Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration


Posts tagged with "technology"

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).

Well, at least I got that one right! Speech Translation on the Fly

I wrote these words in 2011 in a post about translation software and apps:

"It’s apparent that this technology is in its nascent stage and will only get better. Right now it’s limited to short phrases but it’s sure to get faster and faster and manage longer and longer pieces of conversation.
Imagine this:
Mix these evolving translation technologies, both visual and audio, and then combine them into a program like Facetime or Skype. Suddenly, you have people from anywhere in the world being able to carry on conversations with anyone else in the world. Language will no longer be a limiting factor when people in different cultures and language communities want to share information or go deeper into true collaboration.”

Yesterday, Microsoft demoed Skype with on-the-fly speech translation.

Today, I feel like a prophet. Or a psychic. Or maybe I just took a good guess. Either way, I got it right!

Is Big Data Always Bad? Learning with Big Data

Wanna see something that might scare the living crap out of you? Watch this video about data mining in education:

To some this is a scary prospect. Every single point of information about your child or your student’s becomes a data point on someone’s giant server. Our students are producing hundreds if not millions of data points each day. The more data points produced, the greater the ability to predict where that student is headed. On the other hand, that also is data that you or your child are giving up to someone who may or may not use it properly. There is a lot of trust issues going on there.

We have seen the future and it looks like this:

The data is being read about the guy, and the advertising is matched to the user.

So it is scary. But I wonder if it is always bad? I have seen the bad. In my school district, a long time ago, we hired consultants to do statistical analysis of each student based on their standardized test scores and they were able to statistically show which students you should bother with, and which ones you should;t even worry about, because they would never pass the test. But I have also seen good. Every cancer patient in the United States is tracked and cataloged by the Centers for Disease Control. Those gigantic sums of information are used to better tailor the treatments for cancers. Over the years, the overall rate for cancer survival has indeed increased , even though the number of cancer cases reported has increased as well. All that cancer-related data (and I suppose other diseases as well) is saving lives. Right now. Not in the future, right this minute.

You have had data collected about you all your life.
The channels you click to on Cable or Satellite, the things you buy with your credit cards, and every time you go to the doctor, you are digitized, and quantified. Advertising on websites is matched to your surfing habits. As far back as I can recall, “mailing lists” were sold to various vendors so they could mail you their fall catalogs.

In the southwest US, there are checkpoints put up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (better known as ICE) 60 miles inland from every port of entry from Mexico. At every one of these checkpoints are cameras that not only check your license plates but are also pointed at the driver and passenger. That’s correct kids, facial recognition on the highways and byways of our country. No doubt every time I drive through that checkpoint, my face, license and other pieces of data such as time of day and number of passengers is recorded somewhere.

Every time you purchase something using a credit or debit card, guess what? Data is collected about you.

Data has always been mined, it is just that now, we have tools that can take enormous sums of data where once we only were able to digest a bit. Where once we could eat only a few morsels, we can now eat the whole buffet.

Is all of this good or is it bad?

I tend to look at data like I look at technology: it is neither good nor bad. It is what is done with it that makes it one or the other.

That seems to be the thesis of the book “Learning with Big Data: The Future of Education" by Vikto Mayer-Schoenberger and Kenneth Cukier. Mayer-Schoenberger and Cuker are the authors of the NYT bestseller "Big Data" so they are no strangers to the world of what all that data collection can do to and for us. Data can serve to benefit or to harm education. It is up to us to decide. This low priced publication from Harcourt is part of their professional learning series.

The authors do a nice job of starting off showing how data can be used in ways to improve teaching and learning that we probably as veteran educators would never have though of. For instance, the amount of time a student spends on a particular question can be used a predictor for success on another question later on, or on grasping a concept presented in class at a later date. Most teachers could never be able to track time on a question, but software can. All of those Khan academy videos you are showing your students? Yep, they are collecting data every time one is shown, or when a student accesses one from home to help with homework.

“Big data gives us unprecedented insight into what works and what doesn’t. It is a way to improve student performance by showing aspects of learning that were previously impossible to observe. Lessons can be personally tailored to students’ needs, boosting their comprehension and grades.”

And that is true. Did you watch the video at the beginning of this entry? Did you hear that they collect MILLIONS of pieces of data for each student per day? All that data isn’t just sitting there.

Mayer-Schoenberger and Cuker are good at showing the GOOD that data mining can do for our students. For instance they highlight a college professor that can determine the level of student understanding on topics just by how they view specific videos. Data can be used to find disprove traditions in education. In one example educators in a foreign language course Duolingo found that, contrary to years of tradition, females learned the sports terms faster than the males, and the makes learned the cooking terms more quickly than the females. If you knew that kind of information in your class, how would it transform how you taught?

One point that Mayer-Schoenberger and Cuker made that stuck with me was that we measure a lot of how well students perform, but we hardly ever measure how well we are teaching.

"We rarely measure—and certainly not comprehensively or at scale—how well we teach our kids. We do not grade the degree to which our techniques are conducive to learning, from textbooks and quizzes to class lectures." Perhaps that is what teachers unions are afraid of when they protest different types of performance standards for educators that include data gathering. But think about this: Has anyone EVER asked if the textbooks that school districts adopt are actually effective teaching tools after they have been adopted? I doubt it. Was that quiz an effective quiz? What about that worksheet that you have been using for 20 years?

Mayer-Schoenberger and Cuker often use the “business doesn’t do this” argument to make their case about the need for more data gathering, but as many of you know, I have real issues with the “education is a business" way of thinking about things. Students are not chicken nuggets or car parts or widgets. The authors however, like to make the comparison and do so often. Some of the arguments are spot on like this one: "No manufacturer or retailer evaluates just its customers. When they get feedback, it is largely about themselves—their own products and service, with an eye to how to improve them." The also rightly point out that "learning, feedback is primarily about how well a person has understood her lesson as perceived by her teacher." True enough. On the other hand, I just cannot make the mental leap that schools should be treated as businesses.

The authors do point out some of the risks involved with big data mining. For instance, how long should data be collected and held on a particular student? Is data forever? Would or should a student’s adolescent mistake be used against him when searching for a job in their 40’s if the HR department found his student records from high school? These types of questions are part of the chapter called “Consequences” which to me was the most thought provoking because it raised the most unanswered questions. Decisions that used to be made by gut, and intuition will soon be made by algorithms. Someone’s future could be decided by machine. What are the consequences of that?

The authors spend some time talking about the idea of probabilistic predictions where decisions are based not on what you think a student might be capable of, but rather what the statistics about that student say the student will do, based on the millions of pieces of data about hims and his cohort of millions similar students. This could lead to tracking, something that has long been seen as a negative. What will society do when a child is “predicted” to be a poor student, and is places in a track that is designed for low performers, if in fact he is not a low performer? Is that student stuck forever because the data predicts where he should be?

“Learning with big data brings three main changes. We can collect feedback data that was impractical or impossible to amass before. We can individualize learning, tailoring it not to a cohort of similar students, but to the individual student’s needs. And we can use probabilistic predictions to optimize what they learn, when they learn, and how they learn.”

All three of these will cause a titanic shift in the way we do business in education. You know as well as I do that the change will come. We can embrace it and learn form it, and help our students, or we can fight it and lose. Those that fight it are like the photographers in the late 1990’s that said such things as “Digital will never replace film.” With he embrace however, we must remain vigilant that data is not misused. As the authors end th ebook they warn us to be aware of not only how the good can help but how the bad can harm.

“As we deepen our understanding of the world and its complex beauty, and realize the power of discovery that big data provides, we also have to be aware of its limitations. More so than in the past, we’ll have to learn about the inherent shortcomings of the tools that we use to make sense of the world—limitations that even with great care cannot be overcome or avoided.”

Worth the read.


Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Kenneth Cukier. “Learning with Big Data.”

Homework assignments that learn from students. Courses tailored to fit individual pupils. Textbooks that talk back. This is tomorrow’s education landscape, thanks to the power of big data. These advances go beyond the much-discussed rise of online courses. As the New York Times-bestselling authors of Big Data explain, the truly fascinating changes are actually occurring in how we measure students’ progress and how we can use that data to improve education for everyone, in real time, both on- and offline. Learning with Big Data offers an eye-opening, insight-packed tour through these new trends, for educators, administrators, and readers interested in the latest developments in business and technology.

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press release:

Global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt today launched Learning with Big Data: The Future of Education, an e-short by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, authors of the New York Times bestselling book Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. The short e-book vividly illustrates the transformative effect big data is having on the learning process and sheds new light on visionary individuals and companies that have marshaled big data to enhance the way we learn.

Learning with Big Data highlights key examples of how teachers are using data to measure student progress and optimize lessons to individual learning styles. For example, Stanford computer science professor Andrew Ng can now log every mouse-click his students make and track the patterns by which students watch video lectures — where they pressed pause or rewound. Through this data collection, educators can alter and optimize their course materials or delivery methods according to how their students learn best.

“HMH is proud of its commitment to lifelong learning,” said Gary Gentel, President of HMH Trade & Consumer Publishing. “We are excited to provide education industry partners, parents and anyone interested in the education of our children with this valuable resource, which takes a focused look at the vast possibilities within the education space, and the efforts underway to create dynamic and personalized classrooms.”

A finalist for the Financial Times Business Book of the Year, the original Big Data is now available in paperback and eBook. It provides an in-depth look at how vast collections of information are gathered and analyzed, and how this information ultimately provides new insights regarding studies of economy, science, and society at large.

Learning with Big Data is available for $2.99 at hmhco.com.

Tablets on the rise in nation’s schools

Awesomeness: Convert your smartphone into a Microscope for $10

Awesome example of how the smartphone (or tablet) can be used for far more than just calling people.

From Youtube

This video shows to convert your smartphone into a digital microscope capable of photographing cells. The setup shown here is a viable substitute for underfunded classrooms that would otherwise be unable to perform experiments requiring a microscope.

Special thanks to:
and Luke Saunders for videography

Study: Students aren’t reading for fun. Reaction: Technology to blame!

You may have heard of a recent study by Common Sense Media comes to the conclusion that teens are not reading for “fun” as much as they used to. Of course the media got a hold of it and immediately blamed technology for the decline in “reading for fun.”

The actual report found the following:

1. Daily rates for reading for fun have dropped in recent years for teens.

According to government studies (NCEs, 2013), since 1984 the proportion of tweens and teens who read for pleasure once a week or more has dropped from 81% to 76% among 9-year-olds, from 70% to 53% among 13-year-olds, and from 64% to 40% among 17-year-olds. the proportion who say they “never” or “hardly ever” read has gone from 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-olds in 1984 to 22% and 27% respectively today.

2. Reading scores among younger children have risen but teens have remained stagnant.

According o the NCES: among 17-year-olds reading scores have remained roughly the same: 285 in 1971 and 287 in 2012.

3. Gaps are widening among minorities and whites.
“…white students continue to score 21 or more points higher on average than black or Hispanic students.”

4. There is a difference between male and female.
“Girls read for pleasure for an average of 10 minutes more per day than boys, a gap that has been found among both younger and older children “
5. Reading is still a big part of kids lives.
“…older children (tweens and teens) read for pleasure for a similar amount of time (an average of 38 minutes a day among 8- to 18-year-olds).”

6. Many children do not read well or often.
“A third (33%) of 13-year-olds and 45% of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one to two times a year, if that often.”

7. Parents still aren’t sure about digital texts.
“About a third of parents have an ereading device that their children don’t use, primarily because they are concerned about screen media use or think print is better for children.”

8. Ereading has the potential to significantly change the nature of reading for children and families, but its impact is still unknown.
“There are so many different types of ebooks and variations in how they may be used that it’s not yet possible to know how this trend ultimately will affect children’s reading.”

9. Parents need to model what they want their kids to do.
A strong correlations exist between these parental actions and the frequency with which children read.

Of course, the media says that technology is causing teens to read less. This is a trend I have been noticing more and more of. Much of the techno-hate is coming from Great Britain, but it seems to be bleeding over to the US.

The study does not look at how much students read ONLINE for fun. For instance, reading a website is reading for fun I suspect. But since it is not in some kind of BOOK form, the study does not consider it reading. The study also does not take into account how much MORE reading is done in school. Could it be that kids get burned out by reading so much at school that they simply do not want to read any more at home?

The report actually contradicts another study done earlier that says teens are actually reading more than they used to: “It’s not that they’re reading less; they’re reading in a different way,” said Kim Patton, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association.

That is what I think is happening. Not reading the SAME way as their parents does not mean they are not reading.

You can download the full report here.

What do you think about the findings?