Blips not to overlook

Posted by Butch Owens on January 31, 2013

Radar screenAs we venture forth into 2013, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at some items that should be on every administrator’s radar.  We all need to be developing a plan on how we will incorporate each into our schools.

Learning Management Systems

A learning management system (LMS) is a software application or Web-based technology used to plan, implement, and assess a specific learning process. Typically, a learning management system provides an instructor with a way to create and deliver content, monitor student participation, and assess student performance. A learning management system may also provide students with the ability to use interactive features such as threaded discussions, video conferencing, and discussion forums.  Read more.

Flipped Classrooms

Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher-created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom, and reverse teaching.  Read more.


Bring your own device (also referred to as Bring your own technology (BYOT), Bring your own phone (BYOP), and Bring your own PC (BYOPC)) is a term that is frequently used to describe the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) to their place of work and use those devices to access privileged company information and applications.[1] The term is also used to describe the same practice applied to students using personally owned devices in education settings.  Read more.


A massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational resources. Examples include Khan Academy and free offerings from Stanford and MIT.  Read more.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a free web-based office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. It also was a storage service but has since been replaced by the before-mentioned Google Drive. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. Google Docs combines the features of Writely and Spreadsheets with a presentation program incorporating technology designed by Tonic Systems.  Learn more.

California Student Bill of Rights Initiative

The California Student Bill of Rights Initiative did not make the ballot last November, but had it qualified for the ballot and been approved by the state’s voters, it would have:

  • Authorized school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to claim average daily attendance funding for student participation in approved online courses.
  • Authorized school districts to contract with public and private providers to deliver online courses taught by credentialed teachers.
  • Allowed students to take online courses offered by any school district, regardless of student’s residence.
  • Provided students access to courses required for admission to state universities.
  • Established the “California Diploma”, which would have demonstrated completion of courses required for University of California and California State University admission.

If students need flexibility in their schedule or a teacher in another district has a great online course, students will definitely seek out that option if available—and the ADA would follow the student for that course. Students will no longer be held hostage to what their local district, school or individual teacher of a course is offering.

Huffington article on California online bill of rights
Click image above to read this Huffington post article.

Personal Learning Networks

A personal learning network (PLN) is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment. In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.  Read more.

Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Educational Paradigms

This is a great 11 minute video by Sir Ken Robinson to open up the dialog about the need to change and adapt our schools to meet the needs of students today and into the future. Pay particular attention to the section on divergent thinking. As Sir Ken points out this is one of the most important traits students will need to be successful in our changing world.  Learn more.

A Question

Let me finish by posing a question. If students truly have a choice about what courses they take and where they take them, will they choose to stay enrolled in a course that is textbook-driven and without access to technology or any expectation to use technology to produce evidence of their learning? Or would they choose a hybrid or blended course with online,24/7, access to highly interactive threaded discussions, media rich resources, and the ability to schedule the class around other commitments and activities?

Take for example this brief blog post.  It starts with a brief description and includes links to other resources for those looking to explore a topic in depth.  Compare this to a one page article with definitions of each trend. Which would provide a better understanding of the topic? Which would lead to a deeper understanding? Which is more engaging?

If you are looking to continue this conversation you should consider attending the Leadership 3.0 Symposium sponsored by TICAL, ACSA and CUE.  It takes place April 11–13, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency, Irvine, California.  Learn more.



Alternatives to Google Docs

Posted by Michael Simkins on August 24, 2011

Just as we think Kleenex when we need a tissue and Scotch when we want tape, many of us think Google Docs when we create, share, and collaborate on documents on line. But believe it or not, Google Docs is not the only game in the cloud.

Windows Live

One alternative is Windows Live. In fact, it’s one of the world’s best kept secrets that Microsoft actually has an on-line option for working with your Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files. If you typically use these Microsoft programs and value their many features, you should take some time to explore Windows Live. For example, you can upload files you’ve already created and then access them from any Internet-connected computer. You can choose to share a file with selected people or make it public for all to see.

For writing, one of the nicest things about using Windows Live is using the Word Web App. It lets you edit your Word document on line from any computer, even if that computer does not have Word installed on it. While the web app does not have every feature of full-fledged Word, it has a lot, including the ability to apply all sorts of formatting, insert tables and create multi-level outlines. You’ll feel like you are working in Word because, essentially, you are! Once back at your own computer, open the document in “regular” Word and take it from there.

You can also use Windows Live to collaborate on documents. Two or more people can simultaneously open an Excel or One Note file that is stored in SkyDrive and enter data in it. Two or more people can co-edit Word documents in real time as well if they each work from Word.


Not a Windows fan? Zoho is another Google alternative. Like Windows Live, Zoho offers a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool and note-taker. Like Google, Zoho also offers a considerable set of other tools. Zoho’s collection includes collaboration tools such as chat, discussion, and web conferencing as well as business applications such as project planning, invoicing, bookkeeping, and database.

If you decide to take a look at either of these Google alternatives, keep in mind that there is always a trade off—in this case between simplicity and advanced features. For instance, it’s hard to beat Google Docs for simplicity and ease of use. On the other hand, features are limited. Both Windows Live and Zoho will present you with a steeper learning curve, but you may find it worth the trouble if you want access to a richer set of features.


Taking the “Mist-ery” Out of Cloud Computing

Posted by Donna Hackner on May 17, 2011

During the late 1980’s, while working on my Masters in Educational Computing degree at Pepperdine University, I came across this quotation:

The next schism that will exist between those that have and those that do not have is access to information.

That schism has since become known as the “digital divide.”  This quotation has been the catalyst for me and my involvement in educational technology. Every student should have access to resources available on the World Wide Web, and countless debates and much energy have been put into providing access.  The solution is simple: cloud computing.  I call it the “great leveler” because it presents a solution for leveling the playing field and providing  access for students.

What is cloud computing?  And what are the implications for educators?  Cloud computing in education allows resources to be equitably accessible to students without worrying about the many technical aspects of technology. Basically, resources needed by students and teachers are maintained on a server elsewhere—i.e. the “cloud”—and are accessible through a portal.

The advantages to schools, especially charter schools, are great in terms of  savings in the cost of hardware, software and tech support.  Academically, cloud computing provides 24/7 access to students, parents and teachers.  And most importantly, as stated before, it levels the playing field and allows access to critical learning resources.

Learn more about cloud computing.  The video Cloud Computing Plain and Simple, by Santee School District,  does a good job at explaining it.