Home iPads and Other Tablet Devices 15 Powerful and Fun Takeaways from the TLIPAD 2015 Conference

15 Powerful and Fun Takeaways from the TLIPAD 2015 Conference


tlipad-2015-nick-combsTLIPAD presenter Nick Combs and his session “Creation Formation”

Sharing is Caring at the Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference

This last Thursday through Saturday was another fantastic TLIPAD conference. Every year it is such a refreshing endeavor to travel and meet with hundreds of teachers, administrators, and educators of all stripes, who gather in Raleigh, North Carolina to share and to learn.

There are many education and technology conferences each year, but this one always seems to have a sense of camaraderie that goes above and beyond what I experience at most other edtech events. Maybe it's the common theme of the iPad, a more focused topic than the wider-spanning content of other national conferences? In any case, the participants clearly enjoy meeting and learning from each other and the speakers, sharing tips, techniques, and experiences.

Here are some of the takeaways that have stuck with me as I reflect back on the last few days. I hope you find some value and inspiration here too.

Steven W. Anderson (a.k.a. @web20classroom) is a colorful guy and a fun and motivating “educational evangelist”! Anderson's Keynote, Learning: Anytime, Anywhere, was a blast. Some of you may know Steven through his website web20classroom.org, his involvement in the #edtech chat, or you may have read about him in the Huffington Post, or seen one of his many talks. He is a somewhat larger than life character wearing bright yellow pants, multi-colored sneakers, and his ever-present bow tie, and he delivers on the promise of the entertaining talk that his attire suggests. His words motivate, stimulate, and inform, and I highly suggest that you attend one of his talks if you have the opportunity to.

We have a moral imperative to provide our students with the tools they need to succeed. At the conclusion of our Saturday morning panel discussion, Opening the Doors to Mobile Learning, while talking about methods for teachers to help convince their administrators of the benefits of implementing a 1 to 1 iPad device program, one of the conferences many well-spoken attendees noted this vital reason to those that were being discussed. It was a perfect note to close the discussion on. Yes, we can cite significant cost savings that are possible by moving away from reams of paper and costly textbooks, and the efficient workflow these devices can help deliver, but shouldn't our ultimate motivation be doing what is right for our students to help them succeed in school and ultimately in their careers and lives? Absolutely.

Schools and organizations can save big $$ converting from paper training materials to the iPad. I had a fascinating conversation with Kim King from Exelon Generation, where she works with a team of over 30 trainers who work with the staff at the nuclear facilities that the company oversees. She had attended last year's conference and came back this year with three colleagues in tow. She explained how they have done away with reams of paperwork and converted to largely digital training materials, saving a solid six figures in the process. She has also been encouraged to note that company staff can often be seen using their iPads to take notes in meetings, share content, and collaborate.

Canvas appears to be on its way to becoming the first widely adopted Learning Management System in K-12. I first learned of Edmodo, a popular free platform that serves as a sort of “LMS lite”, at the 2012 TLIPAD conference. As I expected might be the case, since tech behemoth Google has come along with Google Classroom, many K-12 Google Apps For Education schools and many new to “GAFE” are hopping on that bandwagon and enjoying the free functionality these tools provide. But what took me by surprise was the frequency with which I was hearing about K-12 schools that had moved, or were moving, to Canvas from Instructure.

I knew Canvas was one of the fastest growing LMS's on the market, but had no idea that it was catching on like this in K-12. As it happens, Instructure has provided North Carolina with generous state-wide pricing, so this is no doubt influencing the adoption rate in the region, but still, I came across more LMS-using K-12 schools in 2 days than I had in the last 5 years. I also talked with a few teachers whose schools had implemented D2L's Britespace platform. Looks like K-12 is finally moving to the full blown LMS platform!

For about $25 you can have a green screen media studio for you and your students to explore. One of my favorite “tools and techniques” takeaways was the Green Screen by Do Ink app and the inexpensive green screen demonstrated by Nick Combs. Combs is the K-12 District Instructional Technology Administrator for the Thales Academy, and has taught elementary grades for years. He showed us that you can buy an inexpensive “green screen” cloth backdrop for under $20 (here's a 6′ x 9′ one for under $14) and couple it with the $2.99 app from Do Ink to provide an easy to use media resource that students can get very creative with! The Green Screen app provides an instant “be anywhere” background, and it's super easy to use. Nick is going to write an article about this that we'll share here soon.

There are few conferences as affordable as TLIPAD. Attendees confirmed that the value of the conference is really unbeatable, at just $250 for the early-bird rate ($325 full price). The pre-conference workshops were also a tremendous value at just $75 for a half day session!

Teachers are mixing Web apps and iOS apps like never before. Wouldn't it be nice if all software were device-agnostic? It would be ideal to be able to use any app from any type of device. An increasing number of software providers offer their products in a mix of Web, iOS, and Android apps. Unfortunately, not all of them play nice on each platform. Google is notorious for iOS versions of their apps that leave a lot to be desired. In any case, iPad users are mixing and matching iOS apps and Web apps regularly these days, and that's a good thing.

Appsmashing is a blast! Ever take a picture and tweak with an editor, then bring it into another tool to add some text to create a final image. Check it out – you're an app smasher! It can get a lot funkier than these examples, and students are particularly adept at it. This is a powerful idea, and fun too!

We – you and I – and the ongoing dialogue we should be having with each other, are a vital resource for ongoing PD! One of the best forms of professional development is also free. We can learn so much from each other. When budgets get tight, we need to teach and learn with/from friends and colleagues. And of course, there are so many great learning resources available on line, many from teachers and technologists like you and I!

The importance of lifelong learning for teachers is largely overlooked. One thing that Anderson mentioned in his keynote was this: helping students become lifelong learners is often mentioned in school mission and vision statements, but where do they discuss supporting lifelong learning for teachers? If we aren't modeling lifelong learning, how we to expect students to adopt this behavior? The fact is, in today's quickly evolving tech landscape, we all need to keep learning (and frankly, to my way of thinking … once we stop learning, we might as well call it quits).

Few things in education are more inspiring than students creating content! One of my favorite parts of the annual TLIPAD conference is the Student Showcase. Dozens of students from the Franklin Academy and other local area schools demonstrate their mastery of iPad apps and how they use them. I love it when students show content they've made with tools like iMovie and iBooks. The pride in a student's face when they show you something cool they've made is truly awe inspiring. These kinds of creative assignments can support so many 21st century learning goals!

Creation should be at the center of teaching and learning. Stephen Anderson shared this image from Kathy Schrock, to support his point that creation should be at the center of student learning activities. I couldn't agree more!


More teachers are seeing the cross-curricular value of coding in the classroom, starting at a young age. I ran into a few teachers who were excited about coding as a cross-curricular learning tool. I don't think that many teachers are aware of the power and simplicity of “programming” tools that can be used by very young students to instruct a virtual or real physical robot to move in a pattern they define. Not only is this highly empowering, it can dovetail with many different curricular elements. I am delighted to see the brilliant pioneering work of Seymour Papert come closer to a day to day reality in our classrooms.

There were over 90,000 #HourOfCode events scheduled around the world as of 11-12-15. Wow! Check out this interactive map to see a current shot of these events, quickly nearing 100,000+ (scroll down on the page the link goes to)! The Hour of Code keeps growing. Very cool. 

“The best #making is when students use what they make to solve a problem” – Steven W. Anderson. This simple phrase kind of blew my mind. People in schools across the world are getting excited about “making”. Before saying this, Anderson mentioned that making purely for the sake of making is play, which is a good thing. But when students create in order to address a problem and find a solution, they're innovating, inventing, changing the world in a small but mighty way, and they're solving a problem! The best making is when students make something … to solve a problem. Heck yeah.


  1. Great article – appreciate the insights. I have been in the realm of exploring the iPad potential for a couple of years – especially for students with disability – and the tenor of your post as a representation of the conference very much confirms my own discoveries. Gives me the confidence to continue to advocate the iPAD device as a tool rather than a toy in spite of some doomsayers that would rather maintain the status quo of traditional teaching.


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