I love what we call education technology "research" these days. It seems everyone is out to prove that this or that technology is the "magic bullet" that will fix education forever. And amazingly, the research always comes out favorably for the vendor who sponsored the study - go figure. So how do they do it? In reality, it's quite easy to setup a study to attain the results you want by doing what the vast majority of educational technology researchers do: don't isolate the technology in question. Let's take interactive whiteboards, for example. In order to get huge numbers for whiteboards, all you need to do is the following:
For the study group, put in all the technology you need to get the results you want. Even though the study is supposed to be about boards, be sure to add a great projection system, new computer, subscriptions to digital media libraries, etc. Make sure that your control group has access to none of these tools.
Invest tremendously in staff development to teach the study group not just how to use the technology, but also new teaching strategies for the content in question. While these new teaching strategies might also be applicable in a classroom without all the technology, be sure NOT to provide similar assistance to the control group.
Provide continuous instructional support to the study group throughout the study period. Ignore the control group.
Of course, you could make matters even worse by doing what Marzano did for Promethean, which was to use the same group of teachers for both the control group and the research group, and ask them to simply "not use" any of the technology for some lessons. Again, you fail to isolate the tech in question, but this time you compound the artificial inflation of the results by introducing bias from the teachers who love their whiteboards.
Viola! You're sure to get the numbers you want!
Now, let's say we REALLY want to find out if the BOARDS make the difference. To do so, we would need to isolate them by:
Provide all the same technology resources to both the study group and the control group, with the exception of the technology in question (IWB.)
Invest in staff development for both groups. Teach those who don't have the boards to effectively use the rest of their tools in the classroom, specifically digital media resources (online and offline), presentation tools, interactive experiments and demonstrations, etc. Teach BOTH groups the new teaching strategies they will need to effectively integrate the technologies they have in the classroom.
Provide continuous instructional support to both groups.
Unfortunately for Promethean and other vendors, what you will find is that the whiteboards, document cameras, and similar technologies really don't make that much of a difference, and both groups will show gains. You will find that what really mattered was the introduction of a diverse set of media-rich content, effectively integrated into the instructional process through the introduction of new teaching strategies.
All that said, my penchant is to invest in technologies that promote a 21st century, participatory and collaborative learning environment, rather than those that reinforce 19th century instructional models that, as history has obviously shown, no longer effectively prepare students for the world they are about to enter. I'd trade 1 IWB for 15 netbooks (which are about the same price as a soup-to-nuts IWB install) any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. Lets move our technology investments away from the perimeter of the classroom, and toward the center - where the kids are.
The fear of failure can be one of the most crippling things in life, perhaps never more so than in the educational environment. In a place where discovery and exploration are held in the highest regard, the opportunity to fail gracefully has been gradually weeded out in favor of a "pass/fail" mentality. Whether intentionally or not, we systematically condition our students to fear failure through a steady regimen of "proven strategies" (read scripts) that over-emphasize "standards" and "tests". Science fairs are eliminated, arts programs diminished, drama and dance are nearly non-existent, and technology is banished to the periphery because it doesn't fit neatly into a pass/fail model. Funny thing is, life doesn't fit this model either, which may explain why so many schools have settled on a goal of "preparing kids for college" (ie to pass tests), rather that preparing them for life.More ...
This last Thursday I had the opportunity to pitch the idea of parents purchasing laptops (Asus EeePCs) for our current batch of 4th grade students who are participating in the SWATTEC initiative, as they will soon be heading into the 5th grade. To be sure, this wasn't the first time I'd floated the idea, however it was the first time I believe it was perceived to be "real" to the administration team (principals and leadership), as the end of the school year is rapidly approaching and the components of the potential promotion are starting to come together. There was much insight and a lively discussion, which I believe will be tremendously valuable as we work our way through the possibilities. One comment, in particular, stood out to me, which I believe could be the greatest challenge to each of us as we move away from the model of school provided technology and into one in which students bring their own (which I believe to be inevitable). That comment was: "if we make that [the EeePC I was holding at the time] a part of the curriculum, then we must provide it to the students."
This, of course, got me thinking about exactly what part of "that" was actually part of the curriculum. And perhaps more importantly, what is "that" and how can we make it so that it does not interfere with or become the curriculum, so that the focus can be on what students do with it, rather than on the technology itself. In that sense, I think we are at a tipping point at which the fundamental components of a real technology infusion in the learning environment has the potential to become a practical reality for all of us, much more so than it ever has in the past. More ...
No written word, no spoken plea, can teach our youth what they should be; Nor all the books on all the shelves, it's what the teachers are themselves. -- Given to John Wooden by his Father upon Graduation
I am a firm believer in partaking regularly of the wisdom of others, most especially our elder statesmen. John Wooden'sTED talk, "Coaching for People, Not Points" touched me on so many levels, because it's fundamentally about education and what it means to be successful in life. Too often, we place such value on the destination (test results) rather than the journey (learning), that I think we lose sight of what it truly means to bring up a child.
Through poetry and wit, John reminds us that it's not our reputation, our awards, or trophies that define us, it's who we are - our character. As Coach Wooden says in the talk:
Success... is peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable. -- John Wooden
In light of the current financial crisis and its inevitable impact on schools of all sorts, I worry about the near-term future of education and, more specifically, the role of education technology in the classroom. In particular, I'm concerned that, in most cases, we have failed to effectively integrate technology as an essential, strategic part of the educational process.
Don't get me wrong, I believe we've been heading in the right direction with ed tech, albeit slowly. In fact, I have witnessed a number of programs that suggest the beginnings of what I believe will be an important shift in the use of education technology. More ...
I recently attended a conference for technology directors in the state of California, and I must say I was heartened by some changes in the program and, in some cases, the attendance of the sessions. What was different, you ask? The focus of these sessions on students and education. To be sure, these sessions were in the minority. But they were there, and they indicate the beginnings of what I believe will be an important shift in education technology. My only question is, are we too late?
To understand why I ask this, one simply needs to look at the vast majority of technology departments in school districts across the country, and their relationships with the instructional staff. More ...
Enter the "Green Light Contest" and win a state-of-the-art computer lab for your school! The "Green Light Contest" essay competition, sponsored by PC Mall Gov, in partnership with HP, InFocus and T.H.E. Journal, is seeking entries from students in two categories: grades 5 - 8 and 9 - 12.
In essays of 1,000 words or less students are asked to describe how they and their teachers can utilize technology to protect the environment, with the grand-prize-winning composition being awarded a 30-seat "green" computer lab for the author's school. Two additional first place winners (one from each grade-level category) will each receive a "green" laptop. Winning essays will be published in T.H.E. Journal and winners will be recognized at FETC, January 21 - 24, in Orlando, FL.
If you are a student in Middle or High-School, there is a very real chance that one day you'll be working in a field that does not even exist today. For example, you might want to open a restaurant on the Moon, or work as a designer of a method to safely remove old satellites and other space junk from orbit. The possibilities are endless and as we continue to explore space, there will be literally hundreds of new career paths open for you – if you have the right skills.
The big challenge is that, since we don't know exactly what these new jobs will be, how can we define what skills will be needed to do them? Alan Kay, one of the original researchers who envisioned the creation of personal computers once said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” He is right, and that is exactly what this project is going to let you do – invent a new job that might exist in the year 2020 that will be a career that will attract people like yourself. In defining this job, you need to explain what the job entails, and what skills you think are needed in order to do the job well. To make this activity even more fun, we've decided to create a contest, with a grand prize.
I can't wait to read about the exciting ideas the youth of the world come up with. Spread the word and get involved!
Keywords: Futurework 2020, TCSE, Thornburg Center for Space Exploration, Writing Contest
This week I had the pleasure of presenting at the CUE/FETC Innovative Learning Conference in San Jose, CA. Once again, I presented on the topic of Open Technologies, in the form of a case study on our use here at SUSD. Since this is essentially a classroom-oriented conference, I decided to focus primarily on desktop and web applications, including our use of open source on PCs, Macs, and Linux machines, Green Computing Initiative, and web technologies.
Enjoy this audio podcast from the session. Be sure to get the resources from my prior post.
Today, I look forward to my presentation on open technologies at the CUE/FETC Innovative Learning Conference, entitled "The Value of Open Technologies." Rather than trying to fly up a pile of resources, I am posting the materials here for those in attendance (and even those who aren't but are interested.)
The first is a document I wrote about open technologies in general. This is a great resource to hand to administrators and other educational leaders to help them understand why these technologies are important.
Saugus has made significant strides in the use of open solutions in the K12 environment. From servers, to desktops, to devices, we deploy and use open-source software far and wide. But did you know that the use of open-source can have a significant impact on the environment? In fact it can! Take a look at these numbers from the The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator. Re-using just one computer and monitor saves:
30 lbs of hazardous waste
77 lbs of solid waste
77 lbs of materials
147 lbs (17.5 gallons) of water from being polluted
32 tons of air from being polluted
1,333 lbs of CO2 from being emitted
7,719 kilowatts of energy
This is roughly the equivalent of taking ½ of a car off the road and saving 68% of one US household's allotment of electricity for a year. These numbers are significant and certainly worthy of consideration.
Like every other school district, Saugus has a rapidly aging fleet of existing machines. Upgrades to the latest and greatest from Redmond would be costly and hardly worth the effort, yet these machines are completely viable as platforms for Linux. Even older Windows 98 machines are worthy clients for a K12 Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) setup. We have had great success working with these technologies for a number of years and, with this new data in-hand, plan to ramp up our efforts in this regard.
We are now in the process of formalizing and documenting our work into what we are calling our Green Computing Initiative. We intend to use this site to share information and best practices with the entire K12 community, in an effort to inform, educate, and inspire others to join us in this important endeavor.
K12 technology budgets are tightening while needs continue to increase, yet every year, schools simply discard valuable and viable equipment in the name of planned obsolescence and "minimum standards." These machines clog our landfills and pollute our water supplies when their useful life could easily be extended through the use of open solutions. Don't let fear stand in the way of opportunity in your district at the expense of the environment!
We're very excited about our new 21st century learning initiative, SWATTEC: Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.
We've created a public service announcement for our 4th grade teachers, which you can view below. A special thanks to Mary Mann, Jon Baker, and Arlene Anderson for helping with the video!
We are pleased to announce that our 21st century learning project, Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration (SWATTEC), has been fully funded and will commence this fall. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive what we are referring to as an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.
The SWATTEC project has been carefully conceived, backed by tremendous research, and will be comprehensively supported through extensive staff development, evaluation, and district-wide support. We embark on this journey with great anticipation and high expectation that the development of a sustainable, one-to-one environment, coupled with the power of Web 2.0 tools will create a culture of transparent technology integration and generate academic, personal, and social gains never before realized in elementary education. We look forward to sharing the results with you.
If you attended one of my social networking sessions at NECC 2008 and are interested in some great follow-up resources on social networking and web 2.0 in education, you can find them under Wiki Pages on my profile page at http://community.saugususd.org/jklein
Idit's presentation was, to say the least, challenging for many of us. She promised to take us on a journey through 3 decades of catalyzing change, 3 days of the catalysts of change (ie those at NECC who are endeavoring to drive change), and 3 wishes for the future. The overarching theme of the presentation was “The Transformational Power of Social Media Technology in Learning”, which was of particular interest to me, for I am a proponent of the use of social technologies in education. More ...
EduBloggerCon 08 is over and it was quite a day. For me, it was something of a battle just to get there, having flown through the night, with flight delays putting me on the ground (exhausted) at 9:00am Saturday morning. I rushed over to the convention center, grabbed Arlene out of the waning moments of her first session (Google apps, I think) and she graciously oriented me as to the “whos” and “hows.”
This is a unique conference, or “unconference” as Steve likes to refer to it, in that it is run entirely by the participants. More ...
Every once in a while, something comes my way that just drives me batty. Such was the case today when the following message came across my desk from a tech director's mailing list. For those of you who feel like IT is your adversary, this will surely offer some valuable insight into the mindset of many of today's education IT managers: More ...
There has been a great deal of interest in Elgg, which is the social networking platform that we used to create this site and the SUSD Student Community, and there are a lot of other schools and organizations using it. To help us all "group up", I have created this group on the NECC Ning site. If you are interested in Elgg, or educational social networking in general, please join us on the NECC Ning! I'd love to get a great discussion group going, and maybe coordinate a meetup or two with those of you who will be at NECC next week.
Ordinarily, I would not have found such a thing of interest - I rarely find that a state legislature is really in touch with what's going on in the classroom, especially when it relates to technology. But I was particularly fascinated by the comments of Scott Hochberg, Vice Chair, Higher & Public Education Finance, Select Committee. More ...
I'm often asked to speak, write, participate in webcasts, and serve on panels discussing education and technology, and enjoy the opportunity to share some of the things we are thinking about here at Saugus. Having done so on many occasions over the past year, I find myself struck not by the value of the discussions, but by the consistency of the responses. For it seems that no matter how much we speak of change in education through technology, no matter what is said, no matter what is offered, or who leaves inspired, the foundation is rarely shaken. Most often the light of new ideas is bent through the lenses of personal perspective and bad habits, which results in technology decisions based on personal appeal, a sense of safety, or worse, a desire to be part of the "in" crowd, rather than utility, value, and potential.More ...
After much delay (sorry, been pretty busy), here are a few of my favorite Web 2.0 apps. Keep in mind that there are a number of issues that must be addressed before using any of these applications in the classroom. Discussing these issues up front will be critical to a successful project and the safety of your students. More ...
Consider the classroom of tomorrow. That place where students come not just to gain, but to consolidate their gains. That room with no barriers, no boundaries, no limits. That place of infinite height and depth, unlimited reach and unhindered access. A space with many addresses, many cultures, many views. A place where success is honored, and failure is embraced. Where creativity is rewarded, where collaborations are built, where teams are celebrated.
There are no time limits there, no restrictions, or walls. Ideas are welcome, voices are heard, friends are cherished, connections are nourished. This is the classroom of tomorrow, the "open" classroom, and it's time to start building it today.
Last Friday I had the pleasure of hosting a round table on the topic of open source software in education at Technology and Learning's Tech Forum West in Long Beach, CA. Our lively discussion included K-20 classroom teachers and IT people from both education and industry. Topics truly ran the gamut of open source, including desktop applications, security, deployment, perception, web applications like Moodle, and ultra-mobile devices like the Asus EeePC.
It's a little noisy, but I hope you enjoy the recorded discussion and, more importantly, will share your thoughts on the topic!
OK, so it's been a year since I dared to float the controversial idea that interactive whiteboards are little more than a big, expensive white mouse, whose functionality can easily be replaced by far less expensive solutions (see my prior post, "Is the debate over the value of interactive whiteboards really about the boards?") I received tons of feedback from a variety of sources, which did little to sway my view of them. Most from proponents were testimonies of increased student engagement, etc., etc., very similar to those I mentioned in the prior post, all subjective and lacking in any real data. Even Smart's favorite "evidence" of student achievement from the EU is vague at best, listing their boards as one of a number of technologies (emphasis on the words "one of") that were implemented. Then there are the health risks, which are only just starting to surface. More ...