What a Tablet Does, and Doesn't, Do…

I’ve been using my iDevice almost exclusively since I got it back in March 2012, and I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the results. Here is my take on using an iDevice (insert your tablet of choice… the issues are similar with each of them)…


  • More reading. I’ve read tons more books. I check them out from the library, purchase them from Amazon, and generally consume lots of information. I read the news regularly now on the device.
  • More connection with family. My extended family uses FaceTime extensively to keep in touch. I can wash dishes and talk with my mom at the same time. #sweet
  • More connection with local people. I tend to use the device to extend conversations, take notes, etc. for face to face meetings. And there are really great multiplayer family games that we use at a moments notice.
  • Less paper clutter. Now that I have trained myself, receipts and notes and everything just goes straight in… I love Notability especially for drawing out garden ideas and taking notes at meetings.
  • Less email time. I find it’s pretty easy to junk my mail on a device. I think it’s because of some of the cons I list below.
  • Better focus. I’m not jumping all over the place… which leads me to the cons…


  • Less writing. My blogging has pretty much come to a screeching halt. It’s too hard to write quickly, edit, add pictures, etc. on the device. I have a keyboard, but having to punch the home button repeatedly to scroll through applications, copy/paste etc. just makes writing a pain. So I haven’t done that. And I miss it.
  • Less typing. Anywhere. Email, blog posts, comments, Facebook… I don’t like typing on the iDevice. I don’t like the way it goes back and autocorrects in the strangest of ways, making me sound like an illiterate, grammatically stunted person. I use less words when I do actually type, which generally means less communication.
  • Fewer online connections. It’s just more difficult to keep up with Twitter and everything else. No quick tabbing from one thing to the next, or seeing notifications pop up while writing a post.
  • Less production in general. I play with the Pages app, but there are definite limitations. Which means that checklist I started back in August still hasn’t been perfected and we are limping along with something much less than I would have produced on a laptop with much more time.
  • Less creativity. It’s not a creation device in any way… yes, I can make cool cards, or scrapbooky things, but in general, it’s hard and time consuming to create.

Lessons Learned:

  1. It is not a laptop replacement. Period. I really wanted it to be.
  2. It is a great way to read and learn and use in a group setting without the ‘screen wall’ that goes up with laptops.
  3. I need to work with both devices regularly. I need to use the iDevice as a book and the laptop as my pen and paper.

Ramifications for Education?

See #3 above. Students need to have access to a way to easily connect, create and explore…. not just read, consume, and play. Can the iDevice do that? Ja. Is it easy? No. Will students find it hard to do if they are only used to using an iDevice? I don’t know. Right now, I think they still need both. Or access to both.

What about you?

(A funny aside…. I can’t tell you how many times recently I have touched the screen on my laptop to click or move something…)


Normalizing Technology in the Classroom

Here’s the deal.

Technology use should be a normal, everyday part of the classroom.

It should not be a trip to computer lab, a special event, or ISTE NETS checkbox.

It needs to be ubiquitous. ((Shout out to monika hardy for adding this to my everyday vocabulary! She challenges my educational worldview daily. You should see the amazing things happening with her students in the be you house here in Loveland, CO. ))

It needs to permeate the classroom. ((Notice that I used the word “needs”… this isn’t optional.))

This year, the older students in our school had more difficulty incorporating technology into school life than the younger students.  Now, these are tech savvy, text happy, Facebooky high schoolers, and yet the younger students adapted more quickly- even though they had more basic technology skills to learn.

In September, I introduced Google Apps and Edmodo as our new technology infrasctructure. This was both a blessing and a curse, because the high schoolers very quickly rebelled. It really threw me for a loop, because I thought they would be eager for the change. Not so. They misused the available WIFI, forgot passwords daily, spent hours on Facebook and YouTube ((to the point that we blocked those sites for a period of time… and I’m not a fan of blocking!)), and generally made me question many of my beliefs about technology use.

Now, halfway through the year, all of our students turn to those tools regularly on their own. Younger students. Older students. Distance learning students. They have taken the technology beyond the school to use them in their personal life, share with others, and find new uses on a regular basis. They are no longer tech phobic. It’s not just their ability level that has changed, but their technological worldview.

It has truly become our pencil and paper. And textbook.  And library. And more.

Now, we can be about the business of learning with those tools. That huge list of cool technology projects? Well, I get to start using those next week.

Is technology normal in your classroom and school?

(Part 1 of a 7 part series, including Part 2: How to Normalize Technology, Part 3: Technology Detox, Part 4: Examples of Technology Normalization, Part 5: Beyond Technology Normalization, Part 6: Age and Technology Normalization, Part 7: Technology & Inquiry)

Building a Browser for Personalized Learning

This fall, my students will be using Google Chrome as their school browser of choice because it facilitates  personalized learning. Our first concrete technology step, after we open the never ending discussion about Internet safety, will be to install Chrome and a number of extensions.

The Best

My favorite extension for personalizing learning is the Apture extension. I discovered it after noticing the ‘look it up’ feature in the Blio eReader which enables students to right-click and choose from Dictionary, Thesaurus or Wikipedia.  This extension is a more mature and thoughtful version of that concept. Apture allows a student to click on part of a word or phrase and then click on the “Learn More” button that pops up. From there, a student can view quick information in the form of Wikipedia entries, websites, definitions, videos, and images. All of these open up on top of the current page in a small window or large shadowbox… meaning you never leave the original site. This explanation just does not do the extension justice, so I’ll show you a few examples of how it has been used in the past few days in my house.

Example 1: ECHIDNA- I was visiting Emily’s Blog today and read about an echidna in her story. Here in the US, that’s an unfamiliar animal. (Matter of fact, my spell checker keeps flagging the word!) However, it’s the second time in two days that I’ve been faced with the term or image of one and I knew I needed to learn more about the animal. This application made it easy enough that I actually took action on that thought mid-Google Reader stream, and it does the same for our students.

Example 2: CARP- Earlier this week, my son was researching local fishing spots for his personalized learning project. One of the ponds listed types of fish that are stocked, only a few of which were familiar. A quick highlight resulted in some great video footage, many images, and some great additional resource links.

The Rest

Now that I’ve waxed poetic about Apture, I’ll share the others we will be adding over the first week of school. I did notice that our Google Apps for Education accounts have the Chrome store turned off (too bad, Alchemy), but it doesn’t seem to cause a problem with downloading these extensions.

These tools ultimately  help students become more connected, more quickly, in a way that is more meaningful to them personally.

What extensions are you using to encourage a robust personal learning environment? Please help me create a better browser for students to self-direct their learning.