Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Asus Eee Series Pc - Day II

So I showed the Asus off yesterday at a staff development meeting. Lots of wide eyes and a few good questions. It will be in the hands of a couple of kids over the next few weeks. I had this article passed on to me about Fresno Unified School District that has put them in several classrooms to work on student portfolios. Here are a couple of quotes:

"Anything we can do as a district to engage students in learning and keep them here is a good thing," Superintendent Michael Hanson said
Yes - engagement is a key piece here. Changing the way we teach is an even bigger one which is why I like this statement better

school officials said they purchased 1,000 wireless laptops that fit on a desk alongside textbooks and notebooks, as well as give students the opportunity to build a digital portfolio of essays, drawings and other creations
But what really scares me is that we continue to see statements like these:

Stephen Lewis, a geology professor at California State University, Fresno, thinks laptops are a useful tool, but they can also hinder the teaching process -- he often sees students with their heads buried in their laptops instead of paying attention to a lecture
Professor Lewis doesn't get it - if you engage the students they will be interested in your area of study - your lecture just ain't cutting it.

These two individuals on the other hand do:

Roy Bohlin, an education technology professor at Fresno State, however, said laptops can motivate students to solve problems that affect their friends or community or the world.

"Problems in textbooks are sometimes boring," Bohlin said. "Laptops can increase critical thinking because students will have access to resources on the Internet."

Kurt Madden, the district's chief technology officer, said he has heard the debate before. In his final analysis, he said: "Teachers will always be a critical part of the classroom."

What it comes down to is boring classrooms with laptops are boring classrooms with expensive furniture (stole that from Bob Johnstone). Exciting engaging classrooms can be more effective with a tool to access information - like a laptop (or a really good library - the Internet is just faster - when used correctly). When you start to do things with the laptop that could never be done before - like collaborative, multi-media, on-line, project based, thematic, problem solving activities you are getting somewhere.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Asus Eee Series Pc

I responded yesterday to Jeff Utecht's post on R&D in education - by coincidence our R&D Asus Eee Series Pc arrived on the same day (yeah that is the one - right there next to my business card - so you can get an idea of size). I have already lined up some students that are going to each carry it around for a few days and use it in their classes and at home - with the agreement that they will meet with me afterwards to give me feedback.

Here is the question for you - what should I ask them? What do you want to know about the student experience with this type of device?

We have also ordered an XO to do the same thing with. I will use the same students. So please consider that when submitting your suggested questions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Ran across this site called brainfood that has logic puzzles and it reminded me of how I used to start my class periods. Many times I would have a logic puzzle on the board or a question of the day. It gave the students something to think about while I took attendance and put their focus on what we were about to do. Especially in my chemistry classes where logical thinking got you further than memorizing the periodic table.

This gets me thinking again about the skill based approach. What should I have been more concerned about as a chemistry teacher? I did make it a habit of telling my students that they should take chemistry because it taught you how to logically think through complex problems and find abstract relationships. I don't know how I came up with that, or where it came from, but I remember saying it a lot. I would tell my students that it really wouldn't matter for most of them if they could "do chemistry" later in life - what mattered was if they could connect the type of thinking we were doing to other things in their life.

I see a connection to the 21st Century Skills but when I look at them - I feel like there is stuff missing. I know - that is a very insightful and helpful statement. As I have been saying I am still trying to work my way around this whole philosophy and I just havent had time to work it all out yet...but it is coming.

The Tech Plan

As a first time tech director I have spent more time planning and dreading this process more than anything I have done in my professional career. I could have played this safe and just done what had been done before - instead I sent this email (I have changed the survey links to a copy of the same survey) - this is the start - I am open to it changing and developing as we move forward, but this is where we are now...

We are beginning the phase of the technology planning stage where we are gathering the organization’s trends and needs for the next few years. Each staff member has the opportunity to submit resources that should be considered in the technology planning process. You can choose to submit items we already have and need to refresh or maintain, or resources that we should add to the district in the future. The plan will be in place for 3-years, so forecast appropriately.

I have attached a pdf and word document that show what the online survey looks like. The survey is somewhat lengthy and detailed. It may make sense to work on the word document first then cut and paste your responses into the form. Please fill in as much of the information as possible. It is best to fill in every field in the survey so that the tech planning committee understands the nature and need of your request. You are strongly encouraged, but not required, to work on submitting a resource in a group, department, or MCC – if this is the case choose one representative to be the contact person. Submissions can be made at this link:

Copy of the actual survey - for demonstration purposes

Do not assume that anything (outside of SIS classroom computers, lab computers, projectors, existing printers, Microsoft office, adobe products, and administrative/support staff equipment - all of which is replaced on a pre-determined cycle) will be included in the technology plan unless it is submitted in this survey.

Items may be, but are not limited to, hardware, software, network equipment, on-line subscriptions, or any other technology resource.

Please limit your responses to 1 resource per submission. You may submit as many items as you like. You must enter an entire submission when you start the survey - you cannot start one and go back to it later. Once you submit it there is no way to go back and edit it.

The window for submissions closes on December 21st 2007.

Submitting an item ensures that it will be considered by the planning committees. It does not guarantee that it will be part of the technology plan - not submitting it ensures that it won't be considered.

Every staff member also has the ability to see the submissions - they can be accessed at:

Once there you can filter the responses by any field (ie. by department, school, use, etc…), download all of the responses, or browse them one by one. This gives you the opportunity to determine if you need to submit a request or if someone has already done it. If you feel that one has not been submitted correctly, you can submit your own, by copying and pasting from another and editing on the fly. No resource will be considered more, or less, based on the number of submissions. One detailed submission is better than ten without specifics.

After winter break the technology committees and administrative councils from each school will come together to prioritize the submissions from their school’s perspective.

Every member of the technology staff is available to help you through this process. We will answer your questions, point you in the direction of research, helpers, ideas, and provide opinions (when asked). However, you must submit your own requests through the on-line form. I am available to meet with individuals, departments, or MCCs as well.

I recognize that this is different from the past, but this is the only way I have found that will allow everyone to submit their ideas on an equal footing.

Thanks for your time and efforts in maintaining and improving technology in our schools. Let me know if you have any questions.

So, that is the start. We are also working on a district technology vision that will be used when we prioritize requests.

I am hoping really hard that this crazy idea actually works...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How I Spent 10 Minutes Changing the World Tonight

I spent 10 minutes today correctly identifying 100 words at
For my time of brushing up on a few words and making myself a little smarter I donated 1000 grains of rice through the United Nations.

It is pretty fun and is basically a creative billboard, but it also serves to show that games work. I wouldn't have stuck around as long as I did if a little game wasn't at work here. Plus I felt good every time I got a word right. Seeing as that it is very similar to many of the vocabulary tests that show up in standardized tests I could also see this used as a tool in the classroom. Maybe an enrichment exercize or as part of a center.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog Readability

Passed on from Doug Johnson

cash advance

I guess I am hitting the target audience...

the rambling draft of a developing philosophy...

I am into day 2 of the IETC Conference -

These are the ideas that continue to become solidified in my mind - They might not make a lot of sense yet, but I am working on many of the details...

I guess this has been building - consider this the rambling draft of a developing philosophy...

1. The key to developing prepared students is skills - refining the traditional skills that we know that all kids must have (3r's, communication, life skills) with the new ones that are developing through the power of technology (multimedia, social networking, living an online persona, etc(i still need to make a list of these things)

2. We need to understand that teaching content is a dying art. The collaborative informational tools on the internet are replacing the need for teachers as informers. We are more in need of teachers as connectors. Education must become an activity that shows how to find and use the infinite growing quantity of information. Information Literacy + Authentic Learning + Other Stuff (yeah working on that part too) = the future classroom...

3. Tools matter - you can't teach a bricklayer to be a mason without bricks, mortar, trowels, and chisels. Sure the tools may change - you might get a saw to cut the bricks with - but the skills that you learned with the basic tools translate to the other tools. You just have to learn the skill of learning how to use tools. Part of this is understanding that the tools will continue to get better and will continue to change. That tools go through a development cycle - which the length of fluctuates wildly depending on the tool. Sometimes, before a tool is perfected another on will step in and take it's place and we need to be able to give up the old tool for the better one.

4. The way we build relationships is changing - but the fundamental truths of human relationships will not. We still need trust, caring, love, understanding, conflict, support, etc (need more here too) in our relationships. Social networks may be helping to increase the quantity of individuals we can build relationships with - however, it may make it more difficult to establish those fundamental needs - in virtual settings. Our kids are getting better at this through MMORGs, social networks, chat environments, and virtual worlds.

5. Our teachers were not taught how to create learners in this new environment. They were taught to be conveyors of content. Skills are secondary to content - unless the skill is content. This will be the killer change - or the killer of change. We need to prepare our teachers to teach skills and use them to share content. This idea of the net as our brain's usb hard drive. Why keep information I don't use all of the time in my head when I can get it from my back-up - off the net? Why should I take time storing information when it is out there somewhere?

Well - of course I need some of that stuff so I can connect it, mold it, use it...

But - I want to spend more time doing that then memorizing junk - It is more important that I can convert Inches to Centimeters that remembering that there are 2.54cm/inch.

Or maybe it is just important to know that I CAN convert between units of measurements - because I can just type "convert 1 inch to cm" into my google search bar and get the answer.

Knowing what we need to do, what we want to do, and knowing that there are really no limits to that (if you have skills) is what we need to know.

6. So - this is what it all comes down to in my head right now. We need to teach kids (and teachers) to learn how to learn using today's tools while maintaining the flexibility to do the same with tomorrow's tools.

I believe that if people can do that they can do anything.

They could even learn to be a guy who is a learner/teacher/parent/trombonist/band director/husband/tech guy/administrator/writer/communicator/talker/geek/blah-blah just like me. Or they could be something totally different - just like me.

When people are empowered to become learners without limits they have the ability to extend beyond the walls and labels that have been placed upon them by themselves or the world.

I know I am missing stuff...

To be continued...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tech Tip 11/9 - Introduction/Refresher Web 2.0

My quick definition of Web 2.0 is a collection of tools that allow for 2-way (or more) communication, collaboration, and creation across the web and its nature causes sharing to shape the content.
If you aren't familiar with web 2.0 (or would like a refresher) check out the following resources:
Web 2.0 Workshop from Atomic Learning
The Machines are Us/ing Us
Web 2.0 Workshop
Go To Web 2.0 - the complete Web 2.0 Directory

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tough Questions - Social Networking

I just got asked 4 tough questions from one of the schools' newspaper.

1.Is a program like Facebook safe for kids? Why?

2.What measures are taken to protect kids and prevent online predators?

3.Are online predators as big a threat as they are made out to be?

4.Do you feel that it is fair for school administrators to look at students' facebooks sites and punish them in school if they have inappropriate pictures or comments?

Here were my responses:

1.Is a program like Facebook safe for kids? Why? Like anything else there is a level of safety that is based on how it is used. It is easy to forget in virtual worlds that the same social rules apply. We have all learned from an early age not to trust strangers, this advice holds true in our virtual environments as well. Facebook, and other social network sites, do have policies in place to help maintain safe atmospheres but there are always people that are on the fringes of society that will look for ways to take advantage of people. It is up to the companies that provide social networks to create safe environments and for the people within them to be safe within them. Problems can occur when an adult with more advanced social and communication skills use these environments to prey on people that are not as experienced in social situations.

2.What measures are taken to protect kids and prevent online predators? There are several governmental agencies, private interest groups, and educational organizations that have put together information on how to be safe online. Some of the most widely known are:

The 2 most popular social networks have safety information as well:

3.Are online predators as big a threat as they are made out to be? Yes, if they do manage to lure someone into their grasp there is a very real danger there. However, research is showing that this doesn’t happen that often. There was a recent report released by PEW ( that shows that most teens are conscious of internet dangers and many do not post sensitive information, or put content on their web that is misleading to deliberately lead people away from truthful personal information. Yet 11% of teens still make profiles using their full names. PEW also reports the following:

Fully 32% of online teens have been contacted by someone with no connection to them or any of their friends, and 7% of online teens say they have felt scared or uncomfortable as a result of contact by an online stranger. Several behaviors are associated with high levels of online stranger contact, including social networking profile ownership, posting photos online and using social networking sites to flirt. Although several factors are linked with increased levels of stranger contact in general, gender is the only variable with a consistent association with contact that is scary or uncomfortable--girls are much more likely to report scary or uncomfortable contact than boys.

Teens need to take measures to protect themselves from people who would seek to do them harm. They can do this by following a couple of quick tips:

· Don’t post personal information about yourself to the mass public on the web – things like your name, phone number, or calendar

· Be wary of complete strangers that contact you – just like you would be if you were talking in person

· Don’t agree to meet people in person that you meet in a virtual environment

· Share your online experiences with your parents – it helps them to understand how things have changed – and allows you to get another perspective on the people you meet

· Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want to wear on a t-shirt and walk around school in. The internet is virtual, but what you do there can follow you around forever.

4.Do you feel that it is fair for school administrators to look at students' facebooks sites and punish them in school if they have inappropriate pictures or comments?

Fair or unfair really doesn’t play into this. Administrators, parents, and the public can (and do) see what you post on-line. Legally, administrators have a responsibility to maintain a safe atmosphere. If things are happening on-line that challenge the safety of students they must be investigated. Also, it is within the rights of the school to prevent substantial disruption in the educational process. Activities that happen outside of school, live or virtually, can cause interference inside of the school. If an administrator perceives that something outside of the school walls will stop the school from serving its purpose they have the right and responsibility to investigate the issue (including looking at websites) and outline a course of discipline.

Those were my thoughts anyway...