Apple™, iPad, Technology

I Preordered the iPad Pro and I am Scared

I love the iPad. I find it to be one of the most amazing computing devices of the past two decades. It’s tactile and model experiences are untouched by any of its competition, and while some will gripe at its premium price, I will smile and say its worth it. I have iPad 2’s at my school that are albeit a bit sluggishly running iMovie on iOS 9 yet I would be surprised to hear of a netbook, chromebook, or even a laptop holding up that long (4 years) in an educational environment.

Still, we must be clear that the iPad is NOT a computer replacement for everyone.

Apple boldly said in their March Keynote that the iPad pro is in fact a computer replacement, it is missing a serious demographic, and that is creative professionals. If you are a business person or someone that needs simple programs and multitasking, then the iPad Pro models might work for you. Continue reading

Apple™, Education, iPad, Technology, Technology Integration

Think Different, More Than Just a Choice of Device

It was 1997 and Apple challenged the world to “Think Different”This cliché is more than meets the eye, speaking more about the decision not go with the status quo device than a challenge for us as innovators and users of technology to use their devices to, think different. This is because 1997 was the same year that Apple almost went bankrupt. Twenty years later, we see Apple is a leading technology company, one who continues to push the limits of how technology can shape our future. Continue reading

Apple™, Education, iPad, Technology, Technology Integration

Rewriting History with Book Creator

One of the challenges of teaching history is that it doesn’t change much. While there may be a discovery here and there, it is rare that any sort of drastic discovery might alter the learning experience of a student in history class. Thanks to various technology innovations like the internet and computing technology, this challenge can also be turned into history. That is if as an educator we are willing to be open to the possibility that we are not the all knowing fountain of knowledge, and that our 20-year old textbook might need an upgrade? But who can afford textbooks?!!?

Worry not! We have a classroom of historical researchers and thinkers and the tools to empower them to create their own history book.

In an 8th-grade history class, we did just that. In collaboration with Ilana Zadok, 8th-grade history teacher, we set out to challenge our students to build their own Revolutionary War publication. We wanted it to be something that is 100% student-produced with the goal that others could learn and in the end benefit from the students work. Our students set out to research various events of the Revolutionary War, focusing on primary sources and first-hand encounters. With this research in hand students because to create a window into the past. Through creative writing, photos, and student-produced films these events began to take life through the lens of the students. With all of this amazing content gathered and produced we were at a loss of where to compile it and share it out.

Book Creator to the Rescue!


After the content was created students imported it into Book Creator and used its features to layout an interactive book full of written, visual, and audial expressions. Each group of students then created an assessment quiz at the end to demonstrate their understanding of the content and to challenge their peers to delve deep into their work. In the end students learned from their peers gaining a deep understanding of a specific Revolutionary event and a general overview of the entire war. With the success of this unit, there was so much more accomplished besides the memorization of battles and soldiers. Students developed important skills in communication, both visually, and verbally. Collaboration, Cooperation, Organization, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving all played a role in this production.

The end result was an 110-page publication that pushed the limits of student learning and technology itself. The Book Creator file was 1GB and due to its size would not export from the iPad. With a little bit of praying and 4 hours of work on my part, I was able to get the file down to 610MB without sacrificing one iota of student work and airdrop it to the students iPads to experience their hard work first hand.

Here are a few screenshots and videos from the publication.

Enjoy.Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.50.15 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.50.40 AM

Design, Design Thinking, Learning Spaces

Intentional Space & Reflective Experiences


As a global learning community, we are constantly promoting ourselves as 21st century learners. We are adaptive, mobile, flexible in what we learn, and how we learn it. On Twitter, I came across a tweet during one of the weekly education chats that stated:

We are closer to 21st century learning than ever before. 

If we as learners choose to modify our experience, as well as create tools to enhance and expedite the process, then why are our learning spaces still rigid, one directioned, teacher centered lectures?

No amount of tablets and motion detected digital displays will transform education that is still filtered through the same spacial, teacher focused experience.


I first heard about Don Orth & The Hillbrook School through the edtech ciricut at ISTE 2012. It was my first exposure to a philosophical approach to space that mirrored the adaptability and efficiency we expect from our learning process and the tools we use to enhance it. I followed his experience with the iLab (Idea Lab) and saw amazing videos of students engaged, empowered, and most importantly, enjoying their learning.

In February, I attended the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit where Don shared his vision and practical application of intentional learning spaces. Since the 2012 launch of the iLab, Don Orth had integrated the intentional learning experience into three middle school classrooms. During his conference session at #EttiPad, Don ask five core questions of how we use our learning space. Do they Compliment the mobility of mobile technology? Are they multi-functional? Do they support project-based learning and design? Are they accessible to students? Do they allow for differentiated learning? I shared my session experience with my principal who met Don at the Boston iPad Summit and we both came to the same conclusion-

We had to see how ideas become a reality at Hillbrook’s iLab.

Our team consisting of the principal, two educators, a parent, and myself met Don at the beautiful Hillbrook campus to see learning in action.

In general, in my experience attending conference sessions, presenters naturally showcase the successes of their process and outcomes. Conferences for me tend to be inspiration generators. They give you a spark, an idea that will on be successful long term due to your own research and development.

Don’s presentation was different. His vision felt tangible and concrete. In his session he explained how individuals who are in charge of their learning space are not only more invested but responsible in their learning outcomes. One teacher at Hillbrook described a scenario of student choosing to build their own space for learning. If they fall off task or are not able to focus, the discussion of their productively is less about discipline and more about helping students think critically. If the space your building isn’t creating an effective learning environment, then ask yourself what you can do to make it better? This challenges students to solve their own problems instead of being the problem, or being handed the solution.

Students want to feel independent; They take ownership over their personal or communal learning space which fosters problem solving, critical thinking, and planning. 

While the empowerment of students is a powerful goal, it isn’t something that will come over night. Students have been programed since their very first classroom experience to sit in their assigned seat, face forward, with eyes on the teacher. While the younger grades can be molded to meet the new learning process, it is very difficult for middle school students to thinking outside of the box. While we see students excelling when we give them open and free choices, in many cases the spacial standards of yesteryear are ingrained in their educational DNA.

At Hillbrook they create space through movable furniture as well as versatile writing spaces. The walls, desks, and mobile whiteboards create formations that fit the needs of the students, and what they are learning. Writing an expressive essay in english is not going to look like a collaborative project in history. How we crank out mathematical formulas does not have the same spacial needs as a science experiment. At Hillbrook Don supports the teachers, and it seems in the birthing stages of the classroom model, the faculty is supporting the students.

At Hillel, my school is in the planning stages of our own Collaboration Lab (CoLAB) (Still working out the name) and classroom space ,that will model Hillbrook’s intentional learning spaces. The spaces themselves however, are not a recipe for success.

It is up to us as educators to help support students personal exploration into their  learning environments, and help foster their own independent learning outcomes.

I recommend anyone considering modifying, creating, or building an adaptable learning space to reach out to Don Orth at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos.

Don Orth @finddonorth /

Design Thinking

Using Prezi To Create Engaging Ways To Share Information

People love to share information, plain and simple. Social Media has capitalized on this humanistic nature of sharing with others through writing, photos, videos, and beyond. One of these tools, Prezi, is an amazing way to share information in a non linear manner that gives viewers the ability to experience the information through the author’s intended path, or to create their own unique route. Coupled with a good layout design which can be created via PhotoShop or Illustrator, the power of Prezi’s dynamic movement is able to shine.

Currently, I am enrolled in the Design Thinking Action Lab taught at Standford’s D.School. The Design Thinking philosophy thus far has left me in awe as I realize that the true solution to a challenge is not through your own personal limited vision, but through the eyes of those caught in the challenge.

“Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by person”

Below is my first attempt at an Empathy Map & Problem Statement. The challenge was the Transition from School to Work. I interviewed an architecture student who is in his final months of graduate school and already working on special projects and recently employed at a design firm.

Click on the image below to view the Prezi
Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 4.07.16 PM

Design, Education

Why Elementary Students Should Learn How To Design

Image Courtesy of:

In middle school, incoming 6th graders are met with an overwhelming change in how they learn. One teacher multiples into six or seven, school becomes longer, and students are expected to become super organized and able to communicate on a whole new level.

“This is why elementary students must learn about Design.” 

Students must understand why it’s important to be aware and thoughtful when creating even the most menial documents. Design evokes emotion, and gives a person a connection to a visual object. Typography, layout design, color theory, are inseparable parts of everyday life. The letter types of street signs, the colors emitted from lightbulbs, everyday objects are carefully designed to give people a positive and enjoyable experience. We expect certain colors, and letter types around us, and it’s only after they are altered that we become aware of how truly powerful their impact is on us.


Student learn basic math and science because they are the foundation of understanding how the world works, yet not every student will become a mathematician or scientist. Similarly, learning design doesn’t mean you must become a designer, but it will help you view the world differently. One of the biggest misconceptions is that design is just about making advertisements and posters.

“Design is about making conscience decisions that verbally or visually connect people and ideas.”

We do this every day with our students, friends, and co-workers yet we still make powerpoint slides that look like this

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 10.52.31 PM

instead of like this
Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 10.52.39 PM

Source: @emilanddc

Flat Design

Flat design is a trending design style that utilizes geometric shapes, color, and smooth lined letter types. Below is the ever popular Facebook logo which was recently updated with those elements in mind. By dropping the blue highlight at the bottom, and utilizing positive and negative space with the “f”, these small yet powerful adjustments have strengthened the logo’s visual pop.

Challenging students to make good design choices enhances their critical thinking, problem solving, communication, decision making and organization skills. It teaches them how to simplify their ideas so they are clearly understood and internalized by the viewer. Design was not always this way. Below is an example of a logo that has experienced one hundred years of design as it abandons high contrast muddied imagery, and replaces it with simple, sharp, and powerful form.

Who can teach this?

While many teachers are already overwhelmed by meeting learning quotas, every teacher can themselves learn, and model proper design concepts that can be integrated into the many projects already planned for the year. Design can be taught as a class but in an elementary or middle school environment this would not be realistic or even productive. Like technology, design should be used to enhance current learning experiences or stimulate new ones, they should not be an end unto themselves.

“Students are not interested in learning when it isn’t relevant to them, and design is no different.”