Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

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Ed Tech Thoughts
from the
Space Coast

Mr. G. Shupe
Access Excellence Fellow
Apple Distinguished Educator NMC Horizon Project K-12 Advisory Board

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Things I have found interesting lately- in a magazine format:
... a successful design delivers a message to the viewer that words alone can't. Design is capable of evoking atmosphere and emotion, creating a tone, and soliciting a response from the viewer.
Dave Shea
Molly E. Holzschlag
The Zen of CSS design

What if our lesson plans didn't say what the teacher would be doing, but what the students would be doing?

Carey Pohanka
a profound tweet

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FETC Take Aways - First Edition - The T-Shirt Discovery

It is hard to go to FETC and not feel enthused about creativity and innovation. For four years, Tim Wilson, other ADE friends and I produced a popular podcast series called Conference Connections where we tried to capture some of the most powerful messages and innovations of Ed Tech Conferences. I am determined to continue in that tradition in a series of blogs reflecting on what I took away from FETC 2015.

Cut to the chase Shupester, don't bore me with the story of how a t-shirt led to your new discovery!
Growing up in a beach surf culture in the 1970's engendered an extraordinary interest in t-shirts. Promoting rock concerts and doing rock radio in the 80's just reinforced my obsession and collective hoarding. What a fun way to show whose tribe I belong to, what products I like, what jams I listen to.

So when I am at a conference, watching for interesting t-shirts is a part of the experience. Sure, maybe t-shirts are less
professional but I find them way more interesting than ties with button-downs or frilly blouses. Usually I am drawn to the snarky t-shirt humor, clever play on words, geeky cultural references – but this week my attention was drawn to a simple font and single word on a white t-shirt:

So I saw the fellow wearing this shirt in the Thursday morning, and wondered if it was a thought–provocative saying, educationese, a new software product or what. Right away, it was making me think. I Like that!

The youthful man wearing the shirt was busy on the phone, so I didn't want to interrupt him. I figured I would keep my eye out for another
formative shirt and look around in the (massive) exhibit hall. Mind you there were several thousand attendees and over 500 exhibitors. I didn't find this logo anywhere else, but late afternoon, I passed by him again and he was on the phone (again). However, this time, I told him that I really liked his shirt and he said "thanks - so much!" He seemed genuinely pleased that I noticed it and heard him say to whoever he was talking to "This guy just said he liked our shirt!".

So, I figured that was the end of it. At least I had made someone happy that I noticed their shirt design. Happy

Yet, we were destined to meet again. I had sent out a invite for a Apple Distinguished Educator / New Media Consortium meetup outside the Apple Classroom for a late dinner. I stayed behind while some of the Apple folks went on to the restaurant. Looking across the way, I saw this t-shirt fellow sitting at a table by himself.

He told me that this was his second FETC, and that Rushton Hurley had helped get him there last year (good endorsement!). This year he was here to promote the just released web project:
GoFormative. When he described it as a student response system/formative assessment, I was skeptical… especially about the response system part. Wasn't that already a saturated market? Isn't that reinforcing, "One answer, quick can you guess what one answer I am looking for?!!?"

So with a live demonstration and the toughest questions I could ask answered, I urge you to take your own look at this. No booth, no concurrent session, but a very innovative web platform for live response formative assessment. And it is free!

This is going to be a website for my teachers to try and one for all of us to watch: http://goformative.com Check it out and leave me some comments!

This Almost Makes Me Cuss!!!

Whoops!!! Seriously?
iCloud - Pages
Did you just break my collaborations?

Apple is cutting us off from sharing any of our Pages documents in the Cloud? Yosemite is not yet available and apparently any earlier OS is no longer working in the cloud. I get it that I was using (and encouraging the use of) a
beta product. I also understand the merging and interoperability of the iOS apps and documents. But a sudden, blunt cutoff is bad for customer confidence and satisfaction.

Hope this is just a momentary reversible mistake, Apple!

Update: After almost 2 hours on the phone with Apple Support:
It appears that there is no workaround.
However, it is not as bad as the above screenshot would make you think. If you do convert to iCloud drive, the Senior Representative said you could access the files from a Mavericks machine, but the syncing of the document with two (or more) people working on it was the real issue. He couldn’t confirm that changes would be pushed up to the cloud.


The Analog-Digital Challenge

This weekend I was visiting with a local electrical engineer in a well-known high tech company. We started talking about the changes about to take place in my school's learning environment (with a 1:1 initiative). I was surprised that (initially) he didn't share my enthusiasm for the potential this project would have. 

When I came home, I ran across this challenge that Rae Niles shared on the ADE list a decade ago. She had gotten it from an anonymous source in Abilene High School I added a few lines myself, and sent it out to my school's teaching staff with this note:

I ask you to forgive the idealistic notion that this is going to be an immediate/easy change... but let's gear up for a major change in our learning culture. Please don't take this as a challenge to the effort or quality of instruction in your classroom, it is meant more to challenge us to think about why the changes coming are worthwhile.

Let's have a little competition at school and get ready for the future.
I will use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil.
 Are you ready?

  • I will access up-to-date information - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
  • I will immediately know when I misspell a word you have to wait until it's graded.
  • I will learn how to care for technology by using – it you will read about it.
  • I will see math problems in 3d, you will do the odd problems.
  • I will be able to communicate richly using multimedia and review, reflect and revise my communication for a superior final product – you will write 10 facts as a summary our assignment.
  • I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world you will share yours with the teacher (and maybe the class).
  • I will be able to experience just-in-time learning on demand while your teacher will try and predict when the computers might be needed and try to schedule the lab.
  • I will have 24/7 access to the biggest library in human history, you have the entire class period several times a year if your teacher scheduled the computer lab.
  • I will learn to troubleshoot technology problems, you will wish you had technology.
  • I will work interactively with information while yours will be printed and photocopied.
  • I will select my learning style you will use the teacher's favorite learning style.
  • I will organize my notes electronically, archive them, learn to search and find information in my portfolio, you will struggle with heavy static books/notebooks and a bulky three ring binder with torn, smeared wrinkled and sometimes illegible content.
  • I will collaborate with my peers from around the world and (maybe) you will get to collaborate with peers in your classroom.
  • I will take my learning as far as I want while you must wait for the rest of the class.
  • I will know the difference between and effectively use: ordered lists and unordered lists, hanging indents, a text cell, calculated field, a graphic created with vectors or bitmaps, transparency, chromakey, layers, web authoring, scripting, markup language and basic programming – you will struggle to write within the margins of your paper and build big enough tables to contain your notes, even when you reach an new understanding.
  • I will build additional skills that will transfer to adulthood jobs, social interaction, politics, and life successes while you are limited to only the most rudimentary tools for learning.

The cost of a laptop per year? - $300/year average
The cost of teacher and student training?
The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? - Priceless
Photo Credit: jazzijava via Compfight cc

Mobile iPad Lab on the Cheap: DYI Charging Cart

Things being what they are… just isn’t always enough money to do things the “Professional, High Quality” way we would like.

Our district is in the throws of “Racing to the Top” and at the same time we are still under severe budget constrictions. Every technology dollar budgeted is directed towards ‘Testing Computers’. Meanwhile, my dream and educational vision is to increase student use of the technology for problem solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, and amplifying their understanding. The challenge is doing more with less.

I fundraised, scrimped, saved and advocated for the purchase of a ‘Class Set of iPads’ at my school and even though the iPads themselves are about half the cost of laptops or desktop computers, there are still those additional costs for a full set of apps, protective covers, and then the big one: a charging cart for moving the iPad lab from classroom to classroom. The
Bretford Charging Cart is really nice, sturdy, secure. A worthy mode of transporting and charging those wonderful iPads. But when you are starting with nothing and penny pinching, that cart is about the equivalent of 5 iPads.

So the essential question was: “Could I innovate and make my own iPad Lab Charging Cart?”

My first stab was a milk crate– hmmm… didn’t roll, 24 iPads were pretty heavy, wasn’t even slightly secure, iPads were exposed to dust and dirt, and the clincher was- how do I charge all this stuff?! In my job role, I am so tired of wires, cables, adapters, cords, chargers, etc. Sometimes networking seems to be more like tangling than connecting!

So the next choice was a rolling file cart. I was pleased to find that this particular cart would accommodate nearly 40 iPads in two rows with the charging dock facing up. Here is a step by step to help you build your own iPad Rolling Classroom Lab!
–note that this set of instructions is for a lab that charges, but doesn’t provide the hardware for wired syncing


1) Purchase Vaultz Locking Mobile Wheelie Chest. This link is available for your convenience, but I have seen these at Staples, and Office Depot.

2) Test for iPad Capacity.
Of course, before you start to modify or invest in other parts for this project, it would be good to check and see if your iPads will fit as nicely as mine did. I didn’t purchase an iPad case that added substantial thickness or width to the overall size of each iPad. So try your iPads and see if you will be able to accommodate as many as you need. Ultimately the finished project will position the iPads over the wheels and leave room for the chargers in the front of the box as seen here above left.

Remember, you want to be able to charge these in the cart, so there should be room above the iPad for the charging cables without undo stress.



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3) Use a Hole Saw.

I wanted my iPad Cart to accommodate chargers, cables and a powerstrip to plug the chargers into inside the box, so the teacher could lock the iPads up each night while they were recharging. So I used a hole saw to cut a port in the front left bottom corner of the box. In retrospect I could have used a smaller diameter hole saw, it just needs to be big enough to thread the plug of the power strip through. After all this is set up, I will cover the hole with a square of felt with a slit for the cord to pull through.

4) Build your Charging Station. Buy 6 USB 4 Port Chargers (for 24 iPads).
I wrestled for a while with finding powerstrips that would allow 6 or 8 Apple iPad Chargers to sit side by side on one powerstrip. I would think that there is something like this out there, but as I was working through this, I realized that it would be hard to fit three of these powerstrips, with their cables and the iPad chargers into the space I was saving for this. So then I begin looking for third party USB charging stations. None of what I found provide the full amperage that a single Apple iPad charger provides, but the one I selected Provides standard USB 5V at up to 2A (max). From experience, this meant that if four iPads were plugged in to one of these, it would take approximately four times as long to charge as if I used the Apple Charger. If school ended at 4 PM and started at 9 AM the following day, there would be more than enough time to get a full charge restored to the iPads (17 hours). I have heard that the new iPad takes a bit longer to charge than iPad 2 and iPad 1. Some background information from––> Gizmodo.

5) You may need to grind down the charger AC adapter.
I found that I needed to remove some of the plastic wings that were apart of the aesthetic design of the chargers.

wings may also serve to stabilize the charger on the wall or powerstrip, but once my chargers were attached to the powerstrip, that would not be an issue, since they would be so close side by side, they would stabilize each other.

Your powerstrip may not require you to cut these off.

I had access to a grinder, but you may need to use a vice with a sander to do the same job. Careful of the hot plastic, it burns!

6) Assemble the Chargers.
I initially want to have capacity for 24 iPads in my cart. The power strip I chose had 5 outlets, so I put four of the 4 Port USB chargers on that block, then I added a three outlet extension cord to the 5th outlet on the powerstrip. Eventually I could have 28 iPads charging in this cart: (7) 4 Port USB charging blocks.

The 4 port USB Charging Blocks have the option of removing the AC adapter built in and using a Figure 8 AC Adapter cord similar to what is found on VCRs and other household electronics.

7) Hide the Wire Mess Part 1
As I mentioned before, as an educational technologist, wires are necessary, but I often get overwhelmed and frustrated dealing with the spaghetti that is the bane of my existence. I wanted to keep this neat and easy to use for my teachers and students. The next step was to cut a piece of 3/8” plywood so that it fit in and formed a wall between the charging chamber and the iPad chamber.

The plywood fits down below the metal rail that the top of the cart rests in.

I also cut and used wood glue to adhere a 1” X 1” to the bottom of my chamber wall. This will help reinforce (keep from bowing) and stabilize the wall. I will also put velcro on the bottom of it, to help keep the wall in place.

8) Hide the Wire Mess Part 2
Next comes the cover to hide the wires, powerstrip and USB Charging Blocks. Using leftover scrap from the 3/8” plywood, I cut notches in it to pass the USB charging cables through. The slits don’t have to be exact in size or depth, just relatively evenly spread apart. I made enough for 7 charging blocks in case I get as many as (4x7) 28 iPads to populate this case.

I found that a sharp razor knife was the easiest way to cut
black felt to cover the two pieces of plywood. You could hot glue the felt, but I found it fast and easy to use a staple gun. I then used scissors to cut slits where the cords would slide through.

Note: It is amazing how nice jury rigged things look once you cover them in black felt. smiley_smile

9) Neatening Everything Up
I started to use wire twist ties to group the four wires so they would not be randomly going everywhere, then I decided to use nylon ties. The nylon ties were much tighter, and provided a cleaner look. I only want enough of the cables to stick through as necessary to reach the iPads.

I used a few more small strips of velcro to hold the top to the side of the divider plywood. Even though the velcro had a pretty strong adhesive, I used the staple gun to secure the felt and velcro to the plywood. Everything was wedged pretty tight so that probably wasn’t necessary, but kind of helped seal things up.

img_0998-810) Cushion for the Bumpy Sidewalk
Our school is an outdoor school with rather old sidewalks between wings, so I put a couple of sheets of foam under the iPads to provide a little additional cushioning. It probably was not really necessary, but it didn’t cost me anything extra, so why not?

11) Last Step: Velcro the Power Strip Cable
The last thing I did was use a small wood screw to fasten a velcro wrap to the side of the case so that during transport the Power Strip Cable was not dragging around on the ground.

Shopping List (not all items are mandatory)
Vaultz Locking Mobile Wheelie Chest
Two scraps of 3/8” plywood
5 port surge supressor powerstrip
6 Cosmos 4-Port Wall USB Chargers
~24 Small Nylon Ties
24 USB –>iPad Dock Cables
Small Piece of Black Felt (less than a square yard)
Short Extension Cord with three plugs at the end
Figure 8 electrical AC Adapter cord
Foam packing layer

Hole Saw
Razor Knife
Staple Gun
Table, Band, or Circular Saw to cut wood
Sander or Grinder to modify the USB chargers if necessary

I would love to hear from you if you have any comments, corrections, or suggestions. Leave your comments below or send me an email!


What Do Kids in the Hall Say About Your Class?

A collection of nationally reknown educators recently started a Facebook Group built around Angela Maiers mantra “You Matter”. The “Choose 2 Matter” group asked for examples of how we have helped some one Choose 2 Matter. This blog post is a response to that question.
In my role as technology consultant, I work with relatively small groups of teachers in two cities a week during the summer and at least 1 group a month during the school year around the nation. Although it is not a required part of the curriculum, I always try and fit in a discussion / activity concerning Classroom Culture.

Classroom Culture is one of the last, but most important areas that teachers still have considerable control. As educators, we set the stage for our classroom. We can’t do much about the baggage that our students bring with them into the classroom, we don’t often get to choose the textbook or course standards, and we often are limited considerably by our physical environment (paint, temperature, sound levels, type of lighting, etc.). But we do have considerable control how learning activities are staged.

So the essential question is:
What do the students say among themselves about your class?

Answering this question may be a depressing thing to contemplate. I think most all teachers want their students to like them, and maybe even more they want them to like their subject area and course.

So I believe this is a very important reflection activity for us as educators…
What do they say? and What would we like them to say?… Once we have answered these questions, the next obvious question is How do we get there?

Some of the first answers to the last question from workshop participants is:
Respect your students, and teach them to show respect to each other. Make them feel safe (physically, emotionally, and intellectually) in the borders of your domain.
Carefully choose your words and perhaps watch video of your self interacting with your students in both whole group as well as small group settings. What does your body language say?
Provide not only wait time following questions, but give students time to reflect and interact with each other.
To create life long learners, passionately share your failures as opportunities to learn. Model life long learning. Props to
David Warlick for this thought.

You will no doubt begin to come up with many more ideas, but I would like to leave you with one additional strategy to consider. Now that digital cameras are on most everyone’s phones, and cameras are readily available in other forms, MAKE PICTURES all the time! Capture your students working, struggling, discussing, debating, laughing, entertaining…. or better yet have a couple of students assigned to be photojournalists for the week.

Then display those images as bell ringer slideshows, learning celebrations, and possibly on review materials, in webpages, on parent emails and conferences.

What are you communicating to the students and what does this have to do with Classroom Culture?
How about:
  • I care about you.
  • I like you.
  • I want to remember you.
  • What you do in here is important.
  • What your (brother, sister, kid down the street) did was important.
  • People/Students are a focus of this classroom.

This is just one small (fun and easy) strategy for developing a positive classroom culture, and it will take many other strategies to complete that transformation. But there are many side benefits to having a visual record of your classroom… even curriculum goals will benefit: seeing themselves doing stuff in your class will cause the concepts to be revisited and reinforce the permanence of the cognitive structures being created.