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Stop Teaching from the Shadows

BoardshadowTeaching in the shadows at the whiteboard is equivalent to teaching in front of a dusty chalkboard. It’s what drove the overhead projectors out of the bowling alleys and into the classrooms more than 20 years ago. If your teachers have only the interactive technology to block the board and cast a shadow on a lesson, it's time to stand back to get a better view. And if you're an administrator just looking for interactive choices, and not sure if teachers will use them, there's a few helpful thoughts here for you, too.

Getting teachers away from the from the front of the classroom, and into the mix, with students won’t quite look like individual instruction, but it will get more actors to participate on the learning stage. And that stage can be the entire classroom.

In my day, the only way to teach interactively (with tech) was by using a projector and whiteboard with a cheap, wireless mouse. If you walked around the room, but not too far, you could control the teacher-station computer with the wireless mouse, and if you had a wireless keyboard, you could let students around the room type in answers and sentences. Having said all that, I’m certain there are teachers out there still doing it, or thinking about trying it. In the old days, I did more, I actually bought a wireless keyboard and mouse for each of my staff members. Oh, I bought a lot of batteries, too! That was then and this is now...

There is no reason you should go the wireless mouse/keyboard direction today. Almost every whiteboard, document camera, response system, or projector company makes or supplies a far better tablet/slate classroom teaching/presentation device. And many interactive device companies will, or are offering software solutions that will work with iPads and other computer tablets. That software will allow teachers the same classroom instruction opportunities, and most likely more, and the options for getting teachers out of the shadows continues to expand.

If you still question whether teachers will use the equipment, maybe this answer from a recent interview will help. After observing many teachers in a school using tablet/slate/pad controllers easil, I asked, “You seem to handle teaching from anywhere in the classroom, and operating software on your whiteboard easily with that device. What would you say to teachers, who may be a bit leery of walking away from the stylus at the board?” The teacher looked at me, smiled, and said, “I pretend it’s a mouse.” Now, that was simple to understand, and it reminded me of my wireless mouse and keyboard years ago. It was easy to do, because she thought of it as familiar.

Because there's a choice when it comes to these devices, my advice is to try them out to see which is best for your needs. Choosing one that fits into your existing tech mix may be best, but testing outside possibilities is always a good call, too. You may find a gem that teachers find easier to use. Remember, this may be a purchase you'll live with for a long time. Check ease of use, set-up, battery, wireless distance and compatability, as well as support and upkeep. Unlike my cheap wireless mouse and keyboard, running these products through actual teaching lessons, before deciding, makes a lot of price/common sense.

Here are some companies (random order) that provide interactive ways (Pads, Slates, Tablets) and software to interactively launch a teacher out of the whiteboard shadows and into the classroom light with their students:

eInstruction

ELMO

Promethean

Dymo/Mimio

Qwizdom

QOMO HiteVision

SMART Technologies

Luidia

Califone

Apple (iPad)

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):

iRespond

eInstruction

Dukane

Promethean

Dymo/Mimio

Qwizdom

Qomo HiteVision

Turning Technologies

SMART Technologies

Renaissance Learning

H-ITT

Poll Everywhere

i>clicker

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.

1:1 Online Instruction: Alternative Eds New Look

D EDUCATION 2020 041 The Royal Treatment talks with Gene Storz, Chief Learning Officer, about Education 2020. Hopper pic Joanne E. Hopper, Ed.D. Director of Education Services St. Clair County RESA, Marysville, MI, and Al Vigh, Frontiers Program Director for the Wyoming Public Schools will join us to share how they are using 2020 in their districts. Here's a new look to alternative education. Background: Education 2020 (e2020) is a provider of one-on-one online instruction in core and elective courses for students in grades 6-12.

Listen to the 1:1 Online Instruction discussion (embedded player requires Flash):

MP3 Link: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/2/258/show_2258907.mp3

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

Sound Classroom Audio

Sound
What's sound have to do with learning? 

I was reminded of the importance sound plays in learning this week, and of all places, at a golf driving range.  A friend, watching my inconsistent windmill hitting of golf balls hooked me up with something called Sonic Golf. You put this transmitter into the club shaft, attach a receiver to your belt, and insert ear buds—then you swing and listen. I quickly learned to specifically listen to the rhytym of my swing, the quiet associated with the transition/change in direction, and the speed. Sound feedback resulted in hitting the golf ball on the button—consistently. Learning can benefit by taking advantage of the science of listening.

What about sound within classrooms, and for teachers, kids, listening and learning?

I’ve long been a proponent of sound in the classroom. As a teacher, I toyed with all sorts of ways to hook up a microphone and simple speakers, so quiet students could be heard in a classroom. The best student presentation suffers when the audience can’t hear it, and no amount of  “speak louder” reminders will help. I also remember rigging up old record players with mics, because they had speakers—and sort of worked. Just that, was an improvement in a regular classroom. And by saying old record player, I’ve, again, dated myself.

As instructional tech specialist, I was forever looking for ways to inexpensively tie our teachers and computers into the ceiling speakers. I usually started with teachers willing to experiment, but most often with those who had students with IEPs that included sound options. It made those students, with the obvious hearing needs, more successful, and teachers discovered that the rest of the class benefited as well. At first, we used handheld microphones. Not the best for orchestrating a class, but certainly exciting for kids. Then, we graduated to a few devices that hung like necklaces, and left teaching hands free. It’s amazing how many of those devices I saw in the hallway, hanging from teachers’ necks, because they had gotten used to them, and forgotten to remove them.

I know there are scientific studies to prove all this sound theory, but the bottom line is really to learn the art of listening, you just can’t be told to do it. I will bet you that in most classrooms that are sound improved, teachers don’t have to remind students to listen, and teachers don’t have to repeat what they say—as often. It’s not only the students on IEPs who benefit; it’s the entire class, as well as the teacher. So, if you haven’t, consider making classrooms sound ready in newer buildings, and sound improved in older ones. 

Here’s a hyperlinked list of companies that do classroom audio well. Visit their sites for more.

1.  SMART Technologies Audio Classroom Amplification System

2.  FrontRow To Go and Pro Digital

3.  Califone Infrared Classroom Audio System and Califone

4.  LightSpeed REDCAT and TOPCAT 

5.  Panasonic All-In One Portable Sound System

6.  Cetacea Sound Astronaut 

7.  TeachLogic VoiceLink Plus sound system

8.  Calypso System’s WCM-RF Classroom Voice Amplification Solution and ezRoom 

9.  Epson AP-60 Sound Enhancement System

10. Promethean ActivSound 

11. Extron VoiceLift 

12. Crestron FreeSpeech

QOMO's QPC60 Doc Cam: InFoComm

QOMO's QPC60 Document Camera gets The Royal Treatment at InFoComm. Shannon Raupp shares functions and features.

Watch my booth interview to learn what this versatile document camera can do:

ELMO at InFoComm: TT-12 Interactivity

I gave the new ELMO TT-12 document camera The Royal Treatment at InFoComm. This doc cam (visualiser) has more positions than a yoga instructor. It doesn't need a computer, and has its own audio and recording capabilities. It also can be seamlessly connected to ELMO's slate.

Watch the video interview and demo to see if the TT-12 is the right match for your interactive classroom, school, or district:

Luidia's VP Jody Forehand: InFoComm

Jody Forehand, Luidia's VP of Product Planning, gets The Royal Treatment during an interview at InFoComm. Learn about Luidia and eBeam, as well as their interactive role in the education marketplace. With Luidia, its about doing what they do well, and having great partners, including HP, Chief, Hitachi, and Claridge for support. Forehand talks about how to outfit new and old classrooms for education interactivity. Watch the Interview:

Canon Security Cameras: InFoComm

Info10 One of my InFoComm stops was at Canon, where I checked out security cameras. I interviewed Canon's Chuck Westfall about cameras suitable for school and district use. Westfall gave me a little lesson on types of cameras and their technologies, as well as a look at three devices designed to guard and keep districts safe.


Please watch my Security Interview at Canon with Chuck Westfall:

InFoComm Tech Pick: Laser Projection

Pro and Short Throw #10CF5532
I’ve been following bulbless projector technology from the start. I was one of those instructional tech specialists who taught kids and teachers, as well as climbed ladders to change projector bulbs and filters. I also had to allocate a lot of funds for replacements. While the bulbless/filterless idea isn’t new, Family Of Products2 the LASER/LED/hybrid light source technology is new and amazing. With this technology, we’re talking about 20,000 hours of eco-friendly, or short throw projection life without mercury lamps. Casio has embraced this technology in its DLP short-throw (top image) and slim-green (bottom image) projectors.

What’s cool about this new technology is that DLP (Texas Instruments) and 3LCD—two competitive and most-used technologies in education projection—and for that matter, projectors in general—can love this LASER/LED hybrid tech, too. That said, while an extremely cool addition, the technology will be developed further, I’m sure—it can only get better. Speculation is that laser projectors could go to 30,000 hours. You don't have to an engineer to Imagine the cost savings there.

If you’re spending a lot of money on replacement bulbs—even if you’re getting two for the price of one—and having your tech crew climb ladders to frequently replace them— you might be getting nearer to just monitoring all those newly-gained hours of projection life with my InFoComm Tech Pick—Laser/LED hybrid technology.

 “While we are extremely proud of the success around our SLIM line, we knew that we could continue to build on the technology, understanding that different industries face different challenges. Our new family of projectors is built with those needs in mind and will deliver tailored solutions to increase efficiency and streamline costs,” says Frank Romeo, vice president of Casio’s Business Projector Division.

Slim and Signature #10CF54E2

Qumi: InFoComm Pick

Qumi_5
InFoComm always gives me a great selection of display, presentation, and audio equipment to consider, but for me, Vivitek's Qumi was just cool. I was in the Vivitek exhibit and commented to the media rep that I thought it was funny to be surrounded by all these bigger presentation choices and I only had eyes for the tiny Qumi.

This small LED-based projector can be hooked up to anything—laptop, iPad, iPhone, and more—with Qumi_6 thumb drive, USB, VGA, or mini SD card. Add simple-to-use functionality to that list. This is pretty much plug it in, push button, point projection.

I was Skeptical of the projection so I ask to see what it could do. The Vivitek rep turned it to the wall, and the Qumi displayed a fairly large a crisp clear image. That's when I said, "I want one."

I believe it is the first pocket projector to be 3-D ready, thanks to DLP (Texas Instruments) technology. It even has mini-HDMI connection.

The Native WXGA (1280x800) resolution, is combined with 300 lumens of brightness
The 1.6 pounds; 6.3-inch (W) x 1.2-inch (H) x 3.9-inch (D) Qumi is priced at $499 out of the blocks. It comes in black or white.

I was so taken with my InFoComm Pick, I told others at the show they needed to talke a look. I think you might like to check it out, too.  Qumi_4

Samsung SUPERHERO: Pushing the Doc Cam Envelope

Austin_davinici
The Samsung’s Imaging Division
, which includes document cameras, regularly does these SUPERHERO video competitions, where students get to win a nice $500 cash prize, as well as a SAMCAM 860 document camera for their classroom. For the contest, students portray a historical character and are judged on presentation, performance, character and content accuracy, as well as quality.

Austin, a fifth grader from Blissfield, Michigan won the winter contest. He played the part of Leonardo da Vinci. The spring winner will be named on June 17, 2011. Entry information for these and future competitions can be found at www.samsungk-12.com.

Checking out contests and grants for classroom tech is fun, and you never know—you might win.

I like the idea of pushing the envelop with document cameras, whether it’s by teachers or students. Just using doc cams to display documents, today, is call for a faculty brainstorming session. It’s an easy to use, interactive classroom tool that deserves a place in any creative classroom.

Even the simplest document camera models, those without video options, have great still-image capabilities. For example, a simple changing of the slideshow display time to its quickest intervals, using still images in sequence, can create the appearance of animation with objects or clay. Sort of a new-age flip book.

Editor's Note:

I always recommend checking building and district rules to make sure you’re within the guidelines. Samsung’s SUPERHERO contest is safe as well as fun. Having students dress up in what amounts to a disguise should pass any AUP (Acceptable Use Policy). It’s a good idea for everyday classrooms, too. Kids love to dress up to play the part of a scientist or even a mathematician.

Acer Iconia Tab W500

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tech-Lite Educator Apps & Tech

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

What you’ll need:

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

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

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

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

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

Dell 2120 Classroom Ready & Rugged

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

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

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

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

1. Why the matte screen?

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

2. Why isn't there a stylus?

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

3. Is it anti-bacterial?  2120 keyboard

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

2120 front1a

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:

Ten District Tech Purchase Thoughts

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

1. Price

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

2. Loose Screws

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

3. Things Get Lost

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

4. Batteries

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

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

5. New Works with Old

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

6. Damage Psychic

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

7. Theft

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

8. Try It First

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

9. Customer Care

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

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

10. Make Contact for a Trial or Pilot

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

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

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!

SMART Audio Gets Heard: The Royal Treatment

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

StrataLogica: World at Teaching Fingertips-Royal Treatment

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

Dell Flips Its Lid! The Royal Treatment

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

ASUS Slate Gets Royal Treatment

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

Fujitsu Convertible Tablet Gets Royal Treatment

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


RM Slate Gets Royal Treatment

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


FETC Hits

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

eInstruction

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.

Promethean

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

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

Send In The Slates! FETC

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

KINEO

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

RM Slate

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

Fujitsu

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

ASUS

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

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

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.

Twitter:
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.

Video:
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.

Apps…Apps…Apps:
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:
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

BYOT:
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.

Frustration

Biggest Disappointment:
PC tech-device response to the iPad

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.

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.
http://2010classroommakeover.shycast.com/p/1

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.

Higher Ed Wants What K12 Has

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

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

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

Ed Tech News: Nov. 8, 2010

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

My Graduation Plan: Video Royal Treatment

Excent and My Graduation Plan get The Video Royal Treatment:

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.

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…

Top 25 Ed Tech Trends

Ken&Cam Here are my Top 25 Education Technology Trends for 2010-2011, presented in random order. I’ve kept it company generic, but I’m certain education companies will find themselves in the list, and quite possibly in more than one trend category. Knowing today’s trends, and that ed tech companies have addressed them, is important to districts making the right purchasing choices—now and with a view toward the future.

1. Touch Screens
Taking touch screens out of fast food establishments, and making that software affordable for every classroom and new device is long overdue. Touch Screens are here, and if it takes a few more dollars to add the feature—do it. Whether on notebooks, whiteboard, slates, or displays—touch is intuitive.

2. 3D Technology
There are different ways of doing 3D, with glasses, on display screen, one or two projectors. This technology is improving, so that it is now a viable classroom tool. The curriculum for 3D lags, but should catch up as more developers get education serious about this teaching tool.

3. Cloud Environments
Making teacher and student desktops 24/7 Web-available is only part of what a cloud environment can offer. This is not just having a tech product online; it is looking at delivering useful and seamless tech solutions, and at an incredibly low price. Naysayers present the data safety issue, but there are solutions there, too. Looking to the clouds is happening. Discussions are needed to define it better, but it certainly is something district leaders can understand.

4. Cell Phones/Smartphones
You can’t even call them phones anymore. They are handheld computers, with more capability than most computing devices in schools today. Preventing their use at schools isn’t an option. Some schools will provide them, and other schools will figure out how to manage student-owned.

5. Apps
How many apps do you have? Good question to ask students, teachers, and administrators today. Life is getting easier for developers of apps, which until recently used to be too tightly controlled by a few very large companies. The race is on to create more, and on the education side—educators and students will benefit. Apps can easily supply everything from a measurement converter to a student magazine subscription.

6. WiFi and Broadband
There are still many places where a connection to the Internet is better with a string attached to two cans, but it’s getting better. Figuring out how to get the Internet, which is now pretty much part of an education right, has the attention of the big broadband firms, but needs a nudge to get the discussion revved up. Yes, it may require a bit of Washington help for that, too.

7. GUI/UI
GUI (pronounced gooey), or graphical user interface is not new. Many non-geeks use the term today, because that’s what separates software and hardware from those that are great to use, and those that are impossible to use. For kids and teachers it may be under the hood tech, but companies that get the GUI right and make it easy—sell products. Running something out of the box has gotten realistic—and expected.

8. Slates/Tablets/Convertibles
The modern day slate, whether used with a stylus or finger touch has become another way to teach a class from anywhere in the class, and to get students away from desks, too. Convertible devices offering a tablet attached to a laptop present a more traditional way to go. There will soon be more slate devices to choose, and when the pricing gets appropriately low—that will make a difference for districts.

9. Netbooks
These light-running Web machines can’t be considered new anymore, but they continue to be great student computing devices. They’re inexpensive, and their battery life is almost scary-long.

10. Response Systems
Many companies have jumped into the response system market. These little gadgets once were just voting or polling devices, but now there are texting solutions, too. With a little practice, most teachers can gather data—on the fly—during a lesson—and report the findings immediately, redirect teaching, and finally upload it all to grading or an SIS location.

11. Interactive Presentation Solutions
We’re moving away from linking the word interactive with just one piece of hardware. The key today is having a total interactive solution in a classroom. That could be a whiteboard solution, along with teacher stations, a tablet, a projector, a document camera, and teamed up with devices in student hands. Don’t forget audio and media controls, as well as dynamic software for lessons and tying everything together.

12. Paperless Solutions
Most think printing less when thinking paperless. Now, if you’re a printer company, that doesn’t necessarily, keep you off a top trend list. Multifunction is the name of the game. While it’s true that printers still print, multifunction machines can do much more. They are becoming district, school, and teacher management devices. Beyond scanning documents, the “new printers” can create assessments, score them, and input data into student information systems, as well as e-mail the information to parents. Many districts are setting them up to manage district forms.

13. Education Communities
Whether it’s a few teachers creating a personal learning network (PLN), or many teachers joining larger organizations—teaching communities are a must. Education companies know that, and are offering, or thinking of offering these communities as part of purchasing packages. Beyond teacher chats and videos on how to use a particular product, the resources, and lessons/templates make them worthwhile. The best of these are all educator, and the worst can be merely commercials. Avoiding the latter brings educators and districts back for more.

14. Resource Portals Educators
love links (URLs) to resources they can use. While hunting for URLS in a traditional search can benefit the few, who are good detectives, having sites that are dedicated to posting great and useful resources for educators are bookmarked and shared. Go to resource portals pay off.

15. Professional Development
Professional development delivery methods have changed, and more companies are offering it. Whether specific or general, educators expect professional development, and administrators plan how to deliver it. More and more, professional development has moved out from the four walls and to the 24/7 delivery method. Video plays an important part. Schools no longer need to be closed, nor substitute coverage provided, so workshops can happen.

16. Alert/Notification Solutions
Contacting everyone, whether it’s just a simple message about an open house, a need to close school due to weather, or emergencies, such as a lock down situation is a necessity. There is no way a school secretary can do that today. Tying SIS, parent contact information, school/district communication, and doing it in many ways, and in many languages has to happen—immediately. These solutions have become quicker and more robust. If your district is talking security cameras on buildings, they’re also talking alert and notification systems.

17. Online Courses/Virtual Schools
Going online for courses used to be just for credit recovery and distance learning. It still works for getting more kids across the graduation stage, and filling in for lost classes due to budget cuts, but virtual learning is now considered mainstream. There are many reasons, including more individualized attention, great video demonstrations, and interactive lessons, but the bottom line is that for many students, offering learning 24/7, away from the 4 traditional walls—works. The virtual student population is growing.

18. Video Conferencing Solutions
Gone are the days of expensive tools to do video conferencing with other classes, schools, and countries. Almost every computing device is set up to do it today—and to do it easily. Some companies are providing better hardware to do it, too. The difference today, over the “can you hear me now” software and hardware experiences of the past—is it works—and you don’t have to be a computer guru to do it.

19. Social Media
You may not agree that social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter have a place in schools, but they are becoming a simple connection for educators nationally and internationally. Sharing a lesson, a link, a suggestion, a how to, or just a hang in there on Twitter or Facebook has become part of an educator’s daily routine. As for use in the classroom, that’s still up for debate.

20. Battery Life
We need to thank some incredible tech experimentation for a lot, but more than anything for the boost in battery life. First probably noticeable in netbooks, it is almost unreal to think we’ve gone from batteries that would maybe go an hour to those that are pushing past 10. This is great news for the 6-hour school day, and back-to-back class schedules.

21. Video
Everyone can do video today. Just as everyone learned digital photography and simple editing, video options are becoming necessities. Many educators think of video as an expected component to daily lessons—certainly their students do. There are companies that fill video needs for those lessons, and it has become increasingly easy for teachers and students to add their own.

22. Security, Network Guarding and Management
Making networks secure and keeping students cyber safe can keep district tech leaders up at night. Options for gate keeping a district’s tech investment at a central location, using fewer tech support specialists can do it, and without breaking the bank. Classroom management tools can do the same for labs and classroom environments, where the number of computers to control has increased, and down time is not an option. It has also made it possible to create thin client computing environments that have no lag in computing power. Stringing together many monitors off of one sufficiently set up computer can be budget smart.

23. Assessment and RTI
Assessment and what to do with them continues to be the big education question,. Today, there are many methods and ways competing to most effectively test and prescribe to student needs. There is always the overhanging warning to poorly performing districts and schools as well, which keeps RTI providers on their toes. Some companies have added assessment and response to intervention to their solutions, while other companies provide it as their sole solution. While it’s a district preference and choice, all are Web-based today, because keeping data in a file drawer doesn’t get it shared—and acted upon.

24. District Websites, Blogs, Branding and Media
How a community perceives a district is important. Creating a public presence demands that a district and school have online place. It can’t be stagnant; it must be active. Media and branding are good for businesses, and also for education. Some districts have people who can do these things internally, but there are a number of companies that can help create a very professional look for districts to share with the community. The key is that these sites need to share, but also look professional today. Gone are the days of slap something up—just to get there. Today, the Website represents the district more than ever.

25. eReaders
Some would argue that a netbook would be better than an eReader in class, because it can do more. Well, if you just want something to fill a reading need in class, or in a resource room, an eReading device makes sense. Downloading books is simple and inexpensive, and eReaders are easy to use. Look for more of them in class. It’s always about using the right education tool for the right situation.

Note: Thank you Nano Tech
Small is definitely better. Devices, screen sizes, and gadgets are smaller—taking up less classroom real estate. Teachers, students and administrators are pretty much wearing technology today.

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!

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.

Training

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.

Waiting

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.

Cost

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.

ViewSonic Education: More Than Finches

Viewschool2 ViewSonic products, with their colorful Australian Gouldian finch logo, was something I was very used to seeing in large department store chains and warehouse stores like Costco, but my thinking began to change after a booth stop at the recent InFoComm show in Las Vegas. There I saw an education set up that could rival any whiteboard solution. It wasn’t a case of where had ViewSonic been, but rather that I hadn’t been looking in that K 12 direction.

ViewSonic is more than pretty finches and displays.

Today I found out more about ViewSonic by interviewing Adam Hanin, vice president of marketing, and Melinda Beecher, senior manager of national channel marketing for ViewSonic Americas. “We have always played a role in education, but now we’re looking to do it in a bigger way,” says Hanin, a lifelong K 12 marketplace expert. Beecher, who thinks of her own children using technology, wants educators to know—ViewSonic has ways to “outfit classrooms for the needs of tomorrow.”

Back2School

A short look at the ViewSonic online site will give you a broader understanding of their products. ViewSonic’s ViewBook computers, with Back2School pricing http://www.viewsonic.com/back2school/ ,and their eReaders are two K-12 options that need more sharing. If you’re like me, you might not have looked beyond their displays to other products.

Look into ViewSchool

Check out ViewSchool at http://www.viewsonic.com/viewschool/ where education tech and district leaders can go to learn about tech ideas and solutions, and get the best discounts for purchasing them. If you don’t know what you need, ViewSonic can match needs with designed programs and partners to make an interactive classroom happen. Check out the options at http://www.viewsonic.com/.

Internet Makes Music: Sound Innovations

SI Book Covers I recently tried out a great idea from Alfred Music Publishing. It’s Sound Innovations a way Music educators and Music department heads can create and modify beginning concert band or string orchestra lessons/”method”. It’s as simple as going online and clicking through the choices that best suit your students’ needs. I was able to create a book specific to trombone in a matter of moments. My music knowledge is limited to what I remember from guitar lessons as a kid, so someone with a bit more knowledge will have an even easier go of it.

According to Alfred Music, the “method” will be available in two formats: the Standard Edition and Director's Choice edition, which allows teachers to customize the method's pedagogy, music, and enrichment materials based on their experiences and preferences.

They are written to state and national standards and based on comprehensive research of music educators' needs and preferences, Sound Innovations provides fundamental teaching tools in a clear and organized format that allows directors to incorporate their own style of teaching.

Sound Innovations is written by music educators Robert Sheldon, Bob Phillips, Peter Boonshaft, and Dave Black, "We surveyed a vast number of music teachers from all parts of the country to find out about their teaching, what they want in a method, and what would be the most helpful in meeting the challenges they face based on their unique teaching situation," said Phillips. "We looked at everything available for teachers, got in depth information about their preferences, and pieced together the best of all worlds, with many exciting new additions."

Sound Innovations: Director’s Choice allows a director to easily customize the method to fit his/her unique teaching styles and classroom situations. "We're empowering teachers to select what they want to teach and the way they want to teach it, by allowing them to choose the things they do and don't want in their method book, while still providing the solid foundation they need," said Boonshaft.

And there’s more, including an MP3 CD with instrument-specific recordings of every single line of music in each student book, and their SmartMusic program provides free access to the first 100 lines of music for students using Sound Innovations.

I recommend that district music staff and department heads check out Sound Innovations at www.alfred.com/soundinnovations to use the internet-based step-by-step program to build and preview their own method, or to view sample books.

Web 2.0 for All

WEB 2010 Getting a majority of teachers to use technology and Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms and with their students—beyond the few that have figured it out on their own—remains a puzzle. I constantly hear from those who know and preach Web 2.0 that they continue to say the same thing over and over—and that the ranks of classroom users just doesn’t increase as fast as they’d like, or think it should. My answer to them is that it’s an on-going effort, and that saying the same thing, again and again, in different ways—helps.

In a short time, Web 2.0 possibilities have exploded in numbers available, but the problem of getting staff to buy in, and become tech users has remained the same. I remember that my problem—years ago—was simply a need to get useful video-lesson supplements in my classrooms—easily presented as part of daily lessons. While a few others and I could create, upload, and share our own, it was unrealistic to ask an entire staff to learn how. Teachers didn’t have the time, and neither did I. And, while I was proud of my original short videos, there was so much more needed. It was not easy to do, and I couldn’t be an expert in all subject areas either.

I solved the problem for the district and me by enlisting help from United Streaming, which became Discovery Education. I was able to create logins for all my staff, Discovery offered searchable video choices, and I could keep track of usage—and help those who specifically needed the help. My staff became experts, and began using their teacher stations computers and presentation equipments daily. One school led to use in all schools. I thought it was completely reasonable to ask all staff to use it.

Today, I revisited Discovery Education online to see what an instructional technology specialist might find if searching for ways to safely, impact Web 2.0 tool usage with staff—in a big way. Well, it looks like Discovery Education Network (DEN) has come a long way since my streaming-video solution needs.

I know that it’s a kick for tech-savvy educators to figure out free Web 2.0 tools and material, but every educator is not cast from the same mold. Most don’t have the time, and certainly most don’t have the skills to play for hours to hunt, modify, and refine a digital teaching technique. Discovery Education’s Web 20.10 (http://web2010.discoveryeducation.com/) has gathered ideas and the most useable Web 2.0 teaching applications in one place. So, if you get five minutes to share anything tech at the opening of school, or future faculty meeting—make it Discovery Education’s Web 20.10. I’m not sure if it will get all your staff Web 2.0 revved up, but it certainly will capture more singers for your Web 2.0 choir.

And for all those creative Web 2.0 masters out there, don't give up on sharing, continue to build the base, and share what you know in your own personal learning networks. Staff and kids need to learn from you!

Check Discovery Education Web 20.10 for yourself, school, and district: http://web2010.discoveryeducation.com/

Interactive Classroom: Easy or Custom Fit

Compgirl1 One technology product does not an interactive classroom make. So, how do districts get there? It might be best to start with the “Easy” and “Custom” perspectives.

I do remember, years ago, as an instructional technology specialist arguing the need to coordinate the right hardware with the right software, and then throwing my hands in the air in frustration to get one thing—a hardware or software—to at least make a dent in my school technology plans. I know that still happens, but today it's an absolute necessity for all educators and administrators to consider a suite or array of products that build an interactive solution, and not just one, out-of-context puzzle part.

While a complete solution can come from one education supplier, it doesn’t have to, as long as what you patchwork together is of a coordinated design and it works together. Many companies offer their own whiteboard, software, document camera, student response systems, software, and online teacher/student communities. Some of those products might be OEM, where a company acquires a product from another manufacturer and incorporates it into their product line as their own. Anyway, you could, if you wanted to, stick with one company for many interactive solutions, which pretty much guarantees they’ll work together in some sort of classroom and teaching harmony. Or, you could pick and choose the best for your purposes from different companies.

Choosing the best from different companies is more of a custom choice, and requires more knowledge—just like choosing “easy install” over “custom” when installing new computer software. Many go with the easy install. That said, when custom is done right, by tech personnel and the educators, who will use the equipment with students, it could be a symphony. After all, if you get netbooks you like from one company for your 4th and 5th graders, getting tablets for your middle schoolers from another company may pay off. It just depends on your plan.

Today, most companies not only get that they need to provide online communities for teachers and kids, beyond just being commercial statements, but most also understand that their products and software need to work with their competitors’ models. This doesn’t diminish company pride, or company competition—they’re still trying to launch the newest and greatest technology—first. It’s just good business to say your product is compatible with existing school equipment.

Those with less expertise may want to do the “easy install”, and those with more expertise—the “custom”. And if your technology planning committee needs help deciding, most education marketplace vendors have experts that can create the interactive technology blueprint to fit.

Note: The August/September, back to school issue of Scholastic Administrator, features a Guide to Interactive Classroom Solutions. It will appear in print and online.

Intel Education Marketplace Barometer

Intel Intel is good news for education and the marketplace. I’m not a market analyst; I can barely feed the cats and spoil the grandkids, but I do follow the market. I remember Intel reporting smaller demands for chips, just before the economy went south—this last time. I know that I said out loud—“That can’t be good!”.
Today, I'm saying the opposite.

Reporting on technology is one thing, but reporting on education technology is another. I thought districts that had difficulty getting technology, either wouldn’t get it at all, or need to weigh keeping teachers against adding new technology. Well, I was right. So, the news that Intel’s revenue is up 34% is good news—not only for business, but education as well. Again, I’m not a businessperson, but my eyes are open, just as they were when I saw the dip and then the crash. Using Intel as a barometer may be a very good plan. This is not only good news for businesses needing to upgrade technology to take advantage of the Internet better, but it is also good news for education as well as the education marketplace.

We’ve learned that what’s bad in business tends to trickle down to affect education at every level—from the community, to district administration, to the kindergarten teacher, and clearly—students. But, we also know that the reverse is true. An upswing out there in the corporate world, especially in technology—everything is tied to it—is just what the education budget-doctor ordered.

While I commend districts that chose keeping teachers over machines, and smaller classes over the alternatives, you can’t live with obsolete software, computers, and technology forever. In schools, obsolescence has usually been 5-7 years, which always seemed ridiculous to me. Kids walking into schools to primitive equipment and software, then going home to new tech, while common, doesn’t make sense. We’ve seen more of that out of budget necessity, but maybe we’re looking at an indication of change—for the better—with the latest Intel news.

Look beyond the “bing-bong” Intel commercials to possibly an upswing in chip demand as one indication that things are getting better. As business goes, so goes education—and the connection seems to be much closer than we’d ever imagined.

Redesigning Interactive

Mimiojpg If you’re like me, you’ve seen plenty of clunky when it comes to tech products for kids. That’s why one look at Mimio’s redesigned interactive products will make you think aerodynamic and wind-tunnel testing. From their MimioVotes to their ink capture kit, the new-look Mimio products look like they’d be at home in a fashion museum. They are stunning and far removed from the clunky designs we’re used to seeing.

 

Anyone in a classroom knows that pretty is one Mimio3 thing, but simple to use, priced right, and non confusing for teachers is a necessity. While the look may have changed, the functionality of Mimio tools has gone from good to even better. Everything from their MimioView document camera to the side-mounted MimioTeach solution, to the MimioVote self-adjusting recharging cradles, all are ease-of-use engineer for teachers and students.

Here’s the kicker, I saw a lot of familiar education marketplace people in the crowds around the Mimio booth at ISTE10. I wasn’t the only one noticing.

http://www.mimio.dymo.com/index.asp

Look for more posts from me on designs in education technology.

Mimio2

Backing Up Easy to Do

It's not quite the lyrics of a Neil Sedaka song, but They say that backing up is easy to do... if you go then I'll be blue... don't say this is the end... is what districts should be singing when it comes to saving and preserving data, and my vRescue interview repeats the refrain.

Personally, you should back up your individual data in three different ways, with one of those off site. Companies like Carbonite handle that pretty well. While individuals may just be trying to prevent the loss of personal documents and images, districts without proper back up of data and sensitive information may be heading towards disaster.

I interviewed Wayne Masoner of Weidenhammer Systems about the vRescue solution. We talked about how to avoid disaster recovery by preventing data disaster from happening in the first place, and what vRescue can do if it does happen.

It really isn't difficult to understand, first of all, vRescue helps districts learn what they need, and provides an appliance that can be managed by the smallest of IT teams, or even an individual. vRescue tests daily, taking daily snapshots, and guarantees that if there is a system problem resulting in data loss, it will be restored in minutes. Now, that's the kind of promise I'd like to have. Furthermore, vRescue provides districts with space on their servers until things are completely normalized at the district level. If you've ever been in a district situation, this is big, because an unstable environment can sometimes have you right back where you've started. Having a stable harbor in times of data trouble makes a lot of sense.

Take the vRescue free 30-day trial to see if it's a solution for your district.

Rethinking Cell Phones in Classrooms

PhonesStudents3 I originally thought that cell phones in classrooms made very little sense, other than in very specific situations, but recently I’ve needed to rethink that. Whether by thumb-, touch-keying, or by voice recognition their education reality, and even augmented reality, can't be overlooked.

During a recent hospital stay, I discovered a few things—that I still loved Corn Flakes, I wasn’t so tough, and if I had my cell phones, I didn’t need my computer. I’m truly a lightweight using a cell phone, but have two—one for my own Educators’ Royal Treatment, and the other for Scholastic business—but I was able to e-mail, text, write a bit, take some notes, check on my blog, tweet, and even make a phone calls or two. I didn’t use the camera—not much to see—nor did I use the recorder or voice recognition software—probably need a private room for that.

Now, before I jump in, let me say that I know all the reasons not to use cell phones—from radiation to thumb injuries, but taking computer lab EM Field (Electromagnetic Field) readings, or checking for carpal tunnel in more traditional computing hasn’t stopped those options. I also know that more traditional options, such as notebooks and netbooks, as well as smartbooks have their proponents. I’ve heard from some. This is not meant to be a one-dimensional solution—those who know me, understand that—but instead it’s a change in my attitude towards a device that could possibly be a computer in a kid’s pocket. And by that, I don’t mean sticking a phone in the hands of a 5-year old. I have my own ideas of the when, but leaving it to local school decision makers is OK by me.

There are other factors in my change of mind, too. I have followed smartphones in the classroom for years, and wrote one of the earliest articles on Project K–Nect and use of cell phones with math curriculum. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to interview education-minded executives at AT&T, Verizon, Qualcomm, as well as leaders like Professor Billie McConnell at Abilene Christian University, where cell phones are part of pre-service teacher education, and teacher professional development. I’ll have an ACU follow-up post with specifics on that program, but it is another of the puzzle parts helping to change my idea of what classroom computing should look like.

While I know some may think a mobile broadband device opens students up to all kinds of social networking issues, the same can be said for notebooks, or anything else capable of connecting outside the district walls. There are ways to contain the school use and have students work in a more secure, and protected environments. Closing off the outside world to create a self-contained work area or portal isn’t rocket science anymore. And, if students are bringing in their own notebooks for class, there’s no reason why they can’t bring in their own smartphones. Districts need to regulate school use and applications, but using student-purchased phones makes sense, helping to keep those distributed or leased by the district within budgets.

Some obvious cell phone uses are note taking, recording, GPS/mapping, and collaborating in and out of school, but add to that the ability to make them classroom responders—perfect for student polling and texting possibilities for immediate public and private feedback.

There is a smartphones revolution today. You almost can’t call them phones anymore, with fewer calls are being made, and more texting, voice and imaging, including video being done. Really everything you could want for publishing is on a smartphone today. It’s not all about the iPhone either; it doesn’t hurt to have Google and Microsoft as players. Sure, Apple is still pushing the envelope with applications and innovations, like two cameras on the new iPhone for taking images, and also for video communication, but Google’s Android-based smartphones are making for a closer race. And now we’re looking a 4G solutions like the HTC EVO from Sprint. What can be done on these is Incredible, which also is the name of a new Verizon offering. With the text screens getting bigger, and even viewing full-length movies becoming possible, we’re watching the technology change daily.

It is necessary to look at these smartphones as a classroom options for a lot of reasons, far beyond their ability to access Google desktops, which schools have finally figured out makes sense, with these devices students can walk into any campus environment from library to science lab and be connected. While it’s not quite wearing connectivity, reaching into a pocket it’s pretty close.

Reaching for the SKY: Learning.com

William Kelly 1 Learning com I've been following Learning.com for quite awhile. One of my first education technology interviews was a PowerPoint demo of Ah!Ha!Math. At that first meeting Barclay Burns, a Co-Founder, talked about learning communities, and I've often thought about that when chatting with PLN (Personal Learning Network) members. And each year since then I've been impressed with new product offerings and solutions from Learning.com. CEO and Co-Founder Bill Kelly and I always have rewarding and enjoyable conversations that leave me with an education smile. Please listen to my SKY conversation with Bill Kelly, and find out why and how Learning.com is reaching for the clouds, and discover how to get your own piece of the Learning.com SKY!

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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.