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Posts tagged with "technology"

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)

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?

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.

Report: USING TECHNOLOGY TO SUPPORT AT-RISK STUDENTS’ LEARNING

For many years, educators and policymakers looking for strategies to close the achievement gap and improve student learning have sought solutions involving new uses of technology, especially for students placed at-risk. Unfortunately, the results of technology initiatives have been mixed. Often, the introduction of technology into classrooms has failed to meet the grand expectations proponents anticipated. The educational landscape is replete with stories and studies about how at-risk students were unable to benefit from particular innovations seeking to use computers for teaching.

There are, however, successes among these efforts, and they reveal some common approaches to technology use. Based on a review of more than 70 recent studies, this brief describes these approaches, particularly as they apply to high school students who have been at risk of failing courses and exit examinations or dropping out because of a range of personal factors (such as pregnancy, necessary employment, mobility, and homelessness) and academic factors (special education needs, credit deficiencies, and lack of supports for learning English). The brief then outlines policy strategies that could expand the uses of technology for at-risk high school youth.

Download the full report
Aug 8

Ofcom: six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults

From the article:

They may not know who Steve Jobs was or even how to tie their own shoelaces, but the average six-year-old child understands more about digital technology than a 45-year-old adult, according to an authoritative new report published on Thursday.

The advent of broadband in the year 2000 has created a generation of digital natives, the communication watchdog Ofcom says in its annual study of British consumers. Born in the new millennium, these children have never known the dark ages of dial up internet, and the youngest are learning how to operate smartphones or tablets before they are able to talk.

"These younger people are shaping communications," said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s media research head. "As a result of growing up in the digital age, they are developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to what we call the early adopters, the 16-to-24 age group."

Click on the title to go to the article

Aug 1

Only Reporting the Planes that Crash in #edtech

As Don Henley once sang that the news loves to report when planes crash:

"We got the bubble headed Bleached blonde

Comes on at five

She can tell you ‘bout the plane crash

With a gleam in her eye

It’s interesting when people die

Give us dirty laundry”

-Dirty Laundry 1982

The fact is of course, that the news rarely reports the planes that land safely. News is only news, it seems, when the unusual happens. Houses that DON’T burn down are never news, Houses that burn down? Always news. Marriages that last forever? Not News. Divorce rate goes up? News. You get the idea.

With that in mind, I am noticing a trend in the news of reporting when big ed tech initiatives crash and burn. The most famous of course is the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout where the kids immediately found a way around the built-in security and the iPads had to be recalled. Amid all of that, the district’s $1 Billion program crashed and burned, and recently the district rebooted the initiative with Windows laptops. I won’t debate the merits or lack thereof of the program, but it made for great news: giant ed tech program crashes. Millions of dollars wasted!

Then just this week, we learned that another large scale 1:1 initiate was cut back by the Hoboken School district, which decided to pull back it’s large-scale laptop initiative: Listen to the story here:

Of course, we could have a nice discussion about how these programs had some significant failures in implementation, not in goals. Poor logistics, bad training, poor communications. In the Hoboken case for instance the current Superintendent Toback “admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.”

The planes crashed in LA and Hoboken. Sigh.

The point however, is that there are 100s if not thousands of successful iPad and mobile device rollout programs across the country that the media does not report on. Both large scale and small scale. From chromebooks to laptops to tablets. From classroom implementations to district wide, to statewide programs. Consider the McAllen ISD in Texas who has had a wildly successful iPad 1:1 program. They are not alone. Remember the state of Maine? They still are going with laptops for all their kids in grade 7-12. Don’t hear too much about that anymore do you?

McAllen and the state of Maine: The planes are landing safely there. No one talks about them. Sigh again.

One major downside of all of this is that the average news watcher is going to see the plane crashes in Ed Tech and think that the NORM is for a bunch of money to be unwisely spent in times of budget cuts which it is not. Never seeing the positive or only tangentially by going to their kids school and seeing kids with technology.

We as ed tech proponents need to get the word out to our communities, not just report to ourselves about how wonderful we are, That is preaching to the choir. We need to preach to those that watch the bubble headed beach blondes for the evening news.

We need to celebrate the planes that land safely.

Dear Principals: Some Tips for Your First Back-to-School Meeting.

Dear New Campus Principal,
I know you have to do SOMETHING when all the we come back to school. I know that you are under the gun to be amusing, engaging, and informative. Some of us are a pretty hard audience. We have been through a whole lot of your kind over the years. It’s tough. Everyone is watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake so we can pounce on you like sharks on chum.

I thought I would make your life here a little easier by giving you a few pointers to make your new life here easier and to start the new year off on a good note. Believe me, I have been through a bunch of campus administrators over the years, and that old saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression is true. Especially with us teachers.

So consider this a friendly welcome to the building letter. I hope you take it in the spirit that it is written.

Here goes nothing:

Please don’t show us a Ken Robinson video about how schools kill creativity and then in the next breath show us our test scores and tell us how we need to bring them up this year by sticking to the prescribed curriculum. Also any video that was made from cheesy sentimental slides telling us that all kids can learn while playing over some generic soft instrumental music is a no no. Oh, and we all saw that video of the guy that got everyone to dance on the hillside a couple of years ago.

Avoid giving us sports related platitudes about how we are all a team and that there is no “I” in team.

Don’t tell us that we need to use lots of technology in our classes if you are not willing to allow us time to learn how to use the technology and how we can incorporate it into our lessons. Allow us time to explore how we can use technology.

Don’t say you “plan” to do something. Either you are doing it or you are not. DO you PLAN to be walking the campus each morning or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN to be highly visible or are you actually going to do it? Do you PLAN on having lots of parental involvement, or are you actually going to have lots of parental involvement? We have seen lots of plans. We want to see lots of follow through.

Do not read a handout verbatim that you just gave out. We are all adults, We all have degrees. We can read. Really.

Do not say you want to have a culture of high expectations, and then are happy with test results that are the minimum expectation. Either we have high expectations or we don’t. But if we have high expectations, that means we also have high expectations for you.

On a side note, don’t tell us to not be afraid to fail, if you are going to get made if we fail at something. Set your rules for this, set your expectations, and let us know up front what you consider “acceptable failure” and what you do not.

Do not say you expect all of us to keep up with the latest trends in education, but then refuse to pay for any professional development opportunities. If it is within reason, then please send us to on going and meaningful professional development. And you can come along with us.

Do not read off your Powerpoint slides word for word.

Do not show a stupid Dilbert comic.

Do not treat teachers that have been in the system for 30 years the same as a new teacher. We know where the book room is, We know where the custodian hands out the keys. Meet with them separately to give them the lowdown on the basics.

Do not show us ANY video longer than 3 minutes.

Do not start a Book Study on the first day back.

Get to know the new staff BEFORE you introduce them at a meeting. Why are they here? Why did you hire them? Give us a little insight as to why you think they fit in here. Don’t just tell us that you think they will do a good job. Tell us WHY you think they will do a good job. Show us that you really thought about them when you hired them.


Don’t say you have an open door policy and then never be around. An open door is useless if no-one is there.

If you want us to use technology, then you use technology. Show us your blog. Show us you can walk the walk. And if you cannot, at least learn with us. Then use it.

We had BBQ for lunch last year. Try something different. Oh, and your secretary hates fajitas.

Tell us you are perfectly willing to take down every single motivational poster that has been hanging in the office for the last 10 years that no one has ever read.


Tell us that you will let all of us know when you will be out for the day. Don’t just tell your secretary.

Give us your cell number.

Have a great year.

And Good luck.

Five Ways to Get People on Board with #edtech

Education technology is always a hard sell, epsecially with those teachers and administrators that are perfectly happy with the status quo. “Why change? My scores are just fine.” is a phrase that we hear all the time. I have always thought of a bell curve that I learned about in my ed admin classes all those years ago:

A certain percent of your teachers, if you are a new principal, will do whatever you ask. A certain amount will never do what you ask. The vast majority of teachers however, want to be convinced that what you are doing is correct.

So what are some strategies that can convince those teachers that they should get on board with ed tech initiatives? Here are five ways that should help you convince those teachers and administrators that your ed tech initiative is worth their time:

Start With the Why
Why are we doing this? What is the reason that we are doing this initiative? So often, we see some ed tech THING coming from central office, we are not told why this is being done, only that we have to do it. The issue with this, other than the trust, is that decisions seem to be made in some sort of vacuum, without consideration of WHY the decision was made.
Explaining WHY this particular ed tech decision was made will go a long way towards teachers and administrators trusting that the technology was not just purchased because we could.

Explain How This Technology Makes their Jobs Easier
This kind of is an addition to the “WHY” argument: How does this new thingy make my job easier? If you can honestly show teachers that this technology actually makes their jobs easier, even if there is an upfront expenditure of time and effort, then you will win many converts, especially if the effort to keep using this new technology requires less effort than the whatever it replaces.

There should be some trade off as well. Don’t push a new effort out if you are not willing to give something up. What is it that teachers will NOT have to do if they adopt the use of this new technology? If you do not have an answer to that question, it will appear that you are “piling on” something else.

Explain How this Help Students
No technology effort in a school district should not even be considered if you cannot somehow explain how this will help students. What are students doing with this technology which is superior to what they are doing without the technology? How does this make learning more meaningful? How can students use this across classes? How does this allow students to address their learnign weaknesses? Show how this helps students, and many teachers will be convinced that this is a good thing.

Provide Meaningful Professional Development
Meaningful professional development means more than just showing how something works. Meaningful means how do you put this work in a classroom setting, using the new tool. If I teach science, then show me how to use this in science. Same for any class I teach. Do not just show me how to turn it on. Show me how to use this with my students.
If the PD is weak, then the implementation will be weak as well. Ed tech is not the field of dreams, where if you build it they will come. Meaningful PD provides the wedge between the naysayers who argue that the tool is a waste of time or money or effort.

Always Provide for Feedback and Transparency
From the very outset, allow for users to provide feedback. If teachers or administrators feel they have no voice in the process, then they will feel that they are being forced to use something that they may not need. Users of technology should be able to vent frustrations in a constructive way, as well as be able to provide feedback on what is working and what is not working. The folks that put in the technology should also be willing to admit when something is not working and be able to swallow their pride and create constructive work arounds for problems. There has never been a 100% successful implementation of anything. If you expect problems will occur, then when they happen, it is easier to respond.

Jul 3

Lessons From the Los Angeles School District iPad Fiasco - The Mac Observer

What happens when you try to do the same old thing with new technology? Ask LAUSD. Here is a good article that looks at the whole iPad fiasco in Los Angeles:

From the article

Throughout my career, in education and government, I’ve seen these effects. Purchase authority is exercised by those who have the least technical expertise. Those who have the expertise have no say in the process. Piecemeal test projects fail to generate the desired political clout and glory and are bypassed, and those at the bottom are burdened beyond belief by projects they had little say in, no control over nor adequate preparation and training.

I don’t claim that the LAUSD had all these problems. However, reading about their experience reminded me of the kinds of difficulties I’ve seen in my own career. Perhaps the driving issue on all this is that in modern day American technology, those who most seek enduring power are those people least able to exercise deep technical judgment, whether it’s an iPad in the classroom or a billion dollar weapons program.

It’s a malady without end in sight.

Click on the title to go to the article.

4 Tips for Getting to Know the Blended Instructional Model | Edutopia

From the article:

Now more than ever, the Internet is rife with collaboration tools for students at just a push of a button. Google Apps for Education and Blackboard are two of many varying platform types that allow students to collaborate.

The days of talking at students are almost over, as research and many of our collective personal experiences deem that to be an ineffective method of instruction. Blended instruction gives students investigation, real-world application, and immediate relevance with each lesson — and even more so because of the educational technology advances that the Common Core will usher in.

Jun 4

Analyzing 10 iPad Myths in Education

Click on the title to go to the article

Should out to Carl Hooker for pointing this out.

Here are more iPad Articles from my blog.

10 awesome English Language Arts sites. From the series 10 in 10 from the EPISD.

10 in 10 episode on the top trends in Education Technology! How many of these are happening in your classroom? What is holding you back?

The Internet Right This Second

Cool animated graphic of what is happening on the internet this very second. Show your students how fast information is being created and used:
Click the animation to open the full version (via PennyStocks.la).