George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Overview: The Role of iPads

There is no denying iPads are becoming a dynamic tool for education. However, with the integration of new tools into the classroom, there is a learning curve. The evolution of the iPad has created more than just a learning curve, but a cultural shift in the way we access information and connect with the outside world.

This fall, Burlington High School will transition to a 1:1 school exclusively with the iPad 2. One of the goals of this initiative is to slowly transition curriculum and textbooks to ePub format. ePub file format allows anyone to create a file that is readable on an iOS device or Kindle like a book. At Burlington, we will be using the iBook app to distribute teacher created texts, but also the student handbook, and other student reference materials throughout the year.

Multi-district Collaborative Event

While this transition is exciting and new, there are not many examples out there of the ePub format in use. Therefore, we decided to create a multi-district edcamp-like event over the span of four days in June. This event was scheduled during the first week of summer vacation for teachers in Massachusetts. The focus of this four-day event was to bring together superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, and academic technologists and start talking about ePubs. While the goal was to create an ePub that teachers could use to replace a textbook in class, the primary takeaway was the conversations and multi-district collaboration that was taking place.

The organization of the event was lead by three Massachusetts Superintendents: Dr. Eric Conti, Burlington Public Schools, Dr. Marinel D. McGrath, Andover Public Schools, and Dr. Maureen LaCroix, Bedford public schools. Dr. Conti pulled together his instructional technology staff at Burlington High School along with Paul Facetau from Apple to create a planning team for the event. The first meeting covered the logistics of the four days: schedule, cohort organization, collaborative teams, presentations, etc.

Event Planning and Organization

During the next few days we created a website that presented an overview and welcomed all to attend the four day event at Burlington High School. We placed a Google form on the website for registering attendees and sent out an email blast to Massachusetts districts (I would also recommend using a free ticket service like TicketLeap as well).

Once the website was live, we started planning opening keynotes for the first day of the event. The planning team compiled a list of topics that needed to be covered during the morning session of the first day. We decided on the following topics (in no particular order):

1.  ePub: Creating classroom texts with connected resources
2.  Creative Commons: Creating a license for your work and citing others
3.  Using a wikispace for cohort collaboration
4.  Workflow within content area cohorts
5.  Moving from a wiki to Pages to the ePub format
6.  Keeping the conversation alive: Connecting and sharing beyond the event

The next thing we created was the schedule. We posted this on the website but messaged that the schedule was tentative and most likely would change from day to day. Here is a copy of our schedule:


Event Schedule: Transitioning to ePubs -- Day One: Monday

8:00 - Opening overview in BHS Auditorium

Introduction of Digital Publication Collaborative by hosting Superintendents Eric Conti (Burlington Supt. of Schools), Maureen Lacroix (Bedford Supt. of Schools), Marinel McGrath (Andover Supt. of Schools)

8:15 - Copyright and Creative Commons Overview

  • Digital rights management and ensuring appropriate attribution to sources - Dennis Villano and Andy Marcinek (Burlington Public Schools Instructional Technology Dept.)

8:30 - Access to the wiki (collaborative workspace) and e-pub overview A change in thinking for educators

  • Paul Facteau and Brian Gewirtz from Apple

9:30 - Work-flow/structure - Questions Help Forum via Google docs

  • Objective/goals for the day
  • Develop essential questions
  • Facilitator - develop assign tasks for group members
  • Organize focus groups for research on specific content area chapters (i.e. US Revolution)
  • Develop working bibliography - citation generator
  • Organize Google doc
  • 10:00 - Move to assigned rooms by subject area facilitators begin introductions and group collaborates for task dissemination

    12:00-1:00 p.m. - Lunch Break

    2:00-3:00 p.m. - Sharing Progress (auditorium) Quick overview of progress/questions/challenges from each group - All participants should complete initial feedback form

    Day Two: Tuesday

    8:00-9:00 - BHS Auditorium - Review of feedback Address lingering questions

    9:00 - 12:15  - Breakouts and Socrative Assessment Tool schedule by discipline in room 128

  • ELA/Art History/Middle School - 8:45-9:45
  • SS - 10:00-11:00
  • Science - 11:15-12:15
  • Math - 1:00-2:00

    12:15-1:00 - Lunch Break

    2:30-3:00 - Sharing Progress (auditorium) Quick overview of progress/questions/challenges from each group

    Day Three: Wednesday

    8:00-9:30 - Assemble in assigned spaces and review feedback within subject area groups Commissioner Chester will be here around 8:30. Each group should have some product from Monday and Tuesday to show and discuss the process with him.

    9:30-12:00 - Continue work in groups

    12:00-1:00 - Lunch

    1:00-3:00 - Groups reconvene

    Day Four: Thursday

    8:00-12:00 - Assemble in assigned spaces and review feedback within subject area groups

    12:00-1:00 - Lunch - final assessment Debriefing - where do we go from here? (Continue on collaborative wiki)


    Reflection of the Organizing Process

    The planning team created overview presentations on these topics and decided who would speak on each subject. During the morning of the first day, we spent roughly three hours covering these topics.  The instructional technology team also checked in throughout the day to help everyone with these topics and reinforce their purpose. At the end of day one we placed another Google form on the website to elicit feedback from attendees. The majority of the feedback was positive, but we received a lot of requests to cover the opening keynote topics again. We spent the morning of day two covering these topics again. It was imperative that everyone was clear on these topics in order to move forward.  


      At the end of day two and three we brought back attendees to the auditorium to share what they learned or accomplished during the day. We also allowed time for questions and made sure everyone in attendance felt supported.

    The organization of this type of event, as I mentioned earlier, is very new. The planning team set out to create an event that brought together a variety of educators from different districts to learn something new. Those in attendance not only walked away with a new skill, but a new community to share and learn with. If you are interested in planning an event like this centered on creating an ePub or just a way to bring together multiple districts for collaborative work, please contact me through my Edutopia profile or Twitter @andycinek.

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    Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

    Sara's picture

    Thank you for sharing. I am currently teaching in a district that in two years is looking to be completely 1:1. Ahh! As a second grade teacher it is completely nerve racking to think about. I love the idea but see some problems with trying to teach a student to read using an IPad. Do you know if there is a way to lock the page when a student is reading? As young students being reading they use their finger to track the word and if they do it will turn the page. I think it's great that you actually have plans for the staff before they are required to teach with it. Usually we get it and then have to figure it out on our own. Thank you again for sharing I'll be checking on the provided sites you left.

    Jamie G's picture
    Jamie G
    Instructional Technology Specilist - Community College

    What a fantastic story! I will continue to follow your district progress over the next months. I think it's fantastic that the teachers will be creating their own content for the students. The costs (and weight) of textbooks have become increasingly exorbitant where cost per semester for a full time college student equals the cost of one credit or more. A message needs to be sent. Hopefully, when your students get to college, they will have the technology skills they need to help them succeed. This is an interesting phenomenon that we are currently seeing on our campus, recent high school graduates who seriously lack basic computer skills, such as file management and word processing. This affects the older, non-traditional students as well, with the lack of technology skills is getting in the way of learning because they can't complete assignments which require knowledge of word processing. I congratulate you on your move, and I wish you the best!

    Stephanie Langan's picture
    Stephanie Langan
    Social Studies Teacher

    I received a Kindle as a birthday gift a few years back. After playing with it for about two months, I was having a conversation with my department chair about how they would be a great resource for students at the school to use for their text books instead of carrying around at backpack that weighs 20 plus pounds. The eReaders and IPads have dictionaries built into them, making access to information easier. The implementation your district is doing is one of the greatest implementations I have read about in a long time. I also like how you are allowing teachers to create their own classroom resources, pulling them away from the texts that often lack the ability to inspire excitement about learning. I am looking forward to updates about the process.

    Tanya Vaughn's picture
    Tanya Vaughn
    High School Math, Physics and Computers Teacher from Michigan

    My school is hoping to convert to iPads too. We currently have a pharmacy program that has a class set of iPads and some of our staff got them. I was one of the few to receive one. My principal is working on getting it to project on the board so I can use apps like "Show Me" to write on for my students. I am so excited for this change in technology!

    Juan Medina's picture
    Juan Medina
    High School Art Teacher from Hoffman Estates, Illinois

    What a wonderful transition in teaching and learning to witness first hand. Using the iBook app to distribute teacher created texts, student handbook, and other student reference materials throughout the year seems not only brilliant, but also eco friendly and surely long term cost effective. In many districts in the Chicago-land area, the iBook is being piloted by Special Education Programs, but the potential benefits reach far beyond Special Education Services Programs. As our students are more connected than ever to their iPhones and digital media devices, it makes me wonder why education has lagged so in partnering with apple/kindle. A student's relationship to family and friends has for a decade been linked to such media devices. This cultural shift in the way we communicate with each other and access information has already produced a difference in how our students learn. It gives me hope to see strides like yours in addressing 21st century learning with the present.
    Juan Medina

    Dennis Pack's picture

    Did I miss something? (I know little about i-products)
    I was just wondering why ebook format was chosen instead of pdf? I have formatted some local primary readers as pdf's and they look/work great with Radaee pdf viewer on my Android tablet. Was a very easy process ...

    Dan Callahan's picture
    Dan Callahan
    Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

    Hi Dennis,
    i can't speak to this specific instance, but in my school, we tend to favor ePub over PDF for student books because ePubs can include interactive elements, whereas PDFs are flat documents. My students regularly add audio and/or videos that are directly embedded within their books, and that's simply not possible for PDFs.

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