Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration


Posts tagged with "ed tech"

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Clever replaces outdated systems that take away from learning time.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?

SimCity EDU announced

Electronic Arts, in collaboration with GlassLab, today announced SimCityEDU, an online educational community based on the award-winning SimCityTM videogame. SimCityEDU will serve as a resource for classroom teachers who have a strong interest in utilizing digital platforms as a learning tool to drive student interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects*

Educators will be able to create and share digital SimCity-based lesson plans that will encourage students to think critically about the challenges facing modern cities. In the classroom, SimCity will be more than a game – it will be a way for the next generation of leaders to hone their skills through urban planning, environmental management and socio-economic development.

“For decades, SimCity has been embraced by the educational community as an engaging videogame that also provides a powerful learning experience, teaching problem solving skills through imaginative civic gameplay,” said Lucy Bradshaw, Senior Vice President and General Manager of EA’s Maxis Label. “We want to up the ante of SimCity’s educational influence. Through our collaboration with GlassLab, SimCity will become the foundation of a program to re-imagine learning in a way that will inspire today’s youth to get excited about STEM education and become the problem solvers of tomorrow.”

* SimCityEDU’s curriculum and tools will be correlated to U.S. Common Core standards.

To find out more about EA’s education initiatives, read Craig Hagen’s blog post on www.ea.com/news or visit http://www.simcityedu.org/.www.ea.com/news or visit http://www.simcityedu.org/.

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.

Are we Teaching our Kids to Write Like This?

I was turned on to this article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine “A Game of Shark and Minnow" which describes the story of eight men in the Philippine Navy on an abandoned ship in the South China Sea who stand guard against the Chinese Navy.

While the story is interesting, what really drew my attention was the way that the story was presented. If you just casually scroll through the story, you will see that it is presented in multiple formats:

  • Text
  • Photos
  • Movies
  • Audio
  • Maps

Writing in the 21st century is far more than simply writing text. Writing in the 21st Century involves all of the above.

Check out this video for instance:

How many words would it take to describe what is presented in that short video?

The point is, I think that almost no one would argue that this is a powerful way to present information.

A powerful way to write.

Think about it: You probably, unless you were truly interested int he topic, would have skipped over a text only, on the paper page article about 8 guys on a boat in the South China Sea. But I bet that once you logged onto the article, you started scrolling through it, looking for the videos, looking for the interactivity. You spent a lot more time on the article, I bet, than you would have if it were simply text.

Writing in the 21st century should be inclusive of ALL the ways we now have to easily integrate items into writing:

  • Audio
  • Video
  • Photo
  • Hyperlinks
  • Animations
  • and of course, text.

Look at the list: What are we spending most of our time teaching kids to do? It is text.

The written word. I bet if we graphed out most of our classes, students are spending the vast, vast majority of time communicating in text in one form or another.

Text, text text.

We are supposed to address the learning needs of different students, but we address their communication needs all the same.

Are you a visual learner? Good write in text. Are you an audio learner? Good, write in text. Are you a kinesthetic learner? Good, write in text.

Get the idea?

That is where digital storytelling comes in. Digital storytelling, or digital communication in general, addresses all of those “non-text”

Luckily, there are those out there that have decided to take up the digital storytelling mantle:

Digitales Nice introductory site to digital storytelling. I would like to see more inclusive ideas here, about how DS can be used in various curricular areas.

David Jakes has a site about Digital Storytelling here. Some of the links are broken, but you can find good basic info here as well as link to some tools.

Here is a nice collection on Diigo on digital storytelling tools:

What would happen if a teacher said this:

In your report/paper/lab/thing that you must turn in to me, you must include the following:

  • Photos
  • a short video with audio
  • text
  • a hyperlink

Why should you start incorporating digital storytelling into student writing? According to this article, there are several plusses when students write in a digital storytelling mode:

  • It develops creativity and critical thinking
  • Students who are shy or afraid to talk in class get a chance to speak out their minds
  • It empowers students voice to deliver rich, deep message that is capable of conveying a powerful message.
  • It helps students explore the meaning of their own experience, give value to it, and communicate that experience with others.
  • It promotes the notions of life long learning and independent learning
  • It develops students communicative skills
  • It is a reflective process that helps students reflect upon their learning and find deep connections with the subject matter of a course or with an out-of-class experience.
  • It fosters students sense of individuality
  • It also gives students an opportunity to experiment with self-representation and establish their identity
  • Students creating digital stories develop proficiency with multimedia applications

What is wrong with a goal of having student write and communicate in a fashion that looks like the New York Times Magazine article?

Nothing is wrong with it. In fact, it should be the norm, not the exception.



(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.”

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:

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)

Schools moving toward ‘BYOD’ with student technology

From the Article:

"In Prince William County, this school year marks the third for BYOD, and its use has been on the rise, said A.J. Phillips, supervisor of instructional technology services. The first year, high schools, for example, had an average of 45 active devices in use at any given time during the school day, and last year that average rose to 534.

“Every year I’ve seen an increase in the number of devices,” she said. Use varies by school and teacher, she said. “Like any tool in the classroom, some teachers are going to embrace it and some are not.”

(Source: Washington Post)


The team behind the programming language SCRATCH have created a classroom user guide and website with creative computing as the focus:

Creative computing is…creativity. Computer science and computing-related fields have long been introduced to young people in a way that is disconnected from their interests and values – emphasizing technical detail over creative potential. Creative computing supports the development of personal connections to computing, by drawing upon creativity, imagination, and interests.

Creative computing is…empowerment. Many young people with access to computers participate as consumers, rather than designers or creators. Creative computing emphasizes the knowledge, practices, and fundamental literacies that young people need to create the types of dynamic and interactive computational media that they enjoy in their daily lives.

Creative computing is…computing. Engaging in the creation of computational artifacts prepares young people for more than careers as computer scientists or programmers. It supports young people’s development as computational thinkers – individuals who can draw on computational concepts, practices, and perspectives in all aspects of their lives, across disciplines and contexts.

The guide can be used in a variety of settings (classrooms, clubs, museums, libraries, and more) with a variety of learners (K-12, college, and beyond). No prior experience with computer programming is required, only a sense of adventure!

Download the guide here! Download the workbook here. Download the workbooks and guides as Powerpoint files.

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?

If a teacher is not teaching at a high level, how can we expect students to learn at a high level?

- Tim Holt

Would you trust education to Silicon Valley?

I actually do not have a problem with this. We have been trusting “Silicon Valley” with computers and equipment for years. I guess the problems comes when the shift happens from just supplying equipment to supplying the actual teaching.
Who is vetting?
Who says this or that meets the standards?

I kinda am ok with this as long as there are monitors and safeguards in place.

From the article:

Venture capitalists are pouring funding into new technologies for a trillion-dollar industry in the US that could be ripe for disruption: education.

Education technology startups attracted $1.25 billion in funding in 2013, according to analysis by CB Insights, and the boom has grown in 2014, with ed tech companies attracting nearly half that amount ($559 million) during the first quarter alone.

It’s not just new startups that want a piece of the education pie. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has signaled a major push into education. Its Amplify division, run by the former New York City schools chancellor, Joel Klein, earlier this year launched an interactive digital curriculum aimed at middle school students, after releasing an education tablet last year. Pearson, which publishes the Financial Times, makes most of its money (pdf) in its education businesses. Yet the shift from print to digital (painful as it has already been for the news media) is only just beginning in education. States are in the process of shifting the billions in dollars they spend on textbooks into digital alternatives. It’s a similar story at the university level.

Click on the title to go to the article.

- 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.

Cheat Sheet for Ed Tech Terms

This is a good infographic for newbies to ed tech. Maybe there are terms even the vets are not familiar with. Of course, there are tons more of these terms that are not on this graphic.