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Choosing the Next Device: A Method for Crowd-Sourcing Input

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:

  1. Look at what our current reality is when it comes to integration of technology AND
  2. 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)

  1. What are some things we are doing well with technology?
  2. What are some things that we need to improve?
  3. What other things do we need to consider when it comes to tech? What’s next?
  4. What future ready skills do our students need?

Site Visits

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.

Focus Groups

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.

Online Interactions

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.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 11.51.32 AM

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. Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 11.57.45 AM

We sent out follow-up surveys to both the students and staff of the high school to land on our final decision.

Final Recommendation:

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):

DLTF recommendation infographic

 

Up Periscope? New Rules for the Latest Social Media Tool

New Rules of (1)I’ve always been a fan of sharing openly.  I sometimes tell people that my life is an open book that no one wants to read.  The nature of my job and my position is one that interacts regularly with social media as both a way of learning and a means of sharing.

Recently, I’ve been captivated by the phenomena of Meerkat and Periscope.  As I’ve seen throughout my many years in Ed Tech, whenever a new tool hits the market there are usually a slew of early adopters running out to grab it, figure out what it does, then figure out how we can use it for education.  I’m usually one of those first-adopters, but I’ve purposefully taken a more measured approach to the world of mobile live video streaming and becoming a “Digital Broadcaster”.

I have been to countless presentations where people have stood up during a certain slide to snap a photo of an amazing graphic or quote.  I’ve also seen people take photos of the presenter on stage with a poignant slide in the background.  I’m lucky enough to be able to present and entertain educators from all over the country and have no problem sharing my slides, my resources, and the occasional selfie.

However, this recent trend of live video streaming has me flummoxed.  On one hand I love the concept of free-flowing information to the masses.  On the other hand, the digital citizen in me feels like there should be some level of permission asked or granted prior to filming an entire event.  It makes me wonder:

When is it ok to live stream someone without permission?

At a recent event this summer, I was in the middle of a presentation and noticed someone standing off to the side with their phone in vertical video mode (which itself is annoying).  When I asked the attendee what she was doing she told me she was “periscoping” my entire talk. Figuring that this is sort of a new tool and I think it’s important that everyone has access to learning, I dismissed the lack of permission in this instance for the betterment of education.

Brody the bootlegger on Seinfeld

Brody the bootlegger on Seinfeld

However, that moment stuck with me and when thinking about the protocols for filming someone’s talk, I tried to relate to the music and film industry. They have some pretty clear guidelines about when it’s ok or not ok to film.  Despite these guidelines, if you go to any rock concert you’ll see tons of phones up and recording video. (presumably for personal use although many of these are texted and posted on social media) When thinking of recording movies, I’m reminded of the Brody and the “Death Blow Bootleg” episode of Seinfeld. I’m not saying this crosses into the “bootlegging” realm, but there are some similarities in the narrative of when is it ok and not ok to record an event without permission.

So what exactly does the law say?  Well, in less you are getting undressed or are naked on stage, photographers and videographers can capture you without permission. (see Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004) That leaves a lot of grey area when it comes to what can and can’t be captured without permission though.  And while you may not be arrested for doing such things, there are now some precedents set about being sued for capturing someone with out their permission and posting it on social media. (See Heigl vs. Duane Ready)

So with all these thoughts swirling around in my head, let’s flash forward to last weekend. While Todd Nesloney and I gave our opening keynote for iPadpaloozaSouthTx, someone actually periscoped the entire talk. Later, we learned that hundreds were able to see us that couldn’t attend the event because of this new app.  I was both honored and also slightly concerned…

Where do we draw the line between sharing and permission?  It’s a question that’s been churning in my brain for the last few weeks.  Since I don’t want to be someone that bashes a tool without trying it, I created my Periscope account and actually streamed a minute of the closing keynote that afternoon (the appropriately titled, “SHARE, it’s human” by Felix Jacomino).

I have to admit, it’s a pretty cool concept.  You record an event happening that you want to share with your followers (but not necessarily archive) and BOOM! It’s instantly out there with no tape delay or filter. Eric Sheninger recently wrote this post on the power of video in schools where he dissects the various video tools out there and some resources for how they can be used in schools. Tony Vincent also shared a great post of how he utilized Periscope at ISTE 2015.  While I think the digital broadcasting movement has a lot of potential, let me go back to the original question: When is it ok to live stream someone without permission?

As someone who has benefited from the power of social media and also encourages sharing, I’d be a hypocrite to say you shouldn’t live-stream someone.  But I do think that as we are discovering new ways to use these tools in education, we should perhaps develop some “Rules of Etiquette for Digital Broadcasters.”

So here goes nothing:

Rules of Etiquette for Digital Broadcasters

1.  Asking for permission

While it’s great to watch an entire presentation and not actually be there, many events and speakers actually have contracts written that state who can and can’t record.  We deal with this often with our keynote speakers at iPadpalooza.  Most contracts allow for internal use of video, but not external (especially not the entire talk).  Looking at YouTube and their guide to “fair use” I like their set of “4 questions to ask”.   The fourth question “Will you work serve as a substitute for the original” is where filming presentations may cause trouble.

Solution: Ask for permission prior to capturing any part of a talk but ESPECIALLY if you are planning on streaming the entire talk.

2. Consider the length

As I stated before, there seems to be some social norms that make it ok to take photos of poignant slides.  While this could potentially be a copyright violation, most presenters share their slides and materials so that others may learn from them. As a presenter it not only spreads the message, it drives interest in who the speaker is and the message they are trying to convey. The same can be said about Periscoping someone’s talk in that sharing a snippet of someones talk allows the end-user to experience a bit of what the audience is seeing, almost like a sneak preview.  The question is when do you cross the line between a sneak preview and recording an entire talk.

Solution: If you are going to capture someone’s talk or presentation, keep it to under 1-2 minutes.  This way those you share with will get to see some of the amazing things shared without sharing a “substitute for the original”.

3. Check your surroundings

Live-streaming someone in a public place means that bystanders around the recording device may be captured. While holding up your phone may give them the clue that you are in fact recording, they may not be as aware when it comes to their own under-the-breath comments.  A snarky remark shared lived by someone in the audience is instantly playable to everyone in the world even if it was only intended for their neighbor.

Solution: Let those around you know you are capturing the talk (and warn them what they say may be inadvertently captured) or move to a more isolated location to capture the brief recording.

4. Live Stream vs. Capture?

With both Meerkat and Periscope, there are time limits to how long the videos are posted.  Which means that only a few will get the opportunity to see it if they are following along.  Capturing and editing a video to put onto YouTube or some other platform is done with the intent of sharing over the course of time.

Solution: If you are just sharing a snippet of a talk or presentation to share where you are and what you are watching with friends, stick to Meerkat or Periscope.  However, if you are hoping to capture the entire talk for distribution elsewhere, you’ll want to do so with permission from the speaker.

5. Location

If you are at a large event like ISTE or a smaller conference, it’s likely that all featured speakers have some sort of exclusivity clause with the event organizers.  Filming without permission of the event, could result in getting you thrown out.

Solution: Find the organizers of the event and ask for permission.  While that may seem cumbersome, it’s possible that the event will give you access to their own stream or even ask you to post it to their social media feed for cross-promotion.  At worse they will tell you “No” and you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the talk while it’s being captured by someone else.

So there you have it.  Nothing too Earth-shattering but I’m hoping we can start to have the conversation around this topic of digital broadcasting.   I think it’s important that we have this  conversation with colleagues and students around the rules above to determine what is right and what isn’t.

What did I leave out?  Please comment below and let’s have a discussion about this.  Or better yet, periscope your thoughts to me @mrhooker. 🙂

Let’s figure out this dilemma before people start using the voyeurism prevention act and give talks while disrobing.  No one wants to see that!!

IMG_4390

In case you missed the Periscope, here’s our keynote captured a different way…

Update: Literally 10 minutes after making this post I got to experience a “private Periscope” with Felix.  He shared some thoughts on a workshop he was giving and some other ideas he had.  I can definitely see some educational benefits to that!  Thanks for sharing Felix!

IMG_4430

A screen shot of my Video-to-text conversation with Felix and this post. Appropriately done on Periscope!

Digital Zombie Series: Can We Ever Be Alone Again?

My original avatar...very prophetic

My original avatar…very prophetic

Lately I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon that occurs at traffic lights around town.  The light turns green and the first car, after some hesitation, pulls forward.  Then the next one, after another prolongued delay, does the same.  This continues until maybe 4 or 5 cars have traveled through what would normally be a 10-12 car light.   When I look over at the drivers, they are all doing the same thing: checking their phones.

We’ve seen a lot of commentary on the web recently about our addiction to our phones.  Last week I wrote a post about the Digital Yawn, an event that seems to happen more and more in social settings.  This restaurant in Beirut actually gives you a 10% discount if you turn in your phone and socialize a their restaurant.  And for those of us that must remain connected, the city of Philadelphia implemented these texting and walking lanes near city hall so we don’t crash into each other.

NPR has released a couple of thought-provoking materials in recent months including this article that “We Are Just Not Here Anymore.”  In the article, the author Linton Weeks takes us through the concept of the “Severed Self” and asks the question, “how can we ever feel comfortable with others when we don’t even feel comfortable with ourselves?” He mentions a course at the University of Washington where a professor actually teaches his students patience, reflection and meditation by “unplugging” for a few minutes before class.

In September of 2013, NPR’s All Tech Considered site released a short film titled “Forgot My Phone” by videographer Charlene deGuzman.  It was meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but actually highlighted the fact that we aren’t really present unless we are connecting and documenting our lives on our devices.  I found myself both laughing and crying during the two minutes of this video.

Lastly, comedian Louis C.K. went on a comedic rant about cell phones on the Conan show. In his interview he mentions the fact that we can’t truly ever be alone and “be ourselves and just sit there.  Being a person.”  He goes on to say that “underneath everything, there’s that thing…you know…that empty.  That knowledge that we are all alone. It’s down there.”  While he’s a comedian, I think he’s waxing poetic about the fact that we can’t  let ourselves ever be truly happy or truly sad because we are constantly connected.

As educators (and parents) we need to work with kids (and ourselves) in balancing our lives in every way. We talk with them about eating right.  We talk with them about manners. We talk with them on how to behave in various situations. I’m going to argue it’s time we talk to them about when it’s ok not to connect.  When it’s ok to just “be”.

I’ve struggled with this personally as I’ve always felt my phone was an extension of my hand. Then, several months ago, one of my daughters told me, “daddy, can you put down your phone and pay attention to me?”  It broke my heart but also alerted me to a larger problem.  The message I was sending her then 4-year old mind was that the phone was more important to me than her.  I also found myself feeding our youngest daughter her bottle at night with one hand with my phone was in the other.  I was missing that magical moment of physical connection with her, because of my need to have a virtual one.

So I decided to change.

I started to enforce these 5 simple rules for myself:

1. When I get home, the phone gets plugged into the charger and that’s where it sits the whole night.

2. While the kids are awake, I don’t work, connect, tweet, blog, etc. I just spend time with my family.

3. When feeding the baby and getting her to go to sleep, no technology whatsoever.

4. After the kids are in bed, unless it’s a major project, I don’t work or tweet or blog.  I spend time with my wife watching a show (lately it’s been House of Cards) or washing dishes or cleaning up toys or just talking.

5. The phone stays downstairs, connected to the charger all night.  It doesn’t go into my bedroom.

Though I haven’t followed these rules every single day, I find them easy enough to maintain and actually find that I’m working a lot more efficiently because of my disconnection.  When feeding our youngest her bottle at night, I take the time to connect with her, but I also use that time as sort of “reflection meditation” if you will.  I reflect and evaluate my day.  I think about creative projects that I need to start or problems that I need to solve.

I discovered that I can just “be alone” digitally and the world will move along regardless.

So the next time you are at that traffic light or in that waiting room, hold off on taking out your phone and checking it even if it hurts. Instead, take a moment to breathe in life.

Reflect.

Think.

And just “be”.

Note: This post is the second installment of a 5-part series on digital zombies, re-animated, if you will, from my SXSW presentation on Surviving the Digital Zombie Apocalypse.