Have you ever seen the movie Hitch? It’s the one with Will Smith in which he plays a Casanova-like matchmaker with a heart of gold. (Maybe that’s how it was pitched to studio heads?) My favorite part is when Hitch (Smith) is teaching Albert (Kevin James) how to dance. Here’s a clip:

Albert believes dancing is the least of his problems, and Hitch is immediately suspicious. It’s all down hill once Albert showcases his moves.

After Hitch watches for a while with a disapproving stare, he tells Albert to never dance like that again. It’s clear Albert has at least two problems:

  1. He doesn’t have any developed dancing skills.
  2. He’s doing too much.

Hitch’s solution is simple: Keep it simple. Albert lets his enthusiasm get the best of him, and unfortunately it results in an outlandish mess. Hitch’s solution involves a short step back and forth with his elbows close to his body. The simplicity of this movement makes it possible for Albert to dance successfully with the woman he loves, and it leaves open the opportunity to later incorporate new moves as he learns them.

It’s important edtech leaders keep this approach in mind when helping teachers blend technology and instruction. Sometimes educators will receive 1:1 devices and act like Albert. Leaders need to gently show them how to keep it simple, for it’s only by starting with a strong foundation that a teacher will be able to successfully incorporate technology within a classroom.

“Shiny objects” are any software, hardware, or programs that can be implemented at a school site. Shiny objects aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves, but their use can be misguided based upon timing. In other words, MinecraftEdu might be OK to implement, but it could be a horrible time to do so.


So this is what I propose: Help teachers become proficient using Google Apps for Education–specifically Drive, Docs, Slides, and Classroom–before anything else. Once this is accomplished, teachers can begin implementing more. Cloud based software that allows students to produce and communicate is where all good 1:1 usage begins.

Keep it simple.

Stick with Google Apps for Education.

Be like Hitch.

Antifragility and 1:1 devices

It’s always been essential to avoid fragility and strive for robustness in one’s life and organizations. Examining what Nassim Nicholas Taleb has written (and what I’ve been blogging recently), robustness should be something for which we strive, but ultimately it’s not the goal. The goal is anitfragility. When a black swan event occurs, it’s only the antifragile people and systems that take the hit and become stronger.

For today’s exercise, think about an antifragile 1:1 deployment. Which device is most antifragile: an iPad, a Chromebook, or a device running the ubermix operating system?

The answer, at least right now, is the device running ubermix. Wi-Fi at many campuses across the country is extremely fragile. If it’s down, then the students can’t use the device to learn and produce. Many apps on iPads function this way, and Chromebook lose most of their functionality when there’s no internet connection. Ubermix has a wide range of educational apps that don’t need the internet. Also, there’s LibreOffice, which is a free office suite students can use when cloud-based programs are down.

Whether you’re a teacher planning a blended learning lesson or a superintendent planning a 1:1 deployment, Wi-Fi unfortunately injects fragility into your system (at least for now). It’s best to plan accordingly.

Apple, Scorsese, and blended learning

Here are Martin Scorsese’s words:

You can’t do your work according to other people’s values. I’m not talking about also ‘following your dream,’ either. I never liked the inspirational value of that phrase. Dreaming is a way of trivializing the process, the obsession that carries you through the failure as well as the successes which could be harder to get through.

I mean, if you’re dreaming, you’re sleeping, and it’s important and imperative to always be awake to your feelings, your possibilities, your ambitions. But you also know this, for your work, for your passion, every day is a rededication.

Painters, dancers, actors, writers, filmmakers, it’s the same for all of you, all of us. Every step is a first step, every brush stroke is a test, every scene is a lesson, every shot is a school. So, let the learning continue.

According to Mashable:

…the images tell the true tale of a collection of Los Angeles County High School for the Arts students who assigned to make a movie with an iPad. The one-minute spot features clips of various teams using the tablet to shoot and edit a variety of scenes.

Apparently, the spot was shot entirely on an iPad Air 2.

I know the commercial is going to really bother those who don’t like Apple. The reason I like it so much, in addition to being an Apple fan, is that it encapsulates why I work every day. The ad shows students creating movies, which means they’re learning about audio, visual, screenwriting, geography, editing software, collaboration, decision making, budgeting, time management, model plane flying, and a lot more. This is what blended learning is all about: Exploring multiple subjects by using technology as a tool to accomplish a goal. This is the process for engaging and effectively teaching young people in the 21st century. Throwing iPads and laptops at them is not enough; teachers need to lead them through the SAMR Model so that a redefinition of learning can occur.

Shining EdTech Examples

The Teachers’ Lounge website is what the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District has created for sharing information and best practices with educators. I recently mentioned the webinar that’s happening on March 5th where we’ll explain how Teachers’ Lounge has made strides toward building a community of support during a time of great change.

Unfortunately during the webinar, we probably won’t have much time to dig into the specifics of how a website can benefit educators within a district. I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the wonderful things teachers are accomplishing in PBVUSD, and how recording best practices on a website can help teachers gain insight regarding blended learning.

Teachers don’t have a lot of time to visit other classrooms–mainly because they have their own students to teach most of the day. I’m fortunate enough in my position to visit classrooms and see highly motivated educators shaping highly motivated students, and then I can share the experiences on Teachers’ Lounge. If you’re a teacher or administrator looking for effective ways to incorporate technology, here are some great examples:

  • Mr. Pinheiro’s classroom management and organization are a beauty to behold. If you’d like to learn about the wonders of Google Slides, Tab Management, and creative ways to house 1:1 devices, this link will be extremely helpful.
  • Ms. Torbert used a release day in an innovative and effective way. Instead of visiting each teacher’s classroom (the traditional method), she invited the teachers to her classroom during their prep time so they could observe her students using various programs in her classroom. She split the kids into stations of two or three students, and they demonstrated many great websites and online resources. If you’re an administrator looking for how teachers can train other teachers at a school site, check this out.
  • Ms. Camp is a shining example of how to successfully blend technology and instruction in the classroom. On Teachers’ Lounge, you’ll see her students use Class Dojo, GAfE, and Edmodo, as well as participate in some truly creative projects.
  • Mrs. Higgins optimizes the physical space in her classroom with whiteboards and couches so students have their own places to problem solve and learn. She also uses a wide-range of educational programs such as GAfE, Padlet, That Quiz, Front Row, and Edmodo, which moves her toward ‘Redefinition’ on the SAMR Model.
  • Mr. Goings’s instruction takes blended learning to a new and improved level. This lesson is based upon a perplexing question: “If I were going to stack Big Macs, one on top of another, how many of them would I need to reach the moon?” This prompts the students to ask many questions in order to solve the problem. If you have time, I recommend checking out this page.
  • Mrs. Tiffin has a paperless classroom, so her students use the 1:1 devices and GAfE to learn, collaborate, and create. Here’s a lesson where she teaches how to write an objective summary of a text. This is a great example of how to use devices in a junior high ELA classroom.

A website can become the central hub for connectivity and best practice resources. Without Teachers’ Lounge, YouTube, and a willingness to share, none of the above links would be possible. School districts must use the tools at hand to give teachers glimpses of what it looks like in other classrooms. This will help all educators become confident in blended learning strategies.