, art- but they don’t behave like regular teachers. The correct word for them could be coach, or counselor, or maybe facilitator if we want to use some jargon.

My visit consisted of sitting with, and joining in on the day’s lesson. A group of students were in charge that day, as is one of the requirements of their grade for the course, and they were leading the entire group in a full day of lessons as a part of their unit on air. The day’s lesson focused on bubbles, and students were examining bubbles across disciplines. They’d created an art project during their examination of the scientific properties of bubbles, and today’s lesson began with a discussion on metaphorical bubbles and the concept of a social bubble. The lead students facilitated a discussion that began with independent writing, and then built into a 45 minute class- wide talk on the merits of social bubbles, their role in society, and how the perception of bubbles can impact social interactions.

We played in these, all a part of the metaphor!

We ended the day playing in these… all a part of the metaphor!

I have never seen such animated, fully engaged students. Over the span of the discussion, which was cut off for time constraints though I am quite clear students could’ve continued for hours on the topic, I’d venture to guess 90% of students participated. The class is inclusive, so this 90% included students of ranging abilities and backgrounds. When a comment was offered, the class wasn’t silent, but instead was heard to have hums of agreement and support. The conversation winded around, relating to current local events, students’ lives, the make up of their community in the class, the country at large, quotes from recent literature they’ve read, and much more. Teachers sat with students at group tables and offered thoughts among the crowd. They did not steer the conversation. The lead students asked prompting questions and directed the conversation when needed, probing for more from their peers.




I glanced around the classroom and noticed a quote on the wall. It was a Samuel Beckett quote and it read, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

The student I was sitting near noticed me scrawl it down in the notebook they’d gifted us, the only book they used in the course which was essentially a nicely bound sketchpad for thoughts, ideas, drawings, or anything else students wished to capture. She said, “I love that quote too… you know, my group taught yesterday and it didn’t go as well as today’s lesson is going. But, we’d planned, and we kept at it, and instead of it being a total flop, we focused on improving the process and examining where we’d gone wrong. Thats what the emphasis of this group is, and its what Goodwin tells us. The goal isn’t the end product, its the process, so it is ok that yesterday didn’t go great, because we will get better anyway.”

What! That was a junior in high school, folks, articulating the meaning and merit of learning. We preach that we want to create life-long learners and a love of learning and this kid just explained her process and offered it to me with such eloquence and simplicity. She wasn’t worried or anxious, she was confident in her learning, and safe in her adventure. Holy crap, guys! This is what it is all about!

Next, we sat down with Goodwin… as the students affectionately called him. He explained the bumpy road they’d all traveled to get to this point in the program. He had created the concept during his time earning is M.Ed at Harvard, and planned to open his own school to make it a reality. When he pitched the idea to his principal, his principal asked him not to leave, but instead to stay and implement the program within CCHS’s model: a school within a school. More on this remarkable principal later…

Goodwin explained that at first, these high powered kids were fearful about this program that could be perceived as a gap in their studies. But, after a pilot program during the summer months proved hugely successful, a group of brave students, and teachers, jumped in for a full semester. He remarked that there was a special beauty in that group taking that risk together.

We spoke to alumni of the program who recalled their first days staying in a single classroom with a group of students that weren’t in their usual clique. One senior girl remarked that she was actually glad she didn’t join the program with friends, because it really forced her to put everything into the program. “You can’t hide, you’re with each other all day long doing interesting but difficult things. You can only be fake or quiet for so long before you just have to be a part of it,” she explained. It reminded me of camp- the community building, the focus on developing a child as a whole person.

Another student said, “Day 1 Goodwin drills into us that we are all brave to try this hard thing, and that each of us has something wonderful to give to the group- it help bind us together since we were all from such different parts of the school.” With this mentality, students in APs were successfully working with and learning from their peers in lower level classes, in the SPED partnership programs, who’ve had truancy issues, or mental health struggles. Rivers applied to everyone. My school community struggles with a classism that at times is so overt it shocking. Students in the upper level courses not only do not want to associate with students in lower levels, but they vehemently believe those students will a. take from their learning opportunities by being present and b. lack any positive offering to the community. This sentiment is just assumed, obviously, and so therefore the groups draw lines and parents support those sentiments in their line drawing as well. The Rivers program saw that truly fall away. Imagine the change that could bring to your school community.

Wellesley High School has instituted a similar program called Evolutions, and this image is used to describe their mentality around interdisciplinary teaching.

Wellesley High School has instituted a similar program called Evolutions, and this image is used to describe their mentality around interdisciplinary teaching.

Back to the principal for a moment- Mr. Badalament. When posed with this arguably crazy idea, he didn’t shy away. He explained how he processed the merits of the program. First, he considered the curriculum expectations of his high school and came to these conclusions:

1. a majority of his students building wide passed MCAS by grade 10.

2. A majority of his students, if they wanted to take an SAT II, took SAT II prep courses because of inherent gaps in the school curriculum

3. the school had a growing attendance problem and a growing emotional health problem that needed focused attention, that he believed this program could solve (*Spoiler alert… to a large extent it has*)

4. he believed in interdisciplinary teaching and project-based learning

5. he believed that a majority of his student body would attend 4 year colleges no matter what based on their socioeconomic status

Essentially, in our time with him, he explained that the curriculum maps and stress of content in the junior and senior years were self imposed by teachers, and clearly were a disservice to SOME students.

This concept shifted my entire perspective on the purpose of the work we do. Likewise, I felt empowered to have control over the development of quality education in a tangible way.

My school currently seeks ways to implement this model in our own high school. We’ve had a summer pilot run with success, but alas budget, as it so often does, has posed limitations. Hopefully, given the clear value of this type of program, we can find a way. Until then, I’ll keep working to grow my mind and develop my philosophy… and “fail better”.


Engagement and the Gamer Generation: My #NCSS15 Presentation

History teachers unite! I’m in New Orleans enjoying the National Council for the Social Studies’ annual conference! Yes, I toured the C-SPAN campaign bus. Yes I ate some Beignets and got covered in powdered sugar! And, yes I did a little talking to folks…

For those lovely folks who visited my presentation today at the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference in New Orleans, here are the promised resources… and THANK YOU for coming to my table! 


For anyone who wasn’t in town or missed it- here is the jist:

Today I delivered a presentation based on my gamified class aptly entitled, “Engagement and the Gamer Generation.” Last year, thanks to the research and excited nudge from a colleague and friend of mine from my school, I began investigating gamifying my class. I attended MasCUE at Gillette Stadium, and saw a session on the philosophy behind video games and why people seem to be so enthralled by them. Jane McGonigal speaks at length about the psychology of gaming and how it motivated the gamer to continue to play, and asks how we can leverage this motivation and engagement through teaching.

My colleague pointed me in the direction of Chris Aviles’ techedupteacher.com where he educates at length his philosophy on the gamified model. Using this variety of resources, I began to build my course as a game. This does not mean the kids take a day to play a game in class. It does not mean that sometimes the course has gaming elements. It literally means that to traverse my course (last year World History I with 8th graders, this year US I with juniors) you are a player in a game.

Why did I move to this originally? I’m in my 8th year teaching. Last year, when I encountered this idea, I was in a bit of a rut. I felt bored with my curriculum, continuously frustrated by the lack of time to cover interesting, but excess (according to the frameworks) content, facing the same disengaged handful of students in my otherwise academically driven student pool. I needed a change and I needed to fix the gaps in my course. The philosophical shift required to understand this gaming model is paramount. Let me explain.

The gaming model can essentially be summed up as having these components:

  • Autonomy
  • An accumulation framework i.e. accumulate points, items, experiences, achievements, levels, etc
  • Do overs: many lives, restarts, practice and try again
  • A way to denote success i.e. leaderboards, levels, points accumulated
  • A social component- many folks in older generations don’t necessarily see video games as social experiences, however today’s games are very often socially based and therefore incorporate teamwork, communication and other skills for player success. Social media has actually been incorporating more and more gaming methodology to improve and encourage use of their platforms, like Snapchat for instance.

The gaming model also suggests the truth of the Bartle System:

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 7.30.47 PM

So… gamifying my class needs to touch on all of these things. Take a look at my Gamified History 2014-15 syllabus from last year and you can see the shift I ask the students to take with me. We redesigned everything, but the key is that it isn’t just that I jacked up the points on every assignment (though this was strangely engaging for students) or that I renamed things “epic challenge” or “mastery quest.” The key was that I started to reward students for ANY accumulation of points through experiences.

The course includes elements now of opportunities for everyone to succeed somehow, where you are rewarded for being interested in topics above and beyond the basic requirements, where there is friendly competition, where my focus is mastery- even if that takes more tries for one student than for another. This shift isn’t semantic. My students have come to believe this is my philosophy in the course, and as such, I keep them buying in for that much more of the required content. I also like to think that I convince them more effectively that my goal is for each of them to be successful, and also to enjoy the act of being an historian.

Please feel free to check out my Engagement and the Gamer Generation Presentation. Reach out to the folks I’ve used as my own PLC. Feel free to contact me with questions. Those of you trying to do this in other ways, I’d love to hear how you are doing so and how it is going in your classrooms. I learned today from one gentleman about “Course Craft” – what tools are you using to leverage gaming psychology?

Lastly- I am by no means taking credit for coming up with this idea, concept, strategy, or whatever you want to call it. I am hoping to share with you how I’ve leveraged what I’ve learned from some really bright folks, and how it has impacted my teaching for the better. I hope that you take of this what is relevant or helpful to you, but encourage you to make this your own. Good luck, and hope to hear from you!


Going 1:1

This year marks my eighth teaching in my district (when did that happen! I swear I just started yesterday!). During that time, my school leaders have fostered my learning and growth as an educator in a lot of ways, but in particular with technology.

  • I’ve been funded to attend MassCUE in Foxboro, MA in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014- that is at least $2000 on geeking out where the Tom Brady works, all for me. When I hoped to present there in 2013, I was supported by all of my administrators whole-heartedly.
  • I was invited to be a part of committees exploring Google for Education, online and open grade books, and early learning management systems in my first few years teaching.
  • I was included in professional development with Apple to learn features of their operating systems and hardware. Swipe, screenshot, multiple desktops galore.
  • A colleague and I wrote a grant for a cart of iPads in each of our classrooms. When it was only partially funded, my technology department found the money to fill the cart. *This environment started to change my view on teaching and what good teaching look liked. We coupled this with training on Project-Based Learning with the Buck Institute for Education and wham, I was innovative! Coincidentally my assistant principal at the time now works for the Buck Institute.*
  • I was invited to present to faculty on what I’d learned and tried with Google, iPads, Learning Management Systems, and more. The first time I presented, I blacked out and could not tell you what I said. My friends and colleagues tell me I was coherent and it was great, but it is amazing how nerve-wracking it is to present to your peers even though your job involves presenting every day!
  • When PD focused on basic technology skills, I was allowed to create independent study time with a colleague to research and develop advanced skills. This play-time, our school equivalent of Google’s Genius Hour, is when I felt truly trusted in my practice, and supported in my initiative to explore new technology. On the one hand, I have a problem with the fact that being treated as a professional in my practice was so rewarding potentially because teachers aren’t often treated as such. But on the other hand, I got to play! I explored Twitter for my go to PLC to see what they were doing lately. I got to build some lessons, experiment, and use time aptly called Professional Development to… *gasp* develop professionally!

Essentially, my district gave me the space and opportunity to become an innovative (hopefully) educator.

*District leaders take note*– 

I don't just read good, I teach good too!

I don’t just read good, I teach good                             too!

Somehow I was identified early on as someone who wanted to learn, try new things, and share with others. I do not recall a specific incident that identified me in this way, but someone in charge did, and gave me the chances to develop.

This gift has been invaluable. I cannot imagine what my practice would look like, or if I would even still be in teaching, had I not been given these chances. If you see folks like this in your schools, support them. Get them talking to people and learning things that can change their practice.

There is a population of teachers out there (don’t shoot me, union folks, I mean no offense) who quite honestly cannot keep up with the pace of technology. Those folks sometimes react with fear. Fear is projected as negativity, a refusal to participate, and striking down those who can keep up. Those folks can crush a newer teacher.

I’ve been learning a lot about brain development lately (I just got married to a Speech and Language Pathologist who now works with kindergartners) and the experts talk about how major events can imprint on the brain early on and dictate its development, physiology, and its ability to build new pathways. I think any transition to a new experience can involve an imprint like that. If a brand new teacher is imprinted with the attitude of negativity, their outlook, practice, and ability to learn new techniques has been tainted. If you are a school leader hoping to foster innovation, you cannot let new teachers be imprinted with that. You must imprint them the way my district imprinted on me. Let their heads be in the clouds, outside the box and otherwise dreaming of what could be, barring that their classroom is functioning appropriately, and let them explore. We talk about lifelong learning as what we want in our students, so why wouldn’t we support that in our newest generation of teachers?

A cool brain picture

             A cool brain picture

In the 2014-15 school year, a lot of major change happened for my school system. We finished construction on a brand new co-located middle and high school. The building is incredible. Every classroom has a projector, Apple TV, Top Cat sound system. We use Media Master to operate these and through it, also have access to an endless library of digital resources.

A part of the transition to the new building was a transition to a grade 8-12 1:1 laptop initiative. We call it “iConnect”– I wasn’t invited to be on the naming committee for the initiative, otherwise it definitely would’ve been called “Holy Crap: What Else Could You Want In A Classroom?” I would’ve proposed the acronym HC: WECYWIAC (pronounced weh-kee-wee-ack) for short.

Every teacher was handed a brand new Macbook Air, outfitted with the Apple and Microsoft suites of software. Every student was handed a brand new Macbook Air as well. Teachers were given some PD on using the devices, and they either jumped in with both feet, or denounced the things as the worst possible change in education.

The year was hard for many people. And, this was in a district that had iPads, online grading, Google tools, flip cameras, computer labs booked all the time, and training on new technologies. But, the shift to a 1:1 environment was more than that. Those of us in the building like me, were ecstatic and continued to innovate. Those who seized up at the word “Macbook” kept their classrooms operating in the status quo, while administrators urged them to try things, and considered changing contract language to force it.

But a really interesting thing happened for those in the middle. These were people that sometimes voiced negativity, but lit up when they heard of someone else’s success. They were people who love teaching, and worked hard to get good at it, and were afraid what they’d worked so hard at, but recognized the success of others. These middle folks started asking for more training, and time to talk to other teachers using technology, and they were given just that. They were also reassured that part of this new game of teaching was to try (and sometimes… ok often… fail) and that they’d be safe in doing so. By getting these people the support they needed, and making the pace more manageable (without slowing down your advanced folks, and continuing to look at ways to move your refusal folks), these guys turned the tides.

That is where the shift has been. We are special in having that environment here. And we are special in having the funds and the right people and some smart leaders recognizing who to hold up and who to quiet down. Because of this, we are in our second year in the model, and the conversations that were once “Where do I click for…” are now about pedagogy, with technology as the tool. We recently jumped on board with Schoology as our LMS, and training has been focused to leveraging that for student achievement. The world looks different now because of these changes. There is definitely no going back, but at the same time, good teaching remains good teaching. In the end (though we are far from it) it is becoming clear, the technology doesn’t make the teacher, the teacher makes the technology. I’ll write more about this journey to Schoology soon.

Thanks for reading.

The Realities of Shared iPads

Well, I haven’t been on here for a while. The past year has been a whirlwind. My district is finishing the construction of a new co-located middle and high school that will have 1:1 technology 8-12, and 1:1 technology in the building for grades 6 and 7. In addition, we’ve implemented the new Massachusetts teacher evaluation system, created state mandated District Determined Measures, welcomed a new Subject Supervisor to my department, and otherwise survived the year at a full sprint. 

The real thing looks much more impressive...

                                         The real thing looks much more impressive…

I look forward to the summer where I will catch my breath from school- though I will be returning to my first love, camp, as Program Director this summer, so it isn’t really all that much of a “break” for me!

I promised last fall that I’d be posting my thoughts and work from MassCUE at Gillette. So, the first thing I’ll do here is share the presentation I delivered on the realities of using an iPad cart in my 8th grade Social Studies classrooms. 


Hopefully you find the information helpful. Please leave comments with any questions you might have! 

Glad to be back! 

Reflections on MassCUE 2013

Wednesday and Thursday of this week marked my third year attending the MassCUE Technology Conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. This also marked my first year presenting at the conference, which was an extremely exciting opportunity to share in the forward thinking, technology-geek-teacher ridden community MassCUE represents. To give you some background, MassCUE stands for Massachusetts Computer Using Educators and is has its roots as a small organization of educators from Western Massachusetts that started meeting in 1982 to discuss the ways they were trying (and sometimes failing) to implement computer use in their schools and classrooms. Since those early meetings, it has become a major conference, boasting thousands of attendees, many supporting vendors, expert presenters (obviously this is where I come in) and enough clout in education to pack the luxury levels of Gillette Stadium!

Sadly, Tom Brady didn't seek me out to discuss play options verses the Dolphins this weekend.

Sadly, Tom Brady didn’t seek me out to discuss play options verses the Dolphins this weekend.

This year’s Keynote speakers were fantastic. Tony Wagner and Chris Lehmann both offered messages of encouragement for teachers striving to do better. They also suggested that the Hollywood style “hero teacher” story line of a single educator changing the world with the magnitude of his or her love of educating children is not the thing on which school systems ought to depend. Lehmann explained that a few great teachers in a broken system, on the grand scale, just can’t win. Morgan Freeman can’t single handedly fix a system that seems to inherently remove passion and enthusiasm from both the children and adults within, not even with his powerfully reassuring narrative voice, fatherly care for inner city kids, or vast and emotional understanding of adorable Antarctic animals. Wagner suggested that a systemic shift was needed in the age of Google away from what kids know and towards what kids could do with that found knowledge. I thoroughly enjoyed the philosophical play of these presentations, and they served to set the tone for the collective group at the conference both days.

Chris Lehmann, Principal of Science Leadership Academy in Philidelphia

Chris Lehmann, Principal of Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia


Tony Wagner, Author of “Creating Innovators”

Now, philosophy is great and all, and who doesn’t love to debate a little Dewey, contemplate Horace’s Compromise, or discuss the global economy flattening and how American political structures are failing our future citizens… but I came to the conference to learn and share PRACTICAL classroom techniques. So, I attended a couple of presentations by the lovely folks at EdTechTeacher. Their sessions by Greg Kulowiec and Beth Holland were applicable, relevant, and practical, and both are available here if you are interested in checking them out.

What this group does so well, and what I think needs to be a bigger part of the conversation in education regarding technology implementation, is discuss pedagogy before devices. Greg, Beth, and everyone else I’ve ever worked with from this group asks first what the objectives of the lesson/unit/learning experience are. Only after those are established do they consider how technology can support that. This is paramount to the concept of effectively implementing technology. In other words…

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 2.31.13 PM

All in all, the experience reminded me why I try so hard to implement technology, and why I believe it is a worthy pursuit. Thank you to everyone who presented, attended, and shared in positive thought about the role of teaching and technology today! I’ll be posting more soon about the specifics of my learning these past few days, and what I shared with people at MassCUE as well, so stay tuned!

I’m Back!

I’m Back!

So, it has been a while since my last post. Specifically, it has been a year since my last post.

Do you hate clip art?

                               Do you hate clip art? I know somebody who dooooeeeessss….

In that time, I have nearly completed my CAGS in Administration, started coaching at my Crossfit gym, moved in with my significant other, and otherwise had lots of life happen to me. It has been wonderful! But, as I feared, my super fantastic blog fell by the wayside…

Actually, to be completely honest, last November I sat down to write another blog post and found that my tone had shifted from funny and ironic to purely frustrated.


This had partially to do with the technology in my classroom and its use with students, but more to do with a general increase in stress in my life. Rather than write bitter sounding posts, I thought the best idea was to put the posts aside for a bit, and then promptly forgot all about the blog!

But don’t worry, I’ve remembered now why I started this whole thing. This is because next week, I’ll be presenting at MassCUE’s technology conference at Gillette Stadium, and I’ll be presenting upon exactly the items I’d hoped to focus my blog (…shameless plug for my presentation- if you’ll be there, come to “The Realities of a Shared iPad Classroom”! Please don’t make me present to an empty room…). What better chance to start back up the blog since I’m reflecting on my practices in my classroom with my iPads anyway!


On the docket for posts:

  • Management: Things you could do when you first get shared iPads to help keep them safe
  • Building Student Skills
    • Holy Moley there is a LOT of Vocabulary
    • What are all these buttons?
    • Web apps vs apps
  • Workflow Solutions
    • Edmodo, My Savior
    • Drive
    • iBooks
    • Open In- the best button iOS has ever created

Keep an eye out, and I’ll be posting again soon!

Another Blog Post! (finally…)

Remember that time I said I’d be blogging regularly about fascinating technology-in-education topics? Before you go scolding, I swear I’ve thought of many interesting things to write about. I just, you know, didn’t sit down and write them ever. But now, with a renewed sense of purpose, I plan to… right after I finish watching The Mindy Project on my DVR… have you all seen this show? It is hy.ster.i.cal.

But really, lots of things have been happening around my classroom that I think are worth sharing. The theme I’ll focus on today is a little something I like to call “what you do when you planned for two weeks for a really awesome few lessons with iPads, iBooks Author and other interactive materials and it blows up in your face one hour before you plan to deliver the lesson.” Catchy, I know. Let me back up to the beginning…

Do you feel like this picture is shouting at you? No? Just me? Weird.

Do you feel like this picture is shouting at you? No? Just me? Weird.

In anticipation of the Presidential election, I planned to spend a few class periods between units in our World History I curriculum to discuss the key issues regarding the election and how it works. Historically, the curriculum for my district’s 8th grade Social Studies classes had included half a year in US Government topics, but as of a year ago, has converted entirely to a World History I survey course. I loved teaching the government curriculum and felt that the election was a worthy reason to delve back into some basics.

Because I am a planner (read type A/ anal/ control freak) I decided to get organized for this ahead of time and dabble in some new technology resources along the way. What fun it would be! I dug back into my old files- not in the cloud people, like actual manilla folders with xeroxed copies and *gasp* overhead transparencies! How archaic, I know.

So much learning!

So much learning!

I perused my old resources and consolidated some key information to disseminate to my students regarding both the executive branch and the electoral process. Mind you, these kids have not had any formal US history content since 5th grade, so I really was starting with the basics.

What is a Democrat? What is a Republican?

What is a Democrat? What is a Republican?

Once I determined the information to include, I began my adventure with iBooks Author! Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 6.39.16 PM First off, I should say that this program is fantastic, and offers a lot of very cool features in designing your own iBooks. The newest updates include the ability to make an image interactive (pay attention here, because this is going to come back and bite me…). After about an hour of trying all the features out, I was able to begin constructing a pretty comprehensive and attractive iBook on the Presidential Election. I was quite proud of myself, and even told my students of the amazingness they were going to experience soon (some even smiled politely in response to my boasting, which I took as the disengaged, too cool 8th grader equivalent of “YEAH MS. MCGUIRE, YOU DA BEST!!” Always remember it is important to have a healthy level of self confidence with these things).

When I was ready to test it out, I connected my teacher specific iPad to my computer, pushed out the iBook, and opened it on my iPad. I was quickly prompted to update my iBooks to use the updated iBooks Author features, and did so.

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 6.47.57 PMUnlike the cart of iPads over which I have no management power, I can update my teacher iPad at will. With the carts, because of a district fear of the app boogieman (I’m not really sure why teachers can’t have management control over their own cart of iPads) we have no ability to download anything or update any existing apps. Instead, we are expected to create a consolidated, justified, and administratively approved list of apps before each holiday break so that the technology department can update all of the machines. Due to this red tape, my hands are effectively tied in handling any kind of immediate need with the iPads.

I really should’ve seen the next event coming, but instead went along happily testing my beautiful creation. It worked, had interactive pictures and diagrams, a quiz built in, and valuable content. It was SO AWESOME, I swear!

The morning of my epic lesson, I figured out the workflow needed to send out my iBook masterpiece. I quickly began by sending out the file, and planned to go iPad to iPad to download the iBook. I swiftly unplugged and removed the first iPad from its cozy home in the cart, lightly pressed the home button to wake it from its slumber, easily signed into my email account, tapped the email I needed, and with baited breath, touched the screen over the attachment to open my beautiful creation.

photo (1)


After the redness dissipated from the slap I delivered to my own forehead, I began figuring out how to trouble shoot this scenario given that updating the iPads in time was impossible. Luckily an iBooks Author creation can be converted into a PDF as well, and at least I could send this document out for student consumption, and plug my own iPad to the projector to show some of the features as we discussed the issues.

Thinking on my feet instead of crumbling into the fetal position and rocking back and forth until class ended.

Thinking on my feet instead of crumbling into the fetal position and rocking back and forth until class ended.

In the end, all was not lost and the students still were able to access the content through the boring, sad, stagnant PDF version. I was crushed, and thoroughly frustrated with the entire system. But, in terms of my journey to effectively implement the iPads, it was a good lesson in early preparations and knowledge of updates. Also, the content sang to the kids, and they were enthralled with the details of the election, giving relevance to the political advertisements and news coverage they were seeing all over their television screens.

imgresAs an effort towards future improvements, I sent an email to administrators articulating the ways their chosen method of iPad management effects student access and learning. They were receptive and are now searching for tiered management alternatives.

So really, despite my debacle, there have been many positive results.

A few of us from my district will be visiting Millis Public Schools in Millis, MA in January to observe their integration of iPad technology. I remain hopeful, however cautiously, we will find solutions in the future so I can properly administer my amazing, incredible, awe-inspiring teaching ability with iPads to the future of our society (I already told you: self-confidence is key).