It’s All about Balance: How to Teach your Students to Integrate Technology in a Healthy Way

ipadyoupad says: it’s ok to shut it down!

I have been preparing for a presentation on Netiquette to the Grade 7s. As they are our first cohort required to have iPads, certain challenges have arisen that I need to address, one being the obsessive nature of their iPad use. It is not uncommon to see a herd of them in the rotunda at school, squashed five on a bench, hunched like a football team over their iPads.

Now, here is the problem. For us adults, this looks a lot like anti-social behaviour. But for them it is the opposite. A teacher mentioned this to the group of students, when she saw that they were hunched over their iPads chatting online to each other.

Teacher: “Hey ladies. It is lunchtime. Why don’t you socialize a bit?”

Students [eyes rolling in typical you-are-a-crazy-adult-who-makes-no-sense teen form]: Umm, like that’s what we’re doing.

So how do I give them a presentation that I want to be positive and affirming without sounding scoldy? How do I get them to understand that the iPad, cell phone [insert tech device here] is a tool not a toy, the means not the end?

Of course, I do what I always do- go to the internet to see if someone else has already written about this. To my surprise, I haven’t been able to find anybody that gives students tips on how to manage their technology. There are articles for parents on how to balance your children’s tech, like this one that I feel is rather good. Others from the parenting perspective are very fear-inducing and prescriptive, like this one and this one. I also don’t have much of a problem with setting limits in the family home- I do it myself. And I think it is extremely important to open a dialogue with the parents about the effective use of the iPad. We had someone come to talk last year to the parents and hopefully we can plan another session for them again this year.

But what about school? What about lunchtime and recess? How do we promote the effective, balanced use of the iPad without resorting to prescriptive methods like banning the iPad at lunch (which wouldn’t work anyways since it is their main notepad and homework-doing vehicle).

So I decided to start my own list. Here is what I would like to tell the Grade Sevens about managing technology in their life. I would love to have feedback on this- please comment and tell me what you think they should know!

NOTE: I am only addressing the balanced use issue- not any of the other topics we need to discuss, such as flame wars, recording people without their permission, and on and on…

1.It’s okay to shut it down! really!  

The iPad is a wonderful device. It lets you create documents, movies, audio files. You can

This is me, taking my own advice and shutting down my iPad. As you can see, I had much fear and trepidation.

play games on it as well as connect with friends. But like any tool, when you are done with it, you put it back.  Think of it as a book- when you are done reading, you close the book. Don’t be afraid to shut the device down. Like a good book, when it is open it is very hard not to read it. When the iPad is on, it is very hard not to look at it. Shutting it down will allow you to concentrate on the people around you. Which brings me to my second point:

Is this socializing or isn’t it? Discuss amongst yourselves.

2. Don’t listen to your parents- school is for socializing!

What other place allows you to see your friends for at least six hours a day? (okay. that sounds kind of horrifying. Didn’t mean it like that). One of the great advantages of being plugged in is that it is easier and easier to hook up with friends. Use it to figure out your plans, or work on group projects when you are at home. Why would you chat online with someone when they are sitting right next to you? Take advantage of one of the best aspects of school- the physical presence of your friends.

Note- I was joking about not listening to your parents. You should always listen to your parents, if only so you can argue with them more effectively.

3. Schedule a time in the day where you check your social media. Then shut it down.

This tip was given to me in library school from my professor of knowledge Management

Kermit and Miss Piggy take a break from their gruelling social media schedule to frolic in the fields. See? See how happy they are?

(yep- that’s a real course). She was a very busy woman, writing books, traveling to speak at conferences, teaching moi. She told me the way she managed the daunting amount of emails she got in a day was that she checked her emails [insert all social media here] twice a day. Once mid-morning and once at 4 pm. She only checked it after she got a couple hours of her own work done and was not in danger of being distracted by whatever was waiting for her in her inbox. And then again later on in the day, just in case there was some urgent business in the day. In this way she did not feel like she was a slave to her computer and was able to get some work done. Which brings me to my last point:

4. Don’t be a Slave to your Machine

I promise that you will not be missing anything if you log off for a few hours really. Okay, you might miss the your friend Angela posting what she’s currently eating for an after school snack, but otherwise the social media will still be there when you come back from playing soccer, or going for a swim or even taking the dog for a walk. Social media is a wonderful tool, but it’s not so good when it starts to use you.

Many teens get what experts call “junk sleep” because they are interrupted by having too many electronic gadgets in their room – and on – while they sleep. (Photo illustration by Sean Simmers)

5. Turn it off at night!

There are several studies showing a link between screen time right before bed and bad sleep habits. You have busy busy days- you need your beauty rest. Make sure you shut down your iPad before going to bed so no pesky notifications, or other beeping sounds wake you up. I would also recommend you doing that with your phone, or even better, keeping it outside of your room. It really can wait until the morning. I swear.


Questions? Comments?


Article on the State of iPads in Education

via Teleread

Read more…

Here is another quote:

5. The True Elephant in the Room

Teacher Training. Sad, but true. Most teachers did not grow up with this stuff, and were not trained in its use while going through their teacher training…

Dawson makes some interesting points, one that I think we have surmised already (like where is a sensible ebook borrowing model from the publishers?). But I think it is good to be reminded that teacher training is still the biggest problem.

The challenge is to train the teachers to use it in a way the enhances their life and not cause more technical difficulties. Use of the iPad as a whiteboard for example. It is simple, enhances the teacher’s experience because they can save their classes as well as record the lecture over them. It enhances the students life by having these files be made available to them after the class so they can go through it again at their leisure.

There are many more examples like this of how teachers in our own school are using the tool effectively. It is good to be reminded that using the iPad doesn’t necessarily mean having to purchase a lot of bells and whistles (oops, sorry, I meant apps.)

I also like how Dawson points out the colossal lack of imagination on the part of the big textbook publishers when it comes to e-text books.

What do you think?

iPad Implementation: An Outsider’s View of a 1:1 iPad program

Ms. Brown English Teacher just sent me this article from one of my fave iPad resources, techchef4u by Lisa Johnson:


Read more…

HIghlights are the list of student responsibilities and parent responsibilities as well as a list of questions Lisa had before entering the school which she outlines with the answers. Question #4 is intriguing:

Does the device present a distraction? From multiple student interviews, I found the device is a wonderful way to self-manage. Students are aware that they have to complete the assignment regardless and most would rather complete it in class then complete it at home. If students are off-task on the device, teachers have the authority to pick it up and have it returned to the student or parent at the end of the day.

Of course, their iPad program started with high school seniors. What do you think of the authority to take it away and give it back at the end of the day?

Lesson Plan: Augmented Reality in the Classroom

via Lisa Johnson’s! page

Came across this post this morning about how to use Augmented Reality in the classroom:

Read More…

I had played around with the idea of Augmented Reality last spring, when I attened a librarian conference (yes, we have those) and someone did a fascinating presentation on the app History Pin. My initial thought would be that it would be a wonderful too for Open House, where the student guides could be equipped with an iPad and use it at each stop. The problem with History Pin was that it uses google maps to anchor the photo to the location and that was not specific enough for a school tour.

However, Aurasma might work for something like that, as well as a student-created scavenger hunt for a history project. The teacher who wrote the blog post above got his students to make posters which serves as the anchor to a movie that would be picked up by the aurasma app when scanned.

So many possibilities, don’t you think?

Basics Brush Up: A Collection of How To Articles for the iPad Neophyte

I have gathered all my HOW TO articles in one place. In the exploratory spirit of this blog, I have tried a new tool called mentormob:

Check it out!

Mentormob is a good way of making a playlist of your students creations, or asking them to collect a playlist of articles, videos etc. for research purposes. I also recall an English lesson plan for Catcher in the Rye where the students were asked to make a playlist for Holden. They had to choose a song and then say why they chose that song. Mentormob allows you to write a description for each post as well as upload documents.

And it works great on the iPad!

Note: it is not an app though- you must access it through Safari.

Anthology of Ideas!

Just received this link via Lisa Johnson’s page this morning and thought I would share:


The ideas are mostly fun and a tad bit edgy. Great to shake things up in your class!

Here are some of my favourite writing ideas:



And here is a fun visual assignment:


Perhaps some of these ideas might be useful for open house? You never know…


iPad Cheat sheets from IPad for Dummies

Not that you’re a dummy. I hate that title- I know it is tongue and cheek but dummies is such an ugly word. How about , “iPad for Neophytes”? Or for the hipper among us, “iPad for Noobs”?

Anyways. I digress.

I am planning a series of cheat sheets for those on staff who do not yet feel comfortable with the iPad. Well, imagine my surprise when I came across some online cheat sheets for the iPad via the dummies site.

They have three cheat sheets:


These are printable, so if you are teetering between the old school world and the new school world, you can print out these bad boys and tape them up on your desk. Or you can PDF if them and stick them in your ibooks!

I plan to make a cheat sheet about:

  • Email
  • itunes store and accounts
  • Pages

Let me know if you have an app or a topic you would like me to cheat sheet! (I know. Cheat sheet is not a verb. But I flout the grammar rules I tell you. Flout.)

Google Drive for iPad has arrived!

Okay. So as anyone who has attempted to use google docs on the iPad knows, up to now it has been an exercise in frustration. Limited editing capability. The real time collaboration capacity, what makes google docs so valuable to so many people, choppy at best, completely non-functional at worst.

This issue has come up again as we prepare for our first iPad roundtable of the year. I was reading, yes, the google doc we started so staff could tell us what they want to talk about and discovered that Ms. Art teacher has encountered many issues in her class with the iPad and google docs. (I have written about the dysfunctional marriage of google docs and iPads before)

So I do what I always do when confronted with a problem I don’t know the answer to…I go to the hive. Or better known as the iPad forum (this one happened to be in linkedin) where I found out that google was going to follow up their launch of google drive (the app otherwise known as google docs). Of course, I rushed to the app store and yes! There it was! Google Drive!!!

#1: Sign in. You should be able to do this.


#2: Choose your file! As you can see, the interface is nice and simple, though I would have like to sort my files from more recent to less recent. They are now sorted alphabetically.

Luckily, there is a recent option, which I clicked and found our roundtable document. I clicked on edit and voilà:


But the real question is, if I edit it on the iPad, will it be shared in realtime? I checked the document on my desktop and yes, my text was there!

You can change the colour of your font, handy when there are several people collaborating on a document.


There are some basic formatting options as seen above. However, as Ms. Art teacher has pointed out, there is no option to insert hyperlinks… As well, in the description of the app, they say you can insert media, which I am unable to find in the editing on the iPad:

Quickly share a photo with a friend 1000 miles away. Read the most up to date version of your document whether you’re at home, at the office, or on the go. Make items available offline so you view them while you’re on a plane. No matter what happens to your devices, even if your iPhone goes for a swim, your files are safely stored in Google Drive.

Oh- Just figured that out. You cannot insert a photo in a document but you can upload a photo to google doc:


Maybe you can add it to a doc after? let us try… Nope. IN fact, I uploaded it then couldn’t find it. had to use the search field…

You can see if anyone else is viewing the doc:


You can share the document:




Here are some other sharing options, as well as options to move your document into folders, etc. What I don’t see is an option to download your document into Pages or something similar, though you can opt to view your document offline:


In a nutshell: although it is not perfect – they still do not have an option to “open in” Google Drive from your email. You can’t upload photos or movies directly to your doc. You can’t hyperlink- the collaboration works very well as well as basic editing. This free app goes a long way to transferring the amazing functionality of Google docs we have been used to on our laptops and desktops to the iPad. Hopefully they will keep on improving!


On the iLab: syncspace- a collaborative whiteboard!

Earlier this week Ms. “I’ve been on sabbatical and no nothing about the iPad” came to see me about an app that would allow her class to collaborate on lexicons for her French class.

Now this is a very interesting query, one that my librarian brain had to dissect:

Me: What do you mean by lexicons?

Ms. Sabbatical (S for short): I want the students to group words on a specific theme together.

Me: Okay- so you don’t need a tool specifically for lexicons?

Ms. S.: No. Something like google docs but for drawing that we can do on the iPads.

Me: [lots of thinking out loud, brainstorming and then giving up and writing down the query on my very long list of things to do]

It is only now, at the end of the week that I figured out the answer was right underneath my nose. By doing several searches on the internet and finding lists like this and like this and like this, I figured out that our iLab iPads already have a tool that can do this ready and waiting for someone to know what to do with it.

So teachers of Trafalgar, I present to you Syncspace!

Here are the specs, shamelessly pilfered from their website:

SyncSpace for iPad provides a zoomable drawing space that can be shared in real time over the net, a sort of shared whiteboard. Turn on synchronization and send a link to the document to others who will be able to see your drawing and also make changes using SyncSpace. Syncspace

To use syncspace, the first thing you have to do is turn on sharing, then invite via email:



When the student gets the email, they must first make sure to open the syncspace app and turn on sharing. Then they will click on the link in the email:


The different members can share the document with others as well- not just the first creator! The link will take them to the syncspace website. All they need to do is click on the middle choice- draw:

The links takes them back the synscspace app and the shared document appears. They can now edit!

In the following drawing, the different colours were made via different iPads. You can also type your words by pressing down on the screen until a textbox appears. A whole range of colours are available, as well as different fonts. The realtime syncing works instantaneously:


You can also add photos:


Because the price for synscpace is pretty steep ($7.99), I would recommend booking the iPad lab for this use.