Bill MacKenty

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Why podiums or wireless LCD’s are better than plugging….

Posted in Educational Tech Smartboards on 25 - January 2010 at 07:15 PM (14 years ago) 161 views.

We have a lot of smartboards in our school.  Due to a lack of space, teachers are in different rooms almost every period. This means, in a 9 period day, teachers are plugging in and unplugging our VGA cables into their laptops. We also have a night school, so let us add a few more. 20 times a day, our VGA cables are being plugged in and out, that is 100 times a week, and 400 times a month - I suppose this is inevitable - look on the bottom row.


I suppose this sort of thing would be prevented by:

1. Wirelessly connecting to the LCD projectors
2. Setup podiums so everything is preconnected. 

As it stands, this little bent pin cost a Spanish teachers 20 minutes of class time. No fun.

It’s not my job

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Smartboards Support on 04 - January 2010 at 07:20 PM (14 years ago) 181 views.

How this phrase and attitude infuriates me. I get angry when I hear people say and act like they don’t care.  However, a series of conversations with a building assistant principal has slightly changed my thinking about this. She said “sometimes, it’s good to let a system fail”. I was providing technical support for all the smartboards in the building. Every time there was a problem, I stopped what I was doing, and went to fix the smartboard. I was responsible for inventory, maintenance, training, and professional development. Not a great situation. Other important projects took a back-seat to smartboards. Her point was well taken - I’m propping up a system and feeling resentful about “doing it all”. Heh.

Of course, this problem did not magically appear. The smartboards were purchased and installed without thinking about support. This is the original sin - and in my experience, a common problem in technology and education. 

So, I did what she said.  I carefully explained this to my leadership team. I didn’t have time to handle the smartboards. I had a daily schedule, and explained the important work that was taking a backseat to the smartboards. Soon, the boards starting failing, teachers started to complain - teachers actually stopped planning on using the smartboards because they were so unreliable. It was hard to see this, and I know I took a small political hit for this. But fast-forward 3 months. Now we have hired a part-time technician, who is totally dedicated to smartboards. We have consolidated our efforts to keep the smartboards up and running. The system is still far from perfect, but I am getting far more done than I was.

Because I let a broken system fail.

Smartboards: not so smart?

Posted in Educational Tech Smartboards on 28 - August 2009 at 01:43 AM (14 years ago) 147 views.

This is a PDF copy of a research paper I wrote for a graduate program - I reviewed some literature and asked “are smartboards effective vs traditional teaching” The answer? Not really. Of course, it’s deeper and more complicated than that, but I couldn’t find any empirical evidence smartboards made a difference in learning. Smartboards do make a tremendous difference in teaching and student motivation, but that does not lead automatically to better student achievement.

Interns, support, and the relaxing summer life in ed tech!

Posted in Educational Tech Design Smartboards Support on 09 - July 2008 at 05:49 PM (15 years ago) 182 views.

It’s been a busy summer for me. I’ve got 15 fairly large projects to finish before September. Here’s a list:

1. Create student / teacher image for Elementary school
2. Reimage 90 macbooks
3. Move the elementary school to a new CMS (we use and love expression engine)
4. Setup 26 new smartboards
5. Clean, inventory, and check 38 older smartboards
6. Create smartboard training materials (for the new 600i series)
7. Train faculty over summer - offer classes and individual training sessions
8. Create inventory solution for new phones (barcode scanner - maybe we’ll whip up a online database)
9. Purge graduated students files
10. Transition high school website to beefy new server
11. Create materials / ideas for next year professional development
12. Create / update technology handbook - full of common problems and solutions
13. Create training for new shared calendar

This is a pretty hefty list - and doesn’t represent other major technology projects we have going on during the summer.

I was delighted to learn I would be getting an intern this summer - there is a student from Stuyvesant HS who is here - it is amazing how much time he is saving me - he is sharp, quick, and works hard. It is like a breath of fresh air. It is an amazing difference when the extra support comes…what a difference. He will be helping with our inventory scanner today - we are going to steal a barcode scanner from the library and try to scan the MAC and serial numbers on our new phones - I think it will be fun!

From the list above, I consider the most important items to be #7, #11, and #12. That is, training and staff development. I think last year, we had several major changes at our school: a wireless network, faster netowrk speed, a laptop for every faculty member, and 2 laptop carts for our elementary school.  For the 2007 - 2008 school year we were getting used to the technology. Next year, I will be pushing, supporting and encouraging our staff. Stay tuned.

Great podcast and a comment about making tech easy to use

Posted in Educational Tech Design Smartboards on 06 - April 2008 at 06:43 PM (16 years ago) 180 views.

I found a great podcast today and as I was listening, I heard a teacher talking about how a smartboards might not fit into his curriculum.  This raised 2 very interesting issues for me. The interesting value of smartboards, and how technology isn’t always the best choice.

I wrote a reply as a comment, but wanted to elaborate on it here.

I have an observation about smartboards. We have tons of smartboards in our school (23 of them, with another 14 coming soon). I understand it might not work for your particular discipline, but the interesting thing is what happens when you get technology close to your teachers

We found that having a projector / screen in the room, ready to go, makes using technology so easy, that even our low-tech teachers are using the smartboards.  It’s a real lesson in “if you make technology easy to use, and immediately accessible, teachers will use it!”. We are using the 600i series, so a teacher can use it to write notes, then easily save the notes, and upload them to a course management system. But basically, all a teacher needs to do is turn it on, and start writing. Very positive. Because our smartboards have speakers, teachers can plug in their ipods, dvd players, or vcr’s to show videos.

I also really respect your comment about how technology doesn’t fit into your teaching.  I know plenty of teachers who have thoughtfully considered using technology and decided it didn’t fit into their curriculum. This wasn’t a fear-based response, it was a result of carefully considering the technology, looking at the whole picture (support, pedagogy, student technology use, and budgetary issues) and then deciding it wasn’t for them.  We have a math teacher at our school who likes to use the entire board to write a formula, or work a problem through. She likes her students to see the entire problem, from start to finish across the board-space.  This particular boardwork wouldn’t fit on a smartboard, which uses a page-by-page style to display lots of information.

I suggest anyone who hasn’t heard of these folks subscribe to the blog linked above, and their podcast.