We all love to share stories. I recently had the opportunity to share mine with Steve Bambury. Steve is an educator from Dubai who in addition to becoming an Apple Distinguished Educator this year, runs a very active website sharing all things education and all things iPad. To read more of the interview check out Steve Bambury at iPadEducators.com
One of the challenges of teaching history is that it doesn’t change much. While there may be a discovery here and there, it is rare that any sort of drastic discovery might alter the learning experience of a student in history class. Thanks to various technology innovations like the internet and computing technology, this challenge can also be turned into history. That is if as an educator we are willing to be open to the possibility that we are not the all knowing fountain of knowledge, and that our 20-year old textbook might need an upgrade? But who can afford textbooks?!!?
Worry not! We have a classroom of historical researchers and thinkers and the tools to empower them to create their own history book.
In an 8th-grade history class, we did just that. In collaboration with Ilana Zadok, 8th-grade history teacher, we set out to challenge our students to build their own Revolutionary War publication. We wanted it to be something that is 100% student-produced with the goal that others could learn and in the end benefit from the students work. Our students set out to research various events of the Revolutionary War, focusing on primary sources and first-hand encounters. With this research in hand students because to create a window into the past. Through creative writing, photos, and student-produced films these events began to take life through the lens of the students. With all of this amazing content gathered and produced we were at a loss of where to compile it and share it out.
Book Creator to the Rescue!
After the content was created students imported it into Book Creator and used its features to layout an interactive book full of written, visual, and audial expressions. Each group of students then created an assessment quiz at the end to demonstrate their understanding of the content and to challenge their peers to delve deep into their work. In the end students learned from their peers gaining a deep understanding of a specific Revolutionary event and a general overview of the entire war. With the success of this unit, there was so much more accomplished besides the memorization of battles and soldiers. Students developed important skills in communication, both visually, and verbally. Collaboration, Cooperation, Organization, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving all played a role in this production.
The end result was an 110-page publication that pushed the limits of student learning and technology itself. The Book Creator file was 1GB and due to its size would not export from the iPad. With a little bit of praying and 4 hours of work on my part, I was able to get the file down to 610MB without sacrificing one iota of student work and airdrop it to the students iPads to experience their hard work first hand.
Here are a few screenshots and videos from the publication.
It’s part of the human condition to want to share. – Paulo Coelho
I have followed the SXSWEdu hashtag for a number of years and I am always amazed at the powerful ideas shared at this conference. This year has been big for me professionally, and I have had some amazing opportunities to present at some great conferences. Somehow these experiences put some crazy into my head that I might just be ready for something like SXSWEdu. Fortunately for me I have teamed up with two amazing colleagues, Sabba Quidwai (@AskMsQ) and Carl Hooker (@MrHooker), to propose a #SXSWEdu Panel. Together we cover the entire spectrum of Kindergarten through Higher Ed and are doing some amazing and unique things all under a very similar vision which is:
The Myth of The Magical Device
Here is our Mythical Trailer…
The Panel Picking will shortly ensue so as we say in Jewish circles, “L’Chaim!” (To Life!) and Success!
When we think of “coding” we tend to limit its abilities to name = raw_input ( ‘An Image Of Complex Characters\n’ ) when in reality its something more profound, something that relates more to how our students learn.
Coding, is about telling a story, and it is through this lens of storytelling that our students, starting in first grade this fall, will use coding to share the story of their learning.
After speaking at an educational technology conference in Austin, Texas, and spending five days collaborating with the some of the world’s most innovative educators at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in Miami, I heard first-hand from educators the world over who use coding in elementary grades to give students a new way to share their ideas and understanding. (Quick shot out to (Richard Wells, Douglas Kiang, and Sam Patterson).
When integrating coding into our students learning, we want to focus on its essential process, as well as the skills that they can acquire, such as logic, critical thinking, and computational thinking. With this mindset, students will then see how coding can help them communicate ideas in Judaic Studies, Math, Science, History, and a multitude of their learning experiences. Using apps on the iPad like Scratch Jr. and Hopscotch, students will use block based coding to tell their own story, and how their learning in the classroom has made an impact.
Students are first introduced to coding by understanding why it is so important. When students understand that coding is behind many amazing apps and other digital experiences, then they begin to understand how coding can empower them to create these experiences themselves. This why, before how approach is one of the key ingredients in the success of any educational technology program. If a student in first grade can be encouraged to explore and create a disaster relief app, or a new way for children to share their life with their grandparents, then coding becomes more than just an experience, it becomes a tool for students to create new things that others can benefit from.
What makes a great educator? Is it passion? pedagogy? adaptability? Is being forward thinking and a risk taker the yardstick of a quality educator? When I arrived at the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute in Miami I was told,
You are all here for a purpose, and you all deserve to be here.
This statement has still yet to be digested as I try to piece together amazing, meaningful moments together on my journey as an educator and a lover of technology, and I do love technology. I find technology empowers its users with an uncanny ability to create and explore hidden talents, skills, and ideas that without it would lie dormant, and hidden away.
When I applied to the ADE program this year, I was
nervous anxious totally freaked out. I saw amazing educators who are doing amazing things in their classroom with amazing students. Then I saw me, the bearded Chassidic Rabbi trying to “change the world”, and then it hit me, April 22nd, 8:00pm.
The following are 4 take aways that made this experience powerful in the moment, and priceless in where it will take me.
This Isn’t Just A Conference:
As an avid cliché user, and life long learner, I am always trying to find new things to learn, and new ways to learn them. When I attend conferences I am usually caught up in the hustle and bustle of presenting and finding worthwhile sessions to attend. At the ADE Institute, something was different. During the opening keynote, it was said that
if all we did at the institute, was bring you all together, we are certain that amazing things would happen.
The Institute hosted without questions some amazing presenters. Outside of the unbelievable work that fellow ADEs presented at the showcases, we also heard from the developers of Garageband and iMovie who shared with us not just how to “use” the apps, but how to “think” while using them. Our surprise keynote, Jason Hall of Chicago’s “Slow Roll Bicycle Movement” show us how passion and activism can unite a community, a city, and the world. Still, my biggest take home without question was those impromptu conversations with fellow ADEers whether over an iPad, a Beer, or both. These colleagues and friends will definitely be part of my continue journey as a professional educator.
Learning Is A Journey:
One of the biggest challenges as a learner is to make time to reflect, redo, and reread pieces that make an impact on us. In our educational journeys, many times we are simply pushed forward in an effort to “learn more”. The process of going back to something that seems old, and discovering something new is a tenant of the Jewish faith. Every year, we reread the Torah anew, and every year I discover something completely amazing, something that is as relevant today in 2015 as it was 2,000 years ago. With this outlook I try to impress on my students, and anyone who will listen, how critical review and reflection are. One of the amazing experiences of the Institute was to see so many amazing educators on very unique journeys. Still, no matter how unique we are, there was always something to learn from one another. Some of the best discoveries I had at the Institute were in conversation with a kindergarten teacher and a university professor. In the end we all shared the same focus on not just where we are, but where we are going.
We Are In This Together:
“Let me know how I can help.” This was a mantra at the institute, and everyone was serious about it. It seemed that every time I shared a story, a struggle, a dream, there was someone at the ADE Institute who could help me. It really felt like a great big family of educators and this is something that I know will keep going throughout the year and beyond. It was humbling, inspiring, and outright exciting to interact with so many talented and creative experts who want to share more than just ideas, but their time and effort to help me grow as well as my students.
We are Advocates:
The four pillars of being an Apple Distinguished Educator is that we are Authors, Advisors, Ambassadors, and Advocates. For me, it was the idea of advocacy that hit home. As a Chassidic Orthodox Rabbi, I must admit that I was very nervous about attending the Institute for a number of reasons. The challenges of the Sabbath, access to Kosher food, and some of the cultural differences made me unsure if I would “fit in”. After speaking with Matt Baier on the phone prior to the Institute, these worries simply melted away. Not only did I feel welcomed and supported, I felt integral. I felt that the diverse and unique educators at the Institute is what makes the Apple Distinguished Educator community so great.
The Apple Distinguished Educator Institute was unlike anything I have every experienced. I know that it is the spring board for amazing friendships, collaboration, and a driving force that will make a difference for the teachers and students that I support.
Now the next stage in this journey…
My One Best Thing
Interactive Book titled, “Students Teaching Students Is Totally Awesome”.
In education when we talk about using technology it inevitably starts with what resources are available, the training needed to operate them, and how, or who to go to when things break. With the “how” at the helm of vision and strategic planning, we inevitably run into the same problem no matter how sound and well thought out our plan is. After all is said an done,
Like any experience dependent on a single device, what happens when the magic wears off?
This is because when we start with how, even if how is 10,000 apps, 50,000 lessons, and 100,000 possibilities, we unintentionally limit ourselves, and our students. The reason for this is that
Technology is not just a device, technology is a solution…
to a problem, a challenge, and any obstacle that we face as lifelong learners. We want to make sure it is the solution to reach as far as our minds can get us. This is why as educators, we must look at all educational experiences first through the lens of “Why“. This is not unique to technology integration, this is a reflection on our own pedagogy, choice of content, and reasoning for focusing on any point of knowledge. When we start with the question of “Why” in respect to technology use, then we now can analyze what the tool is doing for us. The question of speed, precision, maximized potential, exposure, audience and the impact we make. When we speak on those terms, and not iPads, iMovies, animations, (Explain Everythings are O.K, of course), than we make our devices unlimited, and all the more so ourselves.
What happens when someone walks into your technology infused classroom and asks your students what they are doing? They should be describing a process of learning, researching, discovering, building, reviewing, reflecting, and producing meaningful learning experiences. This makes technology invisible. This makes its effects have a visible, memorable, and everlasting impact.
It inspires our students to inspire others with their wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. So how did begin to talk this language? Start with the “Why“, not the How. How is secondary. Why am I doing this? Why is this learning so critical to invest so much time into? Why am I learning such complex technical process? Why am I spending hours building an interactive multimedia experience? If the answer is “It will make the learning unforgettable for both the producer, and the consumer” and then I think we are headed on the right track.
This will allow the “How” to be simpler, more organic, and most importantly adaptable. Yes, there is training, experimentation, failure, and frustration involved, as is anything complicate but worthwhile. It could come in the form of professional development, impromptu brainstorming with a colleague, or even learning some tips and tricks from the quiet kid in the class. As educators we must let go of the fallacy that without being an expert in a specific process or field of study that we cannot share with our students and open up new possibilities for them.
For more on the “How To” of tech integration check out
Monica Burns – ClassTechTips
Lisa Johnson – TechChef4U
Richard Byrne – FreeTech4Teachers
A few months ago I got a message from Carl Hooker inviting me to come to iPadpalooza. Thinking he wanted me to come experience first hand all the awesome things I had heard about the Austin based Educational Technology conference, I regretfully decline due to lack of funds. When he clarified that he wanted me to be a featured speaker it still wasn’t registering.
What kind of educational vision can a Chassidic Orthodox Rabbi, albeit an educator share?
Now I am no stranger to conferences or presenting, but this was the first time that it wasn’t me submitting a presentation proposal but instead being asked to come share my ideas. I have to admit, that while it was exhilarating and humbling, it was all together nerve racking as well.
Now, I have a vision, I have an approach, and I think that both are concrete and practical outlooks on how we use technology to support our learning.
This Invisible iPad approach is something worth sharing I thought to myself, and thank G-d I am getting a chance to share it with the world besides my colleagues and my wife.
So off to Austin! Plane ride, Lyft ride, Sheraton Downtown, Uber ride, Check in, and I am sitting in Adam Bellows keynote.
Now I am not one to “celebritize” educators. I think it does a disservice to education and to educators to put these type of visionaries and their approaches on an unreachable pedestal. With that said, there are some seriously awesome innovative educators in our global learning community. I have been actively following the work of Adam for almost four years now (ever since that ISTE closing keynote) and he is without question a huge inspiration. So as I am sitting through his awesome opening keynote, I am inspired, excited, and at the same time I am thinking…
How can we all speak this language and focus on learning with technology and not learning technology
In the end I think I made an impact. I hope my ideas were food for thought for more than just an inspiring hour conversation but something that will help those educators present think differently about why and how we use technology. It didn’t hurt that the tap on my shoulder on the shuttle to day two of the conference was Adam Bellow himself introducing himself and starting up a conversation with me.
Outside of presenting, I was anticipating connecting with some awesome educators. Connecting on Twitter is great, but its really fulfilling to have those types of conversations face to face not limited by 140 characters. It was great to meet the educators below and have real conversations about how we as educators can truly change the world. Really.
the list goes on. I should simply list every presenter but the above group was something special for me. There are those who simply inspired me, got me thinking, questioning how we define innovation, or even harder, to question if our outlook is really all that innovative. Then there was the Green Room where the connection was on a more informal level.
On Day Two, I was honored with being part of an amazing group of educators for one of the conference keynotes. Michelle Cordy has created an amazing SketchNote + ThingLink mashup that captures the awesomeness of everyones presentation.
I have been to many conferences, and they all have something amazing about them. Still, there was something unique, personal, and energizing about iPadpalooza. It is without question the most meaningful conference I have been part of to date. Cant wait for iPadpalooza 2016 and the opportunity to be apart of it again.