Synthesizing #memo10 – Ideas to take home

Reflections from Memo

Day 1 of the Memo conference, and I have been completely energized.  The day started out with an excellent keynote by Buffy Hamilton (@buffyjhamilton), the Unquiet Librarian.  Her message – “Beyond Balance; participatory librarianship for creating , connecting, conversing, and contributing” was highly engaging and motivating. (I tried embedding -didnt work..sniff)

Even though her target audience was media specialists, I found that much, or I should say most, of what she shared could be incorporated in any classroom, school, or district.  “Where does the library live? What are the physical and virtual spaces like?” – led me to think about our classrooms  and schools.  How do we build effective virtual spaces and more importantly how do we cultivate participatory learning in these spaces?  In her library, there is a sense of shared ownership of learning between her students and staff. Her goal – build on passions. Shouldn’t we also be cultivating this in our schools?

Her ideas to get started – map out your vision – literally. (please note learning environments on her map – thumbs up!)  I think I would like to try this technique with our district technology committee to assist with technology planning.  However, why stop there? This technique could be done in any classroom, department, committee, school, or district.  As we develop our plans, goals, vision – it is the follow thru that has the planning worthwhile.  “DOING vs. PLANNING” is taking your vision, your plan, and putting it into action.  Make sure your planning and visioning has plenty of input/approval from stakeholders (shared conversations)  – because when it is time to “walk the talk” it’s those folks that will need to help you deliver the vision.


Next on my schedule… demonstration and discussion about eBooks by Dawn Nelson (@dawnrnelson) and Lin Salisbury.  I have to admit I am behind in understanding the opportunities with this technology and this was a great session to get me up to speed.  My take aways… library’s can purchase an ebook and share it simultaneously with up to 6 devices. (Barnes and Noble Nook or Amazon Kindle)  You then check out the device to the student. Within these books you can annotate, search, and even add audio (at a fee). There are a considerable amount of FREE ebooks and nooks are compatible with ePub.  Prices for Nooks start at $149.

What gets a little “muddy” is managing this.  Problems = 1 login account per 6 devices. Having 30 devices would require 5 separate accounts. Purchasing books is also a challenge.  BN only accepts credit cards and this has caused some issues in business offices.  One alternative is gift cards – but this is also a problem with school auditors.  The SCARIEST problem shared, (that left me shaking in my shoes) was that the Nooks are directly linked to your account and credit card AND as of right now, there is no password protection! OUCH! The workaround… librarians will put the nook in airplane mode which will not give the nook access to the internet.  However – how long before the student figures out how to take to turn the Internet back on? Hello Shopping Spree!   Management and security seem to be a problem right now but I am sure BN will eventually figure out a way to make it work better. I really like the idea so that leads me to wonder about the iPad?  From what I understand  – there are apps for BN or Amazon or a bazillion other useful programs.  I don’t have an iPad yet – I think its time.  Still waiting on the Google Pad. Hurry up already!

Another session with Buffy

“Strategies for Keeping Up with (Almost Everything)”. It was a no brainer…after the excellent keynote in the morning, that I was going to attend a session with Buffy Hamilton.  One of my goals this year is to help our staff develop their own personal learning networks (PLNs).  This session was perfect timing!  I love the title “Strategies for Keeping Up” ! Instead of a title like “Creating a PLN”, which can appear to be another new thing, and extra… this title makes developing a PLN to be more helpful to organize and manage information.  Some takeaways…” “Walk before you Run”.

Looking or explaining my PLN may look very scary for staff.

However, starting small and  “cultivating their passions” is key.  It is also beneficial to show the tools to help them organize information. Google Reader, iGoogle, Netvibes, ect…(personal note – I need to master iGoogle!)  Even if they do not want to share their thoughts publicly (tweet, blog) in this case…it is OK to be a “lurker”.

Presenting with Doug

Next I was privileged to co Present “To Friend or Not to Friend: A guide for Teachers Using Social and Educational Networking Sites” with the  Blue Skunk Blogger Doug Johnson (@BlueSkunkBlog).  Even though I was extremely nervous, the audience made me feel very comfortable. They were receptive to our presentation and there was a great exchange of dialog/ideas. Yeah – I learned too!   My take away from this experience/presentation.  First of all – Doug is a master presenter. He has a great talent in engaging conversation with the audience, and making it interactive.  This is something I need to continue to work on – instead of “showering the crowd” with information, it is more influential to guide them into conclusions based on ideas and information. (guide on the side vs sage on the stage)

My other take away…is that districts still continue to have problems with sites being blocked in their districts. Youtube is blocked, Wikis are blocked, Blogs are blocked, Social Networks are blocked. Sometimes it is the settings on the filter, but most seem to blame the  “Network Gestapo”.  CIPA is usually the excuse given to block sites. But take note – CIPA only requires that schools (who apply for erate funds for Internet) require schools to block sites that are: obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).  Creating a classroom blog, wiki, or youtube channel is NOT HARMFUL TO MINORS.  Blocking these sites is a DETRIMENT to education and your students learning is being hampered.  Classroom innovation and transformation will never happen without access to these tools.  My advice, devise a team (include students), and a plan targeting the educational value (include baby steps). Showcase the innovation in other districts aka…what is NOT happening in your district.  Don’t stop at the Gestapo if you get turned down. Your administration and board may be much more receptive.  Booster Clubs and PTA can be also be effective.  Please do not give up the battle!

Here are a couple of youtube channels for your Bag of Tricks

Hanging with District 287

I’ll be honest. Being it was almost 3pm and after a day of total engagement, I wasn’t sure that I was going to get much out of “Stimulate your district’s Online Courses” with John Fila and Mike Smart (@moodleshare).  I was soooo wrong. Talk about save the best for last!  Right now our district is at a pivotal transition.  Moodle has made an entry in our district and we are beginning to develop blended moodle courses as well as fully online courses.  The course design techniques shared as well as the FREE courses/units (aligned to MN or National standards) were AMAZING.  A little background…District 287 received an E2T2 grant and had around 80 teachers apply to develop courses and units (after being trained). These teachers were from all grade levels and subject areas. What is very nice about the free units/courses is that you can go in and preview the content and then decide to download what you like.  Eventually the plan is to make them available at the Minnesota Learning Commons.

As for the design techniques – I can’t explain how excited I was to see this.  We have all heard of Presentation Zen but I have never witnessed Moodle Zen.  Stunning graphics and visually appealing.  No scroll of death!  There is a trick to it –I think between working with labels and hiding topics, (moodle terms) is how they do it.  They also have a very good eye for media design. They are now developing Minnesota Licensure courses for their staff to take.  They have a wonderful orientation course required of all their students. (they believe their success rates have gone up because of this requirements).  Hey John and Mike – you guys need a whole day session OR an online class that I can enroll in to learn this.  It is very unique and needs to be shared!  Where do I sign up????? Oh by the way – in their district they have a position called “Innovation Coaches”.  This is like a duty for a teacher or a .1 position in every building.  What an empowering position that must be!

MDE Bridge Plan – Goals and Strategies

Flickr photo by Eggman

Flickr photo by Eggman

School districts that apply for Erate must have to have an approved technology plan ON File with the Minnesota Department of Education.  This year we are required to submit a bridge plan to share updates on the previous 2008-11 technology plans.    I decided to post the goals and related strategies of the plan to my blog as I am most definitely interested in feedback.  Many of these strategies are already underway while others will be a work in progress.

Goal: Ensure that all Byron students fully engage in a 21st century learning environment.

  • Investigate distance/online options for teaching and learning and develop a comprehensive e-Plan for district implementation.
  • Develop assessment model to determine district’s eReadiness
  • Pilot/Research mobile technologies and develop a mobile learning plan to extend student access as well as learning and teaching to Byron staff and students.
  • Work with district principals to develop a technology integration observation/assessment model for all K12 classrooms
  • Expand 24/7 access to student courses and learning materials (K-12)
  • Update district’s current technology assessment to include current technologies and transformative instructional practices.
  • Monitor the use of Google Apps for Education with staff and students

Goal: Centralize and strengthen support services

  • Implement a centralized support/ticket system
  • Investigate and implement a remote desktop support system

Goal: Expand professional development opportunities through online courses/resources

  • Expand the pool of certified Byron online teachers through participation of district’s 36 credit hour “Facilitating Online Learning” course.
  • Promote PLN’s (Personal Learning Networks) to all district staff
  • Expand BEARS PGA to include online opportunities
  • Explore and expand opportunities by collaborating with regional and statewide networks

Goal: Improve district hardware and infrastructure.

  • Research and develop a teacher laptop replacement plan for summer 2011 to include 2 options of laptops based on user needs. (power vs standard)
  • Implement district’s first virtual desktop lab.  Monitor the ROI of the
  • Investigate asset management technologies

Goal: Increase Communication between Staff, Students, and Community

  • Explore and increase the use of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube) as a communication tool for the Byron Public Schools parents, students, and community.
  • Monitor and promote effective use of Infinite Campus and its parent portals K-12

I appreciate the state of MN publishing approved plans(pdf) online as it helps me to learn what others districts are planning and also gauge the technology vision of our district with other schools.  I have been told there can be up to 1 month turn around for approval.  MN Districts are advised to submit their plans soon – to ensure approval before the next erate cycle.

Goal 4 – Teacher laptop replacement plan

Goal 4 – Research and develop a teacher laptop replacement plan for summer 2011.

ThinkPad X100e
ThinkPad X100e

It is amazing how fast 3 years go by!  Next summer, we will be looking at another teacher laptop refresh.  All of our teachers and administrators have had wirless laptops since the 2001!  Typically, in the past, we have provided ALL teachers with the same laptop. The laptop specifications were robust and I believe that the 50 or 60 percent of our staff do not come close to utilizing all the features of the systems.  (not official)  These systems were also more expensive.  Again, with the financial status of our district we need to be able to cut down on the spending to support this project for our 115+ users.  The last time we looked at systems there was no such thing as a netbook.  One laptop/netbook we are currently looking at is the X100e Lenovo Thinkpad.  It has a full keyboard, nice sturdy design, and has everything that low end or even mid end users would take advantage of.  Light, Mobile, Nice screen ratio! This next go around we may have a couple of options for staff to chose from based on computer usage and needs.

Stay tuned…more goals to follow!  I would love to hear feedback!

Goal 3 – Virtual Technology

Goal 3 – Implement Virtual Technology.

It is time for us to begin the process and adopt virtual technology in our district.  Summer plans include beginning to virtualize our servers.  We have acquired quite a server farm over the years! I see  improved IT management  and  energy savings as significant reason to make the move!  We are also piloting our first virtual desktop computer lab.  Now, there are some people that say the cost savings are almost ½ of what a desktop lab is.  Client to client that may be true – but you need to have a larger server with more capacity to be able to push out to those virtual desktop clients.  If you are going between buildings – you had better be sure that your WAN connection can support the number of clients.  In doing our own checking – we would have to upgrade from a 1B to a 10GB connection to support this.  Again, what I see as the advantage – is the energy savings and the efficiency of IT management.  So you have a spyware bug? Reboot.  Need to add a new application – add it to the image.   I am sure there will be future blogging – and tweeting about this topic.  If it is as good as I have been reading and hearing about we will expand the technology in other schools in the future!

Goal 2 – Robust Support System

Flickr photo by Katiew

Flickr photo by Katiew

Goal 2 –  Research and implement district wide help desk system.

This goal has been on my “to do” list for a while.  Right now, the way we provide support is somewhat fragmented.  There is no systemic process of how problems/solutions are communicated.  Email is the primary way of staff making “requests” but there are also phone calls, sticky notes, instant messages, text messages, and the friendly f2f “Hey Jen?”.  Well, as you can imagine – and I have come to realize – is that the way we prioritize and actually provide the support can also be fragmented.  Of course it is easy to prioritize big issue items like Internet, Network, Email, ect – because of the amount of users it impacts.  But the smaller requests, are more difficult especially when we are getting requests by so many different methods.  So what am I looking for?

  • Something EASY.  The last thing I want is some big complicated system that is difficult for our end-users or difficult for us (techs) to support.
  • Something CHEAP/FREE. In light of our financial status we need a system that is economical.  Is it possible to develop a system with Google Apps? Is there an open source option?  I just really need to get the bulk of my requests OUT of my inbox and into a centralized system! Which leads me to…
  • Something CENTRALIZED with ROBUST REPORTING capabilities.  Right now I can’t tell you how many issues we fix in a day, month, year –  nor can I  tell you if we have systemic “small” problems across our buildings.  Is the support load of one of our techs unmanageable?  Are their problems that consistently come up that training or support materials need to be created to support? Is there a knowledgebase of “fixes” where our end users can find their own answers?

I would LOVE to hear what your district uses and how it has helped your district!

Goal 1 – ePlanning

As one school year ends, another begins.  I am going to post to my blog my goals I would like to have accomplished during the 2010-11 school year.  (There are 10!)

Flickr photo by Jen Hega

Flickr photo by Jen Hega

Goal 1- Investigate distance/online options for teaching and learning and develop a comprehensive e-Plan for district implementation.
This year, I have seen a significant rise in the use of technology in our district.  Digital storytelling, Wiki’s, Blogging, Social Networking, as well as a wealth of Web2.0 tools are engaging and impacting learning and teaching in our classrooms.

In January, our district transitioned to Google Apps for Education, and this summer we are preparing for a student transition as well.  It is exciting to see the innovations that staff and teachers have come up with – so quickly after implementation.  To put it frankly, we are having unbelievable conversations and ideas to come up with new and much more efficient ways to obtain, collect, and communicate information.  This summer we will be integrating Google  Apps with our students.  I have even registered for a third domain for elementary students in which we can provide “walled garden” access to the suite of collaborative tools.

Our teacher’s use of Moodle is also influencing learning beyond our brick and mortar classrooms.  I announced earlier that our high school math department has unanimously decided to “ditch textbooks”. By developing their own curriculum with a blend of open education resources (oer) and teacher created content –   students will have 24/7 access to teacher content/ lecture.

We recently installed our own Moodle server so that we, as a district, have more control over design and user access with Moodle.  This summer we plan to merge several of the district systems (Active Directory, Moodle, and Google Apps) to provide a more user-friendly experience for our students and a more efficient experience for support services. (yeah!)

These examples are just the tip of the elearning iceberg.  I am very proud of what we have going on in our district, yet I truly feel that a comprehensive plan needs to be developed to put all the pieces (image) together. Right now, we have a piecemeal of activity happening, and need a systemic approach to ensure that all our students have access/experience to effective collaborative online environments.  Please note – that I feel eLearning does NOT need to be just fully online courses – but can also represent a blend of activities in the f2f or blended (part f2f/part online) classroom.

What do you think? What other pieces are there in this eLearning puzzle?  It’s going to be a journey – for sure!

A little reminder of copyright…

I was recently asked to clarify copyright laws and district policy (currently under our Acceptable Use Policy) when creating classroom/sports memorabilia movies/DVD’s.   If teachers and/or coaches use copyrighted music, (whether it has been purchased from sites like iTunes or downloaded from purchased CD’s) then the final works cannot be copied and distributed to students and families (without the owner/publisher’s permission) under copyright law.  Using music for this purpose does not qualify for Fair Use.

Copyright for Kids does a good job of how to ask permission from record companies to use all or portions of music in these productions.   However, I find this somewhat tedious and time consuming especially since permission must be asked of each song used. There is no guarantee you will have proper permission to use these works in a timely fashion to distribute your copies.

But what is an educator to do? I would encourage you to look for background music under the Creative Commons.  This is a fairly new set of copyright licenses in which authors and creators of content determine how their works are to be shared on the Internet. (Versus you having to seek permission)  Please click the video below to help you understand how Creative Commons works.

To learn more about the specifics of these  licenses please visit the Creative Commons About Licenses website.  Below are several sites in which you can look for music to use in your videos.

To learn more about the law and the use of music in educational multimedia presentations, please look at the University of Texas’s Fair Use Guidelines For Educational Multimedia.  I think they do a very good job interpreting the law under fair use.

Bidding adieu to textbooks…

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Andrew Wertheimer

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Andrew Wertheimer

This summer our high school math department will be leaving their old, heavy, dusty textbooks behind and will be developing and moving their curriculum online.  While this may seem like a considerable charge (for a team of five) there are several reasons why they decided – Now is the time to move!

  • Money talks – Especially when there is none.  Just like most districts in the state of MN, our district is facing budget reductions.  There is no money for new textbooks.
  • New Standards – The state of MN has been shifting and restructuring the math standards and many of the current HS math courses need adjusting to match those standards – starting in the 2010-11 school year.
  • Current textbook Use – The team has identified that the  majority of our students do not use textbook as learning resources but use them for homework assignments only. They are heavy, dated, and lack real world application.
  • Open Education – New open education resources like Hippocampus, Curriki, or Connexions are free online sites with organized learning modules so teachers do not have to reinvent the wheel. (many are multimedia rich)
  • Learning Styles – Textbooks only address a limited number of learning styles and are generally not for the visual or auditory learners.  They are not interactive, very impersonal, and lack the collaborative learning students today crave.
  • Access 24/7 – The math department has already made the decision to begin recording video SMART board lessons/lectures/demonstrations, storing them on Youtube, and organizing the content within Moodle.  Students will have 24/7 access to these resources, and can watch and (RE)watch the recordings as many times as it takes to understand the concepts.  (Many students will not ask questions in class in fear of looking  “stupid” in front of their peers)
  • Living Curriculum – Since the team will be creating the curriculum – they will also be able to adjust and improve upon the courses as needed.  Forever.
  • Future  Delivery of Public Education – Reports indicate that half of high school courses could be online by 2019.  Governor Pawlenty recently proposed to require every high school graduate, beginning in 2013, to take an online course, participate in an online experience or participate in online experiences.  Developing a blended curriculum in the math department will prepare our students AND teachers for the eminent shift in the delivery of public education.

There may be many more benefits than the ones I have identified above.  There will also be roadblocks that we will have to address. (like computer access)  We will tackle those problems as they occur.  I am looking forward to this new journey and the opportunities it will give our students!

Teachers computers on lockdown…

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Daniel Y. Go

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Daniel Y. Go

I can relate to  Doug Johnson’s blog post The Changing Role of Tech Support.  In his blog, he describes how some district’s:

“…technology departments are raising barriers rather than creating possibilities about new resources – especially when the objections seem rather spurious (security of GoogleApps, bandwidth for YouTube, predators on Facebook, licensing of Skype, etc.). Are the concerns real or just because the way of doing something is different?”

In a recent discussion…  blaming problems of spyware, malware it was the opinion of some districts tech departments to block and lock down everything – including teacher systems. Software like Deep Freeze, was being installed on teacher computers and teachers did not have “administrative” rights to bypass this security allowing them to install software, including opensource/free apps.    They (techs) decide what apps are allowed on the machines and teachers are left to talk the techs into installing the software for them, when it is convenient to the techs.

One example given was a district decision NOT to support or install JING, a free screen capture tool from Techsmith.  The district only supported Camstudio, another free app.  As an advocate for transparent educational technology – I really want my teachers to find the tool that they are most comfortable with to adapt and – most of all – integrate into their classrooms to support student learning.  I am more proud of the fact they are recording tutorials/resources for their students rather than scrutinizing what tool they want to use to do it.

Doug describes this problem as techs being reluctant to change.  I would agree.  Just as teachers need to move from the “sole givers of information” techs also need to move from the “sole givers of the technology”.  Do you think a better understanding of classroom pedagogy and instructional design would help these reluctant districts  accept that teachers need to have the flexibility to find, install, and practice with emerging tools to match and support their students individual learning styles and needs?

I will admit – I genuinely enjoy collaborating with (not policing) teachers when trying THEIR new ideas within their classrooms! The benefits to our students have been AMAZING!

Going Google – part 2

It has been approximately 2 months since our district went live with Google Apps for Education.  Almost immediately, our schools were buzzing with innovation and increased productivity!  I have developed a presentation for other districts who are considering implementing the Google apps.  We will go live with our students this April/May.  Good luck to you and if you have questions – please send me an email (!

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