The iPhone 5S on Virgin Mobile – Unboxing and TMobile

I recently picked up an iPhone 5S on Virgin Mobile.  Sprint (the backbone that Virgin Mobile rides on) has been expanding their LTE service around the country, including in my area (supposedly) and I wanted to see how the coverage was where I live and work.


For fun, I recorded the unboxing of the iPhone 5S.  It’s identical to all the other iPhone 5S’s, but sometimes seeing the insides makes folks more comfortable buying the device, especially from a “discount” retailer like Virgin Mobile.

I also wanted to see if the Virgin Mobile iPhone 5S was actually shipping Factory Unlocked, so I go a TMobile SIM and popped it in.  Sadly, as you’ll see in the video, the phone is locked and will only work on Sprint or Virgin Mobile.

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So You Got a Surface Tablet…

surfacertThis week at the ISTE 2013 conference, over 10,000 people will receive a free Microsoft Surface RT tablet, exposing over 9,874 people to the world of Surface RT.  I purchased a Surface RT on launch day and used it for quite a while, enjoying the device within its limitations.

If you are new to Windows 8 and Windows RT, the first thing you’ll want to do is create a Microsoft Account.  Similar to a Google Account or Apple ID, it’s the account you’ll use to save your profile and app history, email, and more.  If you already have an Xbox, you can use the same Gamer ID as your Microsoft Account.  Same as with your Skype ID.  Details are on Microsoft’s page here:

Windows 8 is clearly designed for a tablet, which explains much of the backlash Microsoft has faced over the last few months since its release.  Windows 8 runs nicely on the Surface RT tablet, as long as you know about some special features.  In the same way that Apple makes use of off-to-on-screen swipes for the Notification screen, Microsoft does this on all sides of the Windows 8 screen.  

surfacert2Windows 8 and RT does have the familiar Desktop.  Plus, Windows 8 has FULL Office 2013!  You can find out more about pinning apps and more at

Shutting down the Surface RT:  Possibly the most complained about feature of Windows 8 & RT is shutting down the device.  Much like your iPad, you simply don’t need to shut it down, but can close the screen (or flip up the Touch Cover) and it’ll go into Connected Standby. Connected Standby wakes up occationally to phone home and get updates/email/notifications, but then goes back to sleep.  Simply put, treat it the way you do with your iPad.  If you need to restart or shut down, simply swipe from the right, tap Settings, then Power, and select Shut Down.  More details at

I’ll post more soon about the popular apps you’ll want to install, but hopefully the above links will get you started!

Are you at ISTE 2013?  Did you get a Surface RT?  What are your thoughts?  Let me know in the comments!

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Microsoft Surface RT Tablet

Microsoft released Windows 8 along with their Surface tablet on October 26, 2012. Windows 8 is a great departure from Windows of the past, building true touch into the Windows operating system. I have used Windows 8 on a laptop for months now, and I really like it. There are a lot of differences at first glance, but Windows 8 includes a traditional desktop along with the new Windows 8 UI, so you get the best of both worlds.

Surface is Microsoft’s take on a Windows 8 tablet. The first Surface tablet released runs Windows RT, which isn’t the traditional Windows 8 experience. In Windows RT, there are no traditional Windows applications (PhotoShop, SMART, Promethean, etc.) available to run…Windows just doesn’t allow it. Just as Apple makes you install apps through the App Store, Windows 8 includes a Windows Store, and that is where you get your apps for Windows RT.

My favorite thing, in theory, about the Surface RT tablet is it comes with full Office. In the classroom, especially secondary classrooms, having full Office is incredibly important in my mind.

The size and battery life of Surface is supposedly very good, and all early reviews say the build quality is excellent. The Surface has an available Touch Cover and Type Cover, taking Apple’s Smart Cover and adding a real keyboard on it. I’m excited about this as well.

My Surface RT arrives today. I hope to get my first thoughts posted pretty soon, so if there are things you want me to specifically comment on, let me know in the comments.

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So You Have a Windows 7 Computer…

New computer desks

New computer desks – Manchester City Library, via Flickr

As schools are opening, many teachers are returning to new computers on their desks or in their classrooms.  Not only do these new computers have nice new monitors and clean keyboards, they are likely coming with Windows 7, which is very different in look and feel from older Windows XP computers.  For many, this may be the first time you’ve used Windows 7.

We replaced computers in two of our district’s schools over the summer, giving us roughly 50% of the teachers using Windows 7 while the other half are using Windows XP.  Talk about training trouble!

To start the year, I sent an email to all of my schools using Windows 7 and provided some links to some online tutorials around the changes in Windows 7.  Most users are OK after about an hour of so of using Windows 7, but you may find the tutorials useful for your colleagues and staff.

Some of you may be using Windows 7 for the first time, so I wanted to put together a couple of quick resources that might be useful to you.  The links below are specific to Windows 7 (not Office 2010, but I’ll get those together too!) and show you how to do some of the same things you have done in the past on Windows XP.

Straight from the source:
Direct from Microsoft, these tutorials combine videos with handouts to walk you through various things in Windows 7, including changing your desktop background and screen saver, sounds, adjusting text size, and much more. Lots of good resources here.
While this site is ad-supported, there are lots of video and text tutorials around the use of Windows 7.  I can’t vouch for all of the videos here, but the first few look pretty good.
More tutorials which have you click through various steps to learn about Windows 7.
Please note that, due to the corporate nature of our install of Windows, not all of the features of Windows 7 work as they would at home, but most everything should be identical.

Feel free to share a link to this page and help out your staff, fellow teachers, or even family members!

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Social Media, Professional Development, & Boxes

There is lots of talk about using Twitter and other forms of social media for Professional Development…I do it myself.  My friend Steven Anderson, who tweets at @web20classroom, blogged recently about connectedness while at a national conference:

So it bothers me when I hear people, powerful people, people in positions that could really drive change, say educators need to be connected, but in the same breath discount the validity of Twitter or other social networking tools. Their idea of connectedness is the traditional. Let’s travel 1000′s of miles to have a conversation over dinner about assessment or the Common Core. I can have the same conversations with many more people any time of day. That isn’t to say that the face-to-face time isn’t valuable. On the contrary, I value greatly that time I get to spend with others. But if we are truly going to drive change and make waves as educational leaders we have to plug in and get connected. We have to reach out and read blogs, send tweets, participate in forums.

Professional development, and personal/professional learning and growth is so different now as apposed to the traditional. I can learn about anything, anywhere, from any number of experts. Why, as a lover of learning, would I not want to be in on that!

The line that struck me in the above quote was the sentence “I can have the same conversations with many more people any time of day.” This rings so true to me…the ability to step out of my district, my state, and my region, and to hear what educators across the country are thinking, saying, and doing is what makes social media like Twitter and blogs so valuable to me.

But here’s my problem: occasionally I have to return to that box.

Very few of us have the magic wand we need to make the changes we feel are important in our organization, including the position of power and influence needed to make this change happen, especially quickly.

So here’s my dilemma that I’m going to struggle with this year: how can I get more teachers in my district to use social media for professional development?

Actually, my question is a bit different:  How can I award professional development credit for social media activity?  Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, it comes down to this for some teachers: How do I get credit for this?

Yes, teachers want to improve their instruction for their students. Yes, teachers want their students to achieve more. But, teachers also have requirements they have to fulfill, including certificate renewal.

One of my roles this year in my district will be coordinating professional development.  This will give me the chance to introduce social media to our 400+ teachers and show they how they can get some amazing PD at their own pace, from some amazing people who “get it.”  But I know they’re going to ask “How many points can I get for this?” And I get that.

So how do I address that?  Anyone give PD credit for social media participation?  How do you do it? Let me know in the comments!

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