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1:1 laptop initiatives in Iowa [VIDEOS]

TrappedThree videos worth watching…

In Fall 2008, only 6 school districts in Iowa had a 1:1 student laptop initiative in place. In Fall 2011, as many as 90 to 100 districts (one-fourth of the state total) may be giving laptops to some segment of their student population. This explosive, grass roots growth has completely changed the tenor of many conversations here in the state and has fostered some very rapid innovations in learning and teaching.

Contest winners

Here are the winners of CASTLE’s first-ever Iowa 1:1 Student Video Contest. Congratulations to Matthew (Valley CSD, Elgin, IA) and Janae (Sioux Central CSD, Sioux Rapids, IA)!

Van Meter

The Van Meter Community Schools (Van Meter, IA) recently made a video highlighting its 1:1 learning and teaching initiative. Maybe next year CASTLE should have a school/district video contest too!

Kudos to the creators of all three of these videos. Nicely done!

If you’d like to know more about 1:1 laptop initiatives in Iowa, contact Nick Sauers (and read his blog, 1 to 1 Schools), check out CASTLE’s annual Iowa 1:1 Institute, and/or participate in the 1:1 Laptop Schools Ning. We also have a map showing all currently-known 1:1 schools in the state. If your district’s not on this list, please let Nick know!

HELP WANTED (and CONTEST) – 500 school leadership blogs in 10 days?

Trapped[UPDATE: And the winner is… Suzie Linch, who submitted Nathan Barber’s blog, The Next Generation of Educational Leadership. Congratulations, Suzie!]

Does your local principal or superintendent blog? Do you read the blog of your local, state, or national school administrator association? Know of other blogs that are of interest to school leaders? I’m trying to collect 500 school leadership blogs in the next 10 days. Sure, there are some lists but they all need updating:

I know that many of you will contribute out of the goodness of your heart. But, because 500 blogs is a very ambitious goal, I’ll sweeten the pot a little. The kind folks at Lenovo are going to let me give away a Lenovo m90z all-in-one desktop computer to anyone in the world who submits a school leadership blog using the form below. I’ll choose at random from all of the submissions. You get an extra chance for each blog you submit; the more you enter, the better your chance to win!

FYI, the m90z is a pretty sweet machine (Lenovo sent me one to review first). The huge touch screen is very responsive. It would be a great home or classroom computer; my kids have taken to it like ducks to water. Here are a few pictures so that you can see what you might win and here are the technical specifications. Also, over the next few days check out these blogs for additional opportunities to score a m90z:

The form is below. The deadline is May 16. Thanks in advance for helping out. I’ll clean up the list of contributions and share it back out so that we all can make good use of them!

The Textbook Challenge: Environmental Science (7th grade)

First up in my analysis of my children’s textbooks for The Textbook Challenge: my 7th-grade daughter’s Environmental Science text. The purpose of the challenge is to compare textbook content to what can be found online.

Environmental Science? Sounds like a timely topic indeed…

Profile and interview

The book starts with a profile of - and interview with - a Wildlife Management Biologist. There are 4 pages of text and pictures. I find similar resources on the Web with a quick Google search. Check.

Learning activity - Camouflage

Flipping forward randomly, I find the following activity (click on image for larger size):


Hmmm… I’m NOT impressed with this activity. This book lists 3 program authors, 3 more book authors, 2 contributing writers, a reading consultant, an interdisciplinary consultant, 2 safety consultants, 13 program reviewers, 27 content reviewers, 26 teacher reviewers, and 25 activity field testers (whew!). Despite all the expertise and Ph.D.s. on the list, this was the best they could come up with for an activity related to camouflage?

I show this to my daughter. She already knows at least as much about camouflage as she would learn from this activity. She responds quickly to the ‘Think It Over’ part. She does NOT learn anything new from this activity. I’m not sure any other 7th-grader will either.

There are a wealth of camouflage activities and lesson plans available via a quick Google search. Check.

Real-world lab - Is paper a renewable resource?

Flipping forward randomly again, I come to a ‘real world lab’ that purports to address whether or not paper is a renewable resource. In this activity, students examine newspapers under microscopes, tear them up into small pieces, and then essentially make them back into paper again by making a rudimentary paper press. Students then extend their learning by answering some questions and designing ‘experiments’ on how to recycle other materials such as glossy magazine paper or cardboard.

Quick Google searches turn up a number of similar resources. Check.

Exploring soil conservation

Flipping forward randomly again brings me to a sidebar on farming practices that help reduce soil erosion. A quick Google search is productive. Check.

Try this - How acid is your rain?

Flipping forward randomly brings me to a little side experiment on rain acidity. A quick Google search is productive. Check.

Chapter review and air pollution concept map

One last random flip forward. I’m at a chapter review. There are lots of multiple choice and true-false questions. There also is a fill-in-the-blank concept map for air pollution that requires students to put in EXACTLY the term expected by the textbook. A quick Google search turns up similar activities. Check.

The chapter review also contains 3 ‘Thinking Critically’ questions:

  • Comparing and Contrasting. How are radon and carbon monoxide alike? How are they different?
  • Predicting. What effect might a sudden increase in the amount of ozone in the ozone layer have?
  • Making generalizations. Would you expect the levels of photochemical smog to be worse in cities or in rural areas? Explain your answer.

I’ll let you decide if these truly measure critical thinking or if they merely require student to parrot back what a teacher, textbook, or web site tells them.


Although I didn’t do an exhaustive examination of the textbook, random searching didn’t turn up much that wasn’t easily findable online. Some of the Web activities appeared more cognitively complex than what was in the text; others were similar.

The Textbook Challenge [CONTEST]

I have been known to say that there’s not much in your children’s textbooks that isn’t available in at least a dozen places online for free.

But, hey, maybe I’m wrong. After all, the textbook publishers think that they’re adding value to the teaching-learning process. And many teachers and school systems appreciate that someone else has curated for them the nearly-infinite range of learning resources that now exist in print and/or digital form.

This week I’ll be looking at my children’s textbooks and comparing them to what I can find online. I invite you to do the same. Let us know what you find and/or think by commenting on this post or any subsequent post in the series. Anyone that leaves a comment (along with a valid e-mail address) will be entered into a drawing to win the following prize pack:

The prizes aren’t really the point, of course. What’s important here is how able (or unable) we are right now to step away from costly printed/electronic textbooks. I agree with Michael Doyle’s statement that

a well-crafted web site with a thoughtful teacher acting as the curator to the links can produce a body of knowledge superior to textbooks.

I also would add that students should be part of the curation process too through use of tools like wikis, social bookmarking, and blogs. Subject-area associations like the National Council of Teachers of English or the National Council for the Social Studies, foundations, museums, libraries, and other entities also could be excellent curators of online content.

So… this week I investigate in more depth my own proposition. I hope you will join me by trying this yourself and also passing this quest along to others. Feel free to use my Textbook Challenge image as desired; like everything else I do, it’s got a Creative Commons license. Thanks!

3 days ’til The Textbook Challenge!

On Monday I launch The Textbook Challenge.

What’s that, you say? You’ll have to wait and see. I’m giving out prizes. Hope you’ll participate!


Technology Mentoring: A Timeless Idea

First, I'd like to thank Scott for hosting me as part of my virtual tour to support The Best of Learning & Leading with Technology. You can follow the entire tour at Ed Tech Jen. To thank you for taking the time to find out a little about me and about the book, I'll be giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter.

Technology Mentoring

In pulling together this collection of the best articles from a five-year span of Learning & Leading with Technology, I looked for three things:

  1. Articles that were compelling to read.
  2. Articles that many of our readers responded to, nominated for the collection on The Best of L&L blog, or had included in course packets.
  3. Articles that contained ideas that transcended specific technologies or educational settings.

One article that really stood out in the technology leadership area was "Teacher to Teacher Mentoring" by Kathleen Gora and Janice Hinson. (ISTE members can read this article here.)

Gora and Hinson described a program in their school where the more-experienced technology users helped teach their fellow teachers to integrate specific technologies into their instruction. They found much better results from these mentorships than from other professional development methods they had tried in their school.

One of the nice things about this program was that it had the deep support of the principal. This was really a key component of its success, and the main reason that the program is still in effect today.

When I contacted many of the authors whose works are included in the book, they shared a different result. Some had retired, and some had moved into other educational settings where technology use was not as well supported. Those who were still teaching used many of the same pedagogical techniques, but were unable to include the technology component. Thus, the fact that the program described in this article is still active is notable.

One of the compelling points for me was that this school had taken a solid teaching truth and applied it to itself. We know that students learn a topic really well when they have to teach it to their fellow students. So it makes sense that teachers who have to train other teachers in a technology integration technique or the use of an application would learn it better than if they were just using it personally.

What about you. Have you used mentoring in your educational setting? If so, what sort of process have you used to group mentors and mentees and to assign topics of study? How do assess the effectiveness of the mentorship?

Have you taken any other tenet of effective student learning and applied it to teacher professional development or to your own professional learning? How has it worked? Have you thought about sharing that idea with other technology leaders?

About Jennifer Roland

Jennifer is a writer living in the Portland, Oregon, area. She holds bachelor’s degrees in magazine journalism and political science from the University of Oregon. Her education also focused on history, economics, linguistics, and educational policy and management. Before embarking on her freelance career, she was a staff member at ISTE. Follow Jennifer on her blog tour at; each tour stop includes a chance to win a copy of The Best of Learning & Leading with Technology.

About The Best of Learning & Leading with Technology

ISTE’s flagship magazine, Learning & Leading with Technology, is where the organization’s members and industry experts share and discuss the latest and greatest in using technology to enhance education. This collection includes the very best articles from 2003-2008. Along with the articles as they originally appeared in the magazine, the book includes commentary and context introducing the articles as well as short essays from the original authors, who further discuss the issues and topics of their articles and how they’ve affected the ed tech world.

Contest – Funniest ed tech story, useful web site/service for administrators

I haven’t had a contest all summer. I have some books to give away, so here’s an easy one…


  1. What’s your funniest K-12 ed tech story, vignette, or anecdote? [please anonymize as necessary]
  2. What web site or service would be really helpful to K-12 principals or superintendents that they may not know about?


  1. Submit your entry by July 31. You can answer one or both questions.
  2. If you include your contact information, you automatically will be entered into a drawing for one of the two prize packs.
  3. Please note that by entering this contest you’re also giving me the right to publish your entry (possibly with your associated contact info). Good luck!

Prize Pack 1

Prize Pack 2

Both winners also will receive a CASTLE mug. Good luck!

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