Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Have You Been Ignoring or Are You Oblivious to Google's March 1st Privacy Policy Change?

Our district technology director mentioned Google's impending privacy policy change to me weeks ago, but I was not paying too much attention until this last week. A pretty significant privacy policy change takes effect March 1st (tomorrow).

Reactions around the 'Net range from neutral/positive to highly alarmed. Ultimately, if you have personal accounts with Google (Gmail, YouTube, Google Apps/Docs, Picassa, Blogger, etc.), you should educate yourself about this.

In a very simple nutshell, Google is unifying all of its services under one privacy policy (instead of having separate policies for each of its services). This means that Google might start serving up ads to you on Google search pages based on what you write about in your emails, what you blog about, or things you search for on YouTube.

I believe Google is within their rights to do what they are doing; they do after all, provide dozens of high quality products, most of which are free to users like you and meand make their money off of ads. Being able to target ads more accurately adds to their bottom line. But, as responsible digital citizens, we are also within our rights to educate ourselves and protect our privacy as much as we feel is necessary.

Privacy in the world of the Internet is an illusion anyway, but if you are like me and you like to try and limit how much the big companies know about you while still taking advantage of their services, you might want to investigate how you can limit Google's ability to "cross-reference" your activity in each of their services.

The main steps you can take to prevent the cross-referencing, if you wish, are to delete and put on hold your Google Search History and your YouTube search history. I've included two links below from the Electronic Frontier Foundation which have really specific instructions with screen shots. It's best to take these steps today, before March 1st rolls around, if you can. But if you are reading this on March 1st or after, you can still make the changes applicable going forward.

For further information, Vicki Davis, AKA Cool Cat Teacher, explains quite well, I think, why even average folks who have nothing to hide might want to be concerned about this change from Google.

Hope this is helpful to you!

And yes, I do realize the irony of sharing this information with you via a Google product! :-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Technology Alone is not a Silver Bullet for School Improvement...

On Monday, February 13th, the New York Times published a story which profiled Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. They have implemented a 1:1 laptop program for students which due to its success in improving student achievement has become a model that is being looked at by schools across the nation.

The article was intriguing to me in at least two aspects. First, because it reported that in order to afford the cost of the 1:1 program the district actually downsized its staff and increased class sizes. Second, because graduation rates, attendance, and test scores have increased in the three years since the 1:1 initiative was begun.

My immediate thoughts: "Yikes! They increased class sizes and let go of teachers to do this!" and "This district has figured out how to do a technology implementation. I wonder if their model can be duplicated?"

Which is why I'm really glad I also came across this post on MacRumors which referenced the NYT story. In particular, I was glad to read a response to the post written by mgsdteacher, a teacher in the Mooresville District.

In addition to better explaining how the staff downsizing was accomplished, Mgsdteacher brought my feet back to earth and reminded me that an investment in technology alone will not bring about school improvement. In spite of the NYT article title, my brain went there! It is tempting to wish it were so. So tempting that schools all over our country regularly gamble on technology implementations with gusto.

I don't usually copy another person's words at this length and repost them, but in this case, I wanted to give Mgsdteacher a wider audience to the extent that I can. This teacher's words have me thinking in a way the NYT article alone did not and will probably result in a follow-up blog post. But for now, I give you the words of Mgsdteacher and ask you to process them on your own. (Whoever you are, Mgsdteacher, I hope you don't mind my re-posting of your words here and that you'll let me know if you find them and you do mind.)

Based on this teacher's perspective, what do you think are the keys to school improvement in Mooresville Graded School District?

I am a teacher in MGSD. I have been here since 2003 and I am "digital native" but I have taught here both before and after the laptops.

I wanted to address a few things.

First, North Carolina does not have teacher unions. There are teacher unions, however we are a right to work state and so they have little power and/or influence. Fewer than half of our teachers I would guess are members of the NCAE (I am not).

Yes, we have had layoffs. No, they were not directly correlated to the purchase of the laptops. Like every school district in the country, the recession led to a drop in sales tax, therefore our state funding decreased, there our budgets were cut by huge amounts. We have cut back on office supplies, textbooks by not purchasing them, etc. Salaries are the largest part of our budget and I would encourage everyone to view our annual report which details our budget. Many of the positions lost were retirements or people leaving the district of their own volition and whose positions were simply eliminated as opposed to being filled. In addition to our own technology budget, we have a substantial grant from a large national employer who has headquarters in our town.

Yes class sizes have grown. However our administrators have done an outstanding job at raising the class sizes of electives and honor level classes where students are better able to absorb the changes. Our lowest performing students have the smallest class sizes.

Our test scores are based on the accountability tests written and administered by the state of North Carolina. We use our own internal data as formative assessments at regular intervals to prepare for those state tests. The data reflected in the article comes solely from the state and is easily accessible on (click on School Report Cards). It is not a test we made up to make ourselves look good.

In terms of the interaction - one thing not mentioned in the article is that at the same time we did the 1:1 conversion we also adopted a program called Capturing Kids Hearts. It involves making a personal connection with a student because until you capture their heart, you can't capture their mind. We all develop social contracts with our students, we greet them at the door every day, we share Good News on a regular basis, and truly get to know our students and let them know we care about them. Many of our students have found this to be a safe, comforting environment because the interaction is so much greater. Technology has freed up some of our back-end time so we can take more time to get to know kids, work with them more closely, target their weak areas sooner and get them the help they need. I feel I know my students better and interact with them FAR more than I did previously. My kids email me all the time with questions, when they are at home working on homework, they know they can email or instant message me on Angel, and they get the help sooner and faster.

Additionally, the things I ask my students to do in class allow me to truly see their creativity shine, and demonstrate their true gifts, and their actual learning, so I learn to see the student behind the textbook so to speak. Again, the things they can do with the technology allow me to see a richer, more complex person that answers on a worksheet. It allows me to have a personal insight into my students' lives. I absolutely can confirm that I have touched more lives as a result of this technology being available. Not just the bright, smart kids that everyone loves to work with - also those who feel they are worthless, have no parent support, have no one to give them kind or supporting words, or show no interest in their school lives or work.

In terms of what we teach - it varies from subject to subject however in my department we are focused on proficiency-based learning where students demonstrate through their blogs, digital portfolios and performance assessments what they have learned. They all perform at different levels, and they have different assignments based on their abilities. We use a lot of project-based learning where students are involved in collaborative problem solving of real-world problems. We are nurturing higher level thinking skills and empowering kids to reflect, push themselves, and think creatively. I would encourage to watch some video of our teachers in action as we were recently profiled at Digital Learning Day. You can find those videos here: We are profiled in the leadership and instructional strategies section.

I am honored and blessed to work in such a district where we have made a priority of reaching every child, every day and I appreciate the opportunity to share my insights with all of you.

Let me add to that I left a highly lucrative career to take a 50%+ pay cut to become a teacher. (I am still not yet to the salary I was making in 2002 when I became a teacher). There are no bonuses, no merit raises, no title upgrades or promotions. But my students who tell me I have made a difference in their lives (and one class made a surprise website featuring video tutorials of the impact I had made on them - purely unsolicited and unexpected) - that is why I do what I do.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stacey Bess - Closing Session Keynote Speaker at TCEA 2012

Stacey's goal today: For us to walk out of here today and say "That lady is telling the truth. I really do have the best job in the world."

"The people you are about to serve are not as interested in what your skills are as they are in who you are as a human being."

Former student of Stacey, named Zach, as an adult didn't remember math in Stacey's classroom. He remembered that she always said, "Zach, you are incredible. I care about you."

The foundation of being a great teacher is to care about the students you teach.

Instructions from one of Stacey's students: "Ms. Stacey, if you listened more, you'd learn more."

Wisdom from Stacey Bess and Carl Malone: Don't hide behind your credentials. Get down on the floor and be a human being.

I would never advocate breaking rules. I would advocate bending rules.

Thank you for caring about kids. Thank you for stepping outside of the box and doing more than just your job.

To be loved completely and unconditionally is the aching longing of every one of our students. 

If you don't believe you make a difference, you are wrong! Thank you for doing what you do.

Distraction 2 Reaction: BYOT (BYOD) Success!

Notes from TCEA 2012 Presentation by Eanes ISD Tech Group and Carl Hooker, Director of Instructional Technology, Eanes ISD

Presentation posted at:

Research Behind BYOT

2011 Horizon Report K12 Edition - Published every year. Compilation of research by respected educational technologists across the nation. Publicizes key trends and challenges and predictions for adoption educational technology. Key trends from 2011:

  • People expect anytime anywhere access
  • Resources becoming more cloud based
  • Abundance of resources make it more challenging for us to function in the role of educator as we know it.
  • Support of the technologies we use are becoming more cloud based than server based.


  • Current tech practices in schools do not support the demand for personalized learning.
  • Digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
  • Many activities related to learning and education take place outside walls of classroom.

Mobile devices are predicted by 2011 Horizon report to be in mainstream in one year or less.

Fun Stat: Teens text on average 3339 per month. People over 65 average 32 text messages per month. - Resource used during the presentation. Allows teacher to push questions out to students regardless of device as long as they have web access. Can be teacher paced or student paced. Shows live results. Also emails results to teacher.

Research shows 60% of low-income students carry a mobile device of some sort.

Look for awesome infographic in the Prezi (linked at the top of this post) about how people use their mobile devices based on age range.

90% of people in the U.S. have a mobile phone. Approx 5.9 billion people worldwide will have mobile phones by 2013. 1/3 of all mobile users owned a mart phone in 2010. 73% of children have books in their home. 80+% have mobile phones. (See infographics in Prezi).

By 2014 mobile internet should TAKE OVER desktop internet use. By 2014, mobile will be the DOMINANT source for the internet SURPASSING laptops & desktops.

We used to hear about the digital divide. Now we have an "App Gap". This is important to think about because teachers must teach to the lowest common denominator of tech in the classroom.

Horizon Report predicts that concerns over BYOT will be outweighed by the advantages.

Concerns About/Challenges With BYOT 

  • The kids will cheat! (Like they've never done that before...) One participant in the session noted it's easier to catch kids cheating digitally because the evidence is on the device.
  • Instructional time can be lost while figuring out how to get multiple types of devices connected to the same resource
  • Online testing not compatible with all devices (ex: iPad)

Eanes ISD will post a copy of their BYOT policies to their website along with the presentation link. It includes usage guidelines and possible consequences. Teachers found there were FEWER discipline problems because devices were out on the desk out in the open instead of having "sneaky use" under the desk.

AWESOME IDEA: Students at the elementary level had to apply to BYOT, indicating how they would use the device for learning. Kids were issued a BYOT sticker or license. They had to be able to produce this for anyone who asked since the kids carried their devices around the school.

Other Questions to Consider: 

  • Kind of phone a kid owns is often a sign of social status. 
  • Equity issues. (Eanes had iPods and laptop carts in place for students without devices at school. Parents at elementary were assured students would have technology provided to them when needed. Do not let this concern hold you back...
  • Filters (because kids could use their 3G/4G to access Internet. Be sure to address this in your policy. Some districts are renaming AUPs to RUP (Required Use Policy). Also, best filter is a teacher who is moving around the room staying involved with students.
  • At what age do you start BYOT?
When teachers want students to BYOT, there are preliminary conversations about how those teachers want students to be able to use those devices. If you have tech vision committees, include students on the committee.

Remember to educate your community about BYOT, too!

Educational Uses of BYOT

Poll Everywhere - Free. Students can answer questions via text message.
eClicker - Teacher app is $4.99 through volume purchasing. Send out questions to class.
Toontastic - app that allows students to create and narrate stories
Sock Puppets - app that allows students to move virtual sock puppets and record your voice talking for the puppet. Puppets play back in a squeaky voice.
Puppet Pals - another puppet app
QR Codes - Students scan them to download assignments and presentations or go to websites.
Songify - read or speak into the app; app changes it into a song

Titan Pad - a way to collaborate on a document without using Google docs. Limited to 6 collaborators at a time.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Kinds of Tools for New Kinds of Learners: Assess This!

Notes from TCEA 2012 Workshop Presented by Hall Davidson, Discovery Education
Session PowerPoint posted at

Why do we do standardized testing the way we do it? Because it's easy and cheap.

In the last 18 months to two years, a lot has changed. McArthur Foundation says students need to be able to thrive in a Web 2.0 world. They also need to be able to thrive in a mobile world.

When students create multimedia, it has a high effect on student achievement.

A Bold concept: The student being assessed is directly benefited by the assessment. Achievement is approved as you are doing the assessment.

Digital assessment now helps us get ready for digital books/tools which are coming to the classroom.

Tools That Can be Used for Assessment:

  • PowerPoint - Present info to students, then save PowerPoint as jpgs. Import the jpgs to PhotoStory/MovieMaker/iMovie then have the student narrate the PhotoStory to demonstrate understanding. Can do in groups or individually.
    • In iMovie, you can save PowerPoint as a movie
    • - free music you can use to add mood to the movie
    • Use Google Advanced Search to find PowerPoints at an intermediate reading level. Download on similar to the one you presented and have students narrate it to demonstrate understanding.
  • Discovery Education video clips - download editable content and have students re-narrate them. (This looked really easy to do in QuickTimePro on a Mac or PC. Costs about $29.00 from Apple. Hall pulled someone from the audience and she was able to instantly accomplish this Can also be accomplished in MovieMaker on PC by muting the original audio track and recording a new narration.)
  • Google Search Stories - Have students show what they know with their search skills. (Side Note: I wrote a blog post about this cool tool and instructional uses in May of last year.)
    • Use Rubistar to easily create a rubric for assessing the Search Story (or really any other product)
  • Voicethread - Available on the web or as an iOS app. Teacher asks a question verbally. Students can respond to the question by typing an answer, recording an audio answer, or recording a video answer. Each student who comes along can see what the students before them already left for an answer. Commentors can also draw on the picture that is posted for the voicethread. Ex: Explain how you discover how much paint to buy to paint this garage.
  • - Make a photo talk! Ex: Use a picture of a president and record a campaign speech. Could be anything! An animal, a hydrogen molecule. (Note from Hall; this site can lock up and be quirky at times.)
  • Wordle - In PhotoBooth on a Mac, use a Wordle as a background and then have student talk about the concept. PhotoBooth movie can be imported into PowerPoint. (PhotoBooth tip: buy a $4 green shower curtain at Ikea and use as background to make the person stand out more.) PhotoBooth also allows you to use a movie clip as a background. On PC, MovieMaker and Adobe Premier Elements can be used to create this. It's just not as easy.
  • - Upload pictures and make questions that appear on top of the pictures. Multiple questions can be used to create a quiz. Students go to PhotoPeach to take the quiz. Questions are timed.
  • - free service that lets a teacher create a multiple choice or free form polls or questions which can be answered by text messaging from cell phones.
  • Comic Touch Lite - Free app for iPad - Add callouts to pictures to describe their attributes or things they would say.
  • Puppet Pals - app for iPad. Pick a character then pick background photos for your story. Ex: pictures of biomes. Student records the voice of the character and tells about the biome. Photos of people can also be characters.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Twitter for Professional Learning

On Wednesday, February 8th, I am presenting a workshop on Twitter for Professional Learning at the 2012 TCEA Convention. Embedded below is a LiveBinder containing all of the resources for my presentation. It's my first ever LiveBinder, and first ever BYOD session. Looking forward to the challenge!

Please add comments, questions, and ideas below, whether you view the binder online only or attend the workshop in person. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Supporting Teachers and Students in the Curation of Their Digital Footprint

Today I am presenting a breakout session on digital footprints at the 2012 TCEA Campus Leadership Academy. Below are the slides I'll use during my discussion with the participants.

In addition to the links embedded throughout the presentation, I invite you to visit my Diigo links on digital footprint. The list is constantly growing!

If you have any questions or comments after viewing the presentation (or attending it live!), please do not hesitate to post them below. Also, if you have suggestions for encouraging teachers and students to curate positive digital footprints, please share your ideas so we can all learn together. Thanks!