Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Saying it all in 700 words....

I recently had the opportunity to write a guest editorial in the Lewiston Sun Journal, and I gave myself the ridiculous challenge of trying to provide the big picture on education reform for a general audience in 700 words (735 actually.)

In Maine as in many states, there is a strong movement to convert to standards-based (proficiency-based) system, and this is entwined with all the federal pressure and political "accountability" polices. The public is upset, and its message seems to be "get better or else, but don't change."

So how did I do?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

5 Essential Practices for Ed-Tech Startups

During the early days, K-12 technology was about "buying the next thing,” and the cool factor weighed heavily with decision-makers who often had more buying authority than knowledge. Today it is more often an urgent research process by a team of leaders with complicated requirements and piles of new demands for very sophisticated features, especially interoperability and data security.  If you are looking for an institutional purchase, these 5 practices will go a long way to show them you understand their challenges:

1.     Get the feature set out there. State in specific terms what it does. Post full recordings of demos, webinars, etc., not just teasers.  Post a thorough, useful FAQ; don’t omit difficult questions. Decision-makers need to get good detailed information on your product, as quickly as possible.
2.     Be FERPA native.  Address student data security in plain language, up front. Don’t leave it to the fine print. Show that you understand the problem of student data security.
3.     Don’t hog data.  If your product collects user data, provide an easy means to export it in usable form.
4.     Embrace interoperability.  Say if your product interacts with any SIS or LMS, or eco-system or platform… or not. If yes, say how, specifically.  Show that you understand the problem of interoperability.

5.     Clarify migration assistance.  Show how easy it will be to start and stop using the product, especially to export and/or purge user data.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Will change really happen this time?

This short animation of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson does a fairly good encapsulation of the challenges of K-12 education. What's interesting to me is that, for many years people who believed this way mostly spoke and wrote books for, well... each other. Today these discussions are taking place in policy circles. And the tools for structural change (especially customization) are there. Many voices are saying the time has finally arrived for the "complete retool" we've all discussed for decades.  Has it?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Trauma Telemedicine on IPod Touch

Rural Maine Telemedicine.... Trauma surgeon on IPod Touch...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kahn Academy Described

I found this TED talk presentation a better way to understand Kahn Academy, and its progress as a tool for schools.  I think some educators have been hesitant to support Kahn, partly because students would be consuming, rather than producing the videos (which would not technically be consistent with constructivist ideology.) This presentation shows how such a tool can put students in the drivers' seat while respecting and supporting the unique role of the teacher.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

News flash: students use technology to break the rules

I often receive an email from a teacher to the effect of "I saw a student defeat our firewall and go to a blocked site.  What is the technology department going to do about it?"  In nearly every case, the teacher had a responsibility to deal with the student, but saw it as a technical matter, rather than a disciplinary one.  I also often receive messages to the effect of "I broke the rules; look how easy it was."  This is largely a problem of school culture, both professional and academic.  We need to build a culture where people understand that doing something wrong is not made right because it is possible.  This has always been true, but the Internet has caused some to become confused (at times hysterical) about it.  Technology departments can do a lot to prevent unintended access to inappropriate material, but cannot transform the Internet into a walled garden.  It is a place where the capability to do both right and wrong is inherent.  While the technology folks appreciate information and can assist teachers in apprehending or ascertaining what students have done, it is the school's responsibility to respond to violations with the appropriate consequences and actions. There is no need for hysteria; we can bring our existing wisdom and ethical sense to the table on this.  Today, many students struggle with this idea: "I can, therefore I may."  When something is against the rules, it is not made less so by the fact that it is technically possible to do it, and it should not be encouraged, even as a way of "testing our security." 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Same old arguments

In twenty years of working with technology in schools, the same arguments always appear in posts about computers in school.  I was following this thread on a recent PBS article and sure enough, there were several posts which:
  • Equated technology with bad teaching
  • Described computers as a luxury and complained about the expense
  • Waxed nostalgic about drill and practice in the old days, and how much more was learned back then (by the 30% of people who completed high school.)
Some obvious points:
K-12 is the last industry which makes a big deal out of using technology.  Every other industry has switched to using it.  The world uses technology to do real work today, so of course we need it to teach those things.

$250 per year per student is not much money compared to the $12,000 or so we spend on each student every year.  Kids will buy their own computers soon.  Most already do.

Learning does require practice and hard work, and wherever this is not present, learning suffers.  (It's an old problem.  Unfortunately, you can do bad teaching with or without a computer.)

Education is lighting a fire, not filling a bucket.  Many old-fashioned school practices actually taught kids to hate learning (writing as a punishment, for instance.) School does not have to be like it was.

Printed textbooks will not survive this economy.  E-Reader copies can be updated much more cheaply, contain video, etc.  E-Readers cost no more than one or two textbooks now, and can hold thousands of books.  You can read them in daylight and they don't make your eyes sore. There will always be wonderful books, including paper ones, but for traditional classroom textbooks, It's over.  People complain about filtering the Internet. There is no more egregious filter than a history textbook approved in Texas and California.

Technology does not drive good teaching; it is simply necessary, as a practical matter, for good teaching in today's world for most subjects.