Category Archives: Apple Core

Written words on technology.

ISTE Relapse: Teaming with Ideas

ISTEI have just returned from my first ever International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) Conference. I was joined by a hardworking crew of fellow Instructional Technology Facilitators (ITF) from Union County, NC. I walked away realizing that all the great ideas that were shared are nothing without a team to help you make them a reality. With that said, here are my 5 initial takeaways from the conference. 

1. No Matter Where You Go, Family is Always First: I missed my wife and son a great deal while visiting the conference. Thankfully, technology keeps us connected with the ones we love. Fortunately, I was able to FaceTime back at the hotel with my family. Unfortunately, I was pushed to tears when I received an iMessage video of my son crawling for the first time. While the moment was tough to take in, it also motivated me to make the most of my time in Atlanta. I have also never been happier to be awakened at 3 A.M. by a crying baby. I arrived home on Tuesday night after my son’s bedtime. I gladly answered his cries and helped soothe him back to sleep. I was finally home!

2. The “T” in ISTE Stands for TEAM: Due to the leadership of our Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis and our Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mike Webb, we were able to send an entire team down to Atlanta. Dr. Ellis and Dr. Webb are both outstanding proponents of instruction powered by technology. In fact, Dr. Webb was honored in March by the North Carolina Technology in Education Society for his concerted effort to set up a true “All-Access” model for our school district.

To learn more about our Access Model visit the following Google Site our ITF team created for Union County Public Schools:

ISTE Karaoke
Edtech Karaoke Tabernacle @ ISTE 2014

As an ITF team, we made the most of our good fortune. While most of the sessions I attended were great, it was the time I spent with my team that was truly valuable. We reestablished relationships, spent time planning the coming year and shared our enthusiasms without the constraints of the working world. Joey Barker, Brady Thomas, Jan Anderson, Becky Swiger, Gina Chisum, Bill Blackledge, Casey Zvanut, Casey Rimmer, and Lisa Thompson earned my respect long ago.  The trip to ISTE, however, helped reinforce my faith that our team is one of the best in the business. Each of us have our own unique talents and it’s the sum of those talents that leads to great professional development. Steve Jobs often said A players like to work with A players. Thank goodness the B team works somewhere else.

3.  Math Can Be Fun: I was completely floored that the very best session I attended centered around math instruction. I went into Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff‘s presentation nervous. I’ve always hated math. I could get all my multiplication tables right but was forever penalized for not doing them fast enough. I had 8 different math teachers in the 8th grade and never recovered. If only I had a teacher like Mr.Luberoff. Knowing math was a blind spot for me, so I signed up for the session wanting a challenge. With that in mind, I held my breath and hoped I’d get something tangible for my teachers back home. I got more than I could have ever asked for. While many in education know about the fantastic (and free) Desmos graphing calculator, Mr.Luberoff showed off some very cool tech that will make learning math way more than just inputting numbers or solving equations. The interactive lessons his company have devised in concert with Dan Myer are truly amazing. I walked away wanting to learn math for the first time in my entire adult life.

To learn more about Mr. Luberoff’s presentation visit his Desmos presentation site here:

Brady Thomas High Score
Brady & Dream Box

Additional Math shout-outs go to Think Through Math and Dream Box Learning for their comprehensive student centered web solutions (Brady I know you could have gotten the high score at the Dream Box booth if I had kept my ill-timed humor to myself, lol!)

Google Classroom
Yes, that’s me (left of center) raising my hand in the actual Google Classroom!

4. Google Classroom is a Game Changer: Our Union County ITF team was one of the few groups to be lucky enough to get a preview of Google Classroom before it’s big ISTE unveiling. After participating in a Google Hangout with Program Manager for Google Apps for Education and Classroom Jennifer Holland, we had the great privilege of trying out Google’s newest ed-tech solution. Ms. Holland delivered several fantastic presentations during the conference, too. While Classroom is a work in progress, I already view it as a game changer for our teachers. All those sleepless nights worrying about shared folders and editing rights seem for not now. I look forward to watching the product grow from the input of so many enthusiastic educators. To be able to hit the feedback button and be heard is a dream come true.

5.  End Your Conference on a high note (Gamification!):  Our last session of the conference was on Gamification. The presenter, Philip Vinogradov, really blew our minds with his gamification solutions for classroom instruction. Even more exciting, his solutions involved Google Apps for Education and shared folders. This means that everything we learned is directly transferable to our district. My colleagues and I walked away with some very enthusiastic conversations. Not only do we want to help teachers gamify their instruction but we also want to explore ways to gamify our professional development offerings. I have heard several principals over the years say that they are going to concentrate on discipline first, teaching second. To me this is backwards. Technology powered instruction (if done right) allows us to better manage classroom behavior. It also has the ability to engage students in a way that will make them life long learners. Gamification, classroom flipping and other instructional methods are needed to make various technology tools meaningful to learners. I also enjoyed meeting Michael Matera in person and can’t wait to collaborate with him in the near future.

To learn more about Vinogradov’s gamification model checkout his presentation materials here:

One final thought: If you go to a Braves Game . . . try to make it to home plate, lol!

Home Plate @ Braves Game, Thank You NCTies!
Home Plate @ Braves Game. Bases Loaded! Thank You NCTies!

NCTies and Classroom 2.0

nctiesI have just returned from my second North Carolina Technology in Education Society (NCTies) conference. NCTies serves a great way to network with fellow educators across the state and learn about emerging classroom technologies.  In addition to attending NCTies, I presented with my colleague, Becky Swiger, on ways to blend technology with traditional teaching practices.  Overall, I would grade-out the conference as a big success.

classroom 2.0My session, entitled Classroom 2.0, was a lot of  fun because we got to share all the great work my fellow teachers have done in the Piedmont cluster.  We received many compliments afterward because we infused our presentation with real classroom examples and video testimonials created by the teachers and students that I serve.  We also highlighted our school system’s 1:1 Access Model and how it’s been transformed by the 23,000 Lenovo X131e Chromebooks we issued to students in the fall. Google Apps for Education has transformed teaching in Union County Schools and I feel that our students are finally preparing for the jobs of tomorrow.

In addition, I could not have pulled off this presentation without my two partners, Becky and my trusty new MacBook Pro. Keynote is a powerful presentation tool and iMovie was an absolute lifesaver. Each video was shot with an iPhone and edited on my Mac. To learn more about our presentation and the materials we created for NCTies attendees you can check out the Google site we built to support our session:

Elementary teamOther highlights from NCTies include the exceptional presentations delivered by my fellow Union County Instructional Technology Facilitators. Our elementary team did a fantastic job showing how technology can help teachers differentiate and reach the individual learning needs of their students. From shared Google folders to county-wide research projects, the group showed how technology can help shape the learning of even our youngest students. I also heard really great things from the two presentations my fellow colleague Lisa Thompson assembled for the conference. She is a great asset to our team and I know she impressed all those who showed up for her sessions.

IMG_3125Another Union County highlight was that our Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Technology and Operations, Dr. Michael Webb, received an award for Outstanding Leadership. He has been a visionary when it comes to building our 1:1 Access model and he has assembled a great team of educators and engineers to help carry out our goals. I am really proud to be a part of this team and have enjoyed Dr. Webb’s leadership going back to the days when he served as my principal at Monroe High. I worked with him to transform that school and now we are doing it on a larger scale as we transform technology education across the county and state.

There was a lot of exciting presenters at the conference outside of Union County, too. I especially appreciated the last keynote delivered by Adam Bellow. He is the creator of eduClipper, a free web tool focused on helping students and teachers find, share, and build valid learning experiences in a K-12 safe educational social platform. His speech focused on the need to move away from the assembly line approach to education and move toward more project based learning. As an educator, I have always found that putting students in charge of creating is far more effective than memorizing terms and practicing test questions. While I taught U.S. history with state mandated testing hanging over my head, I never let it undermine my believe in the power of creative learning. I also believe that my test scores were higher because of this approach. Needless, to say Bellow’s words were refreshing.

In my next post, I will cover some of the cool take aways I got from the conference. Cool apps, cool strategies and other cool things. Speaking of takeaways, it was great seeing my two college roommates this week. Lee Eakes and Phil Daye are great friends. I could not have survived the ups and downs of life at Appalachian State without them.

G, Phil and Lee



Happy Birthday: The Mac @ 30!

It’s amazing that the Mac is now 30 years old!  I will never forget my first Mac. It was a  lime green iMac and it replaced an old Mac Performa I inherited from my Dad. It went with me everywhere.  From my Appalachian State apartment to my job at the photo lab to vacations at the beach.  It was so portable.

lime imacThat lime green iMac out hustled the PC my photo lab boss and his ditzy wife had built prior to me showing up. Some computer geek convinced them to spend untold amounts of money just so he could build a computer. Problem was the stupid thing never printed true color.  It was probably the first time I ever said those immortal words, “shoulda bought a Mac.” I’ve said it countless times ever since. From that point on, I hauled my iMac in to the photo lab everyday. Photoshop ran smoother and I never had a problem printing any of my digitally restored photos again.

Clinton Library MacsThe practicing of taking my Macs with me on the go continued with what I considered to be the best iMac ever made. I received a beautiful white flat panel iMac as a college graduation gift from my Dad. Not wanting to leave it behind on my study abroad trip, I actually had it shipped to Keele University in England. While it may have not been the most economical decision, it did help me make friends fairly quickly. Everyone was impressed with its design and the ground breaking OS X software that made Windows look like stale bread. From my 3 A.M. listening of the infamous Duke-Carolina game where Coach Doughtery threatened fisticuffs to my endless ripping of CDs for all my dorm-mates, that iMac helped me settle in quite nicely. I’ll also never forget explaining to one of the network engineers at the Keele library how I got my Mac to work with their backwards Internet protocol. He responded in a toasty English accent, “I’ve never seen a Mac before!” Makes me laugh to this day. That and the fact that I saw that very same iMac model enshrined at the Clinton Library in Little Rock.

These days, I carry a Macbook Pro everywhere I go. While it’s not the same as strapping in an iMac with a seatbelt, my new Retina model packs way more punch than those old CPUs. While I hope to write a full review someday of my new machine, for now I’ll just say it represents the most seamless computing experience I’ve ever had.

Funny thing is, all my family’s old Macs still work. My Granddad inherited my lime green iMac but he now prefers to work off an old MacBook Pro my Dad gave him. I’ll never forget him showing me the Baltimore Orioles homepage and asking me if I had ever seen it before. The man loves baseball and that computer brought it right into his living room. My brother still has an old bondi blue iMac and G4 tower that have yet to breathe their last breaths.  The white flat panel iMac I mentioned is operating in my office and it can still kick out a jam or two.  Best of all, my Dad’s old MacPlus still works to this day. You can even insert his MacPaint floppy disk and make cool retro art!


What a great 30 years of computing. And according to MacWorld and the Apple Executive team, the Mac is here to stay.  Check out their article, Apple executives on the Mac at 30: ‘The Mac keeps going forever.’  What else is there to do but say, “Thank you Steve Jobs! Thank you Apple.”



Cutting the Wire: Best of CES

CESIt’s always fun to read about the latest gadgetry introduced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Compiling a list on the most intriguing tech is difficult.  The show offers everything from the coolest tech infused cars to the latest smartphone accessories. I’ve read a lot of cool stuff about the show but the best list I’ve come across was compiled by the  It is one of my favorite websites and I tripped across this particular link when reading John Gruber’s blog, Daring Fireball. The Wirecutter choose to focus on realistic tech offerings instead of conceptual tech that may never make it to your living room. As one site commenter note, “the lack of hype” is refreshing.

A Realist Guide to CES Tech

After plenty of research, input from experts and old-fashioned shoe leather reporting, our team identified about a dozen items that they think could be reflective of tech in 2014. This isn’t a list of the flashiest or most obscure products of 2014, but rather things that could actually hold up to critical scrutiny, and possibly even challenge the leaders in their respective categories. Things that actually make sense in our daily lives that we’re excited to see pan out over the next 12 months.

Gruber and I both like the Occulus Rift and Engadget awarded the virtual reality headset Best of CES.   Gruber has some smart analysis about the show, too.  The most interesting commentary centers around how Apple and Google are catered to by a lot of companies at CES, but Microsoft and it’s hardware offerings are virtually ignored by the conference.  This is a huge reversal of fortune for a company that once dominated the entire computing world. It is my opinion that the game has changed completely and Microsoft is being relegated back to just being a software company.

Hour of Code

“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”


In order to raise awareness about Computer Science, is sponsoring a Hour of Code next week (December 9-15).   So far, over 4 million students across 166 countries have signed up to participate.  In addition, almost 10,000 schools have agreed to hold campus-wide events.  My home school, Piedmont High, is one of those institutions.  It is a thrill working with programming teacher Angie Medlin and her class.  Her programming students will be hosting the event and we have set up a Google Site to help everyone at the school take part: PMHS: An Hour of Code.

In many ways coding is becoming the new literacy of the 21st Century.  There will be great economic advantage for those that learn to write code.  In addition, coding teaches problem solving, engages students in other curriculum areas and leads to innovation.  Some countries, like Britain, have even gone as far to make it a part of their national curriculum.

Computer Science Stats

While the United States enjoys a competitive advantage in the technology sector with homegrown companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, the competition to fill jobs and innovate is heating up across the globe.  The United States alone faces a 1 million person per job shortfall by 2020 if we do not begin to train students in the field of computer science.  Computer programming is a top paying job and the field is growing at twice the rate of other available occupations.   This, along with the field’s gender and racial equity gap, is reason for concern.  Participation in the Hour of Code is just one way to raise awareness and let students know that there are many benefits to pursuing the computer sciences.

To get involved you can visit’s Help page.  There you will find links on everything from signing up your school to making a financial donation to the non-profit.  If you want to try the different programming activities being used throughout the week you can visit’s Learn page.  There are activities for beginners and advanced users.  There are even several activities for people who do not have computers or an internet connection.

Best Core: Convince Your School or State (Hour of Code);  Computer Science is Fundamental (Hour of Code)