Tag Archives: Apps

Multiple Pathways Blog: Top 5 Posts From 2013 and the 5 Most Popular Posts

Top 5 Multiple Pathways posts written in 2013:

#5 – The Series on the New MLTI: Choice, Auburn, and Learning – This year, Maine's 13-year-old learning with “laptop” initiative offered schools a choice of devices. This series describes the change in approach to the state initiative, why Auburn chose iPads, and what we still hope to get from our technology, despite the changes.

#4 – The Phases of Implementing Customized Learning: The SeriesOne lesson our district has learned from working with other districts further along with implementing Customized Learning is “not all at once!”

#3 – Life-Long Habits of Mind: Curriculum for Customized Learning – Districts in the Customized Learning Consortium have expanded their curriculum model beyond simply content knowledge. Life-Long Habits of Mind is the third domain of our curriculum model.

#2 – We Need Keyboards With Our iPads. Not! – While some believe that schools should buy keyboards to make iPads useful, lessons from experienced iPad schools suggest the opposite.

#1 – How Does Auburn Select Apps? – Ever since we started Advantage 2014, our primary grades 1to1 iPads initiative, we’ve had educators and parents ask us what apps we’re using.


The 5 Most Popular Multiple Pathways posts in 2013:

#1 – What Makes for Good Learning Experiences?

#2 – 10 Key Components of Customized Learning

#3 – Tone of Voice Matters (In Surprising Ways)

#4 – Motivating Students: Focus on 5 Strategies

#5 – Student Motivation: What Level of Engagement Are Your Students At?


How Does Auburn Select Apps?

Ever since we started Advantage 2014, our primary grades literacy and math initiative that includes 1to1 iPads in Kindergarten and 1st Grade, we’ve had educators and parents ask us what apps we’re using. (We have an apps page on our web site with 2 links, one to just our list of “district recommended” apps and one with the correlation of those apps to our curriculum – at least for one academic area…)

But occasionally, I’ll be asked how we select our apps.

For the most part, teachers guide our selection.

Teachers are free to use what ever apps they would like (especially free ones), but they are responsible for organizing their app library and syncing the devices in their classroom. This, by itself, eventually leads to teachers being more selective about which (and how many) apps they use! (One kindergarten teacher spent a couple weeks taking home a few iPads each night to spend the evening deleting the couple hundred apps she no longer wanted on the iPads!). 🙂

In general, we made “educational resource selection” part of our professional development. We didn’t want app selection to be some centralized function, and we wanted teachers to get good (and deliberate) about how they selected the resources they used with their students (which never happens if “someone else” is responsible for deciding which resources are ok for teachers to use). In a post about our professional development, I referred to our it as using a Constructivist approach:

As we thought about designing PD for our teachers, we didn’t want to just hand teachers information or resources; for example, we didn’t just want to hand them “approved” apps. We wanted teachers to have an intimate understanding of various components of the initiative they were on the front lines of implementing, including app (educational resource) selection. We decided to take a constructivist approach. For example, we had our teachers start by simply exploring apps. They had a limited budget for apps, but could also download as many free apps as they wanted. Then teachers made recommendations for apps that they thought would be the “core collection” of apps, those apps the district would purchase for every classroom. We would give teachers two similar apps and ask, “which one’s better?” to get them thinking about criteria for app selection; this eventually was developed into a rubric. Finally, we correlated apps to our kindergarten curriculum. The constructivist approach insures a deeper understanding based on their own experience.

We decided we didn’t like the term “district approved” apps, and now refer to them as “district recommended” apps.

Also, with teacher input, we revised our app selection rubric a couple times. Then we came across Tony Vincent’s work with iPads and his fabulous resources. We now use his rubric, since we think it captures our thinking about app selection better than we did. (Here are some other recommendations by Tony Vincent on how to evaluate/select apps.) Now, when a teacher requests that an app be installed on all the classroom iPads, we start by asking how it faired against Tony Vincent’s rubric.

In all cases, we tried to focus app selection (and teacher practice with iPads) on our goals for the program. From our PD post:

Content of Professional Development – All of our PD and training has focused on a couple of topics. We wanted to expand our teachers’ skill at applying literacy best practice, and to insure that our teachers and specialists working with kindergarten students had the capacity to select and apply appropriate apps directly toward student academic needs, as well as how to manage the iPads and work within the unique demands of this initiative.

Through our professional development, we also worked with teachers to create expectations for iPad use in the classrooms (which further helped us with app selection):

iPad Use – Minimum Requirements

  • iPads are used daily during centers.
  • iPads are used daily during whole group and/or small group instruction.
  • iPads are used as an intervention tool with below benchmark students.
  • iPad apps reviewed by the district are used.

This year, recognizing that we need to address both instruction for low-level thinking and higher-level thinking, we have some teachers exploring “Using iPads for Projects, Problem-Solving, and Creating.” So even with new explorations, we are working to link app selection to the best practices.

I haven’t really talked about how we pay for apps (mostly district volume purchase program vouchers, and iTunes cards purchased by various groups), and I recognize that budget does have an impact on app selection, and when a district purchase is involved, we involve the Tech Director in the decision (or the Special Ed Director, if it is a Special Education related purchase). But as much as possible, we try to give the teachers the lion’s share of the say in what apps we get. Leadership’s job isn’t to tell them which apps are ok to use or what best practice is, but rather to support their individual and collaborative work toward becoming their own experts in best practice and educational resource selection.

What Apps is Auburn Using and Other Advantage 2014 Information

Since the initial results of our research on improving kindergarten literacy with iPads has come out, we’ve received quite a few questions about what apps we are using, and other basic questions about our program.

Our teachers can largely choose which apps they use. A major component of our professional development with our teachers has focused on exploring apps, deciding what makes for a good app, correlating apps to our curriculum, selecting the apps for our common collection, and getting better at customizing apps to student needs.

This page has both our rubric for app selection and our core collection of apps correlated to our K literacy curriculum.

Additionally, here is where you can find lots of other basic information about Advantage 2014, Auburn’s literacy and math initiative that includes 1to1 iPads in kindergarten.

You can read much more about our program at our Advantage 2014 website.

There are lots of links to resources from the national iPads in Primary Grades Ed conference we hosted last November. (We’re planning now for next November’s conference!)

And this blog has posts about our work. Here are the ones in the Adv2014 category.

It’s Your Turn:

What are your favorite kindergarten apps?

Confirmed: iPads Extend a Teacher’s Impact on Kindergarten Literacy

I’m excited! I’m REALLY excited!

Our “Phase I” research results are in…

iPads in Kindergarten

We (Auburn School Department) took a big risk last May when we started down the path to have the first 1to1 kindergarten learning with iPads initiative. We had confidence it would help us improve our literacy and math proficiency rates. One of our literacy specialists had used her own iPad with students to great success (one of the big reasons we moved forward). But there were also segments of the community that thought we were crazy.

Now we have pretty good evidence it works!

We did something not a lot of districts do: a randomized control trial. We randomly selected half our kindergarten classrooms to get iPads in September. The other half would use traditional methods until December, when they received their iPads. We used our regular kindergarten literacy screening tools (CPAA, Rigby, Observation Survey) for the pre-test and post-test. And across the board, the results were emerging positive for the iPad classrooms, with one area having statistical significance.

These results are a strong indication that the iPad and it’s apps extend the impact our teachers have on our students’ literacy development. We definitely need more research (and will be continuing the study through the year, including comparing this year’s results to past years), but these results should be more than enough evidence to address the community’s question, “How do we know this works?”

And I’m especially excited that we went all the way to the Gold Standard for education research: randomized control trials. That’s the level of research that can open doors to funding and to policy support.

Why do we think we got these results?

We asked our kindergarten teachers that question. Anyone walking by one of the classrooms can certainly see that student engagement and motivation is up when using the iPads. But our kindergarten teachers teased it out further. Because they are engaged, students are practicing longer. They are getting immediate feedback, so they are practicing better. Because we correlate our apps to our curriculum, they are practicing the right stuff. Because we select apps that won’t let students do things just any way, we know the students are practicing the right way. Because they are engaged, teachers are more free to work one on one with the students who need extra support at that moment.

We also believe we got the results we got because we have viewed this as an initiative with many moving parts that we are addressing systemically. A reporter asked me, how do you know how much of these results are the iPad, how much the professional development, and how much the apps. I responded that it is all those things together, on purpose. We are using a systemic approach that recognizes our success is dependent on, among other things, the technology, choosing apps wisely, training and supporting teachers in a breadth of literacy strategies (including applying the iPad), partnering with people and organizations that have expertise and resources they can share with us, and finding data where we can so we can focus on continuous improvement.

And we’re moving forward – with our research, with getting better at math and literacy development in kindergarten, with figuring out how to move this to the first grade.

So. We have what we were looking for:

Confirmation that our vision works.

It’s Your Turn:

What do you think the implications of our research are? What do our findings mean to you?

What are my favorite apps for a teacher?

As soon as my friends and family recall that I’m an iPad guy, they often ask me what the best apps are. Just last night, a fellow educator asked on Facebook, “Hi Mike! Any iPad apps that I absolutely must have to help make my life easier in the classroom?”

I started to respond in Facebook when I realized both it wasn’t going to be a short response, and that Stephanie isn’t the first to ask, and certainly won’t be the last. So I decided to respond through the blog

So here is what I would say to Stephanie:

I have lots of ideas for apps, but they might not all just be focused on “the classroom…” although they would certainly each be good for a teacher.

The first app I recommend to anyone is AppStart. It’s free, and kind of asks you how you want to use your iPad and then gives you reviews of apps that work toward that goal. The iPad is a different enough paradigm from a desktop or laptop that I found this app incredibly helpful, even after I’d had my iPad for nearly a year.

I love Keynote. I’ve leaned toward Keynote on my laptop over PowerPoint for some time, but I like Keynote on iPad even better (well, maybe I like presenting with my iPad better than I do with my laptop…). It doesn’t have as many features as the desktop/laptop version, but is slick, none the less. I hardly ever even create a Keynote on my laptop anymore. I just create my presentations right on my iPad. You’ll need a dongle so you can connect to your projector or to a HDTV. The major thing that the desktop version will do that the iPad version will not is play imbedded movies in the presentation.

You can even share your presos between your regular computer and your iPad using a couple of different approaches (iDisk, if you’re a MobileMe subscriber, but also through iWorks.com, and email -although some are really too large to email).

Get a Dropbox account (think hard drive on the internet – free for 5Gig) and the Dropbox app. A lot of apps will let you share and open documents via Dropbox. I’m hardly using my real hard drive any more at all (except as an archive). Also, it is a great way to move documents between your iPad and your desktop/laptop (any of your devices that connect to the internet can use your Dropbox space).

Pages is a terrific word processor. But I’ve tried a bunch of different writing tools and think I have decided that my favorite is PlainText. It will save your documents in a special Dropbox folder. I’ll even use this first for drafting, even if I’ll have to copy/paste it into another program to format it later.

If you get a lot of Word or Excel documents, you might not want to use Pages or Numbers all the time. I find Quickoffice helpful for that. It’s more limited that Office (but generally iPad apps are simpler versions of the full blown software on a desktop). In addition to DropBox, I save things on my iDisk (another Internet hard drive, this one available through your MobileMe account). Quickoffice works with iDisk, so I save a lot of my current Word and Excel documents on my iDisk so I can use them both in Office on my laptop and Quickoffice on my iPad.

I have done my pleasure reading on Palm or iPhone for over a decade (and ever since I started, I have liked it better than a print book because of backlighting, adjustable font, and smaller size.). I have continued this on my iPad. I love the reading experience on iBooks (Apple’s own ereader) the best. But just like with the music companies when they started the iPod, not all publishers have signed on to the iBookstore yet, so, although they have a pretty big collection, some other ereaders have more. My second choice for ereaders is the Kindle app. The reading experience isn’t as good (although there are more ways to customize the page, the page layout isn’t as pleasant – which really does impact how nice it is – or not – to read – and the syncing is not reliable, so when you stop reading on your iPad and then a little while later try to pick up reading on your iPhone, you aren’t in the right place. This has only been an issue with iBooks when one or the other of the devices you’re switching between isn’t connected to the internet).

I used to buy electronic books for pleasure reading, but print for my professional books. But Amazon offers Kindle versions of many of the professional books I’ve wanted recently, so I have been buying in that format. I can still bookmark, make notes, and highlight text (and it’s much easier to go back and find later!). Also, the Kindle version has been at most the same price as the print version, but often less. And I can be reading in a minute or two and not have to wait for delivery (what do they mean “expedited” shipping?! They should just call it “not quite so slow shipping”!)

Another awesome app is Evernote. It’s a note taking app. Nothing fancy, but it saves the notes on the Internet. I used to take notes of meetings at school on my iPad, but when it was time to write the monthly reports, could easily open it on my Mac…

Do you subscribe to RSS feeds (Like with Google Reader)? I like River of News for reading those posts. Lots of folks like Flipboard, which is kind of cool, but it groups all your feeds together and sorts by date, but I sometimes want to look at the feeds from a single feed and that’s pretty easy with River of News.

I like Things for my To Do list. It’s available for both iPad and my Mac (probably other operating systems, too) and I can sync my lists if both devices have Things open and are on the same network.

I like SplashID for keeping track of all my passwords and personal information. There are versions for iPad, iPhone, and Mac (PC and others, I’m sure), and now the latest versions will all sync together – so my laptop, iPad, and iPhone all have the same list of passwords, etc.

I use Dragon Dictation for turning my dictation into text. Far from the quality seen in Sci Fi movies, but really quite good. I’ve used it before for quickly drafting an article or other piece of writing. Even with the time needed for fixing speech-to-text errors, it was much quicker than typing from scratch.

Other personal favorites? Zinio for magazines. eBay (other than for posting things for sale, I like the app better than going to the website). Solitaire (there are a gazillion of them, but I like Solitaire City. Netflix (your regular home subscription is good for all your devices). ABC Player – watch all of ABCs prime time shows. TWC Max+ (the Weather Channel’s weather app – my favorite weather app). Pandora for music (you name a song and then they create a “radio station” for you with music just like it). Instapaper for saving blog posts and other web articles for reading later. Blogsie for blogging. My bank has a good app for online banking – I think lots of large banks do and so far I like the iPad one better than using the website.

And although I’ve said a couple times that I like this app or that app better than going on the webpage, I have to say that Safari is a great browser and I really love how it works on the iPad. And I didn’t really mention Mail or Contacts or Photos or Maps or Calendar, because they are all included in the iPad, but I very much like how they work on the iPad and how seamlessly they integrate with the Mac desktop versions (especially using MobileMe, Apple’s syncing service).

So, my stepson looks at me and says, “Mike, you don’t have a short answer for anything!” I think maybe he’s right… But hopefully I’ve given you some good ideas…

(And for those of you who are interested in what apps we’re using in Advantage2014, Auburn, Maine’s early learning initiative that includes giving iPads to kindergartners, our list of standard apps is here.)