Archive for March, 2005

Stanford: Another Post You Don’t Have to Read (Aaron Swartz: The Weblog)

Sunday, March 27th, 2005

Stanford: Another Post You Don’t Have to Read (Aaron Swartz: The Weblog)

I love reading Aaron Schwartz. His encounter (or non-encounter) with the cute geeky girl was really engaging… perhaps because I had been there far too many times myself. Arg!

Sleep Sleep Sleep

Friday, March 25th, 2005

It seems a good night to try sharing my music here, too… and this is an appropriate song given the hour and my state of mind.

I recorded this in the summer of 2003 during a mad rush to record my newest songs before starting at Walden, so naturally it’s a bit rough. ;)

Sleep Sleep Sleep

-Mark

And Life… literally.

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

I thought I’d try this again, and I think it is about time I share some pictures of my new nephew, Boden. I made this photo album with iPhoto the night he was born, and my mom was emailing pictures from her phone from the delivery room when he was only 15 minutes old! Imagine what Boden will be sharing with technology by the time he is in school. (Ah! There I go again.)

http://homepage.mac.com/markdouglaswagner/PhotoAlbum3.html

Here are some higher quality pictures from my brother’s camera.

The new Wagner Family

Boden David Wagner

Boden hold’s Dave’s hand for the first time.

Smile.

-Mark

The Demand for Educational Technologists

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

My professor wrote the following quote in response to a colleagues vision statement, and below is my reply…

I am glad you have included BOTH instructional and technical follow-up on support. Usually you will find in workshops that one takes precendence over the other because the trainer is used to wearing only one hat (either a techhie or not).

I am noticing an increasing demand for people who wear both hats at once, education and technology, which I suppose is good news for people studying for an educational technology degree.

For instance, this week a woman who heads a federally funded professional development program for teachers of English Language Learners came to my department looking for someone with the skills to overhaul her program’s website (to implement a content management system even), and yet also be able to understand her when she spoke (in our specialists’ jargon) about the educational issues involved. She was unhappy with the help she was receiving from the IT department because she wasn’t able to speak to them as teachers, and of course the educators in her program were useless as web programers, so she turned to educational technology. This need is not limited to specific programs. Small school districts in this county are increasing interested in hiring a single technology director who can fulfill both roles rather than hiring separate IT and Ed Tech directors.

Unfortunately, I fear these people are even harder to find than people with Ed Tech degrees, particularly masters degrees. Most of the teachers I know with Ed Tech masters degrees have skills not unlike what I would consider a technically savvy teacher, and not at all like what I would expect of an IT technician.

Clearly not everyone needs to be a technician, but there is such a critical need in education for someone to bridge the gap between classroom teachers and server room technicians that I wish there were more emphasis on underlying technical principals in educational technology programs. Unfortunately, most educational technology coordinators are also called upon to be be part administrator, part staff developer, and part clerk as well, so the time and effort available for acquiring and applying truly technical knowledge is limited.

-Mark

A Reflection on Gee’s 36 Principles of “Video Game Like” Learning

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

I wrote the following in response to a particularly excellent post in our class discussion board…

Evelyn,

This is an excellent post, especially for a reply! It’s both meaningful and well supported by research. Your reference to the four principles in “How People Learn and What the Technology Might Have to Do With It” were important to me… and were very much in keeping with the talk I heard last night from Professor James Paul Gee who wrote What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy and also Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling (and I could swear he said he had just finished a new book titled “Video Games will Save Your Soul”, but I can’t find it anywhere online – perhaps it’s not been released yet).

Jim Gee (as they called him last night) talks about 36 learning principles that video games recruit when engaging students, but which traditional schools largely fail to leverage. Below is a link to a document that summarizes these principles (as presented by Marc Prensky.)

http://mindgames.msu.edu/FLC-mar2/36principles.doc

At any rate, as you can tell from the vision statement I’ve offered on this discussion board, I am very interested in learning that is in context, active, social, and reflective. Actually, on reflection I think my phrase of “context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated” learning does not capture the reflective element. Since I use this phrase often (in course descriptions at the OCDE, and as the tag line on my blog), I may need to reconsider whether I need to explicitly include reflection.

I suppose I have some reflection ahead of me myself. :)

-Mark

Open Source Software in Schools

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Here I interjected into a conversation between two classmates…

Yes, cost is always a factor. However, when the use of technology becomes a core value, funds can be redirected.

I agree whole heartedly. A few years ago we found that at our high school of 1200 students we were spending between 30 and 40 thousand dollars a year on paper alone! (For handouts, quizzes, memos etc.) If teachers and students are using electronic means of communicating and sharing information, then spending this money on paper is not necessary… and the tools it could be used to buy and maintain instead would be able to do far more than the paper could! Now this doesn’t close the entire gap to 1:1 computing… note that this savings is only about $30 per student per year… but if other funds, such as text book funds (at about $75 per student per subject!) are also redirected… then a $200 handheld, or $500 iBook (their cost in bulk) is no longer so far out of reach. And, if this $100 laptop idea becomes a reality, the goal of 1:1 computing will be even more easily achieved.

Newer is NOT always better and it most certainly is not less costly…

One of the secrets of the $100 laptop is the lack of licensing costs.. because it will run open source software. Even at bulk education pricing, running a distribution of Linux (such as Fedora Core instead of Windows and running Open Office instead of MS Office can save a school at least $100 per machine. Programs such as the GIMP, a free alternative to Photoshop, can save schools hundreds of dollars per machine.

And, if the schools decide it’s advantageous, they can upgrade as early and often as developers can release new code. They can also use their existing hardware longer running open source software. If you presume that schools would buy at least one OS upgrade for each machine… this is an addition $50 to $100 savings over using Windows (or OS X for that matter).

Here is a link to a document which is a great introduction to open source in education.

http://mark.wagner.name/documents/oss-school.doc

-Mark

Working too hard… and not making the time to blog about the important stuff!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

Yes, it is time for a rare “and Life” post.

The content I am writing for my managing technology in education class is sustaining almost daily blog entries right now, but my work at the Orange County Department of Education has been taking too much time (meaning I am working much more than I am paid to, suprise surprise… though I was getting much better at it for a while, and though my phd is definitely serving its purpose of helping me work less… ironic, I know.)

I attended the CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference two weekends ago and have not yet taken the time to blog about (and podcast!) all of the great material I was exposed to at the conference. Presentations by national personalities such as Elliot Solloway and Bernie Dodge, by dynamic local presnters such as Hall Davidson and Jason Ediger, and perhaps most importantly by new local presenters such as Jaimie Knight. Well, actually, I think I did get the most out of the Jason Ediger show… I went to nearly all his sessions in an effort to download some of his knowledge base before he disappeared; he recently left us at the OCDE to join Apple Computer as the nation wide manager for iPod in Education, which is pretty much the coolest job I’ve ever heard of. Oh, I also got an opportunity to speak about the “Access for All” 1:1 handhelds in middle schools project that I managed for over at year at the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Presenting something, especially after some time away, helps one gain a new perspective on a topic, and we were certainly able to connect with others who were involved with similar projects.

I’ve been teaching blogging for tech leads and teachers in the Laguna Beach Unified School District, and this has been a good introduction to yet another organizational culture, and an exciting first foray (for me) into sharing the read/write web with classroom teachers. It has also been a great opportunity to work with Jenith Mishne again, and more collaboratively than we ever worked in the N-MUSD.

Now tonight I went to see James Gee speak about video games and learning at UCI. I was lucky enough to accompany phd in education student Jorge Valastegui to a much more intimate grad student only session following the presentation.

And this is to say nothing of the amazing conversations I’ve had with my wife Eva (a kindergarten teacher and site tech coordinator) while on our evening walks! Students assessing themselves with iPods… and our future in the educational technology industry, for example.

At any rate, this list of things that I would like to be writing about in detail is just to say I intend to at some point… but right now my assignments have to take priority. After all, as people tell me often, your goal while getting a phd is to get a phd, not to change the world. Get your phd and then change the world, they say.

Ok, so this was all about educational technology after all. Sorry. ;)

Here’s this, though… I am going to see the first show of the new U2 tour this coming monday in San Diego, and soon after I will be making the LA show with my former bandmate Ryan Chan. There must be some correlation between U2 fans and educational technologists, because both Jason Ediger and Jorge Velastegui turned out to be big fans as well. Ooops. There I go again. I better just turn in for the night.

-Mark

PS – I’m even feeling too busy to include images in my posts this week. :(

Critique of the CTL: Education Technology Planning Guide

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

As usual, I am cranking through my weekly posts for EDUC-8813… and posting them to my blog after dropping them in Blackboard…

Wagner’s critique of the California Commission on Technology and Learning (CTL) Education Technology Planning Guide for School Districts

http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/et/rd/edtechguide.asp

1. Brief description of site.

This site is not very interactive as web sites go, but it has served as a sort of bible for me over the past several years, and the content provided would be relevant even to those organizations outside of California that are implementing, preparing, or considering the Educational Technology Planning process. (I think I have mentioned this site once in this class already.) This page simply describes the Education Technology Planning Guide, offers a link to the complete guide as a single pdf (which is how I usually access it), and provides an outline of the guide complete with links to pdf versions of each section.

Major sections of the plan include an overview of the technology planning process, plan components, suggested action steps and guiding questions (perhaps the the mostly widely relevant content), an educational technology planning toolkit, a variety of appendixes, and a glossary of works cited. (This last section is one that I never gave much thought as a practitioner, but which I was excited about now as an academic… only to find that the only works cited are the California State Content Standards!)

2. One specific example of what the site offers
(& Why I find the site useful)

It is in the section on Suggested Action Steps and Guiding Questions that the guide most clearly delineates the five primary components of a tech plan and “identifies the specific issues to be addressed under each plan component.” The five components have often served as a mental checklist for me when managing educational technology projects. A plan must be grounded in the Curriculum needs, must be supported by Professional Development, and it must include the necessary Infrastructure, Hardware, Technical Support, and Software to make these two things possible. In addition it must consider Funding and Budget and must of course provide means for Monitoring and Evaluation.

Within a specific component, such as Curriculum, you will find guidelines and questions for a Needs and Resource Assessment, Goals, and Monitoring and Evaluation. (Note that each component of the plan includes a monitoring and evaluation subsection… and there is a separate Monitoring and Evaluation component as well. It does get a bit reflexive.)

At any rate, within one of these sections, such a Goals (under Needs and Resource Assessment), technology planners can find excellent guidelines, such as “Assess the school district’s current use of hardware and software to support teaching and learning”, followed by a series of questions, such as “How many information literacy skills are being taught and at what grade levels?” These guidelines and questions can help ensure that technology planners are not ignoring important aspects of a technology plan, and can help focus data gathering and discussion, especially during the early stages of a technology planning.

This has been a valuable resource for me at all levels (site, district, and county) and at various stages in the tech planning process, even within specific smaller projects. It helps ensure that the focus is always on curricular goals, and that both the curriculum and professional development come before any consideration of equipment. Finally, of course, the reminder to establish systems to monitor and evaluate whatever program is being planned is always valuable… and is surprisingly often a necessary reminder.

I hope that many of you will skim the guide and that it might prove useful to some of you.

-Mark

A Vision for Educational Technology

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

It seems I am doing a lot of this lately. Written for class of course…

(i) Come up with an appropriate Vision Statement for your school/university/company Technology Plan. While developing this Vision Statement consider where your school/organization is now, and picture where you would like it to be in the future.

A vision for the Educational Technology Department of the Orange County Department of Education:

Offer a world class education to every student in Orange County by using appropriate technologies to provide context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated learning opportunities.

(ii) Next is your chance to be a visionary! Create a description of what your school/organization will be like in the future. Reach for the stars while keeping your feet on the ground. (i.e. Consider funding constraints and other variables). Describe your school/organization of the future using this sentence starter, “Imagine a school/college/business where ……”
Use this sentence starter as much many times as necessary to include images of students, teachers, employees, the community etc.

Imagine an education system where…

… a 1:1 student to mobile networked computer ratio allows for anytime anywhere collaborative learning. Several Orange County programs such as Fullerton’s One to One Laptop initiative and Newport-Mesa’s Access for All program are already leading the way toward this goal. Meanwhile, research and development efforts across the nation, such as MIT’s $100 laptop project, will continue to close the gap between our schools and this goal. By cutting the costs of paper duplications and text books, this goal is well within reach. (A hundred dollar laptop, or two hundred dollar handheld for that matter, is only the cost of two or three textbooks, but can store many many times that amount of multimedia information in an interactive format.)

… every student, regardless of their gifts or disabilities, is able to excel to their full potential. The Assistive Technology Institute (ATI) recently gave Orange County teachers a window into what is possible when disabled students have access to technologies such as those offered at the Assistive Technology Exchange Center in Santa Ana. Allowing gifted students to be experts (and grow beyond the tradition classroom and teacher-student relationship) also makes it possible for programs such as the Digital Year Book program at Los Alamitos High School to succeed not only in providing students with memories, but also in providing them with valuable design experience… and real-world revenue generating power.

… every student is thus able to write for an authentic audience, collaborate with their peers, interact with experts, and play a roll in the adult world through the use of the read/write web.

… every student is also able to explore and solve problems in contexts that would be impossible in traditional schools… through the use of open ended multi-player online simulations and role playing games. Once again, MIT is helping to make this a reality for teachers by supporting the education arcade and the games and learning conference in LA.

… every administrator and teacher understands both the need for these changes and The Human Side of School Change, and is thus able to facilitate the systematic renewal that will be necessary to instigate, maintain, re-evaluate, and update this system in the years to come.

Additional Resources

My vision statement has been heavily influenced by the work of the following authors…

Jean Piaget
The Psychology of Intelligence, 1950 (1st English Edition)

Seymour Papert
Mindstorms, 1980
The Children’s Machine, 1993
The Connected Family, 1996

David H. Jonassen
Constructivism and the Technology of Instruction, 1992
Computers as Mindtools for Schools, 1996
Learning with Technology, 1999

And, my second to last “imagine” statement has been heavily influenced by the work of these authors…

Jusstine Cassell and Henry Jenkins
From Barbie to Mortal Kombat, 1999

Marc Prensky
Digital Game-Based Learning, 2001

James Gee
What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, 2003

Clark Aldrich
Simulations and the Future of Learning, 2004

And I could go on and on. ;)

‘Looking forward to your comments.

-Mark

Evaluation: Blogging for Teachers, 03-22-05

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

Here is a link to the evaluation for today’s session.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=25761949334

Isn’t blogging great?

-Mark

PS – If you are interested in using an evaluation (or survey) like this with your students, SurveyMonkey.com is free for up to 10 questions per survey and up to 100 responses per month. (I use a $19.99/mo. account that allows unlimited questions and up to 1000 responses a month.)