Crowdsourcing with Caution

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a tech director at a small school who had implemented a great Maker space.  He spoke of the wisdom of crowd sourcing and that he saw it as the way our kids will learn in the future.  He pointed to his success in installing a dishwasher after watching youtube videos – instead of calling a trained professional. I can think of many times I’ve referred to youtube to teach myself how to do something – I taught myself java this way.  However, I started to think about it, and I began to worry a bit. It’s similar to the “wikipedia” problem. Since the wikipedia arrived on the scene, I’ve been educating students that the wikipedia is a great source, but that has to be taken with caution. A good starting place for research or general information, you have to be careful to verify what you find especially if you are going to use the information in your research. You need to verify, verify, verify!  We all know that since anyone regardless of expertise can add to the pool of information online, you can’t always trust everything you find. I worry about crowd sourcing in much the same way.  Here’s a recent example.

A couple of days ago while preparing dinner I had the evening news on tv. The report that ran was that it was the 25th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s invention – “the internet.”  I started screaming at the set.  Yes, it was the 25th anniversary, but not that of the internet, indeed, the internet is a lot older. His invention was something else that has been transformative not only to our society but to the world, and the national broadcasters didn’t get it right. A browser search the next day and there was a number of hits all touting the 25th anniversary of the internet. If I followed the crowd sourced model, history would be in the process of being rewritten.  Seriously, I understand the common usage of the terms, and that folks now use them interchangeably. I’ll admit I’m guilty of it too, but hopefully never in an academic situation. I always tell my students to use the internet to look things up, or to post something online, but I always explain the subtle differences to them about the Internet and the World Wide Web and the mark-up language, HTML, that started the transformation.  I guess over time, this difference will be lost, but I worry what other crowd sourced changes we will see. For history is replete with crowd sourced mistakes that have cost lives and even, I dare say, civilizations. 

Let’s be sure to embrace the pros of crowdsourcing and proceed with caution. How about a “Crowcau” movement? Oh, and by the way I checked it before proposing it, nothing comes up in our language for crowcau 🙂


Remembering FETC 2014

This year I had a great time at FETC. I put in three proposals, and much to my surprise all three were accepted! I got to present a bulletin board/poster on Wed. evening, taught a Scratch workshop on Thurs morning and finally on Fri afternoon shared a session on Motivating Middle School Mathematicians with iPads with my colleague, Joanna J.  It was fun, and as always, made new friends at FETC and reconnected with other edtech folks from around the country.  Much too my surprise, my poster was a “crowd-sourced” favorite. Check this out, I’m on the FETC home page, woohoo!

My poster gets recognition
My poster gets recognition

Wa’zup with the naming at Apple?

So as a computer science teacher I have often taught the lesson about things that are understood about software. Your first trial version will be labeled a beta. Your first release is usually a 1.0 (or no number at all). Minor releases after that will be 1.1, 1.2 or even a tiny release – 1.3.1 perhaps? until your next big breakthrough at 2.0 and so on down the line. It’s why we got to OS X at Apple.  This is a great lesson, usually, because the students now in my classroom don’t remember OS < 7 or even god-forbid – DOS!

Then along comes the iPad. The next great release after that is of course..the iPad 2 – then Apple broke with tradition and we had the iPad. (sigh) The retina display was so awesome on my aging eyes that I just went with it.  Now it appears we’re starting with the iPad Air series. I like this better because the more unique name distinguishes it from it’s earlier predecessors.

Last week I upgraded one of my computers to Mavericks. (Have to say I am sorry to see the big cats go, but c’est la vie!)  Then I updated my applications, too. I went from iMovie ’11 to (drum roll please) the newest release of iMovie – which is iMovie 10!

Seriously, iMovie 10 is a shock. I had heard from an engineer that the long range goal was to merge Final Cut and iMovie into one product. Okay, so I get that, but seriously, you guys out in Cupertino couldn’t come up with a name that was at least moving forward numerically?

Time to get off my soap box. Thanks for reading.images

“Near” and dear to the iPad classroom..

Nearpod is a great app to use in the classroom. There are numerous reasons to like it, but the best has to be because it lets you keep the students on task effortlessly. They move to the next “slide” when you move them. When the app is open you can see what the students are doing, and if they drop off of some reason, you know it.  So how do you prepare a Nearpod lesson? Well the easiest thing to do is to think of it initially as a “replacement” for those old PowerPoint files. Think about taking those old laptop lessons and converting them to your new environment. It is easiest to create lessons on a computer through a browser on their webpage. That’s confusing at first glance, because if you think iPad, you don’t necessarily think of doing your prep on the computer. You can recycle any of those old lessons by moving it to Nearpod and adding the interactives. Last year, my best Nearpod lessons were those tried and true intro and review lessons, oh, and the parent meeting introducing them to the iPad program 😉 Let me walk you through one of the lessons I created last year.

Our history curriculum in the eighth grade looks at twentieth century decades. To begin a look at the thirties, we would typically use a PowerPoint to give an introduction with some slides with images, dates and so forth. With Nearpod, it’s so easy to make it interesting.  I simply embedded a short video (of the Hindenburg), had a “quiz” about fashions, (do you like it that sort of thing) and used the drawing to let the students give interesting feedback. Let’s get creating!

  •  First step, open that old PowerPoint, and convert it to a PDF. Use the save as option and choose PDF as your file type. Put it somewhere on your computer so that you can easily locate it.
  •  Open up from a web browser on your computer. Log in, and click on the create tab at the upper right.
  •  Next, import that PDF file you created, it will serve as the “meat” of your new presentation.
  • Now for the fun stuff! Begin to add your interactives into your presentation. I usually have a quiz question early on, to keep the students on their toes.

    slide show addition choices
    *It’s sort of funny they call it add slide when really that is only one option!
  • Once you have completed your presentation you can click on publish. Note that once you move it to the published status, you can’t make any more changes to this copy. You will have to create a copy, and modify the copy. Not a big deal because you can always delete the published version once you are ready.
  •  Now that it’s published, you can open Nearpod from your iPad, log in as teacher (they combined the teacher and student versions last year) – you’ll see your pin to give to your students and you’re ready to roll.

With the new homework feature kids can view your presentation later. That’s really helpful because the earlier versions once the students left class, they would have no way to go back in and review the notes.  You can always email the PDF file to your students for their review, but they won’t contain the interactives you have added. My students were quick to figure out in the old version that if there was something they wanted to save they could just screen print the page (with simultaneous home and wake buttons) that would send the page as an image file straight to the camera roll. They would then open the image and mark it up in another app, like notability. They especially did this with graphs and timelines from the review sessions.  All in all, Nearpod is a great way to reinvigorate some of those old lesson plans, and create some new ones!

The Subtext Experiment

Two years ago I approached one of our English teachers about experimenting with one of the novels from the curriculum. Would she be willing to read it electronically? Students were given the option of iPads, nooks, kindles, and a few other assorted readers. You can read about the experiment in the article here: , but the upshot was that the teacher felt that although she was committed to the experiment, she couldn’t do without her dog-eared, margin noted, highlighted, well-loved paper copy. I had the feeling that the kids were ambivalent, that although the surveys showed them as flat, I feel like her comments about it in class made it less desirable to the students. At any rate, she was adement that the paper was still vital and although she liked reading for pleasure electronically, not so for class books.

Well, here we are two years later and I have been watching the rollout of Subtext. An iPad app that allows conversations about electronic copies of books. You can join a group, and then the group can add comments and discussion to the experience.  Each year, our school, like many others, does an “all school” read. The students and faculty from all the grade levels read the same book, then an afternoon is set aside at the start of the school year for an all school discussion led by the AP Eng students. In the past years we’ve added electronic components, like a moodle quiz, and a lino discussion board.  This year, with the help from the good folks at Subtext the faculty and student discussion leaders are reading it “together” via the app. So far, it has been interesting. Already some of the teachers have left comments, questions to point out items to the students, or to get them to think more deeply about passages. When you see the little icon from your teacher’s comment, I can’t help but think the students are going to love having the teacher input while they are reading. This should be helpful for students to see as they are reading rather than the delay that often occurs between their reading, and the class discussion that sometimes doesn’t take place until weeks later. subtext

Another advantage I see is that the class group can move together to a shared comment/note, rather than searching for a place within the text. For this, after all, was one of the hardest parts of the shared reading with multiple devices, trying to find passages across the devices where “pages” don’t exist and locations are tricky with multiple font sizes associated with top left corner rather than page bottoms. Anyway, stay tuned as we continue with our journey, but for now, loving the ability to comment together and see other input while reading through Subtext.

iPad as a Creation Device

Here is a quote from an article from that talks about iPad use in the classroom. Interesting to me is this quote:

The teachers cared most about how the devices could capture moments that told stories about their students’ experiences in school. Instead of focusing on what was coming out of the iPad, they were focused on what was going into it.

I have often spoken about the iPad being a consumption device but this perspective really helps we realize that although it is consumptive, it is also a creative device. I think I sometimes forget about this perspective, but it’s an important one.