Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration


Posts tagged with "education technology"

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.

One Best Thing: Are You Reading These?

Are you reading the “One Best Thing" series of books on iBooks?

These very short books, written by Apple Distinguished Educators showcases a single type of lesson that can incorporate technology.

“One Best Thing is a collection of books created by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) that demonstrate the use of Apple technologies to transform teaching ​
and learning. Each One Best Thing book shares a unit, a lesson, or a best practice and is designed to help another educator implement a successful practice. It’s a professional learning idea championed by an educator—in word and action—that others can look to for ideas and tips on how to replicate. Enjoy this One Best Thing book, along with others in the collection, and discover innovative projects, lessons, and activities for use in your own learning environment.”

These 102 books cover all major core areas:

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics and Science
  • Content Creation in the Classroom
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Art, Music and Media Arts
  • Implementing a Digital Classroom
  • Assessment

There simply is something for everyone. And even if you are not an Apple user, you can get some really good ideas from these books.

There are very short, do not require a whole lot of deep thinking to get through, and are well produced All have a similar look and feel. If you have an iPad, iPhone or Mac, you can download them all.

Some titles (remember there are 102 total titles) include:

  • If Shakespeare Could Tweet
  • Literature Circles with iPad
  • Brining Geometry Shapes to Life
  • Digital Discourse in Mathematics
  • Student Created Science Animations
  • Student As Teacher: Professional Learning Workshops by Student Experts
  • Coaching Without Saying a Word

As you can see, there is something for everyone. Simply going through the 102 titles takes some time, but luckily they are broken down into sub categories.

So you need to be reading these. The price is right.

Enjoy and be inspired.

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.

Digital Textbooks and Film Cameras:

Back in the late 1990’s I was a member of a photography club here in El Paso. That club was made up of all kinds of photographers, from VERY amateur ones to VERY professional ones. I remember that at the time, there was some talk about digital photography, and I had gotten my hands on some digital cameras, like the old Apple Quicktake 100:

Back then, digital cameras were few and far between, with only high end professional photographers using them, and Photoshop was something that very few people knew about. Way expensive cameras, low resolution images, few ways to manipulate either, and even fewer ways to print an image out. If you wanted the image, you had to pretty much also own an Epson Photo Printer, whose images faded quickly and whose ink and photo paper cost a small fortune.

Yet, the technology, as it almost always does, marched on. Slowly, surely, the cameras became more capable, the software to manipulate the images became more affordable (Photoshop remained expensive, but Photoshop Elements provided users with 90% of the functionality of Photoshop at 1/5th of the price. Photo stores began to adapt and purchase equipment that could print real photos from digital files.

Still, in my photo club, there was almost unanimous opinion that this new technology would never ever replace film. The oft heard phrase was that film was here to stay and that this digital stuff was simply something as a diversion for rich people that could afford a lot of equipment. They pointed to Kodak as an example. Kodak was so big, how could it ever go out of business? And Ilford? And Fujifilm? There simply were too many film photographers out there. You had to know a lot about photography in order to be a “real photographer.” When I demonstrated some digital photo technique to the group, I was met with polite applause, but never a follow-up question. Digital, at least for these folks, was a fad that would pass. Indeed, for a while, photographers that used digital equipment were not really considered “real photographers” because they could manipulate their images on a computer and not in a darkroom.

Well, we all know how that story has ended. Kodak and the film based industry, for the most part, simply could not adapt to the rapid change in their business model and have been relegated to the graveyard of failed businesses. Those “fad” digital devices which once were so expensive only professionals could use them soon became common place. Now, almost every person that has a cell phone has a camera. More photos are being taken now than ever before. Indeed almost one TRILLION photos will be taken in 2014 alone.

Of course, not all of these are works of art, far from it, but there are now more photographers on the planet than ever before. Those high end Photoshop manipulations from a few years ago that cost around $600 to do are now free or near free as apps on those same phones.

Digital photo technology has democratized photography. You no longer have to be a trained professional photographer to get professional looking photographs. That is not to say that professionals are not needed. A trained professional can still run rings around an amateur when it comes to lighting and posing. But for the most part, for 99% of photo needs, that camera in your cell phone will do just fine.

That photography club I once belonged to? Last time I checked, every single photographer was using digital cameras.

If you were like me, you could have seen the shift coming whether you believed it or not, whether you wanted it or not. It was a train that simply could not have been stopped.

The shift was fast, the industry was slow to keep up, the power of the people, the availability of devices and the price being lowered to essentially $0 created a planet of picture takers. Entire industries that were not here a few years ago have now sprouted up in recent years to handle the onslaught of the sheer number of images. Sites like Flickr are designed specifically for digital images.

Here is the sequence: Nascent technology takes on an entrenched and unwilling or unable to change industry and is overwhelmed by massive amounts of free materials that are almost as good , say 99% as good, as the “professional material.”

Sound familiar? The exact same thing is happening right this minute in the textbook industry. Consider such groups as CK12.org which provides secondary textbooks for free, aligned to state and national standards. Did you get that? FREE TEXTBOOKS. No publisher can beat that price. None. And it doesn’t stop there. Literally thousands of free textbooks and entire courses are now available to students and teachers using such diverse sites as hippocampus.org and iTunes U. My district has even started a collection of all of the content we are finding online that can be used in lieu of a traditional textbook. One wonders how long it will be before the traditional textbook publishers start pushing back against the free material. Because knowledge is free, it will be difficult for them to argue that their CONTENT is better. My bet is that they will start arguing that their process is better. In any event, it will be difficult for them to justify $100 textbooks when the same information is available for free elsewhere. Maybe not in as pretty as package, but 99% good enough.

Of course, the other advantage of a digital text is that a device needs to be used to read them. Students an use a device like an iPad to read the text, but also take notes, share information, research and write, all the while no longer having to carry around 30 pounds of books. Digital texts weigh nothing, something that publishing printshops are no doubt very aware of. Choices now seem to be quickly going away from heavy, paper texts. Sure, they will still be there for those that need them, just like you can still buy film for a camera if you really need to, but the reason for doing it becomes more and more moot as time rolls on.

Has your district started to make the switch to digital texts? Let me know about it.

Upgrading Blogs Through Lens of SAMR

This is a nice blog entry about both teacher and classroom blogs and how to look and use them using the SAMR model as the backbone.

Click on the title to get to the original article.

Timeline of Educational Technology in Schools Infographic

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

May 7

Innovative K12 Startups

Here is a list of ed tech start up companies that are supported by Imagine K12. This list is interesting to me because it provides us with an idea of what new types of technology are coming to classrooms. Some are ready to go, some are just getting started.

ImagineK12 does this:

Imagine K12 helps startups move efficiently to the next stage in their development. We work together on product-market fit and build toward raising seed capital from angel investors and venture capitalists. Companies all evolve differently, which is why the Imagine K12 partners devote time every week to understanding how each company is doing, and how we can best help them move forward. During these meetings we offer advice, push founders to iterate rapidly based on user feedback, and challenge them to create more compelling products and companies. We also introduce founders to others in our networks who can help them along the way, including educational leaders, tech experts, startup veterans, angel investors, and venture capitalists.

Click on the title to go to the list.

From the show 10 in 10, Ten ED TECH matches to the Multiple Intelligences.

Apr 7

It’s all about the narrative.

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” - Indian Proverb

Have you been watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s excellent reboot of Carl Sagan’s classic television series Cosmos? If not, you should be. This is non-fiction television at its finest.

Every episode has a theme that is generously interspersed with the historical background of the topic. For instance, in one episode, A Sky Full of Ghosts, the host used animation and historical storytelling featuring Isaac Newton, William Herschel, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell to explain how science came to understand the nature of black holes and how far light travels in a year, thus understanding how big the universe is and where we are in it.

William Herschel, the great English physicist, when asked if he believed in ghosts, explained to his son John, that the light we see from stars today are actually light of the stars from millions or billions of years ago. We are, he said, in fact, seeing ghosts of something that is no longer there.

The story is powerful. It is coded into our genes. We are a people of the story and our species is a species of storytellers; from the cave paintings El Castillo in Spain to The Grand Budapest Hotel to our family dinner table, we tell stories. And we learn from stories.

The producers and writers of Cosmos understand that story trumps facts and figures any day. Cosmos could have been a terribly boring retelling of science theory and formula. Instead, by weaving the story into the science, the concepts come alive. I bet you still remember what you just read about the ghosts of stars.

And the writers of Cosmos are not the only ones that know the power of the story in teaching science.

A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed an intimate connection between the brain activity of speakers and listeners in conversation, demonstrating how the brain of an engaged listener “syncs up” with a speaker. By engaging students with compelling stories that impart important material, teachers reach students both emotionally and biochemically, increasing the potential for rich learning experiences.” (source) A 2004 article from the Association for the Psychological Science broke down three reasons why storytelling in teaching is important:

  • Stories Provide a Structure for Remembering Course Material
  • Stories Are a Familiar and Accessible Form of Sharing Information
  • Telling a Story From Experience Can Create a More Personal Student-Teacher Connection

Yet the narrative is sadly missing from most teaching that we do. In our efforts to cover as much academic territory in as little a time as possible, we have thrown out or maybe even lost that trait that all of the great teachers of old had: storytelling.

So how do we get the story back into the teaching and learning? How can we make the connection to the future if we do not understand the past?

Roy C. Owens (1899-1973) in a speech to the Vancouver Club in 1958 said "We cannot know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve come from." That has been quoted many many times, most famously by JFK. We can only know where we come from if we know our story. We can only understand where we are today if we understand how we go here. The story is important. You cannot understand how you got to where you are without story.

I am not suggesting that we add the historical narrative to everything we teach. However, there is enough evidence to point out that the narrative is a superior way to get students understand concepts.

The narrative is a good way to make things “stick,” as the Heath Brothers would say. One of the six ways that they have for making an idea stay with someone was the Story.

In their companion piece "Teaching that Sticks," the Heath Brothers say “The stories don’t have to be dramatic, they don’t have to be captivating, and they don’t have to be entertaining. The story form does most of the heavy lifting—even a boring story will be stickier than a set of facts. And that’s comforting to a lot of us who don’t consider ourselves great storytellers or dramatists. Woody Allen said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up,” and that seems to be true of storytelling. Ninety percent of the value is just trying.”

Authors as diverse as John Medina in Brain Rules and Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind understand that the story, or storytelling does something to the brain that tumors on multiple areas that all connect. Pink says “Story represents a pathway to understanding that doesn’t run through the left side of the brain.” The story stimulates all portions of the brain. The more neurons firing, the more learning taking place.

Doug Stevenson wrote in his blog about the relationship between brain science and storytelling: "Now is the time for leaders to become wisdom sharers – synthesizers – storytellers. Simply “getting through the content” is not only ineffective; it wastes everyone’s time. However, simply telling a story will not make you a better leader. It has to be the right story, crafted strategically to make the right point, delivered at the right time, and in a compelling way."

Change the word leader to teacher and you now understand how story becomes important in class. What is your story and how are you telling it in your classroom?

Interview with James Paul Gee: Author of The Anti Education Era

James Paul Gee is the author of The Anti Education Era.

From wikipedia:He was born in San José, California. He received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara and both his M.A. and Ph.D in linguistics from Stanford University. He started his career in theoretical linguistics, working in syntactic and semantic theory, and taught initially at Stanford University and later in the School of Language and Communication at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. After doing some research in psycholinguistics at Northeastern University in Boston and at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Holland, Prof. Gee’s research focus switched to studies on discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, and applications of linguistics to literacy and education. He went on to teach in the School of Education at Boston University, where he was the chair of the Department of Developmental Studies and Counseling, and later in the Linguistics Department at the University of Southern California. At Boston University he established new graduate programs centered around an integrated approach to language and literacy, combining programs in reading, writing, bilingual education, ESL, and applied linguistics. From 1993 to 1997 he held the Jacob Hiatt Chair in Education in the Hiatt Center for Urban Education at Clark University in Massachusetts. From 1997 until 2007, he held the Tashia Morgridge Professor of Reading at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
In 2007, Gee relocated to Arizona State University, where he is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Dr. Gee graciously agreed to answer some questions about his book, which I highly recommend.

Here is that interview:

Thank you for taking time to talk about your book “The Anti Education Era.”

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

I am a linguist by training. I worked in the first part of my career on syntax, semantics, and the philosophy of language. My dissertation was on “naked infinitives”, though I also wrote about “headless relatives” and the de re/de dicto distinction. (At the time I could not have heard that sentence as odd.) By the accidents of life I came to work on how language and literacy work in education and society. More recently, but even then now ten years ago, I came to work on video games and learning, inspired by my then six-year-old son Sam (now a college freshman).

After writing a good deal on language, learning, technology, and society I have become deeply concerned about the sorry state of the world and humanity. Environmental degradation, global inequality, toxic food, and casino capitalism (where the rich risk other people’s money and lives) are interacting to endanger all life. Eighty-five people in the world now own more than half the human race put together. The Anti-Education Era is call in the wilderness to stop talking about trivia in education while the world burns and our children’s futures are imperiled. If we do not do something soon, the best school reform in lower Manhattan, for example, will not be better algebra, but training with snorkels.

Can you give us a 10,000 ft view of the book?
Human beings left to themselves are stupid. The price for stupidity is way too high in our high-tech, high-risk, wildly-endangered world. We better start worrying about how to get people smart in the right way for the world we actually live in. While we Americans celebrate rugged individualism, the Greek word for people who go it alone is “idiot”.

Your book takes aim at what education is now, compared to what it should be. Do you have a pessimistic view of the future of education? 
I have a pessimistic view of the future of life on our planet, though I think a good many insects and cockroaches will do ok. Our society has very little respect for evidence. Evidence is just what the world says back to you when you act in and on it. A lack of respect for evidence—believing what you hope is true or what will make you rich or powerful—is a lack of respect for the world. Camus said that the universe was “benignly indifferent” to us humans. But that is true only when we treat the world with respect (it is the best we can expect). When we do not, the world bites back and strongly.

The subtitle of your book is “Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning.” What do you mean when you say “Digital Learning” and what aren’t we doing now to create smarter students?
First we have to say what smart should mean. To do that we need to study how and why humans are stupid and that is what the first part of the book does. When we have a good list of the ways in which we are stupid—and the list is long—we just to have reverse it to have a theory of what school and society should be doing if we want our children to have children. That is what the second part of the book is about.

Much literature in sociobiology and behavioral economic argues that humans are stupid because they have minds formed when we were hunter gatherers. These minds cannot cope with our modern complex conditions. My book argues another point of view. I argue that humans, as individuals without tools and other people, are idiots (in the Greek sense). Humans are meant to be “plug-and-play devices”. They become smart when they are networked in the right ways with the right people to engage in collective intelligence. Of course, when they are networked in the wrong way they can become both smart and very dangerous. Ethics matters here.

Digital media can allow schools just to do what they already do but faster (i.e., abetting human stupidity in the service of the rich) or they can become smart tools to engender ever new forms of powerful collective and ethical intelligence. [By the way, some people have said I am “anti-capitalist” and against free markets. In fact, I would love to see the U.S. have free markets. We have monopolies, price fixing, social welfare for the rich, and massive schemes to redistribute wealth upwards from the poor to the rich. No free markets though].

How do we change the momentum of always doing what we have done and move towards a “smarter” use of technology in education?
Today the agendas for our schools and society are set by the wealthy and the politicians who, by and large, represent them and represent them well. Respecting facts about the world, our history, the results of our policies, and our judicial system (where the poor go to jail and the rich get a raise for crimes) would be toxic to the interests of the wealthy. But the wealthy are a small percentage of our population, so they need the majority of us to be idiots (again, in the Greek sense). A good way to accomplish that goal is to demonize teachers and make schools an intellectual wasteland.

Sadly, humans move forward usually only when disaster actually strikes. For example, the Plague was the best thing that ever happened to peasants. It made them in short supply and turned them either into corpses or into workers who had to be freed and paid. We are today trying to recreate serfs as we attack wages, unions, and benefits. We are poisoning people across the world with fracking, pollution, and toxic food. We are creating germs resistant to all antibiotics. We are already facing the first dire effects of climate change while our power brokers still deny “global warming” every time it snows (a great example of just massive breathtaking stupidity). I hope we change because a great ethical wave needs to spread across our country and the world. Otherwise, the Grim Reaper will do “his” thing and we will start teaching real science in our schools as we seek to rediscover science (again) in the aftermath.

You use the term “synchronized intelligence” in your book. What is that and why is it important?
Effective, innovative, and ethical collective intelligence requires each person in a network to respect and be able to “dance” with all the tools, things, and other people in the network. We each have to be able to coordinate with (get in synch with) and learn to be coordinated by other people, things, and tools for a common good. This is basically all from Bruno Latour. We each have to bring important skills to the table, but ensure that they are coordinated with other people, things, and tools to create a higher-order intelligence than any one of us idiots (again the Greek sense) can bring to the table unaided. Any chef that does not know how to dance with shellfish and does not respect that shellfish make demands and bring things to the table when you cook them, poisons his or her customers. Humans are not the only important thing in the world. Things, tools, and all living things need to be respected and made valuable parts of the “team”. Otherwise, all we have are idiots (again in the Greek sense). Congress would be a good example. There are a great many others.

What do you envision the classroom of 2034 to look like?
There may be none, either because we have entered a new Dark Ages or because learning will become pervasive across age, time, and institutions and part and parcel of ethical and collectively intelligent networks, groups, communities, and nations living fruitful lives. Both are good for knowledge production. A new Dark Ages would allow for rediscovery and perhaps a new humility towards and respect for the world. On the other hand, if we were to see teaching and learning as a constant in life—indeed the ultimate nourishment of life—that would be good, too.

What do you hope to accomplish by writing this?
I wanted to start a new discussion about schools and society based on the question “What type of people do we want to create?” I have come to feel that academic writing has had very little impact on the world. We academics are part of the problem. We undervalue what we don’t know, overvalue what we think we know, and we look down on communicating with the hoi polloi. Thus, we leave communication to what Plato called “speech writers”. Speech writers (who included politicians, Sophists, and poor old Homer) sought, in their writing and speeches, to forestall questioning altogether, since their primary interest was to persuade through language that claimed to be complete and self-sufficient, standing in no need of supplement or rethinking, authoritative in its own right. There were not interested in mutually discovering the truth in dialogue, but in power.

Where did you get your inspiration from to write this?
Despair. I have always liked other animals better than human animals, so I hope to convince humans to let other things live, including poor people.

Your book is now a year old. I always like to ask “Who is listening to your message?”
Nobody. What do you expect when a stupid person writes a book for stupid people? It’s a dilemma.

My book on video games sold well over 30,000 copies and ten years later still sells well. This book has the problem that I did not get to choose the title (the publisher thought “On Human Stupidity” was a downer) and people want me give them a curriculum-guide for digital media. The book offers a clear solution that no one has paid attention to: just reverse each condition for human stupidity and that is what school should be about, indeed, what learning throughout life and society should be about. If we did that, it would be a Black Plague for the rich. If we do not, it will be a Black Plague for all of us, rich and poor alike.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you had written but didn’t?
I wished I had been able to use the title I wanted. I wished I had been less nice in the book. I wished I had written it better. I wished I was younger. But at least Plato would say, with praise, “at least it ain’t poetry.”

Do you have a website or some way for readers to contact you or get more information? 
I have a website (jamespaulgee.com) that I post to quite irregularly. I also have a website devoted to my poetry (jamespaulgee.wordpress.com) as well (this is embarrassing, given my last response). Three connected little books of my poetry (Blowing Out the Candles Vols. 1-3) have just been published. Search for them in Amazon under the name “Jim Gee”. Do not read them if you are prone to depression or fear death, but buy them anyway.

The Anti Education Era
iTunes Bookstore


Barnes and Noble

About The Anti Education Era:
One of the first champions of the positive effects of gaming reveals the dark side of today’s digital and social media.
Today’s schools are eager to use the latest technology in the classroom, but rather than improving learning, the new e-media can just as easily narrow students’ horizons. Education innovator James Paul Gee first documented the educational benefits of gaming a decade ago in his classic What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Now, with digital and social media at the center of modern life, he issues an important warning that groundbreaking new technologies, far from revolutionizing schooling, can stymy the next generation’s ability to resolve deep global challenges. The solution—and perhaps our children’s future—lies in what Gee calls synchronized intelligence, a way of organizing people and their digital tools to solve problems, produce knowledge, and allow people to count and contribute. Gee explores important strategies and tools for today’s parents, educators, and policy makers, including virtual worlds, artificial tutors, and ways to create collective intelligence where everyday people can solve hard problems. By harnessing the power of human creativity with interactional and technological sophistication we can finally overcome the limitations of today’s failing educational system and solve problems in our high-risk global world. This is a powerful and important call to reshape digital learning, engage children in a meaningful educational experience, and bridge inequality.

The 7 Critical Success Factors and Instructional Technology: Part 1 of a Series

I have been around long enough to have seen my fair share of “school improvement” programs. From single focus ones like “Assertive Discipline” to schoolwide and districtwide programs like “Effective Schools” to School Improvement Grants, to Priority Schools to School Effectiveness and Safety, there have been a long a varied list of programs in each state that are supposed to “turn around” low performing schools. Of course, “low performing school” was not even in our vocabulary until A Nation At Risk and ultimately NCLB said that data could be used to determine if a school was effectively educating students or not. (I know, I know…test scores aren’t everything.) And, I have been around long enough that now the school improvement models seem to be repeating themselves from years earlier, only named a little differently, with an additional bell or whistle added to add that shiny new coat to it.

For those of you that have not been around a while, let me give you my take on them:
Most of these programs have several factors in common: They generally call for things like “Improved Community Involvement,” “A Safe School Environment” “Improved Professional Development” and after NCLB came out, “Data Driven Decisions.” Indeed, the newest ones look suspiciously like the older ones from the late 80’s or early 90’s.

I suppose that is the price of longevity in a system. What’s old is new.

The difference from when I began as an educator to now, is that these school improvement programs were voluntary and district or campus driven. Nowadays, federal and state guidelines make these programs mandatory for campuses and districts which have schools that are falling below acceptable guidelines, usually based on standardized tests

In Texas, the most recent school improvement program is one that is required by school districts that have campuses that are not meeting the current set of proficiency standards. The program is called “Critical Success Factors” which are a series of items that districts and campuses must address in order to get themselves out of trouble.

As seen in this diagram, the 7 Critical Success Factors (CSF) are:

Teacher Quality: Teacher Quality focuses on the need to recruit and retain effective teachers while also supporting current staff with job- embedded professional development. A locally developed appraisal and evaluation system informs personnel decisions in order to ensure quality teaching and learning.

Leadership Effectiveness: Leadership Effectiveness targets the need for leadership on the campus to exercise operational flexibility and the effective use of data and resources. Providing job-embedded professional development to build capacity of campus leaders is a vital part of this CSF.

Family/Community Engagement: Family and Community Engagement calls for increased opportunities for input from parents and the community, as well as the necessity for effective communication and access to community services.

Increased Learning Time: Increased Learning Time necessitates flexible scheduling that allows time for additional instructional minutes, enrichment activities and staff collaborative planning time. This CSF also confirms as a requisite, an instructionally-focused calendar.

School Climate: School Climate recognizes increased attendance and reduced discipline referrals as indicators of a positive and welcoming environment. Increased attendance in extracurricular activities is another sign that students feel supported by an affirming school climate.

Use of Quality Data to Drive Instruction: Use of Quality Data to Drive Instruction emphasizes data disaggregation training and ongoing communication of data to improve student learning outcomes. A focus of this CSF is utilizing data to drive decisions.

Academic Performance: Academic Performance is the foundational CSF. By focusing on data driven instruction that targets the use of on-going monitoring of instruction, schools can increase performance for all students. Curricular alignment, both horizontally and vertically, is also an essential component of this CSF.

In theory, if a district is properly supporting a campus through the use of these seven factors, then the campus will become successful. In theory.

I got to looking at these seven critical factors and thought that each one of them could be supported by instructional technology in ways that the administration at campuses might not be thinking of. So I will be creating a series of entries that deal with each specific CSF and how instructional technology could help out.

Stay tuned.

Jan 4

Mythbusters: My iPad Can’t Do That. Yes, it can.

“I think it’s common for us to look at digital devices and how they can best support what we’ve already been doing in class and with students, rather than thinking about how they could transform what we’re doing… into even better practices and activities.” Wes Fryer via Facebook, January 2014

Online discussions by Miguel Guhlin and others have come up with lists of “things” that students should be able to accomplish using technology in class. Miguel’s list looks like this:
  • 1. “code” or program.
  • 2. engage in desktop publishing.
  • 3. use GoogleApps for Education tools.
  • 4. engage in advanced image editing.
  • 5. do video recording, editing and remixing.
  • 6. complete Pearson compatible state assessments
  • 7. complete drill-n-practice and/or tutorial programs like the TexasSuccess program activities (e.g. iStation, Think Through Math), as well as others like Scholastic Math and Reading Intervention Programs, Adobe Flash-heavy projects*, etc.
  • 8. create a variety of rich multimedia products using multiple media-rich web sites and/or apps
  • 9. participate in video/audio-enhanced conferencing using web-based or app-based tools (e.g. Skype, Google Hangout, Adobe Connect, etc.).
  • 10. Provides on-board or easy access to cloud storage to facilitate saving and sharing with others.

Miguel, along with some other ed tech bloggers are using these “lists” to create matrices in which to judge technology equipment before purchase. They then will rank before they purchase. It is a good starting method of trying to look before they leap. For instance, in Miguel’s list above, the iPad scored 7 out of 10. A Chromebook, 8 and amazingly enough, a Linux device of unknown origin or manufacture had 9 out of 10. Miguel’s list is rather “Texas-centric” of course, because he is a Ed Tech director in Texas. Other states or countries have differing needs. Of course, anyone can create a list that slants a prospective purchase one way or another. For instance, in the list above, one could have easily have added “mobile” to the list which would have wiped out any desktop computer from the running. Adding “Runs Linux” would wipe out a possible iPad purchase.

The fantasy of course, is to come up with something that people claim is “software agnostic” meaning that whatever they are looking at can run everywhere anytime. Steve Jobs tried to push this idea when he forced iPads to NOT run Flash with his now famous “Thoughts on Flash declaration, claiming it was a battery hog and that HTML5 could do just as much. (Of course, at the time, people went into spasms claiming that Flash was the only way to go. Now, three years later, Flash is dying , and HTML5 is doing pretty much everything that Flash could do.)

There are of course, issues with these lists. Every list I have seen so far has one or more of the following errors in them:

Districts in the same state or schools in the same city might have differing needs. For instance, a school that is an Arts magnet school might have differing needs than say a technical school, or a traditional school. Grade levels have differing needs.

They require a specific tool or tools that binds them to a specific technology. (How many RFP’s have gone out with the phrase “Must run Windows XP or later..?)

They are not aligned to actual curriculum.

They are not aligned to any kind of educational technology standard.

I think a better way of deciding what technology to purchase, or how to construct a matrix to decide, would be to start with the standards that the students are supposed to learn, followed by the district created (or purchased) lesson plans.

The Six Strands for the Texas Technology Application TEKS are:
  • 1. creativity and innovation;
  • 2. communication and collaboration;
  • 3. research and information fluency;
  • 4. critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making;
  • 5. digital citizenship;
  • 6. technology operations and concepts

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the ISTE NETS-T will think these are familiar. Indeed, a closer look at these strands for grades K-8 will reveal that students are asked to do such a wide variety of things as:

Word processing, creating spreadsheets, create original products, use proper graphic design, research topics, pick appropriate tools to do digital work, evaluate appropriate tools, create multimedia products, use a variety of digital tools to measure, explore and create, as well as of course use digital citizenship skills and basic computer skills, manipulate audio and video files, use models, simulations communicate results of data analysis, create collaborative work and more. Of course not all of these are at each grade level, but the idea here is that tech purchasing should not ignore the standards.

I created a video a while back on the standards:

So with the standards in mind, I think that any type of purchase should be looked at in much the same way Alton Brown looks at kitchen appliances: They should not be purchased with a single task in mind, but should be able to accomplish multiple tasks. (Take the Hutzler 571 banana slicer for instance. That tool can do one thing and one thing only.) The more versatile a piece of technology is, the better. The less you have to spend on OTHER pieces of technology.

When purchasing technology for students one should look to the tool that is the most versatile, not simply the one that is the “least expensive.” For instance, no one, I think, purchases digital cameras anymore that cannot also record video and even audio. The camera is both a camera and a camcorder. You are getting two devices for the price of one. Savvy tech buyers look for the greatest amount of utility. Can this piece of equipment do more than one thing?

One of the overlooked capabilities of the iPad (and perhaps other tablets) is the ability to replace other pieces of classroom equipment. The iPad EASILY can replace document cameras, camcorders, cameras, even interactive whiteboards and student responders. That ability cannot be understated. No matter the low cost of devices like Chromebooks and Netbooks, they simply cannot be used as camcorders, scanners, camcorders, document cameras and more. The value add of the tablet device must be taken into account when doing any kind of calculation. I wrote more about it here.

So with that information in mind, let’s rework the 10 criteria for technology purchase for students to match the standards and the idea of versatility.

Any student device should have the following capabilities:

1. Create graphically correct collaborative documents from single page to multiple page, up to book length 2. Access online collaborative spaces, such as Google Docs, iCloud, or Moodle. 3. Be able to be used as a presentation tool 4. Be able to be used as a data collection device using built in sensors.(The more built-in devices available the better.) 5. Imbedded audio, still and video recording capabilities 6. Have audio, still image and video editing capabilities. 7. Has basic computer commands such as “save file” built in. 8. The ability to be used as a web based research tool 9. Can be used as a video collaborative device using such applications as Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Webinars 10. Can change it’s interfere to meet the needs of the user.

If we change the CRITERIA to meet the needs of students and not the needs of the IT department, then the scoring changes a bit.

Score: iPad: 10 PC/MAC: 7 Chromebook: 8

Some may ask why I left off the Texas Success initiative materials that Miguel mentioned. These are supposed to be used as RTI (Response to Intervention) and not meant for every student, except those that are struggling in specific areas. I will assume that the hundreds of thousands of laptops and desktops already in place can meet the needs of these students.

One might also ask why I left off “ability to program or code.” The answer is simple: Not every kid needs to code. It is like saying every kid needs to learn to play a musical instrument. That is a fad movement that is making lots of noise right now but will die as sure as the sun comes up in a year or so. (And yes, the iPad can do that…)

Perhaps we need to also redraw the triangle that Miguel created:

to more closely match how we should be looking at ed tech purchases where the standards and the ability of the device to adapt are more important than whether or not a device can use this or that website. (With the advance of HTML5, this is a non issue mostly, but not completely.)

I started this post with a quote from Wes Fryer that he left on Facebook: “I think it’s common for us to look at digital devices and how they can best support what we’ve already been doing in class and with students, rather than thinking about how they could transform what we’re doing… into even better practices and activities.”


f you believe what Wes is saying, you HAVE to ask yourself what device do you think actually transforms the learning environment. What device would lead to “better practices and activities?”

Well, which one? So what do you think? Agree or disagree? Add your thoughts in the comments section.
Jan 1

War on iPads: Michael Horn: There is Going to Be a Backlash Against Tablets

Click on the title to go to the article.

Quick Thoughts from CAST 2013

After wandering the halls of the George R. Brown convention center in Houston this past week attending CAST 2013, I thought I would write some quick thoughts that I had. Probably longer blogs to follow, but this is a fast list in no particular order:

There is a huge disconnect between what science teachers think of as technology integration and what instructional technology “21st century Skills” people think.

Science has the SAMR model covered pretty well.

Science does not have the TA TEKS covered at all thus ignoring the NETS-S.

Textbook publishers ignore the TA TEKS and thus the NETS-S.

Science vendors ignore the TA TEKS and thus the NETS-S.

Science is still largely driven by publishers and what publishers produce.

There were quite a few presentations and workshops on technology integration, but they seemed to be scattershot.

STEM was huge.

Project based learning was huge.

Wireless is a big deal with science hardware. Some of these devices actually create their own wireless networks, some use the existing wireless, and some use Bluetooth. Either way, it hits existing networks.

Instructional technology trainers must understand the tools that science teachers use in order to better facilitate tech integration. Science instructional technology is not all about student responders and interactive whiteboards. It is about sensors, models, data loggers, and such.

At a instructional technology conference you would see tons of interactive whiteboard vendors. There was one at this conference that I counted.

There were lots and lots of iPads at the conference, both used by teachers and being used by vendors. This has a lot of implications because:

I did not see ONE Android tablet being used at any vendor booth.

I did not see a single Android tablet, but I did see some Windows tablets. The iPad ruled the tablet use here.

I did not see ONE Chromebook being used at any vendor booth, or for that matter by any teacher in the convention center. For a conference with 7000 teachers and 400 vendors, that says a lot.

Teachers were not aware, for the most part, of the tools that Instructional technology uses. For instance, for a conference that size, there should have been an incredible amount of Twitter traffic with the feed #cast2013. While there was some, it was spotty.

The vast majority of science workshops were paper/pen based. I did not see things we ed tech folks take as givens: Backchannel discussions, for instance, were non existent. Twitter was mainly used to post pictures of sessions.

Even the large national science organization does not think too much about technology integration based on it’s publications.

There was no such thing as a blogger cafe.

There was no “unconference” prior to the larger conference.

They had as good of a conference app as any technology conference I have ever attended.

Many science education vendors who had really good technology tools were unaware of the instructional technology organizations and thus the corresponding conventions. TCEA? ISTE? “Never heard of them” was a common refrain I heard when I asked if they were going to be at any of them.

I was looked upon as more of a curiosity walking around with my camera. At a tech conference, that would have been met with a “eh.”

Those are some thoughts off the top of my head from CAST 2013.

CAST 2013: Brown Dog Gadgets

Brown Dog Gadgets offer a wide variety of DIY materials for student projects. This is the kind of small company that we should support. A former Middle school science teacher trying to support science education with cool little products. Filmed on the exhibit floor of CAST 2013.