Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I grew up in Sycamore, IL right next door to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb where my parents both worked. I originally completed a Bachelor's in Theatre Arts from NIU in 2000 and worked in two TV pilots that were never picked up. I went into the healthcare field until 2009 when I decided to return to school and pursue a Masters in Instructional Technology in Education. I graduated with my Master's in 2011 where I worked for a small grade school that had 1:1 iPads. I left in 2012 to implement an iPad 1:1 at Christian Life Schools in 2012 and have never looked back. I'm currently pursuing a doctorate in Education for Curriculum Development at NIU.
You've built a reputation as an real edtech innovator. Have you always been tech-friendly?
Yes, I have. When I was just three years old I would visit my uncle and aunt's house in town and I would be playing with my older cousins who were all 12 years older than me (I was the youngest grandchild at the time). One day my oldest cousin was playing Pac-Man on their old Atari and I wanted to play and I ended up beating all of their top scores and surpassing them. My mother saw that I was very hands on when there was some new type of technology in the house. I learned how to program our original VCR two days after we bought it and I was able to run her old graphics program and pen without hesitation on her old Apple 2. There was never a time I couldn't pick up some type of tech and master it. It only made sense that I have now made a career of it.
In general, what do you think it is that makes mobile technology so useful in the modern classroom?
The fact that it is so mobile, many people forget that mobile does not mean something like an iPad or Chromebook. You can take and access technology anywhere at school or at home. There are endless resources that can enhance learning for any student from PK thru Graduate School. It doesn't take much to use mobile technology to enhance learning for a student. It just takes someone willing to try and use it to making learning something incredible.
If an educator new to the use of iPads in education asked you to recommend apps, where would you start?
I would start with one of my favorites, Stick Around by Tony Vincent and MorrisCooke. The app touches on all aspects of learning from PD to PBL. I'm also a big fan of Pic Collage that allows you create amazing signs, instructions and of course collages with just some taps of your fingers. I also love using all Google Drive Apps. They can cover all courses and tools of learning just at your finger tips. After that you can start creating your ideal learning tool.
Your excellent app dice concept for combining apps has really struck a chord across the edtech community. Could you tell us how that came about?
Sure, I was actually on Pinterest and I was looking up some classroom games and I saw two teachers who had printed out their main apps on stickers and put them on a set of small dice and then rolled them for stations. When the student rolled a certain app they went to that station. I remember seeing this and I said to myself: "Why not put various apps on each side and roll the dice and see what apps came up on top and then come up with App Smahes with various lessens. Another was picking one assignment or project and then rolling the App Dice and using the app that comes up. It just worked and before I knew it everyone was using them both in my school and across the globe. I knew I had something.
What do you feel are the main benefits from combining apps?
It really expands your learning and understanding. Some classrooms believe you have to use only one app or one set of apps to complete a lesson or assignment. However, when you start combining apps you start to see how they can play off of each other and you start to wonder what you can do with one and then work it with another app. I just had a few of my students rolling some App Dice yesterday day and I was amazed with some of the lessons and projects they came up with. It really opened their eyes to what they could use or apps they have never used before and make them work.
You also like to blend other technology with your iPad use, such as Google Glass and the Makey Makey board. Is this more difficult to conceptualise?
It really depends. When you are blending different forms of technology their apps or ecosystems might not play well with each other. The trick is making them be parts of the whole. Something I have learned with combining apps, they don't all have to used key to key but they can still fit in the big picture of things. What I've learned about Google Glass it works with almost all mobile platforms outside of Google but I can't hook a Makey Makey to it even though I can with an iPad USB adaptor. What you have to do is look at how they can all work together. That's how I come up with the Tech Smashes. I'm posting one on my blog about how to hook up a Makey Makey to a classroom wall theme into Garageband and then relay the music through Google Glass to a Google Slides presentation. Its fun stuff and really only takes 45 minutes from beginning to end.
Who inspires you across the educational field?
I have several my biggest ones are Tony Vincent, Sue Gorman, Kyle Pearce, Kasey Bell, Meghan Zigmond, Kevin Honeycutt, Cindy York, John Cowan and my own mother-in-law, Diane Helland a retired teacher herself.
What's next for you? Any plans for the new school year?
I'm starting to enter the world of Minecraft Edu and I'm planning on attending and presenting at conferences next. This school year I will be working with the new Google Classroom and working on Classrooms Across the Country for my school. Where we will either Skype, Facetime or Google Hangout with another classroom on various projects and work together. I'm also finally finishing up my first book that I have been writing for the last 8 years.
How can our readers keep up to date with what you're up to and your latest concepts?
You can find me on Twitter @Ryan7Read and my blog is at:
Thank you for taking time out for us Ryan, it's been really informative. We can't wait to hear more about your innovative ideas.