Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Talking about nano exhibits and programsImage by bryankennedy via Flickr

As an educational technology leader, we are always looking for the next big event, workshop or conference to attend that will bring advancement, a new technology or idea back to our district. Trying to do that during an economic crisis, isn't always the easiest to do. We have to pick and choose more carefully than ever, what we attend, when we attend and even how we attend.

So what conferences out there are worth your time and your money? I am going to offer my top ten of the leading edge technology conferences regionally and nationally. (One regional event and 10 national events.) If you have attended other events or know of other events out there that offer cutting edge innovation techniques, educational technology applications and integration at high levels - please feel free to share.

KySTE - KySTE's (Kentucky Society for Technology in Education) Spring Conference (March 10-12, 2010) is quickly becoming the technology conference in KY and the surrounding states. Growing at a rapid rate and keeping the emphasis on education technology (integration, implementation and innovation), this event has the potential to become something special. This year's event will highlight nationally renowned speakers, KY leaders and sessions centered around leadership, technical, planning and resources. If you live in/around KY (especially the Louisville, KY area), I highly encourage you to attend this year's KySTE event.

NECC - I have attended 3 NECC (National Educating Computing Conference) conferences over the past 6 years and each one offers unique and different options and sessions. The events I have attended always offer quality sessions, national speakers/keynotes/presenters and a top notch vendor hall. I have used NECC events to see what other districts are doing across the country, as well as take a look at vendors that don't always make it into KY. If you have never attended an NECC event, try out this year's event in Denver, as I believe as an educational technology leader it is worth the trip.

FETC - Florida's premier technology conference is quickly becoming one of the nations top educational technology events. I had the privilege of attending a portion of last years FETC event in Orlando as a part of some BLE CIO panel sessions and was amazed at the size of the event. FETC is able to attract some of the premier educational technology leaders while offering cutting edge sessions centered around technology in the classroom. I believe this event is worth at least 1-2 trips for any ed tech leader looking to see what a large scale state conference looks like and how leaders across the state of Florida communicate and collaborate.

EdNet - While I haven't actually attended any EdNet (Educational Networking Conference) sessions, I heard many positives about the event while in Chicago last year. EdNet's purpose is gather for networking opportunities, discuss emerging technologies and see what is ahead for the market. From my understanding, the event is designed for businesses to grow and stay involved in Ed Tech trends, etc. but it also provides ed tech leaders the opportunity to connect and network with those said vendors. Great possibilities for those able to attend.

CoSN - The Consortium for School Networking is probably the premier organization for educational technology leadership in the country. CoSN provides exciting keynotes, great networking opportunities, dynamic presentations and new emerging technologies. I have never attended CoSN's event either, but am already making plans for this years event in DC. If you are interested in Educational Technology Leadership and networking with some of the best across the country, make plans for this event.

CES - When you hear of CES or Consumer Electronics Association's event in Las Vegas, only thing comes to mind: New Technologies. CES has made a history of being THE premier event for new and emerging technologies across the world. Whether your interest is emerging tech, audio/video, wireless or even gaming - CES will be showcasing the latest and greatest from top vendors. If you have never attended a CES (aside from it being in Vegas), make plans to attend one. You will come away with new ideas and products that could be of benefit to your district.

TCEA - The Texas Computer Education Association makes a claim about their organization and conference, no one else can: It is the largest state organization dedicated to the use of technology in education. Much like Florida's FETC, TCEA has emerged as one of the "go to" state technology events. Having a large bass of districts and vendors (home of Dell, AT&T, HP, Nortel/Avia and of course Texas Instruments) TCEA is able to pull large groups of ed tech leaders and followers into a single setting for a powerful event. This year's event is the 30th annual TCEA and promises to be one of their best.

BLC Conference - The Building Learning Communities / November Learning conference has emerged as one of the most innovative and fastest growing educational technology events in the country. Featuring renowned technologist Alan November and his team, the BLC conference is designed to create a global community of dynamic educators. The keynote sessions, pre-conference workshops and main sessions all are designed to challenge your thinking with innovative ideas about empowered teaching and learning. I believe this conference is a must for leading educators and one districts must seriously consider as an event to send an entire team to attend.

NSBA T+L - The National School Board Association's T+L conference is one of the nation's most recognized education technology conferences. The conference centers around technology but also provides vision, leadership and other areas of education for all members of a school district. I had the opportunity to attend a few sessions at the 2008 T+L in Seattle, WA along with visiting the exhibit hall and liked what I saw. My hope is that when the next T+L event is within driving distance of my district, we can take a team to experience what it has to offer.

Northwest Council for Computer Education - This is a new one to me. I actually came across it today in looking for other educational technology conferences across the country. NCCE is a non-profit organization that supports effective use of technology in education to the Pacific Northwest. Their conference is designed to showcase the latest programs, projects, lessons, ideas and concepts not only in the NW but the country. From what I have read it is one of the premier conferences in the country.

TechEd 2010 - Another new one to me. I came across this event while searching for premier events. Tech Ed appears to be one of the leading conferences in California. This year's event is in Pasadena in April, so for those on the west coast, if you haven't already, check out Tech Ed.

Please feel free to offer thoughts on the conferences above and add any information about conferences/events/workshops that you have either heard of or attended.

Have a safe and Happy New Year!


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


In search of a Learning Management System that would provide the faculty, staff and students of our school district an online platform to share, collaborate and communicate - I came across a fairly new product called Schoology.

I was able to get an online demo and speak with the founders of the company last week and they took me through where their product is now and where it is going. My first response to them was "this looks a lot like Facebook". They responded by telling me that they wanted to develop a platform based on social networking that was familiar and easy to use for both levels of users - faculty and students.

I am hoping to get a full evaluation of this product in early 2010 and look forward to keeping up with Schoology and its impact on K-12. I believe it has the ability to make a splash. Take a look at their site and request a demo - even if you aren't in the market for a LMS right now. I believe you will find they are on the right track to providing a user friendly tool, built on social networking and capable of enhancing the student/teacher communication, collaboration and online learning.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 Summary / 2010 Goals

TIBERIAS, ISRAEL - APRIL 8: A religious Jew re...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Halfway through the school year and I find myself reflecting on the successes and failures of the year. I also find myself preparing for upcoming projects in the spring and summer. Here is a brief recap of what we accomplished this semester and also what is on our horizon for 2010.

  • Offsite Backup Solution. We completed the install of our offsite backup solution in September. This was made possible by products from Vizioncore and Dell. You can read a post about the project here.
  • Implementation of 100 document cameras, 50 audio solutions, 30 SMART Boards and 25 Promethean Boards. A majority of these were made possible through ARRA funds.
  • Tech Grub - our district staff started this in 2009 and it has been a great way for us to share information, stay on top of current and upcoming projects and also get away from the office and share a good lunch once a month.
  • CIO Newsletter - I have produced two CIO Newsletters (click here to see the current version) and this has been a great way for our department to share information with the district.
  • Active Directory Upgrade - as a part of a state project we upgraded our Active Directory servers to Server 2008.
  • Replaced / Upgraded 100 teacher stations - this has been an area of weakness in our district and we are working to address it with upcoming projects for 2010. Until then, we will continue to upgrade/replace a certain percentage of teacher stations to ensure all meet minimum specifications.
  • Replaced / Upgraded 120 student stations - as a part of refresh cycle we typically replace 4-5 labs at various schools throughout the school year. Labs that are replaced are used to cycle down to teacher and other student stations.
  • Middle College Laptops - as a part of the Middle College program, we rolled out 20 Macbook laptops to our Marshall County students, so they can be mobile learners, both on the college campus and at home. This was our first effort at providing students with laptops that are used outside of schoool
  • Update of AUP, Technology Timeline, AUP Forms and creation of Social Networking Contract. Our District Technology committee worked hard this past semester to update forms and documents pertaining to our Acceptable Use Policy and District Technology Plan. (those documents can be found here). We also created a Social Networking policy designed to provide students the opportunity to use social networking sites in class assignments / projects that might otherwise be blocked during normal school hours. All forms and documents were approved by the school board.
  • Implemented Wordpress Server - towards the end of the fall semester we implemented a wordpress server, designed to give our faculty/staff an alternative to static websites. Our assistant webmaster, systems admin and a middle school teacher worked very hard to get this project off the ground. We have had a handful of middle school teachers adopt the wordpress blog format as their new website and hope to provide additional classes this spring and move over 20-30% of our faculty/staff. Here is our site.
Items on the horizon for 2010:
  • Laptops for Teachers - we have been working on the data collection and RFQ for this project during the 2009 school year. Click here to read more about this project. My goal is to have the RFQ out in early 2010 and begin looking at proposals in the spring.
  • Live@edu - The state email project hit a bit of a snag in late 2009, but I look for it to pick up momentum in the winter. Pilots will begin in early 2010 and the hope is districts will begin migrating in the spring. I see this project as a positive for our district and state by providing a hosted email solution with larger storage, hardware offsite and improved features/functionality.
  • Improved Professional Development Offerings - along with teacher stations, this was also one of the weaknesses identified by our District Technology Committee. Thanks to ARRA funds, we (along with many school districts) will be able to send more users to conferences/workshops, bring in some professionals to conduct school specific classes and look at other alternative methods for enhancing our technology integration and implementation.
  • Replace / Upgrade 125 teacher stations - just like 2009, we will plan to replace these stations regardless of how the laptop program plays out.
  • Replace / Upgrade 120 student stations - replacements as a part of the refresh cycle.
  • Student Expectations - the District Technology Committee will review the Student Expectations portion of the District Technology plan. Our current standards were adopted in 2005 and are in need of fresh eyes and up to date information.
  • Learning Management System - our district implemented a Moodle server about three years ago and had a moderate adoption rate. Over the past three years our number of users have dropped and we had some technical issues with the server itself. I am currently looking at some hosted solutions that can provide the necessary tools our teachers needs, while meeting the communication and collaboration needs of our students. Stay tuned for this as I see us moving sooner, rather than later on this project.
  • Upgrade Wireless Infrastructure - should our Laptop for Teacher program play out, this will move up the list quickly. We will plan to identify locations in buildings where there will be a dense population of users and thus the need to move to wireless N. With all of our buildings having complete wireless coverage, we are just concerned with making sure the necessary areas are saturated to meet the connectivity needs of our users.

Here is to a great 2009 and looking forward to an exciting 2010!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

BLE Group - CIO Instructional Leader Panels

Is your company looking for reaction to a product, input on messaging, pricing information, competitive strength, functionality, technology analysis or a general scan of where the market is going? Look no further than the BLE Group. The BLE Group offers CIO and Instructional Leader Panels to help firms with the analysis, feedback and recommendations on how to improve the product their product from key decision makers.

A CIO panel puts your company in front of some of the country's most influential school leaders. With CIOs, Instructional Leaders and Superintendents from Leading Edge Districts, State Education Agencies and Large Districts, you are guaranteed feedback and a focus report that will move your company or product forward.

If you have questions or would like more information on a CIO Panel Session, drop me a message and I can point you in the right direction.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Enterprises (Including K-12) Need To Start Getting Rid of XP Now

This is a good read over at InfoWorld (that was shared with me by our IT Teacher) about why enterprises should be looking to get rid of Windows XP now. The article discusses the looming end of XP support from software vendors and the drop in support from Microsoft. We have all been hearing this for a couple of years, but I don't believe they are bluffing this time.

Check it out here.


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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why Do I Need a PLN? (What is a PLN?)

Image representing Ning as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

Let's start with the second question, first. What is a PLN? PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. While the acronym itself may be new, the concept has been around education for years, just in different formats. The main idea behind a PLN is to share information and learn from others in your field.

Personal Learning Networks have evolved over the past 30 years. In the 1980's teachers gathered at meetings, in classrooms, before school or after school to share information from books, magazines, conferences, etc. This was before the Internet, so the ability to share information quickly and efficiently was not an easy task. Email came along in the mid-90's and became the way teachers shared information and communicated with one another. They would send links from the web or personal experiences in their own classroom. That brings us to our current environment and how PLNs look now. PLNs are a part of our every day lives in education now with the use of tools like Twitter, Ning, You Tube and Delicious. Teachers are now able to attend meetings, workshops and conferences more often, but for less money. Through the use of video conferencing and other interactive tools, we can share and learn at a higher rate and lower cost.

So back to the first question: Why Do I Need a PLN?

Probably the best summary I have seen regarding this question is from @tomwhitby (who I follow on Twitter) said this about why we need PLNs: "All knowledge development did not stop the day you got your degree. You need to know it to teach it." Tom also created the Educator's PLN, which you can visit here: http://edupln.ning.com/

PLNs are necessary for teachers, administrators and even students. A Personal Learning Network provides us the venue to share knowledge, ideas and questions we have about our field and also allows to learn from those who share similar interests and careers. I am a firm believer that in order to be successful in this business, you have to continue learning daily. I also believe that in order your PLN experience to be a successful one, you must be a sharer of information as well. To sit back and only receive from others, will not result in a positive PLN experience. You must be willing to share your knowledge and experiences with others, in order to receive the same in return.

So go out and find the PLN environment that fits your needs. Be it Twitter, a Ning Group, Facebook or whatever the S/N platform - as long you share with others, your knowledge base will continue to grow.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Learn to Change, Change to Learn

Educators discuss the need for change in the classroom and how technology plays a role in that change.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Doing More With Less

dollar sign $Image by Leo Reynolds via Flickr

Budget cuts are common across the board right now in our nation. In a time when organizations are looking for ways to trim costs and pinch pennies, education is no exception. Education is always looked at by state leaders because it usually comprises a significant portion of their budget. K-12 leaders have always been asked to continue to perform at the highest of levels, when dollars are being taken away or flat lined (which is essentially a decrease).

Making the news recently in Kentucky is the request of our Governor for all state agencies (including the Kentucky Department of Education) to prepare for a 6% budget reduction during this year. (Here is that story.) A budget cut in the middle of a school year is a PR nightmare for any administration, but the effect is felt from the top to the bottom as multiple programs and areas are typically affected.

How can we as educational technology leaders be good stewards of our dollars while continuing to improve services, support and instruction? I believe these tips will help any technology leader prepare his/her organization for tough economic times.

  • Go Green- this includes a variety of initiatives that not only shows the innovation of technology within your organization, but will save dollars. A few examples include: Go Paperless. Turn your meetings paperless, reduce copies, paper costs, printing, etc. Power Saving Plan. Develop a plan/strategy for reducing energy costs in your data center, end user machines and other devices. In most cases, thousands of dollars can be saved annually with an effective energy management plan.
  • Look at your recurring costs - often you can find phone lines that are not used regularly or can be bundled with other lines.
  • Virtual Meetings - Telecommute. How much does your organization spend in travel - even for local meetings? Utilize Skype (which is free) to cut down on travel and face-to-face meetings. You can still accomplish the same goals while reducing costs.
  • Reduce Repair Costs - often you can stay ahead of repair costs with good preventative maintenance, regular upgrades, updated anti-virus protection. This will also free up time for technical staff to focus on other projects.
  • Open Source - this one is the most logical. Look at Open Office or other free / open source applications / services that can be used in place of a competitor with fees.
These suggestions certainly are not all the ways an organization can look to save money in tough economic times, but can provide a kick start to the process. Any time a CIO or educational technology leader can take the above items to their Superintendent or CEO and show added value while saving dollars, he/she is a proven asset within the organization.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Student Technology Proficiency

Students taking a computerized examImage by Extra Ketchup via Flickr

This has been a hot topic in the state of KY and our region the past few weeks/months. Districts are struggling with what does proficiency look like and how to assess it. Several districts have implemented solutions from vendors at little to no cost that assess students in the areas of basic office skills (word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentations), Internet/Telecommunications, Digital Citizenship and computer systems.

Why all the hoopla over student technology proficiency? Let's start with NCLB Part D that states all school districts must ensure the technology literacy of their students by the eighth grade. Also, the state of Kentucky has recognized the importance technology plays in the role of our students' education and has incorporated technology literacy into the Program of Studies.

Most importantly, we as educational technology leaders must show the value that technology has on student learning and the classroom. We can try to measure these items in a variety of ways, but a critical piece of that measurement has to be student technology proficiency. After all, we are in the business of education and ensuring our students are able to use technology tools once they move into the work force or higher education is vital to their success in a global society.

I pose two questions to the readers:

1. Do the above areas cover the spectrum of what we should assess our students in the area of technology? If not, what other areas should be covered and how would you assess them?

2. I am aware of a couple of vendors who provide services for technology assessment that seem to be popular across our state. The first is Simple Assessment, which has the price tag of Free attached to it. I know that because of this price point it has been adopted fairly well across KY. The other vendor I am aware of that offers good technology assessment is Learning.com. Finally - to the question. What other vendors out there offer a student technology assessment at an affordable cost with a comprehensive assessment?

I have spent some reviewing the two vendors above and have found Learning.com to provide a more in depth assessment of a student's technology skills. Of course, it has a price tag attached to it, where Simple Asssessment is free. (You get what you pay for.) Our district is still looking at the best way to assess these skills. In the coming weeks/months we will likely enter a relationship with a vendor to implement a student technology assessment tool. I look forward to some of your feedback on what has been successful or come up short in your district / classroom.


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Monday, November 23, 2009

Trying to Lead

3D Team Leadership Arrow ConceptImage by lumaxart via Flickr

Wikipedia defines "Leadership" as a process of influence in which a person enlists the support and aid of others to accomplish a common task. What if those people who are enlisted to support and aid aren't helping to accomplish the task? What if they are working on a different task all together? How does the leader regroup and pull the collective personnel together for the benefit of the organization?

These are all challenges every leader, inside and outside of K-12, faces on a daily basis. The great leaders find a way to rise above the negativity, doubt and naysayers, while maintaining a positive approach and smiling face. The great leaders don't turn their backs on those who have already turned their backs on the leader, instead they accept the challenge of selling their product, themselves and their vision for the organization to those people again.

What challenges does your organization face? Do these sound familiar? Education is not exempt from the challenges that face the business world. We are restricted sometimes in how we deal with situations, being a public employee, but I think that makes a better leader. Rather than taking the easy way out and simply cutting the employee loose, it can be used as a learning experience on both ends to enhance the skill set of the leader and the eventual leader.

Finally, what is my personal philosophy on leadership? I believe all great leaders have the following characteristics:
  • They have surrounded themselves with talent, future leaders and visionaries.
  • They allow others to submit ideas, share the vision and shape the future.
  • They are always looking to push those around them, past them. A great leader produces more great leaders.
  • They offer solutions that the entire organization can understand and support.
Life would be too simple without obstacles and challenges. Embrace them - do not turn from them.


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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cool Tools

Here are a few cool tools I came across this weekend:

youconvertit - Youconvertit is a free online media file conversion tool. Convert images, documents, audio, video, etc. from one file type to another by simply uploading your original file, select the format you wish to convert to and click "Convert it". The site then gives you a link when you can download the converted file. Very useful for K-12 because it allows quick conversion for files that may not be viewable by all.

Sosious: Online sharing and collaboration - Sosious is a free online workspace where you can invite friends, colleagues, etc. to share your workspace, documents, etc. Ideal for teams who need a common workspace.

faxZERO: I think the name says it all. Send a fax to anyone in the US or Canada for free. I still have some vendors who prefer their POs be faxed to them and this could help keep me moving towards a paperless office. I will give it a try over the next couple of weeks and provide some additional feedback.

edutagger: Social bookmarking site for K-12 users. Share your educational content, links, etc.

4shared - Free online storage - up to 5GB of storage for Free. Can't beat that.


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Google Wave Experiment

Disruptive WaveImage by curiouslee via Flickr

I received my Google Wave Preview invite a little over a week ago. Below is my account of the past week with Google Wave.

I opened the email was an instantly excited - I had been waiting for this. Ever since hearing about this new communication / collaboration tool, I wanted to get my hands on it. I was curious how it would work, what would it look like, would it be user friendly AND could it have a place in education? (Keep in mind this is an EARLY version of the tool.)

I immediately logged on and spent several minutes exploring the layout and features. First thought - "Ok, it kind of looks like gmail..." Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Users who aren't usually quick to change, might find a familiar interface comforting.

Having only a few friends who had already received invites, I struggled to have Wave conversations with others at first, and really fully utilizing the tool. However, after a few days I was added to the "Kentucky Wave", which was created by a former Kentucky K-12 student who now works for Google. Currently this wave has approximately 20 participants and I immediately began to see the impact of having a group of contacts versus single contacts.

With IM and previous communication tools (email included) a majority of the conversations were between two people and this was sufficient. However with Wave, the more the merrier. I began digging through conversations, points of information, questions and other bits / pieces by the other members of the Wave and found a multitude of conversations, resources, ideas, etc. It was a living, breathing 2.0 space where real-time conversations were happening right in front of my eyes. Now this is powerful.

I am still in the early stages of exploring and look forward to continue learning how best to use this tool to accomplish the tasks of communication and real-time collaboration. I believe that Google Wave has the capability to a viable collaboration tool increasing integration, boosting productivity and capturing more knowledge.

Time will tell how quickly Wave is adopted by main stream users, particularly the Education Arena. I, for one, look forward to the day that a teacher in my district comes to me showcasing how their students utilized Google Wave to accomplish collaboration in their classroom.


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

25 iPhone Apps 4 Educators

The iPhone has become the tool by which I define all other portable devices at this point in time. So, it is fair to ask how said device, can be beneficial to educators. Here are 25 apps that I believe all educators with an iPhone should have on their device to help with organization, communication and various content areas. (Did I mention all of these are free?)

  • Evernote: helps you make notes, track ideas, save and send to yourself.
  • Google Reader: helps you keep track of blogs / RSS feeds.
  • Facebook: keep in touch with friends, colleagues and students.
  • Wordpress: use the Wordpress app to keep your blog up to date, no matter where you are.
  • Skype: Talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • Twitterific: Tweet out questions to students, info to parents or share class work with the world.
  • Wikiamo: easy to search and find info from Wikipedia.
  • Google Earth: take a look at any place in the world with this app.
  • Poptiq: watch educational videos
  • Roget's New Thesaurus: everyone needs a thesaurus.
  • Stanza: read books assigned for classes or keep up with your field area.
  • Animoto: make quick videos that can be used to share what your class is learning.
  • ScienceQuiz: earth science to space, this app will test your science knowledge.
  • Graphing Calculator: much less expensive than the $80 version I had in high school and does the same thing.
  • GoogleMobile: search Google easily from your phone.
  • Art2Go: learn about artists who changed the world, along with other art related facts.
  • MovieMaker: make short movies with this tool.
  • Mathomatic: This app double checks math work and even solves complex algebraic problems.
  • VocabDaily Free: learn a new word every day.
  • This Day in History: find out what happened on any day of the year with this app.
  • Spell Check: makes sure all of your iPhone-related spelling mistakes are corrected.
  • Blackboard Learn: a free app for the Blackboard Learning Management System.
  • QuickVoice: this app captures recorded voice messages for you if you don't have time to type.
  • Fact of the Day: boost your random knowledge with these fun facts.


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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Laptops for Teachers - Part II

Some netbook computers we are testing at work ...Image by DanieVDM via Flickr

I blogged about 7 months ago about Laptops for Teachers. I raised questions such as: Laptops v. Netbooks? Are you really getting "free work"? Back-up devices on-site? Content filtering off-site? Should teacher devices come before student devices? All of those questions spawned conversations, thoughts and ideas that have allowed me to put a good grasp on what a Laptop Program for Teachers in our district would look like. Thus, we are on to the next phase. Gathering data.

This past week I sent out a survey to all 320+ teachers in our district asking four questions. The purpose of the survey is to determine 1. existing teacher station conditions, 2. Laptop vs. Desktop teacher preference 3. Would they be opposed to the additional PD that would most likely accompany such a program.

I have still only received responses from approximately half the teachers and am waiting a few more days before closing the survey, but so far, it has gone as expected. Over 70% of teachers who have responded say their current teacher station causes problems / experiences slowness in their daily instructional routine. A little under 75% would prefer a laptop versus a new desktop. That same amount would have no problem with the additional professional development.

What does all this mean? First, we have a problem with our existing teacher stations. That number is way too high and needs to be addressed, both short term and long term. The short term solution, we are upgrading the memory in as many machines as possible to reduce the poor user experience during instructional time. Second, and as I anticipated, not all teachers want/need a laptop. We have 1/4 of the teachers who have responded thus far who would just prefer to either keep their existing desktop or have it upgraded. Third, those who would like to receive the laptop are not opposed to the additional PD that would be required of them. The PD would not be a basic "how to use a laptop", but rather tailored to the need of each school's instructional technology goals and designed on how to best integrate technology day in and day out.

The data collection continues this week and I hope to have final results soon. Once the data collection is complete, it will be shared with the stakeholders and from there we will begin discussing next steps.

Update: (November 17)

The data collection is complete. The numbers mentioned above held true to form. I had a meeting with other administrators last week to determine the next steps. My next task is to work on the requirements and pieces of how this project would be shaped. I will continue to keep you posted.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

iPhone - Voicemail Issue / Tethering

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Quite the discovery today on my iPhone. Actually, it started yesterday. For days I had been noticing missed calls appear on my phone (I would actually see/hear the phone ring, just couldn't get to it), but no voicemails were appearing. I was simply under the assumption these people were calling me and not leaving a message. Was I wrong.

Yesterday afternoon I had a red balloon button Friday appear in the upper right hand corner of the Green Phone icon. This red balloon button is normally where you see missed calls, voicemails, etc. and is accompanied by a number. (As you can see in the image on the right.) However, this red balloon button had no number - it was blank. I clicked on it and was prompted to call my voicemail, because VVM (Visual Voicemail) was not available. When I called a nice electronic lady on the other end informed me I had 24 new voicemail messages - WOW! 24?!?! Apparently the missed calls I had been receiving over the past few days did have voicemails associated with them, I just wasn't being informed by my lovely phone. So after filtering through these messages, I set out on a mission to solve the issue.

I Googled my issue and started sorting through the various forums to narrow down my issue. I finally came across something sounded familiar...tethering. I had made the mistake of testing out tethering on my iPhone before Apple/AT&T actually released the proper code to do this (note: don't install software / updates that aren't approved by the provider - I should have known better...), but I was really anxious to see if I could get it to work. Apparently this crack of an install places a profile on your device known as "BenM.at" and subsequently disable VVM from working properly. Once I removed that profile from my iPhone - what do you know - voicemails started rolling in.

What is the moral of this little story? Don't install cracks/hacks/illegal versions of software/apps on ANY of your devices. No matter how anxious we are to get the latest version or sneak peek - sometimes it just isn't worth the trouble.


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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Windows 7 and K-12

Windows 7 On Board!Image by burhan.fadzil™ via Flickr

Windows 7 has been out on the market for 10 days now. Our department has been evaluating Win 7 on a small scale for the past few weeks. To my knowledge, we have not encountered any problems within our environment yet. I plan to install a copy either on my laptop or home PC in the next few days and when I do that I will post my thoughts/comments here.

However, my post today has to do with Win 7 and its place in the education arena. A majority of districts in KY are still running Win XP (those who have primarily a PC environment). I don't know of any districts that took the plunge to Vista - thank goodness. However, I am hearing some positive things about Win 7 and its place in education, specifically KY K-12.

All machines we are purchasing off the state price contract now come licensed for Windows 7. So even if a district chooses not to move forward with updating their OS, they won't have to worry about the licensing fees, except for those purchased prior to 10/22/09.

I have been doing some reading the past few days on how Windows 7 can enhance a machine in the K-12 environment and have come up with a short list. I firmly believe my district, along with a large majority of KY K-12 districts will migrate their PCs to Windows 7 within the next 6-12 months.

Here are my reasons why I think Win 7 will be a popular choice in the education arean:

  • Speed. Windows 7 is designed to be quicker and perform more efficiently than its predecessors. Whether you are booting your machine up for the first time, or waking it up from a nap; the response time will be much quicker.
  • Snipping Tool. Members in my department have been using this tool for the past few days and absolutely love it. The ability to quickly grab a picture from the web, document, email or other app and manipulate it to the user's liking is a feature both faculty/staff and students will find beneficial.
  • Jump Lists. This is liking having a "Favorites" for your apps, docs, pages, etc. I believe teachers will find this useful because each teacher utilizes various apps, software or sites and to have those at their fingertips will save precious class time.
  • Snap Tool. This tool gives the user the ability to display two items side-by-side. I believe teachers will find this useful when projecting their computer for all to see and need to compare/contrast items or pages; or want to show multiple examples from student work.
There are other cool features available in Win 7 such as Remote Media Streaming and 64-bit support that make Win 7 attractive to other genres of users, but I believe the items listed above will be appealing to teachers and students.

Time will tell how quickly Windows 7 makes it way into K-12. Time will tell how the new features are received by K-12 users and if they realize the benefit vs. previous MS OS. I personally believe Win 7 will make a splash in the K-12 arena, and probably sooner rather than later.


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why We Do What We Do

It is often easy to lose sight of the real reason we are in this business. You can get distracted by the paperwork, meetings, conferences, projects and day-to-day operations. It is always a good thing to be reminded of our main purpose and focal point of the items listed above.

I had a lengthy conversation today with a vendor partner about many, many topics - ranging from planning, management, purchasing and technical pieces. At the end of the conversation he said "I always ask myself regarding decisions and discussions - how does this affect the fourth grade student?" It is refreshing to see a technical vendor understand the objective of the K-12 environment. Every decision we make - we should ask ourselves that question - how does it impact the learning of that fourth grade student?

As I sit here tonight catching up on work related items while out of the office, I pause and reflect on why I do what I do. I can easily be distracted by personnel issues, paperwork and other organizations that a reminder from time to time is nice.

I ask you - as a K-12 educational technology leader, district/school administrator, teacher, support staff and instructional aides - make sure all decisions have an impact on the fourth grade student. If you keep that at the forefront of all things - you will be successful in this world.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ning vs. Facebook: Which one for K-12?

Our district is in the process of adopting a Social Networking Policy to ensure the safe and appropriate use of all social networking tools by faculty, staff and students. The policy was created because of the demand by our teachers to have access to these resources (of which I think is awesome) and to ensure the district communicates its expectations on how these applications are to be used.

All of that to say...one of the most popular requests we have had this semester is the use of Facebook. Teachers have created projects or other special assignments and asked to use Facebook as a means to facilitate the project. I personally have no problem with this and enjoy seeing our teachers embrace these tools as a means to extend communication and interaction beyond the classsroom. However, I have been asking myself one question over the past few days/weeks - can my school district get the same desired outcome with Ning?

Ning is an online platform that allows users to create their own social networks. The idea is a user has an idea / topic that they "create" with forums, events, photos, etc. It is customized and then launched, allowing others to join and connect / communicate within the Ning. Each user has the ability to customize their own page within that specific Ning.

The differences between Facebook and Ning are:
  • Ning allows full site customization including color, theme and elements. Facebook allows limited custom elements. Both allow pictures, videos and polls.
  • Ning gives an admin the ability to approve / disapprove membership, comments and discussions. Facebook allows admins to moderate comments and discussion, but not membership.
  • All Ning content is contained internally, where the content is viewable to the membership. Facebook content / information is viewable to all FB users.
  • Facebook conversations tend to be broad and generic. Even within groups, it is difficult to focus on a certain topic. Ning provides a more narrowed conversation, primarily because its members are moderated and approved for membership to that group.
Should K-12 environments look to Ning over Facebook? In my opinion, Ning allows all that FB does within a private system / membership and provides a more authentic dialouge.

Is your classroom or district utilizing one or both of these tools? What do you see as the Pros / Cons of either application?


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Friday, October 16, 2009

iPhone 3.1 Experience

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

After weeks of delaying the update - here goes nothing. My initial thought was "wait, let them work out any bugs" or "I don't really need MMS, do I?"

Here goes nothing...my step by step experience in upgrading to 3.1. This time...I did a full backup first.

(10:58am CST) Not off to a great start...every time I would plug my iPhone into my PC - iTunes would freeze up. I updated to the latest version of iTunes, rebooted the iPhone and the PC - nothing. Finally I started doing some research on the web and found a "bug" via the Apple discussion forums. Apparently if you have podcasts that were downloaded on the iPhone and hadn't been synced with iTunes, it caused iTunes to lock up. I started by disabling the auto sync feature in iTunes - no luck. So, I deleted the podcasts from my iPhone (only about 10) - restarted iTunes and what do you know...it works. Note: use Airplane Mode when doing a backup on your device & via @ujdmc - when you are downloading movies/music, etc. otherwise you will continue to be prompted for a password due to a hung file.

(11:27am CST) I am running another backup right now...just to be safe.

(11:56am CST) Backup complete - finally. Nothing like a phone call in the middle of the backup to force it to restart the process.

(11:58am CST) Update to version 3.1.2 begins.

(12:01pm CST) Software downloaded...installation begins. Preparing iPhone for software update.

(12:04pm CST) Updating iPhone software...

(12:07pm CST) Verifying updated iPhone software... (didn't take quite as long as I anticipated to install)

(12:11pm CST) Updating iPhone firmware...

(12:13pm CST) iPhone restarting...installation/update complete

(12:14pm CST) Updating iPhone carrier settings

(12:16pm CST) Calendar/Contacts from Exchange server are missing....

(12:17pm CST) Calendar appears...odd...Calendar defaults to April 2006. No events in current month/year. Still no contacts.

(12:19pm CST) 150/185 contacts are synced. Most current calendar events are synced.

(12:20pm CST) All contacts have synced. Some calendar items still missing...

(12:21pm CST) First test with MMS messaging. (Takes longer than I expected to send the message...) Why am I so excited about an old technology that should have come standard with this phone / service??? Message finally sends after approximately 45 seconds...

(12:24pm CST) Calendar items still syncing...enough have synced to this point for my satisfaction.

Nearly 1.5 hours after the process started - my iPhone is officially running version 3.1.2 and now capable of sending MMS messages, along with Genius recommendations for Apps, ability to organize Apps in iTunes and download ringtones via wireless. Here are the other features of 3.1 via Apple's website:

iPhone OS 3.1 also includes these features and updates:

  • Improved syncing for music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and photos1
  • iTunes U content organization1
  • Redeem iTunes Gift Cards, codes, and certificates in the App Store
  • Display available iTunes account credits in the App Store and iTunes Store
  • Save video from Mail and MMS into Camera Roll
  • Option to "Save as new clip" when trimming a video on iPhone 3GS
  • Better iPhone 3G Wi-Fi performance when Bluetooth is turned on
  • Remotely lock iPhone with a passcode via MobileMe
  • Use Voice Control on iPhone 3GS with Bluetooth headsets
  • Paste phone numbers into the keypad
  • Option to use Home button to turn on accessibility features on iPhone 3GS
  • Warn when visiting fraudulent websites in Safari (anti-phishing)
  • Improved Exchange calendar syncing and invitation handling
  • Fixes issue that cause some app icons to display incorrectly

I am officially signing off this post. Who can I bombard with MMS messages???


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Thursday, October 15, 2009


I came across this application via someone I follow on Twitter and I must say it is the best app I have come across for managing multiple social networking feeds, etc. in one location.

I have used Tweet Deck, People Browsr and other online applications that seemed clunky. (I stopped using Tweet Deck at the office because it occasionally would freeze, lock up or stop displaying images.) I had settled on using Twhirl as my Twitter app - but then along came Yoono.

Yoono allows you to update Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, FriendFeed, AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger all from a single interface / login. I am currently using it to manage Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Google Talk - as those are the applications I use daily. I use Yoono as an add-on to Firefox, but you can also add it on to IE or as a stand alone application.

For those of you who are looking for that single app to manage multiple social networking sites, I strongly suggest you give Yoono a try. I believe you will be impressed.

Yoono's Website: http://www.yoono.com/
FireFox Add-On: Here
Follow Yoono on Twitter: http://twitter.com/yoono

Here is a screenshot of Yoono in action on my work PC: Here



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Monday, October 5, 2009

District Technology - Part II

Colored Abstract VisionImage by Etolane via Flickr

Last month I posted an entry on how our District Technology Committee was taking a new direction...you can read that entry here.

We met for the first time last week and had, in my opinion, the most productive, thought provoking and visionary discussions this group has had in my 5.5 years as CIO. I give partial credit to some new blood within the group and their willingness to share and offer ideas. We also have the unique perspective of a student (who did a fantastic job) along with community members, board members and school personnel who all equally contributed to the successful meeting.

Out of that meeting came a lot of work into our Acceptable Use Policy and its accompanying documents. We created a more "student-friendly" Student AUP Agreement, refined language / purpose in our Personal Device Policy and approved our newly drafted Social Networking Policy. All of those documents will go before our board of education for final approval in the coming weeks.

We also discussed and revised our Technology Timeline, which serves as the direction for funding, staffing, IT services, student learning and professional development for all things IT related in our district. The timeline was extended to 2011-2012 providing places for such as items as: expanding / increasing wireless, VOIP, replacement schedule for teacher stations / replace with laptops, digital citizenship incorporation in curriculum and staff training.

The group identified our biggest need as that of staff training / professional development. We have been blessed to have the support of our administration and board to successful upgrade major network components and other hardware / software throughout the district. That has been the primary focus of my office for the past 3-4 years and we have accomplished most goals that were set forth. However, we are turning the corner and ready to focus more time and energy on the instructional support necessary to ensure effective use of these tools and resources.

The ideas, strategies and vision laid out in our plan serve as the vehicle to drive the technical and instructional services for our IT department. It is a great feeling to be surrounded by an outstanding committee that puts forth the time and effort to review, give feedback / constructive criticism and help champion our mission and vision.

Thanks to all of those who help carry the banner.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is 1:1 The Solution?

apple-tablet-pc-2Image by nDevilTV via Flickr

I have wrestled with this question over the last 2-3 years, trying to determine what the correct answer is. Is a 1:1 laptop/student device solution absolutely necessary to achieve a true technology rich environment in K-12; or are there other ways/methods to accomplish that task?

I posed a similar question in an earlier post this year, while talking about Cellphones in the Classroom. (Click here to read.) That post centered around the cost of a 1:1 and could it be achieved in a "non-traditional" method, either via personally owned devices, cellphones, iTouch, etc. This has been my philosophy over the past 2-3 years, that there are other ways to reach this tech-rich environment without breaking the bank. If we provide the highway, students will bring their own cars.

On the flip side, I am now hearing from teachers, administrators and others in my district their desire for a 1:1 environment. I am curious whether neighboring districts adopting this style has started the spinning of wheels, or if this is a true belief. They argue we will never reach a true tech-rich school without students having unlimited access to a device 24/7/365.

It is inspiring to hear such words from our district's teachers. To know they believe technology has such a profound impact on student learning is music to my ears. However, it also poses the question of am I doing enough in providing the necessary resources and tools to my students? Is there something more I could be doing?

What are your thoughts on 1:1 initiatives? Are they successful in schools? Are they necessary to have a true technology rich environment?


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Friday, September 25, 2009

33,000 Feet

Wi-Fi logoImage via Wikipedia

There has to be a first for everything. I am blogging from an airplane - approximately 33,000 feet above the ground. I have to admit the Wi-Fi service on airlines is long overdue in my opinion, but an extremely valuable service. I can know catch up on work related items over the next 1 hour+ on my way to Boston. Good job airline industry - way to make a positive change into a 21st environment.

Note: I am flying Delta today and the service is fabulous. Free first-time trial for new users and I can't tell much difference between the speed here and sitting on my couch at home.

Back to work and then time for a relaxing weekend in Cape Cod. Cheers!


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

District Walkthroughs

Our district is continuing our school walkthroughs this school year - only this time our administrative team does not announce when we are arriving. Many teachers, principals and other staff find these walkthroughs to be beneficial because our purpose is not to evaluate the teacher, but rather to provide real feedback on what we see in the 10-15 minutes we are in the classroom. It is a "snapshot" and the information is freely shared with the teacher, so they know what we saw and what we didn't.

The instrument we use covers basic instruction items, what the teacher is doing while we are in the room, what activities / learning styles the students are using and the culture / environment of the classroom. I believe these walkthroughs are valuable for all parties involved and provide data to the classroom teachers that they sometimes may not have the opportunity to see.

On a personal note, I always enjoy these walkthroughs as it provides me an opportunity to see quality instruction, students engaged and learning and (of course) the teacher/student use of technology. Each time we conduct these walkthroughs I continue to see more and more integration, collaboration and communication. As we continue to finalize the installation of our interactive items in all schools, the use of these devices (by both teacher and student) is growing exponentially. It always brings a smile to my face when I can walk into a classroom and see students highly engaged in learning and utilizing technology.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

PDF to Word - Free

what are word for?Image by Darwin Bell via Flickr

Cool tool that I was shown today for anyone looking for an easy way to convert PDF files into .docs or .rtf files. The tool is "PDF to Word" - and it is free.

Click here for more information.


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Sunday, September 13, 2009

BLE - Day 2

Day 2 of our BLE / EdNET panel sessions have concluded and it was quite the busy day.

The day started with a session by Innovation for Learning - a non-profit group that specializes in differentiated instruction, specifically in Reading and Math. The product they have produced is a small, low-cost device that provides individual, prescribed instruction for grades P-2 in both reading and math. The solution is easy to use, simple to maintain, little to no PD necessary and very intuitive for both teacher and student. The most impressive thing with this session was the recognition by the group that this device is merely a bridge between the gap of a web-based solution that will adapt to the "next generation" devices that all students will be carrying in the near future.

My second session of the day was with K12, which is an online curriculum and education leader in the nation. K12 was looking for feedback on their courses / products versus their competitors, along with feedback on some new pieces / additions coming soon. I believe our group was able to provide them the necessary feedback so they can adapt and provide the necessary tools for K-12 students.

My day finished with a couple of sales panel sessions where we listened to a sales presentation by a vendor and didn't necessarily evaluate the product, but rather the sales presentation, technique, delivery and content. These type of sessions are new to the BLE group and I think will provide real value to the firms. I know the two groups we had an opportunity to work with today came away with some positive reinforcement and areas to improve on as well.

Once the work was done...I concluded with a great dinner at Rosesbud Steakhouse. Great conversation with some BLE / Ed Tech leaders across the nation. I knew when they began talking about the "short list" for the Director of Technology job within the US Department of Education and who was "in" versus who was "out" - that I was in some good company.

Signing off for the weekend - time for some rest and then flying home tomorrow.

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