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Lisa Dabbs & Joan Young ASCD Presenters

Lisa Dabbs and Joan Young presented at ASCD 2011. They spent some time talking with me, sharing their presentation, Beyond the Classroom Walls, as well as a bit about the importance of online and in-person collaboration. You may know Joan as Joan Mancini Young, author of Super Sight Word Songs and Silly Songs for Sight Words. 
Watch my conversation with Lisa Dabbs and Joan Young:

Steven Anderson Web20Classroom ASCD Scholar

View my conversation with Steven AndersonASCD Scholar—better known in the Twitter-Education World as web20classroom. Anderson shares Words of Web 2.0 online wisdom, and provides daily collaborative encouragement for teachers and administrators.
View my ASCD interview with Steven Anderson:

Angela Maiers: Teaching Every Day Matters!

I discovered some teaching sunshine at ASCD 2011—and it was Angela Maiers. You just don't meet and interview Angela Maiers—you sort of pleasantly collide with her! More video from ASCD—Soon!
View my short run-in with Angela Maiers at ASCD 2011:

Intel Convertible Classmate Makes Book Bag Obsolete

Intel's Convertible Classmate PC makes a good case for an all in one 1:1 computing device for today's students. Check out my review of the Convertible Classmate to see if it's right for your needs. Could the book bag be obsolete?
View the review:

Scholastic Ed Tech Event

Scholastic Professional Media had its first education tech event in NYC. We invited local administrators and educators from NYC, NJ, Mass, CT, Long Island, and a few places in-between. Some marketplace experts attended as well. Our publisher has wanted to do something similar for quite some time. It really just took the right group together—to pull it off, and a few special people to organize it. To me, it was a science fair for big kids.  

Lehmann The Scholastic Ed Tech Event had two amazing speakers, Chris Lehmann http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/ Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA, as well as forward-thinking educator, and David Pogue Pogue http://www.davidpogue.com/ New York Times Personal Technology Columnist, and all-around good guy. If you’ve never heard Chris Lehmann talk, it’s a treat. His line about we deliver pizza and not education rings so true, and Pogue was just Pogue. I’m certain that some of the words used, and screenshots shown during his presentation made the Big Red Dog blush, and I do know that he made the crowd think and laugh a lot, too.

I was just smiling during both talks, and thinking to myself, where would you get to see this anywhere? Scholastic Professional Media has been talking of having educators invite their administrators for the next one at 557 Broadway, and even doing some in other parts of the country. Now, those are all great ideas.

Ten District Tech Purchase Thoughts

Kr Here are Ten Tech Purchase Thoughts for schools and districts. Take what works, add to it, and make your own list. Hopefully it will help your tech-purchasing committee.

1. Price

While price is important, it shouldn’t be the most important consideration—even in today’s difficult budget times. Getting what you need, for a few more bucks, is a lot better than living with something—for as long as it lasts—because it was cheaper. The other part—many cheap purchases won’t last the 3-5 years of a school—tech lifetime. Of course there are exceptions, but purchasing for kids, teachers, and schools requires deeper thinking—an a bit of luck, too.

2. Loose Screws

Always check hardware for imperfections. If you see imperfections in a piece of hardware you’re testing to purchase, imagine the implications if these imperfections are common. Ask about loose screws, ill-fitting plastic casings, or function keys that seem a bit askew. It is often better if you ask for a few review devices. Now, that’s often tough on the vendors, but ask anyway. Looking at three of anything will give you better comparison for looking at a large number. If they all look like they’re slapped together willy-nilly, you have better understanding of quality.

3. Things Get Lost

Things that can get lost easily can be an after-purchase nightmare. If there’s a stylus attached, or tucked away in a device, you know that the possibility of loss is there. If there’s a USB RF-broadcast device attached, you know someone will lose it, and it will need replacement. The small stuff that gets lost can create as much havoc as any big repair problem. Check with vendors on replacement terms, and also about best ways to prevent losses of the small stuff attached to larger items.

4. Batteries

Batteries run the show. We want batteries with long lives, and batteries that can be replaced when they go south. I’m so leery of internal batteries with no replacement—entry compartment. Looking at purchasing something like that for a district is scary, because you know that the batteries will get weaker with use and time—there is only so much of a life span in them. Sooner, rather than later, you’ll be stuck with a device that doesn’t work.

If you’re told the life span of the battery is 3 years, and it’s encased in an impenetrable chassis, look for the device to be less effective as time goes on, and close to useless toward the end of that time. While all tech is purchased with a future look at obsolescence, look for the best odds at keeping it running as bought—for as long as possible. Batteries you can’t replace are a crapshoot, and chances of losing that gamble are big. Batteries replaced easily without sending devices back to the company will pay in the long run.

5. New Works with Old

I recently visited a school that was using 3-year old hardware seamlessly with the newest hardware additions from the same company. In many cases purchasing technology involves foreseeing the future. Today, it’s a bit easier to use that crystal ball, because most companies have some great case studies to help with purchasing compatible technology that meshes the new with the old seamlessly. There is no reason to toss the baby out with the bath water. If you have something that works, see what else is new at the company. Of course, buying and replacing old with new is big for companies, but it may not be something a district needs to do—if adding new to old works.

6. Damage Psychic

Try to foresee what physical damage could happen, and what that would cost. Here’s where you play a kid, or a teacher. Think about drops, lost keyboard keys, misplaced styluses, USB connectors and RF devices, screen damage, and spilled liquids. Then find out what the company will do if those things happen.

7. Theft

How will you protect whatever it is from walking away? Will it be software, protective carrying cases, carts with locks, wires and locks, or something completely new? While you hate to think of this part, somebody has to take inventory and match up the numbers. Replacements cost, and paying for an item twice isn’t the best plan.

8. Try It First

Try it before buying. Don’t buy anything on the basis that it’s cool—always ask for a trial and a good, long pilot. Think of it this way—if you’ve tested a new car, and it performed brilliantly on a flat highway test run, but it doesn’t make it up your driveway, the car doesn’t make it to your garage. Make sure the tech you think you want is what you really want, and that it works to get you where you need to go. This is not a “shoot out”; it’s a look at life in the real world—in a real classroom, or school environment.

9. Customer Care

The most important part of any purchase is knowing that the vendor is there after the dotted line is signed. Bad customer support is searchable, and blasted everywhere by way of social media. Good customer support is out there, too. I recommend reading it all, then adding that to what you find out directly from the company through its local representatives. The best of these representatives are individual customer relation’s specialist. To call them sales persons doesn’t share exactly what they do today.

I’ve discovered that when I’ve visited a district/school with a really good technology implementation, there’s usually a great company representative involved. The vendor representative is usually known by first name, possibly introduced the product as a pilot—was there for the set up, involved in professional development, and continues to answers calls. The good ones follow-up. Knowing your company liaison by first name makes sense.

10. Make Contact for a Trial or Pilot

Companies are always looking for great places to test out their new products. There’s sometimes a barrier up when it comes to product representatives getting in the door. Here’s where educators come in. Make sure your building administrators are aware and have agreed, and then contact a company, whose tech you like and think would be great in your school and class. Share what you do, what you would like to do, and what you are prepared to do. You’re really writing a proposal to test drive a new product.

Now, you may be offered a short trial, so ask to extend the time, and furthermore ask for a chance to pilot. For the latter, you may need to do some journaling of the product’s use. Demonstrating actual school use is valuable to you,  and your district, but it is also extremely important to a company. Don’t be shy—ask to test pilot!

Exceptional Needs Education: Autism & Disabilities

This episode of the Royal Treatment—Exceptional Needs Education: Autism and Disabilities shares how two different organizations have made it their business to help students with autism, students with disabilities, as well as their families. In this professional development talk, we’ll hear philosophy, and also specifics of what help, technology, and software is actually available for children and their parents today. Joining us are Lauren Stafford, who was Academic Supervisor for Instructional Design, and is now the Visual Learning Solutions Vice President at the Monarch School for students with Autism in Ohio, and Chris Vacek, Chief Innovation Officer at the HeartSpring School for children with disabilities in Wichita, Kansas. This Royal Treatment is truly a professional development for all teachers, as well as special education professionals.
Listen to Exceptional Needs Education: Autism & Disabilities:

iPad 2 Made for Teaching

No one from Apple talks with me, and I hate that we jump through their hoops—for them—every six months. That said, there is good reason for educators to look at the new iPad 2 for leading and teaching a class—at any age level. I’m not going to get into any of the technical spec, but it’s sufficient to say that version 2 is a different machine. Let me specifically say, though, that I’m talking about this tool in the hands of a teacher. I know that there will be many posting on the benefits of iPads in the hands of students, and I look forward to those—as well as first hand journals and reporting, but this is more about why I’m buying one for my daughter, a 3rd grade teacher.

Mirroring Lessons

DongleMirroring isn’t new, but the iPad 2 makes it possible for a teacher to present and control a class lesson. Using a $39 dongle (connector) a teacher can mirror, or show, what he/she has on the iPad desktop, and have it appear directly on a larger display screen. (HDMI, oh my!) I know, you can do that with a netbook or laptop, but as my daughter said, “I can hold the iPad 2 in one hand and work it easily with the other hand; it will be a lot easier than juggling my laptop.” She can do computer stuff and direct her class, too.

My daughter uses a lot of photos with her students, as well as a document camera and projector to enhance instruction. With the iPad2 and dongle connection it will be easier to share those images, bring in lesson-specific and appropriate video, and Web pages, too. The iPad 2’s AV adaptor makes it a lightweight and quick classroom teaching device, but it is also the easiest to use user interface going—today. My daughter is a wonderful teacher without technology, and she isn’t a tech fanatic like her dad, so it needs to work easily, and seamlessly. If she can plug it in, works with a touch, kids get more involved in the lesson, and it improves her teaching—it makes sense.

My wife, who, and I’m not afraid of saying this aloud—because she’ll agree—which doesn’t happen often—has no tech sense, ability, or interest at all in anything tech—wants one. She just learned to text this year—thanks to my daughter. It was a miracle!

My wife claims texting is easy. She has a Windows laptop, but avoids it—for her, it’s not easy to use—she also calls it names—but I won’t go into that. Too much has to be done in order to get from point “A” to point “B”, and it’s easy to get lost in-between.

Apple sucked my wife in with an iPad commercial—afterward she said, “I can do that!” And, I have to agree—she can. I actually told her that our 2-year old grandson could use one. That gained me no points with her—but did earn me one of those familiar one-raised-eyebrow looks.

I know that others will point out more elaborate iPad 2 teaching possibilities, and that Windows slate, notebook, and netbook providers will be sharing the fact—that they can do all of this, too—but for teachers like my daughter—this looks like a best bet—for now. Oh, yeah, a side perk—I’ll get to see my grandsons—thanks to those two cameras—by using using Skype, or FaceTime on a soon-to-be-smudged 10-inch screen—although I’ll have to look over my wife’s shoulder to do it—and that will be the most difficult thing of all!

Ed Tech Innovation: Kyle Berger Interview

Kyle In this episode of the Royal Treatment—Ed Tech Innovation —Kyle Berger, Executive Director of Technology Services for the Alvarado ISD, Texas, shares lessons on how technology leaders can think more outside the box to make things happen. Berger discusses his community outreach Internet kiosks, operating a successful, two-year, 2,000-student 1:1 program, creating district partnerships for disaster recovery, the bring your own device concept and its part in the future of 1:1 programs, and more. Listen to ideas from a true education future-thinker and entrepreneur. It may be the best professional development lesson you hear this year. (Note: All Royal Treatment shows are archived, and transcripts available for purchase.)
Listen to Ed Tech Innovation:

Between Tech Reporting and Reality

0 It is difficult for me, these days, to talk tech products without thinking about the scary reality of job uncertainty for teachers. Educators always take the hit—it seems—I’ve never liked it, and never will. Letting teachers go makes bean counting easy, but educationally, it will impact more than today’s financial bottom line—the debt for this will be collected in something far more valuable.

Seniority shouldn’t be the only criteria for keeping, or releasing teachers. The best educators need to stay, regardless of time on the job. Teacher evaluations and observations that are non-specific, or glowing, and not constructive, aren’t helpful. That said, the reporting on education tech and software cannot stop. Falling backwards isn’t an option. Technology spending will be closely scrutinized, and weighed against other district needs and purchases. Good tech products and content will be more in demand, especially those that make individualized learning interactive. And, pricing for those options will have to be better.

My daughter, a third grade teacher in Arizona, told me that she was either standing in line for a document camera, or keeping broken ones together with duct tape. Her husband, an assistant principal, wanted more technology—specifically the kind that gets into the hands of students. And in talking with a superintendent and consultant, I learned that purchasing school tech—even in this crazy budgetary climate—is going to happen—and that the funds would continue to be there.

EdTech Over the Pond

In this episode of The Royal Treatment—EdTech Over the Pond—Steven Anderson, District Instructional Technologist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, USA, meets the UKs Joe Dale, an independent consultant working with CILT, Links into Languages, The British Council, The BBC, and host of the TES MFL Forum. Together they share EdTech possibilities to try, as well as Web 2.0 ideas that can be modified, or translated to work for educators and students in classrooms—whichever side of the pond you find yourself.
Listen to the Discussion:

Education UnConferences

Education UnConferences shares what an UnConference is, as well as what one can do for a district. Hear about a specific UnConference for new teachers called ntcamp. Guests are Principal Patrick Larkin, Burlington High School, Burlington, Mass, Principal Eric Sheninger, New Milford High School, NJ, and Professor Andrew Marcinek Montgomery Co. Community College Instructional Technology Specialist. Listen to the discussion:

SMART Audio Gets Heard: The Royal Treatment

SMART Audio gets The Royal Treatment. Steven Yao is interviewed by Ken Royal. Sound systems are becoming standard equipment for ALL students in classrooms. It gives all students an equal opportunity to hear everything a teacher says.
Watch the Interview:

StrataLogica: World at Teaching Fingertips-Royal Treatment

StrataLogica (Herff Jones) has a new kind of map that gets The Royal Treatment. Ken Royal interviews Don Rescigno. Seeing and interacting with globes was so 20th Century! Here's reality at your teaching fingertips. Watch the Interview, and see the interactive geography show:

Dell Flips Its Lid! The Royal Treatment

Dell's Duo and new Latitude get The Royal Treatment. Ken Royal interviews David Fritz, and gets the "Flip" scoop.
Watch the interview:

Samsung's "Sliding Slate" Gets Royal Treatment

Samsung's new "Slider Convertible Slate" gets The Royal Treatment.
Watch the Ken Royal interview to find out more:

ASUS Slate Gets Royal Treatment

The ASUS eSlate EP121 that comes with a Wacom digitizer pen and Bluetooth keyboard gets The Royal Treatment. Ken Royal interviews ASUS' David Ray.
Watch the Interview:

Fujitsu Convertible Tablet Gets Royal Treatment

Fujitsu's Slate and Convertible Tablets get The Royal Treatment. Ken Royal interviews Fujitsu's Paul Moore.
Watch the interview.

RM Slate Gets Royal Treatment

RM Education's RM Slate gets The Royal Treatment at FETC. Ken Royal talks to RM's Christy Smith.
Watch the interview:

KINEO Gets Royal Treatment

The KINEO Slate at FETC. Jeff Cameron talks to Ken Royal for The Royal Treatment. Watch the interview:



Ken4 Here are a few more things that knocked MY socks off at FETC 2011.


I had to be quiet about the eInstruction Mobi View. Actually got a presentation on it from Steve Kaye, who said, “We’re going to share something with you, but you can’t say anything.” Most times sitting on something until the actual release doesn’t bother me, but this time it had me hopping. Putting a touch screen, similar to that of an iPhone into a teaching slate knocked my socks off. Geez, another one of those ideas, which is a no brainer…and why didn’t I think of it first! No complicated icons around the device to figure out just touch the screen. Anyone can teach and direct a class with it. I reviewed its Mobi predecessor, and thought that was good. eInstruction has a new hit.

SMART and FrontRow, two companies help students hear the teacher better.

I checked in on two, very different, companies—SMART and FrontRow that are doing something about audio in the classroom. Smart has a classroom audio system as well its new SMARTAir, and FrontRow Sound Systems has solutions that can be configured to fit every classroom need. I know from personal experience that those wireless necklace-like devices hooked to room speakers make a difference for hearing impaired students as well as all students. Learning is something that happens differently for all students, but how students hear their teachers is an individual thing as well. Besides benefiting student listening, these products may even help with student behavior. Hearing keeps students in the learning game and away from trouble on the sidelines.

I have a meeting with another company—Califone—at TCEA in Austin. They’ve been offering students and schools audio, and now visual products for years.


Recently, I visited a school in Georgia using the new Promethean ActivBoard 500 series, so at the FETC launching it was pretty familiar. I asked my usual questions, but for me, I think the most wonderful thing was when the Promethean crew let a teacher, Jeremy, have his way with that new ActivBoard. The programmed part of the launched showed the traditional PowerPoint slide connections, but when Jeremy nudged his way to the board he raised the level from tech specs to how to—and “Here’s what I do with the 500”. In moments, the teacher had us buckling up our Web 2.0 seats, sharing sites that made his students excited about learning—he took us beyond PowerPoint. Now, that made me smile, and it shared the power of the board for learning—and getting kids out of their seats.

Congratulations to Promethean for giving Jeremy the teacher-star room on the stage next to their new ActivBoard 500 multi-touch star.

Send In The Slates! FETC

There is certainly a puzzle to solve for school and district leaders—whether to jump on the iPad wagon, wait for Android’s Honeycomb and take advantage of Aps, stick with Win7 familiarity, especially if your environment is already Microsoft, or try something completely different. The few slates/tablets I did see at FETC 2011 in Orlando were pretty impressive, each offering something different, played Flash, and there were a few surprises as well. I expect to see more at TCEA 2011 in Austin.


KINEO I think one of the show hits was the new KINEO by a company called Brainchild. It is unique in the slate and handheld space. While it has WiFi, this touchscreen for kids is administratively controlled and built for student safety. Aps, tools, and video are there, but it’s specifically only what the teacher and administrator want there. By design, it doesn’t have a camera, which may have a lot of education administrators sighing relief. KINEO is Android, but looks nothing like any of the other traditional slate platforms. I like that it has function buttons along with touch and stylus. It has a day's worth of battery life, and it is replaceable. This looks to be a sturdy, appropriately sized, safe computing device for kids. My feeling is the only problem will be keeping up with production—Brainchild should sell a lot of them.

RM Slate

RM Slate Here’s another big surprise, and really good education computing choice. I’ve been following RM Education for years. They offer a lot of education products and solutions—ones they make and others with partner help. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting to see a slate at the booth. RM has something with its RM Slate. It has everything, including a brilliant touch screen with stylus, too, as well as camera. This is great; it comes with Office and RM EasiTeach. That’s amazing marketing. Because it is Win 7, the RM Slate fills the needs of districts already in a PC environment. It’s about 2lbs, so not as heavy as some of the others out there either.


Fujitsu2 Fujitsu is known for sturdy computing devices, and is the grandfather of tablet and Fujitsu1 convertible devices. Their Q-Series tablet is a Win7 at about 1.5 lbs, and I was very impressed with their new 10.1 convertible tablet. Districts looking for a more conventional device, a traditional laptop keyboard, along with a slate option attached, will find the answer here.


ASUS ASUS has their eSlate (EP121) that comes with a Wacom digitizer pen and Bluetooth keyboard. There was a lot of interest in this slate at FETC. It is sleek, powerful, with Gorilla Glass, and like most Asus products—it’s pretty, too. I always want to shake somebody at the Asus! In my opinion, they have products that are inexpensive and perfect for education, but really don’t push that point enough. I’ve been saying that for years. Look out; if Asus ever gets an education rudder, they will navigate to the head of the class—fast.

Note: Look for more on these Slates—in video—soon at Scholastic Administrator.

Special Needs Assistive Technology

0615cw02 Today’s Royal Treatment—Special Needs Assistive Technology, is the first in a series of Scholastic On Air shows with special education professionals. Find out what assistive technology is, a bit about assistive tools that work, as well as a few common sense tips from special needs experts. Joining us are  Laura Nazzarine, Director of Special Education, West Clermont School District; Ohio, Mary Beth Sonnier, Technology Facilitator, Calcasieu Parish School Board, Westlake, LA; and Anissa Fontenot who is with Region V’s Louisiana Assistive Technology Initiative, Lake Charles, LA.
Listen to the Conversation:

A Bit of Good Product Sharing

Ken4 I'd like to thank my friends at the Blohm Agency for this Marketplace News.

Capstone Digital will soon introduce a new personalized literacy program. Created to connect reading levels with student interests, the new offering provides access to the largest integrated library of digital books with multimedia reading supports. The online platform enables anytime, anywhere access to books that students can read, rate, review, and share with classmates through safe social networking.  Through embedded assessments, end of book quizzes and benchmark quizzes, the personalized literacy program allows educators to monitor, track and measure student reading growth. For more information, visit www.capstonedigital.com.

Shmoop offers online test prep for SAT and PSAT, and will soon launch ACT test prep. Each online test prep course includes deep content reviews, hundreds of drill questions and two-three full-length interactive practice exams.  Shmoop uses classic video games such as Oregon Trail, Tetris, and Mario Brothers as metaphors for the challenges students will face in the exams. In addition to preparing students for the SAT and ACT Exams, Shmoop offers online courses for four of the five most popular AP Exams. Shmoop offers affordable group rates for schools, districts and public libraries on its subscription products.  For more information, visit www.shmoop.com.    

Funds For Learning, an E-rate compliance services firm, just released the education industry's first E-rate application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  E-rate Manager for iPhone is a free mobile version of the E-rate Manager service provided by Funds For Learning. E-rate Manager for iPhone provides current users instant access to information regarding funding requests and commitment amounts, service providers and remaining funding balances. The free application follows in the tradition of the E-rate Manager tools, offering easy navigation and instant access to the most up-to-date funding year information. For more information, visit www.fundsforlearning.com.

Get ready for the SIIA educationversion of Don't Copy That 2, which educates students on digital fair use and copyright laws. Along with the video release, SIIA has developed classroom materials, including lesson plans and other informational resources, targeted to middle and high school teachers and librarians that help to promote the ethical and legal use of digital information. In addition, the classroom resources are aligned to digital citizenship teaching objectives in NETS standards and AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. For more information, visit www.dontcopythat2.com.

With more than 1 million users, Edmodo provides free, secure social networking tools for teachers, students and administrators.  The online environment offers a safe and easy way to exchange ideas, share content, and access homework, grades and school notices. Edmodo recently launched Parent Accounts, allowing teachers to exchange messages and maintain open-communication with parents, provide direct access to grades and assignments, send notifications to parents about upcoming due dates and missed assignments, and alert families to school events and activities. For more information, visit www.edmodo.com.

Microsoft’s Innovative Schools

Innovation Congratulations to the U.S. schools and districts that have been chosen by Microsoft to join their world class of innovative global education sites for 2010–2011.

The U.S. “Pathfinder” schools/districts join 80 schools in 46 countries. The program connects educators from around the world to share ideas and best practices for creating new learning models that inspire students to engage as well as direct their own learning. Here are the U. S. 2010-2011 members:

Lake Washington School District, Redmond, Wash.

Lake Washington School District is a high-achieving public school district in Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish, Washington. It is the sixth-largest district in the state of Washington, with more than 24,000 students and 50 schools. Their mission is “Every Student Future Ready”.

Jane Long Middle School, Houston, Texas

Jane Long Middle School is in partnership with Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit that runs programs in Houston and Austin, Texas. The partnership lengthens each school day by three hours for all sixth graders, which addis extra academic time, support and hands-on, project-based learning, including 10-week apprenticeships with local professionals.

School of the Future, Philadelphia, Penn.

The School of the Future Integrates technology into every area of the learning at the school. The innovative work at the School of the Future encouraged Microsoft to launch its Worldwide Innovative Schools program, which helps governments and communities around the world build schools that meet the challenges of learning today.

Denver Public Schools, Denver, Colo.

The Denver Public School District’s new High Tech Early College (HTEC) is a testing ground for innovative teaching practices. The school provides opportunities to earn dual credit through concurrent enrollment and offer opportunities to stay in the program for a fifth year of high school leading to an associate of applied science, or associate of applied business degree.

Sign up for the Innovative Schools Program 2011 beginning mid February:

There are three levels of participation:

1. Worldwide Innovative Schools Global Community

2. Innovative Schools Pathfinder Program

3. Innovative Schools Mentor Schools

Any school in the world can join the Participant Program by signing up for the Partners in Learning Network at http://www.microsoft.com/education/pil/partnersInLearning.aspx.

Half-Baked EdTech Teacher

4 Someone, recently, referred to something I wrote as “half-baked” for suggesting that cell phone security is something we need to be concerned with in schools. While I strive for well-done, there are just times when all I have is half-baked—I guess. Maybe being Half-Baked EdTech Teacher isn't half bad.

Knock it off with the 21st Century education classroom, products, and solutions! It’s 2011, and just happens to be the 21st Century. Where's the mall map? We are here. If you want to start talking about 22nd Century solutions, I’m all ears. (Is it true that your ears appear larger when you get older? I think so. Shouldn’t my hearing improve, too?)

What should we use instead of 21st Century? I think complete classroom interactive solutions works. How about edtech that will help educators modify their teaching to better meet the needs of students today—rather than in 3-5 years? Three years is too late for students you’re teaching now, right? Today’s Tech Now, or Tomorrow’s Tech Today would make great bumper stickers.

How about, edtech that supports a teaching-culture change in a district or school? To me, that’s much better than 21st Century. Teaching for today of course starts with good teaching. That’s a no brainer, and there’s a lot of good teaching out there. It’s deeper than the few outspoken classroom and school tech experts. Keeping the education- and tech-budget stars big and bright (couldn't resist) probably needs more than a half-baked bumper sticker.

Social media makes it easy to I, Me, My (apologies George Harrison) your way along. It’s also easy to just tweet or post whatever you’re thinking, sort of like talking out loud to yourself. Kind of like a Shirley MacClaine out-of-body experience. I’m guilty of that myself. Most do it, to a certain extent, although I try to avoid being a digital sandwich board.

Using social media is natural, and a whole lot easier than standing up to give a TED Talk. That sort of sharing doesn’t make your hands shake, or your voice quake. The problem is that it takes some real commitment to listen, and read what others think is important—and more of an effort to respond in a useful and productive way. We need more of that, and fewer Trolls would be nice, too. Don't know what a Troll is?—try Wikipedia

PLNs (Personal Learning Networks), or PLCs (Personal Learning Communities) promote the kind of teaching that makes teachers great, and increases the chance that kids will keep the 1st-grade enthusiasm throughout their learning life. I seem to always come back to these. It’s why I began sharing and writing about edtech—right after the chalkboard-stone age. These networks, or communities can be local—just a few colleagues at a grade or school—and they can be large enough to be national, or international. They tear down the faculty-room and faculty-meeting walls and boundaries. There’s an amazing amount of unselfish sharing going on in PLNs. Yeah, like anything, it’s easier not to form one, or join one, but I haven’t talked with, or met anyone, who was disappointed they did form or join. They are so much easier to be a part of today—the strings attached to the tin cans work so much better.

All of this isn’t new, and I’d probably get a lot more reads if the title was more provocatively shocking. Those who share things that are so far from the reality in a real classroom get my blood pressure up though. I was probably considered a maverick educator with tech, butI always tempered what I did, said, and shared with common sense and safety.

Oh yeah, I still made the district tech director nuts, but to me, smudges on computer screens were a lot better than a computer-lab museum. Pushing the edtech envelope safely with students, and carefully researching the good and the bad when sharing tech cool with educators, may be a bit more work, but it is really a common sense necessity for all educators and edtech leaders. Happily, there are too many of them to be called mavericks anymore, and the momentum stimulated by those leaders brings more colleagues and leaders onboard daily.

I might be the original half-baked edtech teacher, but at this stage in my life— sharing education tech with a pinch of common sense—continues to seem right.

Planning School and District Tech

 Today’s Royal Treatment is a tech tale of two districts. Joining us are Assistant Superintendent M.E. TP Steele-Pierce, PhD, and Principal Tonya Schmidt of the West Clermont District in Cincinnati, OH, and from Massachusetts, Principal Patrick Larkin of Burlington High School and Library Media Specialist Dennis Villano. These educators will share how they learned more about the tech that’s out there, and how they determined what was the best fit for their districts. Listen to the conversation:

Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Small District Big Innovations

Lead Superintendent John Carver, Principal Deron Durflinger, and Library Media Specialist Shannon Miller of the Van Meter Public Schools, Iowa, get the Royal Treatment. Find out the Van Meter philosophy—how they meet tech-era needs of students and staff, as well as how to create a building climate for change, and how technology plays into that. Listen to the conversation:


Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Kineos for Kids!: First Look

Kineo with Hands

The Royal Treatment has been given the first, exclusive look at the Kineo and its specs. It might be for kids, what the iPad is for teachers. I have to admit that with a price of $299, and it’s brilliantly colored sleeves—covering its white face—with hot pink to red—is eye-catching, and attract a lot of attention from educators and students.

The Kineo is specifically designed for kids, schools, and classroom. It is an Android device that plays well with Flash—go figure! With the Kineo, there’s no marketing hype or messaging, and the sites students access need to be pre-approved by teachers or administrators.

Educators will get to touch and order Kineos, for the first time, at the upcoming FETC 2011 in Orlando, Florida, and shipments will begin in March 2011.

The Kineos parent company is Brainchild, which has been an innovative force in tech education. I’ve heard that Achiever!, Brainchild’s formative assessment system for state-specific test preparation and instruction on state standards works well with the device.

Follow the Kineo at Brainchild's site: http://www.brainchild.com/

Best Classroom Web 2.0

Steven Anderson Steven Anderson, District Instructional Technologist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem, NC gets the Royal Treatment from Scholastic Professional Media Senior Technology Editor Ken Royal. Anderson, also known as @web20classroom on Twitter, shares the Best Classroom Web 2.0 Resources, and offers tips that will put even the least tech-savvy educators at ease. Learn from Steven Anderson, a trusted online resource, education technologist, and presenter. Listen to the conversation:

Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Computer Science Cool?: Alfred Thompson MSDN

AlfredtAlfred Thompson, Academic Developer Evangelist for Microsoft gets the Royal Treatment from Scholastic Professional Media Senior Technology Editor Ken Royal. Thompson discusses why computer science is cool, technology for kids and teachers in classrooms, as well as what the future holds for education technology.
Before his career at Microsoft, Alfred was the Technology Director and a computer/technology teacher at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua NH.  He is a graduate of Taylor University in Upland IN where he got his start in computers, and received his MS in Computer Science at Rivier College in Nashua NH. I must add that his well-rounded computer science career began at Brooklyn Technical High School. Listen to the conversation:

Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Tech Goes Away: Bet on It!

Obs If you are of a certain age in education, you’ve seen things come and go, watched the pendulum swing crazily in one direction, just to be reversed—often times pushed—to go in the opposite. So, while I’m a proponent of new technology, hardware, software, and now in some ways social media, I realize that not much stays the same—ever—and in technology, just like NASA space shuttles and typewriters—things go away—bet on it.

The other day I listened to a young educator talk about how her fifth-grade class was using Skype to connect with science experts, as well other classrooms around the world, including Australia. Well, none of that’s new, and was done in various ways, from classrooms, since the 90s. Today, teachers who know little more than how to use an Internet-connected computer with an onboard camera can bring the world to their classrooms.

An It’s true that good tech is recycled and made better. I remember watching my own students, ages ago, playing with Apple Newtons—their first real handhelds. I also remember my attempts at supplying my staff with Palm Pilots—not too long ago. Oh well, it was a good idea—then.

It’s just so easy to get trapped into the here and now with technology, and in education technology it’s far too easy to lock in curriculum and lesson ideas with technology geared to a specific product, software, or online offering. Writing curriculum and planning to an interactive technology goal is far better. That way, when the tech changes—and it will—the idea is still educationally solid. Let me apologies to all my educator friends who are writing curriculum specifically to Kindles and iPads, instead of a generic version. Go through your curriculum mapping, and I’m sure you’ll find references to things that haven’t been used, or done, in years.

Right now, Skype seems to be best for video conferencing. That’s a fact, it’s free, easy, and has the best video and audio, but that could change tomorrow. Anyone who had video-conferencing tech plans using the old Microsoft NetMeeting knows that’s true. While NetMeeting could be made to work in classrooms, it was a bit tricky, and today it’s not an option.

Schools working toward using social media with teachers and kids need to be aware that what’s hot now, can change tomorrow, too. I’d prefer, for now, that educators tweet using Twitter rather than friend using Facebook for school use. I may seem conservative—maybe a better word is protective—but I see it for educator use and not for kids—right now. It just scares me when I hear about curriculum being written to Facebook or Twitter.

Funny, I remember defending Google use for my students—forever ago. I had some real battles with district tech, as well as really conservative media specialists over that. Images and inappropriate search results didn’t help. Well, we figured it out—sort of—with a safer Google search for kids, and a bit of filtering software. The latter caused some grief, because it blocked some good results, as well as the bad. We learned that technology was a constant work in progress, and not something you click-fix permanently.

I absolutely love the Personal Learning Network (PLN) concept. It’s not new either, but most educators use the idea. I belong to The Educator's PLN, which has over 6,500 members. Instead of meeting around coffee for 15 minutes, educators can share 24/7/365. While some districts have required these, most teachers are forming and joining PLNs on their own—taking pride in them.

Now, there’s a constant for you—educators figuring “many and varied” ways—(I was Madeline Hunterized)—to share—“my problem is your problem”—(and Stephen Coveyized)—what they know with others.

Graphic Suggestions: Free or Buy?

Oldcam Recently, a teacher asked me to recommend a digital photo editing software. She needed it to work on a Mac, so that narrowed the choices a bit. She liked Publisher (no Mac version), so wanted something that would play nice along those lines, too. Sometimes it pays to buy what you really need, rather than looking for free. Many times software shareware solutions are light versions, and rarely offer you the possibilities of the full application. I also think that most free software requires so many work-arounds that the time spent meandering isn’t worth the time.

But knowing how much educators like free, I offered some possibilities, before saying what I thought would work the best if it were purchased. You can only bend software so far, so I’ve found that removing the fish hooks from your pocket to buy what you need makes sense. I'm sure there are some other choices out there, but these were my suggestions.

My free suggestion was Gimp http://the-gimp.en.softonic.com/mac, and my free trial suggestions were Swift Publisher http://www.belightsoft.com/products/swiftpublisher/overview.php, and iStudio Publisher http://www.istudiopublisher.com/index.php/home/home/. Paintbrush is another nice and free option as well http://paintbrush.en.softonic.com/mac; it resembles MS Paint, but was too light for my educator. It is worth a try though.

Looking for a challenge:
Scribus is open source, and a bit like Publisher http://sourceforge.net/projects/scribus/files/scribus/; it can be a challenge to intall and figure out—but works (Ghostscript install necessary—read instructions).

Pse9In all of this searching, I kept in mind what the teacher needed to do with the software, and while I tried to offer free, I really knew that purchasing an old veteran software would work best. I had two in mind, and my teacher picked the one that was compatible with her school set-up.

She chose Adobe Photoshop Elements 9. Some software makes you smile, because it covers so much ground, and does it so easily. Photoshop makes you look like a pro when you’ve used it for the simplest things, and if you know layering—it’s a dream. It’s a huge program, but well worth the loading time. By the way, you can teach kids to do some incredible things with it, including Web animations. As for software longevity, I actually have an old Mac running a Photoshop Elements 2, because it still works well.

There’s Photoshop online at http://www.photoshop.com/, but my teacher strolled into her local, packed Apple Store, and walked out with a copy of Photoshop Elements 9 in under 5 minutes. It was $99 ($107 out the door). I’m old fashioned that way, too, I always like to have a disk in hand—beyond a download. I suggested that, too.

The online trial requires registration and some info, including setting up a password, as well as selecting a birth date (didn’t like that) for using all the online tools.

My Other Purchase Suggestions:


Corel Other options, for both Mac and PC—with a free trial—are Corel’s http://www.corel.com/ PaintShop, Draw, and Painter11, which works on. I suggested this one as well, but it wasn’t used in my teacher’s school. CorelPainter11 is amazing software. It will make a Rembrandt out of a stick-figure artist.


SerifDrawPlusX2 Don’t forget Serif’s http://www.serif.com/ free PhotoPlus http://www.serif.com/free-photo-editing-software/ as well as other offerings, but it plays in the PC world and not the Mac side of town—yet. Its origin is UK. Beyond graphics Serif has some great, easy to use software for making Web pages with kids.


Video Games: Learning Disguised as Fun

Gamestar2Recently, 15 Brooklyn students with their families learned how to design and create video games. The training, held at the Shell Bank School (J.H.S. 14) was an effort to help needy students acquire the tools and knowledge to compete in the National STEM Video Game Challenge—http://www.stemchallenge.org/. Winning students will earn cash for their schools and a laptop for themselves. “My teacher, she told me about it. It was so fun. First, we made a game, and then we let other people try it out. Some kids had games that were really hard, and some kids had games that were really easy,” says student DeJannia Parnell.

My own video-gaming attention span is that of a gnat, but I get it. I remember teaching my students how to build JavaScript games for their Web pages. That was pretty simple compared to today’s game programming, but I do know that kids felt good about building something that they could actually play—sort of like building a stool in shop class—only more fun, and without the wobbly legs. Always heard good things from parents about it, too—and best of all, kids who hadn’t taken the course—couldn’t wait to get there.

Gamestar3The Brooklyn video-game training was hosted by the non-profit organization Computers for Youth (CYF)— http://www.cfy.org/, in partnership with E-line Media— http://elineventures.com/, as well as others, such as Microsoft and BrainPop. E-line Media also supports the video design and creation learning game called Gamestar Mechanic— http://gamestarmechanic.com/.

While my own video-gaming expertise is not quite that of a 5-year old, I appreciate that it may not only help keep computer science exciting for kids, but also allow them to experience a world outside their local environment. For me, reading is still at the top of the list for doing that, but making room for kids learning to create their own video games is a no brainer, too. I’m certain kids doing that would be late to the next class—for all the right reasons.

2010 Ed Tech Standouts

Future Besides my education tech trend standouts for 2010, I have included what to look for in 2011, a couple of veterans that are necessities, as well as what I found most disappointing. While there’s never a way to include everything in a short list like this, my randomly ordered choices are based on what I’ve seen, covered, and thought during 2010. Check out mine, and be sure to make your own.

It’s perfect for educators, and can be an international online faculty room if used the right way. The resources, ideas, and connections made using Twitter go well beyond friending for professional development.

This has gotten easier to do on all gadgets, including onboard netbook cams, cell phones, and flip-style devices, which offers good quality video for all sorts of projects.

Cell phones:
Used as computing devices, as responders, for images, video and texting, too. Mobile, wireless education

Touch Screens:
On everything from whiteboards to notebooks, to tablets, to cell phones to wherever the software can go. Look for touch screens on ALL hardware devices.

Teacher Online Communities:
Educators create personal learning groups. Everyone has the ability and capability to publish an education Daily News through blog-style websites, using simple to use, professional designs.

All-in-one Online Solutions:
Company-created, all-in-one online teacher communities that include resources, blogs, professional development, and communication solutions.

Cell Phones are easy to use, and most teachers know how to get and use apps for teaching, reading, as well as for student projects.

eReaders got us REALLY thinking about providing texts and literature to students in new ways. iPad: I doubt that anything can top the reach of this Apple slate-device. Educators are using them, and some have begun to write curriculum, and use them with students as well.

Interactive Teaching:
Using whiteboards, slates for mobile-controlling classrooms—including whiteboards, and student responders for polling and texting has increased student interaction and made teaching on the move easier.

Trends to Watch

Bring Your Own Tech for students. Forward-thinking schools and districts are inviting students to bring in their own tech devices to use on the school network. 3D: 3D on smaller devices that can be used without funny glasses will happen.

Cloud Devices and Environment:
The Google Chrome Netbook concept and ideas like it that will take advantage of cheaper devices and a cloud environment. Most tech educators are chomping at the bit to hook up their schools with these ideas and devices.

Honorable Mentions

Veteran Tech:
Document Cameras don’t get a lot of press, but they continue to be inexpensive and are easily used by most educators. You still can’t talk school tech without mentioning Doc Cams.

Absolute Necessity:
Projectors are classroom necessities. Some projector solutions have the ability to make plain whiteboards interactive, and education pricing is good for either bulb or LED choices.


Biggest Disappointment:
PC tech-device response to the iPad

New Reality Show: Tech Your Class

Ken3a I find it interesting that almost anything can become a reality show, and I find it a bit disheartening that there isn’t one called Tech Your Class. So Oprah, and others out there, here’s the pitch.

The goal of the Tech Your Class show would be to bring technology, and how to expertise into a needy school or district, and do it in a fun way. A small team of tech-savvy educators, who enjoy kids, teaching and tech, with one being a technical wizard, would be the team to do it. Oh yeah, they'd also need to like hamming it up, too. While that main team can remain constant and the same, special guests—educator and non educator guests welcome—could join the team for different shows. Bring in the cameras to follow the action, and even have team members equipped with walk-about cams.

Each show would start in a sort of situation room, where team members would present their needy school tech cases for the team to help for a particular episode. Most likely two choices per show would be chosen and work. Once decided, the Tech Your School tech team would ready the appropriate technology and support to Tech a Class, or possibly a school. Teching a Class would not only mean bringing in the devices necessary, but would also share how to teach with those devices. The team would show how to do outstanding things with kids learning with tech. Showcase teaching with tech beyond what most think.

Before leaving a classroom or school, the team would set up a continuing tech and teaching game plan, as well as shore up contacts for guiding the mission beyond the Tech Your Class visit. There would be a Follow-Up show at the end of the season, and beginning of next to share successes and failures, if they should occur. Track students achievement after the show and during the season with updates.

Should work; right Discovery, Sci Fi, and Oprah channels? I can see corporate sponsorship and supplies for this. If Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Ghost Hunters have us following, why not a following for a reality show called Tech Your Class? Wouldn’t you rather see that, sitting next to your kids, than Jersey Shore, or someone snooping into unpaid storage crates to make a score?

Interested? I could even see an international version happening. Have your people call my people.

Sleeping Tech Giants Wake Up!

Sg Sometimes, Google, Apple, Twitter, and FaceBook remind me of that old Steve McQueen SciFi flick, The Blob. Are we becoming food for giant tech amoebas? There are almost fanatical allegiances to some tech, and a “can’t live without” attitude for apps. There seems to be apps for everything—well almost. Haven’t seen one that will tie a kid’s shoe, or feed a baby—yet. And while I'm on a rant, sometimes, I get really upset with Microsoft (MSFT), too. Set the alarm, and wake up some of the sleeping tech giants!

What’s the deal? We'll see a new iPad version, with all the bells and whistles, before we see a legitimate Win tablet contender that isn't recycled tech. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Of all the companies around, if a team, there, set to doing it, we’d have a real Win Tablet choice—quickly. Yikes, they have the same partner reach, connections, and expertise as Google, or anyone else.

Turning that ship around should be easy. I’d volunteer to form an Airplane: The Movie slap line for MSFT, if it would help. Sorry, if this sounds a bit like a Bogey speech—but of all the companies in the world that could turn this around on a dime, I’d bet on MSFT. I just feel, that right now, they’re losing a lot of fans. In my opinion, it’s time to snap to attention, and get back into the game with all the PC company teams. As I always told my students, if you can think it with tech, you can do it. Maybe it's not Win, maybe it's something else—Linux, Android, Snapdragon, whatever, but let's get creative—and make something that works well, pleases us as users of tech, and makes us proud, too.

I know there will be a lot of iPad rivals on the tablet shelves, but looking at the newest offerings hasn’t shown me one that stands out. With the way things have been going, I’m doubting that I’ll see one within the next year—and possibly longer.

All this makes the Google Chrome Netbook approach more appealing. If you need your computing operation inexpensive, simple and safe, as well as require a real keyboard—it’s a perfect choice to make. That’s not just good for corporations, but for education as well. That said, I’d love to see some real competition for Apple and Google. Let’s hope the sleeping PC giants wake up soon, and MSFT leads the pack. Now, that would make an exciting game—again.

Teaching Max

Max Recently, I visited the John’s Creek Elementary School in Georgia, where whiteboards, laptop carts, as well as bring your own technology (BYOT) is the norm. Visiting schools and observing kids can teach you a lot. A group of 3rd graders walked into the Library Media Center (LMC), headed for the teacher standing at a multi-touch Promethean ActivBoard. When the lesson began, the small group of students was allowed the controlled freedom to interact with the board. Interact is such an overused word—these kids played learning.

There's probably a study or two in this, but the girls, as a group collaborated naturally, while the boys were a little more boldly wild. One boy, Max, walked back and forth, always keeping the whiteboard and other students in view. At first glance, he didn’t seem to be engaged, but as I watched, he seemed to be taking in everything. I noted, he missed nothing, but it wasn’t obvious at first.

When things settled, I asked the group if anyone knew how to activate the whiteboard keyboard function. The young, hovering boy, Max, walked quickly over to the side of the whiteboard, grabbed the pen, reached and tapped the left tool bar—bringing up the keyboard. He beamed.

“How did you know that?” I asked. “Watched the teacher do it,” said Max.

Right afterwards, some fifth graders came in to return laptops to mobile carts. They had to find the right placement, and plug them in. I asked one young lady how she knew where to place them/return them correctly. She said, “They’re in numerical order.” Yikes, like I should have known, right. I was impressed. They weren’t just numbered—they were in numerical order.

I discovered that the school was experimenting with a BYOT, bring your own technology classroom, too. I admit, I have a lot of questions about that, but it’s an incredibly innovative idea that can increase the classroom technology quickly, as well as save a district some cash, too.

I’d want to know how different technologies would play together in the BYOT classroom, and also if a teacher could handle the heavier tech burden of knowing/working with many devices and not just one or two.

BYOT is a refreshing idea, and worth more coverage. I’m all for putting tech in kids’ hands. When it comes right down to it, using technology can be the goal, but it’s still really all about understanding—how to teach Max—and others like him.

Most Wonderful Time

EI If you’d like to have the most wonderful time, check out the eInstruction entries to their Win an Interactive Classroom contest. There are a few there that will have your feet tapping and body rockin’. I’d like to give outstanding recommendations, but because I was asked to do a bit of judging, that’s probably inappropriate, so you’ll have to look for them yourself. I liked that eInstruction has separated video entries into K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 categories.

So, I spent some great Sunday time viewing and listening to kids singing, rapping, and creatively seeking more technology for their classrooms. It was the most wonderful time. Hope you enjoy them, too.

Marzano: Whiteboards, Responders, 1:1, and PD

Marzano I had an interesting conversation with education researcher and author, Dr. Robert Marzano. He’s written about education strategies, and decision-making based on research for years. His Marzano Research Laboratory is interested in researching and discovering ways to make teaching and education leadership better. We talked about his 3rd party interactive whiteboard research, which was funded by Promethean, as well as his thoughts for the short term—3–5 year future of technology in the classroom. I enjoyed his fair and honest assessment of his own research, as well as what we should take away from it.

“After playing around with different study designs we used a meta-analysis approach—over different subject areas. In our 2-year, 4, 913-student, 123-teacher, and 36-district study, we found, that in general, the average effect was that we had a 16-percentile improvement in student achievement in the interactive whiteboard classrooms,” says Marzano.”

Marzano finds one part of his findings doesn’t get as much attention as it should, and that has to do with the importance of good teaching. “But let’s qualify this, an average effect that people don’t focus on enough is that 24% of the time teachers did better without the technology. So the 2nd part of the study is what explains the differences, and because we used video, we can say here’s why,” says Marzano.

More research needs to be done—so what’s next? “We need to rewrite the book on teaching strategies… the ones that many of us have written about for years, just won’t work anymore. For instance, classroom brainstorming used to be done on paper… but you couldn’t do anything with it. It was difficult to move those thoughts around, and debate efficacies—like you can with interactive technologies,” says Marzano.

Administrators struggling with budgets don’t necessarily have the funds it takes to make technology happen in their districts. “Sometimes I get asked whether interactive whiteboards are worth it from a financial standpoint—I don’t come from that perspective, but my heart goes out to administrators having to make those decisions. I know that they are not small ticket items. If money weren’t the issue it’s pretty much of a no brainer—three technologies—interactive whiteboards, responders, and 1:1 computing get good results for teachers,” says Marzano.

Professional development is an important finding. “Don’t forget, these technologies have to be used in the right way. What to do and what not to do with them. In my research, a huge piece for an administrator to understand is that their needs to be training to get the best out of classroom technology. Envision it as a another leg on the stool,” Marzano concludes.

Find out more at Marzano Reasearch, or more at the Promethean site.

Tech Pricing Mirage

Mrg1 As consumers, many times we buy because we want it—or need to have it. But tech directors, administrators, and school leaders can’t impulse buy, and certainly need to look beyond the hype to the bottom line. In a time when districts are either joining purchasing consortiums, or forming their own, the education marketplace needs to be as creative in selling as it is with ingenious technology production. I don't think the consumer game plan will work. Avoid the tech pricing mirage.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m using two Macs with different operating systems, a Toshiba running Win7, a Dell display, and 2 Blackberries (on my desk) simultaneously. Yep, the image of a cartoon octopus is quite perfect. I’ve lost count of the websites opened on all devices, because I tend not to close them, while I open more. Hold on, just discovered flavors.me, “make a homepage in minutes” —looks interesting. Ok, where was I… oh, right… Tech Mirage Pricing.

I headed for the Internet Oasis called Apple to check out their new Macbook Airs. Yeah, I know, you’d think I’d be more interested in the Beatles and iTunes reunion. Anyway, when I arrived at the site I noticed that the pricing was a bit illusory. For instance, the least expensive 11-inch 64GB, 2GB SDRAM Air for $999 wasn’t perfect, until I began adding more. When I did add more, the least expensive became a lot more expensive, which made the other Air options, at higher prices more tempting. I only added an Air Super Drive, USB Ethernet Adapter, Mini Display Port to VGA Adapter, and MS Office 2011 Home and Business Edition. I was careful, figured I’d need something to carry it in, too, but didn’t add that cost. Well, that bumped the price for the 11-inch Macbook Air to $1335.95, and I still wasn’t out the online store door. That price is higher than the 11-inch 128GB (starting $1,199) and more than the 13-inch 128GB (starting $1,299).

These additional costs are not exclusive to Apple. I’d be adding virus controlling software, and more options to similar non-Apple products. I know that while there are some free downloads and software online, I’d need more than what’s bundled, so going the PC direction would be similar. It’s difficult to walk away with that starter price—anywhere.

Just for the heck of it, I checked the iPads again. Maybe I’d do better there. I really don’t want one yet—sort of waiting on a few things, including onboard cameras. Hmmm… there’s a 16GB for $499. Wait, again, don’t I have a 2nd generation iPod in the drawer with 80GB? And, I’ll certainly need a carrying case for this. Yep, couldn’t stop there. I added an iPad case (shouldn’t that be in the box for this), AppleCare Protection (chances of dropping and going wrong), Connector to VGA, USB Power Connector, and iPad Camera Connection Kit (it would be nice to actually share my images on it). That brought the price up to $724 for the 16GB Wi-Fi starter, which is about the same price ($5 less) as the 32GB Wi-Fi +3G model, and more than the 64GB ($699) starter.

Luckily, I was window shopping, and for me, it’s easier to walk away when shopping online. I’ll stop back when I have more space on my desk, a larger lap, deeper pockets— or better yet—a real need. School leaders need to prepare kids today, and don't have that luxury, so we can't afford to have them walk away—planning to purchase later—for later is too late—and everyone knows it.

If your education company is doing something valiant to help alleviate the pricing mirage for kids and schools, I'd like to hear about it. That news needs to be shared.

Eric Sheninger: Global Leadership Lessons

Sheninger Principal Eric Sheninger of New Milford High School, New Jersey, is a 21st Century Leader. Here's his Digital Age Professional Development Plan for today's leaders and educators. Sheninger begins with an overview, and then breaks it into specific tools with examples. I'm grateful to him for letting me share it here.

Welcome to Eric Sheninger's digital education and leadership toolkit, as well as all the tools to go with it:

Administrator's Global Toolkit for 21st Century Leadership
by Eric Sheninger

  • Shift Happens —View for trends and impacts associated with technology and social media.
  • Sustainable change relies on understanding people, culture, and processes—best accomplished through collaboration, consensus, and understanding.
  • 21st Century Educators must be able to adapt, communicate, take risks, model, continually learn, collaborate, exhibit vision, and lead.
  • Leaders in the "Digital Age" share their vision, learn with other educators, start conversations, lead by example, encourage innovative practices, integrate technology, are transparent, and leverage the power of Web 2.0.
  • Principals can use social media for communication, public relations, branding, professional development—and opportunity.
  • Keys for Principals: Support your staff, be flexible, and exhibit passion, Make time to learn, take/encourage risk takers— and model.

Web 2.0 Tools for Learning

  • Twitter: Improve instruction through global collaboration—share resources, best practices, lesson ideas, acquire knowledge, network, track conferences, etc.). Grow professionally by establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN), following specific hashtags (#). Learn move about Twitter in this video.
  • Ning: Customizable social network similar to Facebook, and a great place to connect with other educators, pivotal to a PLN. Two great Nings to sign up for are The Educator's PLN and Classroom 2.0. Check out this Ning tutorial.

Google Apps

  • Google Docs: An online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation editor that allows for easy organization and communication. Easily create forms to conduct surveys and collect data.
    Features include: upload/convert to any format (i.e. MS Office), simultaneously collaborate on, and edit various document formats, access your documents from anywhere in the world, and embed links to your docs in e-mails, websites, blogs, etc.  Learn more about Google Docs here.
  • Google Calendar: Create multiple calendars in order to easily share events with staff, and sync to your mobile phones.  Learn more here.
  • Google Reader: Check educational news sites and blogs for new content (updates daily). Subscribe to websites via RSS feeds, customize to your learning needs/goals, create you own unique educational current events library, and share websites quickly with your staff. Learn more about Google Reader here.
  • Google Sites: Free and easy way to create websites. Single click page creation, no HTML required, customize to the look and feel that suits you. It has many templates to get you started. Upload files and attachments, embed rich content (videos, images, spreadsheets, presentations), and collaborate with others.  Learn more here.

Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching

  • Wordle: create beautiful word clouds quickly and easily. Use as an anticipatory set, review prior learning, or closure. Have students create a Wordle as a means of independent assessment. Print, or save to the gallery to share. You can also take a screen shot and save it as a jpeg. The more you type the same word the larger it will appear. Click here for a tutorial, or check out these resources.
  • Voicethread: Collaborative, multimedia slideshow that holds images, documents, and videos while allowing people to navigate through slides and comment in multiple ways (text , audio, video). Click here for a tutorial or check out these resources.
  • Wallwisher: An online message board ideal for making announcements, taking notes, and collecting ideas, responses, or feedback. Add images, music, and or links to each virtual note. Works like a real notice board (drag, drop, rearrange posts). Click on the following for more information: reasons to use, tutorial, and here for resources.
  • Prezi: Create stunning presentations on the Web, and allow students to be creative as well. Great way to review prior learning, or use as an anticipatory set. Principals can even create a Prezi for their faculty meetings. Check out this tutorial and resources.
  • Glogster: Allow students to create interactive posters easily. Mix images, music, text, and video. Engage students in fun and creative activities while allowing them to express their knowledge, ideas, and skills. Check out this tutorial and associated resources.
  • Animoto:  Automatically produces beautifully orchestrated, unique video presentations from photos, video clips, and music.  Educators can apply for free student accounts at Animoto for Education. Check out this tutorial and associated resources.
  • Skype: Add free videoconferencing with only a webcam, computer, and internet connection. Make free Skype to Skype calls. Bring in quest speakers, go on virtual field trips, collaborate with other schools on lessons in real time, bring in additional professional development opportunities, and add a global context to instruction. The Chat feature allows for the sharing of links, asking questions, etc. Check out this tutorial and associated resources.

EdTech Tools for Administrators

  • Facebook:  Create an information hub for your building that can quickly and easily get important information in the hands of your stakeholders. Sign up for a personal account, create a page, and add material (news, pictures, videos, events).  Use the sidebar on the left to add useful links (school website, alumni groups, athletic schedules, Twitter feed). Check out this tutorial and example at New Milford High School.
  • Social Bookmarking: Store, organize, manage, and search for your resource bookmarks online from any computer in the world. Two common tools are Delicious and Diigo. Organize and categorize your bookmarks with tags. Add descriptions for each resource. Create content area and resource specific tags. Encourage teachers to create their own free account to organize their bookmarks. Check out this video for more information.  Check my example here.
  • Dropbox: Store, sync, and share files online for free. Create an account then download Dropbox on your computers, smartphone, and any other mobile device, including an iPad. Copy/paste, or save any file in Dropbox. You can even copy entire folders from your hard drive and paste them into Dropbox. Access your files from anywhere in the world by logging into your account at www.dropbox.com.  For more information see this video.
  • Evernote: Remember everything by capturing notes, ideas, and things you hear/see. Download it on your computers, smartphone, and any other mobile devices including an iPad. Easily and quickly sync your notes. Use a smartphone to upload picture and audio notes. Access your notes from anywhere in the world by logging into your account at www.evernote.com.  Organize and categorize your notes with tags.  For more information see this tutorial.
  • Twitter:  Use this microblogging resource to send out information in 140 characters, or less to your stakeholders. Tweet out links, pictures, and video. Parents and community members can access from the web or on their mobile phones through text message (SMS). Send emergency announcements, event reminders, special schedules, athletic scores, student achievements, and staff innovations. View the Twitter page for New Milford High School as an example.
  • Blog:  This type of website provides a place for regular commentary, reflections, and opinions. It's easy to add text, pictures, video, and gadgets. It can be one of the best public relations tools available to administrators. It is Interactive, because readers can leave comments. Check out this video for more information about blogs.

Higher Ed Wants What K12 Has

David David Martin, co-founder of SMART Technologies, as well as the father of the interactive whiteboard, believes that the changing needs of today’s corporate workforce has been influenced by tech-savvy higher ed students, and it may be due in great part to K12 use of interactive devices. The band seems to be playing a different tune—could the whiteboard world be turned upside down, and higher education wants what K12 has?

It seems teaching and learning interactively at the K12 levels is beginning to create a demand for the same creatively interactive higher education tools. Until recently, the need has been simply to present in a lecture-like fashion—without all the bell and whistle tools K12 educators love for keeping their students actively engaged. According to Martin, that is changing, and the need for interactivity beyond K12 is causing the whiteboard, and other interactive marketplace suppliers to offer more than the stripped down versions at universities, and in corporate board and meeting rooms. The software and functionality desired is trending more to what K12 has demanded from the start.

For those of us following education technology, and technology in general, a trend that trickles up is a good sign. That’s progress. I know that the struggle continues to get educators more of the right tools for today’s kids, but knowing that there’s more of a K12 connection with the Higher Ed and corporate tech worlds is important. When the threads that tie P20 are tightened, and strengthened, education wins. Look for more of these upside down technology trends.

Ed Tech News: Nov. 8, 2010

Education Technology News for November 8, 2010. Features TenMarks, ViewSonic, 3M, Discovery Education, and Casio.

Follett Destiny/Cognite: Video Royal Treatment

Follett Software is more than Destiny Library Manager. The Video Royal Treatment shares a bit about Cognite:

My Graduation Plan: Video Royal Treatment

Excent and My Graduation Plan get The Video Royal Treatment:

WildLab Kids: Phones in NYC Parks

Central_park I talked with Jared Lamenzo, president of Mediated Spaces about their WildLab project in Brooklyn, NY. Wildlab, funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, uses cell phones and an iPhone app to support science curriculum for kids. According to Lamenzo, “the iPhone app helps learners ID birds, and includes information on birds' ranges and songs. Students submit their GPS-tagged sightings from local NYC parks, and the data goes to the classes' online account—they can refer to their findings later in the classroom.

At the end of the program, students submit their sightings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for use in studies about species abundance and climate change. So far, students have collected almost 10,000 sightings, and over 500 students have participated. It’s no wonder the NYC Audubon Society, and other organizations are interested.

I asked Lamenzo if students BYOT, (Bring Your Own Tech) for the projects. He said that WildLab brings the phones with them to the schools, and kids use them as "field tools" rather than phones (note: social networks are blocked). Larenzo is working with scientists on more protocol-based science apps.

They’ve partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension to develop a horseshoe crab app. “In the field, it was like playing a game on space invaders under moonlight with 300 million year old living fossils,” says Lamenzo.

Now this is what I’ve been talking about—using cell phones as learning devices. Kids in parks collecting data, returning to class to analyze, joining parallel studies with other students, with the ultimate goal realized—these students are scientists adding to the knowledge base of other scientists. How cool is that!

Jared Lamenzo concludes, “I think programs like ours can show that phones can be used constructively. It turns out learners are quite respectful of the phones and the data collection, especially since they know it goes to scientists.”

Wireless Education Conference D.C.

Wireless1 The direction of cell phones as devices for more than calling, texting, and gaming, was very evident at the Wireless Education Conference 2010 in Washington, D.C. Qualcomm and it’s partners AT&T, Blackboard, Lenovo, and Verizon presented expert panel discussions, how to presentations and idea starters, as well as interviews with leaders in the wireless movement.

I was very impressed with the BYOT, or Bring Your Own Technology options presented by CTIO Bailey Mitchell of Forsyth County Schools, Georgia. That, as part of a blended approach to increasing the amount of technology in schools, really puts supporting the infrastructure in the driver’s seat, and the CTO’s role changes from “Dr. No” to Can Do. This is certainly a philosophy to be replicated. Students can work in their system with whatever device they bring in—iPads, iTouches, whatever—doesn’t matter. As Mitchell says so wonderfully, “Our user base tolerates no downtime.”

Two important factors are Forsyth’s open access configuration is simple, with no intrusion or virus considerations, and their hardware purchasing is for only those students who don’t have, and can’t afford computing devices.

An important consideration has to be that the Internet in education is like an opera singer—it needs great pipes. And when you don’t have to worry so much about getting the hardware for all, more emphasis can be placed on the broadband—those pipes. When that happens, the cloud becomes a reasonable option, and a lot of budgetary expenditures can be freed up.

Dr. Paul Jacobs, Chairman and CEO of Qualcomm puts it well, “Processing power in your pocket is growing. Mobile devices and cloud are moving forward.”

I’d like to see more work being done vision-based AR, augmented reality. It seems to me the smaller screens would play well with 3D applications—without the hassle of glasses or distortion found in larger screens. Right now, the simulation activities kids use in classes are more checks, plusses, and circles. It’s pretty primitive, and not too far removed from that original coordinate, move the turtle, applications in the 70s.

Most of the applications for mobile devices shared at the conference were STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering , and Math based, but the language arts and reading application for these small computers will open a lot of teaching possibilities—from flashcards to polling on the fly (Poll Everywhere)—we are at the education wireless edge and ready to jump off flying.

Note: My interview with Kristin Atkins, Director of Wireless Outreach, Qualcomm, will be posted soon at Scholastic Administrator's Online Video Page.

Ed Tech Contests: Someone Has to Win

 ContestsAs a teacher, I loved contests and give-aways—always thought that someone had to win, and it could be me, or my class. Here's a few contests and give-aways mined on Twitter today. Thought there would be more, but when that movie deal comes in, my twitter following should increase, and so will the contests shared.


For this contest you have to answer a few questions about mobile technology, and tell Acer how new  mobile PCs will help your students. Judges with choose 10 finalists—and then a public vote will choose two winners. Submission deadline is January 14, 2011, and public voting on the 10 finalists is February 1, 2011.


Qwizdom's giving away more than $12,000+ of tech during their How Do You Q contest. Closing date for that is December 3rd. There are three categories: Blog, Photo, Video. They're picking winners in each so you can enter all three if you want.

Renaissance Learning

This one is for educators who are using Neo 2s. Teachers and kids produce videos that show how to use them. There's pdf information, registration (the mail in type), and release forms at the site. 3 Winners get an eBeam Edge interactive whiteboard solution. Deadline is December 17th and winners announced January 21, 2011.

Promethean, The Proctor & Gamble Company, and National Geographic

This contest has been launched by The Proctor & Gamble Company, National Geographic, and Promethean. Entry for Find Your Footprint is here: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/findyourfootprint/enter/ and entries must be in by December 3, 2010. For this one you pick a theme, Save Water, Reduce Waste, or Save Energy, and then students illustrate a proposal for doing it. Teachers will find an entry link and more at the site. Prizes include 5 Activboards (whiteboards) and 32 ActivExpressions (student response systems).


TH(i)NQ ed tweeted a limited giveaway (for now) to the first 15 teachers contacting them at pat.leonard@thinqed.com. The first 15 will get a classroom license for Journ(i)e from TH(i)NQ ED. Journ(i)e from TH(i)NQ ED allows teachers to use social networking in a safe, secure environment. That means blogs, wikis, etc. BTW: TH(i)NQ ED (pronounced Think Ed) was formerly SchoolCenter.

Don't Forget!

Just a note, there's always something good cooking at the Scholastic Teacher Site, so share it around as well.

Follow me @kenroyal on Twitter.


Understanding Botnets: The Zombie Army

Botnets Botnets are robot networks, or better yet, Internet computers associated with malicious behavior and cyber crime. This zombie army can penetrate and evade firewall and anti-virus protections. They can keep K-12 district technology directors up at night—worrying. They are also the reason IT managers, and educators pushing the technology envelope, lock horns. Understanding Bots can be beneficial for both sides. While combating botnets needs to be a controlled and unified effort, working within a safe system can happen for creative Web 2.0 teachers.

Bots are scary because they are designed to leave networks and computers running seamlessly, by all outward appearances, while they tap data—sending it out to their "bot masters". The IT professional's goal in combating botnets and securing information is to minimize the chance of network penetration and, if an attack occurs, to isolate the threat and eliminate it. While districts may think they have protection in place, some may not have coordinated or organized that defense. Defense is really an individual solution for each school or district—and not cookie cutter.

A note from CDW-G this week had me thinking about some things to consider. So, here are a few bot plans for districts that aren’t all geek.

Install a Windows Firewall. A Windows firewall can block many network-based misuse, especially in K-12 environments, which tend to have huge populations of workstations in labs.

Disable AutoRun. The AutoRun feature, which automatically installs software, can be a problem if a foreign source wants to launch and cause havoc.

Password Trusts. Disabling computers from automatically connecting to each other closes the path that botnets take to spread through the internal network. That means district tech admins control local passwords tightly. While this is good for protecting the network, it can frustrate educators who want more freedom to teach in a 2.0 way.

Network Compartmentalization. If workstations do not need to communicate with each other across departments, IT managers can establish private virtual local area networks (VLANs), or access control lists (ACLs) between subnetworks to limit exposure. Schools already do this if they separate the administrator from the student network. Today, while this works great for data, educators who want to use video and voice options may have difficulty. IT managers will hear about it.

Provide Least Privilege. This is one that made me crazy as an educator trying to push the tech envelope. It always slowed me down getting district tech personnel to do things I could do easily, but from a district technology guarding position, when users are not administrators of their own workstations, it is much harder for malware to affect a system.

Filter Data Leaving the Network. Botnets establish communication with one or more remote servers that hackers use to retrieve private information. For K-12 implementation of outbound access control lists (ACLs) on the firewall should work.

Use a Proxy Server. While it is impractical to block all potentially hostile outbound traffic, forcing outbound traffic through a proxy server will give organizations a secondary point for monitoring and controlling Web access.

By spotting infections early, system administrators can act before the infection spreads too far.

Monitor DNS Queries. The way that a workstation responds to domain name system (DNS) queries is often an early warning sign that the workstation may be infected.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.