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 It also was a storage service but has since been replaced by the before-mentioned Google Drive.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.



Say Hello to the Free Agent Learner!

Posted by Sandra Miller on May 13, 2012

Wordle showing key learning conceptsSay hello to the free agent learner—also known as a typical middle school student!

Students are not waiting around for educators to provide a new type of environment for their learning.  On the contrary, they are creating opportunities for themselves—especially middle school students who view learning in new, often very different ways, from even today’s high school students.

High school students are more traditional in their use of technology, using it for things like checking grades, taking notes, accessing online texts, writing papers and doing homework.  By contrast, middle school students who participated in Project Tomorrow’s “Speak Up” survey are more apt to use their mobile or other devices to:

  • Collaborate with classmates on problem solving
  • Tap into Facebook for schoolwork help
  • Text their teachers with questions
  • Solve real-world problems
  • Find podcasts/videos to learn about something
  • Access online textbooks
  • Use mobile apps to self-organize
  • Access online tutors
  • Use online writing tools
  • Take online tests or assessments on their own.

Teachers and administrators will need to work together to re-create learning environments for these “Free Agent” learners.  Many have smart phones and want to use them.  Parents support these students’ use of technology, using smart phones themselves and often using technology in their own jobs.

Administrators hesitate to embrace mobile technology due to concerns about Internet safety and district liability, digital equity, network security, and teacher training.   Teachers hesitate with worries about distraction, digital equity, cheating, and knowing how to integrate new devices.  At the same time both recognize that  there are potential benefits to integrating new technologies such as:

  • Increasing student engagement
  • Personalizing instruction
  • Reviewing classroom material and extending the day
  • Providing access to online resources

These “Free Agent Learners” need new paradigms for learning.  Can we as educational leaders shift our thinking?  As Charles Darwin (English Naturalist 1809-1882) said,  “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

The Free Agent Learner has already incorporated an expanded vision of education into their own learning beyond the school walls.  It is up to us as educational leaders to help teachers incorporate these new learning environments.  Let’s get on with it!

Learn more  about the Speak Up survey.


Three Wishes for the New Ed Tech Task Force

Posted by Bob Blackney on April 30, 2012

I guess you know when you are getting old when you can say things like, “I have watched educational technology in California for thirty years.”  Unfortunately, this statement is all too true in my case.  From the days of AB 803 to the current state initiatives, the State of California developed many technology master plans and visions for technology in education.

Recently, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson called together a group of bright and energetic stakeholders from across the state to update the California State Technology Plan.  As this talented group headed to Sacramento, I thought, “If I could have three wishes that could actually be granted by this group, what would they be?”  After some hours of pondering—and lowering of expectations from grand to achievable in the present budget environment—I was left with these:

Wish Number 1: A simple tech plan

While Wish Number 1 would cost no money, it could save hundreds of hours of time at each school and district.  Right now we have the “kitchen sink” template for technology planning.  It includes detailed planning for the next three to five years out.  The resulting document easily exceeds 100 pages.  Much more beneficial would be a simple two to five page document that is updated yearly/bi-yearly in light of the changing technology and budget landscape that might be accomplished within that shortened period.  This makes particular sense given how quickly the tech environment changes.  Fives years ago, who could have foretold the present explosion of mobile technologies, software as a service, and lightweight operating systems?  Certainly not Microsoft.

Wish Number 2: On-line learning

Most of the nation has devised a plan to enable schools and districts to provide on-line learning and for districts to collect ADA for student participation in these programs as part of the general educational program.  On-line learning in its many forms is not a futuristic vision, but is a fact for most industries, local governments and state educational systems.  Woefully, this is not reality in California. California should look to the many states that appear to have this figured out and adopt or adapt one of their systems.  Last year, it appeared we might have new legislation that would allow our schools to offer on-line learning, but at the last minute the bill was gutted and morphed into a bill to protect shark fins.  (Really!  You can’t make this stuff up.)  California’s students should have the same priority as shark fins, but in the meantime, we deprive students of valuable options.

Wish Number 3: Funding for schools

Funding for technology in California has varied between miniscule and non-existent.  Given this dearth of funding, two general strategies have been used, both based upon the notion that since there is so little money in the pot, equal distribution would be too small to make a difference.  One strategy has been to pool funding into more significant amounts and have schools write grants to access resources.  Using this strategy, successful applicants might have enough money to implement a program.   The second, and current, plan gives funding to leadership projects and county offices to provide services within the counties.  What’s the matter with that approach?  The answer is pretty simple.  Learning takes place in schools, and if no money is going there then students never get it.  In some form, at least half of the state funding should find its way to support schools.

Some general principles

In granting my three wishes, there are some general principles I recommend to the Task Force.  First, allow for a great deal of local discretion in planning and implementation.  California is a big place and planning for the whole state is difficult if not impossible to do from Sacramento.  How can a single school district in a remote area of the state do the same things that a large urban district might?  Would you even want them to try?   Second, shoot for the middle.  The average teacher and student are not looking for a cutting edge solution but for simple, easy-to-use, proven technologies.  Lastly, plan for a “beer budget.”  We don’t have the funding to support grand designs and would be better not to start there.  California is more like the Simpsons than the Kardashians, and a plan that acknowledges the budgetary facts would be welcome.

Well that’s it, my three wishes.  None of these would cost additional money and could be accomplished in the next school year.  Not a grand vision of a digitally connected future with each student linked to a myriad of digital resources, but a more pragmatic look at what can actually be done.


Elements of Effective Online Learning

Posted by Donna Hackner on April 30, 2012

Along with some other TICAL cadre members, I’m participating in CTAP 11’s Leading Edge Online Teaching Certification Program Boot Camp.   One of our activities was to present some key concepts from current research on online learning in a non-traditional way. We had to select from six research topics, and I selected, “Best Practices for Online Teaching.”  For my non-traditional presentation platform, I chose to create a Glog—an interactive poster that can contain text, graphics, music, videos, and more.  Here’s an image of my Glog.  Below it are links to key resources I used.

Boettcher, J.V. “Designing for Learning.” Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online.  Design for Learning, May 2011. Web. 22 Jul 2011.
Ragan, Lawrence. “10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education.” Distance Education Report. 26. Print.
National Standards for Quality Online Teaching