About this blog Subscribe to this blog

AppHazard: Involve Educators

Grade 5 Tech How can educators know about Apps, and determine whether they are space junk or teaching appropriate, and how will educators really influence tech people who build them, as well as companies that provide them?

When the Internet first became a possibility for educators and classrooms, I jumped in. There were very few of us at that time, which made connecting and collaborating between continents a necessity. A research and development guy at IBM taught me some HTML and how to created a Web page using notepad. I’m not sure the phone line modem was 14.4 at the time. Most of us named those initial sites after our classroom, and what we were teaching. Mine was Mr. Royal’s Science Site. It sounded good then, and the 10 or so others around the world, doing it with me, had similar titles. It worked then.

When AOL for e-mail and chat, and Netscape for WYSIWYG Website building came along things really exploded online. You didn’t have to build it all yourself, and you could find more work and lessons done by educators in at all levels and subjects and grades. Best of all, teachers shared. Things got so good that those sites that were not educationally appropriate joined the number of sites that were educationally appropriate. I remember suggesting to an editor at Well Connected Educator, which later became TechLearning, that I’d put together something call Site of the Day, which would suggest the best Websites for educators. I convinced her that it would be equivalent to sharing sites in the faculty room or in the school hallway. Anyway, Site of the Day is still at TechLearning today.

It’s not that educators couldn’t figure this all out; it’s just that it made it easier to find good sites, and the simple descriptions and how to helped them know whether it was appropriate. We are  at a similar place now with education Apps. There aren’t that many, yet, but the wave is building for a tsunami of iPad and Androids apps that will much more quickly build.

I think there are a few things that need to happen, and I’m sure you can think of more. Here’s my short list:

1. Educators, in districts, who know how to build apps, need to work with those who do not, to create real teaching applications that are appropriate. Teachers know how to teach and won’t settle for fluff that’s just pretty. Educationally sound apps is what we want.

2. Companies creating, or providing Apps, need to involve real, in-the-trenches educators in the creation, as well as in the evaluation. My fear is that the apps that make it to teachers, without the involvement of  “real” teachers will have use wandering off in ways that aren’t educationally sound.

3. Districts need to create App Committees to vet appropriate Apps—just as Websites are evaluated. Making that part of an AUP, and part of a school or district tech committees duties is completely appropriate. This is not meant to stifle teaching creatively with technology, but rather to keep an organized app education plan in tact. Mapping course goals should include the apps that are appropriate, too. There is nothing wrong with saying that to cover a particular topic, teachers should use a particular tool, and apps should be included.

4. Education magazines and journals need to help cover educationally sound apps as well.  Maybe having educators providing an App of the Day, with how to and a bit of description needs to be done. Most educators still share locally, even though so many more have international access. Education publishers with national and international clout could help by sharing more educators doing things beyond clay, glue, and glitter. Those administrators and teachers are out there it's just a matter of asking them to share.

Finally, don’t get me wrong; one thing I do know is that if all the wires were unplugged, teachers could still teach. But it’s a different time, and the tools to engage are here, and more arriving daily. Making sure those tools and lessons are educationally appropriate should be the responsibility of educators, and be directly influenced by educators. That was true when I only had a blackboard and a few pieces of chalk—then when I had a class Website—and it is true, today, with my digital tablet.

Scholastic Live: iPads & Common Core

  Stage1
 Dan_Brenner Scholastic Administrator’s August Live Tech Event was an exciting and unique  Edward_Salinaevent for more than 200 education guests and marketplace experts. Speakers included Dan Brenner, Rosyln, Long Island superintendent and Ed Salina, Plainridge superintendent talking How To District iPad. To round out the event, Susan Gendron (former Maine education leader and 1:1 advocate), now coordinator for Gendron SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium discussed the NEW Common Core, and how assessments in Reading and Math would change, as well as what that would mean for administrators, educators, and professional development.

Both presentations at the Scholastic Live Tech Event placed strong emphasis on training, which makes me think that 2012 will be The Year of Professional Development. The presenters gave educators high marks for making things works, and also agreed that administrators can make things happen, because they are closer to the purse strings.

Brenner and Salina said making tech changes happen for the same price as without tech, especially savings in the area of textbook purchases, makes tech an easier sell to board members and the community.

While Brenner and Salina are using iPads for their students, in their respective districts, they are open to other technologies as they develop, but for now and for them, nothing touches the iPad. They do recommend a stylus for writing and a rubberized keyboard to cut down on the typing noise. BTW, the keyboard idea came from their students, who discovered that the need for keyboards was lacking in the project launch. I agree with the kids.

Gendron, who is known for her Maine 1:1 tech trail blazing prefaced her talk with a caution that keying into one device isn’t the answer, and that educators should remain open. She also stated that the new common core assessments would all require technology to help students verify and back up reading, writing and math work. We’re looking at more in-depth work in a trimmed down (for importance) curriculum, as well as everything moved down 2 to 3 grades levels, especially in math. Gendron says that it will be quite an adjustment and administrators will need to lead the charge.

A great question was asked by a school librarian, who wanted to know what part she and other librarians would play in the new common core. Gendron said that the importance of librarians and library media specialists would be even more invaluable to the new reading, research, and assessment plans.

Links to Take Away

iPad Link: http://roslynipadforum.wordpress.com/

If you’re thinking of doing an iPad project, Dan Brenner has done some of the work for you. Don’t re-invent the wheel—check his site first.

Sue Gendron shared a great Lexile Analyzer Link:Photo[5]

Lexile analyzer: lexile.com/analyzer/

Participating Sponsors for the Scholastic Live Event: 

Canon USA

DYMO/Mimio

Follett Software

Grand Canyon University

Lexia Learning

Panasonic System Networks

Teq

iThink Before You iPad

Ipad2Are iPads Really What You’re Looking For? 

I know that this may be swimming against the current, or fishing out where the fish don’t bite, but if you’re entering an iPad program because it’s trendy, you need someone to make you think before you jump. Having bought three iPads, I’m not an expert, but understand the trend, as well as the ease of use for new tech teachers and kids. And having been an instructional technology specialist, I understand the good, and conservatively can ask the right questions at the other end, too.

1. There is no doubt that the iPad is easy to use. You really only get to do one application at a time, so Transformer you get really good at whatever app you’re using. But, if you’re like me, I don’t buy the “no one multitasks” nonsense. It’s painful to close something you’re working on to open something else you need. I’m forever opening, closing, opening, and closing again. We do like seeing the kids and grandkids on FaceTime, but Skype worked just fine, too. The latter is probably more globally easy for schools, too.

Acer2. Recently, I asked an administrator if he was considering Bluetooth wireless keyboards for his iPad Program.  He said no. While I finger point at the screen and thumb type pretty well, I really need a keyboard to compose quickly and accurately for publication. Touching an iPad screen is easy, but maybe you’ll need more. And please, don’t tell me you’re buying them as digital readers!

3. This one is simple. You can’t replace the battery. Beyond easy to use, quick to boot, you need to consider how something is put together, whether the screws can be unscrewed, and if the battery can be replaced. I know the Toshiba is bragging that its THRiVE battery can be replaced, and that accessing folders can be done like on a traditional computer. You can’t do that with an iPad yet.

4. Netbooks are inexpensive, you can multitask, keyboards, batteries with long life, and cameras are Dell default, and most have touchscreens. Remember that App is short for Application, and you’ll find plenty to use simultaneously on a netbook.

5. I was using iDisk until the iCloud canceled my subscription. It was easier for transferring work files from Mac to Mac. So Cloud has been around, and plenty of storage “up there” is sold with most every device today. Visit the Microsoft site for some cloud videos to learn more. Walking through a Best Buy couldn’t hurt either.

Know that you’ve chosen the best tool for the task.

Larkin While there are many iPad projects out there getting press for all the wrong reasons, I’m very excited about a few iPad programs this year. Patrick Larkin, a brilliant, young administrator at Burlington High School in Massachusetts is leading one of them. His crew is thorough, done their homework, know what they want to do, and have picked the right tool for their tasks and for students and staff. I’d like to believe that everyone has done that work, and are as hands-on-the-project as Larkin and Burlington.

For me, tweaking a few nerves to have you step back before making the iPad jump costs nothing. Making the wrong choice for now and future needs can be expensive. Investigating alternatives makes sense.

Bring Your Own Tech to School

Crawford_Jeffrey Mr Jeff Crawford is Manager of Networking and Security at East Grand Rapids Public Schools, MI. Listen as he discusses Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) in schools with Ken Royal at The Royal Treatment. Hear Crawford's 1:1 philosophy, and learn how his district handles BYOT student devices, and more. The right solutions involves more than the right hardware, and your idea of 1:1 may change completely. Teachers are the key.

Listen to Bring Your Own Tech (Embedded Player Requires Flash):

MP3 Listening: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/2/202/show_2202825.mp3

iTunes Listening: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-royal-treatment-blog-talk/id414014159

Toshiba THRiVE: ISTE

Toshiba's THRiVE gets The Royal Treatment at ISTE. Kelcey Kinjo, product manager at Toshiba, hits on some of the THRiVE's features, including a user-replaceable battery—a big education-upkeep benefit. While the new back plates make a fashion statement, this new 10-inch screen tablet from Toshiba is making some education waves for those looking for classroom-tablet alternatives.

Watch my ISTE visit with Toshiba as the new THRiVE gets The Royal Treatment:

Acer Iconia Tab W500

Acer20
Acer11 I took a look at the Acer Iconia Tab W500 . Actually I took a look at the two Acer18 parts that make up this interesting tablet hybrid. There's actually a keyboard that the tablet part fits into. They really are two parts, because the keyboard and tab sections aren't designed to stay together when closed, but rather the tab sits on top of the keyboard like a cover—with the help of some magnets. A latch on the lid locks them closed.

Acer21 Here's the keyboard part with a centered mouse button. There's a trap door that reveals two prongs for this  keyboard-docking station part. The W500 works without the keyboard section quite nicely, but it does offer two additional USB ports and an ethernet input connection as well. Most will use the WiFi, which with Window 7 quickly locates and connects to a wireless network.

Acer8 I found the tablet section very sturdy, but a bit heavier than I thought it would be. Acer1 The specs show it at about 2.2 lbs. The bright screen is something I really like, and the Windows 7 touch features were very responsive. I thought the Acer Ring idea was a unique touch for finding and opening applications. Reminded me of opening an old safe, but turning the tumblers with touch. Check the images right and left to see what I mean. 

Acer17 I always test out the audio, and it was great—what's not to like about Dolby Acer2 Advanced Audio Virtual Surround! It was also wonderful with video, and yes, it played everything including Flash. The camera switched, with a tap, from front to back quickly and easily for both stills and video, and the images were quite good (right). The screen resolution is 1280 x 800. Again, holding the W500 for a long time convinced me that setting it in the keyboard stand would be my viewing option.Acer4

Acer15 There's HDMI, SD, Bluetooth, wide screen view, and of course easy rotaion shifting. It was quick one-button start and stop. I worked all day on a battery charge.


Web browsing in IE was fine, and touch scrolling and finger expanding for zooming was easy, too. Acer22 The onscreen keyboard hides to the left of the screen until you tap or drag it for use. I changed quickly from keyboard to writing with my fingers in Writing Pad. Acer6Windows 7 on the Acer Iconia Tab was seamless.

 Other than the Windows 7 standard applications, my review model had Skype, Nook for PC, Acer Games, and Times Reader. I was looking more at a cool gadget this time.

  Here are the two parts together, but separate them and the Tab goes mobile: Acer18

Tech-Lite Educator Apps & Tech

Pad3 Ok, I broke down and bought an iPad 2. Yeah, like I was the only one! For me, the purpose went beyond watching movies, FaceTime, eBooks, or listening to music or audible literature. My main goal was to go light, and I know that educators may want to try it, too. Here’s how the iPad 2 with a couple of Apps, can take the computer off your desk, or the laptop off your lap—in a light sort of way—that is.

What you’ll need:

1. iPad or iPad 2 for $499: The 16 MB WiFi version is pretty much what most everyone needs.

2. Pages for $9.99: My heart is that of an educator, and I understand the importance of free, as well as inexpensive, but Pages is worth the cash. For me, it allows me to write, word process, and even e-mail my work/documents. There are some fancy-prepared templates, but I use the blank page to do my work. There are other options for iWork and iDisk, and even one for sending to iTunes. I don’t really get the iTunes option. So, I’m thinking that administrators and educators who like to travel light, and pack a bit of writing power would really find using Pages with an iPad extremely productive for more than class notes, meetings, workshops, notes to parents, and lesson plans. Oh, don’t forget sharing to that great education blog you’ve started. Pages is not perfect, but I think it is the best thing out there for the purposes I’ve mentioned. You might be traveling lighter, and leaving the laptop home.

3. Penultimate for $1.99: There are a lot of note taking possibilities. I’ve discovered the only gadget Pad1 that does both notes and audio is Livescribe, but we’re talking iPads and note taking here, so Penultimate is my choice. At first writing with your finger may seem a bit like finger painting, but using the pen, eraser, and undo tools is a snap on lines, graphs, or blank note pages. Changing the pen color and sizes is easy. I like that I can reorder, organize, or delete note pages quickly. I’m old fashioned, so you’ll still see me with a small traditional paper pad, but I’m really close to ditching that, too. If only I had more hands! Wonder if there’s an Ap for that?

4. Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard for $69. This may be optional for some, but not for me. Yep, I broke down and bought a super wireless keyboard for my clunky old hands. While I’m a thumb-typing star on my Blackberry, I’m all stumbling-fingers on the iPad’s touch keyboard. Without the Bluetooth keyboard, I’d never get beyond a first line. The keyboard is really for times when I’m not on the move, so I see it as more of a desktop device. I know my limitations. While roaming, my finger pointing technique is just fine, but if I need to write something like this post, for me, that’s a job for a real keyboard.

5. Optional: Stand of some sort for about $29.99 or less.  I got one called Loop at Target by Griffin. It’s simple and heavy enough. It works on a table, or pretty much wherever you can stand it. The iPad fits in beautifully vertically or horizontally.
Pad2

Dell 2120 Classroom Ready & Rugged

2120 tpa
The Dell Latitude 2120 is perfectly packed for classroom adventures, and rugged enough to take even the toughest bus ride home in stride. The feel is that of a heavyweight, although the size is right for a student lap or cluttered desk. I ran the 2120 on battery for a school day and it still had plenty of power 2120 ruggeda left. The keyboard was a small adjustment for my hands, because the keys were closer together than my own machines, but that tells me it's a perfect fit for kids. I liked the two mouse buttons, with up and down scroller functions, but mostly used the touch screen.

The 10-inch Matte screen was an adjustment for me, too, I sort of like shiny, but using Office applications, and Internet searching was brilliant on the screen. The 2120 was quick and responsive, even with a few things going on at the same time. Speakers on each side of the screen were fine for music and video sound. Chances are students are going to wear headphones anyway. I didn't notice any lag with video either. I was pretty impressed with the 2120 already, but was taken over the top with the attached Webcam, which was great, and really easy to use for stills and video.

I did want to know more about the screen, why there wasn't a stylus, and how a computer could fend off germs,  so I contacted Dell with a few questions.

2120 sideWeba Here's what I asked, along with the answers:

1. Why the matte screen?

Ans: We chose the screen due to customer needs and feedback. This display is anti-glare vs a true-life display on an HD quality screen resolution which are the 2 styles of displays you see on netbooks that have an HD quality screen resolution {a majority of time being the true-life style of display}. We heard from schools that anti-glare is easier to view things on rather than the true-life display option especially under a classrooms lighting… lots of glare. So between these 2 options, we elected to go with the anti-glare version as the other one would give a challenging user experience from what we found.

2. Why isn't there a stylus?

2120 front1a Ans: These are resistive touchscreens on the Latitude 2120 so in theory anything can be used as a stylus  in the classroom. The eraser end of a pencil, a pen cap, etc. Also, feedback was that the inclusion of the stylus would increase price and schools want the netbooks to be very affordable. Feedback from schools also told us that there is a worry about loss of the stylus if they were included and/or worry about them being tethered to the netbook creating a distraction for students {especially in elementary schools where this netbook is primarily sold}.

3. Is it anti-bacterial?  2120 keyboard

Ans: It’s anti-microbial which means that germs have a hard time propagating on the KB itself. It’s the  same coating applied to most “machines” / “devices” you’d find in hospitals today.

  (Left)2120 sidea Side View with VGA, 1 USB, headphone and microphone input. (Right) Side 2120 side2a View with 2 USB. ethernet, and power adaptor input.

 

2120 tilta (Left) Front View with SD slot and bottom view showing battery, which raises the 2120 bottomb back of the 2120 to aid in keyboard positioning. (Right) 

 

 

 

 

2120 front1a

Eee Pad Transformers to the Rescue!

Eeepad I have a very dear friend working at Asus corporate in Taiwan. She always keeps me in the loop on what’s new at Asus, and almost always makes me smile for remembering me. Today, I received a press release on the new Eee Pad Transformer, along with a link to a very recognizable sitcom spoof, in which the Eee Pad Transformer plays a starring role. I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post. It should make you smile, and really give you a short look at the unique Eee Pad design.

The Eee Pad seems to be more than a tablet, or a convertible notebook. You can actually detach and separate the PC keyboard side from the Tablet side quickly and easily. Together or separate, I like the creative way Asus is looking for a step up on Apple’s tablet dominance. The 16GB model is slated for under $700 (US). When you consider that the 16GB iPad is going for $499, having the Eee Pad Transformer options makes a lot of dollar sense.

The Asus Eee Pad runs Android’s 3.0 Honeycomb, and shouldn’t be confused with their e-Slate, which runs Windows. Asus’s 10.1-inch Transformer offers unlimited Web storage, either 9+ or 16-hour battery life, depending upon choice, and front and rear cameras. I like that it has Gorilla glass, as well as its 10-finger touch capabilities. Multi-tasking is a no brainer on these, but happily it is not the only iPad differentiation factor. It’s nice to begin seeing companies, like Asus, move from Apple-chasing to creatively leading the pack again.

Enjoy watching this Eee Pad sitcom spoof; spotting the guest star should be easy:

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:

Thunderbolt: Crazy-Fast Intel I/O!

What’s an I/O, and what’s Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt Simply, an I/O means input and output. So, what’s that have to do with Thunderbolt? Well, Intel’s 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second) wonder—for input and output transfer—will allow crazy-fast transfer of data. For instance, a full-length HD movie in 30 seconds. That’s 20 times faster than USB 2.0, and 12 times faster than the latest Firewire. And it’s bi-directional—input and output!—through just one port!

So, if you’re a person that transfers a lot of video, images, or audio, a device that has Thunderbolt is for you. And, most of us are in that ballpark these days—everyone is doing  a lot of video, audio, images, and media. Now, while most of us would be satisfied with a new computer without it, and probably not know the difference, having one with it, might be worth waiting for—if you can. Right now, Apple’s MacBook Pro has it. While there may not be many peripheral devices to hook up with it yet, having a computer with Thunderbolt now, will have you ready when that does happen.

Believe me, I try to avoid being geeky at The Royal Treatment, but sometimes tech information needs to skirt the geek a bit. And I wouldn’t be here now—if my going-on-six-year-old, black beauty, 13-inch MacBook hadn’t begun to show its age, by continually beach-balling applications, and just plain quiting on me. I love that machine, and, it has as many air miles on it as I do. Time and tide….

My initial thought was to put my old 13-inch out to pasture—sort of—and buy a new one just like it—white this time. I know everyone is going after those new iPad 2s, but I do a lot of video and audio these days, so an iPad 2 wouldn’t cut it, and now that I know about Thunderbolt, I’ve begun to look at MacBook Pros, for a few more bucks. While I use Window’s machines as well for what I do, Mac with Thunderbolt makes sense for me. It may not be for you, but Thunderbolt on a Window’s Product may be.

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:

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:

 

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/

CES: What’s New? Does it Compute?

Compute This time of year is pretty exciting for tech geeks, and as the pocket protector crowd descends on Las Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Show, education vendors are getting ready for London’s BETT, Orlando’s FETC, and Austin’s TCEA. And I’m just trying to figure out what’s new—again.
Here are a few comments from all over the field:

Mouse Mail

While nothing is more important than a parent in monitoring appropriate kid-Internet and tech-device use, I’m all for any ideas that can help. Mouse Mail http://mousemail.com/ has feature to help parent’s stay aware of what their kids are doing on and with the devices they’re using. Monitoring features include e-mail, text messaging, games, photos, social media, and more. Take a look.

BigBlueButton

Looking for a cool way to collaborate on those new Android device or netbook, BigBlueButton http://bigbluebutton.org/ might be the open source option to try. It says it’s for higher ed, but it’s certainly perfect for middle schoolers on up. I know it works well on Android, should be cool on iPads when that Flash problem gets worked out.

Samsung's Building a New Galaxy

Someone check Samsung http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/galaxy-tab for steroids! They are certainly starring at CES with their Android Galaxy Tab and new Galaxy Player options. Their Galaxy Phones have sold way over 3-million in the US. I believe Apple sold about that many within about 3 months.

Toshiba 3D Display without glasses

 Toshiba http://us.toshiba.com/tv/3d has a TV they claim to be 3D, and those funny glasses aren’t required. While it doesn’t require glasses, it does still require you to sit in specific locations for best viewing. Most of us would really like 3D to be perfected, and Toshiba seems to be close, but right now waiting seems to be the name of the game.

The prices on 3D devices have come down, but the restrictions for viewing just don’t make it right on larger displays—yet. I still think the breakthrough will happen first on smaller devices, like phones, where glassesless and in-front-of-your-face viewing can happen better.

Lenovo Laptops, Netbooks, and Tablets

Lenovo http://lenovo.com/us/en/#ss has their new Y-Series IdeaPads at CES. A year ago, I covered the U-Series. But marketing for that was delayed. I’m thinking the Y-Series, generation 2 and might make it. They are a combination tablet and notebook, but most are waiting for Lenovo’s tablet release—to battle competitors Apple and Samsung.

Asus

Asus http://usa.asus.com/index.aspx is a prolific tech company. They’re releasing a few tablet/slates at CES. The Eee Pad Slider is pretty intriguing. Again, it’s on the Android 3.0 OS, has about 6-hour battery life, front and rear cameras, and a slide out keyboard—reminds me of a big cell phone. That’s not bad. Not sure of the pricing, but Asus usually has great prices on good quality tech. Wish this crew would get more involved in education.

Notes:

I really think that we’re in a waiting period when it comes to tablets and slates, and the competition remains Apple’s iPad http://www.apple.com/. Pricing is a key factor, and most don’t mind paying for good options that work, rather than paying less for something that may not be quite right for the task. I hear so much about the iPad being perfect for education, and while that’s true, the pricing has to drop for it to be perfect for the education budget.

Android is a great option, and it’s wonderful to see companies jumping in to take advantage of it. And with names like Froyo, Gingerbread, and Honeycomb what's not to like.

I may be wrong, but I’m still waiting to hear something from Microsoft http://www.microsoft.com/. Time to do for education, what they've done for gaming. Just seems to me that with all their resources, there has to be more they can do. I remember hearing about a crazy table being developed by MSFT, 5 years before it was unveiled—so maybe Microsoft is way ahead—and Bill and Steve haven’t called me yet.

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.

District IT Gets the Business

Alvaradoisd_tech_121106s_08 Kyle Berger, Executive Director of Technology for Alvarado ISD, in the North Texas runs IT for a district with about 3,400 students. Companies like HP, Verizon, Microsoft, and Intel have been interested in his ideas. His story is about entrepreneurial education leadership, and developing a business model. He has translated thinking differently into action that pays off for his district and students.

District Overview

Alvarado is a pretty technology-forward school district. All of the classrooms have mounted projectors, Mini interactive whiteboards, and document cameras, as well as interactive slates for teachers. Furthermore, for the past two years, their 1:1 initiative has been in high gear. Every 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-grade student has an HP Netbook or Mini-Note-style laptop. And for the 2010/2011 school year, traditional-style laptops will be given to each 7th- and 8th-grader. “That gives me a little over 1,500 units in the hands of students. Next year we want to begin rolling out slate or tablet devices to our high school students,” says Berger. All 6 Alvarado campuses are WiFi.

On the surface, Alvarado may appear to be another one of those success stories, where a district has been fortunate in acquiring technology. But that’s not the case, and discovering why a company like Microsoft would want to launch their new Multi-Point Server there may have a lot to do with the leadership. Technology didn’t just drop out of the sky. There’s an out-of-the-box IT director in charge, who would be just as at home in a corporate marketing role than sharing at a board of education meeting. Creative ideas wouldn’t be enough, so what differentiates Berger and Alvarado? Well, it’s using a business model to strategically accomplish education goals, which include technology.

Philosophy Shift

Kyle berger “One of the things I try to do is to run my education IT as a business model,” says Berger. An example is  starting his 1:1 program at the middle school level. Intel researchers recently interviewed Berger regarding his middle school-start philosophy. Most 1:1 programs start at the high school level. His business mind had him thinking ROI.

Berger thought beginning at the middle school level gave him a better place to see the impact of technology over a longer time span than starting at the high school. Politically speaking, if he wedged the 1:1 in the middle of his district, and sat back—watched what happened—Berger figured the parent community would back 1:1 more, to guarantee their kids would be at a 1:1 school at every level.

Political Strategy

His strategy of placing the 1:1 initiative in the middle grabbed the attention of elementary and high school parents—as well as middle school parents. Very quickly, school board meetings began hearing requests by parents for the necessity of 1:1 at every building and grade level. “In this economy, starting at the high school level might make it too easy to say, kids will get 1:1 when they get to the high school,” says Berger, pleased that his middle-start has paid off. 

Results Helps ROI

For a long time 1:1 programs have raised questions due to the unfavorable research out there, including reports of lack of laptop use by students, and lack of data supporting student gains in achievement. Berger can show positive results, and closing out his 2nd year, his program is showing 8% gains on state testing—across the board—in his 1:1 cohort groups. Berger says, “It’s working; it’s not a distraction. We’ve have the data now; we’re going with it, and it’s really exciting.”

It’s a Pretty Big Business

“Our district doesn’t have a whole lot of money, so we’re thinking about how we can approach all this to get the best bang for our buck and for the district,” says Berger. It’s a pretty big business, with 3400 students and 400 employees. The organization and management—day to day—needs to be looked at from more of a corporate stance. “I need to drive value to my students,” says Berger.

Bringing the Internet to the Community

Kyle6 About 75% of Berger’s students are economically disadvantaged, and could never afford an Internet connection. “We were sending students home with devices that they couldn’t connect with. We tried the reverse classroom model, where we’d podcast or vodcast a teacher’s lecture, then load it onto the a student laptop. Students would take the content of the lesson at home. We then had students do what would traditionally be homework—in the classroom.

But the problem remained—my students didn’t have Internet, and weren’t getting the full use out of the tools we’d given them. I had to figure a way to do that effectively. That’s where I came up with my Internet kiosk program,” says Berger.

Kiosk Program

Aisd_kiosk_ckn_xpress There are kiosks everywhere in society today—airports, and at the mall, you see these self-servicing kiosk units. I figured that I might be able to leverage that idea for what I needed to do,” says Berger. With help from HP, a walk-up kiosk unit was developed that not only would allow parents, who didn’t have computers at home to walk up to these terminals, check their children’s grades, get district information and news, but could also be a place where students could access the Internet. The kiosks had a WiFi antenna built in that would create free WiFi hotspots.

Funding the Free WiFi Idea

“The question remained—how could we fund this thing and make it work?” It didn’t take long to figure that out. The kiosks had two screens. So on the top screen Berger rotates advertisements. It’s a simple format, like a PowerPoint, and it rotates Ads every 10 seconds. Berger sells them. “I started out with 5 companies that I was selling Ads to, and I had a slide that would come up offering Ad space at the kiosk, so the amount of Ads increased—building itself, says Berger.

The kiosks are placed in fast food chains, grocery stores, or Laundromats. They provide the business, or Kiosk location, free Internet for their customers. “Businesses love that, because it’s an added bonus for their customers, and I get to advertise and offer free WiFi for my students and parents to come to. It’s a win-win situation,” says Berger. “Now I just sit back and let the phone ring. Whoever wants to advertise calls me up, and I can sell them an Ad on one kiosk, or multiple kiosks. My monthly cost for a kiosk is really just a Verizon data card for about $40 a month to get that signal there—and I’m making more than that on my Ads.” Berger also appreciates the help his gotten from Verizon to make this happen.

Found Money

With the revenue from the Ads, Berger can build more kiosk units, or build-out WiFi hotspots that are non-kiosks, like a rugged one at a park pavilion, which has no advertising at all. “We’ve actually approached some churches in our more rural areas that don’t have connections. A hotspot is perfect in a little community center out there. Anywhere with an area for my students to gather is a good place,” says Berger.

He now has businesses lining up asking for a kiosk. “We’re watching the money come in, which allows us to continue to think strategic WiFi placement. I have about 96 square miles to cover, so we’re building strategic plans on how to do that. We know there will be more mandates and less money, so I have to find new ways to figure this out.”

Community Outreach

School_bus This year Berger will put free WiFi on school buses, making them mobile hotspots. “We have some long school bus routes. A child may be on a bus for an hour, and that could still be educational time—now that they have a device in their hands. For that, we’re thinking of a sponsorship sign on the side of the school bus,” says Berger. He says that a company would be a great partner/sponsor.

Additionally, Berger is looking at a mobile hotspot classroom in an old bus. He plans to gut the interior, put counter tops along the sides, load it up with computers, and make it all WiFi. The bus would be a rolling computer lab, which could go out into the community to teach parents, ESL, and do outreach programs. “If we can’t get the parents into us, we’re going to bring the programs to them—and start impacted our community a little more. I can fund that by wrapping the whole bus in Ads, just like you see on the commercial buses all over town,” says Berger.

District Advertising Policies

“This is not like advertising—in your face—in the classroom or campuses. We are very picky about who can advertise. We do sell some space on our Website. As our revenues decrease, we would be foolish not to look at alternatives to get the money for tools our students need. We’re certainly not going to plaster our kids with logos,” says Berger.

Because Berger is not doing this with e-rate, there are a lot fewer control restrictions. No school district dollars are being used to fund it, so Berger can do it with his advertising model. “I don’t have to follow all the management or filtering requirements on the WiFi spots,” says Berger.

Initial BOE Doubts Vanish

At first, when Berger presented his advertising-outreach ideas to his school board, they didn’t quite get it—and didn’t think it would work. He convinced them to try a couple of units. It worked, and just started blossoming. The kiosks in the community are a source of pride now. “When you walk in a store and see a kiosk in school district colors, as a community outreach—and signs saying Free WiFi provided by Alvarado School District, it’s a good feeling.

More Business Thinking

"One day I thought, I have all this storage space on my network, and I’m sure the district down the street does, too. I wondered how I could tie mine together with them, and offload my data there, and for them to offload to me. It really just amounts to sharing data space. It would be a simple way to back up data off site.

Disaster Consortium

Kyle_standing As school districts, we pay all this money for Internet connections that at 4 o’clock every day aren’t used. The idea is to leverage that downtime. I have free off-site data space in three locations around the United States right now. We developed a system where at 4:00 pm each day our systems tie together, and push data back and forth to each other. It’s free disaster recovery with school districts across the country. They have data with us, and I have data with them—all protected for free.

Kyle Berger has more ideas, which he may just turn into a book. It seems that some of them make what’s good for business also good for Alvarado ISD, education, and kids, too. Technology doesn’t fall from the sky at Alvarado, Berger earns it.

Advertisement

Advertisement

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.