Valuing Your Professional Judgment

This article originally appears in @OECTA Magazine, published June 2016

You are a teacher and make no mistake about it, you are doing God’s work. You are a professional, caring individual that more often than not, loses sleep over that one student who may not have succeeded as well as you would have liked. You live and breathe learning, in and out of your students, curricular lessons and even more so, life-lessons. You have trained, philosophized, argued, cried and reflected upon everything to do with education… everything. You operate as a surrogate parent, attuning your senses to pangs of hunger, outcries for attention, fear of social abandonment, the need for love and safety and otherwise undetectable rhythms of understanding between a trusted adult and those in your care.

You are truly doing God’s work.

So why then, in the name of God’s work, would you ever relinquish this understanding, this connection, this crucial attunement, to instead base your year-long teaching plan on scoring taken from any standardized test? This is quite baffling to be completely honest.  

I have been privy to many discussions, seminars and keynotes led by researchers that, based on quantifiable evidence, reiterate how standardized tests fail to measure student success with any degree of accuracy or reliability. Unfortunately this argument fails to offer the simplicity of using the standardized test as one tool among many. It really doesn’t have to be so black and white.

What the researchers do say, is that data known as observable evidence is paramount in the world of data. This message is even heartily supported by EQAO’s Chief Executive Officer, Bruce Rodrigues. This observable evidence is born out of the ability to study and note actions and interactions during the everyday. There can be only one, pure procurement of this precious data and that my friends is where the classroom teacher comes in. The classroom teacher, that breathes the same air as her students, is the ultimate and decisive source of observable data.

OECTA has fought for and continues to fight for your professional judgment and here is what it truly boils down to for you: You are the only one truly qualified to assess your students’ success. To suggest that any singular test ought to direct your energies and efforts, belittles your training, your passion and most importantly to your professional judgment. It is but one tool among many that serve to support your God-given talents and passion for teaching.

Looking for Authentic Professional Development? 7 Reasons Why OECTA’s Collaborative Learning Communities are Ideal PD

This article originally appears in @OECTA issue April 2016

I can’t exactly pin-point when it happened, but at one point during the last 15 years, educational reform became an imperative.  Calls for modernization, engagement and higher test-scores became the dinner bell for every researcher, blogger, Tweeter, administrator and education minister.  As millions of dollars were poured into initiatives and their twinned research faculties, teachers’ own voices about effective project management, professional development and inquiry were drowned out by the system.

But your Association was listening quite carefully.

OECTA has, for a decade now, sponsored and supported Collaborative Learning Communities (CLC’s) for teachers interested in pursuing their own burning questions about teaching, practice, student learning and research.

Here are 7 reasons why OECTA’s CLC’s are ideal professional learning models for teachers.


CLC applications may promote a universal theme such as math or technology, but the applying teacher-team really takes the lead on the specific subject matter they wish to pursue. This unfettered, autonomous project is fueled by teachers’ imaginations and desire to help their students achieve more.

2. Curiosity-Driven

Teachers are all-too-often overloaded with initiatives or what I call ‘perpetual pilots’ that are here today and gone tomorrow. Instead, the CLC’s provide opportunities for teachers to present ideas that they are interested in. We so often encourage student-curiosity in the context of inquiry and rarely support teachers in the same vein.

3. Authentic Assessment (Observations, documentation and so much more)

To be part of the CLC’s our teachers understand that assessment of their own processes are critical. OECTA’s respect and defense of teachers’ professional judgment is demonstrated through this aspect. CLC groups document their observations, reflect, discuss and reshape their practice and even attitude towards teaching.

4. Time and Space

Ask any teacher in any jurisdiction what they need most and you will hear, “Give me time and space to try something.” The CLC is designed to do just that and although funding is never extravagant, 4 days of colleague-to-colleague discussions often spark conversations that last a professional life-time. Sometimes all you need is that spark.

5. Observable Change

We have visited hundreds of teachers that have documented real change in both their practice and in their students.  This change is documented through videos, pictures, anecdotal remarks. The most important piece to remember is that the biggest change comes from teachers’ own perspectives on learning.

6. Provincial and Global Networking

Learning as part of a small group at one school or two can be quite powerful, but connecting with like-minded, curious and courageous teachers provincially and even globally can be awe-inspiring. At OECTA we strive to assist our CLC projects connect with one another and share learning. We often refer to ourselves as the groups’ promoters.

7. Teacher-Directed, Teacher-Led

Our view of leadership is not nestled within the comfort of hierarchy. Teachers lead CLC projects from the start and their leadership is often tested academically, socially and spiritually. Teachers involved in OECTA CLC’s demonstrate true, selfless, servant-leadership. Their leadership is tested, honed and recognized throughout the process and encouraged to serve others through invitation into their work.

3 Keys: Going Digital in the Classroom? Understanding Workflow is a Must

This article orginally appears in the February edition of @OECTA


Once upon a time, workflow in the classroom was pretty straightforward. The teacher would conduct a lesson, assign the work and we, as students, would complete the work and submit it. Today we have adopted a much more complicated workflow that processes student work and more importantly processes learning, goal-setting, success criteria, and timely, ongoing feedback before assessment.

Here are some keys that will help you establish a workflow for your classroom. Non-tech options are also provided.

  1. Identify your goals

Your goals may be curricular, technical or pedagogical or all.

  1. Select a noninvasive sanctioned tool to use in the classroom.

The trendiness of classroom innovation has flooded the market with tools that may not always respect our privacy as teachers or our students’ privacy. Be selective when considering your tools.

  1. Be OK with retooling your workflow.

The only way to test your workflow is through its use in the classroom. This also gives you opportunity to cultivate student voice and include students as architects and engineers of the workflow.

Below is an example of a workflow for Gr. 7 Science.

Sample Workflow:

Curriculum Goals: Understanding the impact of human activities on our environment.

Technology Workflow Goals: To go paperless for this unit.

Pedagogical Goals: To provide feedback through discussions and keep record of learning.

Tool: Desire2Learn Virtual Learning Environment

Mini-lesson about discussion etiquette, Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectation: Responsible Citizen & Collaborative Contributor

Stage 1 – Expose the goal.

Jumping Point: How does the production of millions of devices worldwide impact our environment?

Tech Workflow: Post the ‘jumping point’ question in the NEWS area of Desire2Learn

Non-Tech Workflow: Post the ‘Jumping Point’ question centrally on a bulletin board.

Stage 2: Provide a means for discussion and a timeframe.

Tech Workflow: Now post the ‘jumping point’ question on a discussion board in Desire2Learn and ask students to submit a digital source of information that will help their understanding of the question. The students ought to explain why it was selected in a meaningful way.

Non-Tech Workflow: Distribute post-it notes to the class and devote some time to brainstorm responses to the ‘jumping point’ question. Students can then post their responses as groups or individuals to a bulletin board using post-its. This now becomes a public discussion board.

You may cover the bulletin board with a large white sheet to signify when it is available and when it is ‘off-line’.

**Be sure to discuss discussion etiquette and consequences for violations**

Stage 3: Capture the Learning and Provide Feedback

Tech Workflow: By virtue of going digital, discussions are automatically captured. Spend some time reading and responding to your students. Your responses should attempt to give them further direction and challenge.

Non-Tech Workflow: Take a picture of the bulletin board to capture the student work. Reply with your own post-it privately or publicly to the students depending on context.

Where does this go next? Remember that a workflow is only as effective as its focus. In this case, the workflow was designed specifically to support a curricular goal by using discussion as a way to provide feedback and to go paperless, using Desire2Learn. Logically, the next step would be to design a workflow to accept student work. Knowing the 3 keys to designing workflow will make that next step a lot easier and more importantly, sharing those keys with your students will bring everyone onto the same page, whether it’s digital or paper.

Why Facebook? Why Now?

Why Facebook Why Now?


About 16 years ago, long before sense and sensibility took over the Facebook or let’s say, the audience of Facebook matured, I was a very enthusiastic wide-eyed first-year teacher. Swimming in the ocean that is first-year teaching, I was hit with waves of worry that were just barely balanced by the love of what I was doing. In the midst this, the dark shadow of an untethered social media monster crept into my classroom and into my school. 

It was in my first two years of teaching that I took it upon myself to be the watchdog over my grade 6 and 7 students as they became entangled in the World Wide Web, and in particular with their use of Facebook. With no guidance, and Facebook being relatively new, it was truly the wild wild West.  I found myself guarding that very thin line between chaos and order in the social lives of pre-teens, which to me was absolutely terrifying. 

My students and those I coached, approached me on a regular basis about online bullying, threats and an overall fear because of confrontations that happened on Facebook the night before. Oh sure there was – once upon a time – ICQ and MSN which were popular too, but the magnitude of bullying on Facebook surpassed those two services easily and by far. So I started educating kids the only way I knew how: I taught them about safety, etiquette and above all else I told them to stay off Facebook because they were all underage. That was the beginning of what I faced. 

About one year into the ‘Facebook phenomenon’ I found myself, on too many occasions, standing at the front of the school stopping high school would-be assailants, from entering my school to beat the you-know-what out of gr. 6, 7 or 8 students at my school for posts they had made on Facebook. To this day those students have no idea this happened.

CITY TV also conducted a feature on my work to stop cyber-bullying and it went so far as working with Toronto Police to identify locations for staged fights established on Facebook. My taste for the social media site was sour from the get-go, and I never stuck around to see it change – and it did.

As years passed I did my best to dabble in Facebook but the stigma was too strong and I was far too stubborn. I began missing things.. Began missing growth, lessons, life changing events.. I stayed of the road that led to that info and it was my own doing. 

 I still witness some of my former students practicing what I taught them during those early years, even though now they are employed, married and working citizens. I wonder if I did too much to protect them or was it enough?

Now, 16 years later, my best friend’s wife, set out to get my wife on Facebook and in doing so forced me to reconsider and I’m so glad I did. As a teacher, a resource for technology in education and staff of a professional development department I had had enough of my self-inflicted state of irony. It was time to go to where my friends and family were and to admit I was overdue. And so here we are and I’m so grateful for it. 

We do want to share and we so want to celebrate. We have 4 beautiful and vibrant children, friends and family that we love and that are a part of that village it takes to raise our children. If you’re reading this now then that’s you.

Thank you for meeting me on the other side.. 

Thanks Wendy!

Do EdTech the Right Way

Edtech intro qrThis article originally appears in the @OECTA Magazine found at: This article is an example of an interactive article. Because it was distributed in print form, readers were encouraged to download any QR code reader from the Apple App Store, Android Store or use the BlackBerry Smart Tag app to scan codes like the one you see to the left using your tablet or mobile device.

Thinking about taking the next step to integrating technology in your classroom? Experience has shown that there are 3 keys to successful integration of educational technology:

  1. Have a Plan
  2. Use Non-Invasive Technology
  3. Be OK with Trying Again.

The Plan

Having a plan is probably the most critical factor for success when attempting to integrate tech into everyday teaching. The plan can be broken down into 3 key parts:

A – Identify the Overall Expectation from the curriculum that you would like to explore.

B – Identify a non-invasive tech tool that will help facilitate learning based on that expectation.

C – Build in time for trial, error and retrial within the activity.

Always remember that teachers teach students, not curriculum. Avoid the pitfall of being compelled to ‘cover curriculum’ or ‘cover content’. When you begin with the Big Ideas featured at the beginning of each section within any curriculum document, you start with a broad idea that promotes student inquiry. Also avoid ‘covering’ each of the specific expectations and instead invite your students to arrive at those expectations on their own.

You will find over time that your students will meet and exceed all of the specific curriculum expectations. If they do not, then you will have enough evidence to pinpoint which areas of learning require your attention.

Once you have identified the overall expectations, decide on what tools (if any) you will need to facilitate student learning. Will the tool be used to drive content, make student learning visible or assist with a culminating artifact?

What is Non-Invasive Technology?

It has become quite apparent that software companies have turned their focus to education looking for ways to penetrate a relatively unexploited market. In doing so the web has become saturated with a variety of tools and apps that help make learning fun, engaging, visible, measurable and interactive. On the surface this looks like a very good thing, but as teachers we must always remember our responsibility to protect our students. Consider the following before you select your next online tool for the classroom.

1. Is the tool licensed by the ministry or by your school board?

2. Does the tool respect student privacy? What login information is being asked?

3. Does the tool collect invasive amounts of data such as age, geographic location, gender, school name?

4. Does that tool necessitate use of your personal device?

5. Does that tool necessitate parental permission?

6. Does the tool require that you keep pictures, videos or any other data locally on a device?

7. If data is lost, does the tool enable swift recovery?

8. Is there teacher support at your school or board for that particular tool?

There are a great many applications that are powerful learning tools that are completely non-invasive. The key here is to answer the question: What do you want the tech to do? There are numerous non-invasive tools that can explore content, visualize learning, categorize research or consolidate learning through creation of an artifact.

Be OK With Trying Again

Teachers are often hard on themselves when plans seemingly fail when in reality, students have learned in spite of that perceived failure. Be sure to understand that patience for yourself is just as important as patience for your students. Select a tool that is straightforward to implement and even more importantly, straight forward to manage. Establish rules and expectations with your students not for your students. Student-voice should always define the protocols for using any online tool with the guidance of the teacher.

When you select a tool, set a realistic goal about its frequency of use. Attempting to use a tech-tool everyday is very unrealistic. 1-2 times per week is an ideal pace for anyone beginning his or her journey of tech integration.

Below is an example of a simple lesson for Grade 9 Mathematics. It uses 3 tools that are considered non-invasive. 2 tools help deliver content and 1 tool is used to capture student voice, rationale and learning.

Sample Learning Activity

Curriculum Goal: MPM1D – Investigating the Properties of Slope

  1. Have the class view video 1 from (see link below) and select 5 students to write notes using Assign 1 other student as the moderator of those notes.
  1. Watch the second video from Khan Academy via YouTube and ask 5 other students to write notes about points made that may not have been made in the original video. Assign 1 other student as the moderator of those notes.
  1. Have a class discussion about which video achieves its goal to introduce slope and why.
  1. Create groupings of 3 and challenge each group to create a tutorial about how to calculate slope. This can be done using paper, tech or any other appropriate means.
  1. Build in time for exploration and dialogue
  1. Attempt to solve real world problems based on lessons learned.
  1. Assess for learning and provide meaningful feedback.

Non-Invasive Tech Tools:

EdTech Graphics

3 Reasons Why it’s the Perfect Time to Take An OECTA AQ for Technology in the Classroom

FallAQcourse2Teachers looking for an opportunity to learn at a pace that respects their style of learning have a wonderful opportunity to do so with OECTA’s Integration of Information Technology in Classroom Instruction Part 1. The course was designed with the beginner in mind and deeply explores simple tools and simple integration for anyone willing to try. For those that are ready for a challenge, our IITCI Part 2 looks at more complex tools and marries that learning with research and deep pedagogy. (Our specialist has not been released yet but its focus is on leadership development, system roll-outs, research, pedagogy and change theory.)

Here are the top 3 reasons why you should take one of our AQ’s about integration of technology.

Reason #1 – Total Support in an Online World

Much of the feedback that we have received about the course has been about how flexible, patient and encouraging our instructors are. Offering many opportunities to connect via email, texts, phone calls and online webinars, our instructors have proven that they are willing to go the distance to make your first foray into technology enabled learning a positive one. We have had many participants taking the course who had never taken an online course before and found themselves to be very successful.

Reason #2 – Real World Application

The course content was designed to work in your classroom, period. There are hundreds of fleeting fads and tech trends that sweep through our schools everyday, but the approach to technology used in our courses focuses on skill development and a broad view of how any tool can be used in a pedagogically sound way.

Reason #3 – Government Subsidy is Now Available

Technology & Math Subsidy

As of November 2015 OECTA is able to offer a $450 subsidy for Ontario teachers in good standing with the Ontario College of Teachers upon completion of our Integration of Information and Technology in Classroom Instruction and Mathematics courses while funds remain, so be sure to register soon.

There is no better time to take first or second steps into the world of technology enabled learning than now. As course designer and former instructor I can say with great confidence that you will enjoy the course from beginning to end.

Come join us for a new online learning experience!


Kids and Online Behaviour

The Difference Between ‘Careful’ and ‘Responsible’

This article originally appears in the September 2015 @OECTA Magazine –

By Anthony Carabache – Sept. 15, 2015


My son Julius is seven years old – the eldest of four children. The morning he told me he wanted his own YouTube channel, I leaned on my kitchen counter, looked at my wife and said, “Already? Really?”
If you know who I am and what I do, I invite you to relish in the irony… it’s actually okay with me. I told him his mother and I would discuss and then lay out a plan to get his channel going. The next half hour was spent contemplating how to avoid this inevitability.

When I finally came to my senses, I went to work digging through my presentations looking for something – anything – to fix the situation. From laptop to Dropbox to Drive, I just knew that somewhere in the Cloud I had a presentation or a talk or a handout that would make this all better. But I was frustrated and worried. How could I, a designer, author and implementation strategist for technology integration in education be stymied by my seven-year-old’s desire to start a YouTube channel?

The 21st Century Learner

A few moments later, my two-year old tried to climb up onto the kitchen table to reach my iPad. When my wife gently told him to “Be careful,” it hit me! I ran back to one of my machines and pulled up a graphic that had been driving a good chunk of my talks about the 21st Century learner during the past year. I had overlooked it while I was thinking “defense.”

The graphic I uncovered has a simple, yet profound message. It is the promise I make to teachers and parents across Ontario and via Twitter to the world: We should change the word “careful” to “responsible” whenever discussing our online behaviour. The beauty of this simple change switches us, as a collective, from defense to offense.

Being careful entails waiting for something to happen, and then to treading softly as we negotiate that something. Being responsible requires us to act by a standard we created ahead of time. One is passive (waiting for something to happen) and one is proactive (anticipating what’s to come).

Empowering Students

As a teacher, when you change the dialogue in your classroom from careful conversations to responsible ones, you empower your students to take control of potentially harmful situations. When you ask a child of seven to seek out videos on YouTube about Minecraft that only have positive language, you open yourself up to the question: “What is bad language?” Well of course
you have to answer that question, but when you answer, you explain how speaking in light of Christ’s teachings is what makes us who we are. You tie that responsibility to the beauty of Christ’s story and draw that connection between our faith and your student’s behaviour. When you do that, you begin shaping a very potent young being.

When next you speak to your students about the dangers of the World Wide Web, try to catch yourself before you utter the word “careful” and instead replace it with the word “responsible.” It is then that you witness what incredible ideas, lessons and conversations will follow.

From Pound Sign to Hashtag to #WhatTeachersDo


This article originally appears in OECTA’s publication @OECTA which can be found here.

Have you heard of Rip Van Winkle Syndrome? It gets its name from a short story called “Rip Van Winkle,” written by American author Washington Irving and published in 1819. It tells the story of a man who falls asleep in the Catskill Mountains of New York, only to wake up 20 years later. Essentially, the man slept through the entire American Revolutionary War and then found himself in a world that was quite alien. Sound familiar?

The Hashtag

Fast forward to 2015 and consider Twitter – a revolution of sorts, and the most popular social media network on earth. It is hard to believe it has only been around for nine years, and particularly popular in the last five. It was during this incredibly short time that we began losing touch with the # sign, or pound sign, the hardest working of all telephone buttons. This # sign has now evolved into something called the hashtag. Simply put, the hashtag is a breadcrumb for the explorer, a signal for the curious, and a beacon for anyone who is lost in the river of information that is Twitter. Its origins are actually highly technical in the world of programming code, but in our world our beloved # acts as a guide toward shore, a dock or even a fireside chat that gives a breath of calm and focus in an otherwise distracted medium. At OECTA, we decided to create our own breath of calm just for teachers, one that talks about the intangibles we often forget about in the world of teaching. We have started the hashtag #WhatTeachersDo and we invite you to share the warmth of this unique fireside chat with us.

What is #WhatTeachersDo?

#WhatTeachersDo is meant to be about the little things we do that make a difference in our school communities. It is meant to be a place of sharing where we can show each other that news doesn’t always have to be negative. It is meant to bring to light just how beautifully we touch the lives of students. It is a small opportunity to demonstrate our passion for what we do.


Clearing up misunderstandings at recess. It's just #WhatTeachersDo

Clearing up misunderstandings at recess. It’s just #WhatTeachersDo

Whether it’s a Band-Aid on a skinned knee or taking a phone call from a teary parent – these are the stories that drive our passion. It’s the little things that matter to our students; it’s the little things that keep us up at night thinking about them; and it’s the little things that bring our students back to our classroom doors years later.

Putting themselves out there to connect with their students. It's just #WhatTeachersDo

Putting themselves out there to connect with their students. It’s just #WhatTeachersDo

#WhatTeachersDo celebrates the little things that make teaching unlike any other profession on Earth. Check out the feed  below – it truly is inspiring!

How to #WhatTeachersDo?

Twitter is a wonderful source of self-directed professional development. If you have never used it before, it is worth the five minutes to sign up. There is a short tutorial on YouTube that is available by searching the following terms in Google: How To #WhatTeachersDo. There, you will find a five-minute lesson showing you how to participate.

Anthony Carabache is a secretariat member in the Professional Development Department at OECTA Provincial Office.

A Teacher’s Union Disrupting Online Ed

How a Teacher’s Union is Changing the Game of Online Learning in Ontario

These are busy times… and the speed of new technologies, access to information and split-second decision making only make things busier and busier. Whether you are a teacher of 25 years or just newly hired, a young parent with children or an empty-nester, time is a premium and many say the most valuable currency.

Despite these demands, when it comes to professional development, some way, somehow teachers always find a way to fit it into an already full day. The drive to continue to learn and apply new information to the classroom has always made teachers life-long learners in every sense of the word, yet Additional Qualifications providers rarely acknowledge the need to mitigate stress and promote the well-being of their teachers… until now.

OECTA always seeks to improve the teacher experience which has led us to disrupt the typical AQ pathway by offering Modular AQ’s. 

Introducing OECTA Modules for Additional Qualifications or Professional Learning

In a world that’s continuously accelerating and pulling us in different directions, teachers in Ontario and all over the world, have been given an option to take full courses in smaller, manageable bites.

Understanding that life-balance and well-being are integral to all teachers, OECTA Modules respect time constraints, budgetary concerns and most importantly the need to balance personal and professional life. The teacher can take one fifth of the course, at a time, over a six-week period.

Unbundled Learning

More and more, consumers are demanding the unbundling of preset product packages so why shouldn’t teachers have unbundled professional learning opportunities? Modular AQ’s unbundle full courses and offers them as ‘Just Right, Just in Time and Just for You” packets to all teachers.

In the United States and to a lesser degree in Canada, there is a growing movement towards Massively Open Online Courses or MOOC’s. In fact, MOOC’s have garnered so much attention that studies are being conducted globally to determine how they have disrupted traditional tertiary education.

Though the mechanics of the module and the massively open online course are similar, at their core they are very different.

Your Needs, Your Choice

Modules come accredited by the Ontario College of Teachers. If you take five modules in the same course you will receive accreditation for that one course. In essence, a teacher can choose to complete a course in one session or break the course up over 2 years. Imagine how that releases stress and anxiety on those who wish to continuously develop!

OECTA also offers modules that have no bearing on additional qualification status. In fact we have embraced the idea that teachers would like to take professional development courses out of interest and desire for their own learning. In these cases teachers can take a module without worrying about completing the assigned tasks in order be officially credited, rather a certificate of completion would be issued.

The Association has always been committed to professional and in the face of an ever evolving profession, and in light of ever changing tides module offerings demonstrate just how incredibly passionate the Association is about respecting its members, it’s members’ workload, and importantly its members’ professional development needs.

Take a module with OECTA and feel the difference and learn at your own pace!

Join us:

Education Should Step Away from Apple iOS Devices

When It Comes to Apples and Oranges – Save Me an Orange…

3 Reasons to Stay Away from iPads in the Classroom

Now don’t get me wrong, I am an Apple guy through and through. My house is mired in the Apple ecosystem and we love every single bit of it- despite the maladies of the latest update. But this article is certainly not about an individual consumer purchasing Apple products, which I think is the root cause of why Apple fails in the classroom- especially if it is a shared device. To get straight to the point: if you cannot purchase iOS devices for each student – don’t bother. Here’s why:

1. “Get Your Head Out of Your Apps” – Apple’s Favourite Line is a Quiet Lie

As an educational consultant for 21st century learning, an experienced classroom teacher and the writer of countless design projects for implementation of technology in the classroom, I have been invited to sit in on numerous meetings with Apple Inc.’s regional representatives to discuss the rollout of devices into the classroom. There once was a time that I highly recommended the iPad as an excellent device for integrating technology into the classroom but no longer is this the case. After examining iPad implementation across the province, country and abroad over the last six years I have come to determine that it is simply not designed for shared use in education. This contradicts the very idea of what it means to collaborate – a 21st century skill we can all agree upon. It would seem that Apple’s philosophy when it comes to education is share less buy more.

In my last year as an educational consultant for 21st-century learning I would only come to meetings with Apple with one question in my back pocket: How can students share work in a seamless way, then pass on the iPad to another?

The bottom line: in a shared situation there is no guarantee that students’ work is protected as the device moves from student to student or even from teacher to teacher. Each and every app that is downloaded requires a sign-in, but go ahead and look for the sign out button because each app has it placed on a different page within the software.

When asked if Apple’s native applications can solve the problem, the answer is quite simply -N-O-, and for a company that prides itself on developing the native functionality of a device used for education there is a glaring absence of a solution for this.

For example: A student submits work using Dropbox or Box or Drive or any other cloud based software, would require that student to sign in to that app. What happens when that student passes the iPad on? What guarantees that the original student signed out of the cloud based app? 

I understand that there are workarounds and I have even suggested those workarounds to my colleagues only to realize how insensitive I was to the time it takes to efficiently put those workarounds in place. For anyone to suggest that it is merely a finger-to-glass operation, is proof that they have no respect for teachers’ plans or teachers’ time. This is simply unacceptable.

Third party profiles can be installed on an iOS device – of which there are many – however, these 3rd party applications keep App store purchases separate and therefore updating apps becomes a nightmarish experience of signing in and out of an iTunes account to ensure an app works with each update. Again a show of disrespect for a teacher’s time.

2. Privacy (How confidently can you answer the questions below?)

I guess what concerns me most is that educators around the province, around the country, and around the world have yet to see the shortfalls of using a personal device in a shared situation when it comes to privacy. And when I use the term ‘personal’ I am referring to a district purchased iOS device – because that’s what it is.. a personal device.

For example when you take a picture on a shared IOS device that picture remains in the iPhoto library as the device gets passed to another user. In fact, notes, files, videos and projects suffer the same lack of lock-down.

Another example could be if a student or teacher has failed to sign-out of a shared app such as Dropbox or Drive then pass the device onto another user.

It boggles the mind that Apple’s fingerprint scanning technology has yet to evolve into a profile manager. Well actually – no, it doesn’t. Buy more share less – remember?

If you really want to understand what I’m getting at when it comes to privacy (and I’m not talking about the countless teachers using their personal devices to ‘document’ student learning, (because that’s a whole new can of worms)see if you can answer the following questions with confidence:

  1. What is the deletion procedure for pictures stored locally on iOS devices in your school, board or region?
  2. Who is responsible for deleting pictures of students or student work?
  3. What are the criteria for using 3rd party apps to house your students’ photos or work? Are they local or international? Who owns the 3rd party? Are they for profit? Do they give to charity? Do they lobby for education? Do they run criminal background checks on their employees? What is their policy for sharing data with other 3rd party marketers?
  4. Surely you must be aware that when iCloud is turned on, photos taken can be uploaded to iCloud on PhotoStream – so who deletes those pictures? Did you know that they can remain ‘deleted’ for up to 30 days? Yet another delete has to be performed before they are permanently deleted. (Does Apple run criminal background checks on their employees?) Remember what happened to Jennifer Lawrence? A tad dramatic I know – but it happened.

3. Management Software is Half-Baked at Best

The management of multiple iPads becomes a nightmarish experience when you learn that Apple itself does not produce a manager for multiple iPads. In fact when you meet with Apple they suggest the purchasing of a third party software to manage the devices such as MDM or Airwatch, both of which have been on the market for less than 2 years and both of which have to play catch up to each and every iOS update. In fact, I have witnessed school district technicians put finger to glass on thousands of devices because of an iOS update that no longer communicates with the 3rd party manager such as AirWatch. 

When asked directly about solutions for updating apps or even adding new ones to the iPad, teachers are told that they should request new apps or updates on a monthly basis to lessen the stress on the network and human resources. In essence, the once fluid and responsive device becomes an onerous lump of metal that reacts too slowly for our educators in the field.

For example: Apple prides itself on its secretive development such that, developers will receive 4 months to prepare for a new update. I know because I have actually developed an app myself. Before you take advice from system leaders who claim to know – ask them how the app development process actually works – then gauge their answer (or lack thereof) for yourself.

My verdict (and I stake my reputation on this): Unless you intend to purchase iPads for each and every student, stay away from iOS devices until Apple changes their marketing ploy from Share Less Buy More to Buy Less and Share more… and you know of snow that cannot melt..