Sunday, December 16, 2012

In The Wake of Newtown: Preparing for the Worst Case Scenario

Used With Permission From
Newtown has every parent, educator, law enforcement professional, politician, and anyone who cares about children and schools reeling. As part of that reaction, we should all be asking how our schools can do better.

The sobering and sad fact is this: Nothing we do can ever put in place a 100% guarantee that an event like Newtown won't happen again. In our fallen world there is evil, and it is often visited on the vulnerable. Someone intent on slaughtering innocent children and the people who care for them will gain access to a building no matter how tightly it is locked down.

We can, however, closely examine the security in our schools and commit to doing better. We can admit to ourselves that a tragedy like this is possible in our school, and we can ask our school administrators and school boards to review safety plans and increase training for teachers and students. When was the last time your school (or your child's school) held a lock-down drill? Do your teachers and students/children instinctively know what to do to protect themselves in the case of an Active Shooter event?

What can we do to minimize the impact of a crazed gunman who accesses a school campus? We can start by educating ourselves and letting staff and students know there are steps they can take to try to prevent loss of life. A good place to start is by reading the information below.

This information is republished from the Nebraska Change Agent blog with permission of the original author, Kristofor Still (@kris_still) and his wife, blogger Beth Still (@BethStill). It is written by an expert in Active Shooter response who also happens to be the husband of a school teacher. Read it and share it far and wide. It should start some conversations! If you have questions about the contents, please post them on the original blog Preparing for the Worst Case Scenario.

My name is Kristofor Still (@kris_still).  As you have probably guessed by now, I am married to Beth Still, who is the author of this blog.  Before I dive too deep into this guest blog that Beth has asked me to write, I feel you need to know who I am and the level of experience I possess in my fields of expertise.
I have been in Law Enforcement now for almost 19 years; the last 13 years have been with the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department in Nebraska.  I have been a SWAT team member for the last 11 ½ years and a SWAT sniper for the last six years.  I am also one of the department’s two firearms instructors.  In May of 2012, I was given a great opportunity as I was one a select few from across the state who were able to gain a certification as an Active Shooter Response Instructor.  I now teach a two day class to area Law Enforcement Officers along with my Sergeant, Troy Brown and Scottsbluff Police Officer and fellow SWAT team member, Ian McPherson.
As most of you probably know by now, today was one of the most horrific days in the history of the United States.  A killer walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 20 children and 6 adults.  Of those killed, a majority of them were Kindergarteners.
When something like this happens and innocent children are killed, it tears at the hearts of a nation.  Destroying what we as parents hold dearest to our hearts shock us to the core.  It makes us realize how fragile life really is and how one crazed, sick person can take it away in the blink of an eye.
As I mentioned above, I am one of three instructors in our county that teach active shooter response to our area Law Enforcement Officers.  Because of this, my wife knows that I am passionate about making sure that our officers are prepared both mentally and physically to go in and meet this evil head on and terminate it as quickly as possible in order to stop the killing.
Like most parents across our nation today, we talked at great length when Beth arrived home from school about what we can do as Law Enforcement Officers and Educators to stop this from happening.  Beth came to me because she knows that I have also in the past gone to two of our area schools and provided them in-put on ways the school and teachers can protect themselves and the children.  The sad thing about all of this is that my advice fell on deaf ears.  I know that neither school followed through with any of the recommendations provided to them.  I believe the reason that nothing was done was two fold.  First of all, too many administrators fall into a comfort zone and genuinely believe that this kind of evil will never happen here.  The second reason is because of the all mighty dollar.  In both schools that I went to, I talked about purchasing certain items that could be used to aid teachers in protecting and or keeping intruders out of their rooms in the case that they were unable to escape.  I felt that in both cases, I lost them once it came down to spending money.
I am often asked by people and teachers what they need to do in the case of active shooter in the building or school in which they are located.  I start off by telling them to follow the acronym A.D.D.  This stands for AVOID, DENY, DEFEND.  I tell teachers, administrators, law enforcement officers, and citizens the same thing.
AVOID:  Escape the scene as quickly as possible.  If you are able to run, do so until you are sure you are in a safe place.
DENY (entry):  If you unable to get out, barricade yourself in a room.  Pile all of the furniture and heavy items in front of the door as possible and then quietly hide in the room in an area that would provide cover and concealment from an active shooter who wants to try to shoot into the room.  Remember that an active shooters main goal is to kill as many people as possible to provide the greatest shock factor to his or her audience.  They do not like to get hung up on a closed and locked door.  This will slow them down too much for them to effectively accomplish their mission or goal.  Most likely, they will move on.
DEFEND:  If you are unable to escape or secure yourself in a safe room, you need to fight for your life.  Find any items that you can use as a weapon.  These are items of convenience such as a fire extinguisher, coat rack, trash can, chair, etc.  If you are able to, find others in your same position that are of the sound mind and body to assist you in fighting for your life as well as the other innocent people who could fall victim to the senseless killing that is happening.
Another major problem that I am seeing in our schools is that our teachers are given a policy or a flip chart to follow in times of an emergency.  This may work if you are talking about a fire drill or tornado drill, but teachers need leeway in their decision making when they are dealing with an active shooter.  Most teachers are by nature known to be rule followers.  This creates problems as they tend to fall back on a flip chart or policy and ignore that sixth sense about what they should do.  The way I describe this to our new law enforcement recruits is by telling them that if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.  Learn to follow your sixth sense and do what you feel is right.
Early on in this post, I spoke about certain in-expensive items that I recommended these schools purchase for each teacher or each room.  Below is a list of these items that I recommended to them and am now recommending to you.
1)      Tactical door wedges.  These can be found on-line and typically cost between $15 and $20 a piece.  These secure the door to the floor from inside the room, so the door can be permanently locked.  If done properly, the only way you can open the door is to tear it down with an axe or chainsaw.
2)      A claw hammer with a long handle.  These can be used as both a weapon to fight with or a tool to break and rake windows to aid in escape if your room has exterior windows.
3)      Medical kit to include a tunicate and a clotting agent.  Remember that the first responders that are entering the building are not there to provide medical attention to those that are injured.  They by-pass the injured and going straight to the threat so they can stop the killing as quickly as possible.
4)      Rope or fire escape ladders.  To aid in escape through an outer window if you are on the second or third floor of a school or structure.
5)      Emergency blankets.  These can be used to help comfort the wounded or to throw over the broken glass in a window pane prior to escape.
6)      Cell phones or emergency radios for each classroom.  Communication is key to any law enforcement officers or tactical teams arriving on scene.  If you are able to provide pertinent information to police dispatch, you can aid in response time by providing the locations of the shooter(s) inside the structure.
7)      A box, tote, or five gallon bucket to hold all of these items as they are stored in a safe place inside the classroom.
As you can see above, these are not high priced items.  Push your administrator to purchase these for each classroom and tell him or her why you feel it is important.  If they refuse to help your school, find ways to make this happen on your own.  Some of the items above may be lying around your house or garage and could easily be transported to your school.  The rest that needs to be purchased could easily be justified as inexpensive life insurance policy.
As an educator you are responsible for protecting your students if at all possible.  Too many times in these cases of school shootings, there were red flags that many noticed, but failed to report until after the unthinkable happened.  If you see or hear something that you consider to be red flag with a student, report it.  Start by telling an administrator or counselor.  If this fails and you believe they pose a true threat, talk to one of your trusted law enforcement officers.
In closing, I want you to ask yourself this; could you live with yourself if you failed to prepare, act, or report a possible future threat that resulted in the death of a student, wife, husband, son, daughter, grandparent or co-worker.  You owe it to yourself and your students to be their first line of defense by educating yourself and making good sound decisions!

Please remember, if you have questions about the precautions suggested in the information above, post them on the original blog. May we all move forward with the conviction that we can do better.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cast Your Vote in the Edublog Awards by December 9th

On November 25th, I posted my nominations for the 2012 Edublog Awards. The nominations are now all in, the finalists have been named, and voting is open. You should go vote!

Why vote? Because the educators who are recognized by these nominations have given freely of their time and talent to share their thoughts and ideas and in some cases create tools which benefit the entire education community. A little recognition goes a long way toward encouraging these folks to continue to contribute, and I believe it can encourage those who are still lurking in the online world to move into more active participation. When the lurkers see that contributions are valued, they might just make the effort to begin sharing themselves. (Sidebar: No one should think they have "nothing" to share. What's obvious to you might just be amazing to others...)

How do I know the recognition given by being nominated is encouraging? Because for the first time ever, I received a nomination! [Note the nomination icon I am displaying in this blog post. :-) ] I didn't make the finalist list, but the fact that someone took the time to acknowledge that my blog has been a valuable resource to them fills me with a sense of accomplishment. Say what you will about writing just for the sake of writing or for the therapy of it, it's nice to know your efforts are appreciated by someone out there.

Another benefit of voting is you will probably be exposed to some new bloggers, tweeters, web tools, or apps you haven't come across before. The fact that someone recognized the nominees' contributions probably makes them worth a look.

Hopefully, I've encouraged you to take a few moments and cast your vote in the 2012 Edublog Awards. Give your colleagues a virtual pat on the back! Below are some links you'll find useful:

Congratulations to all of the nominees, and best wishes to the finalists. Here's to a high voter turnout!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Edublog Award Nominations

It is Edublog Award nomination time again! I participated in the nomination process last year, and really enjoyed getting to give shout-outs to some of my favorite resources. So, here I go again!

It's always hard to narrow down the best of anyone or anything, so I choose to focus on resources that have been valuable to me recently or have been resources I return to again and again over time. Which is why a couple of my nominations are repeats from last year. After reading my nominations, you may be inspired to make some of your own in as few or as many categories as you want. Be quick about it, though, because the nominations are due by Monday, November 26th.

My 2012 Edublog Award Nominations Are:

Best Individual Blog: Cool Cat Teacher by Vicki Davis
Vicki not only blogs about education and educational technology, but she also shares her personal struggles balancing family and professional life. She is a refreshing, honest voice in the blogosphere, and I continuously benefit from her reflection and sharing both personally and professionally.

Best Administrator Blog: The Principal of Change by George Couros
Writing from his experience as Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada, George's reflections on education, teaching, and learning are amazing resources for the education community. George practices what he preaches. As a huge proponent of teaching students to produce positive digital footprints, George can point to his own blog as an example of what it means to contribute positively to the greater education community.

Best Individual Tweeter: George Couros (@gcouros)
George Couros shares a wide variety of information on Twitter, from practical tool tips to informative articles on the art of teaching and learning. When George puts "Read This" in front of a Tweet, I know the information he's sending out is going to be valuable! I appreciate George's contributions to my learning.

Best Twitter Hashtag: #txed
Educators across Texas are sharing resources for teaching and learning and sharing political insights as our biennial legislative season ramps up in 2013. The hashtag is used throughout the week, and Wednesday nights at 8:30 CST Texas educators can be found chatting on the topic of the week. I believe #txed is a great model for teachers in all states to emulate, as it allows discussion in the context of what is unique about the needs and conditions of education in our state.

Best Free Web Tool: Socrative
We are launching iPads in limited settings in my school district, and our teachers were extremely excited when we introduced the Socrative student response platform to them. Accounts are easy to set up and quizzes are easy to create. Formative assessment using "on the fly" questions is also possible. The beauty of Socrative is it can be used via the web or via an app on iOS or Android, so even in a BYOD environment where you have a mixture of devices, as long as they can download an app or hit a website, all students in your class can participate. Great tool for promoting student engagement!

Best Educational Use of Audio/Video/Visual /Podcast: 
Teacher Training Videos by Russell Stannard
If you haven't stumbled upon this website containing numerous professional quality training videos that are provided free of charge, you've missed a gem! These are the "missing manuals" on Web 2.0 tools such as Edmodo, Skype, Twitter, and Second Life. Not to mention software tutorials on programs such as iTunes and Camtasia. And these topics don't even scratch the surface. There are advertisements on the site, but when you are accessing a training video, you no longer see the ads. Through my job, I have accessed video tutorials that had subscription fees attached, and I can confidently say that Russell's videos equal and in some cases are better than the videos we paid for.

Best Mobile App: Socrative
See all my reasons for nominating this resource in my Best Free Web Tool nomination above! Having mobile apps developed for both iOS and Android makes this tool invaluable in environments where any number of mobile devices are being used.

Lifetime Achievement: Wesley Fryer
I have been following Wes's work and using his resources since my early days as an instructional technology facilitator. I first discovered him through his Tools for the TEKS website (no longer maintained), and in recent years I have been fortunate to continue to benefit from his ideas and resources via Twitter (@wfryer was one of the first people I looked for and followed when I joined Twitter) and his Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog. I could continue the list but Wes's CV speaks for itself. You might expect someone with so much experience and so many credentials to be arrogant or unapproachable, but in all of his online interactions and the few in-person presentations of his I have been fortunate enough to attend, Wes is kind and down-to-earth. He has consistently advocated for the advancement of educational technology integration by sharing the facts and benefits with authoritativeness that is respectful. I can think of no one more deserving of a Lifetime Achievement recognition than Wesley Fryer.

Full Disclosure: Because my reasons for nominating Wes have not changed, I copied and pasted them from last year's nomination post

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

I am the proud daughter of a WWII veteran and proud citizen of a nation whose freedoms have been purchased and protected by all who have worn the uniform throughout our history in times of conflict and peace. This American does not take our veterans' sacrifices for granted, knowing the life I live each day is possible only because they were willing to put themselves on the line. 

Because of Our Veterans...

  • I am free to worship God & attend church weekly.
  • I am an educator practicing my chosen profession.
  • I am a blogger who is free to express my learning and opinions.
  • I am a woman who exercises her right to vote.
  • I am a home owner and car owner.
  • I am free to travel when and where I please.
  • I am able to spend time with loved ones in safety and comfort.
  • I am a citizen of a country that draws countless people from around the world every day in search of opportunity for themselves and their children.

Thank you, Veterans of the United States Armed Forces! Thank you to the American men and women who throughout our history have sacrificed, and whose families have sacrificed, to protect my opportunities to do and be all of the things listed above and so much more. I hope you know this day, and every day, how profoundly grateful your country is for you and your service.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Real-World Consequences of What We Post On Social Media

Do We Understand We're Shouting to the World?
Photo Used With Permission Under a Creative Commons License
Wow! Talk about a chance to really teach students about the consequences of what they post via social media.

This post on captures some no-holes-barred racist Tweets sent out in the wake of President Obama's re-election. The fact that anyone holds these views is unfortunate, that they would openly spew such hate disturbing, and the fact that most of them appear to be young people heart-breaking.

What's intriguing to me, though, is the discussion that is going on underneath the post. A commenter looked up many of the young people whose racist Tweets are featured and posted their names and schools. He or she then encouraged others to contact their current schools or colleges which have awarded them athletic scholarships. Several people have posted about their attempts to contact the students' schools!

If you can stand the language, or maybe take some screen shots of a few things and blur the most offensive words in the Tweets and/or comments, you could turn this into a timely discussion of how we have no control over where our online postings wind up as well as the real-world consequences of what we post online.

You could also encourage conversation around the debate going on in the comments over whether it is ethical to report these students to their schools or not.

What say you? Could you or would you use this in a class lesson? Do you think those who are reporting the students are doing the right thing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks to @corinnew whose Tweet brought this story to my attention and @marybethleeybnp whose follow-up Tweets (#1 & #2) inspired me to write this post.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Have You Decided Not to Vote Because Your Vote Won't Matter?

If you've decided not to vote because you think your vote isn't going to count, I'd like to challenge to think about something:
If you don't demonstrate your presence by voting, even if right now you're pretty sure your vote is on the "losing" side, the party you wish was stronger in your state or area will never have a reason to make an effort to strengthen itself. In staying home from the polls, you will have affected nothing and you will continue to bemoan the fact that you have no real choices in future elections  In short, you've shot yourself, and your community/state/country, in the foot.

Can I try to get inside your head a little? Right now, you're thinking, "Why bother voting?" Maybe you live in a state that is already firmly predicted to go to Romney. You support Obama, but voting for him won't matter, so why go through the hassle? Or you live in a certified Obama state. Your Romney vote won't make one bit of difference. Or perhaps you fit a third category; you don't like either choice, so much so that you can't even bring yourself to cast a vote for either the Democratic or the Republican presidential candidate. Your third party vote or write in vote is surely a waste.

You see yourself as disenfranchised because the other guys control your state and you feel you have no chance of making a difference.

You know what? You're right. Your vote, and with it your opinion of what is best for your country and your community, won't count, because it will never be counted as long as it remains silent.

I read more and more lately, and hear from people I consider to be educated, the phrase, "Why bother when the state is already obviously going one way?" I feel your frustration. I live in the state that put the "tea" in "tea party" and has left moderates like myself out in the cold. A large part of me wants to bury my head in the sand and wake up when the election is over.

Here's the deal, though. If you and I sit out the election, the political process will operate just fine without us, and we will wake up on November 7th having missed an opportunity to declare, "Hey, I'm out here! I may be in the minority in my state/community, but I'm out here!"

Here is some food for thought, no matter where you fall in the political spectrum. I'm going to use my state of Texas as an example since I am most familiar with it. Texas is now taken for granted as a Republican state, both at the national level and in state offices. However, a quick glance at electoral college results since 1960 shows Texas has supported the Democrat presidential candidate several times. As recently as the early 90's we had a Democrat governor, and historically 39 of our 47 governors have been Democrats. You wouldn't know there had ever been such a presence in Texas if all you listen to is today's politicians and political coverage. (If your state leans heavily toward one party or the other, has it always done so? I challenge you to do a little research!)

In recent years Tea Party Republicans have changed the flavor of politics in Texas. So much so that in my local races I had no real choice in whom to vote for in the primaries. The candidates in any opposed races were just different flavors of Tea. In the general election, my State House Tea Party candidate is running against a Libertarian (which I wouldn't even know if I weren't doing my research) and my State Senate Tea Party candidate is running unopposed. Do you notice what's missing in both of these races? A Democrat. Check out these 2012 election brackets, especially on the state race tabs. The D's are few and far between.

I don't fully embrace the Democrat agenda either, but you know what? I'm worried that they seem to have disappeared in Texas because lack of balance in the political process is unhealthy. Once you get a particular party in control with no one to stand up and challenge their ideas, you're in trouble. In general, what is best for all of us (or least harmful to all of us) comes about as a result of ideas on multiple sides of an issue bouncing off of each other and coming together somewhere in the middle through negotiation and compromise.

So why have the Democrats in a historically Democrat state given up the fight? Because a large number of the folks who might vote for them are not making their presence known at the polls. Why should the Democrats in Texas make an effort if all of the data they have at their disposal says it's not worth it? On paper, there is no base to appeal to.

So I challenge you, disenfranchised voter, no matter what your political leanings, get out there with me and vote and bring some balance back to this process. Are you tired of Congress being deadlocked and focusing on what you feel are the wrong things? Do you care about your local schools and your city and your town? If the presidential race is "locked up" in your state, there are still tons of local races and issues to be decided, the outcomes of which will affect your life more directly than the President of the United States will. Can't bring yourself to vote for any major party candidate in a race? Write someone in or vote for a third party just to say, "There are other voices out here!"

This quote from an Austin American Statesman editorial sums up the danger of a lack-of-balance nicely:
Republicans who still support the Earned Income Tax Credit, public broadcasting, and Planned Parenthood commit apostasy and invite primary challenges. But on the national scale, Republicans have to worry about losing to Democrats. Here in Texas, Dewhurst is coming to Jesus on the TSA groping bill and Perry is finding Satan in the separation of church and state. And Texas Republicans will keep acting this way until they’re more worried about losing to Democrats in general elections than they are about losing to tea party candidates in the primary. (emphasis mine)

A couple of final thoughts. The Declaration of Independence says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. (emphasis mine)
The founding fathers gave us a gift - a government which requires we let it know what we want it to do. Even when your vote is on the minority or losing side, you are recording your wishes for how you want our leaders to run our country. Get your opinion recorded; it might help inspire momentum among those who share your views and impact what happens in future elections.

And last but not least, never forget that the media and public opinion polls do not decide elections; voters do. Just ask the Chicago Tribune and President Truman.


Friday, October 19, 2012

School iPad Implementations: What Would You Do Differently?

My school district is taking a step into the world of using iPads in the classroom with a small, targeted implementation of a pod of iPads on several campuses.

"Yea!" and "Oh my gosh, how do we do this in the best way possible?!"

There are several great posts about implementation Dos and Don'ts out there, like these from Tony Vincent, Carl Hooker, and Terice Schneider. I'm curious, though, to see if others in my network have some advice for a first time iPad deployment.

If you have implemented iPads in any way, shape, or form, then I would love to hear what's the ONE thing you would do differently if you could go back and start over again from the beginning. Please share in the comments section below. If you have written about this elsewhere, feel free to leave a link back to your own post.

Thank you in advance for sharing! Teachers and students in my district, and in the schools and districts of many others who find this post, will benefit from your experience.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vicki Davis Edscape 2012 Keynote

I'm so glad @NMHS_Principal Eric Sheninger arranged to have @CoolCatTeacher Vicki Davis's Edscape 2012 keynote broadcast live via Ustream yesterday! I really enjoyed hearing Vicki as she encouraged all of us to invest in our own positive attitudes and outlooks so that we may impact the lives of our students and do what is right for them in spite of circumstances which may exist in our school systems.

Vicki is a wonderful, inspiring speaker who is passionate about investing in the lives of students. Snipits of her wisdom in 140 characters or less don't come close to doing her words justice, but instead of taking full-on notes on my blog like I often do, I decided to try and catch her gems in Tweets. Ustream's Twitter integration made it convenient to do this. Embedded below is a slide-show of my Tweets from her speech yesterday, with a few Tweets from others thrown in. I hope you are able to glean some wisdom from her words.

If you are interested in learning more about Vicki's work with Julie Lindsay on the Flat Classroom Projects, you might also enjoy these notes I took from a webinar that Vicki and Julie did back in April, centered around their recently published book Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Parent Concerns in a 1:1 iPad Initiative

Used With Permission
 Under a Creative Commons License
Last Sunday, I received a note via the contact form on my blog that was a first for me in many ways. It was the first time I had ever been contacted by a parent via my blog, the first time I could not put a comment out of my mind until I had addressed it, and the first time I ever thought about the impact a school's 1:1 take-home technology initiative could have on a family.

With the permission of the parent, I share here the note she left for me, slightly edited to keep her identity confidential:
My son was issued an iPad. I wasn't able to make the iPad meeting at school. I am in panic mode. I want to embrace the new technology but I also want to know how I can set limits. Before we had strict "screen time" rules. Now he just says he's doing homework or studying but it is taking all night (4-6 hours) so I'm convinced he's being distracted by other things on the iPad. I miss him, he is always plugged in when he is home. 
Your name came up when I searched under School District, iPad. Can you point me in the direction of a good book, article or person who might help? 
In all of the amazing things I've been reading over the years about 1:1 initiatives, this was a side of the story I had not read about or managed to consider on my own. 1:1 should bring a paradigm shift to the classroom, but it can also impact family dynamics in a profound way.

The phrases "I am in panic mode" and "I miss him, he is always plugged in when he is home" tugged at my heart. I went to church, hung out with friends for lunch, and ran some errands, but all day I was thinking about what, if anything I could say to help this parent.

Below are the contents of the email I sent back to "Ms. Jones", again edited slightly for confidentiality.  It really was this long and this detailed! I share it here in hopes that it will stir your thinking and provide ideas to educators and parents on how to support students in the home aspect of  implementing of 1:1 learning.

Hello, Ms. Jones,

This email is in response to the comments/questions you left for me via my blog at 

I am glad you see the potential of this technology for your son's learning and that you reaching out for answers in a situation that is new to the teachers, students and parents at your son's school!

iPads in education are very new (the device itself has only been out since March 2010), and I can't think of a specific book or article at the moment that would address your concerns. Based on my overall experience as a former classroom teacher and now an edtech specialist, I have a few suggestions for continuing to address the situation you described in your comments above and seeking balance for your son and your family. This email started getting long so I separated my ideas into sections below.

Communicate With Your Son's Teachers

As a former classroom teacher myself, I cannot stress enough that one of the most important things you need to do is communicate with your son's teachers. Share your concerns with them just as you did with me in your comments above.  Ask what kinds of activities you should be expecting to see him doing for homework on the iPad and how much time you should be expecting him to spend on homework. 

As you approach his teachers, remember that  teaching and learning with the iPad is new to your son's school and his teachers. Everyone is excited by the possibilities of the impact this technology can have on learning, but they are all in the process of learning the best ways to do it together. Approach this conversation from a perspective of being a partner with your son's teachers in his education.

I would also ask if there is a way to gain access to any resources that were shared during the iPad meeting the school held and/or if the meeting was recorded for parents who could not be present.

As an aside, you may be helping other families in this process. There may be others with your same questions who have not spoken up yet. It is possible your son's school and teachers are not aware of these issues yet, and they need to assess if this needs to be addressed in future parent communications/outreach.

Communicate With Your Son and Set Limits

Continue talking with your son about your concerns. Even though the school is providing this wonderful learning tool, it is still not healthy for him to be buried in the screen all night. Your son may push back on some of your comments, but that's partly his age. He is internalizing more of what you say than you may realize.

As your son's parent, I believe it is still your right to limit screen time if you feel your son is spending too much time with his iPad. Realize he probably does need it for homework, but if he was not spending four to six hours on homework pre-iPad (as a former middle school teacher that amount of time seems excessive to me), he is possibly being distracted. His distractions may be non-productive "play" time or they could be self-directed learning. Either way, he should be focused first on completing his assignments. 

You may have to make a rule that at 8:00 PM or 8:30 PM (or whatever you feel is a reasonable amount of time before his bedtime) the iPad gets put on the charger for the evening and doesn't get used again until the morning. The charging station should probably not be in your son's bedroom if you choose to do this. A rule like this will hopefully help your son focus on getting his homework done before the "iPad put away" deadline. You will also have to be firm on the deadline; he may have to suffer the consequences of a few incomplete assignments or low test grades before he adjusts his time management. (If you choose to do this, please be in contact with his teachers about it so they will understand why some assignments may be incomplete.)

Put Some Supportive Structures in Place at Home

Used With Permission
Under a Creative Commons License

Establish a homework area in your house that is NOT in an isolated area. Perhaps at the kitchen table or in the living room. It should be an area where other members of the family will at least occasionally be but where there won't be distractions. Realize this may impact how the rest of your family utilizes the space during homework time. For example, if there is a TV in the room it might not be on during this time. Homework should always be done in this area whether it requires the iPad or not.

Over the course of the evening, check in once or twice with your son.  Ask him what he is working on for his homework and ask him to show you how he's using his iPad to do it (if he is using the iPad at that time; check in even if he isn't using it!). If you can do this in an "I want to learn about the iPad and how it's helping you learn" attitude as much as possible, as opposed to an "I'm policing you" attitude, the communication will probably go better.

As Time Goes On, It Will Probably Get Better

Realize that with time some of the "newness" of the iPad will wear off and your son should grow in his ability to self-regulate. As he matures, you may be able to back off on a few of your rules. I would probably keep some structure in place at least through the first semester, then re-evaluate in the Spring.

I am reminded of a presentation I attended this summer where high school students talked about their first year in a 1:1 iPad environment. They said the day the iPads were issued, lunch time was silent because everyone was buried in their screens! But over time the novelty wore off and people started talking with each other again. The students also noted that even in class they were sometimes distracted by their devices, but they learned quickly that they couldn't afford to continue being inattentive and still keep up their grades. Your son is in middle school, but with time and your support, he too will grow and mature in his technology use.

Concluding Thoughts

Ms. Jones, you may have gotten way more than you were asking for in this email. If that is the case, I apologize. But your questions/concerns struck a chord with me and I wanted to share what I was thinking. I've been thinking about this response all day!

I hope you find these suggestions valuable and that you will reach out to your son and his teachers to partner in finding solutions to your concerns.

Good luck as you and your son move forward on this new learning frontier!

I was relieved to receive the following reply from Ms. Jones yesterday:
Hi Sandy
I was blown away by your response. Thank you so much for taking the time to help a stranger. Of course you may quote my original email.
Like you, I believe many parents are facing the same issues. I really appreciate your advice and plan to implement some of your suggestions.
I'll let you know how it goes!
Thanks again,
Ms. Jones

Yay! I didn't completely overwhelm her, and I can't wait to hear back from her!

What Would You Say? What Are You Doing In This Arena?

What other advice would you give Ms. Jones and parents like her who undoubtedly have similar questions? Do you disagree with any of the suggestions I made?

Used With Permission
Under a Creative Commons License
Keep in mind, the child being able to say, "I'm working on my homework" is somewhat of a game-changer when it comes to supporting and setting limits. How easily could you tell your child to just put the technology away when it could be impacting their grades?

If you are in a school or district that is doing one-to-one, are you making parent/family support part of your implementation, and if so, how?

I hope you'll contribute in the comments section below!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Texas Education On iTunes U

Notes from Fall 2012 TCEA TECSIG Breakout Session
Kathy Ferguson
Texas Education Agency

Direct Link to Texas Education on iTunes U (Need iTunes to launch...)

Texas Education on iTunes U is part of Project Share.

Access Texas Education on  iTunes U through in the resources feature on the home page.
through the iTunes store through the iTunes U button in the top navigation menu. Select iTunes U, then go to K-12 in the top right navigation menu. Find Texas Education under T, of course!
through the iTunes U App on your iDevice!

When you get to Texas Education in iTunes U, look at the What's New area at the top to see the latest and greatest uploads.

There are also Science Features, OnTRACK for College Readiness, and featured school districts.

All content in iTunesU is reviewed by TEA curriculum specialists.

Texas Education needs content from districts! 

Content should be classroom friendly:

  • Engaging
  • High Quality
  • Age Appropriate
  • Appropriate Classroom Length (typically no more than 10 minutes)
If you submit content, you will need cover art (600 x 600 png file works best), a title, a description, and a copyright. Copyright decisions should be made at the district level. Consider Creative Commons.

iTunes file formats can be video, audio, or PDF. If possible, develop videos with Closed Captioning.

Tech Details
  • Audio files (AAC, MP3) with extensions .m4a or .mp3 - up to 500 MB
  • Video files (MPEG-4) with extensions .mp4, .m4v, or .mov - up to 1 GB
  • PDF or ePubs files of supplemental material (these download to the iTunes library or optionally to the iBooks app on an iOS tablet device)
How do you share your content?
  • On iTunes site there is a Share Your Content link near the bottom of the right-hand navigation menu.
  • Documents with guidelines for submission are included here
  • After you go through the process of filling out the submit content form, TEA will send a legal agreement form which the Superintendent needs to sign off on.
  • Content goes through a multi-step review process, including a technical review and a curriculum content review
  • Content should not promote or advertise a commercial product.
  • If you use third-party content, make sure you have copyright permission.
  • Have documentation saying that you have written permission from parents to record their children and submit it for potential use on iTunesU.
Links for more info:
  • 512-463-9400

iOS 6 Update

Notes from TCEA TECSIG Fall 2012 Breakout Session
October 4, 2012
Austin, Texas

Speaker: Brittney Van Zant, Apple Senior Systems Engineer

Over 200 new features in iOS 6. These features are relevant to education:

Accessibility System Preferences

Guided Access - Can set up home button to toggle on and off with a tripple-click. Can disable hardware buttons and disable touch so an app just runs w/out user interference. You can also select only certain areas of the screen to be touch-sensitive.

Speak Selection - Enable this so selected text can be spoken

Restrictions with Apple Configurator (Supervised Devices Only - Prevents iTunes Sync):

  • Allow/Disable removing apps
  • Allow/Disable use of Game Center
  • Allow/Disable iMessage
  • Allow/Disable iBookstore
  • Allow/Disable iBookstore explicit content
  • Allow/Disable Configuration Profile Installation
  • Enabe Siri Profanity Filter
  • Single App Mode - Locks user into a single, specified application (Think Pearson TestNav). Specified application launches at boot if device is powered down.
  • Global Network Proxy for HTTP - Route all web traffic through a web proxy for filtering
Profile Manager 2 - Use with Mountain Lion server - Pushing config profiles over the air
  • Profile-Based management
  • Over-the-air updates
  • Mobile device management
  • iOS and OS X
  • Self-service portal
  • Web-based authentication
  • Up to 5000 devces per server
  • Gatekeeper settings
  • Unified passcode policies
Apple Apps
  • iWork - Ability to open a doc, presentation, or spreadsheet in another application (Ex: Dropbox, GoodReader)
  • Garageband - create custom ringtones and alerts for iDevices. Run GarageBand in Background. So can record while running another app. Ex: Hit record then open an iBook to record a student reading.
  • iMovie - Create movie trailers. On iPad, open precision editor to create split audio edits. Create a slidewhos by sharing photos from iPhoto for iOS. Tap help for guided coach while using app.
  • iPhoto - Tags, smarter cropping, ink effects, better sharing options, journal enhancements, support large photos
  • iTunes U - new single day view to see all of your posts and assignemtns on single page
  • Find My iPhone - New lost mode sets passcode on lost devices.
  • iBooks - Suport for iOS 6 restrictions
Apple Configurator - has not yet been updated to use configuration profiles but it will be soon.

iOS 6 EDU Deployment Guide - Coming Soon!

Be careful with Mobile Device Management solutions that say they can push out paid apps. Pushing out paid apps is not supported by Apple and it often breaks when you update the app.

Learning at the Speed of Technology - David Jakes

Notes from David Jakes Keynote
Fall 2012 TCEA TECSIG Meeting
October 4, 2012
Austin, Texas
All resources posted at

Question: Are we taking brand new disruptive technologies and trying to force them into old models?

The emerging model in business today is BYO3 - Bring Your Own Laptop/Tablet/Phone

We are coming to a price point where schools can provide small tablets and allow students to bring their own devices for learning as well.

We are still on the grid model - classrooms with desks in rows. Even when we put technology into the classroom. We are putting new technologies into old classroom models.

Students may have tons of devices, but don't know how to use them deeply beyond texting and recording. How do teachers manage the multiple platforms.

Regarding student use of technology, Mimi Ito says, "Students engage in friendship and interest-based activities. They need academic intervention..." For example, students are engaged in social activities an passion based research (if they love photography, they look for photography info).

Richard Halverson: "Digital media provides a path to personalizing and customizing learning...this has meant that digitally literate young people have come to understand that there are at least two living channels for learning 1. an institutional channel, and 2. a peer-driven, interest-driven, and unregulated digital media channel.

How can we help students build the skills they need to learn on their own if we are not providing digital teaching and learning spaces (online spaces)?


Mission vs Vision - What's the difference?

Our mission has not changed: Help kids learn. Our vision for how that occurs should change over time as new technologies emerge.

Do we live and breathe our mission and vision every day in what we do and how we act?

What do you want learning to look like?

What do you want your school to be?

Unifying Theme: The Ecology of Things
is represented by the sum of the connections between people, information, ideas, and technology and are manifested through the interactions that occur in the physical and digital spaces of the school.

Things: apps, cloud-based programs that allow us to share and collaborate on projects. (Example: WeVideo for Google Drive.)

Unifying Theme: Transliteracy
is the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

Kids have to exhibit an ability to negotiate across a range of modalities from face-to-face to world-wide virtual connections.

Unifying Theme: Content, Skills, Habits of the Mind, Dispositions and Experiences

In education, we tend to cover content, skills, habits of mind, and dispositions well. Are we providing the range of experiences needed to successfully cover all of the contemporary skills, habits, etc that modern students need? Or is their primary experience sitting in rows??

What If? School As Studio

School as studio - spaces that inspire, spaces that support remix and creation, spaces that together contribute to the "ecology of things" Spaces where boundaries for learning do not exist. Spaces that support the timeless value of teacher-student interaction.

Do we have these kinds of spaces in our schools? Spaces with room to move, inviting colors, comfortable furniture? Where do kids hang out in your school and why?

There are models out there. Blue School is an example. How can spaces in your school be re-designed?

What If? School as App

School as portal School on demand. School as node with 24/7 connections.

mySchool app?

How have you positioned your school for anywhere, anytime, any device learning? Are you designing for mobile?

Are you providing digital learning spaces where students have ownership of their content? Where it is not locked in a learning management system? (Ex: Google Apps accounts).

What If? School as Network

Learning is now independent of time, space, and place. Schools serv to link learniers.

Network as School

Anyone can be a teacher, anyone can be a learner. Learning not limited to a class roster.

Standford MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) - Introduction to Artificial Intelligence - 180,00 enrolled; 6,000 have completed

mobiMOOC - Course where participants self-organize based on their interests in mobile learning.

M.I.T. - Has been offering open online courses for 10 years. Is now launching MITx where instructor is involved. More students have successfully completed a course on circut design since it's been online than in the 40 years of face-to-face only prior to that.

Skill Share, Hour School - people who voluntarily organize around learning experiences.

What If? School as Canvas

The school canvas paints a picture of the capabilities of the human beings associated with school. The school canvas illuminates their presence and ideas locally and globally to create a conversation aobut the learning taking place, and about the passions being explored.

Make it OK for kids to publish their work with their names to create a positive digital footprint.

Youmedia YOUmedia is an innovative, 21st century teen learning space housed at the Chicago Public Library's downtown Harold Washington Library Center. YOUmedia was created to connect young adults, books, media, mentors, and institutions throughout the city of Chicago in one dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity.

What If? School as Third Place

Part of the connective ecosystem, part of being transliterate, is to be able to step away from technology and have the face-to-face conversation, the quiet reflection experience, and time away from technology.

Schools need informal spaces for learning. Think Starbucks, Barnes & Noble coffee shop...

Update October 21, 2012 - A recording of David's presentation has been posted online. If my notes left you wanting more (they should have!), you can now view the whole thing for yourself!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Confessions and Learnings of an EdTech Enabler

Photo Used Under a Creative Commons License

Some Typical EdTech Scenarios

Ms. Jones calls in a panic - her students are trying to get to the documents she shared with them on the school server and no one can find them. "The folder was just there," she says, "and now it's gone!" Knowing her history of "organizing" things, I run down to her classroom and in two shakes I move the folder students need access to out of the other folder where she's stored it. I want to explain that students only have access to this folder in this location, and when she moves it, they can't see it any more, but she's already lost valuable instructional time, so I quickly exit as she thanks me profusely and declares me to once again be the most amazing technology guru she's ever met. I vow to myself to follow up later, especially since she keeps doing this, but a day full of similar "emergencies" pushes the latest incident right out of my head...
Mr. Scott snags me in the hall as I am trying to get to the restroom. "I'm trying to use the clickers with my students and my computer screen and projector have gone black!" He pulls me in the door and I see the expectant faces of students, clickers at the ready. I go wiggle the power cable for the powered VGA splitter, and presto, we have visuals again! "Oh, thank you thank you thank you!" he says as he signals the students to applaud me. I really want to show him quickly how simple the fix was, but I've turned red at the attention and Mr. S. has already segued into, "OK, students, let's get started!" I slink out of the room, finally make it to the bathroom, and head back to my computer to send a tech tip to the campus about wiggling their projector connections (this is the third time I've helped someone this week) when the phone rings and caller ID says it's my principal...
It is one of those rare years when the campus is getting new computers (this happens every five or six years if you are lucky), and I've been asked to consult on the standard software image I want on the computers. OK, here's the software list. Now, which shortcut icons do I want on the desktop? Let's make sure the teachers and students can get to their most-used programs, network, and Internet resources without a lot of effort. I could show them how to make shortcuts themselves, but they're already so busy. (Ironically, I'm forgetting at this moment how often teachers tell me they "don't have a program on their computer" because they don't see a shortcut on the desktop...)

These stories are probably very familiar sounding if you are a technology specialist or even a tech savvy instructor on your campus. To many of the folks on your campus, you are the smartest person ever when it comes to technology. Magical even, because you know how to make things work and you make things easy for them. It can be ego-boosting to be thought of this way, but it can also be a burden, getting in the way of making progress with incorporating new technology tools and approaches because you are busy maintaining the status quo.

Learnings From My Experiences

The stories above are based very closely on my personal experiences. I stayed in that guru role as a campus technology specialist for six years, not so much out of the ego boost it sometimes gave, but out of the mistaken assumption that by making technology as easy and hassle-free as possible for my teachers, I was furthering instructional technology integration and student learning on my campus. I didn't see the connection then between what I was doing and my frustration over not being able to do more new things with my teachers or the fact that they seemed to advance little, if at all, in their skill and comfort with technology.

After those six years, I moved up to a district-level position and I watched how the person who took my previous campus position held teachers' hands a little less than I did - and how their tech skills and expertise improved. It was exciting for me to watch, and humbling at the same time. I fretted a bit over opportunities I might have lost for growing my colleagues, and vowed to do better as I moved forward.

This year, all of this helping really hit home. Due to budget cuts, the instructional technology staff in our district has been reduced to 1/3 of what it was just two years ago. I can see now that I wasn't the only campus specialist who was massively "supporting" teachers in instructional technology. For the first time in 11 years, there isn't a dedicated technology facilitator on each campus. I can see how much of a loss many of our staff members are at by the types of questions that are coming through our electronic help desk. And now, I'm making video tutorials on how to create a short-cut on your desktop.

What have I learned from all of this? First of all, teachers need technology support. They really ARE busy and have more demands on them than ever when it comes to instruction - differentiating for the multiple learning styles and special needs in their classrooms, analyzing testing data to push children to meet state and federal standards, supporting kids who may have little support outside of school for various reasons, not to mention trying to integrate technology into teaching and learning - the list is endless.

The biggest lesson I've learned, though, is there is a difference between enabling and empowering. An enabling approach is the one I used to have - do whatever I can to help the teachers survive the day (and then wonder why I'm helping with the same things over and over and over again...). An empowering approach prioritizes educating teachers in how to do the "little" things, like making desktop shortcuts or wiggling power cables. And it acknowledges that there is no time like the present to do this. 

As a Result of My Learning...

Even if the students are waiting expectantly with clickers in hand, I can call the teacher over and briefly say, "I know you want to move on, but let me show you this quickly, so when it happens again, you don't have to wait on me to fix it." Am I impacting instructional time at that moment? Yes. But how much more future instructional time am I saving by taking that moment to teach that brief lesson?

If the principal is calling while I'm creating/sending an important tech reminder, chances are they can leave a message and wait five minutes for me to get back to them. In the interest of impacting staff with important and helpful info, it's a good trade-off. I'll also add here that it's also worth my time to make a quality tutorial (print, video, etc) and post it where it can be accessed over and over again. As opposed to dashing off quick instructions that will only exist in someone's email and will get lost and therefore cost the teacher precious time they have to ask the same question again. It will also save me time when I can send a quick link to someone the next time the question is asked instead of having to dig out or retype the instructions.

Will these empowering techniques work every time? No, I might answer the same question again, but much like with teaching kids, over time, reinforcement will win out and I'll have empowered a teacher to move on on their own and perhaps, if I'm lucky, also emboldened them to try something new because of the confidence their technology learning is building in them.

Have you had similar experiences, frustrations, and learnings regarding support of educational technology? Please add to the conversation by adding to the comments below!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pressing On in the New School Year

As I start my 20th year in education, a profession I still love, I want to be energized and excited and open to possibilities.

The truth is, I'm anything but those things right now. Right now I'm just tired. There are several reasons for why I feel the way I feel, some of which I can identify and some of which I may be ignorant of, but regardless, it's where I am.

Even when I'm feeling discouraged, I try not to be Debbie Downer (or maybe Sandy Sadsack?) on my blog, because I want it to be a place people come for ideas and encouragement, but I also know it is important to be authentic.  Authenticity is important for the sake of my own reflection (I occasionally peruse my old blog posts to assess where I've been and as a result where I am and where I might be going) and for the sake of my readers. Because some of you probably struggle sometimes, and you need to know you're not alone.

Regardless of how I'm feeling, the cycle of the school year moves ever forward. In my district, the teachers have been back for a week and the kids start back tomorrow. So, I must press on.

Because of the way I'm feeling right now, I am thankful for coming across an intriguing video yesterday. This article on Skills Every 21st Century Teacher Should Know kept appearing in my Twitter stream and on the professional groups I subscribe to on Facebook, and on Saturday I finally clicked on it. I really didn't expect any surprises, but I did run across a treat.

A video of high school librarian  Joyce Valenza speaking last year at TEDx Philadelphia was embedded in the article. In it she recaps the evolution of how students seek information and what they do with it, starting in 1989. It wasn't lost on me that 1989 was the year I started college, already knowing I was going to be an educator.

Watching the video did not suddenly re-energize me, but it did remind me of why I do what I do, why all educators do what they do, is so very important, especially in the over-information age in which we live. In an age where technology gives people of all ages unprecedented access to information and a vast array of options for using that information.

Watching the video reminded me of one of my core beliefs: One of the most important things we as educators must continue to do is help our students learn a foundational set of facts in science and history and work with those facts and their implications through math and writing and literature. I have read in numerous corners of the blogosphere that rote memorization is so 20th Century, and yet we must teach students to be critical thinkers and recognize bad information when they see it. How can they do that if they don't have a solid foundation to reference?

As we continue to impart a solid foundation of basic knowledge to our students, we must also help them learn what to do with the information. And it must go beyond the research paper regurgitation students of my generation were taught. (Substituting PowerPoint or Prezi or pick your favorite publishing tool for the typed paper does not count.) In the hands of a well-educated, determined "average" citizen, technology can become a tool for change and progress. We have an equally important responsibility to teach students how to leverage these tools and use them for noble purposes. And how to recognize and combat those who will use the same tools to inflict harm on others.

Energy and excitement ebb and flow throughout a person's career and lifetime. Purpose, however, can remain a constant. So although I am admittedly tired right now, I am thankfully reminded of my purpose. Wherever you are personally as the school year may be starting or continuing for you, I encourage you to do something that will remind you of your purpose. Perhaps watching the video below will remind you, as it did me, that the meaning of "education" and "being educated" has changed vastly over the last 25 years, and it is our privilege to guide our students and even the education profession itself through the ever-evolving education landscape. Press on!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Results of EdTech Specialist Titles Survey

Three days ago, I posted a survey asking for the following information: "Please list the title or titles which are used in your school/district/system for the people who specialize in educational technology. Explain your answers if necessary."

I publicized the survey on Twitter and on the TCEA TECSIG and CAMPSIG discussion boards. I'm pleased to say my networks came through with a variety of responses from all over the world! (You'll notice heavy results from Texas since a lot of my TCEA colleagues participated.)

Below are the results of the survey, unedited mostly except for some capitalization fixes (the former English teacher in me can't help herself) and removal of people's names or specific school district names. I didn't ask for that info and didn't mind folks sharing it, but since I didn't ask permission to share out such details, I felt it safer to redact that info.

You'll see that our titles are as varied as the hats we wear!

Thanks to everyone who took time to contribute. I love knowing I can count on my networks when I am in need of information. :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Educational Technology Specialist Titles (Short Survey)

July 20, 2012 Update: This survey is now closed, but you can review the results here: Results of EdTech Specialst Titles Survey.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

1:1 iPads and Digital Learning in Belton ISD

Image Source
On Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, I attended iPadpalooza at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. This conference about all things iPad in education was co-sponsored by Eanes ISD and TCEA.

The first session I attended at iPadpalooza was presented by Instructional Technology Coordinators Terice Schneider and Vicki Ventura of Belton Independent School District. They gave an overview of how Belton began experimenting with BYOD and small 1:1 implementations over the past two years, culminating in opening a brand new middle school (grades 6-8) with 1:1 iPads for students in the 2011-2012 school year. Belton ISD is very generous to share information about their innovative projects. You can get a good synopsis of what has been happening in their district on their 1:1 initiatives web page.  Terice has also been posting some very insightful, practical implementation information on her blog. These are both valuable resources anyone considering 1:1 programs of any type should bookmark and refer to regularly!

Full Disclosure: I have a great deal of faith in the information Terice and Vicki share because I was privileged to work with them for several years when I was a  classroom teacher and campus technology facilitator.

In addition to the wonderful resources I've linked to above, here are my notes from their iPadpalooza session.

Lessons Learned from and Tips for 1:1 Implementations

Staff Development is KEY!!! It's much harder to fix the mistakes you make in staff development than to do it right the first time.

Belton is paying for most of their implementation through the Texas Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA). Some district funding also has to be kicked in. They are no longer buying things like dictionaries and calculators because apps can do these things. They still have calculators for state testing until the Texas Education Agency recognizes the home button can now be disabled in latest version of iOS, essentially locking students out of other apps on their devices.

When Belton tried BYOD, use in classroom was at teacher discretion. Devices were not being used. When 1:1 iPads were being implemented at a brand new middle school, only FOUR teachers volunteered to go to the new school where this was happening. The rest were assigned to the new campus. (Read between lines: There was a strong reluctance to implementation at the new campus).

Teachers also had to transition from Windows PCs to Macbooks with only  1/2 day of training in addition to several days of learning about the iPads and integration approaches. Teachers were VERY STRESSED. There were tears. Coordinators learned from this not to try to do too much too soon when it comes to staff development. Take baby steps!

Leadership is key - Principal and superintendent must be on board. You can tell somebody what to do, but you can't make them believe something. You have two choices - move them to a new position or convert them. They had one teacher with 40 years experience and she volunteered to move to the new school and embraced the 1:1 model. Other teachers with similar years of experience retired after training because it was too much for them.

After the school year began, district tech staff had to back off a bit at their middle school and allow teachers to build a culture (they were at a brand new campus building a new culture on top of everything else). Encouraged simple implementations like posting handouts to their websites that the students could download. Or making flashcards for review. Allowed teachers to explore and reach back out for more training when they were ready for more.

By the end of the implementation year, approximately 80% of the middle school teachers were able to move into truly using the iPads in instruction. Give teachers permission to start with supplementing, then replacing, then truly changing instruction. Teachers do not want to look stupid. Give them permission to learn with and from their students.

Next year, the high school is going 1:1. Gave high school teachers iPads ahead of time. Did four one hour sessions to get them comfortable with the iPads. Teachers can do Facebook, Pinterest, etc. - whatever will encourage them to get comfortable with the device. In summer staff development, brought in teachers from middle school to teach the high school teachers. Having experienced teachers teach other teachers provides more credibility and opportunity for sharing practical tips. Training of the high school teachers has been a marvelous experience and drastically different than the middle school teacher training of just a year ago.

The district had a budget of $40 per iPad for apps at the middle school.

Vicki and Terice have an iPadU (staff development) agenda and other documents which they will gladly share.  Belton will let us use/steal everything they have. We can email them for editable copies of their stuff. Many of their resources and their contact information can be found on this web page (also look for more pages in the left-hand navigation of the website.)

Digital Learning in Belton ISD

In spite of the challenges of the first year of large-scale implementation, the 1:1 initiatives have been fruitful in Belton ISD. The video below gives a great overview of the impacts felt by students and teachers alike.