Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest Appearance on The Tightwad Teacher Podcast

Graphic Used Under a CC By-SA 2.0 License
The Guest Appearance

A couple of weeks ago, one of my Texas edtech colleagues, Kristy Vincent, invited me to be a guest on the Tightwad Teacher podcast. Kristy just recently became a co-host of the podcast, and she invited me to discuss a topic of my choice. Having just recently attended a thought provoking session on Developing a Culture of Sharing at SXSWedu (my blog notes don't do it justice), I suggested a focus on professional learning online through venues like Facebook and Twitter.

Kristy liked my idea and ran with it under the title of The Connected Teacher. I really enjoyed the conversation with Kristy as well as podcaster-in-chief Mark Cockrell and co-hosts Brian Brugger and John Mikulski. In addition to getting to share my ideas and view-points, I came away with some new insights myself. That's the way all good conversations should work out!

Learning from Podcasts

I have to admit, I have historically not been much of a podcast listener myself. I have tried on various occasions, but it just hasn't fit my learning style, which tends to be heavy on reading/watching but not just listening. Having now participated in a podcast, though, I think I might need to give this learning medium another try. Do you have a favorite podcast you listen to regularly? What is it and what do you like about it? When do you work in time to listen to podcasts? Please share your thoughts and a link to a podcast you listen to in the comments!

Take a Listen to the Tightwad Teacher

If you are a podcast listener, or even if you are not, I invite you to listen to Tightwad Teacher #38: The Connected Teacher. Of course I'm inviting you partly because I was part of it, but also because it was a good conversation about how teachers can connect online for their continued professional growth and it wandered into the use of social media in schools as well. If you listen, be sure to let me know what ideas or thoughts the conversation stirred in you by posting in the comments below. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Create an Interest List for Professional Learning on Facebook

I was asked to be a guest this evening on the Tightwad Teacher podcast. The topic was The Connected Teacher. The podcast was live streamed, but it will also be edited and posted in final format next week.

In prep for the podcast, I created a little tutorial on how to create an interest list on Facebook to leverage Facebook for professional learning. I've blogged about Facebook for professional learning in the past, but I think the recent addition of interest lists to Facebook makes this endeavor even easier.

Below is the tutorial. I am also just learning to use Camtasia, so please excuse any blips! If this tutorial is helpful to you or gives you any other ideas for extending learning via social media, please share in the comments. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Have You Ever Been Asked to Guest Blog? Advice Desired!

Used With Permission Under
Creative Commons License
When I first started this post I thought my answer to the question of being asked to guest blog was "no," but then I remembered an opportunity I did have a couple of years ago. I was pretty new to blogging myself at the time and didn't follow through with it. The request was from a reputable organization, so I wasn't worried about who was asking me. My lack of follow through was due to lack of self confidence at the time.

A colleague emailed me today because she had been asked to guest blog and wanted my advice. What should you look for? Putting your words and name on someone else's site seems very attractive, but we need to be careful where we put our words and our name, as it can reflect on our reputation down the road.

Here are some of the questions I told her I would ask. What kinds of questions would you add to this list? Please add them in the comments. All contributions are appreciated, and if you actually have guest blogging experience, it would be wonderful if you would tell a little about how that has worked out for you.

  • I would want to know who the person or organization is behind the blog and what their background/reputation/experience is in the area I'm being asked to write about.
  • I would want to know if my post would be edited in any way or if it would be posted as submitted. If edited, would I be able to see the final version and give a yea or nay as to whether it is posted?
  • If the blog I'm being asked to post on is ad free, I'd want to know if it intends to remain ad free and if not, when will it be monetized and how? 
  • If the blog is NOT ad free, I'd be careful to look at who/what they were advertising, remembering that my content could become associated with the advertisers and that my content could be making money for someone else.
  • I would want permission to cross post the content back on my own blog.

What am I leaving out? Please add your wisdom in the comments below! Thanks!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

@EdTechSandyK at #SXSWedu via Storify

Instead of doing the usual summary/wrap-up blog post for the SXSWedu 2012 conference, I decided to try a new-to-me tool I saw used a few times throughout SXSWedu week. Apparently, it went into public beta in April 2011, but I've missed it or glossed over it since then.

Storify allows users to mashup content from multiple social media sources such as Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr to create a flow of events. One session I attended used Storify to archive the session. Another member of my PLN used Storify to curate her conference experience. The second example inspired me to do the same.

In interacting with others' already published Storifies, one of the features I found most appealing was the ability to actually reply or retweet the embedded Tweets from right within the story. This functionality allows the learning to easily continue!

Embedded below is my very first Storify. I invite you to peruse it and follow me on my SXSWedu learning journey.

When you are finished interacting with my Storify below, please consider taking time to comment answering one or more of these questions: Have you used Storify before? If so, what kinds of purposes have you found for it? If you haven't used it, can you think of ways you might use it for teaching and learning? Thanks!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

21st Century Learning in the Low-Tech Classroom #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 Concurrent Session

Stephanie Sandifer, Houston A+ Challenge

Session resources posted at: https://21stclinltclassroom.wikispaces.com/

Also search Twitter for info based on session hashtag #21cLT

Presenter would love to not have to do this session - many of the solutions she offers here are bandaids.

We can't let limited access to technology prevent us from addressing what needs to happen in the classroom. Even without technology you can create a learner-centered classroom. Even high-tech classrooms can still be teacher-centered. The ideal is high-tech and learner-centered.

Those who are here from the private sector can help by using their networks to support and influence what's going on in schools.

Flipped Classroom Model - Although there is a lot of debate around the effectiveness of this model, it is catching on. What if your kids are going home to a place without access. You have to think about redesigning your classroom. Could students watch the videos by rotating to the computer during independent work time?

Critical Friends Groups - Use discussion protocols to learn together. Protocols have strong structures that makes sure everyone has a voice and chance to contribute and learn. Can be accomplished with or without technology.

Jigsaw Grouping - A quick way to move people into groups throughout a class period. PDF on Wiki.

I.D.E.A. - Innovation, Discovery, and Engagement Area - Use Idea paint to turn any wall into a whiteboard.  Put furniture on wheels so movement around the room is easy. Also make a "genius bar". Google David Jakes to find more on this. NOTE: David Jakes left a comment below stating the I.D.E.A. concept should be credited instead to Ryan Bretag of Glenbrook North High School. So noted. Google Bretag.

My Fakebook - Google doc template bit.ly/21cLT - Create fake profiles for people, things, etc. Can print out and use in a handwritten format if you don't have access to technology. Thought process of creating profile is more important than accomplishing with technology.

One teacher in audience shares that one of his Type-A students was taking pics of the notes on the board at the end of each class, & other students asked her to text or email the pics. She became a caretaker of the class and the idea spread to other classes.

Ask your students what you can do to make lessons more engaging. They'll let you know.

Post classroom resources on your website. Most kids will have a way to get to it.

What can administrators do? Model, engage your teachers in a dialog on what can be done differently, enlist teachers' help as peer coaches. Set expectations and create the culture you need on your campus.

TASB rep in audience says: Bring your school boards along - they are good people who want to help you! Present to them; show them what's going on and what needs to go on.

In It Together: Student Led Program Implementation #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 Concurrent Session

Note from Sandy: This was a powerful presentation! I am now full of ideas!!!!

Ranona Riggs & Thurman Nassoiy, Region 4

Joshua McDonald, Teacher, Channelview ISD

Holly R, 9th Grade Student

Amy Martinez, Teacher, Katy ISD

Today's presentation is on student led implementation of the Project Share platform.

Backchannel: www.epsilen.com/rriggs - click on Blog in left navigation panel

A Trainer's Perspective - Thurman Nassoiy

Teachers go to PD all the time. Then they go back to school and may or may not use it. Students have no idea this is happening. Thurman thought, "What if we train students and teachers together as equals?"

Did two Saturday sessions of training in Project Share including teachers and students. Experiences were built around them being equals, team building, platform training, etc. Made it ok for students to help teachers and do some of the training. What if students could help teachers make instruction more interesting?

They did role plays because they knew students might run into brick walls. Also did follow up afterwards.

Students started assisting fellow students in creating ePortfolios in Project Share. They went into classrooms and trained their peers. Students also presented at faculty meetings. (Snipit of faculty meeting training at 9th grade campus shown.) Students were coached very little and demonstrated great knowledge of the platform. Students got to pick the aspects of the platform that were meaningful to them to share.

At the end of the meeting, the principal announced students could bring their own devices to use Project Share. One student asked his Geometry teacher if he could take notes with his own device in Project Share so he would always have them if he left his notebook at school. Another student talked to a teacher about letting students store their documents in Project Share instead of using flash drives. After seeing the benefits, he asked the student to help him implement with all students.

Advice: Start Small & Choose Folks Wisely (people who will run with it). If it is successful with a couple of teachers and groups of students, it becomes a model to follow.

Make sure there is administrator buy in to make sure it moves forward when Region Trainers aren't there once a month.

Picked students who were model students who would benefit from leadership experience. They were hand picked. Biggest problem with having sessions on Saturday were band and sports. Once the students saw the platform, they were eager to come back again.

Joshua McDonald - Teacher's Perspective

Was approached by principal at start of year to participate in pilot program. Admits he was nervous at first because had never done PD with students. Wasn't sure what his role would be.

All teachers were asked to nominate two model students for the experience. After initial trainings, here were monthly meetings to follow up. McDonald checked up on students in between meetings.

Process was a little slow in the beginning. What really kick-started it was the student presentations to the faculty. These presentations just happened a month ago and the momentum since then has been incredible.

McDonald himself feels like he just jumped in feet first in the past two months. His own work on an online masters degree made a connection for him. He realizes he needs to get his students used to this online learning platform. He wants to be 100% online in his classroom by the end of the semester.

Student Perspective

Like being able to do online projects and send them to ePortfolio. Much easier to have resources in Project Share that they can access on iPads instead of just hearing lectures from their teachers.

Holly R. - Went into the AVID classroom to teach other students to use Project Share. Showed them how to put finest work in showcase for others to see and how to access courses.

Holly thinks Project Share is very beneficial. Students are more interested in using technology than working out of textbooks. She likes communicating with teachers, accessing notes, and making up work. She was able to not fall behind in her classes when she missed a week of school due to a death in the family.

Holly feels it is beneficial for students to help implement technology in the classroom. It helps everyone out in the long run. Increasing tech in the classroom will motivate students to learn.

After the faculty meeting, her world geography teacher came and asked Holly to teach her how to use Project Share and use it in the classroom. (Note from me: I got a little misty eyed hearing Holly say this!)

As students transition from the 9th grade campus to high school next year, they hope to continue the use of Project Share.

Amy Martinez - A Teacher's Perspective

Likes that it is easy to shift and move things around and tweak.

Feels Epsilen looks a lot more like what students are going to see in college than another system they were previously using.  At first students did not like it because it wasn't as "cute" as the old system, but they worked to help students understand it was more beneficial for them.

Students are asking non-using teachers to begin posting course content in Project Share. They like having one place to go to find their grades or make-up work. Teachers are now asking for help in taking next steps in Project Share based on student requests.

Project Share has helped organize at-risk students and gives them a common place to look and find resources. They are less likely to give up.

Student Testimonials via Video: Student would not change ONE THING about Project Share. Loves accessing work and turning it in on the same website. Uses it from home. Uses drop boxes, forums, and groups.

2nd Student Testimonial: Worked together in workgroup in Project Share to complete a project. Also would not change anything about Project Share. Likes that it is hands on because it makes it easier for him to learn. Doesn't always listen to everything in class but gets more out of Project Share.

McDonald: Teachers might resist at first because they see it as "one more thing" but if they see a teacher using it they will become interested. Students also need email accounts so they can be notified of what is going on in Project Share.

Nassoiy: Keep the kids at the forefront. It's all about impacting students and teachers. Trainers also need to have patience with districts and teachers. It takes time for change to occur.

Questions from Audience:

Concerns about abusing blogs, chat rooms, ect. Martinez said they used it as teaching opportunity and covered digital citizenship. Students are excited to practice something that college students do. Used Know the Rules Before You Use the Tools book from Project Share website with students when they trained them.

Can Epsilen notices be sent to text message instead of email? Yes they can! Each individual must set this in their account.

Where should you begin implementation? Wherever you have someone who is passionate and will use the platform. Subject, grade level do not matter as much as passion.

How can ESC trainers use this? Riggs says she sets up groups for her in person PD sessions and uses chats, drop boxes, etc to expose teachers to the platform. Also suggests administrators use this so teachers within a district to communicate with each other.

Let teachers know they don't have to create lessons in courses, they can just use forums, blogs, etc. Start with one tool.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Developing a Culture of Sharing #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 panel discussion/concurrent session.

Philip Schmidt, P2PU

We live in a time where because of digital technology we are able to share in ways we've never been able to share before.

If you are in education and you are not interested in sharing, maybe you are not in the right space. Maybe this isn't the career for you.

Opening Question: What does the culture of sharing and learning really mean?

Karen Fasimpaur, K12 Open Ed

Member of P2PU community. Works in K12 with tech integration - stand and deliver drive by pd which she does not feel is the most effective because there is not enough sharing going on. Has been working for about three years to look for models to promote sharing. She finds in K12 it is hard to promote sharing. She is interested in talking about the vibrant communities we are already in but exploring the 95% of teachers who aren't in that community and how to bring them in .

Jim Groom, Instructional Technology Director at University of Mary Washington

Working with ways to promote open sharing models across disciplines and across the university. What they did not calculate was how far and wide it was going to go. He sees amazing possibilities with the power to share openly. Now, what do we do with it?

Alan Levine, CogDog It

Confused by the title of the session. Who is not sharing in some capacity? (Fasimpaur says people are in environments that prohibit them from sharing.) Levine finds it baffling that there are people not sharing. He holds no professional certifications and has had to depend on the sharing of others to prepare himself for what he does every day.

General Conversation:

There is a notion of sharing that is under attack.

Publishers are taking what we share openly and turning it around to us at horrendous markups.

A lot of learning is locked up in LMS systems.

What does it mean to take control and manage your own data? You can't have these kinds of conversations around LMS systems. Systems like Twitter and Google Apps for Edu are using and selling your data. How do we have these conversations in closed systems?

There are concerns about sharing on behalf of others as opposed to sharing just our own stuff.

It would be nice to think of public learning as a park where everything is open.

There is a phenomenon of lurkers. They are gaining tremendously from others who share. How do we move them to the next level to become sharers themselves.

People new to this might need protected spaces/comfort zones first. Like a closed ning environment.

A course Levine and Groom are involved in is DS106. They created a community in an open framework that encourages sharing. Students create and turn in assignments and create and post tutorials of how to do the assignments.

For some students, getting the first blog comment from a stranger is a huge eye opener. For others, it's using Creative Commons content and then starting to contribute their own content to the open spaces.

Fasimpaur finds teachers are open to sharing when it is presented to them up front. "Everything here is  open for others to use."

How much time are we spending asking students to explore the space where they exist online? Do we let them know people are not going to come find them, that they have to advertise their existence? Being critical about this existence is what we need to do as educators. We are living in cool times.

This could be the golden age of the Internet right now. Don't miss it!

We also have to get out of our little sector box.

Smart sharing can actually save you time and make your life better. Think of how much time we spend re-inventing the wheel when we could be saving time and making things richer.

I made it to the mic and shared the following thoughts from the K-12 space.

  • Culture of sharing not promoted in K-12. We are used to staying in our classrooms
  • Teachers share their personal lives on Facebook; we need to encourage them to share professionally as well.
  • We need more courses like DS106 for pre-service teachers. Train them up in a culture of sharing that will continue with them in their careers and also influence how they teach their students.
@historydoc followed up my comments with the need for practitioners in higher ed to be encouraged to put content out there even if it isn't vetted while not having to worry about it negatively impacting their pursuit of tenure.

Moocs are something to look at for moving more toward a culture of sharing.

Think "Out of the Box" Assistive Technology #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 panel discussion/concurrent session.

Differentiation techniques for sped or GT students work with ALL kids; when you learn methods to use with students who have special learning needs, you learn how to best teach all children.

Gaming has the expectation that you will not always be right the first time. It promotes continuous learning.

Microsoft has been working with Kinect technology and autistic students. Technology removes barriers and helps them interact with the world. Using the Kinect to interact with the computer supports movement and motor skills which are much more difficult to promote in other settings. They are highly motivated by making their character move on the screen and even will play with peers.

The differentiation/personalized learning that students with learning challenges need actually benefits ALL students as we move toward a paradigm of personalized learning for all students.

Student centered classrooms benefit all types of learners. Personalized learning plans which identify the learning needs of every student and identify a students' interests, strengths, and talents. Relevant Meaningful 21st Century Tasks (PBL) and relevant data provided to teachers so they can continue to customize learning.

Renzulli Learning System Personalizes on 4 dimensions:

  • Academic strengths
  • Interests
  • Preferred learning styles
  • Preferred expressive styles
Renzuli contains a catalog of 40,000 curated learning resources and assignments are automatically differentiated to each student's profile. Originally developed for GT students. Renzuli was recently acquired by Compass Learning.

What does the ideal classroom look like?

There is differentiation from the level of meeting learning deficits to personalizing based on student interest. Diagnostic and pre-emptive tools are used. Teachers need training around very innovative learning styles. How teachers are trained earlier in University is critical. 

Industry does not give its employees course content and then ask them to fill out a T/F quiz. They are asked to demonstrate competency based on what they have learned.

What is the role of social media in preparing teachers for these classrooms of tomorrow?

Social media makes it possible for teachers to collaborate in a way they have never been able to before. The best learning teachers get is by collaborating with other teachers, not from workshops delivered traditionally. With time, tech tools, and access to one another, teachers could solve many of the problems we face in education today, including addressing students with special needs.

It gives teachers a spirit of empowerment and a way to fight the establishment in a professional way. Policy can only take us so far; teacher collaboration is what will move education forward. 

How do we look at students on a daily basis?

Empowering students to look at their learning unleashes the X-Factor in education. Students still need support from teachers, but can be encouraged even in traditional schools to pursue their own interests. We have to move to a student-centered model. Schools are currently configured to move a large number of students through with a small number of staff. Individualizing learning will cause us to have to think about the structure of our schools.

Clearly defined competencies, and the ability to learn with a variety of different teachers, are key factors in moving toward deep personalization.

Final thoughts: What one thing would you like the audience to focus on?

There is no one thing. But one thing you can do is share what you have learned and do not be afraid of stepping out of the box. Teachers have so much passion. Taking a leadership role should not be something to be feared. 

Trust students to direct their learning even though we are held accountable for outcomes. Take some risks along those lines.

In a fiercely difficult teaching environment with budget cuts and high demands on teachers, the best teachers still find a way to teach the whole child in spite of policies  to the contrary.

Don't forget your passion as an educator. 

Empowering Teachers: A Roadmap for Student Success #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 panel discussion/concurrent session.

Evan Nisonson, President/CEO, Epsilen

Epsilen is a learning platform created to promote collaboration. It is also a state-wide adopted tool in Texas, part of the Project Share initiative.

Nisonson was formerly a higher ed professor.

David Watkins, Instructional Tech Consultant, Region 14

Region 14 is trying to get the word out about Project Share. Teachers have to see it as important enough to invest time to learn how to use it.

Kristi Hernandez, State & Federal Solutions, Region 4

Helping districts and charter schools implement  Project Share wherever they are. All districts in Region 4 except Houston ISD have all faculty and staff in Epsilen. Although there are 900,000 accounts existing across the state, many of them are not active. As a parent, Ms. Hernandez wants her children to have the skills they need to have in the workforce and Epsilen is a way to do that.

Melissa McClatchy, Tech Integration Specialist, Region 6

Like other regions, they are trying to get more and more districts to actively use Project Share. They are using Project Share in every training they do.

Critical Steps in the Roadmap to Success

How do we demonstrate value?

Project Share allows us to meet students where they already live in an online environment. If we can get to the heart of teachers in that this is what the students really need, the rest falls into place.

When training about Project Share, show how the platform can make their jobs easier. Also make the case that the skills students learn through Epsilen are the skills students will need in the workforce.

Any teacher, regardless of the size of the school or district, can open their classroom to resources in a global environment.

What's in it for me in regards to professional development?

It's hard for teachers to leave the classroom for PD. Project Share allows us to have PD within our institution. One district in the Region 6 area creates PD modules based on observations of teachers in Project Share. They have one hour of PD each day and teachers access through Epsilen/Project Share. Now that they have a library of modules built up, they can individually assign them on an as-needed basis. Modules can also be accessed outside of school.

A Region 4 district has teachers accessing PD at all hours of the day and night when it is most convenient for them. Your district leaders can create courses around what your teachers need. Making it meaningful for teachers will encourage them to get in there and use it because they know it is valuable. State-wide TOT PD was delivered face-to-face, but now teachers can also access the state-wide course in Epsilen to refresh themselves on content they were exposed to over a year ago.

Rural West Texas districts have dealt with 4X4 and RIF's over the last few years. Some teachers are teaching outside of their areas of specialization. State-wide TEKS PD courses in Epsilen have been huge resources for teachers.

Teachers have access to these resources and at the same time these resources can be updated as information changes.

Using groups in project share, you can create opportunities in Epsilen for ongoing dialog between teacher cohorts/completers of courses. 80% of the success in teacher PD will come from the follow-up and sharing between colleagues.

What's in it for students?

An online platform is a student's world.

OnTrack lessons and content repositories.

Audience Suggestions:

A desire for learning supports in regards to read-aloud support for struggling readers. Text-to-speech.

Content repository training is needed. Value & how to integrate needs to be demonstrated.

Need more access to audiences outside of their school/district/state. Easy to do with teachers, but not as easy with students. This is probably a policy issue as well.

More examples of how to use the platform are needed - video tutorials, etc. Districts are stretched with lack of staff to deliver this training.

I got to ask this question: There is concern across the state about lack of ability to bring content in from other platforms (Moodle, for example) and lack of ability to export from the Epsilen platform (for example, a student who wants to liberate their blog posts out to WordPress, etc.). Nisonson stated that they are actively working with TEA on these concerns. They have small test beds where they are working on export of ePortfolios, etc. He said he wished I had been able to ask this question earlier because he had a lot more to say and felt that PR was needed to let stakeholders know these concerns are being addressed.

Are We There Yet? Integrating Tech & Learning #SXSWedu

Notes from panel discussion/concurrent session at SXSWedu 2012

Geoff Wurzel, TechNet
Wurzel was one of the influencers on Senate Bill 6 and the creation of the Instructional Materials Allotment in Texas.

Tom Greaves, The Greaves Group


Project Red - large scale research project funded by Pearson and Intel; Collected data from over 1000 schools around the country and looked at 136 variables.

Study focused on 1. Does technology improve academic performance? and 2. Financial implications

Financial side - What does it mean if kids get smarter and don't drop out because of technology? 1:1 schools outperform 2:1, 2:1 outperforms 3:1, etc. all the way down.

1:1 schools that use proper implementation factors outperform 1:1 schools that did not use proper implementation measures. Only 1% of all schools surveyed used all of the proper implementation factors. Moorseville School District in North Carolina is an exemplar district.

Rob Lippincott, PBS

PBS is working toward making more content digital (after spending over 40 years making TV educational). PBS feels their role is helping create content to support teachers. Examples of their initiatives include PBS TeacherLine, PBS LearningMedia, CPB Ready to Learn (PBS Kids), PBS Kids Lab (learning games).

PBS LearningMedia is the focus today. They can offer economy of scale due to the thoursands of of kids and students download content from PBS every month. PBS LearningMedia is part of ProjectShare in Texas. It brings a library of over 18,000 purpose-built, digital learning objects to teachers, learners, and parents. PBS LearningMedia is aimed at teaching and learning. Short, high impact video clips.

Paige Johnson, Intel

K-12 Blue Print: http://k12blueprint.com

In a global  innovation economy, we never will "be there". Innovation is an incrementally increasing thing. Even when our students do better, other students to better as well.

Technology helps with innovation, but technology alone will not help. You can't just throw a device at teachers or students and expect it to change anything.

K-12 Blue Print features exemplars of tech integration. Also provides free professional development for teachers. Example: Learning modules. Also a free downloadable eBook on best practices for learning, featuring Karen Fuller of Klein ISD.

Johnny Vaselka, Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA)

Public Education Visioning Institute: Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas - A group of 35 superintendents in Texas produced this document in 2006.

  • Six Articles that may be used to frame needed conversations as a "lens" to examine/change education across the state
  • I. The New Digital Learning Environment
  • II. New Learning Standards
  • III. Assessments for Learning
  • IV. Accountability for Learning
  • V. Organizational Transformation
  • VI. A More Balanced and Reinvigorated State/Local Partnership
Influenced SB 1557: Texas High Performance Schools Consortium - Establishes a consortium of up to 20 districts and open-enrollment charter schools to become leaders in transforming education in Texas.

Questions From Audience:

1. We are fighting a huge PR battle in moving toward digital learning. Why haven't we heard of the Project Red report? Is there a marketing plan? 

Answers: The report has been highly publicized. There is a plan to come out with a paperback version. The dumbing down of the discourse to "teacher vs. technology" is holding us back. This is not happening in other countries. We need to create messages that are short and to the point to catch the ear of the general public. We put out 18 page documents and wonder why the public doesn't get it. We need the "grandmother" document; if you can make your grandmother understand it, you have a winner. Practical examples are needed; show what it looks like in a classroom. Make it accessible to the general citizen and to those who are making investments.

Choose bumper sticker slogans: It's About Kids and It's About Time. Our kids are getting left behind. 

Everyone wants a simple solution: Add this hardware or program and kids will get smarter. The industry needs to fight against this. We need to make changes at scale.

It is also important to have grass roots involvement and grass roots leadership. Veselka feels the conversations going on across Texas in communities and districts are encouraging.

What is the best user friendly tech that a teacher can use today that will enhance a teacher's ability to teach? What is the game changer?

Answers: There is not a single piece of technology that is a game changer. (Someone from audience gave an example and I didn't hear it)

90% of teachers surveyed say the single piece of technology they want is an interactive whiteboard. But even that is not a stand-alone piece of technology - you need access to quality content.

We need things that give real-time, minute by minute feedback. 

We also need to focus on deep engagement.

Quote of the session so far: "We are building the plane as we are flying it."

Have any international comparisons been made?

Answer: Project RED was US only. There are not very many international studies available. OECD just published a study last year on the PISA studies. Correlation to high outcomes if students are using technology. However, most of this technology was used outside of school.

Patterns in any structures that promote the use of technology?

If you move toward personalization, you get better results. Virtual and digital online learning lead to personalization.

Teacher professional development and change management are very important.

There is a huge divide between what we're hearing at this conference and what we see in the classroom. How do those of us on the ground help?

Veselka - Trying to provide leadership from the state level. Involving leadership of all ESCs in Texas to work out strategies to facilitate training and leadership across the state.

Johnson - PD is moving into a different space. It is shifting to professional learning communities that take advantage of anytime/anywhere learning to make teachers more reflective on their practice.

Lippincott - PD in your pjs and job embedded PD. Put teachers through in cohorts so they have support. Does not take the teachers out of school. Studies show teachers have improved self-efficacy after participating in these experiences.

Wurzel - We need to look at colleges of education and how we are training teachers. 

In Texas, we are nervous that teachers will just keep buying textbooks with the IMA. What are we doing about that?

It is a transition that districts will have to work through for several years. Hopefully reduction in cost over time will free up monies to buy more digital content.

It was anticipated that initially districts would still focus on textbooks. Now that a market has been created, publishers will step up to provide materials.

How can we change the archaic culture we see among our teachers? What do we do about PD that is out of context? Teachers go back to their classroom and feel unable to use it?

If content is just seen as a transliteration of a textbook, it will not lead to transformation. Forming peer networks and professional learning communities is key to changing the environment. An Intel Teach study showed that if 60% or more of the teachers in a community went through the training, it led to a culture change at the school and 90% of the teachers using the new approaches.

It is hard for librarians, technologists, business leaders, to make changes if there is not leadership at the superintendent level or from the parents/community level.

Keep beating the drum!

What's being done to transition teachers from the role of instructors to the role of tutors?

In a well implemented 1:1, this is part of the culture change.

Flipped model is an example of this. So is project work and coached collaborative work.

We need smart learning objects - teacher does not have to find the content, but the content finds the learner. Teacher facilitates.

What can we do to help populations that start behind (second language, etc.)?

Intel is working with FCC and Comcast to make a refurbished computer available for $150 to families on free and reduced lunch. Also families will be eligible for $9.99 per month Internet as long as their child is enrolled and attending school.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

LeVar Burton - Keynote Speaker #SXSWedu 2012

We are at an interesting intersection of opportunity between education and technology.

As we move forward into the new era of the intersection of technology and education, there are a couple of fundamental tenets he would like to see us to not leave behind.

It is fundamental as we move forward with technology to not forget the importance of storytelling.

We all as human beings are an aggregate of the experiences that we have. LeVar has been incredibly blessed in his life. All of his experiences have helped shape the person he is today, and that is true for all of us. Every single soul comes here to this experience with an agenda - a purpose - a contribution to make.

In a room like this LeVar feels like he is in the company of his people. His mother was an English teacher. In her home, you were either going to read a book or get hit in the head with one. Literature was not only promoted, it was expected. Expectations are the engine that drives the train of our children's education. We are lost - not functioning - if we do not have expectations for our children.

LeVar's mother read to him and his two sisters when he was a kid. They are grateful that they have the mother they do. Se not only read to them, she read in front of them, and read with them when they were children.

To get children to read, discover what they are passionate about and find reading material on that subject matter. It's not rocket science. The human is predisposed to be open to storytelling. It's been a part of our common journey for as long as we've been here, going back to gathering around the fire and telling stories of the day's hunt. Movies and television created a "cold fire" of moving pictures and sound that we gather around. In large measure, movie theaters replicate a womb experience - going into a dark place and being exposed to the elements around us.

Today we have anxiety and nervousness over the transition to storytelling in the digital age. Similar to the anxiety that occurred in Hollywood when TV came out. We are predisposed to storytelling with moving pictures and sound.

Reading is about the moving pictures and sound we make up in our head. It's a large part of the magic of reading. It is active, not passive like TV and film are. You are actively engaged in the creative process every moment - which taps into what it means to be human.

LeVar has been fortunate to be exposed over the years to master storytellers. May 1976 - Sophomore at UCLA studying theater after spending four years in Catholic seminary. He saw an ad on a bulletin board for young Black actors to audition for a novel for television - a leap in our ability to capture our own attention through the medium of storytelling with moving pictures and sound. Roots was a revolutionary nexus of moving pictures and sound with literature. Making great literature accessible and available to the masses. A high idea.

No one knew who Alex Haley or what Roots was before this time. LeVar was in a small way familiar with Haley before this through previous studies of MalcomX. (Haley co-wrote MalcomX's autobiography,)

Growing up, LeVar wanted desperately to be anyone except who he was. It was uncomfortable - no fun- being a person of color in the early 1960's. He wished himself into another state of being because he could not imagine why his life was being made as difficult as it was simply because of the color of his skin.

LeVar loved scifi literature growing up because it consistently asked "What if?" He is convinced one of the reasons we have a technology today is because some child watched the original Star Trek series and saw Captain Kirk use a communicator. That which we focus our imaginations on is what we tend to create. Human beings are manifesting monsters - and we do it unconsciously. When we focus our attention and consciously create what it is we want, there are no limits to what we can do as human beings.

Alex Haley and Gene Roddenberry were huge influences in his life. Star Trek was one of the first places where he saw himself represented. Seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of the Enterprise meant there was a place for him in the future. Roddenberry's vision as a storyteller was important to him because of the vision of a future where race and class did not matter. We would explore the galaxy  with an open mind and heart and have fundamental respect for all life.

Haley and Roddenberry were both committed to telling the truth in a basic and fundamental way. They wanted us to experience this opportunity with as much info as we could possibly get about the nature of the power of who we are. Haley - the family as a societal structure is elemental to our experience as a human being. Roddenberry - we have unlimited potential.

Fred Rogers was the bridge for LeVar between the Haley and Roddenberry philosophy. He showed by example how powerful the medium of TV could be in the service of educated our children. Rogers saw TV as his pulpit.

In one week, LeVar saw the nation become transformed by Roots. Race, racism, and the legacy of slavery goes to the heart of almost everything that happens in this culture. Roots created a cultural evolution that was nonviolent. Roddenberry's vision was also about nonviolent change.

Remember, every single one of us is here to make a contribution. To present ourselves and our gifts as a way of demonstrating the strength and power of the human experience. It's our responsibility to discover and demonstrate those gifts and come hard after it.

There are challenges today. There are policies in place, NCLB, that are leaving behind hundreds of thousands of our children. We have created a culture in education where we are teaching the test instead of teaching the subject matter. We have depended too much on government to set the course for education of our children.

We are at a juncture of opportunity here through technology and public/private partnerships. We have to commit ourselves to not shooting ourselves in the foot and preparing our children. We have spent far too much money on war and not enough on our most valuable resource - our kids.

Here are LeVar's intentions around this idea. It is adddn opportunity that comes around in a great while.

They are on the verge of relaunching Reading Rainbow. He will use technology to steer children back to the written word. Reading Rainbow will be relaunched as an app.

LeVar implores us to trust that the help of heaven and human beings is coming at a rush to our side to bring value to what we have committed our lives to.

Questions from the Audience

What is LeVar reading right now? Answer: A lot of children's book in prep for the launch of the Reading Rainbow app. He also loves his iPad. He thinks the ability to digitize text is the greatest revolution in education since chalk!

How do we transform the old stories into new stories with technology? Answer: Our job is to inspire children to rise to their fullest potential and see themselves as worthy of learning and foster in them a passion of exploration of the old stories.

Will the new app effort include plans to help lower income children access the learning? Answer: Absolutely! Srtategic alliances are being created to help with access. It is a battle for the minds of our kids.

Any advice for adult educators? Answer: Keep fighting, be creative, and don't take no for an answer.

The Intersection of Project Share, BYOD, and PBL #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu  2012 Concurrent Session

Region XIII and Rockdale ISD

Dr. Howell Wright, Superintendent of Rockdale, made an appearance by pre-recorded video.

In 2009 Rockdale focused on new learning goals and worked to get buy-in from leadership and parents. Used a visioning document by TASA.

We need teachers who don't give students answers, but give them questions.

"We don't talk about reforming our district; we talk about transformation."

Project based learning is good instruction. Working across disciplines is natural and not contrived.

Learnings: Teachers will always be necessary. There needs to be change in teaching and learning.

Rockdale has had significant increases in grades, attendance, and behavior.

We want to educate our students for their future, not our past.

Change is inevitable, growth is optional.

Rebecca King, Director of Teaching and Learning

9th Grade Academy students are all using Project Share for eportfolios. Courses and groups are used to communicate with students, classmates, and teachers. They are also using it in science to communicate with students in Irving ISD and CyFair ISD.

Symbaloo Edu - a tool they found last year and have come to love it. It is the home page for all of their students. It has graphical links to all of the resources they need. Link for Rockdale is http://tigernation.symbaloo.com/. Symbaloo allows you to create free accounts but for a fee you can have a branded site like Rockdale does. Each of their teachers and students can customize what they see here. They are also able to put custom links to Symbaloo inside of Project Share. (Note for Region XIII ESC - they can provide Symbaloo training,)

Google Apps for Education - new to Rockdale. Allows for collaboration through docs, calendars, and sites.

AUP - Over the summer this was rewritten. Made more concise and to the point. Focuses on digital citizenship. Focus on Respect & Protect yourself, others, and intellectual property. Thinking of moving more toward a Responsible or Required Use Policy. AUP is on their website.

Gena Helton - Coordinator of Freshman Academy - Project Based Learning

Video from Buck Institute to give an overview on PBL:

School can be more interesting and effective by focusing on work that matters. Most adults live in a world where they actively solve problems. PBL puts students on a path that deepens their knowledge and builds life skills they will need.

Every project starts with a Driving Question. Curriculum, TEKS, incorporated into an open question.

Ex: What is justice? Why don't I fall off my skateboard? How can we use the language of poetry to better understand the world around us?

Teacher scaffolds the information needed. Decides on what will be assessed at the end and how it will be assessed. Multiple formative assessments - Ex: exit tickets, I have/who has - performed throughout the project.

Critical friend technique lets students discuss what they know and what they want to learn.

To get students started: pose questions, open possibilities, spark interest, set student roles.

Students then brainstorm what they know and what they need to know. Periodically throughout project they refer back to this document and add questions as necessary.

Students work in groups. Two or three seems to be the best number. Each group decides the direction of their project. They create a problem statement and create a contract which tells who is going to do what. Contract is pretty formal. Students set goals, assignments, and deadlines. If they go through the formal process of removing a student from the group, the students has to do the project alone.

Technology is seamlessly integrated because it is needed. There is direct instruction throughout mixed with group work time. Teacher asks as facilitator/learner and does individual , group instruction on a need to know basis.

Teachers do not have desks in their classrooms. There is one room that is a shared teachers' office. They can use that place to collaborate together.

Projects culminate in products that are presented. Present to appropriate audience. Ex: present to business leaders if your problem had to do with business. Can be play, poetry slam, formal presentation, etc.

Grading is done by a rubric. Students also assess each other and teacher takes that into consideration. Rubrics apply to the project process and final presentation.

Teaches digital citizenship, problem solving, higher level thinking, meets needs of all types of learners. Creates higher attendance and more successful learners which leads to improved test scores.

Lewis Wynn - Director of Technology (NOTE: Kudos to this panel for including this piece!)

BYOD goal was simple: turn on a device and automatically connect to the network. Alerady had a district-wide wireless system in place. Overall it was OK but had some shortcomings.

With PBL and BYOD, everything changes! Firewall. Capacity. Subnetting. Coverage.

Security  - 2 things you must know at all times are "who is on your network" and "what are they doing"

Bandwidth Management - Airwave 7 from Aruba Networks - 75% rule is now the 250% rule - every kid has at least one device, some have two. They are currently at 25 MB connection and they are looking at going to 50.

Network changes - DHCP, Sub netting, Firewall rules

Make sure you have management tools and your helpdesk is ready to handle complaints. If you do it right, it is easier to handle the problems that will come along. Make sure it's the user's device that is having the problem, NOT your wireless.

Be nice to your technical people! They know you need it to work well and work hard to keep it there.

Creating 21st Century Classrooms in Middle School #SXSWedu

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 Concurrent Session.

NOTE from your blogger: This region and these schools and students are doing wonderful, authentic projects. Kudos to them! One of my favorite conference sessions in a long time!!!!

Future is Now is a project out of Region 10 ESC in Richardson.

Ideas going into the Future is Now project:

  • Not device specific.
  • Allow students to bring their own technology
  • Include students and teachers in professional development - this helps create accountability for the teachers to use the technology and also puts students in position of being able to help. At least 3 students came to the PD; many schools brought 6 - 12 students.
  • Teachers do not have to be experts in the technology to use the technology in their classroom
Alan November and Howie DiBlasi are some of the speakers who came to Region 10 as part of the training.

Tina Fey Quote: "The show doesn't go on because it's ready. It goes on because it's 11:30." In the same way, technology isn't going to wait to happen until we are ready for it.

Use of Project Share highly encouraged but not required. Group web page created in Project Share. Many publicly available documents available on their public page.

People can review previous events like November and DiBlasi; resources and recordings are posted in the group.

Each campus (there are 20) has their own wiki within the group. Students are members of the group but can not be seen by the public or by each other.

250 students in the middle school. Principal wanted to do more with technology. Jumped at chance to participate with the Region 10 Future is Now initiative. One of the biggest changes that came to the campus was BYOD. Obstacles included no wireless at the campus and an anti-cell phone policy at their campus. Within a few months of starting the project, the Superintendent and school leadership saw the necessity of moving to a new paradigm. Wireless has been added and a BYOD policy has been put in place.

Best Practices:
  • Survey students to see what they have at home
  • Keep cell phones face down on desks so teachers know when they are being used
  • Students use district wireless. This is monitored by teachers
  • Every student does not need a device. Take instruction from Alan November's idea of the "class farm". Give each student a job - blogger, researcher, etc.
Two Gunter 8th graders came forward during the session to present the Prezi linked above. Examples of projects are linked in the Prezi. In year two of this project, 8th graders are now investigating the extreme drought in Texas. 

Awesome - these 8th graders have QR codes on their T-shirts you can scan to follow their drought project progress!!!

Bells ISD 

First thing they had to do was get past the culture that was anti-BYOD. You have to have the right teachers doing the right things with the devices. They are supplementing netbooks, shared among three students throughout the day. 

Big change has been seeing teachers being more willing to have students involved in their learning.

Three students in grades 2 - 5(?) now come forward to present.

Students saw Glogster at Region 10 training and wanted to use it when they got back to their school. They describe it as "way more fun than doing a book report with pencil and paper". :-)

Bells FINsters Project Share Group: http://www.epsilen.com/grp/1220947

One project the students did included making a video about how to properly take care of the portable lab. Students star in this video!!!

STT = Students Teaching Teachers - Students creating video tutorials to help teachers come up on their tech skills. Sample video they showed was a student showing how to organize the desktop of your computer.They are working on making a tab for the school web page to post all of the STT videos.

Another project: http://noveladventurez.wikispaces.com/ - A wiki for recommending books to read.

Their Space: Educating Digitally Ethical Teens #sxswedu #theirspace

Notes from SXSWedu 2012 Concurrent Session

Kalmus (@TedKalmus) & de Haan (@TeachWithIntent) (TeachWithIntent.com)

Storify Archive of this Session (also embedded below): http://is.gd/ethicalyouth

Students like to track themselves online when shown how to do that. About three years ago presenters started to notice a shift to more social media use by middle schoolers. Had questions about how to deal with 10 and 11 year olds and their concrete thinking.

20% of the 6th graders they surveyed in their Seattle school had Facebook accounts. By high school, this rises to 90%. Smart phones also have a high adoption rate.

One of the things they think about is moving kids into a position of reflective growth - how to they see themselves as learners and what is the environment I'm moving in like? Then add an ethical layer - how do I operate in these environments. Help kids leverage all of the resources available to them as they assess where they are and what they want.

When students move outside of the classroom, they have to apply what they learn. That's why meta-cognition is so important.

Time and space do not have the same meaning for kids today that they do to us. The internal sense of change adolescents have is still out of sync with what is really happening around them.

2009 - Meeting of the Minds - important work from Common Sense Media on perceptions of social media ethics.

Cyberbullying is a difficult concept to define for adolescents, but if you talk about "flaming" or "posing", you can have more meaningful interaction. We latch on to what we recognize.

de Haan found a video via a Google Alert of a video shot on a school field trip of students setting a bush on fire, including students jumping over and through it. Also includes footage of teachers intervening, saying things they probably would not want on camera. Students also shared their names online.

These same students would tell you that at school they would never post their full names or identifying information. But that applies to school for them. It's not generalized to their outside of school behavior.

What were you thinking? - That's how we as adults react. We have to process the cognitive dissonance and lack of transference.

Kids between 11 and 14 go through the greatest period of brain development after age four. The parts of the brain that deal with planning and cause and effect are firing for the first time. They often refer to trial-and error tactics to figure things out, much like they did when they were toddlers. There is often superficial evaluation of online communities. Subject to a lot of polling feedback.

They are unaware of the digital tattoo - the permanence of data. This permanence can be a positive thing. It often has to be set before the students in very concrete ways to help them process what they are doing. The gaffes they commit in early teens can set the stage for what they do when they are 16, 17, etc.

A woman who works for a company that offers memberships to Tweens for movie editing noted that when they suspend accounts for inappropriate use, parents often step in and question the company's actions.

Presenters point out that parents have to be brought in on these conversations and helped to understand the consequences of online activity. In their school, they now have 8th graders who do presentations for parents (after a great deal of training).

If you ask a 10 year old if they have a digital identity, they will say no, even if they've been on Club Penguin. We are creating a division that does not exist for them. Digital identity is part of their total identity, not separate.

Young people still fallaciously think that the sender controls the message and that misrepresentation does not equal lying. Adults think their digital representations should line up with who they really are. Students are still finding their identities, so this idea does not resonate with them.

Digital Identity: A representation of self created by self or others, definded through accessible digital information, as perceived by a viewer (self or other).

Can you move fluidly back and forth between who you are online and who we are in real life? Teens have the opportunity and onus of branding themselves online.

We don't stop teaching kids about driving they day they get their driver's licenses. Students with the healthiest online identities have ongoing conversations with their parents, who are mentoring them as they cultivate their online presence.

Adults in children's lives need to be managers, coaches, and mentors.

A practical thing these educators have done with students: give them real world scenarios and have them classify as if someone's actions were being intentional or unintentional and whether it had a negative impact or positive impact. Ex: Your mom posts an old photo of you running naked through a sprinkler. Intentional to hurt? Unintentional? Negative or positive impact? This answer varies depending on the student. Same question can be asked in real-world situations, like sexting. (Photo of classification grid used with students: http://yfrog.com/kk1lmalj)

Another example: Use media to talk about perception, reality vs. unreality. Examples: Ender's Game, The Hunger Games, Inception, Matrix.

Navigating in the public space takes practice, reflection, and will include missteps.

Below is the online archive of this presentation:

Education in a World of Social and Technological Change #SXSWedu

Notes from concurrent session, SXSWedu 2012

S. Craig Watkins, Associate Professor of Radio, TV, and Film, The University of Texas at Austin

After grad school, Watkins began immersing himself in the way young people use media. Trying to understand their  perspectives and sensibilities they bring to digital media. Recently he has been working with the McArthur Foundation on how young people's adoption of technology changes the way they live and learn. How are their learning lives evolving?

Teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are almost universally online. Previously via laptop computers, but more recently via mobile devices.

Social media has become central to their (and our) everyday lives.

The Digital Tipping Point - moment in a young person's life when they migrate to the digital world. As you get closer to high school, there starts to be enormous amount of pressure to becomed part of the online community. This pressure is now starting at younger and younger ages.

Preschoolers are using iPads and other handheld devices. They will have very different expectations of what a book will be and what learning will be even as they enters Kindergarten! Think of these 21st Century kids entering 20th Century classrooms...

The Digital Edge - Watkins is trying to understand role of digital media in lives of kids on the margins of digital access - second language homes, low socioeco environments, etc? Was inspired by the concept of digital divide - technology rich vs. technology poor.

Kids who we assume lack access to technology are increasingly getting access through mobile devices and resources in their commmunities. Studies show Black and Hispanic students are spending more time online than their Anglo counterparts, and their primary means of access is mobile.

Mobile is bridging the access divide, but the question of whether it is bridging the divide in terms of quality is not as easy to answer.

Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out - Friendship-driven and interest-driven access (Ito et al 2010) Found a large group of kids primarily went online for social reasons. Another group was found to be going online to pursue interests and passions. The passion-driven kids were using digital media to enrich their own learning. Example: A young woman receiving critique of her fan fiction online began using some of the skills she learned back in her other classes in school.

Connected Learning Project (need to Google this) - examples of projects schools are doing

How can we bring interests students develop outside of school into the classroom to leverage it for learning?

How can we leverage the peer culture in education?

How can we create more dynamic, more robust experiences in the classroom?

Learning gaps are not only shaped by what happens in school, but by what happens in their after-school lives.

Design Principles for Connected Learning:

  • Openly networked
  • Shared purpose
  • Production-centered
Look up YOUMEDIA - a public library based program to help students explore their interests.

What happens when we block social media in schools? We block them from some of their connectivity.

NOTE: Large gap in notes here thanks to an antivirus update that brought my netbook to its knees...

When asked what they wish their computer s could do that they don't currently do, kids answered with things like:
  • I want to go into the computer to visit other places (illustrates blur of line between in person and virtual worlds)
  • I want to make my own game (1/3 of kids responded with a desire to create)
Students seem to have a design disposition. How can we leverage that? How do we craft design/learning spaces that are student-centered? Spaces that are hands-on, active, and dynamic. Spaces that are inquiry-based. Watkins is working with schools on this.

In areas of extreme poverty, such as Brazil, these kinds of learning designs are essential. (Leadbeater & Wong, 2010). Learning needs to be related to real world questions and problems. Making kids entrepreneurial, creative, and inventive. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Learning has to happen across all the nodes and networks that connect us to the world we live in.

Majority of births in this country are now happening among historically minority groups. Students coming into our schools are much more ethnically diverse than they ever have been. How can education respond to this? How can we respond to the diversity?

We need to understand the digital divide as a literacy challenge rather than an access challenge.

On the Horizon: Harnessing Emerging Technologies in Education #SXSWedu

Notes from opening session of SXSWedu 2012. Remember, these are notes taken on the fly. Please excuse typos!

What's neat about this opening session is the speaker is speaking to us, to the SITE conference, and the CoSN conference at the same time  from Washington, D.C. via high def video conferencing!

This was a really neat experience - having the keynote come from one location and then having each site broadcast a responding speaker and have an opportunity to ask questions. I'm re-energized regarding the possibilities of interactive video conferencing!

Keynote Speaker: Larry Johnson, New Media Consortium

NOTE: New Media Consortium folks have produced the Horizon Reports for the past 10 years.

The NMC Horizon Report is not available weekly. They have a new app which brings their entire body of knowldege right to the palm of your hand. Available for iOS now and soon available for Android.

The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.
People expect to work learn socialize and play wherever they are.
The technologies we use are increasingly cloud based.
The internet is becoming a global mobile network and already is at its edges.

Reflections of what has been learned by Horizon Reports over the past 10 years:

Larry's Big Takeaway after 10 years: Our strategic thinking is increasingly based on world that no longer exists. And it's difficult to change that thinking.

Think of the technologies of the last four generations. Larry's dad fought in WWII. Radio was the technology of his day; he spent his entire career working in radio operations. The power of radio for Larry's dad was the network of connection it created.

The network changes us. Television bonded us. The children of the WWII generation grew up in this networked world. Remember Cronkite announcing Kennedy's death? Remember how that brought us together?

In 1968 when Larry graduated from high school, the first attempts at video conferencing and graphical user interfaces were being made. The message of this time was The network helps us.

Larry's son was born in 1984. He has never known a world without computers. For him, the network is us. This is a massive change in perspective about what the network means.

Today, when news breaks, we're getting it with cellphone video and digital pictures from onsite. It's immediate, in the moment, and changing the way we feel about the news. Remember the Facebook page that launched the Arab Spring?

You can push messages out via a social network and a few days later a government topples. This does not happen because of the network, but because of the people connected by the network.

The network is everywhere and it is now about freedom of speech.

The network extends farther than electricity itself. Compare a world map of electrical access and a map of 3G access. We passed 6 billion active cell phones in July. By 2014 there will be more connected cell phones  than people on the planet. Over 90% of those phones have at least a basic browser and all new cell phones are being produced with browsers.

For Larry's grandchildren, the network is invisible. They don't care, they aren't aware, they just expect it to function. They do FaceTime from the palm of their hand. They do not know a world without in-your-hand video conferencing. The tools are becoming so simple they don't need instruction manuals. His one year old grandson intuitively figured out how to go through the apps on an iPad.

And yet, our strategic planning does not take the network into account.

Larry's Closing Thought: It is important that we continue to track where things are going and think about what is important in schools. But the real goal is to make kids understand the world is so cool they just need to learn everything they can about it.

Responses from Each Site to Larry's Talk:

From SXSWedu Ken Kay, CEO of EdLeader21

Kay's middle son is a graduate student in sustainability. A close friend and fellow student of his, 32 years old, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. During his treatment, he found out he was going to have a six month $120,000 lapse in his insurance coverage. He kicked off a website to raise money for his chemotherapy. In one week, he raised half of the money he needed. A few weeks later, he is now close to raising the money he needs.

The site is: www.poopstrong.org

Ten years ago, he could not have done this. The network was not there.

1. When the Horizon Report started 10 years ago, this young man's ability to save his life was not possible.

2. This young man's ability to create this site is unfortunately a rare set of skills. If our kids don't have the ability to leverage the network, they are at an extreme disadvantage. What are we doing in our schools to get kids there?

From SITE, a response from higher education. The speaker is from Isreal; I did not catch her name.

Schools in Guatemala - Half of the children in the country do not go to school. They work instead on farms. But almost all of the children have smartphones. How much education could be delivered through these mobiles?

In Isreal, they are striving to create teachers who will not be teachers on the stage, but facilitators and instructors. Education students work with students from other colleges and professors facilitate their work from a distance. Students are connected to experts in their research areas from other universities. It is difficult to change the structure of the university.

One project connects with students at the University of Texas to study languages; they can teach each other in their native languages.

Online learning between institutions and the creation of open teaching materials as well as collaborative learning are key to working in a more global and collaborative world.

Response from CoSN, a school superintendent (again I did not catch his name)

Asked for technology recommendations from their students.

First thing kids said: "Let us bring our devices to school." School leaders need to realize they cannot control the network.

Second thing: Get smartboards into high school math and science classes.

Third thing: Don't wire the busses. We need some down time. (Note from me: interesting!)

Question as an administrator: How do we use technology to help teachers collaborate with each other in creating curriculum and assessment? Across schools, districts, and even further.

Administrators have to begin to educate parents about what schooling should be like. Parents want individual information on how their child is doing in school. Collaborative teaching/learning changes how that works.

Currently 90+% of funding goes to staffing. Perhaps we need to softly begin changing that so more money can go to resources?

We need to partner with universities to create a new school model with a different adult/child ratio. (I think he is talking about more students per teacher through leveraging technology. Interesting...)

Need to change state policies so they aren't based on "seat time" but "mastery" instead. The network can enable students to direct their own learning outside of the seat.

Question Time:

From SXSWedu: What needs to be done to ensure equity in access to the network?

Larry answers by asking if we can change the conversation to "What could we do if we had an abundance of internet?" Other countries have much larger bandwidth because of the way we regulate our industry.

From CoSN: What do we do about access for people who cannot afford it?

Superintendent answers: Their IT department identifies free WIFI hotspots throughout the county and shares this with lower income families. Even families with access may have only one computer shared between three students. They are also partnering with providers to put cell towers at their schools and provide free access to those who cannot afford it.

Larry answers: It is a significant and real challenge, but it is still a smaller challenge than having to provide for every kid. Let those with access bring it and use it and continue working toward helping those without access.

From SXSWedu: From a representative of a public school: How are the changes we all want to see regarding technology and education being reflected in current fill-in-the-bubble assessment?

Kay answers: We need to continue to talk to our state and federal leaders on policy. Kay himself is now involved with district level leaders where real change can take place. Remember the policies are nto the ceiling but the FLOOR. State standards in the near term are not going to prepare students for the 21st century. We have to add that ourselves.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Trying to Ban Facebook is Not the Answer...

Image Source
It is our professional opinion that you get your child off Facebook. -  From Pinecrest Preparatory Middle-High Administration Letter to Parents, February 22, 2012

When I first read and watched a news story about this Florida charter school's letter to parents encouraging them to get their kids off of Facebook because of the problems social media activities were causing during the school day, it got me thinking. I wondered what would make a school even venture this request in our social media saturated society. And I remembered this wasn't the first time I had heard of such a request from school administration. What is going on here?

Looking into the Pinecrest situation further, I read their complete letter to parents, posted on their website. Based on the strong nature of the letter, the school is obviously facing some difficult issues. It is hard to cultivate the positive environment required for teaching and learning if social issues are causing continuous disruption. You and I can sympathize. We would not want to try to teach nor have our own children/students learn in such an environment.

These problems are not unique to Pinecrest. This school just happens to be in the spotlight right now because of the approach they have chosen to take.

But is asking parents to get their children off of Facebook the answer?

Even if They All Left Facebook

Used Under Creative Commons License
Let's assume for a moment that in a perfect world, 100% of Pinecrest parents buy in to this request from administration, and 100% of the students comply with their parents' wishes and close their Facebook accounts. Here are some possible outcomes I envision:

  • A tool has been removed, but the underlying behavior patterns have not been dealt with. Students continue their negative social interactions but simply use other mediums. (The Pinecrest letter acknowledges this possibility when it mentions negative aspects of texting, but does not call for a ban on texting plans or cellphones.)
  • Looking for other ways to connect, students may turn to any of the less popular or lesser used/known social networking sites that exist out there. Not to mention online games and chat rooms. This may make their activity even more difficult to monitor for parents and the school. At least most parents and school faculty/staff are on Facebook and have an awareness of how it works and what is going on there.
  • There are also plenty of free sites where students can set up websites and blogs. Tumblr is an example of a blogging site which is extremely popular with teens.
  • Students have been cruel to each other and bullied each other since the dawn of schools. And schools have had to deal with the fallout of these interactions. I myself was picked on in middle school by a group that put me in awkward situations at school and used the telephone to call and harass me. The tools of the time were different, but the actions were the same. If parents and schools do not work together on character education, setting expectations, using inappropriate student actions as teachable moments, and enforcing consequences for specific incidents, ultimately nothing will change. Students will find other avenues for their social behavior, both good and bad.

The Realistic Alternative: Model, Supervise, & Create Positive Opportunities for Social Media Use

Used Under a Creative Commons License
We all know the reality: Pinecrest students on the whole will not leave Facebook. A few might for a while, but most will eventually go back. With or without the knowledge of their parents and teachers. Facebook is the way the vast majority of us communicate with each other. Facebook and social media are not going away. If you are concerned about how your children or students are using social media, you must work with them to build critical skills they need to function in today's world and the world of tomorrow. 

None of the suggestions below are quick fixes, which is I believe what a frustrated school like Pinecrest is looking for. But they will serve families, schools, and students much better in the long run as they will better equip all of those stakeholders to thrive in a hyperconnected world.

What Administrators, Educators, and Schools Can Do
  • As administrators and educators, take advantage of the professional learning that you could be doing via social media. As you become more comfortable with using social media tools to learn, you will cultivate a positive online presence that can serve as a model and also gather professional connections and resources to help you when your school is struggling with difficulties. High school principal Eric Sheninger serves as a great example of someone who didn't get social media at first but who over the last three years has become convinced of its usefulness for his own learning as well as his students. I've written on my own blog about using Facebook for professional learning and recently presented a workshop on using Twitter for professional learning. Participating in social media for professional and educational reasons has helped me understand at a deep level the power and positive potential of the medium. 
  • Understand that increasingly a person's online reputation now counts as their resume. Studies over the last year have shown that four out of five college admissions officers use Facebook to recruit students and more and more companies are looking at Facebook to find potential employees. Given these growing trends, not having an online presence could hurt a student's chances of getting into the college or career of their choosing. Students cannot wait until they are out of high school to establish or learn to negotiate having an online presence. The fact that our online reputations matter more and more each day can be used to teach students about the long-term importance of what they are doing online. Instead of banning Facebook, consider using it as a teaching tool.
  • Provide positive online experiences for your students which are integrated with their learning. Consider using Edmodo, a high quality networking site that is free of charge and aimed at schools for the purpose of creating online learning communities. Blog with your students; some great resources for learning about and teaching with blogging can be found here, here, and here.
  • Get students involved in collaborative projects which use technology and social media as tools for learning. The Flat Classroom Projects are award winning, quality opportunities for just such an endeavor, and their themes include digital citizenship, social action, and cross-cultural understanding. Flat Classroom also provides teacher training and support. You can also encourage students to use online tools in service of others. Check out what these Texas high school students have accomplished for kids in Kenya.
  • There are more ideas interspersed throughout the slides from my recent presentation on Supporting Teachers and Students in the Curation of Their Digital Footprint.
  • BOTTOM LINE: Don't try to ban Facebook or any other social media, but instead find ways to positively integrate them into teaching and learning. Doing so will provide myriad opportunities to discuss personal use of social media with students and mentor them in positive practices. 

What Parents Can Do
  • Talk with your children regularly and often about your expectations for their behavior in personal interactions, whether they be in person or online. The two worlds are no longer separate. How you conduct yourself in front of others, whether talking, texting, chatting, or posting on Facebook, reveals your character; who you are as a person.
  • If your child is under 13, they should not be on Facebook. It is a violation of Facebook's Terms of Service. This means most kids in the U.S. should not have an account until somewhere in the 7th grade at the earliest. One of the strongest statements you can make to your children about appropriate social media use is following the service terms of the sites they use.
  • For younger kids, consider letting them participate in an age appropriate social network. One I've heard and read great things about is Yoursphere, which is for kids only and has the additional mission of teaching good online citizenship. Yoursphere also has great resources for parents.
  • Make sure your child is not lying about their age on Facebook, even if they are 13 or older. Facebook has more strict privacy settings for users under 18.
  • Educate yourself about Facebook and ways to positively interact with your kids about and through the social space. This Parents' Guide to Facebook from ConnectSafely.org is a great place to start. If you feel lost in the digital world, do not continue in your ignorance. Find adults in your life who know more than you and ask them questions. Ask your own kids questions about what they are doing online and how they do it; you may establish some bridges in your relationship!
  • Monitor your children's computer and internet use. Insist that computer use occur in common areas of  the home, where others are likely to be present. Keep the charging station for cell phones in your bedroom and put all cell phones there at night. Friend them on Facebook and have rules that nothing posted should be hidden from family. Monitor what they post and discuss it with them privately.
  • BOTTOM LINE: Remember you know how to parent and teach. You have taught or will teach your kids to walk through neighborhoods, ride bikes, and drive cars, even though all of those activities have potential pitfalls and dangers. You don't lock your kids away from those opportunities; you taught or will teach them how to participate appropriately and safely, and how to respect others when doing so. The digital environment of online activity is a different space, but the underlying principles of conducting oneself as a responsible, decent human being are the same.

Social Media Isn't Going Away

Public Domain
When the Pinecrest story first hit my Twitter feed yesterday, I sent out a Tweet asking others what advice they might give this school. I share here, with permission, the thoughts sent over two Tweets from Rick Archer, a school administrator from the Houston area.
I think you have to teach students about responsibility and consequences when using public social media. We have character ed/social skills training daily on topics just like this. We adults have to accept and adapt. (emphasis mine)
I agree wholeheartedly with Rick! It is time for educators who have been reluctant to enter the social media world professionally and/or with students to reassess. I truly believe that successful use and management of social media and our online presence has now become a life-skill that we are obligated to teach and teach well if we want our children and students to lead productive lives in today's society and in whatever the society will look like for them in ten, twenty, or thirty years.

It is certainly not in the best interest of students to stick our heads in the sand and try to pretend this social media thing can be shelved or made to go away. Instead, we ourselves need to commit to becoming more educated and staying up-to-date on trends in this arena so we can guide our students in a knowledgeable and positive manner. Doing so over time will improve our school environments and allow us to focus on quality teaching and learning in all areas.