Apple vs. Android

So last year our district started a teacher technology program that puts a Windows laptop or a Chromebook and Android tablet in the hands of teachers. It’s still at the lottery selection stage currently, but I imagine it will roll out to all interested teachers eventually.

So that’s the promising news.

Now for the not so promising news. Where is the option to select Apple products? Well that’s still up to teachers to purchase with their own money, because someone won’t support what they can’t repair. So there’s that.

So choice one is to receive a Windows laptop that comes with OSAPAC software, lots of IT support and looks and works like the thousands of machines that our district has in place. Option two is a Chromebook and Nexus tablet. Nice for those that are willing to do a little experimentation and still be supported by IT. There is an option three where you can purchase your own iPad and MacBook with your own money and receive no district support. Your support is provided by AppleCare, should you decide to purchase it beyond the initial grace period.

I suppose there is an option four whereby you don’t do anything and still teach in a pre-technology era, but those people really aren’t reading this blog.

So I was fortunate enough to receive a nicely spec’d out Chromebook and a Nexus 7 tablet to use in my classroom. Now I already have my own personal Chromebook that I use at school, so I’m a little familiar with what these machines can do. Having another one in the class creates some interesting options for use. I also have a personal MacBook Air and Retina iPad Mini that I use at school. There are a few other bits and pieces, but these are the main players. With that background taken care of, let’s move on.

I thought it might be interesting to document the advantages and shortcomings of each of these devices. Well, the Chromebook and Android table and the MacBook Air and iPad Mini. I’m not really a Windows user, although I can definitely use one if I have to. I understand they are entirely different in what they offer and really have no place being compared to one another. Yet, as a teacher I want to be using the best tools under the proper circumstances to get the job done, and each of these devices has its own niche. Practically speaking I am also well aware that one set of devices is a fair bit less expensive than the other, so that will play a role in the comparison as well.

I will admit right from the beginning that I have a lot more experience with Apple products that I do with Android products. I’m really going to try and maintain some degree of neutrality in future posts as I reflect on using these devices. I realize ahead of time that may be a bit of a challenge.

So here’s the idea. I’ll post some thoughts on how I use these devices in the classroom and how students use these devices in the classroom. I don’t know if I’ll end up with a score card kind of result, or more of a blended experience that might suggest the most promising use for each device. Maybe a combination of both.


‘Twas the day before Christmas break

We had a very spirited discussion today in our table groups. It was a perfect example of accountable talk.

The students were writing their response to the following question,

By controlling medical research funds, you are in a position to guarantee that a cure will be found in 15 years for any disease you choose. Unfortunately, no progress on any others would be made during that period. Would you target one disease?

It really didn’t matter what they decided. The point of the exercise was to have them state a clear opinion and support it. Students faced off in an oral display of give and take. Everyone was respectful of the opposing opinions, yet held steadfastly to their own beliefs. Even at the end of the period when one student remarked, “We really didn’t get anything done this period” one of her friends countered with, “But we have so much more to write about now”.

It’s starting to come together.


Long Range Plans v 1.0

So part of working on the First 5 Days is collaboratively working on long term plans. Our district’s long term plans need to include overall expectations from our province’s curriculum, themes, or big ideas or units, and a calendar timeline. I’m feeling a bit visual these days so here is a version 1.0 of my grade 6 thinking for 2012-2013. Lots of revisions will be forthcoming in the days ahead, but this is where I am thinking of starting.


Journey Maps

There’s something very powerful about the process of reflection, when it’s used properly. Reflecting gives us time to make sense of our learning. Sometimes putting a time and place on reflecting feels forced, like when we’re given 5 minutes in a workshop and told to ‘reflect’.

This week we were working with some visiting teachers from Korea who are coming near the end of their 6 month learning with our board. We spent the morning talking and creating journey maps. Journey maps are powerful way to focus our reflections by creating temporal representations of our learning. We frequently use these during final sharing sessions with our action research teams. It’s a great way to visualize your learning and serves as a representation to help us reflect on our practice. The act of creating a map helps us focus our reflection and speaking to your map further helps to clarify our learning as a process.


Do the Right Thing

Forget the tests and the grades. Forget the curriculum and the complaints about standardization. Strip away the corporate branding and park the cynicism attached to marketing. This is who I want my students to be when they grow up.


Teaching the creativity out of students

We had a great conversation today about long term and short term learning goals. Some of us framed long term learning as unit goals, others as end of grade learning. A few even wondered about long term goals being defined in lifetime terms. It was a pretty interesting couple of minutes of conversation connecting short term goals to long term goals.

When we broke down some of short term writing goals it became clear to some that these just weren’t fun. While they may have been convenient to assess, they certainly couldn’t be fun for the student. Of course these were just samples and a skilled teacher can do wonders, even with the driest of expectations.

Students come to us as natural storytellers and writers. As a long term goal, that’s what I want these students to become. Looking at some of the expectations presented as learning outcomes seemed to do very little to promote the joy of writing.

It’s the difference between the art and the science of teaching. I think we have to keep some of those really long term goals in mind during our planning. It seems a bit short sighted just to plan for the end of a unit or even the end of the grade. Perhaps we need a few 20 year goals to remind us of the bigger picture.


Code Literacy

Might the idea of having students be fluent in coding be short sighted? Based on how the idea can be misinterpreted as digital literacy and coding becoming a form of writing. I would like to point out as many have before, that digital literacy is not about knowing computers, but is often understood as that. I’m not against students learning code and how things work. In the classroom I taught students some HTML and I’m still a big fan of LOGO. These were not taught as an end goal however. They were a way to get at a critical thinking processes.

The short sightedness lies in the idea that todays programming code will be around forever. Let’s ask those that spent time in the 1970’s programming on data cards. Invest in teaching the ideas of code programming and less time in thinking that if I know how to program in a certain code I will be guaranteed work in the foreseeable future. I might just stick with teaching simple flow charts.