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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