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Technology works in education. This category of entries tells the story of my successes, failures, and lessons. Also look here for technology integration strategies.
How do we understand transformation & SAMR?
I love SAMR because it articulates a clear model of technology integration. From a respected colleague and friend comes a question about researching successes with transforming learning with technology. His specific question is "what could I research to understand transformative teaching and learning as it relates to SAMR". The best way to do this is to interview teachers who have changed the way students learn with technology. This is important, so please pay attention. We aren't looking at teachers who are "using more technology", we are looking at teachers who have changed their model of instruction, utilizing digital tools.
A few examples:
1. A middle school social studies teachers used to teach geography using paper maps, now he uses digital maps. Transformative? No.
2. An elementary school science teacher used to teach the water cycle, but now students are engaged in project-based learning about "me and my world". Transformative? Yep.
3. A high school math teacher used to teach basic geometry on a dry-erase board, but now has kids exploring area and shape using a simulation. Transformative? Probably, but if they are just playing, then probably not. The key point here is that transformative is about the verbs and not the nouns.
Here are some questions you could ask that would guide your thinking about transformational practice (used gratefully from this source) :
1. Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
2. Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
3. Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
4. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
5. Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill? I posit that even the course "educational technology" is dangerous. As if there is a split between the two (there isn't). Hope this helps.
Pain Value Analysis & Problem Analysis
I'm learning Service Operations in ITIL. I encountered some really interesting ideas about problems and pain in IT, and wanted to share them.
"...instead of just analyzing the number of incidents/problems of a particular type in a particular period, a more in-depth analysis is done to determine exactly what level of pain has been caused to the organization / business by these incidents / problems. A formula can be devised to calculate this pain level, typically, this might include taking into account the number of people of effected, the duration of the problem, and the cost to the business (ITIL Service Operation manual page 100)".
I'm also learning how to best analyze how and why problems occur - and some tools for getting to the very root of a problem. The technique you use depends on the specific problem you have, but here's the list I'm learning:
1. Kepler and Tregoe analysis
4. Fault isolation
5. Affinity mapping
6. Hypothesis testing
7. Technical observation post
8. Ishikawa diagram
9. Pareto analysis
10. Chronological analysis
One of the reasons I so value these ITIL courses is because many of the problems we face in school IT have already been well-addressed and solved by other industries. I remain even more committed that learning and adopting ITIL and best-practices for managing IT in schools is the right way to go.
Technology, learning and choice…
Slate has wonderful article about a professors choice to use (or not to use) technology in learning. The article resonates with me on many levels. As I reflect on the SAMR model of technology use and learning, I see many cases where technology use really doesn't benefit student learning. And I believe this question, does this use of technology benefit student learning must be central in our thinking to use it.
I've also seen technology use that fantastically improves on the way students learn - but this has more to do with instructional design rather than the actual blinking thing. There is nothing automatically better about learning when we throw technology in the mix. We must carefully judge and balance the benefits of technology in learning. This requires time, testing, and a clear vision of your learning outcomes.
A last point about distraction. As I work in ed-tech, I see more and more how distraction and divided attention fractures and fragments learning. I believe a great gift teachers can give to their students is the experience of deep thinking.
To spend a significant amount of time deeply knowing a poem or a part of a song is to know the "truth of a thing". And isn't that why we teach and learn? Sometimes I worry that technology makes knowing the truth harder. There are all kinds of yucky implications about a generation of kids who blink from one thing to the next, but that's a discussion for another article. Great article in the ongoing conversation about technology use and learning.
Social Media and PLN’s: a lot of a little
#cdl_mooced I'm currently learning via a fascinating MOOC Coaching Digital Literacy.
The unit I am working through is about social media and PLN's (personal learning networks). For the record, I love personal learning networks, and have benefited tremendously from my involvement in them. I've been a social media user for a while, but I don't really think they work for me as a PLN.
What I see in social media (twitter, facebook) is a lot of a little.
After reducing the "signal to noise" problem*, I see people post links to tools, without any deep thinking or consideration of context. It's pretty easy to post an infographic, link to a blog, embed a youtube video, but it's much harder to meaningfully change student learning with that same link.
Social media makes it very easy to share, but does that equate with better? I'm unsure. Where I have seen social media shine is when a very specific content area is linked to another very specific content area. For example, when a third grade teacher "follows" another third grade teacher. Or when a 10th grade English teacher "follows" another 10th grade English teacher. Posting a link, a website, or some great web 2.0 tool might help, but I don't think it meets the definition of being connected. My bias is rooted in my growing conviction that focused, mindful attention is the best way to learn and remember.
This weekend, I'm on my way to Istanbul, Turkey where I will meet with other IT Directors from the Central and Eastern European School Association. We all work in similar schools, with similar issues, challenges, and successes. This is my primary PLN, and one which I derive great value from. This face to face contact, this focused, uninterrupted time where we are learning with each other is like solid gold for me. And it is this that is missing from social media. Social media makes connecting quick, easy, and ephemeral. And that's the problem I have with it. I'm curious to hear your thoughts about this. *
Bill's social media signal to noise maxim: the ratio of cat pictures to actionable useful content determines the value of social media as a learning tool.
Goals for this upcoming year
Our first week is under our belts. We are supporting MAP testing, and school trips have started. I finally feel like IT has some breathing space - but not much. I think once MAP testing is complete, and the "normal school schedule" (whatever that means) has started, we will be able to start moving forward, and not tend to our "getting to normal". There are many exciting initiatives in our school. In no particular order,
High School iPad pilot
Physical education iPad pilot
New student information system (powerschool)
New web-based admissions system
Major upgrade to our web-based professional development system (which is working great)
Start of a new project, HR system
Process-MAP all the inter-system synchronization issues (how does powerschool talk to our finance system, to Moodle, to Google, etc...)
We also have a technology coach team that should coalesce a bit more, a we had two new coaches last year. I’ll be looking for more “lighthouse learning” from the coaches, and I think they could do it with their eyes closed.
In all of these, I see my goals to support organizational excellence and increase student achievement. I will be focusing on:
1. Getting Powerschool off to a great start. In ITIL lingo, Powerschool is in “service transition” - a fragile time when a service must be carefully nurtured, supported, and “tended to”. Our goal is get Powerschool to a “service operation”, where the operations, roles, and benefits of this service are realized, part of our institutional culture, and the service levels are being consistently met.
2. Get our web-based admissions off to a good start. Just like powerschool, this system is in transition, and we’ll want to do a bunch of hand-holding until it matures and becomes operational.
3. My personal goals will be to become certified in ITIL Service Design and ITIL Service transition. My overall goal is to become ITIL expert-level certified.
4. I will also be strengthening my mindfulness practice, and encouraging students and teachers to use mindfulness as a tool to better learn with technology.
5. Finally, I will be strengthening my skills as a leader. I am reading books, talking to mentors, looking for other IT leaders I would want to emulate, and reflecting on my own leadership practice as I continue to strive to improve.
Don’t use excel for important work
Computer Science professor Daniel Lemire talks about why folks shouldn't use excel for important work.
Lemire states, "They [spreadsheets] are at their best when errors are of little consequence or when problems are simple.". He also writes (and I agree) "Spreadsheets make code review difficult. The code is hidden away in dozens if not hundreds of little cells… If you are not reviewing your code carefully… and if you make it difficult for others to review it, how do expect it to be reliable". When I get a spreadsheet from my business office, I spend more time understanding the formulas than I do the business problem.
I agree with Prof. Lemire's points, but I also see a language problem in changing. In short: people use spreadsheets because they are easy and accessible AND they lack computational thinking skills to build (write) a program in a more organized, coherent way. Probably, people "know" excel and there is a cost to learning and mastering something new.
In schools, I see excel spreadsheets being used to run virtually all parts of an organization (HR, accounting, purchasing, etc..). I think people use spreadsheets because they are easy and well supported, AND they do not know how to program.
I think Prof. Lemire's point is well said, and his post moves me to do more to help kids learn about programming and computational thinking.
From the BBC: Computers can impact on children’s ability to learn, says union
From the BBC comes word from Northern Ireland. (please read this in your best Irish brogue)
1. Bah! Damn kids an' their computers, no time to focus, and they canna learn!
2. Eh, I remember when WE were small lads. Now THAT was a time to focus an be ON TASK
1. Oh yea...
2. Jeeeeeessssssuuuusss, we could stay focused for 30 hours a day doing something we hated while being whipped
1. Sounds like you were at an easy school. We were focused for 200 hours every hour, and if your attention wandered for even a moment, you'd be taken out and tossed over a cliff
2. oh yea, the old "focus cliffs of doom?"
1. aye, thems the one.
(end Irish brogue)
I support the notion and idea that focus and attention are in danger with technology. What I reject is this silly idea that If we keep doing what we have always done, everything will be fine. Technology (and other cognitive tools) have changed (are changing) the ways our kids think, communicate, recreate, and learn. It is a significant and major change, and will continue to challenge old ways of thinking about cognition and learning. This is at the heart of SAMR, and our thinking that learing must be different when you use technology.
But here's the thing.
I am a proponent of mindfulness in schools. Not hippy-tree-hugger stuff, but rather teaching our kids how to focus and think using the tools of mindfulness. We cannot pretend our context has not changed. It has, and we must adapt.
Interesting article and online discussion about “teaching computers”
An interesting read that discusses different cultures between programmers and users. If anything, this article helps me remember the "spotify" world students live in today makes teaching computer science more of a cultural challenge.
I originally found this link in a very interesting online discussion about programming education making a comeback in primary education.
I am becoming more interested in the Computer Science Teachers Association efforts to teach computational thinking in schools (ISTE also has some excellent resources on the same topic: computational thinking).
As I reflect on what kind of technology education schools should provide, these articles and resources just seem right.
I am curious what you think about computational thinking and how K-12 schools should "teach technology".
PD, ed-tech conferences and student learning…
This article far better expresses my thoughts about conferences and student learning. I post this after asking if big ed-tech conferences make a difference in student learning. #edtech
Well worth reading.
Silence is success in IT
We are completing MAP testing. This involves setting up four rooms with about 25 computers each and ensuring networks, networking, client software, and system settings are prepared for testing. We also ensure the tests, students, and data is correct prior to testing. We use older laptops to facilitate testing, our MAP coordinator ensures the testing schedules are distributed and proctors are trained.
Setting up for MAP testing isn't rocket science. But everything went especially well. No client computer computer problems, no data issues, everything worked really well, and it was quiet.
This has happened before. When we transferred to google apps for education. Everything went well, and it was just quiet. Kind of a funny thing about IT, we only hear from people when something isn't working.
There is a tremendous incentive in IT to design services well. Sort of a "measure twice cut once" kind of thing. When things are working well in a school IT department, things are quiet. When technology as a service is managed well, life is easier for everyone in a school.
We still have issues, but these come through our trouble ticket system, they are prioritized and addressed.
ISTE Essential conditions are just…right.
Getting technology "right" in schools is difficult. I've seen more cases of poor implementation than good implementation. My touchstone question is "how is student learning better?".
There are a cluster of "things" you have to get right when you want to use technology to improve student learning. The ISTE Essential Conditions elegantly articulate what schools should do if they want to use technology to improve student learning.
In my experience, these conditions are correct, and serve as a good reflective standards when schools ask "are we doing this right"?
PDF here in case of link rot (which I doubt from ISTE, but you never know).
Edtech Conferences - worth it?
I recently tweeted: Does participating in #learning2 (or any big ed-tech conference) make a difference in student learning? I've always been "meh" about them...
Are they worth it?
1. I've always felt these conferences were of dubious value. When I pay for staff to go to them, I usually get a standard bell curve one or two staff who had a life-changing experience, and one or two staff who were bored to tears and everyone else falls in between. My personal experience echoes this observation. Kids aren't benefiting.
2. I believe teachers grow best through self-reflection, peer coaching, and good professional evaluation. I'm not sure how ed-tech conferences facilitate this. Sure, teachers can learn about tools, and they might learn about some ideas for project-based learning, but how much of that is making a difference in the learning for kids? Is the learning return worth the time and money invested?
3. I see a wide variety of presenting skills at these conferences. Although this is related to point 1, the content and delivery can be variable. The keynote speakers are often more known as keynote speakers, and less as authentic innovators of classroom learning. I've been to many edtech conferences, and all the keynote speakers are compelling, but then there is that whole "our context and your great idea" problem.
4. One of the failings of these conferences is their focus on Nouns over Verbs. The conferences attract advertising and make money by selling advertising space. Many sessions are dedicated to advertisers who do not discuss how learning can be different, but by perpetuating the horrible myth that the tool is magic and will change things! This, by the way, is a disease in educational technology, that the tool alone will fix what’s wrong with learning. It never has.
5. If the goal is to learn new things / try new things, why not try a speedgeeking session? I think about locally produced organic produce being much better for you than crap made thousands of miles away. Back to point 2, I believe teachers learn best when they are engaged with a colleague and are learning with them (see also: plc). There is less of a translation cost when you learn locally.
6. The problem is that sometimes (sometimes), a teacher goes to one of these conferences, and the stars align, and there is star-trek sound effects, and they return profoundly changed. Sometimes that happens. Maybe we need to pay more attention to preparing our teachers to attend these conferences to increase the likelihood of Eureka.
I am curious what the 2 regular readers of this blog think about the big Ed-Tech conferences. Are they worth it?
Animal dissections should not be computer simulated
I am participating in an interesting discussion about the role of simulations and dissection. My thoughts are below:
There is a huge difference between a computer-simulated dissection and a real one. Simulations are great because they:
a. allow us to abstract an idea, piece of knowledge, or thought-object;
b. allow us to easily and quickly manipulate objects in a simulation to see what might happen;
c. allow us to model complex systems (see serious games as an example);
d. help us model and manipulate an environment.
If we support the use of simulations over real-life dissections, we should at the minimum include a discussion about the kinds of knowledge that using simulations support. The key point here is that simulation allow users to change and manipulate variables, and then observe an outcome based on the changes they made in the simulation.
A simulation is not a series of videos or images, which is what I see most "frog dissection" simulations sites. Please know there is a difference between watching a movie of a frog dissection and simulating a frog dissection. I found many dissection sites that seemed to be a series of linked flash videos that showed different stages of a normal dissection process. For example, this site: http://www.whitman.edu/academics/courses-of-study/biology/virtual-pig is a series of images that describe what students should look for when they dissect a pig. Likewise, a cow eye dissection (eww, gross) http://www.exploratorium.edu/learning_studio/cow_eye/index.html is not a simulation, but a "click next and look" activity. This site http://www.biologyjunction.com/frog_dissection.htm is good because it has photographs and diagrams, but there is nothing "simulationy" about it.
This site http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/virtual_labs/BL_16/BL_16.html has interactivity, and could qualify as a good resource. Also http://www.froguts.com/demo/ is passable, but neither of these sites reach to the standard of a simulation in my opinion. Online resources need to be more than just watching a movie or series of movies; they need to include meaningful interactivity (see https://www.explorelearning.com/ as a good example). For the record, the gold-standard for online resources are resources which allow students to create simulations. I had originally wanted to try to stay away from the debate about dissection and stick with "what is a simulation".
Personally, I disagree profoundly with the notion that a computer can replace a live dissection exercise. Organisms are gooey, slimy, and not "clean and tidy", as a computer would present an animal dissection. I also believe the affective element of dissection is part of learning (but I'm an IT guy, not a biologist nor an ethics expert) IMHO, technology would detract from learning if our goal in learning was for kids to understand the digestive system (and it's place in other systems) of a real frog.
To underscore my point, the real value of a simulation is to allow users to change and manipulate variables, and then observe an outcome based on the changes they made in the simulation. 😊 this is not what most animal dissection sites (that I could find) do.
Hacking in High School: yes, but….
A substantive article by Pete Herzog about hacking in High Schools.
I hope you read this reply, Mr. Herzog. You are so right about this. I think the key point is what schools do with hackers (geeks) when we find them.
Many times we have "caught" students doing stupid stuff like installing key-loggers, running port scans, writing bash scripts and changing /etc/hosts in amusing ways. When we catch them, we discipline them but then we invite them to learn. And this is my key point. We need to teach kids to be responsible and ethical digital citizens, but also teach them how to hack. And as you say, be "motivated, resourceful, and creative" learners.
I liken this to "geek fishing". Schools generally don't do a great job of fostering an environment of open exploration, discovery, hacking, and making. We have a curriculum to think about, after all. But when we discover a hacker / geek in our school, we have a duty to encourage them and grow them.
As I reflect more on this blog post, I think what should change in schools is our attitude towards hacking; to invite it, encourage it, and recognize the value this type of challenge / curiosity-based learning brings to learning. We also need to help kids make good decisions.
Membership in Computer Science Teacher Association
As I was learning about computer science curricula in the K-12 sphere, I discovered the Computer Science Teacher Association. I've joined, and I am learning a great deal about the value of their membership. I'm currently reviewing their suggested K-12 Computer Science standards, and learning more about computational thinking. I'm looking forward to learning more about how this organization can help me understand how best to plan, implment and assess computer science curricula in the K-12 world.
Parents, students, teachers and Moodle: who see’s what??
Moodle is a learning management system designed to support the learning / teaching relationship between a student and a teacher. Our middle school shares the student username and password with parents because we recognize parents want to support their students. Please know the window we use with parents is different than the window we use with students. So when a parent logs into moodle using thier student credentials, they will see a system designed for teachers to communicate with students. We believe part of middle school learning is to take responsibility for their own learning (in fact in our school vision says in part "we see the future reflected in our students' independent thinking"). In the high school, we do not grant access to Moolde for this very reason; the relationship is between the student and the teacher.
In cases where there is real academic trouble or difficulty, then of course, this rule can be bent. But overall, Moodle is about facilitating, supporting, strengthening the conversation between teacher and a student.
An introduction to SAMR
Here's a youtube video I made a while ago that describes SAMR in depth, with a specific example how learning is different when we look at technology use through the SAMR model.
Technology Integration—Will We Know It When We See It? A New Taxonomy
What a great article about SAMR, principals, and thinking about technology integration. The article, Technology Integration—Will We Know It When We See It? A New Taxonomy, ends with this quote:
As leaders it is important to keep in mind the purpose of technology and how it can transform the classroom. We need to remember that, just as it is in the classroom with students, there is a range of experience and comfort in our faculties when it comes to learning about technology. As with Bloom’s taxonomy, we must take them from where they are and support them along the continuum.
Good stuff. PDF here, in case of link rot.
Just finished Code Academy Intro to PHP
I just finished the CodeAcademy PHP introduction. Not bad, I have to say. I've been dabbling in PHP for many years, and I learned some new things, which is cool. I finished in about two days (total time, probably 6 hours).
I found the learning environment to be good. A few user interface quibbles, but overall, the teaching and assessment was spot-on. I liked the feedback when an answer was incorrect. I found the scope and sequence to be good. I think a more robust summative assessment would of been nice. I also think some different types of assessment would of been neat (look at this code, where is the error).
Amazing, the last time I formally learned about PHP, I used a book, and manually typed in the code. This was much different.
Does everyone need to learn to code?
Very interesting NPR show entitled: Computers Are The Future, But Does Everyone Need To Code?
I answer yes. Learning to code is a new kind of literacy. I think the faulty premise that NPR assumes is we should be preparing everyone to be a professional programmer. Not understanding rudimentary HTML, SQL, conditionals, loops, and objects is a new part of a new kind of reading and writing. Not knowing these things diminishes our ability to express ourselves, to speak in a new language. Creating is inherently empowering. In many ways the analogy of coding as a new foreign language is apt. Some things I heard and my response:
"If you are tax preparer, you don't need to code to do your job"
I disagree. Facility with programming (or as ISTE nicely notes, computational thinking) richly serves tax preparation. We have cognitive tools to automate processes, check for common errors, and facilitate communication. Why couldn't a tax preparer use a simple content management system to accept commonly requested information from clients? It's hard to imagine an occupation where technology could not support, replace, or enhance the task.
"Everyone should be an auto mechanic"
This again points to the premise that everyone should be a professional programmer. I don't think they should. But I assert that everyone should know how to read and write "in computer". I would argue that in addition to safely driving, you should know how to change your oil, change a tire, understand how a car operates.
However, the auto-mechanic analogy is weak. Computers are the lens through which we learn, communicate, and have fun. A car moves from point A to point B. The analogy between auto-mechanic and programmer doesn't hold water because reading and writing is exponentially more important than driving. This goes to the heart of my point about this NPR story; computational literacy is something everyone should know about.
What is interesting is the increasing abstraction I see in programming. Like the NPR guest said, I grew up with that blinking command line. It was an exhilarating experience. Now, programming with tools like scratch neatly teach students about conditionals, loops, objects, and other programing primitives.
Every kid should know this stuff.
What does it mean to be accountable?
One of our school themes this year is accountability. This is a good thing, in my opinion.
In my experience in education, accountability is a pejorative word but it needn't be. I imagine accountability to be ultimately about results. And here is a key point; results can be broad, nuanced, qualitative and still be valid, but they still need to demonstrate a student has learned.
When people ask me "how do you know technology works in education", I answer "ask the teacher who uses it". I trust teachers to know when technology tools work with student learning (but I verify).
When I think about accountability in the context of educational technology, I look at learning outcomes and learning artifacts related to a technology inspired lesson. As we in the ed-tech community know, many times students make spectacularly snazzy presentations and demonstrate ZERO knowledge on the learning standard. It's hurts me when I see this.
Accountability is about "show me the learning".
We are adopting Dr. James Stronge's TPES teacher evaluation system at our school. There are 6 standards, 5 inputs and 1 output. The 5 inputs are:
1. Instructional planning
2. Instructional delivery
3. Assessment of/for learning
4. Learning environment
And the 6th standard, related to output is:
6. Student progress
All of these standards are measurable, and when used thoughtfully, improve accountability to student learning.
I've included the wikipedia entry below about accountability because I like what it say about the relationship between accountability and accounting. What is the saying, "what matters is what you measure".
What do you think about accountability in educational technology?
In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. As an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) worlds. In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.
In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of "being called to account for one's actions". It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct". Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in other words, an absence of accounting means an absence of accountability.
Digital Learning: a video that gets close to SAMR
ITIL: Services in a K-12 School
For external customers (students, families, and prospective families) :
Learning with technology hardware tools
Learning with technology software (and web-based-applications) tools
Learning management service
Information service covering school activities, athletics, and school-life
Information service covering academic progress and progress towards standards
Information service covering school community activities
Interactive admissions services
Interactive re-enrolment services
Interactive enrolment services
Information services for prospective families
For internal customers (teachers, administrators, professional support staff) :
Interactive information service covering student information - including progress towards meeting standards
Information service covering internal school information
Interaction services for calendaring
Customized reporting services
Interactive admissions services
Interactive re-enrolment services
Interactive enrolment services
Tech Coaching vs Tech Coordination
It boils down to nouns vs verbs. An integrator is more centered around nouns (specific stuff that blinks). A coach is more centered around verbs (teacher instructional practice and student learning).
For example, an integrator makes sure that active board functions properly, and the teacher knows how to use the board. A coach works with teachers how to differentiate instruction using the activeboard.
Another example, a math coach does not come in with math worksheets and leave. Nor does a reading coach bring in books and leave. They are intimately connected with supporting student learning by coaching and developing teacher competencies.
Instructional coaches are different than technology coaches. A technology coach is concerned with learning, teaching and the cognitive tool of technology.
An instructional coach look more holistically at student learning and the instructional practice.
There is management of technology resources in both the coaching model and the coordination model.
MOOC’s, learning, and teaching, oh my!
From the Old Gray Lady: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/11/us/after-setbacks-online-courses-are-rethought.html?hp&_r=0
I watched with interest the fervor around online courses and online learning. As usual, the technology skeptic and the technology evangelist in me battled.
From the Skeptic:
This is a money-saving initiative. Solely using computer assisted instruction doesn't work (but blended models show promise). Teaching and learning is more than mere presentation of content. With no proven procedure to validate student learning (via a teacher), how do we know our students know? Won't MOOC's further create distance via the digital divide? Don't MOOC's only really help certain types of learners? Don't we know that lecturing is only so effective? Aren't the instructional delivery models limited in an online course?
From the Evangelist:
How else can a motivated learner access instruction from world-class faculty? Isn't this a noble experiment, where many people, working together, build a collective understanding? Doesn't this help us cull high-level content and present it coherently? With proper gamification, can't we make this style of learning much more engaging? Isn't this the "mother of all differentiated learning"?
I end with this question about learning and teaching. I always believed the ultimate goal of education was to teach students how to think. How does an electronic system understand how you think?
hint: it's more than passing a test.....
Geeks on the difference between training and learning
Great video and talk about the difference between training and learning.
ITIL Certified and Management in Schools
I just earned my Foundation certificate in ITIL. As I learn more about managing technology for enterprise I see the benefit and value of bringing these best practices into the school. I believe schools traditionally do not manage technology well. There are many reasons schools don't "do" technology well.
1. Our outcomes are a little fuzzy
Schools don't have a bottom line that is easy to measure. When we try to only use a norm-referenced or criterion-referenced test to measure learning, we reduce what learning is. As such, clearly defining outcomes, benefits, and easily measurable products (in a management output-model) are tough. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's fuzzy.
2. Leadership in schools is difficult
Schools are classically under-staffed at an administration level. How does one administrator effectively evaluate 30 staff members? Coupled with intense pulls from parents, district and state mandates, lack of training in project management (and IT management), the stage isn't set well for leadership to be successful.
3. Management isn't a "thing" in schools
Management isn't a language we speak in schools. Outcomes, milestones, measuring, metrics, Demming Model, KPI's, RACI, and value aren't part of our nomenclature. I'm not sure why, but there isn't a culture of management in schools. I don't look at "the union" as the reason schools don't have strong management, I think just historically this is the issue.
4. No one really understand how technology works
It's odd, because this is a chicken and egg problem. Clearly defining measurable outcomes from student technology use can be done (via the Service Strategy and Service Design parts of ITIL). But schools don't do this because they don't have expertise or knowledge managing technology. I have personally heard many principals, superintendents, and directors say they simply don't understand how technology works, or how it impacts student learning.
My final thoughts on this?
Management frameworks like ITIL and PRINCE 2 project management has immense value in organizations, especially when there isn't a real culture of managing. I'm not a shill, but after 15 years in this business, I clearly see the value and benefit of implementing more structured approach to management in schools.
ITIL Lifecycle Processes
ITIL Lifecycle Processes
For my own study notes, and to help anyone out there who wants it.
Service Portfolio Management
Business Relationship Management
Service Catalog Management
Service Level Management
IT Service Continuity Management
Service Validation and Testing
Service Asset and Configuration Management
Release and Deployment Management
Continual Service Improvement
(ITIL® is a registered trademark of the Cabinet Office)
ITIL in Education
Wouldn't it be great if there was a framework schools could use to effectively manage technology? Wouldn't it be great if there was a group of battle-tested best practices we could use to ensure technology delivered the benefits we desired? Wouldn't it be great if other industries, focused like a laser on results, developed a group of procedures to ensure technology was delivered as a service to support the mission of the business?
I've been in the ed-tech business for a while now (since 2001 formally). I've seen several different scenarios how technology is managed in schools:
1. None. A computer is (sometime literally) placed in a room and left for a hapless teachers to plug and in and gather dust. I've also been in schools where interactive whiteboards are put into classrooms (a school-wide implementation) and teachers are left to their own devices. This doesn't end well.
Stack Exchange: better questions and answers
This email describes a neat site I've found and I wanted to share with you. Please let me know what you think by replying to this message.
For as long as we've had the internet, we've had a place to ask questions and get answers. In fact, the very first internet spaces were called BBS's (Bulletin Board Systems). They were designed to facilitate questions and answers. Fast forward 30 years, and communities are still one of the most important parts of the internet. Asking, answering, and connecting are still at the heart of what it means to be online in 2013. However, most forums for communication are flat. Someone asks a question, and several people give different answers, only some of which may be right.
If only there was a way for us to interact with questions and answers that let the good stuff rise to the top. Enter Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange has some pretty interesting features:
1. all questions are tagged. This means if you click on "structure" tag in the writing stack exchange, you will see all questions and answers related to structure;
2. all answers are voted on, and the top-rated answer is easily visible;
3. there is an ongoing comment stream for all questions. This gives you a sense to what isn't right about a question or answer;
4. you can contribute to answers or ask questions;
5. all stack exchanges have an indicator if a question has been satisfactorily answered;
6. when someone asks a question on a Stack Exchange site, the community reviews, revises, and proposes answers to it;
7. answers are rated and ranked by the rest of the community;
8. members also vote for questions they find useful, or against those they see as unclear or unproductive. The more votes, the more visibility – so when you search, you get the best answer to the best question;
9.questions and answers can be edited by other members, Wikipedia-style. This lets the community continue to polish and update content even when the original authors aren't available.
(features 7, 8 and 9 are taken from this page)
Please take a moment or two to explore Stack Exchange. Stack exchange is an umbrella of many different areas of interest. Perhaps some of these may pique your curiosity:
Ask Different: a stack exchange for Apple users
English Language Usage: a stack exchange for serious linguists
Cooking: a stack exchange site about cooking
Photography: a stack exchange for questions and answers about photography
Physical fitness: a stack exchange about everything
Bicycles: you get the idea...
Math: for you know, math stuff
Biology: why did we evolve bladders, anyway?
German: questions about German language (or French if that is your thing)
Here's a list of all the different stack exchanges ordered by name.
I think Stack Exchange represents a modest but nice step forward in our quest to ask and answer questions about, well, anything online! Please let me know what you think, I'm curious to hear your reaction to this site.
Evaluating Technology Coaches with NETS-C
How do we know technology integration is bettering student learning?
Evaluating the effectiveness of technology integration is tricky because many different forces influence effective integration. We must speak with teachers, talk with students, evaluate integrators, reflect on learning goals, and look at academic achievement. We must understand the context and culture of technology use in a school. Just as understanding teaching and learning is complex, so is understanding technology integration. My point? Evaluating technology integration is not a simple thing.
I have not seen a good instrument for evaluating technology coaches (formally called technology integrators). Commonly, teacher evaluation forms are used with technology coaches. Wholly inappropriate. Coaching is different than teaching, the aims are different, the process is different, our understanding of successful coaching is different than our understanding of successful teaching. Where teachers must demonstrate an improvement to student learning, coaches must demonstrate an improvement to student learning through an improvement to teaching practice.
Working with the technology coaches at the American School of Warsaw, we have created an instrument based on the NETS-C (http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-coaches.aspx). Please find an editable version here, and feel free to use it.
1. become aware
2. communicate to the team
3. get the story straight
4. intervene appropriately
5. follow up
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. UNFORTUNATELY, CYBERBULLYING IS A "DROP EVERYTHING AND DEAL WITH IT" ISSUE.
1. When an adult in the school becomes aware of a cybullying issue, or an issue they think might be cyberbullying, they should immediately report the concern to their school principal, counselor, technology coach, or technology director. If the adult has access to any digital information at this time (i.e. websites, blogs, messages, etc.) then they should take the opportunity to gather evidence through digital photos, screenshots, forwarding messages, etc. whenever possible.
2. Once informed, a member of the school administration team should communicate to:
the building principal
the building counselor
the technology director
3. The team should designate a fact finder, who will develop a timeline of the incident with any additional evidence (screen shots, network access logs, etc). The fact finder is responsible for making sure the team has a very clear understanding of the timeline of events.
4. The team should reconvene, make sure everyone agrees and is on board with the timeline, and then hand-off intervention to the building principal.
5. The team should meet after the incident to:
briefly debrief and review the incident.
ensure appropriate steps are taken in a larger context to address the issue.
Getting Geeks Going
One of my favorite things about education technology is finding young geeks, and getting them started on a good road forward. I think my most professionally rewarding experiences have been helping kids with a nascent interest in computers or IT get their feet off the ground.
It's pretty easy to find the geeks, they hang out a lot in the computer lab or the networking center. The first thing I do is look for the kids who only want to game. I ask them questions that help me see if they are curious to learn more about computers and IT. If they don't seem interested, I let them be. But if they do seem interested, I try to see what area of computers and IT I can steer them into. This list of questions is a good start. If a kid lights up about one thing, we push into that area of IT. Fun stuff. Perhaps this will help someone else get their geeks going at their school.
1. You have three computers at home, and you want to share files between the computers. All the computers can go online, and you can ping the computers IP address, but you can't seems to share files between them. You don't want to use dropbox, because you know an internal network is much (much) faster than dropbox. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
2. You are playing a multiplayer game and you notice latency. Interestingly, though, the latency seems random. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
3. You visit moodle for your classwork, google calendar for your events and appointments, and maybe gmail for some groupwork. you also spend some time looking at blogs and wiki's from your teachers class. You are tired of doing this, and you have decided to program a portal page that would slurp information from all these different sites into one page. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a program?
4. You want to write an application that would work on a iPhone or iPad. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a program?
5. You are pretty sure someone is hacking through your computer. You don't know why, but you think they are. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
6. You want to write a graphically-rich, hella-fun game. What steps do you take to implement the grand design of your game?
7. There is a cute girl in your science class, and you want to impress her by writing a highly complex formula in Excel. You have no idea if this will work, but hey, why not try?! You have an idea to write a formula that will instantly convert a currency amount into another currency using live exchange rates. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
8. You want to build a device that has an infrared sensor fixated on your door. When the door is opened, three things happen: 1. a light chime goes off, 2. your computer automatically goes to a random educational site, 3. a picture is taken of the person entering your room and emailed to your email account. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
9. You want to add a better graphics card and more RAM to your home computer. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
10. You want to setup an website. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
11. You want to setup a comlex website with membership modules, forums, file mangers, and stuff like that. What steps do you take to understand the problem and implement a fix?
Project Management in Education
Do tasks, milestones, resources, work-breakdown-structures, gantt charts, PERT charts, and TCQ belong in K-12 education?
As I grow in my role as a director of technology, the ability to effectively plan and organize has emerged as a key skill. Last year I realized I sucked, horribly, at large-scale project planning. I have just finished a project management course (not a certification course, thank you very much), and I am very excited about what I learned!
In a nutshell, I have learned to spend much more time planning, really getting clear about scope (and vision), deliverable tasks, milestones, and map resources. I presented this to the leadership team today, and I think it was well received; my essential message was "when you come to IT with a project, we are going to spend much more time getting really clear about what you want, mapping the time and resources, and delivering a high-quality solution for your team".
I am reading everything I can get my hands on. Here's the current list:
(this next one isn't quite related to project management)
Just the idea of brainstorming every task related to a project and then scheduling those tasks makes me feel so much more relaxed. I also like the democratic nature of the planning. For example, we'll get everyone related to a project in a room, and they will think of every possible task needing to be addressed for a project. Then we will schedule the tasks (using sticky notes), identify resources, and finally slurp all that into a project management tool (we'll probably go with MS Project 2010 standard). This will then give us a clear picture of our project and tasks - and who is doing what. Moreover, we will have clarity about how long a project will take, what resources we will use, and even basic costs (if I do costs - I might not).
I don't have a clear vision for how we will assign and track tasks once the project commences. Our small team is very high functioning, and I dont need to manage a whole lot, but I am thinking a lot more about the "management" part of project management. It seems like many of the tools online (attask, wrike, 5pm, basecamp) are designed to monitor task performance - which is important - but for me, it is the planning that is uber-sexy.
I'll write more later.
The Digital Citenzship Opportunity
Digital Citizenship has always been a nebulous idea for me. I always appreciated and referred people to Zen and the art of the internet when understanding "how to be" on the internet.
At my current school digital citizenship is not at the front of our ship right now; however, I do see evidence of digital citizenship infused into our curriculum in the form of "laptop drivers licenses", AUP's, (and RUP's), and we also have a very well defined cyberbullying protocol which is sadly used more than I'd like to. Our middle school employs a monitoring tool to support students to make good choices. We had our very first "red-card" situation this week in the MS, where two boys were playing games after being warned repeatedly. We have a pretty good system to support abuses, and we have an excellent system to communicate with parents (not just about digital citizenship, but everything else related to technology).
Perhaps the best opportunity we have to help our community understand digital citizenship is when there is a problem. We had a case last year where, literally, 2 days after a 3 week digital citizenship course some kids made a gossip-girl-style facebook group with extraordinary hurtful things on it. This after an intensive course! The real teaching and learning happened at that moment of opportunity, parents, students, and teachers were all hot about this issue, and that is when we saw real change and awareness in student thinking about digital citizenship. I've found the cyberbullying protocol to be especially effective in resolving specific issues.
How do you evaluate technology coaches?
How should we formally evaluate technology integrators? You know, the folks in the classrooms, meeting with teachers, holding workshops, coordinating trainings, hand holding, pushing, shoving, cajoling, and generally doing everything they can to move technology forward. Saints, the lot of them.
We have a special opportunity this year to create a formal evaluation for these folks. As technology director, I'll be formally co-evaluating the technology coaches with the building principals. These evaluations will be "official-in-the-personnel-file" evaluations. So what should be on them?
Some of them are pretty easy:
organization and planning
contribution to the work environment
But what about the meat and potatoes? How do we point to a technology coach and say "yup, that is effective technology coaching". Do I look at teachers that have worked with the technology coach? Do I look at the students who are in the classes? Artifact research? I see many technology coaches using project-based integration. Maybe we should just look at projects and base evaluation on their projects - that seems a bit thin to me, though. The purpose of evaluating a technology coach is to evaluate if this person is improving student learning in our school through the effective use of technology.
Are the coaches available for teachers?
Are the presentation of training differentiated?
Are the coaches working to change building culture?
Do we see teachers using technology effectively and progressing with coaches?
Are coaches using differentiated instructions for their teachers?
Are coaches partnering?
Ultimately, I think the smart thing to do is let the coaches build their own evaluation instrument. Of course, we will include goal statements and all that other normal stuff, but I think they all know best.
What are your thoughts? What do you use to evaluate technology coaches?
The 10 moms doctrine
If you ask 10 different moms what they would do in a given scenario, you will get 10 different answers. Especially related to computer use, filtering, and behavioral standards. Last year our school had a strong parent technology partnership program (I intend to build on it this year). One of our activities was to present a scenario and ask parents what they would do (this was led by the indomitable Nick Kwan). One of the questions was "what would you do if you walked into your child's workspace and they quickly minimized a window?". The answers ranged from "nothing" to "take the computer away for a week".
Our school has a one to one laptop program. The school owns the laptops and the students take the computers home with them. We use open dns for filtering. The students have admin access to their laptops (which is a topic for another blog post - I love it).
We got several (well-placed) criticisms last year which stated students were coming home with laptops, and parents had no way to control this device. I considered this complaint fair, because there really are a wide range of parental attitudes and beliefs to technology use. I tend to be fairly liberal and open about tech use, but many parents are not - they are conservative and very careful about technology use. Is it fair to send kids home with no way for parents to control their device? Of course we talk about social contracts, and talking with your child, and trust - but some parents have strong beliefs that a computer should be locked down (the 10 moms doctrine).
The obvious choice is to install filtering software and teach parents how to use it (or teach them to use open dns). It's an option. If parents want to activate filtering, we tell them how to do it. If they don't want to activate filtering, then they don't. We are clear that there is to be no filtering during school time, only at home (from 3:00pm to 7:00am). We also talk about parenting advice and tips and offer parents a venue to discuss technology issues and share solutions to problems with each other. We talk about the technical weakness of filtering, that filtering alone can't solve many problems, and that at the end of the day, there has to be some kind of involvement with parents and their child's technology.
tl;dr: people have different values, ed tech should do what they can to respect and support those values.
Becoming familiar with HTML 5
I follow many people, including Rick Ellis, who said something like 'think of every website as an application'. I like this idea - the idea of static, "brochure-ware" is a dead end. Especially for schools, I believe the web is (and should be) a full suite of applications to serve the community. It seems like HTML 5 very much understands this idea.
I love the built in form authentication elements in HTML 5, the local storage, and the whole "the web is the application" idea. I hope major browsers don't screw up the implementation.
I'm sure I'll build a "test school" webpage with HTML 5 and my favorite CMS, Expression Engine to learn HTML 5.
How can we have internet when the government / corporate tries to shut it off One system, known as fab-fi, can be found here.
I’m putting this in my “mandatory for offline access folders”. I would love to try to build this with some students.
Differentiated Distraction and blocking?
I was speaking with a seasoned classroom teacher yesterday about our 1:1 program in the High School. This guy is no luddite, but he’s also not on the “bleeding technology edge”. He is a consummate professional and well-respected amongst our high school staff. I asked him to share his thoughts about our 1:1 program.
“Well, Bill, you know the 500 pound elephant in the room is...”
I started praying his next words weren’t “..our horrible technology director...”
He continued, “is distraction.”
We started digging into this. There are some kids in his classes that are using technology in ways that make sense for him such as taking excellent notes and then sharing them online. However there are some kids in his class who are measurably suffering because they are distracted. Instead of notes, they are doing Other Stuff. Fill in the blank, playing games, on facebook, chatting, etc...
I hear from many teachers, parents, and even students that distraction is a major concern. I get it. I know divided attention (aka multitasking) hinders learning. I also know when technology is used effectively it really transforms teaching and learning.
As we were talking, I kept coming back to this idea that some kids were doing well with technology and some weren’t. I taught for 10 years, I moved kids around my classroom if they needed to be closer to the front. I made every effort to differentiate my instruction so different learning styles could access the content.
Why not do this with technology? If a student has a problem focusing, or is easily distracted, why not support that student by blocking all but the most important applications? If a student has special learning needs, we make accommodations. However in technology what I see is a “block everything or block nothing” approach.
I think of this an potentially important tool in the “how can we support students” toolbox.
Now for the obligatory explanation stuff:
1. I understand effective classroom management is intimately related to effective teaching.
2. I understand selectively blocking alone will not fix anything about distraction - but it will help.
3. I understand teaching and learning in a 1:1 classroom requires a different way of thinking about learning and teaching.
4. I understand kids can always become distracted. But I know there is something about technology that magnifies this.
5. I understand blocking will not keep a determined student to become distracted. If a kid wants to not pay attention in class, there is little we can do to stop them 😊
Curious to hear your thoughts...
Quivering Communist Zombie Space Death - Part 1
I'm developing a new game, Quivering Communist Zombie Space Death. It's a text based game with an integrated (hardcoded) space system. What this game means, and why I'm developing it, is what this post is about.
Quivering Communist Zombie Space Death (herein qczsd) is a game where players take on the role of humans desperately trying to save the earth from quivering communist zombies in space. The game is deeply educational, deeply funny, satirical, blatantly ribald, and of course most of all, fun. Basic mechanics are all textual! The player creates a persona (over-the-top stereotypical), get's a ship, and flys on different missions to take out the zombies. There is a leveling up mechanism, and "buy better crap for your ship dynamic". The zombies will be AI bots, and there will be all sorts of funny in-space dangers.
Here's the website: http://quiveringcommunistzombiespacedeath.com/index.html
I'll be blogging frequently about qczsd - talking about my journey of learning as I create this new game. Let's start, though, with the first task to make this game.
We are using trusty pennmush, which can be found by clicking here and hspace, which can be found by clicking here.
Let's start off with the first student assignment. Let's see where they go with this one:
We are going to work with an accurate model of our solar system. What does this mean? It means that we are going to try to accurately model the planets, their distance from one another, mass, and even their moons. We of course also need to know their location from each other. What we are NOT modeling is orbits and gravity (I'll write the "difference between fun and realistic" post later).
So, finding the names, mass, and distance of our solar-system planets is as easy as a simple google search. It might help to cross-reference them so we know the numbers are right. But we will eventually need to represent the location of the planets on a XYZ grid. Here's where it get's kind of interesting.
How do astronomers (you know, the dolts who didn't even see the communist zombies coming) measure and represent distance in space? What scale of measurement do they use? How do they represent mass? Let's start with a simple assumption (that might be wrong). Let's say the very center of the sun is 0,0,0. Where would the center of the sun's closest planet, Mercury, be? Students should answer these questions and have the answers in the comment of this blog post as soon as they can.
7 highly effective Facebook habits
A colleague passed this article my way, a quick 7-point primer on the psychology of Facebook. If you are going to use this medium, you should at the least be aware of some interesting research.
Technology Professional Development
Why do we professionally develop a staff?
Because I want our teachers to effectively use technology to support student learning. I want our teachers to have skills, practice, and confidence in their use of technology in the classroom. I want our teachers to not only know how to use the actual tools, but to understand how technology can improve learning.
The best professional development I ever had was from a peer. I invited her into my classroom to watch my teaching, and 40 minutes later she had 4 pages of notes. It was a powerful experience. As I moved from a classroom teacher (grades 3 to 8 computer classes) to an instructional designer, I had great value from interactions with my peers.
These experiences have informed my thinking about professional development. I buy into the idea of personal learning communities, and learning from our peers. I think our school should create time for teachers to meet together to discuss "what works best". At the start of faculty meetings, one of our teachers spend 5 minutes describing a tech integration project they are working on.
So as a technology director, I am thinking about professional development and what is the best type of professional development for my staff. I believe that very specific professional development is better than general professional development. For example, I would prefer our 4th grade teachers to attend training specific to the task of technology teaching the 4th grade instead of a general non-specific training.
David Warlick is a guy I pay attention to. I don't quite agree with everything he says, but attending his session cultivating a personal learning network really helped to reinforce my thinking about good professional development. He spoke mostly about how hyperconnectedness makes learning easier (you cant help but learn when you are connected to people - I like that) - I add this to my list of "things that are actually different with technology". Teachers can connect and learn from a community of people in ways previously unimaginable. The Personal Learning Network isn't about people who are close to you geographically, but of a common mind (or common question).
The point? A personal learning network makes a lot of sense to me. Any time spent working on the facilitation of a personal learning network is time well spent.
Presentation: the SAMR model of integration
Here’s the SAMR presentation notes. PDF here.
Moving from a drop-off model to an integrated model
The question popped up on a moodle forum about moving from a lab environment to a more integrated environment.
Right now, and for several years, we've had a weekly schedule where teachers bring their classes to the lab and work with an ICT Teacher. (The teacher stays for the lesson; it's not a send-them-away special class like Music or Physical Education.)
The “drop-off” model plagues many school tech integration efforts. If your teachers are already involved and invested in integrating, the transition will be less disruptive.
I see you say, “stays for the lesson” - is that “stays in the back with coffee chatting / checking email” or “stays walking around the room looking / commenting on content”? The distinction is important.
Another key question to ask is who is “responsible” for the lesson. Is there collaborative planning, developing the assessment, sharing responsibility for teaching necessary skills during the project in addition to monitoring students during lab time? If your ICT teacher consistently finds ways to involve the teachers in taking the lead on the lessons, the transition to teachers working with students independently (either in the lab or classroom) will happen naturally, or maybe with a little nudge.
But essentially the lab is fully booked with those scheduled classes, so there's not a lot of wiggle room for extra time in the lab or extra time with an ICT teacher.
Ask 5 random teachers: why do we want to change this? If they can’t answer the “why”, then you’ve got a vision problem. Although you can’t make 100% people happy 100% of the time, this change will ripple into teachers classrooms. Observe good change management.
We're looking at changing that and making it more of a flexible sign-up approach, so that during units where more technology integration is appropriate, classes could book more time with the ICT teachers.
This makes sense. At ASW we use google-shared calendar to manage lab time. The Tech Integrator also shares out her calendar so folks can schedule a project in the lab (or classroom with netbooks) when she is free if needed. Many teachers just sign up for the lab (we use our lab for the higher end projects not feasible on our classroom netbooks).
Also, we'd like to free up the ICT teacher's time a bit more so that they could push into the classroom more often, and not always be in the lab. At the same time, we don't want to lose the contact time with each class.
How do you view the primary role of your ICT teacher? Tech teacher or coach? If it is coach, it is imperative that you free up your ICT teacher to work collaboratively with classroom teachers. Is there technology in the classrooms as well, or is the lab the only technology available?
We're a bit worried that less-tech-enthusiastic teachers would choose not to sign up as often. There's also the concern that students wouldn't get the necessary ICT skills if they weren't taught explicitly, the way we have done it in the past.
This points to vision. There is also clear empirical evidence that administration expectations of technology use stimulates use. I don’t mean to beat this point to death, but vision, vision, vision. If teachers have a plan how they will integrate, you are in luck. If not, oof.
We're thinking of having a trial year to phase it in, maybe cutting every other scheduled class next year so that we could keep some but still free some time up for sign-ups.
Um, no. This way, your reluctant teachers would just wait it out until the model went back to the old way. Do the vision thing right. Spend a year at it, throw some money at it, and get everyone on board. It’s so hard to bring reluctant faculty on board if they haven’t bought into a vision. It’s so much easier when everyone is on board.
Have any of you had experience - positive or negative - in switching from a set schedule to a more open one?
At ASW we have just moved to an open schedule is the ES tech lab. Funny thing, the teachers we spent a year with clearly explaining “we are moving to an integrated model” didn’t have a lot of hard bumps. But there is one grade level who was never told “we are moving to an integrated model”. Guess where we are having our biggest pushback? And this grade level isn't composed of luddites! They are enthusiastic, experienced and willing to try new things - but they didn't hear (or buy into) our move to an integrated program.
Ideas or suggestions for us? Things to watch out for?
Please see above. Really. Visioning isn’t a sexy bold thing, but it SO CLEARLY realizes effective integration.
If you've made this transition, was everyone happy afterwards?
Most people are - but we have a very veteran, experienced, and vocal grade level who wasn’t on board with this change. To be fair, we are actually down an integrator. Our Elementary school should have 2 integrators; we only have 1. Our success this year really belongs to our elementary school integrator, who has been working very hard to push into classrooms and meet with teams on a regular basis. She deserves the credit for our successes.
Looking back, would you do it differently?
Sure we would - spend a year visioning, have 2 full time integrators, and really make sure this change was going to improve student learning. As it stands now, this change feels like an awkward start to a race. But we are finding our stride, and moving forward.
More tools to combat cyberbullying
Hat tip to our fantastic elementary school integrator, Cheryl Bohn, who found this great news, http://mashable.com/2011/03/10/facebook-anti-bullying/ .
From the article:
Facebook is announcing a new suite of tools to protect users from bullying, foster a stronger sense of community in the social network, and “create a culture of respect” among Facebook users.
Facebook’s latest changes boil down to two main aspects: an improved safety center with more multimedia resources, and better, more social tools for reporting offensive or bullying content.
You can see the Facebook parent and teen safety center by clicking the links below.
The four noble truths. Explained, part four.
Original germ here
1. Engage, stop, turn off, reflect.
I spoke about part one here, part two here, and part three here.
The last noble truth speaks to sifting through information. This is a new cognitive skill that most kids simply didn't need 20 years ago. You went to the library, grabbed an encyclopedia and got your answer. Today learners need to sift through several layers of information to find their answers.
They need to find the answer to their question
They need to navigate layers of information (media, images, sounds, text)
They need to carefully evaluate the information they find
They need to correctly source or cite the information they find
They need to put the information in their own words, or make it their own
They need to see the debate or discussion about their question
To sift is to cull - to look carefully at the noise and find the signal. No better argument for the neccesity of a teacher. Kids have access to an unparalleled amount of information. But they need to sift through it and look for their answer.
It's a specific skill, to sift, to cull through a torrent of flashing images, pictures, and movies. It's a specific sort of thing to do.
How to sift?
Well, google does this well, by elevating information based on who links to it (although, google, I think you need to be better at comment and blog spam, and efforts to game your search results).
By analyzing arguments, debate, and discussion.
By deeply knowing about one thing, and then hooking other knowledge into that.
I'll sum all this up and probably write a book based on it.
The four noble truths. Explained, part three
The four noble truths. Explained, part three.
Original point here
1. Engage, stop, turn off, reflect.
I spoke about part one here and part two here.
Here’s part three.
What does it mean when a kid can learn about anything, anytime, from anywhere? What is the socio/spirtual meaning of google? Informal learning is this idea that kids learn outside the classroom. The things that aren’t really taught in school. The things that kids are really interested in. The third noble truth states kids should deeply participate in a community they are passionate about. You want to use the word affinity space? Fine. One of the things that is “different” in the 21st century is how kids can learn deeply and quickly about something they are passionate about. When you hold an internet-connected device in your hands, you are able to access and learn about almost anything. But you can also contribute and create for your community.
A word about the inevitable “I’m only interested in boobs and computer games”. We have a duty to ask our kids to think deeply - when I ask a 17 year old student about his passions, and he says “boobs and computer games” I get it. That is, technically, what many boys are passionate about. However even a brief conversation and time for reflection will reveal deeper more meaningful passions. “Hey kid. What really matters to you?”. This is related to point 1, about time for reflection. It’s also kind of normal good teaching, asking kids to stop and think. Encouraging kids to use the affinity space amplifies my idea about teacher as guides.
Then our kids connect into a community of like-minded, passionate people who share their interest in making the world a better place. And this beautiful thing emerges about their age not mattering as much, their socio-economic status, just their ideas. And as teachers, that’s what we want to grow - a kid’s ideas and thoughts. Our kids will access these like-minded communities on forums, social networking, instant messaging, inside of games, websites, youtube, and every other manner of digital expression.
When you have deep knowledge in one area, you can connect and attach new knowledge into it. I am told it is easier to teach a student a new language when they already have mastery of a primary language. It is much harder to teach a new language when there isn’t mastery of a primary language.
To ignore, dismiss, block, or marginalize affinity space is to ignore, dismiss, block, or marginalize authentic learning.
QUESTION: moving to cloud-based storage
In response to this question:
I would be interested in your experience, if you have made the switch, in moving to the ”clouds” for data storage.
I can’t quite get my head wrapped around this concept, but am willing to try.
First of all, let's get some terminology out of the way, just to be sure we are all on the same page.
1. Cloud computing (from wikipedia) :
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a somewhat more objective and specific definition:
"Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." Ref: here
I think of cloud-based storage as "file-storage service located on a remote cluster of high-availability servers, designed to be accessed anywhere, anytime, from anywhere with secure collaborative capabilities."
2. Data Storage:
Purpose-built file storage, as opposed email-as-storage or google-docs as storage. This distinction is important because I know many people who use gmail as storage. I think you are asking about substituting an in-house file-server with cloud-based file server.
My experience in cloud-based storage has been overwhelmingly positive. We are slowly moving our students to dropbox. Starting in the 8th grade, our middle school integrator is testing dropbox. So far, it has been great.
The cool thing about most cloud-based file servers is how they keep files available even when there is no network access. Unlike traditional file servers, cloud-based file servers sync excellently. Let's say you have three computers called Home, Laptop, and Work. If you are using local file storage (your hard disk) you will not be able to access the files from another computer (e.g. if you create a file on Home, you will not be able to access a file from Work).
Most organizations have a file server that securely stores your files. Some organizations set up systems where you can access your Work files from your Home or Laptop computers, but this requires no small amount of careful configuration. If you are working on a file on your Laptop, there is no way for that file to be automatically added or synced to your Work or Home machines. Enter cloud-based storage.
I use dropbox (watch the video on the front page) as my cloud based storage solution. The neat thing about dropbox (and their ilk) is how they synchronize files across several different computers. Let's say you are on your Work computer and you create a file called Budget. You save this file to your dropbox folder. every computer that is linked to your dropbox account then synchronizes that file. So your budget file is automatically added to your Home and Laptop computers. If you work on Budget at Home, it will be automatically saved to your Work and Laptop. If you a smartphone, and you've setup dropbox, it can be automatically updated there as well.
So basically, anywhere you save, the file is updated on all the other computers that are connected to dropbox. Cool, huh? even if you lose network access you will still have access to your files. Files aren't so much STORED on the cloud as they are SYNCED on the cloud, and with approved devices.
But wait, there's more. You can share folders with friends and colleagues. So you might have a folder in your dropbox folder called "for friends". You can control who has access to this folder, and anytime you add or remove something to this folder, your friends will have access to the files. Very handy, you don't even need to email files and folders.
When I moved from New York City to Poland, I purchased the 50 gig option, and put EVERYTHING (music, files and photos) in dropbox. I could safely ship my desktop computer knowing everything was backed up. In the even you DO lose a file, you can simply restore it within dropbox by clicking "show deleted files".
Keep in mind, you are only paying for what you use. You aren't paying for a server, and spending a bunch of time managing this server. It's really nice. It's not all roses, of course. In no particular, here are the issues with dropbox you should be aware of:
1. data ownership. If an employee saves their stuff in their dropbox it may be hard to keep the data when they leave (not only a problem for dropbox - think USB drives).
2. data security. By default, dropbox stays on a computer. If a laptop is stolen, a malicious person might be able to access the data on your dropbox folders (you can turn off syncing though, so this really isn't THAT big of a deal).
3. no network access. If you lose network for a LONG time (a week or so)
4. the first sync. When you first setup dropbox, it can take a very long time to synchronize your files (upload). Our director waited 3 or 4 days until all his files were uploaded. By now that they are online, he doesn't need to worry about what is where, even on his iphone, he has access to all his files.
Hope this helps!
The 2011 Horizon Report released
Want to know what technologies are going to emerge and be implemented in the next 1 to 3 years? What’s happening that is important? Check out these choice bits from the 2011 Horizon Report (PDF here) -
1. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
2. People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
3. The world of work is increasingly collaborative, giving rise to reflection about the way student projects are structured.
4. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized.
On the near-term horizon — that is, within the next 12 months — are electronic books and mobiles. Electronic books are moving closer to mainstream adoption for educational institutions, having appeared on the mid-term horizon last year. Mobiles reappear as well, remaining on the near-term horizon as they become increasingly popular throughout the world as a primary means of accessing Internet resources. Resistance to the use of mobiles in the classroom continues to impede their adoption in many schools, but a growing number of institutions are finding ways to take advantage of a technology that nearly all students, faculty, and staff carry.
The four noble truths. Explained, part two.
Original seed here
1. Engage, stop, turn off, reflect.
I spoke about part one here.
Here’s part two.
Thou shalt program. This is the difference between being a consumer and producer. Computation is more than making a powerpoint presentation. 21st century learning is more than just using a website. It’s about understanding code. The numerical, clean, clear code.
Am I saying every kid needs to be a geek? No. Not everyone CAN be a geek. But they should know how to code. It is the next literacy. Really. Alice? Ok, if you must. Our kids need to learn to create programs. Not just use them.
I want to be clear here. I am not saying that kids should only program. I am not saying kids should exclude all the great “web 2.0 stuff” instead of programing, but I am saying that programming a computer is a necessary literacy.
As all my students will tell you, I prefer the command line. Use IDE’s, I really don’t care. But kids should know how to code. Even to know what code looks like, to program a computer, to “make a computer do stuff”. It is the center of things in 2011.
Ask, what if kids don’t know this? What if kids don’t know know how to program?
Many people drive cars without ANY IDEA how they actually work. I get it, I only have a passing familiarity with how cars work. I can change a tire, change oil, and I have a personal understanding of the horribleness of a CV joint that has failed. But if kids don’t have a passing familiarity with programming, and the act of creation, won’t they be a distinct disadvantage?
Math, science, even (gasp), the humanities, offer an opportunity to understand and learn programming. Schools should offer programming classes to all kids as part of the “normal curriculum”.
The four noble truths. Explained, part one.
Orginal thought here
The four noble truths of technology and learning.
1. Engage, stop, turn off, reflect.
I believe it is important to stop, reflect, turn off, and consider when we we are using technology in the classroom. This happens naturally when teachers are using technology to reinforce an idea or concept. The classic pattern is "let's learn about XYZ, a discussion, activity, and then a closing discussion". When teachers are using technology to teach, they must remember to stop using technology, and allow their students to reflect and think about what they just did. Take a look at that mashup - is it any good? Does it demonstrate learning, or just that you know how to use the tool? Does it meet our ideas for learning? This is the classic idea of kids who get caught up in the tool, and not the learning. Not rocket science, but very important for learning with technology.
I think we can extend this idea further. When we are asking our kids to use technology and media, we need to ask them to stop and think. We didn't need to do this before the rise of 1:1 programs or ubiquitous computers. Why?
1. Divided Attention. This idea of multitasking really is bull. The more I understand about divided attention, the more I believe that we need to ask kids to focus and input on one thing at a time - sometimes. Part of being a digital learner is sifting (see my discussion on noble truth number 4) and learning to process and filter multiple streams of incoming data. Sometimes, kids should be free to "open the hose" and get drenched in the information flow that is the internet. But sometimes, they should stop, discuss, and think deeply - you know, Zen.
2. That so much of the internet is about commercial posturing, marketing, eyeballs and selling. Kids need now, more than ever, to separate the "froth from the foam". To carefully evaluate the information, the idea, the "sense of truth" they have. Kids need an adult to guide them in this maze of stilted information.
3. We have so many students who see the first three google results as gospel. This is lazy. Again, stopping and reflecting, digging a bit deeper, look for a different facet on this gem. Using different databases, different repositories. Even wikipedia (which I love). Students could benefit so greatly from simply reading the discussion page and seeing the disagreements people have about the article. I often find more truth in the argument about a wikipedia page than the actual page!
4. And finally, the way our brains work. A cognitive scientist I am not. But I know when we step away from the screen, and give ourselves time to digest, we tend to remember better.
There is balance here. There is this unending stream of intense information, media, images, links, connections, and fun. It is not ok to turn it off, but better to teach our kids how to engage and then disengage. And then engage.
Interview with scholastic - Play to Learn
Many thanks to the folks at Scholastic for this great story about computer games and learning (pdf here). I was interviewed for this, and it's always nice for people to ask what you think.
I'm getting my "first year as a tech director" stuff out of the way, and then I plan on aggressively adding games to the learning at my school, and evangelizing games and learning here in Poland. For the curious, I've set up a doorway portal for games and learning here.
Moving an enitre school to dropbox?
I love online storage. I love the syncing, the backup, the cost, the ease of use, all that stuff here’s a suspicious looking review site with some online storage tools.
I especially think dropbox is a great tool. We are piloting it in our 8th grade now, and it’s coming up pretty nice. students are saving everything, and already when a kid comes in and complains about a dead hard disk, lost data isn’t an issue.
Again, as with everything, insane monitoring and optimization of our network is in order. As long as the network connect in robust, reliable, redundant, and secure we don’t have anything to really worry about. We monitor bandwidth, monitor switches, monitor the top 25 users (thank you iftop). We monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, internally and externally. we have a 30mbps line, which only occasionally becomes saturated.
But come on, 5 gigs of free storage, synced here at school, and on the kids computer? What’s not to love?
disabling private browsing: a pain in the neck
I was working with some parents last night discussing internet safety. These parents had children in our elementary school (ages 6 to 11).
Parents want to know where their tweens are going online, and were shocked to learn all major browsers support private browsing. Of course, we discussed putting the computer in a public place, making an agreement with your child, looking for furtive gestures, etc… But part of being a good digital parent is snooping.I know, kids can install a USB-based browser, or revert your changes, but all kids aren’t as savvy.
If you are on a public terminal, I can see the utility of private browsing, but for the cases of home computers, the only reason I imagine private browsing exists is to look at adult sites.
I have discussed filtering at the router as a great solution, but many parents simply don’t have the technical skill, time, or inclination to set that up.
The options for disabling private browsing are a pain in the neck, more technical than filtering at the router, and in some cases may actually break the browser, but for the curious:
Disabling private browsing in Safari
Looks like you actually can’t disable private browsing in Google Chrome
How to disable private browsing in Internet explorer
How to disable private browsing for Opera
All of the solutions above are highly technical. For a slightly better solution parents might want to check in with open DNS.
(technical) Oh goodness, I’m using PERL.
This is a technical post - geek level 5.
Perl is a programming language. It’s a scripting language, as opposed to a compiled language. I first used perl about 15 years ago, playing with cgi-bin and other curious things. I dropped perl in favor of PHP, and usually use bash for my shell scripting (I haven’t scripted in years, but since I found linode, I’ve been scripting a bit more - I love it)
So I’m in a small tiff with my ISP. They are horrible (dropped internet connections) , and I need proof. Enter perl, and this especially yummy script. I hadn’t thought of using http requests, I was just going to write something that pinged, and appended the result to a logfile. This is cleaner, and the variety of hosts is a good thought.
Being integrated and meeting technology standards - how?
Here in Warsaw we are as about as integrated as they get. We are 1:1, grades 6 to 12, with no computer classes. We have common classroom configuration, decent wireless coverage, and great tech support. 1:1 has been around long enough for teachers to "get it" and they are working harder to integrate everyday. We are a SAMR school (If you come to CEESA Budapest, I'll be talking about our experience with SAMR - Saturday, Session 8 13:00 to 14:00).
We have 1 integrator / coordinator in our high school (~300 students) and 1 integrator in the middle school (also ~300 students). In our elementary school (~320 students), we have 2 integrators (although we are one short this year).
We are trying to fit NETS-S into our model. We want to meet the NETS-S standards, but without weekly classes, we are finding it difficult to teach and assess the NETS-S standards. Of course, many of our students hit many of the standards in our school (as happens in a 1:1 school), but we are concerned with uniform and ubiquitous exposure to these standards. We currently don't have a built-in structure for teaching "technology skills". We mainly rely on informal learning and classroom integration projects. For example, when a teacher uses Rosetta Stone online, they will teach the students how to use that specific tool. Another example, when using voice thread, the integrator will teach many different tech skills so students can effectively create with voicethread.
There is something about meeting with kids 45 minutes a week to teach them how to bookmark and use excel that makes my head hurt. It kind of flies in the face of my idea of "integrated technology" where technology is so woven into the fabric of teaching that it's "just part of the way things are done". I don't want my teachers (and students) to think "oh, technology is something that happens in technology class".
I'm sure there is some balance here. Here are some options:
1. Have a "tech class" where students go every week and learn about technology.
2. Integrators push in X number of minutes a week to "teach tech".
3. Teachers are responsible for meeting technology standards (with support of integrators)
4. Ditch the idea of standards, and focus more on "learning to learn with tech". So for example, if a student doesn't know how to do XYZ on a computer, they will google it.
5. Focus on very broad standards, for example "communication and collaboration" doesn't need to be met with a strict definition of what this means, but we accept a very wide variety of skills as evidence.
6. Offer a remediation session for especially poor (or new) tech users. After / before school.
So my question to you is how to embrace an integrated technology environment and also use fairly traditional scope and sequence for technology skills? I think my main point is I don't want teachers and students to see technology as "over there" I want them to see it as "in here". If we teach "computer class", I think it won't serve the integration model well.
I'll be cross posting this to my local ed-tech listserv, and also on my blog.
Curious to hear your thoughts.
Parents: friending your kids on facebook?
Thanks to Nick Kwan for pointing this my way: Brief article here (and pdf here).
For younger children (14 to 16) I think this is an excellent idea. However, like all things “tech-parents-kid”, communication and agreement are the most important things parents can do to help teens make good choices online.
Parents: here’s a template for technology contract with your kids
From balanced gaming, I’ve found this to be an excellent (PDF) contract with kids.
The four noble truths of technology and learning
With apologies to my Buddhist friends.
The four noble truths of technology and learning.
1. Engage, stop, turn off, reflect.
As I work in this business, reflect on my practice, and see what works and what doesn’t work, I see four noble truths.
1. Engage in this stuff. Get involved with multimedia, searching, web 2.0 tools, programming, chatting, mashups, game playing, learning. Dive deep into this and then stop. Turn off -> insert noun here
<- and reflect. I say an hour of day of no screen time. Just stop and reflect on the chaos, and then on something important. Pretty simple. There is a pattern, a ratio, we should aim for. For every X amount of time in front of a screen, Y amount of time away from it. Learning, understanding, and depth are important 21st century skills. You can't think if you don't have time to think, eh? I say depth is better than breadth.
2. Create something deep with technology. All the snazzy web 2.0 tools are great, but if you don't program, you don't speak computer. It's important. Coding is our
lingua franca. Think about books. Anyone who can write, can write a book (not everyone should, but that’s another story). Very few people who use a computer can code (but they should). As schools, we have a responsibility to teach literacy. Reading and writing. As books diminish and our primary means of knowing the world comes from a screen, we need to understand beneath the glossy interface. How to create something in this world.
3. Participation and engagement with technology is the only way to learn about it. I can teach you all about computers with pictures and diagrams, but until you start using it, you won’t really know it. Engage in technology, participate in the bigger world. It’s unprecedented, isn’t it? The access and availability of information is unlike anything we’ve ever known. Encourage students to enter into affinity space.
4. Mountains of data, ranges of information requires a new skill. Sifting. What is true? What is fluff? What is some multinational corporation trying to sell? A hint about sifting: paying attention to smart voices.
I’ll write more about each of these points in the coming days. Please share your pointed observations.
Facebook in class isn’t the problem
Not quite sure how I can be more clear here.
If kids are spending to much time during class mucking about with facebook, it is not a problem with facebook. It’s a problem with classroom management. If a teacher is allowing kids to “do whatever they want” during class, then they will!
Block Facebook, they will play games
Block games, they will surf the web
Block the web, they will play solitaire
Block solitaire, they will play with paint
Block paint, they will draw ascii pictures in notepad
When I was in 8th grade (16 years old) I devoted roughly 80% of my in-class time to drawing pictures of space battles and writing stories about World War 2. I also enjoyed designing futuristic cities - all with a pencil and paper. Happy my teacher didn’t take that away….
That thing about Twitter - I still prefer RSS
Stephen Dowes writes about the possible beginning of the end of twitter here.
Mr. Dowes writes:
"This post shows how easy it is to create a Twitter account and have it automatically reply to Twitter posts of any description. At the very least, it greatly increases Twitter volume. At worse, it renders useless any search and fills your screen with 'replies' to your tweets."
So people are writing programs that look for specific words in a twitter post and then reply with a random quote. Yawn. That's been going on for years over on IRC in the form of chat bots. It's not totally unexpected to emerge on twitter, and I agree with the idea that could be really annoying for twitter. There's probably something smart to say about broad and shallow versus narrow and deep. Maybe we all love twitter so much because we've been taught to think broadly instead of deeply?
The problem is this just amplifies the signal to noise ratio I see on twitter. I've carefully followed and unfollowed people on twitter, and I finally have a decent list that generally gives me something interesting to read - I've often referred to twitter as human RSS. But even amongst my cultivated twitter friends, the signal to noise is high. For every great twit that points to an interested resource, I see ten that talk about their cat.
I think Will RIchardson nails twitter when he says:
"I thought a lot about Twitter, actually, and realized (again) that for me at least, it’s become as much of a bane as it has a boon. (This really isn’t news.) Much of the reason I don’t blog any longer, I think, is the Twitter effect. It’s easier just to Tweet out an interesting idea than to examine it more deeply here." (source).
I still read RSS most mornings. I scan headlines, stories, and open a new tab for stories I like. I find the discourse on blogs richer and more deliberate. That there is value in twitter goes without saying, but signal to noise ratio for twitter is a bit high for my taste.
Parents: your kids will probably see these movies soon. Beware.
Looks like the fine gents at the lonely island have released another chart-topper for the Christian charts! This one is entitled “I just had sex” (vid here). The Lonely Island is a comedy troupe who, among other things, creates these funny videos. The videos often have inappropriate language, racy themes, and pretty much everything disdainful and horrible to well-adjusted parents of young children. The same comedy troupe made a very popular video (over 30 million combined views) entitled “I’m on a boat” (vid here). Again, inappropriate for young kids, and certainly questionable for teenagers.
This video has been viewed 30 million times, and there is a pretty good chance your kid has seen it, will see it, or will soon hear about it, and then watch it.
So what should you do?
I suggest you talk to your kid about their internet use, create clear expectations of behavior, and be aware these videos are around. As always, we prefer a proactive approach to computer issues rather than reactive.
Parent technology partnership is filtering at the router
Last week, a parent installed some internet filtering software on his son’s school-owned computer. His son is 11 years old, and has just started discovering, you know, the internet that 11 year old kids find. Unfortunately, the software the dad installed conflicted with our pre-installed AV software, Kaspersky. The son, perhaps being less than 100% honest, told us he needed to install some printer drivers. Normally students can do this without any intervention on the part of IT. However, we noticed we couldn’t install the software.
After spending the requisite 15 minutes trying to install the software, we realized we couldn’t get around the dad-installed software, so we re-imaged the machine. The son came back a day later with a clean machine, the printer drivers installed, but no dad-installed software.
The dad is, quite understandably, pissed. Our current blocking strategy is to restrict DNS queries to our internal DNS or to an outside DNS service (openDNS). We block any DNS queries that don’t go to one of our approved dns servers. Inside our school, we feel fairly comfortable that “joe average student” can’t access unauthorized content. Even so, we monitor network traffic carefully. But outside of school, students can change DNS settings and access inappropriate content (for a whole lot of reasons we grant student admin access on their laptops, so we can’t easily block access to dns settings).
What could we do differently, better?
I think the real challenge here is how can we support parents to block according to their standards? Some families will want very strict blocking, and some not at all. My take on this is to help parents understand how to use router-based filtering. Unless you child connects to another unsecured wireless network, the best place to block is at the router.
Next up: a list of resources to help parents control their wireless connection
On Gawker and Passwords
Looks like Gawker was hacked. I’m not a “gawker” guy, but I am a lifehacker reader. And, in 2008, I left a comment about my favorite RSS reader. And, after downloading the torrent, I saw my password and email. I’m sure this will be indexable by google in a few days. I guess they didn’t store the passwords securely. oops.
I’ve been using the interwebs since AOL and 2400 baud modems, and this is the first time I’ve been aware of being compromised. Thankfully, I used my normal stupid web password, and not one of my stronger passwords. However, I will now be searching for my username and changing my password whenever I see it pop up. I’m also using a new easy-to-remember web password.
Of course, the moment lifehacker lets me delete my account, I will.
Great Prezi from Nick Kwan on the SAMR model
Please click here to see a fantastic Prezi from Nick Kwan, the High School tech integrator. Nick hilights the SAMR model and some good resources for our teachers. Enjoy!
Online cyberbullying - a real challenge for parents
Amazing article in the New York Times about parents struggling with Cyberbullying (PDF here).
I often rest my feet at “parents are responsible” for monitoring their children. They must take computers out of the bedroom, have clear rules for computer use, and look at website history. Let’s see your facebook account, let’s see your twitter feed, etc… I really do believe there needs to be a technology partnership with parents. They might not know how to check facebook settings, or profile pages, or even web browser history. Parents might not know what kinds of threats are out in the world of cyberspace. Thats where schools come in. We have the technical expertise to help parents use computers and tools to monitor their children.
School websites and information overload
This is in response to a query about how to approach school web design.
Finalsite, Silverpoint and Whipplehill seem to be the big players here. They all charge a premium, but have excellent design and back-end control panels. A word about design, all the companies do design beautifully. I’ve no doubt you can craft up something really nice, but these companies make world-class website design. Clean, elegant and information rich.
The issue I’ve had with these sites is keeping them up to date and current. Whipplehill especially, which is based on a really neat portal system, seems to have the right idea about ow websites should work. But without long term “web person” in your organization, and without a clear, clean connection to your LMS, how useful will your site be?
We are using silverpoint, and we love our site, love the support, and I like the in-page editing; intuitive and easy. Also, Silverpoints design process is great - they actually bring their design team to your school - instead of design taking weeks or months, it takes a week.
But we are a moodle school, and increasingly a google-docs school. So our information is fragmented across those three major systems. We have teachers using wiki’s, blogs, yadda yadda yadda - so I’m constantly looking for ways to index all the different content so people dont have to look “in 20 different places” for relevant information.
I think your question also hits a really common theme I hear in student information systems; do we roll our own, or go with an outside company? There are genuine benefits and drawbacks for each approach. As I mentioned, the support we get from silverpoint is top-notch, but the meta-issues here are how the site will stay current, and how we can make fragmented information easier to access.
Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction
Full story here
My first reaction? Anger.
My second reaction? Yea, about that….
I’m reminded about the call for balanced parenting and computer use. Oh wait, that’s me.
Great slideshow about searching - a question to Dulcinea, though…
I stumbled upon this great slideshow about effective searching - great points, and it fits with my understanding of how we should search on the internet. The questions it raises are valid, and important:
Click here for the slideshow here is the embedded version:
There is this thing about Dulcinea that bothers me; I can’t quite put my finger on it. but They don’t implicitly say this, but they seem to say “don’t trust anything on the internet unless we say so”. From their home page they say:
“Dulcinea Media is the Curator of the Internet. Its mission is to help change the reality that most students cannot effectively conduct research on the Internet”
I agree with the idea that most students (and adults) don’t search effectively. But I think the answer to this problem isn’t to direct students to a “curated” search experience, I think it is to teach them how to sift through the mess out there and think critically about the information they encounter.
When you are offering a service for effective searching (supported by ad revenue) and you write about the dearth of good search resources and a problem with search reliability, your commentary on bad search sounds a lot like FUD.
Why Gaikai is important
Streaming games to the desktop - any browser, all you need is a browser and a connection. This model works well for email and simple apps, but surely not for streaming video games?
The way the high-end computer game model works now is for game players to download a client and then connect to a shared server to play. The graphics and animations are stored locally on a users machine, and are rendered by the users computer. Gaikai (and onlive) are changing this - now the game servers are sending rendered frames to the user - there is no longer any need for the users to have souped up computers. All the processing is done on remote computers - the network is king.
This is important because as we transition to web 2.0 applications and move to a cloud-based idea of computing we can see where it is going. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar business, with global video game sales surpassing movie industry income. I think our paradigm of technology use is changing - or rather, returning to an idea of thin client solution we had in the 70’s and 80’s.
Now, I’m not saying there is no need for local processing power. I cut my teeth on an IBM PCjr, TRS-80’s, and TI-99a. I learned how to hack on these machines, and I still believe it’s important for students to learn how to program. However, as a trend, the action will be on the cloud.
Now, for education: how can we teach our kids to create cloud applications (real applications)?
Middle School Laptops: a heavy burden?
We are deep in the process of procuring new laptops, docking stations, and service for our middle school (275 users including teachers and students).
As may be expected, there are many different factors we are considering when we look at which machine to buy. Here’s my current list of considerations in rough-priority consideration:
1. Service. We need on-site, accidental damage, rock-solid, no hassle, no fine-print stupidity, service that serves. I don’t want a maximum number of issues, I don’t want some bean counter telling me I can only fix X number of machines per day - nonsense. I don’t mind paying for good service, but if service fails, the whole boat sinks (what good is technology that doesn’t work)
2. Processing Power. Funny thing about Middle School teachers, they do really cool stuff with their laptops - stuff like rendering movies, rending sound files, and doing media-intensive work. That sort of thing requires actual processing power and real ram. Also as we look towards a three year lifespan, we would want these computers to be capable. I know 802.11n isn’t technically processing power, but it’s important that these computers are capable of the fastest possible connection to the network.
3. Existing-system compatibility - mainly, do these computers have standard I/O, is there anything silly about their network cards, wireless cards, USB ports, etc… Do they work from a hardware point-of-view with our existing infrastructure? This is normally not a problem, but it’s important. This usually isn’t an issue, but I’ve seen weirdness with wireless cards, touch screens, and audio inputs.
4. Durability. These computers will be used by 12, 13 and 14 year-old kids, who on their best days don’t always manage to walk in a straight line. Laptops are banged, bashed, squished, and dropped.
5. Great sound - I want great sound and an integrated microphone. We had some tablets that had horrible sound playback - not so good for multimedia programs.
6. Weight. Every teacher has seen a student carrying a bag that weighs more than they do. Imagine a young tween, carrying a 5 pound computer plus charger, plus bag, plus books - you get the idea. If all the above conditions are satisfied, and I have 2 choices, I’ll choose the lighter of the two.
So, I’m looking for a light-weight workhorse with exceptional service and standardized i/o that can’t be killed by a 13 year old with great features.
Weight is part of our consideration, but not the only thing we think about. I balance all the above considerations as I think about what a good machine should be.
1:1 programs, facebook, and how we teach
This article comes from a parent at my school.
http://www.berlingske.dk/danmark/facebook-forstyrrer-undervisningen - I translated the article using google translate - not perfect, but I get the general idea. Facebook is distracting students from learning.
Here's my response:
I do think the problem has very little to do with Facebook. I think this is really about how teachers are managing technology in their classrooms.
I assure you, if it's not Facebook, it's XYZ; just fill in the blank. Solitaire, twitter, myspace, game, some random webpage, there's always something.
I recently heard something very interesting at a conference; that technology magnifies teaching - both good and bad. If a teacher is sitting in front of a class, without moving around the classroom, giving nebulous and general assignments, then we can be assured students will respond in kind - drifting, lazy, and most likely distracted by facebook (or whatever they are looking at - perhaps a game or something). If a teacher says "go on the internet and research Rome" - I can assure you the students will be doing anything BUT researching Rome.
However, if a teacher is giving a very specific task (using laptops) and is moving around the classroom, monitoring student work, and has very clear outcomes for the assignment, then this is another matter entirely. Part of a 1:1 school is changing the way we teach; this is a major focus of my work here at our school. In this case, if a teacher asks their students to visit a specific site, and collaboratively builds a mini-website about Rome using a template (or referring to a rubric), AND the teacher moves about the classroom helping students, and supporting their activity then that is a very different sort of assignment than the previous example, isn't it? At the end of the class, the teacher will ask the students to produce their work - again, good management.
You simply cannot implement a 1:1 program in a school, and not change the way you teach and learn; it will not be successful. Part of my vision is to change the way we teach. It's a different sort of classroom, a different sort of learning, and we need to understand the old ways of teaching don't work as well in a classroom full of laptops.
I really appreciate your concern about facebook, and how it impacts learning. I agree, by the way, that multi-tasking is doing 2 things at 50% instead of 1 thing at 100%. But having laptops in a classroom does not equal multitasking. Teachers teach, and then usually assign some sort of activity to help students understand the content. Technology makes a huge difference in our ability understand the world - we can see things we simply couldn't see before, we can communicate in ways we couldn't communicate before, and we can collaborate in ways we couldn't imagine prior to the implementation of technology in the classroom.
On blocking and banning and somesuch
On blocking and banning and somesuch
I've never liked the idea of blocking or filtering. My students will be living in a digital world; they need to learn how to communicate in it. They need to learn digital literacy. Basic skills in being safe, appropriate communication, boundaries, the commercial aims of many social networking sites. They need to learn how to be in a digital world.
I don't think filtering or blocking helps students learn, I think it actually prevents them from learning how to live and learn in a digital world. I understand as a school, we have a duty to keep students safe; we also have a duty to teach them. Herein lay the balance schools must maintain.
We /do/ block sites that are unquestionably bad - adult, openly illegal*, violent, and sites that could harm your computer. But many sites are not unquestionably bad; nor are they unquestionably good. And this is where we need to tread carefully.
One other point: it is not impossible to bypass filters. Kids are rather clever about getting around these things, and with the rise of handheld smartphones, schools can do very little to prevent a student from logging onto facebook, posting a picture or movie, or accessing the internet.
I dont thing removing access is a good thing.
What's good about facebook
Facebook is popular. The Whitehouse has a facebook page, the UK Parliment, every major political candidate has a facebook page, every major corporation hasd a facebook page. Any social cause you can think of has facebook page. Colleges and Universities use facebook to communicate and stay in touch with applicants and students. Teachers use facebook because it is so easy to communiate with their students (teachers should use a separate facebook account, though). Many teachers report joy in staying in touch with their students over the years.
Let me repeat: facebook is so popular because it is easy to stay in touch and communicate. It is a major vehicle for communication and collaboration.
But it's not all good, is it?
Facebook can distract students from learning (unless you are learning something on facebook). Facebook has numerous add-on and games that can distract students from work. There are privacy concerns related to facebook. There are add-ons and modules to facebook that make it easy for kids to say very hurtful things to each other. If a student exercises poor judgement, they can be quite embarassed. Fads, half-truths, and even lies can be very quickly passed around to a large group of people.
Not all that different from doodling on a piece of paper or a bad day on the playground.
What should schools do?
Schools need to engage in a genuine partnership with parents. We need to educate parents about the internet and technology. We need to share what we see and hear. We need to share our professional expertise with parents and help them make wise decisions about technonology and their kids.
But I don't think we should think of ourselves as parents. I think we should think of ourselves as teachers. Hard lines need to be drawn in the world, but you need to be careful when you draw them. Our job is to develop kids, to support them and to encourage intellectual curiousity and learning. I'm not sure completely blocking access to a popular site fits into that model.
Where can parents look for help?
Click here for Google's family internet safety.
Click here for Microsoft's parent safety guide.
Click here for Facebook safety tips for parents
Click here for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre
Click here for netSmartz
* even this is tricky; is blocking a site which protests against a law appropriate? If we looked at some legalize marijuana sites, we would see advocating marijuna. Should we block that?
Really? Microsoft? Do you really write such bad code?
This Tuesday, October 12th, I'm going to have over 600 machines downloading a patch so big that Microsoft needed to warn system administrators about it.
Massive Link here and here's the PDF in case Microsoft wants us to forget this ever happened.
So now I need to buy a Windows update server so I can serve my updates internally. I'm going to have to pay for an update server and manage it; can someone please explain this whole "macs are more expensive" things to me again?
How we name our servers, and Apollo
Seems like people have pretty strong opinions how they should name their servers. I understand in an enterprise organization you would want a corporate naming convention for your servers. Especially if you have billions of them. I'm sure google doesn't sit around and think how they should name their servers. The probably call them something like borg_7121_location_8 and borg_7121_location_9.
But in small organization, there is something to be said for having fun names. This is actually one of the many small pleasures in the life of an IT guy in a school. Naming servers. People still call our fileserver Zeus, and we refer in-house to different servers around the school by their Greek names. I think it adds a sense of fun and playfulness to an IT department. Moreover, when a server has an issue, we ascribe the issues to a Greek Deity.
Here at the American School of Warsaw, we are using Greek Gods as our server names. Today, we are setting up a virtual print server, and decided to name it Apollo. Seems to make sense for a print server (even if it is virtualized).
Interviewing for a data manager
If you work in schools, you know this person. They enter / edit / delete information from you Student Information System. They keep the data clean, they write SQL, they run diff's, yadda yadda.
We are interviewing for this position at my school and I'm asking some fairly straight forward technical questions, so I can ascertain the technical competence of the people applying for the job.
1. Using SQL, how do you select data from multiple tables?
2. Using SQL, how do you identify unique records?
3. Please look at this regular expression. [0-9] what would this find?
4. Please provide an example how you compare two different tables?
5. Do you know any shell / script programming? Give me an example of a shell / script program you've written.
6. How do you identify duplicate data in your tables?
These strike me as fair questions, no "gotchas", and reasonable.
Why are the applicants having such a hard time answering these questions?
Maybe this is what a successful IT transition looks like.
We moved almost 200 users to google apps for education today, October 6th 2010.
We have 30 in-house support people wandering around looking for trouble. We have loads of support and assistance. We've been busy the last month planning, meeting, talking, and acting. And now, the day of the transition - it's quiet. I've personally visited every classroom in our school, been in the business offices, and it's quiet.
We are monitoring every system, and staring at our support inbox. we are absolutely primed to react quickly and decisively to email problems. We've communicated to everyone, many times, about this switch.
I'll be honest, I didn't sleep well the last week, and had some nightmare scenarios floating through my head. Of course, we had a last-minute-almost-kill-the-whole-thing emergency. We were working on the issue until 11:00pm last night (someone in our organization had previously registered our older domain, so we couldn't create an alias to it - we had to delete the old apps, but in order to do that, we had to prove domain ownership, and yadda yadda yadda). Now, however, it's working.
And it's quiet.
Transitioning to google apps for education
In four days, our school will be transitioning to google apps for education. I'm leading this transition, it's my first big organizational change as a director of technology.
When I started as the director of technology here, half the school was using google apps for education (using one domain) and the other half of the school was using Novell Groupwise (using a different domain).
Messages were being forwarded, pop'ed, filtered, and missed. It wasn't a great situation. Moreover, there was no school-wide calendaring solution; again, the result of two different systems.
Usually, when you want to create change in an organization, you really need to get buy-in. You know, all those buzzwords like stakeholders, collaboration, shared-vision, etc. All that stuff is important. If you don't bring people on board when you change, they won't buy it and the change won't work.
However, in this case, we just did it.
I believe the success or failure of this change will hinge on the professional development, training and support our staff receives. The actual technical change is minor (we are simply pointing the old domain MX records to google's MX records - not rocket science).
However for end users, this is a big change. Like any organization, we have a bell-curve of technical ability. Some uber-users, and some people who, well, aren't uber.
1. Setup a gmail moodle course chock full of resources, links, videos, PDFs, FAQ's, etc.
2. Recruited in-house gmail experts (calling them gmail ninjas). Out of 170 end-users, we have 30 people who will be walking around on "switchover day" ready to make a difference, offer assistance, and ask for help.
3. We have already moved all email, contacts, and cabinets from groupwise to gmail. I think this is a key point: users need to know what they don't know before you train them. This way, when training starts, they have a long list of questions.
4. We bought this fantastic video training from boost elearning. I'm no shill, but these guys do a whole lot right. My entire staff has a full year of gmail web-based training. From anywhere. And the courses are designed so users can just learn the part they are interested in; want to make a vacation responder? It's a two-minute video.
5. I met with each faculty and carefully explained WHY we are moving, and what benefits we expect to realize as a result of this switch. I listened carefully to concerns (what happens if the cloud blows up and data ownership). Based on these concerns, we purchased a backup solution for our school - all users have their documents, emails, and calendar data backed up on a third-party server.
6. Setup increased monitoring - monitors with outgoing / incoming status, monitors looking at every device in our organization (thank you Nagios), monitoring for our wireless status. We have a control center where everyone can see everything that is happening on our network.
7. I will be sharing our communication strategy on Monday - who calls who if a user cant access email, regular check-in times through the day. We've also setup a hot-support line with our external ISP. They will be on standby if we need anything.
8. Our in-house support help will be wearing t-shirts on the switchover day. I think it matters to actually see the people who are helping.
I'll keep my finger crossed, and of course look forward to any comments or questions as we move forward.
What’s out there? Why I think the future is in web-based services
Part of my vision for education is shifting to cloud-based applications.
Here are a few examples of cloud-based applications. I’ll find more, but for now, please poke at these. Food for thought and discussion!
Video editing online http://jaycut.com/
Audio editing online http://aviary.com/tools/audio-editor
Image editing online: http://aviary.com/tools/image-editor
Photoshop online: http://www.photoshop.com/tools?wf=editor
A bunch of online, open source resources (think replacing the textbook) http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/WebHome
We also add to this the google suite of tools. but just in case,
And of course hundreds of spectacular sites dedicated to content-specific material (this is just an example, I think you get the basic idea)
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Just let them do their job
I came in this morning to discover our core switch was down, perhaps related to the air conditioning failing in our server room. The room was quite hot (over 80 degrees).
In every other role I’ve had, I’ve been the “go-to” guy. No matter what the problem was, no mater where on the osi chain, I knew enough to isolate the problem and find a solution. As a director of technology, I have a team of incredibly competent technicians and network guys.
I’m finding it difficult to just stay out of their way. They know this network better than I (I’ve only been on the job for 24 days), they most likely have better skills than I do, and they are absolutely committed to our uptime.
I’ve several meetings today where I’ll be talking about how to better organize our data flow, how to better organize our services, and how to help our IT provide better services to our constituencies. I’m advocating for the needs of my department, and understanding the needs of other departments. I’m budgeting, clarifying, leading, managing, and evangelizing.
...but I’m not really fixing stuff anymore.
understanding your network
I’m off to a great start as a director of technology at the American School of Warsaw.
My first goal: getting organized. I’ve been monitoring everything I can get my hands on. I’m using Xirrus management tools to monitor our internal wireless network (love the tool, need some more training).
I’m using Nagios to monitor every freaking piece of equipment we have; and IPCOP to keep track of our outgoing / incoming traffic.
I’d like to set up a few big-ass monitors in the tech office, so all this information is available to the techs at a glance. I think the more information they have, the better.
We have still to install our printers on our nagios system, but that is in the pipeline.
I’m already looking at trends and asking questions. I’m also starting to dig deeper into traffic patterns. Information is power.
Neat article from the International Journal of Education about how young adults evaluate credibility of a website. Article is here, and the full pdf is here.
My read on this article is users click on the top of the search results when they are looking for something, and consider that search result to be the best.
This fits with what I’ve seen in the classroom and schools. Search for History of Warsaw, and we see these top 4 results:
Students will click on the top few links and assume this is the best and most reliable information. When we teach students about evaluating websites, I feel like an adult voice in Charlie Brown “wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa”. The students like my lesson, and I have evidence they are learning the content, but they do not apply what I teach them. I see them using the top two or three search results - usually wikipedia.
My students choose the top search results because they want the information quickly, and the information is usually “correct enough”. I can’t help but think of Pavlov’s dogs. These students have clicked the top search result, and that search result is “good enough”, they have developed this habit, “top of the list is the best”. The only time I’ve seen this behavior change is when a teacher (or ed tech person, or librarian) is conducting a class on other search strategies, or using search databases.
One teacher made sure in every assignment there was a clear expectation that students would use a 1:3 ratio for wikipedia. For every 1 wikipedia reference, there had to be at least 3 non-wikipedia references.
In the interest of full disclosure, I usually use wikipedia for my day-to-day information needs. I usually glance at the discussion page for any hot areas of discussion. If I’m researching something important, then I usually turn to something like ERIC, or another source for peer-reviewed, journaled research.
I’m finished at Hunter
As of 4:00pm today, I've finished my tenure at Hunter College Campus Schools (the high school and the elementary school).
I worked there for four years as an instructional designer, helping to integrate technology into the curriculum. If you'd like to see a normal day for me, take a peek here.
I loved this job. The kids are amazing. Like, genuinely amazing. I will never forget the conversation I had with a 7th grade student (13 years old) about advanced cross-side scripting and brute force attacks. This was no script kiddie, but a well developed hacker. I met several others like him, who were profoundly gifted. One of my favorites is a student who zapped from one idea to the next - he wants to compile code on anything he can find, I think. He was dealing with very high level code concepts in 10th grade (16 years old) - so much so, he had to take classes at Hunter College because we couldn't feed him anymore. The students were the intellectual cream of the crop in New York City. It was such an honor to work with them, and support the fine teachers who guide them everyday.
I ended up working more on the technical side of things than the integration side of things (a common occurrence, I think), but I saw the implementation of interactive whiteboards in every room, robust wireless network implementation, laptops for the teachers, transition to a fully OS X platform for the elementary school, and so many other things...
I loved the faculty there. I really did. I recount the daily struggles and triumphs at our school. We had a chemistry teacher who is the nicest person, and he was delighted to learn how to incorporate pictures into his powerpoint presentations - he did wonderfully, and the students are able to see copper in different states because of his hard work. We have teachers who still don't even turn on their computers, and others who can't get enough.
I worked with an active administration team, who was supportive, and engaged in the success of the students.
It was a little frustrating working within the CUNY bureaucracy, but I learned quite a bit from my time at Hunter. I am left with a specific sadness as I leave; these kids and teachers deserve the very best (really) - it is my genuine hope they get everything they need.
Google apps in three states
More google juice.
I’ve been busy, so I missed this:
We recently announced that Oregon is the first state to begin offering Google Apps to public schools. Today, Colorado and Iowa are joining the movement. Google Apps for Education will now be available to more than 3,000 schools across the two states.
These state-wide agreements enable schools and districts to benefit from centralized resources such as deployment support and training materials, paving the way for an easy transition to Google Apps—including Gmail, Docs, Sites, Calendar, Video, and Groups—in their classrooms, immediately
Important Online Safety Technology Working Group report
Please click here for PDF of the Online Safety Technology Working Group internet safety report. Really good stuff.
Should Instructional technology specialists be geeks?
I have a confession.
For a long time I have believed instructional technology specialists should be geeks. I thought if you teach computers, or you are involved with integrating technology, you should also be a geek. If you are advocating for the use of technology in the classroom, you should be prepared to setup, fix, configure, diagnose, and understand highly technical issues. This has been a bias of mine for at least ten years. I always feel weird when an instructional technologist is advocating for technology but then doesn't know what to do when a computer doesn't work.
A geek, (imho), is someone who has deep understanding of programming, networking, servers, operating systems, hardware, plugs, ports, cables, switches, printers, d&d, math, science, and star trek.
However, as I leave my school, I realize my belief may be a bit misinformed. When you have people who are solely responsible to integrate technology, I think there is better and deeper integration. To do technology correctly, you need integrators AND technicians (sort of raises the old ROI on technology and education, huh?). This may seem like an "uh duh" sort of observation, but in schools, we usually have severely limited technical support, and very little dedicated instructional integration specialists. I think this might be different in the business world - you have your tech department, and then you have your training guys. In education, your computer teacher is usually your tech support, tech integrator, and network administrator. Your technology strategy must include integrators and technicians working in harmony if you want to do technology right. Your technology vision must be clear and focused on the how of technology rather than the what.
In my current school, where I work as an instructional designer, we have an instructional technologist in the elementary school. I see the work a dedicated instructional technology specialist has done; it's exemplary. Really a shining example of how great technology can be in education. This person isn't a geek; they have decent technical skills, are quick to apply common quick-fixes, and certainly not a luddite by any definition. When they bring a technical problem to my attention, I know it's probably a good problem - not something trivial or silly. They can re-image machines, send machines out for support, and order parts for replacement.
To answer my own question, no. I don't think instructional technology specialists need to be geeks. But schools need to understand this distinction. I do not believe technology can be "done right" alone - it requires harmony between "people people" and geeks.
Schools need both.
repost: worst practices in IT
This is worth reading.
This blog post absolutely fits into my mental framework for how IT doesn’t work well in schools. The antidote? Careful planning and clear learning goals. So before we adopt a new technology in an organization, one of our first questions should be what are we learning? As I am want to say, it’s not about what, it’s about how. I really believe that this is truly innovative in education - that technology is carefully and wisely linked to actual learning goals.
I think this is the challenge in edtech.
Poland, here I come!
I'm pleased to announce I have been hired by the American School of Warsaw as the new director of technology. I just finished a week-long meet and greet, and I am mightily impressed. The school is focused, passionate, and forward-thinking in their application of technology and learning. They have a great 1:1 program, and are implementing a bevvy of interesting technologies to support learning.
I am sketching out themes, ideas, categories, and issues. I am also examining my assumptions and understandings of educational technology as I look to first-year challenges. I am thinking about where I want to move the school, partnering with all the different stakeholders to take our school from "good to great".
It is a wonderful moment, one which I savor. I will miss New York City, but I am stoked to get started!
Interesting research here (pdf here) that discusses why and how college students use wikipedia.
We have pushed wikipedia as a beginning source for research, and asked students to triangulate their data - that is, find other sources which support the data found on a wikipedia page. This research seems to confirm students are using this strategy. The findings:
1. Students’ driving need for background context makes Wikipedia one of the predictable workarounds that many students use, especially during the first stages of their research process.
2. Course–related research may begin with Wikipedia, but it rarely ends there. In our study, students employed a complex information problem strategy in their research processes, reliant on a mix of information resources that were from scholarly sources and public Internet sites.
3. In our study, we found the combination of coverage, currency, comprehensibility, and convenience drives Wikipedia use, in a world where credibility is less of a given — or an expectation from students — with each passing day.
4. Overall, college students use Wikipedia. But, they do so knowing its limitation. They use Wikipedia just as most of us do — because it is a quick way to get started and it has some, but not deep, credibility.
My favorite part of this quote is “credibility is less of a given”. Things actually are not as sure as they were in the past, and students seem to understand this.
I’m using this fail2ban
Because I was getting tired of this:
Mar 7 17:01:39 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user simmons from 126.96.36.199 port 38288 ssh2
Mar 7 18:17:41 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user test from 188.8.131.52 port 21637 ssh2
Mar 7 18:17:43 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user testuser from 184.108.40.206 port 22497 ssh2
Mar 7 18:17:46 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user test1 from 220.127.116.11 port 22851 ssh2
Mar 7 18:17:48 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user test from 18.104.22.168 port 23192 ssh2
Mar 7 18:17:50 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user test from 22.214.171.124 port 23525 ssh2
Mar 7 18:17:53 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user test from 126.96.36.199 port 23890 ssh2
Mar 7 18:17:56 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user testing from 188.8.131.52 port 24288 ssh2
Mar 7 18:18:12 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user admin from 184.108.40.206 port 26452 ssh2
Mar 7 18:18:15 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user admin from 220.127.116.11 port 26827 ssh2
Mar 7 18:18:18 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user admin from 18.104.22.168 port 27207 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:01 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user jeep from 22.214.171.124 port 41595 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:04 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user alan from 126.96.36.199 port 41985 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:07 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user jim from 188.8.131.52 port 42397 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:10 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user postgres from 184.108.40.206 port 42803 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:13 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user stuff from 220.127.116.11 port 43217 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:16 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user tom from 18.104.22.168 port 43606 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:19 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user adam from 22.214.171.124 port 8257 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:28 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user gov from 126.96.36.199 port 9349 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:34 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user pgsql from 188.8.131.52 port 10193 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:37 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user adm from 184.108.40.206 port 10562 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:43 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user postgres from 220.127.116.11 port 11167 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:49 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user email from 18.104.22.168 port 11656 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:52 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user oracle from 22.214.171.124 port 11926 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:55 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user users from 126.96.36.199 port 12134 ssh2
Mar 7 18:20:58 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user user from 188.8.131.52 port 12436 ssh2
Mar 7 18:21:01 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user test from 184.108.40.206 port 12652 ssh2
Mar 7 18:21:04 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user david from 220.127.116.11 port 12826 ssh2
Mar 7 18:21:07 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user lynx from 18.104.22.168 port 13047 ssh2
Mar 7 18:21:10 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user music from 22.214.171.124 port 13200 ssh2
Mar 7 18:21:13 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user user from 126.96.36.199 port 13384 ssh2
Mar 7 18:21:16 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user user from 188.8.131.52 port 13587 ssh2
Mar 7 18:21:19 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user user from 184.108.40.206 port 13704 ssh2
Mar 7 19:12:58 grue sshd: Failed password for invalid user harvey from 220.127.116.11 port 54299 ssh2
Web-based garage band? Yes please.
I might be a bit Johhny-come-late to this party, but I discovered Myna today courtesy of an RSS feed.
I played with it for about 10 minutes, and wow! it looks great!
Is 250 sheets of paper a year enough?
After some data gathering last year, we realized we were using a case of paper every 2 weeks in one computer lab (we have 4 in our school). That is 5000 sheets of paper every 2 weeks, or 500 sheets of paper per day in ONE LAB. My informal observation was kids would print out a webpage (10 or 15 sheets) and call that “doing research”. Blech.
We instituted much stricter print quotas this year - each student only has 250 sheet for the entire year. Now as we enter into our second semester, we are starting to get visitors into the IT office asking for an increase. We oblige them, but ask them to be careful about their printing needs.
I’m honestly surprised. Many of our teachers accept emailed assignments, and many students use turnitin for papers.
I’m keeping a careful watch on our heaviest users, and targeting those teachers with professional development for electronically submitted assignments.
I’ll be teaching parents about Naviance this Thursday. This is one of those “college information nights” activities. I’ll be teaching the parents how to use Naviance and get useful data. The really neat thing about Naviance is acceptance history data. So a parent could visit a college page, and quickly see how many students in our school applied to a particular school, and how many were accepted.
Parents can also see average test scores - so we can see out of all the students who were accepted to a particular college, what was their test scores. College information is quickly available, such as financial aid, demographic information, etc…
Naviance is a great resource, and allows parents and students to make data-based, informed decisions. I am a system administrator for our Naviance instance, and I love it - that it is a hosted web service just makes me even happier.
I’m not a shill, but I see how useful Naviance is for my school and parents.
Slashdot: Looking Back From the 1980s At Computers In Education
This is why I love slashdot.
I’m not sure how many different ways I can say this. Ed tech really isn’t about the technology, it’s about the teaching. It’s about focusing on learning first. It’s about understanding learning, defining outcomes, and knowing what good teaching is. Is technology fantastic? Of course. Am I an ed-tech evangalist? Yup.
Are we wasting SO much money, time, and people on technology that makes a marginal (if any) difference in learning?
Yes. The conversation should be less about what we have, and more about how we are teaching, and how our kids are learning.
Stunning: One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers
Eschool news writes "One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers".
Do you hear that thumping sound? That is me hitting my head on my desk. Repeatedly. The article should of said "study confirms what everyone in educational technology already knows: good teaching is more important than blinky-things."
To be fair, the article links to some nice research:
Laptops and Fourth Grade Literacy: Assisting the Jump over the Fourth-Grade Slump (PDF)
Evaluating the Implementation Fidelity of Technology Immersion and its Relationship with Student Achievement (PDF)
After Installation: Ubiquitous Computing and High School Science in Three Experienced, High-Technology Schools (PDF)
One to One Computing: A Summary of the Quantitative Results from the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative (PDF)
Educational Outcomes and Research from 1:1 Computing Settings (PDF)
Here's a choice quote:
Across the four empirical studies, it is evident that teachers play an essential role in the effective implementation of 1:1 initiatives and that the onus of responsibility for implementation often falls to the teacher. For example, Bebell and Kay (2010) concluded that it is “impossible to overstate the power of individual teachers in the success or failure of 1:1 computing”
What's my take away?
1. It's about the "how" not the "what".
2. Before we give teachers technology, they should have a a very clear idea about how they plan on using it - never push tech into a teachers face
3. Teachers should evaluate if teachers should use technology in their classroom, ala learning communities - so for example, a teacher would go to a committee of teachers and say "I want 25 iPads" and THAT group of teachers would hack through the proposal - what learning is happening? How is this different than what we are doing now? Will this materially increase student achievement? Does this make learning better? Is this a sound investment? etc...
4. It's always good to let a teachers play with technology before actually using it in their classrooms to teach. Teachers need to have a cognitive model of how they are going to use the latest widget to make our kids smarter
5. Clear outcomes are critical. Before embarking on a tech initiative, outcomes should be very clearly defined and understood by everyone.
Reference: Bebell, D. & O’Dwyer, L.M. (2010). Educational Outcomes and Research from 1:1 Computing Settings. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(1).
Retrieved FEB 16 2010 from http://www.jtla.org.
Ed Tech and Elementary School
Had another interesting question a few days ago.
What is your philosophy around elementary school and technology?
1. I think students aged 6 to about 10 shouldn’t use technology a lot. I think kids this age should explore and learn with their bodies. I think these kids should visit a computer lab about once a week, and when they do use a computer it should be linked to basic skills and their curriculum. For example, if the second grade is studying ocean life, we might find an online activity that let’s them practice mouse skills and explore under the ocean.
2. I believe teachers in grades K to 4 should feel very comfortable using technology. Teachers in these grades should show short videos about topical issues and then discuss. For example, perhaps teachers could show a short clip of an octopus, and then discuss the video with their class “why do you think the octopus moves like that?” . I also think teachers in these grades should use technology to showcase student work. For example, teachers could take a picture of their “dress-like-a-crustacean” day, and post these pictures on their blog or classroom website. It would also be neat to have the kids record themselves explaining what they thing whales think about, and then share those recordings with parents and other students.
3. Grades 5 to 6 (ages 11 to 12) present rich opportunities to begin project-based learning. These students can begin making appropriate presentations, web pages, and even documentaries (with the right support, of course). They can begin to create advanced documents, incorporating pictures and graphs.
4. I was part of a team that developed standards and benchmarks for our elementary school. Here is an excel file with our standards and benchmarks.. i is for introduce, r is for reinforce, and m is for master. If a teacher wanted to do a project, we would teach the requisite skills for that specific project.
Toolkits and tricks
I “do” system administration. From servers to workstations, Windows, OS X, and Linux, I take care of technical issues at my school. To be honest, this is one of things I really enjoy about educational technology. I’ve always been curious, and system administration presents ample opportunities to look for problems and try to solve them. Along the way, I have learned quite a bit. In the interest of sharing, here are the tools I often use to understand / grok computers, servers, and networks:
3. Ubuntu on a USB disk
6. All the normal Linux tools
8. Carbon copy cloner
Of course there are many more utilities I use, but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I’ll add to this page as time goes on. I’ve been meaning to write a cookbook for a while, so this post will probably serve as a start.
Why ROI is hard to measure for school technology
I had an interesting question today: how do you measure ROI on a technology project for learning * ?
The answer? It's really hard. Suppose a school bought a couple of laptop carts for their 8th grade - 60 computers. The average laptop cart is about $30,000. If we add all the stuff (licensing, staff development, extra wireless nodes, etc) let's say the total cost for the whole shebang is $75,000. That's a pretty hefty chunk of change. How do we know if we are getting our monies worth?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Why? All these questions are indicators, but none of them are definitive.
If all the kids get A's after implementation of the laptop carts, does that mean they are learning more?
If all the kids are using the laptops everyday, for every class, does that mean they are learning more?
If the kids produce stunning web pages, documentaries, and interactive applications are they learning more?
If the computers have a very low failure rate, does that mean the program is successful?
If the teachers report the kids are learning more, are they?
If the students report they are learning more, are they? This is especially tricky, because we know kids LOVE technology.
If the parents tell us they see a positive difference, is it working?
If we see increased attendance, is the program working?
If behavioral issues drop (which is common) does the program work?
If the students write substantially more, does the program work?
This question is also completely appropriate. If a school spends $80,000 on 2 laptop carts, they have every right to ask if this investment is worthy.
I believe teachers know best; when I want to know if technology is working, I ask a teacher. I also trust in "supervision of instruction" - so effective instruction is effective instruction is effective instruction. Part of being a school leader is supervising instruction to increase student achievement. If a teacher is using technology, or if a teacher is using dramatic arts, is the teaching making a difference?
The fact is learning is difficult to measure - and it's really hard to comparatively measure this stuff also.
Are we getting $75,000 worth of better education? I would need to look, ask, and assess the whole picture. I would want to understand the context, kids, school, and teacher. I would say, technology opens doors and windows that cant be opened in any other way.
* If you are using technology to increase operating efficiency or make your school run better, finding ROI is much simpler. This blog post is about using tech to teach.
A disagreement on the iPad potential…
I got a nice comment respectfully disagreeing with my point of view about the iPad and education. For reference, the commented post was here, and perhaps he might of missed my pre-tablet hype post here). Trevor M, (who I haven’t met, but I suspect we are kindred spirits in educational technology) lists these ideas about how the iPad will revolutionize education:
2. Note Taking
3. Paperless Classroom
4. Studying and Reviewing
5. Student Interest Level
6. Individualized Curriculum
He then goes on, in another post, to talk about three concepts for iPad applications:
1. Note Taking
2. Studying and Reviewing
3. Individualized Curriculum
His enthusiasm and excitement is clearly evident in his writing. I wish he had been a bit more verbose when he discussed what he didn’t agree with in my post. Anyways, in the spirit of fostering healthy conversation about something that hasn’t seen the light of day yet, I remain skeptical. Why?
iPads look like fantastic textbook readers - really great. I’ve even written a piece that they may be version one of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. But is that what we want technology to do? Just be a textbook reader? Thats not revolutionary at all - it’s just more efficient “same old same old”. So kids go online and look at
Wikipedia, national geographic, and other fantastic resources. Then what? I would like them to be able to use the images and ideas they find to create their representations of knowledge. But without multitasking, how will they do this?
And there is the idea of support. Do textbooks break when you drop them? Do they need to be charged? Who fixes them when they break? How do we ensure they are all running the same version of the same stuff? What happens when one gets stolen (1 textbook = $70.00, 1 iPad = $500.00)? How long will they last? Textbooks are good for about 10 years. Same for iPad? Technology is, for all it’s coolness a high-maintenance spouse.
I’m not asking these questions to be a curmudgeon, but these exact questions and issues have stymied growth in technology education for years. I’ve always thought we should get away from textbooks and use laptops or full-blown tablets.
You write “One of the largest complaints I hear from my students is that the lost their notes. They either don’t know where they put the paper or it got thrown away by mistake. The same thing goes for homework. Students tend to not be very organized, but how can you blame them? They have grown up in a digital world. They are used to having the things saved automatically on a computer or iPod. If they need to find something they just do a keyword search and it finds it form them.”
Yes. In fact, I do blame them. One of the many tasks we need to teach our kids is to be organized and responsible. It is utterly foundational. I repeat my systems argument above: a lost notebook is $5.00 an iPad, $500.00. And are iPads really better? Digital devices are just as prone to failure and data loss as losing a notebook - but far more catastrophic. Do the kids bring the iPads home with them? Really? I live in New York City and I’m not sure how I feel about 100 7th graders toting around an iPad…
I’ll stop with this one, because I’ve always thought the “paperless classroom” was some kind of Nirvana we should all aspire to. But it isn’t. You can’t draw on a tablet like paper (try shading), tablet handwriting recognition is an oxymoron, and flipping through pages isn’t the same as a paper notebook. You cant easily draw a table or venn diagram on a iPad or incorporate all those yummy meta cognitive skills into normal note taking. My point? An iPad isn’t paper - it cant do the same thing as paper. Why are we trying to bend it to do the same thing as paper.
Just so you know Trevor, I’m not knocking you here - I would love to have an iPad for my hour-long commute. But for my classroom? I just don’t see it. At least not yet.