My reflection on blogs

In class we were learning and discussing blogs and their potential use in education.  As I look at the history of the Grin and Bear I.T. blog  it has primarily been used for knowledge sharing.   I may stumble on a website or a piece of research and share information about the topic.  Sometimes the tool is so cool that you forget how actually BORING the blog is.   Yes, I said it – boring.

What is it that makes me decide – Hey this blog is worthy of being entered into my RSS reader?  I think it is the personal touch of the author.  The content may contain reflection or it may contain topics of debate.  Heck it might contain just plain ‘ol orneriness. (The venting of others is always a good read)  What I have come to realize is the blogs that I do thoroughly enjoy AND learn from have personality.

So this leads me to how I learn.  I learn from Blogs, Wiki’s, and Social Networks.  Many of the F2F groups I meet with have an online extension to one or all of these tools.  Below is an example of my personal learning network that I developed last semester.  What other online learning tools should I be using?  (click on image to enlarge it)

Jen's Personal Network

Jen’s Personal Network

What I have learned by subscribing to blog  or any of these other tools cannot be taught in any book, in any classroom.  It is instant knowledge.  If I disagree with the opinion of the blogger, I can comment on the blogger’s page and get a side conversation going.  Or better yet, I can voice my opinion on my blog and get my audience involved in the discussion.  At any rate – what I am accomplishing is a very deep knowledge into the topic that I have access to 24/7. This truly is critical thinking at its best!

UW Stout – Assessment in E-Learning – Week 1

I am taking some Grad classes from UW Stout in the area of Information Communication Technology and E-Learning. As part of a weekly assignment, I am required to post my reflections on a blog.  Well, I have been blogging for a while and I was debating on whether or not I would develop a separate blog for this information.  I decided not to.  First of all the information and knowledge I have received thus far, is VERY relevant to my current audience.  (I will assume are teachers and maybe some techies)

For our first assignment we had to pick a person and do an online interview.  I will tell you I was a little uncomfortable doing this assignment because to pick someone out of the blue, wasn’t that easy for me.  Especially, since I didn’t know what or if we had anything in common.  This was during the COLDEST week in Minnesota so I of course used weather as a topic of interest.  I did manage to chat with an individual from Saudi Arabia and the weather is nice there right now.     I also met an Interior design instructor from a college in Wisconsin.  She is going to take her class to Italy on a field trip.  WOW – what a great hands on opportunity!

Even though I was not sure of how this process would work, it is truly amazing to have conversations with people that are states and even continents away from you.  Especially if you have grown up in Rural Minnesota.   What I did like about the assignment is that it was then my job to introduce them to the class.  This really helped me connect with them.  So often, it is hard to really get to “know” someone online and this is a great way to assess who people are.

The Wiki

Part 2 of the assignment was to dabble in wiki’s.  I am a wiki lover so I was more than happy to give my two sense in support of wikis!  Here is a little insert from my post”

The use of Wiki’s is probably one of my favorite collaboration Web2.0 tools.  Only a couple of years ago, I pretty much related a wiki to Wikipedia – just a bunch of people contributing to what they know to a big Encarta like site.  I always kind of thought to myself – “why would I contribute, more than likely someone somewhere is going to know more about the topic and will probably erase what I wrote anyways.” So I did nothing.

My “eureka” came to me when I was organizing our district’s summer institute last spring.  We call it Bears Professional Growth Academy.  (The bear is our mascot)   In previous academies I would have presenters email me their presentations and I would manually build a website that contained presentations, handouts, and other resources.  This took considerable time!  After attending a conference 2 winters ago, I seen that the conference had a wiki and it had appeared that they were letting the presenters post their own materials.  Well HELLO?  Why didn’t I think of that?  So as I explored this wiki and used it during my classes I was attending, I was also free to explore the other classes that I didn’t have time to attend!  It was amazing!

To often wiki’s are related only to wikipedia. I have utilized them in many different aspects and they can be a great way to organize and centralize information of your organization.  I never realized that they could be an assessment tool too.  For teamwork activities, the wiki might be a great way for students to research and gather information.  My favorite wiki’s building sites are – Wetpaint, PBWiki, and Wikispaces.  What are yours?

Mobipocket and Feedbooks

I always knew that the SMART Phone was a fabulous tool and could be extremely useful in the classroom – but today really takes the cake!  Feedbooks is a web2.0 resource that allows users to dowload free books!  But what made this site extremely powerful was downloading the books to my mobipocket reader! Mobipocket is like the iTunes for books on mobile devices! You can use the mobipocket store to purchase, download, and syncronize books to your smart phone.  However, when using both feedbooks and mobipocket,  I can now synchronize literary works such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, White Fang, or Hamlet onto my Palm Treo for FREE!  I also noted that mobipocket has free application called Mobipocket creator (home and pro) which enables users to create personal content like ebooks, photo albums, ect.. and then distribute via the SMART phone!  I think our teachers and students could be very creative when using tools like this in the classroom!  What do you think?

Google Images

I happened to stumble upon Google’s Blog today and found out that they have made some improvement to Google Images.  They have now made it easier to narrow your image search to clip art, photos, line art, faces, and news content.  If you click the “advanced” search, you can search by color and file type as well.  Try it out for yourself!

TIES 2008 – Dan Pink: Q and A – My notes

Because of my engagement in the first session, I decided to continue with Daniel’s Q&A session.  Again, these are my notes so I hope I will use them in the very near future.  I would love to brainstorm some ideas on change in our district – if anyone is interested.  By the way – you have to read “A Whole New Mind” to really get the gist of the conversation.

Here it goes…

What is your best guess – to jar the shift into action – while NCLB is in place?

  • “Difficult – takes time and work.  Begin with conversation with teachers, principals, and Superintendent.  What are we doing to prepare kids for the future?  Get conversation roaring!  Make the case in a left brain way. White guys in suits and guys that are left brained. Show the numbers!  What are you doing to smuggle some of this into the classroom.  Educational subversiveness with conversations with people who can make change.  “You think change is difficult – you should try irrelevance.”

What do you think of Presidential Obama “getting it” and could change come from the top down?

  • “Maybe but I am not going to hold my breath.  I wont bank on it.  That would be more of a 2nd term priority.  Economic downturn, Infrastructure, losing jobs, health care system, moving current energy system to renewable energy is huge agenda for the president elect.  What can happen is to start classroom by classroom, building by building”

Story  – what are the thoughts of simple power of story meets technology?

  • Sometimes using technology can overwhelm story.  Don’t obsess over transitions – obsess over the value of what you are saying.  Adventure of Johnny Bunko – look for artists in US.  Were extreme expert in drawing – not expert in storytelling. Technology Tools can amplify storytelling by telling it and distributing it.

If you Dan are middle left brain – how did you get over to the right?

  • I  need to get better.  Cary a Notebook “design” look for really good design and really bad design.  right down 1 good instance of design, 1 bad design.   Some stick, and most are thoughtless. He now Notices things now that he wouldn’t have years ago.  Empathy – learn more about facial expressions.  Working to be better.

Do you have daughters – you as a white guy with a tie support women in STEM careers.

  • Brains are similar – and are differences btw woman and men.  Empathy – woman more empathetic than men.  Design, story, play meaning – not as much differences.  Is STEM education misaligned to women?  More competitive than collaborative.  Sometime engineering is disconnected from the world. Education needs to engage in real world problems, teamwork, project based.

If you look at how schools use technology, (currently scheduled in the day) – how is that conducive to problem solving?

  • Not conducive to problem solving.  We didn’t have pencil labs.  Its a tool – lets use it to do something.  Older school design is problem.  Time is the issue because we work in a locket time design.  This an industrial age issue.  Conceptual age is different and is out of sync with society in a 45 segment.  Startup time end time.    Web 2.0 technology extends classroom time.  Too often in school kids get a problem that is clearly defined, single disciplined, and has 1 right answer.  Compare that to the Workforce where we have big problems that are poorly defined, multiple disciplines, multiple answers, and none of which are perfect.

Tear down the walls.  There are too many.  english, science, ect… Need more collaborating.  Infuse arts education throughout the curriculum.  Cognitive skills will be more used in workplace.  Urgency of establishing new metrics.  You have to have old metrics, right brain are harder.  JSPE – measure empathy.  Level of empathy.  Students with higher schores on empathy.  Empathy is being taught in medical schools around america.  Teachers have very little autonomy.  Involves time and task and techniques.

TIES 2008 – Opening Keynote: Daniel Pink – My Notes

This morning I am sitting at the  TIES  convention and waiting to hear Dan Pink’s opening keynote along with the other +1700 educators, administrators, teachers, and technology directors from all over the US and Canada.  (very impressive turnout by the way)  My notes are sketchy, as I was busy typing and listening.  (I apologize for that)  If you get a chance to see him – I highly recommend it!

What makes a good speech? Good speeches in general…always have 3 ingredients…brevity, levity, repetition.  Influence of a teacher – “repetition is an effective form of emphasis”.

Education and the economy  – purpose of education is not to deliver to employees to employers – allow every young person – achieve their full potential, well informed citizens, digital citizenship…

“We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.”  (Fairfax, administrator)

Before the conceptual age we were told as kids… “get good grades, go to college, get a good jobs”.

Brains. Left hemisphere, Right hemisphere.  Last several years, because of technology, we know more about how our brains work.  Complicated and complex – elegant and efficient.  Different specialties – the left contains the logical, linear, sequential, analytical.  Right – Tasks, process at once, understand concept, facial expressions, synthesis context.

Our past – kids future.  past – Most important ability – were the  characteristics of left hemisphere and it was absolutely necessary.  BUT – no longer sufficient. Right Brain –  Big picture thinking, conceptual. ect.

The 3 causes that for our the shift in workforce in the states.  (This is also the Need for shift in Education)

Asia – 15,000 computer science degrees, upper class incomes in their country.  White collar jobs loss in the less 4 years is not an issue,  India has advantage in global economy.  Billion People.  15% of billion = 150 million.  US – last month –  just counting the those who work for pay in the US – 144 million.  If 15% make it to the status of being competitive  – then we have cit.  In 14 months – India will be the largest English speaking country.  English is the language of the global economy. Technology – cost of communication btw us and India is $0.  “Focusing on Routine is a death sentence.” This is the fault line between our past and kids future.  This skill is going out fast -right steps and have.  Accounting, financial analysis, programming. Anything that focuses on a series of steps or has one right answer will be unnecessary.

Automation- machines replace our muscle, software replace our brains.  Replace logical linear rule based side.  collaborative exercise – gov sites – figure what lawyer uncontested divorce – all steps.  Routine is off shore or gets automated. complete affordable divorce solutions.  $249.  Tax preparation. Turbotax.  Certain accounting is routine

Abundance – standard of living is breathtaking.  chart “consumption spreads faster today” –  material goods have migrated to above 80-90% of homes.  Telephone, electricity, TV, Computer, Internet, cellphone.  Storage Industry – $22.6 Billion industry.  We have too much stuff! In a world of abundance, there is a premium on getting something to people they didnt know they were missing.  Offering to consumer, has to be big and bold especially in recession.  Downturn – can still make it.

3 questions –

  • Can someone do it cheaper
  • Can a computer do it faster?
  • Is what your delivering in demand in an age of abundance?

What about STEM?  Not vending machines of right answers.  Evidence is not routine – ex. Silicon Valley, Google

“Non-routine savants”  Medical Schools – at art institute – part of diagnostic training.  Certain is routine, Ask right question.  Extraordinary observation skills.    Now measurable – those who have been thru art training are better than traditional medical training.  Art education is spreading among colleges however in elementary and secondary arts if first to go.  “This is a colossal mistake.”

Last Rant. Can you see the problem?

Technology today

  • Novelty
  • Nuance
  • Customization

Education today

  • Routines
  • Right answer
  • Standardization

6 abilities that matter most.

  • Design – make something beautiful, whimsical, emotionally engaging
  • Story – story matters, facts are free. facts in context
  • Empathy – stand in someone shoes, human ability.
  • Play – laughter humor games, in economy – shouldn’t be banishing
  • Meaning – not just accumulation.  What has meaning has purpose.
  • Symphony – Not just focus – ability see big picture, connect dots, and design something new.

check him out at –

TIES 2008 – System Technology and Implementation with the NETS – my notes

Don Knezek, CIO ISTE and Lynn Nolan  co-presented the following sessions on “Systemwide Technology and Implementation with NETS”

Prepare kids for a world different than today.

Objectives –

What needs to occur

  1. Leadership Teams – principals, teachers, tech leaders, librarians
  2. Other Stakeholders – parents, students, community groups
  3. 3-5 year technology plan consistent with schools improvement plan.  Objectives, measurable benchmarks, responsibility, time lines
    1. Plan must be Dynamic rather than static – sustainable, creative in funding, celebrate successes

In 1998 the student standards were about how to learn technology  – In 2007 the standards are about using technology to learn – same with teacher standards.

Teachers need to Facilitate and inspire, motivate, and model digital age work and learning.  Design and develop digital age learning experiences.  Also need to promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility and engage in professional growth and leadership.

New proposed admin standards – draft
Official standards will be released at NECC in June!

  • Inspire and facilitate excellence throughout transformational vision and leadership
  • Create and sustain a digital age culture
  • Advance and model excellence in digital age learning and professional practice
  • Facilitate communication and collaboration among diverse stake holders
  • 2 more (sorry I could not type fast enough)

Tools to help observation, where can I connect with other who are doing the same things?

Teacher observation tools for principals-

My opinion – ISTE is on the right track with their refreshes in standards.  My question – How and when will Byron begin to implement them?

TIES 2008 – Tech Director Bootcamp – My Notes

Bootcamp for School District Technology Leaders/CTOs

Denise Atkinson-Shorey, Centennial Board of Coop Ed Svcs, COSN
Sunday, Dec 7 from 12:30 – 3:30

I thought it was probably beneficial to learn what kind of skills I should be strengthening in my current position.  It was very nice to network with individuals in the same positions  and to hear their trials and tribulations within their districts.    Here are my notes!

Who is the CTO?

  • Strategist
  • Relationship architect
  • Leader
  • Technology venture capitalists
  • Information steward
  • Integrator
  • Educator
  • Utility provider
  • Lobbyist
  • Advocate

Tech Director Perceptions – Narrow Foccus, Control Freak, 1 step lower than God, Indispensable, Powerful, Order taker, Good listener

Reporting Structure K12

  • Report directly to Superintendent
  • Cabinet-level position
  • Instruction Technology reporting to Curriculum
  • IT reporting to CFO
  • Other

5 key areas for Technology Directors

  • Leadership and Management Skills (up)
  • Fiscal management Skills (up)
  • Tech skills (down)
  • Business skills (up)
  • Cultural/organization management skills (up)

COSN Nine essential school district skills

  1. Leadership and Vision
  2. Planning and Budgeting
  3. Team Building and Staffing
  4. System Management
  5. Information Management
  6. Business Leadership
  7. Education and Training
  8. Ethics and Policies
  9. Communication Systems

TIES 2008 – Stillwater 1:1 Discussion – my notes

One-to-One Computing: Transforming Education
Mike Dronen- Stillwater Area Public Schools, Matt Howe- Stillwater Area Public Schools, Paul Musegades- Apple Computer
Sunday, Dec 7 from 8:30 – 11:30

This morning I chose to sit in a presentation from the tech folks from Stillwater school district.  They implemented a 1:1 program in one of their middle schools and discussed their successes and areas that needed improvement in their initial plan.  In the group were superintendents, principal, teachers, and technology coordinators.  We used Google docs to collaborate and extend our questions (which I have downloaded and attached to this blog)  It was a great discussion and I learned a tremendous amount!  I truly feel that Byron Public Schools could pull off a 1:1 initiative if we planned and played our cards right!

ISTE – Essential Conditions (pdf)
Necessary conditions to effectively leverage technology for learning

  • Shared Vision
  • Implementation Planning
  • Consistent and Adequate Funding
  • Equitable Access
  • Skilled Personnel
  • Ongoing Professional Learning
  • Technical Support
  • Curriculum Framework
  • Student-Centered Learning
  • Assessment and Evaluation
  • Engaged Communities
  • Support Policies
  • Supportive External Context


Create Vision

  • Why will we do this?
  • What if we don’t?
  • Who needs to be at the table?
    • Must have an administrator with strong “principal” skills to pull off a 1:1
    • Must have a willing and engaging teacher environment
  • What are our unique reasons to implement a 1:1 plan?
  • Who have been successful – Why?
  • Who has not been successful – Why

How /when will digital content be access /created/shared/collaborative/individualized/quality? (students – teachers)

Return of Investment – Less textbooks, less printing costs, power consumption, asset value,

Professional Development

  • Teacher buy-in and personal vision
  • Methods of PD
  • Classroom management
  • Rethinking curriculum and online resources and tools
  • Teacher 2 Teacher culture – teachers meeting after school to learn and brainstorm new ideas
  • 1 official Tech Day (Jan and teachers present)
  • 1:1 recommended start-up training
    • Level 1 – basic laptop
    • Level 2 – How to use apps
    • Level 3 – how to use with kids (4 days – staggered throughout the year)
      • Would be great to have an online component to this training.
    • 3 year plan?  21st Century Partnership, ISTE



  • Bandwidth? how much?
    • BANDWIDTH – Gig fiber WAN (20 mb), Proxy
  • Filtering
  • Available
  • Secure
  • Healthy
  • What kind of device(s)
  • What do you need to do with learning?
  • What will you need to do with learning?
  • Online tools: LMS, CMS, CMS, etc.
    • Studywhiz, Googledocs, email, opensource?
  • Net Restore (ASR)


  • 3400 systems – 1200 in the 1:1 school
  • District Level –
    • Director
    • Network Engineer – mostly servers, phones
    • Network Administrator –
    • Database Administrator
    • Server Technician  – 80 Server, 20% workstations
  • Workstation Techs (building)
  • Electronic Communications
  • Oakland Schools (1200 computers) 1 full time coordinator, 1 full time workstation tech, 2 help desk para’s – plus support from district level people.
  • Same SSID, coverage
  • 1GB Fiber to HS data center
  • VLAN staff/student/guest network
  • RADIUS and WEP authentication
  • AFP, HTTP and HTTPS through firewall
  • Suport
    • Web Helpdesk
    • GSX (global service exchange)and SSA (self servicing account)
    • APP (Apple Care)
    • Support people – see above
  • Software
    • Web Helpdesk
    • Apple Remote Desktop (ARD)
    • Screen Sharing
    • Casper (JAMF)
    • Net Restore (ASR)

Google Docs Notes (pdf)