My daughters love talking about dinosaurs. This summer we visited the dinosaur park in Cabazon, CA (made famous by Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) just so they could climb inside a dinosaur. I’ve shown my oldest the original Jurassic Park (not the scary parts) and she has begun to ask me, “Daddy, what happened to the dinosaurs? Are there still some around? Did they become birds?”
Lots of questions and lots of theories but it’s made me think about our own educational landscape and the changes that have been happening dramatically the last 5-7 years when it comes to mobility, social media and content creation. We still have a lot of dinosaurs walking the earth in education, namely the major textbook companies. What is going to happen to them? Will they go extinct or evolve?
Today, I attended a State Board of Education session on “Educating the Digital Generation.” I was pleased to see many educators like Scott Floyd (@woscholar) and superintendents like Randy Moczygemba (@rmocyzgembanb) present to share their frustrations and concerns around the digital textbook industry. (You can view their testimony here: http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/) However, being that textbook publishing is a big business in education, the major textbook companies were also given time to not only defend their platforms, but also ask for more support. The SBOE in Texas has some progressive members that support digital learning in schools but they also have some that seem to be steeped in learning from prehistoric times. One such board member mentioned that “kids are stupid” when it comes to social media and that “using the slide rule is better for learning math than a graphing calculator.”
What does all of this mean for major textbook companies? I have an outlook for them, and judging by recent events, their future is bleak. Let’s look at some signs that spell the demise of the “Big 3” (Pearson, HMH, and McGraw Hill) as well as the massive educational asteroid that will ultimately wipe them out.
Open Educational Resources
With the government’s recent push for more Open Educational Resources (OER) and the already massively available “flexbooks” through sites like CK12.org, we no longer have to purchase an expensive, unreliable online textbook from a major company. Instead of spending millions upon millions of dollars on textbooks, districts can instead dedicate that money towards staffing, technology, and paid online resources that will actually help kids with learning. In Texas, we have our Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA) which allows for “local control” of funds so districts can choose what they want to purchase when it comes to instructional materials. However, the most recent statistics show that 93% of those dollars are spent on traditional textbook resources, mainly from the Big 3. Why is that the case if there is still local control? Primarily it’s the “safe” thing to do. No district wants to stick their neck out too far to purchase something not vetted or…*gasp*…perhaps even save that money for other instructional uses.
Crowd Sourced Content
In addition to the OER resources out there, teachers and schools are sharing more than ever before. Take a look at the hundreds of twitter chats happening online daily centered around education to see the explosion of sharing that is taking place. Some of this sharing comes in the form of “paid sharing” via a program like TeachersPayTeachers.com. I don’t begrudge an already underpaid teacher trying to make a buck (although profiting off other underpaid teachers is a slight concern), I do think the more open we are, the better the learning will be for our students. I recently listened to Tim Berners-Lee, the “Father of the world wide web”, on the TED stage talking about how if he had made the internet cost money, it would have never turned into the great collective network that it is today. I think if we freely share resources and best practices, that crowd sourced content will ultimately make the Textbook-destroying asteroid even bigger.
MYOT (Make Your Own Textbook)
Ok, so a bit of a play on words of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement in Ed Tech, but when you take the OER resources and the crowd-sourced content being shared, why not just get the best teachers in the district or region and have them create their own book? It’s not about the book, it’s about the learning standards right? Paying teachers even HALF of what we pay textbook companies to make a better book, would not only save a district thousands, but also create a better product that is ultimately district-owned. We’ve started down this road with the Texas History adoption, and during today’s state testimony, many districts reported successfully building and deploying their own “textbooks”. I see this as the next evolution in content provision and can even see it further evolving to where kids start to create their own textbook. After all, teaching the material is the best way to learn right? The meteor is approaching….
Publishers vs. Programmers
Some of the dinosaurs did indeed evolve and survived. Those smaller mammals that were more nimble (i.e. smaller content publishers) survived and even thrived following the extinction level event. When working with the Big 3, you must realize that they are publishers, not programmers. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of man hours wasted with data uploads, failed ebook downloads, incorrect content, and massive lack of technical design when it comes to digital textbooks from the larger providers. While I won’t mention names I can tell you that one company even creates a “bridge” product to connect it’s multiple products and product teams. Another when asked directly about integration with our student information system (SIS), stated that they “never mentioned it would be seamless.”
While you would think an eTextbook would save money, in many cases, because of how they are bundled, these cost districts almost the same amount of money. In many ways these companies take fat checks from schools and districts all over the land to cover their massive bottom-lines, not to better serve districts. The smaller, more nimble companies, on the other hand, start with programming and build a better project based on client feedback (that client being the teachers and students).
The Final Explosion and Aftermath –
Several districts here in Texas have started to join forces to fight these behemoths and their poor practices and heavy costs. We’ve pleaded with them to join up with a company like Clever, which handles the automation of data from SIS to textbook company (at NO COST to the school or district). Two of the three major textbook companies have told me that we “don’t need that kind of integration” or “sure it’s free for you, but it costs us.” The fact that a company that gets millions of dollars from districts actually has the gall to say that is appalling.
And so, with this global killer approaching their industry, it’s obvious that the only thing keeping them alive is their sheer size and girth. But like the dinosaurs, those that don’t evolve will become extinct. And in some ways, maybe the educational world will be a better place because of it.
…..and all those mega-conferences don’t know how to act.
There’s a movement afoot in the Ed Tech world. It started with Ed Camps and has evolved into something even bigger.
It’s the “boutique” conference.
A couple of years ago I was chatting with good friend and fellow “boutiquer” Felix Jacomino (head cheese of Miami Device). We were chatting about iPadpalooza and his (then) upcoming first event. We were talking about ISTE, the preeminent Ed Tech conference in the United States when he said something both profound and prophetic.
“ISTE is like the Walmart of Ed Tech conferences.”
That phrase resonated in my brain like a Taylor Swift ear worm. I couldn’t escape it or put my finger on it but Felix was dead on.
At ISTE you have thousands upon thousands of people attending for any variety of reasons and from any variety of places. Some come to learn about interactive white boards (still). Others come to learn about Microsoft Office. Others iPads. Others Chromebooks. Windows. Mac. Apps. GAFE. CCSS. PDFs. Gifs. Etc.
If you are an event like ISTE you have no choice but to go the “Walmart route” when it comes to sessions to ensure your customers have access to everything even if it might taste a little bland. While I think there will always be a time and a place for that, districts are also looking for something more meaningful. They are looking for something more tailored for their staff and their Ed tech goals. In the past, like Walmart, the attendee was forced to sort through the hundreds of isles of products (sessions) looking for that one specific item (learning) and try not to get lost or end up on stage at EdTech Karaoke (guilty as charged).
As we formerly launch the registration for our 5th annual iPadpalooza, there is a growing abundance of options available to educators and leaders. iPadpalooza started as a learning festival to share and grow in the realm of iPads but it’s now grown into something more than that (we welcome all devices!). While at its heart it’s meant to inspire and make learning fun, it’s also meant to be an experience. No not some sort of Burning Man in the desert experience (do they have wifi out there?), but more like you are a part of the learning experience and not just an attendee.
This year’s theme is “Summer Blockbuster” and is centered around the explosive potential of mobile learning but also the movie stars we have in and around education. Because this is a “boutique” event, we can offer flexibility in terms of when you can come (we have single-day passes this year) and a little extra for those wanting to dive even deeper (this year we have added some “Pre-Palooza” workshops in addition to our iLead Academy).
While my heart belongs to the mothership event here in Austin, I love the fact that these are now starting to spread into other states (not unlike TEDx events) including Indiana, Minnesota and now Louisiana. Each one is unique in that it brings in local talent and flavor into the festival-like atmosphere. At iPadpaloozaSouthTX they even created their own theme of “Day of the Tech” based on the “Dia de los muertos” holiday.
What I love most about these spin-off events is the ownership taken by districts and educators as part of the mobile learning movement. It’s not just seeing someone experience the stress and joy of hosting an event that MUST have a level of fun and local spirit, but also seeing them experience the smiles on the faces of attendees. It’s about the tweets of minds being blown and passion being ignited. It’s about discovering something they haven’t seen or thought of before and rethinking how learning can change in their classroom.
Ultimately, that is why you go to a boutique conference. Not necessarily to look for a specific thing, but to have a specific thing find you.
Who’s ready to go shopping?
Recently, it’s been reported that U.S. “Millennials” are not making the mark when it comes to technology proficiency and problem solving when compared to counterparts in other countries (19th out of 21). Say what you will about the assessment and measure of this, but I do think it gives us a chance to reflect on ideas for integrating problem solving strategies into the everyday classroom.
Last year, I wrote this post on 21 Things Every 21st-Century Teacher should do and it became an instant hit (with the help of Sean Junkin’s Infographic). As tech tools come and go, I felt the need to update and refresh it for this school year. However, I ran into a problem. When I got done with my updated list (removing a couple of ideas, adding several more) I was up to 36 different ideas. As luck would have it there are 36 weeks in a standard school calendar so this actually works out wonderfully. While these aren’t necessarily listed in the order you should do them, they are listed from least difficult (#1 – Selfies) to the most difficult (#36 – Creating an in-class incubator). The last few challenges are especially geared toward real-world problem solving and will hopefully make a dent in those “Tech Problem-solving” stats in the future.
36 Weeks of Innovation for the 2015-16 School Year:
1. All About Your Self(ie) Project
You know all those “getting to know you” activities that you start at the beginning of the year? Why not integrate selfies into those? You know kids (especially teens) have hundreds of these on their phones and it could be a creative way to tell the “their story” through selfies.
2. Have a class twitter account to post a tweet about the day’s learning
Just like a blog only smaller. Nominate a “guest tweeter” and have them summarize the day’s learning in 140 characters or less. Then ask parents to follow the account so they can also get a little insight into the happenings of the school day.
3. Create your own class hashtag
Tell your students and their parents about the hashtag and have them post ideas, photos, and questions to it. It’s a great way to get people from not only in your class but also around the world to contribute to your class conversation. You can also use this with your blog posts (#1) or classroom tweets (#2). Bonus points if you use something like VisibleTweets to display your posts in your class.
4. Create a Class Instagram Account
Spinning off of the twitter account you already created, why not have a photo-based summary of the learning in class as well? Have a daily student photographer who’s job is to post an example of something your class/students did that day. If you don’t want to mess with “do not publish” lists, you could ask that it be of an object or artifact, not a person. This would also be a good time to have a mini-digital citizenship lesson and talk about when and how to ask permission to take someone’s photo.
5. Create a comic of your class rules
Let’s face it, classroom rules are in need of a makeover. Do you still have that blown-up Word Doc with your 1995 clipart on it? Why not make your classroom rules into a graphic novel? Here’s just one example of classroom rules done up comic-style! BAM! BOP! BLAZAMO!
6. Periscope a “minute in the life” video
I wrote a few weeks ago about this newest social media trend called “digital broadcasting”. While that post went over some best practices for Periscope and Meerkat, I’ve since been exposed to a multitude of ideas from other ‘scopers. One idea is to capture a “minute in the life” video to post weekly. Whether this be a minute in the life of a 3rd grader or a Pre-Cal student, it opens up a window to parents and other educators to see what is happening in your class. I have a much longer post on this coming soon…but since we are early in the list, I’m keeping it simple.
7. Create a MEMEory –
I think meme’s are inherently evil. Some are so clever I almost get jealous, while others leave a lot to the imagination. With apps like Meme-Generator or an app like Skitch, you could have students make historical memes, favorite literary characters or even cats that like chemistry.
8. Brain Breaks
Kids (and adults) can really only sit and “work” for so long. The average adult can sit for about 20 minutes before their mind begins to wander. For kids, the younger they are the less than can sit still (just come watch me and my family at a restaurant for proof). Brain breaks should be a part of every class and every grade level. From Improv games to yoga to GoNoodle, make brain breaks a part of your classroom and watch their brains re-ignite!
9. Sketchnoting for reflection
I’ve been a big fan of sketchnoting before it was called that. Back in my day (now I sound like an old man) we called it doodling. However, the more I do it (either digitally or on an old school notebook) the more I realize that I actually remember what was said. Why not try this in a class? During a lecture or watching a short film, have students represent the talk in a sketchnote. Check out this massive sketchnote of my co-Keynote with Todd Nesloney at iPadpaloozaSouthTX.
10. Create a List.ly list to encourage democracy in your class.
It could be as simple as a list of choices for a project or something as grand as what is one thing you want to learn about this year? Whatever the choice, use List.ly to create a crowd-sourced voting list and let your students have some say in their learning! Let’s just hope they aren’t old enough to vote for Kanye in 2020.
11. Blog for reflection
Having introduced reflection with Sketchnoting (#9) you are now ready to have kids practice the art of not only reflection with words, but published words. Using sites like EduBlogs and Kidblog (no longer free) you can have your students reflect on their week of learning in a student blog. Crowd-source the topics for their writing from other classmates for those that are struggling with an idea.
12. Digital portfolio for projects and art
I’ve got a giant box full of art projects and my oldest is barely entering 1st grade. I can only imagine the size of the extra wing I’ll need to add to my house when all 3 of them are through school. While I love all their art, I would appreciate it even more if it was also digitized. Using a platform like Blub, have your students capture their best work and reflect on the process. For more advanced users, organize each into different categories, styles, or themes. Besides the student example here, check out Lisa Johnson’s (TechChef4U) multiple Bulb sites for staff and student iPad instructions.
13. Participate in a Mystery Hangout
This sounds a lot scarier than it is but essentially think of playing the game 20 questions with another classroom somewhere in the world. Here’s a link to a community page with more resources. It’s a great way to increase cultural and global awareness and you could event invite the other class to add to your Pinterest board (#10), vote on your List.ly (#8), comment on your blog (#1) or maybe co-collaborate on an eBook (#17).
14. Create a Fantasy league (where they keep track of the stats themselves)
It’s time to break the stereotypes of sports. What better way to do that than through fantasy sports and math? Have students “draft” a team in a particular sport and then track their stats manually to see who wins. For a more advanced challenge, create a “mega” league with multiple sports over the course of the year. Watch for heated trades taking place on the playground and Monday discussions livening up when football season starts!
15. Special Effects Science
With a ton of stop-motion apps and the new Slo-mo feature built into iOS, there are a ton of creative ways to watch a science experiment unfold. From the slow growth of a plant over a semester to the infamous erupting volcano experiment in super slo-mo, science really is part visual arts.
16. Infographic-ize your newsletter
Tired of sending home that same boring newsletter that nobody reads? Why not jazz it up with an infographic. Using a tool like Canva or even keynote (what I used to make mine for this post), you can create a visually pleasing and impactful message to your community. Just be sure to include links to your class Twitter(#2), Instagram (#4) and Periscope (#6) accounts!
17. Pinning for parents
In this new digital age, parents are always looking for some help when it comes to ways to help their kids manage it all and be successful for school. Rather than just send them tips here or there, why not have a Pinterest board for parents? Here’s one we did called “86-days of summer learning” for parents looking for learning ideas in the summer.
18. Green Screen a field trip to another land
Budget cuts mean no more field trip to the local zoo? Why not take a virtual one? Have you class research specific locations in our world (and even specific times in history) and then visit them via green screen technology. Students can discuss what they might see during their trip and reflect on challenges and discoveries they made (virtually of course).
19. Make a class weekly podcast
Busy parents mean no time to read a weekly newsletter or that note in the take home folder. One thing many parents due is subscribe to podcasts (remember the Serial craze last fall?!) so why not put your class highlights in their weekly feed? Have your students write and create segments for the weekly show and publish it to iTunes to make some instant memories and to let mom and dad listen to your week while working out.
20. Animated book reports
The video book report is so 2013. Why not ramp it up a notch and use some animation? Apps like Explain Everything, Puppet Pals, Tellagami, Toontastic, etc allow you to make your book reports a little more animated. Add in some green screen (#18) with some stop-motion (#15), throw in some legos, and your students could make their own Lego Movie as a book report! (as long as they don’t use that “Everything is Awesome” song as their soundtrack)
21. Instructables by Students
The Instructables DIY craze is a powerful one. From figuring out how to make your own bubble-machine to how to use chop sticks, these how-to guides for life hacks are quite handy. Since student’s learn best by teaching, why not flip the script and use a site like Bulb or Snapguide to have students make their own Instructable over the topic or subject area of their choice?
22. Let a kid take over
I know. This sounds dangerous. If you look at John Hattie’s research on visible learning, the number 1 way to help move the needle on student learning and retention is to let them drive their own learning and self-grade. While there are several different ways you can do this (Project Based Learning being the most widely accepted method), you could sprinkle in little bits of this in everyday curriculum. An app like Apollo allows the students to take over the teacher’s board and then send out their work to the entire class instantly! (bonus: check out the built-in random student picker for some extra fun)
23. Student-led Parent-teacher conference presentations
I first heard about this from Sandy Kleinman this past summer, but the concept is simple. Tell students on the first week of school that they will be collecting a portfolio of work and present what they have learned to their parents during parent-teacher conferences. This is a great way of having kids (even as young as kindergarten) own their learning (#22). This could be daunting if not planned well, but with built in reflection activities (#9, #11, #12) there are multiple ways to gather discoveries to share with mom and dad.
24. Augment an old Textbook
Textbooks are a way of life in education and though many are now digital, there are still tons of old adoptions laying around in classroom cabinets or school storage closets. Why not utilize these books to add a little Augmented reality to the classroom? Using an app like Aurasma or Daqri, create a special video message and “attach” it a picture in the textbook. So when the entire class turns to page 26 and holds their device over the image…they’ll get quite the surprise!
25. Go Paperless for a week (then track the data)
Depending on your grade level, this might be harder than you think. Even in a 1:1 district we still print or have need to print things from time to time. The idea behind this challenge is see if you can figure out ways to make things more digital. Maybe instead of a newsletter you print and send home, you write a blog (#11) or send an infographic (#16). Or instead of asking kids to write and peer-edit each other’s papers, you ask them to share a Google doc? If your students don’t have devices, then challenge yourself to try this personally for a month.
26. Google Cardboard
With Google’s release of “Expeditions” last May, students can now take a mobile phone or iPod and use Google Cardboard to take a virtual field trip anywhere around the world! This does take some prep, which is why it’s further down on the list, but the reactions of students experiencing the Great Wall of China is amazing!
27. No Tech Tuesday
Have your students not use any technology and live like it’s 1915. This is a great way to really investigate how much times have changed in the past decade and our reliance on technology. Of course when they are done, have them blog about their experience. (#11)
28. Cardboard Design challenges
Design challenges can be a great way to have students think differently and work together in teams. Whether it be creating a cardboard chair that can support your weight (like Mr. Lofgren did here with his middle school students) or creating your own arcade like Cane did, the only limits in these activities are supplies and your students’ imaginations. And sometimes, having limits like supplies and time can actually enhance the creativity of the teams. BONUS: Create an Instructable of your final project (#21)
29. Redesign your learning space
After having your class design their own cardboard chairs (#28), it’s time to look at your classroom space. How is it designed to facilitate learning? Have your students research what types of furniture work best for a diverse learning environment. From the color on the walls to the lighting, have students research the costs and practicality of a new classroom makeover. Need some inspiration? How about his “classroom diner” concept:
30. Make a class book
The ease with which you can publish books now is amazing. Using a tool like Book Creator or iBooks Author, you can publish to the iBooks store or Amazon. Don’t want to do something that intense? Keep it simple and make a book using Shutterfly and then have it printed as a keepsake.
31. Code a makey-makey Instrument
Music can be a great learning tool. Coding is like learning a second language. This challenge combines the two at a pretty inexpensive cost ($49 for a Makey-Makey, $2 for bananas). Have your students work in teams to create their own musical instruments using any classroom materials around them. Then when they are all done, have them put on a “Junkyard Musical” performance to wrap it up! (Which would be a great thing to Periscope (#6))
32. Appmazing Race
While the APPmazing Race got it’s humble beginnings from iPadpalooza 2014, it has since grown into a global phenomenon as a new strategy for delivering PD. Though built originally for adults, it’s perfect for students with mobile devices. Set up a series of challenges over a class period or a couple of weeks and have the kids team up and go to work! While the race itself doesn’t take a lot of work (except for reigning the kids back in), the prep before hand and the scoring afterwards will take quite a bit of time. Be sure to have a rubric to help students understand how they score on particular challenges and I would advise on using a tool like Padlet.com to curate all their finished discoveries. Here’s an example of one of the biggest races I’ve hosted using Thinglink and Padlet to curate.
33. LipDub to History
The ultimate form of flattery is imitation. The ultimate form of stardom is when Weird Al makes a parody of your song. Why not take that to another level and have students re-write lyrics to their favorite hit or a popular tune? The catch is they have to tie the lyrics into something historical like the video below. Who knows, maybe some student will remake “Chaka Khan” into “Genghis Khan”.
34. Design your own Rube Goldberg Machine
How great would it be to have teams of students design a Rube Goldberg machine? I once saw former 4th grade teacher Cody Spraberry facilitate a 2-week project where each group had a defined space in the classroom (marked by tape) and had to design, create, and test their Rube as well as record it. Not all the reactions were as priceless as this kid’s, but tying in reflection (#11), how-to instructions (#21) and some video effects (#15) can really make this a powerful lesson in teamwork, perseverance, problem-solving and organization.
35. Global Outreach GoFundMe
Teaching our students about generosity while giving them a wider perspective of world events can be powerful. Now with tools like GoFundMe, your class can strategize a way to help support a cause like this one for creating a School for the Deaf in Haiti. This is real, authentic, impactful learning that will make a difference in the lives of your students and those you are helping.
36. Create a start-up Incubator
To really tackle all of those “future-ready” skills, why not have teams of students create their own actual start-up company. Some high schools across the country have started this program (including our own Westlake High School) but it doesn’t have to be exclusive to high school. The key is to get business and industry leaders to work with the kids and talk about real world scenarios their companies will face. Kind of like “career day” on steroids. If you can get some local business or parents to participate with some funds, you can actually host a “Pitch night” to start the event and a “Shark tank” type activity to close it where students will get actual money to try and create their product. This is the most intensive of all the ideas on this list and can utilize parts of all the other 35 topics to make a team successful.
While I don’t expect any one classroom to do all of these ideas (I’d have to give them a prize if they did), I do think many of these are doable and possible on the cheap. I tried to design most of them without dependance on a particular type of technology, but having access to devices, even if not in a 1:1 environment, is helpful.
I hope you enjoy and be sure to give me some feedback below as to what you think. And to practice what I preach, I took Sean Junkin’s tutorial advice and created my own infographic out of Keynote for this post. See below:
The past week has been a whirlwind. Running an event like iPadpalooza takes energy, effort and organization. But more than that, it takes heart. I saw and felt the love this week from all of those that came to share and learn. While we all came to Austin with our own perspectives and differences, I get the feeling we all left with a little piece of inspiration to push us through whatever life has to offer us in the future.
As host, I miss a lot of the individual sessions and the attendee experience. Actually, I don’t think host is the right word…more like “ringmaster”. This event was a circus. Complete with unicorns and flying drones and ASL interpretations that I can’t quote on this blog. I’ve told people running something like this learning festival is like coordinating 15 weddings all at once. Music, food, travel, speakers, sponsors, schedules, apps, volunteers, and building all have to flow seamlessly to create an atmosphere of contagious learning. My true joy comes from seeing others engaged, laughing and enjoying their experience. That said, I do have moments of joy myself and here are just a few of the highlights from the perspective of the ringmaster.
He’s the kind of guy you feel like you should call by first name. I first met Adam Bellow a few years ago at ISTE in 2011. He was this funny guy walking around with a blue tooth in his ear and seemingly always smiling. It’s the kind of smile that seems like he knows something. That “something” is the truth about what’s real and what isn’t in education. Last November, Adam and I spent a day wandering around the convention floor at GaETC. I was trying to get a handle on the man that had closed down ISTE 2013 with tremendous praise. He had to be our opener for this year because no one else could bring that kind of compassion and enthusiasm to the stage at Westlake high school. Being the tone-setter for an event is nothing to take likely and he did not disappoint.
I always feel kind of a sense of waste when I attend a conference and I don’t have a session to attend or no one to talk to (I know hard to believe, but sometimes I’m shy). The APPMazing race was born out of the need to have fun and collaboratively learn and create with others. While this year’s race was intensely memorable, I love the inventiveness of the teams and their spirit in fighting for whatever bonus points they could muster. I found it interesting that the winning team scored the most creative bonus points by taking huge risks (like taking their “jumper” pic by jumping into a hotel pool fully clothed and hanging out the back of a food truck for their “foodie” pic). It reminded me that sometimes you have to take risks to succeed.
“I’m just ready to get on with my life”
Kids say the darnedest things. During this year’s youth film festival, one of the participants mentioned that he was in fact ready to put this behind him and move on with his life. While it was both honest and hilarious, it made me think about how much we push our kids to do sometimes. My personal highlight of the week also came during this evening event as I got to see my 6-year old daughter take a seat as one of the film finalists. She was deathly afraid to come up and speak in front of a crowd of strangers, but she did it. When I saw her crack me that halfway-Sophia-smile (like looking in a mirror) my pride was actually physically welling up inside of me as a father. While I would cry both at the event and the next day at the closing, I couldn’t help but also be excited for what the future has to offer her and her sisters. I’m just glad I get to play a part of that future as both a parent and an administrator in the district she attends. (Ok….now my tear ducts are filling up again…enough!)
3 to 4 Minutes
One of my favorite moments of ADE2013 was when they had 10 speakers attempt to get out an idea in exactly 3 minutes. Once their three minutes was up their microphone went dead and the spot light turned off. While I liked the concept I felt like it left people stressing time more than the message. The “mini-keynotathon” on day two was my attempt to remix that concept only with the message taking precedent over the time. And as was witnessed by both Jennie Magiera and Richard Wells, the message took precedent over slides even. From Felix Jacomino‘s take on a Frozen classic to Amy Mayer all telling us that change is good and “you should go first” the inspiration was being thrown from the stage like a peanut vendor at a ballgame. One of my personal favorite moments of all-time came as I looked down at this lineup of Ed Tech all-stars that I felt honored to listen to and even more honored to call friends.
Eric and Guy
Having these two goliaths in their industry close down day 2 and 3 was a huge coup. Getting Guy Kawasaki was solely the magic of Lisa Johnson as she was able to parlay a SXSW breakfast conversation into him enthusiastically wanting to speak at our event. Eric Whitacre has always been inspirational to listen to during his TED talks, but hearing him in person was way more impressive than any video I have ever seen. My personal joy moment came when I looked down on the 12th row and saw my music teachers all beaming from ear to ear. We need to remember that art and innovation go hand in hand. These two keynoters exemplified this belief.
11th Hour in the Green Room
With one hour to go before the close, I needed to find a place to put together my closing slides. I was going to find a quiet corner in the green room when I noticed some laughter from the back table. Seeing George Couros, Cathy Hunt, Richard Wells, Rabbi Michael Cohen, Rafranz Davis and several others sharing stories around a virtual campfire was too tempting to resist. All of these amazing educators in one room and I’m trying to find a quiet corner? Forget that! So I picked up my MacBook and pulled up a chair around the fire. While I wont share the stories we shared (those are for me), I can say without a doubt this was a professional highlight of my career.
That brings me to the title of this post. We all find inspiration in different places. Some of us find it in art or music. Some of us find it in technology. One person found inspiration in a unicorn mask. Many of us find it in learning and teaching. I find it somewhere else.
I find it in people.
Being surrounded by people that are truly captivated by learning and sharing is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever witnessed. It’s an infection that I don’t want a cure for and have a desire to spread to others. June 21, 2016 can’t come soon enough for me and the traveling circus known as iPadpalooza.
Thank you all for being my inspiration!
p.s. Couldn’t attend this year but want to experience some of the magic? Check out this highlight video by Spiral Stair Media –
[the below information is excerpted from this white paper]
When Eanes ISD began this quest into 1:1 four years ago, there was some early research that showed the advantages to running such a program in K-12 schools. In this white paper, we’ll review our initiative, highlight national and global findings around 1:1 initiatives, compare/contrast a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment vs. a School Provided 1:1 environment, and finally outline some thoughts on the future of K-12 education and technology.
The Eanes ISD LEAP Initiative (Learning and Engaging through Access and Personalization) aims specifically at increasing student engagement and shifting towards a personalized learning model that is student-centered and authentic. This aligns with our district-wide goal of creating student-centered authentic learning experiences that educate the whole child. We want students to go beyond being content consumers to constructing their own understanding and moving to a level of content creation to show evidence of learning. In reviewing student and teacher survey data as well as anecdotal evidence, we are well on our way to achieving these goals. The effects of the LEAP initiative have impacted three major “user” groups in our schools: students, teachers, and parents.
A review of survey data from 2011-2014 shows that students consistently reported feeling more engaged in class when iPads were used at Westlake High School. Those students indicated mild to significant increases in engagement ranged from 80.9% to 87.2% over the three years of the study. A full 100% of students reported that they noticed an increase of communication between teacher and student since the introduction of iPads. Distraction was a major concern at the outset of the program as data from the spring 2012 survey showed that 54% of students felt like the device was a source of distraction. Survey data from the spring of 2014 showed that number decreased by almost 20%.
When asked, “Overall, having the iPad has enhanced my learning experience.” The three-year range showed that 83.5% to 87.9% of students responded with 3 (moderate) to 5 (extreme).
Our students are creating more digital artifacts than ever before. Students are writing blogs, publishing online portfolios, creating award winning videos and even coding in Kindergarten. All of this content has allowed students to create their own positive “digital footprint” which will help them procure enrollment or employment in their future post-graduation. Application processes for career and college now reach far beyond the transcript and extracurricular interests.The degree to which both businesses and universities investigate a prospective student/employee’s “digital footprint” has increased exponentially the past 5 years. According to a Kaplan of 2014 study, 35% of college admissions officers say they look at applicants’ social media profiles, an increase of 5% from the previous year. A 2014 Career Builder survey showed that 45% of employers use search engines like Google to research job candidates, continuing an upward trend amongst businesses.
In the area of teacher to student communication, 96.8% of teachers reported “moderate” to “greatly improved” communication with students because of the iPad. A large majority (90.3%) also reported the iPad made student assessment “easier” and were able to get real-time feedback to gauge students’ learning. Teachers that utilize the iPads regularly spend less time grading paper quizzes (which means less time at the copy machine) and are able to get and give instant feedback on how students are meeting learning objectives. While distraction was an initial concern, classrooms that have shifted to a more personalized, student-centered approach generally report less distraction and behavior issues than in a traditional, stand-and-deliver instructional model.
While not an intentional outcome of the LEAP Initiative, having mobile devices in the hands of students has increased parental awareness around their children’s digital lives. Eanes ISD has extended the learning beyond the school walls into the homes, and with that comes a learning curve for parents too. What initially started as “Digital Safety Night” has grown into full-fledged semester-long online courses where hundreds of district parents keep up to date with the latest trends in social media, screen time, and the phenomenon of digital footprints. Eanes ISD now provides regular parent workshops and resources throughout the school year for parents at every level.
Savings Realized as a Result of 1:1
Prior to 1:1 iPads, Eanes ISD purchased many technology items which performed different functions to facilitate learning in the classroom. Whether it be a Smart Airliner to control the classroom computer or a cassette recorder to record students’ reading, the following items represent a list of technology purchased by the district prior to the LEAP Initiative. Most of the items, unless otherwise noted, were purchased for each classroom. One major advantage of an iPad 1:1, is that now all of these items are replaced with free or inexpensive apps with access for every student.
(approximate cost in parentheses)
Previously purchased item
Replacement on iPad
|Digital Camera ($150 – one per grade level & a class set per campus)||Camera app (Free)|
|Document Camera ($600)||Camera app (Free)|
|Smart Slate or Airliner ($300)||Splashtop App ($4.99)|
|Student Response Systems ($1500 -class set)||Socrative (Free), Kahoot (Free), or Nearpod (Free)|
|Video Camera ($250) + Editing software ($99)||Camera app (Free) + iMovie App (Free)|
|DVD/VHS Player ($100)||Video app (Free), YouTube (Free), MediaCore ($2/student)|
|CD Players ($75)||iTunes Music App (Free)|
|Atlas, Globe, Classroom map ($25)||Map App (Free), Google Earth (Free)|
|Microsoft Office Licenses ($75 per computer)||Microsoft Office Suite of Apps (Free), iWorks Suite of Apps (Free)|
|Thesaurus ($22)||Thesaurus app (Free), built in thesaurus (Free)|
|Polycom Video Conference System ($2000)||Facetime app (Free)|
|Scanner ($75)||JotNot App(Free) or Genius Scanner App(Free)|
|Cassette Recorder System ($150) or iPod/Mp3 recorder ($100)||Garageband App (Free) or Audio Notes app ($4.99)|
|Kurzweil screen reading software/hardware ($995 – for special education)||Dragon Dictation app (Free) or built in iOS feature|
Some other items that we see trending toward obsolescence because of 1:1:
Dictionaries (still required by state to purchase), TI-84 calculator (piloting replacement with free Desmos app), Textbooks (see note in closing section), and paper costs (continuing to decrease with integration of iPads, Google and Learning Management Systems).
National and Global Findings on 1:1 initiatives
Since our initiative started in 2011, there has been a steady stream of data around 1:1 initiatives and their impact on student learning. One of the largest studies recently released included over 3 decades of research with technology integration. In the concluding summary, it states:
“Technology that supports instruction has a marginally but significantly higher average effect compared to technology applications that provide direct instruction. Lastly, it was found that the effect size was greater when applications of computer technology were for K-12, rather than computer applications being introduced in postsecondary classrooms.”
This means that using technology by effectively integrating into a lesson (“supporting instruction”) versus just allowing students to play a learning game (“providing direct instruction”) is more meaningful and impactful for students. At Eanes ISD, the most effective 1:1 classrooms use the iPad in a manner that enhances and amplifies learning outcomes.
The chart above highlights the names of the studies, year of the study, number of case studies, and the Mean ES (Effect Size). The Mean ES measures the average effect of technology integration on student learning. The data from these studies (with one exception) shows a positive influence of technology with learning. Unfortunately, this study is not published for circulation, but with a little digging you can find this data. In addition, here are some individual studies specifically about iPads in the last 2-3 years:
iPad improves Kindergartners literacy scores – Students with iPads outscore those without on all literacy measures in a 9-week study of kindergarten students in Maine.
Pearson Foundation Research: Survey on Students and Tablets 2012 – More than 6 out of 10 of college and high school students study more effectively and perform better in class with tablets.
iPad a solid education tool, study reports – a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt study in California showed a 20% increase on math test scores in just one year.
Oklahoma State University – More than 75% of students claimed the iPad “enhanced” their learning experience in college.
Survey: 9 in 10 Students Say Tablets Will Change How They Learn – A survey of 2,252 students in grades 4-12. 83% said tablets help them learn in a way that’s best for them.
iPads in Medical School – Students with iPads scored 23% higher on exams in University of California Irvine’s iMedEd Program.
While this research may indicate that just handing students an iPad will help them learn better, looking deeper into the results and implications of three decades of research on technology integration shows that the pedagogy and application of learning technology and accompanying apps play a significant role in this success.
1:1 vs. BYOD
It’s been debated that having students bring their own devices (BYOD) would achieve similar results to our 1:1 in terms of student learning, engagement, and achievement. While having students provide their own devices does allow the district some initial cost savings, the district would incur some costs when trying to provide equity for those without devices. If students could bring in any device they wanted, even with minimum specifications, we would still have to subsidize those students who do not have a qualifying device. In addition, there would be a significant increase in costs when trying to provide timely instructional support for a non-standard device. Those costs would be amplified by more time teachers spend training on a variety of platforms to achieve the same results. When arguing a 1:1 environment vs a BYOD environment, consider the following three areas of concern:
Teacher Experience in 1:1 vs BYOD –
Dr. Ruben Puentedura is an educational researcher who has more than three decades worth of research around 1:1 device programs. When asked about the differences between 1:1 and BYOD, he stated the following:
“If you want teachers to make the best use of the devices and come up with rich and engaging learning experiences, they need to have:
– Well-supported, reliable devices and software for themselves and their students;
– A known palette of tools that represents a reasonable spectrum of the EdTech Quintet (Social, Mobility, Visualization, Storytelling, Gaming);
– Reasonable consistency in how these tools operate.
BYOD can very easily fail to meet all three conditions.”
Having a variety of devices like those in a BYOD classroom means a teacher would need to spend time each class period doing all of the following in order for the students to accomplish a learning objective with technology:
– Insure that all the devices could connect to our network.
– Make sure each device had the appropriate app or tool needed to accomplish the learning objective
-Provide a subsidized device for those students that do not have a device.
– Be knowledgeable in the multiple operating systems for troubleshooting.
This all takes away valuable instructional time and ultimately means that a teacher is limited in teaching critical thinking and creativity. The challenge of getting devices with different operating systems to communicate with each other directly influences our emphasis on collaboration and communication.
Professional Learning in 1:1 vs BYOD –
If every device is the same, then training can be standardized. When all students have the same devices, then the variability of learning on the devices falls into the hands of the teacher and students. Creating personalized learning paths for students means that our teachers need to have familiarity with the devices and the resources available to their students (as Dr. Puentedura states above) and strategies for higher-level integration of learning aligned to state standards. In a 1:1 environment, more time can be spent during professional development on the integration of pedagogy and technology to meet standards in the classroom rather than spending time on learning the multitude of operating systems in a BYOD environment.
Classroom Management in 1:1 vs BYOD –
In a district-supported 1:1 environment, mechanisms can be put in place to manage all the devices. These Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems enable a district to restrict apps, filter the internet, and lock-down devices when necessary for student focus or testing. In a BYOD scenario, students can bypass our network and download inappropriate apps and possibly access inappropriate websites. The district has no authority or level of control over their devices. In addition to the lack of control for classroom management, the district would not be able to lock-down student-owned devices for online testing (a requirement from the state). Our increase in the use of online textbooks also requires certain types of devices (like iPads) in order to view the content. In a BYOD environment, some students would not be able to view their textbook if they do not own a device with the minimum requirements from the textbooks provider.
A broader look at trends in BYOD and 1:1 –
According to Project Tomorrow’s 2014 report: The New Digital Learning Playbook, 33% of high school students have access to a school issued device. That number has grown significantly from the less than 10% who had access in 2011 when the LEAP initiative began. The research also points out the 41% of districts now allowed students to bring their own devices (an increase of 19% from three years prior). Both state and national data point to upward trends in both areas. The data also supports the assumptions that, like Eanes ISD, most districts start out with a Bring Your Own Device policy before implementing a school-provided device. There are very few national instances where a program with a 1:1 implementation went toward a BYOD approach. Eanes ISD supports a spectrum of school-issued 1:1 devices, a BYOD approach, and multiple computer labs or carts, because different tools may be needed based on the learning objective.
The Digital Future of Education
It’s difficult to predict the future of anything, much less technology. Most predictions are based on data and long-term prognostications based on research. The New Media Consortium’s yearly K-12 Horizon Report is a robust report that has had a high level of accuracy over the years when it comes to predicting educational technology. This past year’s report makes predictions such as cloud computing being on the “One Year or Less” horizon and items like the Internet of Things and Wearable Technology entering schools in the next four to five years. Locally, we also look at national and state trends with legislative direction to guide our thinking.
With the national and state demands to increase the use of assessments online, districts will need to supply devices during those testing windows since rotating through computer labs isn’t feasible. This year Eanes will be one of the first districts to pilot test the use of the iPad as a calculator (with our 8th Grade STAAR math exam). We have also started conversations around pilot testing the Pearson TestNav 8 app for ACT Aspire tests on the iPad.
The textbook market is also at the tipping point transitioning into a period of more digital text vs. hard copy. The federal government and publishers see the shift to mobile devices and tablets and are planning accordingly. In 2-3 years, there will be limited options in the “non-digital” market meaning that our students will need some device to access content. The FCC estimates a $3 billion dollar savings in education once that shift happens completely (and the cost of tablets continues to drop). States like Florida have adopted legislation that requires all districts to spend at least half of their instructional materials budget on digital content by 2015-16.
Eanes has started to realize a some of these savings, but textbook companies are still charging close to the same price for their e-versions. In terms of adoptions, the majority of our textbook adoptions have an online/digital version as an accompaniment. Some of our adoptions (e.g., like science) offer only a digital option, a growing trend among providers. We are piloting a project for our teachers to create their own textbooks, which will be owned by Eanes. This option will help us realize both more significant savings and more rigorous learning tasks for our students.
The future world that our students walk into will be immersed in technology and heavily influenced by social media. Besides just creating those “digital footprints” mentioned earlier, it’s imperative that schools educate students in the area of digital responsibility and give them essential skills in order to be a good digital citizen.
The future job market for our children is also expanding, especially in the realm of computer science. With the projected growth of jobs in Texas requiring some level of computer science education, it’s predicted that only 31% of jobs will be fillable with current educational models by the year 2018.
In the fall of 2014, Pearson released a report titled “The Learning Curve”. It represented global data about test-taking and job skills that students are learning in various countries around the world. In one section they listed the above graphic called “Beyond the 3Rs”. It represents the new skills the world is looking for when it comes to the global economy and skills we need to prepare our students for in their future.
After all, as John Dewey said, “We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.”
Have you ever been inspired? I mean truly inspired to do something different? A quick check of the word “inspire” in Dictionary.com reveals the following four definitions:
I was witness to all of these the past two days at the first annual iEngage-Berwyn event in that took place in the suburbs of Chicago. Event organizer Shannon Soger (an inspirational person herself), calls this a mash-up of all the best parts of conferences she’s attended in the past. Take the site visit portion of EduCon, the playfulness and interaction of iPadpalooza, the story sharing of an EdCamp, and sprinkle in some engaging Keynote speakers and you have iEngage.
Here are some of my favorite moments from the conference:
There’s nothing like seeing learning in action. At Berwyn South, they use the moto “Teach Above the Line” (re: SAMR) and they mean it. So much so I actually saw this sign in one of the 4th grade classrooms. This school is 80% low-economic and ALL of the students take their school-issued iPad home with them. The students were extremely comfortable sharing their stories and Shannon mentioned to me they get site visits almost weekly to see this magic in action. During my site visits I saw students creating projects, interviewing guests, solving problems, collaborating on concepts and learning how to read in two different languages…..all on a random Friday at the end of the school year. Incredible!
One of the schools we visiting (Pershing Elementary) had really done a great job of using what I call “dead spaces” in the hallways and stair wells to utilize the mobility of the devices to expand the learning beyond the classroom walls. One student actually interviewed myself and Brad Waid in one of these alcoves with some pretty hard-hitting questions, the hardest of which was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer: I don’t ever want to grow up :)
The MyON Dream Big Film Festival
On the first night of the event we got to watch 15 incredible student films centered around a favorite book they read and how it inspired them to dream big. Co-sponsored by MyOn (an online reading tutorial program), these students each shared their tales about how reading about a hero like Harriet Tubman or Jackie Robinson had opened up their mind to a greater cause. I love the use of mixed media to not only show the books they loved by but also using video to express how they were inspired by them.
Saturday morning keynote speaker John Antonetti said it best when he said, “Engaging without cognition is really just having fun without achieving anything.” The technology usage during the two days was engaging, but also extremely meaningful and encouraged learning. From the APPmazing Race to the outstanding sessions shared by teachers, leaders, and students, learning was interactive and it was everywhere. Closing keynote speaker Kevin Honeycutt‘s always entertaining and poignant words were the perfect wrap-up for this event. One of my favorite sessions was by Pershing Principal Marilyn McManus and all the ways she uses social media like Twitter and Instagram to share the story of their school. As a leader, I found it inspiring to see someone modeling the very things she wants her students and staff to do. Here’s a sketchnote of that session:
Lastly, an event like this isn’t possible without a tremendous crew of dedicated people. One thing is for certain, these people LOVE their jobs. This amazing group of educators are all working together for a common goal…to truly celebrate higher-level learning with technology. Jordan, Meagan, Jim, Ramona (“Mona”), and the iEngage posse were extremely open and candid with the struggles they overcame to make this work. It was obvious to me that their dedication and passion for the schools in which they work really drove this initiative to the success it has become. The fact that there were 50+ students on a Saturday volunteering and sharing their story really drove home the point that this was in fact a complete “learning community.”
I thank you all for letting me be a part of your community for the past two days and hope that others will get to experience your event in the future!
Today marked a hallmark day in the Eanes Independent School District when it comes to high-stakes testing. After some back and forth with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the commissioner, last spring we were granted the ability to pilot using iPads as graphing calculators during the state assessment. Following months of planning and prep, the dreams of using iPads on actual state assessments became a reality today as 600+ students took their 8th Grade Math STAAR assessment. This decision and process encompassed many hours of careful planning and practice before today’s big test. As far as I know from colleagues around the country, we were the first district to try this approach. As such, I’m writing this post to not only document our process but also to help others that may try this in the future.
For years (and decades) our students have had the ability to purchase an expensive graphing calculator like the TI-84 plus to help them with higher level math problems and classes. This calculator retails at around $180 (roughly half the cost of our iPad2s) and is purchased by either the campus or the parents to support their students taking these courses. With the constant financial pressure and underfunding from our state and the fact that every student has an iPad, we decided to formally request that we be allowed to use the Desmos Test Mode app (FREE) on the 8th Grade Math assessment. With the successful completion of this pilot, we may even look at other areas (dictionaries?) where we can save money and provide a better experience for our students.
What kind of technical expertise do you need to pull this off?
Our district utilizes a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system known as Casper Suite by JAMF software. Casper includes a feature called “Focus” which allows teachers to lock students into a certain app. Students are not able to use the camera, take a screen shot or even get out of the app until the teacher releases them from focus. With the assistance of our technology department and Mobile Integration Specialist Tim Yenca, we have been piloting this feature in individual classrooms throughout the fall and spring. However, on testing day we knew it would mean putting all 600 of the students into one giant class and then locking them down. Needless to say, there’s a lot that can go wrong technically with that so we decided to test it a couple of times before the actual testing date.
How did we prepare for this?
This plan would have never been possible without the support of our tremendously talented campus Educational Technologists (Ed Techs). Running two tests simultaneously with a 12-mile gap in between campuses meant that there needed to be a point person on the ground that coordinated everything. Kacy Mitchell at WRMS and Jennifer Flood at HCMS provided plans, organized teachers, communicated with students and supported the administration during this entire process. When I asked Kacy how she thought the day went this was her reaction:
“We knew there were going to be issues. There are always issues. Pioneering the concept of locking down district-issued student iPads was pretty scary for most of us at first. My principal even wondered aloud what my heart-rate was about 5 minutes after the bell rang today. In the end, everything turned out just fine. A successful execution of plans A, B and sometimes C was due to careful planning and LOTS of patience from our teachers. “
Jennifer added this insight into the planning process:
“Leading up to today we held two tests of the system in as close to “day of” testing environments as possible. Having WRMS attempt at the same time gave us more room to experiment with start times and classroom processes than we would have normally had. Between the tests at both campuses, and many conversations walking through all possibilities, our plans reflected every possible outcome that we had some control over.”
I honestly don’t think we could have pulled this off without these two Ed Techs providing daily support on their campuses. We are lucky to have them here at Eanes ISD.
What about the app?
When the TEA released their revised policy in spring of 2014, they didn’t specify which device or app was required. Their main concerns were that whatever device used has to be locked down so that students can’t get on the internet or take photos of the test. The graphing calculator app needed to be a non-CAS (Computer Algebra Systems) calculator and could not contain tutorials or places for storing formulas (which can be a problem with TI calculators).
With the help and advice of resident math guru Cathy Yenca (aka Mathy Cathy), we had been looking into the original Desmos graphing calculator app. The only problem was the app has CAS capability and stores some examples that students could potentially use. Cathy and Tim (aka “the Flying Yencas”) were able to work with Eli from Desmos on some feature requests and changes that would be necessary to make the app acceptable for state testing. Desmos was extremely responsive and open to the changes and after working on some test pilots of the app, released the “Test Mode” version of their app free to the public. Much like the support of Kacy and Jennifer, this wouldn’t have been possible without the Yencas and Desmos working together to make it happen.
With the support of the team, the administration, the teachers and the technology department, we set forth today to make this plan a reality. Through all the collaboration and discussion with the team it was determined that we should have both a few regular calculator back-ups on hand and a few iPad back-ups on hand already locked into the app.
As with anything involving technology there are always problems. Those problems multiply when you try to lock down 600 devices over wireless on two separate campuses at the same time. Add to the mix a third campus (elementary) and four 5th grade students in advanced math taking this test too, and this process became even more complex. Thanks to our Ed Tech Margie Brown for helping get those elementary students set up on testing day as well.
Despite our best efforts, a handful of students showed up this morning and decided to update their iPad. A couple of others forgot to plug their iPad in over the weekend. The forethought and planning of our Ed Techs and technology department accounted for this and a few spare iPads were on hand in the hallways where the tests we being administrated. Students that couldn’t didn’t get locked down were given a locked down spare before the test. Students that brought their own iPad were put into Guided Access mode by the teacher prior to the test. Teachers in testing rooms were given a “blue card” that they could slide under their door if they had technical issues during the actual test (thankfully, none of them did).
As you can tell, it takes an entire team of thoughtful and prepared staff to pull this kind of a pilot off. I knew today was a success when I looked up at noon and noted how quiet the day had been. That’s a tribute to the hard working people in this district like Kacy, Tim, Jennifer, Margie, our technology department, our testing coordinators, teachers, STEM Director and those outside of the district like Eli from Desmos. Without their collaboration and planning this dream could have quickly turned into a nightmare.
Thank you all for your effort in taking on this monumental challenge! Now on to the next!
There are very few moments in life when you know you are a part of greatness. I recently returned from a trip to the Youth Education & Technology Integration (Y.E.T.I.) conference and let me tell you, this was true greatness manifest in a conference. The event itself is kind of like burning man for educational technology (only with out all the fire and naked people). To keep mass-media and the twitteratti on their toes, event organizers actually keep the location secret until mere days before the event. Both the speakers and attendees are selected completely at random using a complex algorithm of Twitter followers multiplied by latest eBook ISBN number downloaded. I was lucky enough to be picked as both an attendee and panelist for this year’s event. An while I signed an agreement not to share what I saw (they have a Vegas-like motto of “what happens at YETI doesn’t get tweeted”) I can’t help myself. This event is too powerful not to share with others. So here goes my recap, I’ll leave it posted as long as I can:
This year’s event took place at the gorgeous [omitted] over a mild, partly cloudy weekend. Due to the natural terrain and the landscape of the area, no rooms were needed. Many of the natural grottoes acted as small meeting rooms and the larger caves served as auditoriums. The acoustics were incredible and because of the location being near the equator, cell carriers signals were amplified along the walls giving attendees incredible 5G WiFi connections.
Speakers & Sessions
One of the most incredible parts of this event are the absolutely ridiculous variety of speakers and educators they have on hand. I attended a session that was an actual a hologram of Bill Gates speaking to Jaime Escalante. Some sessions lasted only for only a few minutes and others, like Bill Nye’s lengthy monologue, lasted several hours.
There were no start or stop times for sessions too which was a little disconcerting at first. Sessions were declared over when an organizer or attendee elected to bang a giant ceremonial gong. To announce the beginning of a new session, a giant alphorn (you know, like the ones from those Ricola commercials?) would blow signifying a new session and new gathering of folks.
Another thing that sets this conference apart are the sponsors. With the terrain being what it was at YETI, sponsors got creative. Most of their “booths” were actually giant floating platforms, controlled by drones. I was excited to see that both Google and Apple were working in partnership with Facebook as sponsors for the event, even handing out free “Privacy Jackets” (a jacket that apparently blocks all outward internet traffic and data tracking from your devices).
I was asked to be on a panel discussing the legitimacy behind this new wearable idea called a “thoughtband.” The concept is simple. Wearing a piece of technology on their foreheads like a Bill Walton headband, students’ thoughts are displayed in scrolling LED fashion. Before we were even able to get into the discussion about data-mining or mind-mining for that matter, someone (who looked like a famous politician) got up and banged the gong, thus ending our session. I wish I knew what he was thinking…
Nothing is normal at YETI, including the keynote. This year’s closing keynote session started at midnight and lasted until the sun began to rise. The closing keynote was delivered by noted scholar and thespian Jon Lovitz. His message of prosperity, educational equality and the need for more 80’s rap music in education rang true with the crowd of thousands. Following his talk, he asked the crowd to initiate in an awkward flash-mob edu-rave of sorts. With the 80’s band Baltimora playing their one-hit wonder “Tarzan Boy” in the background, the attendees went into a sort of strange crowd-surfing/internet-surfing mosh pit of sorts. Culminating in one of the strangest multi-tasking activities I’ve ever witnessed as attendees danced and texted on their smartphones, responding digitally to YETI’s essential question for 2015: Will the wearable flip-flop change the foot of education?
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, my violation of one of YETI’s 7 tenets of attendance (though shalt not video-record) caused my immediate removal before the end of the event. Organizers wiped the video off my phone, but I was able to sneak back over a hill and capture about 11 seconds of the closing coronation where they named one attendee the Patron Saint of YETI15.
While I may risk prosecution or worse yet, not be invited back, I’m making this video public in the hopes that the rest of the world will have a chance to experience just a little taste of what I got to experience. Enjoy:
Happy April 1st everybody.