Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration


Posts tagged with "ed"

Oct 1

Why don’t we have a universal Single Sign on for students?

Dear Education Technology Providers and Textbook Publishers:

Here is an idea: Why don’t all of you have a great big meet up at one of those fancy ed tech conferences and do the following:

Come up with a single consistent way for all students to sign on to your products.

One. Single. Way.

Right now, almost every single one of you has a different way for students to log into your systems.

A lot of time is wasted (up to 25% by one estimate) just having kids log into their various accounts when they access the digital world.

That way, kids and teachers and administrators will not have to come up with a new username/password combination every single time something new comes along. (I know, Active Directory is SUPPOSED to do this, but frankly, not everyone uses AD, and a bunch of you just want an Excel file of students sent once a month to your IT department.)

So the math book online resources might be different than the ELA book, the science book, the social studies books. And it isn’t like a kid could use the same UN/PW combo because some publishers require 6 letters and 2 caps and 1 symbol user name, and others require 8 letters, 1 cap, 2 symbols, a number..you get the idea. Add to that email, Google account, and everything else a student needs to know and the situation become intolerable.

I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a 4th grader to try and remember the myriad of passwords and usernames.

I think that this is a terrible time waster, and it actually is COUNTER productive because it keeps kids OFF of technology.

There seems to be an answer: Clever.com

Clever seems to allow a single sign for a wide variety of vendors from Google to CK12 to Discovery Education.

Good idea. Here is the info from their website:

Clever’s technology automates the secure transfer of usernames, passwords, and rosters between authorized parties. This enables quick and simple single sign on access to learning programs and continuously updated roster information in learning programs.

Clever replaces outdated systems that take away from learning time. Manual, vendor-specific processes, such as emailed CSV files or vendor-specific bulk transfers are often insecure, inconvenient, or both. Clever is engineered to be the most secure and convenient way for districts to send vendors data and grant access to learning programs.

Instant Login allows students to use a single username and password to sign into multiple applications. Clever integrates with your existing user management system (Google or ADFS) to make this possible. Learn more about instant login here.

Secure Sync maintains up-to-date roster information in your learning applications by creating a secure connection to your student information system (SIS). Clever regularly updates your learning applications with any changes to enrollment information in real time.

Clever gives staff and teachers more time to focus on things that really matter.

So the idea is good. HOWEVER…

There are thousands of different vendors and publishers. Clever only has 49 partners right now.


There are that many vendors in a single row in the ISTE or TCEA conference.

49 is a not a drop in a bucket. It is a drop in an ocean.

And while Clever is free (for now), it has limited use if your district is using the thousands of apps and services that are NOT being offered.

So how can we get you, Mr. or Mrs Publisher to use a single common sign in? Is it something that districts must push when they adopt textbooks? Should states demand it? We don’t purchase your product unless you have the common single sign on?

What do you think? Can you help us out guys and throw us a bone?

Textbook Case of Bad Textbooking

I once had a boss that told me he could “do” education because he was an educated man (Business Degree) , had kids in schools, and had a relative or two that were educators. I was reminded of that long ago conversation when I read this article about the next round of Texas Board of Education Stupidity:

From the article:

"Did you know Moses played a role in the writing of the U.S. Constitution? I didn’t. Apparently neither did the Founding Fathers, since he’s not mentioned in the Federalist Papers or any other relevant document. But students reading Perfection Learning’s new textbook on American history will think Moses was right up there with John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu in influencing Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and their brethren.

What role did Moses supposedly play? The textbook claims he contributed the concept that “a nation needs a written code of behavior.” Forget the biblical ignorance shown in suggesting Moses provided the code for a “nation” rather than for the Jewish people, who had no nation (failing to reach the Promised Land was kind of key to the Book of Deuteronomy). Forget the legal ignorance in suggesting the Constitution had anything to do with a “code of behavior” rather than establishing democratic government and the rights guaranteed to citizens. Forget the historical ignorance in suggesting that the first laws came from Moses when the sixth Amorite king of Babylon established one of the first written set of laws, known as Hammurabi’s Code, hundreds of years earlier”

We just got through figuring out that Intelligent Design is neither intelligent or designer. Surely we learn from our past mistakes…Oh wait, that is not in the Bible…or in the Tea party manual.

Sigh. Click on the Title to go to the article.

Everything is Short Lived: Changing the Paradigm of #EdTech Replacement Cycles

"I am the entertainer,

the idol of my age

I make all kinds of money

when I go on the stage

You see me in the papers,

I’ve been in the magazines

But if I go cold, I won’t get sold

I get put in the back in the discount rack

Like another can of beans” —Billy Joel “The Entertainer”

Ever get the idea that education practices are sort of how the singer in Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer” feels? Things that are hot get cold really fast. What have you done for me lately? Anyone that has been around education knows the drill and knows the phrase “This too shall pass.”

The other day, I was in a meeting and the educators were discussing some new technology initiative. One of the teachers said in a semi-serious, semi-comical way “This is going to be short lived.”

The implication was, of course, that this whatever it is, will only last a short time before we move on to something else. Of course, as educators, we have all seen that: today’s exciting best practice is tomorrow’s has been practice that no one uses anymore.

This is especially true in the world of ed tech, which follows technology in general. Products have the educational lifespan equivalent of a fruit fly. Today’s hit is tomorrow’s miss.

"I get put in the back of the discount rack like another can of beans."

Think of some of the “Products to end all products” in ed tech in the last few years that are now relegated to the discount rack of technology beans:

  • Second Life
  • Interactive White Boards
  • iPods
  • Netbooks
  • Class Clickers
  • 3D Projectors
  • Oregon Trail
the list goes on and on.

Everything changes quickly. Everything. Education Technology is no exception. Perhaps technology more than anything else in education. How often are smartphones updated?

Technology of course, is not the only thing. Cars are updated each year. Have you ever gotten used to a particular product at the grocery store only to find it “discontinued” after a year or so? Loved that 3 Cheese Ragu sauce? Sorry, it is now 4 Cheese Ragu sauce.

The difference is however, that technology rarely moves backwards. Things like cars and foodstuffs are typically very incremental in their development. This year’s Ford Focus is not TOO much different than last year’s. The 4 Cheese Ragu is not TOO much different than 3 cheese version form last year. (Can you bet there will be a 5 Cheese soon?) Stuff changes really quickly but most often not dramatically. That is called evolutionary change.

Education technology is different however. Ed tech changes much more rapidly and is much more revolutionary in the way it changes than other educational aspects. Textbooks have not changed in decades, maybe centuries. Technology is not that way. Consider the iPad for instance. Before 2010, there were no iPads on any campuses anywhere. Now, there are over 13,000,000 in schools by the summer of 2014. By 2020, we will not even know what iPads are in school rooms. They will be replaced with something else.

Educational institutions and personnel are stuck in product life cycle (that ended years ago) need to readjust. Schools mentally, are on the product cycle of the textbook: get once, expect it to last 10 years.

We are no longer in the last century. We no longer have to use the textbook as the arbiter for how long we keep equipment.

We need to adjust the way that we look at equipment. Consider this example:

In the past, software was considered something that was to last a long time: Buy Adobe Photoshop for $600 and it was expected to last as long as the computer it was installed on, if not longer. Now, many school districts look at software more as a consumable product rather than as something that should last forever. That 99 cent app? Toss it when done.

How do we make the mind shift to make educational institutions and teachers understand that technology adoption cycles should not be the same as other educational materials product cycles?

I can think of at least these:

  1. Assume that technology will change rapidly.
  2. Don’t become emotionally attached to devices or applications.
  3. Assume that technology purchases are meant to have an upgrade cycle that is shorter than almost any other educational institutional purpose.
  4. Be willing to make the shift to the idea that some technology is disposable. Especially apps.
  5. Have people (or follow people online) that are constantly looking for the trends in technology so you can keep informed.
  6. Be able differentiate between fads, trends, and actual movements in ed tech.

Can you think of some other ways that institutions can start rethinking the technology in schools arraign to align with new tech as it comes along so we don’t have a whole bunch of stuff that ends up in the discount rack.



(Washington, DC) – As 55 million U.S. children in grades K-12 head back to school, Mobile Future today debuted a new infographic—“EdTech + Mobile = Learning” —showcasing the tremendous promise wireless technologies offer both students and educators.

Tech pioneers are investing in wireless technologies that are transforming teaching and learning. With mobile devices and apps now front and center in the American consciousness, our nation’s community of learners has enthusiastically embraced mobile technologies as an on-ramp to untold educational opportunities and enhanced learning environments. To illuminate just how embedded mobile devices have become in our nation’s classrooms, here are some key points spotlighted in this latest “back-to-school” installment of Mobile Future’s infographic series:

43% of all pre-K through 12th grade students use a smartphone.

78% of Algebra 1 students using a tablet scored at least proficient vs. 59% of those using textbooks

6 out of 10 teachers say mobile devices allow them to provide more personalized help to students.

81% of teachers believe mobile devices enrich classroom education.

73% of middle school and high school teachers use cellphones for classroom activities.

Educational apps are the second largest category in Apple’s App Store and the third largest in Android’s Google Play.

E-textbooks can save schools $250-$1,000 per student each year.

“Wireless technologies are offering students, along with their parents, caregivers and the teachers who instruct them, fresh, engaging and constantly evolving ways of learning about, and examining, the world around them,” said Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter. “With continued investment and innovation in wireless, mobile will continue to transform American education and help ensure all of our young people have the tools they need to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s wireless world.”

How Christian fundamentalist homeschooling damages children

Recently in Texas, a court determined that home schoolers MUST prove that they are actually schooling their children. This is being appealed of course, but it does seem to indicate that someone is scared if they are asked to prove something and they cannot do so. "Of course there are parents who are qualified to teach their children at home, and who do an excellent job of it. And there are children who excel in homeschooling environments. These families may well constitute a majority of homeschoolers. But this does not mean that all children do so well, and just as public schools are obligated to educate children who fall behind, so are parents who opt out of the system." Right now there is no hard data outside of anecdotal evidence, to indicate that homeschooling is effective or not.

Public Education: It is not as Bad as it Seems

We know this, but it is good when the media reiterates it:

From the article:
“In the most recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, about 67 percent of public school parents said they would give their oldest child’s school a grade of “A” or “B.” But just 17 percent of the respondents would give “public schools nationally” the same score. This grading gap has widened in recent decades.”

Click on title to go to article.

Gallup Poll here

Awesome iPad App Storehouse now on iPhone

Teaching kids to express themselves with visual as well as written information? Sometimes I wonder, especially when I see cool tools like Storehouse and wonder does the future of writing JUST involve the written word?

Are we doing our students a disservice by telling snd testing and saying that most communication has to be in written format?

Take Storehouse for instance. This is an awesome app that allows anyone to create visual stories. Are our students able to express themselves this way?

Click on the title to go to the article

Smartphone Microscope Can be made for a Dollar

Ever since the iPhone came out, folks have been looking at ways to make it do things it was never meant to do, and one of these is as a portable microscope.

$10, $2, now down to about $1.

Article summary:

Suppose you were a first responder, who got called out to investigate a suspicious substance found in a public place. Instead of having to transport that material back to the lab, wouldn’t it be better if you could just take a microscope image of it with your smartphone, email that image off to a remote lab, then receive the analysis within just a few minutes while you were still on location? Thanks to a very inexpensive new phone attachment developed at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), that could soon be possible.

Click on title to go to article.

Check out this video I made a few years ago, inspired by Hall Davidson:

Why Girls Tend to Get Better Grades Than Boys Do

Are schools set up to favor the way girls learn and trip up boys? I have been around long enough to remember the complete reverse argument: That schools favored boys over girls. Maybe if we wait around long enough a study will come out that says schools don’t favor anyone.

Anyway, this is a food for thought article that has some interesting information:

"As the new school year ramps up, teachers and parents need to be reminded of a well-kept secret: Across all grade levels and academic subjects, girls earn higher grades than boys. Not just in the United States, but across the globe, in countries as far afield as Norway and Hong Kong.

This finding is reflected in a recent study by psychology professors Daniel and Susan Voyer at the University of New Brunswick. The Voyers based their results on a meta-analysis of 369 studies involving the academic grades of over one million boys and girls from 30 different nations. The findings are unquestionably robust: Girls earn higher grades in every subject, including the science-related fields where boys are thought to surpass them.

Less of a secret is the gender disparity in college enrollment rates. The latest data from the Pew Research Center uses U.S. Census Bureau data to show that in 2012, 71 percent of female high school graduates went on to college, compared to 61 percent of their male counterparts. In 1994 the figures were 63 and 61 percent, respectively. In other words, college enrollment rates for young women are climbing while those of young men remain flat.”

Click on the title to go to the article.

5 Ways for Principals to Improve School Climate

There are tons of articles that list ways that campus administrators can improve their campuses. The five ways in this article certainly is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it is a nice starting list. I think we can easily add more to the list:

Here are the ones in the article:

  1. Get Out of Your Office
  2. Have Authentic Conversations
  3. Encourage Student Voice
  4. Engage with Parents
  5. Flip Your Faculty Meetings

I would add, right off the top of my head:

  1. Use social media to communicate with your entire school community
  2. Be as Transparent as Possible
  3. Don’t just Say you are the academic leader, lead by example
  4. Don’t ask others to do what you would not do yourself
  5. Accept that all people fail, but that if we learn from that, then failure can be acceptable
  6. The test is not everything.

Okay, what would you add?

Read the original article here:
Adding new technology to old pedagogy does not make it better.

Adding new technology to old pedagogy does not make it better.

(Source: recitethis.com)

7 keys to making a city a true “Smart City”

If you are not reading the blog”Getting Smart” the website/blog/aggregator from Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart, you need to be It is insightful, cutting edge, and while it leans over towards the private over public sector in education, it does have lots of good information. I like it because Vander Ark is talking in a space that many public educators are not aware of and need to be: the side of education that attract the venture capitalists and the entrepreneurs. From my experience, the public education practitioners almost universally dismiss those that are making or trying to make a buck or two on education by changing the paradigms we are driving ourselves in. I think that this is wrong, because frankly, all of us can learn from each other.

With that in mind, I liked this entry from Tom’s blog “Leading the Shift to Digital: School, System & City.” In it, Vander Ark discusses seven components of what it takes to make a city a “smart city.” It is not an easy thing to do, and even large cities may or may not have these seven things in place.

Without the seven, a city cannot be expected to make significant changes to how the population is education, stays educated, or changes. Want to change a city? You need to have the seven in place:

  1. Innovation Mindset: a combination of growth, maker and team mindset—from classroom to city;
  2. Sustained Leadership: building political capital to create a portfolio of options;
  3. Talent Development: preparing and developing great teachers, leaders, and edupreneurs;
  4. Collective Impact: partnerships and community engagements;
  5. Aligned Investments: aligned public and private investment;
  6. New Tools & Schools: incubation capacity for new tools schools and connecting teachers and technology; and
  7. Advocacy & policy: a supportive environment for schools and startups.

Think about those seven: I would postulate that most cities DO NOT have these in place. I would also venture to say that if change happens in the cities where the seven are not in place, it takes place in fits and starts.

If I am reading this correctly, Vander Ark is saying that great schools cannot happen by themselves. There has to be a symbiotic relationship with the city and the businesses that they exist in. Got 6 of these? Un uh. You need all 7 in order for smart change to happen.

All seven of these are hard to come by in singular instances, and indeed I would suggest are almost impossible to come by in anything other than large metropolitan areas that have money, will power and the capital base to do this. I wonder how rural cities, towns or villages can even hope to succeed in a smart city way when these would be difficult for e much bigger, richer city to do the same?

Finally, Vander Ark and crew have seen the future and have a hopeful vision of innovation:

  • Every person, organization, and region needs to get smart—to skill up, learn more, and build new capacities faster and cheaper than ever;
  • Innovative new tools and schools are making that possible everywhere
  • Innovation starts with a mindset that can be developed in every classroom and every city
  • Innovation is scaled by leaders that develops talent, and align partnerships and investments for collective impact
  • Innovation is sustained by advocacy and policy

So, you know where you live. Can your city become a smart city? An innovative city?

Why or why not?

Blueprint for Tomorrow: Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning

Everyone knows I am a big fan of Prakash Nair, world famous designer of schools and educational futurist. I was pleased to hear he has a new book out on school design, and I will have review shortly. Here is info about the new work:

From Harvard Education Press:

The United States has about $2 trillion tied up in aging school facilities. School districts throughout the country spend about $12 billion every year keeping this infrastructure going. Yet almost all of the new money we pour into school facilities reinforces an existing—and obsolete—model of schooling. In Blueprint for Tomorrow, Prakash Nair—one of the world’s leading school designers—explores the hidden messages that our school facilities and classrooms convey and advocates for the “alignment” of the design of places in which we teach and learn with twenty-first-century learning goals.

Blueprint for Tomorrow provides simple, affordable, and versatile ideas for adapting or redesigning school spaces to support student-centered learning. In particular, the author focuses on ways to use current spending to modify existing spaces, and explains which kinds of adaptations offer the biggest return in terms of student learning. The book is organized by area—from classrooms to cafeterias—and is richly illustrated throughout, including “before and after” features, “smart idea” sidebars, and “do now” suggestions for practical first steps. It outlines key principles for designing spaces that support today’s learning needs and includes tools to help educators evaluate the educational effectiveness of their own spaces.

Blueprint for Tomorrow will open educators’ eyes to the ways that architecture and learning are entwined and will challenge them to rethink the ways they teach and work together.

You can purchase it here in both hardcover and paperback

Amazon here

Read more about Prakash Nair in these previous blog entries.

- Presently Perfect! 10 Powerful Presentation Tools for Educators

Tired of Powerpoint? Think your kids can do more than make slides? Try these tools for presenting.

Click on the title to go to the link.

FREE -- Teaching Resources and Lesson Plans from the Federal Government

Really nice collection of free government resources for use in all types of subject area.

Click on the title to go to the link.