Taking Notes on the iPad – May 19, 2011

Since the 1990’s I have loved to take notes by creating mindmaps. When teaching 5th graders, I even taught them to use mindmapping to take notes and construct relationships, meaning and gain understanding by making mindmaps. The value of mindmapping was so fascinating that I secured the domain name mind-mapping.net. I made my own notebooks with fold out 17X8 in. paper and took pride in the cool notes in a variety of colors and loaded with images. Other people often asked me to share the notes or referred to them as a record of meetings or workshops. I graduated from the folded paper and a plethera of pens to a tablet PC with OneNote. Digital Age, here we come. With the tablet PC, mindmapping was still possible, but now the words on the mindmaps were searchable! OneNote can search handwritten notes for specific words no matter their orientation. Empowering! After acquiring an iPhone, I discovered Evernote. Evernote allows  notes to be taken with the iPhone’s camera or with the keyboard. The best part is that I now had access to my notes from anywhere! Then at NECC, I was introduced to the Livescribe Pulse Pen and enjoyed trying it out and taking notes with a real pen again. The notes were searchable and when uploaded to the website, were available online. However, Evernote’s interface is much better than Livescribe’s interface. Evernote’s upload is seamless, but Livescribe requires an extra step to get notes on the Internet. Livescribe is a great product, but then I got an iPad and put down the Pulse Pen to give note taking on the iPad a fair trial. It was good using Evernote, but typing all my notes is very limiting and after a little research the Griffin stylus was ordered and the neu.notes iPhone app downloaded. Love at first Doodle! Mindmapping with the iPad and a Griffin Stylus and Evernote. What a trio!

Sometimes it is hard to give up one technology to test another, but that’s how to learn which one is better and what should be recommended for teachers and students. It is also how to discover so many great products.

Vision for the Classroom – Sept. 6, 2010

On a recent visit to an elementary school and with a library/media specialist she asked questions about their document cameras and new mounted projectors. After showing her how to hook up the document camera so that the accompanying software can be used to capture lessons and create presentations by students and teachers, she informed me that many of the teachers did not want to attach their computers. They just wanted to use the document camera to project their paper content in a similar way that they used the old overhead projector and transparency. My heart sank. These are good teachers who have gone through extra training on ways to use technology for creativity. It reminds me of the kids I used to teach who would say, “My teacher didn’t teach that last year,” when I knew the teacher had, but is there teaching going on if the students are not learning? So even if we did teach the teachers, did we really teach, if they didn’t start changing their use of technology?

Last week, I was leading a group of educators, community members and school district stakeholders to develop a 3-year technology plan. Working in small groups, they looked at requirements for the plan. After reading a description of technology integration, one participant who just graduated from one of the district high schools commented that in her 13 years in the district, she had one teacher who integrated technology like the description. Again, my heart sank.

I’m reading Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. In chapter 7, Tim Tyson writes, “If digital technology is used in low-level ways – to do the same things we have always been doing in schools, just doing them now with computers—then we have failed to grasp the metamorphosis this technological ecosystem offers. In so doing, we perpetuate an emphasis on student passivity, on students’ “receiving” school as if learning were given to them by teachers and as if computers served only for such low-level tasks as grading, reporting, and word processing.” Tyson was principal of Mabry Middle School known as one of the first schools to embrace student blogging and students as creators of content.

I can envision a school where students provide learning content for their peers. I can hope to be part of a school learning process reversal, where the homework is watching a video lesson on a topic (created by another student) and the class work is where the student applies the learning under the supervision of the teacher. In this environment, students are content creators and contributors to the learning process, taking ownership of their learning while providing learning tools for others and participating in a collaborative process. This would be a place where teachers do not have the only access to computers and technology and where teachers are not the dispensers of knowledge, rather they are lead learners. Technology is in the students’ hands with access to Web 2.0 tools and they have the background training to use it wisely and safely.

Some tools that make this type of environment possible are laptops, digital cameras, camcorders, webcams, iPods, and microphones. Students and teachers need blogs, wikis, mindmapping resources and online storage. Web 2.0 tools would include many of the following:

Jing at http://www.techsmith.com/jing/ for screencasts and screencapture

Animoto http://animoto.com/ for making great video presentations from images.

History pin http://www.historypin.com/ for looking back in time from any location.

Twitter http://twitter.com for summarizing and research and much, much more

Evernote http://evernote.com for taking and organizing notes in a variety of formats

This is just a small sampling of resources to be used in my vision of the perfect learning environment. What would you add to this list? Please post your suggestions. What would a district do to make this vision a reality?