Susan SkydivingBonding opportunities with a 22-year-old son are few and far between, especially when what your son thinks is exciting is not your idea of a good time. However, I’m at a stage in life where I’ve decided the benefit to myself professionally, as well as personally, for stepping out of my comfort zone is worth the risk and effort. In January of 2012 my son asked me to go skydiving with him. I told him he was out of his mind. There was absolutely no way that I was jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. However, in the months that followed, a series of events came together which included a terrific discount coupon for a skydiving adventure, so I decided to take the leap and enjoy this bonding experience with my son. I stepped way out of my comfort zone.

What does that have to do with this seminar and this book? I have never considered myself a technology guru. I am a teacher who loves practical solutions that work to promote student success. I also value efficiency and respect the challenges that teachers face in a job overloaded with high expectations and sometimes ridiculous demands. When I was asked to put together a seminar on iPad apps for secondary students, I balked. Out of my comfort zone. I didn’t even own an iPad. However, I have committed myself to growth and this year that meant doing things that were uncomfortable, new, challenging, and time-consuming. As an educational consultant, teacher, and mother to a college student with a learning disability, I need to grow my skills so that I could provide solutions to the learning challenges that others face.

As I approached the task of pulling together and learning about iPad apps, Android apps, portable apps, and websites, I realized that I could not do what I have seen many other presenters and webinar providers do. What is that? Create a book or presentation of hundreds of apps that look great on the surface, but have not been tested with real life applications. There are thousands of apps out there. Of those thousands, thousands are not worth your time or money.

Consequently, my approach to this challenge has been to download, test, and try iPad apps, portable apps, and a few apps that are cross-platform so that I could provide you with solutions that work and don’t waste your time, or your students’ time. In the process, I will share some of the realities of shopping for apps, show you apps that work well, and tell you why I like certain apps and why I don’t like others.

So, you want to get hundreds of apps in this book and seminar. Personally, I believe that would be a waste of paper and time. Those same apps can be found in the iTunes Store, Google Play, and online. You do not need me to list them here. Consider what I present to be a beginning. Another reality that we face is that as I write this book, months before it goes into publication for the seminar you may be attending, many of these apps will have changed. Consequently, there is space available for you to take notes and add new information about apps, websites, and programs that I might find after I send this book to the publisher.

I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and try some of these tools in your classroom or with your own child. For many students, this could make or break their success in school. I would like you to know that, at this very moment, what you are reading was not typed or written longhand in its first draft. Rather than typing or writing I am speaking what you are reading into Dragon Speak Professional, a voice to text program. I have used this program to write two other books in their first iteration. After I have a draft spoken, I work with an editor and a proofreader and massage the text into a manuscript, which is finally delivered to the publisher.

I challenge you to let go of long-held beliefs about how students must perform and show their knowledge and understanding. Brilliance need not require excellent writing skills to shine forth. Brilliance can present itself through multiple modes of communication. When we dismiss a child’s brilliance because they cannot show what they know in a traditional education setting, for them, we deny the world that child’s gifts.

So let’s get started and see what technology can do for us and our youth.

Using iPads and Other Cutting Edge Technology to Strengthen Your InstructionFor more information about using technology to strengthen instruction, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Using iPads and Other Cutting Edge Technology to Strengthen Your Instruction.

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