Best iPad in the Classroom Update Ever!

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 6.33.46 AMWell, this would have to be the best update for a long time at least. A while back Apple released the Classroom app in iTunes for teachers to manage their class of student iPads. It’s in the iTunes store here and has some great features.

  • screen viewing
  • app locking
  • pushing out weblinks and apps… and heaps more.

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BUT – there was a catch. You had to create your ‘classrooms’ using your school’s MDM. Now, if you’re the average teacher then I lost you at the acronym, I know!

NOW THOUGH… Apple have released Classroom V2 which allows any teacher to create their own Classroom manually through their own iPad – it’s so simple and creates a powerful tool for iPad management. One I think teachers will love.

There are some catches, though. You do need the following…

  • All iPads need to be running IOS 10.3 at least – this will require a fairly recent iPad. Sorry, an iPad 2 won’t cut it so it could be time to replace those ‘miracle iPads’ you’ve been hanging onto for so long!

Here’s a support PDF from Apple to help you through the process. I added my road-kit of iPads to my Classroom last night and it went without a hitch, although a little trick I found – to trigger the Classroom feature in Settings it helped to have the ‘Add Students’ feature open on my own iPad. This seemed to work through bluetooth and kick start the settings into gear.

Have fun with it – I’m going to post a more detailed blog on our company website here but thought I’d share about it here first!


Innovation’s not just a buzz word

No one likes to jump on a band wagon but the funny thing about cliches is that they become what they are because there’s some truth in there. ‘Innovation’ is like that. It’s overly used because we need it. Desperately.


We need innovative teachers and schools so that we prepare students for today, let alone for tomorrow. What we did yesterday just won’t cut it anymore, for these reasons;

  • the amount of fake news that needs filtering
  • the disruption to our familiar because of technology
  • the disconnect between family and community

If we keep following the techniques and practices that have worked in the past, just because it ‘used to work’ then we’ll miss what will work for now and tomorrow. It takes bravery and it’s not about short cuts.


Keeping the Family together

Now, I know what you’re thinking – why would we need an app to do this? And we don’t. The family that plays cards and collects pine cones together stays together… I know that doesn’t rhyme but we hope we’re doing ok there.

But, with 2 teenagers already, and with 3 on the way, any help we can get keeping a track of where everyone is is helpful; especially when you have a dad who is traveling around for work as well.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.37.06 AMLast night I saw this app on a Youtube video – Zenly. It promises to help share your real-time location with friends and family without killing your battery life. Techcrunch has a great review here and it’s apparently becoming a real hit with the youngsters. It’s a cross between a messenging app, location sharing and even links with Maps and Uber.

So – we’re going to give it a go and I’ll post a ‘comprehensive review’ (Casey Neistat) in a little while.

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Playing to our strengths

One of the reasons I love to watch Rugby (I played it through my school years) is that it’s a game for anyone, no matter what your size or shape. You can be tall and thin, wide and not so thin; there is a position for you on the field.

Some players are called ‘forwards’ who do all the grunt work in getting possession, some are ‘backs’ whose role is to run the ball and find space out wide. Everyone has a role to play and they all rely on each other.

In our company, we have a wide range of strengths and abilities. Some of us have insight and skills in areas that are different from each other but when we play together then we are incredibly strong as a unit.


What I’m learning as I get older is that self-awareness is everything! Knowing what position we are suited for, what skills we have, and equally, what skills we lack, is what makes us strong.

I think the key is to know how much to ‘work on our weaknesses,’ and how much to have others around us cover those areas. There is a point to which we can’t just ignore those weaknesses. One of my strengths is NOT to be organized and prepared down to the fine details but by working on that, hard, it’s something I can do now.

But, my real goal should be to know where I’m strong and build on that strength. What am I good at? How can I contribute in this situation best and help us succeed? That’s real collaboration for me.

Book Creator Online!

pic 44The Book Creator app, the one I’ve described as my fav ‘non Apple’ app for teachers and students, has just realised an ability to publish books online! This is HUGE. One of the stumbling blocks teachers have had with the app is how to share the ePub files.


Up till now you had to publish to the iTunes store, or email the file or link to a Google Drive upload, or Airdrop the file from iPad to iPad.

Here’s a little example of a book I made as an example of an app ‘smash’ with the @wordFoto app, a cool little word and image mash up app.

Check it out – to get the online publishing feature, just update your app in the App Store to V5.1. Go for it! The whole world is waiting to see what you’re written and created!

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Make sure you click on the sound – one of my kids read it out for me….

Only you can teach like you!

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Do you compare yourself to others? Nothing sucks the life out of me like comparing myself to other people. I’ve been doing that a lot lately – looking at what other Digital Coaches are posting online, creating, the ideas their coming up with. It can be really demoralising.

Except – when we realise that there will always be trainers, or teachers, or Principals, or parents who actually WILL be better than us. But that’s not the point and we’ll only get discouraged when we focus on being like other people.

What I find freeing, when I start to judge myself to others, is to remember that no one can facilitate and instruct like I can. No one teaches like you do. Nobody can make a connection with some students like you can or has your unique set of abilities and talents. It’s what makes our schools and businesses thrive – diversity and difference and builds real community. I can’t be a better someone else – just a better me. And I like that.

Go where the water is – it’s green there!

How is our profession doing? I say ‘our’ knowing full well that I’ve been out of the classroom now for 2 and half years. (That realisation dawned on me only yesterday, in conversation.)

I talked recently with a Principal who reflected that she and other Principals she connects with have noticed a gap appearing in our ranks. It would seem that we have a growing number of brand new teachers, and a stoic group of experienced, older teachers but there seems to be a trend for those teachers in between these groups who are looking for opportunities outside of schools, and outside of the classroom.

Is this actually happening country-wide (I live in NZ) and if it is, why do you think it’s happening? I know that I often read and hear directly from teachers about the challenges they face now; parent dissatisfaction, assessment schedules, workload, student behaviour…the list goes on.

I’m also equally talking with Principals (in some cases, in the same conversation) about how exciting our sector is at the moment. Teachers are discovering new ways to engage their students, to create with and inspire their students that it makes you want to jump out of bed each morning and run to class.

Maybe the answer to coping with the stress and challenge is to embrace the new and exciting. Easy for me to say. And possibly easy for me to share.

What this does make so crucial is the need to connect with others who are excited, creative, engaged – other teachers who are embracing the change and inspiring each other.


Listen to the Learning Chatter

If you’re like me then you love using technology to engage and motivate learning in your classroom. One of the ‘hits’ you often have to take when you do this is being labelled as a ‘teacher into toys.’ It’s frustrating to hear since you know and have seen the difference they can make for your learners.

img_2650One of the ways you can show others the benefits of these ‘toys’ is to record some of the conversations that your students are having during activities. I’ve started to call this;

  • LEARNING CHATTER = the language and conversations of learning in action.

Here’s a video of some sound bites I captured with one group at a recent Sphero SPRK+ demo hour I took at a local Primary School. Listen for the subject based vocab, the design thinking and collaboration here.


Student Engagement Poster

This is a great poster I’ve seen thanks to and it’s doing the rounds on twitter at the moment. I’d probably say that I’m great at using 2, 3 and 5 in my teaching practice at the moment and I’m definitely going to utitlise the “3-2-1” method of reflection in number 6. Lately I’ve been asking, ‘What’s one thing you’ve learnt or gotten better at today?’ and this would take that to another level, I think.

I also remember a teacher using number 7 a lot when I was in Primary School. We would try to beat each other to finish her sentence. Funny. What’s something you’re already using and also, what would you like to use in your class a little more?


So you’re Team Teaching now, are you?

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 10.16.23 pmOur school has been working in Team Teaching pairs now for the best part of a year. It’s been so successful and beneficial across the board that we couldn’t imagine going back to teaching alone. We are also really pleased to see that this approach to a school structure is catching on all over the country and we’re having quite a few schools visiting to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course we’re not claiming to invent the idea of working with other teachers – my first introduction came from Jo Fothergill, a teacher from New Zealand, who spoke about her team teaching aspirations at an Educamp we hosted at our school in 2012. But we are very proud at our school of developing a whole school culture that has embraced Team Teaching as a crucial part of our shared pedagogy and learning programme.

So – why is there so much push back? I’m going to start a short series of posts that will ‘unpack’ (one of my favourite words, apparently) some of the reasons why TT gets so much resistance and also what makes it work at our school!