When I started this position in 2010, hiring new educational technologists followed the same lines as all other positions in the district. A group would get together, look at resumes, and basically determine which 4-6 candidates made the most sense on paper to come in and interview for the position. The interview was a standard 1-hour process made up of the typical questions like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “Tell us more about yourself.” While this process had been in place for years, it really didn’t shed much light on the ins and outs of the position itself nor did it give other candidates a chance to participate if they didn’t have what it takes on paper.
Something else I noticed in education (and somewhat in private business as well) is that it’s much easier to hire someone than it is to fire them. If hiring consists of a 1-hour interview and a couple of reference checks, firing takes months to years worth of documentation, discussions, mediations, and even at times, legal involvement. With that background, over the past few years, we’ve set out to make the hiring process much more robust. In December of 2011, I thought I had nailed it by adding a presentation component to the process.
Alas, it was just the beginning.
What follows is the now 9-part process we implement when it comes to hiring an Ed Tech at Eanes ISD. I’m sharing this because other districts may benefit from reviewing and updating their hiring practices and I would also love to learn from other districts that have a more rigorous or innovative process.
Round 1 – Application Score
Looking through the field of applicants, any that match the minimum criteria for the position as posted on the job description make it into this initial round. Putting all the applicant resumes and cover letters in a shared folder, my team reviews each and gives them a rating based on the campus that needs to be filled and how well their resume aligns.To keep consistent, each scoring section carries a 1 to 5 scale for interviewers to score the applicants.
Round 2 – Social Media Background Check
According to Career Builder, 43% of companies now add a social media background check as part of the hiring process. As our position involves sharing online as well as gathering content via virtual PLNs, I individually search each of the qualified candidates on social media. A candidate with no profile online can’t hurt them, but it also doesn’t help them. In some cases I’ve come across questionable material which has caused me to pass on a candidate and in other cases, I’ve seen some amazing digital profiles that could nudge the candidate into the next round if there is a tie or they are below the cut-off line. Based on profiles I either award a single point, a zero, or a negative point to the process. Taking the applicant score and social media background check bonus, we narrow the field down to 12-14 applicants which will then process to the next round.
Round 3 – Video Resume
Those 12-14 candidates that survive round one and the social media check are then asked to create a video resume. This is a 2-minute or less video that highlights the best of the candidate. We encourage candidates to be as creative and to not make the video Eanes specific (more on that later). Usually at this point, a few candidates drop out and some have even claimed they “don’t have time for this” which is somewhat telling. The candidates have 5 days to create their video and submit at which point I put each video into a form to be scored by the interview team. Here’s a mock version of the form (added some of my favorite video projects to protect the innocent). Following the scoring round, we reduce the field to either 4 or 8 candidates depending on the positions we need to fill. Those candidates are then invited to participate in “The Gauntlet”.
No, not that classic video game from the 1980’s, but it is somewhat equally challenging. In fact, at some point during the process I can almost hear the game narrator say, “Valkyrie, your life force is running out.” The Gauntlet all takes place on the same day. The idea is to give each applicant a snap-shot of a day in the life of an Ed Tech. It also optimizes the time of the interview committee. In the traditional interview method (1-hour Q&A with a candidate), reviewing 4 applicants would take 4 hours plus time in between each candidate as well as prep and debrief time. Looking at 4 candidates in this traditional format would generally take up to 6 hours. This process reduces the actual time with the candidates to 2.5 hours and gives us a much broader look at the skills and talents of each candidate. Here’s a matrix of what the day might look like for four applicants (A-D):
Rounds 4-7 – The Gauntlet Matrix
Each candidate participates in these 4 components. They are all done in a different order for each candidate but laid out as such that the interview portion doesn’t back up to the presentation portion, as those tend to involve the most stress. Each component takes 30 minutes or less.
Round 4 – One-on-One time
Each candidate gets an opportunity to ask a previous Ed Tech questions. In some cases, it could be an Ed Tech that was previously posted at the school hiring or one that has retired. Which this seems like a pretty easy step, you can tell a lot about a candidate based on the questions he/she asks. The Ed Tech being questioned returns at the end of the process to report out their view on each of the candidates based on the questions asked.
Round 5 – Interview
This is the most traditional component, but we tried to update some of the traditional questions to make it more modern. George Couros has a great post here that ties the 8 characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset (his book) to interview questions. To prepare the candidates, I email them the general topics around what questions are asked so they can have a story or two in mind. (i.e. Perseverance, handling failure, leadership, etc) Then, each person in the interview room is given a scoring form with each question asked. Here’s an example of what that form looks like.
Round 6 – Problem-Solving Room
Candidates are placed in a private office and asked to answer three different email scenarios on a Google doc (see example below). The scenarios involve an email from a parent, a teacher, and a principal that pose a problem or concern that needs to be addressed. The Google doc is viewable by the rest of the interview team which are then asked to score them (blindly) based on the candidate responses. (Mock example here) As a wild-card, during this process I walk in wearing a wig (yes…a wig) and different outfit. I’m playing the role of a teacher who’s iPad won’t work as well as someone who questions why we even have iPads in the classroom. As part of this role is constantly getting interrupted for just-in-time troubleshooting and problem-solving, the purpose of this wild-card isn’t to see how they fix the problem as much as how they deal with me. I then awarded a bonus point to the candidates with the best responses.
Round 7 – Mini-Presentation
Each applicant is asked to prepare a mini-presentation that lasts no longer than 20 minutes which builds in some time for set-up and Q&A afterwards. The audience is made up of administrators, Ed Techs, and staff from the campuses that are hiring. The candidates are encouraged to use this time to showcase their presentation/training style while also teaching the group an idea/topic/concept. Following each mini-presentation, the audience scores the candidate using a form like this one.
Following the jigsaw matrix of the 4 rounds above, the candidates are all invited into our main room to participate in the final collaboration challenge.
Round 8 – Collaboration Challenge
Each candidate sits with a team of 3 teachers to help solve a dilemma or disagreement. The teachers are asked to play three different roles: a teacher that is super excited to integrate technology, one that is not, and one that is in-between. They are then asked to choose one of two different blind scenarios and read them aloud. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, we observe how the candidates listen, ask questions, and help mediate the mock team meeting. Afterwards, each group assigns a collaboration score using a form like this one.
Following all the challenges, the entire group meets to debrief. We hear the strengths of each candidates as well as the areas which they would need support if hired. We don’t rank the applicants or ask for a ranking as the scores will bear that out. Even with the scoring system, it’s always good to hear from members of the interview crew. As this group is made up of teachers from hiring campuses, administrators and Ed Techs, they each provide a unique perspective on the candidates and how they can fit with the campus culture. I then ask them to submit their final thoughts on an open-ended form as sometimes, sharing in a group of 16-18 educators can be intimidating and I want to hear the thoughts of everyone on the committee.
Round 9 – Reference Checks
Pretty standard, but necessary. I use this time to ask not only the strengths, but also what supports the candidate might need going forward in our district.
While this is an exhaustive process, using technology helps us optimize time spent with the candidates as well as receive feedback from a wide variety of people. While this is the first year, we’ve implemented the “Gauntlet”, we have done the mock presentation, email scenarios and video resumes in the past. In looking at the blind scores and coupling that with the feedback from the group, EACH time the candidate with the highest overall score also gets the most positive feedback.
Communication is key for this to work. From the moment the applicant applies to the day I offer them the job, I’ve sent them an email with an updated timeline and instructions for each step along the process. I’m doing this not only to inform them, but to also see if they follow-up for questions or respond to let me know they received the instructions (testing their professionalism a bit). In many way, this process begins when that first email is sent.
For those candidates that don’t get hired, I try and give them feedback on things they could improve to earn the position in the future. In some cases, applicants return the following year and get hired based on this feedback and campus match. In other cases, I’ve had candidates tell me they’ve received offers in other districts based on their video resume (which is why I ask them to not make it “Eanes specific”).
Hiring will never be as hard as letting an employee go. I know this process isn’t perfect and we are constantly trying to improve it. One thought from the team is to weight the scores of different components based on importance (like the collaboration or presentation components). Regardless, my hope with this process is that we can be as informed about a candidate’s personality, skill-set, work ethic, and overall ability so that firing will never be an option.
As mentioned in a previous post (Choosing the Next Device), we are moving forward with iPads in all K-12 grade levels but our new model will look and feel much different than the previous one. When we embarked on the 1:1 in 2011, there was really no systems designed to distribute and manage our devices. Workflow was an issue (we used email mostly). While we put restrictions on the devices in terms of age-appropriate app downloads, it was impossible to completely block all “non-instructional” apps without completely locking down the device.
With the release of iOS 9.3 and the subsequent update of our JAMF server, Apple has revamped classroom and technology support of iPads in education. Below are some of the newest features that Eanes ISD will be taking advantage of in order to optimize the use of these tools for learning.
1. Eanes App Store
Some of the feedback our Digital Learning Task Force received from teachers, students and parents was that non-instructional apps were a distraction when it came to learning. While we have restricted some of this usage over the years, we will now have the ability to completely remove Apple’s App Store from the device. Students will only have access to apps that we provision in the Self-Service app (examples below) which will act as a sort of “Eanes App Store”. (see infographic at the bottom of this post) We also now have additional flexibility to give some students, based on learning need and responsibility, access to the actual app store at some point.
Teachers and students will still have the ability to request apps which can be added to this new Eanes App Store. By doing this we’ll also be addressing another concern that was raised in that we have too many apps being used all over the district. This will allow us to better align both horizontally and vertically the apps that we are providing to our students throughout the district.
New Apple Management
The new iOS will allow for better management and deployment which will also help address another issue raised with the DLTF. Many students didn’t receive their iPads until a few weeks into the school year. Since most of our instructional materials are now digital, this caused quite an issue. With the new management software, we’ll be able to deploy devices much sooner, getting instructional materials and digital tools for learning at an earlier date than before.
Apple Classroom is a new tool that was just launched by Apple during its latest announcement on Monday, March 21. This new tool will act as a “Teacher’s Assistant” of sorts in that teachers can glance at all the screens of their students on their own screen to check for off-task behavior. Additionally, the teacher can reset passcodes, remote launch and lock apps on student devices, and select a student’s device to view on the big screen wirelessly.
In closing, we’ve come a long way since that initial deployment in 2011. We’ve seen many things NOT to do and many amazing projects and benefits as a result of having mobile technology in our classrooms. This next phase of our 1:1 will bring even deeper learning as we continue to focus our instructional use and make learning truly personal for all of our students.
In the spring of 2015, our district passed a bond which included over $5 million for a line item called “Student Mobile Device Initiative.” For the past 4 and 1/2 years we’ve been a 1:1 district K-12 using the 16GB iPad2 as our device of choice. With the passing of the bond, we now had an opportunity to not only reflect on the first few years of the program but also to garner input from a variety of sources. This post is an inside look at the process we used and the ultimate results of that process. It’s my hope that other districts will do the same when investing money into devices and also realize that purchasing the device is the easiest thing, it’s changing pedagogy and creating meaningful learning with technology that is the hard thing.
Formation of the Digital Learning Task Force
With opportunity comes great responsibility. Ok, so maybe that wasn’t the exact Spiderman line, but we knew that going forward we needed to make sure we had several voices represented in choosing our next device. Rather than just form a “Technology Committee”, we decided to create a “Digital Learning Task Force” (DLTF). The name was symbolic in that this was much more than just a selection of a device. The task force would be made up of teachers, students, parents, community members and administrators.
In the summer, we publicly posted an application for members of the district community to apply to be a part of a newly formed task force that would ultimately recommend the final device. (Here’s a copy of the application) In September, we gathered some board members and administrators to look through the applications in an attempt to bring a diversified group of parents from different schools in our community. We then did the same thing in choosing our teachers, students and administrators to be a part of this team.
In our first meeting we discussed the two goals of this group:
- Look at what our current reality is when it comes to integration of technology AND
- What do we want our preferred future to be?
The task force then constructed multiple ways to not only gather input from the district community but also to learn and investigate the current state of devices in schools.
Digital Learning Symposiums
In an effort to create more discussions around digital learning, we decided to host several symposiums open to the community as a launching point for these conversations. Each of these were captured via Livestream for those parents that couldn’t make it in person or wanted to watch at a later date. The first one was an expert panel made up of industry experts, university professors and people from the local start-up community. The second was a panel of teachers from across grade-levels and disciplines and included some round-table discussions as well as the panel discussion. The final symposium was made up of students from 1st grade to 12th grade and also included some round table discussions. During the teacher and student symposiums, we asked students to submit their questions via video to the staff. We also had a different person moderate each symposium.
Also the symposiums, feedback posters were placed around the room that correlated with online feedback walls. The four posters asked the following questions (links to virtual walls included)
- What are some things we are doing well with technology?
- What are some things that we need to improve?
- What other things do we need to consider when it comes to tech? What’s next?
- What future ready skills do our students need?
One of the first assumptions from the public community was that iPads were not really being used much at the K-2 area. There was a feeling that we could provide laptops or higher end devices to the high school students if we just took away the devices from the lower grades or went to a shared model. Before any decisions were made on that front, it was decided that the task force visit an elementary, middle and high school campus first.
Though those visits, the task force saw that the in fact some of the most meaningful uses of the devices were happening at the lower levels of elementary. While they had the devices the least amount of time, they actually had integrated them much more fully than even some of the upper level high school classes. It was through these site visits that another recommendation would come in that we need to do a better job of communicating what’s happening in the classroom and which apps are being used district-wide.
As the symposiums were very public, it makes it difficult sometimes for people to share honestly what they were feeling or concerns they had. As a result, we hosted focus groups for students, parents and teachers at each of our campuses and even hosted a central one just for parents. These focus groups provided some great qualitative data as well. It’s through the focus groups where we heard the most about the day-to-day issues with distraction and the need to occasionally have access to other devices when needed. One other outcome as a result of this is the idea that even though we’ve made our final device recommendation (skip to the end to see that), we want to continue to have these focus groups yearly so we can make necessary adjustments on the initiative.
As many on the task force mentioned, not everyone can get to a physical meeting or symposium. We all live busy lives and it only seemed to make sense that since this was all about digital learning that we have an online component. So besides the symposiums being posted online and the interactive feedback posters (via Padlet.com), we also created a Google Community. The community was a place where anyone could join and post questions or resources when it comes to digital learning. We also used the #EanesDLTF hashtag whenever information was shared or posted as a way to gather data. This hashtag would also be used as a way to curate questions for the panels at the symposium.
Survey, survey, then survey again
One of the final methods of data gathering was the use of many surveys. Each survey focused on a different segment of our population and were focused on gathering information on both the current reality and our preferred future. Here are copies of our surveys that your are free to look at and remix for your own purposes.
The results of the surveys were very diverse and gave us a wide range of feedback. We saw a general tendency that the older the students were, the more they wanted to have a physical keyboard or laptop. Here’s an example of some of the data we shared with the school board on that first survey.
As a result of this and a discrepancy at the high school in terms of what students and teachers preferred, we decided to send a follow-up survey once we had narrowed down the device choices. Many of the students and teachers that preferred laptops wanted a high-end MacBook as their preferred machine of choice. As budget for the program wouldn’t allow for a $1200 device and for the uses they had outlined being so varied based on class, we needed to land on a base-level device to use for all classes. We then took the final three devices (Macbook Air 11″, Dell 3350, and an iPad Air 2 64GB w/keyboard case) and made them available for viewing a week prior to sending the final high school survey.
We sent out follow-up surveys to both the students and staff of the high school to land on our final decision.
One thing for certain, was that no matter what the selection, there would be some groups happy and some upset with the choice. After 600 hours of focus groups, discussions, meetings, presentations and symposiums as well as over 6000 survey responses, the task force voted unanimously for the option that gave us the most flexibility, with the best support model as well as ease of integration. In choosing the iPad Air 2 (64GB) for all levels, we are giving students and staff a model of iPad that goes 12 times faster, holds 4 times as much memory and now allows for split-screen multitasking. We also added a keyboard component for upper grades and some options for keyboards at the lower grades. This also honors the work of many teachers who have utilized the iPad to improve student learning in their classrooms for the past 4-5 years. It also reinforces the work we have been doing on the horizontal and vertical alignment of tools and curriculum within our district.
For more information I created this infographic which was distributed along with a press release today. (blog coming later on how I made the infographic using Keynote):
Meetings have become part of the necessary evil woven within the fabric of business and education. Some meetings are fruitful, others are a complete time-suck. Many books have been written about how to get the most “meeting” out of your meeting. Having norms, creating agendas, sharing ideas, these are all important parts of making a meeting more productive, but do we ever think about what we could be doing instead of being in that meeting? I’ve started to look into the book Boring Meetings Suck and will try to use some of the ideas within that book to get more out of the meetings I attend. However, that still doesn’t help with the question, should we be doing something else as administrators rather than being in a meeting?
The last couple of years I’ve tried to “give up” something for Lent. Two years ago it was email in my #NoEmail4Lent challenge (that lasted 19 days). Last year I tried to give up search engines. That lasted for 2 days. My first inclination this year was to give up meetings for Lent. While that would be drastic and interesting, I don’t think it actually provides much challenge for me to just not go to a meeting. Also, with some major decisions around devices in our schools, summer professional learning, plus general team-building, I think it would hurt myself and future plans if I just didn’t show up.
So I can’t give up meetings completely, but I also noticed within my tenure as an administrator that I spend less and less time on campuses. It’s true that the old adage of the longer you have been removed from a classroom, the less connected you become. I know it’s an issue when I walk onto a campus and I hear phrases like, “Wow! What brings you here?” or “I haven’t seen you in forever.” These are both statements meant to make me feel missed, but I also hear the subliminal message being conveyed….I am not present on their campuses enough. To make this better I’ve tried tricks like being a Student for a day, subbing for a teacher, and this year giving each Ed Tech a free day off on their birthday while I sub for them.
But it’s still not enough.
When I am on a campus I feel refreshed and re-energized. Sure, I’ll also discover technical problems or falsely assumed intentions that tend to float around when someone isn’t there, but I also feel more a part of the learning community.
So I have two problems here:
- I spend a lot of time in meetings
- I don’t spend enough time on campuses
And a single solution to help with both scenarios. For the next 40 days, for every minute I spend in a meeting, I will spend an equal amount on a campus. This means I’ll be working remotely more often (this is when it helps to be paperless), but also that I will be physically present on each of our 9 campuses much more than in the past. Being a bit of a data guy, I’ve been tracking my time on campuses and in meetings nightly since the beginning of this semester. Here’s what I found out:
Out of 225 hours working, I have spent 26.4% (59.25 hours) of it in meetings. I have spent 8.9% (20 hours) on a campus.
Starting tomorrow, my goal every week will be to balance that equation. Many of my meetings are pre-scheduled (approximately 8-10 hours a week) so that means that I’ll need to make sure I’m not just waiting until Friday to go hang out on a couple of campuses. To make this work, every time that I schedule a meeting, I’m going to schedule the same amount of time on a campus.
What do I hope to gain from this experiment?
- Be more connected with staff on campuses.
- Work more with our amazing students.
- Share stories from campuses to the meetings I attend.
- Be more cognizant of my time spent away from campuses.
- Be more productive during my meeting time.
I’m excited to begin this challenge and I’m hoping that by doing this other administrators around the country will also reflect on the value of their presence on campus. I also hope that a part of this will stick with me going forward even after Easter Sunday and I’ll continue to be more proactive about being on campuses for the rest of my time as an administrator.
The beginning of a new year brings with it hope and eternal optimism. We set resolutions that we hope to keep and dream about what possibilities lie ahead for us in the coming year. Over the last several years, I’ve written a blog post predicting a few things I think might be possible both in and out of education. Some of these I feel fairly certain about and others…well….there is the word “BOLD” in the title right? In looking back at my past predictions (here are 2013, 2014, and 2015 for point of reference), I think I’m hitting at around 50% on some of these. Some notable favorites were last year’s prediction that the state of Texas would drop out of its contract with Pearson and my 2014 prediction that wearable technology would start making its way into the classroom. That said, I also predicted that at some point we would ban the all-in-one classroom desk and that my “Giving Up Google For Lent” experiment would be the stuff of legends (I made it all of 2 days). But hey, they can’t all be gems right?
So, with an eye on a hopeful future, here are my predictions for 2016:
A School will try a Self-Driving Bus
I’ve gone on record for saying that I want to own the first legal self-driving car in Texas. Not only do I think that it would help me multi-task, I think it would be a great hand-me-down car for my daughter when she becomes legal driving age in 2024. Believe it or not, there’s actually hope for this as Google started testing their self-driving “Art Cars” here in Austin last fall. But this isn’t about me, it’s about education. So here’s a BOLD prediction that actually makes sense if it’s safe enough: Self-driving school buses. Think about it, there are tons of accidents with buses already and the driver is constantly distracted by what the kids are doing. So why not turn the driver into a monitor and let the computer do the driving? You may laugh but people are already using the Uber-like service called “Shuttle” to take kids to and from school, this just seems like the necessary next step.
MYOT – Make Your Own Textbook Becomes a Reality
Many have dabbled on the fringes of this idea whether it be creating their own iBook or online course, but I think the time is ripe for us to eschew the major textbook companies and begin to design our own. Our own government is promoting more and more free OER content which could really help make this prediction a reality. I know I ranted about how the textbook should go extinct in this post, but think about it. We’ve evolved in so many ways with technology, so why are we still trying to make our textbooks fit inside virtual brown-paper bag covers? (remember those?!)
A “Teen Social Media Prediction” app will be invented
With some of the latest news about apps like Brighten and After School making the rounds before the holiday break, parents are exasperated. They want to know how to stay ahead of the kids to keep up to date on where they are “hanging out” virtually. The truth is, I’m not sure there will ever be a way to do this, but since data privacy and big data seem to be converging, it would make sense that a clever coder somewhere would be able to use some predictive analytics that would show us where teens are going next. Take those analytics and put them together into a snazzy little app that notifies parents and Kazaam! You have a million dollar idea right in your pocket. It couldn’t hurt to try at least right?
An app will be invented to combat the above “Teen Social Media Prediction” app
And the second that app is invented, another app will be invented that falsly tells parents which platform they think their teens will go next just to throw them off the scent. However, along the way, some will discover that parenting is still parenting regardless of social media, devices, or even the great 21st century debate about “when should my child get a smartphone?”
In a district far, far away….someone will develop Star Wars school.
It’s happened with teaching like a pirate and even to some extent with zombies, so why not a school based on the popular film series? After all, Richard Wells (@eduWells) already designed these 10 awesome posters integrating Star Wars legos and education. If you had a school that used a project-based design, you could have the students answer the really important questions like: How fast is 12 parsecs? (I know, technically, it’s a length of measure not time) What is the mass of the Death Star? Why does Darth Vader need that mask to breath biologically? Did Greedo shoot first? These and many more questions can be dissected over several interdisciplinary units of study. And even better…when you graduate you go from Padawan to Jedi master!
Speaking of Star Wars…the Learning will awaken at iPadpalooza this summer
If you can’t tell by our 2016 logo, this year’s iPadpalooza will be a summer blockbuster of epic proportions. I’m not allowed to say much more than that, but do know that one keynote will be absolutely magical (Simon Pierro, the “iPad Magician” of Ellen fame) and that we’ll likely be the only educational event you attend this year where people dress up like their favorite science fiction characters. (Queue geeky Wookie roars here)
The Election Will Be Televised…via Periscope
With major presidential elections happening in the U.S. every four years, it’s kind of cool to see how much has changed in the technology field over that time. President Obama was known as one of the first to embrace social media as a means of connecting. Much like JFK and television, that connection really came in handy on election day. This year, with major news organizations already promoting their own agenda and affiliates, I really think using platforms like Periscope, SnapChat and the like will help individualize what we want to learn and hear about the candidates. Or at the very least it will provide some fun reality TV-like media fodder when a candidate uses the social media tool incorrectly. (you paying attention Rick Perry!)
The “Undead” learning movement will happen!
At last year’s iPadpalooza event I gave a mini-keynote about how the only days where learning doesn’t happen in schools is during mandatory state testing days. I called it “Undead” learning because in an essence, our students’ brains are much like those of zombies in terms of which synapsis are firing during this time of year. What we learn from their testing data is kind of like an autopsy too since we don’t actually discover what they learned until they’ve left the school year. While, I do think there are good ways to measure student growth, this year I’m asking that we start a mini-revolution by simply snapping a #2 pencil in half during testing season and posting it to social media with the hashtag #UndeadLearning. My BOLD prediction: Hundreds of educators will participate!
A School will go 1:1 cardboard
Virtual reality is becoming more and more of the rage in the business world. With Microsoft’s Hololens as well as other players already entering, leaving, and potentially re-entering the market (Hello, Google Glass), it makes sense that schools will want to embrace some of this technology too. The truth of the matter is that schools can’t afford a HoloLens for every student to make virtual a reality. (See what I did there?) Enter the Google Cardboard Expedition. Google’s latest low-cost gadget leverages schools already using a BYOD or 1:1 device to takes students on virtual field trips all over the world. Many schools are experimenting with this technology now and I’d bet this year, a school officially becomes a “1:1 cardboard” school.
I’ll Write a Children’s Book
With my 6-part book series on Mobile Learning Mindset completing at some point this calendar year, I might actually try my hand at a modernized, mobile-friendly children’s book. Think zombies meets Star Wars meets Harry Potter…ok, so it might need some work. Oh, and I while I’m at it, I might also need a pen name. Especially if there’s any hope of getting it onto the shelves of schools around the country. 🙂
Making predictions can be a messy game. I mean not all of us can have a Miss Cleo in our back pocket for getting things right. Part of why I do these predictions is to get me to think about the future direction of educational technology, including some likely absurd ideas. The other part is what I’m doing right now; reflecting on the year that has been and how many of these actually came true. In looking at 2014’s review, I hit on a few, missed on a few (giving up Google for lent? C’mon!) and sort of in between on others. In January of this year, I made a set of ten more predictions that I thought were sure to go wrong in 2015 (remember, “bold” is in the title). Now for the moment of truth, let’s see how I did.
1. Classrooms will become automated
Outcome: Not yet
I’ve seen more sessions at conferences around the idea of automated or “smart” classrooms, but the technology is still a far ways off. I think as beacon technology becomes more ubiquitous and more and more devices enter schools, this one will become a reality. I do think with the recent debates over student privacy, we will have to go through some legal loopholes before a truly automated classroom becomes a reality.
2. Pearson will lose its testing contract in Texas
I am actually still in a state of shock that Texas would go a different direction, but with the exception of a few hold over assessments, we essentially dropped our contract with Pearson. While I’m still not sure that replacement system ETS is much better, one thing is for certain, those people looking for jobs scoring 4th grade writing tests on Craigslist are surely going to be disappointed.
3. Wearables will take over the world…and then regress
Outcome: Getting warmer
I made some jokes about the soon-to-be-formed P.A.W. (“People Against Wearables”) but in reality wearables came on like gang-busters in 2015, especially early in the year. After the Apple Watch hit the market, it became commonplace to see people checking their wrists for cute emoji-based text messages. While I heard some rumors of a school in Australia going 1:1 with Apple Watches (for health data research), I think the fervor over wearables, coupled with the afore mentioned data privacy has slowed down the wearable market. It still didn’t stop me from wearing this cool Matrix-like light up shirt at iPadpaloozaSouthTx this past summer!
4. A human battery level app will be invented
So we haven’t entered cyborg-level yet, but I can tell you this partially came true this week when my dad went in to replace the battery on his heart defibrillator. That’s close right?
5. This year’s iPadpalooza APPmazing Race will bend the mind.
Outcome: Not quite, but it was a blast!
We ramped up the challenges to over 30 in the 3 days of iPadpalooza and dozens of teams rose to the challenge. We had people doing “jumper” pics into swimming pools, putting bunny ears on Felix Jacomino, and tearing up the stage at lunch-time karaoke. The winning team each walked away with their own Apple Watch! All of this sets up for a crazy 2016 race as we continue to raise the bar and up the ante. Check out the highlight video here and be sure to register now as the early bird rates are going on through the holidays!
6. 3D Printers will become common classroom (& household) items
Outcome: Still a ways off
We did see the price of 3D printers continue to drop and even got introduced to these snazzy $99 3D doodler pens, they are not quite common place yet. I do think in several years we will be at a place where we can truly “download” the parts we need to fix something, but for now I’ll just patiently wait for hours as this machine prints out a mini-bust of my own head.
7. Someone will complete the 21 things every 21st century educator should do
Outcome: Not yet
This blog post made the rounds for the past year and half as a list of things every teachers should try to do in their classroom. Many tried it, but I’ve yet to find one person who completed all of them. Rather than rest on my laurels, I decided to up the game and create this “36 Weeks of Innovation” post for teachers to try one thing in their classroom every week. As of this writing, I know of many that have done some, but none that have done them all.
8. Drones will make their way into education
This was sort of a joke when I wrote it last January, but it is actually now becoming a reality. Last week we completed our national “Hour of code” and I saw many posts on social media about kids programming and coding their own drones. In fact, amazingly enough, I may have predicted what iPadpalooza Keynote Adam Bellow would do this year during his presentation. During the middle of his keynote, he use the Tickle App to successfully program and fly a drone out into the crowd and then watch it turn around and come back. Check out his full keynote (post on YouTube for the first time today!) below and watch the magic happen:
9. Someone will complete the Billy Madison #Student4aDay Challenge….maybe me?
Outcome: Not even close
I had grand plans this past year to follow up my #Student4aDay challenge in 2014 with a gauntlet of going through every grade level as a student. While I’m not dismissing this one for myself, I did see more and more people trying the #Student4aDay challenge in their own schools. I think it’s one of the best ways to really experience what kids go through on a daily basis as well as seeing how administrative decisions (like 1:1 technology) impact the classroom.
10. Carl Hooker will FINALLY publish a book
Outcome: TRUE! (in 2016)
This was more of a way to blackmail myself then anything, but after searching for a publishing house in early 2015, ISTE Publishing came knocking on my virtual door. I am excited to announce that I will be creating a 6-book series titled “Mobile Learning Mindset” in 2016 & 2017. Each book will focus on a different area of the school environment. The first two books (focusing on district and campus leadership) will hit shelves in early March of 2016. The last four books will dive into mobile learning in the classroom, professional learning, technical support and the role of parents and community during a mobile learning initiative. While I’m extremely honored and blessed to be a published author, I can tell you that it is NOTHING like blog writing. I’m hopeful that these books will go a long way in helping schools on their own mobile learning journey and can’t wait to see them in print (both real print and virtual).
And that puts a bow on 2015. All in all, I was surprised by some of the results and not so much about others. I’m now going to start brainstorming for 2016 and will publish those after the New Year. What did you think about these predictions? What predictions do you have for 2016? Comment below, and if I use it in my next post (as a “guest prediction”) I’ll give you full credit!
My daughters love talking about dinosaurs. This summer we visited the dinosaur park in Cabazon, CA (made famous by Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) just so they could climb inside a dinosaur. I’ve shown my oldest the original Jurassic Park (not the scary parts) and she has begun to ask me, “Daddy, what happened to the dinosaurs? Are there still some around? Did they become birds?”
Lots of questions and lots of theories but it’s made me think about our own educational landscape and the changes that have been happening dramatically the last 5-7 years when it comes to mobility, social media and content creation. We still have a lot of dinosaurs walking the earth in education, namely the major textbook companies. What is going to happen to them? Will they go extinct or evolve?
Today, I attended a State Board of Education session on “Educating the Digital Generation.” I was pleased to see many educators like Scott Floyd (@woscholar) and superintendents like Randy Moczygemba (@rmocyzgembanb) present to share their frustrations and concerns around the digital textbook industry. (You can view their testimony here: http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/) However, being that textbook publishing is a big business in education, the major textbook companies were also given time to not only defend their platforms, but also ask for more support. The SBOE in Texas has some progressive members that support digital learning in schools but they also have some that seem to be steeped in learning from prehistoric times. One such board member mentioned that “kids are stupid” when it comes to social media and that “using the slide rule is better for learning math than a graphing calculator.”
What does all of this mean for major textbook companies? I have an outlook for them, and judging by recent events, their future is bleak. Let’s look at some signs that spell the demise of the “Big 3” (Pearson, HMH, and McGraw Hill) as well as the massive educational asteroid that will ultimately wipe them out.
Open Educational Resources
With the government’s recent push for more Open Educational Resources (OER) and the already massively available “flexbooks” through sites like CK12.org, we no longer have to purchase an expensive, unreliable online textbook from a major company. Instead of spending millions upon millions of dollars on textbooks, districts can instead dedicate that money towards staffing, technology, and paid online resources that will actually help kids with learning. In Texas, we have our Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA) which allows for “local control” of funds so districts can choose what they want to purchase when it comes to instructional materials. However, the most recent statistics show that 93% of those dollars are spent on traditional textbook resources, mainly from the Big 3. Why is that the case if there is still local control? Primarily it’s the “safe” thing to do. No district wants to stick their neck out too far to purchase something not vetted or…*gasp*…perhaps even save that money for other instructional uses.
Crowd Sourced Content
In addition to the OER resources out there, teachers and schools are sharing more than ever before. Take a look at the hundreds of twitter chats happening online daily centered around education to see the explosion of sharing that is taking place. Some of this sharing comes in the form of “paid sharing” via a program like TeachersPayTeachers.com. I don’t begrudge an already underpaid teacher trying to make a buck (although profiting off other underpaid teachers is a slight concern), I do think the more open we are, the better the learning will be for our students. I recently listened to Tim Berners-Lee, the “Father of the world wide web”, on the TED stage talking about how if he had made the internet cost money, it would have never turned into the great collective network that it is today. I think if we freely share resources and best practices, that crowd sourced content will ultimately make the Textbook-destroying asteroid even bigger.
MYOT (Make Your Own Textbook)
Ok, so a bit of a play on words of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement in Ed Tech, but when you take the OER resources and the crowd-sourced content being shared, why not just get the best teachers in the district or region and have them create their own book? It’s not about the book, it’s about the learning standards right? Paying teachers even HALF of what we pay textbook companies to make a better book, would not only save a district thousands, but also create a better product that is ultimately district-owned. We’ve started down this road with the Texas History adoption, and during today’s state testimony, many districts reported successfully building and deploying their own “textbooks”. I see this as the next evolution in content provision and can even see it further evolving to where kids start to create their own textbook. After all, teaching the material is the best way to learn right? The meteor is approaching….
Publishers vs. Programmers
Some of the dinosaurs did indeed evolve and survived. Those smaller mammals that were more nimble (i.e. smaller content publishers) survived and even thrived following the extinction level event. When working with the Big 3, you must realize that they are publishers, not programmers. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of man hours wasted with data uploads, failed ebook downloads, incorrect content, and massive lack of technical design when it comes to digital textbooks from the larger providers. While I won’t mention names I can tell you that one company even creates a “bridge” product to connect it’s multiple products and product teams. Another when asked directly about integration with our student information system (SIS), stated that they “never mentioned it would be seamless.”
While you would think an eTextbook would save money, in many cases, because of how they are bundled, these cost districts almost the same amount of money. In many ways these companies take fat checks from schools and districts all over the land to cover their massive bottom-lines, not to better serve districts. The smaller, more nimble companies, on the other hand, start with programming and build a better project based on client feedback (that client being the teachers and students).
The Final Explosion and Aftermath –
Several districts here in Texas have started to join forces to fight these behemoths and their poor practices and heavy costs. We’ve pleaded with them to join up with a company like Clever, which handles the automation of data from SIS to textbook company (at NO COST to the school or district). Two of the three major textbook companies have told me that we “don’t need that kind of integration” or “sure it’s free for you, but it costs us.” The fact that a company that gets millions of dollars from districts actually has the gall to say that is appalling.
And so, with this global killer approaching their industry, it’s obvious that the only thing keeping them alive is their sheer size and girth. But like the dinosaurs, those that don’t evolve will become extinct. And in some ways, maybe the educational world will be a better place because of it.
…..and all those mega-conferences don’t know how to act.
There’s a movement afoot in the Ed Tech world. It started with Ed Camps and has evolved into something even bigger.
It’s the “boutique” conference.
A couple of years ago I was chatting with good friend and fellow “boutiquer” Felix Jacomino (head cheese of Miami Device). We were chatting about iPadpalooza and his (then) upcoming first event. We were talking about ISTE, the preeminent Ed Tech conference in the United States when he said something both profound and prophetic.
“ISTE is like the Walmart of Ed Tech conferences.”
That phrase resonated in my brain like a Taylor Swift ear worm. I couldn’t escape it or put my finger on it but Felix was dead on.
At ISTE you have thousands upon thousands of people attending for any variety of reasons and from any variety of places. Some come to learn about interactive white boards (still). Others come to learn about Microsoft Office. Others iPads. Others Chromebooks. Windows. Mac. Apps. GAFE. CCSS. PDFs. Gifs. Etc.
If you are an event like ISTE you have no choice but to go the “Walmart route” when it comes to sessions to ensure your customers have access to everything even if it might taste a little bland. While I think there will always be a time and a place for that, districts are also looking for something more meaningful. They are looking for something more tailored for their staff and their Ed tech goals. In the past, like Walmart, the attendee was forced to sort through the hundreds of isles of products (sessions) looking for that one specific item (learning) and try not to get lost or end up on stage at EdTech Karaoke (guilty as charged).
As we formerly launch the registration for our 5th annual iPadpalooza, there is a growing abundance of options available to educators and leaders. iPadpalooza started as a learning festival to share and grow in the realm of iPads but it’s now grown into something more than that (we welcome all devices!). While at its heart it’s meant to inspire and make learning fun, it’s also meant to be an experience. No not some sort of Burning Man in the desert experience (do they have wifi out there?), but more like you are a part of the learning experience and not just an attendee.
This year’s theme is “Summer Blockbuster” and is centered around the explosive potential of mobile learning but also the movie stars we have in and around education. Because this is a “boutique” event, we can offer flexibility in terms of when you can come (we have single-day passes this year) and a little extra for those wanting to dive even deeper (this year we have added some “Pre-Palooza” workshops in addition to our iLead Academy).
While my heart belongs to the mothership event here in Austin, I love the fact that these are now starting to spread into other states (not unlike TEDx events) including Indiana, Minnesota and now Louisiana. Each one is unique in that it brings in local talent and flavor into the festival-like atmosphere. At iPadpaloozaSouthTX they even created their own theme of “Day of the Tech” based on the “Dia de los muertos” holiday.
What I love most about these spin-off events is the ownership taken by districts and educators as part of the mobile learning movement. It’s not just seeing someone experience the stress and joy of hosting an event that MUST have a level of fun and local spirit, but also seeing them experience the smiles on the faces of attendees. It’s about the tweets of minds being blown and passion being ignited. It’s about discovering something they haven’t seen or thought of before and rethinking how learning can change in their classroom.
Ultimately, that is why you go to a boutique conference. Not necessarily to look for a specific thing, but to have a specific thing find you.
Who’s ready to go shopping?