Open post

A Learning Device For Every Student – Part III – Getting everyone on board

So we decided that 1:1 iPad was the way to go Read here how we made this decision.

Next step was the most important step to take: plan. What do you need to think of before you welcome students with iPad in your class? A lot!

Apple provides with a good framework to bring an iPad implementation to a good end. They call it ‘Eight Elements for Success’ and they’ve published it as a free resource on the iBookstore.

The book guides your team through essential questions you need to answer before and during your implementation.

Let’s discuss some of the elements.

Professional Learning

On the pedagogical side, it is quite obvious that staff needs to be trained in the use of iPad.

Before you train your staff, they need to get a device. We agreed that iPad is the best suitable solution for our students. We don’t agree that it is the best device for a teacher. There are some tasks where a teacher benefits more from using a desktop class computer. Nevertheless, we need to give each teachers an iPad: they need to build expertise in the use of it. To build this expertise, we created a PD program that started right after our Christmas break (teachers received their iPad just before the break). The program is not compulsory and consists of small lunch break sessions, workshops that last 90 minutes or three hours, walk in 1:1 training, a website with loads of inspiration, apps and other things.

These sessions include what we’ve called First Aid With iPad, a course for novice iPad users (yes, we have loads of them) with essential skills like personalising the device, camera use, getting to know the keyboard, accessibility features and much more. It also included SOS with iPad: What if it goes wrong?: a brief course on troubleshooting tech issues.

Much more important is pedagogical training: How do we design new learning activities with iPad? How do we create better learning experiences?

Thankfully great assistance is available. I’d like to give a big shout out to the team behind The Joy Of Professional Learning. They create amazing resources on providing the best professional learning. We also have loads of help from the ICT Atelier team in Belgium. These trainers are the best you can get.

Community (and communication) & Team

You need to get as much people that are ‘affected’ by the program involved as possible. That’s why we expanded our internal task force twice, informed the complete staff a month before we did the teacher roll-out and informed the students and parents half way through our preparation period.

It was surprising how little resistance we had. Personally, I was very anxious about the response we’d get from colleagues and especially parents. Some colleagues surprised me (in positive and other ways), but I was struck by the good reception we had from parents.

In our planning we decided that staring with the whole school was a little bit of a too big step. So we selected our first grade (12y olds) and fourth grade to be the pioneers in this project. The first graders are new students to our school. Last Sunday we started the enrolment for next school year during our Open School Day. Surprisingly all seats were filled after a few hours. I guess this means parents are backing our decision!

We also created a web page to inform anyone about our 1:1 initiative. You can read it here in Dutch. It includes a video of the event we did for our third grade parents and FAQs.

Environment Design

IT infrastructure. Yes, you might think it is boring, but it is essential. Don’t slim down on WiFi. You need it and you need a lot of bandwidth. Use Caching Server too.

But it is more than that: rethink classrooms and your school lay-out. Do we have need for rows of tables? A blackboard in front of the classroom? Do we want to project the iPad screens?

And then software: how do we manage the iPads? MDM is your friend! We chose Zuludesk to manage our devices. Apple provides with good guidelines on MDM to help you.

Student Learning

I cannot repeat it enough: it’s not about the device, it’s about the learning. How do we create a culture of learning, bring intrinsic motivation to students?

We don’t want forget this item, but for the moment it seems we are stuck in finding apps and ways to enhance our existing teaching strategies. It is imperative that our teaching activities evolve . We are already seeing great initiatives, so we are confident that this train is also starting to roll. But like any train, they don’t take a jump start.

Next time: planning the roll-out. Yes, my dear tech geeks: this one’s for you!!

Open post

A Learning Device For Every Student – Part II, Scenarios

From vision to reality

In my last post, I already focused heavily on why we think every student should have a personal learning device. Read more about it here.
The very first step was figuring out how we would conduct the decision making of the project. Was this up to the school board of directors? What other voices should we here and get involved in this process? We decided to create a task force with school leaders, teachers and IT staff. In the first round of brainstorming sessions, we consulted every teacher. The task force at that time was a group of 9. Later it expanded to 22. The goal of this group was very clear: develop scenarios for a 1:1-scheme in our school. What are the possibilities? How do we bring this to a success?

It’s not about the device, it’s about the learning!

Didn’t I say that yet? Of course! And I can not emphasise it enough: we took this path to create a richer learning environment and facilitate better learning experiences.
In order to achieve this, technology should never be a limiting factor to the learning.


We set off by examining which different scenarios are possible.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device/Disaster)

If we want to encourage self paced learning, it seems appropriate we let every student decide for himself what device suits his learning process the best. Some students might prefer a more mobile device (e.g. tablet or “phablet”) while others would like to work on a notebook with a full-scale keyboard and powerful processor.
For this scenario to work, the school should set minimum specifications on the device or provide a list with device to choose from.
Although this scenario seems great, it has some serious downsides: even with a list of minimum specs, we would end up with a bunch of different device brands, device types and operating systems. In order to get this scenario to work, we need to expect that the student has a thorough understanding of the device but also our staff need to be able to perform first line of support when something goes wrong with the device. When in class, a tech bump should be fixed ASAP.
It is practically impossible to train your staff in all these configurations. When we only line up operating systems, we could easily reach five different mainstream systems (Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, iOS, Android). And probably some geek will bring a sixth (Linux?)
And what if the device crashes? School can never provide with backup devices.

“Technology should never be a limiting factor to the learning.”

There are even bigger issues on the pedagogical side: teachers need to check if their preferred tool can be used on all the devices. In my opinion, this would quickly result in selecting only web based tools and never make any use of a camera since you would not know if every student has a device that carries a camera.
Maybe in other circumstances BYOD is a good way to go, but in education, I am convinced the abbreviation stands for Bring Your Own Disaster.

A notebook for every student

BEWARE: I will discuss Chromebooks, but in the next chapter. This one is about macOS or Windows notebooks.

If we want our students to be productive and creative learners, they should have a powerful computer with a full-scale keyboard. That was the opinion of a lot of teachers in our school and we know it is also the opinion for a big part of our students parents. Notebooks are very well equipped to author texts, create web pages, make presentations, etc.
But these devices carry some problems:
1. The durable and light ones are expensive (i.e. MacBook, Surface Laptop, …)
2. When teaching in front of a classroom, students sit behind a wall of screens. In order to have any sight on what students are doing on their devices, you need to stand in the back of the classroom. These screen walls also don’t invite to collaborate.
3. All day battery life comes at a price.
4. Notebooks are not very mobile. Preferably you put them on a table or on your lap. These are device to be used only sitting.

Chromebook, the modern typewriter

See, I told you I would discuss these.
Chromebooks seem a good solution: they are cheap, easy to manage and they work seamlessly with G Suite.
So why not? There are some issues, both technically and pedagogically.
When WiFi is down (yes, this happens), a Chromebook is almost useless. These devices rely on a network connection for almost anything. Of course you can sync Drive files for offline use, but you should enable this before you get in a no-WiFi zone. In our school, no-WiFi zones don’t exist except for when the whole campus becomes a no-WiFi zone.
They also have the screen problem a notebook has. We don’t want walls inside our classrooms.
You might know that I am a big fan of the SAMR-model. It helps teachers to evaluate if their tasks that involve the use of technology are worth the effort of using the tech. I cannot help but find that with Chromebooks (and any other notebook), it is more difficult to develop learning activities that locate themselves in the M and R regions. Read more about the SAMR-model here
Very recently I read this article by the amazing Brian Foutty where he focuses on pedagogical issues and even on the deceiving price tag of Chromebooks.
This brings me to our conclusion

Best of both worlds

So we chose iPad. Why?
There were a lot of reasons why we took this path. Here are some of them:

It’s about the learning, not the device

Apple’s iPad and the ecosystem around it with the App Store, iTunes U, iBooks and Apple’s apps to enable both creativity and productivity has no match on the market. Hardware and software pose almost no limit on the learning opportunities of our students. The stuff just works so you don’t need to bother about drivers, updates and system crashes. Just focus on the learning.
Third party apps (including our school’s electronic learning environment and G Suite) provide all other necessary tools. Students can also easily install their preferred educational apps and content.


Not only is iPad a lightweight device, it is also a true mobile device you can take anywhere. Excursions, the sporting grounds, on public transport. Quickly changing classes or a classroom setup is no issue. With iPad, you can take away the constant sitting from the learning process.

Total cost of ownership

Agreed, iPad is not the cheapest device to purchase, but you buy quality that lasts. An iPad can be used several years (I still use a device that is almost 6 years old). All of Apple’s productivity and creativity apps are included in the price too.

Support and management

Mobile Device Management provides with all the tools IT administration needs to facilitate a smooth user experience. It enables easy deployment and daily management like installing apps and profiles.
Teachers also benefit from this: they can grant students access to apps they don’t have, and when needed, they can disable or reenable features and apps on the device.
When all students have the same device, IT support becomes manageable too: when a device fails, it can be replaced instantly and the learning process is only interrupted briefly.

Battery life

We don’t want power cords in our classrooms. With iPad, you don’t need them: a device will last a full day on a charge.

These were only five of the reasons why we chose iPad as a learning tool for our students.
In the next post, I will discuss how we plan to get this 1:1-scheme on the road.


image credit: – license: CC0

Open post

Has the word processor gone obsolete in education?

We have done it like that for a long time

At the moment we are having a discussion at school about productivity suites in our school. Until now we have taught our students the latest version of Microsoft Word on Windows. Without a doubt, MS Word is the mainstream word processor in education, at home and business.

We will be a 1:1-iPad school starting from next September and need to decide what software we will be teaching our students in class. The Flemish curriculum does not specify any brand, so schools and teachers are free to choose a productivity suite.

Personally, I feel reluctant to choose MS Word as the word processor to stick to: it has a fairly steep learning curve en we have noticed that the skills students acquire in the first and third grade are almost never used in other subject areas so they get lost. Let me clarify: in the first year of secondary school, students learn MS Word to write short text and create a lay-out. They do learn a lot: text wrapping, styles, numbering, etc. In the third grade in computer science, they build upon this knowledge with sections, headers and footers, citations and footnotes, … The whole shebang. When students reach the fifth grade, they need to use these skills intensively to write a high school equivalent of a thesis.

Every year we notice that the knowledge and skills they learned in the first and third year have disappeared by the time they really need them.

So the question arises whether this learning path with MS Word is the way to go.

Can we postpone the instruction on advanced features of the word processor to a later moment in the school career?

Writing skills and motivation

Apparently students don’t “play by the rules” when they use a word processor for their writing assignments and they don’t have the attitude to use styles, sections and other useful tools to avoid turning writing a text a living hell. Probably they don’t see the advantage.

And is it really necessary to get every writing assignment printed on a sheet of paper and dropped in the teachers’ inbox at the teachers’ lounge? This text most certainly not: I’m publishing it to the web. I won’t print it because I will reach a much smaller audience than when I publish it on the internet. Even more: I don’t need a word processor for most of my writings. The user interface is distracting and I have no need for all these tools (I wrote this in iWriter on my iPad).

I also don’t care a lot about text formatting: your browser (and my markdown-syntax) will do it. I bring structure to the text with a title, headers and an occasional block quote like this one:

What do we want to teach? A product or a skill?

Each student who is intrinsically motivated, learns better. Can we all agree on that? The odds are rather small that there are many students in your class who get intrinsically motivated by writing an essay and handing it in to you. Of course there are some letter crunchers that go crazy on writing a 600 word book essay, but this is a small minority.

What does work? Connecting with others. Yes, I will go and have a look at the visitor stats of this blog post tomorrow and I will rejoice if my tweets get retweeted and posts get liked. It pushes me to write better articles.

And does every writing assignment have to produce a written text? No! Is drafting a scenario for a video not a writing assignment? Or what about creating a digital portfolio in a blog?

A learning environment with technology allows for new tasks to be developed that could not be completed in a tech-free learning environment. Do a Google Search on SAMR, please.

And what about the “mini thesis”?

Of course students will benefit from learning the skills to deliver a long text with great text formatting. But let’s teach it when they need it and are going to use it. Or even better: probably your student will have watched a series on YouTube: “How to edit text in MS Word”.

Open post

Learn all about iPad automation from Brian Foutty

You might know that I did a series on this blog about using iPad as your only computer. In order to make that a success, you need some power tools. Automator has always been such a work horse on macOS. The app (yes, it is on your Mac too!) allows you to create menu actions, small apps and workflows to automate lots of tasks that would otherwise consume a lot of time. Renaming files, cropping and resizing pictures, combining PDFs, …

Apple never made Automator for iOS, but three young guys did and they named it Workflow. The app was recently acquired by Apple and they made it a free download from the App Store.

Fellow ADE Brian Foutty collects an amazing collection of Workflows on his blog that can seriously speed up your work on iPad. My all time favourite is the YouTube Downloaded. I know this is against YouTube regulation, but …

Not only does Brian list these Workflows, he also explains what they do. By doing that, he thus also teaches how to create your own workflows or tweak existing ones.

Read more about Workflow here.

Go to Brian’s website here.


Oh, and don’t forget to read his blogpost and Chromebooks and the new iPad!

Open post

Listen to ‘The Wired Educator Podcast’

I strongly recommend this podcast by fellow ADE Kelly Croy. Kelly is an ADE from Oak Harbour, Ohio and teaches in Middle School. He is also a Keynote Speaker on art and education and published author. I had the privilege of talking to Kelly on Global ADE Institutes and the guy is truly inspiring.

Episodes of the Wired Educator Podcast are approximately one hour. Kelly had some pre-roll with follow-up of previous episodes and things he likes to share himself. The main feature of every episode consists of an interview with anyone interesting from the educational world. This can be an author, a classroom teacher, school leader, …

Kelly has the ability to find the right people for his podcast and ask the right questions. It is always a delight hearing his interviews.

On a personal level, it is also very pleasant for me to listen to this podcast since Kelly picks a lot of friends from the ADE community to interview. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to see each other, so this series sort of gets us back in touch.


Open post

A Learning Device for Every Student? – Part I

Start with why

My school has always been a pioneer when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom. Previous school leaders envisioned that technology brings major assistance to the instructional activities of teachers and the learning process of the students. So every classroom used to have overhead projectors, we have had laptop carts, iPad devices, Android tablets, computer labs, LCD projectors and interactive whiteboards, heavy integration of an ELO. You name it, we explored its use in our classrooms.

More recently we have reached a tipping point. The learning process and student and professional life of our staff and students became more and more digital and online. We live in a connected world where we have almost 24/7 access to knowledge, peers and experts near and far. Not bringing this 21st century reality into our school would put us in a parallel universe. If we want to make sure the years a student spends in our school is worth the time and effort, we can not put ourselves in that parallel universe and we need to prepare them for the real world.

How might we achieve this?

That’s a question that has been puzzling me in the last 5 years as technology advisor and administrator.
Do we need more technology? Can we do this with the infrastructure we already have?
I do not want technology for the technology. Any device is an investment and needs constant renewing: no other environment changes at the pace IT changes.

We concluded very quickly we do need more tech in our school: in 2010 we had a computer/student ratio of about 15:1. By 2015 we lowered this to about 5:1. Getting access to a computer requires making reservations of either a whole computer lab or a number of tablets.

It’s not about the device, it’s about the learning!

If we want to create learning opportunities anywhere and anytime, we also need access to the tools that support these learning activities anywhere and anytime. Conclusion: we need to bring the 5:1 ratio down to 1:1.

Open post

The Worldwide Apple Distinguished Educators Institute 2016 in Berlin: Part III

In my first post on the WW ADE Institute I mentioned we learned from the Apple experts. These people are the ones that create the Apple apps we use in our classrooms every day. Who can there be better to show us the power of these apps than these guys? The apps include GarageBand, iMovie, Keynote, Final Cut Pro and all the new features for MDM in education that came with iOS 9.3.

Even though ADE’s are already considered experts on the use of Apple products, we were blown away by some of the things most of us didn’t know we could do with them.

I personally rediscovered GarageBand on iOS. I had played with the new Live Loops features, but I did not realize they were so powerful and diverse. I got completely mad in the Advanced Keynote session. “Mr. Keynote” himself showed us some amazing design features and massive time saving tricks. An example: if you need a table on a Keynote slide and there is also a picture on the slide, you can match the color scheme of the table to the picture very easy by dragging and dropping the picture in the table styles inspector panel.

Watch this short videos to see the magic happen:



Beside giving tips, the experts also listened to us. How are educators using their products and how would we like to see them improved? Among a lot of things, it is these conversations that make being an ADE really worth while.

We also got the opportunity to play with the new Swift Playgrounds app that will be included in iOS 10. Apple developed a complete curriculum to teach children how to code with Swift in the Playgrounds app and in Xcode on Mac. Very good resources are available at

Two other very good workshops by Apple I attended were Extreme Preso Makeover on how to create better and more engaging presentations and presenter skills and a workshop on Change Leadership by the Apple Professional Learning team. The first will be very useful in my own PD sessions were giving presentations is a big part. The latter is going to help me enormously in my own school to create a better learning environment for students and staff.[:]

Open post

The Worldwide Apple Distinguished Educators Institute 2016 in Berlijn: Showcases Part II


Yesterday I told you about two great ADE Showcases we saw at the WW ADE Institute in Berlin last week. Today I want to tell you more about two other ADE’s who inspired me with their short presentation.

Take your iPads where you teach – Stephanie Thompson

Stephanie is a New Zealand teacher working in Singapore.She wants her kids to take the iPad outside so28020005904_9e2a9d329a_z they can learn through documenting the world they live in.

In one example they did research on the Singapore River area by collecting historical pictures and then make an overlay with the present views. In a next step, they would put themselves in the historic pictures through green screen technique to immerse even more in the subject.

Read more about Stephanie’s work on her blog:

Virtual Reality for Immersive Education – Sarah Jones

L1001317Sarah Jones works in Higher Education at Coventry University in the UK where she is the Deputy Head of School of Media and Performing Arts. She is a huge advocate for using Virtual Reality and 360 video in education. In her showcase she pointed to an Albert Einstein quote: “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.” Virtual Reality immerses you in the content so it becomes an experience. And you don’t need very expensive equipment: VR headsets can be made from cardboard.

But VR is not only about being somewhere you are not, you can really tap into the places you visit by putting layers with information on the 360° images with apps like Thinglink. And think about simulations like a doctor-patient interview.

But even more: being someone else creates deeper learning. Sarah told us about a project she did where VR made you experience the world in the way someone with dementia does. This helps medical and care students prepare in their work with people with dementia.[:]

Open post

The Worldwide Apple Distinguished Educators Institute in Berlijn: How can teachers make a dent in the universe?

ADE2016 - 1

Last week I attended the Worldwide ADE Institute in Berlin together with 380 other educators from around the globe. This conference is a biannual event Apple hosts for teachers and school leaders they recognize as the best of the best in transforming education with the use of technology in their classes, schools and universities.
The five day program focused on professional development and global collaboration. Professional development happened through workshops and labs hosted by Apple experts on the use of their products and in sessions from our peers. The ADE community also has a strong culture of sharing experiences.
We also had a focus on producing new content for teachers and students. Bringing together 380 educators from around the world creates opportunities to start collaborative projects that we will see emerge in the next months on iTunes U, the iBookstore and the internet.

In the next few blogposts I would like to share with you some of the highlights I took home. Today I start by telling about some ofADE2016 - 1 (1) the amazing showcases we saw. ADE showcases are short presentations in which an educator gets 180 seconds to tell a story from his work. All together we saw 30 ADE’s showcase what makes them proud of what they do. All 30 were amazing stories but I choose 6 to tell you about.

The first two today:

Students as Internationally Recognised Authors Using iPad – Cormac Cahill

L1001345Cormac is an Irish ADE from the best class ever (2011!!) He works with children diagnosed with Autism. The children all had difficulties expressing themselves. The kids now use Book Creator and iMovie to produce books and movies to tell their stories. The books have been downloaded across the globe and the movies have been seen and recognized worldwide.
Through the use of mobile filmmaking and authoring, these children found extraordinary ways of creativity and expression. The works have won international prizes.
Explore some of the books and movies the children made:

Bauman Geniuses – A Key to Success in IT and Coding – Konstantin Biryukov

L1001726The second showcase I’d like to put in the spotlight today is that by my good friend Konstantin from Russia. He is the head of IT and a teacher at Bauman Lyceum in Yoshkar-Ola, a small town 750km east of Moscow. To make computer science, programming and coding more relevant for his students, he created the Geniuses Program. Students perform real life IT tasks and recognize and solve true IT problems. Giving them responsibilities empowers and motivates them the excel. Last year I had the opportunity to witness them at work in their school and these kids are amazing. This year they applied for a WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference) scholarship to show the work they do on developing a school app that displays the school in 3D to help new students find their way around the campus. And they got accepted!



Tomorrow two more showcases …


Photo credits: Rick Connors, Greg Hughes

Open post

iPad Keyboard Tips and Tricks


Lots of shortcuts you might know from using a Mac will work on iOS too. Some examples:

  • cmd+space opens up Spotlight
  • cmd+tab makes you switch between your previously opened apps.
  • cmd+c, +v, +x is copy, paste and cut just as you expected.
  • In Safari cmd+t and cmd+w opens a new tab en closes the active one. ctrl+tab lets you switch between the opened tabs.
  • Obviously, marking text in bold was done by using cmd+b.

Super tip: hold down the cmd-key for a moment and a pop-up will show you the shortcut options specific to the app you are using.

Use the on screen keyboard as an extra keyboard

Do you want to quickly add an ? Press the eject key on your keyboard and the on screen keyboard will show. You can now switch to the emoji keyboard and get your smiley in your text.


Navigate your text

Selecting text will also go much quicker with a BT keyboard. iOS 9 added great functionality for the on screen keyboard by transforming it into a trackpad, but if you know how to navogate and select text with the keyboard and arriows on a Mac, you can now use it in iOS too.

Bugs and some tricky things

If you change the on screen keyboard into another layout (QWERTY on screen and your BT keyboard has an AZERTY layout), your typing will be incorrect. Let’s hope this bug is fixed very fast.

Autocorrection wont work when you use an external keyboard. Mac and iOS users are spoiled since OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 7 corrects their sloppy typing. When using a BT keyboard, you have to pay more attention. My feature request has been sent!

Scroll to top