Wednesday, September 23, 2015

1:1 or 1:None?

There are many great examples of one-to-one programs that have been well implemented and have achieved their goals. Go to any Edtech conference and you will hear presentations from folks that have done this well. Or pick up a copy of Project Red, which offers a research-driven roadmap for success in transforming a school, including the use of technology. There are websites galore that cater to great articles, tutorials, and research to help schools interested in how to implement a one-to-one program successfully, such as the K-12 Blueprint site, which regularly features blogs and articles on different schools and what they are doing with technology. 

So why should we be hesitant, or worse yet, not supportive of some proposed one-to-one initiatives? Many of the ideas for one-to-one that principals and other K-12 leaders have can be summed up with the phrase “I want to do a one-to-one program.” Many times this is the only idea expressed. Where is the vision and purpose? What is the educational outcome to which the program aspires? How does the leader see learning changing in a couple of years? These questions often can’t be answered, since there has been no thought as to why have a one-to-one initiative. Successful programs will have a goal, and with that a plan that provides a roadmap to help guide the project towards its goal. Why don’t more school leaders write a good plan? A lot of times it boils down to the desire for the shiny gadgets, and a lack of will and skill to write a solid plan and implement it. In those cases, it may be better to do one to none. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Death knell for proprietary tablet ecosystems?

This past week has seen a lot of news on the tablet front. While it may be old news that tablet sales are declining, this past week two negative major stories broke about school-focused tablet companies. 

The first involved high profile Amplify, which created a school-only tablet with big subscription dreams, the idea being that schools adopt a relatively low-cost proprietary tablet system and then spend annually on a management and other content subscriptions. Past news for Amplify had not been positive, with a large scale high profile mess in Guilford County schools in North Carolina, where a very high percentage of the devices suffered from hardware issues, such as cracked screens and overheating device chargers. Now News Corp is ready to unload Amplify, which is ending production of its tablets

Then came the news that the KUNO tablet, that had been named the iPad’s biggest competitor in 2012, had its own problems and that several districts were suing CurriculumLoft over a multitude of issues with the proprietary tablet. 

Is this the tablet death knell in K-12? Probably not. But it’s no secret that tablets (or any other device) are not the secret to transforming learning, and that in many use scenarios students prefer having a keyboard, which both KUNO and Amplify sold as accessories. This begs the question, why not just buy a device with an attached keyboard? 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The hardest part of change

I started cleaning some items out for our annual curbside trash pickup yesterday. As I grabbed a lawn mower grass bag that had been in the garage for at least five years, never touched once during that time, I had to stop myself from the “but you might need this argument.” We are all guilty of hanging on to items that we don’t need, ideas that are outdated, systems that don't work, and practices that have little to no positive
effect. Whether it is rows in the classroom facing a teacher, textbooks sitting idly on a shelf, software that shows little instructional value, or the venerable “we have always done it this way”, the start of the school year brings the perfect opportunity for all of us to choose some items that need to be cleaned out of our instructional arsenals. Why don’t we? Because change almost always produces some resistance in us, resistance to the uneasy feelings we get when things are different. But like the first time we sat on a bicycle when we felt very unsure and a little bit scared, the end result is often an amazing ride, bringing benefits we could never have predicted. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Judson ISD Parent Center wins a Best in Texas Award from the Center for Digital Government

Technology is a growing industry with an impact in virtually every walk of our modern life.  Education has certainly been affected and Judson ISD's Technology Services has proven to be a leader in innovation among not just public education, but in general public sector applications as well. Judson ISD's Technology Services Department recently was awarded a Best in Texas technology award by the Center For Digital Government. It was a selection as "Best In-House Developed Application," for the district's Parent Center. The Parent Center is an application that keeps parents informed about important areas such as grades, assignments, attendance, library books, discipline, lunch accounts and more.  And it's all in one place that's accessible from multiple devices. 

The popularity of this tool has been growing with usage up across the board for administrators, parents and especially students.  All this was developed in house by the innovative folks from the JISD Technology Services Department. 

This is excerpted from the original blog post by Steve Linscomb at 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CoSN 2015 Texas CTO Clinic Supports K-12 Technology Leadership Growth

Missed the 2015 CoSN Texas CTO Clinic?  Check out some missed highlights at Technology & Learning Magazine's web site at 

Can Schools Become Future Ready When Families Aren’t Connected?

One of the most vexing challenges for schools trying to convert to becoming Future Ready by transitioning to digital learning, is the persistently large number of students from families that do not have Internet access

Internet access alone will not bring about a change in learning, but it can support reshaping classrooms and schools that are embracing flipped classrooms, student-based discovery, and personalization of learning. For schools looking to put devices in the hands of students, the lack of Internet access in many homes is a major stumbling block. Schools and some Internet service providers have tried to address this access gap with varying degrees of success and creativity. Coachella Valley Unified School District parked Wi-Fi equipped buses in neighborhoods of greatest need, while Forsyth County Schools partnered with local business who would offer students free Wi-Fi and a safe place to work on homework. Comcast has offered a basic Internet plan to families in its markets for $9.95 a month. Pasadena ISD near Houston, Texas is going so far as to build their own LTE broadband network, but for most school this type of build out has far too many technical and financial hurdles.

 Will the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) come to the rescue? It very well might, as last week the FCC voted to change its Lifeline program, which subsidizes telephones for low income families. The change would subsidize just under $10 a month for broadband Internet for low income families. The FCC already transformed e-Rate this year. Will the Lifeline program change be another shift in policy that can really help schools bridge the access divide? This could be a huge opportunity for schools to encourage families to sign up for low- or no-cost Internet and have the same learning opportunities that other families with Internet access have.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Data Privacy Fervor

The activity around student data privacy has reached a new level of fervor, with state and federal legislators locked and loaded, ready to take aim at vendors, districts, and teachers alike. There are an amazing number of parties and organizations weighing in on this very important topic, from parent groups, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), to many educational organizations like the National School Board Association (NSBA) and the National Education Association (NEA). 

There are literally tens of bills pending at the state and federal levels, with assorted rules for companies, districts, and school staff members. California was early to the game with its landmark SOPIPA legislation, which passed in September of last year. Others that joined, like Louisiana, passed laws that place teachers in the crosshairs, with looming large fines and possible jail time for each student data privacy violation. Yes, teachers do need to take protecting student data much more seriously, but are fines or jail time really the answer? We all need to start focusing on the basics, starting with policies, procedures, and staff and student training. 

Regardless of the pending laws affecting us in each of our states, the need to inform staff and students of the dangers of data over sharing and the responsibility to protect it have never been greater. If you are just starting your student data privacy journey, I suggest downloading the excellent Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning toolkit from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), which can serve as a privacy roadmap for districts. Also try visiting the Student Data Principles site, Stay Safe Online, and the Privacy Technical Assistance Center, which will give you the ammo needed to start moving your school forward with becoming a student data privacy advocate.