Sonya Woloshen: New Attitudes, New Expectations

Sonya Woloshen is a relatively new teacher and she embodies an attitude that I believe is essential for the transformation of teaching and learning. She is fearless, she embraces technology, and she respects her students enough to trust and empower them. Sonya is an advocate for using students’ Personally Owned Devices’ (POD’s) aka cell phones, iTouches, iPods, etc., in her classroom.

David Truss conducted a three-part interview with Sonya and wrote about it eloquently on his Pair a Dimes for your Thoughts blog. The following is from Part Three of the interview.

As you listened to Sonya what was running through your mind? Were you thinking she was naive? or rather, that she was brave? Were you thinking that having an attitude like hers would never work with your kids, in your school? or that it just might be extremely liberating? Were you focusing on the obstacles involved, or the potential benefits?

Whenever someone steps forward to lead it’s interesting to reflect on our own reactions. I’d be interested in reading yours.

For me, Sonya has the ‘can do’ attitude that is so necessary for educational change to take hold. She combines this ‘can do’ attitude with a strong sense of how important it is for students to ‘own’ the learning, ‘own’ the tools, and ‘own’ the rules.

Sonya inspires me and gives me hope that a new wave of educators is coming; educators with new attitudes and new expectations.

pete

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One to One Computing: A Daydream

I closed the cover of my Chromebook, tucked it into my backpack and headed off to English class. I skipped lunch today so I had time to see the MIT lecture on Mitosis and Miosis because we were going to be covering Mitosis and Miosis in Science class this afternoon. Never hurts to get a head start.

Lucky for me, Mrs. Woodruff’s class was just around the corner from the cafeteria where lunch was just finishing up. Anyway, I wanted to get there early to ‘text’ Jamie Milledge, who was helping me build out my “Fahrenheit 451” wiki.

farneheit_451.jpgJamie would be up by now. I live on the East coast and she goes to school in Torrence, California. She is a major Ray Bradbury fan. We met up about a month ago when I found some of her science fiction writing on the Fan Fiction web page. Turns out she is the same age and studying “451” in her English class the same as me. We FaceBook each other all the time now.

I get to class and whip out my computer.

Jamie wassup?
Getting dressed.
Did you find the movie?
Yeah. Not easy to get.
Great.
What part do we want to use?
I love the RR tracks scene.
Where they all become their favorite books?
Yeah. So cool!
OK. I’ll upload it at lunch today.
You’re the best.

We chat until the class is ready to start.

Mrs. Woodruff is already leaning over a student helping them with whatever project they’re working on.

Last night I searched out some blogs that deal with “451″ and have added them to the RSS feeds in my aggregator. They may come in handy as we go through the book.

“Okay class, you can get into your teams now.”

Mrs. Woodruff speaks over the discussions that have already begun. I don’t know why she feels she has to say this every day because we never wait for her. We’re already in our groups.

Our group project is to build out a vocabulary blog for “451” . We each take a few chapters, find the more difficult words, and look them up online. Usually, when we do this we create a team blog where we post the sentence from the book that contains the word, as well as the definitions of the words. We organize it all by chapter. Here’s the vocabulary blog we did on our last book, “The Outsiders”.

This time, in addition to what we usually do, we decide to add some online photos from Flickr, drag them in Comic Life, and write the words used in funny contexts. Michael, our team leader, is really good at coming up with the funny stuff.

(This example courtesy of Jim Coe and Tom Woodward of Bionic Teaching)

After a bit, Mrs. Woodruff asks us to close our computers and report out on how we are doing. One group has done research on all the books that have been banned over the years. Marcy plugs into the projector and shows the Censorship website they’ve created. They’ve worked with the school library media specialist, and a number of outside organizations who are very anti-censorship. I’m surprised at some of the titles on the list. I copy the URL. I want to check it out when I get to study hall later today.

Another group shows the product they are creating in response to the “451″ WebQuest they were working on. (Courtesy of Mr. Dan Thompson)

The other groups plug in to show their particular projects; but Terry’s group gets into trouble because they havn’t done much since the last time they presented. Terry says that they have been doing a lot of the work after school; but they havn’t had an online work session this week because a few of them had late sports practices. Terry’s team always has an excuse. The truth is they put in no effort. They do what they can during free time in school, but they almost never hold group work sessions at night. They’ve got to get themselves a better leader or they’re gonna get creamed at the end of the marking period.

I can’t wait to show the vocabulary site we created. Everyone laughs at Michael’s funny comments that are in the Comic Life bubbles. I also take a moment to show the “451” wiki site that Jamie from California and I have been working on. Believe it or not, Jamie has already uploaded a scene from the movie. I click on it and play a minute or so.

Mrs. Woodruff claps her hands, “Great job! guys. Now, let’s get to our writing projects.”

We all pull our desks back a few feet from the groups we were in so we can work on our own for awhile. I pull up the draft of the paper I have been writing from my virtual locker storage space. I’m working on an essay topic from an old Regents exam. I figure it’s good practice. We write in silence, saving frequently, as we have been taught to do. Mrs. Woodruff walks around giving some individual advice to different folks. I run my paper through the online Writing Evaluator. I like this because it picks up most of the simple mistakes I tend to make when I write. It saves Mrs. Woodruff some time, too.

“Class!” She says. We all look up. She walks to the SmartBoard in the front of the room and taps on it a few times. Up come the notes from last week. She enlarges the words THEME and PLOT.

“I see a number of you are getting theme and plot confused. What is the difference between the theme and plot?”

A few brave souls raise their hands.

“You know what? Rather than doing this verbally, I want you to e-mail me your explanations for homework tonight. Include the basic theme of “451” . I don’t need you to rehash the plot.”

Man, more homework.

Mrs. Woodruff continued, “We’re getting close to the bell, so just a reminder that I will be online for extra help on Thursday from 8:00pm till 9:00pm. Terry, I expect that at least one member of your team should be there. Your team needs lot’s of help.”

The bell rings. I sling my Asus into my backpack and dash out of the room. My science class is at the other end of the building; I’ve gotta hustle.

pete

This is a Re-Post from 2008.

It is a daydream. I’m sure there are many more creative ideas out there. The Asus and other products used in this post are for illustrative purposes only and not an endorsement.

The technology is transparent. The Asus is one of a number of sub-$500, mobile, wireless computers. WIreless access from everywhere in the school. VIrtualized desktops with access to all school applications and files from anywhere, including the home. Appropriate software. Engaged and empowered students AND teachers, learning both in school and outside of school, formally and informally, collaboratively and individually. Learning partners that extend outside the classroom.

Special thanks to Tom Woodward and Jim Coe, two groundbreaking educators from the Henrico schools who are making the daydream reality.

K-12 Cloud Computing and Desktop Virtualization

It’s time for K-12 schools to begin transitioning to “Cloud Computing and Desktop Virtualization”.

Why?

Cloud Computing and Desktop Virtualization have important educational and financial benefits. For the purposes of this post I am going to keep this very simple:

Whether educational tools and resources are located in the ‘Public Cloud’ or the ‘Private Virtualized Cloud’, they are accessible from anywhere, at anytime, via a web browser. This unlocks the resources of the school and makes them available 24x7x7. By doing so we extend learning opportunities and get more return on our software investment.

Schools utilizing this new paradigm are able to increase the number of computers available to students without increasing their budget because they can purchase less expensive devices. Because ‘Public Cloud’ and ‘Private Virtualized Cloud’ applications run on servers, the student device can be anything that can run a web browser, including a $300 Netbook, a $200 iTouch, or any Smartphone.

School IT support teams can be more productive because they are no longer maintaining dozens of educational applications on thousands of individual computer hard drives. The applications now reside on servers in the ‘Public Cloud’ or the ‘Private Cloud’. Since the software is on servers, software does not have to be ‘pushed out’ or ‘ghosted’ to every hard drive. The end-user’s computer accesses the servers and the new software and can use it immediately.

What first steps should I take?

Determine what applications and data you are comfortable having hosted in the Public Cloud, what applications will need to be hosted in your own Private Virtualized Cloud, and what applications will need to remain hosted on local hard drives. Remember that video and audio editing, computer programming, and some high end CAD applications may not be suited for the Public or Private Virtualized Cloud. Planning this hybrid environment is a great first step.

Make a commitment to subscribing to applications delivered from the Cloud. Begin researching alternatives to the software applications and resources that are currently loaded on your desktop hard drives. Whenever there are Web-based applications that are comparable to the hard drive-based applications, give precedence to the Web-based product even if it is not as feature rich and robust.

Begin planning the Private Virtualized Cloud by determining what desktop virtualization strategy you want to deploy:

The least expensive option called Client Virtualization allows for approximately (50) simultaneous users to share the server OS and whatever applications are being hosted.

Another option is called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). In this approach the entire end-user machine (Desktop OS, Applications, and Storage) is virtualized on the server. Obviously, fewer VDI desktops (approximately 20-25) can be hosted and run simultaneously on each server. This requires the purchase of more servers and OS licenses than in the Client Virtualization approach.

Although these are the main approaches to virtualization there are other strategies. In reality, most schools will likely employ both Client Virtualization and VDI strategies in their Private Cloud. The planning process will help determine which users use which strategy.

One final piece of advice as you begin this journey, find some independent technical experience and advice. Be careful here since Dell, HP, IBM. Microsoft, and others have connections with specific virtualization companies and thus, their specific virtualization strategies.

Here is a very thorough and well thought out article by Brian Madden on the topic:

“When to use VDI, when to use server-based computing”

Don’t stand still. Don’t be paralyzed by the new terminology or the seeming complexity. The benefits of the Public Cloud and the Private Virtualized Cloud are too important.

It’s time to begin the process of transitioning to the new paradigm.

pete

New Tools – Same Leaders

Here are a few topics from an upcoming Ed Tech Leadership Conference:

Teacher Observations with iPod touch

Productivity Tools for Administrators

Internet Awareness, Safety and Ethics for Administrators

Visit to the School of Tomorrow, Today!

Walk the Walk: Using Technology to Lead Others

Podcasting for Administrators: From Storyboarding to Publishing

Leading with Movies: Using Video Clips to Inspire and Motivate

Students, Parents, Teachers and Administrators: Communicating and Collaborating Through Technology

Leading the Charge to 21st Century Skills

Enticing Administrators to Enhance Their Technology Skills

Using Technology to Streamline Administrative Tasks and Enhance Collaboration

I respectfully submit that, by themselves, the breakout topics from the Ed Tech Leadership Conference miss the mark.

If I am an administrator that is a control freak; or a micro-manager, or just the opposite ( I never followup); if I am a an administrator that doesn’t take responsibility when things aren’t going well; but takes all the accolades when things do go well;  if I am afraid to take risks; or if I am a political animal that wants to look good above all;  if I am someone who is super judgmental and negative about the people I work with; if I talk behind people’s backs; if I am not organized;  if I don’t listen well;  if I am motivated only by my own agenda; if I say one thing and do another; if I am easily thrown into overwhelm and panic…(the list goes on)

and/or

If the staff distrusts administrators; or there is an “us and them” feeling; if there is a destructive ‘triangulation’ present and people don’t talk candidly with one another, if teachers are overwhelmed, if there is a confusing mix of ‘important’ priorities; if the Teachers’ Association is at odds with any new initiatives; if people are satisfied with the status quo…(the list goes on)

An ineffective leader using the latest tools will remain an ineffective leader.

In my experience developing leaders and transforming organizations requires developing people.

If we are going to transform teaching and learning, we need a new generation of innovative and transformative leaders who can make it happen.

I realize it’s not an either-or issue. We need leaders who understand and use technology AND we need real leadership development. 

But where can an administrator go to develop their own leadership skills? Where are these innovative and transformative leaders that we need going to come from? Is it any wonder that without them major educational change is so slow in coming?

Will we ever transform education if we keep focusing on the ‘bright, shiny things’ and keep ignoring the difficult task of developing leaders? Not managers. Not supervisors. Not administrators; but Leaders.

It’s time for us to get serious.

Effective leadership is very rare. It doesn’t have to be.

pete

Two Roadblocks to Transformation We Have Yet to Address

Hundreds of educational technology bloggers and conference speakers hold forth on the need for transformational change in our educational system, and the conversation can get pretty lofty and philosophical.

I am a strong advocate for transformational reform; but it seems to me there are two very serious roadblocks in our way that we have yet to address.

The first roadblock is our school structure:

How does a Middle School or High School teacher use technology to create a student-centered, project-based learning classroom environment, when they have less than 45 minutes with their students per day?

BTW, they  must use these precious minutes to meet demanding state NCLB standards, and their curriculum may be governed by detailed ‘maps’ that outline the pace and sequence of teaching and learning in their classrooms.

Maybe the teacher does their best to squeeze in a project or two for the students during the year; but that doesn’t significantly change the primary classroom dynamic that is presently dominating secondary education.

The second roadblock is our technology deployment practices:

How does a Middle School or High School teacher use technology to move to student-centered, project-based learning, when they generally have only one or two computers, and maybe an interactive whiteboard and projector in their classrooms?

Maybe the teacher has a student use the interactive whiteboard while the rest of the class sits and watches, maybe the class watches a good video clip, or simulation; but the one computer classroom is a passive one and does not fully utilize the potential of technology to empower each individual student.

Unless we fully address these two basic questions, our best PD and transformational change efforts will make little impact on what is really going on in our schools.

pete

Product of the Month

My ‘Product of the Month’ for October 2009 is the Internet browser called…

flock-logo_thumb

I’ve been using Flock for several years now and it has become my favorite browser. I like the fact that it is an ‘all-in-one’ Web 2.0 browser. You can configure Flock to login to your favorite Web 2.0 services. (See the image below)

flock 2.0 services

Flock has a built in RSS feed reader.

rss feed

By clicking on the Media Button you can drag photos directly to Flickr, PhotoBucket, and other web applications.

media bar

Below is an overview of a few of the other features that Flock offers including a blog editor that posts directly to your blogging platform.

flock features

Click on the Flock Star and create a Favorite. Click twice and your Favorite is automatically saved to your Delicious account.

flock star

Flock is available as a Free download.

FlockIcon_thumb

AppGap Review

CNet Review

AppleTell Review

pete

Sharing Saves Money: Technology Cooperatives

images

We teach our children to share and if we remember to ‘walk our own talk’ technology sharing can save us an enormous amount of money. Some states have formalized technology cooperatives called Educational Service Agencies or BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services), others do not. If you do not have a technology cooperative in your area, think about starting one.*

Why?

1. Cooperative bidding and purchasing. Instead of asking for pricing for a small purchase of computers for your district, combine your purchase with the other districts in your cooperative. Will the price be cheaper if you are offering to purchase  3,000 computers or 300 computers? The same concept holds true for negotiating pricing for other equipment, software, and services. Join together and build ‘Economies of Scale’ and reap the benefits of ‘Volume Discounts’.

2. Disaster Recovery. Design disaster recovery plans together with other technology cooperative members. Each district can work with another to act as a ‘Hot Site’ to host a partner school district during emergencies. Working together can reduce the cost of ‘renting’ a Hot Site from a private, for profit DR company.

3. Develop a school district site or neutral site as a Network Operations Center for the technology cooperative. The idea here would be to develop a shared Internet ‘On ramp’. The districts in the cooperative would have broadband lines to the shared NOC which would have a large, scalable (hopefully redundant)  pipe to the Internet.

strencom_cloud_connect_wan_diagram-compressed

This is a conceptual diagram from private industry. Individual schools and districts connect via broadband (red lines) to the shared NOC (cloud -located at a school or neutral facility) and from there are connected to the Internet (lightning bolt).

Why is this a good idea? Once again, by combining all the Internet lines and bandwidth, the cooperative can negotiate lower Internet costs.

Also, once all the schools’ data lines come to one location before going out to the Internet, the NOC can put in a centralized firewall for all the participating districts. The same can be done for Internet filtering, spam filtering, intrusion detection, e-mail virus scanning, etc. Think about the savings both in time, effort, and money that having a centralized firewall, Internet filter, and spam filter would offer, as opposed to maintaining a firewall, filter, and spam filter in every district.

The shared NOC could also securely house Cloud Applications that don’t belong on the public Internet. These might range from web-based SIS and Financial systems to a host of educational applications.

4. Shared trainings, consultants, and keynotes. By pooling training and consulting dollars a technology cooperative would be able to offer PD or hire consultants that would be cost prohibitive for a single district.

5. Mature technology cooperatives may consider joint-hires for specialty positions. Much the same as pooling resources for training, consultants, and keynotes; members of the cooperative can find savings in sharing FTE’s that could not be justified in one district’s individual budget.

The need for sharing is there. The opportunity to share is there. The savings is there. So, how do you get started?

Begin a conversation with your colleagues. Keep it simple. Grow from there. If you need help, contact me.

pete

*Full Disclosure: For many years I directed the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center, a non-profit, educational technology consortium of (60) school districts located just north of New York City.

*Also, if you have an educational service agency in your area that is not meeting your needs, take the time to re-engage them so that together you build a more responsive cooperative arrangement. Don’t give up, it’s too important. The dollars you save can be re-allocated to student technology.