And There’s the Wall

I think I’ve hit max capacity of what my brain can withstand. We had great discussions this morning about being leaders on our campuses when we return. That’s not anything that concerns me; I feel confident enough to share information with my colleagues, and what I don’t know, I know how to find the answers. 

What I really need now is time with the curriculum. When we moved to breakout sessions, I decided that since I’m teaching something new, I should start a new Google site instead of a new SchoolWeb page, though I’m sure I’ll run into the same issues with connectivity that I’ve suffered in the past. Then I turned my attention to the curriculum to figure out just where to start. Then I went looking for resources online. Then I started talking with others from my campus about how to present what we’ve learned to our colleagues when we return to school in August. What it boils down to is that I’m overwhelmed with so much information and too many different ways to present it. 

The thing to remember (and maybe I’ve said this or seen it somewhere else before) is that the content must come first. And so after today I’ll go get a (real, not iBooks) copy of A Separate Peace and start reading and annotating it (with highlighters, post-its, and pencil) just as my students will be doing this summer. Then I’ll come back to all of the technology at my disposal and figure out what I can use to enrich and enhance students’ learning. 


Day 4 – Think, Plan, & Apply

The first time I put pen to paper all week (except for morning sign-in).

Today’s big question: Driven by the synthesis of your xCamp experience and the Strategic Design goals, what is your role as a 1:X teacher?

Here’s my answer in the form of a short video that I made on my iPad with iMovie and Garage Band.

I spent some time orienting myself with the new curriculum I’ll be working with in the fall, then I used iMovie to create a trailer to introduce Unit 1, but it’s not quite finished yet.

We finished the day looking at projects that other groups had completed during the week, and I was so impressed with how polished everything looked. We used the pen and paper as an exit ticket.

Side 1

Side 2

My brain really needs a break. I’ll find some time to share reflections tomorrow after I’ve decompressed a bit.

Day 3 – iLife Suite & Creativity Tools

Today we focused on the iLife Suite for the iPad: iPhoto, iMovie, and Garage Band. The common thread of this week is that the possibilities are endless. You can edit and add and tweak everything to your heart’s content. It is so easy to move from one program to the next because the editing processes are so similar. Don’t be afraid to try something different: the undo button is your friend.

A good practice is to create your album in the photos app before getting started. Of all the really cool enhancement features in iPhoto, the effects palette is my favorite. It has features like those you find in Instagram. Once you’ve finished editing your photos, you have the option of sharing them to many different platforms. Two we looked at were Beam and Journal. Beaming lets you to share pictures with any other iDevice that’s on the same network. The journal option allows you to add text–it reminds me a bit of an interactive scrapbook. It could be another way of presenting the mind map project.

You can also share an album to iMovie to start a new project or just import what you want from the camera roll. iMovie is SO easy to learn. One #xCamp-er commented that she showed it to a group of second graders, and they required very little instruction to get started. If you’ve used Windows MovieMaker, you’ll find iMovie to be much friendlier. In about an hour, I filmed, edited, and produced a video demonstrating how to get your iPhone earbuds back into the case properly, then I exported it to my camera roll and uploaded it to YouTube from there. I couldn’t export directly to YouTube because my login didn’t work, but I’ve fixed that issue now. iMovie also has a trailer feature that would be great as an introduction to a unit or book or as a review. In 20-30 minutes, some participants completed some really amazing trailers. I’m working on one to introduce the stories and writings we will complete in unit 1.

Garage Band
Smart instruments turn the most off-beat, tone-deaf music fan into a pro. This is definitely an activity best used with headphones. Students can create their own soundtrack and share it with iMovie. Teachers can record student voices for fluency checks. You can use the regular instruments and create original music. It’s not surprising to learn that musicians have created entire albums using Garage Band. Here again, you’re limited only by your imagination. And you might be surprised by what you remember. Apparently I haven’t forgotten how to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano.

Day 2 – iOS Productivity Tools

We started the day with an introduction to Keynote for iOS, Apple’s presentation tool. The terminology is a bit different from PowerPoint, but the idea is the same. Once I learned how to navigate it and find what I needed, Keynote was a breeze. Files can be saved to view on OS or PC, and you can also save them as PDFs. Embedding videos is really simple, but you have to be sure you don’t delete the original file from your camera roll. If you do, the video won’t play in the presentation. I created a mini lesson with some background info on Brutus and his role in Julius Caesar. I might have kids do something similar with background info from To Kill a Mockingbird.

After lunch, the discussion shifted to Pages for iOS, Apple’s word processing program. Many of the features are similar to the features in Keynote, so if you learn one, you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out the other. Pages has a lot of great templates, and the important thing to remember is that these documents are meant to be viewed on a device–they’re not intended for printing. So go ahead and throw in all of the videos and links you want to make it as interactive as possible. I’m thinking of using the Flyer template to have the kids create their mind maps digitally instead of the old school cut-and-paste-on-poster board.

We finished the day with a really brief intro to Numbers. All of these features are available as tables and graphs in Keynote and Pages, so Numbers really seems to be more suited for math classes.

Day 1 – iOS and OS Basics

I’m going to try my best to be concise, but there’s so much to share!

We started the day with a team-building exercise, and this was our result:


That’s 4 inches of marshmallow genius right there. The project was inspired by Tom Wujec’s TED Talk, Build a Tower, Build a Team. The winning tower was 6 inches tall, so we were close. Sort of.

Following the tower challenge, we dove right in to iOS basics. Most of the info was a refresher, but I learned a few new things that have totally changed my life.

  1. Force quit closes out apps that may still be running in the background thus prolonging your battery life. There’s another way to use this feature that I’ll discuss another time.
  2. Create a reading list in Safari to flag articles to read later. The reading list can be accessed offline, a great feature for a wi-fi only iPad.
  3. iBooks is Amazing. Capital A. I had no idea, really. Many of the classics are available for free in the store, or you can find them on Project Gutenberg and open them with the iBook app. And once there, the possibilities are truly endless. You can highlight, annotate, define words, bake a cake… Books in the ePub format have a study cards feature that takes all of the annotations and turns them into flashcards to study. I cannot even begin to tell you how absolutely cool this is. This has totally shifted my thinking away from the iPad as an expensive Facebook-checker or Twitter-tweeter.

After indulging in a tasty sandwich from Jason’s Deli, it was time to unbox the MacBook Pro.


I’ve said before that I got my start on the Apple when I was in high school, but this is nothing like that. I saw shades of a few things that carried over from the old-school model, like no right click option. Once we started looking more closely at the OS basics, other memories started to click, like the Apple icon as the home base, so to speak. Aside from all of the trackpad settings and dock introductions, I found out that QuickTime is more than a way to watch videos. The screen recording and audio recording features automatically lend themselves to how-to videos and podcasting. Possibilities are endless.

Tomorrow we’re diving into some apps, namely Garage Band, iPhoto, and iMovie. Right now, I’m going to keep playing with my new MacBook.

In the Know

Here’s a rundown of what I’ll be learning during the 7 days of xCamp. Looks to be very hands on and student-centered.

Day 1: iOS Basics, OSx Basics and Student Creation

Day 2: Creating with iOS 1 – iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband 

Day 3: Creating with iOS 2 – iWork: Pages, Numbers Keynote 

Day 4: Customized Connections: Student Choice by Design 

Day 5: unSupport and Mentoring on 1:X Workflow 

Day 6: Creating with Mac OSx 1 – iLife 

Day 7: Creating with Mac OSx 2 – iBook Author 

Network Down

I read somewhere once that teachers make as many on-the-spot decisions as air traffic controllers. Never are teachers more tested than when things don’t go the way that we’ve planned them, especially when technology is involved.

Yesterday, the entire district network was offline for about 4 hours. Image

Image credit:

With the end of the school year looming, this was not a good time to be inconvenienced. Really, there’s never a good time, especially when we’re encouraged to use so much technology so much of the time. Teachers had grades to enter; students had projects to complete. It was a very frustrating day, but we survived.

We experienced a similar outage just two weeks before, when internet and email access were down for almost 24 hours. And we survived that, too.

These incidents reinforce the fact that when we’re expected to develop so many technology-driven assignments and that technology fails us, we’ll need to have a contingency plan in place when the network goes down–and the network *will* go down.

Beyond that, I don’t ever see a time (in my English classroom, for sure) when we will never use paper and pen to accomplish a goal. Even with iPads and iMacs available, I still intend to have my students put pen to paper to express their ideas. There are just some things that technology can’t replace.