Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye, 2012

The last day of 2012 and besides my two computer technicians and me, there are few people working in the district. We love days like this, though. We get so much done! Justin and Jorge have finished reconfiguring all the middle school laptops so that they will log into the network faster, and they have have swapped out the batteries in the UPS that keeps the middle school network up in the event of a power outage. In addition, they've worked hard to resolve and close trouble tickets.

Me? I've spent every spare minute the past couple of weeks preparing for our EdTech day for teachers that is scheduled for January 21. The plan is to work collaboratively in PLCs and online in the morning and then to work collaboratively across building lines in the afternoon with facilitators and other teachers who want to implement similar technology integration in their classrooms. The focus is ultimately completely student based. "What will students do with technology to further their learning of the curriculum? is the guiding question. On the other hand, teachers will have the time to explore the available technologies to choose what will work the best in their classrooms. The hope is that the guided practice and modeling will give teachers the confidence to take the necessary steps to student independence. This is the second EdTech Day for the school year and the third full day in the past calendar year, so teachers are refining, expanding, and adding to student technology use for learning in the classroom.

It's been a great year EdTech-wise in the Storm Lake Community School District. We've added lots of equipment, but more importantly, we've expanded what students do with the technology, and that afterall, is what's really important.

Here's to 2013. What awaits us for learning in the new year?!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Technology in Classrooms

My greatest pleasure on the job is hearing from teachers about the work they have students doing in their classrooms with technology. It is gratifying to know that as a district we have made the move from "teaching technology" to "learning with technology." With approximately thirty labs of computers for student use, as well as many individual computers for students to use, technology is a regular part of our classrooms. We are asking students to research, to create, to solve problems, and to collaborate with others. Rather than focus on the acquisition of the latest technology toy, we focus on what we want to students to do, and then we decide what best works for that. Usually it's something we already have right here in the district, although often we determine we need more of what we already have!

Here are some examples of what our students are doing right now:
  1. Mrs. Warkentin's and Mrs. Jacobsons's third graders are creating Google Presentations about different Native American tribes. They are comparing and contrasting "types of clothing, hunting methods, food they ate, the location of the tribes...affected their way of living." This has been a cooperative learning activity as the students have all worked in pairs.
  2. Mr. Baker's fourth graders are studying immigration. Their project is to do "family history interviews," tying their knowledge of immigration to their own families' experiences.
  3. Mrs. Huntress' third grade students continue to blog. Recently, they have been blogging about Native American tribes, both current ones and those from the past, allowing comparing and contrasting. From this study, the students have written about the needs of Native American communities today, and they have collaborated with a classroom in Okoboji to get input on their writing from students from outside the district. They even Skyped with a Lakota reservation school.
  4. Kindergarten classrooms continue their collaboration with schools outside the country, including Canada and Japan, among others. They've created classroom presentations to share. They've recorded introductions about themselves to share. And, they've Skyped with students in other classes. What a great way for our little ones to think about culture!
  5. Mrs. Tucker's seventh graders are writing their own music compositions.
  6. Mrs. Cole's students are creating book trailers that are available on the SLCSD YouTube channel. You will also see video projects from other district classes on our YouTube channel.
  7. Mrs. Hixon's seventh grade science students are "researching environmental problems...such as habitat loss, endangered animals, and global warming." They are taking the next step, though, and they are using technology to "create awareness of the problem and/or to provide a solution to the problem." They are creating and publishing "websites, PowerPoints, and make the public aware of what they can do to help."
  8. Mrs. Green's high school English Language Learners are creating "web-based portfolios" that can be used not only for assessment but also "as a tool for future job or college applications." The students are using Google Apps as the place to work on their projects, because they can collaborate there and get almost instantaneous feedback.
  9. The high school geometry classes taught by Mr. Grant are using software called Geometer's Sketchpad for "hands on demonstration to help visualize different parts of a triangle."
  10. Mrs. Vieira has her high school Spanish students blogging, researching poets and creating presentations in Voicethread, using Google Docs to share vocabulary in sentences for immediate feedback, and accessing Spanish resources to increase their Spanish skills. In addition, the Spanish 3 class collaborates with three other Iowa schools regularly for learning.
  11. Mrs. Mouw's Accelerated English students are doing a research project about cultural history, that makes extensive use of technology. They have "researched, questioned, created, written, revised, problem-solved, collaborated, and exercised their inventive individuality in how they are choosing to fulfill the assignment's requirements." I've seen the assignment, and it is authentic, cross-curricular, collaborative, and demanding. Combining family history with research, history, literature, creative writing, reflection, and collaboration is enhanced enormously with technology.
Realize this is just some of the learning that is going on in the district this very day using educational technology.  It's becoming the way we do business here in the Storm Lake Community Schools, and that is a very good thing!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Attend EdCamp Iowa

Attend EdCamp Iowa

This is your chance to collaborate with and learn from others in Iowa who are interested in improving education for Iowa students. Teachers, administrators, students, parents, interested community members. Come one, come all!

You really must reserve Saturday, February 16, 2013, for this event:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Jorge Sanchez

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jorge Sanchez, a senior at Storm Lake High School, who passed away yesterday.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together..

there is something you must always remember.

You are braver than you believe,

stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think.

But the most important thing is,

even if we're apart.. I'll always be with you.”

--Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What I Learned at ITEC

I just got back from the annual ITEC conference where tech directors, teachers, and some admins get together to learn more about technology in education. It was a wonderful conference held at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines with over 1200 attendees. What I learned:
  1. Focus on the student and the learning outcomes and not the technology. Once you know what your learning goals are, then you can think technology -- And, start with what you have!
  2. If you haven't tried Evernote, you should. It's a great place to store your thoughts. Better yet, I learned I can buy a Moleskine notebook, get three months of Evernote premium free, put a special sticker on each page of the notebook, take a picture of my handwritten notes, and they will go to Evernote to the right folder based on the sticker. For someone who loves to write things by hand sometimes, this is fantastic! My handwriting is my art. The best thing about Evernote, in my opinion, are the search and features.
  3. iPads, although created for consumption and personal ownership, can be coerced into doing some pretty amazing, creative things. I'm still not sure they are worth the expense with the short period of time before they are obsolete and need to be upgraded, but boy, teachers have found ways to use them effectively. Jamie Fath has some great info.
  4. I may just be ready to move to virtualized servers. I've been reluctant to add the complexity, but I learned enough at the conference to realize there are some real benefits to going this direction.
  5. You don't need a classroom full of technology to be effective. You can have a few things and do great technology integration by sharing. Follow @mrnidey on Twitter. He's a third grade teacher who has truly transformed his classroom.
  6. If you aren't using your interactive whiteboard as more than a screen for your projector or a worksheet substitute, you are missing some great educational opportunities for your students. Try making your whiteboard one of your Student Centers and give your students the reins.
  7. Offer your kids authentic choices, and they will fly. Let them collaborate outside the school walls.
  8. Using primary sources will bring history to life. Seriously, I think I would have loved history had my teachers gone about it this way.
And that's just the beginning. It was a wonderful time to network, collaborate, and try new things. If we just keep the focus on the students and the learning as we are in our school district and quit obsessing about the technologies, we will be able to improve education astronomically. Like I've said over and over in this blog - Huge Internet pipe, robust wireless, and mobile Internet connected devices in as many students' hands as possible. Add to that the teacher who loves to learn, learns new things regularly, and models that love of learning to the students, and kids will fly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


We had an electrical wire torn out in an accident today and have been reminded how dependent we are on electricity. First, we lost Internet and switches. Then the Internet came back for awhile. Oops, Internet and fiber gone again. Then with the battery backups running down, I've shut off servers. No email. No grade book. Sometimes you might as well go home . . . . Unless you're the Tech Director and need to make sure it's all back online once the power returns. Thank goodness for my phone while I wait!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer was too short

We are working on some great projects here in the SLCSD EdTech Department. Between a new web version of JMC that has some bugs that need to be worked out at JMC, to early MAP testing, to 180 new student computers, to 8 new SMARTBoards, to EdTech PD coming up next week, to two new servers and on and on, some of the little things remain to be finished. As you can see, sorting out the hurricane that hit my office from the flurry of work that has been going on is becoming a number one priority.

More in the next couple of days. That EdTech PD coming up is going to be awesome!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer EdTech Progress

I'm way behind on blogging, so I'll take a few minutes to update everyone with some of the EdTech projects going on at SLCSD this summer:
  1. 180 new netbooks for student use. We have them all configured for imaging, and the first lab is complete. We are waiting on the next five labs to see if we are changing our copiers at the elementary school and to get our new middle school wireless settings. They should all be imaged the first week of August.
  2. Yes, we will have brand new, robust wireless at the middle school! The cablers come next week, and we deploy it the following week. We are so excited as this is the last part of our wireless improvement project!
  3. New and improved student information system - We are still running JMC, but it is a brand new web-based version with many new features that is going to be very nice for our staff, our students, our parents, and our teachers. The new JMC server is up and running, and it looks great!
  4. Our updated website is just about ready to be launched. We hired a company to design the site, and Pat Fisher and Tracey Bailey at Central Administration have busily been updating it and getting it ready to replace the old site. This site will become the hub of online information about SLCSD, and we think you are really going to like it. Kim Johnson will also be involved with her high school web page class students, and every teacher and administrator will be involved with their corner of the Internet world, whether it's lesson plans, student grades, blogs, student bookmark sites, or their own teacher/classroom web sites. It's very exciting!
  5. Eight new SmartBoards are going in at the high school, middle school, and elementary school.
  6. There will be three new student computers at East Early Childhood and another SmartBoard, too. There will also be a laptop for teacher use on the SmartBoard that is already in the media center.
  7. Network upgrades. We are re-routing some of our district network to provide better performance at the middle school and the elementary school.
  8. A couple more iPads for Special Ed students.
  9. Some new software for math and reading interventions at the elementary school and the high school.
  10. And, we continue to update all 1200 district computers.
These are just some of the things you might be interested in that we've worked on this summer. In addition, our email server will be updated sometime soon after school starts; we are working on getting a guest access wireless network up and running; and we are in the beginning stages of planning our EdTech PD day for the end of September.

I have a great crew of tech people who work very hard in the summer to get as many projects done as possible - Kim Johnson, Justin Overmohle, and Jorge Gallaga. I also have to thank both J.D. Goodchild and Todd Larsen who have been so willing to help with anything I asked of them this summer!

EdTech is still on the move at SLCSD!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

May our students find their passions

ISTE 2012 will soon be a memory, and I am reminded of how emotional I felt as a child when  my various summer camps came to an end. It's hard to leave the venue of such passion behind. Those who came here to ISTE share a commitment to improving education for our students. In my opinion, the answer will not be found in curriculum or standards or specific technologies. The answer is in an educational system that values individuality, creativity, globalization, and collaboration. May we all focus on the things in our own lives that we feel passionate about and realize that the best way to motivate our students to learn is to help them find their passions and to give them the real world tools to fuel and accomplish their own learning. Wouldn't  it be great if our students felt as excited about school everyday as I felt about every minute of this conference? I don't think that goal is unrealistic if we work together.

I have so much to share with you, SLCSD!

Monday, June 25, 2012


I'm taking a little time from my day to post from sunny San Diego, CA, where I am attending the International Society for Technology in Education Conference.

What a wonderful place to rub elbows with teachers, administrators, EdTech professionals, vendors, and others who believe strongly in the value of technology for learning. The passion and urgency is palpable! From the pre-conference events where many of these people came together on their own to start collaborating and learning from one another before anything official began, to the opening ceremony for all of us newbies where the MCs dressed up like all sorts of famous duos (Batman and Robin, Capt. Kirk and Spock, Dorothy and the Scarecrow, etc.), to the panel discussion last night led by Sir Ken Robinson and including Marc Prensky, Peggy Johnson, and Mayim Bialik, the need for us to continuously discuss education and "think about where we are going, so we can determine how we are going to get there" is one thing we can all agree on.

Today I saw middle school students proudly share their projects. One group who live very close to the Mexican border chose to interview people and do research about how they or others came to the United States, legally or illegally. The students then synthesized into a podcast that information that would bring a tear to the eyes of many in our own Storm Lake community. I saw third grade students who created computer programming projects using Scratch and middle school students programming with Alice. I've seen groups of teachers from all over the country visiting together about how best to using blogging to increase student learning. The key, according to them is to open things up and allow comments from outside the classroom group. I've seen how schools are working very hard to create global connections in any way possible to make sure that students are accessing all the information, resources, and people available "out there" to increase their own learning. And I've seen the value of using Google Maps in the classroom.

I am struck over and over again at the importance of tying our use of technology in the classroom to the National Educational Technology Standards for students. It isn't enough to say we're going to learn how to use, for example, Symbaloo, a program we use at SLCSD. We must go further than that and determine what it is we really want the students to learn and then determine what EdTech strategies, such as Symbaloo, might increase that learning. Digital Citizenship is a hot topic. Twitter is still really big as a way to connect with others and share resources.

Here's a link to the conference newsletter for today:

It's just so great to have the opportunity to bring all these things back to you. I will be sharing more about the next few days, but for now, back to the conference!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Last Thoughts on TICL Conference

I wanted to post more pictures of our SLCSD staff members at TICL before I get going with what's going on with the ISTE Conference where I am now.



Which session do I attend next?

Expectantly waiting for the keynote

I think fun was had along with the learning!


Presenting about the global connections of our kindergarten classes:

End of conference SLCSD meeting to plan for EdTech for next year

Using Twitter to connect with others and share resources:

I just couldn't be happier with the large number of staff members who gave up three summer days to attend this annual local conference. We now have so many resources to share throughout the course of this summer and next school year. We have also acquired some new skills. I'm particularly happy about all the new tweeters who have joined me and other SLCSD users of Twitter, calling themselves the Freking Fun Club. Let's keep sharing our resources!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mr. Brent Croker

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, students, and co-workers of Mr. Brent Croker, our 8th grade Social Studies teacher, who died unexpectedly yesterday.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day One of the TICL EdTech Conference

Yesterday was day one of the TICL EdTech Conference held at Buena Vista University and sponsored by both Prairie Lakes AEA and Northwest AEA. It is such a treat to have such an excellent conference right in our own backyard. We have a total of 36 SLCSD staff members attending the three day conference, many of whom return year after year, because the information about integrating technology in the classroom is so useful. Here is the link to the conference program, so you can take a look yourself:

TICL 2012 Conference Program

Here are some of our staff members:

Some of the things I learned today:
  1. McRel's Classroom Strategies that Work have been updated in the second edition of the book, with the realization that none of the nine strategies are better than others, that the choice of strategy depends on what one is teaching. While we want to get to the higher order thinking skills in our classrooms, we can't do that without our students having a certain base of knowledge.
  2. The best way to learn is through play, and the best way to teach is by developing relationships with our students, according to the keynote speaker Zac Chase.
  3. If you want your teachers and students to use technology in the very best ways for learning, your administrators have to model the behavior by their use of technology.
  4. While I love the battery life of my iPad, it does not play well with Google Apps. It lends itself best to individual users with their own iTunes accounts but can't be deployed on a mass scale in a school that way. That iPads can do some really cool things if you have a Mac computer to use with them. That the first iPad, which is only 2 years old, is already outdated and can't run the current operating system, which means there are new apps it just can't run. And most are in agreement that an iPad is great for running apps, such as games for students, but that it isn't a replacement for a computer.
  5. That you can realistically create professional presentations of your announcements each day with nothing more than a laptop and Windows Movie Maker.
I love getting together with my peers, experts in the field of EdTech, teachers who are using technology effectively in the classroom, and my co-workers to work on improving education for our students. This group of 36 teachers from SLCSD doesn't get paid to do this. They do it, because they are great teachers who love their students!

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Off and running for summer EdTech work

I've been away from blogging the past month or so as school wound down, and we prepared for a busy summer of educational technology. We have 6 new mobile labs coming in as I write this that will be deployed to the elementary school, the middle school, and the high school. We have an updated version of our student information system that we will roll out on a new server. We are deploying brand new wireless at our middle school. We are updating sections of our network district-wide. We are working on quotes for a few new interactive whiteboards for the district. Add all of that to the updates, repairs, and plain upkeep of the technologies we have, and we have a busy summer ahead of us. In addition, we are attending two educational technology conferences: 36 staff members are attending the T.I.C.L. Conference held next week at Buena Vista University right here in Storm Lake, and I am attending the International Society for Technology in Education Conference in San Diego the following week.

We believe in the value of technology for learning here in the Storm Lake Community School District, and we work very hard every summer to make sure that the new school year tops the old one when it comes to technology equipment, infrastructure, and teacher training for better integration.

I'll keep you posted!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Outstanding students and outstanding teachers

I had the pleasure of attending the National Honor Society induction ceremony a couple days ago, and while there were many things that struck me as very special during that event, there was one thing I just have to share here. Every year the NHS students select a faculty member to give a speech at the ceremony. This year Mr. Jason Heeren, high school band director, was invited to give the speech, and he did an excellent job giving these outstanding students advice.

What struck me, though, is this. The students voted to select the teacher to give the speech, and in that voting process nineteen different teachers received votes. Nineteen! To know that so many of the SLCSD teachers are respected so much by their students just makes my heart sing. What wonderful students! What wonderful teachers!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Share the Dream" Presentation

Wonderful presentation by Elementary Principal Juli Kwikkel, Elementary Reading Specialist Michelle Huntress, and Kindergarten Teacher Deb Mortensen at the School Board Meeting last night concerning the Share the Dream grant that Storm Lake Elementary received last fall. The grant allowed the district to buy sixteen netbooks, two for each kindergarten classroom, for student use. The purpose of the grant is for "Using Technology to Reach the Corners of the World," and the kindergarten teachers have embraced the challenge by forging partnerships with various schools in other countries. By using Skype, blogging, email, and various presentations for sharing, these classrooms have embraced the concept of learning outside the four walls of our own district.

Mrs. Mortensen, specifically, has formed a partnership with a school in British Columbia. They have exchanged various presentations to learn about each other's culture.

What a great way to show the School Board one of the pieces of the puzzle when it comes to integrating technology for learning!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Family Fun Night!

The elementary school held their second Family Fun Night of the year last night. Take a look at all the fun and learning that went on!

Family Fun Night

Friday, April 13, 2012

How will we use the educational technology?

If you read my blog regularly, you know that one of my biggest pet peeves is acquiring technology without first asking the question: What is it we want to accomplish? It's always seemed crazy to me to listen to vendors and advertisers show off the newest and greatest technology, get excited about the bells and whistles, and then jump in head first to a massive purchase and rollout of the technology without knowing what in the world we are trying to do that couldn't be accomplished before we spent the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the new technology.

I just read two articles in the April 2012 District Administration magazine that address this issue in two different ways. The first article, "Using Tomorrow'sTechnology to Teach Yesterday's Curriculum" by Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway, concerns the crazy notion of purchasing $600 tablets only to use them for flashcard or drill and practice apps. The point being that tablets may hold all the promise in the world to contribute to 21st Century skills such as "teamwork and problem solving," but if we don't purposefully use them that way, we've wasted the $600.

The second article, "The Three Pillars of 21st Century Learning" by Rob Mancabelli, talks about moving away from what he deems the old pillars of education: "the textbook, the lecturer, and the classroom," to the new pillars, paraphrased here: I'm only one of my students' teachers; I must teach my students to learn independently; and student knowledge is partially a product of their networks.

Take a look at the original articles. Both of them bolster my belief that school technology is only as beneficial to learning as our ability to view teaching and learning in new ways. Until we are willing to shift our thinking, we might as well have saved our technology dollars.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SLCSD April Newsletter

As hard as it is to believe we are already to April of this school year! Here is the current newsletter from Central Office:

We continue to enjoy learning together!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Skipping Stones

As I evaluate various new technologies that are developed each year, I've come to the conclusion that the danger is what I picture in my mind as "skipping stones." As any of you who have spent time on the shore of a calm lake know, a nice flat stone, thrown just right, will hop along the surface of the water several times before it sinks to the bottom never to be seen again. Observers will oooo and ahhh, but the excitement lasts only as long as the stone skips and can't be summoned again until the next stone is tossed.

The same goes for educational technology if we're not careful. We see the potential of the technology, whatever it is; we purchase it and deploy it with great fanfare; and then we watch with dismay while students and teachers implement the use of the technology at only the most superficial levels. The stakeholders are very excited at first, but because the users aren't growing with the technology, the newness wears off in a hurry. Then the advertisers tout the next new technology, and the users clamor to move on to the next new device or software, only to once again hip skip along the surface of the potential of the technology.

This cycle must end. We must make educated decisions about the best devices and software for our schools, and then we must train and collaborate and dig very deep to make sure we are making the very best educational uses of the technology. We must avoid the temptation to put the old aside to move on to the next newest thing over and over again, because it means we never really reach the place of teaching differently or learning differently, and that after all, is the point. isn't it?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Collaboration and Cooperation

I'm thinking about teamwork today, about reaching decisions based on mutually agreed upon terms that are themselves based on initial disagreement and the honest evaluation of information.

I'm thinking about seeing the big picture and bringing the expertise of many to the table to reach agreement.

I'm thinking about how we all have different perspectives to offer, so we all need to be heard, but then I'm thinking we need to reach conclusions and stand up for the group decision and for one another.

I'm thinking about how much we lose when we don't work together and build each other up.

I'm thinking that there is no place for pretense.

There's a lot to think about today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I am currently at the ITEC IT Conference in Ames, and I just came from a session put on by representatives from the Council Bluffs schools. They are completing a pilot project of Chromebooks and are prepared to roll out a grades 9 to 12 Chromebook 1:1 initiative this fall. I've tested a Chromebook myself, and they are great! There is little work that needs to be done to deploy them. They boot up in 8 seconds. The battery lasts 8 hours. They are designed to use Google Apps which we use in the district already.

However, you can't load programs or software on them. They don't do Java. They have only limited Flash capabilities. And, they are paperweights if they don't have a wireless Internet connection. As wonderful as it would be to get away from laptops and netbooks that sometimes take a minute or two to log in, I just don't think Chromebooks are the answer in a community where we have so many families without Internet access, let alone wireless Internet access at home.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Integrating the best technologies in the most educational ways

Thought for the day:

Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.--Clifford Stoll

We must continue to move the education of students from fact memorization to higher order thinking skills, and we must do it urgently and systematically. The use of technology in the classroom can be the catalyst for this process, or it can enable teachers to teach the way they've always taught, turning out students who are completely unprepared for the ways of our globally connected, technology rich world. We must continue to read the literature and study educational technology, and then we must continue to urgently work with teachers and administrators to both choose the best technologies and to also push students to their own active, authentic learning for life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Our new SLCSD YouTube Channel:

Storm Lake CSD YouTube Channel

Take a look at the 6th Grade Book Trailers Playlist and stay tuned for more SLCSD videos!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SLCSD District March Newsletter

Central Office asked me to email their March SLCSD newsletter to all our families yesterday. If you didn't get the link, here it is:

March Newsletter

Take a look at all that's going on in our SLCSD family!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

International Learning and Relationships

I spent my noon hour yesterday with our kindergarten teachers. They are all working very hard to share and collaborate with classrooms across the world. Using Skype when time zones allow and using shared presentations, web links, or email when asynchronous communication makes more sense, the teachers and their students are realizing the opportunities for learning outside the four walls of the Storm Lake Community School District. As the teachers, along with Juli Kwikkel and Michelle Huntress, all watched a presentation created for our kindergarten students by kindergarten students from an international school in China where pictures of each child were accompanied by recordings of each child introducing themselves was amazing. These teachers are "getting it." They realize that we live in a global world now and that communicating with others far away will lead to rich relationships and educational experiences for our students. The questions the teachers were asking about technology and how to best create the richest learning experiences for their young students was uplifting.

Don't let anyone ever say that EdTech professional development and time to work on EdTech integration is wasted. Teachers want to fly. They just need the tools and the time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Devices for Students

Being both a tech director and a personal tech geek, I have access to lots of devices--A large beast of a laptop, an iPad, a Kindle Fire, an iPod Touch, a Chromebook, and my netbook. What's my go-to device? The lowly netbook. There is nothing that I do day to day that I can't do on my netbook; the size is right both for use and for portability; it has a keyboard that I can touch type on; and the price is economical.

I wonder if we don't aim too high when it comes to devices in the hands of our students and even our teachers. If we truly analyze what students and teachers use their personal devices for, I think we will find that less is more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Technology Can Transform

For some time I've questioned the remark I hear almost everyday, "Technology is just a tool for learning." While I've agreed for a long time that there's a time for technology and a time to learn in other ways, I think technology transforms our society and education so much that to think of it as just a tool is underestimating its role.

Take a look at this blog post from George Couros and make sure to read through until the end where there is a powerful picture:

Technology is More than a Tool

In my opinion, Mr. Couros has said it so well. What do you think?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Introverts and Extroverts in Classrooms

I've been reading the brand new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and I just keep thinking about the implications for our schools. Our society and our schools are currently designed to reward extroverted behavior, and I've long believed that this is fundamentally unfair to our students who aren't natively wired to behave this way. As the book points out, introverts are very important to our society. We need both the talkers and the thinkers--the social butterflies and the readers--those who like to work in groups or speak in class and those who prefer to work on their own--those who deliver the message the best and those who quietly created that message.

Face to face groups can be intimidating for an introvert, and with so many well rewarded extroverts in classrooms, it can even become just plain difficult to get a word in edgewise. Technology offers us some wonderful tools to accommodate the needs of our students who are introverts. With email, discussion boards, shared documents, Twitter, blogging, chatting, and many other forms of technology for communicating, we can provide our introverted students with new tools to participate more fully in their education and to share their important insights, knowledge, and thoughts with their peers.

I am happy that Susan Cain has opened the conversation. I hope that we will come together as educators and think about whether some of our methods for educating give an unfair advantage to extroverts and whether we might be overlooking the introverts who have so much to share but have often not been given a comfortable outlet to do so.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Welcome, Jorge!

I ran into a quote on my iGoogle page today that seemed very appropriate:

"Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it."--Margaret Thatcher

Today was our new computer technician's first day, and boy, did he ever work! All the odds and ends of different brands and ages of individual computers that we haven't found the time to repair are first on his list. Some have hardware to fix or replace. Then, most don't have images to throw at them, so it's a process of loading Windows and all the other things that need to go on them. All in all, it's very time consuming. I can't tell you how great it is to know it's finally getting done.

Welcome to Jorge who has jumped right in and made SLCSD a better place for learning already!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teachers and Students Sell the School Board

I am just so proud of the teachers and students who presented to the School Board tonight, showing how they are using the various technologies we've acquired in the district for learning. Both the students and teachers not only showed what projects they were doing, but they also showed their excitement. I have never been to Board presentations that were so full of exuberance!

Proud is an understatement.

Not Another Boring Presentation

Update: It looks like the privacy settings on this video were changed to "private" sometime since I posted this blog. Too bad. It was a great video.

I ran into this video on Twitter this morning and had to post it here. We have all been in presentations like this. Here is my question:

How many class periods a week do students have to deal with this exact scenario?

Technology integration is not the same thing as "using technology." We must change the way we teach. Give the students the technology. Set them free.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Equipment failures

We had our email spam filter malfunction starting sometime this weekend, and it is now replaced. Whew! We never know how dependent we are on various technologies until they don't work quite right. Email slow. Can you imagine? Luckily, the replacement unit is deployed and fast. I will reach a final verdict on success after a night of email goes uneventfully, but I am confident the crisis has passed. Like I said, whew!

Thursday, January 5, 2012