Hybrid learning: Claiming our digital space

Its official, tonight our school board approved a pilot in which several of our high school teachers will be developing and implementing Hybrid courses.  Whats more exciting, is that we will be starting as early as this quarter! Last summer, my principal and I attended Claiming your digital space:Developing an Online Program for Your District.  I have to say, after leaving that day, it was like I had an digital epiphany.  We have been dabbling in online learning for several years and have some great things going. We have teachers that have been certified (through a 5-6 week online course) to provide fully online courses. (so, we dont lose our students to other online programs)  Our math department developed their own Moodle curriclum and was implementing Flipped classroom techniques and getting great recognition and gains in academic achievement!

Balancing OLL with F2F learningBut new opportunities arose, to develop our program further, when we were awarded 4 TPC Interns from an Innovative Winona State teaching program. While 1st semester is spent with these individuals as a typical student teacher mentor, during 2nd semester the interns “take over” the classes.  This frees up a tremendous amount of time for the mentor – allowing our district to use their time elsewhere.  (Big win for Winona and Big win for us!)

Seeing the writing on the wall, a couple of our teachers decided to begin developing content early this school year.  Imagine the excitement I felt when I coordinated the first official meeting last week (to address the registration guide deadlines and possibly needing Hybrid language) and the teachers were ready to PILOT now, this quarter.  And tonight, only 4 days later, we are getting board approval to move forward!  We will still  focus on course development 2nd semester, but to have some pilots started this quarter, to learn from, is going to be very beneficial!

The statistics are clear. Online/hybrid learning is certainly on the rise.  I am excited to say, our plan is coming together and I do believe we will claim our space when it comes to online learning!  Stay tuned!

“Hanging Out” and learning about #flippedPD

Today I was fortunate to have my very first Google+ Hangout experience with brilliant,  passionate and inspirational tech integrationalists from Stillwater  and Edina Public Schools.

It was fun to “hang out” with Kristin Daniels (@kadaniels), Wayne Feller (@fellbop), Heather Wells (@technovinci), and  Michael Walker (@micwalker) and discuss our districts implementation of flipped classrooms.

First impressions of G+ Hangout – is it is fun, easy to use.   The quality was fairly good – even though there were a couple of hiccups where the video would freeze or we would temporarily lose audio.  For the most part – there is a tremendous amount of potential with hangout and I honestly need to give this technology further consideration.  I wonder where this leaves skype?

It was somewhat ironic our paths crossed. Just this week in the Pioneer Press – Stillwater and Byron were both mentioned as using the Flipped or Reverse classroom techniques in their classrooms.  While there has been quite a bit of buzz about this approach and the benefits for student learning, it was a tweet by Kristin Daniels that really sparked my interest, “…we are starting “flipped pd” where we work closely with teachers on personalized projects..” Flipped PD – makes so much sense to me – why on earth did I not think of it?

If you think of a traditional f2f professional development – About a third of your participants are high flyers – they are either 3 steps ahead of you OR are bored to death, waiting for the other participants to catch up.  You have the middle third, who are following along, engaged, and hopefully learning.  Then you have the bottom third, that are lost or confused and taking more of your time as a facilitator to catch them up – then you have to work with the rest of the class.  Sound familiar?

A couple of things that Stillwater is doing with Flipped PD really resonated with me! First of all, when teachers select their PD offerings, they are shown finished best practice samples of projects that have been developed by other teachers.  Not only does this engage potential participants, but it also is a great way to share (reward?) the work of that others have accomplished for the district.  Included in the offering is a type of recipe card, or plan of what educators need in order to accomplish the project.

The training videos and materials are hosted within Moodle, and are available to teachers when they are ready to learn.  Face to face sessions are organized in small groups and teachers are able to ask further questions and get support.  Staff also develop ILPs – individual learning plans (via Google Docs templates) that is a running reflective record of their learning.  If you would like learn more about this ideas – the Stillwater staff are blogging every day about their journey!  Definitely something I will be watching!

Celebrating educators…

Professionally,  I don’t know that I have had a prouder moment.  Last Tuesday (9/20/11), in Washington DC, Byron High School educators and administrators received the National School of Distinction Award for its innovative math program from Intel.  I was fortunate to be selected to go along. From the get go, we were treated like royalty.

Leaving the airport

We stayed at the luxurious Mayflower Hotel, right in the heart of DC and within walking distance of all of the attractions including the White House, Lincoln Monument, Washington Monument,  WWII memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial…   I felt I was fortunate to see these sites, as this was my first time visit to Washington.  One little known memorial was the Albert Einstein monument.  It is tucked away and almost hidden by over grown trees and shrubs.  It was a must stop “photo shoot” for our math teachers – after all Einstein is the most famous mathematician of all time!

Math teachers stop for a pose with Einstein!

Monday, Sept. 19

The next day was a busy one.  After a FANTASTIC breakfast buffet, schools were separated into High School, Middle School and Elementary categories. At this time, representatives for each school was to share with the audience (aka us!) why they felt they were selected for this award.  We found this extremely valuable – as it gave us a chance to learn about the other districts and the innovative things they were doing to improve math and science education.  Our representative, math teacher Troy Faulkner, shared our story. (He also previously recorded the presentation and posted it to youtube)

That afternoon, Intel organized a DC scavenger hunt with the help of Code Red Caper.  Our school team was divided and paired with other school finalists! This was a great way to meet the other schools and learn more about them more…  Not to mention..have FUN!  We met some great people and took home some great ideas from this activity.

DC Scavenger hunt - We were the red hot chili peppers!

Tuesday, Sept. 20

On Tuesday, we spent the day at the capital!  Intel organized congressional visits for all of the schools. We were also  accompanied by an Intel Rep. (Rick Rocked!)  While some schools never met a single congressperson from their state,  we were fortunate that all of ours (Klobachar, Franken, and Walz)  took time to meet with us, hear our story as well as share/listen to educational ideas!

Meeting Senator Amy Klobuchar

The awards gala was that night. We arrived back at the hotel around 4:45 and had to prepare for the gala event at 6pm!  While I was pretty tired from the day at the capital… my nerves set in and it wasnt too long before I got my second wind.  I will be honest – I was on pins and needles all night! The food was fantastic!  Filet mignon (served with a butter knife!) and Salmon with some type of fantastic hollandaise sauce.  Marinated eggplant (and it was good), fresh roasted vegies and deserts to die for – made me think we had just stumbled on to an episode of  Iron Chef! (Yes, I am a food network junkie!)  So nervous, I could hardly stand it one of my teachers said “You know Jen, its just icing on the cake to be here…” I think preparing me for the worse.  However, I quickly fired back, “Yes, but I want the whole cake!”

With all of the schools present,  finalists (all  18 schools) took turns and  went up to receive their award.  Now, it was time for for the final round.  We anxiously waited for Top Math HS finalist.  I quickly grabbed my Flip video camera and decided to record the moment the award was announced.  Well, we WON! This video not only shows our excitement but you can HEAR the excitement as well!

Byron High School team and our trophies!

Wednesday, Sept. 21

On Wednesday, we learned about our prize package.  What was so impressive was while we were learning about the hardware and software, the package also included quite a bit of professional development and tools that can be implemented DISTRICT WIDE, which essentially will improve instruction in all of our schools preK-12!

So what happens next?

When we came back to the district on Thursday morning, everyone was buzzing.  One thing I couldn’t help to think about was how we felt the entire trip.  Of course winning what one teacher deemed as the “Superbowl for math teachers”, was exciting, but throughout the entire trip – it was very apparent that Intel deeply respected and celebrated  great teachers and great schools doing great things! We honestly felt like superstars! I couldn’t help but think… what would happen if EVERY teacher experienced this  – their work recognized and celebrated?  Below is the email I sent to the entire district, sharing our experience and encouraging them to apply:

Dear Staff,

It was one of the most exciting moments in my career to win the Intel School of Distinction award and I am very thankful I was there to participate and learn from some very innovative schools – top in the nation.  I want to mention, this award is open to all K-12 schools who demonstrate excellence in math and science education through innovative teaching and learning environments.   It would be equally exciting for the district to see our Middle or Elementary schools apply/receive this award.  The event will FOREVER be in my memory bank and I would love for more Byron educators to have the same experience. 

I also wanted to share the MOMENT we won the award.  I apologize for the video quality – but you will definitely “hear” the excitement.  Share with your students if you feel appropriate.  We want them to be engaged in the idea as well! (inserted video)

I also want to share the photo album from our stay in Washington DC.  (inserted photo album)

If you have an idea, you would like to work thru – dont be afraid to ask.  The journey to this award started with the ideas of our teachers!

The response was overwhelming! Teachers responded with great ideas and I am soooo excited to see how they are cultivated over the next few months.  I even met with one VERY eager middle school teacher who asked, “What can I do in my classroom that is EPIC?”  Wow – I honestly had techy goosebumps!  The energy this award has brought to our district is amazingly inspiring! I cant wait to see what happens next and how it will benefit our kids!

 

The new Google Apps: be sure you are in-service ready!

I will admit, I really like the new apps we have available in Google Apps for education.  I transitioned our staff early this summer and was excited to present our staff Picasa Web Albums today at our Summer Academy!  I was thankful I did it early, instead of waiting for the automatic transition (which will happen whether your domain is ready or not… in a couple of weeks)

What I did not expect was the hand full of users with problems today.  These users  previously logged in with their SCHOOL email address – before our transition – to create an account on Google’s public side of apps (like Blogger, Youtube, Picasa, ect) .  I assumed that the email that Google automatically generated and sent to users with conflicting accounts would have been addressed. (Google does NOT give you the accounts that have conflicts – that would have been REALLY nice to have upon transitioning)  I assumed that if you were still able to actively use your school Gmail accounts, even logging on the public gmail.com, that you would be good to go!  Well, you know were assumptions got me today!

These users could not fully login to our Gapps Picasa app – and would continuously revert to a temporary account.  After about my 3rd problem account…and many clicking scenarios…I finally got the process down.  I really wish I would have made screenshots but, in a scramble, screenshots was the last thing on my mind.

I did want to share the gist of what you have to do to quickly transition the accounts.

You essentially have 3 options:

1. Transfer your data to your current school Google Apps account.  This is the EASIEST of the 3 options.  It essentially is 3 clicks and you are off and running.

2. Transfer your data to a current gmail.com account.  This also wasnt too difficlut, but if you want to separate your personal info from your school info – you may wind up transitioning the information later anyways.

3. Create a new public Gmail.com account.  This was painful  (well painful because I was in a time crunch) because I did not realize the process you have to go through to authenticate your NEW gmail.com address.  (they have to send you a text or call you to give you your authentication code)  I really appreciate gmail’s efforts to get rid of spammers, but this unexpected change made the situation a little bit worse.

I am fortunate all of the participants in my session were patient while working out these bugs.  I also realize that if I knew then what I do now, that I would have done a better job at prepping my staff about what to do if they receive a “conflicting account” email from Google.  Was it a huge issue today???  Not at all.   But, I thought this experience was good enough to share with others – especially if you are planning any workshops utilizing the new applications.

Personal Learning Devices – Letter to Parents

Its been a whirlwind of a week and we have received quite a bit of press from our decision to lift the ban on personal learning devices in the classroom at our high school.  The following letter was created by Mike Duffy (BHS principal), Jen Green (BHS Math/English teachers) and myself.  It was distributed to all parents as well as posted on our district website.  I think it has some value and feel that if other districts are considering the same… maybe it will help them in their journey.  I would love to hear your feedback!

Dear Parents,
On Monday, May 16th, the school board unanimously decided to support policy changes that would allow students to use personal learning devices (PLDs) at Byron High School at the discretion of the classroom teacher.  Personal learning devices are defined as Smart Phones, Laptops, Netbooks, Tablets, MP3 Players (like iPod touches), or any other Internet enabled device.  After a five month pilot in four of our classrooms, we quickly recognized the potential for these tools to be used as learning devices.

We would like to share with you a some of the reasons, as well as expectations, for students before we start the 2011-12 school year.

1. We believe that these expanded opportunities of PLDs in the classroom will lead to increased learning, engagement, and collaboration among our students in a real world environment.
2. Using PLDs is an efficient way for students to access the Internet, as well as many other applications they already have installed and are familiar with on their devices.
3. We can not continue to ignore the power of these devices, as some of the PLDs have just as much, if not more, computing power than the ones in our computer labs.
4. PLDs are only to be used for educational purposes when directed by the classroom teacher.  Classroom teachers will determine when to use, how to use,  and appropriate access to PLDs for their individual classrooms.  Rules teachers establish will be supported by the district.
5. This innovation was researched by our high school teachers and staff.  We are not the first in the state to begin incorporating PLDs into the classroom, and many other progressive districts, like Delano and Osseo, have already done the same.
6. Having a blanketed school-wide BAN policy does not allow teachers who are ready to incorporate PLDs in their classrooms the opportunity to do so.
7. We are not requiring parents to purchase new equipment or change current cell phone/data plans. We are just seeking the opportunity to utilize what their students already own and use. The district will continue to provide guest wireless for students who have devices like Netbooks, Laptops, or iPod touches.
8. We will continue to use district-owned devices (like labs and mobile laptop carts) when the students don’t have access to PLDs or when the learning activity or lesson requires it.
9. Teachers will add safeguards in their classrooms to monitor for inappropriate use.
10. Students using PLDs must comply with the Byron School District Acceptable Use Policy (524).  This policy is available on the district website.

It is our belief that this policy change will continue to support our students’ academic success and preparation for the 21st century workforce.

Lifting the ban on personal learning devices

Student using a PLD in Math Class

I am pleased to announce, that after the board meeting tonight, Byron High School will be lifting the Ban on Personal Learning Devices (PLDs) in our school. We have defined PLD’s as Smart Phones, iPod Touches, Tablets, Laptops, Netbooks or any other Internet enabled device. It has been a year of discussion, pilots, more discussion, and policy edits.  I am absolutely thrilled at the opportunities students will have in our classrooms!

The journey began in November with a high school email discussion about Osseo Public Schools – Project Copernicus Pilot in which Osseo teachers, in the project,  encouraged students to bring in wireless devices to use in the classroom.  We decided to add PLD Questions  to OUR annual student survey – results indicated that approx 75% of Byron students in grades 9 and 11 have personal devices and 33% have SMART phones with data plans. The idea gained momentum, and Osseo CTO Tim Wilson, graciously met with our District Technology Committee via Skype to talk more in depth of the project and answer stakeholder questions.  After the skype session, several teachers expressed interest in also trying a pilot of their own.  Our HS principal organized a HS staff meeting about the topic and by 3rd quarter, our Pilot was underway.

After the quarter was over, it was time to discuss the pilot, and any pro’s and con’s the teachers came across.

PROS

  • Increased classroom research opportunities – instantly.
  • Frees up computer lab – which is at a premium even with a 1.8 student to computer ratio!
  • Benefits students in Math classrooms where e-curriculum has replaced textbooks
  • Students can rewatch lecture (Math) videos or look up answers in solutions manual
  • Current discipline tracking of current cell phone policy is extensive/exhaustive (approx. 90% of discipline issues are attributed to phones/ipods)
  • Assess student learning and provide peer review feedback by using tools like Poll Everywhere
  • Create/archive student work with use of cameras and video recorders
  • Students know how to use their devices
  • Students take care of their devices

CONS

  • Bandwidth and wireless access needs to be considered – we will be adding access points to accommodate the increase in wireless devices
  • Policing what students are looking at can be difficult (games, texting, Facebook, ect) – Note – We decided that time on task can be an issue on any computer, the screens are just smaller with these devices! 🙂

OBSERVATIONS

  • Students are fully aware of what they should be doing when they are allowed to use their PLD
  • Students appreciate being able to use their PLD since they know how their device works
  • There has not been an issue with “have nots”.  Students who do not have a device, collaborate with students who do OR make arrangements to get a classroom loaner device.

In a very short time, our school has become open to the idea of letting these devices in the classroom.  Teachers who are still  apprehensive about the use of PLDs, can opt out by indicating their choice within their course syllabus.  But for teachers who DO want to incorporate devices in their classrooms, the school wide ban has been lifted to support their  ideas and new learning opportunities!

Computerized State Tests – Is Paper Better?

Photo credit - Guilford School Watch Blog

Photo credit - Guilford School Watch Blog

Last year, we were given an option. Go with the traditional paper/pencil Math MCA’s (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments) or go with the computerized MCA’s from Pearson Access . (grades 3-8) Seeing the writing on the wall, and knowing that eventually all MCA’s will be electronic, we decided to opt in for the computer based testing.

My Rant:
While it was good to test our infrastructure and of our testing processes, I am amazed at how much TIME we (staff and students) have invested in this  getting this 1 computerized test to successfully work in our schools.

  • We are very fortunate that we have several labs in our buildings, and  while our district computer:student ratio is better than most (3:1) , We basically will not be doing any technology/Internet-based classroom projects during the month of April and half of May due to testing. The Paper Test is generally done in 2 days and does not require any other resources than a pencil and/or paper.
  • The hand rostering of students is extremely tedious. In each school database, we are given access to all the students, you then need to hand roster them to their appropriate teachers or groups.  Student missing or sick that day?  You will have to move them from 1 roster, and re-roster them into another makeup session.  While, I understand the process is similar to what you have to do “the paper way” we went from 3, 4, 5 people (in each building) being able to put the paper in the right piles to 1 person with the computer access and know how – to be able to do this.  Making what use to take several people a few hours, to one person  that can take several days.  Oh, and you HOPE there is not a tech support call anywhere in between.  I guess I find this frustrating because I am very aware of other testing vendors that allow schools to somewhat automate the process of  rostering students by using exports from their student information system (Hint – Not What Everyone Assumes)
  • Yesterday when I asked one of my Proctors – “How did everything go?”  She said, “Good, we fished at 11:00”   They started at 8:15. These are 5th Graders. I guess I am very surprised that the electronic testing systems in this day and age, don’t have the sophistication to figure out where these kiddo’s academically are – without having to have have them sit 2-3hours through mind numbing assessments.  (paper or computerized)
  • The time to get our results.  When is that?  Since this is computerized – why cant we get them within a day, week, or month?  However – more than likely – the computerized results will come the same day as those paper-based results.

With every rant, I have to also mention some improvements.  It is nice that there is some interaction with these tests.  The sample test had the typical multiple choice questions as well as the ability to drag lines on a graph or drop numbers in appropriate areas. I also can’t deny that it is nice that students can opt to have the tests read to them. (we have headsets and sound on all of our computers)  I am also happy with the tech support we receive when there are issues or even during the prepping.

I guess, my main complaint is the process we have to go through to provide computerized MCA’s.  Because of the exuberant amounts of time we spend prepping and testing and the fact that we do not get access to our results any faster – Is this system any better than paper?

What do you see in your crystal ball?

Flickr photo by Kikishua

Flickr Photo by Kikishua

Currently our district is in the process of technology planning for the next 3 years.  As part of the process I made site visits to each of our schools to seek input from our teachers.  I shared with them videos as well as the 2010 Horizon Report (2011 just came out!).

Then I asked teachers to think and respond to the following questions:

  1. What technology ideas do you have that would enhance/support your student’s learning IN and OUTSIDE your classroom?
  2. What technology ideas do you have that would enhance/support  YOUR learning IN and OUTSIDE your classroom?
  3. What technology ideas do you have that could help you do a better job at teaching or help you be more productive?
  4. What technology ideas do you have that could help our district save money?

What do I see in my Educational crystal ball?

  • Education based on student inquiry, authentic assessments, social constructivism, and digital citizenship
  • Engaging learning/teaching environments in and outside our classrooms for all district stakeholders
  • Mobile devices – Student owned and district owned
  • Personal learning plans for all students/staff that indicate individual needs as well as talents

Above are just a few of the things I see coming to education in the near future.  What am I missing?  A template of this  Google Doc was created and shared with our schools and district technology committee as a way to seek input.  I would also ask that you share your ideas if interested!  Either use the Google doc or reply to this post….. What should we be considering for the next 3-4 years?

Picasa and Google Apps – Me likey!

I posted this tweet earlier today “Today I have come to appreciate how powerful Picasa and Picasa Web albums are within Google Apps. Me Likey!”

I received a tweet back from @smbeaverson – “details?”

I decided to create a little blogpost about my first encounter with Picasa within my Google Apps domain and share some advantages of the application.

Advantages

  1. I can share and give access to users within my domain to Web Albums. This includes distribution groups I have created using Google Groups OR contact lists I have created in Gmail.  For instance, we had an event yesterday (Blue Ribbon Award Ceremony – YEAH!) and I had taken quite a few pictures.  However, I also knew that other teachers\staff also had pictures too.  Giving them web album access, they can upload their own pictures vs emailing them to ME and having ME upload them to the web album.  It is as simple as sending an email! (See image below)

Note the people on the right are contact lists that I have created.  As soon as I type any email, it automatically loads from my personal AND district contacts!  Simple!  I can also decide who gets to add photos (group of people?) or just View photos.  We also have distribution lists we have created via Google Groups which allows me to instantly share an album with a single group email. (Teachers, Buildings, District)

2. What I also noted, was that we can tag people within albums, just like facebook, and I can begin associating specific people with pictures.  This is all associated with my contacts and district contact list.

3.  Picasa also has some basic photo editing features too! AND I note – Picnik is now a feature and even listed as a Google App.

4.   With the Picasa App, You can also synchronize folders on your computer.  So, as you add pics, it just sends them to the web.  (Is this good – not sure, but its doable!)

5.  You can easily create and embed slideshow widgets based on your albums.

Possible Problems

1.  Not a long term solution as you only get a 1 gb folder.  You will have to do housecleaning and teach staff/students how to conserve space by resizing images.

2.  It took me a little while to figure out how to integrate the Picasa App with the Picasa Web albums.  Training (or learning time)  is going to be needed.

3.  I havent transitioned my domain to the new Google Apps.  Right now, only very few people have access to these tools (within our domain).

From banning to embracing – my thoughts on allowing student owned devices in our schools

Right now there is a GREAT discussion happening in my highschool regarding allowing/banning students to bring in student owned devices.   Our high school principal sent an email to our staff inviting them respond/discuss their thoughts of the following video showing a student owned device pilot project in Osseo Schools.

http://nwtv12.img.entriq.net/htm/nwtv12flashplayer.htm?articleID=8217

The following is my response to our staff:

Dear Staff,
I appreciate the responses from this thread and value all of your ideas and concerns.  In my honest opinion, I truly feel that we can no longer ignore these Internet enabled devices.   Students are walking into your classrooms with Google in their pockets – we should harness this opportunity – not ban it.

The 2010 Horizon Report indicates we have 1 year or less to adopt these technologies in our schools.  It is coming, it is here, its not going away.  As I think of my own use of my smart phone – it is an integral part of my business communications. As we think of preparing students for their future – these devices are going to be the primary way students are connected to people (family, friends, coworkers) as well as personal/professional email, calendars, social media applications.  In the 21st century being connected also means using these devices to create, learn and share  information.  If interested, the new term coined for this type of learning is mlearning.  (Let me Google it for you!)

Budget.  I can honestly say for the past 10 years the term 1:1 has been discussed numerous times in various committees.  But, to develop a budget to support an initiative as well as SUSTAIN it is very complex and fiscally not possible… at least not yet.  Financially, it makes sense for students to bring in their personal devices.

Access.  Did you know that our HS has less than a 2:1 ratio?  For every 2 students we have 1 computer/laptop. We have added labs this summer and added computers to address class sizes.  It is still not enough.  As you continue to integrate technology into your classes the demand for access is rising.  I realize their may be concerns of have/and have nots. However, I really have to wonder how many have nots we have? I just purchased an iPod touch for my youngest for Christmas for about $200. It has full Internet capabilities – including access to Google Apps, Moodle, as well as a wealth of other useful tools(aka APPS).

As for obstacles I see three issues when moving in this direction.

  • Current Policy.  Right now our policy bans this technology in our classrooms. Here is an etiquette guide to give an example  of what other schools are looking at. There may be new discipline issues that will come with these devices too, but look at the amount of discipline time we are spending just trying implementing our “Ban” policy.  I would like to take an uneducated guess and say that 90% of our detention, parent calls, frustrated students, incident record keeping could disappear if we allowed these devices in our schools.  We should be teaching students how to appropriately use them – not ban them.  This is a skill that will be very important for them, when they graduate and go to college/workforce.
  • Bandwidth/Wireless.  Adding an additional 300 devices might affect our Internet bandwidth.  We will need adjust it and it will cost $.  We also need to think about increasing the wireless access (add more access points) this is also an added cost.
  • Teaching will need to change – Teachers are going to need to create lesson plans that are endpoint independent.  If you have a classroom of Smartphones, iPods, iPads, netbooks and laptops – how you will have your students complete the lessons will change. At this point, We will still need our labs for writing, specialized programs, and testing – but is the lab necessary for research and other web-based applications?  Teacher will also need to think about how they assess student learning.  If students are given tests that can be easily Googled, is it a relevant assessment to their learning? Cheating is always a concern, but if teachers develop more authentic assessments and/or project based lessons – cheating  can decrease immensely. An added benefit will be that students will know the content better and it will be more meaningful to them.

I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.  I think easing into this environment is a great idea and I think a pilot is very appropriate. I will also be willing to serve on any HS committee/group that are wiling to look at this further.

I would like to leave you with an excerpt from Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk blog post Rules for Pod People and a Proposal for Banning Pencils, in which he compares the reasons for banning iPods with banning pencils:

  1. A student might poke out the eye of another student.
  2. A student might write a dirty word with one. Or even write a whole harassing note and pass it to another student.
  3. One student might have a mechanical pencil making those with wooden ones feel bad.
  4. The pencil might get stolen or lost.
  5. Kids might be doodling instead of working on their assignments.