Best designs for a computer lab?

A technology director in Indiana asked me:

What are the ‘best’ designs you are seeing for a ‘traditional’ computer lab setup? I am looking for a lab design that allows for collaboration and team work and yet is flexible enough to move if need be (it would be a desktop lab with hard-wired connections to the network). What are you hearing or seeing? Any innovative designs?

Got any suggestions for him?

Survey results – It’s the first day of school (2008)!

About a month ago, I posted my annual Beginning of the Year Technology Checklist and wondered (again) if schools had made any progress since the previous year. This year I also invited readers to fill out an online survey rating their own school organizations. I am pleased to announce that 125 of you took me up on the offer. Here are the results!

As you can see from the mean responses for the items on the checklist, participants rated staff development and principals’ understanding lowest of the ten items (note: clicking on each image gets you a larger version).2008 Beginning of Year Technology Checklist Results_Page_01

While participants felt fairly positively about their infrastructure, I thought that the modes show quite clearly that we have a long way to go in other areas:2008 Beginning of Year Technology Checklist Results_Page_03

I also looked at the distribution of responses within each item. For example, over 70% of the participants gave low responses to their district’s technology integration-related staff development.2008 Beginning of Year Technology Checklist Results_Page_05

I also plotted the responses for each item individually. As expected, the staff development item had the most skewed distribution.2008 Beginning of Year Technology Checklist Results_Page_09 

Finally, I calculated simple correlations for the items. The strongest correlation (.726) existed for the technology plan and vision items (Q8 and Q10).


Here are the results in various downloadable formats. These results include a number of additional charts.

Feel free to use the results to spark some conversation in your school organization. If you want me to host this online survey for your school or district, let me know!

It’s the first day of school (2008)!

It’s the first day of school here in Ames, Iowa. The past two years at this time, I’ve posted the following checklist, wondering if schools have made any improvement since the previous fall. This year I changed the checkboxes to a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) and thought I’d try something a little different…


You have two ways to participate…

  1. Download this checklist in Excel. Enter the name of your school organization and fill in your ratings (editable areas are in yellow). Click on the Chart tab at the bottom, then print. Disseminate broadly!
  2. Participate in the 2-minute online survey. Fill in your ratings and click on the Submit button. I’ll publish everyone’s aggregated results in a future post! (deadline: Friday, August 29, 2008)

Feel free to use and distribute the Excel file and/or the survey link as desired. If you would like to conduct this online survey within your school organization, contact me about hosting a version just for you (at no cost). Hope you made some progress since last year!

NECC 2008 – SIGTC Forum

I attended the SIGTC Forum, run by Ferdi Serim, on Sunday for about an hour. SIGTC is ISTE’s special interest group for technology coordinators. Two things from the session that troubled me…

1. No recognition of principals as instructional leaders

Ferdi outlined five different roles that needed to be involved in discussions about teaching and learning:

  • Guide (teacher leader) – knows about designing learning experiences; has daily experience with children
  • Scholar (librarian / media specialist) – knows about research, organizing knowledge
  • Hard Hat (technical specialist) – knows about hardware, software, and networks
  • Pilot (principal) – knows about managing people, schedules, and budgets
  • Wizard (technology / curriculum coordinator) – knows about managing systems and processes; at district level

Notice the emphasis on the managerial roles of principals. Nary a mention of the instructional leadership responsibilities of building-level leaders. Very disappointing.

2. The equity trap

There was some discussion about digital equity. Specifically, there seemed to be a fair amount of agreement in the group that – when it comes to digital technologies or whatever – if we don’t have enough for everybody, we can’t do it at all because of the complaints from the folks that don’t receive it.

How are we ever going to move forward if this is the mentality of our school organizations?

Other notes from the session

Cisco white paper: Equipping every learner for the 21st century

21st century pedagogy to teach 21st century skills which is enabled by technology and supported by adapted system reform

The goal is to move from automation to facilitation to transformation

Desired educational technology outcomes will occur only if they are supported by the entire system

Gartner’s hype cycle

  1. Technology trigger
  2. Peak of inflated expectations
  3. Trough of disillusionment
  4. Slope of enlightment
  5. Plateau of productivity

Sources of information on emerging technologies

CoSN Small District Technology Leadership Wiki

Over the past few years, I mentioned several times to Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking
, that CoSN was a great organization for larger districts that had CTOs or CIOs that
supervised large staffs but that technology coordinators in smaller districts
didn’t really have an organization that represented their interests. Keith
rightfully replied that many of CoSN’s resources (which are superb in my
opinion) also were relevant and applicable to smaller districts’ needs. I
concurred but still wished that there was an organization that better
represented these folks. As I
noted way back in August 2006
when my readership was about 12 people, there
really isn’t a national association that represents the majority of people in
these positions like there is for principals, teachers, counselors, school
business officials, etc.

Although my desire for an organization that comprehensively represents
technology coordinators has yet to be fulfilled, in November 2007 CoSN unveiled its Small School
District Technology Leadership Wiki
. I can’t take any credit for this, of course, but I’m delighted. The wiki is chock full of information
for technology leaders in smaller districts and, of course, can be edited and
expanded by others. I encourage you to check out this
fantastic resource
and to contribute and make it even better. Thanks,

P.S. Join Keith and me later today for an online
chat about PK-12 technology leadership

I’d like an idiocy filter, please

I received the e-mail below from yet another
person who can’t access my blog at school
. How is CASTLE supposed to help school
administrators kickstart their schools into the 21st century if they can’t even
read one of our primary communication channels?

The idea that all blogs should be categorically blocked – that NOT A SINGLE
ONE of the over 100 million blogs out there might have something important or
relevant to educators – is both ludicrous and shameful. This type of blocking is
not required by CIPA and it’s just plain dumb (see also I don’t
like Internet filters

Dr. McLeod,

I read your "D.I." (a constant reminder just in those
two words), but I am unable to click through from school (as I tried today). You
must be so dangerous that I really shouldn’t even be reading you to  begin with
(tongue in cheek).

The atomic-bomb-to-kill-flea net filter that is used
here blocks anything in the "web log" area. I am dangerous as well, since my own
blogger rants about soccer are blocked.

My other item to vent with you
about is the school’s new wi-fi network – it is completely blocked from student
use (around 15 teachers use it daily). They spent a lot of money on it, and then
locked it up so no one could use it. As you suggest many times in D.I., it is
easy to become irrelevant – I have seen a few Iphone users on campus that don’t
even need wi-fi. And when I even slightly suggest to the tech guys that blocking
access may not be trusting the students enough, they circle the wagons quickly
and become very defensive.

Did I mention that teachers are not allowed
access to any networked drive for fear of student access and destruction of
I’m sure you have heard of much worse, so I will stop.

if you didn’t know, you are a troublemaker according to my school. 😉

Keep up the good work.

I plan to read some of your longer
writings this weekend where my own wi-fi network is completely

Teachers that aren’t allowed access to any networked drives. An
expensive Wi-Fi investment that no one can use. Who is steering the ship here?
How can this district’s administrators possibly show their face to their
community and justify how they have used taxpayer money? This is horrible.

Responsibility for asking the right questions

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the national organization for school superintendents, asked me to write a column for its monthly magazine, The School Administrator. That article is now available:

In the article, I recommended that superintendents ask some key leadership questions:

  • When and why do we use digital technology in our classrooms?
  • How does our usage of digital technologies align with our curricula and instructional goals?
  • How do we know whether technology is being used effectively in the classroom?
  • What positive results are we seeing from our use of digital instructional technologies?
  • What are the barriers to effective technology usage by students and teachers?
  • How can technology better facilitate student learning?

What would you add to the list?

First impressions

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

Minnesota and Iowa Highway Signs

These are the signs you see when you enter Minnesota or Iowa along Interstate 35. Guess which one leaves the better impression?

While traveling recently, I had the unfortunate experience of overhearing two male restaurant employees ogling a young female traveler as she walked through the airport. All of the people sitting around the servers’ station got to hear all about how ‘hot’ she was, what they’d like to do to her, etc. They were completely oblivious to their surrounding customers and to the fact that their sexist (and graphically vulgar) behavior reflected poorly on the national chain restaurant for whom they worked.

I have seen a similar phenomen when I visit schools. I can think of many school organizations where receptionists, secretaries, and other front office employees seemed oblivious or indifferent to the fact that their conversations, behaviors, and work environments reflected upon the institution. While waiting in school or district front offices, I have been ignored, overhead confidential conversations about students, been treated to complaints about bosses and the school system, and heard vulgar language. I have seen signs on walls like ‘Lack of planning on your part DOES NOT constitute an emergency on mine!’ and ‘I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.’ I have seen students and parents treated poorly, either in person or on the phone. And so on…

I always wonder what parents or community members think when they visit these offices. Like me, do they wonder about the level of professionalism of the office staff? Are they concerned about the level of customer service that they are going to receive? Are they worried that their visit may become fodder for later public conversation or ridicule? Do they wonder why an administrator is ignoring this?

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

We’re done with ’em. Now what?

[this post is my contribution to Blog Action Day]

E-waste is an enormous environmental issue. Digital technologies such as computers and electronic gadgets are full of toxic metals and other harmful materials. Proper disposal or recycling of these technologies is imperative.

Educators can’t claim to be ignorant anymore. The deleterious effects of e-waste are increasingly well-known. As public agencies, schools have a special responsibility not to harm future generations through irresponsible jettisoning of old computer equipment.

For every school district that has a disposal / recycling plan in place, there’s probably another that doesn’t. There are countless stories of old computers stacked up in school warehouses and storerooms. Similarly, for every school leader that’s struggling with what to do with old equipment, there are several who have never even thought about the issue.

Ask your school leaders tomorrow: "What do we do with our old computing equipment?" If they don’t know, help them find out the answer. Investigate what really happens to the computers that get carted away. Even if you think they’re being recycled, it may not be what you think.

My School Technology Safety and Security course at U. Minnesota included a computer disposal / recycling unit. I hope to create the same here at Iowa State. Additionally, I have begun making a conscious effort to reduce my technological footprint. It’s very hard; I drool over every new cool technogadget that comes out. But, as I noted before, I’ve got too much stuff.

What are you doing personally to reduce your digital footprint? What are you doing professionally to help school leaders understand the scale and importance of the K-12 computer disposal issue? What are you doing academically to help students understand the technology-related environmental issues that their generation will face?

As Joel Barker notes, "No one will thank you for taking care of today if you have failed to take care of tomorrow."