Thursday, December 30, 2010

Student-Owned Computers and/or 1:1 Initiatives

With Google Apps for Education, a full staff adept at using Web 2.0 applications, and enough revenue to fund the upfront purchase of computers, and a cycling system to annually encumber, fiercely defend, and actually allocate monies to replace, upgrade and fix computers, a 1:1 school district will work! To evoke Lloyd Christmas, "So you're telling me there's a chance. Yeah!"

Realistically and pragmatically viewed, the district-level leaders of our nation don't yet conceptually understand the potential of Web 2.0 to the necessary extent to actually lead the changes needed, and teaching staffs are under supported in their development and understanding of digital-age tools, not to mention that many of our teachers don't have the temperaments for working outside their comfort zones (even though their system of tenure should wholly encourage this type of risk taking). These, however, are not our heaviest of bricks in the "big fricking wall." The heaviest and most substantial brick to circumvent is revenue.

Here it goes: I think we-as school district administrators-should guide our school systems in investing in bandwidth and high-quality web-filtering software in order to allow students to bring their own wireless devices to school. We should do this instead of investing all our revenue in a 1:1 environment. Here are some thoughts:

  • We will never be able to uphold the technology staffing needed for repairs, neglect, malware, etc.
  • Laptops and other wireless devices are now better quality and more personally affordable than ever. 
  • Student and parent ownership in maintaining the wireless device is very important to its ongoing care over the life of the device. 
  • In an age of mass personalization, it would be incompatible to force students to use a standardized device. 
  • With cloud services, we don't have to allow students to access our local servers. They can create and save everything on the cloud. 
  • Student-owned computers narrow the range of potential issues that school district administrators must be concerned about, such as personal use at home, archiving content, software downloads and preferences, simultaneous connections like 3G, etc. It's their computer.
  • We continue the practice of providing micro-labs (5 computers in a classroom) in almost all classrooms, providing mobile computer labs, and laptops to check out at the library. This is not only currently done but also much more likely to be sustainable in the future. 

Here's a snapshot of what it could look like. Students bring their own wireless devices into school and log on to the wireless system, much like you would at McDonalds. Because we've invested in bandwidth and an awesome web-filtering application that will allow us to empower students to safely engage online, we don't have to worry (as much) about inappropriate content or inappropriate access to our local servers. Since all students can't afford to purchase wireless devices and since computers break, we continue to have micro-labs, mobile labs, and laptops in the library available for use and check out.

A measured and thoughtful approach (to 1:1) may be better if our ultimate goal is creating a powerful learning environment where technology amplifies our existing pedagogical efforts. To take the "Ready, Fire, Aim" approach may be reckless, and haste is certainly not what we want to project to our local communities as we work through the implementation dips that are assured to come-just as dips would come with any initiative. Let's carefully consider all the ways we can create powerful learning environments where digital-age tools magnify our efforts in literacy, RTI, differentiation, STEM, etc.

Ok, now that we've solved that problem, on to helping to develop technology skills in district-level leaders and providing better access to and development for digital age tools for teachers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Administrative Technology Standards (Part 2)

In addition to the ISTE Administrative Standards of 2009 are the CoSN Action Steps for Superintendents to increase readiness for effective leadership with regard to 21st Century skills and technology. 

As I've stated before, most of these steps are directions of what "to do" after we "get it," but these standards don't actually help administrators conceptualize the use of technology in the first place. Still, understanding what is expected of us in the future can help create urgency and direction when we begin the process of "getting it." 

CoSN 21st Century Superintendent: Action Steps for Superintendents and District Leadership Teams

  • Reflect on your own use of technology and explore new ways to use technology to improve your knowledge, skills, personal productivity and leadership effectiveness.
  • Commit to attending at least one regional, state or national conference focused on technology use in education every year.
  • Collaborate as a leadership team to identify and implement technology-based approaches to communicating, interacting and engaging with students, parents and your community. Videoconferencing technologies, for example, are an easy-to-use, effective tool for communications and collaboration.
  • Revise annual performance goals to include actions steps for developing technology skills; keeping current with technology; identifying opportunities to test technology systems to strengthen administrative functions or improve student learning; and model uses of hardware, software and compelling learning environments for the school community, including teachers and other staff members, students and parents.
  • Understand the value of technology in terms of its costs and benefits.
  • Develop and deploy coaches to improve every facet of district technology leadership.
Here is a video developed by CoSN to explain what the standards are and what we should be doing to achieve the standards. 

After having read both the ISTE standards and the CoSN Action Steps, we should have a pretty good idea of what we have "to do" after we understand "what it is." The next measure, however, is learning how to use digital-age tools and engaging in activities that help us understand the nature of digital-age tools so that we are better able to fulfill the standards and effectively provide 21st Century aligned leadership for excellence in learning? What activities do you think would most effectively help us understand the tools of the digital age? 

Personal Realization

In 2001, Marc Prensky asserted that kids today are different, that their approach to technology, including their neuro-plasticity, malleability, and attention spans, is quiet different than those of us who come to use technology later in our lives. They are native to the digital experience as opposed to my experience (even as a Gen X'r) which is one of immigration into the digital ecology. I was uncertain about these social observations until this very Christmas break. I don't know if I had thought that Prensky's assertions were a bit hollow or if there was a part of me that wanted to think that kids today aren't really different.

I had also seen David Warlick's compelling pictures of one of his kids surrounded by friends. The picture is pertinent seeing that each kid in the picture is concurrently engaged in face-to-face and digital interaction using a wide selection of wireless devices. They naturally switch from gaming to laughing about movie quotations, from talking about the statistics from last Sunday's NFL football game to posting Facebook updates; they are literally playing out Prensky's research. But still, I wasn't totally sold, thinking that kids today still aren't significantly different than kids of other time periods of significant change, such as the kids of the 1950s, with their affinity for rock-n-roll and black and white TVs.

At some point over this Christmas break, however, I saw this:

My son, Leo. He had stealthily nabbed my IPad.

Then, while trying to keep up with housekeeping as family was staying at our house, I walked through the kitchen and saw this:

My other son, my daughter, and my brother-in-law all simultaneously engaged in verbal conversation, gaming, and digital communication.

Are there natives in my house? Surely, they are too young, maybe haven't had the high exposure, or don't have the motivation, so it can't be. But still, there they are. I realized that my kids are displaying skills that I don't fully have; they are utilizing dexterity that has not been taught yet. My kids are effortlessly employing dispositions where I have to purposefully exert effort. Indeed, my realization is that I have natives in my house!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Administrative Technology Standards (Part 1)

My driving motivation behind this blog is to help school district leaders understand digital-age tools well enough to be able to better conceptualize how the use of these tools relate to school vision, powerful learning, public relations, and the list goes on. Understanding our expectations is almost as difficult as understanding the digital-age tools themselves, not to mention how to apply and appropriately employ them during everyday problem solving strategies. 

In my experience, however, there is (as Scott McLeod says) a "big fricking wall," or a set of obstacles that are making the process more difficult than it should be. Again, my core thesis is that part of the problem of this "big fricking wall" is that administrators don't yet conceptualize what Web 2.0 is, what it can do, and how to use it to solve problems. Administrators have all been in "sit and get" sessions where a technology wiz does a show and tell, but administrators just leave feeling frustrated and confused. Frankly, they just don't "get it" yet. It's time to help the people who know how to lead  understand digital age tools so that they can ascend the wall and get lead districts into excellence. 

In the effort to help with this charge, we should first understand what we need to do, our expectations. 

What follows are our national standards for technology, education, and school administrative leadership (ISTE Administrative Standards, 2009). To begin to work to achieve any of these standards (which is what we have to do) requires us (as district administrators leading public schools into mass changes ahead in the 21st Century) to "get it." Hence, we must first "get it" before we "do it." 

1. Visionary Leadership
Educational Administrators inspire and lead development and implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformation throughout the organization. Educational Administrators:

a. inspire and facilitate among all stakeholders a shared vision of purposeful change that maximizes use of digital-age resources to meet and exceed learning goals, support effective instructional practice, and maximize performance of district and school leaders.

b. engage in an ongoing process to develop, implement, and communicate technology-infused strategic plans aligned with a shared vision.

c. advocate on local, state and national levels for policies, programs, and funding to support implementation of a technology-infused vision and strategic plan.
2. Digital Age Learning Culture
Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging education for all students. Educational Administrators:

a. ensure instructional innovation focused on continuous improvement of digital-age learning.

b. model and promote the frequent and effective use of technology for learning.

c. provide learner-centered environments equipped with technology and learning resources to meet the individual, diverse needs of all learners.

d. ensure effective practice in the study of technology and its infusion across the curriculum.

e. promote and participate in local, national, and global learning communities that stimulate innovation, creativity, and digital-age collaboration.
3. Excellence in Professional Practice
Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources. Educational Administrators:

a. allocate time, resources, and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration.

b. facilitate and participate in learning communities that stimulate, nurture and support administrators, faculty, and staff in the study and use of technology.

c. promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital-age tools.

d. stay abreast of educational research and emerging trends regarding effective use of technology and encourage evaluation of new technologies for their potential to improve student learning.
4. Systemic Improvement
Educational Administrators provide digital-age leadership and management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information and technology resources. Educational Administrators:

a. lead purposeful change to maximize the achievement of learning goals through the appropriate use of technology and media-rich resources.

b. collaborate to establish metrics, collect and analyze data, interpret results, and share findings to improve staff performance and student learning.

c. recruit and retain highly competent personnel who use technology creatively and proficiently to advance academic and operational goals.

d. establish and leverage strategic partnerships to support systemic improvement.

e. establish and maintain a robust infrastructure for technology including integrated, interoperable technology systems to support management, operations, teaching, and learning.
5. Digital Citizenship
Educational Administrators model and facilitate understanding of social, ethical and legal issues and responsibilities related to an evolving digital culture. Educational Administrators:

a. ensure equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources to meet the needs of all learners.

b. promote, model and establish policies for safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology.

c. promote and model responsible social interactions related to the use of  technology and information.

d. model and facilitate the development of a shared cultural understanding and involvement in global issues through the use of contemporary communication and collaboration tools.

    Here is the CEO of ISTE talking about the revised standards in 2009.

    In the spirit of "getting it," what activities should we engage in to help us understand the nature of digital-age tools so that we are better able to fulfill the standards and effectively provide 21st Century aligned leadership for excellence in learning?

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Marching Backward into the Future

    What a great graphic to ponder from the New York Times' blog "Bits." Apparently, email is not instantaneous enough for generations who have grown up with technology. Michael Wesch often quotes Marshall McLuahn who said, "We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backward into the future." This is a perfect example of how older age groups adapt to new technologies, which is through their understanding of the past. Older generations feel more comfortable with email because it is more akin to snail mail (e.g., the mail comes, waits for you to access it, and has a process to reply). Whereas, generations who have grown up with technology and its ease of instantaneous and omnipresent communication and collaboration use instant messaging, texting, etc. 

    Top Web 2.0 Learning Tools for 2010

    In my last post, I suggested that #edtech-ies and school district leaders must begin the process of finding a more advanced understanding each-other's roles, responsibilities, and skills. As far as what this looks like from a "boots on the ground" perspective, this slideshow is a good start. The source I've discovered the slideshow is the #edtech twitter stream, on which this slideshow is a "top tweet." Look the tools over. Read the descriptions of each tool. Which ones seem to jump off the screen at you? Which ones can you see solving problems of communication and collaboration? Which ones would serve to amplify your work toward district and school goals? How would these tools positively advance your efforts in instructional areas such as differentiation, reading literacy, RTI, student engagement, or authentic assessment?  Also, go to, sign up for an account, and search #edtech. You will discover a community of professionals from all over the world having a continuous discussion about tech integration, and sharing resources without hesitation.

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    #edtech-ies Vs School Leaders

    Has anyone else noticed that most school leaders are very good at thinking through school board governance issues, initiative implementation, resource allocation, and goal evaluation, but are not very adept at Web 2.0 tools? Have you also noticed that #edtech-ies (this is a morph of the very popular twitter hash-tag stream of tweets from people passionate about technology integration into learning and classrooms) are very good at understanding the concepts behind share settings, Rss feeds, social bookmarking, and open source computing, but are not very good at working with school boards, thinking through the implementation of a new initiative, how to allocate fiscal resources, or evaluation of staff progress toward goals?

    What would it take to have an amalgamation of both? What if we could have the leader who is adept at all the school leadership stuff and understand Rss feeds and twitter streams? What could we all accomplish then?

    The challenge is for these two types of people to meet in the middle, for the leaders to sit down with the #edtech-ies and cross pollinate. Does anyone have any recommendations as to how to do this?

    Shifting Norms and Answerleaks

    In an age of disaggregation, and of transparency, and of collaboration, and of shifting approaches to learning (e.g., from sit and get to PBL), this is an example of a fault-line, a place where the friction of these vastly different perspectives come to heat with emotion.

    In what is being termed as "Answerleaks," students where able to access advanced copies of an examination. Not all but many actually accessed the data to better prepare themselves for an examination. Indeed on the surface is seems obvious: they cheated and should be held liable for their lapse in judgement.

    However, when looked at through the lens of a 20-year-old who has grown up in an age of transparency, of 24/7 access to information (which is omnipresent so there is no need to memorize it), of de-centralized but socialized power, and of collaboration, the situation may look a bit different.

    Here is the video of the professor's reaction to the students actions:

    Here is a wonderful analysis from Miami Herald.

    What do you think of these two opposing points-of-view? Is there someone who is just plain wrong? Someone thinking archaically? What are the foundational educational stances at play here and how do these stances relate to adult success in the 21st Century?

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    What if school districts had to apply for superintendents?

    We all have school districts around us, either in our athletic conference, our education service areas, or in our region, that seem to be stuck. The district is wrought with administrative turnover, strained labor relations, and misalignment in school board governance. Innovation is met with resistance and self-interest by certain populations within the staff, and decisions seem to be made with without regard to vision and purpose. This is not even to mention that in most of these “stuck” districts, the community’s perception of the schools is one of burden and saddled responsibility than of community asset, center, and legacy.

    Inevitably, stuck districts have to post an opening for another district administrator as their dysfunction generates the revolving door of leadership. Stuck communities would rather blame an outsider’s leadership for their continued failures rather than look to their own chaos to explain their status of being stuck. And when this stuck district accepts applications and hires another successor, they are destined again to repeat their malfunctions. How does this sound for a school district posting: “Stuck school district seeking a leader to accept a position that is probably temporary, where you will have to endure labor animosity that runs almost generationally deep, perpetual school board micro-management, and community skepticism, isolation, and suspicion. Also note that you will have no chance to increase revenue, and you will be operating under a vision that has not been updated since 1993.” 

    But what if it were different? What if the responsibility of successfulness and capacity for accomplishment where equally shared by the superintendent, school district, and community? What if school districts together with communities had to prepare credentials to attract an innovative district administrator? What if a stuck community were forced to describe what they have to offer a leader? What would a school district’s qualifications look like?

    Successful school communities do, by and large, share a number of qualities:

    1. Consistent and Student-Focused Governance. NSBAs Key Works of schools is a great start to begin to head in this direction.
    2. Consistent and Student-Focused Administration. Waters and Marzano have done excellent work in this area.
    3. Community Trust, Respect, and Support of the School System. See WASB's Community Engagement resources.
    4. Large-Scale Participation in a Culture of Contribution (vs. a culture of competing interest groups). Check out the Solution Tree endorsed, All Things PLC.
    5. An Atmosphere of Forgiveness and Flexibility (vs. blame, suspicion, and condemnation).

    The point, here, is that we share in responsibility for the success of the school district, and we all exert effort in possibilities instead of wasting time fighting about the problems. As school leaders over time come and go, are hired and move on, the ultimate long-term success of a school district is in the community's hands. They own it and are responsible for its success or failure.

    What other characteristics do you think successful school communities have that would attract great administrators?

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Utilizing Web 2.0 in the Classroom to Enhance Reading Literacy!

    One of the most interesting digital junctions in education (and I say digital junctions to express the idea of the ways in which digital tools interface with other educational models) is between reading literacy and the potential of Web 2.0. Take for instance, this graphic from Fountas & Pinnell, When Readers Struggle (Work Cited Below). Indeed, we first must acknowledge that the reader must engage in this organic ecology of cycling systems, and other tilts (such as writing skills and background knowledge) within their individual thought process, but Web 2.0 can assist with this ecology. Web 2.0 is a bi-directional conduit for most comprehension strategies, serving not only as a tool for the expression of comprehension, but also as a source for recapturing, reformulating, and remixing understanding while regenerating connections

    First, the capacity for readers to express the evolving result of these processes is important. My good friend Maureen Colburn says, "Comprehension is enhanced and deepened through conversation." Digital expression and conversation through wikis, blogs, micro-blogs, back channels, and conversation within social bookmarking can effectively facilitate this expression.

    Second, the context of where the reader comprehension strategies occur effects the depth of understanding accomplished. When students have the notion that the only person going to see the result of their work to comprehend is the teacher, the context isn't meaningful. However, when the expression of comprehension is done through digital conversation and interaction, the context is different; it's collaborative, immediate, and cooperative.

    Last, student engagement matters. I too am tired of the trite appreciation of Web 2.0 for the novelty of technology, yet the sheer truth is that student engagement increases when they meaningfully use technology.

    Digital technologies isn't the only tool to employ when creating an environment where students will more likely use strategies to comprehend complex text. Almost all literacy coaches (I know a couple of wonderful ones) will say that a balanced approach to a literacy program is the best way to promote student literacy. This balance, however, must include Web 2.0, and currently specialists in literacy may not yet have the skills and dispositions required to fully understand the potential of Web 2.0 in how it supports reading and thinking processes.

    G.S. Pinnell & I.C. Fountas. 2009. When readers struggle: Teaching that works. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann. 

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    The Angry Professor and the "Yawn"

    A perfect example of what Michael Wesch is critical. The exercise here is to first watch the professor at Cornell, and then watch Wesch's Vision of Students Today.

    Why is that student yawning? Why is that student not engaged? Why is that student physically exhibiting the fatigue of static, professor-centered, sit and get? And, who is culpable for the dilemma of engagement?

    TEDx in Madison!

    I have the pleasure of working with a great group of individuals on bringing TED to Madison. It's a very eclectic group taking a cross-disciplinary approach to the central idea behind the event. This picture was written by Deb Gurke and is the visual of the concept. In the top left corner, we see the transforming political economy, where catalysts such as immigration, poverty, technology, and the knowledge explosion (or access to knowledge expansion) are all drivers of change. In the upper right is the concept of transforming ideologies, where markets and accountability are in influx. While both the political economy and the ideologies of our time are transforming, they are also pushing what schooling is and what is need from schooling (a term meant to capture the formal public school experience). The collective impact of both of these forces will, in turn, compel schooling to transform too, which we can all agree is lagging behind in how it serves the public.
    What we hope to accomplish is to assemble representatives and innovators from the political economy and from the changing ideologies in order to have a collective impact in assisting the transformation of schooling. As most TED events already transmit, the event should be gathering of "cross pollination" for the purpose of understanding, hopefully generating the will and purpose for change in how we effectively educate children on a mass scale.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    The Critical Vocabulary of Web 2.0 Technology

    Access to understanding any complex concept, whether it's the periodic table, our system of democratic government, or geometry proofs, starts with understanding the vocabulary of the complex concept. Technology is not for want in the area of nomenclature; in fact, many an administrator turns away from even trying  any web applications, no matter how technically simple because of the jargon. So, here is a primer, a no-nonsense list of critical vocabulary (with definitions and some examples) to be used as a springboard and anxiety treatment. Hopefully the list inspires and calms while encouraging you to explore more about how people are utilizing technology to do amazing things.

    Web 2.0 Applications: Websites that allow you to create or share something as opposed to just statically reading or looking at something.
    Web Browser: The general term for the "brand" of software used to access the internet. As Internet Explorer is to Levi-Strauss Jeans, Google Chrome and Firefox are to Wranglers and Lee Jeans.
    Wiki: A web document that more than one person can access and change. Examples: Wetpaint or Wikispaces.
    Backchannel: A very localized web chatroom set up for a specific purpose with a smaller audience.Examples: Chatzy or Todaysmeet.
    Blog: An online journal to publish thoughts, share experiences, and pass along idea and information. Example: Blogger or Tumblr.
    Social Bookmarking: A term for sharing websites with colleagues and friends through a program that is  online rather than on a computer. Examples: Diigo or Delicious.
    Microblog: An online "phrase-based" journal that limits the amount of text posted. Example: Twitter.
    Cloud Computing: A movement to access computer programs through the internet rather than on your individual computer's hard-drive.
    Reader: Scott McLeod calls it a "listing station;" it is a tool to collect website and blog updates so that you can go to one place (your reader) to access all the new information posted. Examples: Google Reader or Netvibes.
    Open Source: A movement to make the html code (running behind website programming) "open" so that anyone can look/adapt the code.
    Mashup or Mashable: A universally applied term for combining and recombining information such as video, audio and pictures, through Web 2.0 applications.
    Embed: The skill of taking a Web 2.0 product (such as a map or a picture) and placing it in another Web 2.0 product. As a magazine clippings are to a collage, Web 2.0 applications are to Web 2.0 applications.
    Url: Just the website you see in the address bar at the top of your web browser.
    Share Settings: The set of choices you have to choose how public a Web 2.0 document is. You may want to keep it private, or you may want people to access it only with permission, or you may want everyone to be able to look at it.
    Tag: A one word descriptor to help categorize a website or web-based article so that you can find it later. Tags are usually used in social bookmarking sites.
    Screencasts, podcasts, and videocasts: Casts are a recording of something that is uploaded to a website for access by others. If it's a screencast, it's a video of the actions on your screen (say if you want to teach someone to email). If it's a videocast, it's video of something. A podcast is usually a voice recording of a conversation or dialogue.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    "Getting to Yes" author William Ury

    Here, Ury energetically provides a précis of his philosophies and methods of negotiation. He is the founder of Harvard's program on negotiation.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    This is the QR code for bookmarking my website.

    Once you download a mobile or desktop QR Code reader (such as i-nigma or dansl, respectively) you will be able to automatically add my blog to your bookmarks. This is just a low-level functionality for this type of innovation, but the possibilities are endless.