If I Tell You To Bet On a Horse…

…you might want to have second thoughts…

I was a big fan of Rockmelt for the web and blogged about my fandom here.

It changed so much about the way that I treated the web and I felt that it had the tools and ease to make digging and understanding so much easier for me.

Then it went under.

But, it was replaced by Rockmelt for iPad.

I quickly became a big fan of that and blogged about it here.

Like the web version, it was a nice combination of web and tools for getting to stories.  It was my go-to app.

Then it got bought by Yahoo!  And it’s gone away.  I even kept reference to it in my ECOO13 presentation about social reading.  I kept hoping that it would return as Yahoo!Melt or something.  Nothing yet.

I’m also a big fan of Zite.  One of my blog posts about it appears here.

Now, the word is out that it will go away too.  Zite has been acquired by Flipboard.

Does this mean Strike three?

I do have a number of sources of news reading at my finger tips.

I was introduced to Flipboard by my friends from the Waterloo Region DSB.  It’s a nice application and let’s hope that the acquisition of Zite makes it even better.  One of the powerful things about Zite is the serendipity that it provides in news reading.  You seldom know where the next great story will come from.  Zite has learned what I like to read and I can give thumbs up and thumbs down on articles to help refine the content and lessen the time that it takes to find the good stuff every morning.

I just tell it what I’m interested in reading.  My list looks like this:  Education, Infographics, Ubuntu, Blogging, Google, Google Apps, Google Chrome, Teaching, Gadgets, Humor, Apple News, Music News, Photography, Programming, Social Media, Sports, Technology, World News, Android, Canada, e-Learning, Facebook, Microsoft, Ontario, Professional Development, SharePoint, The Next Web, VentureBreat, Windsor, Yahoo, Surveillance, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Office 365, Coding, Gnome, iPad, and Malware.

This generally gives me enough ammunition to get up and go on a daily basis.  I hope that the logic that Zite uses somehow ends up in Flipboard.  I’m not alone – Miguel Guhlin shared this post recently.

In the meantime, you might want to keep your money in your pocket and not take #3 in the fifth race.

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I always enjoy writing this weekly post.  There are some amazing posts and thinking going on with Ontario Educators.  It’s a way to give a tip of the hat and encourage all folks to do some new reading.

Hey Mr. Business, Are You Kragleing the Curriculum?

James Cowper went and saw the Lego movie.  Normally, that wouldn’t be an interesting blog read except for the connections that James made to his job as principal at Eastwood Public School.

He makes some interesting observations that may be obvious to some people and yet unthinkable by others.  If you’re a principal or school leader in any capacity, it’s worth a read and ponder.  If not, or especially if it strikes a chord with you, the link is worth sharing with others.

Another EdCamp, Another A+

David Fife drove up the 401 to Cambridge to take part in edCampWR.  His experiences with the day were shared in the blog post.  I like the choice of sessions that he attended; I don’t imagine that my choices would be much different.  Coming through loudly and clearly was that edCampWR was another success, yes, but the real focus in his post was about people and the connections that he established/re-established there.

I suspect that the real reason that he was there was to steal ideas for edCampLondon to be held later this spring, if spring arrives.

The one thing he’s got to really steal though is Kim Gill’s mom to bake some treats for the day!

All in a Flap – Students Creating Flappy Bird Clones Using TouchDevelop #CSK8 by @mraspinall

Brian Aspinall’s class went for the gusto creating their own Flappy Bird Clone applications using TouchDevelop.  It was another class that got into programming in this powerful environment.  It’s great to see kids programming with such enthusiasm.  This post is actually a collection of Twitter messages sent out under Brian’s name.  The messages could have been created by Brian or they could have been sent by the students – it actually doesn’t matter.  There’s a great deal of student voice in them.

For example…

I like the way that the messages went beyond the trivial “This is cool” and showed some pretty deep observations about what the students were actually doing.

Brian wraps the article with a summary written in computer science teacher voice which shows just how deeply they delved into this activity.

Organizing for Inquiry Learning

Louise Robitaille and Peter Douglas maintain this web resource to support and share ideas about inquiry in the classroom.  I was looking at their list of applications for the iPad and iPod and how they were using them when I was drawn to a recent blog post.

The post talks about how they organize their classrooms for inquiry.  It’s a good read if you’re looking for ways to do a little rearrangement.

Thanks, everyone, for some inspiring reading.  Please take a moment to visit and share these excellent posts at the links given.  You can check out the complete list of Ontario Edublogs at the Livebinder located here.

If you’re an Ontario Edublogger and not listed, please complete the form and you will be.

Sliding Along

I fully admit it.  I can be a math nerd when I want to be.

I’ve always liked mathematics.  I think that each mathematics problem or use of mathematics is like a puzzle to be solved.

I recall in Grade 10, each of us were expected to buy a slide rule.  For the most part, people were buying the cheapy white plastic jobbies.  However, I still recall my math teacher saying that if you’re serious, you should buy the metal one with the adjusting screws and the high definition yellow colour with the very fine thin line for accuracy.  So I did.

One thing that I’m convinced of was that using the slide rule made me a better estimator.  Before using it, you had to mentally estimate what the answer might be to make sure that you were going to be right in your efforts.  Besides, with the various reading lines, you had to make sure that you were reading from the right one.  Estimating the answer in advance was a good double check.

Of course, time moves on – I bought a Radio Shack programmable calculator and an HP RPN Calculator and my slide rule was relegated to the bottom of my drawer.  I just couldn’t make myself throw it away.

It actually came back into a good use years later in the computer science classroom.  It was a computing device, to be sure, but it was also a good example of analog versus digital.

I was in a mathematics conversation the other night away from home and somehow, the conversation turned to slide rules.  If only I could reach into my drawer.  Then, I thought…I’ll bet there’s an app for that.  And I was right.  Not only is there an app, there are lots of apps.  Some actually had some decent prices but I found one for free to play around with.

It’s called Slip Stick.

It even comes with some great instruction about how to use the slide rule on your iPad!

It’s a hoot to play around with.  I don’t think it’s going to get me to walk away from my computer or calculator but it’s still a lot of fun.

If you’re a mathematics person longing for a return to days before electronics, check it out!

10 Starter iPad Apps, 2013 Version

I started this Christmas list of applications on the iPad in 2010.  It’s interesting to see what’s stayed and what’s gone.  It’s shared here for those of you lucky enough to score an iPad for Christmas.  I’ve had to do some weeding this year and you’ll see some titles with a strike through.  They may be physically gone but I’m glad to have had them for a while and this post will remind me should I need an app for that purpose again.

I thought that perhaps my blog reading friends might have unwrapped an iPad under the tree and were in search of some starter apps.  The list from last Christmas looked like this.

  • Twitter for iPad – stay connected, listen to the Twitter stream, learn, and get advice on future applications;
  • Flipboard - bring all of your reading into one place – if you’re into news, don’t get individual news apps, bring them all into Flipboard;
  • TaskPad HD – we all have to-do lists – you might as well keep track of them on your iPad;
  • VLC Media Player – never be stumped by a file format again;
  • Google Earth – all the functionality of the desktop version but really takes advantaging of the manipulating ability of the iPad;
  • Aweditorium – a totally new way to explore musical artists;
  • Note Hub – if you create projects with resources from all over the place, use this application to bring all of the research components together;
  • Dropbox – this popular application for sharing with your devices and potentially others comes to this device;
  • fotopedia Heritage – explore UNESCO world heritage sites and their beauty comes to life on your iPad;
  • Documents Free – you will need to work on your documents and spreadsheets.  This one is free.

It was a good list at the time and I still stand behind the recommendations.  But, it is dated.  The VLC Media Player, for example, is no longer available for download but if you do a search for VLC there are a number of related applications.  GoodPlayer looks interesting.  I’m glad that I got my copy of VLC while it was available though.

I wrote this post last year.  I’m thinking this Christmas might bring some more people with their new gifts looking for ideas.  Or, this might be the year where you upgrade to an iPad 2 and hand the original iPad down.  Or, maybe you’ll have duelling iPads.  Or, something else.

Anyway, I’ll use the premise to give you 10 more iPad applications that I think are noteworthy and should be on anyone’s list of starter applications to grab.

  • Zite - Create your own personalized news magazine and find all kinds of stories based upon your interests;
  • Evernote – Absolutely the best way to take notes on your iPad and synchronize them to your computer(s) via the cloud;
  • Skitch for iPad – If Evernote is the best way to take notes, then Skitch has to be the best way to capture images and annotate them – and then send them to Evernote!;
  • Popplet Lite – Is it a brainstorming mindmapping tool?  Is it a wall to stick notes?  Is it a hybrid of the two that synchronizes with your desktop?  Yes to all of the above.  Once you use it, you’ll want the paid upgrade version;
  • Splashtop Remote Desktop for iPad – You’ll never regret paying for this application.  No matter how good your iPad is and becomes part of your life, the crucial file is on your desktop.  Remotely access your computer with this and so much more;
  • Garageband – Even I can make music with Garageband and now I can even do it on my iPad;
  • Pearltrees – Pearltrees lets you find and graphically organize resources from the web.  You can even add the Pearler to Safari to cultivate as you go;
  • ScreenChomp - Create your own Screencasts and share them with others.  Great for instructional content or to illustrate thinking visually;
  • Dolphin HD - Safari is great if all you want is a browser.  But, how about a webzine reader with Twitter and Facebook access or a Speed Dial launcher just like your desktop browser;
  • The Guardian Eyewitness – Access to the spectacular photograhy in The Guardian but there’s more – professional photography tips about how to get the same results by yourself.

Last year, I suggested that a great game to latch onto was the Angry Birds Lite.  You still can’t go wrong with that.  I’m going to add a new one – this year I’ve played many Word with Friends game.  There’s a new game in the Zynga fold called Hanging with Friends.  It’s a simple concept – we’ve all played Hangman as kids – this takes it online and social.

Let me add 10 more applications that caught my attention this year.  The criteria is that they have to be regularly used applications by me.  I look back at the 20 from the past couple of years and they are all still there.  From my view, that’s the test of time.

  • Google Stuff - four applications were released that have become mainstays for me.
  • Google Chrome Browser - the great browser for Mac, Linux, and Windows is now available on the iPad and does all that I do on the desktop except for extensions;
  • Google Gmail – Gmail is my connection to the world and the Gmail application is an awesome application;
  • Google Drive – If you’re using Google Drive, and who isn’t, you’ll dive into this application;
  • Google Maps – Apple Maps had some issues.  OK, quite a few issues.  When Apple replaced Google Maps on iOS, we all were interested to see what it would be like.  That interest didn’t last long.  Google Maps is back and it’s better than ever;
  • OK, I’m a Google fan boy.  I could include YouTube and the Google Plus app but will resist the urge.  Must…keep…the…list…to…10;
  • Matching with Friends - Zynga is a premiere developer for the iPad and the mathematical types will love the visualization required to get top scores;
  • GEMS with Friends – OK, another addictive game from Zynga.  My friend Tina clobbers me regularly but I’m hoping to up my game with practice;
  • Learnist – If you’re reading this post, you know I like to read.  Learnist is all about reading, creating boards, sharing, …;
  • Rockmelt - This used to be my preferred browser under Windows and Macintosh. Reinvented for iOS, the developers claim that it will change the way that you think about browsing the web;
  • War of 1812 - This was big this summer.  We visited many historical sites including visiting those in our back yard.  This was a great planner and helped me learn so much more than what I had learned in school;
  • WordPress – If you’re blogging on WordPress, you’ll want to keep an eye on your blog, reply to comments on the fly, and even write new posts.  Until this app came along, I would have to find a computer to do what I do.  Now it’s a tap away.

For 2013, it’s interesting to take a look at what’s new and what’s gone.  Sadly, Rockmelt is gone.  The product was purchased by Yahoo! and supposedly the product will have impact on their ongoing services.  I hope that it comes out as Yahoo! Rockmelt or something.  I even made reference to it during my presentation at #ECOO13 as a good luck omen.  Still waiting.  For 2013, here are 10 more apps that I’ve added and use regularly.

  • Mailbox - I was inspired by the claim to get your Gmail box down to zero.  It actually does help although it seems to quickly fill up again.
  • HelloSign - I actually needed this application.  I was asked to preview a app under development and needed to sign a non-disclosure form and was recommended this one.
  • Bee-Bot - Ever wonder what a floor robot might look like on an iPad?
  • Hopscotch - Ever wonder what a Scratch-like programming environment might look like on an iPad?
  • Candy Crush Saga – I wondered what all the hubbub was about this application so I downloaded it to investigate.  Now, I’m hooked and have been stuck at level 125 for a couple of weeks now.
  • Cloudart - I wanted to have an application that would allow me to create word clouds on the iPad.  This commercial application became free and I grabbed it and haven’t regretted it.
  • Coast - From the folks at Opera, it’s best described as how a browser for a tablet should be.  It’s quickly become my browser of choice.
  • Quickoffice - For times when you’re not at the traditional keyboard, it’s nice to be able to edit documents.  I like the integration with Google Drive.
  • OfficeHD - Another office productivity suite – this one I paid for and just can’t bring myself to delete it! I waffle between it and Quickoffice.
  • Twittelator - As I write this post, I can’t believe that I’ve never talked about Twittelator.  It was one of the first Twitter browsers that I used on the iPad and I continue to use it daily as my first choice.  For what I do, it’s perfect.

So now, there are 40 starter apps in this series.  I hope that it helps and, please, if you have another idea about an application that should be installed, add it via reply.  I’m sure that others will appreciate it and I’m always on the hunt for something new and inspiring.

Follow Along With Me

I had a question posed to me at the RCAC Symposium last week.  It was actually from a presenter after the fact.  She pointed out the frustration of trying to get people to follow her motions on an iPad being used for her presentation.  Life is a bit easier when you’re presenting from a laptop or a computer because you have a cursor.  People just follow the cursor around the screen as you present/demonstrate.  In this case, she was torn between either describing where she was tapping or doing the unforgiveable – pointing at the presentation screen.

Here are a couple of options…

An App
Your first look for solutions should always send you to the app store to see if there’s a solution there.  In fact, there is.  It’s called, oddly enough, “Pointer” and it’s free for the download and offers in-app additional features purchase.  First thing you need to do is customise the colour.  Of course, the best presenters will go with green!  Then connect to your display device and you’re ready to go.

There are two settings for use with the application – one as a pointer and the other for drawing.  Or, you can draw a pointer!

The goal, of course, is to guide the audience’s eye.  If you’re looking for an app solution, check this one out.

Things I Learned from a Broken iPad

If you’re looking for a quicker solution, you don’t even need to load an application.  Remember this post from a couple of years ago? – “Things I Learned from a Broken iPad

By turning on the accessibility options, things are controlled by a “dot” on your screen.  It can be dragged around to point at and draw your audience’s attention to a portion of the screen.

But it gets even better.  We know that we’re living in an increasingly gesturistic world.  (just made that word up…)  How to demo 2 finger gestures, 3 finger gestures, … you’re covered here.


I find that both of these offer nice features to further illustrate what you’re demonstrating. And, it’s much safer for your iPad to demonstrate what shaking does by tapping the screen rather than actually physically shaking it.

Plus, you end up looking very high techy and you’ll be guaranteed to have people come up after your presentation and ask “How’d you do that?”

Word Clouds on the iPad

I can’t ignore a good deal and I like visualizations.  Today, I had a chance to enjoy both!

Cloudart was available for free on Friday – so I downloaded it – I can’t ignore that.  I’ve had some people ask for recommendations for a word cloud generator for the iPad so it seemed natural to put Cloudart through its paces.  There are web based solutions and certainly they work wonderfully on a desktop – not so much on portable.  There are so many good ideas for the use of Word Clouds – here are 108 of them.  I think it’s quite natural to seek out a good iPad solution.  Cloudart looks like it will be a perfect fit.

Downloading was dead simple from the App Store.  Synching drove me nuts – I have so much stored on my iPad that anything new is an exercise in app / music removal so that there is room to perform the function.  But, a little while later, room was made and I’m ready to give it a workout.

Loading the application reveals the sort of regular utility desktop that you would expect.  The help was very interesting.  This is how help should be.  Short and to the point.

Certainly, there’s an assumption that you know what a word cloud is all about.  Who doesn’t in this day and age?

I asked to “Start a new cloud” but didn’t feel like creating from text.  Instead, I opted for the option to create a cloud from a web page.  What great choice is there than to tap into the wisdom of one of my lists of Ontario Educators!

Without any editing for filtering, I could see that this great group was doing a great deal of Twitter things.  As you know, the more frequent the text, the larger the words in the word cloud.  So, it should come as no surprise that there was a large number of replies, favouriting, and retweeting!

From the looks of things, @techieang, @acampbell99, and @rajalingam were pretty active when I took my snapshot.

(I was glad to see that “programming” appear in the list!)

Once created, there were a few options to rearrange the collection, edit a word, change the font, etc.  You know, the good things that you would expect to do with word clouds.  The “Share” option is create to get the production from iPad to anywhere you’d want it to go.

This app is definitely a keeper.  It’s got so much of what I would want for a word visualization tool.  Today, it’s back at its regular price -£0.69, if you’re interested.


Step Away From The Store

I had a convergence of three things the other day.  What more do you need for a blog post?

First:  8 Excellent new iPad Apps for Teachers

Second:  Google launches Play Store for Education

Third was a conversation with a teacher who let me know that her school was an “iPad School” and she wasn’t happy.  I asked what that meant.  To her, it meant that all of the existing computers had been taken away and replaced by a mobile cart full of iPads.  It could be booked and rolled from class to class.

That was the good news.

Then the other shoe dropped.  The 16 iPads that were purchased were 16GB iPads that had come preconfigured with applications that were the choice of someone else.  The iPads were then locked down without the ability to install other applications, plus they came complete with applications to be used everywhere from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8.  And, two of the applications were broken with updates available in the store but can’t be downloaded.

Then the tears started to flow – from her perspective, the implementation had taken away technology that had worked and replaced it with a technology that has the promise of being a game changer.  I did resist the urge to suggesting contacting a student from the Los Angeles Unified School District…

You’ve got to feel for well meaning educators.  They read these articles in November, three months into a school year, and then realize that they can’t do anything about it except to suggest that a new suite of applications be installed over the summer for the next school year.    It’s really not a problem with the technology – it’s as close to cutting edge as a school district can afford, has been shown to have great results for specific purposes, and most certainly can be used to capture a child’s imagination.

It’s just that this great software just came along.

Where a BYOD program is in place, it’s less of an issue.  Recommended applications can be added when Mom and Dad are alerted to the value, assuming that the application is available and actually runs on their chosen device.

When districts are clearly thinking through and seeing these limitations, alternative purchases are made.  That’s where you’re seeing the rise in popularity of the Chromebook.  In this case, users are not necessarily tethered to a store.  Log in to a unique account and the machine becomes the student’s as long as they’re logged in – unlike a device that was essentially a consumer device made to fit into education.

It’s tough for a developer.  Can an application actually be developed, tested, debugged, and made available to coincide with a school year calendar?  Certainly it has to be if you’re going to want people to use it.

Is there a better way for education?  I think that there are lessons to be learned from all of the current devices.  It’s nice to have the unique account ability of a Chromebook but it’s also nice to have the touch of an iPad or an Android tablet.

That’s where I think we need to step away from the store just a bit.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m a fan of Brian Aspinall and his projects.  (Disclosure – he was a student of mine at the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor).  In his development, Brian tries  to get away from the traditional limitations of current devices and makes software for education that just works.  Any time, any place, any device.

If you need convincing, pull out all of your devices and try Sketchlot or Scrawlar.

I think that all educational developers could learn from this.  Rather than writing for, compiling, and distributing for different platforms with different design, why not write for them all?  It won’t complete get rid of the need for certain installed applications.

But it sure will give the teacher desiring the best for her classroom the moment she needs it, the opportunity.


Where are They Now?

On the eve of the 2013 Educational Computing Organization of Ontario’s annual conference, I was getting a little nostalgic.  I started thinking of the great conferences, great Ontario locations, great educators and great Ontario successes that I’ve witnessed over the years. 

And, in the category of “Where are they now?”, I thought about the ladies from Mathville.  Mathville was one of the very applications that made its way into younger classes and had them using the computer to do something other than simple word processing.  Mathville and Mathville Jr could be used as a stand alone application and it did so in some classes.  But the power of the programs came when you had students working together in twos and threes to talk about how to solve the problems.  The original Mathvilles took you through Math in every day life.  I’ve seen classes extend the concept so that the students were challenged to created their own real-life mathematics problems.  At that point, it took on its own life.

My wondering had me doing some searching and, sure enough, the applications are available on the web.  In the past, Mathville had spun another direction Wordville but now I see even more targeted applications at the http://www.mathville.com website.


I think that the exciting part was the approach taken – that working with Mathematics can be fun.  Just as with the originally licensed product, the programs shouldn’t stand alone and need further enrichment and activity to get the most from them.

Applications from Courseware have been developed as well for the iPad.  The applications are available at http://www.ipadthinker.com.


It was a nice trip along memory lane looking at the applications.  It did bring back many memories of times when Mathville hit the classroom.  For many teachers, these programs were among the very first that they used with their students and enjoyed success.

In this day and age, you won’t be building a mathematics program around these applications but they may still have a purpose in some classes.

And, because they’re on the web, they’re also accessible at home.

An Interview with Kyle Pearce

Kyle Pearce is a secondary school mathematics teacher at Tecumseh Vista School in Tecumseh, Ontario.  He uses social media to promote the great things that he’s doing with his students and also to provide insights into innovative ways to teach Mathematics.  I think the title of his blog “Tap Into Teen Minds” speaks volumes about his philosophy as an educator.

Doug:  Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed, Kyle.  I’m sure that you’ve got some great ideas that can be appreciated by the readers.

Kyle:  Thanks for having me for this interview, Doug.  I really enjoy making connections with other educators in mathematics and across the curriculum to find great strategies to make learning more enjoyable for students.

Doug:  Tell the readers where we first met.  What were your first impressions of me?

Kyle:  The first time we met was back at the University of Windsor in the Faculty of Education.  It must have been in or around 2006.  I remember you being very approachable and down-to-earth when it came to introducing effective teaching practices.  I enjoyed the experience thoroughly!

Doug:  The Faculty of Education class where we met was the Computer Studies teachable.  Are you able to use any of that course in your present environment as a teacher of mathematics?

Kyle:  The Computer Studies teachable course was a great experience because it allowed me to see some of the huge differences that exist when comparing the way a mathematics course is delivered and a computer science course.  When I was at the Faculty, most math classes were traditional with a teacher writing a note on the board, students copying, and then 20 minutes at the end for students to start their practice.  Your course allowed me to see a more project-based approach to teaching.  I am still trying to move more to that side of the spectrum and I know that your course gave me the insight to try making that shift in mathematics.  That being said, I feel that I left a lot of knowledge, experience, and opportunity on the table at the Faculty because I just didn’t have the same passion for education as I do now.  That’s one regret I am not so proud of.

Doug:  Your school is a Pre-K to 12 school, and was designed to be so from its opening a few years ago.  What’s it like to teach secondary school in such an environment?  

Kyle:  I think it is an excellent platform for education.  Cost savings aside, why wouldn’t we want to have a huge chunk of our family of schools right in the same building?  There were some growing pains that caused conflict due to some having a difficult time accepting change, but overall I think it provides great opportunities for student leadership and improving education from K-12 through professional learning communities.

Doug: Do your students have recess envy?

Kyle:  Ha!  Something I have never asked my students, but should!  Some of the secondary students in the first year had an issue that they needed to get over in regards to whether they were in high school or still in elementary.  Now, after 3 years, I think the original pessimists have finally realized that the model is solid.

Doug:  Related to that, do you have any sense as to what it feels like to be an elementary school teacher in a K-12 school?

Kyle:  There was a bit of hesitation on both sides between staff members in the first year, but I think that has passed.  I’m not too sure as to what the cause was, but we have professional learning communities such as the
Middle Years Collaborative Inquiry where 7-10 teachers are together multiple times a year and I can see some great things happening there.  Making an effort to take a walk down there when you can to say “hello” can go a long way and I have built some strong friendships because of it.  Our grade 8 teacher, Craig Guthrie and I are picking each other’s brains all the time to try and better align our grade 8 and 9 math courses.  Our collaboration has even led to a TLLP project for this year that brought iPads into his classroom.

Doug:  You’ll now be taking in Grade 9 students that are accustomed to that school.  Do you find that they transition differently?  Better?  Worse?

Kyle:  I’d like to think that the students moving from grade 8 to 9 in our school feel more comfortable with their surroundings, but I haven’t visibly noticed a difference.  We still have one other school, AV Graham that feeds our school and students making a switch from the separate and public systems that still allows students the opportunity to expand their circle of friends.

Doug:  You’ve been a huge fan of iPads in the Mathematics classroom.  If I was a fly on the wall of your classroom, what would I see on a regular day?

Kyle:  I work hard to maximize the use of the class set of iPads that are housed in my classroom.  When I first began, this was done to eliminate the amount of paper we were using through the
TIPS4RM and 3-Part Lesson approach that Mike Smith and Dave Bracken from my previous school found to be so successful for students taking applied level math.  Originally substituting what I was doing with a SMART Board and paper resources with a class set of iPads, I began finding ways to augment the learning by allowing students to instantly share their work via Apple TV, receive instant feedback and share their work with me and their parents daily.  Trying to modify and redefine what it means to learn math in a 1:1 classroom is still a work in progress, but individual student math blogs is my current focus.

Doug:  How does this differ from teaching without them?

Kyle:  Going digital with 1:1 iPads has allowed me to cut out the stuff that doesn’t matter and add photos, video and interactivity on a daily basis.  The 75 minutes that used to seem like forever has now turned into a snap.  Until I can find funding to support a take-home 1:1 iPad project, I don’t think I will be able to fully maximize the potential of the iPad in the classroom.

Doug:  How did you manage to get such a terrific environment for your students?  Can others replicate it?

Kyle:  Back in 2010, I had submitted a proposal for a
Teacher Learning and Leadership Program grant from the Ministry of Education and the Ontario Teachers Federation.  This grant is made available each year and is typically due by mid-November, assuming the funding continues.  It is a great opportunity for teachers to apply to fund an idea they think will improve the learning in their classroom.  Definitely worth the time and effort!

Doug:  Tell us about some of the applications that you use with your class.  How did you decide which ones to use?

Kyle:  Our “home-base” is an app called
GoodNotes.  Since math does require that students gain an ability to write using algebra and complete solutions, I typically create a PDF file called a Math Task Template in order to give students a way to organize their thoughts throughout the lesson.  However, most days involves a bunch of App-Smashing (i.e.: using multiple apps to complete tasks) in order to get the job done.  This is our first year using Google Drive as our cloud storage option since students are also posting work to Google’s Blogger blogging platform.  Improving student communication often times involves screencasting apps such as Explain Everything or Doceri, while clicker-replacement apps include Socrative, eClicker or Naiku.  Other great app suggestions for productivity include Evernote, iMovie and BaiBoard, while math specific apps that deserve a look are Dragonbox, King of Math, OhNoFractions, Free Graphing Calculator and Algebra Touch.

Doug:  Do you add/remove apps during the school year?

Kyle:  Absolutely.  It can be a pain if you are not using the Apple Volume Purchasing Program and Apple Configurator, but it is definitely worth it.  

Doug:  Can the students take the iPads home?

Kyle:  Right now, iPads stay at school due to the limited number of them we have in the building.  My hope is to apply for funding to research whether students taking applied math would benefit by having an iPad throughout their school day and for completing work at home.  Hopefully, we can make that happen sometime soon.

Doug:  Do the applications that you’ve chosen change the way that students learn mathematics?

Kyle:  I believe so.  However, it is really important that decision makers at the board and ministry level understand that technology will yield no gains without the use of effective teaching practices and sufficient professional development in technology.  Often times, technology is purchased and sent into schools without adequate training to ensure teachers feel confident and understand how to implement these new tools.

Doug:  We’ve all read about the implementation problems that the Los Angeles Unified School District has had with their rollout of iPads.  How has yours been?

Kyle:  Luckily for me, my class set of iPads were the first in our PC-based board.  Since my project was essentially a pilot, I did the research and experimenting to rollout my class set.  A ridiculous number of hours later, I was very well-versed in the process and still manage the devices on my own.

Doug:  Are the iPads locked down for student use?

Kyle:  We have a Bretford PowerSync cart for storing, charging and syncing the devices right in my classroom.  The iPads are locked down using Meraki Mobile Device Management to restrict students from installing apps with their personal accounts.

Doug  I know that you and I have chatted about the use of Apple TV in your classroom.  How do you have it set up?  What are the advantages of using Apple TV?

Kyle:  The learning experiences that Apple TV brings into a classroom is just amazing.  My personal iPad, projector and Apple TV have allowed me to get rid of a SMART Board that I had been using daily for the previous five years.  Not only can I mirror the screen of my iPad from anywhere in the classroom, my students can do the same from their desks.  In an instant, I can ask a student to mirror their work and the entire class can now see multiple approaches to the same task.  Discussions about how the solution might be assessed on a summative or standardized test and what the student can do to improve are discussions that are held multiple times each day.  

Doug:  You’ve recently become an Apple Distinguished Educator.  What does that mean to you?  More money?  More opportunities?  More responsibilities?

Kyle:  When I found out I was selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator, I was completely honoured and surprised.  Being included in a group of educators such as Dan Meyer is something I still have a hard time believing.  While more money would be a great bonus, Apple Distinguished Educators are not paid, but rather rewarded with professional development opportunities.  Each year, there is an Apple Distinguished Educator Institute that we are invited to participate in and Apple foots the bill.  This past summer, the 5-day 2013 Institute was held in Austin, Texas at the University of Texas and was the best PD experience I’ve ever had.  Throughout some of the ADE experiences, I was recently invited to become an Apple Authorized Education Trainer which does provide opportunities to work with other boards (and yes, the compensation ain’t bad either!).  

Doug:  You’ve also recently made Tecumseh Vista a Google Apps for Education school.  What impact does that have in the mathematics classroom?

Kyle:  I think Google Apps makes organizing digital education as easy as it gets.  Students receive a single Google login for cloud storage, email, blogging, YouTube and any other Google service available.  Best of all, the Google Apps administrator has complete control over all accounts and the restrictions set on each.  For example, we have Google Plus disabled until we can determine whether we can keep student information confidential.

Doug:  You’ve shared a Google Document with me titled “MDM1D Learning Goals & Success Criteria Challenge”.  Can you explain what you’re trying to accomplish with this document?

Kyle:  Until just recently, I realized that teachers in Ontario are the link between the students and the curriculum.  Regardless of how often learning goals and success criteria are promoted through board PD, students may never really understand what the purpose of a lesson is.  The Learning Goals and Success Criteria Challenge is one way I’m hoping we can bring Ontario teachers together to develop some student-friendly learning goals and success criteria to improve student success.  

Doug:  Are your mathematics teaching colleagues on the same page as you with respect to technology?

Kyle:  The teachers in my department have been completely open to integrating technology into their classrooms and we continue to learn together as we try to make learning math as relevant and enjoyable as possible. Quite a few math teachers across our board are using SMART Boards and class websites to get digital and make their lessons more engaging.  I’m confident that if we ever move towards a 1:1 iPad program in our board, we’d have a significant amount of buy-in from teachers.

Doug:  On Twitter, you’re known as “Mathlete Pearce”.  You’ve got to explain that handle to our readers.

Kyle:  My wife Chantal has always referred to me as “Mathlete” any time I get mathematical in a conversation.  I think she heard the term on a movie way back when we were dating in university.  Now, I call my students mathletes on a regular basis.

Doug:  Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview.  I know that you’ve had great success to date and I wish you all the best for the future.  It’s great to see students from my University of Windsor class get jobs.  That’s not easily done these days.

Kyle:  I can’t tell you enough how grateful both my wife and I were to find jobs straight out of the faculty.  Flattered that you took the time to interview me for your blog as I know that educators still flock to access your educational resources and insight (including myself!).  I’m sure we’ll catch each other on Twitter before too long!

Stay in touch with Kyle’s learning by following him on Twitter.  You’ll find him as @MathletePearce.  Kyle also blogs regularly, sharing his thoughts, ideas, and resources for teaching secondary school mathematics at http://tapintoteenminds.com/.

When Upgrading

Well, the whole world seems to be going ga-ga with the new release of iOS and iPhones from Apple.  Despite how you feel about the company and its products, you certainly have to give them an A for their marketing.  Watching the news on Friday morning, the news anchors are showing their products on television and an “on the scene” news report shows lineups to get into the Apple Store when it opens to buy a new one.

There are few brands that command this type of attention.  The other one that comes to mind immediately is Coca-Cola.  Seriously, is this really news?  I had fingerprint recognition on a laptop years ago.  It was neat but not really a game changer.  But just think of how much it would cost these companies if they went the traditional route and purchased advertising time.  Instead of a 30 second spot, they’re getting 3-5 minutes every half hour as this “news” is covered.  It’s also interesting to see the design changes – Microsoft got hammered when they tried to change the status quo – when Apple does it, it’s revolutionary!  Even their internal nickname?  What’s next?  A modern UI for OSX?

Along with television time, blog posts abound about “What’s new in iOS”, “iOS Tips and Tricks”, and so on.  David Pogue had a nice post yesterday “Yes, There’s a New iPhone. But That’s Not the Big News“.  That’s probably the first posting that I read in depth.  After reading that, I decided to upgrade my iPad.  It’s not that I needed to enjoy the new interface – it’s that the applications that I use regulary have been upgraded themselves over the past week or so (18 of them just yesterday) and there’s one thing that you should be aware of when operating systems change, often the upgrade breaks old and faithful applications.

In my reading, there some suggestions about how to improve battery life and most of the ideals are good conventional wisdom whatever your device – turn down the brightness, turn off services that you’re not using, etc.

Whenever an upgrade comes along, you should also be aware of things that are “under the hood” and not immediately obvious.  Sometimes, I can tell you from experience, programmers add features just because we can and other times, features add functionality that you might now necessarily want.  In addition to the settings with the operating system itself, it’s just good, solid protocol to check the settings for any of the apps that are updated to see what they’re up to.

Normally, when I do an upgrade, I poke around myself.  I had some help this morning.  This post dug deeply into the new settings “Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately.”  Privacy is a big issue with folks.  I smile at times because as long as I can remember we’ve had telephone books with addresses and we’ve used them to find people.  And who hasn’t watched a television crime show or a movie where the bad guys are tracked by triangulating their location with cell phone towers…  And yet, it’s a good piece of advice to keep an eye on what your electronic devices and the installed applications are doing with your use of them.

I guess it boils down to this.  There are certain elements of your privacy that you cannot control.  But there are some that you can.  When you upgrade, it’s always a good idea to poke around and see what new features have been added.  You may not like what you see.  Or maybe you will.  But at least you’ll know.