Category Archives: Advantage2014 – Auburn iPads

Advantage2014 – Auburn iPads

Benefits of Attending Auburn’s Leveraging Learning iPad Institute

Auburn Schools (ME), an early adopter of 1to1 iPads in primary grades, hosts the annual Leveraging Learning Institute on the topic. Registration for the Nov 12-14 Institute opens at noon (ET) on August 21.

Dr. David Murphy, RSU 44 Superintendent (Bethel, ME), has sent a team to the Institute every year. In this video, he discusses both what his district has gotten from attending the Institute, and the benefits of sending a team of teachers, administrators, tech integrators, and technicians.


Registration is limited to 135, so be sure to register early. Districts are encouraged to send teams, and the Institute is structured to support teamwork (but individuals are welcome, too!).

This year, we are expecting the Institute to be internationally rich! More than a third of our participants are likely to be educators from outside the United States. What a great opportunity to share your experiences and learn from educators from across the country and around the world!

Learn more by visiting the Leveraging Learning Hold the Date Page.  We hope to see you at the Institute!


Not All at Once – Phases of Implementing Technology for Learning

When working to implement complex initiatives (like technology integration, or Customized Learning), we want to support our educators by not dropping it  on them all at once.  Toward that end, we try to define a productive sequence or set of phases of implementation.

As part of the Distributed PD Project, a Auburn-and-friends work group developed a wpid-Photo-Jan-24-2014-601-PM.jpgdraft Phases of Tech integration document. It is a draft, but we want to live with it and use it for a while before working to revise and update it. (Practice provides better feedback for revision than theory!)

We wanted to think about developing teachers’ skills at leveraging iPads for teaching and learning beyond just googling topics and word processing. Beyond just projecting material. Beyond just thinking about getting good at various tools. Beyond just using apps connected to the curriculum.

We wanted to think about technology as a tool to help us customize learning. We wanted to focus more on pedagogical goals than technological goals. And we wanted to think about where technology could take us that we couldn’t easily go without technology.

So we set up our professional learning continuum, our phases of implementing technology integration, to be similar to our Phases of Implementing Customized Learning, and how such a structure helps support plementation and teachers. (Driver 1)

And we based it on our current thinking about powerful uses of technology for learning.(Driver 2)

And we tried to think about how the SAMR Model might inform our work. (Driver 3)

Is Our Phases of iPad Integration Ready?

(Note: Cross posted to the Distribute PD Project)

Last August, one of our Auburn-and-friends work groups developed a draft Phases of Tech integration.

Draft Phases of iPad Integration

We wanted to think about developing teachers’ skills at leveraging iPads for teaching and learning beyond just googling topics and word processing. Beyond just projecting material. Beyond just thinking about getting good at various tools. Beyond just using apps connected to the curriculum.

We wanted to think about technology as a tool to help us customize learning. We wanted to focus more on pedagogical goals than technological goals. And we wanted to think about where technology could take us that we couldn’t easily go without technology.

So we set up our professional learning continuum, our phases of implementing technology integration, to be similar to our Phases of Implementing Customized Learning, and how such a structure helps support plementation and teachers. (Driver 1)

And we based it on our current thinking about powerful uses of technology for learning. (Driver 2)

And we tried to think about how the SAMR Model might inform our work. (Driver 3)

Now, we don’t believe any of our work is permanent. We know that as we get better at what we do, we’ll figure out how to improve our models. After we use this Phases of Technology document for a while, it will be ready for a revision.

But right now, we’re wondering if our draft is developed enough to be the one we live with for 12-18 months before we revise it again…

So, as you look at our draft,

  • Does the document adequately reflect our three drivers?
  • Does the sequence of the phases seem right? Does the progression make sense?
  • Does each phase seem to have the right elements for demonstrating mastery and moving on to the next phase? Does it adequately outline advancement (recognizing there will be plenty of support documents)?
  • Is anything missing? What should be added?
  • What needs to be edited or revised?
  • How do we make it better before living with it for a while?

We don’t need “perfect.” We’ll learn a lot by living with the model for a while. But we want to kick the tires on this version a little, and insure it is “good enough” to live with for a while.

So, what do you think?


Another View on iPad Keyboards

Note: This is a guest post by Auburn Middle School (AMS) Technology Integrator, Carl Bucciantini. The article originally appeared in the Dec. 2013 Issue of the Auburn Middle School Newsletter.

Over the past few days I’ve received several phone calls from parents wondering what kind of keyboard to purchase for their children. While there are lots of options available, I find myself wondering if a keyboard really necessary and what is the driving force behind the “need” to have one?” I think decisions such as these are often made based upon perception or personal experience. Further, as adults I think we assume that our children can’t possibly “type” as well using a touch pad as they could on a keyboard, partly because of our own challenges with touchpads.

This controversy has been swirling around for a long time, so I recently posed the keyboard vs. touchpad question to Dr. Ruben Puentedura, a consultant to the MLTI project since its inception, asking if he is aware of any research which indicates that one is better than the other. Here’s what he’s found:

The research to date is pretty clear-cut: there is little to no significant difference between using a physical keyboard and a virtual keyboard, particularly as users become more experienced in the use of the iPad. Here are some relevant recent references:

Brady Cline did a nice small-scale study with students in grades 3-6, which showed no significant benefit to using the physical keyboard.

Some people criticized that study, saying that none of the students were particularly fast typists. So, it's worthwhile seeing how well an adult who is a reasonably experienced typist performs with the iPad. A 2010 study by Chaparro et al. (when the iPad had just been introduced) showed that people who had never typed on an iPad performed at around 45 words per minute (wpm) right off the bat. The same people typed about 15wpm faster on a netbook keyboard – but they had a higher error rate on the physical keyboard, and overall reported higher typing satisfaction on the iPad. A 2013 followup study by Chaparro et al., this time using a dedicated external keyboard on the Microsoft Surface, confirmed these results.

Needless to say, practice improves iPad keyboarding speeds. I don't know of any study that has final numbers on improvement, but light regular use is reported to get you to about 54wpm, and there are multiple videos on YouTube and elsewhere of people typing 60wpm to over 100wpm on an iPad without breaking a sweat.

One of the major advantages to using the iPad is that it’s so easy to use it on the go. Dr. Puentedura continues:

There are some very interesting studies coming out on using the iPad “on the go” (Trudeau et al., 2013), where using a regular keyboard is difficult or impossible. As you might expect, typing speed goes down in these scenarios (to about 23wpm on a split keyboard layout, 25wpm on a regular layout), but the split keyboard layout (mostly thumb typing) was found to be considerably more comfortable. Given that in these scenarios the physical keyboard performs at about 0wpm, I would consider those numbers quite respectable.

My personal belief is that whether they use a touchpad or a more traditional keyboard, kids have an uncanny ability to adapt. My advice is if you’re looking at purchasing a keyboard, ask your child why they think they need one, how it will make things better for them and suggest that they borrow one from the AMS library for a week or two to try it out.


We Need Keyboards With Our iPads. Not!

This past summer, Maine's schools got the choice for the first time to purchase tablets as part of the statewide 1to1 learning with “laptop” initiative (MLTI). It has spotlighted an interesting demand related to tablets: we need to get keyboards so students can use the tablets.

I kind of understand why people might think this. The virtual keyboard on the iPad does take a little getting used to, especially if you're a pretty good typer on a regular, physical keyboard. Also, adults and students hear other adults say, “we need keyboards for our tablets.” And the idea is reinforced by the TV ads for some tablets that state theirs come with a keyboard “so you can do real work.” Locally, we even have an owner of a call center claiming (while pounding his fist on the table…) he won't hire any of our graduates because they won't be able to type on a physical keyboard.

My own experience with a full sized iPad is that it took me a couple weeks to get used to the virtual keyboard, but now I type on it as fast or faster than I do on a physical keyboard. And I have heard similar stories of parents or community leaders in other districts demanding keyboards because of the hard time they personally are having typing on the onscreen keyboard, but a couple weeks later saying “never mind” when they have developed familiarity with it.

Admittedly, if I'm doing any quantity of writing on my iPad mini, such as writing this post, I do use a bluetooth keyboard. My hands are just too big to do anything more than a modified hunt and peck on the smaller keyboard. But the core of this debate is not about the size the keyboards on the (smaller) screens, but rather about onscreen vs physical keyboards.

I do believe that some folks really do need a different keyboard or sometimes need a physical keyboard. MLTI provided keyboards in something like a 1-to-10 or 1-to-7 ratio to the number of student iPads. We have put those in a keyboard lending program in our school libraries (students can check them out as needed), and a few students with a specific need have one permanently assigned to them. We even have students and families who have bought their own keyboards or keyboard cases (but that was a personal choice rather than a universal demand).

But the real issue that keeps coming up is the question, does everyone (or even just most students) need a keyboard? Districts in Maine that have experience with 1to1 iPad initiatives had interesting things to say when the question of keyboards was posed on the state technology email list.

The Cape Elizabeth tech director reported:

In our high school, we bought around 40-50 iPad keyboards for use in English and Social Studies, and also in our Library. This was in response to concerns from teachers, rather than from students, and although they did get used, they got used primarily because the teachers wanted them to be used rather than students needing to use them. They certainly got used less and less as the year went on and even teachers who borrowed them stopped using them as they ended up finding the onscreen keyboard just more practical.

The high school in RSU 57 has had a 1to1 iPad initiative in place for about 2 years. Their tech person talked about the keyboard cases they had provided students:

This was based on concerns from the administration and staff that student's would need a keyboard especially for typing long papers. Two years later and (my opinion) most students do not use the physical keyboards. Last year's class used it less than the previous class. What I am seeing is that the more the iPad and its virtual keyboard become mainstream the more the students are used to virtual typing before they are ever issued an iPad. Had we stayed with our original plan, I was not going to purchase keyboards this year.

In South Portland, the high school has had a 1to1 initiative for about 3 years, involving about 400 iPads. They have had “almost zero 'real' keyboard use/demand for the few we had purchased to allay concerns.”

Similarly, folks from Falmouth shared:

We bought 50 keyboards for our Elementary School iPads when we started the program 2 years ago. The thought was that 5th graders were going to need them to be able to type papers. 48 of the keyboards are still sitting in a closet unopened because they just have not been needed. The other two I have loaned out to staff but they always bring them back because they don't use them.

Foxcroft Academy has had one of the first high school 1to1 iPad initatiives in Maine. Their Assistant Head of School for Academics pointed out:

We're beginning year 3 of our 1:1 iPad program for all of our grade 9-12 students. We bought a few keyboards in year 1…They've received almost no use. There are plenty of barriers to student writing, but I can assure you that the virtual keyboard is not a substantive one. And, with built-in speech-to-text on these fancy new MLTI iPads, the virtual keyboard is even less a barrier. In short – buy a few (no more than a handful) if you must, to show that you're listening, but know that they are very likely to gather dust.

The Tech Integrator from Bar Harbor responded this way:

We plan to disallow external keyboards for iPads in school, unless the school determines that a student needs one. The thinking is that students will learn the iPad quickly enough, and that we don't want to set up for “have's and have-nots,”…. also the experience of our teachers using iPads, is that even an adult can learn to process text on an iPad.

That educator went on to say that when parents inquire, they have been referencing the articles here and here.

The issue is primarily an adult issue. Surprisingly, much of the demand for keyboards came before any of the schools even had their iPads! As one educator stated in the online discussion:

Some can't understand how you can interact in an educational setting with a device that does not have a keyboard with keys on it. An English teacher here, who was using Edmodo, had a student submit a lengthy paper the student had “thumb typed” on their iPhone!! Don't worry, the kids are all ready there or they will adapt very quickly. We just need to get out of the way.

I am empathetic to folks having fears and concerns about “new” technology they have only a cursory understanding of. This keyboard issue is a common perception about iPads.

But being a common perception does not mean that we have to respond to it, especially if we have adequate reason to believe it is a MISperception. (Nor do we have to respond to a concern just because it is stated repeatedly, or loudly, or with confidence, or by condemning those who disagree, etc.)

It is on us to make the argument (politely and diplomatically) about what works (not what is perceived or guessed or intuited or philosophized…) and provide the evidence that it works (such as through the stories that have been shared here).


The Need for a Quality, Distributed Professional Development System

Maybe you're experiencing something similar…

We really noticed it last year when we introduced iPads to first grade.

We now had double the classrooms with iPads (having introduced iPads to kindergarten the year before), but still only one Elementary Tech Integrator, had access to half as many early release Wedensdays as the year before, and had a new K-12, district-wide initiative (Customized Learning) drawing on our PD and support resources, support people, and time…

One of our team did help us implement a Workshop Model/Study Group Model approach where teachers chose topics of interest and collaborated in study groups to learn about the topic and create a video or other product to teach others what they learned. It was well implemented, yielded nice results, got good reviews in teacher follow up surveys, but still proved insufficient for meeting our training and support needs.

It was made clear again last week as we worked on planning our workshop day for the Wedensday before Thanksgiving. Teachers requested so many topics (related to both iPads and Customized Learning) and we only have a couple hours in the afternoon. We can't even afford the time to bring all the 2nd grade teachers into the same room to make sure they know how to properly download their apps (a combination training and technical difficulty we've been having lately), or the growing list of other challenges/needs we're struggling to address. And when I talked with the Tech Director about the breakout sessions he would lead, he (justifiably) responded, “Only 45 minutes per session? That's hardly enough time to get started.”

And, frankly, we face the same issue with middle school and high school where we switched from 1to1 laptops to 1to1 iPads, and they're finding the work flows are different, and we probably have to revisit integrating technology in engaging ways before students get too far down the path of using them as “weapons of mass distraction.” (Hat tip to Tom March for coining the term.)

Our philosophy is that if you are asking teachers to do things that they have never experienced themselves as students (like leveraging technology for learning), we have the moral obligation to support the heck out of them.

The question quickly becomes, if we don't have enough tech integrators to go around, and we have hardly any “everyone in the same room” professional development time available to us, and a growing list of challenges and things we're noticing our teachers don't know how to do (because we haven't taught them), how the heck do we support the heck out of them…?

So, we will be working this year on building a quality, distributed professional development system. Our idea is to build a system where teachers can get the support they need pretty much when they need it, developed and maintained by a large group of contributors, so it doesn't all fall on the shoulders of a few. We have some ideas on how to make this happen, but it's a little too early to share them (You know we will, when they're ready!).

Here's what we're pretty sure the system will need to include:

  • A professional learning curriculum & continuum – What are the (clearly articulated) knowledge and skills we want our educators to become proficient in and what scopes and sequences make sense?
  • A system for collecting and sharing examples, models, and exemplars – The system would include artifacts such as photos, articles, and videos, to help educators answer the question “But what does this piece look like in action?”
  • Learning modules built around that professional curriculum – The learning needs to be “chunked” into manageable pieces.
  • Multiple approaches to deliver those modules – Workshops, articles, videos, iTunesU courses, iBooks, etc. What ever systems we use, they should allow us to easily update the resources and push the updates to our teachers using them (things do change and evolve quickly in this business).
  • A system to “certify” teachers – The system certifies what teachers become proficient at as they move through their professional learning and keeps track of their “certifications.”
  • A system for soliciting educators to help us build and deliver the PD system – We need a team of teachers and other school leaders, both within and without our school district, to be valued contributors. We need people to help us build the professional learning continuum, the modules and related resources, and to certify teachers as they develop proficiency in the professional learning. The work needs to be developed by or borrowed from multiple people, not just the tech team.

We find it all a little scary. It does mean giving up some control. We have to trust others to help us do this work. If it is a piece that the tech integrators, the Tech Director, or I feel strongly about, then clearly we need to be part of the team that develops that piece. Otherwise, we need to trust the teachers who develop it. We can certainly review drafts of their work and offer feedback, but frankly there aren't enough of us to go around, and there is more work to do than we can actually do by ourselves.

Have any of you done some of this work? What have you tried? How'd it go? What worked and what didn't so well? What's your advice to us?

And so this chapter of our journey begins…


Not All Screen Time Is Created Equal – Young Children and iPads

Having a 1to1 iPad initiative in Kindergarten for almost 3 years (and currently in 1st & 2nd, as well), it's not surprising that we have heard a lot of comments and questions from parents about screen time.

The concern, of course, is that by having iPads in the primary grades (and especially 1to1, not just shared) young students are getting too much screen time.

It's understandable given the screen time research that has been around for a couple decades, mostly focused on children's television watching habits.

But in 2010, David Kleeman, President of the American Center for Children and Media, wrote, “A Screen Is a Screen Is a Screen'” Is a Meme, putting forth the idea that not all screen time is the same. Kleeman comments on at least two distinguishing factors. The first is the quality of the content. Certainly watching Sesame Street is of a different value than watching Tom & Jerry cartoons.

The second is how active (mentally or physically) the screen time is. Using educational or creation/productivity apps might be a better use of screen time than watching certain videos or playing certain games. Or as Kleeman points out, “David Pogue says, 'You can't play Kinect sitting down, and that's a plus.'” Kleeman refers to these as “lean forward” and “lean back” screen time. Lean back screen time is passive, while lean forward is active.

In fact, most of the screen time research and position papers seem to predate any significant introduction of the iPad, it's child-friendly touch interface and the plethora of educational and creation/creativity oriented apps (e.g. Kaiser Family Foundation 2010; American Academy of Pediatrics 2010; Common Sense Media 2011). It is easy to forget just how new an educational device the iPad really is!

There is a more recent position statement, jointly from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, which brings a balanced (or at least timely) view to the potential role of technology in educating young children.

The paper includes these position statements:

“Effective uses of technology and media are active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; give the child control; provide adaptive scaffolds to ease the accomplishment of tasks; and are used as one of many options to support children’s learning.”


“When used appropriately, technology and media can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities.”

To be clear, no one is arguing that there is no need to be thoughtful about how we leverage iPads for young student learning, nor is anyone arguing that iPads should replace hands-on, active learning (both are fears I sometimes hear expressed).

But I do want to state explicitly that the current screen time research does not contradict the (thoughtful) use of iPads with primary grades students, and in fact, there are productive, educative, developmentally appropriate uses.


I want to add as an aside the importance of training and professional development for teachers and other school leaders, if we are going to make primary grades iPads work. If the secret is “thoughtful” use of iPads as a learning tool, and where this post is directed to those who may want to respond to (erroneous) claims that screen time research suggests that young children should not be using iPads, I want to also share another position statement from the NAEYC paper. Educational leaders who recognize the educational value of primary grades iPads need to fully support teachers striving to meet that vision:

“Early childhood educators need training, professional development opportunities, and examples of successful practice to develop the technology and media knowledge, skills, and experience needed to meet the expectations set forth in this statement.”


Thanks to Sue Dorris for her contributions to this post.