New Workshop Descriptions: Thoughts?

July 3rd, 2013 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

This past year has been a blur, with 20 Google in Education Summits and dozens of other events. I’ve really honed (and continue to improve) my favorite three sessions:

I still love these sessions (and the seemingly timeless Blog if You Love Learning) and I feel like they are eye-opening to most of the educators I reach. But, it feels like it’s time to put something new into rotation… and I have a few opportunities this summer. Here are three new sessions… I know they’re not on the currently beaten path of Common Core  (or other hot topics), but these are what I have to offer right now – and I hope I might be able to reach educators who could benefit from what I have to share. Meanwhile, I’d love any initial feedback any of you can offer. :)

What’s New from Google in Education

You’ve seen sessions on Google Search, Google Docs, and other free tools for years. Now come learn the latest features (and inspiring ideas) that will benefit you and your students. Google releases “early and often” (with over 120 updates to Google Apps last year), so this session is always new! Discover citations in Google Scholar, news archives in Google News, research tools in Google Docs, multi-media editing “in the cloud” with Google Drive, awesome new mobile apps, and… “even more” – including items newer than this description! This fun high-paced session is delivered in a “play along” format with something for everyone.

Make More of Your Time: Productivity Tools for Educators and Students

Learn simple tips, tricks, and apps for automating tasks. Text Expanders save hours of typing. Clipboard buffers save hours of cutting-and-pasting. Paperless faxes, forms, and signatures save hours printing and scanning (and save trees). Automated rules, filters, canned responses, and prioritizing tools save DAYS dealing with email… and visual voice mail! Collaborative documents, calendars, and to-do lists make teamwork easier… especially with free video conferencing and desktop sharing! These tips and more can benefit any busy educator or student, whatever your roles and responsibilities. Mastering these tools is part of being literate and successful in the today’s high-paced world… and most importantly, they can give you back time for the slower things in life.

Now It’s For You: Open Source in Education

Open Source Software is secure, feature rich, and FREE… perfect for educators and students. Open Source Solutions used to be best for techies and geeks, but recently they have entered the mainstream and *surpassed* expensive proprietary efforts like Windows, Mac OS X, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, iLife, and more. Android Phones and Chromebooks are both Linux at the core. Ubuntu is a beautiful and easy to use operating system. Firefox is a fast, flexible, and secure web-browser (and proudly non-profit). Shotwell and OpenShot replace iPhoto and iMovie. GIMP replaces photoshop… and there are more free tools available to customize (and secure) your computing experience than ever before. Plus, with favorite apps like Google Chrome now available on Linux, it can be the best window into everything “the cloud” has to offer education today, with online and local copies of all your writing, media, and collaborations. (NOTE: This more or less chronicles my past year using an Ultralap 430 running Ubuntu as my main laptop, in conjunction with various Chromebooks and Nexus Android devices… I’m happier with my the tools I’m using, and I saved a ton of money.)

Thanks for taking a look at these, and thanks in advance for any comments or feedback you might be able to leave. :)

Early and often, right? ;)

PS. If you miss me blogging here, you can find me microblogging and social networking at Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

“Oh, No!” Moments and Charging Multiple Tablets

December 28th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

By Second Grade Teacher Julie Stewart

We have had our share of memorable moments since receiving our Nexus 7 tablets.  Things like charging multiple tablets and having non-homeroom students also using the tablets was now on my list of daily things to manage. It was going to be so easy…

I did not think too much about it, at first, because I thought it would be one of those easy tasks that did not take a lot of effort.  When the tablets needed to be charged, I would just plug them in.  It all seemed so simple.  I suddenly found myself wondering how was I going to do this, and where on earth do I put them in my already crowded classroom?  The minor problem came when I realized that I did not have enough power strips on hand.  I called my teammate, Beth, and asked if she had some that I could use.  Thank goodness for the IT department for having a secret stash of odds and ends for technological emergencies!  With her spares, I had enough to set up charging stations all over my classroom on any horizontal or vertical surface that was available.

Before I could actually start plugging them in and charging them, my next task was to remove each charger from its box and take off the plastic bags and ties.  After I got the USB cables plugged into the charging units, the tablets were finally ready to be charged.  As I started this task, my college-aged son, Stephen, stopped by my classroom to lend me a hand.  He helped me find a few more open outlets for the power strips, and we got them all plugged in and charging in less than 10 minutes.  They were scattered all over my classroom, but each tablet had a home to charge.  My “Oh, no!” moment was no more!

I had mentioned in an earlier post that it was important that I have identification names and numbers on all of the tablets. This was done to prevent major “Oh, no!” moments.  Since my school does ability grouping for math and reading, my class decided that we should share our tablets with the other second graders who have me as their math and reading teacher. Doing this has allowed me to put the Nexus 7’s into the hands of close to 75 second grade students! This kind gesture made the other second grade classes very happy.  By assigning each guest student a specific tablet, I have made all of them accountable for using them.  This, along with adding LanSchool to each tablet, has made the students very aware of computer security.  It also prevents 25 students from asking me all at the same time as to which one they should use!

A funny moment happened one day when I heard an “Oh, no!” from one of my homeroom students when she was looking at her photos in her photo gallery.  She brought her tablet over to me to see.  One of the guest students assigned to her tablet had been exploring the camera feature while usng her tablet and snapped a self portrait. My homeroom student remarked, “Well, it is okay, Mrs. Stewart.  She took a really good picutre, and now you don’t need to show her how to use the camera. She will be an expert pretty soon.”  All I could do was smile!  This is the kind of moment that makes this teacher pretty darn happy.

My next post will be showcasing some of the work the students have done out in the field using their tablets and the camera  to show their creative “wow” moments.  You will be amazed at what they did with just a few minutes of instruction on using the camera feature and being set free on their photo safari in and around our school.

Nexus 7 Rollout in 4th Grade

December 28th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

Cross posted from the EdTechTeam blog.

We’re all so proud to be involved with this effort. The second class set of Nexus 7s the EdTechTeam donated for 1:1 student use was rolled out earlier this month…

YEAH!!!! The Nexus 7s arrived in Maine on Friday afternoon and we were able to give them to students just three days later. Kate Parkin (4th grade teacher) and I had spent time preparing for the devices, exploring apps, becoming familiar with various resources like Edutecher and Android4Schools and thinking about how to bring this to her students in the most productive way. Some weekend work went into charging, updating and preparing the tablets with each student’s Yarmouth Google account.

Read More on Kathy Wolinsky’s Blog…

Do any of you know of any schools purchasing Nexus 7s for student use? We’d love to connect with the educators in those schools as well – to share challenges and best practices. Thank you in advance for any comments you might leave.

Meanwhile, we hope you all have a happy new year celebration. :)

How to Succeed in Ed-Tech (By James & Adam)

November 28th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

I respect these guys, their company, and their product a lot. They’ve always been generous with their time and expertise – and I’ve learned a lot from them since first meeting Adam at an edublogger meetup in 2006. I’m thrilled to see Adam and James sharing their experience (and their focus on teachers and students) with others working to be successful in the education technology market. I hope this article (a manifesto of sorts) is influential and helpful for many, so I’m thrilled to share it here.

How to Succeed in Ed-Tech
By James Byers and Adam Frey, Founders of Wikispaces, November 2012

Along the way we’ve formed a strong opinion about what success means for us, and the short list of characteristics we believe are crucial for the success of ed-tech companies. We’re sharing what we’ve learned because the opportunity to improve education through technology is vast, large enough for many times the number of companies in education today. Taken in combination, these characteristics run contrary to much of the prevailing Silicon Valley wisdom about how to address this market. We hope that today’s young education startups will consider this alternate path.

http://www.wikispaces.com/content/topic/how-to-succeed-in-education

Since there aren’t comments on their site, I hope you’ll leave your own thoughts here below. :)

The Wagner Solstice Party 2012

November 28th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

December 21st is a Friday this year, and the winter solstice to boot. It’s also a traditional date for the party I’ve hosted every year since graduating high school. So, with no ado whatsoever… you’re all invited. Ping me if you’re thinking of coming and I’ll share the address.

This used to be a large party, but it’s been humblingly small the last few years. There’ll probably be a few of my friends from high school, college, and hockey… and with any luck a few Southern California Ed Tech people. If any of you are in the area (or willing to travel), I hope you can make it too. I’ll definitely be serving home made wine to celebrate the solstice and would love to share a glass with some of you face-to-face. :)

Android or iOS and Mobile Learning Philosophy

November 28th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

Twice today I found myself writing an email that felt like a blog post – and both were related to what mobile devices to choose and how best to use them. A friend asked whether he should purchase an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S3 for his next phone, and here is a slightly edited version of my response:

If you’ve already got iOS or Android, that would be a major factor, especially if you’ve invested in a lot of apps. You’ll probably want to stick with what you own and know.

Other than that, the super short answer is this: I’ve had an iPhone since the original (and have a significant investment in apps, especially for my boys, ages 4 and 2) but I’ve just switched to Android. I bought the Galaxy Nexus just a few months ago, but just purchased a Nexus 4 today to replace it. That would be my recommended phone – it’s not quite so large as the S3 (a bonus in my book), and coming directly from Google it has (and will get) the latest updates first.

That being said, the main advantage of iOS now is the app library (but only barely). The selection of good apps for toddlers is much better on iOS, but everything I want for myself (and older students) is available on Android. If you have a Mac, iOS would also be an advantage for how well it’s integrated, but I also just ditched my Mac for a Linux Ultrabook so Android works out well, especially with the Ubuntu One cloud service.

The main advantages of Android are tight integration (and single sign on) with Google tools, and of course the variety and choice of hardware and software, especially because it’s open source. There are more and more small things I like about the UI as well, but ultimately the cutting edge phones are very equivalent right now.

Another colleague recently received a set of Nexus 10 Tablets from Google… but she has always taught with iOS devices. She was asking for some guidance and I wound up writing this (again, it’s slightly edited here):

For me, there are three overarching themes to focus on. The first is getting the devices into the hands of kids so they can search (in support of inquiry-driven learning, ideally for project’s they’re passionate about) – incidentally, the built in search App can use audio and images in addition to text searches. Teaching students good search strategies is key here, of course. The second focus is empowering students to collaborate – and all of the mobile versions of Google Apps are great for this, especially Google Drive. The single sign on with Google across all apps on the device is awesome – particularly if each kid has a device (or you have a specific account associated with the device). The third focus is to empower students to create (just as you would on an iPad) with image, audio, and video editing programs – there are many. The curricular apps are a far distant fourth priority in my mind – and the web will beat them for content and flexibility most of the time. I’m a fan of the open-ended tools, and Android is a great platform for that. So you can spend time searching the Play Store for other specific apps (many iOS apps are also there – or else there are equivalents), but I’d recommend focusing on these three things first – and getting kids doing meaningful work they care about. :)

I hope these thoughts might be helpful to others here… and I hope to learn more from all of you in the comments.

Diffusion of Useful Ignorance… and Self Forgiveness

November 26th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

I’ve been inspired to study Thoreau again, and suspect this will generate a number of posts here. I’m heavily annotating what I read and have found much I want to write about, some of which would be in the realm of “and life” posts – though some of it would be relevant to this blog in other ways as well, which is to say it would relate to education and technology. In the interest of getting something posted tonight, I want to focus on one particular idea that has resonated with me. 

The purpose of education might be said to be the “Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” but Thoreau suggests that there is “equal need of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance… for what is most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that we know something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance?” Elsewhere he asks, “how can we remember our ignorance, which our growth requires, when we are using our knowledge all the time?”

In short, as educators, it is often difficult to admit that we are ignorant… but of course, no matter how learned we are, everyone is always more ignorant than not. If we are to be true educators (and if we are to grow and learn ourselves – and be lead learners) we must embrace our own useful ignorance. But we must also work to diffuse this mindset within our institutions – and among our students. Helping them to adopt an attitude of useful ignorance might be one of the best learning tools we can offer to students – and one of the best gifts we can offer them in life.

I’m not drawing this from Thoreau, but I’ve found that this attitude works well hand-in-hand with the practice of forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings. Together these two attitudes can help a learner (or members of an organization) to not only let go of preconceptions, but also to let go of the burden of needing to be responsible for having preconceptions (or accurate understandings) of the world to begin with. This makes it easier to accept the world as it is, to learn new things from new experiences, and in short – to grow.

I think Thoreau means many more things when he talks about “useful ignorance” (including his believe that there is a “subconscious magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright”), and I suspect I’ll return to these more abstract ideas, too. But in the meantime, I’m finding this simple reminder to embrace and diffuse useful ignorance a pragmatic source of clarity, particularly in the context of sharing increasingly intoxicating information technologies with others. :)

EdTechTeam Values… and Thanks

November 22nd, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

This is an excerpt from something I wrote for the team back in February. It has stood the test of time well, and I’m excited to finally share it here. I look forward to any comments, feedback, or pushback from others. :)

Over the past few years I’ve found that my personal and professional values have more or less converged, so I’m particularly passionate about my commitment to these values… and I think they’re a good fit for this team.

Passion

We do only work that we are passionate about. Don’t accept a job from the team that you aren’t passionate about. Do feel free to send us leads you’re not passionate about, but know that I won’t move on a lead unless I am passionate about it… or unless I know someone else on the team that is. It follows that we also don’t provide or recommend products or services that we are not passionate about. Sticking to your passions is also a very positive way to ensure you never threaten your own integrity.

Flexibility

We are a flexible team. This is probably the essence of the EdTechTeam, and I often pitch this benefit to clients: “We are a nimble organization, able to be flexible and responsive to your needs… Our services can be scaled up or back as necessary, and we are experienced in developing custom services based on client requests. Because we always work on a contract basis, few of the commitments required to hire an employee are necessary for your organization to tap into our expertise.” I value flexibility over systems, rules, and precedents – and I value flexibility over checklists, goals, and plans. Flexibility is critical to the philosophy of the “lean startup” and that philosophy is key to our success and future growth. If I say “thank you for your flexibility” it is high praise coming from me.

Openness

We are an open team. I mean this in many ways. Most importantly, we are open with each other. Hopefully this message is a good step toward making that even more of a reality. If you have questions, concerns, or potential conflicts… let me (and anyone else involved) know. We are also open with the clients, educators, and students that we serve; we always share our opinions (and identify them as such); we always disclose potential conflicts of interest; and we always disclose any additional funding or support we might be receiving. And, of course, we always thank the people and organizations that have contributed to successful events and projects. Also, we share as much of our resources as we can. That is why all of our workshop resources and publicly posted materials (including blog posts and wikis) are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. We’re paying it forward to other educators and learners.

Creativity

We are a creative team. Creativity is a cornerstone of my educational philosophy. I believe that encouraging creativity is both a means for learning other things, and a valuable end for education to aspire to. I value working with creative people (like all of you), and our creative solutions to others’ problems are in a very real way what we are selling. We find creative ways to help people learn.

Simplicity

Simplicity is good. All things being equal, simplicity is better than complexity. Simple solutions are better than complex solutions. Simple tools are better than complex tools. Simple rules of thumb are better than complex manuals, and simple values are better than complex contracts. If in any case, a simpler tool can be used, simpler words will suffice, or a simpler route can be taken… we should always choose the most simple path to the solution we want. I feel my language in this message is simple, but I know it is still unnecessarily long and complex. I look forward to the day I’ll be able to express these things in only a few lines.

Health, Balance, and Authenticity

We live healthy, balanced, and authentic lives. I mentioned that my personal and professional values have converged over the years. These are three values (collected for simplicity’s sake) that I aspire to in my personal life, that I admire in many of you, and that we should look to for guidance as a team. We should not suggest things to clients, educators, and learners that would not be healthy or that would lead them to lead an unbalanced or inauthentic life; rather, we should encourage healthy choices, balanced behaviors, and authentic communication. I’m a fan of teaching “the whole child” (regardless of the political baggage this term may have acquired), and I think it is critically important to always deal with everyone, educators and students included, first as people. Discover their passions and their challenges if you truly want to help. The technology in our name and mission does not outweigh the health and happiness of the people we serve.

Giving

We donate 5% of our net income to put devices in the hands of students. As I’ve worked to reboot this business in 2012, I’ve wanted to ensure that giving is baked right into the business model. (Among other things, I was inspired by Blake Mycoskie’s Start Something That Matters.) When I asked myself what we could do, I kept coming back to the importance of putting devices in the hands of kids… to creating as many 1:1 situations as we can (even on an individual scale). We can’t offer any sort of 1-for-1 deal similar to Mycoskie’s TOMS shoes (it would be too expense to include the price of a mobile device with every workshop ticket… or to give away a workshop for each one sold), but we can dedicate  5% of our net profit to putting devices in kids hands. Inspired by Warren Dale, who provides some very convincing arguments for giving kids iPod Touches (which they will carry and use everywhere) I am giving iPod Touches to kids in schools with teachers (and visionary educational technologists) who will provide the best chance for the devices to be put to good use. UPDATE: The entire core team for the Google Apps for Education Summits has committed to giving away Nexus 7 devices… and I just shipped our second class set yesterday!

Synchronicity

We embrace synchronicity. Whatever cause or causes have brought all of us together, there is no doubt in my mind that this team is greater than the sum of it’s parts – that I am better working with you than I am working alone. Similarly, I trust my intuition… and I trust yours; your opinions and insights are extremely valuable to me. As a team, we should continue to embrace the happy accidents and meaningful connections that our work presents us with. I look forward to seeing how our efforts will be shaped in the months and years to come.

I feel the same way about this (sometimes dormant) blog. And on this particular day I’m Thankful for all of the happy accidents and meaningful connections I’ve found here with all of you as well. :)

See also a flashback “Thank You” post that still resonates with me 9 months later: http://edtechlife.com/?p=2942

Self Government and Education

November 20th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

I missed the chance to see Obama’s victory speech on the day he won the election, but I went back and watched it two days later, and I’m glad I did. I immediately searched for the transcript and copied it into a Google Doc so I could mark it up. I found a few passages particularly meaningful… and relevant to our mission as educators, particularly in the age of social media.

I often appreciate and respect the president’s realism, which may not be something his opponents consider one of his strengths. I think it is important to temper the “hope” and “change” (which are vitally important) with a more realistic (sophisticated and nuanced) view of the world if anything is going to actually get done – and if hope is not going to be lost in the face of difficult challenges. Incidentally, I think this is true for educational technologists (and perhaps educators… or people… in general) as well as for political leaders. In any case, I think we see an example of that philosophy from the president here:

Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight — and it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

I also think this last point is important in our field. We can be grateful that we get to have the arguments that we do… which device, which policy, which pedagogy. And as much as we may grow tired of our opposition (and resistance to what we see as positive change), at least we’re in a position where the argument is a meaningful one and we do actually have the power to make the future a better place for our students.

I believe one of the president’s other strengths is challenging Americans to see a bigger picture. I think it’s why so many people who oppose his efforts feel he is bringing about an end to “their” America. I’m not one who thinks he is selling out our country to the UN, or Europe, or socialists (or whatever), but if the US needs to one day give way to something greater (perhaps in the wake of the UN), I am unequivocally all for that. A meaningful global government (that allows for great diversity in many arenas) will be a good thing for humanity, and this planet. I think the day has already come when we need to not see ourselves as Americans first, but as Humans… and not as “from America” but as “from Earth.” Sometimes the president’s frankly political rhetoric falls short of this vision… and sometimes it moves from the politically correct toward what ought to be. I saw that here:

We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world; a nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth and the best troops this world has ever known — (applause) — but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

We believe in a generous America; in a compassionate America; in a tolerant America…

I was proud to hear these words coming from our president. And again, I think this perspective is also important in our field… though I would take it an additional step. If we are a generous, compassionate, tolerant America… perhaps we should be working toward educational systems and tools that not only might benefit the 50 million American k12 students, but perhaps the 750 million k12 students world-wide. And there certainly are people and organizations working toward this aim. As I’m writing this I even find myself feeling a bit proud that I’ve been working increasingly on international professional development events… carrying our message face-to-face to educators outside the US. That being said, I know our team is only scratching the surface… and so far is mostly serving international and private schools with more resources than their local public counterparts. One step at a time… hope and hard work in the face of challenge.

Speaking about this change in America, the president touched again on the theme of hard work hand-in-hand with hope (both are necessary for real change to happen in any meaningful pursuit, especially on a national  - or global – scale):

…progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, or solve all our problems, or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus, and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin.

Also in keeping with this theme was this next segment, in my opinion the most important (and perhaps most audacious) of the president’s speech:

The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote. America has never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.

In the context of our work in education this means at least two important things to me. First, it means that we can’t complain about the government’s approach to education (at least not unless we’re actively working to change it). It is our government. In a very real way, we are the government. And, things will not change for the better in education (or in any particular direction at least) until we the people rise up and make it so. This can happen at the local level. School boards have a tremendous amount of power, freedom, and flexibility to do as they please locally… and it is rarely exercised… but most boards serve at the pleasure of the voters – you can have it another way if you can craft a compelling vision and organize support for it. This can also happen at a larger level at the state departments of education (states still maintain a high degree of independence when it comes to education, though they too exercise it less and less), and at the federal level. In short, if we want something radical, like, say, a constructivist educational technologist as a secretary of education… we have to make that happen.

Second, it means to me that we need to prepare our students for a life of self-government. I mean this on a personal level of course… in that students need to be able to govern themselves (it’s a key to success in any field – and in life), but I also mean this in terms of participatory government. We need to prepare students to take things into their own hands… to craft compelling visions and organize support… to demand something different from their local, state, federal, and global governments (in all areas, not just education of course… kids are concerned about the environment, human rights, and civil liberties – and we should empower them take their government into their own hands to improve things in the ways they want). And, in this age of social media and participatory media – with the internet in everyone’s pocket (or glasses!) making widely distributed easily scale-able participation almost ubiquitous (among those who have access), it is not unreasonable to think that these technologies can and should make it possible for more people to participate in government more often. I would never imagine everyone voting on everything; we’ll need representatives for the foreseeable future. But there is no reason more people can’t be involved in organizing and lobbying… and no reason more people can’t be authoring, editing, or otherwise contributing to legislation… and no reason we can’t have voters vote on some more issues. Our government should be far more participatory – and far more transparent. There’s no reason a significant overhaul of our government shouldn’t be forthcoming in the wake of these technological changes… despite all the challenges and hard work (and mistakes) this will inevitably entail. Incidentally, I believe we should prepare students both to be more involved in their government no matter what new technologies bring and to help bring about the technologies to make self-government more of a reality in this country… and around the globe.

Perhaps this is a tall order, but I think it’s the cause we take on as educators (or at least as educational technologists). We have the power to make this happen. I believe we will. And I can’t wait. :)

 

A Focus on Individual Learning and Individual Technology

November 19th, 2012 by Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

Here is another exerpt from an email… I felt myself going into “manifsto” mode and thought it might be worth posting here. With full knowledge that this might be considered a controversial (or arrogant) stance, I offer this for your comments. (As I get back into blogging, I need to get back into pushing my comfort limits – and into not caring so much if something I post might rub a potential client the wrong way.) In any case, this captures some of my philosophy regarding where I should focus my time, and where I hope the people I work with will focus their time.

1. Our team is explicitly constructivist (and explicitly focused on social change efforts), so I hope you’ll encourage creating environments in which students construct knowledge by making, doing, creating, sharing, and working together on authentic work that matters to somebody outside the classroom. Don’t be afraid to downplay the importance of standardized tests in the lives of the students… and as a legitimate measure of a school system. To be blunt, I’m (at best) ambivalent about the Common Core Standards. Creating standards for a state of 30 million people was a bad idea – creating standards for a nation of 300 is doubly so (if not 10 times as bad). We encourage focusing on systems that allow individualized learning experiences for students – experiences that tap into students’ passions and are driven by their own inquiry. The Common Core can be an excuse for introducing some of these ideas into a school system if it’s a buzz word with some force behind it (since the common core and constructivist techniques are certainly not incompatible), but in the wrong hands the Common Core can also be an excuse to focus on tests and standardized “scope and sequence” or “pacing guide” style systems. If they want Common Core, give them Common Core with a Constructivist spin. If they don’t focus on Common Core, let it be.

2. Our team believes the most important change we can focus on (with respect to educational technology) is to get an internet connected device into the hands of each student… whether it’s a school provided 1:1 program or a BYOD arrangement, I would work to move them as quickly as possible to having every student carry a personal device to school – and home. This could be an iPod Touch, an iPad, a Nexus 7 (or 10), a Chromebook, a Macbook Air, an Ultrabook running Linux (like I use now), a Windows Netbook, or whatever. That being said, we’re sort of partial to Google’s solutions (and open source solutions) for their price, features, scale-ability  and ease of management – and their tight integration with Google’s cloud services, which are important (whether Google’s or otherwise) for ensuring the device doesn’t matter. Naturally, we’re also partial to Google Apps for Education. In fact, if there were one thing I could teach all teachers today, it would be Google Docs – I think it has the most potential to change (and improve) the way teachers work with each other and their students – and of course, the way students work with each other and the world.

3. …Actually, that’s about it. Focus on meaningful pedagogy, and the devices to amplify the individualized constructivist approach. The rest is just details..

 I look forward to the pushback in the comments below… and perhaps some “amens” to boot. 

BTW, I can feel how rusty I am not only at writing, but at sharing. Onward… :)