5 Things to Expect During an iPad Rollout

There’s no shortage of iPad rollouts in the K-12 space right now. Used across all grade levels and subject areas the devices are adored for their portability, battery life, connectivity, and ability to quickly put mobile technology into students’ hands. These implementations typically generate positive reviews from educational users, but iPads also present challenges for the districts that dole them out, for the teachers that incorporate them into the classroom, and for the students who use them.

Here are five things that you shouldn’t do during an iPad rollout.

1. Go into it without first organizing classroom materials. Before handing out iPads for the first time to her second grade students, Eileen Haggard spent time organizing the devices and their respective resources. A teacher at Stonewall Elementary in Lexington, KY, Haggard said she created a desktop (on her own classroom computer) where each of the 15 iPads are numbered and grouped according to subject (reading and math). This strategy allows Haggard to keep track of the iPads and easily determine what type of content is on each device. She can download only the most relevant apps to the appropriate iPads rather than using a “shotgun” approach to populating the devices with content.

Haggard said she uses a similar organizational approach with daily assignments, knowing that her young students will be most productive when given specific tasks to complete on their tablets. “By taking the time to get all of this set up early,” said Haggard, “I’ve been able to really make the most of the devices.”

2. Expect students to ignore Angry Birds. If there’s one thing that Bill Wiecking has learned from Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s iPad implementation it’s that students will invariably gravitate to computer games like Angry Birds when left to figure out the devices on their own. The private school in Kamuela, HI, uses the tablets in its “energy lab,” where students collaborate and develop sustainable living solutions.

Wiecking, HPA’s energy lab director, said getting students away from games like Angry Birds and engaged in educational projects on their iPads isn’t always easy. Getting there requires a teacher who is committed to using the devices as interactive educational tools for collaboration, research, and communication.

“It’s about students being engaged and on task,” said Wiecking. “Simply purchasing the tools and handing them out is a lazy approach that doesn’t work.”

3. Assume that sharing information and files is easy. Mineola Union Free School District in Long Island launched its iPad initiative by handing out 80 devices in 2010 and another 200 tablets in 2011. More are on the way, according to Michael Nagler, who said the fact that the iPad doesn’t include an easy way to file and share information has plagued the district’s IT team ever since the first device was distributed.

“This is not a network-friendly device,” said Nagler. “Our students use folders to store and manage all of their work on PCs, but the iPad doesn’t include that functionality, and there’s no good workaround for the problem.”

Nagler said the problem has grown as more devices were distributed and as more teachers recognized the limitation. The district has yet to solve the problem, but Nagler said creating e-mail accounts that allow students to exchange assignments and information with their teachers has helped. “Right now we’re using an intranet,” said Nagler, “but as our iPad program expands we’ll be looking for a better solution.”

4. Forgetting to budget for apps. Tight budgets and poor planning can pose a challenge for districts and schools that don’t allocate funding for iPad applications.

“Not only do you have an initial outlay for the devices, but you also have to pay for the apps,” Nagler said. To control that spending and also maintain inventory “app” control on the devices Mineola Union Free SD signed up for Apple’s app store volume purchase program (VPP). The program allows educational institutions to purchase iOS apps in volume and distribute the apps to their users.

“We were able to set up our own iTunes store where students can use vouchers (which the district gives them) to purchase apps for their devices,” said Nagler. This method allows the district to control the app budget while monitoring which free and paid apps the students can and cannot download.

5. Ignore the fact that the device can be a distraction. The iPad has a “cool” factor that can make getting down to business difficult for even the most dedicated student. Younger students in particular have a hard time ignoring all of the neat features that this tablet possesses. To get her second graders on task Haggard said she takes the time to introduce new apps and their functionalities before allowing them to work independently on the devices.

“I know it sounds controlling, but it’s just too easy to get sidetracked when using iPads,” said Haggard.

Haggard said grouping apps according to the way they are used in the classroom also helps alleviate some of the distraction. Productivity apps – such as those used for reading, writing, drawing, and note taking–that students use daily are placed front-and-center on each iPad’s home screen. Haggard said the system works well and helps her students channel their attention on what’s most important.

“If you want students to use their iPads in a constructive manner,” said Haggard, “there really has to be structure and oversight on the teacher’s part.”

Lesson 4 Integrating Technology “Search Challenge Methods”

“Search Challenge” Method

Time: 15-20 minutes as follows:

  • 5-8 minutes working on a Search Challenge
  • 5-8 m consulting the Quick Reference Guide
  • 4-5 minutes applying the methods to investigate genochoice.com


  • http://searchwhys.com/CTD12/QR/freshness-1.html
  • http://www.genochoice.com/
  • computers, one with a projector
  • Red Flag Chart (see Lesson One)

The site being investigated is Genochoice.com

The Search Method being applied is “determing freshness” (when the site was created or last updated).

Have students try the following Search Challenge. If they get stuck (no progress after 8 minutes) have then refer to the Freshness Guide.

Challenge: Is the material on Genochoice.com fresh or stale? When was it last updated? Choose three pages on the site. Use appropriate search technique to find the date each page was last updated (this may not be the same at the copyright date).

Without previous instruction, students will likely not know how to find the date. Be sure they use the Guide rather than get frustrated.

Quick Reference Guide
This resource was created to help students enrolled in 21cif online courses that teach Research Skills. It’s a free resource that provides methods to locate and interpret missing dates for articles and Web pages (plus a lot more).

Once students understand several techniques, have them research genochoice.com to find missing dates.

Add or move Red Flags on the Red Flag Chart as a result of investigation (see Lesson One for an explanation).

Genochoice is rather tricky in this regard, as are many other sites. Archive.org may be the best method to compare how long pages have remained the same. Genochoice has no files that can be downloaded to check freshness and the javascript on each page records the opening of the page as the last update.

Model Lesson 3 “Flipped Discussion”


ready-to-go mini lesson

“Flipped Discussion” Method

Time: 15 minutes as follows:

  • 3-4 minutes demo
  • homework: do backlinks investigation
  • 11-12 minutes discussion


  • http://www.genochoice.com/
  • computers, one with a projector
  • Red Flag Chart (see discussion, below)

The site being investigated is Genochoice.com

The Search Method being applied is “finding backlinks” (incoming links to a page from another site).

Demonstrate 3 ways to find backlinks. Explain how backlinks serve as external references for a site and it is important to gather opinions of writers other than the author of the site being investigated. Getting several other opinions is called triangulation. Provide a link to step-by-step instructions for backlink query, e.g., http://newmedz.com/first-aid/linkcheck-1.html

Method 1: link:http://www.genochoice.com (not as powerful as it once was)

Method 2: http://www.genochoice.com -site:www.genochoice.com (finds examples of the hyperlink on sites other than genochoice.com

Method 3: (Deep Web) Ue Google to find link search engines. One of these (free) is opensiteexplorer.org. This returns many more results for an external search of genochoice.com than Methods 1 or 2. However, there is a daily limit to how many links searches you may do for free and you may discover that multiple searches from the school IP address exhaust your free searches quickly.

Home Work
Have each student spend 15 minutes outside of class doing one or more backlink searches. Driving questions are: Why does this site link to genochoice.com? By linking, does this external link support or discredit the information on genochoice.com?

When students return, follow up the backlink search activity with a discussion of findings and their implications.

It may be helpful to create a Red Flag Chart with three columns: Accused | Suspicious | Acquited (or similar terms). Place the findings in the appropriate column. Red Flags may travel from one category to another as a result of investigative activity. Furthermore, students may not agree on where to place a Red Flag, which makes for a good discussion starter.

  • As a result of backlinks, should the information on genochoice be trusted?
  • If you want to probe deeper, ask: Did the external sites get it right? Why would an artist-medical keynote speaker-PhD candidate-webmaster create such a hoax site? Wouldn’t that hurt his reputation?
  • Why do you think genochoice.com was created?
  • Did any new Red Flags appear?
  • Did any Red Flags disappear?

Discussion may lead to a number of interesting hypotheses, which may be further investigated in another session, or assigned.

Genochoice looks less and less like a hoax site the more it is investigated.

Model Lesson 2 for Integrating Technology


ready-to-go mini lesson

“Teamwork or Jigsaw” Method

Time: 10-15 minutes as follows:

  • 2-3 minutes instructions
  • 7-8 minutes group searching
  • 10 minutes to share findings


  • http://www.genochoice.com/
  • computers, one with a projector

This is a follow-up session to Lesson One, but could be used without the previous lesson.

The site being investigated is Genochoice.com

Divide the learners into groups of 2-4. Each group will choose one fact or claim on the site to fact-check as a group.

Display the site and have students suggest facts or claims that could be investigated. If you didn’t investigate Virgil Wong in the previous lesson, include him now.

Elizabeth Preatner

Among possible suggestions are:

  • Who is Elizabeth Preatner, MD?
  • What is RYT Hospital?
  • Can DNA amplifiers identify negative genes and eliminate them in your child?
  • Is there such a device as GeneScan 2000®? (found by browsinghttp://www.genochoice.com/clone.shtml)
  • Did the LA Times really state: “The ultimate e-commerce site of the future?”
  • etc.

Group Work
Give each group several minutes to fact check their selected fact or claim. Members of a team do not need to use the same search tools which improves the diversity of findings. Teams may use a Red Flag Chart (see Lesson One) to categorize their findings.

Call time and give team members 1-2 minutes to share what each person found. Then form new groups, with a member of each team on a new group. Each person serves as the expert for their investigation of a fact or claim. New teams share their findings, deciding what Red Flags they have found that causes them to doubt the facts or claims being made.

Make a list of the Red Flags.

Model Lesson 1 Think Aloud Demonstration


ready-to-go mini lesson

“Think Aloud” Demonstration

Time: 10-15 minutes as follows:

  • 5 minutes think aloud
  • 5 minutes search as individuals
  • 5 minutes collect findings


  • http://www.genochoice.com/
  • computers, one with a projector
  • whiteboard or Red Flag Chart

It may be helpful to create a Red Flag Chart with three columns: Accused | Suspicious | Acquited (or similar terms). The findings in this mini lesson will all likely go in the Suspicious column. However, Red Flags may travel from one category to another as a result of investigative activity. Furthermore, students may not agree on where to place a Red Flag, which makes for a good discussion starter.

Think Aloud
This lesson takes place in the context of a science course where DNA, genetics and “designer babies” is the topic. It is used here for demonstration purposes–any topic could be used and substitute an appropriate “questionable” result.

Among results for “designer babies” is this Genochoice.com

Use this site to demonstrate how an investigative searcher might approach the material. Students need to see an example of good searching in practice. Focus on Authorship in this instance. Open the page and browse to find information about who wrote this or is responsible for its content. As you search, note the credits link on the page.

virgil wong

Click this and point out information about the credits: Virgil Wong. Also note that this is not what you expected to find: a medical site written or designed by an artist and performance credits for several other people. Point out that now you have some good keywords to fact check. Proper nouns make good fact checking terms because they are so specific, so unique.

Start a list of things you find out about Virgil Wong. We have one Red Flag (he’s an artist, not a medical expert?) Then have the students try fact checking Virgil Wong to discover “as much as they can” about this person. Everyone is free to search for information about Virgil–the more eyes looking for information the better.

After five minutes, call an end to searching and begin to collect information from the students. This may be done on a whiteboard, sticky notes or any online app that is made for group collaboration. Or you could call on students to report what they found, trying to get as complete a picture of Virgil Wong as possible.

Among the findings possible, he is:

  • a web designer
  • featured in a TED vdeo
  • a PhD candidate in cognitive science
  • an artist
  • a keynote speaker at medical conferences
  • a pregnant man
  • etc.

Is thisreally the profile of a person you think would be the author of a credible site on “designer babies?” Why? Why not? (answers to Why Not are “Red Flags”).

If we start to find Red Flags associated with online information, we need to be skeptical and not believe claims on the site without checking them out. More about Red Flags

Encourage students to do this type of investigative searching on other sites they come across while doing research.

What Schools Can Learn From Google, IDEO, and Pixar | Jeff Piontek wants to know your thoughts


The country’s strongest innovators embrace creativity, play, and collaboration – values that also inform their physical spaces.

This article is co-authored by Steve Turckes and Melanie Kahl.

A community about to build or rehab a school often creates checklists of best practices, looks for furniture that matches its mascot, and orders shiny new lockers to line its corridors. These are all fine steps, but the process of planning and designing a new school requires both looking outward (to the future, to the community, to innovative corporate powerhouses) as well as inward (to the playfulness and creativity that are at the core of learning).

In many ways, what makes the Googles of the world exceptional begins in the childhood classroom — an embrace of creativity, play, and collaboration. It was just one year ago that 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the number-one leadership competency in our complex global marketplace. We can no longer afford to teach our kids or design their schoolhouses the way we used to if we’re to maintain a competitive edge. In looking at various exemplary workplaces such as IDEO, Google, and Pixar, we can glean valuable lessons about effective educational approaches and the spaces that support them.

Learning from IDEO: A transparent space where projects take the spotlight
The design and innovation firm IDEO tacitly understands how office environments help or hinder the creative process. Every decision made in its Chicago design office reveals and nurtures its culture, with an open layout that spurs collaboration. Here, team project rooms frame an open studio for the interdisciplinary work of designers, business strategists, and programmers. A café/forum area, prototyping workshop, Chicago-gazing roof deck, and community garden support the studio’s evolving life, without being too prescriptive.

[Photos by Steve Hall]

What would it mean for schools to have a culture centered on design thinking and interdisciplinary projects instead of siloed subjects? What if the process of education were as intentionally crafted as the products of education (i.e., we always think about the book report or the final project, but not the path to get there). What if teachers were treated as designers?

There are some schools out there that are doing just that, including High Tech High, an innovative collection of charter schools in Southern California led by lawyer-cum-carpenter-cum-education innovator Larry Rosenstock and a diverse team of adult learners. The model is deeply rooted in project-based learning (PBL), whereby students learn academic knowledge while picking up real-life skills such as collaboration and critical thinking. With this pedagogical foundation and supportive spaces, students can produce meaningful and integrated projects — from a conservation book series on the San Diego Bay to a bilingual cookbook. Such interdisciplinary work is supported by a thoughtful facility design that displays flexibility, ownership, transparency, and originality. On its website, High Tech High notes that guests “remark that it looks and feels more like a high-performance workplace than a school.”


The Blue Valley Schools Center for Advanced Professional Studies (BVCAPS) takes a similar approach. This district-wide program for 11th- and 12th-graders is an example of what happens when educational curricula and spaces are designed in tandem by a powerful team of community and business partners. A 2011 Edison Award winner, BVCAPS structures real-world training around four high-growth industries in Overland Park, Kansas. With lessons devised by partners such as Garmin and Cisco, BVCAPS is anything but a typical school. Its instructors are more like program managers and its curriculum is created through a patented rapid-prototyping process. Next year, it will even launch a business accelerator, prompted by four patent-seeking students.

[Photo by James Steinkamp]

BVCAPS left some space raw in their new building, with the notion that its purpose would be determined by the activity and interest of its students. The poise, enthusiasm, and maturity of the students testify to the benefits of an environment where students take ownership over projects and spaces.

Playing with Pixar: The art and science of spontaneity and story
Pixar, arguably the greatest digital storyteller of our time, is an easy source of school-environment inspiration: Its studio is a place where magic results from a potent blend of art and science, work and play, digital and analog. In Melena Ryzik’s tour of Pixar Studios for The New York Times, one catches a glimpse of the whimsy, transparency, recreation, and technology on campus. But listening to Steve Jobs’s philosophy behind the design reveals something deeper — that its layout was designed to foster “forced collisions of people,” because “the best meetings were meetings that happened spontaneously in the hallway.”

Imagine what could happen if the advanced physics student and the photography student had meaningful collisions in the average American high school. What if they did by design — if their classwork wove together diverse content and skills intentionally and elegantly? What would young people see as possible? They might come to understand that the lines between music, math, physics, and art are much blurrier than textbooks make them appear. Schools could be the breeding ground for a new millennium of Renaissance young men and women where creating something trumps memorizing it.

Ogling Google: Holistic environments and a playful culture
This $30 billion game-changing technological company realizes that valuable innovations are born from serious play, deep teamwork, and a holistically engaged (and cared for) staff. A tour of Google’s Chicago office we took with a group of educators and educational architects revealed many things, such as the power of allowing employees to control their spaces and expressing local character in a global company.

A playful strain runs through Google’s office culture. In particular, we remember “Bloxes,” a type of giant interlocking cardboard boxes used to stimulate brainstorms and create ad hoc work spaces. The solo software engineer holed up in a cubicle has been replaced by an affable crew of makers of digital software and physical sculpture. In fact, Bloxes were the product of an art project by the Apple innovator Jef Raskin.

Imagine what might happen if students had this same power to edit and make their own spaces within the school environment. A tree fort in younger years might be the precursor to a dorm room venture, entrepreneurial hub, or Bloxes project room.

The work of play and the play of work
There is much to learn from our innovative corporate giants, and some schools are already taking note. But ironically, the true genius of these work spaces is how they’ve been inspired by lessons from children. (The ability of top executives to incorporate playfulness and internal strategy has even become a topic of discussion for major corporations.) Yes, school designers and leaders should make learning environments that reflect dynamic workplaces. But school leaders would be remiss if they didn’t critically re-examine (and support) the power of play and creative arts that these leaders have gleaned from them.

As we’ve learned from some of our most innovative companies, the creation of new spaces is truly an exploration of culture. What are the school environments in your community telling you? Telling your young people? It is time to re-imagine and invest in schools and spaces ripe for creativity and cross-pollination.

Steven Turckes leads Perkins+Will’s global K–12 practice and is the director of the K–12 Education Group for the Chicago office. In Steven’s 24-year career, he has focused on the programming, master planning, and implementation of nearly $1 billion of K–12 projects across the nation and abroad. An avid reader and strategic thinker about the evolving nature of our global society and economy, Steven often assists schools in navigating change to create flexible environments that help to prepare students for success.

Melanie Kahl is an educational design researcher and knowledge manager in Perkins+Will’s global K–12 Practice with a background in social policy and organizational development. She tweets at the intersection of design and learning at @perkinswill_edu and is a contributor for The Creativity Post. 

Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking | Jeff Piontek wants to know your thoughts

1.      You are creative. The artist is not a special person, each one of us is a special kind of artist. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not. Once you have a particular identityand set of beliefs about yourself, you become interested in seeking out the skills needed to express your identity and beliefs. This is why people who believe they are creative become creative. If you believe you are not creative, then there is no need to learn how to become creative and you don’t. The reality is that believing you are not creative excuses you from trying or attempting anything new. When someone tells you that they are not creative, you are talking to someone who has no interest and will make no effort to be a creative thinker.

2.      Creative thinking is work. You must have passion and the determination to immerse yourself in the process of creating new and different ideas. Then you must have patience to persevere against all adversity. All creative geniuses work passionately hard and produce incredible numbers of ideas, most of which are bad. In fact, more bad poems were written by the major poets than by minor poets. Thomas Edison created 3000 different ideas for lighting systems before he evaluated them for practicality and profitability. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart produced more than six hundred pieces of music, including forty-one symphonies and some forty-odd operas and masses, during his short creative life. Rembrandt produced around 650 paintings and 2,000 drawings and Picasso executed more than 20,000 works. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets. Some were masterpieces, while others were no better than his contemporaries could have written, and some were simply bad.

3.      You must go through the motions of being creative. When you are producing ideas, you are replenishing neurotransmitters linked to genes that are being turned on and off in response to what your brain is doing, which in turn is responding to challenges. When you go through the motions of trying to come up with new ideas, you are energizing your brain by increasing the number of contacts between neurons. The more times you try to get ideas, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become. If you want to become an artist and all you did was paint a picture every day, you will become an artist. You may not become another Vincent Van Gogh, but you will become more of an artist than someone who has never tried.

4.      Your brain is not a computer. Your brain is a dynamic system that evolves its patterns of activity rather than computes them like a computer. It thrives on the creative energy of feedback from experiences real or fictional. You can synthesize experience; literally create it in your own imagination. The human brain cannot tell the difference between an “actual” experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail. This discovery is what enabled Albert Einstein to create his thought experiments with imaginary scenarios that led to his revolutionary ideas about space and time. One day, for example, he imagined falling in love. Then he imagined meeting the woman he fell in love with two weeks after he fell in love. This led to his theory of acausality. The same process of synthesizing experience allowed Walt Disney to bring his fantasies to life.

5.      There is no one right answer. Reality is ambiguous. Aristotle said it is either A or not-A. It cannot be both. The sky is either blue or not blue. This is black and white thinking as the sky is a billion different shades of blue. A beam of light is either a wave or not a wave (A or not-A). Physicists discovered that light can be either a wave or particle depending on the viewpoint of the observer. The only certainty in life is uncertainty. When trying to get ideas,  do not censor or evaluate them as they occur. Nothing kills creativity faster than self-censorship of ideas while generating them. Think of all your ideas as possibilities and generate as many as you can before you decide which ones to select. The world is not black or white. It is grey.

6.      Never stop with your first good idea. Always strive to find a better one and continue until you have one that is still better. In 1862, Phillip Reis demonstrated his invention which could transmit music over the wires. He was days away from improving it into a telephone that could transmit speech. Every communication expert in Germany dissuaded him from making improvements, as  they said the telegraph is good enough. No one would buy or use a telephone. Ten years later, Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. Spencer Silver developed a new adhesive for 3M that stuck to objects but could easily be lifted off. It was first marketed as a bulletin board adhesive so the boards could be moved easily from place to place. There was no market for it. Silver didn’t discard it. One day Arthur Fry, another 3M employee, was singing in the church’s choir when his page marker fell out of his hymnal. Fry coated his page markers with Silver’s adhesive and discovered the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the page. Hence the Post-it Notes were born. Thomas Edison was always trying to spring board from one idea to another in his work. He spring boarded his work from the telephone (sounds transmitted) to the phonograph (sounds recorded) and, finally, to motion pictures (images recorded).

7.      Expect the experts to be negative. The more expert and specialized a person becomes,  the more their mindset becomes narrowed and the more fixated they become on confirming what they believe to be absolute. Consequently, when confronted with new and different ideas,  their focus will be on conformity. Does it conform with what I know is right? If not, experts will spend all their time showing and explaining why it can’t be done and why it can’t work. They will not look for ways to make it work or get it done because this might demonstrate that what they regarded as absolute is not absolute at all. This is why when Fred Smith created Federal Express, every delivery expert in the U.S. predicted its certain doom. After all, they said, if this delivery concept was doable, the Post Office or UPS would have done it long ago.

8.      Trust your instincts. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. Albert Einstein was expelled from school because his attitude had a negative effect on serious students; he failed his university entrance exam and had to attend a trade school for one year before finally being admitted; and was the only one in his graduating class who did not get a teaching position because no professor would recommend him. One professor said Einstein was “the laziest dog” the university ever had. Beethoven’s parents were told he was too stupid to be a music composer. Charles Darwin’s colleagues called him a fool and what he was doing “fool’s experiments” when he worked on his theory of biological evolution. Walt Disney was fired from his first job on a newspaper because “he lacked imagination.” Thomas Edison had only two years of formal schooling, was totally deaf in one ear and was hard of hearing in the other, was fired from his first job as a newsboy and later fired from his job as a telegrapher; and still he became the most famous inventor in the history of the U.S.

9.      There is no such thing as failure. Whenever you try to do something and do not succeed, you do not fail. You have learned something that does not work. Always ask “What have I learned about what doesn’t work?”, “Can this explain something that I didn’t set out to explain?”, and “What have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?” Whenever someone tells you that they have never made a  mistake, you are talking to someone who has never tried anything new.

10.   You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are. Interpret your own experiences. All experiences are neutral. They have no meaning. You give them meaning by the way you choose to interpret them. If you are a priest, you see evidence of God everywhere. If you are an atheist, you see the absence of God everywhere. IBM observed that no one in the world had a personal computer. IBM interpreted this to mean there was no market. College dropouts, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, looked at the same absence of personal computers and saw a massive opportunity. Once Thomas Edison was approached by an assistant while working on the filament for the light bulb. The assistant asked Edison why he didn’t give up. “After all,” he said, “you have failed 5000 times.” Edison looked at him and told him that he didn’t understand what the assistant meant by failure, because, Edison said, “I have discovered 5000 things that don’t work.” You construct your own reality by how you choose to interpret your experiences.

11.   Always approach a problem on its own terms. Do not trust your first perspective of a problem as it will be too biased toward your usual way of thinking. Always look at your problem from multiple perspectives. Always remember that genius is finding a perspective no one else has taken. Look for different ways to look at the problem. Write the problem statement several times using different words. Take another role, for example, how would someone else see it, how would Jay Leno, Pablo Picasso, George Patton see it? Draw a picture of the problem, make a model, or mold a sculpture. Take a walk and look for things that metaphorically represent the problem and force connections between those things and the problem (How is a broken store window like my communications problem with my students?) Ask your friends and strangers how they see the problem. Ask a child. How would a ten year old solve it? Ask a grandparent. Imagine you are the problem. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

12.   Learn to think unconventionally. Creative geniuses do not think analytically and logically. Conventional, logical, analytical thinkers are exclusive thinkers which means they exclude all information that is not related to the problem. They look for ways to eliminate possibilities. Creative geniuses are inclusive thinkers which mean they look for ways to include everything, including things that are dissimilar and totally unrelated. Generating associations and connections between unrelated or dissimilar subjects is how they provoke different thinking patterns in their brain.  These new patterns lead to new connections which give them a different way to focus on the information and different ways to interpret what they are focusing on. This is how original and truly novel ideas are created. Albert Einstein once famously remarked “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

And, finally, Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.

10 Things that Should be Obsolete in a classroom | Your thoughts? Jeff Piontek wants to know

So much about how and where kids learn has changed over the years, but the physical structure of schools has not. Looking around most school facilities — even those that aren’t old and crumbling –  it’s obvious that so much of it is obsolete today, and yet still in wide use.

1.   COMPUTER LABS. Students are connected to the Internet everywhere except in school. Regardless of their income bracket, most kids carry around a world of information in their pockets on their mobile devices, and yet we force them to power down and disconnect, and we confine them in obsolete computer labs. A modern school needs to have connectivity everywhere and treat computers more like pencils than microscopes.

2.   LEARNING IN PRESCRIBED PLACES. When you ask people to remember a meaningful learning experience from high school, chances are the experience didn’t take place in a space designed for learning. Working in groups, while on a trip, while doing a project or learning while talking with friends — those are the lasting, meaningful learning experiences. Yet we don’t design schools to accommodate these activities and focus only on the formal spaces.

3.  TEACHER-CENTERED CLASSROOM. Classrooms were designed for lecture and crowd control, with the teacher as the central figure of knowledge and authority.  The teacher had knowledge to impart through direct instruction and the current classroom structure works pretty well for this. This basic classrooms structure is the same, though in some schools, the chalkboard has been replaced by the interactive “Smart Board.” In progressive classrooms, the structure has changed: small groups of kids working, project work, and student presentations require rethinking this model.
4.   ISOLATED CLASSROOMS. Tony Wagner of the Harvard School of Education and the author of the Global Achievement Gap says: “Isolation is the enemy of improvement” and yet most schools are designed in a way that isolates teachers from each other. Teachers often learn to teach in isolated boxes and perpetuate that style throughout their career. Interior windows get “papered over” and blinds are shut. Yet out of school, people work in teams and are visually and often aurally connected.
5.   DEPARTMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS. In order to break down the size of schools and to allow students to learn across curriculum, it’s essential to organize schools so that teachers of various subjects are located together. This not only emulates how people work today – in collaborative groups – but encourages teachers to consider students holistically, not only as they perform in a specific subject.

Corridors are used for informal learning

6.   SCHOOL CORRIDORS. Corridors take up a lot of valuable real estate in a school and are unoccupied most of the time. If rooms are arranged in groups around a common space, corridors are not necessary. And unused corridors can be made into informal learning spaces.

7.   TRADITIONAL SCHOOL LIBRARIES. In a modern school a library should be more of a learning commons able to support a variety of student activities as they learn to access and evaluate information.  Books have their place but they are not the end-all of libraries.  A learning commons is no longer the quiet sanctum of old, rather it is a space that can be central or distributed, used formally or informally, and one that can stimulate a spirit of inquiry in students.

8.   DARK, INDOOR GYMS. Most gyms have no access to natural light because of fear of glare that might interfere with sporting events. But with soaring energy costs, being able to turn off lights in a gym can amount to big savings. Designing glare-free gyms is possible but typically requires more natural light not less. Skylights, well placed windows and ample light create a great experience and a functional space.

Learner Centered Classroom

9.   INSTITUTIONAL FOOD SERVICE. School food service usually involves folding tables that are placed and replaced throughout the day.  With cleanup activities it takes the commons/cafeteria out of action most of the day.  Why sacrifice this valuable space when it could serve multiple purposes? Creating spaces that require less movement of furniture while remaining flexible will allow them to be used more effectively.  Common spaces can also be less institutional, which in turn increases their flexibility.  Decentralizing food service allows students to eat in smaller groups and also allows multi-use of spaces.  Even if the food isn’t better, the space can be.

10.   LARGE RESTROOMS. Students try to avoid using school restrooms even in new schools because of concerns over privacy, bullying, and cleanliness contribute. To avoid restroom use, students stop drinking water and become dehydrated, and unable to focus. In Finland and other parts of Europe, they use individual restrooms that are located in the shared learning areas between classrooms. There seems to be a feeling of ownership for these, so they don’t get trashed. Also, they have more privacy, and there’s less bullying.

Does Social Media Improve Education? by Jeff Piontek

In a new paper written by Darrell M. West, the Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, How Blogs, Social Media, and Video Games Improve Education, looks at the effect of collaboration on education when students can use tools such as wikis, blogs, social media, and video games.

The author, Darrell West, cites Alan Daly of the University of California at San Diego who believes that education “is moving away from large-scale prescriptive approaches to more individualized, tailored, differentiated approaches.”

In considering the effect of social media on education West asks a series of questions:

  • How do these technologies affect students, teachers, parents, and administrators?
  • Do they enable new approaches to learning and help students master substantive information?
  • In what ways have schools incorporated electronic communications in the learning process and messages to external audiences?


Blogs represent a rapidly growing medium that encourages students and teachers to participate in their education. Currently, Nielsen estimates that there are over 156 million blogs on the Internet. Blogs are one of the most prevalent and accessible modes of communication. Many people feel that blogs have democratized the flow of information. They are also used in the classroom as a way for students to collaborate and communicate with other schools.

Unfortunately, there are still a number of schools that do not encourage two-way communications, students collaboration, or global networking within the school. Alan November of November Learning suggests that students need to be globally empathetic to become a global citizen.

There are a number of blogs that deal with the skills of education so teachers and administrators can work with their colleagues and share ideas on finance, assessment, standards and many other topics.


A Wiki is a website in which a variety of people can participate and collaborate on constructing the material of the site. Once somebody has started the site other people can edit and make additions. The interactions are a type of collaboration called “crowd-sourcing” which is a term created by Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine.  Wikis have been created by both corporations and schools to help develop creative ideas and design.

Social Media and Mobile Devices

Social media basically includes anything that allows people to communicate in discrete groups over collective interests. People have the opportunity to express themselves and react to what other people have said and have people respond to what they have written. It allows for a variety of people from all over the country and other countries to share ideas and share information. The Pew Internet and American Life Project survey reports that Facebook is a major source of discussion. Twenty two percent of its users comment daily on somebody else’s post.

There are many K-12 schools and colleges that utilize social media to extend the classroom walls. Education becomes 24/7. In some situations the social media is open to people from other countries and a wider set of comments and opinions are expressed. The knowledge of the community becomes vital.

Video Games

Video games are one of the largest consumer items in the commercial world. They are one of the most popular forms of mass entertainment. They bring in hover billion-dollars a year. The Pew Internet and American Life Project survey of American teenagers revealed the eight most popular game genres:


Racing 74%
Puzzles 72%
Sports 68%
Action 67%
Adventure 66%
Rhythm 61%
Strategy 59%
Simulation 49%


For example, in the game, World of Warcraft, there are some 12 million users who have logged over 50 billion hours playing the game.

Many video games are made for both the entertainment and the education world. There are many skills and concepts that can become clearer through the game medium. Games have been used in the education areas of geography, science, mathematics, English, and logic. According to the scientists at the National Research Council, games “enable learners to see and interact with representations of natural phenomena that would otherwise be impossible to observe – a process that helps them to formulate scientifically correct explanations of these phenomena.”


The authors conclude: “Digital tools represent new ways for participation, engagement, and collaboration to take place. Through digital communications, students, teachers, parents, and administrators can share insights and reactions and develop a better understanding of instructional activities.”

Use Of Smartphones And Tablets In The Classroom: [Infographic] Jeff Piontek wants to know what you think

Undoubtedly, everyone understands the importance of projectors and  PowerPoint presentation in the classrooms, but this time, all these stuffs seem little obsolete. As the modern technology advances, the format of classrooms are also changing. A survey conducted by Australian-based online course company “Open Colleges” has reported the top three reasons why teachers are relying on mobile technology; first, due to diverse learning style, second, boost students motivation and thirdly, enhanced material being taught.

In the U.S., 91% of teachers have computer in the classrooms and astoundingly, 1 in 5 teachers accepted that the classroom have right level of technology. In addition to these, 81% of teachers showed off their interest in enrich Tablet classroom learning, while 86% of students (during survey) said that learning on Tablet is quite effective.

1 in 5 students are using mobile apps to organize their course book, while 59% of students are more likely to use their own mobile devices to enhance learning. Almost one-third of all colleges in the U.S. are offering at least online courses; online enrollment saw 21% year-over-year growth, while on other hand, overall higher education growth in the country is just 2%.

Moreover, integration of social networking sites also plays crucial role in education. 4 out of 10 students believe that ‘integration of social networks in the classrooms’ would benefit their education.

See the infographic for further information: