Saturday, December 26, 2009

We Have No Excuse!

Over the past few days, while I have been on break, I have been mulling around the blogosphere looking at all of the things that have been going on. I got completely caught up on reading everything in my Google Reader and even engaged with David Jakes, Gary Stager and others over the validity and the content of a GTA designed for Administrators. I know it has been awhile since I have posted anything here, but I want to post more as my time permits.

This post may not be something that my colleagues in education will necessarily agree with, but in the words of Kathy Sierra, its time to "get out of default mode." I am seriously thinking of using the slogan when I present on the last day of the CLHS Statewide Conference in Monterey, CA on January 17, 2010.

So, here we go! We have no excuse any more. Teachers need to get out of default mode. I am tired of teacher's complaining that they cannot assign any Internet based assignments because students do not have access at home. At the present time, any student that does not have access to the Internet does not have it because they have chosen not to have access. This is despite the economic situation of their families.

Currently, Walmart is advertizing an e-Machine's Netbook for $228 and have an Acer Netbook for $298. The prices are so low that the major cell phone services will give you a free or low cost netbook in exchange for a two year service agreement. (AT&T and Verizon)

The locations offering free Wifi is increasing by the day. McDonald's (12,804 locations in the US) just announced that they will have free Internet access starting during January 2010. Starbucks (11,068 locations in the US) has offered 2 hours free per day, in exchange for registering your card and using the card once a month. Barnes and Noble has 777 locations and Borders Books has 517 locations offering free Wifi. Panera Bread has 1,272 locations in the US offering free Wifi. Add to this number locations at Public Libraries, Apple Stores, Schlotsky's Deli, Daily Grind and the variety of independent businesses offering free Wifi, there is simply no excuse any more. In my local community, there are two cities that have municipal Wifi networks. (Mountain View and East Palo Alto)

If there are still barriers, the one technology that people in the lower socio-economic groups have adopted in large numbers has been the cell phone. Over the last two years, 2007-2009, the number of smart phones (iPhones, Droids and BlackBerry's) has increased by 20% per year and will account for close to 150 million cell phones in the US by 2013. Will Richardson's post earlier this month about allowing students to use their own connection, is borne out by these numbers.

So, if there are those teachers in the profession who still want to hang on to the argument that they will not assign students work that necessitates students using Internet resources, please send them my way. I have a few resources I would like to share with them.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Global, Mobile, Ubiquitous and Cheap

Those four words have been the rallying cry for most of Clay Shirky's recent talks at TED@State and other venues recently, speaking about how the media landscape is changing at a rapid rate. In one of my previous posts I mentioned the video you can watch on the subject along with the keynote presentation I did at the Harker Teacher Institute in June. In that keynote, "Jumping the Educational Shark," a reference to the social phenomena that Skirky identifies as the "cognitive surplus" of time that people in industrialized countries had after World War II that was taken up by the "sitcom." And my own reference to the phrase "Jumping the Shark," which is common in television, when a show has peaked and is definitely beginning to slide into the abyss and is making one last effort to bring viewers back before the show is eventually cancelled.

My point in the keynote was to express the idea that the educational community has many people trying desperately to hold on to the old industrial model of education that resembles an assembly line, but not recognizing that it is no longer useful to prepare students for the world they will live in during their adult lives. One of the arguments of this group was that we couldn't assign students work to do using computers or the Internet because not all students had access to those tools. Access has been improving steadily over the past few years and now, I truly believe this argument is no longer valid. If students want a computer, they cost about as much as a cell phone and if they want to use that device to access the Internet, there is free access at at variety of locations. This came into focus for me over the past three days. First, I read that Barnes and Noble is another national business, along with Panera Bread and Starbucks that is providing free Internet access to their patrons. Secondly, all of the public libraries in San Mateo County, where I teach, provide free wifi access as well. Third, the City of East Palo Alto, where some of our neediest kids live, has a free municipal wifi program that covers most of the city, called "wifi101." (Here is a link to their coverage map.)

Along with these developments, the Pew Internet and Life Project published a new report about how people are accessing the Internet and more than half (56%) have done so using a wireless connection through a phone or wifi. Some may say that the number is low, but there are some issues that are brought to light when you dig a little deeper. The first is that the use of wifi or accessing the Internet through a 'smart phone' has been completely demystified. It is common place in our society and people can assist those who are trying to make the leap into the wireless world. Secondly, the group showing the greatest percentage of gain is African Americans.
"African Americans are the most active users of the mobile internet – and their use of it is also growing the fastest. This means the digital divide between African Americans and white Americans diminishes when mobile use is taken into account."

So, to me the divide has been bridged. If a student wants access, it is available. They might need to jump through a hoop or two, but there is access and in most instances it is free. What does this mean to education, especially in my school. The on-going rhetoric from teacher's that they cannot assign work to students that would require them to access the Internet or use some type of technology is no longer valid. To me, as an administrator, the message is clear: Teachers you need to move forward and use these tools to engage students in the educational process. A blog post that crossed past me this week says it about as good as I could ever home to. It is from the "TeachPaperless" blog and it is titled, "Top Eleven Things Teachers Need to Know About Technology."


Friday, July 24, 2009

How Society Has Changed...

Well... this is a different type of post than I usually post here. Since almost all of them deal with Educational Technology in some way. This post is more of an observation of society and how times have changed in the last 20+ years.

I went and saw the film, "I Love You, Beth Cooper," yesterday. It is the normal teen fare, where there is some overt sexuality, the local bully gets put in his place and the nerdy guy finds out what life is like as part of the "popular clique." The main character, Denis professes his unrequited love to the head cheerleader. The rest of the film is a bunch of teen antics, but the underlying story shows that Denis is on his way to Stanford in the fall and on to a very successful adult life. The object of his affection, Beth, may have reached the apex of her life in High School and may never reach a higher status than the one she had.

The other film that it brought to mind was one that was somewhat similar was "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," which is a classic for most of the people in my generation. I can remember seeing the film in my early 20's and thinking this guy has the whole world "wired." Ferris is a cool and hip schemer, who is about to graduate from High School and go off to college, is trying to have one last great day with his girlfriend and somewhat nerdy best friend and before he graduates.

But here is what I wanted to compare between the two films. Denis' father in "Beth Cooper," is played by Alan Ruck. There is a scene, where Denis' father gives him a bottle of champagne to celebrate his High School graduation and tells him where there are condom's for him to use should the need arise. He does this because he recognizes that his son has worked hard to get accepted in to Stanford and says that, "there won't be much time for Toga Parties with your pre-Med curriculum." In "Ferris Bueller," the smart and somewhat nerdy best friend, Cameron Frye, is played by ... Alan Ruck. Same guy, 23 years later. Cameron has real issues with his father, there is little or no communication between the two, which frustrates Cameron. At the movie's climax, Cameron intentionally bashes in his father's prized vintage Ferrari to force the two of them to talk.

I will make the point here, that Alan Ruck in "Beth Cooper," plays the type of father he wanted to have when he was in "Ferris Bueller." Is this the evolution of our contemporary society, or have we recognized that we have to work with our kids to assist them in dealing with the social issues that they have to confront as teens.

As teachers, we deal with these issues on a daily basis, with a variety of students at completely different places along the social continuum, how we support them as they move forward in their journey towards adulthood is definitely part of what we do to create a whole person.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

I wanted to post today to Scott McLeod's Leadership Day request, because I see myself in a situation that is different than most administrators and therefore, most educational leaders in the US today. As most of you know who have read this blog in the past, I have worked in EdTech circles for quite some time. I am one of the first 50 Google Certified Teacher's and I have moved forward into the administrative ranks for the express purpose to move the use of technology in the educational process forward.

There are two video's that really point the direction of the use of technology in education. There aren't many who believe that using technology in education is going to be detrimental, but many are not advocates, since they do not have any personal knowledge or experience in integrating technology into the classroom. There are two video's that have come out in the past two weeks that will really move the use of technology in education forward. The biggest reason is that the cost of most of the techology has become $0.00. That is right, NOTHING! And if school districts plan and make the right deals with textbook publishers, there will be a cost saving. If the country were to bring into practice, what California is talking about with online open source textbooks, the cost savings would be remarkable.

The first video is the quick speech that Clay Shirky, the author of last year's "Here Comes Everybody." Shirky makes the point that the explosion of Internet technologies have made the media of today, "Global, Mobile, Ubiquitous and Cheap." Cheap $200-$250 netbooks can provide a huge amount of processing power in a small package, which schools could provide to students at an even lower cost given the savings of bulk purchases.

The second video is the preview of Chris Anderson's new book, "Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price." This is a followup to his best seller, "The Long Tail" from 2004. Anderson makes the point that bandwidth, processing power and storage capacity has increased so much and has become so cheap that the cost of producing these items is virtually $0.00. This has a huge impact on education, since we are always facing budget cut backs and technology never seems to be a priority. If Anderson's premise is true, the future of education is going to involve more and more technology.

The last issue is the fact that California is undertaking with open source text books in Math and Science. Governor Schwarzenegger would like to have this all in place by the beginning of the next school year. This would push the textbook publishers to make additional material and even e-book versions of their texts available to schools.

We'll have to see how all of this plays out.... but the prospects are interesting.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Yes We Can" Because?

NOTE: I am cleaning up some of the partial posts I have been working on over the past few weeks.

Since the school year has ended and I have had a little more time to get to the thousands of feeds and other material that I have let build up over the past few months, I have unintentionally found myself at the flash point of how media is changing and how it will effect the educational process. I did the morning keynote presentation at the Harker Teacher Institute this past Wednesday, June 17. It was a great experience for me, since it was my first 'formal' keynote experience. I don't think they had any idea what they were getting with me, but overall I think the talk was pretty good. I had some friends in the audience 'tweeting' about it as it was happening and that brought what I was talking about into even more focus. The picture is one of the slides I had in my talk when I brought up Clay Shirky and his book, "Here Comes Everybody," which I think is a must read for anyone interested in learning about how the media landscape is changing. To get quick idea of what Shirky is advocating take a look at the video from TED linked here.

There were a few things about the talk that really struck me....

In the 20th Century most of the media was created by professionals and in the 21st Century most of the media is created by amateurs. The huge rise in User Generated Content (UCG) is linked to the fact that the media landscape of today is characterized by four things. Media is Global, Mobile, Ubiquitous and Cheap. The implications of this blow the doors open in education to have deeper, richer and more personal connection to others next door or on the next continent.

I am also going to suggest two books I am going to attempt to get through myself this summer. "Free: The Future of a Radical Price." This is Chris Anderson's follow up to his 2004 book, "The Long Tail. I am also going to post a short video below of what the book will attempt to illustrate.

The second book is: "The World is Open," by Curtis J. Bonk. From reading the initial reviews, it looks like an educational corollary to the Thomas Friedman's, "The World is Flat."

It will be interesting to see how each of these books lays out a new educational paradigm and how early adopters will leverage these tools to create new, dynamic learning environments.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


It has been quite some time since I have posted on this blog for a variety of reasons... select the best reason for my length of time without posting.

1) Too busy being the Vice Principal at Woodside High School

2) Too busy working on curriculum for a variety of projects.

3) Too much e-mail and blog entries to get through to have something to write on. (Finishing Spring Break today and I had over 1,000 entries in my Google Reader account and at least 30 response necessary e-mails in my 'In Box.')

4) Too busy playing on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Well, given the fact that I have had a week off and have been able to catch up on everything, I have found a few cool things that I will share with you. One of these things is 'LifeBlob,' which is an online time line for any events you want to place in the time line. The LifeBlob that is shown below is the time line for all of the posts on this blog. You can upload content from 'YouTube,' 'Flickr,' 'Picasa,' or 'Twitter.'

I can think of many different projects in Social Science, English and Science where an online annotated timeline would assist students in constucting their own linear progression of events and/or actions. The strength of a LifeBlob is the practice of constructing the timeline and applying knowledge in a real and visual way. It is different from recreating or memorizing a timeline created by the teacher or text book publisher.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What I saw at CLHS.....

I just returned home from speaking at the California League of High Schools Statewide conference this past weekend and it was a different experience for me for many reasons. First, I usually attend and speak at Educational Technology Conferences and gatherings, so I usually know that my attendees have come to the conference to... "Get their Geek on!" They are a willing and receptive audience and usually have some interest or have done some work in educational technology. They are there to learn the latest and greatest things and what others are doing in the field. The groups I spoke to this past weekend were different, in that there were some who fit the EdTech profile, but there were others, some "who hadn't drank the kool-aid" yet, but knew it was time they did so. For this group, I got the feeling that my sessions were "like bringing water to the desert."

Secondly, there was an overriding feeling that the current state of affairs in education is about to undergo a significant and trans formative change. Whether it was the impending inauguration of President Obama and the bringing to Washington his basketball playing friend, Arne Duncan, as Secretary of Education or the general feeling that the system does not meet the needs of the current students any longer and the rank and file teachers know it.

I asked the people attending my sessions a few general questions, the first question that I usually ask to gauge the receptiveness of the teacher and school district is whether 'YouTube' is blocked. I usually get 'yes' responses in the 70% - 75% range when I ask this question at EdTech Conferences, this past weekend the responses were solidly over 90%, approaching 100%. As I went through each of my sessions, which were on varied EdTech topics (Blogger, VoiceThread and One Hour Website), I had at least one person stop me and ask, if I would come to their district and speak to their administrators about Educational Technology.

When I was a Technology Coordinator, I had a great deal of autonomy. (Thanks, Tess!) For a variety of reasons, the first being that I just did what I felt needed to be done. If there was an educational justification for it, I did it! I didn't ask all the time, I just did it, and there were some occasions where I had an administrator wag their finger at me, but that was about it. The Assistant Principal that was supposed to oversee me, quickly became overburdened with my constant requests and pestering for change that he moved aside and let me go. But I did meet some resistance once I got to the District level and this is why I eventually recognized why I had to move into Administration. I could go on and on about some of these issues and how I eventually got my way or was still fighting the good fight when I left for Woodside, but that doesn't serve the ends we need to get to, which is having ubiquitous access to Internet resources at every school in every country around the world.

So, the question I am asking is this... What do you want me to tell your Administrators? What do you need to make ubiquitous access happen in your school? What resources do you need?

I am going to take your responses and develop a series of talks specifically aimed at administrators, to get them on board and move the entire process forward.

I am looking forward to hearing your responses, so we can 'bring water to the desert' and create oases of how education should look like in the 21st Century. More to come...