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A Plea to Teachers with iPads: Make Your Practice Visible

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Here's my main insight from the iPad Summit that I helped host over the last two days:

If you are teaching and creating learning experiences with iPads, we really need you to share your practice online.

From a scientific study, we know that schools have spent a gazillion dollars on 43 zillion iPads. They are being adopted and piloted at an extraordinary rate in the U.S.

There is a great risk that teachers will simply adopt these new tools to extend existing practice—making them expensive notebooks and PDF textbooks. One of the ways to avoid that risk is to give educators a compelling vision for how these tools can be used to nurture creativity, innovation, media literacy, and collaboration. To spread that compelling vision, educators need to share how these devices are being used in classrooms. If everyone reinvents the wheel in their own building, we're going to have a lot of crummy wheels.

The challenge in sharing with iPads is that so much of student and teacher work is locked on the iPad. One of the great virtues of the explosion of social media in the classroom was that exemplar technology-rich projects were published and shared broadly. I think, because of the walled garden nature of many apps, that won't happen as quickly with iPads. But it's needed more desperately because of the rapid adoption of the platform.

So what we need is videos like this example of a first grade writer's workshop with iPads (from Kristin Ziemke's classroom, with Carolyn Skibba behind the camera). I can't embed, but go watch it and come back.

This video made a big splash when Tom Daccord showed it in his morning keynote at the EdTechTeacher conference. It sparked a rich discussion. How were the students actively engaging with the text? What do we make of the decision to allow students to use paper or iPads? How cute is it that the kids have a special iPad-carrying walk?

Maybe it's a best practice, maybe people will identify problems, but it is unquestionably a vivid picture of emerging practice with a new device, and we only have it because someone put up a camera and shared it online.

We need many, many more teachers to be sharing these kinds of examples of practice: to inspire, to dissect, and to spark conversation and innovation. For the educators who are on the crest of this wave, by sharing your work in this moment, you have a tremendous opportunity to inspire those coming behind you.

Ms. Ziemke is from Chicago, and her peers in the Chicago Public Schools seem to be way in front of the crowd on the sharing front. I'm grateful for their work. Four CPS teachers gave a fabulous, buzz-generating presentation at the iPad Summit, and they and their colleagues are maintaining a terrific site on iPads in CPS with lots of other videos from classrooms.

I can think of no better group to join these Chicago teachers in their efforts to make practice visible than the community who came together for the iPad Summit. It was a group of teachers and leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit: the will to bring new ideas to life.

My last conversation of the day was with a former principal and current graduate student at Harvard's Ed School who said that the conference wasn't really about iPads, it was about good teaching and learning. That's my kind of iPad conference. Those are the people I want sharing their stuff.

Be brave. Get your permission forms signed. Get your stuff up online, so we can see it and learn.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

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