Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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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.

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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:

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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!

This past weekend I made my 9th and final flight to Taipei where 25 educators from Taipei American School (TAS) wrapped up their final course, projects and presentations for the COETAIL program. 

CIRCLE RGB 600px
 

The COETAIL Program or Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy, is a 5 course 15 graduate credit program started by Kim Cofino and I in 2009. The program, only available to educators outside the U.S., continues to return positive results with 86% of educators who have taken the program saying that the coures and the learning have had a positive effect on their teaching practices 6 months after they finish the program. The fifth and final course asks educators to take everything they have learned in the first 4 courses and apply it to their teaching. We push the educators to try to use technology in a way that redefines the learning experience using the following definition:

Redefinition: The computer allows for the creation of new tasks, inconceivable without the computer.

As usual the TAS educators rose to the challenge and presented some fantastic learning examples as well as some failures….which in itself is a success. Here are a few highlights. 

Nancy and Kathy put together this fantastic video for their final project. You can read about their reflections on their blogs.

Allison Nave has done a great job of sharing and reflecting as she flips her middle school math class.

Nyoli had her Algebra students create a Google Site for review purposes. Students don’t want the site public but she outlines the learning and the process.

Barb outlines making book trailers with elementary students in the library and collaborating with Tara our librarian here at ISB.

Scott and Laura reflect on using iPads with 1st graders.

Steve talks about using Google Docs with 2nd Graders.

Jennifer teaches music through creating a sound track for a movie trailer.

It was great to see teachers stretch themselves on these projects as I encouraged them to push themselves and the technology so far beyond what they though capable that they failed…..and we had a few “successful failures” as Michael called it in his presentation. That’s a term I could get use to using.

If you are an educator outside of America and you are interested in the COETAIL program. Head over to the About page where you can read about the program and put your name on the list to get more information. Our plan is to start another cohort in September.

I can’t believe how time is flying by this 2nd Semester. It’s our last 6 months in Thailand and of course when you want time to slow down so you can fit everything in it does just the oposite. 

No excuses, I haven’t made the time to blog lately and find myself sitting here at 6am in the van on the way to school with a moment to reflect. 

What I’ve been up to:

School:

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All of a sudden the last two weeks have been packed! Our school is hosting the regional basketball tournament and this year we’re going to try and live stream the games as well as have students commentate them live. When you have 5 teams flying in from 5 different countries not everyone can travel with them, so streaming the sports has become almost expected by spectators back in their home countries to keep up with the action. We’ll be live February 2,3,4 here in Bangkok and you can watch the games and see how we set this up using Ustream, Google Docs, and a blog here.

Also on the school front, I took advantage of the holiday season knowing that teachers were going to come back to school with new toys; iPhones, iPads, Android Phones and new computers. I saw an opportunity to provide some training to teachers around their own personal use of technology. We know that if you start using technology in your personal life where it’s meaningful to you that those skills and understandings transfer over to your work life as well. Learning to take a video of your kids and e-mailing it to family is the same as taking a video of your students and e-mailing it to the parents. 

The after school sessions were the best attended sessions I’ve had so far this year even with the power going out during the Android training, we found an emergency light and carried on. 

People are hungry for information, especially when it relates directly to their personal lives….make trainning personal!

Ninja Program:

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Logo for our T-Shirts @ ISB

The Google Apps Ninja Program that I started back in September and blogged about here has completely taken me by surprise. There are now over 150 educators who have access to the Google Docs. Seeing that there might be something here that I can support long term I decided to move all the files to their own Google Apps domain. So the Google Apps Ninja Program is now officially found at www.ninjaprogram.com the website isn’t finished but after reading this blog post if you are interested in using the files and helping to keep them updated, fill out this form and I’ll get you in. I’m excited to focus on this next year as one of my projects.

COETAIL Online Cohort:

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As I blogged about here a couple weeks ago the COETAIL Online Cohort will be kicking off February 5th and I’ve been hard at work preparing for the almost 50 International Educators who have signed up to take the course. WOW is all I have to say about that! I was hoping for 25 (one full cohort) and have 42 people registered with the February 1st deadline just a few days away. If you’re interested there are still a few spots left. 

Update: I did get clarification from Buffalo State – SUNY that Canadian Educators living in Canada are eligible to take the program.Basically any educator outside the U.S. is eligible to take the program (don’t ask me why…some Higher Ed thing).

I’m looking forward to a great year of learning with these educators spread all over Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 

 

That’s what has been keeping me busy these past few weeks. I’m finding myself in this weird place of starting project and preparing for all the things I want to do next year as a consultant and starter of cool stuff and the full time job I still have. It’s leaving very little time to do much else….but I can’t complain because I’m doing what I love! 

As the van pulls into school….let another day begin. 

 

isb
 
standing desk
 

It’s been about two months now since I’ve switched over to my standing desk here at school…and although the view of the white wall in front of me along with the discarded non-fiction books that are heading to better places isn’t the best view….the standing has been fantastic.There is a lot of reading out there about standing desks. I particularly like this one with the links in it as well. After reading this article I contacted B&G here at my school and had them move in this fantastic table. Each of our classrooms have a table like this that can be raised and lowered to any hight you want. It’s really the perfect size and I might just take it with me when I leave.

 

 

My setup (all school issued):

A Henge Dock for my MacBook Pro (A bit fussy but the best thing out there I think)

A LED 21-inch LG monitor 1920x1080px. Fantastic and not that expensive.

Computer Speakers, keyboard, bluetooth mouse.

The box my computer is sitting on was just here in the office so I’m using it just to get my monitor up to eye level.

 

The Benefits I’m seeing:

More active: For me there is something to already standing to do the little things such as drink more water. The water cooler is maybe 15 feet away from my desk…now that I’m standing I’m drinking more water. I can click a link, wait for a page to load walk over fill my water bottle and come back. The walk feels good on the legs and I’m already standing…there is something mental to it….for me anyway.

Less Shoulder Stress: I get massages at least once a week (don’t judge me I live in Asia). Before standing I use to have big knots all along my upper back and shoulders. Since standing they have all gone away and my back overall feels better.

Knees and Feet: The first week my knees and feet ached along with parts of my legs I didn’t know existed. But after about a week they don’t bother me anymore. The body has adjusted and I’m feeling good standing for most of my day. Everything I read said be prepared for this. I was and was able to battle through it. 

Appreciate Sitting: Meetings aren’t that bad anymore…I welcome the 30 minute meeting as it gives me a chance to sit and relax. 

Walking is key: When my legs or feet start to ache I know I’ve spent to much time at the computer and not enough time out and about. Because of my job of helping teachers in their classrooms I’m walking a lot anyway, but if I’m at my computer for too long my feet let me know about it.

As I think about my office setup in my new life I’m definitely going to be sticking with the standing desk.

How about for kids?  As I’ve been standing I’ve been thinking why we don’t allow kids to stand if they want. Kids in Middle School or High School probably sit for 4 to 6 hours a day and many times for 60-90 minutes at a time. It wouldn’t take much to put a tall desk or two in a room in the back in case a student wanted to stand through a class. Would it really be that bad? Anyone doing this already?

Disclosure: The following thoughts/reflections are not necessary the views of ISB or its community

It has been a few weeks since we were in a virtual school situation here in Bangkok. Although the flood water continues to slowly move South into Bangkok our school has reopened with no immediate threat to flooding in sight if at all.

floodingimage
SOME RIGHTS RESERVED BY MITH17

Some rights reserved by mith17The school was closed for a week, along with all schools in the Bangkok area, by the Ministry of Education. ISB is lucky in did not get hit by the floods. Not all International Schools were as lucky.I have done presentations throughout Asia on preparing for school closure as it seems they follow me where ever I am in the world. Saudi Arabia with terrorism, Shanghai with Typhoons, Bangkok with riots and flooding, and even Washington State with snow and earthquakes. Depending on the situation many times schools try to move into an virtual school situation. Here are some things that no matter why the school closes seem to be factors in having a successful virtual school experience.Blended Classrooms to Virtual Classroom is an easy Transition  Those teachers who use technology on a daily basis in a blended classroom environment have the best success when it comes time for virtual school. The technology is already in place and more importantly the students know where to go to find information and what the expectations are. The students and educators who struggle the most are those who have to try and set up the technology at the last minute….it just doesn’t work.

Virtual work isn’t Homework Virtual work is different than homework and both educators and students need to understand this. Many teachers not being trained as online educators have a hard time understanding what kind of work can be done other than just “busy work” or homework type of assignments. Creating lessons that are interactive, that are deeper in meaning then what educators are use to giving online is PD time worth spending.

Videos are Good Students like videos. They really like videos that their teachers have taken the time to make. Quick 3 to 5 minute videos (no longer then 10 minutes at the most) seem to always get high marks for students. A good YouTube video isn’t bad, but there’s something about a teachers touch that kids still enjoy.

Preparing Students for the Future

future of elearning  

Lastly I think every school should follow the lead of Idaho and require every high school student to take classes online as a graduation requirement. If for no other reason than to prepare them for the university that awaits them. The lastest research from universities shows that online classes in undergraduates is still on a very steep raise with over 500,000 more undergrads taking at least one online course last year than the year before.

According to the Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 report, university presidents view online learning as a very significant part of their future school plans, which means more and more students will be taking classes online. The key finding in the report were:

  • Over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year.
  • The 10% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
  • Thirty-one percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Reported year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs by discipline show most are growing.
  • Academic leaders believe that the level of student satisfaction is equivalent for online and face-to-face courses.
  • 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.
  • There continues to be a consistent minority of academic leaders concerned that the quality of online instruction is not equal to courses delivered face-to-face.

With the economy where it’s at, online schooling also makes fiscal sense for many families. As a university student you can take your classes and still live at home saving anywhere from $10,000 on up in room and board cost.

 

If we believe that part of our job as educational institutions is to prepare students for their future then I believe we need to prepare them to learn online.

Earlier this week I handed in my resignation letter to my Head of School, Dr. Gerrtiz. It’s funny the two responses I’ve been getting.

Those who know me well and understand the international teaching world knew this was probably coming soon. I mean I’ve been here for four years…in Jeff’s world that is an eternity. In fact these four years are the longest I’ve held a job at the same institution ever….as in….ever in my life.

lost
I want to get lost by Xabier.M

 

Those who don’t know me very well or the way international teaching works are wondering why I would resign from a job that I’m perfectly happy at during a time when educators are being let go left and right in the States. I have to say that’s a good question….a really good question.

The answer is I’m ready for something new….something different…..as I wrote about four years ago after resigning from Shanghai American School and eventually ending up at ISB.

But this time I think my something different won’t includie working full time in a school. Not ruling out any options at this point but there are so many things I want to do that don’t include working full time in a school. There are so many teachers, so many students around the world that need support in the changes that are happening in education because of technology that I’m finding my passion leading me in that direction more and more.

The COETAIL program that was started at ISB and has now spread through the Asia region continues to grow. Currently there are about 125 educators enrolled in the program in 5 different cohorts. With e-mails coming in almost daily now of people asking how they can join, I want to be able to support these teachers and their students. If you take the rough estimate class size of 20 (class sizes are typically smaller at International Schools) then we’re effecting the education of some 2,500 students. That excites me and I want to dedicate more time to the program and to the teachers in it.

Google Apps in schools continues to take off as well around the world. I believe at this moment in time it’s the best set of tools out there for educational institutions and organizations as a whole. I want to help them learn the full potential of these collaborative tools.

There are all the workshops and presentations I’ve been giving over the past couple of years that have fueled my passion and my thoughts. I simply enjoy learning with others.

I’ve been doing all of this while also working full time at ISB. Living a crazy life that has left little time for family and friends. I’m out of balance at the moment working harder than I’m playing….and that’s not good.

There is also all the stuff I haven’t been able to do that I really would like the time to work on.

I want to start podcasting again….I miss the conversations.

I want to write more. Reach needs updating and there’s two other books in my brain that need to find their way out in some form or another.

I want to spend more time with you….the readers of this blog and my network at large. The last two years my contributions to the greater educational conversation aren’t what they should be and I need to give more back to the network that has given to me so freely and openly.

In the end….I have no idea where I’ll end up, what I’ll be doing. Which is both completely scary and completely exciting.

I do know one thing for certain though. No matter what happens, what’s next for me in life, I know my social-network will play a large part in defining that for me. That’s how I ended up here at ISB (Thank you Dennis, Kim and Justin) in the first place.

So I turn myself over to you social-network. The human connections that make this world the amazing place it is in helping me define what’s next for me.

More to come as the next chapter unfolds.

A blog post I wrote to High School Students.

wordinacan

As I’ve been helping students get going with their gmail accounts and blogs over the past couple of weeks I’ve been joking about the “old school” e-mail systems that some of you still use. Hotmail, Yahoo…and seriously….AOL…come on…..

But there is another old school tool that I think has seen its best days behind it. Microsoft Word….oh how we loved you back in the day when you were really the only word processing program we needed. But times are changing and it’s time to move on to new and better tools.

Google Docs is a very powerful alternative to Word. Here are 10 reasons to consider using Google Docs the next time you need to do some writing.

1. No more corrupt files

Nothing worse than staying up all night to finish an assignment only to quickly drag it to your flash drive and turn up at school with a file that won’t open on a teacher’s computer. With Google Docs access to your file is only a click away and you never have to worry about your file their corrupt.

2. No more corrupt USB Keys

Of course if your file is not corrupt then it’s your USB Key that fails you when you need it most. Using Google Docs as an online storage locker means never having to worry about a corrupt or even lost USB key again. Simple download the documents you need when you get to school. With 1GB of space you can store a weeks worth of work easily.

3. .doc .docx who cares!

Nothing worse than having a file you can’t open or giving someone a file they can’t open. With Google Docs simply share the link to your file on the Internet. If they have a web browser and an internet connect they can view the document.

4. Work Collaboratively

By far the best feature of Google Docs. Work collaboratively with others in your class. Missing a day because of IASAS? No problem! Have a friend take notes in Google Docs during class and simply share the notes with you. Just don’t forget to return the favor.

5. Share and Share a Like

Simply create documents to share with team members, club members, or anyone else you need to. No more worrying about the latest versions of the document or how many times you’ve revised. Allowing everyone to work on the same document at the same time can increase productivity and save you time.

Google Docs

6. Export to PDF or Word no problem

Still need to hand in the Word or PDF version? Not a problem File – Download As allows you to download Google Docs in a variety of formates.

7. Make it Public

Proud of a piece of work that you want to put on your blog or share with the world? With a couple simple clicks turn any document or presentation into a viewable web page. If you can click you can publish.

8. Work from any computer with Internet access

Never worry about leaving your USB or computer at home again. Any computer, or mobile device for that matter can access your files. From an iPad to a Blackberry it might not be the best view in the world but you can still see your documents.

9. Work on the Go

If you have the Chrome browser installed (and if you don’t you should) install these apps to allow you to work on the go. Turn your bus time into work time.

10. Because it’s the future

We’re headed into a fully web-based world. Even Microsoft is working to make Word fully online in a few years…see I told you they were old school. Get a jump on the future and get use to working on the web now so you’re not playing catch up later.

Those are my 10 reasons….what would you add to the list?

High School BlogAt ISB we’ve struggled over the past couple of years in defining our web spaces. Although we’ve been getting better at using the “Core 3” (Moodle, Google Apps, WordPress) we still need to define spaces based on purpose and audience. 

One thing I’m focusing on this year is creating what I’m calling a Virtual Bulletin Board for our high school students. A place where they can find and post announcements in whatever format they choose. 

Here’s the site: http://inside.isb.ac.th/high

Audience: High School Students at ISB

Purpose: To get announcements out to students, information from the office, campus updates

Once we have defined the audience and purpose we can then start to create and mold how the site will work. I know there are probably better bulletin board systems out there than a blog….but I’m committed to showing teachers and students just how flexible the WordPress platform can be.

The platform of WordPress is so dynamic, so powerful and so customizable that really your imagination is the limit.

If you have clicked on the link above to the bulletin board site you’ll be thinking to yourself “it still looks like a blog to me” and you’re right…it does for now and probably will for awhile yet. 

Steps to making it a virtual bulletin board.

Step 1: Every school computer in the high school has this page as its default start page for every browser. So we are forcing eyes on the page to begin with. It becomes crucial that we spend this year gaining the trust of students and showing them this is the place for them to come for information. Next year we roll out 1:1 in the high school where we will no longer control the home page of the browser. We need to get this right or we’ll loose them.

Step 2: We have created the “quick link” section that links students to all the other applications they need in the high school.

Step 3. Work with the high school administration to push announcements and updates to students on the site.

Step 4: Train students to post things to the site

Step 4 is what I’m most excited about and I think shows the true power of WordPress and going with a blogging platform.

My idea is that we’ll have students post announcements on their own blogs (every student already has one) and then have them tag the announcement with the word ”hsannouncement”. Using the AutoBlog plugin I’ll then grad the RSS feed for that tag and pull that into the Virtual Bulletin Board site. This way students can post an announcement about a club, upcoming activity or just a thought out to the rest of the high school by simply writing a post on their own blog. They then keep ownership of the announcement. I’m hoping this will be useful for clubs, sports teams, athletics, and kids and general.

What I also like is that because our container is a blog, we’re not limited to just text. Videos, audio, images….kids can decide which medium best gets their message across. We can easily embed videos in the sidebar, in posts, in pages. Making the site even more unique and engaging. 

In the end it needs to engage them…students have to see it as a place to go to get information that is relevent to them. If we can succeed in that then I’ll have met one of my goals for the year…..wish me luck!