Archive for the “innovation” Category

Along time ago I wrote a post questioning the added value of a tablet computer in a teacher’s hands.

We’ll shortly have access to a new class of tablets, slates, whatever you want to call them, or at least we should very shortly.

There appears to be new technologies emerging from Apple, OLPC, Dell, NotionInk , and yes, even Google.  There’s even the Mag+, which seems to be more reader than anything else.

Do I want one.  You bet I do.

And when they appear, especially the Apple product (expected January 26, 2010), can’t you just see the Twitter firestorm?  And if you thought the lines at the local Apple store were long for the iPhone, just wait…

So, what does this mean for education?

Probably very little.  With a price point that is anticipated well-beyond the price of a netbook (with the exception of the OLPC at around $100, predicted by Forbes.com to come in at $75 bucks), your local school, and their limited budgets will have very little wiggle room for acquiring these devices.

And they shouldn’t anyway, because most are far from having the organizational readiness required to plan for, implement, support, sustain, and evaluate any kind of program that places these technologies in a student’s hands.

In the middle of all of this, across a gradient that ranges from the desktop/laptop on the left, to the future tabets on the right, is the netbook.  Interestingly, some have predicted that this will mean the end of the netbook.

I don’t know about that, and I won’t speculate, but I’m hoping it makes them even more affordable, so that I can get my hands on more of them.

That means getting more of them into classrooms, of course, where teachers and kids can beat them up, so we can see how all of these technologies play out in the context of our school-wide technology and literacy goal (Incorporate new and evolving technologies to support the development of literacy.)

The eventual access to a machine that will support many of the same features many of us enjoy on an iPhone or Android is fascinating.  And there is no doubt that these will probably make us all rethink what mobile computing looks like.

But just not in schools.

UPDATE:  Apple Tablet apparently to ship in March.  See Mashable for the story.

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If you have been on the Moon for the past two days, you might have missed this.  Google is offering a Google Teachers Academy for Administrators in San Antonio.  After looking at the announcement, I couldn’t help thinking that its basically the same program offered for teachers.  Even the title of the program might suggest that…

Personally, I think programs like this are generally beneficial, but not as beneficial as everyone thinks.  I’ve written about his before, especially in regards to my distaste for the badges that participants display on their blog.  I think most do not consider the implicit support for a commercial entity that results from the use of the badge, especially within the context of being a public employee (in most cases).

I also think that this represents a great opportunity for Google and a great opportunity for administrators.  But, if it’s just the GTA re-purposed, I think it might miss its mark.  Why do a teacher academy for administrators?  I guess it could imply that everyone is a teacher, or it could simply mean the organizers did a bad job of crafting a title.

It’s a different audience with a different need.  And if they don’t know the tools by now, which is a reality, they shouldn’t apply.  That’s directed at administrators, not at Google.

The time has come for a different kind of experience, moving beyond tools.  Tools could certainly be included in the context of the day, but it needs to be more.

Before I give you my perspectives, here are my biases from which I operate:

  • I’m a 12 month administrator and have been for 10 years.  I taught for 15.
  • I work in a school.  I face the challenges that that brings on a daily basis.
  • I’m a Google Certified Teacher by default-I presented at the Chicago conference.  I have not engaged in the Google online community-I do enough of that already, and my engagement online with others must be larger than just Google-focused.
  • I believe that the Google Academy is a good thing for most teachers, although it could stand a heavy dose of pedagogy.
  • My school district has signed up for Google Apps for education, and it is a component of a much larger vision of how learning can occur in digital environments.  Google tools, and what they bring, are incredibly important to us.
  • I think that in 2009, Google represents the true spirit of innovation.  I’m amazed at what they produce.

_________

So, if I were designing an administrator academy, these would be my underlying questions that I would hope the day would answer for attending professionals.  Embedded in this is the understanding that some tools would be explained, and that the experience from the day could be expanded through online community participation.

Here they are:

  1. Will the academy help administrators understand why teachers in their schools could benefit from being part of the GTA program?
  2. Will the academy help administrators understand why they should adopt Google Apps for Education in their schools?  Will the academy demonstrate to administrators, clearly, the affordances that the use of such a system brings, and demonstrate how they know?
  3. Will the academy help administrators understand the necessary policies that need to be developed to effectively scaffold the use of Google tools in schools?
  4. Will the academy help administrators understand how they can meet mandated legal requirements (such as email archiving) when using various Google tools?
  5. Will the academy address strategies for the systemic application of Google technology to support increased student achievement?
  6. Will the academy address initiatives such as Response to Intervention and how Google technology can be used to address the student support required by such programs?
  7. Will the academy address the negotiation of the uses of learning environments featuring Google tools and how that can be balanced against high stakes testing regimes and NCLB?
  8. Given the focus on the role of Google tools, and that they should be used by teachers to help students learn, will the academy address, or offer suggestions and strategies, on how schools might address the technology gaps that exist in under-served populations in schools (defined here as those without home technology) so that access is equitable?
  9. Is the academy taught by fellow administrators or is it taught by the same teachers that instruct at GTA?  If teachers, do they have the requisite systemic experience to understand the larger context of schools that administrators operate within?
  10. Do the presenters, if administrators, have school-based examples to share, in the context of what Google offers, of what works, and can they explain how they know it works?

So, those are my questions.  And while I understand that a lot of administrators aren’t there yet in their understanding of…tools…well, I might suggest that there is a different place where that can occur.  In my opinion, the day should be learning more than tools, and realizing that we can connect to each other digitally.

Administrators have different needs than teachers.  They just do.  That’s not bad, it just is.  Technologies that are offered by companies like Google, and that are used by teachers, require some rethinking of how we operate.  That’s good.  Google could help admins understand that, with a day dedicated to just that.

I’d be glad to offer my assistance in planning or helping to adjust the program, or explaining this in more detail to Google planners.

Please let me know what you think.

Respectfully,

David

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How innovative are you?

Like the concept of best practice, defining what constitutes innovation is probably a relative term and a moving target at best. What is innovative for one teacher might not necessarily be considered so innovative for another. I’m not so sure that there is a clear line in the sand where something, some practice, some technique, or someone, becomes labeled as innovative. I think you know innovation when you see it.

If you are a teacher, you probably know the teachers in your building who are considered to be the true innovators. They’re fairly easy to recognize. You might admire these people, and at the same time, you might resent them. If you’re an administrator, you’re probably not so sure about these teachers either-in some cases these individuals might be viewed as a nuisance or worse yet-as a potential threat. These individuals are constantly pushing the envelope, and are probably the source of the next volley of policy writing, agenda items at faculty meetings, notes to “see me in my office” or worse yet, calls home to parents. Others may see these teachers as incredibly valuable-they can point to these teachers as examples of innovation in their buildings and models for their peers.

In 2009, pockets of innovation aren’t enough.

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to travel to quite a few conferences across the United States, and some in Canada, Europe and most recently China. I’ve had the opportunity to surround myself with people that are truly innovative and I’m better for it. You can see them in the school I work in, you see others writing about their ideas in blogs, you see them at conferences, those that step out on the edge and test themselves, push themselves in new directions. Sometimes they fail, but most often they succeed, however failure itself is seen as a success, and an adventure in the direction of learning, which in itself, is reward enough for these individuals.

In my opinion, too many schools are satisfied with having pockets of innovation.

Here’s a sincere question: does your school equate being innovative with being excellent? If you do, rethink that and rethink it quickly. They’re not the same, and one doesn’t guarantee the other.

Of course, the easiest way to be “innovative” is to jump feet first into the waters of Web 2.0. Be the first to use a wiki, be the first to podcast, be the first to blog, be the first to say one of my kids got a comment from Argentina, and that’s great faculty lunch room fodder. But it just doesn’t mean much…sorry, it just doesn’t. There are much more important things at stake.

You can also be a seen as an innovator among your professional peers, and this of course is a very nice type of recognition. It can be very gratifying. Simply join Twitter to find out how much.

I’m not interested in being satisfied with pockets of innovation. Yes, they can be recognized, which for many schools, is the end point and the final rest stop of innovation. There can certainly be more however, with those same pockets analyzed for what works and why, amplified to increase their visibility and importance, and systematized to make a difference for all.

I’m interested in the systemic application of technology to teaching and learning. I’m interested in an equitable experience for all students. I’m not satisfied with some kids getting a rich experience in technology; I’d like all kids in a school to interact with the technologies that support the instructional techniques that lead to increased student achievement.

If you are an innovator, then you perhaps can be a leader in the change process that enlarges innovation, and that indeed, can potentially be considered a component of what constitutes excellence. If you’re not on board with a leadership role, then follow but follow well. And if you won’t follow with the best of intentions, stop reading this and grab your ditto master. There’s duplicating to be done.

When it’s all said and done, this is a leadership issue, pure and simple-just like everything else in schools.

The recent release of the CoSN Report, Leadership for Web 2.0 in Education: Promise & Reality has eight major findings, and focuses the viewpoints of leadership. Does Finding 7 surprise you?

“While there was broad agreement that Web 2.0 applications hold educational value, the use of these tools in American classrooms remains the province of individual pioneering classrooms.” (p.11)

and, Finding 8, which is troubling, but probably has been true for a long period of time regarding technology, not just Web 2.0:

“Web 2.0 is outpacing K-12 education’s current capacity to innovate.” (p 11)

And then, Finding 9:

“District administrators, the persons responsible for decision making on Web 2.0 in schools, are more passive than active users in the Web 2.0 space. (p 12).

Changing Finding 7 and Finding 8 begins with changing Finding 9….

“Leadership for Web 2.0 in Education: Promise & Reality.” CoSN. 05/01/2009. Consortium for School Networking. 6 May 2009 <http://www.cosn.org/Default.aspx?id=85&tabid=4189>

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My Dad taught ceramics for 38 years. I was always amazed at what his students produced-and that he could access that hidden capacity in them and bring it forth to create a personal piece of art. He would always tell me that everyone has that talent; it just has to be accessed and developed. He did it with the most difficult kids in school, and usually with multiple sections, all in one class. And he never let it pass that the piece they produced would still be on their mantle 30 years from now when my science tests wand labs were long forgotten…Many of those kids just came to school just for his class and then left.

My new school is a different place than where my Dad taught. We have a commons area, comprised of the cafeterias, a beautiful student activities center with an open-air courtyard, our library, and a wide area of hallway where multiple hallways come together in an area that creates a large open space. Kids have access to travel through all of these areas during their open periods.

It’s not unusual to see a student playing a guitar in this area in an impromptu coffeehouse session. It took me a while to get used to this type of space, and the openness it affords (kids also can use ipods), but kids like it as you might imagine, and it generally works pretty well.

Another observation about my new school: the kids in our school actually like coming to school. Having a few freedoms like the commons area is only a part of that, and those freedoms provide an environment that enable kids to connect with other kids.

Simply stated, successful teachers, and successful schools, find ways to develop and deepen those connections. Those connections typically occur, and are probably expected to occur in formal traditional learning spaces, i.e. classrooms. But what about informal learning opportunities, and the connections they afford? How well do we do in providing opportunities for informal learning to take place? Of course the danger in that is that we probably don’t want to formalize the informal and take away the essence of that experience. But we need these types of spaces, and opportunities for exploration beyond the classroom to be available inside of schools. And we need to support that with dollars and tools, with adults, and perhaps with policies that enable them to use the very tools that we ask them to lock away…

So when I saw this video, I thought of all of that.

Here are kids using their iphones and ipod Touch’s, and a variety of apps, to play music. I can see kids doing this in our open areas, and I can see them doing this in our V-Show (Variety Show), perhaps even part of a club. Couldn’t you see kids downloadiing an a cappella from ccmixter and adding their ipod Touch instrumental to it, and contributing it back?That would obviously be pretty cool. But what would they learn? Certainly it would be an opportunity to teach them about remix culture, something that most do now and not very well, and something that they will interact with for the rest of their lives. For me, that’s huge, and it adds additional authenticity and relevancy.I can also see kids using these tools as part of a music class. Why not? Would we get pushback from music educators? Administrators? Parents?Would experiences like this potentially attract more student to music? Or should we leave them to do all of this on their own? Would we be too intrusive?I don’t think so.

And speaking of the ipod Touch and the iPhone, shouldn’t we be teaching kids how to develop applications form them? Stanford offers a free 10-week online course, with content available at their iTunes site. Should we publicize that, encourage that kind of learning, and provide assistance when necessary? I wonder how many teachers have taken this course, on their own, and brought their own informal learning back to class?

We are still a school. We have a responsibility to teach kids, and we should do so with everything at our disposal. If that means using an ipod Touch in a music class then so be it. If it means saying that you can use your personal ipod Touch to play music in school, then so be it.

We also have a responsibility to extend our expectations of what learning is, and where it can take place. Technology today permits learning to take place without the limitations of time, space, and place. A hallway, a commons area, can be a learning space. It doesn’t have have to be a classroom. And we don’t necessarily have to structure it for them. Providing the opportunity and structuring and controlling the opportunity are different things, aren’t they?

We also have a responsibility to find ways to provide experiences for those that cannot afford these technologies at home. And that means doing so at school.

The more that kids are connect to each other, to adults, and to the school community, the more ways we can find to develop talent, the more environments for learning that we provide and support, both formal and informal, the better off our schools will be.

The better off the kids will be.

UPDATE: be sure to read this interesting perception of informal learning, with a new term I had never heard of to describe mobile devices…

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9 Dots

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: innovation web2.0)

Here is the slidedeck from my presentation at Google Teacher Academy in Chicago. The topic was innovation. Here is the script….

______

In 1997 Apple challenged us to think different.

In 2008, that message resonates even louder and with greater urgency.

That ad campaign honored a wide range of people of accomplishment. One such individual was James Watson.

In 1954, along with Francis Crick, Watson described the structure of the DNA molecule. Watson and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize for their efforts.

Here is Watson, on the left, Crick on the right, examining their model.

If you will recall your high school biology class, DNA is made up to two complimentary strands, wound around each other in what is known as a double-helix. DNA is the raw material of your chromosomes, and each of you has 46 in each body cell. Sections of your chromosomes are called genes. When genes are expressed in combination with environmental factors, they determine your traits.

DNA can be recombined in different combinations to yield very different results, even in siblings.

Different species have different chromosomes and genes which make them unique, but they still have DNA as their genetic material.

Science has even provided us with the understanding of how to manipulate DNA, giving rise to the field of genetic engineering.

In 2008, we have common technology that provides us with the raw material or platform for expressing our thoughts, our creativity, our innovation, really ourselves. We can mix and remix content and tools in a recombinant dance, to extend and create. To innovate.

In 2008, it is not unreasonable to think of these technologies as our “digital DNA.”

Of course, these tools range from the 140 character conversations of Twitter, to Second Life with our digital but DNA-less identity, and with a host of Web 2.0 tools in the middle.

More importantly, the suite of Google Tools, from Gmail to Google Earth, provides educators with unparalleled access to the type of imaginative environment that can be used to “think different.”

In 1997, would you have imagined what think different could be mean in 2008?

Today, you have an opportunity to think different. Today you have an opportunity to surround yourself with people of like talents, that have a like purpose. Today can be one of those days that change how you approach your craft and career.

For today, and for tomorrow, think beyond the nine dots.

The challenge of this puzzle is connect all the dots without lifting the pen or pencil and to do so in 4 lines.

Most will try and solve this by drawing lines within the boundaries of the dots. Not until you extend your thinking beyond your self-imposed boundaries, will the puzzle be solved.

There are numerous pathways for using technology successfully. This conference enables you to see a clear pathway for just that.

Remember, thinking different with the help of Google begins today.

Thank you

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