What can BYOD programs learn from cycling events?

Posted by Geoff Belleau on October 31, 2015

“No child left offline.”Smart phone on bicycle handlebars

That is the challenge California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction has put to schools in our state. All students and teachers should have access to an electronic device that will connect them to the Internet. How in the world can this happen? One possible solution is “bring your own device”—or BYOD as it’s commonly known.

Over the past few months I have participated in several organized cycling events. One was to raise money for diabetes. The other, the “Tour de Tahoe,” was for a similar purpose and took us all the way around Lake Tahoe. In both events, a group of people got together and rode for a cause, for fitness and for fun.

Parallels abound

I see parallels between BYOD for computing and for cycling. Obviously, in both cases you bring your own equipment! But more importantly, BYOD is about the experience and not about the device. In the Tour de Tahoe, there were expensive bikes and cheap bikes. There were people with lots of experience and expertise and others who looked like they had just jumped on their bikes for the first time. Those who are novices have a harder time than those who are “in-shape.”

In both situations, lots of things are assumed. In the cycling event, there were no directions on how to get around the lake, how to ride a bike, or how to put your helmet on.  Similar expectations tend to apply when we ask students to bring their own computing devices to school. We assume that if they own them, they know how to use them.

Both involve issues of equity. Like bicycles, computing devices vary in features, style, power, and capabilities. Users vary in their own abilities which may dictate specialized equipment; in our Tahoe event,  one gentlemen “pedaled” around the lake with his arms, rather than of his legs, and had a partner who rode with him to make sure he was always seen, since he was only about six inches off the road surface! Equity also suggests we need to provide devices for those participants who do not, in fact, own their own.

Planning is key to success

Finally, BYOD in either case needs planning, organization and coordination to succeed. In the Tour de Tahoe, everyone knew the cyclists would be out there. There were rest stops and Support and Gear (SAG) vehicles to help give worn out cyclists a ride when needed. BYOD in schools requires similar advance planning and special arrangements such as solid WiFi and good policy to keep everyone safe and allow students and educators to communicate, create, and collaborate in school as effectively as they do when they are outside the doors of their school.

Remember it is about the journey, not the device, and the trip around the lake is always more fun and safer with a friend.

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A Learning Management System as a Game Changer

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on January 26, 2014

Picture of chess pieces with words Game CHANGERTransitioning to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment will require acquisition and application of 21st century skills by both teachers and students. As instructional technology and education leaders, it is our responsibility to promote a culture of innovation and collaboration among our staff, as well as to create the right systems drivers for teachers to share and build on their depth of knowledge during the transition towards the CCSS.

There are many online tools to enhance collaboration for social interaction and many tools to host online document and file storage that support an environment for teaching and learning. The challenge for a whole system approach is to organize the documents and PLC collaboration discussions that allow multiple teachers at multiple grade levels, building levels, and across district the level, to effectively communicate during their journey of CCSS implementation. For small schools and small districts, creating this culture of collaboration using freeware software such as Edmodo and other social media products works wells and may meet their needs. However, in larger districts, it becomes a challenge to manage the conversations, threaded discussions, and support collaborative environments that promote a cross-disciplinary and integrated approach that the CCSS require.

Once teachers have developed their curriculum, lessons, activities, assessments, and electronic learning resources, the decision then becomes where to host the materials to allow multiple layers of access among teachers and students. As schools move from hard copy textbooks to interactive ebooks, they will require a complex Learning Management System (LMS) to host these new online learning materials that provide multiple sources for collaboration housed within one product.

Initial investment will pay off in long run

An LMS system may require a costly initial investment, that districts may fund through the CA state’s new Common Core funding. The investment and ongoing costs will be offset in the long run by the value of a comprehensive LMS as a necessary tool for successful long term implementation of CCSS and project based learning. An advanced LMS has a bridge to a district student information system (SIS) that connects courses with students and teachers in a virtual learning space. Transitioning towards the use of an LMS for teaching and learning becomes one vehicle toward promoting a blended learning environment and supports the practice of 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. An LMS system, when used appropriately and effectively, becomes a whole systems approach to changing how teachers and students interact, supporting personalized learning- anytime with any device.

Now the challenge for superintendents and  boards will be to design a system to ensure equitable access to the LMS with mobile devices and equitable student accessibility to the LMS from home. When education achieves this major milestone, we will truly see a major transformation in education and the closing of the achievement gap. Let’s make this happen!

 

 

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Hacked—It Stings!

Posted by Tim Landeck on July 14, 2013

Just when I thought it was OK to leave the safety of my district’s content filter and venture into the growing realm of social networking (SN), I was stung by the mighty SN wasps—my Twitter account was hacked! Before I knew it, I was advertising a weight loss program to all of my Twitter followers. To add to the confusion I actually had just lost some weight and won the “losers weight loss contest” at the district office. Many were aware of my improving health and thought I was endorsing a specific weight loss program! Even if you haven’t been hacked yet, find out how to prevent it.

Wasp face on.
Photo credit: Wim van Egmond. Used by permission.

 

How I knew that I was hacked

One morning I began to receive emails from friends and colleagues asking if my Twitter and Facebook accounts had been hacked. When you receive multiple versions of these emails within a couple of hours, it’s time to check it out as quickly as possible. I looked on my Twitter account and sure enough, I was advertising for a new weight loss program. It’s embarrassing to have your account hacked, especially for a “techie” like me; I wanted to stop the unauthorized posts as soon as possible.

How to secure your Twitter account

  • Step 1: Change your password ASAP. Usually this is how your account was hacked so changing your password will bring the addition of new, unauthorized posts to a halt. You can increase security by making your password long and complex,  such as IhateGetting365Hacked!
  • Step 2: Disable unnecessary third party applications.  Log into your Twitter account and under settings (look for the gear in the top right hand side of your web browser window) click the Apps menu. Look through the applications that are presently authorized to post to your account and make sure that you truly need and want each of those applications to have access to your account.  Revoke access for all the apps that you don’t recognize.
  • Step 3: Remove any saved passwords to your Twitter account that you may have on various computers and mobile devices.
  • Step 4: Run an antiviral software program on all computers that you use regularly to be sure that you don’t have a virus or keyboard logger on any of your computers
  • Step 5: Reset your password again.

Although being hacked and sending unwarranted posts to hundreds of your followers is a horrible thought, don’t let it prevent you from utilizing social networks. Twitter, Facebook and other social network sites provide excellent tools for educators. Just play it safe by following the steps above.

For more information, visit Twitter’s Help Center.

 

 

 

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One-to-Anything: Being Technologically Faithful

Posted by Jim Yeager on August 29, 2012

The letters NEW on springsA friend of mine called this week to see what I thought about my new Nexus 7 tablet.  My quick answer? “I love it!”  When we started talking about the Nexus 7 in schools, I gave a little more thoughtful reply:  “Would I trade my 200 iPads for 500 Nexus 7s?  Yes, in a second.”

The problem with my enthusiasm is that I am always ready to trade my previous favorite for next year’s new and better idea. In fact, it may not even be a year before Apple makes their own 7-inch iPad.  (They won’t dare call it an Ipad will they?)   What if the next Kindle offers a student-friendly device at an even more attractive price?  School leaders who make hardware purchases based solely on the “coolness” of the hardware may experience a severe case of buyer’s remorse.

When our fickle nature concerning educational technology hardware shows itself, I call it being “technologically unfaithful.”  We have a relationship with an attractive device.  We swear loyalty to.  Yet our faithfulness lasts only until the next cool innovation turns our heads.

What does this mean for technology leaders—and those administrators who write the checks to buy the stuff those leaders recommend?  It means that we have to refocus on student skills rather than hardware.

The Common Core Standards will require students to do what they know.  The National Educational Technology Standards for Students place the emphasis squarely on skills.  The new assessments we are so concerned about will not be device specific, nor require students to utilize a collection of apps to prove competence.  The new core curriculum will ask students to collaborate, think critically, and be creative.  Such skills are well served by technology, but not dependent on specific tools.

My new suggestion for the schools I work with is to adopt a “one-to-anything” approach.  Utilizing Web 2.0 tools, cloud-based resources, and a varied selection of hardware solutions, we can help students learn and practice common technology skills on whatever hardware they encounter.  For example, at Two Rivers School District we have wired labs, laptop labs, mobile netbook labs, Chromebook labs, and iPad labs.  Next, we’ll add a Nexus 7 lab.

The point is to focus on student skills that will enable our students to create, evaluate, and collaborate, regardless of the hardware they encounter. Our goal is technology-skilled students who will be able to use technology tools to perform relevant tasks, not operate specific devices.  After all, the next greatest thing is right around the corner.

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Tech Equity: It’s not just for kids

Posted by Bob Price on November 28, 2011

Like most districts, we want our teachers to have access to powerful instructional technology.  And, like most districts, technology purchases for us have been made with a mix of limited district funds, some grants, and site categorical funds.  This has led to a situation where there are haves and have nots in terms of access to instructional technology.  A recent grant allowing for most of our math classes to have access to Promethean Boards caused our teachers of other subjects and grade levels to ask about access to these powerful technology tools.  When we took an inventory of the technological tools available to our teachers, we were surprised at the discrepancies across the district.  Our classrooms ran the gamut from full Promethean tools with document cameras to a single overhead projector sitting in a corner.  We realized we had a serious equity problem.

Our model of allowing sites to drive the educational technology available in classrooms had created a situation where student and teacher access technology varied dramatically.  A student could experience a relatively rich or embarrassingly poor access to technology tools depending on the luck of what teacher he/she was assigned to.  It was possible for students to spend their entire K-8 careers having only had access to teachers with an overhead projector.  Or they could be the lucky ones that had teachers with state-of-the-art technology.  This unacceptable situation led us to initiate our Tech Equity Project for teachers.

Utilizing a highly motivated Tech Vision Team, we developed minimum standards for technology for teachers.  After much discussion, it was decided that each classroom should be equipped with a teacher laptop, sound system, smart projector and document camera.  Funding for equipment would come from excess bond funds.  Sites agreed to pay for maintenance, repairs and supplies with the funds they were allocating previously to purchase hardware.  Our Tech Vision Team members offered to provide the necessary professional development at their sites in exchange for access to new technologies.  After much planning, meeting with vendors, and individual meetings with teachers and principals, our vision will be realized when teachers return from Winter break.

The next step in our vision will be the issue of equity of student access.  We have the same problem of haves and have nots with student technology.  Our goal will be to have all classrooms with an internet device available for all students within the next two years.  Whether that device will be a notebook, netbook, or tablet has yet to be decided.

The other big issue for us is whether our teachers will utilize all of this technology in powerful ways to improve student achievement.  One thing is certain.  No one will implement technology they do not have.  We are looking forward to the next steps in our journey.  Parent, teacher, and community support for our Tech Equity Initiative has been overwhelmingly positive.

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