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Passionate Communication


A friend of mine told me that what we do is make someone else’s story our own. I agree with that, in part, but that can never be the complete goal. For instance, almost anyone can learn the specifications of a product, and then regurgitate them into a post, but that’s only understandable to a very small population of readers. What’s necessary is passionate communication. By that I mean, talking to someone at the company, as high up as you can get, talking to users beyond just those given to you in a press release, and most importantly—figuring out the solution or product yourself. That last part is doing your homework. The real job is to take what you’ve learned, and make it understandable to the widest range of audience, and at the same time make it appropriate to those with higher-level understanding, too. Right, it’s a lot like teaching.

In my time covering education technology I’ve been lucky enough to work for two magazine publishers, at different publications, who really understand going to the source, being creative, passionate, and taking the reporting beyond slapping a press release on a page. With that kind of support, sharing education products through an educator’s eyes has helped me know what products can do in real classrooms. I’ve met educators using products and passionate marketplace people. I’ve walked conferences interviewing at booths, and walked in schools interviewing administrators, staff, students, and parents. In every case, I’ve never stopped at just taking the rehearsed story line, but instead I’ve tried to make the people I’ve interviewed feel comfortable enough to really tell me the story behind a product, or how a product is really being used. I have been blessed to be able to do that.

There are many stages in a career, and for me, it’s been careers, so at the end of this stage I wanted my final post at Scholastic to be a positive reminder, lesson if you will, of what is really important. Certainly, you need to convey all the features and specifications appropriate, but if you forget the passion and the education reasons for using a product or solution, you’ve bypassed the main story line, and most likely have something that is unreadable or clear to the people you really want to reach.

I know that changing education doesn’t always require technology, but technology needs to be part of the solution. We need more positive stories from real schools, dealing with real issues, in these bad times. We need to hear more than PowerPoint for interactive devices, and simple lessons for software and apps. And while I love that academies have the backing to do most anything they think, there are public school districts doing amazing things that we never hear about—in places we never hear about. If there is a call to action that I can leave with—that’s it—let’s here more from those voices—it makes common sense to do so.

While I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every minute, I can say that I’ve enjoyed passionately communicating with those who would listen and talk new ideas—and I hope to find a place to keep doing that. For now—from here—until we meet again...

Robert Newton Peck: A Day My Reading Program Didn’t Die

WildthingsAs a young teacher, I was forced to use basal readers with my 4th graders, and have at least three reading groups—unbelievably referred to in faculty meetings as the three reading levels—Bluebirds, Robins, and Crows. None really fit any of my students, and I got tired of hearing how father and mother gathered the whole family, including the dog for a picnic in the country. Believe me that was a big stretch for basal families, who were usually confined to the area behind a white picket fence.

What I did

I managed to get my hands on a box of assorted paperbacks, with multiple copies, which were in a storeroom. I think they were labeled Library, but the dust labeled them mine. It had some great titles, as well as great authors. I think it was actually for a program called Great Books. Well, I shanghaied that box. Then I did something, which teachers have done forever—I reached into my and bought some new, fresh paperbacks, again in multiple copies. I finished off the collection by visiting our small school library, and lugged back all the books I was allowed to carry out. I was young, naïve, and didn’t think beyond doing what I thought was a good idea and in my mind the right thing.


I collected all the basal readers and shelved them. Then I shared the books I’d collected with my students, and began my own individualized reading program. Most students chose appropriate levels, while some needed help. It was the usual, good readers choosing easier books and poorer readers choosing higher-level books. I never said no to a book, but always suggested students take another—at a more appropriate reading level. By using center activities, I found that I could conference students pretty effectively, as well as individualize reading instruction and assignments. Kids devoured the books, my non-readers became readers, and specific student interests developed.

The Authors

My students loved Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and went absolutely bonkers for Robert Newton Peck, Peckauthor of A Day No Pigs Would Die, Soup, and Soup and Me.  I began contacting nearby authors to see if they might visit my classroom of readers. Maurice Sendak turned me down; he enjoyed writing for kids, but not presenting in front of them. But I didn’t give up, and called Robert Newton Peck. Mr. Peck’s answer was “Sure, should I bring my horse?” I told him that I wasn’t sure if I could handle the horse. He agreed to come, and even bring books. Peck said he’d speak to the school, as well as my class, so I set that up. Board members and administrators from other buildings wanted to be there—pretty thrilling stuff. Things were working out—or so I thought—I was soon to discover that rocking the reading boat had unforeseen consequences.

A Day My Teaching World Stood Still

On the very morning Robert Newton Peck was to arrive, my principal came to my room and escorted me to his office. He was a WWII veteran, tattoos and all, with a knack for very colorful language. Well, he laced into me, replacing subject, verb and adjectives with a few choice and colorful words. “Who do you think you are to change the way students were reading in his building.” He explained that my insubordination was grounds for dismissal. “Get those basal readers back in that class, and get out of my office!” Again, that’s the non-Navy version. I was devastated.

Carry On

I’ve spent other head-in-hands days in my career, but that was the first—and it was a very emotional beating. I went back to my class, and continued preparing for the day. My partner teacher asked me what had happened. She was planning her own basal reading revolution. I told her, and my teaching heart shattered all over again.

Robert Newton Peck Arrives

Robert Newtown Peck walked into my classroom, wearing a cowboy hat, and actually had to bend his head to get through the door. He stood well above the classroom chalkboard. Peck was carrying his book Soup, and when he spoke to my class it was a gentle story—telling us things about himself, writing, and the characters in his book. He answered all questions, and even told us about new books he was thinking and writing. They’d heard me read, but when Peck read, you could hear the love he had for his own characters.

Lunch with Robert Newton Peck

Lunch separated the classroom from the afternoon school-wide presentation. My partner teacher and I took Peck’s advice, and we found a spot outside, and sat down for lunch. All three of us sat on some rocks, ate, and talked. After some chatter about characters in his books, he looked at both of us and said, “OK, what’s going on?” My partner teacher shared that my reading program had gotten me into some hot water with the principal. Peck said something about it being the reason he had visited, and that things tend to work out.

The School Presentation

The principal held the microphone and introduced Robert Newton Peck to the school, board members, administrators, and parents. Peck towered above him as he reached out to take the microphone. When he had the mic, Peck started with, “Sir, did you actually pay money for that tie?” Everyone roared. The tie was awful, but I didn’t know where this was heading. The principal’s face turned red as he backed off. And then, Robert Newton Peck talked books—real books—and basal readers. He talked about his books of course, but it was more about books read by students, and he used my class as an example. I’m not sure if all there knew what they were listening to, but I did.

Eating Crow

The next day, the principal again escorted me to his office—saying nothing. I was certain it would be for Cathat more of a tongue lashing, as well as an order to pack up. Instead, in his office, he asked me to sit, and he quietly said, “I have to eat crow” I really didn’t know the expression, so was glad when he continued. It turned out that after meeting with the superintendent and the board—they had decided to go in my individualized reading direction. “They want you to keep doing what you’re doing.”

I still remember that uneasy smile the principal gave me as I left his office. Again, my partner teacher wanted to know all. The next week, she collected her basals, and set up her classroom like mine. Not everyone in the building changed, but the ones that didn’t were now in the hot seat to do it.

I’d like to think that Robert Newton Peck had something to do with the Day My Reading Program Didn’t Die. I know that I only used basal readers as supplemental resourses from then on.

Why Shouldn’t the Answer Always Be YES?

2012Someone, recently, said to me that it’s easy to think of new ideas, and difficult to do them. I didn’t say what I really wanted to say, but I was sufficiently insubordinate that hopefully he understood how stupid that statement was to me. I’m forever coming up with new proposals that turn to dust, but I don't stop thinking them up. I just don’t get it. There’s no reason to avoid trying new ideas. I’m not saying that we should go in every direction—without a true direction, but there’s no reason to stay stagnant either. Why shouldn’t the answer always be YES?

Here’s what I expect in 2012, and I won’t take NO for an answer:

1. There will be a tablet/slate computing device easier to use, and less expensive to purchase for our students than the iPad.

2. A publishing company will make all of its books and magazines available for a reasonable subscription fee, and on their own, free eReader.

3. 3D and augmented reality will finally marry the tech with the education curriculum to create true, full-bodied lessons, simulations, and learning environments for teaching students at all levels and subject areas—and do it without those goofy glasses.

4. Video communications will be common classroom, daily procedure, bringing experts to students, and students beyond the walls. This communication will be so easy to use it will send those Skype and FaceTime school experts looking for new challenges.

5. Educators will finally have a loud enough voice to create a shout—TOGETHER—that blasts away the nonsense we continue to hear from a few. Just a few specific ideas to start. How glorious that will be, over the excuses and negative sound bites we’ve heard—most without any how to, nor direction.

6. Get me a laptop or a netbook with a mini projector attached/onboard! Embed it into that cover. How difficult is that? Remember, NO can't be the answer.

7. Archeologists will dig up a Mayan quote that says, “Dust yourself off… start all over again.”

Note: "I get it!" has many meanings. Ask for clarification. ;>)

My Friend Clicker: Response Systems Teacher View

ClickerWhen talking response systems and voting/polling software for classrooms, it’s easy to lose the reason why clicker devices can be a teacher’s friend, rather than just another technology device. Look at them from a teacher’s viewpoint.

Here’s a simple fact, at the end of a marking term, teachers still need to come up with grades for each student, base on classwork and participation, homework, tests and quizzes. A substantial amount of data has to be collected and weighed to make an accurate assessment of a student’s abilities, as well as his/her weaknesses. Relying on only quizzes and tests for mid and end of term data, as well as for parent conferences makes knowing a student on paper less accurate as knowing a student in class each day. Response systems, tied into student grading software and student information systems are invaluable. They make it possible to capture classroom moments, where students really get something, and shine, as well as those things that need more work. If you’re a teacher, clickers take a snapshot of classroom assessment for each student each day. It’s what teachers have always seen, but difficult to annotate. They really make it easier to accurately score a student, and report those findings. And, response systems do what the name implies—gives you more individual student responses. Guessing at grades can’t happen.

If that’s not enough, as a teacher, you need to know if what you’re teaching isn’t sinking in before you’ve spent too much time thinking it has. No one wants to get to the end of the week, after teaching your heart out, to discover most of the class bombed the quiz or test. Teachers know the familiar lament, “I can’t understand why they did so poorly on the test. I did everything but flips to get them to know it!” Most of the time that speech is given in the faculty room, where others commiserate, because they’ve been there, too. Well, with response systems, there is no reason to get there, because immediate feedback on how your lesson is doing is a simple question and response away. If a teacher knows the direction he/she is headed, guiding students to a better path gets a lot easier. And, if you say that student hands to do the same—well, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’ll sell you.

There are plenty of reasons students like them, too. Most of those have to do with fun, as well as having confidence in answering questions in a crowd. No one gets embarrassed for not knowing, or answering differently. That increases the odds of a student taking a chance. Response Systems are certainly the best cure for student tears and red, burning ears. Tell me you’ve never been there! As one student, Margo, said to me recently, when I asked her about a Vote system she was using in class, “Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s OK, but mostly I get things right now.”

Maybe it’s time to investigate response systems to discover Your Friend Clicker.

Companies in the Response market; listed in random order (apologies if I've missed one):







Qomo HiteVision

Turning Technologies

SMART Technologies

Renaissance Learning


Poll Everywhere


Kick in Interactive Seat of the Pants

Is the interactive teaching goal being met? KenMic

The method and resources for students to experience brilliant, real life challenges, using the newest interactive devices needs a kick in the whiteboard backside. These discovery/experiential lessons should use interactive hardware (white board solutions and other appropriate interactive devices), assessment tools, software/Internet places, books, eReaders, and possibly 3D technologies to as closely duplicate real life discovery. At the same time, this learning should meet reading/writing and math common core standards, including the use of technology for backing up research. Is it happening?

Unfortunately, what I still see are PowerPoint/Flip Card lessons, dragging words across the screen, with an occasional video clip tossed in. Usually these things are separate and not, “blended”, pardon me for using that word. Now, I appreciate the need for stepping stones of technology for teaching with it, so I have nothing against using Flip and PowerPoint as a beginning building block, but I have everything against using it as the end all of interactive teaching—today.

When many of the best teachers, using technology, are still just masters of multimedia, rather than masters of a lesson with a full-bodied story from start to finish, a poke may be needed. Educators need to do interactive things that can and can’t be done without them—and do those teaching things easily. If you can jump through 20 tech hoops, and finally figure it out—that’s fine, but most educators need a better plan. I’m really looking at the marketplace to figure that out, along with real educators who understand that sometimes tech takes more time than it’s worth right now. To me, that stresses the importance of making the tech simple to use, but not making the lessons one dimensional in the process. Don’t get me wrong, not all lessons have to be complex, but let’s take advantage of interactivity as part of a masterful lesson.

Create lessons that are full-bodied, involving book(s)/eReaders, software especially designed for whiteboards and other interactive devices, as well as other Internet/Web 2.0 extensions, with even blog, e-mail, and social media components. Cover science and math, reading, language arts and writing, as well as individual and group activities—all in engaging, interesting and collaborative ways. Modify to suit the area, level, and student.

It is too easy, and inappropriate to rely upon interactive device companies and product managers to dictate the methods for teaching with this technology. In that way, it makes it too easy to stick with PowerPoint and Flip, with an occasional video clip. I never liked it when I was told, “Teachers won’t miss it, if they don’t know what they’re missing.” Showing them what they’re missing will take educators leading the field trip.

Don’t get me started with teachable moments for saving the day, here, either. While there are many moments in the teaching day that are magnificent surprises, enhanced with an interactive device, you can’t plan your teaching day for them to magically appear.

While this may seem a marketplace call to attention, teachers using interactive whiteboards should strive for more complete lessons, too—at least most of the time. Demanding that interactive software companies start getting serious about augmented reality and 3D resources for interactive whiteboards—that bring the experience to students in the way an actual field experience would, rather than the way the chalkboard or dry erase board did—can happen quickly.

Educators, leading and teaching with technology already are sharing better interactive lessons, and hate to see boards used as projections screens or room dividers, but the goal for best practice teaching use for these devices may take a swift kick.

Starting the Day Right

DSC00714Getting wound up in the day before it begins is common. We sometimes forget things that can set up the day to make it positively unforgettable. Many of those things are so small and easy to do that they’re almost hidden. Here’s one that I had the privilege of listening to for a few of the best teaching years of my life.

I had this great principal, who would begin each day’s morning announcement with variations on this theme: “Good morning, I’m so pleased you’re here today. Remember to be kind to one another today.” Or “Be kind and do something nice for someone today.”

There were, of course, the usual morning announcements by kids and adults, but that kindness foundation was not only the right start for the day, but it helped promote an atmosphere of kindness throughout the day. I cannot tell you how many times I referred back to that morning kindness statement during a school day. Asking students to share the statement they had heard during class was a good reminder. It also put a little pressure on the principal to be creative with that simple and powerful announcement each day.

At the end of the day, the announcements and the packing up for home usually were in competition, but the principal made a point to say something like, “Thank you for being kind at school today. Remember to be especially kind at home, too.”

Between those announcements, and my own class mission statements, where students wrote how they saw themselves as students and people—and best of all—how they’d like others to see them—I had a simple and effective blueprint for student respect and kindness each day. Personal student reminders, as to how they really saw themselves, in their own mission statements, made negative behavior a very rare occurrence. And those mission statements were living and breathing throughout the year, too. As students thought more about them, the statement updates grew and matured.

So, in this time of large units on preventing bullying and modifying behavior, instituting a few simple ideas may help promote the environment for kindness we all need to hear and see each day. It might just mean starting the day in the right way.

Teaching with Tech: Josh Stumpenhorst Podcast

Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher), Chicago 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher, talks classroom Superman5technology  with Ken Royal at the Royal Treatment. Listen to a fresh voice with new ideas for enhancing student learning and projects by using technology. Great teaching advice for veteran and new teachers, as well as district and school leaders.

If you would like to voice your own positive education voice, please check the directions and how  at DO SOMETHING: Positive Voices Wanted to submit your own. Join the campaign to hear fresh voices! It's easy to do.

Listen to Josh Stumpenhorst: Teaching with Technology.

Embedded Player (requires Flash):

MP3: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/2/674/show_2674679.mp3

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

DO SOMETHING!: Positive Education Voices Wanted


I said something a few weeks back that I just can’t shake. As a young teacher, I confronted a KenR2Superintendent with 10 things we should be doing. He looked at me and quietly said, “What are you going to do about it?” He was right, and I never forgot it. I’ve been sitting too long thinking rather than doing. While it lasts, I have a vehicle and place to post, which may help the cause—a little.

The idea involves simple recordings (podcasts if you will) edited together in a newsworthy way. I’ll supply the intro and do the segue/transitions. (Note: audio only)

I'd like to do a lot of these show and tell interviews—have one posted as a new show each day. Figurin’ those PLN and EdChat talks can also be great sparks, as well as great educator resources—to take the discussions beyond just the 140 Twitter character posts each evening. I’ll post them here, at Scholastic, as well as at the Radio Royal Treatment—with everything going to iTunes, as well as archived. Transcripts can be available if necessary, too.

Here's how:

Record answers to fit the script below (you can be creative), saving as MP3 or Wav files works well, but I can work around most any clean, audio format. No worries about Ahhhsss and Ummmmms; I’ll edit it those out. Natural talk is the key, and what you want to say comes out just right in every conversation you have. ;>) Take each of the parts as a separate take, or all together. Make them short bits though. I’ve discovered that most will listen to a short bit, and rambling is a sleeper. You can refer to the topic during your responses, as well as to me (Ken)—as if I’m actually with you. Want these to sound like we’re in the same room, or having the conversation. 

I know that I don’t have to tell you that a sense of humor is great, and pauses for effect OK. YouSendIt is free online, and will send larger files easily, but any way they get here is fine.

Any tech difficulties, we can figure them out. And, any suggestions for the idea, or additional “talkers” would be welcomed! Twitter is a wonderful contact place for this: @kenroyal ( https://twitter.com/kenroyal)

1. Choose one, or a few points you’ve been trying to make—get across—to educators and administrators. Three is always a nice, odd number. ;>) No ankle biters here; we'll leave the grumping to others! I’m looking for positive, specific suggestions, proposals, for education and education tech how tos.

2. Tout Things YOU ARE DOING to make things happen. Be as specific as you can to make your point.

3. Promote yourself—URLs and name drop. There's nothing wrong with educators branding themselves.

4. Misc. – Something else? This could be a future look/trend/hope…

Education Think Tank NYC

I’ve been invited to participate in an Education Think Tank in NYC sponsored by Dell on Saturday. I’ve Ttddiscovered that most educators will attend speaking and learning events on Saturdays. Dell and other companies holding events for educators need some credit. Companies are getting the idea that educators have more influence in decision-making and change than they once thought. These events, as well as online teaching communities at education and tech company sites show the necessity to strengthen teacher partnerships to help district education and technology goals. To be perfectly blunt, what teachers want for teaching students is important, and it influences products and solutions sought and possibly purchased.

One of my favorite people, Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal, is moderating the NYC event onsite, and he’s getting a bit of online correspondent help from Tom Whitby @tomwhitby, who is a positive PLN TwitterWorld education force. I jokingly say that I discovered Eric, who is the consummate education-administrator entrepreneur, and that Tom and I share the same sense of humor, and passion to share.
BTW, I followed Sheninger around one day. He's the real deal. I watched him start the day, handle a parent situation, organize a professional development workshop, talk with students (they all know him, treat him like their teacher, and enjoy interacting with his sense of humor), gave me the Royal Treament building tour, and then at the end of a long day Skype a conference. I missed a lot, because I couldn't keep up!

First of all, I’m honored to take part in the event. I don’t usually get a chance to participate, and I’m excited to get to meet people I’ve only heard about—or should I say viewed tweets from—zipping through the columns of my TweetDeck.

Beyond attending, I also want to see how the event is being done. I recently asked Eric Sheninger about a very successful streaming event he held at New Milford High School that involved administrators, teachers, students, parents, and technology. I attended that one online. I told Eric that I was not only impressed with the content, but the streaming as well. I shared that link out, after the fact, many times. I’m just intrigued by the how to of these types of events, and believe that they should be done more frequently. I’ll go further, I’d like to see these streaming events a regular occurrence in all districts. Think of the possibilities—local unconferences, show and tells, best practices, science, math and tech expos, professional development, and the list goes on.

Here’s what’s needed to do that: An easy and affordable way for districts to stream. Box something up that works with very little geek connections necessary, and price it for education—not for corporate. If you want someone to manage that project, call me! I’m not talking Skype or FaceTime here; I’m talking professionally streamed material, including professional development. Right now, third party, online operations do this, some with expensive software/server/hardware, but really, there’s no magic here, and it should be more widely accessible beyond corporate ventures. I’m not talking free options either. I know they are out there, but it’s not perfect enough for prime time education. So, I’m looking forward to the tech talk, but I’m also scouting out the how to for this event.

Here are a few links to give you more information on the event as well as a list of the NYC participants and their Twitter handles. There is also online participation. Join us! And yes, Dell actually has a Snow White working for their education group. I’ve met her, but didn’t sing. ;>)

Register at:


Streamed at:


Eric Sheninger, @NMHS_Principal (Moderator)
Tom Whitby, @tomwhitby (Online Correspondent)
Adam Bellow, @adambellow
Dr. Brian Chinni, @drbpchinni
Erik Endreses, @erikendress
Aaron Eyler, @aaron_eyler
Renny Fong, @timeoutdad
Adam Garry, @agarry22
Michele Glaze, @PMicheleGlaze
Erica Hartman, @elh
Kathy Ishizuka, @kishizuka
Kevin Jarrett, @kjarrett
Michelle Lampinen, @MichLampinen
Susan McPherson, @susanmcp1
Lisa Nielsen, @InnovativeEdu
Mike Parent, @mikeparent
Mary Rice-Boothe, @Edu_Traveler
Ken Royal, @kenroyal
Sarah Thomas, @teach2connect
Snow White, @snowwhiteatdell

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.

Tweets, Common Core, Tech, & Streaming

A great professional development technique is letting educators tweet from presentations is a great way to share beyond the presentation walls. What they tweet in multiple 140 character statements will not only get around the Web, and PLNs, but it’s a fantastic way to archive snippets of professional development for future use and gather ideas. Do it on a live large screen at the presentation, or have a tweet historian keep record of all the tweets. You might be able to get rid of all those awful end-of-presentation surveys. Presentation leaders can be leaders after presentations, as well, just by having the audience follow them. That really should be a prerequisite.

Personal as well as a company a presence on Twitter is best, and that goes for schools and districts, too. Staff should be encouraged to share under personal Twitter handles, and develop and join PLNs, while school and district tweets can share news, events, and ideas.

Common Core forcing the tech issue—tipping point may be close.

Companies, foundations and districts teaching teachers, or providing professional development that doesn’t include technology need to get there fast. I see so many training sessions that still look so 1990s. While you can teach without wiring, or tech, there is no point in doing it today. If you think that what you’ve been doing for years will continue to work, I’ve got new for you.  You may be the last to know that it doesn’t.


Experimenting with streaming professional development presentations, possibly as unconferences, should be a goal. While this may be a reach for most districts at this time, and possibly for some companies, it is something to put on a reachable shelf for the near future. I’ve seen some interesting approaches, already, using UStream and Adobe server options, and I’m sure there are others in the works. The technology isn’t perfected, and may cost to do it best, but it is something that will to happen.

Jobs, Garages, & Time Travel

Jobs I don’t know about you, but nothing I ever made in a garage ever had any hopes of changing anything—ever! But ideas that Jobs and Woz tinkered with helped change our lives, our language, and most certainly our teaching and the way kids learn.

I remember scrounging ancient, manual typewriters for my first graders, well actually for parent volunteers, who listened to elaborate stories by 5-year olds, and through smiles and giggles, turned them into typed masterpieces. I remember questions about why I needed all those typewriters, and answering with—My kids have stories to tell. I still pound the keyboard like it was a manual typewriter.

One day, an administrator at a middle school, where I was teaching language arts, gathered us all into a staff room. “We have computers, and you’re all signing up to use them.” No question or answer period there. His goal was accomplished. There was a whole lot of grumping going on. I remember, like it was yesterday, talking about this to the other language arts teacher. I said something like—computers are impersonal—I’ll never like using them….

I did sign up, drag my kids in, and let them finger peck stories on small greenish black screens—then print what seemed simple passages on perforated paper. That Apple IIe lab was a thorn in my teaching side. Didn’t they know I could be so much more valuable to my students in my own classroom—well away from the hair frizzing electromagnetic fields in that computer lab?

Then, it happened—and it happened on my watch. The buzzing and whirring on a few machines stopped. A few seventh graders had that “Why me?” look. Their computers failed. I don’t care what you say, most seventh graders, like first graders, believe that teachers know stuff and can fix stuff. I think that changes at ninth grade though. ;>) Anyway, the sad eyes, raised hands, and pleads to fix, moved me to do something that change my education, private, and career life.

I unplugged one of those Apples (I knew that much), lifted the small-boxed screen off its base, and removed the top cover. I actually laughed out loud. There appeared to be almost nothing inside it. There didn’t seem too much to fix. So, I grabbed a few parts gently and gave them a wiggle, plugged everything back in, and to my surprise the static chattering start up happened. That’s when I fist-pumped tech for the first time. I actually got applause from seventh-graders, something still rare today, as the others chimed, “Fix mine!” I remember thinking these things will never last.

News spread of my new computer expertise, and my classes were forever interrupted by pleads of help from the computer lab. I kept in pretty good shape running there and back to my room. I knew absolutely nothing, other than pulling the plug, and shaking some parts, but it was more than the principal, or anyone else. I even began taking the computer home for more practice. That required about three trips to the car. I became the expert, and from that point on, the voice of technology in that building, and for that principal and beyond.

For all my initial grumping about tech, those Apples changed the way I taught, and the way my students learned—for the better. And while it sometimes took more time to plan and do it with tech, it made teaching fist-pumping exciting. It brought the world to my classes, and my classes to the world.

I've never met Steve Jobs, but I know him. There’s a guy with passion for his product. “Bring it back when you’ve made it better.” Now, that’s what needs to be said a lot more. Who will say it now? If you’ve never seen the videos of Jobs sharing GarageBand, you need to do a search for them. They are a professional development lessons from a real person, who is learning as he goes, and getting the biggest kick out of sharing. Nothing earth shaking came out of my garage, and most likely yours either, but aren’t we glad that Steve’s garage had picked up the slack—for everyone.

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.

iCloud, What’s In It For Education?

I think the best thing to come out of the Apple iCloud announcement, is that most people who had no cloud-computing idea, listen to music, and understand need to store music somewhere. Additionally, those who can click a digital camera, get the idea of seeing those pictures on all digital devices—anywhere. There’s nothing difficult about that, right? So, does this latest Apple presentation hold any good news for educators?

Well, probably not, other than another simple way to help explain what cloud can do for those who would normally have their eyes rolling during a tech talk.

There really is nothing new here. Microsoft has been talking cloud for years, and Mobile Me users have taken advantage of its capabilities. Personally, iDock has saved me a lot of storage and file sharing nightmares since the .Mac days. Furthermore, not so tech-savvy educators, who use Google online docs and services, have figured out the importance of online collaboration and sharing.

We all know that making money is the name of the game as well. Apple, Google, and others are in that race. Apple certainly is great at making money. I just hope Apple makes the iCloud education effort. Google, and many third-party companies are making the effort. For example, Google Education, with its admin and educator leadership programs has gained educator respect.

Making a cloud effort with the general education population, and not just for “specially chosen” schools makes a lot of sense. While a few do get whatever they need, regardless of cost, most educators don’t get the tools they need for all the ideas they have. Cloud environment could level the field to provide enough tools.

If sharing across devices is really part of cloud computing, then crossing over marketplace fences for the benefit of education should be possible, too. Duke it out in the consumer world, but work together in the education realm. I’m as optimistic as they come, but chances are that won’t happen—really.

The bottom lines for educators, who want to use technology with kids, is to provide an easy-to-use, inexpensive device for every student for collaboration, along with the tools needed to support robust local and global curriculum. That can't happen by charging a lot for third-party tools students can use with cloud. For educators, there’s far more to cloud education than music and pictures.

There are plenty of questions to be answered, but the one I keep coming back to is this: Will cloud ventures look beyond the money to be made out there, in order to provide education possibilities without strings?

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!

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.


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.

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.

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.


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 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.


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 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.

Smudgeless Screens and Sneeze Protectors

Smudge Well, it’s about time! Getting serious about getting rid of smudges on screens is long overdue. I’ve seen some iPad presentations on screens that if they were windscreens, the driver would be pulled over for restricted visibility.

In the old days, we used to tell the kids not to touch the screens. “Hey kid, don’t touch that screen; the oil from your fingers will get on it! Do you want to clean every screen in the computer lab? Do the keyboards while you're at it.”

Remember when degaussing was necessary? If you don’t—good! I hated magnet checks.

Back to smudges, I wonder what Sherlock Holmes would make of smudged touch screens. “Quick Watson, my glass. By observing the overly smudged areas of this iPad, I can deduce the password of the user. I also can tell that the user is a left-handed Googler”

Here’s a tip: a piece of clear tape is a great way to clean smudges from a screen. Works great on small camera and phone screens. You can also wrap presents with it.

I’m not sure I can go the new smudgeless-glove route. Working a touch screen with gloves on is just one more thing to deal with, and I’m too old to start making a texting-fashion statement, although—I’m all for warm fingers. Great commercial: “Keep your hands warm, and your computer screen smudge free!”

All I can say is that if the next iPad, version 2, has a smudgeless touch screen, I’m for it, just as long as it comes with an onboard camera or two, plays more than one app at a time, and is affordable. Just added smudgeless to the list of reasons I’m waiting to purchase.

That said—geez—I hope the PC contenders don’t postpone tablet launches; again, knowing Apple is talking smudgeless screens! We don’t need more excuses there.

Finally, might I suggest sneeze protectors next? “OK kids, don’t forget to wear your sneeze protectors. If you've lost yours, borrow some clear plastic wrap from my desk. Thanks for helping to keep the computer lab a spray-free zone.”

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.


Carrying Fewer Devices

Kurt and tiff My son, Kurt, and his fiancé, Tiffany, flew in from Arizona for the annual holiday pilgrimage. Kurt, an Internet and video-game child, said that he was carrying less technology and fewer devices this year. They each carried a cell phone for calls, texting, pictures, and video—and they also shared a small netbook. I must add that Kurt sported a huge, bright-white watch, and was quite proud of it. I haven’t worn one in years, relying on my cell for date and time. I only mention it, because beyond fashion, it’s still tech.

Taking cell phones was a no brainer. As Tiffany said, “The only time we use a land line is when we’re home for more security.” At the airport, they had WiFi connections and battery power trees. Kurt fired up the netbook to take advantage, until Tiffany suggested that he turn off, because she thought there might be some security issues.

Kurt and Tiffany are not frequent flyers, so got a kick out of the pre-flight tech checklist announcement. Instead of just telling passengers to turn off their cell phones, the onboard tech turn-off list was lengthy, and reminiscent of those TV drug ads, where the list of side effects goes on forever. Passengers were making comments about takeoff being delayed due to hand held shut down notification. On most flights I’ve been on, passengers are directed to a page in the onboard magazine, but many don’t go there, so maybe the roll call is becoming necessary. I have to say, that having passengers turn off tech can be an issue, even after the announcement, and being asked by the flight crew. I had an interesting conversation, on my last flight, with a gentleman who packed his cell in his checked luggage, because he didn’t know how to turn it off.

On their flight, Kurt and Tiffany noticed that children had more than one tech device out and working simultaneously, while most adults simply stuck to reading “real” books, magazines, and snapping newspapers. The flight didn’t have Internet access, so because they had left their compact DVD player at home, and the netbook lacked a DVD drive, it was a quiet trip.

I loved listening to their fresh points of view, but for me, as the tech-gift giver, the kids didn’t give me a clue—other than more movies.

People and Places 2010

Memory Thinking back on 2010 it’s necessary to remember a few who have helped me navigate from scrambled ideas to—well—closer to hard boiled—page or video. They are in random order—just like my brain.

Dr. Gary Stager: Makes me think, and many times says and writes things that just crack me up when I most need a good jolt. http://stager.tv/blog/

Silvia Martinez: Wonderfully eloquent proponent of teaching, kids, and technology. Sees things clearly. http://blog.genyes.com/

Steven Anderson: U.S. Web 2.0 resource guru. Shares, listens, and writes. http://web20classroom.blogspot.com/

Joe Dale: UK Web 2.0 guru. Shares, listens, and writes tech and languages. http://joedale.typepad.com/

Eric Sheninger: Administrator, leader, entrepreneur, and spokesperson for changing the way we teach, and how kids learn. http://esheninger.blogspot.com/

Tom Whitby: A natural at gathering educators for good causes and professional development. http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/  and http://edupln.com/

Alfred Thompson: Keeps the computer science conversation alive, and is the biggest kid I know (other than myself) when it comes to talking tech. http://blogs.msdn.com/b/alfredth/

Leo Laporte, Twit Live Creator: Provides a great resource for knowing what’s really happening in tech. While it’s not education-based, Twit Live educates, and you get to watch the show process. Leo has been around for quite some time, but talks tech like a kid. You’re sure to find a show you like. http://www.twit.tv/ and http://live.twit.tv/

David Pogue, NY Times Columnist: Enjoyable tech views and reviews. Gives me more perspective when looking at and comparing education options. http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/. Also makes me wish I could sing and play the piano.

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.

Google Chrome Netbooks: Education Test!

Google-chrome-netbook The Google Chrome OS (Operating System) has been available for testing for about a year. It is Linux-based, so developers have had a chance to play around with it. On December 7tth Google held a news and media gathering to launch its Google Chrome netbooks, along with some cloud computing ideas from Citrix. Other partners include Acer, Samsung, Intel, and other corporations for beta testing. Google’s Sundar Pachai (VP Product Management) and Eric Schmidt (Chairman/CEO) were on stage, while I wasn’t there in person, I did attend online. It seems they’ve aimed at the business market for these, but I just couldn’t understand missing the education value. Maybe Google has that in the pipeline somewhere, and we’ll hear about it whenever the netbooks have a solid release date. But, something needs to be said—just in case.

I was also in a chat room during the Google Chrome netbook announcement. Most everyone had a problem with offering this light machine on the consumer side. The complaint was that it just went to the Internet—and cloud environment—and that most consumers wanted a more robust machine. All the gamers in the chat agreed. For me, what would make the Google Chrome netbook unattractive to consumers, makes it perfect for schools. Heck, a netbook with Internet access with cloud environment/Google Docs is a no brainer to most educators. Sadly, there was not one mention about education use in that breaking news presentation. In my opinion, Eric Schmidt history lesson, while a nice tech story, needed a mention of education in it. What a great close that would have been.

The topper for me came with the beta testers and free netbooks. The entire audience was going to get a Chrome Google netbook, quite a few corporate partners, and anyone who applied online would get one as well. While the audience ahhhed and oooohed like an Oprah show, there was nothing about—we’re going to send some to needy schools. To me, that was an opportunity missed to make a larger splash. If the price of these is that tiny, and giving them away is great publicity, get them into some schools, too. Besides being learning valuable—imagine the excitement in having teachers and kids test something like this. It would be appreciated by little hands far more, too.

Features and Netbook Pilot

Because Chrome OS can sync, Google can store info, bookmarks, and extensions in a cloud environment—available anywhere. If you’d like to test the Cr-48 (name for now) netbook go here: http://www.google.com/chromeos/pilot-program.html, and using Chrome.

The 3.8 lb prototype for testing has a 12.1-inch screen, a full-sized keyboard, and no disc drive. Google says that Acer and Samsung will launch Chrome OS netbooks and notebooks in mid-2011, but a definite date has not been set.

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.

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.

Cell Phone Security: School Attacks Imminent

Phone1 Get ready! The next line of security attacks will be cell phones/smart phones, and with their increased popularity in schools, that could spell trouble with an upper case T. Security companies need to prepare, and districts need to be aware.

Most of us know how vulnerable other computing devices are to security attacks, malware, data loss, and personality theft, but not many ever think of the possibility of threats to daily cell phone use. That will change, and with more Windows-based smart phones entering the consumer market, at very reasonable prices, these devices and the security problems associated with them will quickly enter the classroom environment, too.

It looks like the majority of school districts haven’t a clue as to how to manage, or will manage, either cell phones they’ve purchased for classroom use, or the many and varied student-owned smart phones that could be leveraged by a district as handheld computing devices. While the traditional network security of most school districts is a priority—and you’ll find appliances, software, and multi-level firewalls gateways in place, not many are thinking mobile security and protection. The jump for these problems—from consumer to classroom—will be a short leap.

There needs to be a call to action, here, for the management of these short-life battery devices, as well as cells manufactured by different companies. Not to allow them in a school environment can’t be the answer, but thinking of them as computing devices means making them safe by securing them as well as we secure all district Internet and networked tools. We want everything headed toward the clouds, but looking at the new tools to get teachers and students there also requires thinking beyond. Education technology discussions regarding cell phones, and keeping them secure learning devices, should begin now.

Cyber Citizens: More Than Teachable Moments

Internetsafety While kids still know the bullies sitting in back of them, yanking at their hair, today’s cyber thugs can remain completely hidden, which makes the terror worse. Turning everything off and pulling the plugs isn’t the answer, but simply teaching students to be cyber citizens can. These lessons need to be as planned as any lessons taught today, and structured in such away as to be part of every lesson taught with digital devices. No excuses here, this is a job educators can do, and it is beyond just a random teachable moment.

Use student mission statements and reminders often.

How and where to teach cyber citizenship is just a modern extension of the old-fashioned citizenship once taught. Having students write mission statements is a good start. Students who write what they stand for, what makes them the person they are, what they expect from others as well as themselves, and how they’d like others to see them and treat them is one of the most useful parts of being a good citizen. That written statement can be revisited and modified often. It is a reminder. Anyone who has taught students knows that reminders need to happen often. Assuming that something is covered, just because you’ve spent a few days, or an earlier semester covering it, doesn’t work with kids. Students need constant reminders, and cyber citizen reminders are no different than walking in the hall reminders, or how to behave at lunch reminders. I’m certain the latter are repeated daily.

Most educators will need help with this.

It shouldn’t be the domain of the health teacher, or guidance person. It may be in the realm of the instructional technology educator. That person often teaches student and teachers, as well as parents how to and about technology. That said, a multi-staffed approach would be ideal, too, similar to the teaming for humanities classes or multi-departmental lesson collaboration. Teaching cyber citizenship is the responsibility of everyone—all staff—and parents need to be in on it, too.

Change course if instructional technology educators are using student computer time for keyboarding.

Keyboarding is something that requires individual practice, and not group instruction. Instructional technology educators would be better utilized if they shared and modeled different digital tools and technologies, and with each lesson, taught the responsibilities of using those tools and technologies. Those technology lessons and good cyber citizen values should then be amplified in regular classrooms. Forgetting them until the next computer lab, or for a week, is like returning an unread book from a locker to the library. Good intensions, but missed value and impact. Cyber citizenship and citizenship in general needs to be continuous priority schoolwide.

Administrators are a powerful resource for change here.

Simply a comment in the morning announcements or end of day makes a difference. Something like, “We’d like you to have a wonderful day today. Remember to be kind and courteous to everyone you know, and those you meet in person or in a cyber way today. Live your mission statements.” And sharing a line from one of those mission statements can’t hurt either. These shouldn’t be private. Maybe the administrator shares one, but possibly before the start of a class the teacher shares one. It doesn’t take long, and it can be done throughout the day. Students model missions for each other. Make sure that revisiting mission statements is in the plans as well. They should be as under construction as students’ knowledge and growth throughout the year, and throughout the grades. Furthermore, the lessons learned can continue for life.

Unified and continuous campaign

There are companies with product solutions that can be looked at for helping students understand cyberbullying, but making it a continuous schoolwide citizenship campaign is a must. Looking at it simply, if an lone teacher campaigns against students running in the halls—students will slow down near that teacher and run everywhere else. Schools and districts must be cyber citizen unified. Citizenship and now cyber citizenship needs to be woven into every class and every lesson, and extended to the home as well.

Make a dent in a positive way

I’m not sure whether there is anything that will work 100% against bullies of any kind, but lessons in citizenship and proper behavior for using digital tools by educators and parents can make a dent. It is not done in a day, a week or semester, and it is much more than a teaching moment.

Toshiba 3D: Front Row Seating Only

Toshiba-3d-regza-gl1Toshiba’s 3D glassesless 20GL1, 20-inch screen, and 12GL1, 12-inch screen displays may be a year ahead of the competition, but still haven't solved the front row, in your face seating requirements for standalone 3D technology.

There’s an IBM, Sony, and Sony Playstation technology in play here, so gamers, rather than students in classes will see value. The screens are purposely small, because the displays send the images at the right angles to the eyes without the help of glasses. Therefore, the angles have to be just right to get the best 3D effect, or even see the 3D effect at all. This won’t work in a classroom—at least not now. Students would have to be right in front of the screen. The 3D images diminish in quality outside that—smack in the center—optimal zone. Small screens that limit, or restrict seating aren’t best suited for kids in classrooms.

I really want to see this technology happen. There are so many possibilities for classroom 3D curriculum, but for now, it looks like the funny glasses are still the best way to pull it off. And even with the glasses there’s been talk of eye fatigue, and some headaches due to overuse—and overuse fatigue has been reported in under an hour—in some cases.

While it's not classroom-perfect yet, the technology is getting closer. I just don't think glassesless is there yet for classrooms. I doubt the price will be either.

Royal Unveils Royal Slate

Press Release

Ken3a Ken Royal Unveils Details of His New Royal Slate

Outwherethefishdon’tbite, USA, October 4, 2010 —On the heels of other “flying the plane without the wings” tablet technology announcements, Ken Royal has decided the timing right for his own education slate announcement. Because Royal has built the prototype out of cardboard, and it is fairly large, he suggests closing your eyes and imagining as the best way to see it now. Here are the details—sort of:

“The Royal Slate is perfect for education,” according to Royal. He suggests the street price will be about $150, but volume purchasing will bring that price down dramatically. “I’d rather sell more for less, and get them into classrooms and kids' hands,” says Royal.

The Royal Slate will have a 10-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi, run the new Windows 7 OS, have an in-facing camera for video communications, and an out-facing camera for documenting lessons, science labs, and field trips. Beyond that, the Royal Slate will have a miniature, onboard projector for spur of the moment classroom presentations.

“When I was looking for book, reading, and math partners for my slate, I didn’t have to travel far. The Big Red Dog has all that and more. Scholastic has always had the best assortment of reading material for kids—books and magazines, as well as math and reading how to programs. Making them accessible from my slate is a no-brainer,” says Royal. The slate will have a basic assortment of all, and additional downloads will be available through school-priced subscriptions. Because the slates will take advantage of a cloud environment, the fully loaded slate solution should cost about $5 per student. Company profits will be shared with partners, and help subsidize districts lacking funds for slates and programs.

While professional development videos will be available for download, Royal and other educators will regularly visit schools, at no cost to districts, helping teachers transition their lessons to technology and digital delivery. Royal calls this the Teaching with Slates initiative.

Royal, who is independently wealthy due to 34 years as a teacher, will not take salary, or personal profits made from slate sales, although he will be available for TV talk shows. Furthermore, a fund will be set up to deliver more technology, including more slates to students throughout the United States, and then internationally.

Note: The Smithsonian has offered to display the prototype Royal Slate if the cardboard model can ever be extracted from Ken Royal’s workshop/garage, where it seems to be a sort of modern day Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel.

Disclaimer: Wouldn’t it be nice? I've always believed that if you can think it, it can happen. Sometimes I push the envelope on that, but maybe not…

Scholastic eReader Poll: Tech Survey?

Carrying Books 3 While it’s nice to have a few statistics, Scholastic’s recent results for an eReader poll of students shouldn’t be earth shattering, although it does bring up more questions than answers. Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 kids, ages 6-17 last spring. 25% of the students said they had read a book on a digital device, and 57% said they’d like to in the future. Only 6% of the parents surveyed had used an eReader. Just my opinion, but I’d check the parents again in light of the recent iPad craze. This poll is about more than just one gadget.

We should be talking about all digital devices that can be used for reading, right? Beyond books students should be reading digitally in school today, and not just on eReaders. If they are not, then the real news here should be the lack of digital devices for that purpose, and so much more, in the hands of students. I’d include, eReaders, tablets, netbooks, notebooks, desktop computers, thin client solutions, and even smartphones. Furthermore, any interactive device that can do that, such as whiteboards, slates, and other displays should be added to the list. This poll can be seen as another call to action for more technology for students. And, kids today are supposed to be further along technologically than their parents.

That should be part of the teaching and learning. That said, kids should continue curling up with real books—no batteries or backlight required, where the only heat generated is human. Whatever it takes to transport a child to a place where imagination sparks is OK in my book—paperback, hardcover, or digital.

Ed Tech Ranting

Ranting Adults aren’t going to walk into my classroom the next day, so it is common for me to blast away with a bunch of ideas—hoping that one might strike interest—or even stick before someone walks away. I call these my rants.
Here are a few of my Ed Tech Rants:


Cloud Technology’s theme is like the old Simon and Garfunkel song lines from Cloudy: “My thoughts are scattered and they're cloudy, they have no borders, no boundaries….”

Many have the wrong impression of what Cloud is. It is not just having an online product or solution, but it can be having a place and providing those online solutions. The worst thing that can happen is to have Cloud Education turn into an agenda-motivated and -driven movement. Creating a club-like membership isn’t going to work. Views on all sides of this solution need to join discussions, and crossing company lines should be the pre-requisite.

No one should be left out. No prima donnas either. Bring in the large and small tech firms, the infrastructure, and the bandwidth providers, the security providers, and make sure you clue in the administrators and educators. The discussions, like most things in education will take time, but once the groundwork and direction are set education leaders at all levels will find taking their districts to cloud solutions, a lot easier to understand and easier for teachers and students to use. Simply put, clouds can follow users wherever they go—through grades, districts, states, and beyond.

Yes, we have No tech!

One of the biggest problems with technology is that most educators don’t have it. Sure, there are some amazing schools and districts out there that have been lucky enough to be near ed tech providers, crossed the path of an ed tech benefactor, won a grant, or in most cases are blessed to have administrator entrepreneurs and leadership go-getters. But the fact remains that most educators don’t have the technology, don’t go to tech shows or workshops about it, and probably stand in line to use whatever equipment is available in school or district. This has not changed since teachers were scrounging typewriters to more elaborately publish student writing in class. I keep bringing it up, because I haven’t gotten an answer. Something has to happen, beyond winning a contest to outfit a classroom with tech.

Resource this!

Companies, large and small, that sell to education need an educator online resource center. It should include resources, short how to video, teacher-focused social networking, and guest blogging not necessarily specific to the product, but helpful to teachers. There should be lesson templates, lessons to download, a place to upload new ones, and apps for mobile. Having something like this is so much better than an online company space filled with product commercials. Some of the largest companies do the latter. Believe me, giving educators a reason to come back to a tech company solution online, or product site is the way to go. I love it when everyone can go to these sites, but having part of it free, and another section with some sort of registration, or fee, is understandable. Teachers love using free, as well as spreading the word and talk about it.

Twitter: an Intelligent Haunting for Educators

Bird Sitting at a WiFi breakfast in Atlanta, I introduced my publisher to Twitter. I said, "Watch this," and tweeted into TweetDeck something like—

“Trying to convince my publisherthe power of Twitter, so please say hello.”

Responses were immediate from people I follow, those who follow me, and even people who weren’t on my radar yet. And then, before I could add the next step to my lesson—it was handed to me in this Tweet:

@kenroyal Have her ask a question to Twitter; great way to demonstrate its potential.

Twitter is more than the Magic 8-Ball of the 21st Century, and if this were a Ghost Hunters TV episode, Twitter would classify as an intelligent haunting. (Note: I’ve removed most specific contact info, unless embedded in the tweet.) To me, for educators, it is Facebook’s smarter relative.

Here’s an assortment of Tweets that led up to my publishers 1st question:

@kenroyal hello from the Charlotte NC airport!

@kenroyal Hello Ken! Hope all is well in the Atlanta airport this morning. :) #vanmeter

@kenroyal - at work in sunny Savannah. Welcome to the great state of Georgia.

@kenroyal Hello from Atlanta! Wish I'd known you were at the airport; I would have come up to help you "convince".

@kenroyal Good morning! Come on, Tweeple. Show the power! RT @kenroyal: Hello out there! My publisher is not convinced yet! Say hello!

@kenroyal Hello from Waverly, Iowa!

@kenroyal Hey Ken. I am in Dallas, TX and love the wisdom and knowledge of the collective. Have a wonderful day.

@kenroyal Good morning, Ken. I'm and educator in Lakeland, TN.

@kenroyal Hello! Twitter is a great way to share resources and ideas!

@kenroyal Good morning from southern NH.

@kenroyal Hi, Ken! Please say "Hello" to your publisher from StarrMatica!

@kenroyal Saying hello to convince the non-believers...

@kenroyal Hello from an education grad student in Philadelphia!

@kenroyal Hello from Fredericksburg Virginia!

@kenroyal Hello from Northern Utah where Twitter helps me acquire educational insights and tools. Oh and I follow @scholastic too!

@kenroyal Hello Ken - checking in from SouthWestern Ontario

@kenroyal Saying Hello from Knoxville, TN! Using Twitter to learn from other educators and follow their links & suggestions!

@kenroyal hello from North Carolina! I'm an educator in Teacher Evaluation training

@kenroyal Hello to the guy w/his finger on the pulse of the ed-tech community.

@kenroyal jackson tn- ahnna w knoxville chamber

@kenroyal I'm there with you in spirit! Can't wait to hear about this trip ;).

@kenroyal hello from Memphis TN I use twitter to connect with educators all over the world and have develop a great PLN in just 3 months

@kenroyal hello from THE netherlands :-) our 12 points go to Twitter !

@kenroyal Hello from Colorado

@kenroyal a little late.... But Barbie B.. High school science teacher from Cleveland, TN

@kenroyal I am late, but hello to you.

@kenroyal Have her ask a question to Twitter; great way to demonstrate its potential.

Here's my publisher's 1st question to Twitterland:

"Do you have anything to share on best practices involving cloud computing?"

Here are a couple of responses:

@kenroyal I think what @russgoerend is doing w/ student conferencing using Evernote is an example: http://www.russgoerend.com/2010/09/one-of-essentials-in-reading-this-year.html (This was originally a shortened URL.)

@kenroyal Here is some info. Hope it helps. SAS Solutions OnDemand mark 10-year anniversary in 'cloud' http://www.itweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35434:sas-solutions-ondemand-mark-10year-anniversary-in-cloud&catid=367 (Origially a shortened URL.)

Twitter1Now, there’s more to Twitter than reporting what you’re doing now, or saying hello, so if you are skeptical of what 140 characters can share, follow me @kenroyal, and quite a few others (including my publisher) for a few laughs, great resources, interesting conversation, suggestions, a bit of cheerleading, and a lot of digital common sense—geared to education, administration, and technology.

Hands Down: Student Response Systems

ConveyAClick_CaseFull I’m not certain whether raising hands in class is completely out, and student clickers completely in, but the number of companies providing a student polling option is overwhelming. Let's take a look at clickers.

In a time when there’s software from companies like Turning Technologes, and online polling solutions like Poll Everywhere that can make any device from cell phones to laptops a student polling device, what is the magic in these little gadgets that makes most teachers want them for their students?

There are a few key factors, in my opinion, for the responder craze. First of all, they make a nice addition to traditional hand raising. Even clickers that are only voting-style devices, give all kids an opportunity to participate, without embarrassment, or need to be "on stage". If the clickers offer text responses, rather than just true/false, Yes/No, or letter options, quiet students gain a class voice. Right now, fingers and thumbs make the choices, which seems to be a natural for digital kids. (Voice and sound software should be considered for some students with visual or tactile difficulties.) So, responders are another puzzle piece in building an interactive classroom.

With teacher options that create immediate charts/graphs of successes, or clues to missed learning, the responders can do—on the fly, and while teaching—what had to be done during a prep, or over a day or more on teacher time. And best of all, if these babies are hooked into a grading, and then student information system (SIS), results can be reported immediately there, too.

It’s true, that at the very least, classes using responders would need a projector attached to a teacher’s computer, and at best, some sort of whiteboard solution for classroom interactivity, but the fact is that these response devices are teacher and kid friendly. Easy software recognition makes pushing buttons the only requirement beyond questions and answers.

Recently, I interviewed Jim Locascio, president of Dukane, long known as a technology system integrator company. “We went from carrying overheads into schools, to bringing in data projectors, and now our Convey response solution. It’s the first time we’ve built our own system.”

Take a look at these companies for Student Response Options (random order), and raise your hand if you have further questions!

Administrators: More Apps Fewer Books

Reading1 I was about to send an educator some books for her building administrator the other day. She laughed, and said, “He doesn’t read.” Now, most would be shocked with that, and probably run off to write a negative post that would certainly make the Internet rounds, but I immediately followed up with, “If he doesn’t read books, what does he read?” The answer was what I expected. “Oh, a lot of online, and he’s forever forwarding us article links. He uses all these phone apps, too.” It looks like more apps and fewer books, with a lot of online reading may be a common trend for busy admin.

It made me think back to a conversation I had with a superintendent friend of mine. He told me that there was very little time to do the reading he used to do—or would like to do. I’m sure that’s true for many administrators, today. I expect that most young administrators are more likely to catch quick reads online, and also find phone apps more accessible and available than books, from their office shelves, these days. And, I only see that trend growing.

Here are some online and app admin-reading suggestions:

Edjurist A blog that focuses on issues of school law http://www.edjurist.com/

Top Ten Qualities of Prime Leadership 

Leading Blog http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/

Connected Principals http://www.connectedprincipals.com/

Educator’s PLN http://edupln.ning.com/

Scholastic Administrator http://www.scholastic.com/administrator/

Follow me on Twitter @kenroyal for many more links from educators and administrators.

Note: Special thanks to Eric Castro for sharing his twitter thoughts with me.

Today's Classroom: Start Doing It!

Old_classroom The 2010-2011 school year is here. Let's stop talking about what the 21st Century Classroom needs, and start doing it! Here's a checklist to help get there now. Can't do them all? Well, pick a few for a start. Add more to the list, or modify it to suit your needs. Just stop talking—and start doing.

1.    An energetic, compassionate, forgiving, curriculum knowledgeable, appropriate technology-using teacher.

2.    Hardware and software for special needs, hearing, and sight-impaired students.

3.    A teaching station laptop, tablet, netbook, or slate that plugs in easily at school, but also gets to go home with the teacher after school and weekends. Equip it with graphic, video, presentation, and word processing software.

4.    A classroom set of netbooks, laptops, slates, smartbooks or similar 1:1—real computing devices—that are as reachable as pencils used to be at school. And at the end of day they go home.

5.    Handhelds for fieldwork are a good idea when traveling digitally light. Use smartphone-style devices—when appropriate—to improve learning, collect and store data, as well as document—written, photo, and video. And yes, audio recorders and reporter's notebooks allowed, too. It doesn't take an elephant trap to catch a squirrel.

6.    Safe, simple, and quick Internet and Intranet connectivity for both teachers and students at school and home. It's difficult to get anywhere without this.

7.    Make the online desktop a necessity. It should be simple to use and find curriculum, portfolios, software, and digital tools—for teachers and students—that can be accessed anywhere. Yes, let's get into the clouds—for real—it's long overdue.

8.    An interactive wall of some sort—whiteboard or whiteboard solution— or possibly a tablet—with all the hook-ups—pen and touch software can enhance daily lessons. The concentration should be in how to teach with these interactive solutions. The price tags are high, so proof of of student success and teacher use drives the tech integration here.

9.    A projector with sound and closed captioning for multimedia presentations. Some of these have whiteboard-interactive capabilities now. Get ready, 3D is close. Right now, projectors and 3D glasses are required.

10.    A document camera with audio and video to display, record, and video communicate. These are still the easiest hardware devices for the majority of educators to understand—and therefore use.

11.    A classroom set of digital reading devices and a plentiful supply of digital books. I'm ok with a small group set, too, if students have other computing devices—netbooks, notebooks, and slates.

12.   While working toward paperless is the goal, a printer is ok, too. It's funny, but this is an extremely difficult option for most educators to give up, and I understand it. It's difficult to deny the power of a handwritten card or letter from a student—or a grandchild. That said, it is important to think green, and strive for more paperless—where it makes sense.

13.    Displays have come a long way from just being monitors for desktops. Today, they can be touch screen options replacing traditional whiteboards. And the 3D technology is ready for a giant breakthrough. 3D resolution is better on smaller screens, and research and development is close to posssibly "perfecting" it. 3D-based curriculum could be big—and if it can be done without glasses—even bigger. Keep a lookout for these for classroom possibilities.

14.    Hardware that connects all the classroom technology together, so operation is an easy button push or two, making the teacher a technology orchestra leader needs to be considered. Great technology that is disconnected makes teaching more difficult. We don't need more tech-teaching wizzards; we need more teachers teaching with technology. The UI (user interface) needs to be simple to use.

15.    Make available an onsite teaching-with-technology professional, who is patient, shares how to, makes individualized suggestions, and can be scheduled for classroom visits. Have something similar available for after school questions and suggestions, too. The hardware and software chosen should be simple to use, because spending a majority of time on equipment operation rather than what you can do with the equipment is so 20th Century—and we don't want to be there anymore.

16.    Books, the kind that kids like and can hold need to be in every classroom—and have a lot of them—ones that can go home without worries. Make them different levels, and replace them often. Most student magazines can be accessed online, but having some of those in the hands of students is a good thing as well. While digital technology is warm to the touch, books get there warmth from young readers, and there is still something special about that.

Technology Training Unnecessary

Apple, and other companies that get user interface (UI) right, have taught us that if the tech is built easy Steve-jobs-ipad to use—it will be used—and with very little training required. Return on investment (ROI) is the bottom line for school districts. It leads to the sort of technology engagement I witnessed on the train today—and I’d like to see it in every classroom.


Train1 So, I’m sitting on the train headed for Scholastic NYC. In front of me is a young girl, who is about 9, curled up. Her hands are clenched on ether side of a digital gadget. Her face is scrunched, with eyes squinting purposefully. I can’t see what she’s working on, but I know she is enjoying the involvement. Her sister is texting madly—frequently rolling her eyes and making hand gestures, as though her friends are right there. The cell phone slips, once, falling to the train aisle with a thud that wakes a snoozing rider. She scoops it from the aisle and resumes texting and arm swinging.

Seated right next to me is a short, and I hate to say it these days, elderly woman, enjoying the heck out of an iPad. She’s reading, pointing at the screen, and making choices. Every so often she giggles out loud—quite unintentionally—and without a care that anyone is listening.

During their digital playtime, the 9-year old switched to another device without skipping a beat, and the senior citizen answered her cell, talked a little business—all the time touching the iPad.

With a cell in each hand, I sat smiling.

Young pups and old dogs

Here’s the topper, the lady next to me finished her call, reached into her carrying bag and pulled out a bunch of wires and connectors, along with ear buds. She fired up the iPad, plugged in, and continued reading, pointing, giggling, and listening—controlling it all. Not quite an earth shattering caveman-using tools moment, but certainly I was observing young pups and old dogs headed down the same digital path.


The multitude of devices out there hasn’t quite sifted into a reasonable pile, and I don’t think it will very soon. I do know that I’m waiting to see if the “Apple Killers” or more correctly, tablets and slates promised by companies, such as Asus, HP, and Dell become reality—soon. They are a bit overdue. I’m looking forward to seeing if Windows 7, or Android, or something else can work so seamlessly in a classroom—or for that matter—on a train.


I also know that the cost factor will be important. I’m not looking for a tag of $35, although that would be nice, but getting it under $200, and charging less for quantity purchases would be enough to spike super-human hearing in technology directors and integration specialists. It may also convince district administrators to spend a bit, too, in a time when keeping teachers in the classroom is the biggest priority. And if it's easy to use, ROI is that much better, because technology training is unnecessary.

Subway *Note: On my subway ride from Grand Central to SoHo, I also saw two young children hugging their mother as she shared a picture book—and it made me smile, too.

Controlling Classrooms: Beyond Pulling Wires

Wiring Today, it takes more than pulling wires to create a media-integrated classroom. If you remember, or you’re still pulling wires to make technology happen—pushing up ceiling tiles, tying string around the wires, and pulling them pretty successfully throughout an entire building—let’s talk. Only the very lucky could partially hide the wiring mess, and fingers crossed, get things to—sort of—work.

When I visit schools, I still see that rat’s nest of wiring, most often in olderWires schools, but many times in newer ones, too. When I was pulling wires, we really had no other way, and really no clue either. We did it on weekends, or after school, with the help of the custodian and a few volunteer-geek parents. And yes, we invited the fire marshal, who in my case, just happened to have a kid in my class.

I know that some are still getting a kick and bragging about do-it-yourself classroom technology  integration, but while that is fist-pumping cool, there are better ways—involving experts—at a cost of course. Besides money-saving in the long run, having experts work with you is headache-saving everywhere.

It takes more than volunteers and stringing wires. While there are many choices for the well-connected Internet, audio-visual and media classroom, here are a few, presented in random order, to help do it right:


Check out how to add RoomView Express and RoomView Connected devices to your interactive plans. Their software is brand and model agnostic, so different device models may be replaced without any system reconfiguration or programming. Just connect the new projector and Crestron RoomView automatically recognizes the device for immediate, seamless communication and control.Features include built-in instant help desk messaging and emergency broadcasting.


Most have heard of Extron’s PoleVault, but VoiceLift and WallVault are additional offerings that neatly bring technology together in a classroom.  If you’re not sure what you need, try out Extron’s WallVault System Configurator online. The drag-and-drop configuration utility allows users to design WallVault systems that meet their specific requirements.

The Extron Classroom A/V System Grant Program provides a chance to pilot a classroom free, and includes installation of an Extron Classroom A/V system and complete training.


Calypso’s ezRooms are designed specifically for the K-12 classroom, It’s affordable and an easy-to-use, complete classroom AV solution. Their focus is on making it easy to build, manage and use media-rich, integrated classrooms to improve teaching and learning. The ezRoom 5300 offers a fully integrated classroom AV solution that includes networked device control, hardware and software user interfaces, remote monitoring, audio amplification, CAT-5 wall-plates, flexible mounting options and every wire, cable and connector needed to build out integrated classrooms.


Troxell is a leading marketer and supplier of audio-visual and video equipment to the education and government marketplace. You’ll find that they have an amazing array of products and companies represented and to choose from, and they specialize in getting the right local people to match technology with needs. Educational and government end-users, pre-school to higher education, make up the majority their customers.


Check out the CDW-G 21st Century Interactive Classroom. CDW-G has technology specialists to offer expertise in designing customized solutions, and technology engineers, who can assist customers with the implementation and long-term management of those solutions. Areas of focus include notebooks, desktops, printers, servers and storage, unified communications, security, wireless, power and cooling, networking, software licensing and mobility solutions.


Califone has everything from headsets to PA systems to media and presentation systems. Check out the Califone Website Tour. You can even contact top representatives on Twitter https://twitter.com/califone, as well as other social media outlets.

Smackdown, Show & Tell Web 2.0

Ntcamp7 I was lucky enough to attend two Web 2.0 teacher meetings this week, and I didn’t have to leave my computer. One was a UK Show & Tell, and the other was a Philadelphia new teacher camp (ntcamp) and Smackdown. Smackdown, by the way, had nothing to do with wrestling, but both gatherings had everything to do with sharing teacher Web 2.0 tools.

These peer to peer-mentoring happenings help pick up the slack in pre-service university lessons that are still rare today. Pre-service teachers landing jobs, and having only blackboard mentors won’t move classroom technology forward. These un-conference gatherings are just what the doctor ordered.

The Smackdown or Show & Tell ideas include sharing as many Web 2.0 tools to the audience as possible. The key is that the audience does the sharing. And that audience is not just those at the Smackdown/Show & Tell site, but also those viewing and listening on the Internet—all over the world. UStream/TV seems to be the streaming choice for getting that done. Not only can attendees view the streaming video, but they can Tweet and chat at the same time. They draw more attendees than many professionally planned Webinars I’ve seen.

Unfortunately, The streaming technology is still a work under construction, but no one seems to mind much. It would be wonderful, though, if some sponsors stepped up to offer better camera work and streaming possibilities, which could greatly improve the quality of these un-conferences. There is something to be said for educators getting together on a weekend, and making these sharing experiments happen, with mostly free online tools. Still, I’d love to see Scholastic, TechLearning, communication firms, or others important to sharing education technology get more involved with these un-conference educator presentations—somehow. That said, it would be nice to keep them as non-commercial as possible.

As for me, I’d rather listen to a group of educators, who are untrained presenters, sharing what they do with their classes and staff, rather than hear polished presentations from the same-old usual names. Most educators at these things share their one favorite Web 2.0 tool, rather than their top 100, so what you hear is very complete and very useful. What's great is that everyone walks away with a Google doc which includes the URLs of all the applications discussed. And because it's archived, revisiting the ntcamp show & tell is a click away. Faculty meetings should be more like this.

While many are involved in these presentations, I need to share two young educators that are making   Joe-dale-coff
things happen on at least two continents. They are SA8 Steven Anderson (http://web20classroom.blogspot.com/), a North Carolina school district instructional technologist, and Joe Dale (http://joedale.typepad.com/), a UK ICT (Internet Communication Technology) specialist, as well as Jack of All. I don’t think they’ve met, but I do believe their parallel courses are so similar that getting them onto the same stage—somewhere—is just a matter of time. When they do, I hope to be in attendance, if not in person, at least digitally. Steven Anderson (left) and Joe Dale (right).

Ning Ends Free: Pearson Steps Up

Recently, Ning dropped a 2.0 bombshell when it announced they were no longer offer free collaborative space online for educators. This was big, because most educators and many school districts had a Ning. It really made it easy to have an online presence as an individual or a group. Ning’s decision to move to a pricing model has educators, and especially online education groups scrambling.

Ning Larger Nings Scramble to Continue Collaboration

Two examples groups doing that, ones that I personally belong to, are the Educator’s PLN at http://edupln.ning.com/, a personal learning network created by Tom Whitby, a professor of pre-service teachers in Long Island, which now has 5,000 members, and the Missouri Educator   Steve
Community created by Steve Moore, a humanities instructor. Moore’s group is hovering close to 150 members. There’s good and bad in those numbers. Pearson has offered to continue the free Nings for classrooms, and for groups with membership up to 150, which leaves larger, existing groups rushing to meet their needs without disrupting the collaborative environments they’ve built. In the case of Whitby and the Educator’s PLN, he has sent a request to Ning and Pearson to possibly continue there, and is also looking at sponsorship support, while Moore has been looking to alternatives, such as Grouply at http://www.grouply.com/.

Pearson Stepping Up

Ning.com currently hosts 6,500 K-12 social networks. Under the Pearson sponsorship of Ning’s education networks, existing participants will have the opportunity to opt-in to the program and maintain seamless uninterrupted access for everyone to their networks; new education networks can join and create Ning’s free of charge as well. According to Pearson Senior Vice President for Business Development Gary June “Underwriting the costs of Ning Networks is one way that Pearson can provide support for their commitment and dedication to improve teaching and learning.” He added, “As we are increasingly embracing social media across virtually all aspects of life, we want to help in that critical area of keeping the dialogue among teachers, students and parents wide open.”

For more information, or to opt-in visit http://about.ning.com/pearsonsponsorship/

I and others in the education community know that free usually doesn't last forever, but here's hoping that all the existing Nings, even those with more than 150 members, including Tom Whitby's Educator's PLN, continue to have free use under Pearson's sponsorship.

All Kids Are Gifted: Renzulli and Me

RENZULLIREIS Recently, I was in an editorial meeting discussing story ideas when the name Renzulli came up. It brought back a lot of education memories for me, so I began to talk. I may have said too much, but knowing Renzulli's place in education is important, and I wasn't sure what others knew. Here's a bit of Renzulli history, a piece of the present, and a slice of the future, as well as some of what I said.

Very early in my teaching, an administrator, who had just observed me, asked “You’ve been following Renzulli’s research, haven’t you?” I had no clue what he was talking about.

Who was Renzulli? In those days, Google was the school librarian. She handed me some education journals and I began reading about Joseph Renzulli’s Enrichment Triad Model (1977) for gifted and talented students, as well as the Three Ring Conception of Giftedness. Without knowing it, I was actually doing something similar with all my students—and I didn’t have a clue about Renzulli—but I really liked knowing that I had stumbled upon a similar path.

I discovered that experiential learning worked for all my students—it wasn’t just for those classified as gifted. Giving all students a chance to actually be scientists, writers, or mathematicians made sense, and furthermore, giving them chances to meet and speak to experts for first hand knowledge was far better than the ancient textbooks I was using. It was certainly a slower process then—with in-person invitations, phone conversations, and snail mail, but I stuck to it, and my students enjoyed learning—and controlling that learning—a little bit. I didn’t know it then, but that sort of teaching would be a perfect fit for computers and the Internet. Without knowing Renzulli, I was doing what he had researched, written, and discovered.

About three years ago, I had a chance to actually interview Joe Renzulli, The Researcher, and his wife Sally Reis, whom I affectionately refer to as The Teacher. We hit it off immediately, as if I had known them for a very long time. I may have used the words kindred spirits somewhere along the line. I had followed Renzulli through reading articles, and when Renzulli Learning was launched, I checked that out as well. As a matter of fact, in my last couple of years as district instructional technology specialist—I even ran a school pilot program for Renzulli Learning. I taught teachers how to do student profiles, and use student-appropriate projects. Sometimes life takes some ridiculously cool turns. Teaching like I'd taught as a young teacher, but using computers, as well as sharing with teachers was wonderful, and meeting Renzulli and Reiss, a career highlight.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out RezulliLearning , or Renzulli's and Reis' articles for differentiated learning—it may be time. All kids are gifted, and should be taught that way. And it is so much easier and quicker with today's technology.

Recently, Joe Renzulli was awarded the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education, which recognizes outstanding individuals, who have dedicated themselves to improving education in the United States, and whose accomplishments are making a difference today. Check out more at http://www.greatertalent.com/RenzulliandReis and http://renzullilearning.com/.



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.