Technology Mistakes

This question on the MACUL Ning space got me thinking (you may be wondering why I’m part of a Michigan edtech group when I live in VA- answer Ben Rimes).

As a School Board Trustee in Lapeer Community Schools(6500 students) I am very excited about passing our first Bond in 34 years!!! With the passage were looking at $6,000,000 for technology. The big question now is…where do we spend the money and how do we get the biggest bang for our taxpayers hard earned dollars. Certainly we are involving the teachers, administration, students,etc…but I dont want to just dump computers and white boards in every class only to see them sitting in the corner not being used. Has anyone observed mistakes when purchasing technology, or have any success stories about implementing teachnology in their schools?

So here’s my two cents based on my experience in Henrico county with our 1 to 1. It’s not exactly coherent or ordered but I think there’s some truth in there. Am I missing things? Too paranoid? Plain wrong?

I think these concepts seem to get left behind or only partially implemented far too often.

1. Staff development- this isn’t just how to use the computer/white board etc. (although that is important) the focus should be on why you’d want to use it, ways to use it and then time to create resources/lesson plans with it. Administrators need to have training in how to implement the change, how to support the change, and how to assess the change. Teachers need to look at the their teaching and think about what should/should not change. This can’t be a one time thing or something that’s front loaded- staffdev has to be continual and constant. Teachers need to keep reassessing and being given opportunities to grow.

The big plan has to include goals for the initiative. You’ve spent all this money. What did it get you? How are you going to measure progress? Is it based on test scores, student engagement, decreased drop out rates, qualitative survey data, a combination of all those? If you don’t have this critics in the community will pick you apart. It doesn’t take many to do this, they just have to be loud.

How will the technology be supported in the schools? Do you have on site tech support? What about integration support? In my county in VA we have dedicated instructional technology resource teachers who don’t teach classes. They focus on helping teachers use technology in ways that impact learning. That’s one way to do it.

Another way, which appeals to me more in certain ways, is to set up lead teachers in schools. Give them the technology first and let them run with it. They should have reduced schedules (stipends?) and as the technology is phased in for others, they’d then help them with both technology and pedagogy. You have to be careful though, because this is a big task for the lead teachers so something large needs to be taken off their plate.

2. Community education- If you don’t keep the community on your side it’s easy for a few minor issues to be blown out of proportion. Keep talking to the parents. Offer them training. Get them to see the good that you’re doing. PR is absolutely key for a technology initiative.

3. Sharing- So you’ve got all these teachers doing great things in their classrooms, maybe a whole school is doing amazing things- how are they going to share their successes with others? Why should they bother? Thinking about ways to make sure great ideas/lessons etc. are shared is really important and often not done at all. That infrastructure and incentives to use it should be set up early. Get master teachers creating a variety of resources before the technology gets in everyone’s hands. Then make sure everyone knows where to get those resources and give them incentives to make more.

A Future Intro

I made this so we could talk to our staff about the TIP Chart (our technology integration progress rubric- which is pretty good). It’d work well for parents as well. It’s pretty interactive and fun in the beginning with a number of pretty funny questions mocking our ability to predict the future.

The intro slide sets the tone. I basically say “Where is my jet pack?” Then I try to get people talking about what they expected to have in the “future” that hasn’t materialized.

I then pose this question and then invite guesses from the audience as to why this eminent scientist believed high speed train travel would be impossible. After a while I show them the answer.

The key is that it gets people engaged at the beginning and it’s pretty funny- yet it is amazing how quickly things change.

The presentation then segues into what’s going on now. Since we can’t predict the future very well, we might as well show the “futuristic” things going on now. I showed brief selections from a few TED videos that I thought were cool and relevant to the topic. We hit parts of –

It’d also be a great place to discuss what you are doing, or want to do, that prepares kids for a future that you can’t even imagine. The emphasis I put was that change is not linear, it’s exponential and our focus needs to be on creating life long learners who can thrive in change.

If you want the Powerpoint or Keynote 4 file feel free to change and mutate to your heart’s content.

Finally, a Planbook for the 21st Century Teacher (Update)


Let me say that as I write this, my wife is gleefully entering her first week into Planbook. Periodically, I hear an “oo” and am informed of another feature that simply makes sense for the modern teacher.

Planbook is a digital lesson book. Actually, it is a digital organizer for teachers. Jeff Hellman was frustrated with the limitations of a paper planbook, so he created a program that includes document and link integration, lets you publish to the web with customizable themes, and will print your plans in a traditional format.

I was using a blog as the information center for my English classes the last couple of years. It made managing my disorganized students a reasonable task. If they lost something, I told them to go to my blog and click on the link. If they missed a day, I sent them to the blog before arranging their makeup work. Planbook gives you the same opportunities but integrates it into your organizational system. That’s one less step each day in your routine.

When it comes time to share your plans, you can publish them or print them. You choose the information you want published and tell Planbook to send it to your website, iWeb, or a folder. The publishable plans can be accessed through a master list or a calendar. Links are sorted on a sidebar by date. Jeff provides guidelines for creating personal themes and has published several user-created themes on his site. If you need to give a copy of your plans to your administration or a sub, you can print a daily plan. Want to look at an overview of your week? Print a weekly plan (for us digital immigrants who sometimes need to scratch at something when we plan). You can even publish lists of attached files and links.

Here’s the cherry on top: Jeff is asking a reasonable price for the program. Individuals pay $30, but if you can get ten teachers together, the price drops to $10. For my faculty (140 teachers), the per teacher cost would be $2.14. That’s a pretty small investment for such a powerful organizational tool. It’s out for Mac now, and Jeff is shooting for a Windows XP/Vista version this month.

Update:  Jeff’s released the Windows Beta.  See comments for details!

Planbook (Via TUAW)

Wiki Testimony

As part of our parent training we’re having teachers and ITRTs speak about powerful ways they’ve been able to use technology in support of 21st century skills. This is Ken Kellner’s comments on how using a wiki changed his classroom (6th grade history).

He does a good job and conveys a lot of excitement. If you see him jumping and twitching it’s because I edited like crazy to get the movie down to about a minute and a half. Deep breaths and dramatic pauses were not allowed.

It’s in TeacherTube as well.

Download Video: Posted by bionicteaching at

Chat/Text Resources for Parents


Tom has been doing such an amazing job with an internet safety package that will be ready for parents and students this fall. I wanted to share these resources I found for deciphering chat/text speak (sometimes called l337). I tested out the decoder. It seems to be well stocked. The list from netlingo is a helpful quick reference, as well.

Netlingo’s Top 20 Internet Acronyms Parents Should Know
Teen Chat Decoder

via MetaFilter

Millenial/Zombie Horde Mash Up

>>>>Edit- I added a page and fixed the spelling of millennials (doh!- thanks Greg)

I’m working on an Internet safety overview for teachers in our county. I want it to be fun and entertaining but still get the message across. I also have to give a brief overview of the idea of millennials (which feels a little played out to me but that may be because I read too many edtech blogs).

So I’m thinking of going the zombie route for the millennials intro. It kind of works if you think about it and I’ll redeem them in the end (I promise) but I thought it might be a fun way to go about this. Check out the quick intro below and let me know what you think. I’ve been known to go overboard. Is this too much?

comic page one
Click on the image for a large view.

comic page two

Click on the image for a large view.

IMSafer: Helping Responsible Parents


My wife and I were talking about personal responsibility last night. It was the age-old debate about who to blame for the state of the world. More specifically, the state of children (we are both teachers). We both recognized that there are companies actively marketing products, services, and entertainment to teenagers that is clearly inappropriate for their age. As most of these conversations go, we both agreed that in a free-market based economy, the people still have the power (whether they use it or not). We can always vote with our money and time. Parents have the added burden of keeping tabs on their children and the choice they make.

I encountered IMSafer a couple weeks ago and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The site/software monitors chats and notifies you via email if something fishy seems to be going on. I worry about parents who keep such a tight grip on their children that the kids end up more deviant. IMSafer has the potential of being used in an abusive way. I suppose it would depend on how you went about using it.

Looking at the product information, the site claims to have talked with law enforcement officials about how inappropriate relationships are initiated and maintained. The monitor can even pick up leet. My wife and I do not have children, so we really have no arena to test this product. I would love to hear from others who try it. It does have the potential of being a powerful tool for parents to keep tabs on their children without standing over the child’s shoulder all day and night.

via Lifehacker