This tweet tagged me (in the responses) this week, and my response is more than 140 characters long.

One of many things I like about the #mtbos is the math conversations that happen one line at a time.

It just so happens, I have a lot of thoughts on this particular topic, more than I could share on a tweet.

On SmartBoards

While it’s not the focus of this post, I had one of these. As with most technology, it’s tempting to drop it in someone’s lap with little to no preparation, and be disappointed when the individual doesn’t produce Nobel-Prize winning lessons after a week. Every classroom at my school had a SmartBoard, and I never saw a lesson that did anything more innovative than I did.

And I wasn’t doing much.

Tina, if you can afford both, great. But if you’re between the two, spend the money on tech that promotes student creativity, instead teacher creativity. I loved my SmartBoard, but the stuff that my students created in an hour was much more satisfying than any cool lesson design.

And speaking of that…

On AppleTV in the Classroom

I had one in my 8th grade Math class for two years. Here’s the quick version:


  • Students (on the same network as the Apple TV) can quickly and easily share their work with the whole class. My struggling students suddenly became the star as they showcased their problem-solving on the wall and walked the class through their reasoning. Below, you can see two students teaching the class from their iPads during Teacher 4 a Day.

Photo Apr 18, 8 20 32 AM

  • Students who found new apps or iPad tricks can teach the class about it on the big screen wirelessly (from their seat if they’re shy).
Name with code

Andrew, a timid 8th grader, wrote his name using computer commands during the Week of Code and taught his classmates his tricks.

Didn’t Love:

  • I had my AppleTV with open access, no password, no confirmation; anybody could just hop on. The first week of school, Adrian (from his desk) bumped my iPad off the projector during a demo and showed the class a picture of a bunny from his iPad.
Take a moment to think of what he could have shown. I'm glad it was JUST a bunny.

Take a moment to think of what he could have shown. I’m glad it was JUST a bunny.

Immediately, I knew it was him (the usual signs of middle-school mischief, furtive glances to classmates, frantic motions to hide what he was doing, chortling, etc.) and pounced on him.

“Adrian. That’s not okay. If we’re going to work well with iPads in class this year, we have to be respectful of each other, and it’s not your turn right now. You’ll get your turn later. Ask me first.”

He was surprised. I was going for firm and kind, but he was also surprised about my declaration for the year. I was laying the groundwork for our class and what we would do with these new fancy tools, and he–and, more importantly, the entire class–heard me say, “You will all have a chance to share.”

Finger face with a question by Tsahi Levent-Levi

“But, why not just protect the AppleTV with a password?”

Yup. That would solve the problem, but it would also show students that I am the Chieftain of Class Culture instead of the Guide.

I was confident in the class culture that wouldn’t need a password, and the openness–I feel–gave the students some autonomy and respect. They would casually ask, “Can I show this to the class?” and my answer was always “Yes” or “In a minute”.

I never had that issue of AppleTV control again, with Adrian1 or anybody else.

In the Math Classroom

  • My class had an unusual situation; the iPads were used as an intervention tool in conjunction with a bonus hour of time with me and no curriculum.


That's right. An unsupervised hour with low-performing students and iPads.

That’s right. An unsupervised hour with low-performing students and iPads.

That free hour allowed us to explore other pseudo-core-curriculum exploits, such as the 20 Time project, Estimation 180, Visual Patterns, and Would You Rather?. Also, training the students in how to best use web-based tools like Google Drive (with whom, I have an inappropriate infatuation) and introducing them to computer programming with Hour of Code.

In short, the AppleTV provided opportunities for my students to get excited about Mathematics, art integration, and a collaborative learning environment. Yeah, I did those things before, but that little black box provided access and confidence for students who were usually silent, lost, and confused.


Worth it.

~Matt “Not sponsored by Apple, just satisfied” Vaudrey

1. Adrian eventually flunked out of 3rd period and joined my 1st period, which did not have iPads. He was surprised by this, after three parent phone calls, two conferences, and three failing report cards.