Archive | February, 2010

What’s RIGHT with the edublogosphere?

Continuing the conversation from yesterday when I asked “What’s WRONG with the edublogosphere?”, today I invite you to share what you think is RIGHT in our not-so-little edublogger world.

   What’s right with edublogging?
   (or, if you like, What’s right with the edublogosphere?)

Please share your thoughts, either in the comments area or as a post on your own blog (leave us a link in the comments area, though!). As Darren Rowse notes, this is a great opportunity to deconstruct the medium. Share whatever you want as long as it is positive. If you’ve got something negative to say about the edublogosphere, see the post from yesterday.

I’m looking forward to seeing your thoughts!

What’s WRONG with the edublogosphere?

Darren Rowse had a brilliant idea to ask, “What’s wrong with blogging?” I think we should ask this about the edublogosphere as well. So…

   What’s wrong with edublogging?
   (or, if you like, What’s wrong with the edublogosphere?)

I invite you to share your thoughts, either in the comments area or as a post on your own blog (please leave us a link in the comments area, though!). As Darren notes, this is a great opportunity to deconstruct the medium and get some stuff off your chest that frustrates you about the edublogosphere. Share whatever you want as long as it is NOT positive (as Darren says!). Also, it probably would be more polite if you wrote about general issues rather than go after particular bloggers (if you must do the latter, go easy on me!).

I’m looking forward to seeing your thoughts. Note that tomorrow I’ll ask you what’s RIGHT with the edublogosphere!

The future of magazines, Part 2

Sports Illlustrated offered its thoughts on what an electronic version of the magazine might look like. Now Wired has done the same. As the iPad and other similar devices permeate society, will we still call these magazines?

The zealous monitoring of students and teachers continues

In October 2007 I wrote:

[M]any administrators dispense with students' 4th Amendment rights in the name of 'safety.' They know what the law says, but community pressures or perceived dangers outweigh Constitutional rights. Many of these administrators are in schools with no history of violence or threats. But Columbine freaked everyone out – if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere – so anything goes when it comes to student rights.

The zealous electronic monitoring of P-12 students and teachers continues. Some is legal, some is not. The use of webcams to monitor students at home without their or their parents’ knowledge is likely illegal. The use of Web monitoring and/or keylogging software to keep track of teachers’ online usage is likely legal, although it fosters a culture of employee distrust. Complicating all of this is school organizations’ obligation to ensure environments free of bullying and sexual harassment.

Too many administrators – driven by spurious media reports, parent anxiety, desires for control and order, and a natural tendency to avoid controversy and cover their asses bases – are all too willing to sacrifice educational opportunities and/or essential liberties in the name of ‘safety.’ Of course we pay a cost for this, one that isn’t discussed nearly enough.

It is unclear at what point we will say, “Enough!” Right now the end to this is nowhere in sight. I’m afraid we’re going to look back one day and ask, “What have we done to ourselves in the name of safety?

Related posts

My answers on the ISTE SIGAdmin survey

The ISTE SIGAdmin just asked its membership two questions. Here are my answers…

1. How has the Internet changed thinking?

The Internet has allowed distributed thinking (and thus learning) to become more visible, thus facilitating conversations (and thus learning) and connections and collaborations that previously were impossible.

2. What Web 2.0 tool do you find most helpful in your administrative work?

Google Reader is without a doubt the most useful tool in my technology arsenal. As much as my blog is doing for me (and it's doing lots), I'm watching over 500 feeds in my Reader – organized by topical folders – and my learning (quantity, quality, rate) is astounding me right now.

What would you have said?

Our April 7 Iowa 1:1 Institute (I11I) is filling fast!

Just a few weeks after publicizing our first-ever Iowa 1:1 Institute (I11I), we already have over 300 people who have registered to attend on April 7. Our registration is capped at 500, so if you’re interested, sign up soon! Oh, did I mention that attendance is FREE?

Angela Maiers has agreed to be our keynote speaker. It looks like Wes Fryer will be coming to do a few sessions. The CASTLE staff will be in action as well.

What else are we doing that day? Well, how about a couple of Web 2.0 Smackdowns, a TweetUp, and a variety of role-alike conversations for teachers, administrators, and board members? And some space set aside for an ‘unconference.’ And, of course, lots of good sessions from 1:1 laptop districts in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois. And whatever else we come up with…

Stay tuned. Hope to see you in Des Moines in April!

My fall sabbatical: What should I do? Where should I go?


I am extremely pleased that Iowa State University approved my request to take my first-ever sabbatical this fall semester. I will be spending the bulk of my time away working on a book or two. I have a multitude of ideas that are extremely eager to get out of my head and into publication!

In addition to my writing, I also will have time to do a little bit of traveling, in the fall as well as next spring and summer. So I’m looking for some interesting opportunities, particularly chances for me to learn and/or teach in places that I’ve never been before. If there are people / places / programs that I should go see in action, or events for which I should consider attending / presenting, please let me know! Right now my schedule for next year is almost completely wide open. [Note: depending on what the opportunity is, I might need assistance with travel funding!]

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions that you have!

CASTLE adds 3 new blog partners!

As part of our never-ending quest to tap into the potential of social media to enhance the practice of school administrators (and the university programs that prepare them), I am pleased to announce that CASTLE has added three new blogs to its portfolio. Two of the three blogs have been in existence for a long while; the third is a new blog by a faculty colleague.

Are we trying to become the Weblogs, Inc. or Gawker Media (or Education Week) of the edublogosphere? No, not exactly. But we ARE trying to assemble a portfolio of blogs that meet the various technology and/or leadership needs of practicing school leaders.

Our blogs

Here are the blogs that we’ve initiated to date (and their topical focus):

  1. Dangerously Irrelevant (technology, leadership, and school reform)
  2. LeaderTalk (school leadership; group blog)
  3. Edjurist (school law; group blog)
  4. 1to1 Schools (1:1 laptop programs; group blog)

To this mix, we’ve now added the following (which fill in a few significant topical areas in which we were lacking)…

5. Virtual High School Meanderings (online schooling)

Dr. Michael Barbour, an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University, has been blogging about online schooling for years. As you’ll see if you read it for a while, if it has to do with online schooling, you’ll likely find it at Michael’s blog. Michael posts A LOT; the comprehensiveness of information he provides is astounding. Michael also maintains a virtual schooling wiki or you can follow him on Twitter. Michael’s blog soon will be renamed Virtual School Meanderings to reflect the growth of online schooling in earlier grades. 

Here are some representative posts to get you started:

6. Educational Games Research (educational gaming)

John Rice is an educator, author, and speaker, as well as a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, who has been blogging about educational gaming since February 2007. I am a learner in the area of educational gaming so I always gain a lot from John’s posts. John does a nice job of looking at K-12 and higher education and also includes a post now and then on corporate simulations, serious gaming, and the like.

Here are some representative posts to get you started:

7. School Finance 101 (school finance / policy)

I have known Dr. Bruce Baker, school finance professor extraordinaire, for many years. Bruce is a fantastic scholar. His interests extend far beyond school finance to include a variety of policy and leadership issues. Those of us in educational leadership academic circles know that Bruce is not afraid to take on the establishment and confront uncomfortable political and educational truths. I was delighted to see that Bruce started blogging more extensively last fall and was even more pleased when he agreed to join us. Bruce writes about deep, significant school funding and/or policy issues, but does so in a way that’s accessible to those of us who aren’t experts in this area. You also can find Bruce on Twitter.

Here are some representative posts to get you started:

I encourage you to subscribe to all three of these blogs for a while. There is some really important information and thinking coming out of all three of these channels. I can guarantee that you’ll learn a lot and gain some valuable resources for your own work.

Next steps

What lies ahead for the CASTLE blogs? Well, we will be shifting a couple of our existing blogs over to WordPress, so you’ll see some visual changes and added functionality in the next few months. We’re going to add some new authors to our group blogs, particularly LeaderTalk and 1to1 Schools. And we’re in conversations with our sponsor, the University Council for Educational Administration, about initiating a blog that deals with school leadership for social justice. If you’ve got some other suggestions for us, or know of a blog that might be a good addition to our portfolio, let me know!

Happy reading!

Are Iowa’s teacher retention efforts worth the money?

Like most states, Iowa is concerned with the retention rate of its new teachers. Over the past decade Iowa has instituted a number of different efforts to combat new teacher turnover, including:

  1. participation in a 2-year induction program by every new teacher;
  2. an annual statewide mentoring and induction institute;
  3. an annual awards program that recognizes outstanding new teacher mentoring and leadership;
  4. a mentoring and induction network that operates through our Area Educational Agencies (AEAs);
  5. a mentoring and induction statewide steering committee;
  6. development of a mentoring and induction model that districts and AEAs can implement; and
  7. at least one statewide survey of new teachers, mentors, and administrators.

As the latest report from the Iowa Department of Education notes, Iowa’s efforts have improved its new teacher retention rate. Of the 3,520 first- and second-year teachers that began the year in 2007-2008, 3,243 (92.1%) returned in 2008-2009. Only 277 new teachers left the profession. If Iowa was still losing new teachers at the 2001 rate (87.5%), we would have lost 440 teachers instead. In other words, all of the above activity resulted in a net retention gain of 163 teachers.

How much is too much? The cost of each net new teacher retained.

How much did all of this cost? Well, the Iowa Department of Education allocation table shows that in 2007-2008 the Iowa Department of Education spent $4,678,050 on payments to new teacher mentors and their districts or AEAs (Item 1 above). The costs for Items 2 through 7 were covered by grants and other funding sources. This means that Iowa spent $28,700 for each net new teacher retained (total cost / 163) for Item 1 alone, never mind whatever additional expenses there were for Items 2 through 7.

Of course this raises the question of whether the net gain was worth the financial outlay by the state. Most of us are in favor of trying to improve new teacher retention and school district educator induction. At some point, however, the cost becomes too prohibitive for the gain achieved. Is this how much we should spend for each net new teacher retained?