Summer Staff Development Budget – Reinstated

FundingWOOT WOOT! Tonight, I left my district Staff Development committee meeting totally thrilled!  My full summer academy budget from several years ago (previously cut in half), has been reinstated.  So, the brainstorming begins…. Here are some possibilities that I am tooling in my head.  Would love to hear feedback and other ideas!

  1. eLearning – Flipped, hybrids, fully online – Whether it is learning how to create 24/7  learning objects to developing  fully online courses, we need to break “school” learning from our classroom’s traditional 4 walls.  We have received some great recognition of our Flipped Math/No textbooks curriculum…It makes sense that we continue to  expand it to other classrooms or schools.
  2. Moblile Learning – iPods, IPads, BYOD – we have them all and we need a better understanding on how to integrate them into our classrooms.  According to a recent (HS) survey, 80% of our students have a device, yet only 22% of our classrooms allow them on a regular basis.  We need to understand their potential.  Of course, increasing the amount of online content will help  – but I feel we need to showcase the possibilities of using these devices to create learning artifacts vs. just passively watching videos or surfing the web.  The biggest challenge, finding/understanding apps/sites that are endpoint independent.  They are out there – we just need to put them in our “bag o tricks”.  Possibly find a MN expert to visit?
  3. Collaboration – At the top of this list is Google Apps for Education. While there are tons and TONS of cool and collaborative things that can happen in our classrooms…there is just as many time savers and opportunities to collaborate in our offices.  Right behind GAFE is social media and Web 2.0. So many tools, so little time.  Leaving with just 1 tool, is enough to begin the transformation of a classroom.  I might have to steal @Mark Garrison’s 50 sites in 50 minutes idea…. Or better yet – invite him. (Hmmm)
  4. PLN –  Why wait for district sponsored events to learn? There are many opportunities for us to connect to learning opportunities when we are ready to learn…  Not to mention, we can connect and collaborate with some fantastic people!  (and I certainly have – thank you PLN!)
  5. IWB – I know,  I know, not everyone is on the IWB bandwagon, but we have already spent the $ and have them installed in our classrooms. We need to improve our staffs use of these devices. Truly finding ways to make them Interactive (with students vs. the Sage on the Stage) is worth looking into.  Also looking at specialized training according to subject area.  Special Ed, Early Childhood, elementary math, reading, science – as well as effectively incorporating them at the MS and HS.
  6. Other possibilities… Utilizing Formative Assessments, Improving Reading, Math, Science instruction, Differentiation, RTI, PLCs.  Not all of our academy sessions solely focused on technology – so these are some opportunities.     I would LOVE to hear of MN experts who I could possibly connect with on these topics to have them come for a visit!

Below is the data I collect every year after our academy.  Thought it was appropriate to share.  I really would like to see the Teacher Lesson/PLPs increased.  Maybe the extra $ will help support that goal.  I also want to expand online learning opportunities – Anytime, anywhere learning is very appealing  – especially with busy summer schedules.  Here are the offerings from last year goo.gl/LtPxB.

Academy Data

Bears Professional Growth Academy 2012 will be August 7-9. Well at least the f2f opportunities.  Looking forward to another great summer of learning!

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?

Making the case for Facebook in Education

DISCLAIMER – This post has links to  content that is on Facebook.  If you are reading this in a distinct who blocks Facebook you will not be able to view it without a filter bypass password!

During the MN State 2010 Memo conference, a media specialist announced to the group of a couple of hundred participants… “Osseo Public Schools has an opening for a Media Specialist. We filter, but we do not block content in our district. Wiki’s, Blogs, Youtube and Facebook are open and available to our staff and students”.

Youtube was open in my district only a year ago. Opening it up quickly moved Youtube from a “distraction” to innovation… and finally to a trans-formative classroom tool in less than 1 years time. Not only does it provide endless “just in time” video tutorials, curriculum support, it also has been used to showcase our students work. However, the transformation came when Math teachers decided to start posting SMART board lecture to it and use it as an integral part of their eCurriculum. (The Math department has decided to discontinue the use of expensive and antiquated textbooks and put all of their content online – but that is for another blog post!) Now, through the use of Moodle, Youtube, and other tools – students have access to learning resources 24/7. The cost for this tool = $0. The cost to support this tool = $0. The value of this tool in teaching, learning (including mlearning) = priceless!

Facebook, on the other hand, is blocked for students and staff in my district. In my own personal use of the tool, I am now recognizing that work and personal information are blurring. I subscribe to many educational Fan Pages, Groups, and have had some fantastic discussions with folks all over the world via Facebook! The comment by the Osseo media specialist resonated with me so much, that I decided I had to do something to start a conversation in my own district to consider opening Facebook to staff and students. If I were an innovative and talented teacher, who had a couple of job offers on the table:

  • District A: Great school district, great community, great kids, BLOCKS social media tools like Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook from staff and students.
  • District B: Great school district, great community, great kids, social media is OPEN to staff and students and teachers are encouraged to find educational use of the tool that all kids are using anyway.

Which one I would choose? To me its easy.   Sure, there may be those who would much prefer District A – but for district leaders – who do you want in your talent pool?

And so my journey began. The following presentation, Making the case for Facebook in education,  has been shared (f2f) with district leaders as well as our district technology committee.

While presenting, I spoke of the Osseo’s, the Mankato’s, and the District 287’s. All MN districts that I consider tech savvy, innovative, and have always been on the cutting edge in teaching and learning practices. (I also realize there are MORE MN schools than my short list!) At the request of my admin team, I developed a Google Form to find out if other schools block/don’t block Facebook and why. The form was dispersed to MEMO’s distribution list as well as other regional lists with the following questions:

Does your district currently block Facebook?

  • Yes – it is blocked for staff and students
  • Yes – it is blocked for students only
  • No – Facebook is OPEN for all students and staff

What is your district’s rationale for this decision?

I was very happy with the response. We had 67 people respond to the survey representing 59 MN districts. I decided to summarize the above questions and include the RATIONALE given by districts. View the full summary here (Google Doc).

Summary of information of the survey

Summary of respondents

My (UNOFFICIAL) analysis of the district’s rationale to block Facebook included these top 3 reasons:

  1. Safety/Content/CIPA
  2. No Educational Value
  3. Time Management/Distraction

My response to the top 3 reasons why MN schools block Facebook

Safety/Content/CIPA – In a district that blocks Facebook – most likely the only time those offices deal with Facebook is in the cases where there are discipline issues and cyberbulling. Because of this, It is hard for schools to recognize the value of something when a few of our students are not using the tool correctly. But when/where are we educating our kids on the proper use of these social tools? Many of our parents do not understand the technology nor the repercussions of posting inappropriate things on profiles. I truly feel it is our responsibility, as educational institutions, to be educating our students (as well as staff and communities) on the proper use of today’s social media – and first on the list should be Facebook. Why do we wait to have a Facebook discussion when the kid is in our office and in trouble?

As for CIPA, that is not a valid excuse. Please take note – CIPA only requires that schools (who apply for erate funds for Internet) block sites that are: obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors). If Facebook were “harmful” to minors do you think President Obama or even the MN Department of Education would have a Facebook Fan page?

No Educational Value – There is educational value with Facebook. We all need to do our homework. Besides what you already know or what you have learned from this post – here are other resources you can use to get the conversation started:

After doing your own investigations…. Start following educational entities and learn how they are using Facebook to share information as well as receive input from stakeholders.  Share what you learn/know with district leaders and staff. You should be having the same conversation in your district as we are in ours.

Time Management/Distraction – I realize that Facebook can be distracting to students and teachers. I realize that time management is always a concern and students and staff should be taught to use Facebook appropriately. If the rules are not followed, then we need policies to be put in place to address those issues. BUT, I also know that Facebook is distracting my personal time with learning. Excellent learning opportunities continue to occur for me while surfing my Facebook family and friends status updates. The potential for informal or incidental learning is tremendous and we need to figure out how we can tap into this!

I would like to complete my thoughts and say that if we continue to block Facebook in our district’s, especially for our teachers and staff, we may never realize the educational value Facebook has. As of today, my district is still blocking Facebook. But we are having the conversation! According to my results from a little survey of MN schools we are part of the NORM. Is this NORMAL good enough?