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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast
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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

Staying Current

This Almost Makes Me Cuss!!!

Whoops!!! Seriously?
iCloud - Pages
Did you just break my collaborations?

Apple is cutting us off from sharing any of our Pages documents in the Cloud? Yosemite is not yet available and apparently any earlier OS is no longer working in the cloud. I get it that I was using (and encouraging the use of) a
beta product. I also understand the merging and interoperability of the iOS apps and documents. But a sudden, blunt cutoff is bad for customer confidence and satisfaction.

Hope this is just a momentary reversible mistake, Apple!

Update: After almost 2 hours on the phone with Apple Support:
It appears that there is no workaround.
However, it is not as bad as the above screenshot would make you think. If you do convert to iCloud drive, the Senior Representative said you could access the files from a Mavericks machine, but the syncing of the document with two (or more) people working on it was the real issue. He couldn’t confirm that changes would be pushed up to the cloud.


iOS / iPad not 'better' but 'good different'?

I am 'Good Different'
Was provoked to dialog in a twitter exchange between Ben Grey, Jon Becker and Dean Shareski regarding Dean’s blog post: Why the iPad is Different
(this is a good blog to read- check it out!)

We lose a bit of perspective when we try and equate iOS devices to laptops and netbooks. iOS devices have taken novel technologies and have opened up one of the first genuinely new ways of interacting with a computer.

After reading various GUI Experts* critiques for years, I have been intrigued with the notion that people were tired of the Desktop/File System/Mouse/Icon ways of interacting with computers. REALLY? So what would this look like? What could be better? The iOS has answered that question for me (sometimes). Maybe not 'better' but at least "good different".

Although iOS doesn't completely change the way everything works (we still have icons and clipboard, etc.), it is a pretty radical departure that makes computing much lighter weight, generally lighter wait, and simpler. Furthermore, accelerometers, gyros, geolocation, multitouch surface, these are integrated and being integrated in ways that are refreshing, novel, and inspiring! Most of us would not have imagined the crazy things that could be done with these technologies if we were limited to a laptop or netbook form factor.

So I believe our students and educators deserve to have access to both experiences and I think that true technology literacy is developed by being aware of the strengths and appropriateness of a variety of tools.

*such as the late Jef Raskin, one of the creators of the original MacOS GUI says "shuttling between a keyboard and a mouse wastes too much time."

New Product or Special Design for ABC News?

I just don’t know what to make of this... I have frequented the ABC News bar for over a decade. AM’s with Good Morning America, World News Tonight in the evening.

More than once I have felt a mixture of disappointment, sympathy and dismay that my news team was equipped with Windows-based technology.

Yeah, I have my preferences and reserved judgements for those who don’t appreciate the Apple-branded product. So I was surprised and keenly curious when I saw the World News Tonight Anchor Diane Sawyer sitting at a modern glass desk with a very clean, austere, lines- no paper clutter, no legal pad, no ugly blockish, cheap ThinkPad, but WHAT?!!! is that an Apple MacBook Air?!!!

In another segment the papers, pencils and legal pad appear, but I can get another glance at that Apple Logo’ed product...

Second look, no, there is a Bluetooth Apple Keyboard and maybe some type of small display? Or is it... some sort of an iPad????!!! Front screen shots confirmed it was an iPad with typical app icons.

Why didn’t I immediately realize it was an iPad? I knew that ABC News was actively promoting its new iPad app. I certainly knew that the iPad app was flashy and has gotten a lot of media attention. But there was a minor detail that other bloggers had not discussed – the device appears to be about the size of an iPad, but it sure looks like it is in it’s landscape orientation, and the famous pome logo was upright!

So is this just case of lens distortion? Is it really vertical? Fascinating question of optics. Maybe part of the illusion is because it appears to be held by a
Element Case Joule iPad Stand. A paltry $129 statement of good taste and design.

Reflecting: ISTE 2010 Conference and Mobile Technology in a K12 Setting

Is Bring Your Own Technology a Good Answer?
Another technology conference has come and gone.

It is good to be home after two weeks of travel doing professional development in Minnesota and Iowa; then enjoying the companionship of like-minded ed tech’ers at ISTE 2010 in Denver, Colorado.

I’ve read a few reflections and take-aways from ISTE– one of the first was by a CIO in Illinois: Henry Thiele.

Thiele identified 5 Developing Themes from the conference. His 2nd item in his list: Personal Computing Devices.

2. We are have some pretty big decisions looming on how we are going to handle an influx of personal mobile computing devices into our society. With the ipad, new iphone, android devices in both phone and tablet forms arriving, and the continued growth and popularity of netbooks, there are a lot more discussions of how we are going to respond to this trend as schools. These conversations center around network infrastructure, policy, instructional strategies, and preparing teachers for this change.

credit: Henry Thiele

This was also major focus of my thoughts as I had just delivered the first iPad in Education workshop for Apple Professional Development and had participated in ISTE’s Leadership Bootcamp right before the general conference. It is another question that grows out of economics and the mandate placed on adult educators to manage the student’s learning experiences.

  • It is difficult (particularly given today’s economic conditions) to pay for every student to have their own laptop.
  • More and more students have portable devices that have more computing power than the systems that sent men to the moon.
  • If this is what the students already have for learning and communicating devices, doesn’t it make sense to build on existing skills?

Ok, fine! It is hard to argue with the above... but taking the position of the average educator in the classroom (in spite of the fact we expect them to all be extraordinary)–
  • If we rely on student/family provided technology, educators will no longer be an agent of leveling educational advantages- we will be amplifying the technology gap.
  • We will not have consistent, or even similar technologies to engage the students with in our activities. In a very pluralistic society, how many different types of cell phones would you expect to see in a class of 25 students? How many different menuing systems? Different feature sets? Different service plans, ie: how many students have limited vs. unlimited texting? Can you imagine the average teacher having to navigate these waters? Troubleshoot all these devices?
  • Processor power aside, many of these devices are at their core very specialized devices- meant primarily for allowing people to remain connected and informed of and by specific types of content. Even though the iPad’s touch keyboard is very good and nearly the same size as a laptop keyboard, a touch typist like myself cannot be as efficient composing an essay and formatting a term paper. Doing this on an iPod touch is like choosing a toothpick to dig a well with–it is the antithesis of choosing the right tool for the job.
  • If we are relying on parent purchased / student owned hardware, not only are there issues with hardware consistencies / equalities, but software required for specialized activities such as concept (mind) mapping, video editing / conversion, etc. become impossible to manage. We have had a taste of this already with the average teachers getting frustrated over versions of software and interchangeability between file formats and installed fonts.
  • Not only are these devices owned by individuals (not enterprises), but they are designed for use and management by individuals– so even if the students/parents were to provide “administrative” access to these devices- most of them do not permit or have the tools that enterprises are used to having for management/troubleshooting, etc.
  • Finally, there is the reality of malware, theft, and physical damage that occurs to these devices while the students are under our supervision. If they voluntarily bring them to school there is still a limited level of liability– but if they are required or compelled to bring them to school we have just increased the school’s liability considerably.

One might argue that these are real world problems that students will encounter in the workplace and as adults, but even as an educational technology advocate, I think we need to be fair in our expectations of the teachers, administrators as well as what we are asking of our institutions.


A Call for Leadership

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The Profiles for Technology Literate Students document that ISTE published has taken us a little closer to the practical implementation of NETS for Students. However, we are still a long way from seeing it put into practice in the average classroom.

Now it is up to the educators on the front lines to assess where their students are in the continuum of learning and articulate what a skilled, literate student should be able to do and explain.
An important question:
Are most teachers prepared, willing and encouraged
to do that?
  • We are ALL technology teachers. Much like last decade’s battle cry: “We are all reading teachers!”– ALL educators need to own this one, but who and what says they will? One of the best blog entries I read this year was by Kim Cofino: We Are All Technology Teachers
  • Technology is (by definition) the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes – so it is both a question of which tool is best for the task, and which tool will students be most motivated to use?
  • New content knowledge, new technologies, the scope of responsibilities, documentation requirements, increased scrutiny on scholastic improvement – today’s teachers have an overwhelming set of pressures that seem to expand every day. These teachers have many stresses and tensions competing for their attention and work hours. Until we back off on some of these other expectations, and attach real value to technology integration, it will be impossible for all but the exceptional teacher to climb on board.
  • Technologies are changing so fast, even the tech savvy enthusiasts find it a challenge to figure out how to use them within a school setting.
  • Federal, state, district, school, and department leadership must support and encourage teachers to use newer technologies. If accountability only addresses the MESH (math, english, science, history) standards, and teachers/schools are only ‘graded’ on test scores, it really doesn’t matter how engaging and exciting new technologies are for the majority of the teachers.

So given those premises, do you think that most teachers are prepared, willing and encouraged to assess and prepare technology infused lessons with current 2009-2010 era state of the art technologies?

We see and we brag about isolated lessons and activities, we read the blogs and twitters amongst the high achievers, but the real challenge is to make it the rule and not the exception for K12 student’s educational experience. For the 80% (conservative guestimate) of the teachers that don’t feel compelled or prepared to really integrate what most would consider 21st century technology skills, we need to provide more practical specifics of what should be taught and how to assess it.

For the purposes of example, let’s examine the one part of the profile given for students aged 11-14 from the document on ISTE’s website Profiles for Technology Literate Students:

Profile for Technology (ICT) Literate Students Grades 6–8 (Ages 11–14)
The following experiences with technology and digital resources are examples of learning activities in which students might engage during Grades 6–8 (ages 11–14):1) Describe and illustrate a content-related concept or process using a model, simulation, or concept-mapping software. (1, 2)

National Educational Technology Standards for Students © 2007 ISTE. All Rights Reserved.

So what should happen in the seventh grade based on example
#1: Describe and illustrate a content-related concept or process using a model, simulation, or concept-mapping software.

I usually give teachers the benefit of doubt and respect they deserve, so please forgive me if it sounds as though I question the capabilities of my colleagues, my experience is that many of them are at a loss for how to blend an assessment of technology skills and content. Part of the issue is a narrow-minded view of assessment (brought on by standards based, bubble-in-the-scantron assessments). Or maybe it is the ease of using multiple choice and true or false.

But it is also a question of enriching our communication with the student, after all, that is what assessment in education revolve around- communication.
So as we develop rubrics for 21st Century Skills embedded in our content areas, we need to examine how the students best learn and what forms of communication will show their understanding. Our rubrics need to address both evidence of content understanding and skills in learning and communicating that content.

So in the quoted example from NETS, our assessments need to include both an indication of understanding, and an effective use of technology to communicate that understanding. If the students were creating concept maps for instance, the teacher should look for a minimum number of proper terms used, each word connected with an appropriate connecting phrase. Skills would included appropriate distances (proximity) between terms, complexity of branches, cycles and other patterns. The product of the activity would provide both content assessment and skill assessment for using the technology tool. The teacher would have successfully provided an opportunity for the student to master technology as well as curriculum content.
Part of the pushback from teachers for teaching technology skills in the context of their curriculum occurs when they realize how deficient the student’s technology skills are. And this because so few teachers are teaching with and about new technologies.

The teacher that does try to use the new technology find they are teaching more technology than curriculum content, because there is no scaffolding, no consistent previous experience.

In short, we really need to move beyond “How cool is that?!” keynote speeches, we need more explanation of how to assign grades to students who are effectively or not so effectively using the technology. We need leadership that really encourages technology integration by rewarding it. And we need every teacher to teach technology.
That would really move the ball forward!

Facebook Surprises

Yesterday marked another year of being the shupester. I spent a good part of it preparing and participating in the finale of Rock Our World #11. As I reflected on my day and changes in my life, I couldn’t help but be surprised at how the landscape of my world has changed.

I am a pretty ‘local’ guy in many respects. Although I love traveling, I live within several miles of where I was born. In spite of job offers, I am teaching (and doing the Tech Director thing) in the same room that I started my teaching career in 27 years ago. Although I never expected to be living where I do, I still live in the first house my wife and I bought almost 25 years ago.

As close as my birthday is to Thanksgiving, it is even more natural to be in the thankful heart mode on December 5th. I was both surprised and humbled by the many happy birthdays from friends and colleagues, more than I ever remember receiving.

There were the regular close friends and family, members of my spiritual family... but then there were many, many that I had not expected. That steely-cold, impersonal, binary world of technology had done it again. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Plaxo, iPhones, etc. have not only made my life’s events more accessible, but made it easy to acknowledge from afar – instantly!

So rather than isolating, technology bridged large gaps between years (junior high friends, college roommates), generations (students, former students), intellects and skills (a wide range of education, social position and talents) – broadening my world and the richness of my social experience. I was simply shocked by the variety of people that took time to send me birthday wishes. Once again, technology has amplified my life experience.

Yea, I am tired of Farmville!

I am a longtime fan of social networks- I think that social networking is one of the paradigm shifters of this age. But seriously Facebook, do I have to see this stuff everytime I check in?

I want to keep up to date with my friends, but some of these idiotic ‘games’, ‘apps’, ‘surveys’, ‘profiles’, ‘trivia challenges’, etc. are getting terribly tedious and annoying.

I would rather know that you had a bagel for breakfast, than that you have a ‘Virtual Aquarium’. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!

Facebook, is there any way to opt out of such idiocy? I don’t want to dump my friends and sometimes they have something worthwhile to day... I don’t want to judge their use of time- every should give their brain a vacation occasionally, but come on!!!

Finally Back

It has been a struggle to take time out to write anything meaningful in this blog. I have got to get beyond the idea that it has to be revolutionary to be expressed.

Been marking off the "First I Gottas" before installing Leopard (Mac OS 10):
  • Upgrade memory on my MacBook Pro: 4 GB
  • Purchase a Terrabyte Firewire 800 Drive for running Time Machine (see below)
  • Clone my harddrive to an external firewire drive.
  • Upgrade harddrive in my MacBook Pro: 250 GB
  • Install the latest flavor of OS X - Leopard.
  • Migrate the my old user folder and extra applications.
  • Keep my old (smaller) MacBook Pro drive in a portable USB drive with my "new laptop" so I can recover any missing serial numbers, etc. Gasp
Very pleased so far. Struggled a bit with completing the first complete Time Machine backup. It "stopped" in the middle of a few efforts and a few times I had to disconnect it to go someplace.

Have You Been TWIT-ted?

Those of you that paused for more than 3 minutes on the now extinct TechTV will also remember the fascinating breadth of technology coverage that the hosts brought us.

Everything from hardware to software, gaming to mission critical apps, computer devices to consumer toys... they brought us the best and discussed the worse. The hosts were very balanced and platform (operating system) agnostic- brutally honest and also given to providing quality solutions to problems. Special guests were brought into the studio and we were given a window into not only the technology, but the unique history of invention, personalities, and corporate politics.

What was really special about the show was the comfortable balance that the hosts struck between providing a resource for the common man and woman and getting really geeky and technical.

Also part of the charm of the show was the banter and interplay of personalities. While each of the hosts were quite knowledgeable, it was clear no one was an expert on everything. So each topic was tossed between the hosts and the guest experts, with fun little barbs and teasing that gave it family-like feel.

But alas, all good things come to an end... and Comcast bought out TechTV in May (2005) and fired the staff, then launched a gaming channel: G4TV

Much of digerati was pretty disgusted with this - from the East Coast (New York Times) to the West Coast (Wired Magazine) the complaints were numerous and loud.

The New York Times' Circuits columnist David Pogue, a frequent visitor to TechTV's The Screen Savers, wrote two columns about the merger -- one lamenting the loss of TechTV as a tech-oriented resource for users of all ages and experience levels, and a follow-up quoting from some of the hundreds of messages he's received through e-mail and at his forum.

(more from the Wired article quote above here)

One of the elders of the show was a Leo Laporte.

This summer, Leo took his schtick to the world of podcasts. Similar to TechTV in format, Leo has assembled some very well connected, widely experienced regulars that include
John C. Dvorak and a variety of special guests such as the co-founder of Apple Computer Steve Woziniak, security expert Steve Gibson, and Opera Founder, Jon van Tetzner. Their new endeavor is called this Week in Tech (or TWIT) and it is really an entertaining, enlightening, hour long broadcast. One thing that sets it apart from most other podcasts is the lively discussion between four or five twits all during each episode. Sometimes the format is akin to an interview especially when there is a special guest, but most of the time it is a four or five way discussion that only occasionally turns into a four or five way circus Winking

So just how good is TWIT?

It is really quite excellent- consistently in the top 5 Podcasts on iTunes.... The world's most listened to podcast and winner of the 2005 People's Choice Podcast Award.

Ok, I will have to admit, I don't often find time to listen to podcasts... quite honestly, I prefer to listen to music on my iPods. And music is something that I am more comfortable sharing with people around me when I am in the car or sitting in my livingroom... a podcast is usually more directed towards individual interests and tastes. But this is a podcast worth setting some time aside for.