Saturday, September 22, 2012

Educator for a Day - Win money for educational technology

Provide “Shadowing” Opportunities

As a call to action for teachers and administrators to invite aspiring educators, community leaders, parents and friends into their classrooms as “shadow teachers” during American Education Week (November 11–17), the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University will award $25,000 in grants to preK–12 schools that host Educator for a Day events on November 15

Five schools will be selected from those nominated to each receive a $5,000 grant to enhance their classroom education, provide educational technology or supplies, or sponsor educational activities. Grants will be awarded based on answers to essay questions about what noneducators should know about the school, what makes the school unique and what the school would do with the grant. Schools that receive a grant will be required to arrange shadowing opportunities during their Educator for a Day events. 

Deadline: October 15, 2012 for nominations
For more information visit Educator for a Day

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Volume Purchasing Saves Schools Money on Apps

When my district started buying iPads last year, I found myself looking for a way to buy apps for teachers and students.  We currently have over 100 teachers and staff with iPads and 100 student iPads in use in learning labs with charging carts.  When we began purchasing iPads with grant funds I enrolled the district in the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) through Apple.  With the VPP you redeem vouchers (like a $100, $500 or $1000 iTunes gift card) and then you can buy multiple copies of apps or books, most of the time at 50% off if you buy 10 or more.   Side note: I have to say, redeeming a $1000 iTunes card is pretty fun!  Once you buy the apps you are able to download a spreadsheet with redeem codes that you can distribute to students or teachers.  I normally copy and past the redeem code into an email and send it to the teacher.  The redeem codes are entered by individual user in the app store and the app immediately downloads to the device.  For the iPad carts I only have to redeem one code on the laptop that syncs the iPads.  I keep track of who receives each redeem code on the spreadsheet I download from the VPPI made this video about how to use a redeem code for people unfamiliar with the app store on their iOS device.

The VPP has allowed us to buy specific apps at large discounts (for example: writing or note taking apps) that we want to make available to all iPad users while still letting individuals buy and manage their own apps.

Things to consider

  • Who will manage the VPP and be responsible for buying and distributing apps?  Depending on staff, budgets and other factors, you may want to designate different individuals to manage different app buying groups.  One person would be the program manager and they could then designate different program facilitators.  This way the special ed department, the school site, or the department could have their own program facilitator who could buy vouchers and provide redeem codes to their group.  
  • One if the issues around buying apps this way is that when the user redeems the code on their device, the app is then tied to their apple ID.  For example, if you give a redeem code to a teacher and they are logged in to their iPad with their own Apple ID, that app essentially becomes theirs.  If the teacher leaves the school, the app goes with them.  
  • There is some discussion that apps purchased with school funds should stay property of the school.  In this case you would need to have a way to manage the devices that would allow you to deploy apps out to each device, or you would need to log in to each device with a school Apple ID, redeem the code, download the app and then log out.  You can see it gets pretty complicated.  I think of the apps as being consumables.  The app doesn't get "used up" but if it was used for the intended purpose (in a class or for the year) then I think we got our money out of it.  To actually track each app from year to year would take a bigger management team than we currently have.

How to enroll in the Volume Purchase Program (from Apple)

  1. The first step of getting enrolled in the VPP is to sign up to be a Program Manager  The Program Manager is the main contact point at the school/district for volume app purchases.  Once you are enrolled (3-4 days), you will be able to make use of a new Program Facilitator management portal.  This tool will allow you to set up and edit Program Facilitators for your institution. 
  2. The Program Facilitator is a new account type for individuals in your institution.  The Program Facilitator(s) may redeem Volume Vouchers through the App Store Volume Purchase Program.  Program Facilitators may search for apps, and may order apps in variable quantities, up to the current dollar amount credited to their account via redeemed Volume Vouchers. These individuals will be able to redeem Volume Vouchers and receive codes to download applications, so be sure you only designate individuals who have the authority to do so according to any policies your institution may have in place. 
  3. Each Program Facilitator is required to create a new, unique account for the App Store Volume Purchase Program.  This is a unique type of account specifically for this program.  These accounts will NOT be able to access the iTunes Store to download applications, music, or any other content.  It is recommend that, for these new Program Facilitator accounts, you create new, generic email addresses for use only with this program (e.g.  This will ensure that even if a specific Program Facilitator transitions away from their current position, your institution will be able to transfer that account to a new Program Facilitator with minimal delay or hassle.
  4. After purchasing apps in the App Store Volume Purchase Program, the Program Facilitator will receive an email with a link to the Program Facilitator's dashboard, now populated with app-specific codes, one code per license. These codes may then be distributed to end-users for redemption at the App store. Codes may be distributed via email or other means, at the Program Facilitator's discretion.  
  5. The App Store Volume Purchase Program includes an optional, separate agreement that will allow your institution to use one or more iTunes accounts to sync multiple iOS devices.  If you elect this optional agreement, it is recommended that these master iTunes syncing accounts be generic accounts set up by your institution, as opposed to an instructor's personal iTunes account.  This will ensure that control of your apps remains with your institution's IT department or similar team, as opposed to with an individual.

Helpful links:

Volume Purchase Program:

You can also attend Apple Volume Purchase Program Webinars every Tuesdays, 12-1 PM (Pacific)

Register here

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Planning a STEM Fair - part 1

When I started teaching science 13 years ago I held my own science fair for my classes.  Our district did not host a science fair, but I saw value in the opportunity to let students discover their own learning through the development and creation of a science fair project.  Students were able to explore topics of interest and asked to present a research question along with their research and conclusions.  It was fun and some students really enjoyed having the opportunity to explore their own interests.  We had a panel of judges and I used my classroom budget to provide cash prizes and certificates for participation. Students researched and presented information on enzymes and laundry detergents, motor operation and fat content in fast food.  After a couple of years I stopped requiring this project for my students as it was a lot of extra work to try an accomplish all by myself.

In my current role as educational technology coordinator I wear many hats including serving as project director for a couple of grants and implementing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in addition to provide support and professional development for technology integration into the classroom.  Sharing my passion for learning about science has taken a back seat to my other duties recently and so I was excited yesterday when I received an email from a corporation wishing to donate science project supplies to teachers in our district.  I sent an email out to all teachers informing them how to apply to receive these materials and added a small statement at the end of the email asking anyone interested in supporting STEM education and helping coordinate a district-wide science fair to contact me.  Several teachers replied that they had wanted to do something like this at their sites but felt it was too much for one person to organize.

So, now I have done it, I need to figure out how to plan and hold a STEM fair in our district.  This post will be part 1 of my STEM fair journey.  I will write new posts as I move along in the planning of our first STEM fair.  If you are planning a similar event at your school or in your district I would love to hear from you.


1.  Acquire STEM fair resources

San Mateo County Office of Education STEM fair resources

Need Help Planning a Science Fair Project - Edudemic blog

Prepare for the science fair - by Kevin Temmer

Teachers Guide to Science Projects

STEM Fair - Baltimore County Public Schools

2.  Meet with committee to select date and decide on event format

  • venue
  • dates
  • guidelines, format, submissions
  • judging
  • teacher resources, support, mentoring
  • sponsors?
  • website

3.  Consult PLN for input

Hey! You can be part of my personal learning network (PLN), please add your information to via the STEM Science Fair Form below.  Thanks!

See the form results here

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Micro-blogging addiction

I have to admit it, I'm hooked. My micro-blogging service of choice is Twitter and in the words of one of my Tweeps, @trubol, "Twitter is a great gateway technology".  For me, that is true, I started with Twitter and that led to Pinterest, Diigo, know the story.  In one of my recent posts I wrote about Twitter as one of the top ed tech tools to tackle this summer.  Anyone can write short, 140 character tweets about interesting topics.  There is something less intimidating about micro-blogging that makes it a perfect way to start in social media and blogging.

How I use Twitter:

It is the best professional development I have experienced.  I connect with other ed tech coordinators, teachers and administrators all over the world to share ideas and learn together. Below is an example of a recent connection I made on Twitter.  I was looking for middle school teachers using Google Apps for Education (GAFE) so I could connect them to teachers in my district looking to start using GAFE with middle schoolers.  From this conversation I hope to set up a video chat or Google hangout with my teachers so they can learn how others are making GAFE work.

Two milestones I am looking forward to are my 1000th tweet and reaching 500 followers.  You can find on Twitter at  @raefearing

Other educators share tons of cool ed tech tips and ideas that I then pass along to teachers in my school district.  I set up an iPad educator Google Group and when I hear about free apps or ways to use ipads in the classroom I pass these ideas along to the iPad Educator Group.

I also created a board on Pinterest with Twitter tips for teachers.  This visual micro-blogging site lets me create visual boards of cool things I find online.  This is a picture of my Twitter for Educators board on Pinterest.
Twitter for Educator Pinterest Board

One goal this year are to introduce more teachers to Twitter in my district.  I developed an online Twitter workshop for teachers so teachers could learn at their own pace.  I want to share with others my excitement at being part of this vibrant learning community. I would also like to get other teachers on Pinterest so we can share ideas in my district and globally.  It would be great to hear from others about how to introduce these new technology resources to teachers who are already so short on time.  If you have ideas about how to generate interest in micro-blogging and social media with teachers I would love for you to comment on this post.