Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two Apps Go Mainstream at Mercy -- iAnnotate PDF and Socrative

During our Conversation with Colleagues in November, I was amazed to hear four colleagues from three departments (Science, English and Social Studies), simply raving about one of our iPad apps.  The were describing iAnnotate PDF as an app that they simply could not do without.

iAnnotate PDF image at
Last spring, when we were selecting the apps which would be pre-loaded on our students' iPads, I actually expressed a preference for a less expensive competitor.  But Alison Kline-Kator was very persuasive about how useful she had found iAnnotate PDF while taking classes for her doctorate.  After the staff had been given their iPads, Alison conducted an after school workshop on the app.

Lisa Robinet was one of my colleagues who had been raving about iAnnotate.  Consequently, I invited myself to her social Studies Department presentation of the way she used the app to correct her students' work.  Just a few moments into her demonstration, I quickly resolved to try iAnnotate out with my students.  I watched Lisa . . .

* Open an assignment submitted assignment through Moodle in the app on her iPAd.

* Add "pencil" notations

* Use a custom rubric to grade it (Done by creating a "stamp")

* Type notations as necessary

* email the results to the student

Though she did not do so, it is also easy to  add photos and quick voice notes to the file.
Incidentally, many of our teachers are also using Socrative,  a "student response system that empowers teachers by engaging their classrooms with a series of educational exercises and games. . . . .Student responses are visually represented for multiple choice, true/false and Short Answer questions."

While I feel somewhat sheepish about having been so far out of the loop on both of these developments, it's extremely exciting to see how the iPad is being adapted to our teachers' instruction.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

There is an app for that! But...?

Guest Post by Tom James:

Apple reports that there are over 650,000 apps available through it's App Store, of which 250,000 + are designed specifically for the iPad. When we first decided to to implement an iPad 1:1 program one of the daunting tasks we faced was how do we chooose which apps to use and how to we get them to our students and staff? The delivery and procurement of apps was solved with a great product from JAMF Software called Casper. The JAMF Casper Suite allows us to manage our iPads and also gives us a way to deliver apps to specific users, groups, classes or individual users. It's ability to tie into our network directory meant that that we could easily facilitate the delivery of apps and management of devices into our preexisting network infrastructure. It also allows us to pass on the discounts the school is eligible for by purchasing apps through Apple's Volume Purchasing Program which knocks 50% off the price of most apps when bought in quantities of 20 or more. Assessing a $50 "app fee" to  all students as part of the Mercy iPad Package has covered the costs of these apps with enough left over for any additional purchases that may be needed.
Delivering apps and managing devices? Problem Solved!
Now how do we pick the apps to use?
In order to come up with at least a starting point for what apps would be useful in our environment we formed a committee of teachers and administrators and came up with an initial list of about 26 apps back in March of 2012. This initial sampling of apps has served us well and we continue to add to the list. Eight months later and a few months into our iPad initiative we thought it would be a good time to share just what apps are being used in our classrooms by teachers and students alike. Many of our teachers and students also choose to use apps of their own choosing. Sometimes these apps get adopted for use with the entire school, being used over many different grade levels and disciplines. Some of these apps are part of this list below. We have a process here at Mercy that allows staff members to request apps to be delivered through our management software once they find one for use in their classrooms.  Here are the apps we have chosen as a learning community with links to their app store pages:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Baker's Half-Dozen Quotes

Flickr CC Photo by isado
"The overwhelming majority of the nearly 76 million students in America’s schools and colleges spend most of the academic day in classrooms. That’s a problem because the classroom has been obsolete for several decades. That’s not just my opinion. It’s established science." -- Prakash Nair

"We are living in an age of connections. That does not mean we are living in an age qualitatively "better" than any other. Technology itself is ethically neutral." -- Shelly Blake-Plock

"You can't change what you don't notice and not noticing won't make it go away. Each of us has an infinite capacity for self-deception. To avoid pain, we rationalize, minimize, deny, and go numb. The antidote is the willingness to look at yourself with unsparing honesty, and to hold yourself accountable to the person you want to be." -- Tony Schwartz

"I have been integrating technology into my classrooms (3rd grade to graduate school, online and face-to-facet) for over a decade. The big difference I noticed over the years is the ease that learners now have in using the technology. Years ago I needed to spend a lot of time explaining simple things like how to open applications, load pictures, navigate through a website. Now the learners easily complete these tasks. The similarity I find between now and then is that many learners are still not using technology in their educational-related tasks."
Jackie Gerstein, EdD

“In places where we’ve had a large implementing of technology and scores are flat, I see that as great. . . .Test scores are the same, but look at all the other things students are doing: learning to use the Internet to research, learning to organize their work, learning to use professional writing tools, learning to collaborate with others.” - Karen Cator

“If you're not prepared to be wrong ,you'll never come up with any thing original” ― Ken Robinson

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Visit to Design Foundations

This is cross-posted from the Mercy IT Blog:

Over the past week’s time I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting Ms. Susan Smith’s Design Foundations classes.  Ms. Smith is chair of our Art Department, and she has created the curriculum for this course which is now a requirement of all ninth graders.  I visited a group of ninth graders as well as another section composed of upper level students.  Both groups were working in our new iMac Lab.
Each group had a similar assignment.  They were to take media from outside of the class and create a movie by blending other media with FinalCut ProX software.  For instance, the ninth graders had been recorded giving an informative speech in their speech class.  With Ms. Smith, they were bringing still photos, music and graphics into a short movie, using their state of the art software.
So many cool things were happening.  First, Ms. Smith was guiding students to properly licensed source material such as Compfight for pictures andMagnatune for music.  Then of course the students were all getting experience using state of the art video editing software on high performance machines.  Finally, her ability to trouble-shoot and coach the girls 1:1 was almost breath-taking.
Incidentally, in one of the photos below you will note the same image is found on her screen as well as the students’.  Throughout the lesson she would alternately control and release the students computers using LanSchool software that we have recently adopted.
Mercy is so fortunate to have teachers of Ms. Smiths’ ability and dedication.  And she and I are both fortunate to work at a school that is so supportive of both technology and the arts.
We have something very special going here.
L. Baker, Associate Principal/Operations and Apple Distinguished Educator

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mercy Instructional Technology -- Leading the Way!

So much changes so fast with educational technology.  A year ago, we had not even yet decided to adopt the iPad.  A year later, not only are 45% of our students (and all ninth graders) using them, Mercy High School is seen as being on the leading edge of educational practice.  Regularly, I get calls from other Catholic schools in the Midwest about how we sell, network and deploy our iPads and their apps.
However, two of us have just found our ideas about teaching with the iPads to be in great demand as well.  Alison Kline-Kator and I have just been named as primary presenters at the 2013 MACUL Conference, Michigan's leading conference on educational technology.
Mercy students at work on their iPads, November 9, 2012
While Alison far surpasses me in terms of iPad wizardry, I am pleased that both of us have will be giving a pair of presentations.  Here are the topics:
Alison - Boot Up! Creating Technology Professional Development for New Teachers
Alison - Student Presentations... iPad Style
Larry - Individual Assessment within Group Challenge and Multimedia Projects
Larry - What We Have Learned about Professional Development for the iPad
When I attended the MACUL Conference last year, I took away all kinds of valuable information about the iPad.  It will be pretty cool to be sharing our first hand experiences this time around.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Conversation Among Colleagues

Each year, Mercy sets aside one day in the Autumn for In-Service.  This year, since our summer ramp-up for iPad deployment had been so intense, we decided not to burden the staff with more new.  Instead, we responded to an expressed wish for colleagues to have an opportunity to converse with each other about what they had learned about the iPad/Google Apps and what they were eager to know.

Flickr CC photo by Highway Agency
Since handing over the first iPads to staff last spring, some teachers have exploded ahead with discoveries and innovations, while others have moved more gingerly into the iOS environment.  Consequently, it is nearly impossible to design a single program that meets the needs of all.

This time, rather than setting up labs or workshops, we merely started conversations.  I asked nine staff members who had not served as demonstrators or trainers for other tech activities to sit at separate tables and start conversations on topics which the staff had identified through an online survey.  Teachers and leaders were free to drift from table to table, or form new groups or even pair off to help each other.  Below are the table topics:

iPad Apps 
Google Apps
Student Videos
Collecting/Grading Student Work Online 
Digital Methods for Group Collaboration 
Using Moodle 
Using Electronic Books 
Finding Copyright Free Materials/Fair Use
Working in a "Mixed" [iPad & PC] Environment

As I will describe in a coming post, I had my eyes opened wide to a terrific development in the way teachers in several departments were using the iPad to achieve effective paperless grading of student written group.  When I looked about during out in-service I saw teachers deeply engaged in collaborating in a wide variety of ways.

This should not have surprised me.  You will find the great strength of our technology program in our human resources throughout the school.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Update on iPad Wizards

We continue to delvelop our scheme for the iPad Whiz Kids.   This is the group of ninth and tenth graders we are identifying and training to serve the school community by helping Mercy students and staff with iPad issues and initiatives. 

iPad and Photography
Published by permission of Conrad Castelo
They would also play a special role in orienting next year's iPad newbies to the iPad academic workflow at our school.

 After consulting with our program consultant and leader,  Lucy Gray, we have determined the following:

* The all day training event will be on November 30.

* The students will evaluate "geek squad" programs at other schools.

* They will determine the name and nature of their own future activities.

* They will go to our iMac Lab for a portion of the day to work on building a web site that will help them sustain their future collaborations and activities.

If you know a current ninth or tenth grader, encourage her to contact me ( for an application.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Learning to Plan Online

Mercy High School does a great job of teaching students to manage their time.   This skill is invaluable for them as they move onto college and then their careers.  We hear this from our graduates again and again.
Three factors have traditionally contributed greatly to the cultivation of this skill.  First, the school's culture reinforces individual responsibility.  Secondly, our modified modular schedule challenges students to use their unscheduled time wisely.  The unscheduled time allows them to meet with teachers, collaborate in groups, and get school work done on campus.  Finally, our students are very, devoted to their traditional paper Agenda Planners. As teenagers they become learn to organize homework and activities in a central location.
However, Mercy 2.0 is moving our community away from paper planning. Over the summer all of the school calendars were moved to the Google Calendar platform. Consequently, parents, students, and staff can subscribe to ourSchool Life and Athletic calendars.  Most importantly, all teachers have been mandated to schedule assignments on Google Calendars.  Since we are a Google App for Education school, all students automatically have a Google Calendar and can pull their assignments for all classes (along with all their other school activities) into one central, customized location. What is more, parents have access to these calendars and can subscribe to them also.
This is just another way in which the Mercy experience helps to develop effective personal habits in young women who will make a difference.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Apps, Twitter, Google Earth and More

Redefining Medicine With Apps and iPads
The history of medicine is defined by advances born of bioscience. But never before has it been driven to this degree by digital technology.  The proliferation of gadgets, apps and Web-based information has given clinicians . . . a black bag of new tools: new ways to diagnose symptoms and treat patients, to obtain and share information, to think about what it means to be both a doctor and a patient

10 Amazing Google Earth and Maps Discoveries
Today, it’s easy to be an explorer — all you need is a computer, access to satellite technology and a sense of adventure . . . . Even though the average person can use these services to explore the planet, researchers and other scientific professionals use Google Earth and Google Maps as preliminary tools to analyze areas around the globe, uncovering some pretty amazing things we’ve never seen before.

The Best Apps, Communities, and Tools for Writers and Journalists
Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”. . . .Those bound by the written word can always benefit from a leg up in the digital age. Here, we give you some of the best apps, tools, and communities for writers and journalists

How Twitter is Reinventing Collaboration Among Educators
Before the advent of Twitter, most educators I know had limited opportunities to collaborate with colleagues outside their building. Some subscribed to listservs or participated in online forums, but these outlets lacked critical mass . . . . Enter Twitter. I've heard many educators say that Twitter is the most effective way to collaborate and that they've learned more with Twitter than they have from years of formal professional development.

10 Great Websites for Creating Free Online Exams and Quizzes
By creating tests for students online, you as a teacher are not only saving time and resources, but you are also making the creation, distribution and grading of the tests much more convenient and fluid as a process. Here is a list of ten fantastic sites that allow teachers to make professional looking and easy-to-follow tests and quizzes for their students, completely free of charge.

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