Monday, October 25, 2010

An Apple & Google Partnership

In our schools, we have implemented both Apple and Google Apps for students and faculty.  I see these two companies offering extremely valuable tools for education.  Apple integrates education-focused software seamlessly together in easy to use ways.  It provides a fantastic platform to demonstrate understanding and learning.   Apple provides a creation tool, which is at the top of Blooms revised taxonomy. It is also built to readily share these creations.

Google adds a component of communication and collaboration.  Although largely text-based in many aspects, the power of collaboration comes out in this suite of applications.  The opportunity to be a learning community and share the learning can have dramatic impacts on a classroom.

In my last post, I talked about being overwhelmed.  Although we have many more tools available at our schools, these two companies provide the core for using technology to enhance learning.  I continue to see huge benefits as both an Apple school and as users of Google Apps.  Teachers can start at this core and develop a foundation for technology integration in their classroom.  So much of what we want students to do can be accomplished with this core software without chasing the ever-changing Web 2.0 apps.  I'm not opposed to Web 2.0 options and their are some great ones out there.  I just advocate going deep and learning the core of what you have at your fingertips to increase the depth of learning taking place.  In technology, it is hard for people to know what they don't  know and as a result, they can often move to new things without accomplishing the full potential of what they already know or have started to learn.  Wherever you focus, do not lose sight of the learning and the student benefits.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The more I know, the more I realize I don't know.  The world of technology resources is vast and seemingly endless.  I see many people just overwhelmed by the technology available and it comes out as frustration and a feeling that it's hopeless to even try getting up to speed.

Steven Anderson wrote a nice blog post focused on beginning teachers and those that feel overwhelmed.  He rightly points out that teaching the first few years is vastly different than having a few years of experience under your belt.  Can you imagine walking into many of our schools just out of college with no experience and encountering many of these technology resources for the first time, particularly coming from a teaching program that fails to prepare you for this reality in schools?  And first year teachers are not the only ones overwhelmed.  Experienced teachers can have these exact same feelings in technology.

Some teachers give in and do nothing, resigning themselves to irrelevancy and hopelessness.  I see some tech savvy teachers and professional developers reinforce this by overwhelming teachers with what's available.  It is important to get outside our limited perspectives but those responsible for professional development also need to know their audience.  Sometimes less is more.  For many teachers, focusing on 2-3 things that can powerfully impact their classroom is sufficient for a year of growth.  The depth of use by the teacher can really help students learn and benefit the classroom instead of a surface glaze of many different "cool" tools.

We have to exercise the same discretion and information literacy that we need to be teaching our students.  We need to filter out what is most important in a digital world and determine how to leverage it for learning.  As technology leaders, we also have to help others find balance so teachers are not overwhelmed.  In the midst of our push to move people forward in their journey, we need to do so responsibly so we don't undermine ourselves with a lack of depth.

If you are an overwhelmed teacher, model the goal-setting you ask your students to do.  Don't give up!  Make some manageable strides forward and seek a true learning community that enlists the help of your students!

Monday, October 11, 2010


Bangalore, India. Yes, check out the people passing by. This is a new Polycom unit donated as a thank you gift from Simpson University. GSIS is a host to their Master's program for international educators. I have found that although I am very comfortable participating from a distance via phone or skype, others in meetings are often less comfortable and as a result, the meeting is not as effective. As videoconferencing grows in popularity even through common programs such as Skype, comfort levels are increasing.

This Polycom unit will open doors for us to connect to various locations around the world and access resources in a very clear and effective communication method. We have already talked to colleagues and partner schools around the world about ways we can use it to increase collaboration and expose students to new learning. It is exciting to see this technology reachable for our PK-12 students. We look forward to expanding this implementation to include more collaboration between TCIS and GSIS in the future. It is exciting to implement new tools that we know will enhance our learning environment.

If you have resources to suggest or want to connect with our school, please leave a comment...

Friday, October 8, 2010

To connect or not?

As I make more posts in coming weeks, you will probably see many take aways from Kathleen's visit. One take away I had related to connectivity. I know that there are times for laptops during class and a time to close the lids. However, my assumption has always been that students are connected when they are using the laptop. We use a lot of GApps so this makes sense in many regards. Korea also has fantastic internet. However, at the same time, I see a high value in turning off the wireless with purpose. We need to help students stay focused and avoid distractions. Turning off the wireless when they are working with local tools is valuable. Other strategies like full screen mode can be helpful too.

The bigger picture issue is creating an environment conducive to learning involves many aspects that we often take for granted. As I walked away from Kathleen's 2 day visit, I feel much more aware of these areas and look forward to talking about them with teachers to enhance their classrooms.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Being Facebook Friends

Should teachers friend students on Facebook? For some reason, since I work with technology, people seem to think I'm a good person to ask. And since I mentioned Facebook in my last post, perhaps it is relevant to address it here. My depends.

Let's ask a different question. Should teachers/educators be on social media? Yes. No question. If we want to connect with students and meet students where they are, social media is the way to go. Educational research tells us that we need to be relevant to engage students effectively. It also tells us that if we can extend our time spent on learning and our curriculum, then achievement goes up. Now put those two together. If we engage students with relevant questions/topics and use a medium that they are using outside of school for socializing, we are likely to extend school related discussions that promote learning, inquiry and authentic application of concepts in the real world. Many have unpacked this much more than I am here. This is only 1 aspect of leveraging social media to benefit learning.

I think the "friends" on Facebook is a bit more complex. Some people advocate 2 accounts...1 professional and 1 personal. I think you have to think about how you use social media. I have some accounts that are personal and my friends/links reflect that. I have other accounts that are solely professional. Based on our roles, this can be easier for some than others. For me, Facebook is personal. There is nothing on there I'm ashamed of. Actually, I don't post much. Rather, I use it to keep up with friends across the world. I also don't have a class of students that I work directly with right now with my given role. Twitter is my professional account. Don't get me wrong. The personal nature of who you are bleeds over into the professional as well it should. It is reasonable to keep the two separate. Bottom line, if you are posting things that students should not see or might be better left to their imagination, don't friend them on Facebook.

No matter what medium you use for social media and connections, your life is more transparent than it has ever been. We know more about each other. Modeling and making good choices is paramount. So is self-control. You can't post confidential or "soon to be public" info before it actually is public. Many people have had some heavy consequences for mistakes in this area and it deserves due caution. All said, social media is a place to extend learning and leverage for the good of both student learning and professional learning. Don't be scared. Jump in but do so with some thought and foresight.