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.