We could surprise them and they could see that we are good kids

Criminal

Katrina Schwartz said

Many students at [Los Angeles Unified School District’s Roosevelt High School] felt the news media had mischaracterized their school and its students as criminals for figuring out how to get around the iPad’s security features, often to access educational information.

“We were really caught up in how they kept calling Roosevelt ‘hackers,’” said Daniela Carrasco, a former student.

[Mariela] Bravo doesn’t understand why the district would give students iPads with so many limitations. Her peers were looking up homework help on YouTube – and yes, checking Facebook, too – but that’s part of life.

“They have to trust us more,” Bravo said. “We could surprise them and they could see that we are good kids.”

Students were frustrated that the district couldn’t see that negotiating distractions on the Internet is part of life now. “We should have been trusted with those websites,” Carrasco said. “Instead of blocking them, there should have been emphasis on how to use those websites for good.”

via http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/06/01/how-students-uncovered-lingering-hurt-from-lausd-ipad-rollout

More nuanced responses from the students than the district…

Image credit: criminals crew_07, Phiesta’s way

Team 4443 Sock Monkeys Once Again!

Hey guys, it’s Molly again! And for those of you who don’t know who I am…well, I am Molly. I am a senior in high school this year (12th grade.) I am a part of Team 4443: Sock Monkeys and we are a robotics team through the FTC.

What does FTC stand for/mean? The acronym FTC stands for First Tech Challenge, which is part of the FIRST program. FTC consists of students grades 8-12 and allows students to experience parts – small or large – of the engineering world. Robotics teams start the competition season by learning what that year’s challenge is; they then immediately get to work on designing and building a robot that is best suited to that year’s challenge. The robot also has certain limitations, in parameters such as size, materials, and shape. There are also other regulations that must be followed, like certain restrictions on modifications to parts and rules in the competition. Teams have a lot of freedom with their designs, and many teams use 3D printed parts designed using programs like Creo or AutoCad. In addition to the physical aspect of building the robot, participants also sharpen their minds by solving the problems presented to them (both in robot design and during competition matches) and by building relations with other teams and their community. The core principle of FTC is “Gracious Professionalism” – giving respect and help in order to make the FTC program fair and fun, while bettering all those involved. FTC and FIRST provide participants with the tools they need to build useful skills that will help them succeed, whether they pursue engineering or any other path in life.

Why are we blogging? We are blogging because we sent an email to Scott McLeod (who talked to us last year when we went to Worlds the first time) and he asked us to post updates on how we’re doing. We also update our adventures on our website and other social media:

Website: oskyrobotics.weebly.com

Facebook: search “Sock Monkeys”

Twitter: @4443SockMonkeys

If you have any personal questions, email us at

How did we get here? We got here (to the World Championship) because we qualified at the FTC North Super Regional competition, but our story stretches back further than that. We hosted a competition at our high school on November 15th, where I was volunteer coordinator. We qualified for the State competition at our league championship on January 10th, and this meant that we were moving on to the big leagues. From there we competed at State (March 6-7) and moved on to the North Super Regional (March 26-28). There, we qualified and moved on to the World Championship!

Where are we right now? Right now, we are at the FTC World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri getting ready to compete with 128 teams from countries around the world. Between April 22nd and 25th, we’ll compete like we have all year, but we’ll be with (and against) the best FTC teams across the globe.

What is the game this year? The 2014-2015 season FTC game is called “Cascade Effect.” Robots drop different sized whiffle balls into tubes of varying heights to score points. Two alliances of two teams each have 2 1/2 minutes to score the balls, move the goals, and overall try to outperform the other team. Here’s a link to the full explanation of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABmBxCwHV94

What are some accomplishments we have made this season other than in competitions? FIRST is much more than just building a robot and competing in matches. Teams also build lasting friendships with other teams and help out their community. The Sock Monkeys have an address book containing many of the teams that we’ve met, which allows us to keep in contact with them throughout the season and help them with any problems they may have. We have also featured as stories on several different news outlets, one being CRI (here’s a link to the video! ) and the other being the Oskaloosa Herald, our town newspaper (here’s an article they wrote about us ) We have also done a lot of outreach!

Relay For LifeCAZJuhMUcAAdAHZ  Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 10.02.08 PM11083591_816486815053778_9205499458231613218_nPlease watch the posts and stay updated!

 

Diane Ravitch and learning technologies: Here we go again

What if all students had EQUAL access to incredible learning tools?

I have previously expressed my concerns regarding Diane Ravitch’s denigration of the power of digital technologies for learning and teaching. Her blog gives her a very visible online platform and I think that she should be a little more careful with her wording and claims, particularly given her self-professed lack of computer fluency. Although she’s been relatively quiet on the technology front lately, I believe that a couple of her recent posts about digital learning tools are worth responding to…

Tablets are not real computers

Diane labels a post from Red Queen as ‘one of the best posts ever.’ She quotes Red Queen:

We all know this about tablet “computers”: they are not real “working” machines. When I proposed buying a tablet for my student the dude behind the counter told me: “Don’t do it. You’ll have to buy a keyboard, it has way less memory and no ports, a smaller screen and slower speed: it’s just not what a serious student needs. By the time you’re done adding on, you’ll have a machine almost as expensive as a real computer with far less functionality”.

Any parent will have received that advice from just about any computer salesman. And while there are a few serious students out there who no doubt feel otherwise, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the word on the street is: tablets are no substitute for a computer; students need computers.

Red Queen goes on to say that tablet computers are ‘frivolous electronics‘ and Diane includes that quote too.

Of course this belies actual reality. Tablets and smartphones continue to become both more powerful and more popular with every iteration. It is projected that sometime this year total tablet shipments will begin to surpass total PC shipments. Schools and educators that are using tablets are finding that they are quite robust computing machines, often able to do things easier or better than is possible with the larger, heavier, and often clunkier form factor of a laptop or desktop. While many people still may prefer a more expensive and robust computing device, it is ludicrous to say in September 2014 that an iOS or Android tablet isn’t a ‘real computer’ or that ‘serious students’ only should use laptops or desktops.

Finland and South Korea and Poland don’t have digital technology in their classrooms

In another post, Diane cites excerpts from Amanda Ripley’s new book, The Smartest Kids in the World:

The anecdotal evidence suggests that Americans waste an extraordinary amount of tax money on high-tech toys for teachers and students, most of which have no proven learning value whatsoever. . . . In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms.

Old-school can be good school. Eric’s high school in Busan, South Korea had austere classrooms with bare-bones computer labs. Out front, kids played soccer on a dirt field. From certain angles, the place looked like an American school from the 1950s. Most of Kim’s classrooms in Finland looked the same way: rows of desks in front of a simple chalkboard or an old-fashioned white board, the kind that was not connected to anything but the wall. . . . None of the classrooms in [Tom’s] Polish school had interactive white boards.

There are numerous issues with these types of quotes. For instance…

  • The unstated assumption that performance on standardized assessments of low-level thinking is how we should judge educational success. I agree that if our goal is better bubble test achievement, we can drill-and-kill kids all day without any technology whatsoever. We’ve had over a century to perfect the numbing of student minds in analog environments. But if we want to prepare students to be empowered learners and doers within current and future information, economic, and learning landscapes, it’s impossible to do that while shunning technology.
  • The disparagement of digital technologies as ‘toys.’ Digital tools and environments are transforming everything around us in substantive, transformative, and disruptive ways. They are not mere toys unless we choose to only use them in that way. It’s a sad indictment of us as educators and communities that it is taking us so long to awaken to the educational possibilities of learning technologies and the Internet.
  • The equation of interactive white boards (and, in a later quote, student response systems) as the sum and substance of educational technology. Those of us who decry such replicative technologies agree that those are insufficiently empowering of students and thus unlikely to make much of an impact. But putting powerful digital tools into the hands of students that let them create, make, connect, collaborate, and make an impact, both locally and globally? That’s a different story. We need a different vision, one in which we don’t merely use digital technologies – and rows of desks in tight formation – to broadcast to students while they sit passively and watch or listen. And we need to stop pointing at those lackluster wastes of learning power and saying, “See? Told you technology doesn’t make a difference.”
  • The nostalgic yearning for the simple classrooms and schools of yesteryear, uncomplicated by modern learning tools (or, apparently, grass in the schoolyard). Ah, yes, remember when life (supposedly) wasn’t so complicated? Does anyone really want to return to 1950s beliefs and worldviews about learning and society? And if they do, what disservice do we do our youth when we prepare them for 60 years ago rather than now and tomorrow?

Wrap-Up

So, to sum up, so far Diane appears to be against online learning and digital educational games and simulations, and she shares posts that are against tablet computers or paint all technologies as disruptive and distracting. And that’s dangerous because people listen to her. She and many of her fans seem to ignore the fact that it’s awfully difficult to prepare students for success in a digital, global world without giving them access to digital technologies and Internet access. Railing against computer expenditures and Internet connectivity for our children is irresponsible, especially when those funds come from different sources and thus can’t be spent on teachers, support staff, professional development, or educational programming.

Now, to give Diane some credit, there are a few concerns raised in these posts that are worth noting:

  1. It’s a reasonable question to ask whether school equipment and construction funds would be better spent on upgrading facilities or purchasing computers for students, particularly given the time horizons of both construction bonds and technology obsolescence. That’s a difficult decision and I’m glad that I don’t have to make it at the scale that the L.A. Unified school district does.
  2. I, too, have grave misgivings about the Amplify tablets that are being used in Guilford County, North Carolina, but not just because they’re tablets.
  3. When Andreas Schleicher from OECD is quoted as saying that ‘people always matter than props,’ of course that is dead on. The success or failure of learning technologies in schools always will depend more on us as educators than on the tools themselves.
  4. Diane quotes Carlo Rotella, who says that “if everyone agrees that good teachers make all the difference, wouldn’t it make more sense to devote our resources to strengthening the teaching profession with better recruitment, training, support and pay? It seems misguided to try to improve the process of learning by putting an expensive tool in the hands of teachers we otherwise treat like the poor relations of the high-tech whiz kids who design the tool. . . . Are our overwhelmed, besieged, haphazardly recruited, variably trained, underpaid, not-so-elite teachers, in fact, the potential weak link in Amplify’s bid to disrupt American schooling?” Leaving aside the false dichotomy of ‘we can strengthen the teaching profession or we can give students computers but not both,’ this is a pretty insightful statement. As I noted in an earlier post, we have an appalling lack of technology support and training for our educators. We have to stop pretending that if we insert computers into the learning-teaching process that magic will happen and start doing a much better job of helping educators empower students with potentially-transformative digital tools.

These concerns, however, are more specific and nuanced and aren’t painted with an extremely broad anti-technology brush. If Diane typically discussed learning technologies in thoughtful and careful ways like these, I’d have much less concern. Loyal readers here know that I myself often express misgivings about ineffective technology integration and implementation in schools. But to say that there’s no educational worth whatsoever in online learning, educational simulations, tablet computers, or whatever Diane rants against next is patently false.

Whether we like it or not, digital technologies in education are here to stay. As I said in my earlier post,

the issue is not – as [Diane] seems to believe – that [digital tools] never have any value. The issues are 1) Under what circumstances do these new learning tools and spaces have value?, and 2) How do we create learning and policy environments in which that value is most likely to be realized?

I’ll keep wishing that Diane one day recognizes this. I’ll also keep wishing that Diane one day recognizes the irony (hypocrisy?) of decrying students’ use of digital technologies while simultaneously employing those tools herself to great effect to further her goals and increase her visibility.

Your thoughts?

Image credit: What if…, Darren Kuropatwa

Hiring a technology integration team

What if you wanted to hire some new technology integrationists? What would you look for? At Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency, we placed an emphasis on finding folks who already were doing incredible work with students and teachers. If you want amazing things to occur in your organization, find people who already are doing that stuff, right?

Some of the emphases in our position announcement were a) technology infusion for the purpose of enabling cognitive complexity and student agency, b) innovation and risk-taking, and c) demonstrated success with students and teachers. In order to get at the latter, we asked for 5 URLs of personal, student, and/or educator work products and a 3- to 6-minute online video, both of which should illustrate their amazingness.

I can’t describe how helpful the URL and video components of the applications were. They allowed us to very quickly and easily see who was (and wasn’t) doing great things. Plus they were just fun! Below is the first portion of one of the videos. Is it possible to watch that and not be excited?!

In our interviews we asked questions like:

  • What gets you up in the morning? What burns a fire in your belly?
  • What are three concrete examples of how you have personally transformed education?
  • What are you going to do for us over the next year that is awesome? How will we know at the end of the year if you were amazing?

As a result of this process, we’ve got four phenomenal new hires for next year. I’m excited to get them connected with our other incredible staff!

  • Mike Anderson – elementary teacher and STEM co-coordinator for Sibley-Ocheyedan CSD; has been delving deep into iPads and STEM-focused, inquiry-based learning; a great resource for robotics, iMovie, and GarageBand; does amazing video work
  • Julie Graber – technology and learning consultant for AEA 267; Authentic Intellectual Work, Instructional Practices Inventory, and TPACK guru; 1:1 facilitator; knows a ton about aligning the Iowa Core, Characteristics of Effective Instruction, and ISTE’s Essential Conditions
  • Erin Olson – high school English teacher for Sioux Central CSD; classroom was featured in The New York Times; KICD Teacher of the Year; Bammy Secondary Teacher of the Year Award nominee; doing powerful work around enabling student voice through blogging, video, and service learning literacy projects; active in Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation
  • Leslie Pralle Keehn – social studies teacher and PD coordinator for Northeast Hamilton CSD; Iowa Social Studies Teacher of the Year; national C-SPAN Fellow; piloting the Big History Project; wide-ranging experience with 1:1, iPads, and social media; active in Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation

Follow ’em on Twitter, folks, and stay tuned for more information. We’re going to (continue to) do amazing things!

The 800-desktop millstone [SCENARIO]

Computer LabIntroducing a new feature here, here’s a school technology leadership scenario for you…

SCENARIO: You’re a new central office administrator in a growing district. Just a few months into the job you learn that the new high school your district is building – which was originally designed 3 to 4 years ago and is supposed to open next fall – is about to order 800 new desktop computers and put them into rooms configured as stationary computer labs. You know that computing is moving toward mobile, not tethered, environments and that universities, for example, are quickly getting away from labs altogether. The rooms are already built and wired, but you’re concerned about investing a significant amount of money in technologies that may not best meet the present and future needs of students and staff.

YOUR TURN: How do you handle this? Do you let this one go and fight other battles? Or do you take this on and try and stop the already-moving train (and, if so, what’s your approach)?

Got a school technology leadership scenario to share? Send it to me and I’ll see if we can post it. Make sure to let me know if you want your name attached or if you want to stay anonymous!

[cross-posted at Education Recoded]

The Logistics of 1:1 Chromebooks at Leyden [guest post]

The second post in a series about 1:1 at Leyden
by Bryan Weinert, Director of Technology for Leyden CHSD 212
@LeydenTechies – Author of the Leyden Techies Blog

The wonderful thing about Chromebooks, is Chromebooks are wonderful things.
Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs.
They’re bouncy, flouncy, pouncy, trouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
The most wonderful thing about Chromebooks, is they’re the only one!

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be trying to write a blog post at the same time while watching my 15 month old daughter, but hopefully I got you started reading this with a smile.  This is the second post in the four-part series on going 1:1 with Chromebooks in our district that a few of my colleagues and I were asked to write for Scott McLeod’s amazing Dangerously Irrelevant blog.  Be sure to check out the first post in the series, Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? written by Jason Markey, our principal at East Leyden High School.

Let me start by suggesting that one of the really wonderful things about Chromebooks is that they actually eliminate or simplify a number of logistics.  While researching and planning to go 1:1 in our district, this made the Chromebook an extremely attractive choice for us.  Far too often over the past 12 years that I’ve been the Director of Technology for our district did technology initiatives run into problems because of logistics.  The following are some of the key highlights that we’ve experienced so far.

SETUP

None.  Really, none.  We purchased enough devices that they came pre-setup with our wireless network configured and enrolled into our Google Apps domain.  We were able to take them out of the box and give them directly to students.

MANAGEMENT

We purchased our Chromebooks directly from Google so the management tools were included.  If you purchase them from a different vendor, you can contract with Google to add the management capabilities.  Basically, this adds a ChomeOS section to the Settings tab in your Google Apps for Education control panel.

Being web-based, I can quickly and easily manage our entire fleet from just about any web-based device I may be working on.  Some of the management features we have implemented through the control panel are as follows:

  • Proxy Server – We force all of our Chromebooks to communicate through a proxy server so that our students will always be working behind our firewall and content filter.  This was critical for us since our students take their devices home.
  • Screen Lock – We force all of our Chromebooks to be locked after a set amount of idle time or upon closing the lid.  The students can easily re-enter their passwords to pick up working where they left off.
  • Default Homepage – We control not only what the default homepage is for all of our students, but also define multiple different tabs to open each time they log into their device.  That has proved beneficial when we want to get particular information delivered to or highlighted for all of our students.  For example, we created a webpage about digital footprints that was the first page students saw for a week.
  • Account Access – We do not allow “guest mode” on our devices and only allow users within our domain to log in.
  • ChromeOS Updates – We have the ability to allow or prevent our Chromebooks to auto update and can restrict the version of ChromeOS our students are using.
  • Chrome Web Store – We currently allow our students full access to the Chrome web store, however, we can easily turn it off or restrict which resources our students have access to in the web store if necessary.
  • Apps & Extensions – We push out a base package of apps and extensions to all of our students to help standardize some of the tools and practices used in our district.  A few of the tools in our base package include the Google Tasks, Google Dictionary, and Readability extensions and the GeoGebra, Desmos Graphing Calculator, WeVideo for Drive, and Kindle Cloud Reader apps.

That’s about it.  It doesn’t seem like a lot and that’s really the beauty of it.  There just isn’t much to manage for a Chromebook environment.  I’d also like to note that if you have your Google Apps domain grouped into organizational units (OU), you can configure your management settings differently for each OU.

SOFTWARE

Once again, none.  There is no software to install and manage on the Chromebooks.  With our initiative to move teaching and learning to the Web, our teachers and students have the freedom and power to use just about any free tool or resource they choose.  In my opinion this can foster more student choice which could lead to more student engagement and creativity.  Check out one of my previous blog posts on this topic.

CHECK OUT

Because all of our Chromebooks are exactly the same and any user will have the same exact experience regardless of which device they use, we were able to randomly assign the Chromebooks to the students.  We built a system that was used during our registration/book pick-up day the week before school started that had a staff member scan a student’s ID badge, scan the Chromebook’s serial number, scan the Chromebook’s asset tag (self created), and then scan the power cord’s serial number to create a record in a database and officially assign the device to the student.

SUPPORT

One of the most exciting things we’ve done in conjunction with going 1:1 this year was to develop a new Tech Support Intern (TSI) class.  This is an elective course in our Business Education department that runs every period of the day and serves as the starting point for all of our teachers’ and students’ tech support needs.  More detailed information about this class will be featured in the fourth post of this series, so stay tuned.  For the purposes of this blog post, it’s important to note that we purchased 60 extra Chromebooks per school to serve as loaner devices that can be issued to students through the TSI class when they have a device in need of service.  Our goal was to never have a time when a student did not have a Chromebook.

POWER

This is one of the logistics that choosing Chromebooks completely eliminated for us.  With the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook battery lasting 8+ hours, we were able to require our students to bring a fully charged Chromebook to school every day and be assured that they’d be able to use it in every one of their classes.  Since this is a requirement, there are consequences for not bringing a Chromebook to school and for not having a charged device.  If students find themselves in either situation and need a device to participate in class, they can check out a loaner from the TSI class.  The TSI class keeps statistics on how many times a student checkouts out a loaner because they did not have their own to use and sends reports to our deans to assign the consequences.

DEVICE SAFETY AND SECURITY

We issued a protective case to all of our students and require them to carry their devices in those cases when not in class.  They are small enough to even fit in a backpack.  We’re hopeful this will cut down on the breakages.  To help prevent any mysterious disappearances, either on accident or on purpose, we had all of our Chromebooks laser engraved with the following text:

Property of Leyden High School District 212

If found or presented for sale,

please call 847-451-3017.

ID# 2012-2xxxx

In addition, we added a barcoded asset tag to each device with the number matching the engraved ID number on the device.  We outsourced the engraving and asset tagging work which was completed before we even took delivery of our Chromebooks.

INFRASTRUCTURE & BANDWIDTH

We currently have sufficient building-wide wireless coverage to ensure that our students can use their Chromebooks everywhere they need to.  In addition, we currently have a 250 MB Internet pipe for each of our two campuses.  So far, both the wireless infrastructure and our bandwidth are holding up.

CONCLUSION

I may have missed a few logistics topics, but am more than willing to field your questions, so feel free to contact me at , via Twitter @LeydenTechies, or through my blog at http://leydentechies.blogspot.com/.

I’ll wrap up by mentioning that we have been thrilled with the digital evolution of our district into a fully 1:1 environment and many of our success are a result of choosing to go with the Google Chromebook.  The most important factor to our success so far, of course, is our teachers.  We have incredibly talented teachers that have risen to the challenge of moving teaching and learning to the Web.  Because we didn’t have to hire any additional tech support or dedicate as much time, money, and resources to going 1:1 with Chromebooks as we may have needed to do with other devices, we were able to hire two full-time instructional tech coaches to support our teachers.  Please check back for the next post in this series, From the Classroom – How Learning is Evolving with Access for All, to learn more about the professional development we’ve done and the amazing things our teachers and students are now doing.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this post.  “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”  Uh oh, guess it’s time to get back to my kids  😉