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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.

Scholastic eReader Poll: Tech Survey?

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

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

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

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.

Twitter: an Intelligent Haunting for Educators

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

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

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

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

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

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

@kenroyal hello from the Charlotte NC airport!

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

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

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

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

@kenroyal Hello from Waverly, Iowa!

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

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

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

@kenroyal Good morning from southern NH.

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

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

@kenroyal Hello from an education grad student in Philadelphia!

@kenroyal Hello from Fredericksburg Virginia!

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

@kenroyal Hello Ken - checking in from SouthWestern Ontario

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

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

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

@kenroyal jackson tn- ahnna w knoxville chamber

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

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

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

@kenroyal Hello from Colorado

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

@kenroyal I am late, but hello to you.

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

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

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

Here are a couple of responses:

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

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

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

Administrators: More Apps Fewer Books

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

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

Here are some online and app admin-reading suggestions:

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

Top Ten Qualities of Prime Leadership 
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/200910/business-top-ten-qualities-prime-leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/.

Microsoft Innovative Educators

Cheryl_Rawya_web Microsoft shines a spotlight on teachers throughout the year and specifically at the Innovative Educators Forum. Top innovative educators come together from around the world and a finalist from each country is selected to be a representative at the World forum. Cheryl Arnett from Sunset Elementary School in Craig, Colo., and Rawya Shatila from Maskassed Khalil Shehab School in Beirut, Lebanon, were recently selected to represent for their innovative work in international collaboration and will join nearly 500 other educators from 60 countries in South Africa this fall.

“We were able to make our classes virtual neighbors instead of strangers on the other side of the world,” says Shatila. “Using technology, we are developing our students into global citizens — it broadens their perspective.”

Arnett and Shatila’s project, Digital Stories: A Celebration of Learning and Culture, connected Arnett’s class of first- and second-graders in Craig, Colo., to Shatila’s second-graders in Beirut. The two educators, who had never met, used technologies such as wikis, blogs and online mapping tools to share stories and activities for helping students increase global awareness of similarities and differences between children from different countries.

Learn more about U. S. Partners in Learning, and more on Innovative Educators.

Congratulations to Cheryl Arnett, Rawya Shatila, and the other educators who are raising the bar higher for what’s possible, and bringing innovation into their classrooms!

Image Note: From left to right: Innovative Educators at the US Forum: Joe Goodwin from Myrtle Beach Elementary in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Cheryl Arnett from Sunset Elementary School in Craig, Colo.; Rawya Shatila from Maskassed Khalil Shehab School in Beirut, Lebanon; and Kathryn Starn from Myrtle Beach Elementary.

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/

Smackdown, Show & Tell Web 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ning Ends Free: Pearson Steps Up

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

Ning Larger Nings Scramble to Continue Collaboration

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

Pearson Stepping Up

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

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

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

District IT Gets the Business

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

District Overview

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

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

Philosophy Shift

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

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

Political Strategy

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

Results Helps ROI

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

It’s a Pretty Big Business

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

Bringing the Internet to the Community

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

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

Kiosk Program

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

Funding the Free WiFi Idea

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

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

Found Money

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

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

Community Outreach

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

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

District Advertising Policies

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

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

Initial BOE Doubts Vanish

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

More Business Thinking

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

Disaster Consortium

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

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

EduGeek Invades US Education IT

EduG1 It was my great fortune to meet a few gatecrashers from EduGeek at the Scholastic Best in Tech awards ISTE10 in Denver. Two of them would be quite at home sipping a pint and tossing darts, while the third was, as we say over here, a rose between two thorns. We all hit it off instantly—thank goodness we talked the same education IT EduG2 language. Why were the here, and what was their US plan?

EduGeek is an online peers support group focused on IT support in UK schools, colleges and universities. They are 25,000 strong, and membership grows at a rate of about 1000 a month. Most UK secondary schools have onsite IT support, so EduGeek members provide tailored methods for supporting IT in their schools.

EduGeek also has marketplace support from companies such as Microsoft, Capita, Promethean, SMART, Research Machines and others. It figures, because info gleaned from that many IT specialist is valuable feedback. Companies could save a bundle listening to that kind of advice—redesigning products and solutions from recommendations.

The EduGeek site is free, but the information priceless. EduGeek traffic has them looking to the US now. Out of 949,046 visits to the site in the past 30 days, 233,425 came from the US. While EduGeek was never set up to be a business, it seems they are doing a lot right. They don't want the country back, and I'm certain they don't sing like the Beatles, so this invasion hopes to add the US to their "IT Lifeline" for education.

Check out this cheeky crew at http://www.edugeek.net/.

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

Social Media's Education Value

Ken&Cam Scholastic will give a year's subscription to Instructor Magazine, FREE, to educators and administrators, who stop by Scholastic Administrator booth #1428 between 12 and 1pm on Monday, June 29th, to talk with me about social media at ISTE10 in Denver.

The Big Red Dog's Scholastic Administrator, will be hunting more than clay and crayons at ISTE 2010. I'll be there in search of answers from teachers and administrators about the use of social media in education. This includes questions about Twitter, Facebook, as well as PLNs (Personal Learning Networks). Help teach the old dog new tricks by showing up at the Scholastic Administrator booth 1428 at ISTE10, from 12-1pm on Monday, June 29th.

I'll be asking the questions, and video recording your short interview answers. Help me find out... What do you think of social media in education? Do you prefer Twitter, or Facebook? And also share your take on PLNs.

Follow me @kenroyal on Twitter to find out more, and get involved in additional education and technology conversations from classrooms to the clouds.

Document Camera Companies Morph

Document camera companies aren't what they used to be. I mean that as praise. For the most part, if you ask a teacher the name on his/her document camera, you may still get the "I'm not sure" answer, or "You mean my Elmo?" But behind the scenes, document camera companies are changing. I uncovered some breaking news about two of these morphing companies while snooping for stories at InFoComm 2010.

DC120 Lumens, is a company known for its red document camera, the Ladybug. You may even see their design being used by other companies. Well, they may have just knocked the tech socks off the industry by making their DC 120 Ladybug wireless, using 1082.11 technology--just like those wireless laptops. By attaching a base to its bottom, the DC 120 document camera can go anywhere in the classroom, and teachers and students won't be tripping over wires. You can still get the wired DC 120, as well as a 25 foot USB extension, but looking into wireless makes a lot of sense. The base snaps on and snaps off with ease. Why didn't I think of this! Hmmmm, wondering if other companies are thinking the same. Get ready for wireless document Cameras!

AVerAVerMedia, a company known by many for their unique connection devices, like the AVerKey, their very portable and capable document camera, as well as their recent AVerPens for cooperative group classroom learning, has taken a giant leap. AVerMedia has taken up the challenge to make education distance learning affordable. The big boys that have been on the visual audio stage for years have done very little to make video conferencing affordable K12 priority. At InFoComm, AVerMedia's President Pait, gave me permission to interview and release the news. Not only will you go to AVerMedia for document cameras, but they may be the place for districts to enter the real video conferencing world, providing schools and classrooms with board room quality communication for a K12 budget.

My InFoComm videos and More!

3D Education Reality

Glasses12 3D technology is by no means perfected, but I haven't a doubt that it makes education sense. I feel more positive about it this week, after my InFoComm 2010 coverage.

It's at a point where the 3D applications and programs have just begun to be created and designed for education use. That will take this technology from the gimmicky to the classroom useful, and most likely necessary. And a great deal of the work will go into gaming first. I always comment that it took about 19 years for overhead projectors to get into classrooms from bowling alleys, so let's hope that 3D technology gets better faster, and finds its way into classrooms more quickly. It would be a shame to see it get bogged down on gamer's laps rather than education development.

Right now, you can view 3D from a display monitor without glasses, using stereoscopic syncing, but the resolution is not good--yet, and that technology is still experimental from what I've seen. You have to stand in designated spots to see the images best, and viewing for a classroom period would have the nurse's office filled with headache complaints. So, the best way to experience 3D is still with those less than fashion-elegant glasses. 

Glasses5 More About 3D Glasses:

  • Anaglyphic 3D uses glasses with blue and red tinted lenses and they filter color. Most of us have used them.
  • Passive polarized lenses do the same thing as anaglyphic lenses, but they filter light. Remember those light science labs with the two polarized plastic squares?
  • Active shutter, or just Active is the latest. It's about speed. With this technology the lenses "shutter" back and forth between different light filters. Active glasses are more expensive.

Bottom line: When figuring 3D cost today, know what everything costs, you'll pay for the quality you get, and remember that it's not quite perfected yet.

The Technologies Behind 3D:

Glasses11 Beyond the funny glasses, three companies, 3LCD, DLP, and Canon are supplying the technology for 3D projectors, which give them more interesting points to compare. With 3LCD and Canon technology, it seems that two projectors are required, while with DLP technology only one. Interestingly, the 3LCD projectors could be viewed well with the cheapest cardboard-framed glasses, while the DLP projectors seemed to need at least Passive glasses. Note: I didn't have a chance to test glasses with the Canon LCOS. Add these to their continued comparisons of color quality, brightness, and cost.

UK's BECTA and QCDA Vanishing Act

Titanic1 BECTA, the British Educational and Communications Technology Association, and QCDA, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency have both taken a UK powder. It was really a now you see 'em, now you don't of the highest order, with the new British government doing the prestidigitation. Even while it was happening BECTA seemed to go on as normal, sort of like the ship going down with the band playing. 

The government change-over in the UK from Labour Party leadership to a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has a lot to do with pulling the plug on government organizations such as BECTA and QCDA. There are many sides, here. One is that BECTA did a good job helping to get a lot of technology in schools. The other is that BECTA became a bloated organization with special interest groups (within the marketplace) putting schools in technology buying positions they couldn't afford.

As for QCDA, it raised the same concerns, we hear in the states, over testing students and teaching to the test . Dropping QCDA may be seen as a budget saver, as well as a way of diminishing government involvement, but some see it as something that may leave testing and curriculum scattered and disconnected.

With government bowing out, you can bet the private sector will move in to try filling the void, but can anything really fill the BECTA void?

I tried to think about US comparisons. We are certainly looking at many governmental and local education carpets being pulled from under school districts in the name of slimming budgets. I know that organizations such as ISTE, and CoSN help promote new-age learning with technology, but they're not government heavy-weight authorities. There's Race to the Top, and Partnership for 21st Century Skills, as well as foundations and grants, but nothing central like BECTA. NCLB is the closest thing to QCDA, I guess.

I've always looked to the UK to get a glimpse of what may be headed here. I'm left a little confused now, and maybe that's true for most educators in the UK, and the US, too.

When I'm lucky enough to talk with teachers and administrators during a school visit, or at an education conference, the question I get most is "How do I get that technology for my students?"  I actually think answering that question needs to be addressed beyond a local, or district finance answer. The question deserves a better answer for a teacher, who wants to use technology, sees it used in professional development or demonstrations, but realizes that back in his/her class, it's all pantomime and wishes. There are administrators and educators, as well as marketplace experts, who are figuring it out. We may need a coalition of our own. Anyway, sign me up for the committee.

Looks like our educator-friends across the pond will be doing some figuring, too.

Pano Logic: Zero Client Thinner

Pano2 Thin client solutions have been around for a long time. They require a slave machine and additional low end computers connected with devices--in sort of a chain. I wondered whether Pano Logic's "Zero" solution, which requires no computer at the seat, and everything on a server, would transition easily from business  to a school. It  concept sort of reminds me of the old fashioned terminals in the early days of computing, but a lot quicker and more powerful.

Mike Stewart, Blue Ridge School District Assistant to the Director of Information Systems in New Milford Pennsylvania talked computing with "no moving parts" during our interview. Stewart replaced his traditional desktop machines with Pano Logic zero clients. His Pano Logic makeover included a Server, VM (Virtual Machine) licensing, Pano Logic software and licensing, 60 Pano devices, and templates for virtual desktops.

Zero means that there is no slave computer required as in traditional thin client solutions. Instead, all you Pano1 need is a monitor, keyboard,  mouse, and connectors. What makes this happen is a small box called the Pano device. Everything gets connected to it,  from audio to monitors.

Best of all, Stewart can run the whole show remotely from any Web browser. Zero may also stand for no hardware issues. He tucks the Pano devices into slide out trays at each computing seat, where nothing can go wrong except maybe an unplugged wire once in awhile.

Does Pano Logic's Zero Client make more sense?

Stewart uses his his Zero Client machines for Web browsing and desktop needs, such as word processing and other Microsoft applications. He figures that about 60% of the district's computing needs can be Pano Logic. The other 40% would require higher end computing capacity, with programs such as CAD, photo imaging, and video work. He says that it's quieter with no fans needed... resulting in cooler rooms. Many of the server nightmares he'd had in the past have also vanished--not much can go wrong.

Learn more about Pano Logic at http://www.panologic.com/

Partners in Learning Network

PILNTeacher I'm always sharing new technology, resources, products and interviews, but always looking for something that makes a difference. Well I didn't have to travel further than our Scholastic site to find this one. It's the Partners in Learning Network. Partners in Learning is a global network of education collaboration and innovation. At PLN educators can communicate, have discussions and share resource.

Register and Microsoft Donates!

Now until June 30, 2010, a free registration at the Partners in Learning Network gets $1 (one dollar) donated by Microsoft to the Boy's and Girl's Clubs of America. For me, that would be good enough, I remember being introduced to bumper pool at a Boy's Club ages ago, as well as to a few life-long friends. Helped me stay out of trouble for sure. So, those Microsoft dollars add up to a good cause.

Hey, I'm Not Done! Win a Laptop Lab!

But here's the kicker, when you register, you also have a chance to win a complete Dell laptop lab! Someone has to win, so register!

http://www.scholastic.com/partnersinlearning/

Thinkfinity's New Look and Community

Screenshot-homepage Thinkfinity has been online for a couple of years now, and many educators have already taken advantage of its resources, but the new Thinkfinity look and design has some changes that will make it a one stop resource for lessons, professional development, and community collaboration. A big difference is that instead of pushing users out to partner sites, the new Thinkfinity site is a resource unto itselffor the most part educators don't have to go anywhere else.  I was taken on a tour of the site expansion, and tried to find something missing, but it seems Thinkfinity has covered all its basis.I did recommend that for those resources that still take you off site, having a new page open is the best plan, so educators, administrators, and technology resource teachers remain on site there, too. That will happen according to Thinkfinity's Kristen Townsend, educational development officer, who shared the resources part of the site with me. The new site even provides resource for home school and after school purposes. It also has ramped up its professional development offerings, which have always been free, and will remain free.

The new site with have news feeds, blogs, as well as the new Thinkfinity Community. The Community Screenshot-get_connected reminds me of an education Personal Learning Network (PLN), something educators have been doing on their own for years. And along with that community Thinkfinity has certainly done its homework regarding the use of social networking by educators today. There will be private and public options as well as tie-ins to social media and Web 2.0 tools. I'd like to thank the Verizon Foundation for helping to set up the interviews and giving me a sneak peak. Check it out today, BUT FIRST...

Please listen to Thinkfinity's Christine McGuinness as she explained Thinkfinity Community to me:

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!

Karl Engkvist Talks Blackboard Connect

KarlE2 I had a great conversation with Karl Engkvist, executive vice president of Blackboard Connect. While I've known Blackboard for quite some time, I wanted to hear about Blackboard's mass communication solution. Talking with someone at the company executive level is the best way to not only get the scoop on the "Now", but also a look at the "Future". During our talk, I learned about Blackboard Connect, the acquisition of STN Alert Now (a former competitor), a  mobile Blackboard platform, as well as Blackboard's international ventures. With higher level interviews, I've found that there's usually an unmasked pride of purpose, and a spark of excitement when company officials share a product or solution.

Listen to my conversation with Karl Engkvist of Blackboard:

Education Tech Knuckleheads!

Knucklehead Smith Whoever decided it was a good idea to remotely activate Mac iSight Webcameras on student laptops in the District of Ardmore, Lower Merion, Pennsylvania is a knucklehead! Give me a break with the excuse of trying to keep track of student laptops. There are plenty of good solutions, such as those offered by Absolute Software out there that can do that legally. What were they thinking?

I know that we’re all knuckleheads in certain areas. For instance, I’m a knucklehead when it comes to tax preparation. You wouldn’t want me preparing your taxes. Additionally, there are knuckleheads in every profession. None of us would like to see a knucklehead, scalpel in hand, looking down at us just before an operation. I knew an LCM specialist in the old days who Crazy-Glued mouse covers, because kids were removing the roller-balls—they later became snarled with lint, and he had to toss them out. That was just a case of missing a chance to teach appropriate use. Things like that are minor, sort of like throwing a gutter ball in bowling. But the camera incident in Pa. crosses the knucklehead line into the criminal, and may even violate child pornography laws.

Knuckleheads that get press sometimes have a way of forcing changes. That can be good, but many times not. So, while it’s good to uncover knuckleheads, I don’t want to hear about districts foregoing laptop purchases, or restricting them to buying only computers without cameras. Thinking back, even the earliest Webcams had plastic modesty covers, so you could conference in your PJs, but please spare us stories about students using "sticky notes", or teachers using duct tape over onboard Webcams to cover them in fear. Those things will just add you to the honorary-mention list of education tech knuckleheads.

Anyone who has fought to get cameras in classrooms understands their value. The knuckleheads in charge of the Pa. Webcam incident shouldn’t be near tech or kids—for any reason—it’s obvious. Furthermore, anyone using these knuckleheads as an argument against school tech or cameras, especially in 1:1 programs that use multimedia tools and software—is a knucklehead, too.

SMART Mixed Reality: Shaken Not Stirred

My mission: Find out more about SMART's Mixed Reality.

Smart1 I revisited SMART Technologies at TCEA 2010 to check in with President and COO Tom Hodson, as well Smart5as take a look at their new XE student response device, but my secret mission was to get more intelligence regarding SMART's Mixed Reality.

The best description is that it reminds me a lot of those plastic Cracker Jack's  prizes—the plastic squares that when turned in different directions shows a different image. Now take that two-image, no-content, toy and fill a card, or a block with many images that have meaning and data. 3D displays, for want of a better description, magically SMART20002 appear when the cards or blocks are placed under a document camera and displayed. Take it another step further—when the objects are shaken, the images change and the information presentedSmart3 deepens—drilling down through 3D content—just with a shake.

I knew that my still images and explanation wouldn't be enough, so under the guise of senior technology editor for Scholastic, I shot some Mixed Reality Video, which will show a more complete story.

SMART Technologies is still working on the idea, but the education implications of their Mixed Reality make it more of a 3D classroom possibility than 3D-plastic glasses. I had to return to headquarters, but I will follow-up on other missions. This is all top secret, so make sure you don't share any of it!

SMART20003

Why Do Educators Love Apple?

Will a slate/tablet cause us to love Apple more?

Ken2a I don’t really get mixed up in the platform battles. David Pogue, NY Times Tech Guru, once laughed at me for having a Macbook and a Toshiba laptop out at the same time during an interview. “Why?” I think my answer was pretty lame. Working two machines at the same time is sort of like those pianists playing two pianos at once. I do know, that at the time, the PC never beat the Mac in a boot up contest, although it’s gotten a lot  now with Win. Furthermore, the Mac always had more battery life, but that was before 10 plus hour netbook batteries. Finally, the Mac could find, connect, and get me working the Internet—anywhere—and do it in a heartbeat.

Why do educators love Macs?

This is overused, but true—the Mac User Interface—UI—is brilliant. You don’t have to figure it out—it just works. That said, I love figuring things out, and making things work—but most educators don’t have that kind of time. If it takes longer than 10 minutes—that’s too much time. While teachers have plenty of patience for kids, they have a whole lot less for technology that doesn’t work right out of the box.

As a teacher, and later as instructional technology specialist, I went from Macs to PCs to Macs to PCs, and back again. I really didn’t have a choice—had to use what I was given—or could scrounge—but I always tried to work both Mac and PC platforms into school technology and learning. For example, I remember showing staff how to use new grading software, during professional development meeting, in a mostly PC school.  An older teacher asked if he had to give up his Mac to do it. I told him no, and that he’d be the luckiest one of the bunch, because the Mac just did the grading software easier—the UI was better. Others on PCs had to jump through programming hoops, while the Mac teacher was, almost magically, there.

And it hasn’t been lost on me that many of the innovative educators I've met online, sharing incredible technology ideas—pushing and creating interactive classrooms, as well as using Web tools—are Mac users. I know that Win7, less expensive netbooks, and cloud desktops will make a difference, but there are a lot of very creative and vocal Mac teachers out there—doing some incredible things right now.

So Again, Why Do Educators Love Apple?

From the time the first Apple II was dragged into my classroom, to the stand-up, Classic tower I used for grading, from my first Apple laptop to the Macbook (I paid extra for just to have it in black), to the iPod that lets me listen to old tunes and movies on a quiet train—Apple has changed my life, and the lives of many teachers and their students. I know that I’m not alone in thinking this way. It crosses company lines, and platform loyalty boundaries. The iPhone and the iPod have proven that.

Jobs, A Chance to Change Our Lives—Again

I don’t know Steve Jobs, but I do know that the announcement, whatever it is—Slate—Tablet—has the chance of changing the way we live, again, like the iPod and the iPhone did. And we all know that he has the marketing genius to pull it off. We’ve come to expect this when Jobs has his hand in the mix.

I don’t know that I need a slate/tablet, when I already have a laptop, a netbook, and phone, but who knows. I might want something that is connected all the time, lets me read great publications and books in color, allows me to watch TV, write on it like a pad, possibly use a new touch-enabled gadget, maybe try my hand at some voice recognition, play with a camera, look at a new, brilliantly crafted screen. And if it's all packaged in a wonderfully intuitive Apple-User Interface—I might just find myself needing one of these new slate/tablet things, too.

I Need More About SMART's Mixed Reality!

Kenroyal4 If you asked mewhat I’d like to know more about—from FETC, it would be SMART’s Mixed Reality. They had an incredible booth-teaser. Small cubes with digitized icons/data on them that when placed under a document camera gets 3D images to pop up on a display screen. Shaking the objects mines down to different sub-images—skeleton to skull to jaw—for a science example. Not only that, but this Mixed Reality magic can be used on cards, in books, and who knows what else. The education implications are mind-boggling.

I saw it, but didn’t get a chance to ask in-depth questions, nor shoot video, so I’m looking forward to those possibilities at TCEA. I need to know more. The YouTube video I’ve seen so far isn’t very good, so I won’t post it. What was very clear, is that SMART caused a buzz at FETC with their digital upgrade to those 3D plastic squares we used to get as Cracker Jack’s prizes as kids. Stay tuned, and I’ll have more on this—for sure.
The SMART Mixed Reality demo was way cool, but I need to know more of the Education Reality!

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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.