A Father, A Son, and an iPad Before Bed: Steve Dembo #DENPreCon2011 ~ A Magical Experience

Steve, 2nd from left with the DEN “crew”
Steve Dembo and I landed at Discovery at just about the same time, plus or minus. Steve was one of the first people I met, beyond Scott (Kinney) whom I knew from IU #21 and Lance (Rougeux), when we both began at Keystones that same first year. If you are new to the DEN, you will quickly learn that DEN friendships are forever. Having said that, Steve is one of my all-time favorites. Director of Educational Social Media Strategy and Online Communities for DE, Steve’s four-year-old son and first-born Aiden is the inspiration for this presentation  about a magical device. Whether it’s bedtime learning or early education, this presentation
explores creative ways to use popular apps for classroom purposes, and some surprising ways to share what your students create!

I have a vested interest in this presentation, because I am blogging (or trying to) for the first time with an iPad. Steve graciously shared his presentation; scroll to bottom of post for his excellent resources.

Fellow PA blogger Patti Ruffing and I arrived early to the conference, and lucky for me because Steve gave me a quick tutorial on the iPad (in addition to the day spent with friend, mentor, and coach Jennifer Brinson, PA LC Events Chair). Steve told us that while Aiden inspired this presentation geared to early childhood and education, he notes that he will branch out with applicability to other levels. “Magical” is the word Steve returns to again and again, guilty of the hype because it does deliver. Steve said the moment he opened the box on the first day the iPod was available, he bought it and the roof of his house opened, letting in sunlight. Demographics for use of the iPad for the early and later age spectrum makes this the device of choice.

Aiden & Steve agree: a magical device

Point to remember: it’s not a computer, but with the cloud coming, you won’t need to connect to a computer for setup (think initial iTunes computer connection). So is the iPad rapidly becoming a computer? It’s getting there. Grading, reading, all experiences outside of the work environment work Steve does on this techie toy. There is no one reason why you NEED an iPad; it’s just so handy that all the little reasons why you love it make it an amazing tool. BUT the killer reason as a right device: 10 hour battery life. Students can take advantage of every teachable moment; no cart/powering problems.

Having iPads in the classroom takes all the responsibility off teachers and puts it onto the students: take your iPad home and charge it overnight. 10 hours means 10 hours nonstop real-world usage. Seamless experience = no left click, no right click. Doesn’t matter. It’s a click less immersive experience. Feedback: it’s just the right size; it frames your face. The camera is not great, but it does plug into good apps. In addition to everything else, the iPad is inherently social: collaborative fun sharing with ease of use. Steve showed Bill Sweeney’s “How I Use an iPad,” and notes that he was the one who turned him onto the “framing your face” concept of immediacy.
Bill Sweeney – Using the iPad in his Classroom from Alex Ragone on Vimeo.

What stuns Steve most is the number of initiatives that are in works in elementary school. It is the device of choice for early education. Steve began his bedtime iPad with Aiden with videos, using the Discoverystreaming mobile app. His first video– “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” Everything evolved from this first video to games, but they are educational games, learning opportunities. From there, they went to downloaded books, but Steve wonders if Aiden will develop a nostalgia for these books in the same way we loved our paper books. Will dragging across a screen create the same love of books? But as a teaching tool, the Dr. Seuss books let you optimize language acquisition by tapping on words that grow exponentially. Tap, expand, and discuss. You must check out the Stories Before Bed app because they allow you to videotape your reading to your children, personalizing children’s picture books. What an amazing opportunity for classroom learning, for children and their parents to make connections. If you are a parent or grandparent in the military, you can get a discount. This iPad app lets you send links to anyone to view, making Skype redundant, in a sense.

iPad eBook Resources abound and let you become interactive by adding videos, links, texts, photo albums–you name it, can be done. First Words Animals is a great simple app with pictures, letters, and audio spelling with letters that fly in, organize, and are clickable for repeating audio. Teach your students how to spell in the classroom: ask them the letters before you click the audio. iFont Maker is another fantastic app; click on a letter and you get an outline to trace. Think learning to print and write: excellent app for a letter-by-letter application. You can also link out to a provided url and you can then create a real font, your very own handwriting. How cool for students to create their own font for PBL; how cool to have students create labels for things on their desks, books, around the classroom. Your very own font, and the joy of this is that the app is not a real learning and teaching educationally-designed app.

Nothing beats a straight up white board using Doodle Buddy. Whether you paint, draw, scribble, or sketch, it’s addictive. You draw the letters, upper and lower case, and teach writing and spelling with letter transformations. Add a doodle and the letter becomes___. Random learning with a fun app. From letters you can make drawings: houses, animals. Wonderfully creative; your iPad with your Daddy (or teacher) becomes a powerful learning and teaching tool. Bedtime with Aiden is not crayons and messiness; it’s digital and Aiden’s work gets posted via email to his blog. Aiden is 4 years old ad his blog is aiden.dembo.org.

Starfall.com is a wonderful app with images without normal text; just images, so when you blow it up full screen it doesn’t lose view ability. Starfall has been reconfigured so that is does not require Flash, but only for the alphabet. Alphabet/Phonics Resources abound. Favorite apps from the audience: Make a Snowman, Bob’s Books 1 and 2, Frosty Letters. Steve reminds us that many books are in Discoverystreaming and definitely wonderful, and you don’t have to pay for them. All 30,000. Download them as a QuickTime, drag into iTunes, select convert to iPad, and you just created your own iPad app for a video. Reel Director and iMovie are good apps, but Apple locks down things, so there are things that apps can’t do and that includes you can’t import other videos. You have to convert them, sync them, and send them into the Photos folder (not the video). Open in QuickTime and save as an m4v. In iTunes, select a folder and import them into Photos. Complicated but it does work as a transfer to a camera roll.

Toontastic allows you to create a fully-interactive animation; characters move, speak. You get to create backdrops, record your own voice, and create a wonderful video cartoon. You can choose the degree of intensity (volume, happiness, one single moment in the story arc). Steve reminds us not to stress; there are things Aiden can’t handle yet but who cares. It uploads to ToonTube, similar to YouTube but for cartoons. You can select your privacy settings and maintain the integrity of your level of viewing audience.

For math, Steve admits Math Drills Lite is a good app because you can restrict the level of learning. For example, you can set 3 as the limit and you will get all the possible combinations of 3. Jungle Time and Jungle Coins are excellent; Monty’s Quest, Rocket Math, and Counting Bills and Coins were audience recommendations.

Some people go way far in their iPad use. GarageBand is an incredibly cool app even if you have no musical talent (me) because they have “smart instruments.” Some folks connect their iPad to large speakers and amp up the GarageBand experience. App costs $4.99 but is incredibly worth it, because you can add so many layers to the music production. Think this one could even work well in a high school music class. Love it. Singing Fingers is yet another phenomenal app. You draw music with your fingers; you get a picture that translates into music. Magical. And a new music genre, transformative in music composition. You can actually jam with your iPad with other people. Angry Birds is an audience favorite, good for logical thinking development.

Is it all too much? Are we addicted to iPads? It’s not that the iPad is taking us away from is a static screen. The iPad is collaborative; just ask this father and son. Magical bonding.

Steve Dembo’s iPadsBeforeBed

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