Getting back in the swing of things!

Wow it’s been a long time since I posted anything! 2013 had a great start – we were home in MI for Christmas & the New Year and my sister, Abby, came back to Kuwait with us! She is substitute teaching for the semester and just signed a contract to come back next year to teach Pre-K. We’re pretty excited to have a little bit of home here ūüôā

One of our biggest challenges as technology coaches this year has been getting teachers on board and actively incorporating technology in their classrooms. There have been a lot of ups and downs with our 1:1 iPad initiative and I don’t think teachers really know what to think – should they invest their time or is it all going to be for naught? Students currently have to pay a fee to acquire a school iPad and gain access to the wireless network. We’re not exactly sure on the numbers but somewhere around 40% of our student body (~2000 students PreK-12) have iPads. This presents many obvious logistical problems for classroom teachers.

As a tech coaches, we’re trying to decide where to focus this¬†semester¬† Last semester we offered Professional Development after school on Mondays. Although our turnout was good at first, the numbers slowly diminished. We set up a website, but we’re not really sure if our staff actually uses it. Plus we’re still trying to figure out the dynamics of working in a 3-person team.

For the most part our job this semester has become more individualized. The principals sent out an email for us and we’ve appeared at a couple meetings, but we’re trying the let-them-come-to-us method. We don’t want to offer PD that teachers don’t want or won’t come to. But we DO want to support our staff. We’ve been encouraging teachers to give students choice for assignments and allow them to use the iPads. Teachers (individually and in small groups) have started coming to us more to help them plan units & lessons, create their class websites or blogs and support them in the classroom during lessons.

Whenever I get frustrated or down I just try to remember that this is a growing year. I wasn’t involved in the process until we arrived in August (and I’m not always consulted now) so we all just have to work with what we’ve been given. We have some students with iPads which isn’t the ideal 1:1 ratio however it’s much better than most other schools in Kuwait (who don’t even have wi-fi). I’m looking forward to seeing how everything turns out in the next couple years ūüôā

Reflector Update:
We’re still in the testing phase of this project. The 5 elementary teachers that are using the app aren’t having great success. We know that it’s not our network or the app itself (I have success using the app on my 2012 laptop connected to the school wireless) or the wireless adapters (we bought & installed 2 new ones with no success). We now think that it might have something to do with the computers that teachers are using (low RAM, etc). We’ll be continuing to investigate during the next couple months!

Some fun events coming up this Spring:
*Jeff and I will be starting our masters with COETAIL on February 4th
*Abby, Jeff and I will be traveling to Greece at the end of February for a long weekend (National Liberation)
*My brother and his girlfriend are coming to visit us in March for their Spring Break
*The three of us will also be traveling to Thailand and attending NESA in April (Jeff is presenting!)

If you’d like to read more about our lives outside of school, feel free to check out our other blog. ūüôā

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An Update: @ReflectorApp

As I mentioned in a previous post we bought a Reflector (formally Reflection) license for each of our teachers. In that post I laid out some issues. Here are my updates to how things have been going!

*We are rolling out Reflector slowly. I chose the first 5 teachers from elementary based on who I’ve worked with and after talking to the principal. We have one teacher in each grade (1-5) testing out Reflector.
*Before teachers could use the app, I met individually with each of them to show them how it worked. They have to connect to the wireless (instead of wired), open the program (it runs in the background), activate mirroring using AirPlay on their iPad…et voila! I showed them how to change the settings (white or black frame) and set a password (a MUST!).
*I created a Google doc for teachers to share their experiences with Reflector. They are busy people and don’t have time to meet weekly so I thought this would be a great use for Google Apps ūüôā Although you can’t see them (this is a copy), I add comments when teachers share their experiences.

As you can see our biggest problem right now is the glitchy mirroring. We are doing some¬†experimenting¬†to figure out which piece of the puzzle is causing this (app, wireless network, computer, wireless card…). When I use my new Lenovo laptop on the school network I have no issues. Teachers, however, are having issues (same network, different computer). My scientific brain tells me that this could be pointing to the wireless card. We bought two new cards (one internal, the other a USB) for the grade 4 & 5 teachers to test out.

(From my previous post) Some issues we’ve already encountered:
*All computers using reflection will show up on AirPlay on the iPad (if there are 100 computers with Reflection, you will be able to see and choose from all 100).¬†Update: So far this hasn’t been a problem (we only have 5 running). When I met with each teacher, I taught them to exit the Reflector¬†application¬†and disconnect from the wireless when they¬†weren’t¬†actively¬†using it. Even when we roll this out to more teachers, I doubt all 170 will need to use the app at the same time.
*We are running Windows 7 32-bit Professional. When Reflector is installed & authenticated on the admin profile, it is not authenticated on a teacher profile (prompts you to enter license serial code again). Update: After contacting the support team, they gave us the step-by-step for setting up Reflector on each computer so that anyone who logs in can access the app. I have been INCREDIBLY impressed with their customer service. They are quick to respond when I ask for help and are keeping track of my blog & Twitter to make sure everything is going well.

I’d love to hear about other schools that are the implementing Reflector App! Are you having any issues? What is your hardware/wireless network like?

Note: I did not receive any compensation for this review. Just my honest opinion & experience.

We chose @ReflectorApp

Two months ago, after school had started and teachers started worrying about how they would use iPads in their classrooms, I started doing some research. One of the teachers’ biggest concerns was projecting what they were doing on their iPads for the class to see. What follows is how we went about making the choice and what is coming next.

We knew that you could connect an iPad using a dongle but this solution presented many (obvious) disadvantages. Although teachers could share them if needed, it would be ideal to have one for every teacher (at $30+ a piece). There would be no worries about students messing with the connection, however teachers would be confined to their desk. Another option was Apple TVs. We would still need one per teacher ($99 each) and there didn’t seem to be any privacy settings (read: students could easily ‘take over’ and project their iPads). We kept looking.

About this time I stumbled across Reflector App. I had a difficult time finding teachers and schools currently using it, so I decided to do my own experimenting. I bought a single user license for my laptop (normally $14.99, currently $11.99). After installing Reflector on my laptop, I began playing with it. Using AirPlay (must have iPad 2 or newer & wireless internet), I was able to wirelessly mirror my iPad onto my laptop screen. I was excited that this might be a solution for our teachers! I went a step further and created a couple videos for iPad PD showing teachers how to use the calendar app. I was pumped!

And then I brought my laptop to school…it didn’t work! The last month, I have spent time talking with people at Reflector and our network administrator here. Reflector nformed me that bulk purchasing licenses would bring the price down to $8 each and that we could password protect the ability to mirror to the PC (HUGE!). On our end, we were able to open a couple ports¬†and get my laptop on the same wireless network (and subnet) as my iPad. On our network, you cannot connect a wireless iPad to a wired computer because there is no way to make them on the same subnet (however the Reflector staff says this is possible when on the same subnet). The Reflector support staff has been wonderful answering my questions though email and on Twitter. They shared¬†a blog post¬†with me¬†from an educator using Reflector & Air Server. (I did take a little time to research Air Server. There are many similarities, but I was more impressed with Reflector online presence and had already been in contact with the Reflector staff.)

I’m excited to say that the purchase of licenses for our staff has been approved! We are taking this process slowly so that we can get feedback and have a support system in place for teachers as they start using it. We will be setting up computers (installing Reflector & wireless cards) in sets of 5. I have the difficult task of choosing which teachers will start the rollout.
I am looking for teachers who:
*are relatively savvy with technology and are fast learners.
*are eager and willing to incorporate the iPad in their classrooms.
*like to try new approaches and are comfortable enough to experiment.
*enjoy sharing their knowledge with colleagues.

Some issues we’ve already encountered:
*all computers using Reflector will show up on AirPlay on the iPad (if there are 100 computers with Reflector, you will be able to see and choose from all 100).
*we are running Windows 7 32-bit Professional. When Reflector is installed & authenticated on the admin profile, it is not authenticated on a teacher profile (prompts you to enter license serial code again).

My goal is to keep a “journal” of how we are using Reflector in the school and classroom. When I was looking into solutions, I couldn’t find many educators who were using Reflector. I’d like to be able to help others who are interested! Please let me know if you have experience with Reflector or if there is anything you’d like to know about the set-up and how we’re using it ūüôā

Note: I did not receive any compensation for this review. Just my honest opinion & experience.