Category Archives: Blended Learning

Device Management 101

By Tanesha Dixon April 10th, 2014 4:45 PM

Some teachers see laptops or the iPad cart as the Holy Grail, a silver bullet that will somehow magically solve their differentiation, efficiency, and engagement problems in one fell swoop.  There are others who see technology integration as the bane of their existence, either because it distracts from learning or is another item on their To-Do List to address and master to be deemed competent.  Whether you look at educational technology with delight or dread, one thing is certain given the demands of the Common Core State Standards. You (or someone who works closely with you), will have to develop, learn, practice, and perfect your device management strategy.

For the last two years, my classroom has been a 1:1 environment.  I recognize that each school and classroom is different, but I want to give you Tanesha’s Top Ten Checklist for device management. Whether you have just a few devices in your room or you’re lucky enough to be 1:1, consider these topics, and most importantly, customize a plan that suits the needs of you and your learners.

#1 Institute a check in/check out procedure.

What is the procedure in your classroom for students to retrieve and return devices? Will you do it, or will you task this to students? How long will this process take? In my classroom, I use a template with student’s names in a report cover as a sign out sheet.  Two extremely helpful and responsible students are in charge of calling no more than 4 students at a time to the cart to retrieve/return their device.  One student is responsible for the checklist and the other manages and oversees the handling of the devices.  As their teacher, this is also my time to model and let students practice the expectations around carrying devices.

#2 Assign devices to students (for each class).

Worried that something inappropriate may happen on a device? Use your check in/check out list to assign devices to students.  This limits confusion and allows students to take ownership over “their” devices.

Ms. Dixon's Checkout List

                Ms. Dixon’s Checkout List

Send me an email or message on twitter for a soft copy of this document.

#3 (Re)configure devices.

If there is no IT department at your school, you will need professional development on how to network, configure and/or manage the software or applications on the devices.  How do you plan to update/install software or push applications to the devices? Believe it or not, YouTube and Apple have really good videos on these topics.  If you are totally clueless about the terms in this section, contact your District IT support and they will guide you to the appropriate resources.

Examples of this software can be found at Cult of Mac or Google Chrome

#4 Protect your devices from scratches, dust, or other wear and tear.

Hardware is a huge investment, not only in your student’s learning, but also financially. Consider if, or how, you will protect your investment.  Training your students on how to carry and properly handle their devices is a great start, but what about those “Oops” and accidental moments? While a bit pricey, hard shell cases are a good investment to protect your devices from scratches, dust, or other wear and tear.  Skins can also serve both a fashion and functional purpose. 

Ipad Skins

             Ipad Skins

#5 Find a secure place to store devices when not in use.

School districts are doing a better job of installing tracking software on their devices, but you can prevent theft yourself by using taking a few simple measures. Consider using a cart with a padlock or storing your cart in a secure location like a locked closet.

#6 Have a (re)charging schedule for your devices.

The vast majority of devices on the market will purport to have a battery that will seemingly last an entire school day.  However, with frequent use by students, the reality is that the devices will need to charge at some point during the school day.  When will you charge the devices so students will have a fully functional device? If you have the budget, you can splurge on a cart that charges the devices on a timer.  Those of us working with a tight budget can plan to use lunch, planning period, or morning duty to give devices a quick charge.

#7 Invest in materials to properly clean and disinfect devices/peripherals.

Shout out to the germophobes.  With all of the hands (including yours from time to time) that will handle a device within the span of a school day, you want to make sure your hardware doesn’t become a haven for things that could potentially make someone ill.  Please, invest in proper cleaning materials for your hardware! This will not only maintain the aesthetic quality of your devices, but also ensure they remain safe for student use.  Looking for a way to engage your students?  Recruit student helpers and put them on a schedule to clean and disinfect your devices and/or peripherals.

#8 Have a Fair Use or Acceptable Use Policy Agreement.

No need to reinvent the wheel here.  If your district or school already has a Fair or Acceptable Use Policy Agreement for students, be sure your learners have read, understood and signed this document.  I use an electronic form in my class using resources from various sources to give students practice filling in forms and to introduce Google Drive. I know in real time and have an electronic copy of student responses.

#9 Student training on established classroom management terminology.

There are a few key moments in class where you may need to establish classroom management terminology.  My advice: be consistent, teach, and model procedures.  For example, you may develop an “attention” or “quiet” signal.  If it is a tablet, you may come up with something like, “Screens down.” For laptops, I use the directive “Clamshell”.

#10 Communicate this plan to stakeholders.

Last but definitely not least, share your plan with the stakeholders in your school community.  They may have additional topics or tips for you to consider.  Additionally, with all of the great work you will be doing in your classroom, the work will undoubtedly scale throughout the school and everyone should speak a common language and be on one accord to ensure the proper care is taken to maintain and extend the life of your devices. 

What is your best device management advice? Send your tips or comments to Tanesha’s Top Ten.  You can also follow Tanesha on Twitter @i143ss.


Innovation is Not an Option, It is a Must!

 By Sara Arranz April 9th, 2014 5:30 PM

As my former principal used to say: “Success is not an option, it is a must. I’ve carried this mindset with me to my current position, and I feel that I have to and I can do much more for DCPS. We need all students to be successful, and I believe that innovation is the answer.

When I went to California for my first trip as an Education Innovation Fellow, I kept the following lines from the DCPS Capital Commitment in my mind:

“Our five-year strategic plan, A Capital Commitment, provides a roadmap for building DCPS into a high-quality, vibrant school district that earns the confidence of our community. With this strategic plan, we recommit DCPS to providing every student with a safe, academically challenging, and inspiring learning experience by 2017.”

In California, we were exposed to teachers, leaders, schools, and communities who are changing their practice in order to improve results. We saw teachers who are creating well-organized and planned stations to personalize student learning. We talked and listened to leaders who are modeling teaching for their staff so that they can improve their teaching practices and reach new levels of leadership. We met with families who are involved in their schools so their investment can positively impact their children’s progress.

Been able to observe, listen, and live the innovation experience that I just described was enlightening and empowering. In fact, it was probably the best experience of my educational career. Now I am ready to see how our strategic plan at DCPS can take place in my own school.

Here are a few ways that I want to innovate in my practice to help my school achieve these goals:

1. Provide students with a safe place and develop a shared vision for our children. In our school community, both parents and educators want their children to be safe and free from harm. We want them to have a permanent family who will be there for them for the rest of their lives.

We have made a lot of progress on these goals in DCPS. Engaged parents are essential to eliminating the achievement gap, and we work with our parents to help them become powerful advocates for their children and their communities. As teachers, we can do more work directly with parents, helping them become leaders at home, in the school, and in their communities. I have seen different methods of this, and every teacher and school can find the one that fits their reality.

Ultimately, the parents in California and my parents at Cleveland have something in common: They love helping in the school because they feel they are showing their children they care about their success.

2. Keep course work academically challenging. Every student sees challenge differently and it is my job as their teacher to respond to what they need. By innovating with the methodology and personalizing the experience, I am able to teach to 20 students at their own pace. It sounds ambitious, but let me share one of my models that works: In a classroom, students rotate across differentiated learning stations on a specific schedule. Stations often include: (a) small group instruction by the teacher, (b) collaborative or independent practice, and (c) self- directed, online activities. There are programs online where students can find activities adapted to their level and follow their own progress by the offered data.

3. Utilize new online learning programs! Online programming takes us to the “inspiring” part of the learning experience that we want to achieve at DCPS. There are many companies working on these online tools, and they are creating data-based effective programs that will empower us, the teachers. A parent/care giver can educate his/herself and know more about his/her child’s learning. A teacher along with parents can present the world to his students by using the online resources available both at home and at school. This is why, again, coordination and communication with families is key.  If we are excited and responsible in how we use technology for learning, the future of education is ours to create.

It is OK to Try and… Fail!

By Sara Arranz February 12th, 2014 4:00 PM

We, as teachers, may have the lesson planned, the standards posted, the goals clear, the materials set up, and students who are ready to learn. Everything may seem perfect in the morning… but suddenly something happens and nothing occurs as expected.

Lets visualize the situation: You are at a station with your students and something is telling you, “This is not working, my students are not engaged, nor focused, nor motivated, and they need something else. But what?!”

It took me a while to realize that every time this happens, I need to change something different: the pace, time, method, strategy, material or location of that activity, and it has to be at that very moment, without any delay. We cannot wait until the end of the activity when this happens, and we must observe and use our creativity to change the situation.

Thanks to DCPS, I am one of the lucky teachers participating in this year’s Education Innovation Fellowship sponsored by the CityBridge Foundation. This fellowship exposed me to a book by Eric Ries titled The Lean Start Up, which outlines how to build and sustain entrepreneurial businesses.

Many of these lessons also apply to schools, helping me to verbalize those changes that I was already making in my practice. The changes taking place in my lessons were innovations, and they were happening constantly. We teachers are entrepreneurs, and we are creating new things every second. With this comes additional risk, and failing is OK. As Eric Ries says in his book, if we notice that a strategy is not working as it’s supposed to, we can always pivot and find a better one.

What is not OK is to claim that, if an activity planned did not work, it was because the students were not ready. We must find the way to get them ready to learn, and we are the ones responsible for motivating them by using different methods. We have to try and test, see and change, adopt when it works and adapt when it does not.

The best thing about this kind of method is that we are supported. There are resources out there waiting for us to use them meaningfully. New technologies are one of the best. While some might say, “I use computers in my classroom, tables, the smart board…and my lessons are still failing,” we are talking about two different things here.

When I talk about technology, I am focusing on:

  1. How we use these resources
  2. The control of the use of these resources

I am talking about blended learning. There are four main models, all of which incorporate a combination of teacher-based instruction with digital-based instruction. I just started to learn about this type of learning, and I already know that this is the way to improve both my practice and my students’ way of learning.

As Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael B. Horn say in the subtitle of their book, “Disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns.” It may sound “disruptive” and extremely uncertain, but isn’t that what makes us entrepreneurs? so we must change the way that teachers teach in order to make our method the one that is most effective and successful.

Sara Arranz is a pre-kindergarten Spanish immersion teacher at Cleveland Elementary School.