Monday, November 25, 2013

Flying Into 21st Century Learning: RHS Hawklets Will Soar with iPads

A few weeks ago, Brandon Jones (a current teacher and Education Technologist at RHS) and I gave an iPad Parent Workshop at Rockhurst High School, discussing the purpose for moving forward with iPad integration for teachers and students. All students will be required to have an iPad to use for academics starting in Fall, 2014.

The holiday season is here!  Before you swoop out shopping,  Brandon and I would like to share some straightforward information as you begin shopping for the right digital tool. This information can also be helpful for other parents out there, who may be interested in purchasing an iPad for their child to use for school as well.

1. Buy the iPad 3 or 4 (iPad 2 at the minimum). The iPad Air is another new option but it could be more expensive.  The Air is currently selling at the same price the iPad has always been, $499, but you can find the other versions of iPads from third party vendors (hopefully at a discount). The only difference between the iPad Air and iPad 4 is that the Air has a slightly more sophisticated processor and it's lighter. In my opinion, those two reasons are not enough to spend more money. NOTE: Brandon has the iPad Air and loves it!

2. Invest in a durable case. I also work with Cristo Rey High School. They purchased iPads for all their students (9-12) in Fall, 2012.  30% of their boys broke their iPads the first few months of school because they had cheap cases, now they are required to have a Griffin or Otterbox case:


Otterbox (get the Defender if you choose this brand, the Reflex series has a cover which can be difficult taking on and off):,default,sc.html

If you buy one of these cases, you could skip the insurance.

3. You might want to avoid the iPad mini, some research shows the bigger the screen the better for reading comprehension and avoiding eye strain.

4. Space: get the 16 GB version of the iPad. All students will receive 30 GB of cloud storage with their Google Drives. Students do not  need the 32 GB (iPad option) and it's usually a few hundred dollars more. That being said- if your boys like to load a lot of games, those could potentially take up quite a bit of space. RHS expects education apps to be first priority. For example Notability will trump Duck Dynasty: Battle of the Beards! Have them save any videos or pics to their Google Drive or free apps like Dropbox, Shutterfly...

5. No extra cellular data needed for wifi access. There is WiFi at RHS and at home. If they need  to access wifi outside of home and school, I'm sure they can find a cozy coffee shop or place which offers free wifi easily. Here's a list of KC places with free wifi, just in case.

We will have more helpful tips on how to continue supporting your Digital Native as he/she takes flight into more progressive uses of technology devices. Parents often feel like Digital Immigrants, don't fly solo, we are all in this together!

NOTE: If you are interested in more information there is a FAQ document, please click here. Feel free to contact Brandon Jones or me. Special thanks to Brandon for contributing to this blog.

Monday, November 18, 2013

More or Less? What's the Rush?

It doesn't have to be a battle.

Technology has drastically reshaped the educational and political landscapes.  Those who have proper tools, resources, and knowledge about how to use it, are granted access to information that can fundamentally augment the quality of their future life experiences.   Those who lack the tools to discover and utilize the newest innovations (frequently racial and ethnic minorities, and those from a lower socioeconomic background) find themselves chronically disadvantaged and misinformed, while those with proper information gain autonomy through technology.   As educators, teachers and administrators must prevent these technological advances from furthering the digital divide between the haves and have-nots to create true education in all communities.

MORE! What about training for parents?

In Bridging the Digital Divide by Increasing Computer and Cancer Literacy, two community technology centers were developed in affiliation with Head Start in primarily Latino and African American communities to help equip parents and families to live in a technologically informed society.  By introducing parents to the computer, internet, and other tools as an incentive (they were offered refurbished computers or cash for completing the program), bilingual setting, the school helped improve community perceptions of technology while also raising cancer awareness.  The low-income community was eager to learn, and the study pointed out the efficacy of offering free, non-traditional, one-day courses to families, through data that shows the positive impact was still being observed three months after the course

Similar to this study, educators can participate in creating a socially-just world by inviting parents and relatives to short workshops that explore not only the computer at large, but the specific technological tools that their students are expected to know and use.  Familiarization with how these tools operate and what they can be used for will create a lasting impact on families by empowering them to engage in their children’s schooling.  For example, an elementary teacher who plans to use an iPad app or online game to help kids learn about different food groups could demonstrate those apps to parents in their native language when possible, so that they can encourage their kids to revisit the website from elsewhere.   Furthermore, utilizing technology community courses, newsletters, blogs, etc, to introduce parents to the tools their kids will be using, can effectively address other concerns, for example, health and wellness, while helping the community build a valuable skill set for future employment and participation in the rapidly-increasing technological culture.  Teachers and administrators who initiate parent involvement in their children’s learning by offering services and skills that the community already desires and needs will help to bridge the digital gap and create a fairer, stronger future generation of leaders and thinkers. By doing so, such educators demonstrate that they have the skills, passion, and innovative spirit to tackle broad challenges technology introduces by utilizing technology as a means of education instead of separation.  We have seen this helpful model at Cristo Rey as my students have given several parent workshops on how to use the iPad and access resources needed for important information regarding their child(children).

LESS? What about training for teachers?

The article, Secondary Students' Resistance Toward Incorporating Computer Technology into Mathematics Learning, addresses students' and teachers' feedback in regards to technology being used efficiently in the classroom. Several concerns are addressed to focus on the appropriate use of technology. The research addresses student's perspectives ranging from age 12-17. The decision to utilize technology for math learning was mainly selected because of the reduction in education costs; not for an enhancement in learning that is reflected by test scores. Another area of digital divide, reduction of resources where technology is seen as a way to save money in a potentially negative way. When this research was completed no justification was required for the use of technology in the classroom.

Students were being used as "guinea pigs" while unprepared teachers select computer based programs without testing the programs or becoming familiar with their possible educational benefits. The teachers were not clearly trained on the program, nor the effective implementation of the program with their students.  The students were asked a series of questions related to technology in the classroom. According to their responses, the pen-and-paper method is still viewed as a reliable step-by-step process. Other students viewed spreadsheets, computer programs, and computers as added frustration or stress to the learning process. The students were also concerned with the school maintaining proper updates to avoid computer delays and security issues. 
This raises the overall issue of: we want to train parents about the technology being used at schools. What happens if the teachers are not properly trained or if the use of technology is not effective for the students? In this realm of technology integration, LESS is MORE. Meaning, schools must properly train teachers first, then the process lends itself to: enhancement of learning through the balance of technology tools with students, AND effective integration and training parents. 

Taking the time to for training occurs is of highest importance. Even if that means, slowly infusing technology into the school. There's no rush, technology is here to stay!

SPECIAL THANKS TO: my graduate students Rachel Beil and Aesha Griffin for sharing their thoughts and evidence of research in this blog.

A few questions to think about:  
  1. How could you incorporate a community technological outreach similar to the one mentioned here to combat those issues and shrink the gap between groups? 
  2. Wiould it be more beneficial for teachers who are less experienced with technology to avoid the usage of technology in the classroom a majority of the time, or implement technology in the classroom regardless of their lack of skills, experience, and knowledge?
  3. Should students have the option to reject the use of technology if they are capable of learning more efficiently without the help of technology?
by S. M.D'Souza & L. N. Wood

Monday, November 11, 2013

Does Size Matter? e-Books and Comprehension

We know kids, teens, and young adults are motivated by their new techy devices. Everyone seems to be discussing the revolution of the e-book and how it is going to take over schools. Currently, e-books are up 43% in sales. Schools are quickly jumping on the e-book bandwagon in efforts to motivate their students to read and to be cost effective.

The big question, regarding reading, is always "did you comprehend what you read?" Who wants to read something and not remember it? What's the point in that? Even if you solely read for enjoyment, don't you want think about it later?

One of my students, Callie Imel, shared some insight from an article she read for my course last week:

 The article,  Effects of Ebook Readers and Tablet Computers on Reading Comprehension discusses whether text presentation format affects participant reading comprehension or not. I chose this article because I am interested in the effects of different technology tools on reading comprehension. It seems that iPads are being used in classrooms more often now, and I was wondering if they actually had an effect on students’ comprehension, or if it was just a fun way for students to read. In the research, the text presentations used were e-book readers and iPads. The researchers had participants either read using paper text, an e-book, or an iPad. After reading the article, participants were to answer a set of questions testing their comprehension. The results showed that the technology had no effect on reading comprehension. However, participants showed interest in using the iPad when reading because it was easy and accessible. 

When choosing when to use technology, such as iPad, in the classroom, teachers must consider the significant difference it makes in the students’ learning. Teachers may see that there is an interest is using iPad, so students may be more engaged in their reading when they are allowed to use the technology; however, it has no effect on their actual comprehension. One positive point from this article is that it proves that students are interested in using iPad, so they may be more engaged in the activity. By reading stories on the iPad, students are able to highlight certain sections of the text and navigate through the story easily. The iPad also provides games that the students may use to help them with the lesson, although it may not directly have an effect on comprehension; students are still focusing on the text more than with paper text. 

I read a recent study yesterday which showed the e-book format did not significantly increase comprehension, enjoyment, or engagement among a group of third graders.  The data clearly indicated that children prefer to have a choice of reading material and that the format was not as central to reading engagement as a connection with the story’s characters and setting. A second outcome of this same study suggested offering a wide variety of reading choices and the opportunity to select books did impact reading engagement. We know that increasing reading engagement can ultimately increase comprehension. So, would this mean that in the end e-books can increase comprehension, simply because they can offer more choices for readers?

Not so fast, there are actually more studies coming out which confirm that reading text digitally can possibly inhibit reading comprehension.  Here are some of the reasons researchers are concerned about digital reading:

  1. Size of screen: the bigger the screen the more they can remember.
  2. Distraction on the device: we all have been victim of being distracted by our digital devices
  3. Remembering vs knowing: it's been found that readers express more knowledge when reading printed text.
  4. Eye concerns: glare, pixilation and flickers can tire eyes (20/20/20 rule)
  5. Ergonomics: the science of fitting the work environment to the worker in efforts to reduce physical strain and increase productivity
Despite concerns, the 21st century learners are demanding and expecting technology enhanced lessons. Let me share some thoughts from another graduate student in my course. He makes some great points about how we do need to stay current with the research and using technology. Andy Boland writes:  

As a future high school English teacher, it is my job to figure out what my students are reading, and if it is contributing to their growth. As technology continues to develop, it is my job as a teacher to continue to grow with it. Printed books are beginning to be move removed from the classroom and removed for more electronic devices. Some of these devices include, Nooks, Kindles, and iPad. These devices are much more cost efficient, and allow the student to have many pieces of literature and informational text at their fingertips.  Students crave for the chance to use technology in the classroom, and in a content area where there are not as many opportunities I see using e-readers as a great opportunity. There are so many tools and functions to these devices that they can help those who struggle with reading are who reluctant readers. One of theses applications that can help would be the iPad application, Fastr Pro. This application helps improve students reading by flashing the text at varying speed to help improve students’ reading skills. The student can set the text to go at their speed and they can increase once they feel more comfortable I feel like this only one of many tools, that these electronic devices can offer. When I was testing out the application, I was surprised to see how much faster I was reading, and how much more I comprehended. The text did not seem overwhelming when it was just flashing one word at a time. 

 I think that English teachers may be resistant to this technology because their passion for printed books. This kind of application is something that I will use in my classroom, and encourage other teachers in my building to use as well. I think that English teachers should see the strides that e-books and tablets are having on children and their reading. They need to recognize that students are moving away from reading print, and one way to make literature connect more to them is to have it presented to them on a mode they are more comfortable and enthusiastic about using. 

Bottom line:  the way our kids are learning and reading is changing. Does that mean we change the way we teach reading? Perhaps size does matter, we won't know unless we keep measuring how our learners are growing.

Special thanks to my RU graduate students: CALLIE IMEL and ANDY BOLAND for sharing their thoughts!

Monday, November 4, 2013

e-Books: Enhancing or Distracting?

 Until recently, there has not been too much research done on the efficacy of e-books in terms of comprehension and decoding skills, probably due to its quick rise in popularity. Because new technologies develop and change so quickly, it is difficult for researchers to keep track of its usefulness and its potential applications in the education world. This difficulty is a great reason teachers need to stay current and educate themselves on technologies that could dramatically increase their students' learning. In addition, teachers should learn from the eagerness with which students seek out and grasp new technologies. The engaging features of these new technologies can promote the kind of classroom that approaches change with a positive growth mindset. With knowledge of how effective new technologies are and a positive attitude about their integration, teachers can implement them into their classrooms knowing how to utilize them in a way that promotes the most student growth

Bridget Kapp, graduate student in my course "ED 6030: Technology in the Classroom" shares:

As a first grade teacher, realizing the importance of studying new technologies made me choose this article, "The Effects of Electronic Books on Pre-Kindergarten-to-Grade 5 Students' Literacy and Language Outcomes: A Research Synthesis," on the efficacy of e-books on literacy for elementary school students. Tricia Zucker, Amelia Moody and Michael McKenna, of various universities in the United States, attempted to synthesize the information already available to shed some light on how effective e-books are for students. The article identifies several potential benefits for early readers who use e-books in the classroom, including word recognition due to highlighting features, decoding skills from pronunciation help, comprehension skills due to on-demand vocabulary definition, and superior processing due to connections among visual and audio components ( Zucker, T. A., Moody, A. K., & McKenna, M. C., 2009).   

Essentially, the article concludes that e-books are more effective in supporting comprehension skills when 
  • they include hotspots and animations that enhance the story. 
  • e-books that include an overwhelming amount of animations and hotspots, can simply be distracting for students. 
  • Thinking Reader ,  lines up certain comprehension strategies with your students' profiles, particularly struggling or special needs students, so that their instruction is targeted.  
  • Careful planning and searching can ensure that the e-books children use are enhancing their reading experience instead of diminishing it.

As educators we have a responsibility to integrate technology into the curriculum in order to prepare our students for the future.  By integrating the use of iPads or other digital texts into the classroom, teachers can expand upon their teaching of literacy learning by supporting individual readers’ text comprehension and potentially engaging struggling readers. “iPads may help teachers meet traditional print-based literacy goals while also providing students with opportunities to respond to texts in individual and unique ways” (Hutchinson, Beschorner & Schmidt-Crawford,16). When properly implemented, the use of iPads in the classroom can aid and reinforce the teaching of such skills as independent reading, sequencing, visualization, retelling, cause and effect and the main idea.  

Kristen Baker, also a graduate student in my ED 6030 shares: 

Popplet is an iPad application that can be used to sequence events, retell facts, and brainstorm ideas (  I created an example of a Popplet that third grade students might create in order to recall facts after reading an article about oarfish.   Students could simply discuss out loud or write down the facts that they learned.  However, by allowing them to do the same task on the iPad and then sharing their creation with the class, the learning experience is enhanced, students likely will be more engaged, which will result in them retaining the information they have learned. I could take this activity a step further by having the students use Doddle Buddy, an iPad application that has a drawing and doodling tool, and ask them draw a picture of an oarfish using the information they have learned.  

 The possibilities of using the iPad in the literacy classroom are endless.  However, it is crucial for teachers to be sure that they are supporting learning and enhancing the learning experience and not just adding extra work.  As teachers, it is also paramount that we educate ourselves in the field of technology so that we continually acquire new knowledge and skills.  By promoting and demonstrating the use of technology in our classroom, we model lifelong learning to our students. 

Questions for Class Discussion:

  1. Think of a pre-reading or reading response activity that can be done with paper and pencil.  What is another way that activity could be done using an iPad?  How might this change how the students respond? 
  2. Can you think of any other potential benefits of e-books that the article did not mention?
  3. Find a free e-book on your iPad (using iBooks, search "interactive children's books"), and read through it. Pay attention to its animations and hotspots. Do these features support reader decoding and comprehension, or do they distract from the book's main idea and message?

Doodlebuddy. (2012) Pinger, Inc. (Version 1.1.2) (mobileapplicationsoftware). Retrieved from 

Hutchison, A., Beschorner, B. & Schmidt-Crawford, D.(2012). Exploring The Use of the iPad for Literacy Learning.   The Reading Teacher,  66, 15-23. doi:10.1002/TRTR.01090. 

Zucker, T. A., Moody, A. K., & McKenna, M. C. (2009). The Effects of Electronic Books on Pre-Kindergarten-to-Grade 5 Students' Literacy and Language Outcomes: A Research Synthesis.   Journal Of Educational Computing Research  ,   40  (1), 47-87.

SPECIAL THANKS to Kristen and Bridget for being guest writers on my blog!