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I’ve developed a very flexible solution with iPads and some ergonomic tools/devices.   

The main goal was to have tech that was useful all the time, not just during quarantine, and tech that didn’t strain the network with video standards that can’t be handled by personal home networks. The investment would be useful for 3-7 years, or the duration of the equipment lifecycle. The tablet form factor I chose was the iPad, but this could be done with Android or Chromebook tablets.

This model eliminates document cameras, allows for hand writing on paper or real whiteboards, allows for digital whiteboards, and you can ergonomically adjust things so people feel like they are sitting next to someone. 

Teachers can freely move around the room to demonstrate labs and other experiences that are eliminated in most virtual scenarios. 

You can even do choir, band, and art. 

If teachers/hosts have laptops, this allows for  two cameras in every space. Students can flip between the iPad and the host device. 

The conferencing software doesn’t matter. You can use anything for your video conferencing. 

If people need to work from home they just take the iPad, and literally replicate their teaching environment.

This idea can be summed up in a single simple statement: The iPad is a Person in your Classroom.

If you would like to know more, please complete the form below.

The Beauty of Repairability

At my school, we are trying out Chromebooks instead of iPads for our 1:1 program. I’ve written about it here and here. I still feel it is too early to see how Chromebooks fair and so I’ll reserve those observations for another time.

Today, I’d like to point out a nice little nugget of info is that the Chromebooks we purchased are very repairable. How repairable you ask? I have the opportunity to replace everything in our Chromebooks from the keyboard to the WiFi card to the battery to the screen to the USB ports. I “can” repair it all. I put can in quotes because I am no technician by any means, so actually doing all this stuff has yet to be seen.

I do want to make it clear that a Chromebook repairability was not a deciding factor though I imagine a school or district on a tight budget this may have more weight.

Before purchasing Chromebooks I was wondering how we would repair them and could we get parts. Well a quick Interwebs search turned out a number of results. However, the top result was iFixit. iFixit is a website which has guides on how to take apart and repair or modify your devices. They also sell toolkits and parts as well. This site had pretty much any part we needed to repair so I figured we could try to repair these in house as opposed to sending them off. They also had guides on how to tear down our model and I found a number of YouTube videos as well.

Fast forward a number of months and our first damaged Chromebook came into the IT office. It was a busted screen from an accidental drop. We ordered the LCD screen (since that was all we needed) not from iFixit (they were sold out at the time) but from a website called Screen Surgeons. They sell screens specifically for Chromebooks. The screen came and it also came with a tiny little repair kit. The repair took less than 10 minutes and with a minimal cost we had a Chromebook that was working as expected. GREAT! No new device or long wait time to send off a device for repair and wait for it to come back. We just ordered the screen and in three days had a working Chromebook again!

Tiny Repair Kit
Tiny Repair Kit

The next damaged Chromebook was an accidental sitting. Someone had sat on the Chromebook and busted the top cover (as you can see below).

This also made the broke the LCD screen as well. So we are looking at a not just a screen repair but a full top cover repair! Luckily we had a faulty Chromebook lying around and its top cover and screen are fine so I figured we would use that one for parts.

I took the back of the Chromebook and unhooked 3 connections (that was all, just 3) and unscrewed the two hinges that holds the top cover securely to the base and that was it!

The top came off with no fuss and I was able to replace with another top from that faulty Chromebook. Long story short – it worked! The whole process took less than 15 minutes and it cost us nothing (since we had a Chromebook to cannibalize). Here is picture of the base and the top cover.

I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous but the simplicity of the device quickly abated those fears as I got the back off and saw what I saw that needed to be done.


Sure, there is a little pride knowing you can repair your equipment but the big draw here is the cost and time savings. With iPads it is almost always the screen that is damaged.

The iPad screen is pretty resilient, beautiful and very responsive. We don’t repair this as it takes a bit more work and parts are not as easy to come by. We send our damaged iPads off to a local Apple Authorized Repair center here in town. Screens without a fingerprint sensor cost $50-$65 USD. Screens with the fingerprint sensor cost a whopping $195 USD. We do not have any iPad Pros at this tiem. It usually takes about two weeks for the repair to happen and to get back to us. During that time we try to provide a loaner to the student, but there have been times when we had no loaners on hand.

Not one of ours -
Not one of ours –

Another fact is that we currently purchase iPads for $300 USD a piece and if it costs two-thirds of the original price to repair the screen. We need to ask ourselves do we just buy a new one?

Like all schools, we want to do good by our budget and even leave a little wiggle-room for unexpected situations, but it makes you question if you want to continue buying a product that costs so much money to repair. Would you buy a car for $20,000 USD knowing that five years later you would need to get it repaired for $13,300? It doesn’t seem to make sense. You would probably look for a new car. I think that is what Apple wants us to do, just buy a new iPad (especially if it has been repaired once already).

Apple is pretty open about what it costs to repair these screens on their website.

It just feels … wrong though and when we repaired those Chromebooks it felt good and right. If we had the parts on hand we could (in theory) repair a Chromebook and have it back to the student the same day!

What do you think about all of this?

Apple products in schools? It’s complicated

Apple just unveiled a new MacBook Air, Mac Mini and iPad Pro. Much of this news should get schools excited. I want to be excited so why am I not excited? To oversimplify my issue is price. I am not sure the new MacBook Air is worth $1200 and I am not sure the Mac Mini is worth $800 and then to have Apple compare its iPads to laptops (kind of undercutting the MacBook Air a little) it makes me a little worried. So let me ramble a bit more below.

MacBook Air

This MacBook Air at one point was arguably the best laptop period. It didn’t matter if you were comparing it to a Windows device or not. It had incredible battery, pretty powerful and for the price probably the best laptop you could buy. That was 7 years ago.

Now they have a new MacBook Air starting at $1200. It has a much better display, a fair amount of RAM, a new Intel Y processor, a fingerprint sensor for easy logging in and some others bells and whistles. Sounds good but the problem is that Windows laptops have come a long way since then and if you’re spending $1200 on a laptop and you decide to look across the aisle at Windows, well you can see some compelling arguments to switch over.

A Dell XPS 13″ is a great computer to compare it with. You can find almost the same specs for $200 cheaper. When you’re buying 13–20 laptops at a time – that $200 is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve played around with one and it is a really nice laptop. Also, when most of our work is in the cloud (including our SIS) it makes one wonder why stick with Apple?

I do like Mac OS and I do find it easier to work with but we’re talking a lot of money that could go back into the budget every year. Do we stick with Mac because that is what everyone else uses? How would the staff react? Those are questions for another time.

The OLD MacBook Air

Apple is still selling the old MacBook Air and I would be fine with that if they dropped the price since we are talking about a computer that is still using a processor three generations so it’s not nearly as powerful and they are still selling it for $999. At the price point it is a poor investment for schools. We try to get to four years out of our laptops and while we probably could get four years from the old Airs I wonder how it will be performing for our teachers and staff in four years? It seems like a bad investment.

Mac Mini

I really like it except it is very expensive for a $800 desktop. Still it is a good computer for running a small server (which we do) and will probably pick one up and then manually upgrade the RAM. You cannot upgrade the storage or processor as both are still soldered to the board.

iPad Pro confusion

OK – here is what worries me. Apple is clearly stacking the iPad Pro up against traditional laptops (including their own). It’s priced like a laptop. It is more powerful than most laptops. To me, Apple is clearly telling us to ditch our laptops for the iPad Pro. This only reinforces my opinion that iOS and Mac OS are going to merge one day and the device Apple would like to see that happen is with its own iPad. I have no idea what this would look like and if any company can pull it off it will be Apple.

I’ve talked with a couple of people in various different professions who use the iPad Pro as their daily device. They all said the same thing. It’s great but it takes time to figure out how to do some tasks that are pretty basic with my laptop. Such as finding and organizing files, not using a mouse, etc. This is not a good future in my opinion and I worry that Apple will continue to let its laptop line become more and more mediocre.

Right now we are budgeting to purchase the new 13″ Retina MacBook Air but it doesn’t sit well with me and we won’t make the purchase till the summer so we will see how it turns out.

iPads vs Chromebooks: Part 2 – 2018

In the Part 1 I surveyed teacher to see how they feel about the 1:1 program. overall the teachers are still very enthusiastic about it, but when asked if the iPad was the best device based on what and how they teach many felt that it wasn’t. They thought that Chromebooks may be a better option.

So I sat down with the division heads (or principals if you like) and let them take a peek at the results. We discussed them and I got some of their opinions and then we talked about what the next step should be. I wanted to survey the parents and gather how they feel about this possible switch. The middle school division head spoke up and she thought that surveying the students may yield better results. I believe she is right. These students are the ones using the devices each and every day. The parents on the other hand most likely rarely know the devices as well as their children and probably (not in all cases of course) are unaware of the differences between an iPad, Chromebook, Windows S and so on.

Instead of surveying the entire middle school (5th – 8th grade). We decided on just the 8th graders. They are leaving us this year and had used their iPads for four years. Since they were leaving us we figured they would be far more honest and be able to draw upon their experiences. So here we go!

The survey

The survey itself has four sections of questions:
1) Section 1 – 1:1 program and the use of the iPad
2) Section 2 – Technology offerings
3) Section 3 – Student printing
4) Section 4 – In general

The results

We had nearly 80% of our 8th graders respond to the survey which I was very pleased with and their results were pretty enlightening as well. I will not go through each question and dissect the results but hit the highlights. For your information 1 = Yes and a 4 = No

The first question was about having the device.

As you can see just over half feel that a device to take home is important. Perhaps the indifference is due to teachers not leveraging the iPad or maybe that students wanted a different type of device.

Another highlight was about how well students felt they could research on an iPad. This was surprising. I did not expect this answer to be so positive. I really thought that a mobile browser would hinder or slow this down, but students did not seem to mind.

I did ask about typing on the iPad. As you might guess more than 70% of the students felt that the iPad was not easy to type on.

However, the next question did surprise. In fact of all the questions about the iPad this one made me really pause. I asked if they felt the iPad is good at taking photos and/or videos. Check out the results (remember 1 is very good and 4 is very bad).

Now here comes the million dollar question. If you were an incoming 5th grader which device would you prefer?

As you can see, Chromebooks and (WOW) Windows S machines make up 88% of the responses! Three people typed in MacBooks and one person (2.9%) voted for a new iPad.

That last bit of information coupled with the teacher results tell us that iPads aren’t really working for us. Who knows, iPads may be the best choice in a few years or even Windows S but right now it seems or teachers and students are of a similar mind and we will be exploring Chromebooks starting in the fall for our fifth graders.

iPads vs Chromebooks: Part 1 – 2018

I thought I would put the year on the title of this post just to give it some search relevance. I don’t know how many posts I’ve seen that are 3–4 years old and while some of the arguments are still relevant others are not. This short series will detail this school’s thinking, surveys, conversations and decisions. This is not an article that is saying one device over another … period! No, that kind of simplistic thinking usually does not benefit schools. Instead we will go through the process of how we evaluate the effectiveness of our devices and what decisions we make based on data and anecdotal observations.

Let’s start with some background information. If someone ever asks you what your school uses or what another school should use – get some information first. Fit for a device is important. The school I work for is a small private school that has around 400 students. We are preschool through grade 8 and are broken into 3 divisions.
* Early childhood (preschool, prekindergarten, kindergarten)
* Lower school (grades 1–4)
* Middle school (grades 5–8)

We currently have 1 computer lab with about thirty 21.5″ iMacs. They are older (about 5 years old) but still functioning well despite some expected slow downs. We have three MacBook Air carts for teachers in lower school and middle school to check out. We also have an iPad cart. Each cart has about 22–24 devices respectively.

Each lower school classroom has 7 iPads for student use. The classes are about 20 students each, give or take 1–2. The middle school is 1:1 iPads. Depending on the grade level determines which iPad they have. The older the student, the older the iPad. Students keep their iPads through all four years and at the end of the 8th grade we give it to them as their own personal iPad. This is subsidized by a technology fee that families pay each year. That’s the background info. If you have questions put them in the comments below.

Discussing Chromebooks

When I started this position, Chromebooks was a discussion that came up quite frequently. While clearing out an old IT closet the IT team and myself found 2 older but totally working Acer Chromebooks. We spoke with the lower school principal and asked if she thought that this would be a good addition to the third and fourth grade team. We only had two mind you but she agreed. She thought it would be a good way to allow students to try them out and to get some authentic feedback.

That was back in September of 2017. The third grade team didn’t really use it too much for whatever reason. The fourth grade team reported back that students choose the Chromebook first before an iPad. I pressed them for a reason and they had not inquired. Their thoughts was that they do a lot of work in Google Docs and the addition of a keyboard and trackpad makes working in that environment much easier than a touch screen.

Also during budget time (October-November) the lower school principal asked if we could have 20 Chromebooks for the third and fourth grade classes. When I asked why she said it gives the students choices and increase more technology opportunities for more students. If a student wants to record video, than the iPad is the clear choice. If a person wants to type a report, then the Chromebook is the clear choice. These choices give the class flexibility and having more devices can allow more opportunities for these students.

We had room in the budget and so it was added. These classrooms will not be relinquishing their iPads, the Chromebooks will be added to their classroom’s technology offerings.

Chromebooks in 1:1 environments

As I mentioned earlier, this has been a question. In fact the division head in middle school wanted to evaluate the program itself. Well myself and another teacher put together a short survey and I’ll share some of the results with you. Keep in mind we are a small school and we only have 17 total respondents for the survey.

The survey itself was broken into 4 parts:
1. The effectiveness of the 1:1 program
2. iPad Use and Management
3. Chromebooks
4. Final section with over arching questions

Here are the questions for each (I would embed the form but will not allow it). When the question references a scale – 1 is the worse and 4 is the best.

Section 1 – Effectiveness of the 1:1 Program

  • On a scale of 1–4 – Do you feel the 1:1 program is effective?
  • (Optional) – Can you give an example that supports your answer above?
  • On a scale of 1–4 – Does students having a device enhance the teaching and learning process?
  • (Optional) – Can you give an example that supports your answer above?
  • On a scale of 1–4 – Do you think the iPad is the most effective device for our middle school students?
  • (Optional) – Can you give an example that further explains your answer above?

Section 2 – iPad Use and Management

  • On a scale of 1–4 – Does the iPad do everything you need it to do?
  • Can you give examples that support your answer above?
  • How often do your students use the iPad in your class for educational purposes?
    • Every day
    • Every week
    • Every month
    • Couple of times a trimeseter
    • Few times throughout the year
    • Rarely or never
  • On a scale of 1–4 – Do you feel that it is easy to plan lessons that utilize the iPad?
  • How do you and/or your students utilize the iPad in your class?
  • On a scale of 1–4 – When it comes to classroom management, how easy is it to manage what students do on an iPad
  • What general apps do you commonly use with your students? (Tick all that apply)
    • Evernote
    • Flipgrid
    • Google Drive
    • Google Docs
    • Google Sheets
    • Google Slides
    • Gmail
    • Kahoot!
    • Keynote
    • Notability
    • Numbers
    • Prezi
  • What other apps do you use in your classroom that may be more specific to your subject? (Please just list them, no need for a description)

Section 3 – Chromebooks

  • On a scale of 1–4 – How familiar are you with Chromebooks?
  • On a scale of 1–4 – Do you think Chromebooks would be a more effective device than an iPad for our middle school students?
  • Please explain your answer above with some details.
  • Yes/No – Do you know of any Chromebook Apps that you and/or your students could use in your class?
  • (Optional question) – If you know of these apps or extensions could you please list them below? Again, no need for a description just their name.

Section 4 – Final section

  • Yes/No – Should we continue the 1:1 program in the middle school?
  • What device would be best for the 1:1 program?
    • iPads
    • Chromebooks
    • Windows S
    • We should not have a 1:1 program in middle school
  • (Optional question) – Is there anything else that you would like to share or have an issue or concerning the 1:1 program?

So that’s the survey and as you can see some of the questions give teachers time to write out some of their responses. I will share a few of them but I will share all the results from the quantitative questions in graph form.

Written responses

From the data it looks like Chromebooks are the clear winner here. However it is not so black and white. When going through the written responses it is quite clear that there are some specific apps and some specific ways that teachers use the iPads in their classrooms that show that they may not be so ready to jump into Chromebooks.

One teacher wrote about whether the iPad was the right device for a 1:1 program:

I was forced to choose yes or no, but without more information on the benefits and disadvantages of other options it is really difficult to make an informed answer.

Another teacher wrote about iPads:

It doesn’t type well. It’s invaluable for my Tempest unit, where I teach using the Tempest app on their i-pad. That IS the text for that unit.

There are other responses that ring similar to the ones above, so while I feel the middle school staff is leaning towards Chromebooks more conversations with the staff, parents and students as well.

More reporting will come soon!

Mobile Phone Shutdown

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

During the first few weeks before my new campus opened, many people wanted to know what the mobile phone policy would be for students, especially those students living on-campus.

A decision was made to allow teachers to set their classroom norms, and to give the students an opportunity to use technology responsibly. This very open policy would be applied, and results would be evaluated.

The first month of school yielded some very interesting results, and eventually lead to a big change not only in policy, but also in campus culture.

The Real Issue

The assumption most adults and educators make is that students will waste time while using their devices in class.

The truth is that students using mobile phones outside of the classroom, is in fact a severe waste of time compared to the time lost in the classroom. Policies focusing on controlling students and preventing them from enjoying some form of entertainment while in class, are missing the core issue(s).

The real issue with students who are engaged in very high levels of screen-time, is that the engagement negates their time to socialize. The device, ironically, pushes them further apart from one another, even if they are using the device to communicate.

Classroom use of devices can be very beneficial. Teachers can task students and keep them working and interacting, while socializing.

During the first month of observation, when left to their own prerogative, students in social situations would default to the use of social media apps and free or freemium games instead of talking to one another.

The students were not engaged in deep discussions, academic information exchange, or even conversations about making plans for their weekends. They were just engaged in activities that had a short and very shallow feedback loop.

My personal observations were combined with others, and everyone agreed that we did not want a campus culture that encouraged students to not socialize; to sit alone and stare at a screen; and that seemed to push curiosity to the floor.


READ MORE at The International Educator Online


Apple in the Classroom, What’s Next on the Chopping Block?


By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I just read the article, Apple planning to make original TV shows and movies as hardware sales soften. I decided to try and remember what I used to be able to buy for the school/classroom from Apple. Here is my list:

  1. Laptops designed for children
  2. Powerful and Extensible Workstations
  3. Servers with easy to use Management Tools, Media Streaming, and Podcasting
  4. Easy to obtain full sized keyboards







My concern is real. I am an Apple and Lenovo owner. My Lenovo experience has only improved in the last 6-7 years, while my Apple experience has gotten worse. Am I the only one who agrees that iPhones and watches do not equal creation and learning?

I am hoping for a turn around. Sales of hardware are down. Schools tend to buy in massive quantities. #SalesTiptoApple

Schools also like to by integrated packages of computers, devices, accessories, support, and software. #SalesTiptoApple




If This, Then That: Link Apps Together to Double Your Productivity!

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 5.11.00 PM

I recently discovered the amazing website: If this, then that 

What does it do?

  • link apps together to automatically work together
  • saves you time!

How does it work?

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Create a recipe, or choose from combinations that have already been created for you.

You can create connections between apps/products that you love to make them work more efficiently for you – if this… then that happens (aka you are making conditional statements)

Their about page explains this in more detail ( – I love that the URL is wtf instead of about 🙂

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Pre-made recipes are categorized for you and include all kinds of cool websites, news channels, media, etc…

Clicking on existing recipes allows you to quickly connect them:

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They continue adding more apps all the time. Most are useful, some are interesting…

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Kendra Perkins

Pocket: An Easy & Quick Bookmarking Tool that’s Free

I love Pocket! It’s a Chrome extension, and it’s something that I actually use. Yes, you have to sign up first, but that’s pretty painless. And it’s free. There is a premium version, but it seems unnecessary. Everything that I use is available on the free version.

Why Do I think it’s useful?

I use this to quickly save articles, videos and whatever else to read later. I find this particularly helpful when I’m scanning through Twitter, Flipboard or my favourite blogs. If I see anything that seems interesting I simply ‘pocket’ it to go through later. Create tags that are easy to remember, these can as silly or as practical as you want, whatever will help you remember it.

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How do you use it?

To access all the cool stuff you’ve saved click on the cute little pocket to the right of the address bar (I used Chrome browser).

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When you get started you have “My List” where you find everything that you’ve ‘pocketed’ for later. You end up with what looks like a Pinterest board, it’s really visually appealing, and you can scroll through everything you’ve saved.

The search feature is excellent. I’ve always preferred to use search features in my email or spotlight on my Mac to find everything so I find this makes it very easy to find anything I now have time to read/watch. I’m really bad about not making folders to organize stuff properly (I know, not very librarian-like), so I heavily depend on good search functions.

Here’s what what Pocket looked like when I made this blog (I am constantly removing things as I finish reading them and adding new content, it changes almost daily):

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Automatically syncs! Yay!

It automatically syncs to your phone, other computers and tablets. You can view articles offline, excellent for commuting on the metro or bus. This is particularly time saving when you use multiple devices like me. My work laptop and home laptop are now seamlessly connected. No more links saved to my bookmarks on one laptop, which inevitably I forget which one I saved it to and then waste a lot of time hunting around.

Looking for more time saving extensions/apps?

Check out what else there is under the category “productivity”. Tons of great products out there, though it’s easy to waste more time looking through these and testing them than actually saving time by using them…

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Kendra Perkins