Apple Education Event

Today I was at an Apple Education Event, organised by Toucan at the Apple European Briefing Centre above the Regent Street Apple Store. The venue is a bit like a private Apple Store, with all the various Apple products laid out on wooden benches in the refreshments area, and then a mid-sized meeting room with big screens and swivel chairs. Very swish!

The day was composed of an opening Apple Spiel (pretty much exactly the same as the other Apple Events I’ve been to, ie. how mobile technology is changing the face of education and how Apple stuff is supremely place to capitalise this) and then various speakers from schools who’ve used iPads. One stand-out feature from the opening ‘on-message’ part was the power of iTunes U. Schools, and even just individual teachers, can create private courses and manage all the content that students access. The iPad in a sense becomes a VLE (virtual learning environment), offering something far richer and more useful than the horror that is Fronter. I hope to look into this very soon, particularly as a way to get the Y5&6 teachers using their iPads.

The rest of the presentations seem like a bit of a blur now, but here are some of the highlights which stand out:

  • Other methods can work, but it seems that a one-to-one deployment of iPads is the best and most productive way. I’d really like to see somewhere where this is happening and grill them over the details. It’s not something that is ruled out for our school, but the case has got to be strong.
  • Cedars School of Excellence (home of Fraser Speirs and the first ever 1:1 iPad deployment in the world) got a mention, including a natty little video explaining what they’d done. All the kid’s iPads weren’t in cases though – apparently Apple asked for them to be removed in the video!
  • Meraki got a mention as a way of managing loads of iPads. I really want to look into this, as it is apparently free! The mention was from a large international school, in the process of deploying 600 or so iPads, so it can’t be that bad.
  • There were lots of different apps demonstrated, some with more success than others. It seems that the recommendation is to find the ‘core’ apps for your school and really use them effectively, rather than buying gazillions of apps. Interestingly, content creation apps really are the key ones (ie. iLife and iWork titles plus things like Comic Life or Book Creator).
  • DIY charge and sync solutions also got a mention. It was nice to hear someone also balking at the thought of spending £1000 to sync and charge 16 iPads when a more homespun solution works pretty much as well.
  • The newly announced VPP programme (Volume Purchase Programme) was talked about a few times too. I’m glad it’s here but probably won’t be using it until June 2013 when further iPads are deployed.

I guess I’ve come away feeling a little overwhelmed at the enormity of the task of getting these iPads to really work in a school, but also the huge potential they hold in transforming children’s learning. I hope that we get it right!

Video Central now takes .m4v

LGfL offer a great video hosting service for schools called Video Central, which allows schools and children to upload video work for private or public sharing. All was well until I discovered that the latest iMovie now exports its videos by default in the .mp4 format. Which Video Central didn’t accept.

Now, you can pretty easily convert these video files into a .mov file (which they do accept) using QuickTime, but this is one extra layer of complexity that we could all do without. So I thought I would send some feedback about this via LGfL’s webmaster, only to then be told that they’ve now included the .m4v format. Joy!

Simple

“It used to be ‘simple when you know how’ but now it’s just ‘simple.'” That’s how Abdul Chohan from Essa Academy summed up making use of the Apple ecosystem in his school (AppleTV, iPod Touch, iPad and Mac). However, watching one Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) try and demonstrate an iPad workflow to a room of beginners made me think that using iPads in schools is not always as easy as one might think.

The South London Apple Education Leadership Summit was pretty good fun though. It was held at the Kia Oval, with fantastic views of the cricket ground (and cricketers) as we drank coffee beforehand on a sunny balcony. Great hospitality and very friendly delegates.

The events started with an Apple spiel, explaining Apple’s commitment to education right from the beginning and how the iPad is part of the disruptive post-PC world. I’m not sure quite how true the historical sketch was, but I liked the comparison to the introduction of the printing press (One book per student? Are people crazy?). There was also the emphasis of the 4 sources of content for the iPad – web, iTunes U, iBooks and App Store. I am eager to get my hands on iTunes U a bit more once we get some iPads in!

Then came a case study from the principal of Fitch Green Primary in Essex. She showed loads of clips and videos of the impressive work children had been doing with Apple devices. It was very inspiring (sickeningly even!). She talked about the importance of getting children to think and mentioned how the National Curriculum has, in a sense, deskilled teachers as they don’t have to think as much. Perhaps.

Joe Moretti, an ADE, then talked us through lots of different apps we had on our (Apple-supplied) iPads. The wireless USB microscope was pretty cool.

A brief introduction to a new purchase programme then followed, which allows parents to contribute to a school hire-purchasing iPads. This includes a very comprehensive insurance package as well. Might be something to look into…

Before and after lunch was a hands-on workshop about the iPad from another ADE. I went to the ‘introduction to the iPad’, which was I think aimed at those who had never really touched an iPad before. It was quite helpful for seeing how to introduce the iPad to members of staff. There were quite a few questions about the practicalities of deploying iPads and quite a lot of confusion about getting files on and off iPads. DropBox was promoted highly as a solution to this, but it still seems pretty fangled to me. Maybe I need to look into it more.

One thing that particularly interested me was a mac app called Reflection. This allows an iPad to be mirrored to the screen of a Mac, wirelessly. It’s only $15 and could well be a cheaper solution to an AppleTV. My concern with the AppleTV is that it’s adding one more layer of complexity with the projectors – switching sound sources on amps, changing the projector channel etc. If it works, that would be awesome!

The event closed with a talk from Abdul. He covered much ground to what he said in January, but put in a bit more detail about how they use the iPod touches that they have deployed to every child. What struck me was how they always ask ‘why’ when evaluating traditional education technology (such as the über-expensive IWB) and spend the savings they make on Apple kit instead. Nice.

I came away feeling that it was a useful time, but now I think I want to go to a more super-technical Apple event. They did say they would be trying to organise one, so we shall see.

Learning with Apple

I’m currently on the bus, on my way to the South London Apple Education Leadership Summit… should be fun! There’s very much going to be an iPad focus, which is good as I want to really get my head around the best way to deploy, use and manage iPads in a school. I’m not sure how technical it will be, but hopefully there will be some techy people there for me to interrogate.

LGfL at the Mermaid (pt.III)

The last session of the LGfL conference was an update about the LGfL 2.0 migration. Basically, it’s a big job and it’s taking longer than we expected but will result in a faster, more secure and more resilient broadband connection for schools. Yay! One guy even tried enlivening his presentation by including Disney quotes. Fair dos.

The final 10 minutes or so was a very short presentation from Roger Larsen, the founder of Fronter. He gave a blistering tour of the history of education, starting with the Gutenberg press, through the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution to the computer revolution of the last 30 years. It was a bit similar to the metanarrative I heard at the Apple European Summit, only without mention of who invented all those computers. The contrast between the classroom of 100 years ago and today was also mentioned, albeit uncritical of the seeming lack of real change because we now have the data projector screen which lets you view your MLE (i.e. Fronter). Hmmm!

So, what did I make of the conference? I guess, because LGfL fundamentally is a broadband provider, the unspoken emphasis was on all the wonderful educational things you can do with the Internet. Conversely, the paradigm shift that the iPad is causing was hardly mentioned at all, maybe just in passing. A web browser is all well and good, but the interesting things are happening when you combine native software and web services (i.e. iOS).

However, LGfL (with Virgin Media and Atomwide) are doing a super job of providing broadband+services for schools in London and it was certainly interesting to hear more about that.

And I got a free mug.

LGfL at the Mermaid (pt.II)

Here’s some of the other things I heard today…

Best Value Technology

Helpful insights from Paul Shoesmith on how to make the most of your money and ICT resources in schools. Some of his suggestions:

  • Use what’s in your cupboards already. That USB webcam could also make a cheap visualiser!
  • Think about your total cost of ownership before buying. Cheaper upfront may not be in the long term, i.e. cheaper printer but expensive toner.
  • Paper. Huge amounts of money is wasted on printing that is unnecessary. In what ways could schools go paperless and save money?

‘Leading Creatively Costs Nothing’

The CEO of the Pearson Group came and talked about the importance of creativity. It was quite inspiring really, although trickier to put into practice due to the limitations and structures of our current schooling system. I loved her accounts of how six-year-olds might finish well-known sayings. For example: Strike while the…bug’s near. Don’t bite the hand…that’s dirty. A penny saved…is not much.

Anyway. Stuck for creativity? Go for a walk. Put things aside. Make links between unlikely concepts. Ask “What can go right?” when calculating risks.

LGfL Content Highlights

Showcasing new content on LGfL, such as Royal Mews and Romans in London. Not bad!

E-safety 360 Scheme

Ken Corish from South West Grid for Learning talked about a school self-assessment for e-safety called 360 degree safe. It seems pretty thorough and can result in an official ‘E-safety Mark’ for your school as well.

Fronter Updates

This was quite interesting, with lots of information about where Fronter is headed. They seem to be making it more attractive to look at and easier to use. Good news indeed!

More to follow…