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!
Recently, Greg Garner (@classroom_tech) and I had an opportunity to meet with former Tech Director of Cupertino USD, Harvey Barnett. Doing a Google search of Harvey turns up little, until you include the word “apple”. It turns out, Harvey was acting Principal of Stevens Creek Elementary School, one of the first Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (or ACOT) back in the 1980s. What did ACOT do? It was one of the first longitudinal studies to focus on learning rather than technology. It’s premise was that through increased access to technology, learning, problem-solving skills, and knowledge to content increased. The basis of ACOT was a simple question:
What happens to students and teachers when they have access to technology whenever they need it?
Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? The proliferation of 1:1 programs across America are based on this similar question, while they may not state it so plainly. Mr. Barnett’s approach as building Principal and then later as Technology Director was the same: How do we learn with computers, not just from them? That’s a challenge we have been facing on a daily basis during our 1:1. I’ve written about SAMR and how substitution is the first level teachers begin at with 1:1 technology. Turns out, that phenomenon has been happening since 1985 as well during beginning of ACOT.
Education has embraced the “project-based” concept of teaching, but the research from ACOT would suggest rather than an “all or none” strategy, there should be a balance between instruction and construction. Mr. Barnett mentioned many challenges familiar to me during the beginning stages of this, including teachers opting out of using the technology or being hesitant to use it for fear of failure. His primary bit of advice for this challenge, was giving that hesitant teacher an opportunity to see it work. He stressed how important it was to have time and professional development, but that above all, he saw rapid transformation when teachers had opportunities to observe peers use the technology ubiquitously. That’s a challenge many of us face. How do we fund the time and training other than the summer and an occasional conference that’s primarily attend by the early adopters rather than the objectors?
One of the staples to getting those objectors on board is the theory in Geoffrey Moore’s book titled Crossing the Chasm. I’ve spoken about this idea before but never known the basis of the research until today. While his theory is based on technology adoption and success, Mr. Barnett nicely ties Moore’s concepts this to teacher professional growth. There are innovators, pragmatists, conservatives, and the skeptics. Once the innovators have convinced the pragmatists that the technology solves a problem for them, the conservatives are likely to follow.
Much like the SAMR model, Mr. Barnett recognized similar stages based on research by Ellen Mandinach that teachers will go through during a technology implementation. While these are from ACOT research from 1985-1995, it’s incredible how much of it rings true today.
Mandinach’s Stages of Technology Integration with Teachers
1. Survival Stage – All teachers, from visionaries to skeptics go through this stage. Teachers at this stage find real struggle against technology. They know it will take work, might not always work for them, and in some cases, might actually fail on them in front of their students and lead to subsequent embarrassment. You hear phrases like “I don’t have the time to work on this” crop up quite a bit during this stage, especially if other initiatives are taking place. The primary teaching method during this stage is strictly lecture-based instruction.
2. Mastery Stage - At this stage, teachers are more comfortable with the un-predictability of technology. Teachers begin to lecture less and guide student learning through a project-based approach more often. Teachers begin to see technology as a way to solve problems, not just a scheduled time in the lab.
3. Impact Stage - At this point the classroom is learner-centered with the teacher acting as a facilitator. Lessons will still address content standards, but the method of delivery is mostly project-based. Technology supports these standards and in fact, enhances it over the traditional textbook.
4. Innovation Stage - The holy grail of learning happens during this stage. Teachers see the students as both teachers and learners. Teachers develop lessons and project-based objectives with technology infused into instruction. Assessments, portfolios, projects, etc all involve student use of technology and access on a regular basis.
After looking at Mandinach’s stages, I realized that we are a far way off from innovation, but not as far off as one might think this early into a 1:1 implementation. Teachers are planning and meeting to discover ways to integrate technology in their classrooms. While still primarily teacher-led, the instruction has started to shift to the students. This type of urgency and shift didn’t happen with Interactive whiteboards, projectors or document cameras. It didn’t even really happen with computer labs. It’s happening now, because students have the tools and access all day. So how do we help get the teachers get from Survival to Innovation? Barnett presented these six ideas along with the four stages on this presentation from 2002:
1. Inspire and support leaders
2. Teacher-driven, bottom-up decision making
3. Incentives for risk-takers
4. Emphasize process over product (this is a biggie!)
5. Recognize the need for time.
6. Provide access to appropriate hardware and software.
While we spoke more about these items and many others during our hour-long visit with Mr. Barnett, it seems like many things have not changed from the ACOT days to the 1:1 Tablet revolution taking place today. The essential question remains the same: We can get kids to learn from computers, but now how do we get them to learn with them?More resources: ACOT2 – Apple’s update to the research
The power of technology in the hands of students can be both a terrifying and incredible thing to behold. Students previously left to daze in the back of the room or too shy to take part in a discussion can now be heard. Subjects that pique students’ interests are no longer road kill on the way to the land of high-stakes tests. Even the most boring of interactions has an up-tick of engagement when technology is involved.
I recently witnessed one of our 1:1 fourth grade classes engaging with those dreaded “Fractions worksheets”. I walked in and the class was silent, even in rapture if you will, with their fraction worksheets. I even heard one of the students proclaim, “This is fun!” This was not some sort of strange Twilight Zone episode, it was the teacher, Mr. Lofgren, making use of his newly delivered iPads to turn an everyday mundane task into one of excitement. Now, I agree, this is purely a substitutive task on Dr. Ruben Puentadura’s SAMR model, but the participation was incredible to behold. Every student wanted to share what they had learned, because, they were excited about learning.
While this was an example of iPads in the hands of kids early, and the nuance of the device still intact, I skipped across town to take part in an interview with a 3rd Grade 1:1 teacher, Ms. Wright, and the local news. Ms. Wright has had the iPads since last Spring and by her words they, “Completely transformed the way I teach and my motivation to teach and learn.” Surely, all the amazement and wonder at the hands of a magical device must have some downside? Well, it turns out, there is. Two weeks prior to my experiences at the local elementary campuses, I heard story after story from some concerned parents of our secondary students about distraction in the classroom. While there were only a few cases of this, I decided to dig a little deeper into why some teachers “just got it”, while other struggled with it.
During the course of my investigation, NPR posted this interview last week with some educational leaders all having various experiences with 1:1 tablets in their schools. During the course of the interview, a caller called in claiming this was “entirely appalled” at the direction schools were going in with technology. During the course of his rant, he made the claim that these devices “cover up bad teaching.” This is where I have to disagree. In fact, as discovered from the previously mentioned situations, 1:1 technology seems to amplify teaching ability.
Let’s take the first two examples, Mr. Lofgren and Ms. Wright. While both of these teachers were at different levels of having iPads in their classroom, their students still used them appropriately. In the case of Ms. Wright’s class, the technology had almost become invisible and just a tool students used to expand on their own learning. In the latter example, it turns out, a few teachers hadn’t really accounted for the idea that this access carries with it some level of expectation of use. It had actually amplified what had been a flawed system in classroom management. Unlike what the NPR caller stated, bad teaching is easier to cover up when the students are forced to turn off all technology, sit in rows, and quietly listen to lecture.
What can we learn from this? Those of us entering the world of 1:1 learning, must prepare for the messiness that comes with such implementation. Continual professional learning for your staff braving this frontier is a given if you want it to succeed. You must prepare that with the great advantages to learning gained, come some ugly truths that must also be faced at times. Don’t believe me? Ask a student in one of these environments. That is assuming of course, you can get their attention…
This blog is cross-posted here: EdReach.us
Here’s my livestream session with Stephanie Sandifer and Elaine Plybon on Professional Development revisited. Lots of good nuggets here:
It’s election day and the parking lot here at work is crowded. We are a polling location so I get to see all sorts of our districts’ constituents lining up to cast their ballots. In Texas, thanks to the joy that is an Electoral College, the opinion of most of those in the state will determine who we pick as a President. This can make voters feel both empowered (if their person is chosen) and frustrated (if they know their person won’t be). That’s why I propose a change…vote for yourself.
I know there are some rules that must follow – You have to be 35, a U.S. Citizen, and that’s about all I can remember from U.S. History. Aside from those minor caveats, think about it, what if we were ALL President of the United States? Besides being the world’s largest job share, we could each have an actual say in what decisions are being made. Sure cabinet meets would have to be held in the Grand Canyon, but with the internet the way it is, why couldn’t we just do a massive Google hangout to discuss matters?
With roughly 55% of our population above the age of 35, that would mean that 165 million of us would hold the office of President. Unfortunately, there are only 126 million seconds in the presidential 4-year term (4 Years x 365 + 1 (leap year) x 24 hours x 60 minutes x 60 seconds) so we would each only have less than a second in office. Let’s go ahead and assume that those 65 and older just want to retire and not deal with this mess which would reduce our number to 120 million.
Now let’s assume that we would also do a good job in the first four years and be re-elected for a 2nd term. That would give us approximately 252 million seconds of time as President. Out of the 120 million eligible Americans more than likely half wouldn’t be interested in holding that office, because it’s a lot of work, even if it only last for a few seconds. Many Americans would rather spend that time posting on Facebook, playing Words with Friends, or clipping their toenails. Then there are people too involved in work, making money, serving time in prison, serving time in college, or just generally apathetic to anything that happens in life. We could weed those folks out and get pare the number down to a doable 600,000 Presidents (roughly 1/200th of our eligible group). That would give each person 7 minutes as President of the free world.
What would you do if you were President for 7 minutes? Here’s my list:
In the first minute, I’d impose a dress code that everyone in the country must wear jeans and a t-shirt. And not one of those Ed Hardy T-shirts, that guys wear to feel tough. Talking a solid, loose-fitting T-shirt.
For the second and third minutes, I’d purpose a national holiday in honor of the donut.
I mean, why not?
In minute four, we’d hold a national “60-second sprint” to make up for the national donut holiday. Where ever you are in the country, you would be required to run at a dead heat for 60 seconds to somewhere. Can you imagine? People would have to stop their car, get out and run, run, run! If you can’t run due to age or disability, you could do it virtually.
Minutes 5 and 6 would be where I would actually try to do something important for the country like transform education from the antiquated system of standardized assessment to something that really supports, measures and motivates personalized learning. (this would take some pre-planning before my 7-minute term)
For the last minute of my presidency, I’d hold a giant block-party on the Las Vegas strip and play REM’s End of the World for all to hear.
I know some of my actions as President may seem trite, but really when it comes down to it, isn’t being President more of a figure-head position anyway? My 7-minutes will be known for making the country more aware of health, relaxed-fit clothing, and the joy of a good block-party. And if nothing else, the donut will have finally had it’s time in the sun as a national treasure.
Now get out and vote for yourself! Please comment on what you would do in your 7 minutes below:
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.
Those of you not lucky enough to visit the state of Texas or parts of the south, will have missed a trip to one of our proudest fast-food destinations. Whataburger started in Texas in the 1950′s and has gone through several transformations over the decades. What started as a basic A-framed orange and white-striped building that served a couple of different hamburgers has evolved as quickly as American ideas of customer service have changed. Their motto “Just like you like it” is more than just a motto, it’s their way of doing business.
Whataburger was one of the first fast-food restaurants to offer 24/7 dining service. They added a breakfast menu like many other fast-food chains. However, the fact that breakfast is served from 11pm to 11am make it unique. In 2009, it began a campaign to advertise the many variety of ways you could now order your Whataburger. According to Whataburger Inc, there are 36,864 different ways you can customize your selection.
Education could learn a lot from what this now 700+ food chain has done to be successful in a hostile market. Where the regular food chain was bound by time, much like we are between the hours of 8am-4pm everyday, it’s time we start operating like a 24/7 business. We continue to preach life-long learning, yet what we really are saying is, learning for 9 and 1/2 months, during the day, and then being judged by our own food critique (see High Stakes testing).
Some schools and universities have adapted to this 24/7 idea by offering asynchronous online learning. You can have your meal at any time, you just might not be able to sit in the restaurant while you are eating it.
Now let’s look at their extended breakfast policy. Some people don’t like to be told when they need to eat a particular meal, just like we don’t always learn best during the middle of the day. Education’s latest answer to this is the “flipped classroom” idea. If you don’t want to wait until the 9am class to digest your information, pull it up online at midnight and consume to your heart’s content.
The above trends are mirroring Whataburger’s ideas that the customer/student needs to have access to your product/learning whenever they want. It might not always be in the building or during 6th period, but students that want or crave to learn more, can have it.
Now let’s take a look at their latest promotional trend. 36,864 different ways to have your hamburger. Can you imagine education giving students that many choices? What level of personalizing and customizing would have to take place in order to make that happen while still giving the students a tasty product? While many educational institutions have started this evolution using technology to help (BYOT or 1:1 programs) there is still a long way to go to reach a level of “anyway you want it, however you want it” learning. The bad news is, some districts still fine success in churning out the In-n-Out burger way of doing things. We’ll make a tasty dish and give you 3 options on how you want it. While that success may work with the food inspectors (usually those with the name Pearson), they aren’t going to survive with customers. Even those schools with the In-n-Out approach have reluctantly started to realize that and now offer an “animal style” choice that’s not quite so advertised in it’s schools via distance learning.
So how do we offer 36,864 different ways for a student to learn? It’s going to take a lot more than some splashy technology and clever teaching tricks. We’re truly going to have to invest in each and every customer that comes through our doors and realize they all have different tastes and styles of learning.
And if that fails, maybe we could at least paint our roofs orange and white.