Last Thursday I led a full-day workshop on iPad apps and technology integration strategies with iPads for about 175 educators at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. I’ve led numerous workshops and presented lots of keynotes,conference breakouts in the past 10+ years, but this was the largest group of of educators I’ve taught simultaneously in a hands-on, full day iPad workshop. Here are 10 things I learned.

University Bandwith Rocks

Whenever a BYOD (bring your own device) workshop is offered these days, most participants bring MORE than one device. Last Thursday at KSU was no exception. In addition to the iPad each participant was supposed to bring, many also brought smartphones and some brought laptops. There were a LOT of devices on the network! Fortunately, the bandwidth at Kansas State and in the specific lecture hall in the College of Education for this “iCamp” event was superb. We didn’t have any hiccups in terms of Internet access, other than the fact that the Apple TV I presented through played videos embedded on my Google Site of curriculum links for the day rather than directly from my photo roll or from the YouTube app on my iPad.

One Site to Rule Them All (Google Sites)

I’m a big advocate for teachers using a single website as a “home base website” for all the links students need to access and use.* This is a strategy I use with my own students (stem.wesfryer.com), I’ve helped my wife create for her self-contained classroom of 3rd and 4th graders (classroom.shellyfryer.com), and I’ve used for 3 day  iPad Media Camp workshops the past three summers. It worked wonderfully to use a single Google Site for all the apps, videos, and ideas I shared in Thursday’s workshop. While eBooks can be wonderful, it’s much more time consuming to “add a link” to an eBook which students have to re-download, compared to a new link on a webpage they can simply click “refresh” in their web browsers to see. There are certainly limitations to Google Sites, but there are many advantages. Speed, mobile-friendly versions, easily embeddable YouTube videos, and “bread-crumb” navigational links at the top of each page are some of the standouts. I also like how you can “map” a Google Site to your own custom subdomain, which is easier to print on a handout and also looks more professional. (An example is my digital handouts site: wiki.wesfryer.com) I was glad to be able to model this use of a “home base website” for workshop participants on Thursday, which I consider to be a 21st century blended-learning “best practice.’

Content Filtering a HUGE Issue

While it’s fun to see the power and possibilities of iPad apps like BubbliYouTube Capture, and iMovie in a workshop like Thursday’s, the sad reality is that many of the teachers in our workshop went back to classrooms in school districts where Internet access is extremely locked down for them as well as for students. Many teachers Thursday said they had NO access to YouTube to even play/show videos to students, much less to upload their own videos. Some felt their school district IT departments had locked down Internet access that it’s been rendered essentially useless to them and their students. One teacher said every time she’d checked out the mobile laptop cart to use with her Spanish students, almost all the websites they tried and wanted to access were blocked by the school content filter. Most teachers said their districts did NOT allow them to “bapass the filter” with their own logins, as teachers can in my own school district. Stories like these absolutely break my heart, and make me wish I could wave a magic wand to immediately grant school superintendents, principals, and other district administrators VISION for digital literacy and the school policies required to empower digital publishing as well as creativity. Alas, my magical powers still remain limited when it comes to things like this.

I’ve written at length in the past about the problem of school leaders and school IT officials “over-filtering the web” for teacher and student access, and started BalancedFiltering.org as well as the “Unmasking the Digital Truth” websites to try and help others struggling with these situations in their schools. I want to continue seeking to identify and advocate for strategies which can help leaders “get it” when it comes to digital learning and the critical relationship content filtering (or over-filtering) plays in building a culture of educational blended learning. Thursday’s workshop made me revisit these ideas and pore over different options for balanced filtering advocacy yet again.

Introducing Tony Vincent

In the afternoon portion of Thursday’s iPad workshop, I showed teachers a fantastic, recent video podcast by Tony Vincent (@tonyvinent) as we discussed new features for teachers in iOS 8.

As I explained to the teachers in the workshop, not only was I showing them this video because it contains great information for teachers, but more importantly, because it provided an opportunity for them to “virtually meet” Tony Vincent. It’s FAR more powerful to introduce an educator to an innovative teacher like Tony than “just” teach a new app or skill. If you haven’t seen that video from Tony and you use iOS devices, take 11 minutes and watch it. Also follow Tony on Twitter and subscribe to his fantastic blog, “Learning in Hand.”

Small, Practical, Quick Victories

I first heard Marco Torres use the term “quick victories” to describe simple and practical uses of educational technology which teachers can use tomorrow in the classroom. The easiest thing to do in any workshop or session about iPads in the classroom, whether it lasts 45 minutes or 3 days, is to share an overwhelming number of apps with attendees. While I definitely wanted to introduce teachers to a variety of useful apps on Thursday, I didn’t want to replicate the “50 apps in 50 minutes” style of presentations that are often popular at educational technology events. That said, I also wanted to share small, practical, “quick victory” ideas using iPad apps that teachers could apply immediately afterwards. I think this approach worked and was well received. Some of the apps which fit into this category Thursday included QR Code Beamer, Cel.ly, and security apps including mSecure and 1Password.

“Just Three Apps”

One of the first things I shared in Thursday’s workshop, after teaching everyone how to create an iPad “home screen web bookmark” with our Google Site curriculum page, was my “Just 3 Apps” page. These were the three most important apps that I hoped participants would try during the day and use after the workshop. These were/are FlipBoard, YouTube Capture and Book Creator.

Turn, Pair & Share

The “Turn, Pair and Share” learning strategy (also called “Think, Pair and Share”) is one of my favorites to use in my own classroom and in workshops. It gives people time to discuss new ideas (including apps) they are hearing about and process them more deeply. I used the built-in iOS clock stopwatch during these times of the workshop, along with the free app Timer+. (It features more exciting sounds that students like including an elephant and a “bugle charge.”

TodaysMeet Rocks

I love using interactive writing strategies and tools in workshops, and Thursday was no exception. We used a free TodaysMeet chat room to share ideas, ask questions, and in general “make our learning more visible to each other.” It worked great, even with almost 200 people in the room. I love TodaysMeet and highly recommend it. I am especially appreciative of the new features they added last year, giving more moderation power when you log into the site and create a room. Additional options for interactive writing with students (including TitanPad) are included on the “Interactive Writing” page of Mapping Media to the Curriculum.

Google Form WordPress for Quick eBook Download

For my workshop last week, I wanted to provide a fast way for participants to download one of my “eBook singles” for free on their iPads, but I wanted to collect their email addresses for my mailing list first. I did this successfully using a free Google form and the free WordPress plugin “Simple Download Monitor.” This worked great! Workshop participants clicked the form link, entered their email address, then clicked the provided link on the response page. They tapped to download the eBook, entered a password, and then tapped “Open in iBooks” on their iPads. These links (but not the password I provided verbally to workshop participants for the download) are available on the eBooks page of our workshop curriculum.

I Need a Book Table

My final lesson learned from last week’s iPad workshop was that I need to put together and travel with a visually appealing “book table” with paper copies of my books as well as electronic download cards. This was emphasized by several of the presenters on marketing for authors at the 2nd annual “Write Well, Sell Well” conference for writers and authors in Oklahoma City which I helped organize.

I don’t have this together yet, but I hope to by this summer!

Those are my ten “lessons learned” from last week’s iPad workshop in Kansas! If you’re interested in attending a similar workshop, I’ll be posting the summer 2015 schedule of 3 day workshops on iPadMediaCamp.com in the next couple weeks. You can also follow @ipadmediacamp on Twitter to stay up to date. At this point I’m tentatively planning to present 1 iPad Media Camp in July in Oklahoma City, another (hopefully) in Montana in July, and a third in Kansas in early August.

All the apps I shared with participants in last Thursday’s iCamp at KSU are linked on www.ipadwithwes.com/apps. Apps as well as referenced videos are linked within categories on our workshop Google Site.

* I first heard Maria Henderson use the term “home base website” at a conference in White Oak, Texas, in 2011. It’s a term I use constantly now and share with other teachers whenever I can! 

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One Response to 10 Things I Learned Teaching A Full Day iPad Workshop

  1. Tony Vincent says:

    It’s fun to see that I was a part of the workshop! Thanks for sharing your reflection on the day. It sounds like it was a great day of learning.

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