Saturday, June 01, 2013
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Saturday, March 09, 2013
I'm very lucky to be able to teach a graduate level course on iPads in Education. I'm currently working with a wonderful group of teachers in the central PA area (IU8).
Today we had a showdown between some "Office" apps. Now, before you start, I know that it's not fair to compare the ipad to a laptop. It's different. It's not about how it's the same as a laptop. It's the very difference that's important. I get it. But, at the middle and high school levels, at SOME point, the students will have to write something, turn it in to the teacher to be 'corrected/graded' and have it returned to them. In a one to one setting, there is no escaping this - or shame on us if that's NOT the case.
So, in today's class we broke out in groups of 4, with each person in the group taking one of the main contenders: Pages, CloudOn, Google Drive, and Skydrive. (skydrive.com via Safari). They were asked to perform the following tasks, which I felt were very basic tasks and not an unreasonable expectation of a word processor.
- Type some text - How does it handle spelling errors?
- What formatting options do you have? Can you add a comment?
- How do you control margins?
- Make a hyperlink - Can it be done easily? (Take a phrase, like 'Go here', and link it to Google.com)
- Paste some text from another app (From a webpage or even a Note)
- Add a photo
- What formatting options do you have?
- How easy is it to add an image?
- Can you add an image from the camera?
- Can you add a table?
- How easy is it to modify the table?
- Share it with yourself (as the teacher)
- Must it be shared via email?
- Can the document be shared with another potential editor?
- Does it have dropbox support? What other options does it have? (What formats are supported?)
- Can you "correct" it and get it back to the student?
- What annotation options do you have?
- Is this method satisfactory to you - if you have 100 students doing the same thing?
- How would this app work in a shared ipad environment vs 1:1?
- Which app does more to advance teaching and learning?
- Share your findings with the group.
So, first of all, are those unreasonable feature requests? If you say yes, please tell me in the comments WHY you think those are unreasonable. Format options, hyperlinks, adding photos (from the built in camera, too), and a table. Surely those can't be asking too much.
And the challenge to continue the experiment from 'student to teacher and back.' Isn't that a fair test? Isn't it important to know that the workflow is manageable? And, isn't it also fair to ask them to consider how it would work in a shared cart environment? This is a grad course, after all. We're exploring the options.
I'll post the rough draft of the pros and cons from our followup discussion in a moment, but let me say up front, that these results are NOT uncommon. I've taught this course seven times before this, and it's been the same each time. Granted, the apps have improved, but only in one case did it improve enough to make a difference in the standing.
First, the results as I wrote them down as they offered them, then a couple comments.
Results of the Office Challenge
Familiar feel (very ipad friendly)
Easily adjusted margins
Great spell check
Text wrap around images
Easy bar graphs
Access to camera roll
No internet connection needed (important for some students)
Can save in multiple formats
Must Email to teacher (can't share)
No comments, making markups difficult
No collaborators. Very unfortunate in 2013
Meant for one person. Won't function well in a cart situation
Must reload when switching apps- very slow!
Poor image handling
No collaborators - meant for one person
Pixelated and hard on the eyes
Annotations are available making markups easier
Looks like ms word, so familiar to many
Nice interface with Dropbox
Can open and create ppts
Google drive pros
Simply share with another person.
Real-time editing. Ie: no email needed
Can see, in real time, edits of other authors
Google drive cons
No camera roll access
Very limited formatting options.
Requires Internet - problem for some students
Very limited functionality
Has One note - excellent for note taking
Access to camera roll
Sharing via email or collaborators allowing synchronous editing
Can insert comments
Many options for sharing - privacy
Nice formatting options - especially with images
Requires Internet - problem for some students
Not as good as using laptop
Can't move images -at least, not that we could see
Can't modify tables - or not that we could find
We also talked about using Dropbox to submit documents to the teacher. While it's possible for students to read the reports submitted buy others and the paraphrase to get credit, one person thought that at least that person was reading -something that might not be done otherwise.
And, we talked about not being able to return graded papers via dropbox. We really worked through the workflow issue.
So - The final vote?
Well, those who worked with Pages really liked it. But - we felt that it was really meant for an individual and therefore would have problems in a shared cart setting. Plus, in today's world, what a shame it is to have a word processor that does not allow for multiple editors.
NOBODY liked Google drive. NOT ONE. It's lack of formatting options, and lack of access to the camera roll (and the camera) were non-starters. Do you mean that we can't take a picture of our lab experiment and add it to our writeup about it? #fail
CloudOn was just FAR too slow. That, coupled with the lack of multiple editors, also made it a loser. In fact, in all the (now eight) sections I've had, a scant hand full have chosen it. But, that was before the changes to Skydrive.
Skydrive won. (Accessing it via safari at skydrive.com) Prior to this latest revision, skydrive would finish BELOW last place. It was awful. Folks would stop testing it. Now, it seems to be the winner. It seemed to allow us to do more, format more, AND it managed the workflow by allowing the student to share the documents with the teacher. No dropbox issues. No email issues.
I will admit that I guided the conversation, asking questions like, "Yes, but in today's world, is it OK to have a word processor that doesn't allow for multiple, synchronous editors?" And, "But, requiring an internet connection means that some students won't be able to use it at home." Or, "Are we sacrificing features (especially in the case of Google Drive) just so we can have an ipad?" Or, "Do you mean that I can't use this ipad to write up a report and expect it to access the camera?"
Yes, I did pose questions that had them thinking about the pros and cons. And, I'll have to wait and see how they report back on which app they would choose. But, from the discussion, Skydrive (maybe tied with Pages) won. Google Drive finished dead last!
Surprised? I'd LOVE to hear your comments.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Saturday, February 09, 2013
Friday, January 11, 2013
I recently spent about 45 minutes talking with a teacher in a PA district who has almost completely lost her love for teaching. Why? The filtering rules in the district are slowly ruining her.
It's not a rich district, but it's far above the average. It's in the town of a highly respected college, so the children of many faculty members attend. It's also a bedroom community for folks who don't want to live in the nearby cities. They don't want for technology, at least in terms of the numbers of devices available. But, unless their use is judged by the use of Microsoft Word, then it's a total failure.
Google Docs is BLOCKED. No one will say exactly why, it just is. The district didn't join the state-wide WAN, so they don't have access to Discovery Streaming or the Safari Montage system on the WAN. All wikis are blocked. All blogs are blocked. Even a silly site like Voki is blocked. Youtube is blocked for all. Twitter is blocked. Diigo and Delicious are blocked. They have a moodle server, but student accounts are so poorly managed that few teachers bother to try to use it. It's far more trouble than it's worth. Work tickets take weeks to resolve, even though there are fewer than 2700 students in the entire district.
The (new) tech director was never an educator (as if that needed to be said) and has made life impossible for the staff who want to become more relevant with their teaching styles. Most now just ignore the technology.
They do well on the PSSA's and always make AYP. A very high percentage will attend and graduate from a four year college. It would be easy, then, to push the status quo.
But, I would argue that they cannot afford this person who has made these filtering decisions. They are graduating over 200 students a year and sending them off to try to compete in this world without ever having experienced collaborating in a Google Doc, or building a wiki with another class. They've never been able to experience twitter as a learning tool. They've never been able to write for an audience of more than one, their teacher.
The students cannot afford to be cheated out of world class education as they are now. They will be attending college with students who CAN use those tools and who know when to use them. They will be competing with other students who know how to follow twitter hashtags to find meaningful information that is current up to the second. They will be a step behind everyone else and through no fault of their own. Some students will be starting off college with a portfolio of relevant bookmarks that they've saved in Diigo or Delicious. Not these students. Others will know how to set up a twitter hashtag for a class so that they can all study and share together. Not these students. And we could go on and on.
The parents cannot afford to have the education of their children stifled so severely, either. They have paid their fair share of taxes and will be paying a lot of money to put their children through college, yet their children will be starting off at this disadvantage. I HAVE to believe that if they knew how restricted their students were that they would be appalled. Certainly they SHOULD be appalled. They cannot afford to have their tax dollars spend in a manner so contrary to the needs of their children.
This NATION cannot afford that person, either. We need creative thinkers who CAN collaborate, and who CAN use today's tools to learn and share and build. We're not going to solve the problems of this country by blocking out the world from our schools.
NOBODY can afford that person. Somebody in that district MUST stand up and say, "This is NOT the vision for education that we want for our children. Either open this up and provide the PD that we need to fulfill our vision, or we will find someone else who WILL!"
And that shouldn't wait another day. There's too much at stake. Would YOU want YOUR children to spend another day in a school like that?