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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Saturday, September 12, 2009

BLE - Day 1

Day 1 of the BLE Group's EdNet meetings in Chicago are behind us. Lots of great conversations, shared ideas, shared resources, discussions and debates.

I had the opportunity to meet with two vendors today and hear presentations on (1) new products/ideas (2) ways to improve existing products / market (3) vision beyond 2-3 years and their market place in 5-10 years (4) resources pulling together multiple databases, instructional tools and external applications. (Note: because of NDA I can't go into more details...)

I even had the opportunity to chair my first panel session this afternoon, of which I thought went quite well.

I always look forward to these events, not only because of the vendor panel sessions but the time I get to spend during lunch, breaks and the evenings with my colleagues from across the country (and in this event - the world) - listening to their success stories, failures and ideas.

Time for a brief rest before tonight's dinner reception. Another opportunity to continue the great conversations and learning from others. All while keeping in mind the information I gain from these events will inevitably help the students of the Marshall County School District.


Sunday, September 6, 2009


A photograph taken of the buildings lining the...Image via Wikipedia

I am traveling to Chicago this coming weekend and looking forward to the opportunity to attend EdNET (click here for more info on EdNET) and work with my colleagues in the BLE group.

The BLE group is a group of nation-wide CIOs, Superintendents and Educational Technology leaders who help vendors review existing and new products designed for K-12 environments. I will be sure to Tweet and Blog about my experiences next weekend.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

President's Speech to Students

the 44th President of the United States...Bara...Image by jmtimages via Flickr

I certainly try to keep politics out of my day-to-day job and this blog, but this is a topic that simply could not be ignored.

On Tuesday, September 8 (the first day of school apparently for most students, not those in KY who have been attending for a month), President Obama will address to students of America in a speech designed to motivate students about attending school, etc. For more information about this address visit here.

I had seen information regarding this event floating around the past couple of weeks and honestly never gave a second thought to it - positive or negative. However, it has amazed me at the amount of negativity currently surrounding this event, especially from the parents of K-12 students. I believe most school districts have taken the high road and made the correct choice in leaving this a local school / classroom decision and instructing teachers to provide alternate assignments for those who request. School districts have no choice in making this decision because we are fearful of the potential backlash. And that is where this becomes a shame...

Before the bashing of me begins, let me state that I am a Republican. I voted against our current President and I don't agree with a majority of the policies he is looking to implement. That being said, this man is still the President of the United States - that office deserves the respect and the time to listen to a 15-20 minute speech. Too many people are blowing this out of proportion and having a knee-jerk reaction to their children listening to a short speech by our country's leader.

One of the few items I am pleased this administration has embraced is the use of technology. Our President has broadcast many messages across YouTube and streams live from the White House website. I applaud the administration for embracing these tools and lines of communication.

Again (just to make sure I get my point across) - I don't agree with the majority of our President's politics, agenda or ideas. But he is still the President and regardless of political views, we shouldn't be in an uproar over allowing students 15-20 minutes to listen to him encourage them to attend school, do good in school, etc.

That is my two cents and I am certainly prepared for the comments, both positive and negative.


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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

District Technology Committee

I am attempting something different with this group this year, partially modeling after a neighboring district. For the last five years, our district has had a District Technology Committee, comprised of teachers, principals, administrators, board member and parents. The group met occasionally to review the district technology plan and help provide guidance on various initiatives, etc.

This year I have doubled the groups membership, we have four district administrators, six teachers, four principals, two parents, one student, two technology staff and one board member. The group is very diverse bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table.

One new task I plan for this group to work on this school year is to review various components of our plan and AUP within sub-groups and submit any recommendations and/or changes back to the entire committee. In years past, I would work independently and bring the recommended changes to the entire committee for their input. This way, they are actually the ones reviewing the documents, having the discussions and bringing the recommendations back to the large group. The large group will discuss the proposed changes and make final recommendations before the plan is presented the board members for official approval. I feel tapping into this group's experience, knowledge and expertise is going to provide a more diverse and well-rounded vision and plan for our district related to the implementation and integration of technology.

The other different approach I am taking with this group is providing them the opportunity to attend both a state and national conference. I believe this group has the ability to attend these events, learn new and exciting ways to implement/integrate and bring it back to their respective peers and share. This group will be invited to attend the KY state technology conference this spring (known as the KySTE Spring Conference - March 10-12, 2010 in Louisville, KY) as well as the BLC10 conference in Boston, MA this summer. (Alan November's Learning Conference) The experience and knowledge gained from these two events will help provide additional recommendations, suggestions and ways to improve all areas of technology deployment, integration, services and implementation across our district.