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It’s been a crazy March, to say the least. Here in the state of Washington schools have been closed since March 17th and will not reopen until April 27th at the earliest. 

Our state education officials have required public schools to provide an educational experience for students. 

Now, most schools in the state were already doing this or making plans to do this. However, there were a few who were not making plans to provide any educational experience for students, citing equity issues as the justification.

Equity is a lens we must always consider, however, if you have inequities in a virtual school setting, I have news for you, they already exist in your face to face system as well!  

Jeff Utecht

If anything having to move to virtual school might be shining a light on the inequity that always existed within your school system. It has brought these inequities to the forefront, but that should not be an excuse to not do something. 

Not doing anything is far worse than trying to do something!

Jeff Utecht

This is why for years when working with school districts who were going 1:1, I would make sure we promoted that going 1:1 is an equity issue! In 2020, learning must include knowing how to learn on a device. For those school leaders (board members I’m talking to you) who were not willing to look at technology as an equability issue before this happened, hopefully, they are reflecting on this now.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some more thoughts on this current crisis we’re in and HOW we need to think and rethink as educators about what it means to teach in this current crisis. 

Let’s start with what we know students and families are going to need in this crisis. 

Created and shared by @jaydostal

This graphic created by @jaydostal can be used to rethink how we teach in a virtual setting.

Let’s start with what we know does not work: 

PACKETS OF WORKSHEETS: Packets of worksheets do not work for anyone. Whether you have a device or do not have a device, packets of worksheets do nothing educationally for anyone. Years of research on what equates to good teaching and learning show us that packets of worksheets are ineffective, time-consuming, and inauthentic ways to encourage learning.

STICKING WITH YOUR CURRICULUM: No curriculum was ever created for a pandemic. To think you can just keep going in your curriculum is not going to work. Besides, all testing has been canceled for the year. So the curriculum that was based on helping students pass the test is no longer relevant. 

Think about this teachers:

You have been unleashed from your curriculum that you found to be too rigid and state tests that you felt put too much pressure on you and your students. You have been unleashed to rethink what education can look like in this crisis. On some level, I hope that excites you. 

Jeff Utecht

STICKING WITH YOUR TIME TABLE: Sticking with your time table is not going to work. You are no longer teaching 6 periods a day. You’re teaching 120 students all at once. If you refer back to the graphic above you’ll notice in times like these, school is not, nor should it be, our top priority. Notice it says school and not learning. Learning can still be a priority but will only be if it does not feel like school, look like school, and students have all their other needs met. As many of us keep reminding you, students and families coming to terms with their ‘new normal’ can take up to three weeks or more.

We need to make the education we always wanted for our students a reality. It’s time to rethink teaching and learning if for no other reason than we must for our students. 

So here are some things we know are working that are coming out of virtual gatherings I’m hosting with educators who are in the trenches (listen to this SOSpodcast to hear even more):

I want to highlight one teacher’s journey who I feel is doing things the right way. Shannon Cunningham is a 4th-grade teacher in Enumclaw, WA who is sharing her virtual teaching/learning experience on the web for others to see.

REACH OUT TO YOUR STUDENTS AND FAMILIES: Make a video like Shannon did that allows you to connect with your students and families. Not only did Shannon make a video, but she also called each of her students and families to check-in. Every teacher has access to parent phone numbers and if you know there are families that do not have technology, a phone call might be what they need. A phone call! How simple is that? You have the information already you just need to pick up the phone and call. Doing this not only helps with the psychological and safety needs of a family (referring to the image above) but it allows the teacher to ask about the learning environment. Do they have the Internet at home, if not what do they have? Is there a smartphone in the house with a camera? What do parents need from you in the support of their child in this critical time? You want an equity lens? Reach out and ask parents how can you support them. It doesn’t need to be a phone call. Email works too! You have the information, now it’s time to use it. 

CREATE A STRUCTURE: We know learning routines are essential, so you need to set up a structure for your virtual learning. Shannon gives out all her directions on Monday for the week so that students and parents can set their schedules for the week knowing what needs to be done. She is using Google Classroom for this but has also set up a Google Site as well that you can find here. By giving a weekly outline at a time she gives students and families choice over time and place of the learning. 

TEACH AS IF THE WORLD WAS YOUR CURRICULUM: This is the most important part and by far the most difficult part. You have to rethink teaching and learning through a worldly lens. Instead of worksheets, we need to think in terms of real-world applications to the standard and then find ways to make that the learning. In Shannon’s class, she created a “Build a Fort” project where students get to build forts at their home, they then measured the perimeter of the fort, sketch a drawing of the fort, take pictures of their fort, write directions about how to make their fort so someone else could build it, and then research forts in the state of Washington. Of course, this project is going to take multiple days to complete. Shannon is thinking of ways she can cover things she never could before. There is no way in a traditional classroom she could have students create authentic forts in their homes that cover all aspects of their curriculum. But when you think about all the resources that can be found in a home you unlock new potential for learning. What are fun things you did as a kid and what was the learning involved in them? Ask yourself that question, and you start to use the world as your curriculum. You start to rethink teaching and learning in authentic purposeful ways. 

Our goal is to make learning authentic, purposeful and equitable. All things, I would argue, can not be found in a packet of worksheets for students to do. If you want to give students a packet, give them a packet of choice boards that cover your standards. Tyler Rablin a High School English Teacher shared his: 

In the end, we must rethink what teaching and learning can be. We must understand we’ve been unleashed from the daily grind and have an opportunity to rethink teaching and learning. We must continue to ask ourselves “What if the world was my curriculum?” 

NCCE 2020 here in Seattle has just wrapped up. NCCE (Northwest Council For Computer Education) being our regional ISTE sponsored conference with somewhere around 1500 participants coming together each year to share and learn. Being in Seattle and with the COVID-19 spreading throughout my state, Virtual School was a hot topic. 

One of the sessions I ran was titled “Tech Coaches Unite”. This session brought roughly 50 tech coaches together to share and learn from each other I asked how many of them were involved in Virtual School talks at the moment due to COVID-19. Roughly 20 districts raised their hands. 

I have had experience with “Going Virtual School” three times in my career and every time it was similar and yet different due to the technology we had. 

2003 – In Saudi Arabia due to terrorism in the country, I helped my school set up and run Moodle to do Virtual School. 

2005 – In Shanghai I helped to set up, run and train teachers to go Virtual School-though we didn’t end up closing due to SARS.

2009 – In Bangkok, I helped to train, facilitate and oversee Virtual School due to flooding and H1N1 in Bangkok we used WordPress blogs as teacher websites. 

2011 – I worked with Senators and the State Department in Washington DC to help fund a global Virtual School installment for International Schools to use in case of an emergency. 

Each one of these experiences was drastically different due to the technology that was available at the time. For example, the iPhone was only 3 years old and smartphones were just taking off in 2010.

So here are some lessons I’ve learned as well as recommendations I am currently giving schools when they ask me for advice on preparing for Virtual School in an emergency. 

Lessons Learned:

1. You can’t just flip the Virtual School switch. If you did not require that every teacher in the district must use the adopted LMS (Learning Management System a.k.a Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, etc) before now, you’re too late. In most cases, you will not have time to train both staff and students on how the LMS will work or does work before you find yourself in Virtual School. On the other hand, if teachers using an LMS is required in your district and they have been using it and training students on how to use it since the beginning of the school year-congratulations…..you’re gonna rock this!

2. Digital Worksheets uploaded to your LMS for students to do at home are 

  • Boring
  • Frustrating for parents 
  • Frustrating for students 
  • In general, are not good teaching practice
  • Not truly taking advantage of the opportunity you have in front of you

3 . In the two times that I was in Virtual School, we learned that teachers often gave way too much work for students to do at home. Most educators are not trained in online learning, which is different than traditional or even a blended learning format that most teachers find themselves in today. In a fully online learning environment, you must rethink the time you allow students to complete tasks. This was our #1 take away from Virtual School in 2010 in Bangkok. Both parents and students felt they were doing way more “busy work” (see #2 above) and were frustrated….especially at the Middle and High School level. 

4. Every assignment must be rethought. You can’t just take what you were going to do on Monday and do it anyway by just putting it in Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology or whatever LMS you use. 

5. Last but not least…. seize the moment! Both in Shanghai and in Bangkok we turned a negative into a positive by being able to-shall I say-’require’ teachers to “up their technology skills/usage” for Virtual School. Once Virtual School was over, those skills remained and we saw an increase in the use of those skills back in the traditional blended-learning classroom after Virtual School had ended. 

My Recommendations for Virtual School in 2020 if you did not require every teacher to be using the school adopted LMS.

Video, Video, Video we need to stop thinking in terms of “what can students type” and start thinking in terms of “how can students show me what they know”

Start by training every teacher how to make videos for instruction. Use Screencastify, Screen-o-matic or Flipgrid. I don’t care, just pick the one that best fits your system and train every teacher on how to make good instructional videos. What does a good instructional video look like? Here’s research out of Vanderbilt University on what should and should not be in your video. 

  • No longer than 6 minutes max! (3-5 is perfect)
  • Make it casual, make it you, you’re kids like you, they want to see you, they want to feel like they are in class so be you!

K-2 teachers – All you need is Flipgrid

If I was in a school today and we found ourselves quickly going into Virtual School mode I would make sure every K-2….well, every teacher really…but especially K-2 teachers had a Flipgrid account setup, and that parents had the app downloaded on their phone. During Virtual School teachers could pose questions to students via Flipgrid and students could do some investigation and post video responses back to the teacher. Teachers could read to students and ask comprehension questions. Teachers could pose a math question and students could film themselves solving the math problem with homemade manipulative in their house. Honestly, this one app is all you need. For more ideas check out #flipgridfever on twitter where teachers are constantly sharing ways they are using this incredible app. (If you use Seasaw that will work too!)

3-5 Teachers – One subject a day

Have students focus on just one subject a day in Virtual School. 

For example: 

  • Monday is Reading/Writing 
  • Tuesday is Math
  • Wednesday is Science
  • Thursday is Social Studies
  • Friday Specials/20% time

By having students focus on one subject a day you can support both student learning and parents trying to support their students at home. Again, video instruction will be key and whenever possible set-up lessons that allow students to submit video for their assignment. If I was in a 3-5 classroom, I would only set-up one written question-response sort of activity a week that was focused on learning, it would be my writing activity on Monday where I would ask some sort of prompt and expect students to respond to it and to each other. One a week…that’s it….everything else would be video. 

Middle and High School: 

During Virtual School we need to remember that we’re in this situation because something else is going on in our lives. Please DO NOT expect students to do the same amount of work they would have done if you would have had them face to face with you in the same amount of time….it just won’t happen. You’ll be frustrated, students will be frustrated, parents will be frustrated and then you’ve lost them. 

Remember learning, even in Virtual School is about relationships. So check in with your students. Ask them how they are doing, what they might need from you for support. Make sure there is space for everyone to talk about how they are feeling and what is going on in their lives. 

Work together with teachers from other departments not to overwhelm students with work. Again, uploading PDF worksheets for students to do is not what Virtual School is about! Powerful learning can still happen if you take advantage of the technology we have available today. 

I would recommend that each subject only assign things two days a week and make those days back to back so students can focus. So a schedule might look like this. 

  • Monday: ELA and Science
  • Tuesday: ELA and Science
  • Wednesday: Math and Social Studies
  • Thursday: Math and Social Studies
  • Friday/Weekend: Elective, Elective, PE

By making the days back to back you allow for longer larger projects. This gives students space and time to finish projects and allows them to chunk their learning into sizable, manageable pieces. It will also give teachers time to prepare lessons they are not used to preparing and time to assess any work that needs grading. 

Again, video is the key! Teachers making 3-5 minute instructional videos for students, and also requiring students to periodically respond in video would be taking full advantage of the technology we have in 2020 and is best practice today! If appropriate, using Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom video conferencing for real-time interaction would be a huge bonus. Do not make it required, but an optional “Hangout” time with your friends and your teacher would help to make it feel as if school is still really happening. 

Lastly, keep it simple, don’t overthink it-and have fun with your students! Learning can and still will occur. It won’t be perfect, but your classroom is rarely perfect in person, so take advantage of this time with your students. Remember too, that if you are in a Virtual School situation, something serious is going on and kids will be struggling to make sense of things. Be respectful of that, be respectful of families, their time together and their individual circumstances. Just like in the classroom, one size doesn’t fit all.

Good Luck…and let me know if I can be of help or support.

Image: tommypjr

Over the past few weeks, I have had a couple of conversations with teachers and people in the business world that I just want to share with you and let you all tell me what you think about this idea. 

There was…and still is…a push that when we go 1:1 in the classroom that this also means moving towards a paperless classroom…where everything is digital, done on a device and we cut paper out completely. From an environmental standpoint I totally get it. From a learning standpoint, I’m not so sure it’s the right move. 

When we talk about a Blended Learning environment we’re talking about using the best physical stuff has to offer and the best that digital has to offer. It’s not about all of one or the other, but the blending of the physical world and the digital world. Knowing what, when and how to use all the tools at your disposal to create and learn from in the best the future has to offer. 

Here’s what I haven’t found….I have not found one company that has gone paperless. Maybe there is one out there…I’m willing to say I haven’t checked with every company. But I have friends who work in tech and non-tech companies here in Seattle and other cities and not one of them lives in a paperless work environment. In fact, I have had people high up at both Amazon and Target tell me they print off the paper for meetings because people on their devices are A) distracting to others and B) distracting to the one’s self. By printing off the report or research they are working on, they do not have backs of screens between each of them and…get this….paper is easier to read. 

It also reminds me of a story an 8th grade teacher told me a few years ago. She handed out a physical copy of the book the class was going to read and they thanked her. It shocked her that students wanted to touch, feel, and read a real book. 

One of the things that makes me sad to see is when I walk into classrooms and students are reading a book, a report, or any other printed material that has been turned into a PDF for their screen. PDFs as a file type do not allow you to take advantage of an online dictionary and thesauruses. In most cases, they can’t be read out loud to the student. There is very little if any functionality you gained by taking something that was already on paper and turning into something that can be read on a screen that does not take advantage of the technology we have today to enhance the reading experience. 

On the other side, everyone I know, have met or have talked to about this lives in a blended world. I take notes sometimes on my phone, sometimes on my computer, sometimes in my notebook. It depends where I am and what tools I have with me. I have a notebook I use to write down all the notes from each episode of these podcasts. I have another notebook I carry with me and write down all the notes during a meeting with school leaders before I come in for a day of training. 

I start all my presentations on paper. I have a whole notebook full of my presentations before they ever make it to a slide deck. Just like Pixar storyboards out…on paper…ever movie before it’s created. 

Paper and physical things in our classroom still have a place. I want to expose students to all of it. Going 1:1 shouldn’t limit the ways of creation in our classroom, they should enhance it. They should give students more options not fewer ones that are only digital. 

If a student wants to take notes on paper they should have that option, if they want to take notes on a computer, they should have that option. What I want to make sure we do is expose students to all the ways you can take notes so they know how to choose the right tool for them for the right moment. 

In the same way, I want to expose students to different ways of writing today. You can write on paper, you can write on your computer, or you can talk to your computer and it will write for you. Each one of these ways of writing has its advantages and disadvantages and that should be what our classrooms are about. Exposing students to all these different tools different ways to write, to read, to learn. I want students to be exposed to it all so they can choose for themselves as they move through school when is it best to use paper and when is it best to use a computer. 

You can be a paperless classroom or a blended learning classroom but you can’t be both.

This blog post is also released as a podcast on Shifting Our Schools subscribe to get even more insight

Also, on the drive today I was reflecting on another conversation I continue to have with schools, technology directors, school leaders, and educators. That is the idea of student monitoring software. You know…the software that allows teachers to see what students are working on in real-time. Over the years this technology has gone from allowing teachers to see what students were doing on their devices to giving teachers full control to close tabs that students might have open, to see what applications they have on their devices and even lock their screens so they can’t cheat while taking an online test or quiz. 

Now…for years I have had major issues with this software. I understand that many districts need it to comply with state and or federal laws. Yes….if you are in a public school, it is a law that you track students…and employees for that matter. In fact, most businesses I talk to track in some way what their employees do on a business issue or school-issued device. It just makes sense. I get that. 

So first off…let’s tell students that. Let’s tell students we are recording every website you visit every click that you make on your device not because we don’t trust you, but because that’s what businesses do. They track me too. Do students know that? Do students know this isn’t a trust thing…it’s a law thing. I believe it’s important for students to know that….and for students to know this is relevant information for when they are out of school as well. This is transferable knowledge to the workplace. Understand…that if you are on a device owned by a company or cooperation everything you do on that device is probably being tracked. It’s well worth the time to have this conversation with students. 

Next up….educators please stop using this software as a way to punish students. I call it playing whack-a-mole because that’s what it reminds me. Today for example as my training was starting I had three teachers who had this software open on their devices watching their students work on an assignment in their classroom. If a student went off task, aka away from the screen the teacher thought they should be on,…they would just close the tab. No conversation, no follow up, just WHACK! Get back to work WHACK stop going there WHACK! That’s not what you are supposed to be doing. 

Different analysts mentioned further objective facts, which appeared to line up with Fox’s. For instance, Hinds (1987) and Scollon and Scollon (1995) watched postponed presentation of direction in the writings delivered by East Asian authors. On account of investigations of Korean writing specifically, Eggington (1987) depicted customary examples of Korean writing as non-straight, comprising of starting, advancement, alter of course, and closure. Hinds (1987) offered a paired dependent on peruser versus essayist duty. As indicated by Hinds, East Asian writing can be described as peruser dependable composition, instead of author mindful exposition, in that the onus of understanding falls on the peruser, and dark and obscure styles of writing are regularly expected of insightful writing. This is interestingly with Anglo-American writing, he declared, on the grounds that overwhelming accentuation is set on journalists to guarantee that their desultory decisions add to encouraging perusers’ cognizance in Anglo-American writing. It is enticing to accept, in view of Fox’s discerning remarks and resulting insightful exchange, just as the models about Japanese’ danraku’ and the Chinese expository style portrayed over, that components, for example, an absence of clear association and certainty describe commonplace scholastic writing shows in Asia, students even can find more info from australiaessays.info about all the writing traditions in the Asia. In any case, Zong and Li (1998) brought up that the characteristics maintained in Anglo-American writing are called for in many kinds of explanatory writing in China. Truth be told, they accept this is certifiably not another, post-present day pattern as they follow the root to Kui’s 1197 content The Rules of Writing, which is regularly viewed as the principal old style work of Chinese talk. Zong and Li outline Kui’s expository standards as clearness, straightforwardness, and utilization of normal language. Kirkpatrick (2002), in the wake of checking on the guidance given in college reading material on Chinese writing and the sorts of activities students may experience in their national college selection tests, found that such course books educate writers to utilize correct and clear language in argumentations. Kirkpatrick (2004) is persuaded that “it is difficult to presume that Chinese students will go to the undertaking of writing in English impeded by their past learning experience”

Playing whack-a-mole is not a classroom management strategy. Playing whack-a-mole does not change behavior, it does not support learning, it is not a transferable skill. It’s nothing more than a method to say “I don’t trust you!” 

A teacher who plays whack-a-mole needs classroom management strategies to help them in their connected classroom. Every time I see this happening in my trainings or hear teachers talking about how great it is to have this software I can’t help but cringe for those students. 

Put yourself in the student’s shoes…..pretend you’re a 7th graders for a second. What’s going through your mind? How does this behavior break trust and relationship building in your classroom? 

Now…there is another way to use this software, and that is to build relationships with students, to start conversations, to help them with time management…that we don’t teach but somehow just expect students to know how to do. 

In the end, I understand why we have this software. I understand it’s needed and I want schools and educators to protect themselves. But I want this software to come with a caution sticker. 

CAUTION: This software is not a classroom management strategy

Photo Credit: Needpix

As many of you know I recently wrote a peer-reviewed paper with Doreen Keller. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it to you as it’s the foundation, in my mind, how we need to think in a connected world. 

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom is not about the technology or the tools but rather a mind shift that must occur if we’re going to truly use the power of the world’s information in the hands of students. That’s really what this is about. Once we give every student a device we have to rethink a lot of what we do in the classroom and what knowledge acquisition can and should look like. 

Today I’d like to reflect and share my thoughts on the 2nd Connectivism principle of learning that states:

Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. 

I want you to stop and reflect for a second. If you have something around your house that you need to fix. Let’s say the dishwasher is making a noise and instead of calling a plumber right away you decide to try and figure out what’s causing the noise and how to fix it. 

Now…right there we have very distinct learning opportunities. 

1. We must first figure out what the problem is. We call this being a problem finder. 

2. Once we have located the problem we must then learn and try and fix it. 

Both of these are learning opportunities and crazy enough just how we live in today’s world. 

So I’m going to guess you’re going to head to Google and type in GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 is making a thumping noise when running

You are instantly given a results page that in the crazy world we live is probably has a title of a webpage or a video with that exact phrase!

This is the moment that this principle takes hold. You must now connect nodes of information from different sources to learn something new. You might read a blog post, watch a video or two and all along you are learning. You learn something from this video that you re-read on this blog and then is restated again in another video. You’re watching videos taking the pieces that apply to you and ignoring the pieces that don’t.  You are learning by connecting all this information from different sources and applying it RIGHT NOW to your situation. 

Then when you finally believe you know what the issue is you’re already on your way to solving the problem. You want and read some more, you re-watch some videos, try a few more sources, probably do a new google search that is GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 upper arm hitting silverware tray. You get more sources of information, some of them the same and some new and you learn more. 

Then you do! Right there at the moment, you do the thing you just learned about. You apply your new learning instantly to a situation and you solve it. 

Then you step back…you look at your work and you’re so excited you run and tell your spouse “Honey! I fixed the dishwasher” he or she gives you a “Great Job” and you feel good about your accomplishment. 

Now….getting the “Great Job” is you getting an A on your assignment. However, that is not where the learning occurred. You get an A on your final project because that’s all your spouse saw. That’s all they wanted and how they are going to assess you. Does the dishwasher not make a noise anymore. 

Now showing results is part of the grade for sure…but if we’re really interested in assessing learning the final project is not where the learning happened. The learning happened in the doing. Doing research, connecting information sources, trying something out, trying again, learning, watching more videos, reading more websites, and doing. That’s where the learning occurred. 

So I ask you: 

Do you assess just the presentation or the creation of the presentation? 

Do you assess the final writing or the rough draft and edits along the way? 

Do you assess the final answer or the steps to solving the equation?

How do you make sure that you are assessing the learning not the product of that learning? 

Again projects are great….they are the results of the creative process and they must factor into the overall result however if we are REALLY interested in assessing learning…that does not happen in the product. It happens in the process of creating the product. 

It happens in the selection of what information to read/watch

It happens in the trial and error of creation

It happens in the re-watching and re-learning of a new skill

It happens in making the connections between a video that someone else made and the actual problem I have in front of me and trying to determine are they the same problem.

This is a great time of year to reflect on how often are you assessing learning vs the product of learning. How might you have to rethink your lesson/unit/approach so that you can gather, or collect something that shows learning occurring in the moment? What might that look like for you? 

If you have great strategies or ways that you gather evidence of learning happening in the process, not the product would you mind sharing those with all of us in the comments below?

Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rwentechaney via Compfight cc

I read an article today titled: Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops. It only took me two seconds to figure out what the issue was here….I’ll give you a clue….it’s not the laptops.

There are some interesting quotes and lines in this article that caught my attention. Now I don’t know this school district, I give them an A+ for trying something at least. It sounds like they got caught in the netbook era of computing and just couldn’t get out. What follows are some of my thoughts around what went wrong here.

“We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of Hoboken School District. “It became unsustainable.”

Problem #1: The funding cycle

Changing the mind set of thinking that technology is a one off capital expenditure rather than an operational cost. Technology, much like textbooks, paper, crayons, etc. need to be updated. This is issue #1 with our current system. Here the school was given stimulus money from the government…that I’m guessing…as usually….needed to be spent ASAP and on hardware. So it’s great we have this now…but thinking long term…thinking past year 2 or 3 needs to be a focus when starting a program.

None of the school administrators who initiated Hoboken’s one-to-one laptop program still work there. Toback agreed to share Hoboken’s experiences so that other schools can learn from it.

Personally I believe this is a solvable problem: Hire administrators who understand the changing nature of schools when every student is connected. Yes…you are going to have administrative turn-over. But hiring leaders who understand what giving a laptop to every student really means is on the School Board, the Superintendent and leadership. There are good administrators out there that get these changes….hire them….and then allow them to hire teachers who “get it”.

This year alone, schools are projected to spend almost $10 billion on education technology, a $240-million increase from 2013, according to the Center for Digital Education.

Problem #2: The Need to invest in PD

Students on devices
Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

Really this is the issue of this entire program and the entire way the system is structured and goes back to a post I wrote (along with others) about professional development. The National Staff Development Council still recommends 25% of funds for any new project be earmarked for PD. Why…because that’s what it takes! Meaning in this coming school year $2.5 Billion of it should be marked for professional development. To this day I don’t know any school that does this (if yours does please let me know!). Does this mean lest technology? Absolutely! Does it mean better use of the technology we have available? Absolutely!

We also need to understand the type of PD that is required. When changing the classroom in such a dramatic way as giving every student a connected device, schools need to offer PD that goes beyond 1 sit and get institute, or a conference. You have to go beyond 1 PD day dedicated to technology. You have to think different, you have to start over….if you really want to feel the full impact of what technology can do to the classroom you have to give educators the time, space, and freedom to learn.

This is why Kim and I create the COETAIL program. Schools have come to us and asked us if we could do the whole thing in a year or even six months. No…we can’t….it takes at least 3 semesters to do the program and to change the mindset. We’re not after a quick fix, rush everyone through a process type of learning. We’re after real change…and real change takes time, support and dedication.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

I love this part of the article….as I’m reading this, right away I started thinking to myself….I bet they took away all the personalization of the device. I bet they locked it down for the students…….and……

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.

…and there it is. Let’s make this clear BLOCKING DOES NOT WORK, EDUCATING DOES!

Problem #3: Technology is Personal

Thinking that technology is not a personal thing is a trap. Technology is very personal and as soon as you put the type of over reaching controls…which don’t work….in place you force students to “not care” for the device. I’ve seen this in many schools. The more freedom you give students with their devices the better they care for them. In fact…..at my last school (ISBangkok) I would say we had more teacher issues with laptops then we had with students. You see even adults struggle with ownership. When the technology isn’t yours, isn’t personal, we have a hard time taking care of it. More coffee was split on laptops by teachers than any food damage we had by students using them in the cafeteria at lunch time. By blocking websites we force students to be rule breakers. We force them to be hackers….which I guess….is teaching computer skills in one way. 🙂

“Probably in the last few months I’ve had quite a few principals and superintendents call and say, ‘I bought these 500 iPads or 1,000 laptops because the district next to us just bought them,’ and they’re like, now what do we do?” Powell said.

Problem #4: No District Wide Plan

Setting Up Computers
Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

 I have seen and heard of this same issue. Mostly at school districts who have decentralized the technology purchasing process. Principals get to the end of the year have money left and want to buy tech. I was at one district office recently when the phone call came in from the principal. She had money to spend and wanted to know how many iPads she could purchase with X amount of dollars. The Director of Technology told her about 12….then she asked how many Surface RTs she could purchase….he told her about 20. She decided to order those as she could get more devices. The Director of Technology looks at me with a look of sadness on his face. She just wants devices without a plan on how to use them, what she’s going to use them for, or how to train teachers on them. Because the Principals in this school district were responsible for there own budgets and the technology was decentralized the Director of Technology had no say…and was supporting every type of device across the district.

This summer, Hoboken school staff will go through the laptops one by one, writing down the serial numbers and drafting a resolution for the school board to approve their destruction.

Then they’ll seek bids from recycling companies to figure out how much it will cost Hoboken to throw them away.

Problem #5: The Exit Plan

Ah…..the exit plan. To often schools get into a mess like this not knowing how to get out of it. Of course this goes back to Problem #1. If you view these devices as a capital expenditure then you believe they’ll be around for a long time. I’m not sure where this idea ever came from, that you were going to buy a computer and have it last longer than 3 years. But it’s a mind set we need to change. We need to understand that this is a continual budget line that needs to grow with the program and devices. Textbooks continue to go up in price and we find money to buy them…..we need to start thinking of computers as textbooks. Better yet just have the computers replace the textbook line of the budget you might just come out ahead. 🙂

 

Again….I feel for this school….they did what they thought they were suppose to do…what everyone is doing….and it’s suppose to be easy. You give every student a laptop and BAMM! Learning changes!

If only it was that simple.

 

So by now hopefully you have seen the video about Solar Roadways. If not take a couple minutes to watch it below…. amazingly awesome.

So here’s the thing…I’m all for this…this excites me….this is the future. In fact I have already donated to the cause via their Indiegogo page. But it’s going to be an uphill battle because this is different. You have to think different, you have to plan different…you can’t just go out and continue building roads the same old way. You need to rethink everything……everything!

It reminds me of schools who decide to go 1:1. Buying the computer is the easy part…that just takes money. Much like this project raising the money was the easy part. The hard part is changing the mindset.

What should a road be?

What should a classroom look like?

How does this change the way we manufacture roads?

How does this change the way we lesson plan?

How does this change what we expect our roads to do?

How does this change what we expect our students to produce?

I could go on and on of course but I think you get the point. You can’t just drop laptops into schools/classroom and expect things to change on their own. You have to think different…you have to expect something different. You have to think way out of the box on this one. It’s a #moonshot for sure. So is thinking different in the classroom. Once you give every student a connected device….you need to think different….you need to start over.

I have recently been to a couple of new schools in the process of being built both here in the States and overseas. People are so proud of their beautiful new school buildings where 1:1 is either already in the plan or will be shortly. So we’re giving students a new set of tools to learn with yet building the same structures to learn within. Why is that? In 2014 why are we building schools that on the outside look very modern, a lot of glass, beautiful architecture, yet in the classrooms we get 4 white walls, desks that don’t have wheels, chairs that don’t have wheels and pretty much a stagnate learning space.

In all the schools I have visited in the past couple of year the International School of Turin in Turin, Italy always comes to my mind first when I think about what a modern school should look like. Let the images on their homepage tell the story. In one shot you get a peek inside a primary classroom where there is color and if you look closely you notice the whole wall of windows actually folds open to allow the space to expand into nature. I’m not even going to mention how they worked the old Italian Villa into the new school design or how the school grounds has it’s own vineyard where the students in high school not only talk about chemical reactions but make their own wine while learning it…..no…I won’t mention that because that’s just not fair!

See the challenge in creating solar freakin’ roadways is not really in creating the solar panels. Although that takes vision, time, and incredible knowledge it will be all for nothing if we can’t change our mindset of what a road should be. The human mind is a stubborn thing….we know what we know, we like what we know and if it works why think there might be a better way to do it?

Creating the product is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

Buying the computers is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

There are more schools this year rolling out iPad programs. I still have my personal reservations about these programs in high schools. But seeing that nobody asked me I’ll give up on that argument for a moment.

Two programs have come across my radar lately. I want you to watch the media coverage of these two programs.

Full discloser…I have known Tim Wilson for many years as a blogger, a podcast superstar and just a great guy to hang out with. So it doesn’t surprise me that when his district rolls out an iPad program that they have media coverage that goes beyond textbook replacement.

The other school, Gonzaga Prep (GPrep), is from Spokane, Washington…basically in my back yard.

Now I don’t know how Tim’s community is responding to the iPad program and I’m sure he’ll be leaving a comment here letting us know how things are going.

However, I do know how the GPrep program is being sold. The iPads are seen by the community, and if you watch the video by the media, as a replacement for textbooks. Sure they mention apps…but really everything I hear makes me cringe.

In the Wayzata School District video, listen to how the iPads are sold, not as a replacement for books but rather a device that has limitless possibilites. Count how many times the word “Create” is used. Why is this word so important? Because it is what is at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Order Learning.

Next I want you to re-watch the GPrep video with the SAMR model in mind. Here’s an image to help frame this model of technology integration for you as you watch the video.

From Jenny Luca
From Jenny Luca

What do you hear? What do you see? Using this model of technology integration, which one of these programs do you want to be a part of? I even went to the required apps page for GPrep in hopes of finding something there to make me think these might be used for more than just textbook replacements….but really everything I am seeing is at a Substitution or Augmentation level of the SAMR model.

So here’s the thing.

  • If you wanted a textbook replacement…that’s great….but there are much cheaper devices that will replace a textbook than an iPad. 
  • Please do not expect your teachers to “teach differently” when everything that I am reading and can find about this program is about replacing not advancing learning. 

Am I picking on iPads…..maybe a little. But to be fair I pick on all 1:1 programs that put an incredible powerful device in the hands of students with the goal of not changing learning, not changing education, but rather replacing what we are already doing.

This past weekend I flew to Vietnam to spend two days with the Senior Management Team (SMT) of the British International School of Vietnam (BISVietnam). A two day retreat that focused on a future with technology and a 1:1 program. 

There are so many different ways to go 1:1 and in my opinion no one right way to do it. There are so many variables that need to be considered that 1:1 programs can look drastically different from one school to the next and still be successful.

Here are a few of the things we discussed:

Money:

money
 

It’s always the elephant in the room and the problem with dreaming of endless possibilities without considering the cost leads one to believe that the dreams can become reality and in many cases it is just not financially feasible to fulfill our wildest technology dreams. As much as we want to say money is not a factor…..at some point it always is.

Infrastructure:

In many countries in Asia this can be the most frustrating part of the whole plan. We all read, watch, and see the amazing things that are happening on the web. However, to do those amazing things you need a web connection. In developing countries like Vietnam the Internet is expensive, unreliable, and most of the time just plain frustrating. BISVietnam currently has a 2MB Internet line for 1600 students. Think about that the next time you want to complain about your Internet speed.

serverroom
 

You can not consider going 1:1 without looking at the cost and feasibility of it from an infrastructure standpoint. Money put into your infrastructure is always well spent but it also means every dollar that goes towards infrastructural improvements is dollars taken away from learning devices. Finding the balance is important.

One thing that I stress is do not spend money on you infrastructure for the future. Support the here and now.

If a school spends money building up an infrastructure that looks to support learning years from now then you’re wasting money. You might know what you will need two or three years from now…but you don’t need that today. The chances are the infrastructure your school will need in the future will get cheaper and faster.

Example: You know you’re going to need more server space as students store more and more data on the Intranet. Calculate how much storage you’ll need this year and next year. But only purchase what you need for this year. By next year the cost of the same storage will be cheaper and faster.

In the end support what you need, not what you want.

Intranet vs The Cloud:

amazonwebservices
 

Really what this should say is Internal Cloud vs External Cloud. Based on the infrastructure that is available to a school, you may need to consider building your own Internal Cloud. Basically turning those old folder heavy Intranet servers into web accessible servers. By making your Intranet Servers accessible via a web browser you can essentially create your own cloud on your campus. You can install programs like WordPress, Elgg, Drupal, and a host of other open-source software that essentially creates your own Internal Cloud system. 

This is a common process in China where access to many cloud services is blocked by the government. If that’s the case, or you don’t have a fast reliable Internet connection then building your own cloud is an option. Shanghai American School is a great example of a school building an internal cloud. Check out there Online Community Portal

At ISB, my current school for 23 more days, we are slowly making the transition from an Internal Cloud to an External Cloud system. When I arrived four years ago we starting building our Internal Cloud system as it was faster and more reliable. As the infrastructure of Thailand has improved and we’ve been able to purchase more bandwidth (20MB when I arrived and 100MB now for 1800 students) we’ve slowly moving to an external cloud. 

Exchange Mail Server to Google Apps – 2011-2012

Hosted Moodle to Externally Hosted LMS – 2012-2013

Internal Hosted Blogs to External Hosted Blogs – 2014

Or something like that. By moving these services to the external cloud we trade servers for Internet speed and reliability. As our speed and reliability increases so can our reliance on the external cloud.

Learning Devices:

Of course this is where we all like to discuss our options. What devices are right for students?  Start with students

The only way to answer this question is to first identify what it is you want students to be doing with the laptops. What kind of experiences do you want them to have, what skills do you want them to gain and what creative products do you want them to produce? 

By first identifying what we want students to do at different grade levels we can then choose the device that meets those needs. 

Again…dreaming here can be dangerous. We must realized and understand that in developing countries we don’t always get the lastest and greatest technology and not every company is currently supporting devices in every country. In Vietnam’s case Apple has no support in Vietnam as of yet. Sure, you can buy Apple products, but any support needed on those products has to be sent out of the country. Coming to the realization of what’s possible and what learning devices you have access to is not always fun…but again is reality. 

Ownership:

apple
 

Ownership is something I think we spend to much time and effort on….as basically you have two options. 

1. School Owned

2. Parent/Student Owned

This decision comes down to two points.

  • Can the school afford to own all the laptops? 
    • If the answer is no…then Parent/Student owned is your only option
    • If the answer is yes….then you need to think about and understand your community
  • Will the school community support a laptop program?
    • Have we done work with the school community in helping them understand the reasoning behind a 1:1 program?
    • How can we move our school culture forward?
    • Can our community afford it?

Administrators must know their community and be willing to hold community sessions to educate the community on the benefits of a 1:1 program. This decision is a school based one. Both options work…it’s picking the best option for your school that is important to success. 

 

In the end, you can look around at what other schools are doing or have done but that will only get you so far. Every school culture and situtation is different, hence there is no one way to roll out a 1:1 program that is magical and perfect. They all have their positives and negatives. At the end of the day make a decision and just do it!

Over the last few weeks I have received a hand full of e-mails all asking the same question. 

What would you recommend?

MacBook vs ChromeBook

Laptop vs Tablet

Tablet Laptop vs Tablet Slates

The problem is that’s not the right question to be asking. Don’t get me wrong, I know what everyone is asking and dealing with. There are a lot of compelling options out there right now and at the end of the day the best option is the one your school can afford. 

However, if you are looking at a couple different platforms then your school must have the budget to do some shopping and thinking about which platform is best for students and this is where our question begins. 

Do not ask “What should we use to go 1:1 with?

Ask “What do we want students to create?

I wrote about this in my Technology Plan (Free PDF that needs to be updated) a few years back. The technology should support the learning which means we need to know what we expect students to create (key word there) with technology. 

Let’s take 3rd Grade as an example. I would expect 3rd Graders at my school to:

  • Collaborating on Google Docs
  • Blogging (including uploading of images)
  • Creating simple movies
  • Creating simple podcasts
  • Commenting on others blogs

I would sit down with the 3rd Grade team and have them help me brainstorm this list. Remembering to stay focus on what we want students to do, not what we’re currently doing (sometimes a big difference!). 

ipadclassroom
Some rights reserved by mikecogh

Why do I focus on creating? Simple, we want every student to be able to consume information via technology. That’s a given and each of the devices above allows you to consume information, there is nothing, other than form factor that really sets them apart. If you only want students to consume information the choice is easy…a tablet such as an iPad is made to do just that. Looking at the quick list that I created I’m now going to go and look at all my options for hardware and choose the best fit that allows my students to do everything I want them to do. In the case above everything listed, except collaborate on Google Docs, can simply be done on an iPad. So, using this list (and I know it’s not complete) I would go 1:1 with iPads in 3rd Grade and then have a cart of laptops available for the Google Docs piece.

This is the question I started with in my recent blog post about what my dream school 1:1 program would look like. At the end of the day the right device is the device that allows your teachers and students to do what they want to do and are not held back by the technology. Make your decision on what you want students to create and you can’t go wrong.

Featured Image: Some rights reserved by rwentechaney