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For approximately the next week our blog will be inactive as we transition from Typepad to Wordpress.
Thanks for your patience!
In many of the one-to-one schools that I visit the media center director, aka librarian in some schools, is central to the success of the program. They often serve officially and sometimes unofficially as a technology director or technology assistant. That includes not only dealing with technology problems, but also coordinating professional development. Many also serve as mentors to teachers who need a little extra help as they try to use technology as a tool to transform teaching and learning. Some have certainly become leaders in their schools by totally redefining what it means to be a librarian.
I don't think the same can be said of the physical place that most of us identify as the library or media center. Many media centers, even in one-to-one schools, look relatively similar to the way that they did before the transition to one-to-one. Maybe that is OK, but I think they can become so much more. I'm not calling for a mass book burning, or anything that drastic. I still read physical books VERY frequently. What I would argue is that student research has made a drastic shift from physical books to online resources in the past ten years. That shift by itself should be enough to generate conversations about how the look of our media centers should change. I don't know exactly what these new media centers would look like, but I do have some ideas.
What if media centers......
I'm also not naive about the state of most school budgets, but I also don't think drastic changes aren't possible. Schools would have to make some tough decision about how they allocate resources. For most schools, it would be unlikely that all of these changes could happen at the same time, but with proper planning a major transformation could take place. Many of the possibilities that I mentioned are not actually terribly expensive.
This is just a short list and I'd actually like to hear from you. Feel free to leave comments about other things your school is doing, or things you are dreaming of doing with your media center.
For those of you who are college football fans, you may have heard some of the poor press my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes received this week. After the arrest of one player on drug charges last week, rumors started circulating about other players at the beginning of this week. By Monday afternoon, Twitter was erupting with these rumors. It never made the trending topics list, but I'd imagine it had to be close. Those tweets included speculation that as many as 23 additional Hawkeyes had failed drug tests and would be suspended for the bowl game. The tweets went so far as naming names, and there were some big names listed. By the time the University called for a press conference to be held the following day, all Hawk fans were fearing the worst. Along with the tweets suspecting the drug issues, there was also speculation that our coach was going to resign at the press conference. At the press conference the following day, we learned that all of the rumors were false. It was a sigh of relief for many Hawkeye fans, but it left me wondering how the situation could have been handled differently.
So what does this have to do with education?
The way that the University handled or failed to handle this situation can serve as a learning experience for any organization. That lesson is simple......
If your organization doesn't provide information in a timely fashion, people will make up their own stories!
Whether we like it or not, the public today expects information immediately. They don't and won't wait around for a press conference or weekly newsletter. If you don't provide information to them, they will go out and find information on their own. Unfortunately, the information that they find may not always be accurate. In the example of the University of Iowa, I believe that a great deal of damage was done to the program even though the rumors turned out to be false. All organizations including schools must embrace social media! The public expects it.
When working with schools transitioning to one-to-one, concerns are often raised about students' work, videos, and pictures that will be out on the web for anyone to find. This seems to be a real fear for many. I encourage these schools to approach this issue from a different viewpoint. First, schools need to inform stakeholders about the reality of online predators. This fear is blown terribly out of proportion. I challenge schools to instead do everything that they can to make their students googleable! Create blogs, videos, web pages, and online resources that potential employers and recruiters can find on the web. Create a footprint online! As an administrator one of the very first things I did when screening applicants for any position before hiring them was an online search of the individual. Many people think of this process as a negative process. Parents and teachers warn young adults how they need to be very careful what they post online because it could come back to haunt them later. I don't disagree with these warnings. However, I wonder how often parents and teachers encourage young adults to work to build an online presence. Personally, I am very impressed when I meet a teacher or administrator who participates in the online community through twitter and blogs. Does your school only talk to students about a negative online presence, or does it address the potential benefits from being an active member of the online community?
Photo credit: Clint Hamada http://bit.ly/ehMdXf
This photo comes from a flickr group called Great quotes about Learning and Change. The group is a good place to find powerful quotes and images for education. This picture is one of those images that caught my eye. One of the things that I hear most frequently from one-to-one educators and see when I am at one-to-one schools is high levels of student engagement. I wouldn't say that higher levels of student engagement can simply be attributed to the use of technology. I also wouldn't say it is due solely to different teaching practices. It seems to me that it is a combination of both. My observations have lead me to believe that generally speaking, students become more engaged when they are able to use technology. I've observed this even in situations where the model of teaching is fairly traditional.
This post somewhat contradicts what I generally write and speak about. I firmly believe that our model of teaching and learning needs to change and technology is a great way to facilitate that change process. I PREACH that one-to-one can't just be about the technology, and that teaching needs to change. I still believe that very strongly. My observations are also that giving every student a laptop changes things.....even if instruction doesn't change.
What do you think, am I crazy?
This morning on CNN I saw a short segment about a school in Toronto where students have committed to giving up their digital devices for a week. The plan certainly received some major press coverage, but is technology detox really a good idea.
The segment begins with the newscaster talking about a student writing a handwritten letter rather than typing an email. There is also a teacher interviewed who makes the following comment:
"To see them using books instead of their handheld devices for research, I love it, it's great!"
Hmmmm......neither of these "benefits" seem to make much sense to me. Is writing a letter or researching using books really more effective than using email or an internet search? It it truly "better"? I would argue that stepping away from technology in these examples is actually taking a step in the wrong direction.
The concept of a technology detox is certainly to get students thinking about how much they use technology and eventually cut back on that usage. That seems like a good idea because many would agree that some students are using technology too frequently. I wonder how students will react when their week of detox is finished. Will they naturally cut back on their technology use, or will they bing on a technology buffet? I'm betting on the technology buffet!
A better approach to getting students to think about and adjust their usage seems to be something a bit less extreme. Simply having students monitor how much they are using their phones, computers, ipods or other devices is a great starting point. Schools and teachers who worry students are missing things because of technology can certainly adjust their classroom requirements. In my classroom I addressed this issue by creating a rubric for a project that required students to include research from the internet and print materials.
This segment seemed to be another example of how individuals can be very irrational when dealing with students' overuse of technology. Does anyone really think these students can be productive members of society if they embrace a detox approach to technology throughout their lives?
Teaching responsible and appropriate use seems to be a much better approach. Schools should strive to educate students about when and how they should and shouldn't use their devices. Like many things, the solution to the issue of student technology use isn't at either extreme, but somewhere in the middle.
I often find myself writing and talking about how technology has greatly enhanced my personal learning network. My online social networks have allowed me to connect with other educators from around the world on a regular basis. Keeping that in mind, I can't say enough about the face-to-face interactions that I have with educators. The Great Lakes 1-1 Computing Conference provided many amazing opportunities for me to do just that. This was the second year of this conference and I have been fortunate to be able to attend both years. Resources from the conference can be found on their wiki and you can see the twitter conversation at their #gl2010 hashtag.
The conversations that I had at the conference are a bit more difficult to replicate online. These conversations took place during conference sessions, breaks, lunch hours,and even at the more "informal" meet-ups outside of the conference hours. Participants were a mixture of veteran one -to-one educators and those considering making the transition to one to one. Those new to or considering one-to-one talked about their fears, concerns, and hopes associated with making this kind of move. The veteran one-to-one educators really centered their conversations around how they can keep moving their schools forward. Both groups really honed in on how one-to-one needs to be a teaching and learning initiative rather than a technology initiative. Everyone benefited greatly from these conversations!
I realize how difficult it is for a teacher or administrator to leave their school for these PD opportunities. I didn't always do a good job myself taking advantage of professional learning outside my school. Unfortunately, that also limits the opportunities to improve and grow as a professional. As a member of the one-to-one community, you may be even more limited on the conferences that are available to you. I have started this google doc as a place to compile one-to-one professional learning opportunities around the country. Please feel free to add aditional learning opportunities to the document and consider taking advantage of those that are of interest to you.
The Foundation for Excellence in Education recently released a report that may potentially help policy makers lead real change in schools. The Digital Learning Council's report listed ten elements of high quality digital learning, along with recommendations for policy makers. Although I realize that many of you who read this blog don't see yourself as policymakers, the report contains information that every technology advocate may find beneficial. Parts of this report may be worth sharing with your school board or parent organizations. This report may be especially beneficial for educators trying to move their school to one-to-one.
I have included two sections from the report below that will give you a sense what the report covers.
Frequently I speak with educators who have recently made the transition to one-to-one. One question that I always ask those educators is what, if any, changes have you seen in your classroom or school since moving to one-to-one. Generally, they respond with a list of the positive things that have happened at their school. Student engagement is almost always on that list. Educators talk about how the students have become much more engaged with their work, which has led to other benefits such as deeper understanding of material, reduced discipline problems, and increased attendance.
A post by Sylvia Martinez on the Generation Yes Blog pushed me to look further into the student engagement issue. She wrote about the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) of over 42,000 high school students selected from 103 different schools in 27 different states. These students reflected a cross section of the U.S. population. The survey was very informative, and I would strongly recommend that you take a look at it. There were a couple of sections that were of greatest interest to me. The graph below shares student views on their degree of excitement/engagement with various pedagogical methods.
(You may need to double click on the image to see it more clearly or visit their site to get the pdf version of the report.)
There were also student written responses that were very powerful. Here are the comments that some students gave about their classes.
One-to-one certainly isn't a panacea for all of the student concerns from this report, but one-to-one combined with a shift in pedagogy can have a tremendous impact on schools and students. As I read the student concerns from above, I think of many of the great one-to-one educators who have moved far away from those problems stated by students. It is important to reiterate that the computer alone isn't the key, but the computer PLUS a change in teaching can have make a huge difference! I'll leave you with a summary of my condensed "elevator speech" I use when asked why schools should consider one-to-one.
Technology certainly isn't the answer, but technology enables our students to do work that is unimaginable without technology. Students can create, collaborate, and connect with others from around the world in ways that are not possible without computers. Students are engaged because they interact with real world problems using real world resources, and they aren't confined to the closed views of the textbook. The things that they can do in their classroom are relevant to the real world, and at times they may even virtually leave their room to be part of the world outside of the schoolhouse doors. The possibilities of one-to-one are truly unimaginable!
As we head into the holiday season, I wanted to take time to reflect on some things in my professional life for which I am very thankful.
My personal learning network:
Not too many years ago, I saw professional development as an event that happened on special occasions throughout the year. I realize now that was a sad misconception, but that was my reality. Becoming connected to so many others through twitter, blogs, and those aforementioned "special occasions", have turned professional development into a regular ongoing process.
My work with other educators:
Through my work at CASTLE along with the Educational Collaborators and the One-to-One Institute, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of educators. I have yet to leave a workshop or training session where I wasn't challenged to expand my thinking. I learn something about technology tools every time I lead one of our technology bootcamps, and most times it is one of the participants who shares something new, or questions how we do things. Our training that focuses on "big picture" thinking centered around education always leads to amazing conversations. The table talks that we frequently have help me continue to process what the future of education can look like and how we can get there.
My blog readers:
As this blog has grown to nearly 900 readers, I am motivated to continue to read and write about things important to one-to-one schools. Without an audience reading and responding, at times I'm afraid I would be much less motivated to keep writing!
My position with CASTLE at Iowa State University:
Although there are certainly times I miss being in a school every day, I really enjoy working with educators from a wide variety of schools. Many of the educators whom I work with truly believe that schools need to be reformed, and they are working hard to do just that.
My continued work with former colleagues:
I have enjoyed working with and listening to former colleagues talk about how technology has transformed their classroom. Their stories help me realize what can happen when an educator truly has a commitment to change and to use technology as a change tool.
My work with current colleagues:
For the past year and a half, I have been posting on this blog with the help of some other amazing educators. My purpose for writing today actually isn't this blog, but rather the organization that helped kick-off this blog.
Since leaving my job as a principal, my time has been devoted to working for the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE). CASTLE is a University Council for Education Administration (UCEA) center (Sorry for all of the acronyms-SFAOFA). UCEA centers are a group of research engines and clearing houses hosted by UCEA member universities, that support knowledge production, professional seminars, institutes, conferences and research and development projects.
Enough with the technical jargon......CASTLE is the nation’s only center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators. This post aims to inform you about some of the other CASTLE blogs for you to view.
Hopefully, these blogs help you get your RSS reader full of great resources!
The media along with many adults frequently make statements about all of the negative things that are happening because of technology and in particular the internet. There certainly may be some truth in their concerns, but rarely do they look at an issue from numerous angles. Below, I've stated some of those concerns along with my responses.
Photo credit from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/2247043319/ by Karin Dalziel
People are losing their abilities to connect with one another in "real life" because they are living in an online world.
Our language is being destroyed because of the language kids use while texting or while in chatrooms.
Students won't be safe online!
"The publicity about online “predators” who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate."
At times our schools operate under a culture of fear. Fears certainly need to be addressed, but schools must go beyond simple perceptions to address these fears with actual facts and information.
Last month the Digital Directions team and EdWeek videographers interviewed five speakers from their "Unleashing Technology to Personalize Learning" event in Washington, DC. The five individuals included were:
• Florida Virtual School CEO Julie Young
• Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy Principal Chris Lehmann
• North Carolina Virtual School CEO Bryan Setser
• New Milford (N.J.) High School Principal Eric Sheninger
• U.S. Department of Education Director of Educational Technology Karen Cator on Professional Development and Cyberbullying (see below)
Chris Lehmann's chat resonated strongly with me because of my work with one-to-one schools. His message, which targets online learning, is applicable to every technology rich school. In his short interview Chris stresses that schools really need to change their way of thinking and doing things. He focuses on the pedagocial shifts that need to occur and the potential transformation than can occur with project and inquiry based lessons. The following quote from Chris is something all one-to-one educators need to constantly consider.
"Those conversations can happen now but it has to have a pedagogical backbone or we're just going to replicate what we've always had only with shiny tools"
Eric Sheninger, who recently visited many of our one-to-one schools here in Iowa, does an excellent job talking about the use of social media in schools. He stresses modeling and demonstrating how powerful many of these social networking tools can be for schools.
Last week I received numerous comments on my post, "Won't the students be distracted?" Many of those responses came from students who will be at a one-to-one school next year. I'd like to thank those students, and their encouraging teacher I'm sure, for taking the time to comment on my post. Their comments motivated me to to hammer on the topic a little more, so here I go......
(I apologize to those of you who have read similar posts, but I can't write about this topic enough! The actions of some schools on this topic is very frustrating.)
Last week's post focused on student distraction, but another very large concern is inappropriate behavior. Although the two behaviors are similar, there are some differences. Three major examples of inappropriate behavior are:
These are all certainly concerns, and technology does allow for new and creative ways to do each of these things. With that said, these also were concerns prior to our technology rich environment. Cheating...I don't need to say much here. Technology makes it different, but it doesn't necessarily make it worse. Many people also bash technology because of how anonymous the users can be and the things they can say. This is true, but isn't the same thing true of notes on desktops, bathroom stalls, or notes dropped in lockers. Many administrators who I work with actually say it is easier to "catch" those anonymous users when they post things online. There is also the concern of looking at inappropriate material. Again, this isn't specific to technology, but technology does make it fairly easy to access those sites. Filtering certainly helps, but there isn't a good substitution for REAL supervision!
Schools do need to address each of these issues. I'm not claiming that there should be no guidelines or filters. My challenge to schools is that they need to weigh the costs versus the benefits of making rules, procedures, and policies. Rules are frequently put in place to deal with the one student who acts inappropriately, without considering how that rule will limit what the rest of the students can do. YouTube is a great example of this. It is possible that students can find inappropriate things on YouTube, and some students will strive to do exactly that. On the other hand, the vast majority of students will use YouTube as an educational, and at times entertainment, tool. By blocking YouTube in fear of the actions of a small number of students, what educational opportunities are the rest of your school missing out on?
Has your school weighed the costs versus the benefits of the rules that you have put in place?
I have been remiss in my intention to blog my school's path to 1:1. Our planning proceeds apace and we have passed important milestones with our school faculty and board that I plan to describe in future posts. As of now, we are at the point of bringing the proposal before parents to introduce them to the idea, raise awareness, and communicate the benefits.
As we prepare to talk to parents about our proposed move to 1:1 student computing, I have been struggling with shaping the message we want to deliver. We need to be able to clearly articulate the educational benefit of providing each student with his/her own mobile computer. Ideally, even the name of our 1:1 program would aid in conveying its educational mission and benefit. While “One-to-One Computing" is an accepted and understood term in schools, it refers to a ratio of students to computers and emphasizes the machine, not its contribution to teaching and learning.
"Anytime, Anywhere Learning" is another common name for 1:1 programs that has the advantage of emphasizing the expansion in the temporal and spatial contexts for learning that 1:1 enables, but it misses the classroom benefits of 1:1 entirely. “Laptops for Learning" and “Computers for Kids” are amusingly alliterative but again stress the machine too much. My personal preference, "21st Century 1:1/Ubiquitous Student Computing Digital Learning Initiative" may be highly descriptive, but does not really roll trippingly off the tongue!
I think we need better branding for 1:1, either in a pithy name or a sticky slogan that immediately conveys its educational benefits. After all, the program name is likely the first introduction to the concept and is what gets reiterated every time the program is referenced, so it sets an initial frame and continually reinforces certain associations at every repetition. Should not those associations emphasize education, not hardware ratios?
What do you think? If you have suggestions for names or slogans that convey the teaching and learning advantages of 1:1, submit them in the comments!
At the beginning of October, I wrote a post about the "textbook challenge" proposed by Scott McLeod. My post concluded by asking educators to take the challenge and then let me know how it went. Okoboji principal Ryan Cunningham made that a reality by asking two of his teachers if they were willing to take the challenge and write about it. Their posts were amazing! I couldn't have "staged" more compelling responses. Here are some of the comments that struck me from the posts by Justin Bouse and Sue Hilsabeck along with my comments in red.
"I felt comfortable with the quality of the sources as being reliable after comparing the information provided with not only the textbook, but also other sources of information on the same topics."
This comment is very true. As a former Social Studies teacher, it seems that too often we accept anything in a book as true. We need to evaluate our resources whether they are online or in print.
"...I felt like the time spent was comparable to any unit I would have created as a new teacher."
It doesn't take much time to find online resources, and evaluating those resources doesn't need to be terribly time consuming. I know that too often I am my own worst enemy spending too much time searching for the "perfect" resource.
"In short, I love teaching this way! I am excited and I feel like the students are excited. Don’t we all learn better that way?"
"Over the last few years I have found myself using it (textbook) less and less while finding my social studies lessons to be more and more engaging for students."
I think most students would agree that the textbook isn't extremely engaging.
"In order to make the learning more student-centered I had each student select a topic from our unit they wanted to learn more about and complete a Personal Lesson Plan."
This would be extremely difficult to do without technology! Textbooks generally don't provide in depth coverage over the wide range of things students can study.
" It is always so fun to see how engaged the kids are when they have ownership in what they produce and there is always a great amount of pride when they are sharing their learning with the class as they truly become the experts on the topic."
My best memories as a teacher were when students were creating and then sharing their work!
Today is a continuation from yesterday's post. This post is from Justin Bouse who is also a middle school teacher in Okoboji, Iowa. Justin adds some great perspective to this topic!
A week without textbooks?
For the first time in my teaching career I have put the social studies textbook on the shelf rather than assigning a book to each student. Over the last few years I have found myself using it less and less while finding my social studies lessons to be more and more engaging for students. This year the 5th graders know the text is available, but have only rarely utilized it.
Currently we have been studying early European exploration and settlements in America. In order to make the learning more student-centered I had each student select a topic from our unit they wanted to learn more about and complete a Personal Lesson Plan. I did supply a fairly lengthy list of options for them, but ultimately it was their choice as long as it fit the unit theme. Once I received the students' topic choices I found several websites and video clips and created folders online that students could access. I have found that taking the time to search the websites ahead of time saves the kids a lot of time and allows them to read through sites that are more age appropriate.
Each student then had several class periods to investigate their topic recording any facts as well as the resources that they wanted to share with their classmates. After the investigation period, students were asked to update their PLP's by creating a way to share their learning with the class. We had a variety of presentations, such as slide shows, reports, models, posters, and even some movies the kids had created. It is always so fun to see how engaged the kids are when they have ownership in what they produce and there is always a great amount of pride when they are sharing their learning with the class as they truly become the experts on the topic.
In the end, each student has the opportunity to write up a statement explaining what they learned throughout the experience and evaluate themselves on the amount of effort given as well as the quality of their final product. So often the kids are tougher on themselves than I would be, which tells me they are really putting some thinking into the evaluations.
A while back, I wrote about Scott McLeod's textbook challenge from Dangerously Irrelevant. This prompted me to put out a call to teachers asking for someone willing to undertake this textbook challenge. Fortunately, two middle school teachers from Okoboji, Iowa undertook this challenge. Today's post was written by Sue Hilsabeck who brings an interesting perspective as a first year teacher. Enjoy her post!
While the thought of not using a textbook for your class for two weeks might sound intimidating, for me, it really wasn’t. As a first year 8th grade social studies teacher, I had developed no real emotional attachments to the book yet.
I used a combination of resources to teach the Jamestown/Plymouth era of American history. First, we watched a short segment from the History Channel series “America – The Story of Us”. This introduced the topic and personalized the colonists in a very engaging way. The students utilized a graphic organizer to take brief notes about who these early colonists were, why they came to the New World and what their experience was like. The next days were spent exploring two relevant websites. The first, The Story of the Virginia English Colony at Jamestown: A HistoryWiz Exhibit. This site gave some basic information about the colony which not only supported the video, but also provided an alternate learning resource for students who might learn best from a text source. The next website, The Jamestown Online Adventure from History Globe, is a simulation experience. They become the Captain of the Jamestown Colony, make decisions and compare their outcomes to reality. They then posted their experiences and outcomes to a Moodle forum. With 40 minute classes, these activities took a full 5 days.
The following week we explored two Plymouth related sites. The first was a World Book Online article that provided information on the colony in a text format. The second was a primary source document. This was also from World Book and was a replication of a letter written by colonist Edward Winslow describing the condition of life in the colony. Finally, the students viewed 3 video segments from a PBS video, We Shall Remain, which documents the Native American perspective of the similar time period. They again utilized a graphic organizer as a comprehension strategy and then used their notes to post to a Moodle forum question related to the Native American and Colonist relationship. These activities filled the majority of the next week.
The students were enthusiastic and focused throughout the two weeks of activities. As a teacher, I felt comfortable with the quality of the sources as being reliable after comparing the information provided with not only the textbook, but also other sources of information on the same topics. While this did admittedly take most of a Saturday to plan and pull together, I felt like the time spent was comparable to any unit I would have created as a new teacher. And in terms of the “fun factor” in learning…this was certainly more exciting for me to teach! In fact, it was so successful, I spent the next 2 weeks teaching the Revolutionary War period in a similar manner!
In short, I love teaching this way! I am excited and I feel like the students are excited. Don’t we all learn better that way?
By Sue Hilsabeck, 8th Grade Social Studies, Okoboji Middle School
I spent today in a learning session with Jeff Utecht and a group of administrators from Northwest Iowa. The content covered in this session was excellent, but instead of focusing on it I want to highlight the delivery method of Jeff's session. Although my post isn't centering around the content today , that isn't to say I won't be stealing lots of ideas he shared in the furtue.
Throughout the session, Jeff modeled ways to use technology to move our thinking to higher levels on Bloom's Taxonomy while actively engaging our group. Here are some of the ways he did that:
At the end of the day, Jeff challenged the group of administrators to model the use of technologies with their teachers. Jeff's training wasn't focused on tools, but he did highlight ways that tools can enhance teaching and learning. Hopefully, all educators see the value in modeling. Can administrators really expect their teachers to use technology to transform education if they aren't modeling that? Can teachers? Sure, your high flying teachers and students will excel without modeling, but we also need to be concerned about the rest of the group!
I spent the day on Wednesday in Sigourney, Iowa with a group of approximately 250 educators from 25 Iowa schools. Across the state at Newell-Fonda, a gathering of approximately the same size also met, for a day of professional development for one-to-one schools. For the last two years I have worked with many of these schools, and it is exciting to see how the schools have worked together to help one another grow.
I "led" one very informal session, with no set agenda, for administrators. This group included current one- to one administrators as well as prospective one- to one administrators. Naturally the prospective one- to -one administrators had questions about the" nuts and bolts" kinds of things like staffing and expenses. These questions were addressed by the veteran one-to-one educators in the group. The direction the conversation went from there is what I found to be the most exciting. These veterans focused on how one-to one has to be about changing teaching and NOT about the technology. I was eager to join the conversation and eventually jumped in to echo their comments. I wish every one -to-one educator could have heard this conversation. I get concerned about one to one failing because the focus for some has become the technology, and not about changing teaching. Our conversation re-energized me because it seems like many of our leaders are using one-to-one as a transformative tool.
Earlier in the day I sat in on a session led by Matt Townsley and Shawn Cornally that also was refreshing because it didn't focus on just the technology. Many sessions at technology conferences, some of which I have led, simply focus on technology tools. Obviously, there is a need for tools training, and those sessions are beneficial for many educators. Matt and Shawn's session was unique because it didn't focus on technology tools. Their focus was about changing the way that we teach. They challenged one-to-one educators to use the technology to change their teaching!
Thanks to all of the educators from around the state and nation who helped myself and others grow with a great day of learning!
Cross posted at CreativeTension
This post is a bit different than the typical 1 to 1 Schools post. Different because the topic doesn't directly relate to 1:1 schools and it's from South America. Maybe this example will motivate you to look for other scenarios of 21st century change outside of your normal areas of focus.I find it to be an excellent excercise that keeps me fresh and looking forward.
Whether it's videos, new technologies, or examples of children in today's world, I find that it helps us better understand what''s happening around us. This past weekend I had the fortune of attending the Festival Natura Nos here in Sao Paulo. It wasn't the headliners that caught my attention, but it was an Argentine-Uruguayan band named Bajofondo that caught my attention. Ever since my trip to Argentina years ago I have been fascinated with the Tango. The combination of the music and the dance can be mesmerizing.
For those of you that haven't heard or seen tango for awhile this video of Old School tango will jog your memory.
Now take a look at Bajofundo's New School - "Electrotango". Notice the instruments, the lighting, the turntables, computers and the crowd. At the Natura Nos Festival the band had old black and white videos playing in the background. The music was great and the show was visually stimulating. The band doesn't like the "electrotango" label since they consider their music a mix of "milonga and candombe, ... rock, electronica and hip-hop." It's easy to see why the band has revived the tango with the younger crowd.
I wonder what the traditionalists are saying.
What examples of "Old School" v. "New School" do you have to share?
The inability of students to get online once they leave school is a problem facing many one-to-one educators. A while back I posted about this concern, but I'd like to revisit the topic.
How can/do educators assign homework that requires students to go online when not all students have internet access?
I don't want to regurgitate my previous post entirely, but step one for schools must be to actually evaluate what the level of access is in their district. Many districts find that it is much higher than they expected. An excellent way to gather this information would be to survey all of your students. The Pew Hispanic Center recently published such a survey by race and ethnicity.
Once schools know the reality of internet access, they will still need to address the homework issue for students who "don't have access".
This issue actually came back on my radar because of a recent change the FCC made to E-Rate funding. On September 23, the FCC released various updates in a press release. The point below is the one that stuck out to me.
"School Spots: The FCC is also opening the door to “School Spots” -- where schools have the option to provide Internet access to the local community after students go home. With affordable fiber, these School Spots are a major step toward the National Broadband Plan’s goal of connecting an anchor institution in every community to affordable 1 gigabit per second broadband. School Spots will help ensure that people who otherwise lack access can use broadband."
Schools can now help students get access outside of school! I recently brainstormed with a group of teachers in an urban one-to-one district who recommended some of the following options for students without access.
The "homework internet problem" can be solved with some creative thinking!
Educators frequently ask me what tools their school should be using and teaching to their staffs. They also routinely express how difficult it is to stay current with all the new tools that exist. My responses always center on the following two things.
Asking what tools your school should be focusing on is the wrong question to begin with. Schools instead need to begin by asking what goal(s) they are trying to accomplish. Once they have determined their goals, then schools are able to select tools that align with their goals. The following sites help educators find tools for the goal that they are targeting. (Thanks to my Twitter friends @B_Wagoner and @DrDial for their help finding these sources.)
The second concern I frequently hear is from educators who question if they can stay current with technology tools. Educators also wonder how they can stay in front of their students knowledge and use of technology. Quite simply, this is almost impossible. Most educators will never be able to "keep up" with all of their students. What they can do is continually improve their teaching with the help of their learning networks and even students. They can continually evolve and improve their skills. With an attitude of continued learning, educators will keep their students and themselves moving forward.
A few days ago on Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLeod posted about a "textbook challenge" contest. The short description that follows comes from that post.
"This week I’ll be looking at my children’s textbooks and comparing them to what I can find online. I invite you to do the same."
In a subsequent post he wrote about his analysis of his daughter's 7th grade Environmental Science text. This could be an awesome activity for any educator. As you can imagine, you'll most likely find that the resources in your textbooks are not nearly as relevant, current, and engaging as the things that you can find online.
I'm guessing that most of you wouldn't argue that there are great resources online, but you may be frustrated because you don't feel you have the time to find those resources. Here are some suggestions for one-to-one schools and teachers who do want to move from textbooks to online resources.
I hope to hear from some of you who use the textbook challenge to begin changing the way that you select the resources you use with your students!
A current post on the Change Agency Blog asks readers to contribute ideas solutions and ideas for ed reform (Hopefully, some of you will visit the site and add your ideas!). When I hear about any reform movement or initiative in education, I frequently wonder how the change will actually effect schools. As a former teacher and principal, there were times that I thought "this too shall pass" when given the next major change from the district or state. I realize that is a poor attitude, but it was easy to become cynical after dealing with countless initiatives that really didn't do anything more than provide me with a new binder to stick on my shelf. After reading the list of recommendations from the Change Agency post, I wondered how many of those suggestions are really "game changers". They seem like ideas that have been around for a very long time and issues that we have tried to address. I question how we are going to implement them differently today. The items below include some of the problems posted by readers from that blog post. My belief is that one-to-one schools can address these issues in ways that truly are game changing or transformative, and I've added my thoughts behind each point.
As you read this list you may have disagreed with some of my points. You could argue that some of the things that I commented on could be done well without technology. I don't disagree. My point is that when used appropriately, technology can drastically revolutionize how effectively and thoroughly you can do those things. I don't like to use the word easy, because education is not easy, but technology can make it much easier to collaborate, create, innovate, and communicate along with addressing a real equity issue. The major concern I do have with schools who move to one-to-one is that they embrace it with the "this too shall pass" mentality and don't change learning for students. If that happens, one-to-one becomes the next failed education reform attempt.
It may be worth your time to check out the free K-12 Online Conference that will begin the week of October 11. Their site states that it provides free, collaborative, accessible, professional learning for educators around the globe. The conference will encompass the following things:
"Lastly, the beautiful thing about this conference is that it is always alive. Presentations don’t die after the timer goes off. Discussion starts online and sometimes carries over into face to face discussions in PLCs. Regardless of when the presentation was delivered (2006-2010) it will be archived for all educators to view at any time."
Photo credit: langwitches http://bit.ly/9Im6w4
I frequently encourage teachers and administrators to blog on a regular basis, and to also have their students' blogging. Many don't see the relevance of a blog, and question the need since they already have a building, district, or classroom website. While reading a post from Langwitches blog, The Magic of Learning, I found the image at the top of this post. That image does an excellent job of highlighting some of the benefits that a blog can offer. Of course, many of those benefits can't be attained unless some time and effort is put into your blog. With that in mind, I would encourage administrators to use teachers, students, parents, board members, and other guest bloggers to keep your blog filled with meaningful content on a regular basis. Classroom teachers can do the same with a heavy reliance on student bloggers. Without meaningful content on a regular basis, your blog will not exhibit the features in the right hand column from above, and instead it will resemble a static web page. The comment below from Langwitches post really emphasizes this point!
"It is the reflective nature and the timeline of a blog, as well as the growing connections with readers that will reveal growth as a writer, the benefits of being a member of a network and a contributor to a global community. I fear that teachers might give up too early on classroom or student blogs before the initial learning curve for teachers AND students has been overcome. I worry that teachers might get stuck at the stage when the blog platform is merely a static website."
One of the sessions that I lead with school administrators focuses on acceptable use policies and many of the things that go along with those policies such as internet filters. My belief is that most schools have policies in place that are way too strict, and those policies limit how teachers and students can use the internet. There are times that this belief is certainly questioned. I'm frequently asked, "What harm does it do to have stricter policies in place?" I would argue that those policies drastically limit all of the positive experiences students can have online simply because we are afraid of the bad things that could happen. There are lots of similar examples you can think of in education, but as a former coach and athlete I like to use the example of high school football to make my point about this issue.
Each year thousands and thousands of student-athletes participate in high school football. There are lots of different benefits many people attribute to high school athletics including building character, working together, increasing physical fitness, and even improving academic success. Unfortunately, each year there are also some awful things that happen because students are participating in football. Student-athletes suffer injuries, including some that result in paralysis or even death. Other student-athletes are hazed or bullied and still others neglect their grades while participating in athletics.
The question is whether these negative things that happen to a few student-athletes outweigh all of the positive things that happen to thousands and thousands of other student-athletes. In the case of football a large percentage of schools and parents have decided that the positives outweigh the negatives. Schools really need to look at their policies through the same lens. They shouldn't look solely at the negative things that can happen online, but they also must weigh the positive experiences students and teachers will lose if sites are blocked or access is restricted. Routinely, I see schools that block YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and many other sites. Have schools fully considered the things students are missing when these sites are blocked?
By now, some of you may be thinking I'm out of touch, and since I no longer work full-time in a K-12 setting I've forgotten what it is really like in schools. With that in mind, I'd like to reference some comments from reputable organizations about this topic.
The Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) kicks-off its page about internet safety with the following sentence.
"The publicity about online “predators” who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate."
There were also some important findings in a recent federal online safety task force that were highlighted in eSchoolNews. This post and study are what really got me motivated to write this post. They included the following:
“the statistical probability of a young person being physically assaulted by an adult who they first met online is extremely low”
"young people’s use of social networking sites does not increase their risk of victimization"
"Restricting or forbidding access to social networking sites will likely do more harm than good, because social networking sites and the way young people use those sites have created not only places for social interaction, but also “informal learning environments"
"students would greatly benefit if educators are able to incorporate social networking sites into classroom instruction"
"Unless new media are used in schools and within families, youth are on their own in figuring out the ethics, social norms, and civil behaviors that enable good citizenship in the online part of their media use and lives"
"Avoid scare tactics and promote the social-norms approach to risk prevention."
The purpose of this post isn't to push schools to remove filters and throw out acceptable use policies. It also isn't to argue that there are no threats to students online. They exist, and the media certainly sheds a spotlight on those issues. Instead, the purpose is to push schools to have serious conversations about these policies and for schools to weigh the negatives and positives of their policies. Once schools have done that, then and only then, can they truly make an informed decision in the best interest of their school.
Last week I wrote a post titled Moving beyond isolation that focused on the challenges educators face when working on collaborating with others outside of their classroom or school. This challenge may be even more prevalent among one-to-one educators because there are so few one-to-one schools. Fortunately, one-to-one educators may be better equipped to meet those challenges because they are more tech savvy than most educators. Of course staffs are only tech savvy if there has been a commitment made to professional development to make them that way.
When I was perusing my Reader today, I came across an article in EduTech focused on crowd-sourcing. The article really played into a conversation that I had earlier in the day with a superintendent, teacher, and media director. We were brainstorming ways to help connect one-to-one educators so they could share resources and expertise. In my blog post last week, I shared some tools that will probably be new to many educators. Sometimes in the beginning these new tools become roadblocks to learning for some. In an attempt to limit the problems educators would face with the new tools, we thought another tool would be more appropriate for many educators. We decided that in Iowa we are going to aggressively push a ning that was created by Shaeylynn Farnsworth. Her ning, 1:1 Laptop Schools, has the potential to be a great tool for both novice and more experienced one-to-one educators. It allows one-to-one educators to join a group in their specific content area, and they receive emails when there is a new post in their partiular area(s).
This ning isn't new, and it currently has over 200 members with amazing potential for growth. Like most crowd-sourcing projects the more people that are involved, the better that project becomes. I hope and believe that Iowa educational leaders will strongly encourage, or possibly even require, all of their teachers to join the ning! I will certainly use my influence to encourage that to happen. I also want to encourage all of the readers of this blog to join one or two groups on the ning.
If you are in a leadership position, I certainly wouldn't give up on other tools to help educators develop their personal learning networks. In June I also posted some sites that might be worth visiting and several readers added sites to that list with their comments. Feel free to add other one-to-one "crowd-sourcing" links to this post as well.
So what are you waiting for.....go out and get connected and help others do the same!
I recently had a somewhat unpleasant customer service experience with Office Depot while attempting to complete my warranty information online. I posted the following tweet hoping for a quick response on Twitter.
So yes, maybe my tweet was a little edgy, but I am still waiting for a response from Office Depot two days after posting that tweet. Although the tweet wasn't directed at @bestbuy, I had the following response from them within one minute, and a follow-up tweet soon after that!
Obviously, it wouldn't be fair to make sweeping assumptions about Office Depot because of this one experience, but it does send me a message about the company. This entire episode got me thinking about how schools' use of social media can really impact the perceptions of some of their "customers". Here are some questions that you may want to think about as you evaluate your school.
Is your school website valuable? Are images, forms, contact information, and other items on the page updated regularly? Is there any reason for the public to visit your web page more than once or twice a year?
Does your school have a Twitter account to share information with the public? Twitter isn't for everyone, but it is a great tool for some members of your school community. Are teachers encouraged to have Twitter accounts for their classroom?
Does your school have a Facebook page?
Do teachers and administrators blog about what is happening in your school?
My point with this post is fairly simple. Your school, or business, sends a strong message by embracing or failing to embrace technology to connect with others. What messages does your school's use of technology send?
My friends and family would certainly tell you that I am a very social person. As a matter of fact, they claim I can't go anywhere without bumping into someone who I know somehow. With that in mind, I have to admit that during my career in schools I was somewhat isolated. Yes, I did attend the occasional conference, and yes I would talk to other teachers during lunch and before and after the school day. We would also have the opportunity to collaborate when we had professional development days.
The problem is that even with those connections, it was a rare event to get out of the building and connect with other educators. This really limits the ways that schools can change and it reinforces the status quo. Can we really expect people to change when they spend the majority of their time in the same system with people who have similar experiences and mindsets? Where do we expect new ideas, resources, and opportunities to come from?
This past year I have been able to connect with educators from around the state, nation, and world with extremely diversified backgrounds, interests, beliefs, and strengths. Those individuals have been an extremely powerful resource for me. You could argue that I have been able to do that now because my job has changed and I travel much more frequently. You would be partly correct, but more than that I have been able to connect because of technology. I've listed some of those technologies below that have profoundly impacted my professional growth. Please note that this list is not one of those top ten cool technology tools lists. I do like those lists, but my purpose is to simply reflect on technologies that have helped me stay connected.
These five tools have been a great way for me to stay connected. I would strongly recommend every educator use these tools as resources to continue to grow professionally. They certainly are not difficult to learn!
A recent post in eduTech highlighted FAILFaire, which is an event held in Washington, D.C. The purpose of FAILFaire as described by the organizers is listed below.
"At FAILFaire we want to recognize the failures: the pilots that never got anywhere, the applications that are not delivering, the projects that are not having any measurable impact on the lives of people, and the cultural or technical problems that arise."
The idea of learning from and embracing failure certainly isn't new, but it also isn't real common place in education. Schools that put thousands of dollars into any initiative obviously don't want that initiative to fail. Even when initiatives fail, schools rarely acknowledge that and learn from the failure. Instead, the initiative just slowly fades, dying a slow death. The graveyards for these initiatives can be found in most educator's rooms as old dusty binders piled away never to be looked at again.
In reference to one-to-one schools, there certainly have been some that have failed and others that have had some major bumps in the road. Although this list certainly isn't comprehensive, I've compiled a list of some of the elements that have lead to failure at one-to-one schools. Feel free to add additional components in the comments section.
Schools that are currently moving to one-to-one may soon find that they failed to properly implement. That doesn't mean your initiative is destined for failure, but it may indicate you will have a bit of a bumpy ride for a time. Providing adequate resources early on in the program may substantially save costs down the road. It may also help reduce the "implementation curve" which is somewhat normal with the adoption of anything new.
Last week Monday I met with a group of aspiring teachers finishing up their last two years of college. In the short time we had together, I tried to make a few points. First, I really tried to help them realize how drastically the world has changed and how little schools have. We talked about 21st century skills which may be the most overused term in education today (I say that simply because the word is used to describe anything new in education.). My second major point focused on how we need to change the way that we educate our students to meet the changing needs of our society. Finally, I shared information about the status of one-to-one in Iowa and throughout the nation. I stressed that the shift to one-to-one is very drastic in Iowa and also in the nation. I also encouraged students to think about how they can become marketable to these tech savvy and/or one-to-one schools.
Prior to that presentation and since that presentation, I have wondered how well we are doing to prepare our new teachers for this new educational environment. I work with administrators on a regular basis, and this is also a conversation that comes up frequently. The comments that I hear over and over from administrators I talk with around the state, nation and even internationally is that our colleges are doing a poor job preparing teachers for this new education landscape. Technology courses are still taught in isolation in many places and there is a major disconnect with many of the other methodology courses.
My intention with this post isn't to simply rip on higher education, although I am tempted at times. Instead, it is important that we consider ways to deal with teachers who are not adequately prepared to use technology as a powerful tool to enhance education. Here are a couple possible suggestions for educational leaders, but I'd sure like other ideas if any of you have them.
Cross posted on Creative Tension.
We know that practices change when teaches, students and administrators have ubiquitous access to technology on a daily basis. In the classroom, teachers and students have to explore different strategies for teaching and learning. In the administrative offices, school leaders should, "promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital-age tools." (From ISTE's NETS-Administrators). These changes don't happen overnight because it can be difficult to develop new skills and knowledge and to change habits. What does the school leader who suddenly finds him/herself in a 1:1 environment do? In what ways do they change their practices to effectively leverage these new tools?
Let's look at the following scenario: The principal and/or administrative team members are in charge of facilitating a planning session(s) with community stakeholders and all members of the group have access to a wide variety of resources and technological tools.
It's very likely that the sticky notes and chart paper will not be needed for this meeting.
These questions can certainly be used by the leader to guide his/her planning. It seems to be a real challenge to develop a planning session that will create a different experience for the participants.
Some of the possibilities include:
I'd love to hear how school leaders are changing their practices to capitalize on this new environment. How are you "creating new and different learning experiences"?
Last week I spent two days at the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. It was very clear from the opening keynote with Michael Horn to the closing keynote with David Warlick that the SAI organization was thoughtfully pushing the thinking of the hundreds of administrators in attendance at the conference. Horn (see notes from session) and Warlick talked about innovation and the need for our schools to change. During both keynotes and throughout the conference, I monitored and participated in the back channel conversations taking place on Twitter (#saiconf10). Those conversations echoed the message being delivered by the speakers. My fear is that echo wasn't nearly as loud as it should have been.
Out of the approximately 1000 administrators in attendance, there were maybe 30 who were actively participating in the Twitter conversation. This leads to a question I often ask myself after working with a group of administrators at one of our workshops. Are we preaching to the choir? Do those who attend our transformative sessions already "get it" to some degree? My inclination is that although they may be on board and believe in our message, our workshops give them a much better understanding that they can take back to their districts.
So what about those in education who seem to be ignoring the massive changes that are happening all around?
Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be a small group. As much talk of "21st century learning" that is taking place, it is frequently just used as another buzz term. People talk of 21st century learning without really talking about change. Even some technology rich and one-to-one schools haven't genuinely embraced changed. Instead, they have just fit new technology into our old system.
I am generally a very positive person, and I hate to to be too negative here, but the topic of this post concerns me. At one of our break-out sessions, I asked Michael Horn a question in reference to disruptive innovation in education. The book Disrupting Class written by Horn and others, claims that by 2019 50% of high school courses will be online courses. My question was whether or not schools will survive in this new era. Many of our leaders certainly are not looking to the future, but instead making decisions based on their past experiences. Many of those experiences are irrelevant in today's world. Maybe our effective technology rich schools focused on new types of learning will serve as that disruptive innovation. Those schools have the potential to become our new model for education. At some point, the other schools will need to change or render themselves obsolete. When students are no longer confined to a school they can easily walk or drive to, school choice will take on an entirely different meaning.
This Thursday I will be facilitating a discussion with three Iowa one-to-one administrators at the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) Annual Conference. Two of the panelists are superintendents, and the third is a high school principal. Each of these administrators bring unique experiences to our discussion. I have developed a wiki for the session and encouraged those attending to place their questions there. Twitter was another great resource for me when gathering questions.
I'm also going to attempt to broadcast the presentation live from USTREAM at 9:15 a.m. central time on Thursday. You can watch it from this link, but I will also attempt to embed the video on my blog. Do note that I used the word attempt twice. This convention center has failed me before, and it makes me a bit nervous. Feel free to add questions to the wiki , or post them on USTREAM chat.
Back to School time! How did this happen so quickly…
One thing that parents are faced with every Fall is the giant packet. Everything you need to know, sign, and send back with checks attached as school starts. In the giant packet is the schools Acceptable Use Policy, known as the AUP to most techie educators. To parents, of course, it’s known as paper 23 of 42, likely to be ignored. To make sure that even diligent parents ignore it, schools create AUPs full of dense legalese, hoping that if anything bad happens, they are “covered.” Whatever that means.
When you see a principal on the news explaining why his school is suspected to be the center of a huge student porn network, does he ever hold up the AUP and say, “but we’re covered!” No, of course not. So why do schools believe that the AUP really does any good at all? And why, oh why do we send this out without a shred of explanation about the GOOD that we expect from students using technology?
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be policy in place, and that these policies shouldn’t be communicated. Of course they should. But why send something home guaranteed to intimidate, or worse, bore parents?
I’ve written about this before (What message does your AUP send home?)
I truly believe that EVERYTHING we do sends a message. It’s important to take a step back and try to put yourself in parent’s shoes for a moment and read the AUP from that perspective. In most AUPs, there is not a shred of positive vision for what “Use” means. They should be called UUPs, or Unacceptable Use & Punishments. And of course, while you are at it - check to see if it's up to date. Was it written before Facebook and Twitter? Have expectations changed?
Where is your vision shared? Have you shared it lately? When laptop programs get started, there is often a lot of purposeful communication with parents to include them as stakeholders. How's that going these days?
You have to send out the AUP anyway, why not rewrite it so it reads like a vision instead of a promise of punishment? At least add a cover letter to it!
Sure, parents will flip through the packet and might not read it. But then again, it’s your one chance – why not take it?
Thinking about revising your AUP? Visit David Warlick’s wiki School AUP 2.0 for links and an RSS feed to many schools with visionary AUPs.
While in Memphis for the Lausanne Laptop Institute, I led a session focused on professional development for one to one schools. My objectives for the session, which may have been a bit too cumbersome, included the following four items.
Take a look at the wiki from the presentation for more details, and feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any other questions.
For the past year I have had the opportunity to work with many fantastic one-to-one educators. Those educators have drastically increased my knowledge of one-to-one. It isn't any secret that speaking with successful people or organizations is a great way to learn in any field. With that in mind, I'd like to apply that concept to one-to-one schools. This post is an invitation for successful one-to-one schools to tell us about their experiences. I've listed questions below about some of the things I would like our spotlight school to reflect on. Please feel free to leave comments to this post with other questions you would like to add.
If you feel your school, or one you are familiar with, would be a good spotlight school, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't have a panel of judges or a rubric for how I will select the spotlight school, so beware that my biases will be part of the decision. It is more likely though that most of the schools who would like to be a spotlight school will have that opportunity at some point.
What are the goals of your one-to-one program?
What successes have you seen with your one-to-one program?
What challenges have you seen with your one-to-one program?
How have you obtained community support with your one-to-one program?
How has learning and teaching changed?
How do you assess your program?
What things would you like to tell other one-to-one schools?
While at the Lausanne Laptop Institute, I met with various providers of one-to-one resources. Although these resources and services may not be what every school needs, they do provide options that many schools may be looking for with their program.DyKnow
DyKnow provides two major products that are applicable to one-to-one schools. DyKnow Vision is the software that I was most excited about. It allows for easy communication between teacher and student and between students within a classroom. It can potentially increase engagement by providing better feedback and better instruction. DyKnow Monitor is a monitoring tool that is also relevant to many schools. It allows the teacher to monitor all of the screens in the classroom. I realize that some of you may object to this type of supervision. That is fine. I also speak with enough board members, community members, and educators to know that this may be the one tool that can put them a bit at ease. If this is the tool that allows public opinion to support one-to-one, it is well worth it in my mind.
The Educational Collaborators are a group of over 60 educators who jointly provide a wide variety of services. Their team is made up of mainly full time educators. They are a very powerful resource for schools considering the move to one-to-one or current one-to-one schools. For each project they work with a school, they develop a team with members who are experts in the areas each particular school needs most. My disclaimer is that I am now a member of the Educational Collaborators. Although I have yet to work with them, I am eager to do so and learn with some great one-to-one experts. Their model of assigning a group of experts in the field to work collaboratively to help a school really excites me. Their model reminds me of various exerts from the book Wikinomics which stresses how a group of people can work to produce much more powerful results than any one person or even one company working in isolation.
I should sing the praises of WatchKnow whether I like them or not simply because they gave me a free Kodak Pocket Video Camera for attending their session! Actually, I'm very interested to see what happens with their site. They are attempting to develop a place where educators can post videos and find any educational video. My first thought was how their site would be better than YouTube, but I did find some benefits. Videos are screened more closely before being placed on their site, and they are also much more organized. Educators can search by topic and also by age level. My concern with the site is that they may not be able to collect enough videos to be a reliable resource for educators. Only time will tell!
This post topic comes to mind for me because I feel awful about how poorly I have done posting in the past couple of weeks. I've been traveling and attended ISTE in Denver and the Lausanne Laptop Institute in Memphis along with some leisure travel as well (I have to brag that I caught a home-run ball in Milwaukee!).
My lapse in posting highlight what I consider to be the biggest weakness in blogs and school websites. When I work with administrators, they often question whether or not people will actually read their blog or look at their school website. They frequently doubt that it will be worth their time to post material online. My response is simply that they are correct if they don't post current, relevant information on their site. Readers are not going to continue to visit a site that has the same information posted for one month, or in many cases years.
So what can educators do to improve their web presence?
1) Make your sites meaningful!
2) Don't think you have to do everything! Believe me, I realize how busy educators are. Invite others to contribute to the site. A teacher who just completed an amazing project or an extracurricular activity sponsor would add value to the site. Deron Durflinger had a student write a post about one-to-one schools on his blog, and she did an excellent job.
3) Publicize your blog or site. Refer to it at PTA meetings, board meetings, and anywhere you get the opportunity to speak to the public. List it on district publications that are sent out.
4) Don't entirely recreate the wheel. Take many of the things that you already do and post them on your site. Newsletter articles, mass emails to parents, and newspaper articles are some examples of items that you can also post on your site. The benefit of posting them on your site is that you can do more than you can with just print. You can add video or audio to the article you have posted. That will certainly add value for readers!
I realize that many educators don't view their web presence as a real priority. It takes back seat to many of the other issues that they face on a day to day basis. That should change! Keeping a site updated doesn't have to be difficult. The positive public relations that can come from your site will be worth the effort. Often schools don't do a very good job highlighting all of the great things they are doing. Communication with the public will also increase if you use your site effectively. Both of these benefits will be extremely beneficial any time your district faces a challenging issue.
.........I'll also try to get back on track and take some of my own advice!
I snapped these photos of interactive white boards while I was at ISTE. Obviously, these presenters were demonstrating how the smart boards can operate. With that in mind, they really didn't or don't seem very interactive to me. I am sure that there are teachers who do a great job with interactive white boards, but I wonder if that is the norm or the unique situation. Are these the tools that will transform education?
Last week I posted my notes from an ISTE session that I attended while in Denver. The notes included the following comment that was made in reference to how better support teachers.
"Get rid of network Nazi's who don't have any business making curriculum decisions for teachers."
That statement received the following comment from a reader.
"I am sorry, but I am so offended by the 1st item on the list above "Get rid of network Nazi's who don't have any business making curriculum decisions for teachers." I am a tech director, and to have a 'blanket' label of reference for the position that I hold that is compared to one of the most hated events of the history of the world. Maybe the network won't allow for certain strains on bandwidth? No.. we all just get lumped into this reprehensible label. I can't believe that professional of this caliber, who teach not to label kids, assign this terrible moniker to someone who is trying to do their job and keep the network healthy so it can be utilized."
There are valid points made with this comment, and I also think both of these comments bring up an important conversation. The use of the term "network Nazi" is understandably questionable. Unfortunately, that term is thrown around quite routinely in our society even on shows shuch as Seinfeld with the "Soup Nazi" character. Obviously, widespread use of the word doesn't make it acceptable. With that said, that debate isn't one I want to focus on with this post.
I'd like to focus on why that perception exists for many, and possibly more importantly why hundreds of educators gave a loud round of applause after that comment was made. This belief that administrators and technology teachers are blocking, filtering, and unnecessarily limiting what teachers can do is fairly widespread. I have the opportunity to work with lots of educators and I see both sides of this issue. There are those who are very progressive when it comes to school networks and others who certainly limit what can happen in classrooms.
So what is the solution.......and what was the problem again?
This issue seems to revolve around the issue that teachers are limited in how they can use the technology in their classroom. These limitations at times cause a rift between teachers and administrators. There are some things that I have been involved with or observed that have helped move the administrators and technology directors from technology foe to technology ally. Those things include the following:
Some of you may feel I'm preaching to the choir with this post, but this is a big issue in many schools and one that shouldn't be ignored. These rifts between teachers and those overseeing the network may be due to miscommunication or the actual policies that are in place. In order to truly use technology to transform education, schools need to have technology directors working hand in hand with teachers and administrators
I have included a link to my notes from some of the ISTE sessions that I was able to attend. The titles and main presenters from each session are listed below.
I will also be adding some videos from the session about 1-to-1 success stories in the very near future.
I've been trying to take notes and gather resources today as I sat through the sessions at EduBloggerCon. Hopefully, I can find additional resources to add to this post. If you have something you would like to add, please send me a link through Twitter (njsauers).
Be warned.......these notes are certainly not complete!
I'm going to tag on Nick's post yesterday about ISTE 2010 next week in Denver. I know there are some of you out there going - there will be 10,000 plus tech-loving educators there, many of them from 1:1 schools.
If you ask most people after a conference what the best part was, they will say, "the people I met and the conversations I had in the hallway." There are ways to increase those odds!
1. Network - this is not the old back-slapping buy-you-a-drink networking. This is a way to leverage online connections into making new acquaintances. Sign up for the ISTE Ning ahead of time and read some of the posts. There are discussions, events, invitations and more up there right now. Attend Edubloggercon (it's not just for bloggers) on Saturday and don't be shy. People do really want to talk to you, you just have to start the conversation. You'll be surprised at the instant, deep connections you will have with some of these folks. Hurray! You are not alone in your vision for technology in education!
2. Exhibit hall - yes, even if you hate the "boat show" aspect of a big conference like ISTE, there are gems to be found. Look for companies that have real teachers and students to help show their products - you can get straight answers from them.
3. Sessions - talk to the presenters. 99% of the attendees at any session will rush out the door. If you loved the presentation, hang out and talk to the presenter. They will most likely be happy to chat further (once they pack up and get out of the room.) Presenters aren't usually scary people and love to hear great feedback!
4. "Rock stars" - I hear this all the time -- someone tells me after ISTE that they saw me but didn't want to join a conversation because I was talking to some famous edublogger. They thought that somehow they didn't matter as much to me or to that person. This is simply crazy, these "rock stars" don't see themselves that way, most of them love to talk to everyone and don't miss an opportunity. If they are there, it's to talk, otherwise they would be hiding in their rooms! If you see a group talking, just join in - that's the fun of conferences. There's every chance you'll get swept up going to lunch or dinner or somewhere fun with great conversation guranteed.
5. Sessions part 2 - Don't over-schedule yourself. There's nothing wrong with a little down time, but don't just go back to your hotel. Serendipity can be very rewarding! Wander over to the Blogger's Cafe or the booths ISTE always sets up for Social Networking, Virtual Worlds and other special interests. It's casual and usually has good wifi - another bonus!
Oh, back to #1 - if you are there in Denver early, there is another pre-conference event on Sunday called the Constructivist Celebration that you should check out. There is a fee for this, but you get a LOT of stuff in return. It's a full day workshop focusing on creativity and computing, and how to use computers in authentic projects. For $60, you get hundreds of dollars worth of the best creativity software on the planet, all of it REALLY useful for laptop schools, lunch, and a great event. Bring your charged laptop and recharge your creative batteries. More info here.
And if you do get to the exhibit hall, there are two booths you should check out - conveniently right next to each other. Generation YES (855) will have local students talking about how they help integrate technology in their schools, and Intel (854) will be doing live podcasts about technology success stories. The Generation YES students will also be printing out business cards, so if you forget yours, you can get some replacements. Students to the rescue -- as always!
There's so much more I could go on and on - but I'll save it, and hope you come up to me during the ISTE events and say hello. I'm on twitter as smartinez, and I want to talk to you!
I'm extremely excited to be heading out for ISTE tomorrow morning. Yep, I know, I'm a couple of days early, but I thought I should try to experience Denver a little bit.
My conference week will begin on Saturday with EduBloggerCon 2010 which will be held at the Colorado Convention Center. This conference, which is not part of ISTE, is a social media in education unconference. The whole concept of an unconference was totally foreign to me prior to a conversation with Dr. John Nash as we were planning for our 1 to 1 Institute in April. Wikipedia defines an unconference as:
"... a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose."
After popping in on some of our unconfernce sessions in April, I realize how powerful they can be. Unconferences are much more participant driven, and there is typically lots more participant involvement. The EduBlogger Unconference will be awesome, and I'm very excited for the conversations that will take place there!
On Monday there is a session by Project Red that is of particular interest to me. The session is titled, Revolutionizing Education: What We're Learning from Technology-transformed Schools. Project Red has compiled a great deal of data from technology rich schools, and I'm excited to hear about some of the conclusions they are making from that information. Project Red is also directly connected to the One To One Institute.
The CASTLE team (Yep, I'm part of that team) will present a 30 minute session at ISTE Unplugged on Monday morning. This session will cover the training that we've been doing across the country to help boost school administrators' knowledge, understanding, and skills as they work to create learning environments that prepare graduates for the next half century, not the last. Please feel free to stop by and say hi!
I really hope to meet some readers of this blog and make connections with lots of other educators throughout the conference. You can also follow me on Twitter at njsauers throughout the conference.
I cringe a bit when I try to explain to
people what I do. I usually end up explaining that I am involved with
educating others about technology in education. The reason I am uneasy with
that description is because I don’t believe using technology just for the sake
of using it changes anything. It feels like some people look at me as “that
guy” who thinks schools need to rush out and purchase the newest fad in
technology. I also cringe when I hear educators speak as if they have
finally “made it” and become successful once they have purchased a piece of
technology. Some people act as if schools will magically change simply
because technology is thrown into classrooms.
With that being said, I believe that the technology available today can allow schools to operate in ways that have been very difficult in the past. Students can collaborate more easily with one another and others throughout the world. Students can create things in ways that are nearly impossible with old technologies. Students can assess infinite information, which can allow them to view events from multiple perspectives. Students can better synthesize and evaluate information because of that wealth of information.
A post by Jeff Utecht suggested four questions to use when evaluating technology use in the classroom. Each question is very straightforward. They are worth looking at if schools truly want to assess how technology is being used.
Many educators like to say that students are using technology in their classroom. Just using technology isn't enough. I question the use of that technology if the answer to question four isn’t “yes”.
Universities have been bellwethers in the use of information technology in education, having led the adoption of computers, computer networks, the Internet, wireless networks, and widespread student laptop programs, but these articles describe a rebuff of computing technology’s growing popularity. Has the penetration of IT in education outstripped its effective use? Are we seeing the early warning signs of an institutional rejection of mobile computing in education?
Normally, I would dismiss the Post articles as mere news-mongering, peddling isolated if sensational incidents such as the physics professor who shattered a liquid nitrogen frozen laptop to announce his ban. However, having also experienced university hostility toward student notebook PCs first-hand, I am inclined to refrain from dismissing these articles out-of-hand. A few of professors in my own Masters program at the University of Chicago have disallowed student computers in their classes for the same reasons cited in the Post articles. One included an entire reading in the course packet to explain his stance. Thankfully, in my program, unlike the U of C law school, where Internet access has been banned, such restrictions have been the exception. (Nick Sauers has provided commentary on more recent law school laptop bans on this blog already.)
Having seen the massive investment in campus computer networks and the rise of notebook computer programs at many schools, and having personally used a notebook PC in class as a student for the past 20 years—since I was a senior in high school—I have been somewhat dumbfounded by this turn.
Of course, my pre-WiFi, pre-World Wide Web, monochrome Tandy 1100FD offered far fewer opportunities for distraction for me in my high school and college classes than do even today’s lowliest netbooks or smartphones. I had the advantage of building my in-class computing habits on a comparatively boring platform. Computer technology has changed, however, and given my own first-hand experience of the distraction factor offered by wireless notebook PCs in classes, I do understand the motivation behind the bans, even if I do not agree with the tactic. The lure of instant Google gratification of any stray thought during an otherwise uninteresting lecture is pretty powerful. While I use my tablet PC in class for taking notes and referencing class e-texts, I admit to having succumbed to checking e-mail during lectures that did not engage my full attention. I have had the presence of mind to avoid the egregious examples of on-line shopping, instant messaging, social networking, and gaming that are cited in the backlash articles. I am a mid-life adult, however, not a late-adolescent college student still developing the impulse control systems of my pre-frontal cortex. As a result, I may be slightly better able to resist the itch to update Facebook when faced with a dry lecture on finance. More importantly, I am not—like the students for whom I am planning a 1:1 program—a pre-adolescent even further back on that developmental path.
That developmental issue is the one that gives me the greatest pause. While the premise of 1:1 programs is to make learning more interactive, engaging, and effective than traditional classroom lectures and activities, I worry that they may instead train our students for the sort computer-enabled distraction, inattention, and escapism exemplified in the backlash articles. On a broader societal level, such worries have gotten press in recent New York Times articles highlighting the distraction-addiction-dark side of Internet technology. Nicholas Carr sparked the conversation about the downside of the Internet with his thought-provoking Atlantic Monthly article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, which he has now expanded into a book. Of course, I have not the time to read it (as if to prove his point ;-), so my understanding of the brain changes induced by Internet use and the well-documented productivity drops attending multitasking come from the synoptic Wired article.
Touching on similar ground, Philip Zombardo’s RSA Animate-enhanced TED Talk on The Secret Powers of Time at one point argues that the 10,000 hours of video games played by the typical American boy by the time he turns 21 traps him in the mode of instant gratification/present-hedonism and wires his brain for an always engaging, controllable, immersive virtual existence maladapted to traditional classroom learning, exacerbating our nation’s school drop-out problem. While I am not convinced that heavy exposure to information technology necessarily ends in an inevitable nightmare of self-destructive present-hedonism, I think the propensity for Internet-inattention is real. So is 1:1 computing the remedy for that home/school disconnect, making school more engaging, allowing it to compete with richer, more engaging experiences outside of school through more interactive technology? Or is it simply another dose of distraction and easy escapism?
I do not profess to know the answer to those questions, but several things occur to me as I reflect on this issue. First, this distracting technology shows no signs of diminishing, only of becoming more immersive, compelling, and ubiquitous. To remain relevant, schools need to deal with that reality. Second, control of attention is central to success. In the short-term, studies show that multi-tasking is less efficient than single-tasking, by up to 40%. In the long-term, control of attention is linked to the development of executive functioning and the self-regulation skills so vital to success in life. Third, in embracing classroom computing, schools have the opportunity to teach students how to develop their self-control to deal with digital distractions. Primary and secondary schools have much greater leverage than do colleges in guiding student classroom behavior. Nick Sauers has covered classroom management in the context of 1:1 programs in his post “Ban Boredom not laptops” on this blog. The teacher’s art of effective classroom management will become even more important as technology progressively moves into schools. Similarly, and more significantly, this environment requires increasing emphasis on developing students’ metacognitive regulation, executive functioning, and emotional self-management.
How can we help students develop strategies for controlling their attention given the digital distractions to which students are everywhere exposed? What is your school doing?