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Google+ The Next Education Meeting Place

I’ve been trying to figure out where the next collaboration and meeting place would be for educators. Google_plusLike the Old West, I’ve been feeling a bit advertising pushed on Twitter and as for FaceBook the Yogi line about it’s too crowded—no one goes there anymore is starting to fit. For a guy who began with AOL chat in it’s earliest stages, it seems the options for actual teacher collaboration are pretty much the same—just more people doing it outside the four walls. So, I was a bit leery of Google+, even though I’d been a Google user for a very long time. I had so much else going on, so it seemed to me Google+ would be just another thing to juggle, and heck, was there anything there for me beyond sharing thoughts about music, or video, or the latest TV program?

A few days ago, a friend, Peter Vogel (see Editor's Notes) gave me a small push by way of Twitter. Peter KenR2 Pvasked, “Are you using Google+?” And I pretty much said that I was studying the idea, but didn’t think there’d be anything for me there. I pretty much asked, “Why would I want to be there?”

What follows is our Twitter conversation, so if you haven’t tried Google+ you’ll see that it’s pretty easy to do. If you have a Google login, you’re all set, and if you don’t, create one. You’ll find it here: https://plus.google.com/. And if you know Google, things don’t remain constant for long, so something new from them is probably going to happen… soon. Jump in, create some education and education tech circles. Maybe it’s the next place  for us to gather and share—outside the faculty room, or passing in the hall.

KR: Peter, any problems with Google+ and why would I go there?

PV: No, no problems with G+ whatsoever. The environment is terrific. I suggest it is perfect for someone like you with lots to share.

PV: You are a blogger.  G+ is a natural fit for you. I enjoy writing, but somewhere between a tweet and full-on blogging.

PV: Grab an "instant circle" of several hundred educators and you'll find the stream is instantly alive. The threading is superb.

PV: Have you filled out profile and added a photo/avatar?

PV: Have you added that circle? Keep it as a separate circle so you can edit it later. Don't make it "general". These should all be pretty good.

KR: Actually created an Education circle after sticking everyone into a friends one. Dragged 8 there to start. Still figuring this out.

KR: Which is another way of saying that I haven't a clue yet. ;>)

PV: That's OK. Just add my circle. You should see the message from me. Then add that circle. You've already added me so you seeing my traffic.

PV: Make a posting Ken. Anything. About a camera etc. Include a link to see how G+ handles them. Make posting "public."

KR: Cool. Thanks Teach!

KR: Peter. I've posted a comment. You have at least one person in your circle I'd rather not add. What's the work around there?

PV: Right, you just drop them from the circle once you've added it and they are gone.

PV: The list is reasonably well but not perfectly vetted.

PV: Good, you've added the circle. Now for the profile statements and you are good to go.

KR: You're right, this is quite cool, and may be something for sure. Read some feeds.

Editor’s Notes:

My Google+ Mentor and Friend:

Peter Vogel, Vancouver BC, Canada

Vogel is an ICT/Physics teacher, lifelong learner, Internet/tech newspaper columnist, Network admin, PM & Premier's SciTech, CAP 2011 winner. CERN HST 2011. G+ user

Peter’s works primarily in the area of Information Technology (ICT) with a focus on classroom applications, and in physics. Following a one month stay at CERN and the Large Hadron Collider , he developed an interest in particle physics. Peter is very active on Twitter (http://twitter.com/petervogel) and maintains various web sites and other online publications. Here’s an example, check it out if you enjoy student balsa wood constructions:  http://www.balsabridge.com/

Education Think Tank NYC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register at:

http://dellthinktank.eventbrite.com/

Streamed at:

http://www.fittotweet.com/live/dellthinktank-edu/

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

AppHazard: Involve Educators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring Your Own Tech to School

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

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

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

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

Over 1 Million Inhabit This Planet

Planet
Close to 5 years ago, I was invited to hear about a new online place for teachers. The place was Promethean Planet, begun by the Promethean Interactive Classroom folks as a way to help teachers use whiteboards. Right from the start, teachers and teaching resources were the prime objectives for this new planet. Today, more than a million educators have landed at their Planet as members.

I’ve long been a proponent of online teacher resources. When companies get involved with them, it can be interesting. It really is a necessity today, but Promethean thought it 5 years ago, and made an effort to keep it more educator than commercial. I think they've done a pretty good job. Many companies have followed their lead.

While there are some lesson packets for sale at the Planet, there’s plenty for free download. I like that teachers using other types of interactive products are invited to join and use whatever is there as well. It’s a place where teachers can go to easily get good teaching materials, lessons, and advice. Oh sure, you can also get more information about Promethean, and their Activ devices and assessment tools, too, if you're interested.

Here's a bit more about Promethean Planet:

Illinicloud CDW-G at ISTE: D'Orio Cloud Search

Scholastic Administrator Executive Editor Wayne D'Orio collects cloud-tech stories at ISTE. CDW-G's VP, K12 Education Bob Kirby, and Director of Sales, K12, John Pellettiere led a round table discussion of Cloud-using administrators at ISTE. IlliniCloud is one of many success stories. IlliniCloud worked with CDW, a leading provider of technology solutions, to supply affordable access to virtual servers, online storage and high-speed network connectivity across the state of Illinois - technology that, until recently, was out of reach for most K-12 schools there. Sharing data center resources and costs among schools across the state helps each school district to focus more on advancing the use of technology in the classroom for the direct benefit of students.
Watch the Interview:

Gaggle's Andrea Keith: ISTE

I've been following Gaggle from the start, and enjoy hearing about their new and safe student resources and Internet options. It has developed into a safe and robust, one-stop for using Web 2.0 technology with kids. It offers, student e-mail, apps, safe texting, communication, teacher and student collaboration, as well as learning tools.

Watch my Gaggle Interview at ISTE to learn more:

Steven Anderson Web20Classroom ASCD Scholar

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

EdTech Over the Pond

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

Microsoft’s Innovative Schools

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

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

Lake Washington School District, Redmond, Wash.

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

Jane Long Middle School, Houston, Texas

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

School of the Future, Philadelphia, Penn.

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

Denver Public Schools, Denver, Colo.

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

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

There are three levels of participation:

1. Worldwide Innovative Schools Global Community

2. Innovative Schools Pathfinder Program

3. Innovative Schools Mentor Schools

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

Half-Baked EdTech Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small District Big Innovations

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

 


Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Best Classroom Web 2.0

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


Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Ed Tech News: Nov. 8, 2010

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

WildLab Kids: Phones in NYC Parks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Botnets: The Zombie Army

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cell Phone Security: School Attacks Imminent

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

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

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

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

Cyber Citizens: More Than Teachable Moments

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

Use student mission statements and reminders often.

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

Most educators will need help with this.

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

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

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

Administrators are a powerful resource for change here.

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

Unified and continuous campaign

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

Make a dent in a positive way

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

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.

Today's Classroom: Start Doing It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology Training Unnecessary

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

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.

Shmoop Resources: Literature to Math

Shmoop1 Shmoop is an educator’s free resource dream. Oh yes, librarians love them, too. Shmoop has been around since 2008, and have racked up quite a few Internet awards. The name still makes me smile.

Its Learning Guides are digital, and you can search literature titles by number, alphabetical order, and author, too. Shakespeare has his own link, so he’d be happy about that—I’m sure. Other category breakdowns include Poetry, Best Sellers, Biography, U.S. History, Civics, Economics, and Music. It even has overviews in Spanish. All are accessible from an easy-to-use link menu.

Educators, who are PhD students from Stamford, Harvard and UC Berkeley, write Shmoop learning guides. They’re very well done, and fun, too. The resources are available as iPhone Apps, for Android devices, and eBook readers.

Note: Getting graduate students to do this type of work has been common practice elsewhere, especially in start-ups developed at universities. In Connecticut, UCONN has been quite successful launching businesses in this way.

What’s New Shmoop?

Shmoop Does the Math is a free online pre-algebra curriculum—just launched. Yep, the literature and humanities barrier has been breeched, and according to Ellen Siminoff, CEO of Shmoop, “We’ll do whatever it takes to make math understandable and fun for students.” My suspicion is that Shmoop will continue to expand its middle school curriculum. In my book, that’s good for educators and great for kids. Wonder if a line of Shmoop characters will be next!

Check out Shmoop at http://www.shmoop.com.

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/.

Energy: What You Need to Know

Energy3 As a former science teacher, I really appreciate the new What You Need to Know About Energy website. The National Academies not only presents the information wonderfully, but they've really paid attention to way the research is shared, especially at the K12 level. Educators and Students can dig as deep as they need, with beautifully mapped research trails, so young researchers will be successful without ever getting lost. The interactivity at the site will not be lost on classroom scientists either. The timing is perfect for this sort of energy research site for students. I hope this is only the beginning, and that there will be more from The National Academies.

I had a great conversation with Stephen Mautner, executive editor of the National Academies Press and the Office of Communications, as well as Terrell Smith, senior communications officer at the National Academies about this MUST BOOKMARK resource.

Here's What You Need to Know about Energy—a FREE resource from the National Academies share by Smith and Mautner:

One of the best parts of our job in the Office of Communications at the National Academies (advisers to the nation in science, engineering, and medicine) is that we have access to the top scientists and engineers in the country—or even the world. When we have questions, the people who have answers are never far from reach.

For the past year or so we’ve had the fun challenge of creating a resource that encapsulates the most important information people need to know about the topic of energy. As editors (not scientists), we came to the table with our own set of questions about this complicated subject and had the opportunity to share those questions with a team of experts in the field of energy. We got to hear firsthand what the pros and cons of various energy options are—and the problems we’ll face if we maintain the status quo. In the course of asking our questions, we also learned what the experts believe is important for people to understand about energy. The result of this dialogue is the website What You Need to Know About Energy—a primer about the nation’s energy situation.  

We designed What You Need to Know About Energy to be easy to navigate, so visitors can explore the story of energy on their own. There are four main sections, covering how we use energy, our current energy sources, the cost of energy (in terms of the environment, national security, and sustainability), and energy efficiency. The landing pages for each section highlight interesting or surprising facts that we think will pique visitors’ interest and encourage further exploration. Those who want to know more can dive deeper into the content, right down to the scientific reports published by our institution, which are written for experts in the field.

The site also includes several special features, including:

One of the other things that makes this site special is that, unlike many other resources about energy, What You Need to Know About Energy is not advocating any particular energy resource or policy. Its goal is to offer a balanced picture of the status of energy and some of our options for the future, so visitors can participate effectively in the conversation about this topic and make informed decisions about our energy future.

Developing this site was very rewarding. We learned a lot about energy and hope that we have effectively passed that knowledge on to others. For those who prefer a more traditional format, a free 32-page booklet that complements the website is also available in print or PDF form. There’s also a short video that captures the main ideas of the energy story. And this summer we will be working on a section just for educators that will offer guidance for how to use the site effectively in the classroom. If you have ideas about how to incorporate the content into lesson plans—or any other feedback you’d like to share—please e-mail us at EnergySite@nas.edu. And stay tuned for the launch of What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease in the fall!

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.

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:

The Complete District Web

LyndallLyndall Gathright, Multimedia Specialist for Corpus Christi Independent School District in Texas shared with me how his district uses eChalk as a complete solution to all their communication and resource needs. His district has 40,000 students and 2500 teachers, as well as a need to keep a large extended parent community informed. Speaking to district level users is the best way to get the right information. Listen to how Gathright and CCISD answer both their Internet/public and their Intranet/private district needs.

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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.