Inspiration, Investment, & ISTE

I have had such good intentions to write regularly for this blog, only to have far to many distractions pull me in other directions. But, I am thrilled to be writing my first post in well over two years because I have just finish four incredible days at ISTE 2016. The conference was jaw-droppingly amazing (and completely overwhelming). Imagine 14,500 passionate, enthusiastic educators who are actively seeking more engaging and authentic ways to bring technology into student and teacher lives descending on Denver, CO for 5 days of intense sharing, seeking, and searching. Truly mere words cannot harness intensity and excitement of the experience. In no uncertain terms, the future of education was being hatched and conceived in every single moment. To be a part of it is absolutely a blessing.

And, sad as I am that the conference has ended, I cannot wait to start sharing the ideas, insights, wisdom, and wonder that I gleaned from my experiences and encounters. I will do my best to share some of the most astounding items over the next few days. But, one of the most fundamental realizations for me is that I need to begin sorting through my own beliefs, approaches, and growth. Thus, I need to invest myself in making this blog a reality, not just a good intention. I look forward to sharing the things that catch my eye as I build my own knowledge and develop my personal learning network (PLN). I also cannot wait to offer up the successes and the failures that happen at my school — processing and exploring what can be learned from all of it. I hope there are some folks out there who will join me on this journey, and I hope their voices will be raised as well.

This first post back is a short one, but I promise some incredible, mind-blowing items in the days to come (with links to truly brilliant material shared by the fantastic presenters I got to enjoy at ISTE 2016).

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Filed under Blogging, Education, Excitement, ISTE, Leadership, Student-centered, Technology

Identifying Image Importance

I have known, even during my many years as a classroom teacher, that a vital component of a successful school technology program is creating and using well planned device images. Yet, even with that awareness, I have been gaining reams of insights daily as I have been creating the new images for the various computers at my school. I certainly got a small glimpse of this madness at my previous school when I started using Casper Suite and re-imaged the 30 iMacs in the computer lab and the cart of 20 MacBook Airs. But, those efforts pale in comparison to what I have been doing over the past 2 weeks. At my new school, I need to create separate images for our faculty MacBook Pros, our faculty MacBook Airs, our student MacBooks, our 17″ iMacs, and our 21.5″ iMacs. I am grateful that I only have to worry about 2 different Mac OS X versions — Mavericks (OS X 10.9) and Lion (OS X 10.7) — and that I know that each different Mac needs its own image.

One of the hardest elements of each image is making sure that I have added and incorporated all of the software that we will definitely need for the school year without adding tons of unnecessary extras. Complicating matters this summer is the fact that I have only experienced one fourth of the year at the school. I am hoping that having a clear structure to the network will allow me to push out (or remove) an application when the need arises. Fortunately, I am already assuming that I will not get any of these images completely “correct,” forcing me to recognize that tweaks will be inevitable. An additional complication is figuring out which preferences I should be setting through each image and which should be controlled through the network and Workgroup Manager. Again, I am starting with the assumption that I will be forced to adjust those things throughout the first half of the school year.

My favorite discover so far is that Deploy Studio is an excellent option for utilizing the elements of our ethernet network. Using Deploy Studio and OS X Server, I am easily able to create and store master images, and I am able to deploy those master images as NetBoot options. Of course, such an approach necessitates being able to connect a computer to the ethernet cable — something no longer possible with MacBook Airs. We do have a few Thunderbolt to ethernet adapters for our new MacBook Airs, but those do not work on the small handful of older MacBook Airs. I am hoping that I will be able to use a USB to ethernet adapter for those machines. If that will not work, I will use a bootable external drive, but that would mean setting up yet another system. Fortunately, I do have a few weeks before I need all of my computers to be ready. I am also wise enough to know that those days will fly by in no time.

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Filed under Apple, Computers, Imaging, Insights, Macintosh, Set Up, Technology

Principal Power a Priority

In the past few years, educational institutions are finally getting to see data demonstrating how much impact technology, and specifically one-to-one programs (where every student has a device that she or he brings home at night), are having in schools. The most comprehensive of these has been Project RED which studied and surveyed 1,000 schools across the United States. One of the most telling discoveries that they made is that one-to-one programs have almost no discernible impact for a school, unless at least 4 of 9 key implementation factors are in place. And, when at least 4 of those 9 factors are in place, the school significantly outperforms all other schools.

Of those 9 key implementation factors, however, none is more important that visible, active championing of the one-to-one program by the school’s administration, particularly the principal. Having witnessed that reality personally at three different schools, I agree with their findings 100%. I worked for over 20 years at a high school, and spent a significant amount of my time over my second decade there advocating for a one-to-one program. When the school finally did implement one, I watched as it completely ignored all of the Project RED findings. Most frustrating was that the school’s leadership not only failed to champion the use of technology (placing that responsibility solely on the shoulders of an understaffed technology department), but also the principal chose instead to actively champion the position that no teacher would ever be forced to use technology. Needless to say, the school will soon be entering its 3rd year of their one-to-one program, and while some teachers have done miraculous things with technology, other still never use it in their classrooms. As a result, some students constantly use their devices to improve their educations, while others simply use their device to improve their high scores and to tweet their latest purchase.

In contrast to that experience, I have seen the impact technology can have when the principal does actively champion its use. I started the past school year at a Catholic grade school as their technology integration specialist, and my principal brought my there specifically with the mindset that we would work towards a one-to-one program in the middle school. Unfortunately, Catholic grade schools function at the whim of their Pastors, and the Pastor at that school was determined to see our principal fail, so we were blocked at every turn as we attempted to move toward a one-to-one program. But, even with that opposition, I was able to significantly increase the use of technology in all of the classrooms, both within the middle school and in K-5 classrooms. Because the faculty knew that the principal was moving the school toward a one-to-one program, each teacher had an impetus to do more with technology. Certainly, some were extremely resistant to adding technology, but I never had to force anyone to do it. Instead, we let each teacher move at her or his own pace, and when a teacher did want to try something, I went out of my way to assist that person and to make the process as smooth as possible. As a result of that, teachers clearly gained confidence in their own abilities as the school year progressed. Sadly, the negative actions of the Pastor and his staff drove the principal out of the school, and I began to seek actively employment elsewhere because I knew that whoever the new principal would be that individual would not be nearly as supportive of integrating technology.

Fortunately for me, I found a new job as the technology coordinator at a different Catholic grade school, and I was able to start there before the end of this past school year. At this school too, I was brought in with the idea that I would move them towards a middle school one-to-one program. The difference at this school, though, is that I was seen as the final piece of the puzzle, rather than having to build the case from the ground up. My new school had been actively discussing a one-to-one program for 2 years before I arrived on the scene. But, once again, the primary reason for those discussions was the active, vocal championing of technology by the principal. As a result of her advocacy and enthusiasm, the entire staff has been open to finding new ways to integrate technology into all of the classrooms. And, even though I did not start at the school until the last week of March, the school is making tremendous technology additions to its K-5 classrooms and will be one-to-one in its middle school when school begins this fall. Certainly, my presence played a role in making the decision to move forward, but the primary reason we are able to do this is the outspoken support and enthusiasm of my principal.

Project RED’s study and continuing work, as well as other research begin done in technology integration, provide excellent guidance and insight for the use and integration of technology into classrooms, but I firmly believe that any technology venture, and especially a one-to-one program, is doomed unless the school’s principal is an outspoken supporter of the idea. Without her or his backing, teachers simply do not feel the same level of responsibility and commitment to the changes. Certainly, some teachers will fully embrace the opportunity to build more technology into their daily classroom interactions. But, there are far more teachers who will be on the fence and will need a nudge to pursue new classroom activities. And, there will always be a small group who will resist technology integration even if the principal is an advocate. The only thing that will get those individuals to explore ways to use the added technology is implicit and explicit expectations from the school’s top administrator. Otherwise, those teachers will no motivation to chance what has always worked for them in the classroom. In the end, innovation and creativity with the technology will come from teachers, but the initial push to add technology and to move to a one-to-one program has to have clear and obvious support from the school’s principal.

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Filed under Classroom, Insights, Integration, Leadership, One-to-one, Technology

Engaging, Integrating, Enhancing

Greetings! My goal in this blog is to join the ever-growing legion of educators who are looking for ways to improve student learning through technology tools. For me, the central principle in all of these efforts is the creation of transformational classrooms. Although any classroom can be transformational, tools of technology make it significantly easier to make school an interactive and collaborative experience. I hope that this space can be a place where I (and others) can explore the multitude of ideas and concepts that are being taken throughout the world. I also plan to maintain an expansive and expanding list of other educational and technology-minded blogs that are exploring similar ideas and concepts. I am excited about the possibilities and welcome any and all comments because it will only be through numerous collaborations that educators will find viable solutions to educating students in the 21st century. I encourage anyone who stumbles on this space to join the conversation.

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Filed under Classroom, Collaboration, Integration, Technology