Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Assessing Technology in Projects: Avoid the Blind Spot

Yesterday, Brebeuf Jesuit hosted its 1st annual Jingle Bell Tech Conference. Four schools from around Indianapolis came. It was a small gathering but had great content and discussion, which is about all you can hope for this close to Christmas. Special thanks to @40ishoracle who conceived of it, did the planning and ran the show and @tcockrum who once again played guide about the #flipclass.

The topics covered included Google Apps for Education, Adapting a classroom for BYOT, Flipping your classroom, and Assessment strategies. Any of these topics are worth a few blogs, but, as is normal, the best part of the conference occurred when teachers began to discuss and share, in this case, on the subject of assessments.

Assessing Technology skills is difficult on a number of levels. This is highlighted in an age where many schools are doing away with “tech” classes in favor of an integration strategy. Even schools that have a technology focused class have raised the expectations that all teachers will integrate technology and, presumably, evaluate it. Some of the difficulties:

  • Students are more comfortable with technology so they are able to “dazzle” the teacher with effects that are not really all that difficult or representative of actual skills.
  • Students are able to (as one teacher put it on our ever-present chalktalk poster boards) “pull one over” on the teacher by blaming technology for procrastination or failure to implement.
  • Teachers feel unqualified to grade “tech” but obligated to because of the ever-present specter of expectation
  • Students replace learning material through repetition or practice with technological shortcuts so that the "shiny pretty" obscures the assessment of learning objectives
This mix of vague expectation, separation of skill from learning objective, and general dis-ease with the topic leads to the creation of Evaluative Blind-Spots. for the purpose of this rant, Blind-Spots are evaluation categories that are vague, generalized, and often skew the overall grade positively without necessarily assessing any actual learning objective.

In our experience, they often use terms like “creativity” or “use of technology” or “overall”.

Not sure if something is a blind-spot? ask yourself these questions:
  • Does the category come at the end of the rubric?
  • What is the link between this category and the content/skills being evaluated overall?
  • Do i feel qualified to evaluate this category?
  • Am i willing to drop someone a letter grade because of this category? Two letter grades?
  • On a five-point scale, can i visualize what a “1” would look like? a “5”?
  • Have i ever assessed someone “below average” in this category? is it just free points?
  • If i ignored this category, could i still assess the primary learning objectives?
If the questions above indicate that you a) don’t really care about this category or b) are not sure how to assess this category objectively (yes, i said it), then eliminate it as a part of the evaluation

You will save yourself time and stress and let the students focus on the sections of the rubric that are related to the primary learning objectives. You also eliminate the possibility that the category is just a placeholder for your opinion on the quality of the project and avoid the inevitable comparison of grades and discussion of your “fairness”. (This is not to say that the teacher opinion shouldn't be factored, but that it is already being factored in categories such as “organization”, “clarity”, “mechanics”, “research”, “analysis”, etc -- poor quality should be declared as more than an "opinion").

You might find that the blind-spot is a misnamed category for something else. “Use of Technology” might be a place holder for “ability to communicate a message” or “aesthetic design”. Those are more exacting terms that might be easier to expertly evaluate. after all, that awful “keyboard type” transition in a PowerPoint is a “use” of technology, but three slides of it and the only thing that is being communicated is death wish. tat-tat-tat-tat-tat.

Is a blind spot the end of the evaluative world? probably not. few students ever complained about easy points. but if our ultimate goal in assessment is to give feedback on accomplishing specific learning objectives, demonstrating skills, showing acquired knowledge, then we owe it to ourselves and our students to measure that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dreaming Big: The Software I need for my "flipping" classroom

This one has been brewing in my head for awhile which means that it will probably go long, but i think the time has come for educators to start laying out what is necessary to take classrooms from analog to digital...the legislators had their chance and they give us contradictions like creativity-through-standardized-testing. In the spirit of the season, Bah Humbug.

Context: One of the best presentations I saw this year at ICE (Indiana Computer Educators) was a session on FLIPPED CLASSROOMS put on byTroy Cockrum (@tcockrum), Brian Bennett, and Brett Clark (@Mr_Brett_Clark). In this session, they outlined a simple method of teaching that could be considered innovative in some ways and a refinement of good teaching practices in others. Rather than going into details on “what is a flipped classroom” I will refer you to the livebinder @40ishoracle and I have been sending people to this year, my pearltree on the topic or suggest you follow @jonbergmann.

In summary, the #flipclass idea centers around displacing traditional classroom activities, including lecture, to the “homework” timeslot, freeing up that time period for one-to-one check-in, discussion, clarifying, activities, etc. In its simplest form, the teacher becomes available to “help” with homework problems that classically deterred students from doing their work.

This brings me to software: while it is a misconception that numerous flipclass teachers write about to say that it is all about “video taping the lecture”, when you think about the types of activities that can be displaced (reading chapters, listening to lecture, walking through a power point, taking notes), lecture pops to the top of the list in terms of what can be done.

There are a number of software solutions out there for recording screen casts, teacher video, etc. Many of our teachers have experimented with paid (like Camtasia) and free solutions and this is not an analysis of those.

Instead, i became intrigued by thinking about what software would look like if it were specifically designed to help the flipping teacher (i love the adjective wordplay). As is the case with most things, if there is an education need, there are companies who are working to fill it. I got to meet with Senthil Premraj of www.flippedlessons.com. While this company is not yet creating the software that i am about to describe, it was a phenomenal discussion and i encourage people with experience in flipping classrooms to talk to them about what you would like to see.

So here it is...My dream software for supporting the flipped classroom:

  1. Web based (and only web-based): If I have a browser, it should be able to run this software. If I have a webcam or a microphone, it should be able to interface. Test it on a chromebook.
  2. The ability to import, upload, embed from a variety of resources. There are too many effective videos and demonstrations out there for teachers to not have access to them. We are experts in curation, but the mechanism to bring a video into my flipped lesson should be seamless and simple
  3. One Stop Video Creation with simple editing. I do NOT want to export to edit. I want one tool and one screen. So what would this entail?
    1. A simple drag and drop timeline. that can include videos that we have uploaded and embedded, videos that we have created through a webcam.
    2. A separate audio-only timeline for doing voiceovers.
    3. A third timeline for captions, callouts, etc.
    4. Want to win the special prize? give me a fifth timeline to do sideXside or picture-in-picture.
  4. Teacher control: Teachers pace their lectures, display a variety of media, choose when to joke and when to be serious. Canned lessons are bad out of the textbook and bad off the web. Let the educator do the work. (yes, i heard the gasps. I am not a total liberal)
[Part of me understands that i am shooting for the moon here, but this would be the service that, as a school i would pay money for.. Besides, aviary.com already figured this out for web-based podcasting.]

  1. The ability to export the final “movie” product. Teachers should be able to keep the fruit of their efforts even if the school stops paying for the product.
  2. a simple mechanism for giving fair-use copyright credit. we need to be better models of this for our students. (this would be a simple piece to add to the upload/embed dialog. Where did this come from? what date? and then create a credit slide at the tail-end of the “movie” or a credit page that can be clicked on).
So on the teacher interface side, we are looking at a simple layout with timelines, audio/video bins, a callout/caption interface, a question option interface (see below) and some well-designed dialog boxes.

On the student side,

  1. A system for inserting questions as a “listening check” for students. Bonus points if there is a self correcting option and if the teacher can get feedback so he/she knows going into class where students struggled with the lesson the night before.
  2. A “Question” box where students can leave notes and questions for the teacher as they are going through the lecture so that they do not “forget” the questions the next day.

  1. Help me demonstrate the value add. Give the administrator statistics on numbers of teachers, numbers of lessons, number of students accessing. I want lots of numbers and data in charts and graphs.
  2. Make the login interface logical and simple. Do not require a class list import or at least give me a variety of options such as a classroom passphrase that is entered after the student logs in.
  3. Keep the cost reasonable. Google Docs is free. Microsoft is becoming affordable. Camtasia costs under $300. Dont price a brilliant product out of the market.

And that is it. 
My dream software. 

If you have already invented, please feel free to call me with a quote. if it hasn't been invented yet and the ideas are useful, toss a little credit to Brebeuf Jesuit, a school for all your flipping needs :). If you make millions, I want to talk to you about a library renovation.

(In all seriousness, i wouldn't be blogging about it if i didn’t want to see this happen. Prove me right, Internet, make the magic happen)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why BYOT part 4: Exercising the Preferential Option

In preparation for this last and final post dissecting our decision to go BYOT, i am struck by how much I saved the best for last.

JESUIT CONTEXT SETTING: Like last time, it is important to understand that the decisions we make at Brebeuf Jesuit are made from a context of a mid-sized highly academic and Catholic school. One hallmark of Catholic education that is taught to our students and hopefully lived by our institutions is the “preferential option for the poor”. In practice, the IT department interprets it this way: When making a decision, all things being equal, choose that option which most benefits those who are most in need. When things are not equal, consider preferencing those most in need anyway. :)

For a number of years, this was the element that kept us from opening up our wireless network to student devices. Simply, why should we spend the money on security, protocols, etc. to open up the wireless to further advantage students who already have technology rather than working to provide technology to those who don’t?

What changed? Why BYOT?

1. Wireless/Security infrastructure has changed a lot in the last few years:
The cost of wireless infrastructure, security, stability, etc. has dramatically changed. there are products now that scale linear without the need for an expensive back end controller; SSIDs can be secured with different security profiles without the need for separate firewalls, etc.
2. The cost and productivity of mobile devices has changed a lot in the last few years:
I had a trustee ask me why i laugh every time they ask me for a 5yr technology plan. I point out that 5 years ago there were not iPads, android was a sci-fi term, and chrome had little to do with technology outside of wheel rims. Beyond the advent of new or greatly improved mobile systems, the cost of full or mid-productivity machines has dropped to the point that a great majority of our students carry something in their backpack or pocket that outstrips the capacity of computers that are good enough to be in service.

So, the first element of the decision from a “preferential option” standpoint was that technological progress and market forces created an environment where the cost of opening up was not made at sacrifice of access of the lesser advantaged students. In parallel, enough students have access to their own technology that it becomes fiscally advantageous to focus our efforts on the “have-nots” in the technological landscape.
And at that point, the entire BYOT philosophy makes sense. See, the pedagogical advantages (see parts 1 and 2) apply universally:
  • If we make the claim that there is an inherent value in CHOICE. that the ability access, evaluate, and use at a meta level is educationally valuable, then it is educationally valuable for all students, whether they come from families that can afford to make that choice or not.
  • If we make the claim that students should be able to make a responsible decsion (in consultation with their family) about what the best product is for them to accomplish day-to-day tasks of curation, consumption, creation and communication, than that claim applies to all students, regardless of location on the poverty line.

Again, our context helps to drive this decision. We see an inherent benefit and an educational advantage in giving students solid access and choice in end user products. We focus our efforts on providing clear signal and strong access to tools for all students. In our ideal world, we use our remaining funds in two ways: first, to provide access to specialized tools that go beyond the expectations of the typical BYOT device; second, we work to provide the same environment and advantage of choice to our most needy students that are naturally experienced by our well-off students.

Ultimately, while we are fulfilling our obligation of the “preferential option” mandated by our school’s mission, we end up benefiting all of our students: We can raise the minimum expectation past the one-size-fits-all-in-a-budget netbook solution. We create an environment where choice, critical thinking, and problem solving is built-in to the learning process at a global level. We can provide access to technology that is specialized or otherwise unavailable through specific labs, software, and equipment loan/checkout.

and, in classic debate tradition, it is for all of these reasons that Brebeuf Jesuit urges a BYOT environment.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On research and educational philosophy...

The Wikipedia Dilemma

Phenomenal post and an issue we have been assessing for years. Information literacy is a key to digital citizenship.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why BYOT (Part III of fourish) -- Scoping out the Breadth of the Digital Divide

Techs &Teachers, Together at #HECC
  • It has been a really busy couple of weeks at the school and in the Brebeuf IT department.
  • Student wireless went fully live with only a few hiccups
  • @40ishoracle and I presented a BYOT workshop at the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators conference...complete with zhu zhu pets!
  • We had another phenomenal open house and tech petting zoo -- parents seem excited about the model
  • We finished a few major writing projects and started drafting a few more.
For the record, SIRI does not know ZHU

So, we have addressed the general benefit to students (although after talking about it and witnessing it, i could list a few more) and we have covered the transformation that is enabled in the IT Cave. Today we will focus on one of the two extremes of the digital divide: the haves (i’ll save the have-nots for Monday since @40ishoracle is already TLDRing me).

NOTE: this division is a gross generalization,but it serves the discussion

First, a little Jesuit speak (just a little, I promise), guiding principles of Jesuit education really come into play here. One is Context. Going as far back as St. Ignatius of Loyola (the first Jesuit), the order has placed a high level of emphasis on taking students (or believers, or sinners) where they are and challenging them in ways that will bring them closer to God. Because the background and experiences of each person varies, the particular challenges and new experiences that will bring one toward God also varies. This awareness of context is one part of the Jesuit concept of cura personalis.
Ok, back to BYOT.
The Haves: an exploration of context

We were watching a presentation on a school that had made the plunge to iPads while discussing a crippled little android device that was so locked down it makes the Kindle Fire look like a full production machine. Two students were working on scanning projects (full IBM lenovo desktops with two HP Scanjet scanners) of decades of paper photos while two more students were adjusting the wires on an infrared emitter that would be used to detect hand motion across a 40” screen (our student built multi-touch to display the alumni photos being scanned).

One of the students, an iPad user, begins bemoaning the iPad school philosophy. His argument essentially boiled down to one of context: as a high end user (one who writes his own iPad Apps) he felt that a school that would bar him from using his high-end machine was missing out on an opportunity to let him work at a level for which he was ready.

As we began to explore this idea of context, it expanded out from the high-end users. A family with a desktop computer in the living room is in a much better position to have an iPad or GalaxyTab as a during-the-day device that is used for looking up information, communicating, and drafting papers. The iPad becomes much less appealing as a default primary device when that will be the only machine in the household to use to add footnotes to a fifteen page research paper. Conversely, we have one sending school which bought all netbooks which were resoundingly despised by every eighth grader coming to visit our school. The reason? by and large, each student had outgrown the processing and ability of the device.
Families have different contexts. 
So do our students. 
Taken with a Nintendo 3DS
If we claim take the students where they are, then we must accept that we are not the ones who can necessarily best determine what they need. Our obligation is to help them understand their context and how that context will mesh with the educational environment -- hence the tech petting zoos -->

A video substitute for the "shiny, pretty" - The Secret of NIMH "Sparkly" Scene

This is excellent to watch:
- when anyone complains about needing an upgraded machine for aesthetic reasons
- when you have the kids on an on-call night (love you @wishbabydoc)
- whenever someone is discussing the design features of the lower-case "i"
- when you need to talk about the bad drugs (watch the eyes)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interlude: Why I am Leaving Foursquare

There is one more part of the “WHY BYOT?” multi-blog to complete, but i wanted to take an interlude to make a post that has been on my mind for a few days. It’s probably going to be a lot longer than is worth it for the topic, but if you’ve read my blog before you are used to that.

Geo-Location Games Analysis

I was one of the first adopters of Foursquare. I mean early. Like, “I was one of the guys who created the first locations in Indianpolis” early. Like, “wow you mean the flyover states have guys who will do this stuff too?” early.

I remember telling my partner in crime, @40ishoracle, this could be big...twitter big.

I proudly held onto my mayorships and cried when they changed the point system and celebrated when i got a new badge and danced a jig (not a pretty sight) when i super-duper-mega-swarmed at the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC. I enjoyed being able to cash in on the occasional offer, but those were few and far between.

And i have enjoyed its growth and felt a little twinge of pain when i realized that my travel schedule would likely mean that i will never recapture the mayorship of Brebeuf Jesuit, relished in recpaturing St. Marys...and i straight-up own the comicbook shop.


much like an addict who has to constantly push something farther to get the same enjoyment, i found myself checking in by rote recently. I have captured every badge that there is to capture in my routine. I can only really fight for the top ranking when i am on vacation and have lots of new locs to add.While the tips and photos are occasionally useful or enjoyable, YELP gives me a lot more value-add in that regard...

And so this morning, i checked in with Latitude (GoogeMaps) instead of Foursquare. When I checked in, i noted (but was not surprised) that in addition to my Latitude friends (wow, THAT is a small number), I could also post public or to circles in Google Plus.

Interesting. I could post my location so to JUST my family so they would know that i stopped off at Starbucks (of course, they just ASSUME that is going to happen). That would be useful...


We have very busy lives. and while it seems odd on devices that are filled with angry birds and anti-zombie flora (#occupyrooftop!), if there is not a value add, we are doing ourselves a disservice to tie ourselves to games, media, social networks that do not help us out in some way.

This is not to say that geoloc is dead or dying. Its a fast growing part of the industry and probably the next key to advertising success is going to be local. It’s just that in the game-makers attempts to create something that will keep me hooked (and thus looking at ads or however the monetizing works), I need something more than habit to keep me playing.

When all the badges are won...
When all the mayorships are captured...
Then you won the game. Time to move on.

Now if only they offered badges on Latitude :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why BYOT (Part II): A Focus on Access

Ok, so the school opens itself up to the possibility of letting any student bring in any device.

  • The training is setup so that students and educators are aware that certain things don’t work on certain devices (psst, looking at you iPad).
  • Teachers are given the freedom to tell students that it is the STUDENT’S responsibility to make sure the equipment is charged and ready.
  • The administrators understand that it is not possible for a teacher to be 100% aware of every online activity that every student is doing inside the classroom.
What is a technology department to do?
In order to answer this, lets first step back and think about what a technology department spends its time doing now. under traditional technology systems, a significant portion of IT expense (in terms of personnel, time, and expense) happens at that stage between user frustration: “This device won’t work” and network issue. Simple put, there is seldom an issue that cannot be isolated to a single device. Yes switches go down and servers stop responding, but most of the time, it is a single user and a single device. Worse, it is often a problem that gets fixed in the back room of a technology office after the student has moved to another class or the teacher is in her next lesson. Result: the frustrated user receives a fixed machine without the satisfaction of being heard or knowing how the problem was resolved. This increases user frustration with technology in general (i hate that it doesn't work) and with the IT Department (They never talk to anyone).
This use of resources is also a pull away from what the IT department will tell you is often the REAL problem: network maintenance and access. In a multimedia world with increased demands on bandwidth: youtube, streaming videos, podcasts (student produced and otherwise), cloud computing, the IT department has to spend more and more time focused on the issue of access: keeping filters up-to-date, evaluating usage levels, re-negotiating bandwidth costs, evaluating processor speeds on firewalls, etc.
The BYOT model (note: this benefit is relatively new as we have begun implementation this year) creates a new model of focus and interaction between Users, IT Personnel, and time allocation:

Benefit 1: User relations.
Under a lab model or even many 1:1 models, when a device stops responding, the user a) fills out a help ticket or b) drops it off at the school repair station (to pick up later or trade-in). When the device belongs to the user, there is (obviously) more ownership. The result, unintended, is that the device is brought down at a time when the user is available to stick around (it helps that Brebeuf Jesuit has a place for this). The technician and the user walk through the problem together. the issue, which is often user or software related, is resolved collaboratively and the adversarial relationship that can exist between tech-geeks and teach-geeks begins to dissolve. Ultimately, users become problem solvers and more comfortable with their own tech.

The Brebeuf Jesuit TRC is the default intake room for students and teachers to get help.
(note comfy chairs and coffeemaker)

Benefit 2: Time Allocation
Even under this high-touch user experience, less bench-time is spent with a pile of non-responsive netbooks that were sub-par and low quality to begin with (that shot was at you low-bid, 1:1 systems). Network administrators shift their concentration to long overdue maintenance and experimentation with websites, tools, bandwidth, etc. The focus is not on end user hardware but making tools that are discovered by teachers work across a variety of devices. This often leads to MORE collaboration as tools are evaluated on tablets and PCs and readers to find the healthy balance between the learning objective, student accessibility, and teacher assessment needs. Again, the IT department sits in on the conversation at a much earlier stage than “it won’t work” and the result is decreased user frustration and increased engagement and involvement (an interested tech is a hard-working, problem solving tech).

Why BYOT (Interlude): From the Students

But don't take our word for it. Two students in the library working off their own technology with access to Brebeuf Jesuit wireless and resources. Note: they identified their learning goal, selected the tool that would help them complete the task, and coordinated assessment with the teacher. #win

(filmed using an #android tablet, uploaded through #dropbox, edited on #PC posted via #Chromebook - livin' the dream)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why BYOT (Part I)? The Consumerization of IT not equal the end of the world

it occurred to my partner in partner-in-tech @40ishoracle and I that while we have been spreading the gospel of BYOT for awhile now (and will be talking about it more locally at the Indiana Computer Educators conference and the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators conference in the upcoming months), we hadn’t written much about the “why” and “wherefore” on the decision. This will be the first in a couple of blogs to start on that.

Reason Number 1: A response to reality
Reason Number 2: A focus on Access
Reason Number 3: Benefits to the high-end user
Reason Number 4: Resource focus on those who need it most

Reason Number 1: A response to reality.

The buzz-phrase is “consumerization of IT” and while this has been going on since the 1980s (I’m looking at you intellivision and pong), the business/school world and the home world remained relatively separate for almost 3 decades. Certainly you could type a paper at home and turn it in at school (early 90s) and VPN technology has allowed business products to be accessible at home, but there is little dispute that for years, when the IT department declared that “this will be your computer”, that was what you used. Forever. And Ever. Until the next upgrade cycle.

What changed? I think a lot of credit goes to mobile phones, particularly the iPhone. As people became more and more mobile, the desire to combine the peronal and the professional worlds came strongly together in mobile devices (i remember my first PalmPilot’s calendar syncing feature - gold). With the iPhone and to a lesser extent other active-sync devices, IT departments were challenged by their users to sync devices that were the CHOICE of the user not the decision of the IT-cave dwellers (said affectionately as one of the trolls).

Real-world Use Case:
I am starting to plan for a cruise that i am taking with my family. my thought process with regard to technology:
  • I will be reading a lot. need my kindle because i plan to be in the sun wearing shades
  • will need to type: limited online access, so no Chromebook. Weight is a factor, so the laptop is out. Want a keyboard: GalaxyTab 10.1 with keyboard doc
  • kids need movies for the flight: not using amazon prime because it has to stream. Google movies can be pinned to the device: HTC EvoView (i don't think the Fire will store...answers in a month).

Student are already making these decisions daily often in conversation with their parents:
What device will allow me to keep track of assignments?
What do i need to complete this lab that my teacher posted?
What will let me keep track of my group member’s progress?

In the same way that we are teaching students to use the right software solution (PowerPoint vs. GoogleDocs vs. ???), we need to teach students to be discriminating choosers of the hardware that will fulfill their needs based on the assignment, the lifestyle, etc.

While i may think it is a little silly to type a 2 pg response paper on a phone, i have watched a number of students swype, swiftkey or other thumboard comfortably. As long as the document gets into my homework-hand-in box (EdLine) or submitted to the plagiarism detector (Turn-it-in), the device that it originated on should matter little to me as an instructor (or an IT support person).

Ultimately, then, IT departments can eliminate a great deal of frustration (why can’t i use a Mac? they are so much better...more intuitive...ooh shiny-pretty!; i hate the cheap trackpad on insert-bargain-basement-netbook-brand; why do i have to carry YOUR device when i already have THIS?) from users.  They work with educators to get students to think critically about the wholistic project before them (what do i want to accomplish? what tools will i use to complete this goal? what resources do i have on hand?).

The result is more informed, more critical group of students and teachers with a better understanding of how hardware, software, and people interact and work together. at the same time, IT departments shed the vernier of inflexibility and closed doors (in fact, we have experienced an increased feeling of partnership with students working through issues). 

1:1 solutions that are dictated by the IT department will have trouble creating the meta-level of critical analysis which is a natural part of a BYOT world.

How Shakespearean are you? | OxfordWords blog

File this under cool website for mindless (?) fun. tested the last geekreflection post... "Your English is 80 percent Shakespearean.

The waters of the Avon almost lap at your feet." #Bradley education makes good.

How Shakespearean are you? | OxfordWords blog:

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Missing the Clouds -- how we do a disservice to students in the name of security

Disclaimer: This is not a rant about Brebeuf Jesuit. While I can opine eloquently on why the school should loosen its death grip on social networks, the school is relatively open to cloud computing and is a Google School through its AMDG system.

 It is perhaps because of these experiences:
  • watching students collaborate on presentations across from the tables or across the city; 
  • listening to student comfortably describe uploading, downloading, and sharing documents and their associated ideas; 
  • helping student think around the corners of file storage that used to stymie users (recently in a music creation class, we discussed the four ways to store, share, and protect files) 
that today's experience was so frustrating....

Dateline: Today, Location: Sidener Academy -- The only 4-star school in Indianapolis Public Schools and home to two of my three precious (precocious?) children.

I quietly listened to an all-too-short and harried explanation of Title I services available followed by a description (marketing pitch?) of the wonderful things my girls were able to do as a result of their presence in these halls of learning. I was happy to hear the presenter describe the high-tech opportunities to which the kids were exposed (although, don't get me started on Daughter Prime's netbook -- that thing has got to go).

After the meeting, the chair of the PTA and I walked down to the library to fire up their macbooks (ooh, shiny! pretty!) access our choice of browsers (firefox or safari) and test the new PTA directory form that had been created using Google Forms (if you have not tried this simple tool for getting information quickly, it is an educator must).

 KER-BLOCK unable to access the form. odd. the link was relatively simple.

Oh well, we had embedded the form into a blog already so we could check there and test. hmmm the blog shows but there is a hauntingly familiar "Cannot access this post" message.

Google Docs KER-BLOCK

taking the time to walk through the specific error messages, the school had blocked all traffic that could possibly link to file storage (Dropbox: KER-BLOCK), communications (gVoice; gTalk: KER-BLOCKx2); and apparently every https:// site by rule (Brebeuf Jesuit's Email system: KER-wait for it-BLOCK).


In a school that take pride in its use of technology...
in a district so desperate to save money that it cannot provide full transportation for students during its new "balanced calendar" system...
in a curriculum that focuses on creating rational thinkers who can use tools to think outside traditional boxes...


What is the most disappointing to me is not that parents will have to go home to fill out the gDocs created form, or that my daughters will have to wait until high-school or a change of district heart to begin learning about cloud computing (although they use dropbox and gDocs at home to communicate with their parents), but that these tools and the thought-processes that go with them are EXACTLY what schools should be promoting.

What is my goal?
What resources do i have available?
How can i best communicate this to others?
Do i need to work on this elsewhere?
Can i work with someone?
How do we work together?
What tool will get me toward my goal quickly and easily?

These questions are at the foundation of every adult project, of every authentic student assignment. And they are naturally asked by the presence and implementation of these tools.

When I asked the lead educator of the school about this problem I received a slightly confused look that seemed to say "well, you know, technology and such. so confusing. Who knows?" This is no longer an acceptable response for educational leaders.

It is time for educators to demand better tools from its technology staff partners. Security, safety, etc. must be balanced with educational opportunity. Resources should be spent on increased access rather than on shiny and pretty drill-and-kill boxes. Administrators need to educate themselves in order to have conversations that open tools and opportunities to students rather than close them behind walls that protect little and cost a lot.

but Poptopia and Cool Math Games were unblocked. so, you know, there's that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What the iPad (and other technology) can’t replace in education - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post

I feel like the articles are beginning to catch on to it...only took a few years...and yet, we still fight the onslaught of the shiny-pretty.

To recap:
What is your learning objective?
How will students learn?
What is the best way to demonstrate that learning (from the student point of view? from the teacher?)?
What role does technology play in the objective? the learning? the demonstration?

It's question number 4. not number 1.

What the iPad (and other technology) can’t replace in education - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post:

'via Blog this'

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monitor: What would Jesus hack? | The Economist

Monitor: What would Jesus hack? | The Economist:

had it on my list this week to start updating the blog with some of the summer activities at Brebeuf Jesuit (BYOT preparations, new wireless adventures, AMDG powered by Google, and the chromecart), but this was too good not to post.

I want this bumpersticker.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A cart full of chrome...

Just finished loading brebeuf jesuit's newest cart:  chromebooks! Total setup time? About two minutes per machine. We have these ready to go faster than we get MAC addresses for windows imaging! #geeklove

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blackboard purchased

Educated Buy? Providence Equity Partners To Acquire Blackboard For $1.64 Billion In Cash

Could be a shake up. Hopefully doesn't change the trajectory of their app  buildout. Strong iOS and  android apps + mobile. Haven't been able to afford it yet for our school but certainly on the radar.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alumni multitouch - computer build

Step 1. Build computer.
Step 2. Cut casing to increase airflow

Alum advice from @kcklippel: don't cut the wires - sage words.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Brebeuf Jesuit - Travelling the Globe

Today's thoughts were all about the travel. How do we stay connected? by blog, by tweet, by skype, and more...

Got my first tweet from the orchestra students travelling through Russia: Today we are going to an old communist camp,it's repurposed now, and playing b-ball and music w/ the kids there.

Have not heard much from our group heading to the native american reservations (one of the dakotas), but i do know that at least one car had gotten turned around twice (gChat on a motorola Xoom).

Our first group of teachers travelling for professional development (Small Learning Communities Conference or something like that) had a decent quick trip to St. Louis that was decently live-tweeted by @40ishoracle on her iPad2. (note: they also seemed to have issues with GPS...never trust nextel bandwidth for city directions).

Our students travelling to Africa are going to be keeping their own blog at Brebeuf in Kenya 2011. (They are using a first gen iPad).

Another group (including yours truly) takes off for the National Debate Tournament in Dallas, TX. This includes some of the same students and coaches who just returned from a Memorial day trip to Washington, DC. I will be blogging through the week using a galaxy tab and either a chromebook or a galaxytab 10.1 (my two daughters have not decided what they want, but both are released while i am in Dallas).

As they take off, a group of administrators lands in the same city for the Ignatian Leadership Academy.

And that is just part of June.

Can you believe some politicians think we have the summers off? More on the ups and downs of global travel and electronic communication later.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Alumni multitouch: installing the cooler.

It is interesting watching all the pieces come together... Putting the computer together, scanning 6k photographs that were never digitized, thinking of the next phase...

Student conceived,
Student designed,
Student implemented...

This is #edtech at its best.

Out with the old...

N (wireless) with the NEW :)

as part of the building of the new wireless network (and because we have to wait for funds to be released on July 1) the tech crew has started pulling outdated and unused copper from the building. Some of this is from before the Cat5e was installed. Some of it is from lines that ran out of an old IDF. All of it is being gathered for recycling.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Inside of the Alumni-Multitouch computer built by #brebeuf students

They should be building the system tomorrow to incorporate into the casing. Meanwhile, ten years of senior pictures have been scanned by our workstudy/debate guru.

(from Galaxy Tablet)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pondering Presentations (and bad blog post titles) Part 2

a repost from http://40ishoraclereflections.blogspot.com 
When we last visited our intrepid rant, we uncovered feelings of anxiety that seemed interrelated with the use of technology by those crazy kids to quickly create presentations using tools that are much more natural to them than they are to the educators (please Google “digital natives” for the 5 million blog entries, books, and YouTube videos on this subject).

But rather than continue to pick apart some of the flaws in presentations-as-assessments, let’s see if there is a correlation between the assessment tool and the tendency to foster an environment that promotes critical thinking skills in students. In fact, let’s just compare presentations to one other tool:

Traditional papers, especially those with multiple drafts, seem to have this call to critical thinking built into the process. First, it is apparent when someone is not saying anything of relevance for paragraph after paragraph (the irony of this multi-post blog is not lost on me). Second, the drafting process itself forces the reflection on both the content (is this really what I want to say?) and writing style (is that the best way to say it?). Finally, the traditional written paper has set modes of attribution and citation that encourages the use of outside resources to broaden the scope of the individual mind.

In summary:
· Built-in checks to validate the presence of thought
· Built-in reflection on content and style through drafting
· Built-in assumptions and methods for incorporating the thoughts of others into your own

Conversely, while the typical presentation is made better when these things are present, they are not necessary. Presentation assessments typically (and frankly ideally) have fewer words so that lack-of-thought can remain hidden. Use of multimedia, pictures, sounds, clever (and not-so-clever) transitions tend to compound the issue, particularly when educators are liable to be impressed by things that have nothing to do with the content of the presentation (but a lot to do with the presentation mechanics).

Informally, there seems to be less of a drafting process with presentation-based assessments. Where formal papers may typically have one-on-one meetings with a teacher, peer reviews, work-shopping strategies, etc., the typical project timeline for presentations often consists of a combined research-and-preparation period (individually or in groups) followed by a class presentation. Feedback by the class is limited and feedback/assessment by the teacher is done in the form of written comments given afterward. There is little presumption that a presentation is “drafted” or will be refined throughout a creation process.

Furthermore, the growing tradition of “borrowed” photos without citation and a lack of feedback from teachers about attributing ideas properly also feed the trend to use other ideas and claims as one’s own thoughts. Not only does this reinforce a cultural trend of plagiarism, but it eliminates the critical process required to properly present the ideas of another and critically compare them with one’s own.

Unfortunately this issue is happening at all levels of education; thus we as secondary educators find ourselves encountering students who have less and less exposure to the assessment strategies that most naturally call for the upper levels of Bloom’s famed taxonomy and more and more experience with assessments that can be done quickly, without drafting, and with minimal critical feedback to evaluate proof of accuracy or originality of thought.

So what is the solution?
1. Let’s isolate the problem from its apparent technological origins. This has very little to do with the mechanics of Keynote or the tendency for teenagers to tweet in 140 characters rather than handwrite letters. Technology is an emphasizer of trends, seldom a trendsetter in its own right.

2. Design assessments timelines that build in the critical thinking process and identify when that process has not been followed. Two examples:

a. The teacher from the illustration in the last blog modified his assignment to require a written paper (with traditional citations, page length, drafting etc.) as a preface to the presentation. Thus the teacher engages with students during the “thinking” portion of the education and the presentation becomes a distillation of the thought that has gone before.

b. Embed another process for showing critical thinking into the presentation assessment. This might include a question and answer period used by both teachers and students after the presentation, formal reflection writing afterward on a prompt of the instructor’s choosing based on the presentation, or a separate analysis of literature about a research topic as pre-work.

c. Require drafting and peer-review of PowerPoint presentations.

It is easy to blame the trends of society at large or the looming media-consumption tablet explosion on our lack of student’s willingness to engage in critical thought. But if we have fallen into the all-too-comfortable trap of lowering expectations due to the lure of the shiny and pretty, we may need to take time to identify our ultimate learning objectives, reflect on our experiences, and match our assessments and activities with our desired outcomes. It is the same bar to which we should hold our students, whether they are thumb-typing a book report at the elementary level, researching for term papers in high school, or presenting with Keynote in middle school.

PS: Yes, this is a long multi-post blog. But according to Mark Bauerlein’s article “Too Dumb for Complex Texts?” (Educational Leadership, February 2011), we need to encourage reading of complex texts for at least one hour a day (we’d link to it but we don’t think he’d like that… oh whatever…click away). Consider today complete for you.