Bill MacKenty

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Exciting changes in IB computer science

Posted in Computer Science Educational Tech Design Gifted Leadership platform Security Smartboards Support News Teaching Diary on 17 - June 2024 at 10:50 AM (3 weeks ago) 78 views.

A new IB computer science curriculum is being released! Read more about it here....

The Overview is here:

The subject brief is here: (local copy here: dp_comp_sci_subjectbrief_en.pdf)

Pain Value Analysis & Problem Analysis

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 17 - November 2014 at 07:42 AM (9 years ago) 344 views.

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 
2. Brainstorming 
3. 5-why's 
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.

Goals for this upcoming year

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 02 - September 2014 at 01:17 PM (9 years ago) 252 views.

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.

From the BBC: Computers can impact on children’s ability to learn, says union

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Mindfulness on 23 - May 2014 at 07:26 AM (10 years ago) 253 views.

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”

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 29 - April 2014 at 10:23 AM (10 years ago) 286 views.

Hello Readers!

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…

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 28 - April 2014 at 07:47 AM (10 years ago) 276 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 17 - April 2014 at 03:32 PM (10 years ago) 232 views.

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.

Edtech Conferences - worth it?

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Support Twitter on 03 - April 2014 at 04:21 PM (10 years ago) 334 views.

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?

Membership in Computer Science Teacher Association

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Personal Teaching Diary on 24 - February 2014 at 09:13 AM (10 years ago) 417 views.

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.

An introduction to SAMR

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 11 - February 2014 at 11:21 AM (10 years ago) 228 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 07 - February 2014 at 02:00 PM (10 years ago) 300 views.


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.

Does everyone need to learn to code?

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 29 - January 2014 at 11:55 AM (10 years ago) 255 views.

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?

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 17 - January 2014 at 09:07 AM (10 years ago) 259 views.

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
5. Professionalism

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.

Link here

Digital Learning: a video that gets close to SAMR

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 14 - January 2014 at 01:36 PM (10 years ago) 232 views.

ITIL: Services in a K-12 School

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 27 - December 2013 at 04:41 PM (10 years ago) 229 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 13 - December 2013 at 10:40 AM (10 years ago) 211 views.

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.

ITIL Certified and Management in Schools

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 29 - October 2013 at 07:05 AM (10 years ago) 239 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 20 - October 2013 at 09:28 AM (10 years ago) 249 views.

ITIL Lifecycle Processes

For my own study notes, and to help anyone out there who wants it.

Service Strategy

Service Portfolio Management
Financial Management
Demand Management
Business Relationship Management
Strategy Generation

Service Design

Service Catalog Management
Supplier Management
Service Level Management
Availability Management
Capacity Management
Design Coordination
IT Service Continuity Management

Service Transition

Service Validation and Testing
Service Asset and Configuration Management
Change Management
Release and Deployment Management

Service Operation

Incident Management
Problem Management
Request Fulfillment
Event Management
Access Management

Continual Service Improvement

(ITIL® is a registered trademark of the Cabinet Office)

ITIL in Education

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 20 - August 2013 at 09:54 AM (10 years ago) 265 views.

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.

2. The teacher runs the tech program. In addition to a reduced teaching load, they get the honor of being "that guy". In no particular order, they manage the network services (including DNS and DHCP stuff), user authentication services, database services, file storage services, front line support services, and of course a bevy of other services. I like to call this style of technology management "huh?"

3. There is one system administrator and a computer teacher. They fight because the sysadmin's need for a stable & secure user environment clouds and eclipses the need of the IT services to benefit the users. Or more succintly, technology is poorly managed, as it does not serve the customers nor the business needs. Rarely are the IT services well defined in this case.

4. A well-resourced school has technology director, data-manager (or DBA), a system administrator, and 2 front line technicians. To support the teachers, there are usually 1 or 2 full time technology coaches or integrators. That's commitment. But even then, I see questions about effective managment and "what are the clear, measurable benfits to learning that technology brings to the table".

What I know about these 4 different common approaches to educational technology is they don't always work. Are schools realizing the benefits of technology enhanced learning?

So the longer I've been doing this, the more value I see in management processes like ITIL. When I learned (and began practicing) project management, it was like an epiphany. Clear process that supported success, and controlled for time, quality, benefit, cost and risk. you know the most important question we should ask when we start an IT project? Is this worth doing?

I want to be very clear, though, that these process need to be tailored for a school environment.

ITIL is a framework for effectively managing IT as a service. We are incorportaing ITIL into our environment at my school, and already see the value of service strategy, serice design, service operation, and so on. I will be writing more about ITIL in schools, and what we see working, and what we see not working.

tl;dr: The core competency of schools is teaching and learning. Not managing technology. Schools should learn from other industries about effective IT management so the investment returns value.

Evaluating Technology Coaches with NETS-C

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Support on 29 - May 2012 at 03:46 PM (12 years ago) 209 views.

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 ( Please find an editable version here, and feel free to use it.

Project Management in Education

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 28 - February 2012 at 11:15 PM (12 years ago) 235 views.

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.

How do you evaluate technology coaches?

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Teaching Diary on 01 - August 2011 at 01:14 PM (about 13 years ago) 309 views.

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:

communication skills
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.

I'm wondering:

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?

Differentiated Distraction and blocking?

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership Support on 03 - June 2011 at 08:28 AM (13 years ago) 215 views.

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...

More tools to combat cyberbullying

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Design Leadership Security on 15 - March 2011 at 06:59 PM (13 years ago) 329 views.

Hat tip to our fantastic elementary school integrator, Cheryl Bohn, who found this great news, .

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.

Thanks, Cheryl!

The four noble truths. Explained, part four.

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 10 - March 2011 at 05:50 PM (13 years ago) 211 views.

Original germ here

1. Engage, stop, turn off, reflect.
2. Program
3. Participate
4. Sift

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 2011 Horizon Report released

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 23 - February 2011 at 04:44 PM (13 years ago) 221 views.

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.

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 21 - February 2011 at 07:12 PM (13 years ago) 270 views.

Original seed here

1. Engage, stop, turn off, reflect.
2. Program
3. Participate
4. Sift

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”.


Being integrated and meeting technology standards - how?

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 25 - January 2011 at 04:43 AM (13 years ago) 206 views.

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.

Online cyberbullying - a real challenge for parents

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Design Leadership on 07 - December 2010 at 07:50 AM (13 years ago) 313 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership Support on 06 - December 2010 at 04:17 AM (13 years ago) 230 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Support Teaching Diary on 22 - November 2010 at 01:48 PM (13 years ago) 309 views.

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…

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 22 - November 2010 at 04:37 AM (13 years ago) 225 views.

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.


1:1 programs, facebook, and how we teach

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Leadership platform on 09 - November 2010 at 12:34 PM (13 years ago) 318 views.

This article comes from a parent at my school. - 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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Security on 13 - October 2010 at 04:02 PM (13 years ago) 285 views.

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?

Interviewing for a data manager

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 11 - October 2010 at 10:59 AM (13 years ago) 222 views.

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?

It’s quiet

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership HOWTO google on 06 - October 2010 at 11:13 AM (13 years ago) 282 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership HOWTO google Text-based gaming on 02 - October 2010 at 12:37 PM (13 years ago) 326 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 06 - September 2010 at 07:00 PM (13 years ago) 187 views.

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
Audio editing online
Image editing online:
Photoshop online:

A bunch of online, open source resources (think replacing the textbook)

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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 24 - August 2010 at 03:06 PM (13 years ago) 201 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 22 - August 2010 at 10:04 PM (13 years ago) 214 views.

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.

repost: worst practices in IT

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 03 - May 2010 at 05:36 PM (14 years ago) 214 views.

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!

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership News Personal on 31 - March 2010 at 04:04 PM (14 years ago) 347 views.

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!

Slashdot:  Looking Back From the 1980s At Computers In Education

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 19 - February 2010 at 02:40 PM (14 years ago) 218 views.

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.

Ed Tech and Elementary School

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership on 11 - February 2010 at 05:22 PM (14 years ago) 215 views.

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

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 11 - February 2010 at 04:35 PM (14 years ago) 228 views.

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:

1. Sysinternals
2. Wireshark
3. Ubuntu on a USB disk
4. ubcd4win
6. All the normal Linux tools
7. Cocktail
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

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership Support on 09 - February 2010 at 08:17 PM (14 years ago) 230 views.

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.

Frontline’s digital nation documentary

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership Games in education Practical Advice Teaching Diary on 03 - February 2010 at 08:37 PM (14 years ago) 383 views.

I sent this email to my faculty - in the high school and elementary school:

Last night PBS aired a remarkable documentary about digital life in 2010.  I found the documentary truly, truly, exceptional. I would really appreciate if you could take the time to watch this - perhaps this evening or this weekend.

Last week I sent you a link to a study that stated the average child spends 10.4 hours a day using some type of media. I think we could all benefit from a discussion about how technology is changing the way our children learn, think, and see the world.

I hope to lead a more thoughtful discussion about computers, media, and learning this year. Until then, I would really appreciate if you could watch this documentary.

Here is a reply I received from a teacher:

I did watch the Frontline documentary, “Digital Nation,” last evening, and I must say that it was, as is customary of Frontline, very incisive and comprehensive.  Many parts of the program, particularly those addressing the effects of technology on young people, were very unnerving.  The situation in Korea should be seen as cautionary to the western world, particularly to us here in America with our almost idolatrous love for all things technological.  That poor Korean mother has already “lost” her son to computer games, as far as I’m concerned because the son as lost his soul to the machines.  I felt both sad and angry when I saw that part.

For my part, as an educator and specifically as a language educator, I have very mixed feelings about the use of technology in the classroom.  On one hand, it has made it possible to access, literally, the world with the click of a mouse.  But I am equally concerned about the “losses”:  the loss of true attentiveness; the loss of the printed word; the loss of community and relationships and the increase of anonymity and the impersonal.  “Digital Nation” posed many, hard questions about this but offered no easy answers.  That’s where we come in.  But it is very important that those questions get asked.

iPad for education - Not yet…

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 28 - January 2010 at 04:09 PM (14 years ago) 199 views.

The iPad is here. Is it good for education? No way. I hope this post will help you see what we actually do with technology in education. You see, when we use computers in school, we like to create with them. We find some pictures of ancient roman art on the web, paste them into a word document, web page, or web 2.0 application. We use technology to express our understanding. Pretty simple, actually. But this is also the Big Thing that technology does really well - it allows students to express themselves in unique ways (video, webpage, wiki, blog, voice thread, prezi, yadda, yadda yadda).

Technology shouldn't be didactic - it should be interactive. It should let the student create something, and this is where the iPad falls short.

Here's why I'm panning this revision of the iPad:

1. No flash - this means many web 2.0 sites simply won't work, and many resources will not be available (yes, I know HTML 5 might change everything - it can't come soon enough.).

2. No multitasking. As I mentioned above, one of the big things we "do" in educational technology is to cut and paste and copy and paste. Kind of a pain when you have to quit and start and quit and start. This might be mitigated by the media browser in iWork, but still....

3. No camera. The iPad has a microphone, so kids could create podcasts, or narrate over a movie, but they couldn't create a movie using the camera.

I am also very reluctant to use it as a textbook reader. Would it be beautiful? Oh yes. In fact, this tablet is probably a great ebook reader, (and cheap, too). But without flash activities, I question the value. I imagine a classroom full of kids who are reviewing a gorgeous text book on an iPad with physics simulation experiments, and then recording their findings on a lab report in pages. That would be cool. Or perhaps plugging in a science probe and making measurements and throwing those results onto a webpage.

For personal use, I would love this. I am a commuter - an hour to and from work. I image reading the New York Times, or perhaps my favorite technology websites. But 25 of these in a classroom? I'm not sure.

Technology competencies for school administrators

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 27 - January 2010 at 08:19 PM (14 years ago) 181 views.

I am in my last semester for an administration and supervision at Hunter College, in New York City.  When I finish this program, I will be certified as a school administrator, which is an important component of being a director of technology. All students in this program need to pass the technology competencies in order to graduate. Here are the NETS tech standards for administrators, and here are the tech competencies for Hunter College

I am so happy these standards exist.  That we must pass them to graduate is a good sign for school leaders going forward.  I find the standards are actually decent - now, will administrators use technology to increase student achievement? That is a much more interesting question.

Average child spends 10 hours, 45 minutes per day using media

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership News on 21 - January 2010 at 04:27 PM (14 years ago) 547 views.

This is buzzing around the net, I thought I’d add to the discussion.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (pdf here) kids are spending 10 hours using media every day!

From the article:

“Over the past five years, young people have increased the amount of time they spend consuming media by an hour and seventeen minutes daily, from 6:21 to 7:38—almost the amount of time most adults spend at work each day, except that young people use media seven days a week instead of five.

Moreover, given the amount of time they spend using more than one medium at a time, today’s youth pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those daily 7½ hours—an increase of almost 2¼ hours of media exposure per day over the past five years.”

Ok, I’m surprised. I knew kids used media, but the sheer volume is staggering.  What are the practical implications for teachers and educational technology?

1. We need to focus on digital citizenship (like here).
2. Critical thinking remains a “keystone skill”
3. We need to educate parents about the importance of “off”
4. As educators, we need to realize that kids see and interact with world differently than we did, and change our teaching approach accordingly.
5. As educators, we need to really evaluate different media as an effective learning tool (just because they use it, doesn’t mean it’s good).

I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Educational Technology in Public School Districts

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 13 - January 2010 at 08:53 PM (14 years ago) 163 views.

What is normal for school technology? Educational Technology in Public School Districts is a difficult-to-read-but-cool-once-you-spend-some-time-looking-at-it sort of thing.

Some comparative data for our school (this is in comparison to districts with enrollment less than 2,500 students)

Type of internet connection

We have a T3, which is shared by 4% of other schools of our size. 83% of schools our size have either a T1 or direct fiber.

Reduntant internet connection

Only 16% of schools have a reduntant connection - we are not in this percentage!

What do we do with older computers

92% of schools our size recycle / dispose old computers - this is exactyl what we do

Technology Resources

83% of schools our size offer server space for for posting their own webpages or class materials
57% of schools our size offer course management and delivery software
46% of schools our size offer remote access to school or district software
30% of schools our size offer email access
85% of schools our size offer electronic storage space
80% of schools our size offer online library access
66% of schools our size offer online access to databases
50% of schools our size opportunities for distance learning

the list goes on and on….interesting for developing an idea about where your school stands in comparison to other schools.


BECTA Report:  The impact of digital technology

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership on 11 - January 2010 at 05:32 PM (14 years ago) 169 views.

BECTA Report:  The impact of digital technology - I’m a bit late reporting this, but here is the PDF.  I really appreciate BECTA and their research.  I find their research to be clear, informative and applicable.  Certainly worth a read.

Poland goes PEGI

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Games in education on 08 - January 2010 at 09:32 PM (14 years ago) 304 views.

The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system is analogous to the ESRB.  Looks like Poland has recently adopted PEGI for games. The classification system they use is quite similar to ESRB, and I welcome any effort to help parents understand how to make informed choices about games.

Tablet Frenzy - FAQ for the interested

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Support on 07 - January 2010 at 04:26 PM (14 years ago) 195 views.

I am burying my head in the sand until the stupidity that is “tablets-are-an-educational-game-changer” goes away.  I fully expect to see several respected journalists and bloggers having carnal relations with a tablet any day now.

I’ve decided to write a mini-faq with my views on tablets in education:

Q. Will tablets revolutionize education?

A. No. Tablets will not change education (read this post) good teaching is the single most important variable for good education, not a shiny thing that blinks.

Q. Will tablets revolutionize education?

A. Yes. The same way the VCR did, the same way overhead projectors did, the same way computer labs did, the same way Windows 3.1 did.

Q. Will tablets revolutionize education?

A. Yes, because unlike other pieces of educational technology, tablets:

1. magically don’t need to be maintained, upgraded, configured, supported or linked to other systems in your school (like printers, file servers, user directories, etc)
2. never break
3. automatically train their users - no staff development required
4. run software that automatically makes students smarter - no instructional design required, no critical thinking, just plug it in, and ** poof ** you are smart!
5. don’t require license fees for software


The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership Support on 06 - January 2010 at 03:27 AM (14 years ago) 219 views.

It’s about the HOW, not the WHAT.  Good teaching is good teaching, is good teaching.

The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change - this is an excellent report on technology and education. Wow.  I’m freaking BEGGING you to read this. Here are some choice quotes:

“What does exist are replacements:
books replaced by web pages, paper report cards with student information
systems, chalkboards with interactive whiteboards, and filing cabinets
with electronic databases. None of these equivalents addresses the core
activity of teaching and learning. Each merely automates the practices of
the prevailing paradigm (a) non-differentiated large-group instruction, (b)
access to information in classrooms, (c) non-engagement of parents, and
(d) summative assessment of performance (Weston & Brooks, 2008). “


“Advocates of 1:1 computing who engage in such replacement exercises
use the tree to hide the forest. They believe that educationally beneficial
uses of computers will emerge spontaneously from the deployments of
laptop computers in ratios of one computer per user. In other fields, this
has not been the case. Form and function of usage have driven access to
computers, not vice versa. Educators should think similarly.”

It’s not my job

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Smartboards Support on 04 - January 2010 at 07:20 PM (14 years ago) 213 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.

Outsourcing a school website

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership News on 30 - December 2009 at 05:09 PM (14 years ago) 308 views.

I’ve written about this before, but again I am confronted with a dilemma.

Our elementary school is in dire need of a new website - the current design is static, the information out of date, and no one “owns” the site.  When I think of “what makes a good website, I use this rubric.  Our current elementary school website meets none of these criteria. To be clear, our problem is both technical and organizational.

I could redesign the site and throw it into my favorite website publishing system.  In fact, I did this with the High School website, and it is working fairly well. But I won’t be here forever, and someone will have to take over.  Herein lay the point of this post:

If I buy a solution for my school, I get consistency and accountability but I lose flexibility and control.  If I have someone on my staff who is smart enough to write a beautiful website, I’m lucky…until they leave.

How to deal with this?

1. If I buy a solution, buy an open-source solution that can be extended, and data can be easily be extracted.
2. If we homebrew a solution, be clear about code ownership and write very clean and clear code.

I investigated a proposal from a well-known company to redesign and run our school website. It was about $30,000 for the whole deal, and it looks like top-drawer work. Is it worth it? I think so.  We have outsourced the following services for our school, and they are working extraordinarily well for us:

1. Our counseling department uses Naviance for everything counseling
2. Our athletic department uses oline sports for all games
3. Both schools use Net directories for bulk email communications
4. Our after school program uses Imperisoft for registration
5. We host our moodle using remote learner

All of these systems directly support our school and they work. Perhaps more importantly, we could not host these services ourselves (and do a good job). 

I hope to add school website services and google applications to this list soon.

How do you effectively manage technology in an organization with low resources?

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Support on 23 - December 2009 at 08:44 PM (14 years ago) 232 views.

Very Carefully.

Resources = people, time, and money

When you don’t have enough resources to realize your vision, what should you do?

1. Your school should develop a clear vision, and a clear plan. What do you want your technology to look like in 5 years?

This is especially important for schools. Why? I have seen SO MANY TIMES when a company comes into a school and says “we have 27,000 copies of (old obsolete software or hardware thing here). We are going to DONATE it to you! When the “I have free stuff” fairy comes to your school, it helps to look at your 5 year plan and decide what fits. By the way, just as having a plan is important, so is advertising and evangelizing your plan.

2. You should use open source solutions whenever appropriate - especially in the server space

I can’t think of a decent reason not to use open source in education.  Of course, closed source has a place - especially if it really answers your problem well. But by and large, open source should be the defacto choice for schools unless there is a compelling reason to choose something else.

3. Hire and work hard to retain smart people.

In the last 4 years, we’ve fired 4 people who were MSCE, A+, Cisco certified, etc… They didn’t know what they were doing!  What matters most in technology is being smart. Does your programmer eat and sleep in MYSQL? Yea, good. Keeping high-technology people should be a very high priority.

4. Articulate your vision often. Hone your elevator pitch

Education is often a victim of “tyranny of the immediate”.  Very easy to lose focus or forget what is important. I heard a seasoned NYC principal say “the most important thing a principal can do is stay on message.