Sunday, July 31, 2011

Survey Anxiety!

Flickr CC photo courtesy of Beinecke Library
I have been working this summer on a survey for our staff on their technology usage.  The intent of this project is entirely for planning purposes.  I have put a lot of thought into this and solicited feedback from various experts in our community.  The process has created some challenges for me that I have decided to air in this blog post.  Perhaps you will have insights or suggestions.
This is a very exciting time to be in educational technology.  The rapid development of mobile technologies, touch technology, and cloud services call for new ed tech support and solutions.  But change is anxiety producing.  So simply by raising the subject, we may surface objections.  Furthermore, since Mercy is an early adopter of 1:1 computing, there are not too many road maps for us to follow.  The big companies like Apple, HP, Microsoft are introducing less expensive computing solutions for schools who are not yet 1:1.  Consequently, the concern that we might accidentally downgrade what we have worked so hard to build is a legitimate concern.

I wish to promote transparency and collaboration for major decisions that affect many stakeholders.  In this case, however, should all the results be shared?  I don't want to manipulate the results, but not being experienced in survey authoring, I'm a little concerned about dud questions producing results that may muddy the water.  Nevertheless, I'm strongly inclined to share the results within the community.  So here's a greater concern:  Some responses may be easy to identify individually.  Teachers of a particular course, one person "departments", etc. may be easy to spot even if names are withheld.  Will this affect candor?

Ulterior Motives
For me the biggest issue is dispelling concern that the survey is actually a way to "check up" on people.  We absolutely need to know who is filling out the surveys so that we get a clear idea of how critical certain softwares and functions may be.  If we decide on changes we want to be sensitive to current users, so as not to simply jerk the rug out from under them.  I'm hoping that transparency will help to alleviate this.  But I am a little concerned that folks will overstate usage "just in case."

Leading Questions
Obviously, not everything is up for grabs as we develop our "tech plan".  Consequently, we are focusing more attention on specific areas and have discussed some options that we want to "air out."  I've discovered that it is challenging to develop a set of questions that are not "leading," particularly since I of course do have my own opinions.  Nevertheless, I don't want to foreclose feedback.  This is a tough one

From a practical point of view, I have found it challenging to find the right blend of fixed choice questions and open-ended prompts.  Obviously, open-ended questions allow for more nuance and intensity of expression.  They also may have the desired effect of making respondents' feel more engaged in the process.  On the other hand, they are unwieldy and may make it harder to discover patterns.

I don't plan on sharing the results of the survey at the Drive-thru, but will surely blog on the process.  It's already been quite a learning experience.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quotes on a Muggy Summer's Day

Churchill (Wikipedia Commons)
Scott McLeod -- "I wonder how long will it take us for us to start expecting educators to use these social media tools. It’s been 30 years since the advent of the personal computer and we’re still struggling to get teachers and administrators to integrate digital technologies into their daily work in ways that are substantive and meaningful."

Jackie Gerstein --  "Curricular enhancements incl. technology integration need to be approached with an open mind and a critical eye - a full body balancing act."

Kare Anderson - - "The most common and satisfying ways we learn and invent are not from sitting in a classroom seat being taught or trained. The world is too complex and fluid now to keep up with everything all by yourself. That doesn't mean that we aren't sought-after for our mastery of a topic or skill. It simply means we stay relevant when we engage in projects with diverse others, learning and experimenting as we go. Like children we still learn best by observing, imitating, re-mixing, making fresh mistakes and, most of all, by playing and using our imagination - with others."

Maria Popova -- "While 'old media' fought against the scarcity of information, new 
media are fighting the overabundance of information."

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown -- "When information is stable, the explicit dimension becomes very important. The speed of light, for example, is probably not going to change....The twenty-first centry, however, belongs to the tacit. In the digital world we learn by doing, watching, and experiencing... not by taking a class or reading a manual."

Winston Churchill --  "The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes." 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rearview Mirror Look at the ADE Institute

I am writing this after having recently listened to a fairly astonishing series of presentations that concluded the official business of the 2011 ADE Summer Institute in Arizona.  After dividing into project teams, the ADEs set about the business of creating educational resources for a new ADE channel on iTunesU.

I admit that I was more than a little skeptical at the outset.  It seemed to me that Apple expected an awful lot in a short amount of time.  The jury is still out concerning the amount of material that actually gets produced between now and our final deadline of September 30, but the groups have developed great topics and have already provided some five-star assets.

I listened to five minute presentations for three hours.  Our group on Assessment was second to last which allowed me to look for themes which emerged from the work of the 180 ADEs assembled at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  Here are the ones that hit my radar:

*Student centered media helps students find their voices.

*Access to technology empower students.

*Student-centered technology promotes engagement.

*Technology facilitates collaboration, a value that is being promoted at every level and in most disciplines.

*Smart phone cameras and epub allow for new, incredible forms of creative expression.

*Technologies like the iPad are changing the instructional experience of students K-20 of all abilities.  The effects are especially profound in special ed.

*Anytime/anywhere learning as a model is showing up in more and more places-- even in terms of administrators offering real time feedback to the teachers they observe.

*Fundamental change is happening whether folks want it to or not. The naysayers can no more stop this change than stop the wind from gusting.

As with each Institute I have attended, I left feeling pumped up and determined to bring this spirit back to my school.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Baker's Half-Dozen Slices of Apple

Flickr CC Photo by

Since I am attending the 2011 ADE Institute at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, I am posting six Apple links.

With Apple dropping the third shoe in online music services, after Amazon and Google, some striking differences are now apparent.

Katie Morrow's Curated Challenge Based Learning Resources!

Katie Morrow curates this topic from blogs, tweets, videos and much more: find out how!

iPad accounts for 97-percent of US tablet traffic online

According to the web monitoring company, the iPad and its successor account for 89 percent of tablet internet use globally, and 97 percent here in the US. 

iPad Apps for Administrators

This site contains information and resources for Craig Nansen's iPad 4 Educators workshops.

7 Must-Have iPad apps

More and more schools are using iPads in the classroom. These seven apps will help students — and teachers — get the most out of the hottest tech tool out there. 

Google Voice- The Ultimate iPhone How-to

This article, looks at how you can use Google Voice from your iPhone, how you can display your Google Voice number as your Caller ID, and how you can make minutes-free Google Voice VoIP calls via WiFi.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Then and Now as an ADE

Flickr CC photo by John Biehler
I'm headed to Arizona to participate in the 2011 Apple Distinguished Educator Institute, hosted at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  I'm excited, but the experience is completely different from merely two years ago.  Then, I was really nervous about how I would "stack up".  I was so self-conscious at first that I'm not sure I took full advantage of the program.

Now,  I realize this is more about relationships and community.  Regardless of how wonderful the workshops and presentations may be, the collaborations and sharing are likely to be more sustaining.  Being an ADE allows me to stay close to creativity and innovation.

This year's focus appears to on producing educational resources for iTunesU.  I'm choosing a direction where I probably have more to take than to give-- school administration.  In terms of production values, some of us fall a little short of what our Apple mentors may be seeking.  This time, I'm not too concerned.  I'll learn more about education, professional development, and leadership regardless of what we whip up.

So I think I am prepared to get more out of the experience this time.  Nevertheless, it will be impossible to recapture the excitement of a first time.  I also became fascinated by CBL in 2009.  This led to an extraordinary two-year journey.  I doubt I'll catch that kind of lightning in the bottle, again.  But who knows.  One thing I'm sure of-- a blog post or two will be inspired by my week with Apple!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Timely Links on Anger at Netflix and other Techie Matters

"Link" Flickr CC Photo by bulliver
Netflix Subscribers Threaten to Quit, but Will They Really?
Even if a bunch of DVD-by-mail subscribers do leave, Netflix will be happy to replace them with the more profitable streaming subscribers.

Google Apps v. Office 365 Feature Showdown
Microsoft took the beta label off of Office 365 last [month], and many consider the cloud-based productivity suite a potshot at Google and Google Apps. Office 365 may offer cloud-based document, storage, and collaboration services that look like Google Apps, but the user experience and price tag are very different. Here's a look at the major differences between them.

Twenty-Eight Creative Ideas for Teaching with Twitter
Beyond facilitating communication within the course itself, teachers may like the idea of connecting with similar ones in other cities, states or even countries. Set up a communal hastag for students and professionals alike to use and exchange their views and lessons.

Why an Amazon tablet can rival the iPad
Without so much as a whisper from the retailer itself, Amazon’s Android tablet is heading our way. Rumoured to launch at the end of the third quarter in time for the holiday season, Amazon is hoping it can steal a little of Apple’s thunder and steal a little of its market share.

Four Ways Schools Can Increase Their Social Media Presence
We’re now at a point where almost all schools have a social presence, but many have yet to fully embrace the spirit of social media and tap into its potential. Social media presents a wealth of possibilities for engaging prospective students, current students, alumni, and other community members.

Interesting Ways to (Possibly) Use Google+ to Support Learning
A collaborative Google Doc which is collecting classroom possibilities for Google Plus like "Organizing a Class with Circles" and "Curriculum Topic Sparks"

And I Quote . . . .

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” -Einstein

The learning process is one that engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more. 
 --Seymour Sarason by way of Webblog-ed:

Creative Commons photo of
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The object of teaching a child is to enable the child to get along without the teacher. We need to educate our children for their future, not our
past.”  --
Arthur C. Clarke

When students are actively involved in planning and implementing change, they become invested in the process. They become key stakeholders in improving education for themselves and their peers. - Generation Yes Blog

 "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us."
Ralph Waldo Emerson (via Gabriella Meyers)

Testing improves education the same way bombing promotes democracy.
 -- - Steve Cohn (via Karl Gustafson)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ode to a Land Line

Flickr CC Photo by alfromelkhorn
This past week,  my wife and I passed a significant technological milestone. . . . (at least for our demographic). We got rid of our land line phone. Granted, to younger folk and the masses of other cultures, having the expensive redundancy of a house phone in addition to a mobile seems ridiculous. But to us, the home phone seemed such a basic feature of family life. We waited until it was pretty obvious that it had become useless-- neither of us were picking up the voice mails left there and the telemarketing calls outnumbered those we might care to answer.

In fairness, we were ready to make the move last year, but we changed from cable to DSL,  purchasing a new package that made it cost-effective to hang on to the old ways until this month even though we both have iPhones and have steered nearly all friends and family to our mobiles.

At this point, you may we wondering, "So what?"

That's exactly what I am anxiously wondering, "So what does radically evolving landscape  mobile devices and virtually ubiquitous connectivity mean for education?".  And more urgently for me, "So what should my school be planning in terms of infrastructure, hard ware, software, and professional development?

I know that applications and storage are moving to the cloud.  I know that the reasons for spending money for a laptop instead of a mobile are becoming fewer.  I know it takes far less training to teach a student or teacher to use a "phone" than a "computer", even as they ironically become less and less distinguishable.

I also know there are huge cultural issues to overcome. Administrators correctly believe that students are far more adept at using technology socially than for rigorous learning. Having such terrific access to information is a marvelous boon for education, but if we start to give up uniformity of software and machinery, what will this mean for the classroom?

The consequences of my choosing to slog behind the times by staying with my good old land line were almost inconsequential.  But holding onto a land line mentality at my school in specifically and education in general has major consequences.  So what's cutting edge in instructional technology, today?  Droids? Twitter?  Google Apps?  iPads?

I am not sure at all, so please tell me.  But make it quick because your answer might change in a couple of months!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Moving over to the "Dark Side"

This was my first week in the new role of Associate Principal/Operations.  While I can still "blog from the trenches" by continuing to teach one class,  two friends have congratulated (?) me by noting that I have moved to "the dark side".  Several have wondered if I will miss teaching (Of course I will), but after 36 years in a full time teaching gig, I welcome a very different challenge and for the last few years, new challenges have reinvigorated me.  Here are some of the things to which I am looking forward:

My last English section?
1) Instructional technology.  It could not be a more exciting time to be charting a path in this area.  Mobile devices, cloud computing, etc, have made the need for learning to learn with new, tools all the more important.  Our school has a fantastic infrastructure in place for exciting new possibilities that ought to cost us even less.  I've spent portions of my first two days with IT, and our staff really rocks!

2) Speaking of staff-- An administrative position allows me to collaborate with outstanding folks all over our school building/plant.  I might be in a position to inflict some major damage to the school if we didn't have such committed and talented staff in grounds and maintenance.  I have a huge learning curve here, but I'm getting great help especially from my predecessor).  While I can't say I'm looking forward to a water heater bursting or the like (now in my purview), it is really interesting to be in on some of the construction plans, and have an excuse to work with the talented folk in Advancement who present us to the public.

3) I have previously written about the blurring lines between curricular and extra-curricular. I see the two areas as part of a total educational program and thus they should enhance each other. Excellence should be pursued in both areas and an active student will have to make tough decisions about prioritizing her time.  In particular,  I really relish getting more involved in sports, again.  I'm seriously determined to see each team play this year.

4) I have a number of other interests that I can explore as a liaison to other departments in the building.  I have always loved art, music, and drama.  I came late to my interest in fitness, but now I have caught the bug.  I have some ideas about design and media production.  My new responsibilities will give me a chance to run some new ideas up the flagpole and be closer to these passions.

I used to think I would not have the stomach for administration-  the conflict, the unpopular decisions, etc.  But you know what?  Several years of coaching and one challenging year of doing professional development with a veteran staff has toughened me up quite a bit.  The latter also left me feeling as though I have some unfinished business.  As a result of our hard work this past year, we have some really cool CBL's plans rolling out this next year, and this position will keep me closer to the action.

So, if I haven't convinced you, that this is a good idea, I've sold myself on the project.  And one thing hasn't changed-- I'm still one of those lucky persons who looks forward to going to work .

Sunday, July 3, 2011

1500 Tweets Later

1451 and counting!
I wish I had something profound to say about Twitter, having passed the 1500 Tweet milestone.  My feelings have only warmed to it since I started, but it is not exactly a central part of my life.

Nowadays, I particularly enjoy tweeting with journalists and fans during sports events.  It is also a steady source of material for this blog because it takes me out of my usual reading habits.

I've never felt addicted to Twitter, nor considered it a chore in any way.  It continues to be the most severely misunderstood social medium by those who stand outside of it complaining that 140 characters is just too limiting.  Well, that sort of overlooks the way so many links to other sources are passed among followers.  I am certainly thankful I can direct some of them to this blog whenever I post, and I certainly have never limited myself to 140 characters here!

One last comment: My wife tipped me off to Flipboard for Pad, a marvelous tool for turning that stream of links in your Twitter into a magazine style collection of serendipitous articles.  Good stuff!

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