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I have attended a variety of education conferences where the sessions discuss “My Top 50 Favorite Apps in 50 Minutes” or the “Top 10 Apps for Maths”. Although it was interesting to discover the existence of these apps, I noticed such sessions only seemed to describe the ‘what’ as opposed to the ‘why’ for the attendee. Without understanding this fundamental aspect, educators could struggle to find ways to utilise apps in the classroom and they will fail to resonate with their students. 

'Without understanding this fundamental aspect, educators could struggle to find ways to utilise apps in the classroom and they will fail to resonate with their students'

The usefulness of an app is determined by the chosen rubric; with the majority currently covering key concepts such as age appropriateness, areas of concentration and grade range. While these definitions are all important, the two greatest needs new apps must be measured by are the ability to promote critical thinking and to improve classroom workflows through the personalisation of learning.

In general, and the basis for an initial litmus test, is to evaluate the potential to learn critical thinking skills. For this check, we could use the 4C's model, communication, collaboration, create, and critical thinking. Ultimately the goal is to transform learning so that we empower students with the ability to do something they couldn’t have achieved without the technology. 

This is where Apple has really understood they ways in which we learn. When you look at the Apple ecosystem, you see the potential for greatness, to go beyond simple collaboration and communication, so that students can be creative and challenged to use critical thinking skills. The iPad provides amazing apps that can take advantage and bring a transformational experience. 

Here are a few examples of Apple apps that consider the 4Cs as well as why they are perfect for classroom adoption: 

Texas Instruments, TI-Nspire

TI-Nspire is graphing calculator that makes maths fun. While some could consider TI-Nspire an expensive graphing calculator app, students can manipulate objects, get a multidimensional view and manipulate dynamically linked representations of concepts. For example, in one simulation which has a skate boarder on an infinitely adjustable course, the student can test a course’s potential energy on the set track and then switch to simulate the same test on the moon or a planet with less gravity. Another key aspect is the app’s ability to load specific files targeted to a math or science concept with examples, models, simulations, and assessments. There are hundreds of pre-made files but there is the ability for the teacher to add or modify material as needed.

Skaffl

Skaffl allows teachers to distribute and collect assignments from students seamlessly and offers several key classroom workflows supporting digital lessons. There is the ability for distributing and collecting assignments, teacher markup and teacher-to-student and student-to-teacher communication throughout the process. Within Skaffl there is even the ability for a teacher to check and see progress being made by a specific student. 

eSparks

eSparks offers a variety of features such as personalised plans for pupils, content delivery to pupils’ iPads and tools for teachers to monitor pupils’ progress. One of the most exciting features is the personalised plans – which are assigned based upon assessments and which target specific areas that student needs to work on. Once the app is not needed, the app can be reclaimed and reused for another student. Not only is this an amazing way to personalise in a “just-in-time” manner, the number of apps needed can also be drastically reduced.  

ScreenChomp 

Supporting all 4C’s, ScreenChomp lets students and teachers record both their actions and voice. It’s an excellent way for student to demonstrate their understanding, share this with other students and other teachers. Both students and teachers can use the basic white board mode or annotate over the top of an image. Since the image could be of a specific problem or assignment, a teacher might use the tool to explain or clarify a concept. Students can describe a difficulty they are having or even explain a concept to another student. Explaining to others, especially to help someone who is experiencing difficulty is a sure way to bring out a deeper level of understanding for the student explaining the concept. 

iMovie

iMovie is terrific platform for bringing out creative ways to demonstrate understanding and piece together various forms of multimedia. It facilitates  combining contributions from multiple students, perfect for  project based learning and group projects.  This app has the potential to bring to life still images with the Ken Burns effect, where it appear as if the camera is sweeping across (panning) the photo or drawing nearer or farther away (zooming), overlaying the voice to a script, or by linking in video interviews with subject matter experts. Beyond fostering isolated 4C actives, iMovie students can blend them together for a more creative collaboration environment.

App Management

It is time we hold apps to a higher standard – where it should be expected that transformation is the desired goal. Apps that support higher order thinking and classroom workflows that support the digital shift, will lead to transformational and personalised learning for more students. Finding the right app is only the beginning – a comprehensive device and app management strategy will help support the teacher in rolling out their app initiatives in a class-to-school approach. 

W: www.jamfsoftware.com

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Success stories of leadership with mobile learning often highlight best practices that encourage starting with clear instructional goals and including a wide range of stake holders in all aspects of planning. Beyond a focus on the why and who to include,  top priorities for successful programs must set realistic expectations on gradual change to teaching practices.  There is a need to provide resources to create the conditions for gradual change in the evolving role of teachers.  It is also time to place a spotlight on the complex challenge – how teachers can work, not compete, with technology to keep students engaged. 

There is concern and speculation by some that teachers will struggle to keep pace with tech-savvy pupils and that technology could lead to ‘deschooling’, where digital technology could effectively replace all of the structures and functions of traditional education. Unfortunately, these concerns are not always being addressed, creating hesitation to the integration of technology in schools. The truth is that education technology cannot be successful in keeping students engaged without the endorsement from a teacher. In reality, technology will not replace teachers, but teachers that use technology will replace teachers that don’t. (Clifford, 1987)

The much-loved human element of teaching is still required. Keeping students engaged is no mean feat and while digital content, gamification and technology can help make learning more interesting and engaging – there is a need for a teacher to help guide and counsel the student and understand which content can be best leveraged digitally for the best results. Beyond even being facilitators, today teachers are become activators of learning. As such, education technology should be considered as smart asset for teachers to use – helping to reduce their pressures.  Apple’s decision to make changes to the way applications can be deployed for iPads in classrooms to help IT administrators and teachers, is a step in the right direction.

To increase success, we must understand how to implement technology for teaching with a strategy. To deliver wide scale adoption, many programs start with a smaller group of teachers, helping them to find a way to use technology to adapt traditional instructional learning content into digital content. Included within this group needs to be teachers that are not necessarily early adopters. Too often pilot programs only involve highly tech savvy teacher who do not represent the larger group of teachers who are willing, but have hesitations. We have seen the use of digital content manifest into new learning methods such as the flipped classroom, where students can learn theoretical aspects of the lesson outside of the classroom to save time, and then enjoy the practical aspects of the course in class or ask the teacher questions. Consequently, more personalised learning experiences can be formed with the help of technology.

Once a strategy is in place, teachers and IT admin can roll out technology, digital content and apps to a classroom, then an entire year and eventually an entire school. Including resources that support the needs of teachers identified as “hesitant” will provide credibility in the program. Giving non-early adopters a voice might be as simple as them highlighting ways the use of technology will save time rather than steal time. These teacher will be able to validate practical ways to support teachers in changing practice from less lecture and teacher lead and still include ways to transition from one learning mode to another. It may be a slow and gradual process but it will allow time for teachers and IT admin to understand and monitor usage and make tweaks to the strategy in a manageable way.  Teachers will play a role in the roll out of technology and apps and so a device management solution can help them to manage what can and can’t be accessed by students to provide content and resource tailored for each students as well as which current applications can be used to boost productivity levels.

It’s time we move the conversation about education technology on from how teachers might  struggle or even resist adjusting teaching practices to one where we can discuss how we can help provide resources to teachers  to drive education technology adoption in schools. 

W: www.jamfsoftware.com

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It’s no secret that the rapid evolution of technology and the rise of the digital classroom has changed the face of education, from advancing the way teachers do their jobs to the way students learn. While advances in technology have broadened the possibilities in education, it has also put more strain on IT departments and teachers that are adapting to this new culture. With more digital devices in the classroom today than ever before, it is crucial that teachers have access to technology that can save them time and reduce stress, while ensuring a positive learning environment for students.

Mobile device management tools put tasks that were previously handled by IT directly in the hands of teachers. Without these tools, teachers have to alert the IT department every time an issue – such as a student being locked out of their mobile device due to a forgotten passcode – arises.

By putting the right tools directly in the hands of teachers, they are able to regain valuable teaching time, mass customise and personalise learning, and provide secure testing scenarios. This allows teachers to spend less time waiting for IT to save the day and more time on enriching students’ learning experiences by doing what they have set out to do: teach.

Today, most schools are focused on providing classroom management capabilities to the small percentage of digital classroom early-adopter teachers. In order for more teachers to embrace technology the way these early adopters have, education institutions need a shift in emphasis to pay more attention to that larger percentage of non-tech savvy teaching staff. To understand the needs of both technology veteran and novice educators, their three greatest challenges must be taken into account:

1. Providing mass customisation and personalisation of learning

The traditional technology model involves a structured annual schedule that mandates when mobile devices in the classroom are collected and new software is added. It is not easily customisable for each student’s unique needs in an age when teachers are being asked to mass customise and personalise student learning. With mobile device management tools, teachers can easily update and install apps and content to cater to each student’s individual learning needs. For example, if a student is passionate about a certain subject and shows a strong desire to learn more beyond what was discussed in the classroom, a teacher can provide them with access to a book on that subject on their mobile device. A student with a learning disability such as dyslexia can be granted quicker, easier access to visual learning software apps. Teachers are not only able to customise devices up front, but also at a moment’s notice. As teachers are given the ability to decide when it is the right time to install and update apps, they create a more meaningful experience for the student.

2. Chaos in the classroom

Today’s teachers will tell you that having a chaotic classroom environment is the single biggest challenge they face when trying to control student mobile devices in the classroom. Without the proper tools at their disposal allowing them to seamlessly manage transitions from one task to the next, attempting to seize the attention of students and provide brief instructions can take up a significant amount of time. This can be especially difficult for non-tech savvy teachers, who are already struggling with the challenge of managing the digital classroom.

With an effective mobile device management tool, teachers can easily control the apps that students are able to access on their devices, ensuring that they are actively engaged with the appropriate assignment. Therefore teachers can save time being empowered to unlock, restrict or enable devices in the classroom. In this way, technology becomes a time saver and not a time waster for the teacher.

3. Providing secure testing scenarios

Juggling the desire to provide each student with customised content with the need for equity in the classroom can be a tricky balancing act. Educators often have doubts about changing their instructional practice from paper to digital because they want to preserve a secure, fair testing environment. Mobile device management tools enable teachers to create a comfortable and consistent environment that ensures fair testing. By locking student devices into a secure testing app, teachers can ensure consistency in learning environments by providing simplified support for both daily quizzes and large scale exams.

Educators in today’s digital classroom need tools that allow them to do all the things they did before the advent of the digital classroom, in a way that doesn’t require them to spend extra time learning how to use the technology. The job of technology in education is to create the conditions for success, for both the teacher and student. In the schools, colleges and universities delivering solutions that save teachers time and provide students with unique learning experiences, everybody wins.

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I have attended a variety of education conferences where the sessions discuss “My Top 50 Favorite Apps in 50 Minutes” or the “Top 10 Apps for Maths”. Although it was interesting to discover the existence of these apps, I noticed such sessions only seemed to describe the ‘what’ as opposed to the ‘why’ for the attendee. Without understanding this fundamental aspect, educators could struggle to find ways to utilise apps in the classroom and they will fail to resonate with their students. 

'Without understanding this fundamental aspect, educators could struggle to find ways to utilise apps in the classroom and they will fail to resonate with their students'

The usefulness of an app is determined by the chosen rubric; with the majority currently covering key concepts such as age appropriateness, areas of concentration and grade range. While these definitions are all important, the two greatest needs new apps must be measured by are the ability to promote critical thinking and to improve classroom workflows through the personalisation of learning.

In general, and the basis for an initial litmus test, is to evaluate the potential to learn critical thinking skills. For this check, we could use the 4C's model, communication, collaboration, create, and critical thinking. Ultimately the goal is to transform learning so that we empower students with the ability to do something they couldn’t have achieved without the technology. 

This is where Apple has really understood they ways in which we learn. When you look at the Apple ecosystem, you see the potential for greatness, to go beyond simple collaboration and communication, so that students can be creative and challenged to use critical thinking skills. The iPad provides amazing apps that can take advantage and bring a transformational experience. 

Here are a few examples of Apple apps that consider the 4Cs as well as why they are perfect for classroom adoption: 

Texas Instruments, TI-Nspire

TI-Nspire is graphing calculator that makes maths fun. While some could consider TI-Nspire an expensive graphing calculator app, students can manipulate objects, get a multidimensional view and manipulate dynamically linked representations of concepts. For example, in one simulation which has a skate boarder on an infinitely adjustable course, the student can test a course’s potential energy on the set track and then switch to simulate the same test on the moon or a planet with less gravity. Another key aspect is the app’s ability to load specific files targeted to a math or science concept with examples, models, simulations, and assessments. There are hundreds of pre-made files but there is the ability for the teacher to add or modify material as needed.

Skaffl

Skaffl allows teachers to distribute and collect assignments from students seamlessly and offers several key classroom workflows supporting digital lessons. There is the ability for distributing and collecting assignments, teacher markup and teacher-to-student and student-to-teacher communication throughout the process. Within Skaffl there is even the ability for a teacher to check and see progress being made by a specific student. 

eSparks

eSparks offers a variety of features such as personalised plans for pupils, content delivery to pupils’ iPads and tools for teachers to monitor pupils’ progress. One of the most exciting features is the personalised plans – which are assigned based upon assessments and which target specific areas that student needs to work on. Once the app is not needed, the app can be reclaimed and reused for another student. Not only is this an amazing way to personalise in a “just-in-time” manner, the number of apps needed can also be drastically reduced.  

ScreenChomp 

Supporting all 4C’s, ScreenChomp lets students and teachers record both their actions and voice. It’s an excellent way for student to demonstrate their understanding, share this with other students and other teachers. Both students and teachers can use the basic white board mode or annotate over the top of an image. Since the image could be of a specific problem or assignment, a teacher might use the tool to explain or clarify a concept. Students can describe a difficulty they are having or even explain a concept to another student. Explaining to others, especially to help someone who is experiencing difficulty is a sure way to bring out a deeper level of understanding for the student explaining the concept. 

iMovie

iMovie is terrific platform for bringing out creative ways to demonstrate understanding and piece together various forms of multimedia. It facilitates  combining contributions from multiple students, perfect for  project based learning and group projects.  This app has the potential to bring to life still images with the Ken Burns effect, where it appear as if the camera is sweeping across (panning) the photo or drawing nearer or farther away (zooming), overlaying the voice to a script, or by linking in video interviews with subject matter experts. Beyond fostering isolated 4C actives, iMovie students can blend them together for a more creative collaboration environment.

App Management

It is time we hold apps to a higher standard – where it should be expected that transformation is the desired goal. Apps that support higher order thinking and classroom workflows that support the digital shift, will lead to transformational and personalised learning for more students. Finding the right app is only the beginning – a comprehensive device and app management strategy will help support the teacher in rolling out their app initiatives in a class-to-school approach. 

W: www.jamfsoftware.com

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Solutions for education. Power the digital classroom with Apple and JAMF Software
Our Casper Suite and Casper Focus tools make it easy for schools to unleash the power of Apple technologies in the classroom giving IT managers a robust way to manage all Apple computers and devices under their control, while ensuring faculty and students enjoy the rich and intuitive end-user experience that the Apple platform is known for worldwide.
And with the Casper Suite, educational institutions can take full advantage of Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP) & Volume Purchase Program (VPP) services to manage devices, software, and eBooks. Register today for one of our weekly open demos of the Casper Suite.
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