Change


Photo Credit: sunsurfr

I have been struggling with encouraging others to understand the importance of changes in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong. We have terrific buy-in with the ideas we are implementing, but it only takes one or two folks to slow down that progress. When we have teachers on campuses do more with less, it is a little frustrating to see those with more doing little to nothing.  As a superintendent from west Texas told me one time, “The only person who likes change is a baby with a loaded diaper.”

Well, my virtual buddy Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach posted about change this week on her blog. She did it so eloquently I thought I would just re-post it below. Thanks for saying it so well, Sheryl.

Someone in a community I belong to recently said, “Why should teachers change? We are asking them to work harder, do things in a new way, unlearn the old ways of doing things, and when they do all that we have asked we do what? Tell them thanks? I know we don’t give them more money. Maybe if they are really lucky we ask them to help the others who just don’t seem to get it. What a reward!

I face the same problems, some jump on board and others don’t, and I have started asking myself why should they change?”

Why change?

Here’s why– you change for the same reason you went into teaching in the first place. You change because what you do for a living was never just a job- but more a mission. You change because you are willing to do whatever it takes to make a significant difference in the lives of the students you teach. You change because you care deeply about kids and you know that unless you personally own these new skills and literacies you will not be able to give them to your students.

Why change? You change because of all the people in the world- teachers understand the value of being a lifelong learner. You change because you know intuitively relationships matter and you are interested in leaving a legacy to your kids– through what you do for other’s kids. You change because you understand learning is dynamic and that to not change means to quit growing.

Why change? Because you made the decision when you first became a teacher to do something that was larger than life and more meaningful than money, recognition, and status. You became a teacher because of change– the changes in the world you wanted to make one kid at a time. You change because you want to do what is right– simply because it *is* the right thing to do and you understand the need to model for others so they can do what is right as well. You are use to hard work and long hours. You are use to commitment with little recognition. You know what you do has lasting results.

You change because the world has changed and you know that not challenging the status quo is the riskiest thing you can do at this point. You change because you love learning and you love children and you know they need you to lead the way in this fast paced changing world and to do that you have to find your own way first. That is why you and they should change.

Textbooks, Technology, and Funding Revisited

The discussion on the TECSIG list serve has begun to echo some of the thoughts I have shared on here recently. The conversation began on the list serve when the Austin American Statesman posted an article titled “Should textbooks or technology be Texas’ spending priority?”  The money quote for those that advocate on behalf of public education within the Texas legislature is this one:

A 19th-century concept of learning is holding back Texas from bringing school technology into the present, some legislators say.

State Representative Dan Branch, also a member of the House Public Education Committee, shared that he felt “A textbook is a vehicle for content.  That vehicle is quickly becoming a horse and buggy.” Then the Statesman threw out this staggering statistic:

Since 1992, the state has allocated each year $30 per student for technology, which totals about $134 million in the current budget.

The bill for textbooks in the 2008-2009 budget was $496 million and will reach $913 million in the upcoming budget. Almost all of the $1.15 billion from the Permanent School Fund in the 2010-11 budget will be needed to pay for textbooks.

Why do we keep paying the textbook companies SO MUCH money when the things are virtually outdated almost immediately. Why do we not focus more attention within the curriculum and instruction side on how technology can help make the instructional process of delivering that content more efficient and timely.  Well, here is a TED Talks video from Richard Baraniuk that takes this thought a bit further:

So maybe opensource textbooks are a little too far fetched for what we do in public schools, you know, with standards and all. Rice University has been doing it for awhile now, though. But what it does not curtail us from doing is being proactive and collaborating on resources that we KNOW are good for what we are doing in our classrooms. If we cannot count on the textbook companies to be forward thinking and designing a textbook system that allows us as teachers and students to have access to the most recent changes in our field of study, then we must as educators find, create, and share resources that will do that for us. It is called collaboration. It is called being proactive and affecting positive change.

With that in mind, Seth Godin posts this morning on the worst business mistake he ever made. He ignored the internet when it was in its early stages. He wrote books about it and even taught others how to utilize it, but he ignored it himself. He calls it simply his “biggest business mistake.” So why did he ignore it then? Consider his reflection:

Because the rules of this new business didn’t match the rules of my existing business. (emphasis his)

Does this correlate to ANYTHING we are doing in Texas education? Does it correlate to ANYTHING we are doing in TCEA? Does it correlate to ANYTHING you are doing in your classroom?

Just a reminder to Texas educators. The 81st Texas Legislature convenes in January. What are your plans to be a part of it?

One small step for a man, one giant leap for ISDs state-wide

For those that follow my blog, you realize I have had an ongoing debate (mostly with myself and a few awesome commenters) about the fact school districts have to pay to receive TEA updates via the TETN video conference network. I have even started working with a few connections within the legislature to find a way to make this change. Well, things changed yesterday.

I returned a call I found in my school voicemail from Carol Willis, TETN Manager. Let me say right off the bat, it was a joy to spend an hour on the phone with Carol. She is very open-minded and understands where I am (we are) trying to go with this. She has already put some processes and inquiries into motion inside the TETN system to gain feedback from its membership and governing board to decide the best route.

She also asked a favor of me. There is this underlying question of what consitutes a session that should be deemed free from TEA. It is a good question. I have made it clear that I do not want the student class offerings done this way. All I am asking for is that the updates from TEA (grants, policies, laws, textbook adoptions, etc) be offered as a free download from one archived point.

So here is what I need. Please feel free to blog about this if you are a Texas educator.  Let me know that you have so I can look at the comments on your site as well.  I need you to leave in the comments answers to this question: “What consitutes a TETN session that should be a free download on the TETN site from a TEA?” Keep in mind that there are tons of TEA TETN sessions. Not all would be notable to download since they have a very limited audience. (i.e. one district or region of districts). Please take the time out to consider this and post your thoughts ASAP. I plan to talk with Carol again after Thanksgiving so we can see where we are at at that point. Remember, you do not even have to agree with me. I appreciate the opposing views I received in some of the comments. According to Carol, one of them was very well informed. It is great to debate with knowledgable folks in this manner, as J wrote in the comments.

The one thing of importance that came out of my conversation was that Carol took the time to read my blog postings on the subject and understands the goal. That says so much for her, considering she has bigger fish to fry, and I truly appreciate that. Her call to me was a proactive step to find a solution that benefits all the school districts in Texas. You cannot ask for any more than that from one of the state’s leaders. It was also cool to find out a little more about her political background. She is a wealth of information who probably has some great stories to share with grandkids one day. I wonder if she will Skype into one of our history classes to discuss Texas politics from a few years back?

Also, TETN has rebuilt their website. It is now showing a side of TETN that few knew existed. There are links to future uses of Web 2.0 tools. Imagine being able to subscribe to TETN’s blog to know what is happening on their network from one of the staff directly instead of an email forwarded to a person that was forwarded to a person…… For instance, they just went through a network upgrade that will be a tremendous boost to offerings. This is fantastic news. Carol has even more Web 2.0 ideas she would like to utilize that network for, but I will let her share that on her blog once it gets running.

Sp, pleas join us in moving this project forward. We need to hear from you. “What consitutes a TETN session that should be a free download on the TETN site from a TEA?”

Lead, follow, collaborate, or get out of the way.


Photo Credit: notanalternative

[Background: For some insight into the argument presented below, let me
share this. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) uses a government subset organization called Texas Education Telecommunications Network (TETN) to share TEA updates and other material via a distance learning network. School districts must pay to receive those connections. As budgets have been crunched due to continued shortfall funding by Texas leadership, school districts have had to trim away even the important things. You know, the things you should be getting for free like state mandated updates. This is not a plea for TETN to be free for all of their services. They also offer DL sessions for classrooms that many find very useful.]

Notes from TECSIG, October 2 & 3, 2008:

TEA – Let me begin by saying, I truly respect Anita Givens. Her work on behalf of public education and technology has been tremendous. We are lucky to have her in the new position she now holds. But I believe respect between two professionals is appreciated most when there is some honest pushback and not just a bunch of agreement. (It is the reason I like Gary Stager and the work he does.)

While TEA may rest on the idea/reason/excuse of cash-strapped and man-power lean, the rest of us are in the same boat but are utilizing the free technologies that are out there for us. Government is not thinking that way. Government wants to place a high price tag on what it does because it makes it seem more important, I presume. As a public school district employee, I find it extremely important to have timely policy and program updates from my governing body. Cost should not be an inhibitor.

A few years back I blogged about how another state passed a bill requiring all government offices to consider free, opensource options when looking at alternatives. Texas does not do that. For too many years we have listened to our state’s leadership talk about how transparent school districts need to be. Texas government doesn’t do that either.

So, to TEA, my suggestion is a simple, classic line heard many times: Lead, follow, or get out of the way. And let me add one more to that. Consider this turn of that phrase: Lead, follow, collaborate, or get out of the way. If you cannot make the system better for any of a long list of reasons, let us help. Somehow we are able to harness the free resources that are out there for our schools and classrooms. Let us use those same systems to get the word out about new programs, policy changes, and important deadlines. Don’t claim some false statement of copyright (which you do not have in this instance anyway thanks to Texas Sunshine Laws) and slow down the information superhighway. We are not talking about private conversations here. We are talking about large group policy and program updates. You know, the stuff you and the tax payers expect us to live up to.

While we can go ahead and repost the information without repercussions, it would be nice for TEA to step up and applaud the fact that Texas educators care enough about their state system and local school districts that they are willing to be a part of the solution to make it the best it can be. Why anyone would think or do otherwise is incomprehensible. We do not extend our personal learning just to aggravate the state. We’ve better things to do.

As an aside: Please don’t tell me that TEA has been “telling you for eight years” about a tech literacy assessment. We both know that is a cop out. Sure, NCLB came out then and it is a part of that, but there has never even been a hint of holding anyone accountable until May 9th when you folks shared it with the limited number of people in attendance that day. Even still, the limited funds that MIGHT be lost by ignoring the mandate is not enough to move many districts to act. Why districts would choose to defy assessment now in as an important area as any is ridiculous, with our without the consequences. But I digress. I know it was a statement made as more of a defensive measure than one that was thought out.

TETN – These folks are in a bubble of sorts. They want to be relevant. They need the money stream to stay afloat. Yet, they have become an old version of what we use now with online tools. They are the land line compared to the cell phone. The HBO to NetFlix and iTunes. The post office to email.

What if you propose to place Marco Torres’s decision-making self-reflection on it: “Complain, Innovate, or Quit.” TETN is in the Complain stage. The problem with that? They’re a vendor. How long will they survive in that spot? Relevance is a limited state of being. Remember that. Go for Marco’s second option in that list. Please.

Yes, there was more to those two days in Austin than TEA and TETN, but let’s face it. We all go there to hear what is expected of us next. Yes, Apple did a fine job of professional development the first day. Maria Henderson is always pure genius (even if her old links are dead due to the Mobile.me upgrade. Sigh.). So, if you want to know more about them, go to one of their offerings for school district administrators.

But, if you want to be a part of TEA opening the virtual doors to their massive amounts of information, become part of the solution. If you want to stand in the way because you have nothing productive to do, you’re wasting your time. You cannot hold up progress. The Texas Legislature meets in January. I’ve started my game plan. Have you?

When the Network is Useless/Powerless

In May 2008, Texas Education Agency announced it was finally going to require all public school districts to prove 8th grade tech literacy in an annual report. The tool was not given, and each school district was left to its own to make the best choice for itself. Through the kindness of Kari Rhame at Deer Park ISD, I moodleized an objective piece they had been using with their 8th graders. It was not the assessment I really wanted, but with a short timeline, we had to make due. I believe we shared that Moodle course on our server with about a half dozen school districts that did not have a Moodle of their own. I am not really sure how many times the file was downloaded from our wiki, but I suspect quite a few since it was freely offered via the TCEA Tech Coordinators‘ List Serve.

Anyway, TEA also announced the same day that they would be requiring the reporting of teachers’ tech literacy in the same report. Again, this was really no surprise since our district had been discussing it for a few years at this point. The surprise was that TEA is only requiring the STAR Chart self-evaluation as the instrument of choice. While this is definitely one way to do the assessment, I find it the weakest and worst choice. For one reason, the STAR Chart is the tool we use to show need in the district for training and funding (grants, budgets, etc.). Once the teachers find out that it is counting as their self evaluation with the state, they are going to ratchet up the scores to make themselves look better (not an unexpected happening). The bad thing here is that it will knock many school districts out of grant work because the need will not show through (TEA recently used the STAR Chart to decide who qualified for the large Vision 20/20 technology grant). We need a more performance-based assessment with the self-evaluation tool built into it. We are pursuing ePortfolios, but that is for another post.

Now, this is where I was headed with the network not working. The third component to be reported to TEA was a surprise. They decided that we would report administrator tech literacy at the same time. The issue here is that there was no tool/instrument in place and we would have to wait for its creation. Realizing that the NETS-A from 2002 was going to be the driving force behind its creation, I set out to see what was already out there. Enter Dr. Scott McLeod and the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE). Scott’s work had already taken him down this road, so he created the Principals Technology Leadership Assessment (PTLA) self-assessment for administrators. Basically, it took the NETS-A and used a Likert scale for what is a simple self-evaulation tool. Perfect. This is what we are needing for the current requirements. An email and discussion board conversation with Scott ended up with his full permission to utilize the tool however we needed. As a matter of fact, this is what the PTLA site has to say about how much CASTLE will do to help out:

The PTLA will be made available to K-12 school organizations and educational leadership
preparation programs as follows:

1. PDF Download. School organizations can download the PTLA assessment and instructions in
PDF format. Organizations are responsible for their own data entry and analysis using Excel,
SPSS, or some other data analysis software program. This option is free to K-12 school
organizations and educational leadership preparation programs.

2. Questions Download. School organizations can download the questions on the PTLA
assessment in Microsoft Word format. The questions then can be cut-and-pasted into
organizations’ own online survey software. Organizations are responsible for their own data
analysis using Excel, SPSS, or some other data analysis software program. This option is free to
K-12 school organizations and educational leadership preparation programs.

3. CASTLE online survey. Organizations are welcome to use CASTLE’s own online version of the
PTLA. CASTLE staff will send the resultant data file to organizations in Excel format.
Organizations are responsible for their own data analysis using Excel, SPSS, or some other data
analysis software program. This option is free to K-12 school organizations and educational
leadership preparation programs if they grant CASTLE permission to use the data (anonymously)
as part of its ongoing nationwide research related to principals’ technology leadership knowledge and preparation.

4. CASTLE online survey and data analysis. CASTLE not only will host the online version of the
PTLA for organizations but also will analyze the data for them. This option is available to K-12
school organizations and educational leadership preparation programs on the same terms as
Option 3 but also will involve a small charge per PTLA participant to cover CASTLE’s personnel
and time costs.

CASTLE believes in making the PTLA as freely available as possible to school organizations. The
PTLA also is available for a small licensing fee to for-profit corporations and other entities that stand tomake money from their usage of the PTLA. We are open to other creative possibilities for the PTLA; please contact us if you are interested in using this assessment.

Can you ask for anything better than that? I just knew this was what TEA was needing, and it was going to save a lot of state time/money in preparing a tool/instrument for use. In less than a week of the announcement, we had what they were looking for.

After a few emails and phone calls, I ended up with the right person in charge of the instrument creation at TEA.  Now, I am going to skip some of the details because they would confuse you as much as they did me, but basically I was reassured that the NETS-A was the tool to be used (I think they meant guidelines, but my requests for clarifications about this were just met with copy and paste version of the NETS-A). Finally, I got word that they NETS-A was being given to the IT department to create an instrument to use. Yeah. The IT department. At this point, I had linked to the PTLA in several emails, offered to meet with them in person to discuss what Scott had created, and even offered to meet with them at NECC with Scott so he could answer their questions personally. No response.

So what does the tool look like that TEA is going to use? Well, no one has seen it as of yet, but I was told it is a five or six question Likert scale self-assessment. It truly is quite shorter than what CASTLE offered, but it lacks any level of detail that would prove helpful to the person charged with creating professional development for administrators. Worse, the main goal of the piece created was to provide administrators with a “quick and easy” self-assessment that would not scare them off. What? The STAR Chart that the teachers complete takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to fill out, and it provides a decent level of feedback. Since it is (was?) all anonymous, most teachers were quite honest about their skill levels and their opinions of other aspects of technology in the school district (budgeting, infrastructure, leadership, curricular support, tech support). The PTLA would have taken the same or less time and offered just as much feedback, yet it was either ignored or deemed too time consuming for leadership to complete (not by the local leadership to be clear).

So, you see, the network has failed. Not my network, mind you. My network came through like the champions they are. That is why they are my network. Who would question the experience, leadership, dedication, and sincerity of passionate educators spending their off time sharing resources with other like-minded educators? The sad thing here is that the state did not trust one of its own to help it out in a bind. It instead chose to use more state resources (which is already over-burdened from state mandates and being short staffed). Worse than that, it chose to use minimal standards to gather data apparently just for the sake of gathering data. I hope to see the bigger picture in this as we move further through the process.

Sad, really. Does it mean that the state leadership doesn’t understand the power of the network it leads? Does it mean that without the lobby power of textbook companies you cannot get a serious audience in the state office to hear you out?  Or does it simply mean that in government, it is business as usual? Whatever it means, it will not deter me from working toward a system in Texas that is efficient, effective, and focused on the main thing: providing the best education to the kids of Texas.

Here Comes Everybody, but is Everybody Else Prepared?


As I reviewed Will Richardson‘s archived interview of Clay Shirkey, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, there were a few things that jumped out at me that I noted and wanted to work through.

Clay started off discussing the typical learning/assessment style found in education today:
Individual assignments/individual grades – old school only known environment

He then goes on to discuss one literacy that he feels we are lacking in teaching our students:
“At least one literacy is collaborative literacy.”

These are some notes I made from his talk:

What does it mean to be a good collaborator? Two ways (essential literacies for the 21st century):

  1. When you are collaborating, how do you participate in a group that is valuable?
  2. How do you participate in a group where you are learning instead of just freewriting?

We want students to have a set of absolute basic skills (the three R’s), beyond that we want them to be able to figure out of all the thinking tools we give them, which ones are best for which kinds of challenges. Big challenge in school system in US is a move to a much more cut and dry measurement system (NCLB driven Testing) which changes the system away from more flexibility towards measurement. However, what we get out of that is the challenge. “A lot of what we want the schools to do can’t be measured in the way we measure them. There is a mismatch between the goals and the measurement.” The assessment is determinant of how we think about the rest of the curriculum. Consider goals and then consider measurement system. Industrial system of measurement is for widgets and creates an industrial style system of curriculum and measurement.

He also shared this: Internet provides basic support for collaborative work.

Funny he mentions that the Internet is the basic support considering all of the posts going on concerning one of the presidential candidates. But, I digress.

What Shirkey said struck a chord with those of us involved in helping educators utilize more technology in the classroom. Many of the so called Web 2.0 tools are built around this collaborative environment. White Oak ISD switched to Google Apps for email and the entire suite of collaborative tools that come with it. Some campuses have taken the lead in that area and utilize Google Docs to schedule student tutoring, detentions, testing windows, and more and share the document campus-wide. This is a great start for them to see the power of these collabroative tools.

The Official Google Blog - Insights from Googlers into our products, technology and the Google culture

The down-side is that schools in general are slow to adopt these tools, meaning that students are not getting the collaborative environment practice they so sorely need for today’s workforce. Take this recent post on the Official Google Blog for instance. Jonathon Rosenberg, Senior VP of Product Management, guest posts giving advice to students. He tells them to “major in learning.”

At the highest level, we are looking for non-routine problem-solving skills. We expect applicants to be able to solve routine problems as a matter of course. After all, that’s what most education is concerned with. But the non-routine problems offer the opportunity to create competitive advantage, and solving those problems requires creative thought and tenacity.

So what does that have to do with collaboration? Well, take a look at the primary factors Google looks for in hiring and evaluations:

… analytical reasoning. Google is a data-driven, analytic company. When an issue arises or a decision needs to be made, we start with data. That means we can talk about what we know, instead of what we think we know.

… communication skills. Marshalling and understanding the available evidence isn’t useful unless you can effectively communicate your conclusions.

… a willingness to experiment. Non-routine problems call for non-routine solutions and there is no formula for success. A well-designed experiment calls for a range of treatments, explicit control groups, and careful post-treatment analysis. Sometimes an experiment kills off a pet theory, so you need a willingness to accept the evidence even if you don’t like it.

… team players. Virtually every project at Google is run by a small team. People need to work well together and perform up to the team’s expectations.

… passion and leadership. This could be professional or in other life experiences: learning languages or saving forests, for example. The main thing, to paraphrase Mr. Drucker, is to be motivated by a sense of importance about what you do.

Pretty powerful stuff, if you ask me. Everyone knows about the great things at Google: unlimited sick days, in-house dining, truly personal spaces for offices, and the one that I like the most – 20% of the work week on job related personal interest research/development.

So the question is begged, can your students operate in that environment? Are they self-directed and self-motivated enough to handle this setting?

These characteristics are not just important in our business, but in every business, as well as in government, philanthropy, and academia. The challenge for the up-and-coming generation is how to acquire them. It’s easy to educate for the routine, and hard to educate for the novel. Keep in mind that many required skills will change…

Rosenberg signs off his letter with perhaps one of the most profound statements we should be drilling into our students (something not tested on the state standardized test, by the way):

And then keep on challenging yourself, because learning doesn’t end with graduation. In fact, in the real world, while the answers to the odd-numbered problems are not in the back of the textbook, the tests are all open book, and your success is inexorably determined by the lessons you glean from the free market. Learning, it turns out, is a lifelong major.

Now, get to thinking about how it affects you as a teacher and lifelong learner. Consider change. Consider sharing your learning processes/struggles/successes with your students to model what being a lifelong learner is all about. Consider what your students and perhaps your own children are heading into once they leave the hallowed walls of your academic setting. What are you going to do about it?

Enough said. Let the conversation begin.

(photo credit: #1 – Me; #2 – Dean Shareski; #3 – Google Blog)

Facilitate, not Frustrate

At a teacher conference in Austin today I had the opportunity to speak to a group of educators from Region 7 about the importance of technology use in the classroom and keeping our legislators informed about what we are doing. Part of my conversation was based on Miguel‘s notes from the CTO session with Hochberg, Strama, and Eisler. Having our students tech literate has always been important, but now that Texas is requiring school districts to PROVE that proficiency there is a whole new focus being placed on it. And the biggest step we need to make here is to educate our legislators on the fact that the state standardized content area tests have nothing to do with whether computer use is valid. But that is for another post.

Well, that conversation led to two teachers from a Region 7 school district (one high school and one intermediate) sharing how they cannot use technology in their district. Obviously, there was some hyperbole involved in the comment, so I asked for clarficiation. They shared two things that drive the tech boycott by the staff in the district:

1. The filter is so clamped down that the students cannot do legitimate research. The teachers are equally as frustrated, so they don’t use it for lesson preparation or even as part of the course work. Basically, the Internet is useless. I have heard this complaint before, and it is definitely a frustrating situation to be in. I always wonder what higher power gives these tech directors the authority to lock down the network so tightly. This is a continual debate on the TCEA TEC-SIG list serve, and there are no winners in the debate but plenty of losers: students. I’m fortunate enough to not have this issue in White Oak.

2. Two teachers witnessed a major student incident in the hall. In the midst of the teachers emailing each other notes on the incident to make sure they had evertyhing noted to present to the campus administrator, the superintendent shows up to talk to the two of them. The superintedent wants to know why these two teachers are conspiring against a student like they are. Now remember, all of the conversation was done via email. They later find out that the tech director is reading EVERY email going through the district’s system and decided that he/she (a non-educator) knew enough about the situation to report the two teachers to the district administrator for ganging up on this student.

So I have a few take aways from this conversation:

– If there is a job in a school system that offers a person that much time to just make teachers’ lives miserable, then it is a waste of tax payer dollars.

– If there is a position created in a school district that does not have student learning as the MAIN focus attached to it, then it is also a waste of tax payer dollars.

– Why do campus administrators continue to let someone so obviously out of touch with teacher and student needs control such a large part of what happens (or should happen) on their campuses? One would assume that there is at least one person willing to step up and share the importance of access and use with this individual and eventually that person’s boss if needed. These anal controllers of the DISTRICT’s network have no business in education since they only work to hinder it. There have to be some limitations to protect data, access to inappropriate sites, cyber-bullying, etc., I know. But when it gets to the point where staff and students give up using any technology, then there is a major issue.

– Those of us in the tech side of the school district need to remember that curriculum drives the technology and not the other way around. Our job is to facilitate technology use, not to frustrate it.

Video Converting Success


I volunteered to make several copies of some DVD’s of our teachers doing what they do best in White Oak ISD: teaching. Our primary campus principal had a great idea of videoing key segments of the day in her teachers’ lives. She then created a video to give to teachers who have been hired to join our school district next school year. What an awesome idea! I am glad I volunteered to do it because it gave me some insight into what the direction is on her campus with her teachers, and technology is definitely a big part of it.

Now this principal has been an early adopter for me already this year in a few separate instances. One, she asked for laptops for her teachers. The first thing she wanted was to get a few MacBooks and a few Windows based machines so her teachers could compare and decide. (as a side note: one of her teachers had over TWENTY enhanced podcasts up in less than a week and never owned a Mac!).

Her next tech integration involved interviews for new teachers. One (or more) of her teachers shot quite a few pictures of what the classrooms and areas of the building looked like while the kids were in it functioning during the school day. Then, text was added over portions of the pictures to label the event/area being viewed. It was all then compiled into a very nice looping video that each applicant was to watch after her interview prior to leaving the building. Yes, a slide show is considered fairly low tech, but when a campus decides to jump into the tech waters and finds a neat way to tie in even a slide show during staff interviews, I say good for them. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure they used Keynote and exported the file as an MOV file since it was looping in QuickTime. That is a pretty good skill to have for a primary teacher, I must say. I have been very proud of the work my elementary teachers have done this year. They have not backed down from the challenge to integrate more technology. As my Australian buddies on Twitter would say, “Good on them!”

So anyway, I was headed into the conversation of the video conversion. If you need to rip a file off a DVD (which is what the video camera recorded to as a VOR/VOB files) and convert it for podcast use, grab you a copy of the free program Handbrake. It converts to either AVI or M4V files. I had issues with the AVI, but the M4V worked flawlessly inside iMovie and Final Cut Pro. Converting to M4V allows me to put it right into our Virtual Roughneck podcast blogs without any editing if preferred. It is by far the best product I found to do the trick. It will also come in handy when I start moving DVD’s onto my iTouch.

Two posts diverged in a feed reader, and I took the one marked Unread.

My apologies to Robert Frost. And to be accurate, I actually took two posts marked Unread.

I have had two blog posts saved in my Bloglines account for what seems like eternity. They are too good to mark as read, yet they are blaring at me with each stroll past. I have no idea what to do with them. They make bold statements that educators should hear, yet they can be inflammatory each in its own right without thorough discussion of the context.

So in the spirit of sharing my current thoughts, here are the two things Darren Draper and Sylvia Martinez have published on their blogs that have me pondering:

Darren posts this graphic from Carl Glickman’s Leadership for Learning: How to Help Teachers Succeed

Sylvia posts this quote from Alan Kay –

“Virtually all learning difficulties that children face are caused
by adults’ inability to set up reasonable environments for them. The
biggest barrier to improving education for children, with or without
computers, is the completely impoverished imaginations of most adults.” – Alan Kay (Scholastic Administrator, April/May 2003)

Both make awesome points and serve to inspire the bendable and tick off the rigid. Which one can you relate to the best?

I realize I have not hashed these two things out very well in this post. My goal was to archive them on my blog so that I would be forced to discuss them with others or at least revisit them together on a regular basis until I get it all organized in my head. If anyone wants to discuss/debate the content and context, comment away. Otherwise, these remain in my head until further notice.

TechForum Southwest Notes – Roundtable with Anita Givens

The following are my few notes from my short meeting with Anita Givens and three other school districts held 11/2007. They are strictly my thoughts/perceptions/views/etc.

tech funding to support LRPT – will be asking for new money every session headed toward 75 to 100 per student

hb 2864 (point person – Richard Lagow) –

  • renewal for second year will place priority on first year districts looking at number of students served;
  • in other words, if we do 200 this year, we will get first consideration for 200 next year then second consideration with the additional students;
  • Anita suggests get in this year, or be prepared to miss out on the money next year due to limitations of renewal money amounts (My note as of 1/10/08 – This grant processing is not going well at TEA due to limited funds and more interest than expected; legislators should fund higher next year)

K12 databases being worked on

sb1788 (point person – Anita Givens) –

  • not funded, but what can we do until it is funded;
  • creating criteria for dl classes;
  • criteria for educators PD and certification;
  • look at web-based learning site for progress of this process;
  • if student is getting full day’s worth of ADA on a campus, they are going to be eligible to take up to two online course for additional ADA;
  • requires teacher to have PD about teaching online before they qualify to teach DL course; taking NCOL to help with standards/criteria for each area (student and faculty);
  • these standards must be in place 6 months prior to implementation;
  • bill says open program by 08-09, but no funding or time right now to get it all done in time, maybe by mid-year;
  • will not lose ADA based on taking online coursework, funding is lost via the network providing the courses;
  • districts will have autonomy to create their own VHS networks, rules are permissive to allowing students to take courses from other networks;
  • build ADA off kids in private schools and homeschooled;
  • “we do not get docked for having a kid fail and repeating a year so why would we get extra money for a kid that succeeded a year early?” (My response was that the doctor does not give me my money back for the visit and/or prescriptions when he does not heal me either.);

Tech Assessment Pilot –

  • going out for RFP to figure out costs;
  • waiting for this process to take place before proposal hits ISD’s;
  • vendor side takin gplace this month, maybe March-May to get it in place;

Notes for after event:

email Richard Lagow about our elementary online coursework

ask about textbook updates for software between adoptions, etc

I would like to thank Mrs. Givens for taking the time our of her schedule to meet with us at that event. It is refreshing to be able to talk to a face instead of a voice mail these days. Her candid answers are exactly what we need to be able to guide us in our planning. Sometimes what is not said is almost as powerful as what is said. Thanks again!

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