Don't Trust Conference Presenters: The Teacher Behind the Curtain

Recently I've noticed something about conference presenters (myself included). We're a bit phony. How so? Well, we jump up in front of poor, unsuspecting participants and show about 20% of our practice... the perfect, amazing 20%. Then we thank our audience and walk away with smiles as if to say, "Don't you wish you could do that?"

So, don't trust conference presenters. If you pull back the curtain, you'll see that the other 80% of our practice is rich with failure and - as such - important learning experiences. Moreover, don't expect to emulate what you see in the presentations - even 20% of the time - immediately. I'm not saying don't strive to set and meet goals based on what you learn at PDs, conferences and PLC meetings - but scaffold for yourself just as you would suggest for your students. At least in my case, it took me months - if not years - of experimentation with my iPads, AppleTV, Student Social Media, Chromebooks, etc. to gather the 60 minutes of presentation material to 'show out' in front of an audience. And even then, I'm still a work in progress - continually learning and growing.

As such, I've recently begun to make more of my learning experience transparent when I present. I try and show what didn't work and why - and also how I learned and grew from the experience. I do this before I demonstrate the current strategy, tool or process that is working well. My hope is that by being transparent about the real deal - the time, growth and challenges that I experienced - my colleagues can walk away from my workshops and sessions feeling empowered to rock out in their own classrooms. Because I know they all can - if I'm honest with my own journey.
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iTunes 11 Feature Helps Visually Impaired Redeem Gift Cards

A feature in Apple's iTunes 11 allows you to scan a gift card code using your computer's camera. The feature is particularly intriguing for the blind, visually impaired and for dyslexics. While it may be inconvenient for most people to type the 16 digit code, it is impossible for users who are blind or visually impaired, and can be a struggle for some dyslexics. To use the feature position the gift card in front of the computer's camera. For people with visual impairments VoiceOver, Apple's built in screen reader on your Mac will help you frame the card in the picture. Then iTunes recognizes the code and credits the money to your iTunes account. This feature makes it possible for the blind and visually impaired to easily and independently redeem iTunes gift cards. Maybe this cool scanning feature will make its way to iOS in the near future.

Click read more below to view pictures of the scanning feature in action.

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Nook App for iOS Updated to Support VoiceOver and Zoom

Great news, the Nook app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is now accessible to the blind, visually impaired and people with print disabilities. The updated app now supports VoiceOver and Zoom. VoiceOver and Zoom are built in accessibility features in iOS. To learn more about VoiceOver click here. With VoiceOver you can have the book read aloud using text-to-speech. Oddly enough the update makes the Nook app more accessible than current Nooks. Serious kudos to Barns & Noble's for making their app accessible. To download the app for free click here.

Click read more below to view more screenshots.

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Student Screencast Workflow

Recently I wrote this article, discussing the pros and cons of different screencasting apps. However, 9 days later Apple's updated operating system, iOS6, was released. This allows users to upload video to websites. Now that this is an option, here is workflow that will help you get student screencasts turned in more efficiently and allow you to provide grades, feedback, through the same platform.

You'd use the free screencasting app Doceri instead of your previous screencasting app (i.e., ShowMe, ScreenChomp or Educreations) as it allows you to send the video to your photo/camera roll. You'll also need to have your Edmodo class set up and an Edmodo assignment created. (Edmodo is a free online learning management system.) For help with this, check out this video.

[If you want ideas for how students can use screencasting apps to show their metacognition, check out this previous post and this one as well.]

Here is the workflow:

(1) Make sure all iPads are updated to iOS 6.0.1 or later. You can tell by going to the Settings app icon, then clicking on "General" then clicking on "About". About halfway down the screen you'll see "Version" - it should say 6.0.1.

(2) Once you've made sure all iPads are updated, you go into Edmodo and create an assignment. Tell the kids what to do with Doceri and what kind of video to make. Give it a due date. Send it to the students.

(3) Have the kids create screencasts on Doceri. Then have them save to the camera roll by dragging the video (once they're done a screen will pop up with the video thumbnails) to the picture of the camera roll (the black square with a flower in it - see the second photo). That saves the video to the iPad's camera roll.

(4)  Have them log into Edmodo. Have them tap on "turn in" on your assignment. Have them tap "file" then "choose existing" and finally select their video (it should be the most recent one all the way at the bottom of the list of thumbnails). Then have them submit their assignment. Now you have their video submitted to Edmodo and don't have to worry about uploading to a website, emailing it to yourself or downloading it directly from student iPads! You can grade it, give feedback, or download it to your desktop. It's a much, much cleaner workflow than and also allows you to organize videos and give feedback. This also allows you to download the videos to your desktop, should you wish. (See the last photo for a silly sample assignment.)

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Livescribe Sky Wifi Smartpen: Handwriten Notes With Audio in the Cloud


The Sky Wifi Smartpen from Livescribe is a WiFi enabled pen that has a built in audio recorder. This allows you to digitize handwritten notes which you can sync to Evernote wirelessly when in a compatible WiFi hotspot. (See below for Evernote description) The smartpen allows you to take handwritten notes which are linked to an audio recording of what was being said at the time you wrote your notes. The pen can record audio using a built in or external microphone. Using specially designed note paper, you simply touch "record" at the bottom of the dot paper page and begin writing notes. The camera at the bottom of the pen tracks where you write and the built in microphone records what is being said. The result is that your writing is linked with whatever was spoken at the time. In other words each pen-stroke is linked with the sound that you heard at that time. So if you are in class and your teacher is discussing President Washington and you write "President Washington" later you can playback everything the teacher said about Washington at that time by touching the pen to the words "President Washington."

Many of the pen's functions are accessed by touching buttons printed on the specially designed dot paper with the tip of the pen. When you are done taking notes you simply press the stop button at the bottom of the dot paper notebook and your handwriting and audio recording is automatically synced to Evernote. Click here to view a sample note. From Evernote you can view the note and listen to the audio or share the note.

Click read more below to read the full review.


The Sky Wifi Smartpen has numerous benefits for students, business people, and teachers. The pen allows you to hand write your notes but still have them available electronically. The linked audio is great for reviewing and remembering class notes or business meetings. Also you do not need to worry about using a stylus and tablet.

Set up:

Setting up the Sky WiFi Samrtpen was a bit complicated. Luckily it is a one time set up. In order to connect to Wifi you must use the printed keyboard on the inside cover of your specially designed dot paper notebook. However, you currently cannot connect to wifi networks with hidden SSIDs or networks that require a sign-in or agreement page to connect. Connecting the pen to your Evernote account is very easy.


The smartpen looks like a normal pen but is a bit thicker in order to accommodate all of the electronics. It is comfortable to hold and easy to write with. The pen only includes one physical button which turns the pen on and off. On the front is a small screen, microphone, and speaker. The microphone works well even from long distances, but sometimes picks up the sound of the pen writing. The speaker is adequate for personal use in a quiet room but you can also plug in headphones to the headphone jack on top. The top also has a micro-USB for charging. On the bottom is the ball point tip which is replaceable and a camera which tracks where you are writing on the dot paper. The bottom half of the pen has a slightly rubberized feel that prevents the pen from slipping from your grip. Having wifi turned on degrades battery life but you can turn wifi off by taping the wifi off button on the front cover of your notebook.


Evernote integration is a huge plus for the Sky Wifi Smartpen. It makes it seamless to view and listen to your notes on virtually any devices. Evernote is a free internet storage service designed especially for note taking. Evernote is an online services designed to help you organize notes and information. Evernotes has apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Windows, and Mac. Evernote also allows you to search for text within your notes and organize notes using tags. Evernote also makes sharing a breeze. Your shared pen casts can be view and played on almost any device with the Livescribe player. From within the Livescribe player you can click on any part of your notes to hear what was being said at that time.


The smartpen needs dot paper to work. You can print the dot paper from certain printers or buy it from Livescribe's website. The dot paper comes in notebooks, sticky notes, or index cards and cost somewhat more than normal paper. One small notebook is included with the smartpen. You can add  a recording headset that adds external microphones for increased audio quality. Standard headset such as the Apple headphones with microphone will also work.


The smartpen has exciting educational applications. It can be used to help students who have trouble with note taking or who need a little extra help reviewing for tests and quizzes. Students can outline notes and rely on the audio to supplement anything that wasn't written. It could also be used for people with attention issues because if they forget to write down something they can still go back and listen to what they missed. One very exciting application of the pen is for students who are exempt from taking notes. The student who takes notes for the students with disabilities could use the pen to take notes and then immediately email the notes to any student who needs them. This would eliminate any delays in receiving notes and would also not require a teacher to make copies. It also eliminates concerns about the readability of carbon copy notes.

Still To Come:

Sometime in early 2013 a wireless software update will allow you to share your notes to Dropbox, Email, Facebook, and Google Drive. Stay tuned to the Assistive Technology Blog for news about the Sky Wifi Smartpen.

Pricing and Availability:

The Sky Wifi Smartpen costs $150 for 2gb of storage, $200 for 4gb, and $250 for 8gb. Storage is internal and non-upgradable. The smartpen is available online at and select Best Buy stores.


The device was provided complimentary to reviewer .
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Slow Down iOS Home-Click Speed

The iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch home button does more than just take you do the home screen. With a quick double tap it can bring up the multitasking pane or music controls. With a quick tripple click it can be used to start an accessibility feature such as VoiceOver, Zoom, Assistive Touch, or Guided Access. If you find it difficult or impossible to double or tripple click the home button quickly you can slow down the speed in settings. To slow down the home-click speed go to settings > general > accessibility > home-click speed.  This setting is only available in iOS 6. To learn how to upgrade to iOS 6 click here. This setting will allow you to press the home button much slower in order to activate the double or tripple click actions. Watch the above video to learn more.
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Middle School Students on Social Media

This month has been a whirlwind of travel and learning for me! For the past three days, I've been presenting at the Leveraging Learning iPad Institute in Auburn, ME - home of one of the longest running and most successful 1:1 laptop pilots in the country. In addition to discovering new apps, pedagogy and amazing ideas to bring back to Chicago, I was incredibly inspired by 16 middle school students who were there live-tweeting their reactions to the institute (see hashtag #adv2014). Their insights into education were beyond humbling. This is their second year attending and tweeting about the event, and several of them had gone home last year and read Bea McGarvey's book Inevitable from cover to cover. For fun. And had fun doing it. Then they came back this year and debated education points with adult educators at the conference. Honestly... mind. blown.

Yesterday I convinced the amazing conference organizers to showcase these young voices as part of the dinnertime keynote. No surprise - they were a hit. Moreover, I had them do a Google Hangout with a social media expert friend of mine back in Chicago - Autumn Laidler. See that hangout here.

Today I thought we could continue to promote their ideas and voices by having them do some guest blogging here. So without further ado, the inspirational students of Auburn Middle School:


Hello, my name is Donnie P, and my twitter account is @ams_donniep.  I am at the Leveraging Learning conference in Auburn, Maine.  I go to Auburn Middle School, and I am a student Twitter editor.  My job is to watch over the tweets that other kids have sent.  I correct them on a back channel we have going on at  I tell them what to correct on their tweets, whether it’s a grammatical, or a spelling errors. I think that Twitter should be used in school because one time I was in Social Studies, and I “tweeted” about my class in Todays Meet.  When I was tweeting, I felt like I was absorbing information better.  I think all students should use Twitter, especially ones that have trouble listening.  It really helps for your listening skills I came to this conference last year as a tweeter, and I had a blast.  I had learned about Mass Customized Learning.  I had kind of just learned about it, but I really liked the idea.  I really didn’t have enough steam to do anything.  When I came to this conference, and listened to Bea McGarvey’s keynote.  Then I decided I just didn’t want to tweet about it, I want to do something about it.  I don’t just want to talk about the change, I want to be the change.

Hi! My name is Faduma and I’m an eighth grader at Auburn Middle School here in Auburn, Maine. My Twitter handle is @ams_fadumam. I have had the awesome opportunity to be a Student Tweeter two times (yep, I’m a veteran) for the Leveraging Learning the iPad in Primary Grades Conference. I’m a “tweeter” and what I do is I tweet about what I feel is an important fact, an opinion or a quote. Some people think that is it a negative thing that we are limited to a 140 character tweet but I think that it helps you make a good tweet because you have to tweet only the important stuff. I think that one a couple of things that I have taken away from this mind - blowing opportunity is that I need to take responsibility and initiative of my own learning and not take my education for granted.

Hi, my name is Owen Mower, and I’m an eighth grade student at Auburn Middle School. This conference has changed my views entirely on what the iPads do for the students using them. The technology focuses children, and enriches their learning. It has totally changed my mind from last year. I’ve been very lucky to be asked to get to come to this conference! Thank you for the fantastic presentations, and making the conference super enjoyable!

Hi, I'm Alina M. and I'm an eighth grader at Auburn Middle School. I've always lived here, in Auburn, ME and I am proud that I get to represent my hometown at this conference. It's such an amazing opportunity to represent Maine's education. All 16 students, over many weeks, have trained to become amazing representatives to our school. We are the actual, living proof that Mass Customized Learning will work, not just facts and statistics. You hear all the time, at conferences, how adults view topics. I think it's amazing that we were chosen to present the students view on these topics, as well! It's such an amazing opportunity; one that I wish every student could share as well. I really hope that eventually, because we are leading the way, that is what it will come to! 

Hi my name is Spencer H. I am an eighth grader at Auburn Middle School and the past 2 years I have had the opportunity to do something great. Basically I am a student tweeter and I go to sessions at the conference and I tweet about what is going on who is speaking questions opinions etc. My fist time here at the conference I went to my first session and my jaw dropped. I was in awe. After I got out of my first session I remember being like “Oh my god” it works and then I started thinking about how this whole time I was in more of a fixed mindset of “Kindergartners with iPad’s they are just going to break them within 5 days.” but after that session and over a year I have moved out of that fixed mindset and more into the growth mindset that iPads can work with Kindergarteners.

Hello! My name is Jacob Willette and I am a tweeter at the Advantage 2014 iPad meetings. What my peers, and I did was we used the social network Twitter to tweet the subjects of the many conferences. Throughout the days I participated, Thursday and Friday, I feel I did very well and “Tweeted” to my full potential. I would like to thank Apple Inc. and MLTI for the funding for our tee-shirts, lunch, and hotel room. I would also like to thank Kelly McCarthy, Carol Miller, Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Mauri Dufour, and Jennifer Magiera for brilliant presentations.

Hello, my name is Ryan.  I am an eighth grader at Auburn Middle School, I love hockey, and I am a student Tweeter.  This experience has been a blast and was way better than anything I could have imagined.  Being a Tweeter is a lot harder than it was cracked up to be. We all have to be synchronized with the Tweets, make sure they made sense, and listen to what the talkers have to say and get it down before you forget.  Yet even with all the stress we pulled it off, yet my fingers feel very sore and stiff.  With all that went on we had a blast, I think all of us will always remember the great days we had together, we really tried our hardest and hope you got the gist of what the different sessions.  We sure learned a whole lot.  Hope you enjoyed our tweets. 

Hi! My name is Spencer Frahn and I am a seventh grader that goes to Auburn Middle School.  I thought my first experience was great here at the Twitter conference.  I thought listening to the iPad session and talking to people that had questions was the best.  I learned a lot about the iPads, I used to think they were pointless but now I realize I was wrong. I listened to Dr. Ruben, Kelly McCarthy, Carol Miller, but I also listened to the conversation between the Tweeters and people who had questions. My job was to Tweet the “bare bone” facts or to write my opinion that I had on something the speaker said.  My name on Twitter is @ams_spencerf.  I hope I can do this again next year.

Hello, my name is Reece R I go to Auburn Middle school and am in seventh grade. I enjoyed tweeting at this conference at the Hilton Garden Inn and in the Auburn City Hall, learning about the iPads and iPods was very interesting. I feel that if every grade has iPads or laptops they can learn much more efficiently, faster, and better. Your presentation was very interesting, learning about your  feelings thoughts, opinions, and facts about iPads, iPods and many different apps.   Overall this was a very interesting program and I hope to do it next year.

Hello! My name is Samantha H.! I am one of the Tweeters from Auburn Middle School! My partner, Sophie M, and I went to 4 sessions. The sessions we attended, were: So You’re Initiative Isn’t Going As Well As You’d Like... What Do You Do Next?, Auburn’s Customized Learning and The Role Of iPads, and then we weresupposed to go to the Professional Development in a Maturing Initiative session, but no one showed, so we went to the session across the hall. Our teacher, Mr. B, asked us to take a break and enjoy the session. All of the sessions we went to were presented by: Mike Muir, Shelly Mogul, and Mauri Dufour. I believe Mike is a very bright, and smart, man. And, he definitely knows what he’s talking about. Shelly is very, very nice, and is very smart as well. Mauri is a kindergarten teacher at Sherwood Heights. All of the sessions we went to were very interesting. I learned a lot of things but, some words really stood out to me. I learned that to succeed, you need a plan, andsteps to move forward. I loved working with the Student Tweeter project! I wish I would’ve done it last year! If I could I would do this again in a heartbeat.
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