Category Archives: Techy
UPDATE: Right around the time of this post – Google released the ability to insert images into forms! However, you still cannot put images as choices in multiple choice categories, so this script will still help.
In the midst of our iPadpalooza Tshirt contest I was faced with a conundrum even Google couldn’t help me with. How do we post images to our forms so that people can vote? I thought about just sending the images separately with names and then having people open a Google Form to choose their choice based on names. That seemed terrible inefficient so I did a little bit of research and came across this guy’s blog: Making Technology Work at School
In the post he’s pretty much detailed how he wrote a script that will work for anyone out there just following his simple steps. I posted my own tips adding to his instructions here if you’d like to follow but want to make sure full credit is given to the original source. A note here – I’ve had some people reply that they are getting a “404 Source” error when using Chrome. You might want to try with a different browser if that’s the case. I used Safari with these instructions and it worked like a charm.
Since my district has some level of restrictions on publicly sharing folders/files, I did have to use a personal gmail account. You’ll be able to tell what restrictions your district has by step number three.
1. Log into your Drive.google.com account
2. Create a folder called “GFWI” (no quotes)- This is the folder that his script will pull images from.
3. Share the folder and make it publicly viewable on the web. If your district restricts this, you’ll have to go to a personal google account or create one. (maybe a “MyISDForms@gmail.com” type of account)
4. Inside that GFWI folder, make another folder called “img” (without quotes). It’ll have the same settings as the parent folder so no need to share that as well since the GFWI folder is already viewable by the public.
5. BEFORE you upload your images – a few tips – Make sure your images are 500 X 500 pixels or smaller. I uploaded some original images and they were WAY too big. I just threw mine into photoshop and resized them. Save them as .jpg and give them some easy file names before you move on to the next step of uploading.
6. Upload the images to the ‘img’ folder.
7. Make your form or add to a current form. Wherever you want the image to appear you’ll have to make a double bracket (i.e. [[imagename.jpg]] in the form itself. Since I was doing this for a vote, I just put those bracketed names in the multiple choice section.
8. Copy your live form URL.
9. Go to his form which will convert it and run the script here: http://goo.gl/RXToK
10. You will likely have to authorize at this point before going any further.
11. Paste your form URL into his script and it’ll run the conversion.
12. You’ll get a link to view the new form with images now embedded. That’s it!
In the late 90′s to around 2001, the internet boom was on. Venture capitalists were experiencing meteoric rises in revenue and stock prices because the internet was taking off all over the world. It seemed that this new avenue of commerce was as close to a “can’t lose” scenario when it came to investment. Back then, companies were funded on the idea that “growth of profits” would rule the day in this new economy.
Well, I’m here to tell you, I see another bubble coming and this one is in the Ed Tech market. I don’t have any hard evidence to support this theory other than my own experiences in the last 2+ years. There’s a lot of money in the field, as Bill Gates spoke of during his SXSWedu keynote, so everyone is trying to rush to market in order to capitalize. However, some signs are pretty glaring that this market place is about to implode. Let’s look at three examples of Ed Tech fields to see if these trends mirror those of the late 90′s.
What was a blundering area of the tech market over the 90′s and first decade of the 2000′s has blown up all around us in education. Much of the reason for this can be singularly pointed to Apple’s launch of the iPad in 2010. For the first time, a consumer-centric device was useful enough and cost-effective for educational circles. Back then, there were really only a couple of choices on the market other than Apple’s iPad. The HP Touchpad with WebOS caught fire before quickly burning out in late 2011 and RIMs Playbook followed a similar trajectory and as of this year no longer exists. Little did we know this would just be the beginning.
Once the Android and Windows 8 operating systems caught hold, a whole new market of tablets hit the market place with furious demand. Nook, Kindle Fire, Samsung’s Galaxy, Microsoft Surface, Asus Transformer, and Google’s Nexus tablets now all hold some share of the consumer market but little break in educational circles to the iPad.
Enter the new world of the “educational tablet” with the LearnPad and Fox NewsCorp’s Amplify. These, and their consumer counterparts have all hit the market in the last 6-9 months and continue to increase at an exponential pace. Where the consumer models have some staying power over the long haul, the fickle purchasing of K-12 educational systems spells some rough roads ahead for those in this new educational tablet space.
The biggest reason? If we are focusing on authentic learning and digital wellness with our kids in the every day world, will that be able to happen on a tablet built to just be used K-12? Sure, tech directors get more control of the device and teachers can control the screens and learning from their desks, but isn’t that just a digital extension of the militarized structure of teaching we’ve had for hundreds of years? In the words of 2013 TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra, “We need schools…not factories”
Back in the early 2000′s when I was teaching first grade, my software choices were pretty simple. I could go with a read and repeat type of game like Reader Rabbit or focus on creation using a tool like Clarisworks. In order to get some highfalutin software like Adobe Photoshop, it would take several committees, an act of congress and the blessing of the Pope to purchase it and add it to my 3 computers in my class. This process usually took about 2-3 years and tech departments banked on teachers becoming frustrated and giving up or the software becoming obsolete before it was even installed.
Welcome to the wild west of apps in 2013. All the sudden, having 10 CD’s or 30 floppy disks aren’t required to install software. In fact, most software isn’t even loaded at all, it exists on the web. Apps aren’t seen as software, but they are in essence. Of course, with apps, it only requires a quick couple of taps and BLAM!! Instant installation and gratification. This consumerization of IT has a lot of benefits to personalized and customized learning, but there is a downside. When are these apps and web tools being vetting for educational value? Who is making the district purchasing decision now?
It seems that in the last year especially, app and web-based tools are praying on the “first one is free” approach to break into school districts. I like the idea of organically grown tools being brought up by the end-users, but wonder if there isn’t some sort of legal line that’s being crossed in all of this. I mean, we had 80 teachers using Edmodo with their Eanes email address when Edmodo finally called me to say “Hey, we noticed a lot of your teachers using our product, want to have your own domain with us?” While Edmodo is a great (and free) service, many other companies are following that lead and giving away “30-seat classroom licenses” for free in the hopes that enough users getting hooked will over-power the purchasers.
With over a million mobile apps on the market, how can our teachers hope to sort through all of that to find relevant, useful educational tools? Add in the new tablets hitting the market, along with the expansion of Google Apps for Education, and the market is ripe to burst.
Learning Management Systems
The race to build the perfect LMS has almost become so flooded its hard to make sense of it all. This market place was dominated by two choices about 5 years ago: the paid route of Blackboard or the free route of Moodle. While Blackboard was still focused on higher ed, it was the first to really jump in with both feet in the K-12 market. However,unlike the tablet market, just because it was in there first, doesn’t mean it will win out.
While there it’s hard to determine how many K-12-centric LMS companies are out there now. Findings from this June 2012 Education Week study show that there 163 commercial educational LMSs and 66 Open source LMS platforms. Those numbers alone are staggering, but when coupled with the fact that I have personally seen at least 6 start-up LMS-based companies since then, tells me this market is over-flooded.
This level of healthy competition can spawn some amazing advances in a fairly dull field, but there is a lot of risk for the administrator taking a gamble on a company that might not be around in a couple of years. I think a company that is device-agnostic, web-able, and inexpensive on a per-user basis has a firm ground to stand on in K-12 space. But in terms of staying power, it has to be transformative for teaching and learning, not just digital extensions of the classroom.
What does all this mean for us in the Ed Tech field? It’s obvious the iron is hot. As Gates said in his keynote, there is upwards of $9 Billion dollars available in this market place so someone is going to grab a large slice of that pie. The question for the users and purchasers of these devices and software packages is, will it have any level of sustainability? Does that even matter any more? Maybe instead of looking for stable-long term solutions, we need to start being more flexible and able to pivot when the situation calls for it.
Then again, we are in education and the reality is this growth is exciting but while the Ed Tech marketplace is exploding, we need to take the focus off the “what” and focus more on the “why” when it comes to anything we do. That’s the key to surviving any future bubble that might be coming our way.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some .cwk files that need converting…
While I won’t publish something every day, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect on how day one of my challenge of no email went.
I felt tremendous pressure during the first few hours to have all my variety of methods of communication open. That means Skype, Twitter, Edmodo, LinkedIn, etc. were all open up on my screen. It was pretty overwhelming. By the end of the day I had worked out somewhat of a must-have list of applications running while I sat at my desk so that I actually could spend some time working on meaningful projects instead of darting back and forth between tabs. I’ll go one more day that way, but it’s obvious to me there are some clear favorites when it comes to communication already.
Day 1 Data -
With a Google Spreadsheet open on my screen, I tallied all the interactions I was having via non-email ways. I had a total of 83 non-email interactions as of 8:00pm on day 1. I also have 111 unread emails sitting in my queue. I’m curious how much this will increase or decrease as the days go by.
Out of all the interactions, face-to-face was first with 20 total interactions. Of the face-to-face interactions, I tried to determine which were had because I couldn’t use email. Out of those 20, over half were had because I wasn’t able to be on email. In one situation, I saw our Transportation Director and had remembered I was going to email him about the possibility of WiFi on our buses. However, knowing I couldn’t do that, I tracked him down the hallway and ended up having a nice chat about a great many other things and ideas that wouldn’t have happened over an email exchange.
Twitter was the second biggest form of interactions with 17. I counted any reply or response as an interaction, not just me randomly posting how the day was going. I also counted all direct messages toward that total. All in all, this will be one tool that will remain open throughout the day and checked on my phone as I’m out and about.
Day 1 Surprises -
On the technical side, I was surprised by the lack of Facebook (5) and Edmodo (0) interactions. I think that Dispatch.io (13) is an early favorite for an “email-like” replacement. I also had the most chat conversations (6 different people) than I had ever had in one day.
On a personal side, I was surprised by how many people have been supportive of this endeavor. While I notice some saying it with a smirk or a sarcastic tweet, I truly feel like people are behind me on this. The flip side of that is the couple of people that were not supportive, and in fact, somewhat upset by the fact that this is happening.
Day 1 Challenges -
I mentioned logistics of having all these forms of communication open as a challenge, but surprisingly for me, the biggest challenge is emotional. I am a social creature that loves to communicate with everyone all the time. At one point today I felt like a weight had been lifted, but only because someone cut off my right arm. Most of the morning I sat with a pit in my stomach, worrying that the world had stopped because I hadn’t check my email. That was exasperated by those that were questioning this whole experiment. I’ve got to overcome that feeling.
Early Side benefits -
I can tell already the side benefits of this are that I will be having a lot more actual conversations with people. I had 6 phone calls on top of my face to face interactions and even got to Skype with the lovely and talented Amber Teamann (@8amber8) about a project she’s working on. Rather than sit and “sort through email” this afternoon, I walked down to the elementary near my office and visited with some teachers participating in a BrainPop pilot. I can honestly say, that would have been something I passively avoided because of “work” I had to do (i.e. email).
I’m trying to keep a log on my #EmailLess page of this blog as well as Storifying the #emaillesslent hashtag. Think I might change that to #NoEmail4Lent (thanks @classroom_tech!).
1 Day down….39 to go….
After last year’s successful iPadpalooza, we learned a few things. One is, never plan a conference or event like that in less than two months. It was successful, but only because I had people like Carolyn Foote (@technolibrary) to help out when I was drowning in details. What started out as an idea and a website in January had turned into a major head-ache and full-time job by April.
I loved the event, but I had little left in the tank when it was over and was determined not to make the next year’s event anywhere near as stressful on myself or my team. You should enjoy these opportunities and cherish them when they happen but I could barely remember the actual day. How often do you get to create and take part in a major movement like this? You should come out feeling stronger, not exhausted. So, after learning lessons in little failures last year (a common theme of mine), I cleaned up my act and got started early. Here are some tips of things I’ve already done this year that will make iPadpalooza 2013 even more successful:
1. Delegate – As a man, I suffer from CAFD Syndrome (Can’t Ask For Directions). As someone in a leadership role, I suffer from a bloated ego (I am kind of a big deal) and think I can do everything myself. Combine those two traits and it’s a recipe for disaster and inefficiency. To make amends, this year I started “sub-committees” for iPadpalooza. While I still serve on pretty much all of the sub-committees, it’s been great to have someone else drive and organize a particular part of the event. Beside having help with minor details, it keeps you sane.
2. Give your self plenty of time - As I stated earlier, throwing everything together in two months was not ideal. This year we started planning in December (iPadpalooza is in June) and formed sub-committees before the winter break to start planning and organizing various parts of the event. While I’m sure crunch time will still happen in May, taking care of things like presenters, sponsors, registration, food, t-shirts, etc all before hand will not make it seem like a head-ache.
3. Invest in talent - You need a headliner to sell tickets but you also need familiar faces to drive interest. Last year we had about 80 people registered before I announced Tony Vincent as the keynote speaker. Within a week we had doubled registration and in three weeks we were sold out. Part of this was word of mouth, but a big part of it was promo-ing the heck out of who was going to be there presenting. Since iPadpalooza started as an idea for Eanes teachers, we made sure to have a couple of them listed on the official site as featured speakers. Something we liked doing so much, that these year, they will have their own feature section.
4. Do something different - In a world full of no original ideas this is hard. For me, I wanted this event to not be just another conference. Being located in Austin, Texas, it was required that we have live music, BBQ and t-shirts. We really wanted people to feel like it was a festival, much like ACL or SXSW here in Austin. This doesn’t happen overnight but there are little things you can do to make your event unique and make others feel special. This year, we are upping the ante. We are bringing in food trailers from around Austin and bringing in even more live music. (including a potential headliner band to close the show!) Whenever possible, capture some uniqueness of your community and let that “flavor” be a living part of your event.
5. Make it exclusive and buzz-worthy - Social media is great for driving buzz, but how do you do that when only 5 people follow your event’s twitter handle? Word of mouth is important, but only works if you have something to actually talk about. (see point #3) Reach out to contacts in other area districts and offer them access to the event for a discount if they bring a group. Put a cap on registration too. If 15 thousand people can come, they won’t. However, if only 500 can come, 1000 will want to get in. Once you have a core group of attendees, they will spread the buzz and share the love for you, but just know that takes time and individual communication, no sending out an email blast to all your contacts.
6. The price is right - If you make an event free or cheap, people won’t expect much which can work in your favor. The downside of that is you limit what you can do in some cases and who you can bring in. The flip-side of that is that if it’s too expensive, no one will be able to afford to come. Consider offering the first year of an event for cheaper than an average mini-Con. The average price of many 2-day mini-Conferences in the U.S. is around $250. If you take that as your benchmark, make it half that to start and build the budget and buzz for the next year when it’s a huge hit!
7. Details, details, details - I can’t mention it enough but the details will DROWN you and your team if you don’t stay on top of them. Who is in charge of designing and ordering the shirt? Who will reach out to vendors? What’s the cost and deadline of registration? Who will be speaking at the event and how do we come up with a schedule? These are all questions I fielded with about a month to go last year. This year, details have been delegated and are in motion. We have some deadlines set for certain things (food trailers contacted, t-shirts ordered, etc) that way it’ll go smoother closer to the event. The sooner you can get to these, the better your life will be on event day.
8. Volunteers are invaluable - The bigger the event, the more people you will need to help out. Again, thanks to Carolyn here. She took charge of this for me and really thoughtfully designed where volunteers should be placed throughout the day and what shifts they would run. Basic rule of thumb; for every 25 people, you’ll want a volunteer. You can try to do it with less, but in our case that meant 20 volunteers. They ran registration, gave out directions, manned the information booth and helped monitor room limits.
9. Know your venue backwards and forwards - If you are hosting a mini-Con offsite, tour the event location regularly. You’ll want every detail taken care of BEFORE you arrive at the crack of dawn on the day of the event. Parking, WiFi signage, booth set-ups, etc. - all should be set-up and tested the day before. Consider getting some walkie-talkies for the event day so that your team can communicate quickly when issues arise (and they will). We ran out of toilet paper in the women’s restroom by lunch time. Talk about a paperless conference! (rimshot…thank you, I’ll be here all week!)
10. Enjoy it - A midst all the chaos of the actual event, make a point of taking time with your team to soak it all in. Capture the moment in video or pictures to review later when it’s all over. This will feel very much like a reception on your wedding day. You’ll sort of remember showing up, seeing people, and watching stuff happen, but it will go by in a blur. Take 5 minutes to sit, breathe, and take in what you’ve just accomplished. You deserve it!
People always try to be prognosticators at this time of year. Resolutions, predictions, and usually at least one or two references to the end of the world will be spewn across the internet in the next several days. So I decided to attempt my own top ten prediction list, only these are predictions I’m pretty sure won’t happen. Besides, I think I have a better chance of success when I go with failures, so here goes:
Top 10 Ed Tech Predictions Sure to Go Wrong in 2013:
1. The “21st Century Skills” will be renamed something more appropriate and clever -
We’ve all fallen in and out of love with this phrase in the Tech world. ”Digital living” or “soft skills for the global marketplace” have been bantered about lately as alternatives, but I haven’t really heard a good phrase to replace this soon to be 13-year old phrase. In technology years, that’s like a century old. If it hasn’t happened in the first 12 years of the 21st century, I doubt it will in the next year, but here’s my attempt: We should call them “the Curious Core” and do away with those 4 subject areas of the 1950′s we clutch on to so tightly.
2. The Flipped Classroom will become commonplace -
When done right, the idea behind flipped instruction (homework at school, lecture at home) is a valuable tool. Although, it can also be just additional busy work or as Gary Stager puts it: “The flipped classroom outsources our inability to edit an obese curriculum to children who must pick up the slack in their “spare” time. If this prediction comes true I pray it’s not at the cost of kids having to double their school day, but my money is we are still a couple years away before this becomes “commonplace”.
3. The PC will make a comeback!
Just wanting to make sure you are paying attention. There will still be a bunch of PCs out there, especially in education where they can die a slower death. The reality is, there is a use for both PCs and mobile devices in the new educational landscape. That said, PC’s will continue a downward sales trend.
4. A Non-Apple tablet will rule them all -
Apple’s iPad is likely safe for another year, but the not-so-impressive price point of the iPad Mini and the closing of the gap by Samsung, Kindle, Asus and now the Windows 8 phenomenon will mean Apple will have to continue to up it’s game to keep the wide lead it has in the tablet markets. And I haven’t even mentioned the biggest Apple competitor out there….Google.
5. More districts will realize there needs to be more instructional technology support staff -
In 2013 terms like BYOT, 1:1, Flipping, MOOCs and “insert tech term here” will all be parts of classrooms in districts across the land. With all these great technology gifts comes a tail and it’s called training and support. Unfortunately, I don’t think this prediction comes true to the determent of all of us trying to truly make technology integrated and invisible. I’m fortunate to have my team of #iVengers, but a district real close to me decided to go in the opposite direction. In 2011, this unnamed, large, urban, central Texas district purchased 20,000 netbooks while simultaneously firing or “re-structuring” their entire Instructional Technology Department. Now, those netbooks sadly sit in closets waiting to be loved.
6. Someone will finally name their child “#” -
We have a bunch of crazy names out there already, why not #? The problem is people older than 40 will call him “Pound Sign” and people younger than 40 will call him “Hash Tag” causing all sorts of character confusion later in life for this kid. No truth to the rumor that our third (due Feb. 26) will be called “@ Hooker”.
7. We will finally break away from accountability ratings based on high-stakes assessment
There’s a better shot of JL0 and Ben Affleck getting back together than this happening. I do think there is a ground-swell movement sweeping across the country (and in Texas for sure) to do away with a lot of this. I think we are still somewhat addicted as an educational institution to the perversion of high stakes testing. Other options could be accreditation and local accountability systems tied into evidence-based learning and national assessments. I just got way too serious there, who are we kidding? We all know what a smash hit Gigli was, right?
8. There will be a record turnout (and heat) for ISTE in San Antonio in June
The ComicCon of the the Ed Tech world comes back to Texas this year. With budget cuts (see number 5) and Texas’ non-Common Core values along with record hot temperatures, the turn out for this event is likely to be down from San Diego the year before. I predict convention goers looking to make more of a splash in the Texas area will instead opt to attend the cultural event known as “iPadpalooza” held in Austin the week before. At least there will be live music and food trailers there!
9. Internet Memes will become the hieroglyphics of our culture
As absurd as it sounds, this one is the one item on my list likely to come true. I think I’ve seen these quirky photo-phrases double on my Facebook and Twitter feeds every day since mid-March. What started as a bunch of “I Can Has Cheezburger?” cats will eventually evolve into an actual university-level course I predict called “American Meme: A picture is worth just a few clever words”.
10. My “Giving up email for Lent” experiment will be an epic success -
This experiment is way ahead of it’s time. In fact, maybe too much ahead of it’s time. I’m going to attempt to give up email for Lent on February 13th, 2013. I’m going to have an auto “In the Office” response that tells people the other 15 ways in which they can get in touch with me. The premise is simple, the next generation of kids barely use email. While it may never go away, (hey, we still have snail mail) I do feel it’s time we start examining how it’s used and the wide-variety of ways we now have available to us for communication. My wife and several co-workers have told me this could be the end of me, but I figure between the religious reasons and the fact that it begins on the 13th of ’13, I should be safe. Right? Stay tuned….
So there you go. I hope you enjoy and please if you know a professor who could teach the Meme class or think of a better phrase for 21st century skills please comment below or just add to the list! Happy New Year!
At the end of last school year I reflected on the 10 things NOT to do in an iPad 1:1 program. I was blown away with the amount of responses and views the post got from all over the world. It seems that it was at the right time, and right moment for districts out there planning on entering the Fall with a new 1:1 implementation. That said, it’s almost too late by that point to make real swift changes to your implementation.
I felt assured we had ferreted out all the little details that make things go astray during this process and hoped by providing a list of the 10 things, other districts could learn from our mistakes. Since that article, we have now collected the student iPads, re-distributed them, rented them out over the summer, distributed them to the rest of the high school, all the 8th graders, and now 2 grade levels at each elementary. Needless to say, we’ve learned a WHOLE lot more about both what to do and what NOT to do. Don’t get me wrong, the level of personal learning and shift in instructional focus, while slow at times, has been breath-taking to behold. I have no doubt in my mind that shift wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t take the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach to putting these out there. That said, here are 10 MORE things I wouldn’t do again if we had to do it all over:
1. Do NOT pick them all up on one day -
Talk about a nightmare scenario. Imagine trying to collect and assess 1800 iPads from high school students in just one day with limited staff? Talks with the high school administration and the technology department determined that this would be the way to go, and it didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time. Knock the whole thing out in one day and rip off the bandaid. The only problem was, this was happening a few days before final exams and kids weren’t exactly thrilled to give them up. We actually started our rental program (“rent” your iPad over the summer for $30) because of the feedback from staff and students. I was lucky enough to be in one of the rooms collecting the iPads. We had a gallon zip-lock bag where they would write their name and iPad number and then put their charger, case and iPad in there. Not only did we end up with about 4 or 5 missing chargers per class period, we had to assess each iPad in the class during a 52-minute class period. Talk about stressful! This year we are planning to work with students well in advance and over several days as well as discussing the possibility of letting all high school kids take them home over the summer.
2. Do NOT try and build the “Charge/Sync Stations” by yourself at the beginning of the year
For the elementary classrooms, we knew 1:1 would look different. They wouldn’t be going home with students and they wouldn’t need to be stored in those $2700 Bretford carts since they were going to be stationary. We decided to build our own “Charge/Sync Stations” modeled after those wood letter-sorters we used to have at elementary school. Build the shelving, attach a 32-port Charge/Sync device on top (we used this one), attach it to a wall and voila! Done. Only problem was, there were 55 of these we had to build, and it was the beginning of the year. In retrospect, it would have been better to outsource this to parents, volunteers, hourly workers, rather than tie up our tech department’s time at a crucial point in the year.
3. Do NOT fall in love with a certain app too quickly
We’ve all had an app so cool, so inspiring, we just had to share with everyone else how great it is. As with anything in the tech world, change happens quickly. With apps, it is even faster. Here’s an example: We were trying to select a comic strip app to put on our elementary iPads back in July. We had a pretty good process for rating apps, but the only problem was, the apps selected in July weren’t installed until the end of October. In the course of that time we discovered Strip Designer and decided it was superior to the other, more expensive app that we had purchased back in July. This will happen from time to time, so I encourage everyone to try out apps in small doses before buying 2000 of them.
4. Do NOT forget to communicate with everyone ALL the time.
While it’s certainly possible to over-communicate, we are much more guilty in education and administration of under-communicating. Collection day for the iPads? Oh yeah, we sent out an email a couple weeks ago about that. Restrictions on the student iPads? We put that info on our single website for everything iPad. No matter what you are doing, 1:1 or otherwise, be prepared to communicate in multiple mediums with multiple distributions and repetitions. Spreading the word will help decrease confusion and frustration and increase trust and clarity.
5. Do NOT be surprised by parent concerns
One day I will write a book about both parent concerns I’ve heard over the years when it relates to technology and interesting ways in which teachers have broken their iPads. When you start a 1:1 program where students take the device home, realize that there is a real sentiment that the school is “invading” the parents’ home. While the intended purpose is to extend learning to the home environment, it adds a new dynamic to parenting and home life. ”I have to use my iPad for my homework” can quickly turn into a 4-hour Minecraft session when the mom and dad aren’t monitoring. Think of the shift (in sound mostly) when a student brings home a musical instrument to practice. This is like that only it doesn’t make a lot of sound and can be highly distracting if proper frameworks and parenting techniques are employed. No matter how ludicrous the stories are, they are real and it should be our role to educate and listen to all, including parents.
6. Do NOT take all other technology away for months in advance
Getting rid of the old to replace with the new is a tried and true method every technology department spends the summer doing. However, I would never recommend taking the old (desktops in the backs of classrooms) and then waiting a few months before you put in the new (1:1 iPads in our case). While it will increase appreciation for technology, it’s not necessary and just adds stress to the beginning of the year. You want them thirsty, but not at the expense of crossing the desert to get water. Consider a transition time when both are in the classroom and remove the “old” only after the “new” are in.
7. Do NOT assume students know how to use them
Sure they can play Angry Birds and check Facebook, but can they create, edit and send a Pages doc? Kids can pick up technology must faster than adults, largely due to the programing in their brain, but don’t assume they know WHEN and WHY to use it even if they know the HOW.
8. Do NOT give elementary teachers iPads without some grade-level apps on them
Last year, we were able to give most teachers a few iPads or even a cart to share and experiment with on the elementary level. Teachers loved this extra access and converted many of the shared iPads into centers of sorts. Since these are meant to be personal devices, the idea of creating and keeping work on them wasn’t really emphasized in the shared environment. That all changes when they become 1:1. When we distributed the 1:1 iPads we put a “trunk image” of apps on there and encouraged teachers to suggest other apps to be installed that were more grade level specific. This meant that the 1:1 iPad classrooms only had 40 or so general apps on them and not the 120 or so shared apps they had in the previous model. Not having the grade-level apps they were familiar with to start made some teachers hesitate using the devices. I actually think it’s a good idea to start with just the core apps, but you need to make sure that is communicated to those teachers as well as expectations of early use in class. (See point #4)
9. Do NOT underestimate Middle School students ability to break your restrictions
With the high school, we left the iPad fairly open. We didn’t restrict app or music purchases with the thinking that teaching the students responsible use before they head off to college isn’t a bad idea. For middle school kids though, they aren’t quite ready to comprehend that level of power, so we placed some age appropriate restrictions on them. It took a couple of weeks, but soon a small group of students figured out how to remove them and the word spread. Luckily we have it written in their Responsible Use document that removing restrictions or jail-breaking is an offense and our MDM can detect who has done it. That said, it’s a good idea to make sure kids are aware of this when you distribute them, otherwise they will eventually be done in with pre-pubescent curiosity to try and break the system.
10. Do NOT short your count of iPads on distribution day
I had to put this last one on here, even though it’s pretty embarrassing. On the second of our high school distribution days we had pretty much accounted for everything, or so we thought. We changed the way distribution took place, centralizing it, rather than going room to room which was a great time-saver. However, in the course of handing kids back their iPad from the year before, rental iPads, or new iPads, our student count got lost in the shuffle. An order was placed (not naming names here) for what was thought to be the right amount, but in the end, it was about 200 short. As incredibly embarrassing as this is to share, it shows you that every minor detail can become major if not accounted for. I captured this video of our assistant principal telling the last class period of students that we had run out. Not a great moment, but on the bright side we had some put aside for elementary so with a little extra effort, we were able to repurpose those in a few days for those kids without. Lesson learned though, always triple-check your counts and allow for a few extras!
One of the benefits of this job are the people that I meet and the places that I go. I’ve met Sir Ken Robinson, Levar Burton, Karen Cator and even most recently, a contestant on the Amazing Race. I’ve visited many cities to attend various conferences and meet-ups, but when it comes to technology, there are only a few meccas. Last week I got to visit one of those meccas when I visited the Google campus in Mt. View, California.
The “Googleplex” is Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory for techies. It’s the ultimate geek playground and a fountain of both innovative ideas (Google Hangouts!) and some epic failures (Google Wave?). Despite the amazing array of technology tools, I was most interested in what kind of environment Google puts in place to create an atmosphere that truly fosters innovation. What I discovered was surprising in both complexity and simplicity.
Google prides itself in collaboration (obviously) and realized that while digital communication is important, one of the best ways to have spontaneous collaboration was by proximity. To prove their point, cubicles at Google are almost uncomfortably close to each other and very wide open. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available to employees (and visitors in my case) for free. When I asked Google’s”People Operations” department about this (what we would
call Human Resources), they discovered that prior to this change, employees would take lunch breaks with the same group or team and travel an 1 and 1/2 hours round trip to go into town for lunch. The cafeteria at Google has an almost biergarten-style with lots of long tables set up throughout. This set-up insists people from various groups sit together and hopefully strike up a conversation about a project that could revolutionize the industry, or just make life simple. They have several “micro-kitchens” set up throughout the complex to extend the old-school water cooler conversation to something a little more modern. This micro-kitchens have all the
amenities of home with an almost college dorm-like feel to them. Inside these you’ll find a large cappuccino machine, a cooler full of exotic waters and energy drinks, and even a ping pong and/or foosball table for a quick break. The basis of all of these Googly locations throughout the building is to force collaboration in a gentle way. I have to say, education could stand to learn a thing or two from their rationale too.
When asked about Google’s value-based hiring practices, they stated these key points:
- Hire innovative people (intrinsically motivated, more knowledgeable than you)
- Create and maintain a culture and workplace for innovation
- Design an effective organizational structure
- Reward employees
In short their philosophy is: “Hire them, grow them, keep them.” Google goes to great lengths to keep their employees happy and returning to work looking to inspire on a daily basis. One of their most powerful tools to open up lines of communication with their staff is their GoogleGeist survey which gathers ideas and areas they can improve. Through these surveys, they realized that daily chores like getting your hair cut or having your oil changed took away from your day at work. As a result, Google now has these services available for employees. And it doesn’t stop there. Some other employee-centric ideas are:
- You can bring your dog to work
- Onsite child care
- Laundry and dry-cleaning services
- Free food and drink (already mentioned)
- Nap pods (exactly what you think – little pods you can rest in)
- Massages & massage chairs
- Heated toilet seats
- Amazing work-out facilities
- An actual living garden you can tend
- Google bikes to take you from one end of the expansive complex to the other
These were only a few conveniences they gave to their employees after hearing their concerns. They also having weekly “TGIF” meetings in the cafeteria commons to celebrate new ideas and share top-secret projects with all staff. The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, often mingle at these events that may or may not involve alcoholic beverages (that would never fly in K-12).
One final innovative practice that I’ve heard about for years but wanted to see in action was Google’s “80/20″ Rule. The idea is that as long as you are taking care of your main job 80% of the time, you get 20% of your work week to spend on a passion project or idea for Google labs. In fact, I was surprised to discover that Gmail was born out of this “20% time”. I know in education, we are bound by time in the classroom, but how great would it be to spend at least one planning time a week working on something completely different than your field?
Needless to say, after hearing all of these ideas bombarded at me for several hours, I was ready to find a nap pod myself and download all that was discovered. We may have talked a little bit about technology, Google Apps for Education, and some other ways K-12 can get involved, but it was the idea that an atmosphere like this exists in the world that intrigued me the most. So much so, I returned ready to start implementing as many of these as I could in my district. While we all my be confined to the limitations of a public institution, the spirit of these concepts could easily transfer to some areas of our field. TGIF days, “forced” lunch areas to foster conversation, free food and coffee, and maybe even a comfortable coach in a dark room to catch a power nap could be easily added to our buildings.
And if all else fails, you could always just make a cappuccino and find someone to play ping pong with your dog. Who wouldn’t want to google that?
School has started for most of us around the country. Alarm clocks are set, bleary-eyed kids stumble their way to class, and iPads are being handed out. Just a typical day here at Eanes and many districts across the country. As the amount of 1:1 schools and districts continue to grow with many different devices, but specifically the Apple iPad, I thought it might be good to reflect and share the laundry list of items we’ve prepared in getting ready for our roll-outs. (all high school students, 8th graders, and 2 grade levels at the elementary schools are 1:1 this year) I’ve already written about 10 things NOT to do in a 1:1 here (the list is growing in year 2) but what about things we SHOULD do?
I’ve broken down the check list into three main categories -Administrative, Instructional, and Technical. There are parts of each that intermingle, but needed some general categories to go off and these are the main three components.
- Administrative Duties -
Communication - This covers everything from Board presentations to community dialogues to basic stuff like making the campus aware of when deployments are taking place. I can’t stress enough the amount of communication that will be needed in this entire process which is why it’s in all three components. Face-to-face communication is extremely important and should always be anchored in district goals and strategic plans. Remember, like Simon Sinek talked about on TED, it’s the “Why” that’s more important than the “What”.
Documentation - This almost goes hand in hand with communication, but these are areas where districts should seek some legal input. Handing out expensive devices, while the total cost may be less than a stack of textbooks and a TI-83 calculator, needs to be properly documented for each and every iPad that is distributed. Each student and parent should sign a Loan agreement and acknowledge the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). In our district, we updated our AUP and turned it into a Responsible Use Guideline for all technology, whether it be BYOT, iPads or computers.
Budget - These devices, their accessories and their apps cost money. There needs to be time spent on the cost to fulfill a vision of 1:1, which grade levels to start at, and ultimately, which funds will be used to sustain it once it’s off the ground. Depending on the model of deployment that is used, there will either be a lot of money put towards apps or personnel to manage the apps.
Process - Having a core group of educational leaders on campus and throughout the district is an important part of the buy-in phase. Part of the beauty of these devices is surrendering control in some senses to allow students to personalize based on educational needs. That means there needs to be a process for getting apps to them and an idea about what happens when they break their loan agreement or have discipline issues.
- Instructional Duties -
Staff training - It can’t be overstated enough that these devices need to be in the hands of teachers well before the student models arrive. They need to feel comfortable with them and start thinking of ideas to integrate them into their instruction. Summertime is an ideal time to get most of the level-based integration training, but consider putting training in an iTunesU course to revisit at a later date. Throughout the year, provide opportunities to share what they have learned with their peers in an informal setting (which we like to call “Appy Hours“). The collaboration doesn’t have to be face-to-face either, set up grade-level teams in Edmodo so they can share ideas across the district as a way to virtually meet.
Student training - Don’t assume that every kid knows how to use the iPad. These kids may be digital natives, but most of their exposure to these devices has been for entertainment more than for education. Lessons of digital citizenship and internet safety will need to be developed and taught, but also don’t overlook the fact that many students will need tutorials on how to set up their email, submit assignments, and backing up their data.
Tutorials - To assist with the high-level of training, both prior to deployment and during the year, instructional teams should build a database of resources and FAQs for all staff, students, and parents to access. This will help take care of some of the little questions that can really bog things down once distribution has happened.
Communication - Teachers are the conduit to the parent. They are the first person many parents see in the morning and last one they see in the afternoon. It’s important that they have a clear understanding of district mission and how apps/iPads are distributed. They’ll also want an avenue for sharing exciting projects as the year progresses. These projects help with both campus and district-based communication.
- Technical Duties -
Prior set-up - Prior to even thinking of deploying iPads, evaluation of wireless infrastructure is a must. Nothing can bring a network down quicker than the sudden introduction of a few thousand devices into the system. The devices will need to be prepped with some form of identification (we went with this laser etcher) and a profile if distributing these to younger students. Apple configuration can help with some of these profiles and detection of iPads lost on campus, but it’s advisable to have a form of mass deployment for apps pre-established. Entering these devices into a student information system helps with tracking all the pertinent data, so forms and fields will need to be established prior to distribution day to make that process run smoothly.
Communication - The common thread in all three components is also extremely important from the technology department. Any glitches, issues, budgetary discussions, and processes for repair will need to be constantly communicated to campus staff and leadership. The actual process of distribution and pick-up can be pretty cumbersome as well. This is where a type-A person comes in handy for organizing these events in making them as trouble-free and emotional-less as possible.
Repair - The first few weeks after deployment be prepared for any and all issues. Technology departments would do right in finishing any other campus projects prior to these distribution days as the amount of issues will spike immediately following deployment. Most of these are workable with proper training and tutorials in conjunction with the instructional department, but it doesn’t stop little Johnny from coming to the help desk to ask about a certain app. Ideally, there would be a service desk (ours is called the Juice Bar) that is centrally located and manned during high-density times for student off-periods (lunch, before and after school, etc.). The final piece of the puzzle is having a plan for processing insurance, getting spares from Apple, and having a quick way to assess and turn-around repairs so students are without this instructional tool.
There you have in a nutshell. I tried to make most of this list as district agnostic as possible, but some of the “Eanes way” snuck in there. I’m also attaching this handy checklist that details these above duties in greater detail for you to use or adapt. Best of luck in all your iPad launches and I hope you have a successful program putting this technology in the hands of kids.
It’s July and we are learning.
A month usually reserved for family trips and “honey-do” lists has brought something different for our district: professional development. The fact that we are doing professional development in July, while unique to us, isn’t a new concept in educational training. However, what makes this professional development different is that rather than having the usual amount of no-shows or malcontents, we are over-capacity with enthusiasm. And more want to come. Did I mention this is a 3-day training?
What makes teachers want to take a break from a beach trips or finally tiling that living room floor? It’s not the air conditioning (although for one attendee getting duct work done at her house it may be). It’s not getting up before 7 in the morning and driving to a crammed room with 30 other people. Turns out, it’s something much more appealing than that: it’s fulfilling their hierarchy of needs when it comes to learning.
For the second time this summer myself and fellow trainer Tim Yenca have embarked teachers on a 3-day learning expedition called the “Eanes Apple Core Academy”. Here’s the crazy part about all of this, the teachers actually had to apply to get in. That’s right. This isn’t just your average “show up for a few hours and write on chart paper”-type training event. ”Apple Cores” as we call them, are put through an intense experience of collaboration, sharing, and even….*gasp*…failing. So how do we do this? How do you create an “if you build it, they will come” type training event? Here’s five things we’re doing to change the way PD is presented in our district:
Yes, at the academy we celebrate failure so much that when it happens everyone cheers “Woooo!!” and breaks into an almost freakish “Carly Rae Jepson” style dance. In “standard” professional development setting we’re always trying to reach that highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We want teachers self-actualizing before we even give them a chance to earn esteem, belonging or even safety. Without a comfortable learning environment, where risk-taking is encouraged and failure is cheered, learners will never even have a chance to reach that highest level. I love Teddy Roosevelt’s quote that “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
2. Make it exclusive
When trying to buy tickets to the hottest show coming to town, why is it that people will hit refresh on their computer up to the second for when their tickets go on sale? In PD, often times it’s an after-thought. ”Oh it’s almost summer, guess I should sign up for something that I might go to just in case.” This is not the attitude of a poor teacher, it’s just the standard for how PD is presented to staff. Anyone can sign up, there are some mild slaps on the wrist for not showing up, but generally people go to training because of professional courtesy, some interest, or to fulfill some sort of appraisal system. For our academy, teachers had to complete an online application. (Here’s the actual one) Rather than just putting out an application and talking about the offering, we told them that we were limited in the number of spots we could take on. This idea of an “exclusive” training environment generated it’s fair share of appeal, but be careful when using this idea. Letting only certain people in, means that others are left out. That’s not an experience that teachers are used to with training and I did encounter some mild grumbling after we selected our attendees.
This one takes the most amount of work, but has some of the biggest pay-off. Our one-day event iPadpalooza tabbed as “1 Day of Peace & iPads”, was originally designed to be an event put on completely for our own staff. However, when region- and state-wide interest began to increase, our own staff’s interest increased. We had 200 of our own staff attend and 300 attendees from other districts (71 districts in all attended). I don’t think you have to start with something this big, but with just a little bit of time & effort, you could create your own “mini-con” type of event. In our case, it started with just a website and some rogue advertising (created by students) and turned into a “cultural phenomenon”. Free t-shirts probably didn’t hurt either.
4. Treat them like professionals
This one is the easiest to do, but actually might take a little bit of budget, which we are all short of. Whenever possible, provide food. It may not seem like much, but bringing some coffee in the morning or providing some cookies in the afternoon can not only win teachers over to what you training them on, it fulfills Maslow’s lowest hierarchy of needs – physiological. In addition to that, give teachers a chance to actually work and play together. The human brain can only take in so much content and hope to retain it. Plan for little breaks throughout the day that awaken the mind. One of my favorite things to do during a technology-based training is to have little non-tech improv sessions. This gets people moving, laughing and ready to get back to intense learning.
5. Let them act like kids again
MIT is re-known for it’s media lab. It’s motto is “Treat every day like it’s kindergarten” and it’s occupants are lifelong kindergartners. There’s something to be said about actually putting the teachers in the role of the kids in the classroom. During our 3-day academy we’ve heard things like “overwhelmed, but thirsty for more” and this gem “My brain is only SLIGHTLY oozing out of my ears today. I understand how my students feel at times! What an amazing day of fun and learning!” I’m not sure you’ve heard that kind of feedback during an 8-hour state assessment overview training, even though my head slightly oozes after those trainings to be fair.
None of these ideas are really all that new or incredible. But when you generate buzz and create this kind professional learning environment, the people attending the training walk in the door with an open mindset and an attitude that’s ready to learn. Ready to actually fulfill that higher level of learning needs. Learning within that type of environment can be infectious. So much so that it spreads to other staff and grows like in a culture. This kind of learning is one disease I hope we all catch and spread in the future.
An Attendee Recap of the ISTE 2012 Conference
June 24-27 – San Diego, California
Any conference that has Sir Ken Robinson open as a keynote, has a great chance to be a winner. I wrote a few months ago about Sir Ken serving as keynote at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and how while the rest of the conference lacked the muster, he more than made up for it. With that in mind, I was excited to see Sir Ken take the stage, albeit for only 45 minutes or so at ISTE this week. However, I was disappointed when it slowly evolved from his elegance and wit to a semi-sales pitch. We are all aware of the importance of vendors, but when you have the opportunity to start a conference of this magnitude off with a bang and you elect to let vendors speak to open, it sets the wrong tone.
Unlike NASSP, this conference was not as dependent on a strong Keynote to promote it’s value as an international event. This was mostly due to the level of top-level talent that attends and speaks at ISTE. Combine that with the level of pertinent, up-to-date topics and one quickly realizes that the mix of talent and relevance can make this a one-of-a-kind event.
Assuming you choose the right path.
This was my 4th ISTE conference and I’ve gone from a wide-eyed computer teacher to a seasoned administrator in that time, but I still hold a level of curiosity to learn from great minds in the field. That said, I focused my attention on who was presenting more than what sessions were being presented.
Day 1 Session Recaps -
Tony Vincent’s “Mobilize for Personal Productivity” session was a great way to start of the conference sessions. Tony is always an engaging and fun presenter, not afraid to poke fun at himself. In this session he went over a variety of ways to clean up your digital and personal lives, from zeroing your inbox to organizing your laundry. He had a few quotes from David Allen, one of which really rings true – “The mind is for creating tasks, not for holding them.” A very useful tool he showcased that I’ve started to us is the ifttt.com website. It uses a series of “If This Then That” scenarios to link up all of your social media accounts and save you time in your day.
I followed Tony’s session with “Becoming a Mobile Learner” by Travis Allen. Travis and his crew have been touring the country literally as a mobile conference on wheels. This bright college student started the iSchool Initiative when he was 17 in the hopes to get his own high school on board with allowing mobile devices and promoting digital learning. His main point was that the “industrial model” of education is the Titanic trying to set sail into the information age. Unfortunately, there is an iceberg of government bureaucracy that is in between us and where we need to go. One stat that stood out regarding mobile learning in higher education was that if a college student buys a tablet his first year of college, he’ll save an average of $3100 over the course of the four years due to paper savings, eBooks, calculators, etc.
Will Richardson’s “Eight Ways to Start Conversations around Change” was an interesting dialogue about how we initiate change on our campuses and how we sustain that change (although it was more like six ways). He and co-author Rob Mancabelli discussed some strategies for how to start change via “Tech Nights” with parents, book clubs set at parents’ homes and online posting and dialogue. When it comes to sustaining that change, we need to address the emotional side as well as the rational. We also have to pave the road so that people can see where they are going and have as smooth a travel as possible. While Will and Rob were good story tellers, I felt a lot of their information was already stated in some form or fashion and that they were mostly putting that together to present to us. Still, I walked away with a sense of gauging our own level of change at Eanes and realize we are past the initiating phase and now need to figure out how to sustain it.
I finished off the day with EduTecher founder Adam Bellow. His session was aptly titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future.” I met Adam at ISTE last year and had never seen him present, but I was absolutely floored by his presentation. He started off saying he would be presenting 400 slides in his hour with the room, and he wasn’t joking. While he bashed industrial-age teaching like other presenters, his speed and wit to which he made parallels were un-matched. He and I share a common agreement that we need to develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for every student, not just those with special needs. The other thing we hold in common is that kids need to be more than engaged, they need to be empowered. He literally put his money where his mouth is during this presentation too. When we entered the room, each attendee was given a QR code and a crisp dollar bill. During the presentation, we were directed to go to the QR code and vote (via SoapBox.com) on a charity to donate. He then gave us the option of walking out with the dollar, returning it, or returning it with more money. All money collected would be donated to those charities. It was a unique way to show how we all are socially-motivated in some nature and we also crave to control our path of learning. What a great way to end a great first day of sessions. It left me walking with a buzz of motivation to change the world that I hope would carry on through the rest of the conference.
I ended the first day on a wonderful harbor cruise hosted by Atomic Learning. You’ll notice pictures in this post from that trip out to the harbor and back. My mom actually came down from LA to watch the kids as this was also a family trip. The wife and I spent likely the longest amount of time together in a while without the kids, and although it was a work-related event, she and I enjoyed the time together. It made me realize with all this change and motivation in my work life, some things in life are too precious to overlook.