Sunday, October 25, 2009
COST EFFECTIVE WAYS TO PREPARE YOUR SCHOOL OR CLASSROOM FOR 21ST CENTURY LEARNING IN CASH STRAPPED TIMES
Unfortunately some schools still believe the myths and lies shared by the hardware companies and industry dinosaurs who will tell you that you need expensive equipment, training and tech support to do this work. Let me dispel some of these myths. The big computer companies are lying. Of course they want you to buy their expense devices. You don’t need to. The dinosaurs in the industry who want to sit you on their knee and tell you about how they walked to work every day in the snow up hill both ways, are dying to hang on to the idea that their jobs are still necessary. They don't want the secret out and they don't want to change. I spoke to one yesterday in fact. He shared how schools will never keep up with innovation because they must do system-wide refreshes of devices and nothing in life is free. Oh really? Google is free. Google Apps are free. Wikispaces are free. Ning for education is free. YouTube is free. Google Voice is free. Schools can develop student iSquads and enable students to be self-empowered to fix technology for free. Well, he said, “That free stuff won’t last I tell ya.” “I’ve been around a long time. I know Missy.” Ugh! Innovative educators are smart enough to move on when we encounter the old timers stuck in Rip Van Winkle's past. These free tools will be around and they are scaring the pants off of the old timers. Businesses like Microsoft, Apple, and the rest are going to have to change their model to the new direction of a savvy and innovative society.
WHERE DO YOU START? WHAT DO YOU NEED?
Do Not Give Teachers Hardware
Every school needs to identify which teachers are interested in preparing students for the 21st century. If you’re a leader, when you discover who these teachers are, do not give them hardware!!! If you are a teacher, do not tell your principal you want hardware. I’ve had a lot of experience deploying hardware to teachers and in many cases it is not a good practice.
Instead, if you’re and administrator have your teachers apply for the equipment they think they will need to enhance teaching and learning. This will enable you to prioritize your purchasing decisions and limit them to the teachers who have demonstrated that they are planning to use it effectively. This also gives you crucial information in enabling you to have conversations about the work your teachers are doing. If you are a teacher, the conversation shouldn’t just be about hardware. Show your principal you are serious and have all the information together that s/he will need to support you.
You can create a free online application using Google forms or SurveyMonkey. The application should require a pedagogical case for why your teacher needs equipment, information about how the equipment will be used to enhance instruction, an indication of which standards this aligns to, and if you collect your information properly this can contain all the information needed to place the order. For teachers the application process demonstrates to his/her principal they are serious. For administrators this ensures you are aware of the teachers plan for incorporating the use of the equipment into instruction, provides school leaders with an idea of how teachers will be using the equipment purchased, and indicates which teachers are serious about this work. Here is a sample of what the form might look like. I recommend a separate form for each type of equipment.
Whether your school has funding today or not, it is essential teachers and schools start documenting what it is they want so they are prepared should funds become available and there are a lot of ways to fund education. If there is not money in your school budget here are some alternate sources. Some are NYC DOE specific, others are not:
Resolution A Funds from City Council
NYC Ed Tech Grant Opportunities Page
eSchool News Funding Resources
DonorsChoose.Org Giving Page
THE 21ST CENTURTY CLASSROOM BASICS
No more paper, no more books will be necessary in the 21st century classroom. When all student have devices their materials are available directly from their laptops. This also means no more handouts, no more copies, no more heavy book bags. Here is my recommendation to get started with the 21st century classroom.
Netbook - 4187RVU S10e Ideapad, 2.65 lbs, 10.1-IN Display
Cost: $359.95 Cost for 32 devices: $11,488
Note: This particular device was selected because it is the one available where I work at the NYC DOE -available via SHOP DOE / FAMIS
PG-F212X Conference/Classroom DLP Multimedia Projector
Vendor: B & H FOTO & ELECTRONICS
Brand: Flip Video
Ultra 2nd Generation Camcorder (Pink)
Cost: $129 Cost for 4 devices: $516
Vendor: B & H FOTO & ELECTRONICS
PowerShot A1100 IS Digital Camera (Blue)
Cost: $139.95 Cost for 4 devices $556
Vendor: B & H FOTO & ELECTRONICS
Total Cost for 21st Century Classroom: $13,159
When you keep in mind these devices have a life of life of 3 – 5 years, this ultimately translates in significant long-term savings for the school.
WHAT YOU DON’T REALLY NEED – DISPELLING MYTHS OF BIG BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY DINOSUARS
Many schools are sold equipment they don’t really need and they buy it because they don’t know better. Here are some items you don’t need if you have the above package.
A more expensive laptop, server, external hard drives, expensive software
Today your students should be doing their work in the cloud. What does this mean? This means their work is done using what is available on the internet for free. Work is created using Google Apps which includes free Word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, email and more. Work is stored using Wikispaces. These contain unlimited storage and are free. Students work is available anytime, anywhere, from any computer.
Interactive Whiteboards and Projector Carts
Somehow teachers and administrators have become enamored with interactive whiteboards. You can save about $5000 per classroom when you realize you don’t need an interactive whiteboard or projector cart. You can accomplish the same instructional goals with a laptop and projector. The benefit is rather than having the teacher front and center in the classroom s/he can be eye to eye with students as the classwork is projected behind him/her. This can be interactive as students work is in the cloud and a teacher can access any website at anytime to feature the student, or the student can come right up to the computer and/or plug in their own computer to project. You may hear that the software is the reason you need to make this costly purchase. I have found there are free alternatives to achieve the same goals.
Some schools will find they may need to purchase a cart which generally runs about $600 but I have seen other schools that have developed alternative and more secure methods for storing devices. The best solution I have seen is the Depot. This is a secure room or closet for which the teacher has a key. Shelves are built in the area. Devices go on the shelves and the door is locked. Ideally there is electricity so devices can be charged.
THE TIME IS NOW
Innovative educators and administrators, it is time to start one classroom at time, one school at a time, one district at a time, one nation at a time. You don't need a special initiative. You don't need special funding. What you need is innovative rethinking the way teaching and learning occur. Join other schools like the NYC DOE's Model Technology Schools. If you don't know where to start or what to do with 21st century tools read about, connect with, and/or visit the the 8 Innovative Schools that Provide Ideas and Inspiration for 21st Century Education.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
As the saying goes, if he woke up today, schools would be one of the few places that Rip Van Winkle would recognize after his 100 year slumber. Unlike business, medicine, the media, etc, most schools look very much as they did 100 years ago. Sadly, even in schools where leaders and educators want to move into the 21st Century, many don't know what this looks like. One of the best ways to provide inspiration to leaders and educators searching for innovative ideas for providing a 21st century education is to explore successful models of innovative schools. However, it is difficult to develop a vision of a 21st century school because there are few well-know publicly-available models that are captured and shared. Though they tried, Microsoft’s School of the Future became a lesson in failure and while there are islands of success at schools like Science Leadership Academy, CIS 339, and The School of One, there are few known established places that one can visit to read about innovative schools such as these.
That is, until now. Under the leadership of Bruce Lai, Chief of Staff, Office of the Chief Information Officer at New York City Department of Education eight NYC DOE schools have been identified as those providing students with an education that looks different from that of their parents and grandparents. These are schools that are making progress along the continuum of 21st century success. The Model Technology Schools Project was created to document and disseminate effective practices that are already in place within the New York City Department of Education school system. More specifically, the project aims to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from some of the City’s most innovative schools to schools that may need guidance in moving toward a 21st-century model. A data-driven school in Queens, for example, may be struggling to use Smartboards effectively, while a school in Brooklyn may have mastered Smartboard technology, but needs assistance in setting up a data system. This project is a first step toward connecting schools like these.
This project was made possible as a result of a key component of the New York City Department of Education’s Children First reforms…the empowerment of school principals. Because principals know more about the on-the-ground reality of their schools than anyone else, they have been given greater power over decisions relating to budgets, programs, and personnel. In exchange for this increased freedom in shaping their schools, principals are held to higher accountability standards.
Many principals have used their increased autonomy to develop innovative practices and programs. However, the tremendous amount of responsibility principals have on both the instructional and operational sides of their schools may limit the time they have to communicate with other principals throughout the City. As a result, best practices can easily get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day realities.
This is particularly true with regard to technology, which is a relatively new leadership arena for principals. For years, technology in the schools has been seen as an “extra.” However, it has become clear that technology is part of the foundation of a 21st-century model of teaching and learning: a blend of face-to-face and online teaching, communication, and collaboration between students, educators, school leaders, parents, and educational partners. This model may just be the next game-changer when it comes to improving student achievement—and improvement is necessary if we expect our children to thrive in the 21st-century global economy.
The eight schools chosen for this project—though they in no way comprise an exhaustive list—all reflect the standards outlined by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). These schools, which range from very small to very large, span four of the five boroughs and have diverse student bodies. They are all eligible for Title I funds and a high majority of their students receive free or reduced price lunch. The principals are exemplary leaders who ensure that technology is integrated into instruction and leveraged to differentiate learning. They have all managed to create cohesive communities in which technology is understood to be an inextricable part of the school fabric, and a foundation for their instructional visions.
The eight comprehensive case studies that follow highlight schools that have used technology to improve student achievement and operational efficiency. Although they offer only a snapshot of the exciting advances schools have made, they are designed to encourage principals to reflect on their practices and look to other schools for new ideas. When reading the case study consider if any of these schools provide inspiration for what could be implemented at your own school site. Then use the 21st century school visioning tool as a resource to structure and capture ideas that you may want to consider incorporating into your school or classroom. Results can be viewed here.
The Model Technology Program Schools
Note: If you would like to connect with a specific school, please feel free to reach out to its principal:
- Brooklyn Tech High School -- The Real Thing: Career-Driven Education through Professional Technology
Principal: Randy Asher RAsher@schools.nyc.gov
- East-West School of International Studies -- Languages and Self-Expression: Preparing Students for a Global World through Multiple Learning Modalities
Principal: Ben Sherman BSherma2@schools.nyc.gov
- The Goddard School -- Teaching Tech to Teachers: Professional Development as a Driver for Instructional Innovation
Principal: Bill Fitzgerald WFitzge@schools.nyc.gov
- IS 318 Eugenio Maria de Hostos -- Principal as Programmer: Six Years of Differentiated Instruction Fostered by Home-Grown Data System
Principal: Fred Rubino FRubino@schools.nyc.gov
- MS 339, "Tech Tigers" -- It’s Free: Fostering Collaboration and Creating a Seamless Educational Experience with the Google Suite
Principal: Jason Levy JLevy@schools.nyc.gov
- NYCiSchool -- Students Take Charge: College-Readiness through Educational Independence and Problem-Based Instruction
Principals: Alisa Berger ABerger@schools.nyc.gov and Mary Moss MMoss@schools.nyc.gov
- PS 5, The Port Morris School -- XOs and Differentiation: Improving Reading and Writing through Student Empowerment
Principal: Mary Padilla MPadill@schools.nyc.gov
- PS 101, The Verrazano School -- Apple 2Es to Netbooks: Developing 21st-Century Classrooms for Student-Centric Learning
Principal: Gregg Korrol GKorrol@schools.nyc.gov
As you read each case study you will notice a number of themes emerge from this diverse group of Model Technology Schools. They are as follows:
Student engagement through digital content
It is easy for students to disengage when teachers do not require active participation, or when education is delivered in a one-size-fits-all model. Digital content makes it easier for teachers to engage “digital natives,” or students who have grown up with Internet technology. Principals have reported improvements in behavior and attendance since the integration of technology in their schools. At The Verrazano School, students who come in for breakfast go straight to the auditorium afterwards, excited to play a version of Jeopardy with Smartboard remotes. At The Goddard School, students are particularly enthusiastic about a media elective offered in the school’s fully-equipped television studio.
Motivation and accountability through public nature of work
Many schools post student work online. School Web sites often feature multimedia student projects, such as podcasts, videos, and music. Students are also asked to contribute to class and school-wide blogs, and to comment on work contributed by their peers. On all grade levels, principals have found that the public nature of work motivates students to meet or exceed standards and expectations. For example, the elementary school students at P.S. 5 express excitement about seeing their writing “published” and posted on class Web sites and online educational magazines. The middle school and high school students at East-West and Brooklyn Tech regularly contribute to blogs. Although these blogs are not moderated by school leaders, students monitor themselves and meet self-imposed standards of appropriateness. They learn the responsibilities that go along with public presentation on the Web.
Focus on literacy
Reading and writing are often reinforced through specialized software, such as online leveled libraries, which can assess a child’s reading level, as well as “speak” the story or specific vocabulary words. Literacy software can be used in small groups within the classroom, or in labs (I.S. 318 has a small lab dedicated to Scholastic 180). As mentioned above, blogs give students an outlet to practice their writing skills, as well as a forum to express their opinions and engage in discussion with others. Principals stress that blogs are not diaries, and emphasize their utility as instructional spaces. In addition, programs such as Google docs make it easy for students to share documents with each other and with their teachers, which facilitates peer editing.
Along with reading and writing skills, Internet literacy is also becoming more and more important; 21st-century schools teach students how to analyze online information for accuracy and assess the quality of sources. In the past, students relied on school library books for research. Now, they must learn how to deal with the tremendous amount of information—of varied quality—available to them on the Web. Whether or not principals require students to take a basic technology/Internet course, they agree that Internet literacy must be explicitly taught.
Computerized databases and assessment tools give teachers access to unprecedented amounts of student data. Teachers and administrators can use this data—compiled in ARIS or in other systems—to tailor instruction to different skill levels. Teachers at The Verrazano School and The Goddard School make extensive use of Smartboard remotes to incorporate quizzes into their lessons. This allows them to access real-time feedback on student comprehension, which they can use immediately to modify their lessons.
Since computers make it easier for students to work independently, teachers can create small groups of students according to skill-level. They are then free to move around the room as facilitators, providing more or less attention as needed. At P.S. 5, for instance, a group of ELL students may be working on pronunciation with headphones plugged into their laptops, while another group may be reading independently.
Not every student is a purely auditory or visual learner. Technology makes it easier to engage multiple sensory modalities so that students have a greater chance of learning in the ways most suitable for them. An effective Smartboard lesson, for example, may integrate video and audio clips, as well as interactive components that allow students to answer questions via remote or touch screen. A multisensory approach can be particularly helpful for ELLs and students learning foreign languages.
In order to connect learning to the larger world, teachers engage students in project-, or problem-based learning. With so much information at their fingertips, as well as easily-facilitated connections for distance learning, students can act as consultants who solve real world problems. At the NYC iSchool, the curriculum is based around interdisciplinary modules that connect traditional subject knowledge with contemporary issues, making learning feel more relevant.
The increased facility of communication makes it easier for students, teachers, parents, school leaders, and educational partners to work together to reach educational goals. Collaboration can be as simple as teachers sharing lesson plans with each other through Google Docs, or as complex as live streaming presentations and sharing student projects as part of a world-wide Internet conference (M.S. 339). East-West partners with schools in Shanghai and London, and the NYC iSchool utilizes video-conferencing to connect students to organizations, experts, and professors, both nationally and internationally.
One of the premises of an education at the NYC iSchool is that students take charge of their own learning, and at Brooklyn Tech, students are given access to high-level technologies that are used by professionals in the field. Technology empowers students to seek information independently rather than waiting for it to be delivered to them.
Students as tech support
Students play a crucial role in the operation of their schools as members of tech-squads. Schools usually need trouble-shooting assistance that goes beyond the capacity of a tech coach, and trained students can respond to requests teachers submit, often through an online system. They usually receive service credit for their work. On an informal basis, students constantly assist their teachers with technology, which gives even elementary school-aged children the opportunity to feel like leaders.
Teachers at different stages of their careers may not see a need to change their practice, so it isn’t always easy to convince them that technology integration is important. Principals have dealt with these challenges in various ways. Some have found specialized professional development to be helpful in making technology less threatening, and others have integrated technology into administrative practices first in order to ease it into instruction. Principals emphasize that teachers should not be forced into technology use; they need to understand how it can help them and how it can help their students.
The Model Technology Schools Project was conceived and led by Bruce Lai, Chief of Staff, Office of the Chief Information Officer / DIIT. In addition to the principals, assistant principals, and teachers who were crucial to this project, DIIT would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance: Cara Spitalewitz (Education Pioneers Summer Fellow), Catherine White, Marina Negroponte, Roya Rahmani, Anissa Moeini, Niko Cunningham, Gazelle Javantash, Hannes Klopper, and Professor Kevin Kelley (Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs), Celine Azoulay-Lewin, Lisa Nielsen, Julian Cohen, Gregg Betheil, Andrew Gallagher, Patricia Paddock, Jane Pook, Troy Fischer, Joel Rose (NYC Department of Education).
Monday, October 19, 2009
Two years ago, CIS 339 a Bronx middle school was at risk of being shut down by the city. Today it's a success story. You are cordially invited to come see what happened at their first Open House this year taking place on Friday, November 13, 2009 from 9:30 – 12:00 p.m.
Visiting other schools that incorporate innovative ideas is one of the best ways to develop ideas that might be a fit for your school and practice. CIS 339 is recognized by the New York City Department of Education as a Model Technology School. They have integrated the Google Suite into every facet of their instructional and their administrative practice and have moved their student achievement along in the process.
Watch this PBS video that shows a bit about their transformation. If you are planning on using Google in any aspect of your instruction or administration you will find this open house worth while.
The school is in the Bronx and located at 1600 Webster Avenue. Please register at http://tinyurl.com/339Openhouse09.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The common standards movement is underway in 48 states in our nation and these standards are set to be finalized this month. I’ve been reading what the smart educators I respect are saying about these standards. Here is the summation. These are poorly written standards being put in place with testing companies at the forefront of the decision making. These ed testing companies as well as other big educational businesses/curriculum providers have a huge financial profit to gain after the adoption of these standards because a nation can now adopt their curriculum. There is no alignment or recognition of the changing face of education and the digital worlds in which our students are existing, reading, writing, interacting, producing, and publishing.
What can we do? Provide feedback today about the standards by visiting http://tinyurl.com/fixthestandards. It literally takes less than five minutes. You can use my words above, the words of others below or write your own.
Below are excerpts from other educators about their take on the standards, links to each resource, and where to visit for more information.
16 Oct 2009 07:18 am
One look at the reading standards and you can’t help but be left with the impression that the authors have never “read” anything much beyond words on paper and that the idea of “remix” and even links are outside of their experience. There is nothing here about how reading and writing in online and digital spaces changes the interaction, nothing about the social interactions that readers and writers will have around texts that are changing rapidly and substantially.
In all of this, the thing that most frustrates me both in the talk about national standards and national assessments and the whole “Race to the Top” bunk that is coming out of the administration is just a total lack of vision, this sense that nothing has fundamentally changed, that this is the same old classroom with the same old expectations and the same old ways of proving them that we’ve had forever. I’m not saying we don’t need assessments, but there’s a lot of required learning right now that few if any standards are addressing.
Weblogg-ed Comment by Gary Stager2009-10-19 03:51:17
Replacing one externally-created checklist with another undoubtedly more voluminous one will not help one child.
You cannot have “core” standards without additional standardized testing. Now districts already addicted to testing will have a more potent hallucinogenic with which they can poison public education.
Teachers and students are terrorized by testing and externally-imposed curricular mandates.
Saturday, October 10. 2009
This Core Standards movement should scare everyone who believes that meaning and learning is still most powerfully made in the spaces that students and teachers share. More than teachers, students, state administrators, the group that stands most to gain from national standards and a national test is the education-industrial complex.
This isn't about whether or not people think that all students should be able to write a thesis statement. This is about how students are taught that information, how they are assessed on that information, and on the role of big business in teaching and assessing them.
I find them hard to read, because I think they are poorly written, but standards often are.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We are inviting testing companies to determine the future of our schools with virtually no accountability or public input.
These standards were developed by two testing companies, the College Board and ACT, with help from a nebulous non-profit, Achieve, Inc. It is essential to understand this when reading the Common Standards; it explains many of their odd choices. In the example above, the obvious interpretation is that they chose to define the standard as "support or challenge assertions" rather than "construct a response or interpretation," as every international example they cited did, because the former is much easier and cheaper to score reliably on a standardized test.
No high performing educational system in the world would consider giving testing companies this much control over their standards and curriculum. It is absurd.
These standards are specifically designed to not be the sole responsibility of English teachers, so any data system properly linking student performance on related tests to teachers would attribute the results to all subject area teachers.
The idea that these English Language Arts standards are "internationally benchmarked" to those of high performing countries is a farce, except insofar as the benchmarking demonstrates the low level and quality of our proposed standards.
No country with high reading scores in international assessments conceives of the discipline of Language Arts as being limited to literacy skills, or "college- and career-readiness," as the Common Standards do. Thus, the Common Standards are narrower, lower and shallower than the English Language Arts standards of high performing countries.
Saturday, October 10. 2009
Zhao describes how schools have to keep pace with a world that is being dramatically transformed by globalization, the “death of distance,” and digital technology. Instead of falling in line with mandates for standardization, his prescription is for educators to
- Expand the definition of success beyond math and reading test scores.
- Personalize schooling so that every student has opportunity to learn.
- View schools as enterprises that embrace globalization and digital technology.
- Common Core State Standards Initiative Website: http://corestandards.org/
- An FAQ with more information about the project is here: http://www.corestandards.org/FAQ.htm
- Feedback form: http://tinyurl.com/fixthestandards
- English Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/Standards/index.htm
- Note that many of the handy links to benchmarked standards under "see evidence" don't point to the right place, so if you want to be complete you need to use...
- The full English standards PDF: http://www.corestandards.org/Files/ELAStandardsSources.pdf
- The bibliography provides links to all the full documents for the relevant international standards.
- English Programme of Study for Key stage 4, 2007: http://corestandards.net/ADP/Achieve%20International%20Documents/England/England_ELA_KeyStage4.pdf
- England's standards make an easy point of comparison if you're curious about what actual benchmarked English Language Arts common standards might look like.
- Race to the Top: http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html
Monday, October 12, 2009
The presentation entitled, “The PODs Are Coming!” explains how we are soon approaching a day where most of our students will be bringing PODs Personally Owned Devices to school. In schools where students are empowered to bring learning devices to school and acceptable and respectable use of technology is just the way things are, every student coming to school will have more capability in their pockets and hands than most teachers have on their desks today.
I am optimistically hopeful that in the future school districts like New York City will embrace rather than ban students from bringing their potential 21st century tools to the classroom. This is a great video for educators in districts who are, or will eventually be, supporting students in utilizing the personal learning devices they own. It addresses the question, “Are we ready to utilize these amazing tools that students want to bring to our classrooms.” If not, why not? What do we need to do to be ready? What needs to change? How do we maximize what we can do now? Who makes this happen?
For some insight into the answers to these questions, it is my pleasure to invite you to view this provocative presentation.