Updates from October, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Andrew T Schwab 9:00 am on October 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    The Power Of Data 

    Working in a modern day manufacturing facility, data was all around me. As the IT Manager at Quebecor World’s Merced Plant, my team was responsible for the plant dash board. A web based application that collected and showed the plant’s production performance in real time, pulling in data from hundreds of sensors throughout the production process. It was quite amazing to see. We were constantly making the UI easier to read and more powerful for users. The ability to drill down and adjust production on the fly was incredible. Reviewing historical performance and being able to adjust and re-adjust processes for improved performance and see the results in real time was invaluable. It saved the Plant hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and paid for itself many times over. That system of data collection and display helped make that plant one o the most innovative printing facilities in the world.

    We have data in education too. It’s not real time and it hardly ever gets used to impact current performance, but we do have it. Since coming over to K12, I’ve often wondered why we don’t have dashboards for data in schools. Real time readouts with learning metrics, attendance stats, facilities conditions in one simple view or every principal to see. And similar dashboards for teachers, with all of a student’s performance data displayed in easy to read graphs and charts. Unfortunately I’ve never had the resources of Programmers in K12 to delve into the concept.

    That’s why I am fascinated by systems like Khan Academy’s Learning Dashboard and BrightByte’s Clarity for Schools. Both represent powerful uses of data and move education closer to the world of learning analytics. It’s becoming possible to get bigger views of whats happening in schools, from student achievement to the impact of technology PD in the classroom. Being able to capture data and present it in a user friendly and useful manner is getting easier every day.

    SBAC promises even more potential with data in the form of the Formative Assessments that should give teachers a (more or less) continuous view into student learning. I’m excited or the potential of data in education and quite frankly I’m surprised the big Student Information System (SIS) vendors haven’t figured this out yet. As a parent, I would love to see a something like a Learning Dashboard for my kid. But then again, a classroom blog would work for me too.

  • Andrew T Schwab 9:00 am on October 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Cabinet Or Bust 

    Every school district I’ve ever worked with has done two things terribly in my opinion (at least prior to my arrival). The first is plan for technology in a sustainable and strategic way and the second is to provide adequate support for technology use in the classroom. I can attribute both to the lack of a Cabinet level technology leader involved in the day to day decision making discussions of the district.

    It strikes me as profoundly short sighted that in the rush to test every California kid on computers in March 2014, these two fundamental flaws in many school district’s thinking are not being addressed.

    I just met with a school district that realized they needed someone to help them through these interesting times, however they weren’t willing to commit all the way for a cabinet level position reporting to the Superintendent, instead opting for a position reporting between Business and C&I. Having reported to two different departments once before, I can personally say this is a recipe for disaster. But they are trying and that’s an important point. Another district I know of is trying as well and they appear to have gotten it right, posting for a Cabinet Level CTO position reporting to the Superintendent to help guide them through these technologically challenging times. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be much guidance on this from the existing leadership organizations, and that’s really too bad. So here is my take on it.

    In the absence of a CTO to guide them, many school districts are using their one time Common Core money to solve what they think are their readiness troubles (ie. buying devices by the pallet load) but these plans are short sighted. Long after that one time money is gone, online testing and the learning environments needed to prepare kids for 21st century literacy will require a constant refresh of equipment and a level of technical support most schools have never known.

    So why have schools historically never invested in regular technology updates or enough technical support? Well, for starters, technology hasn’t been a fundamental need in schools before now. Sure, certain programs may have required a school computer lab or a classroom mini lab but these have generally always been school driven and funded. And then usually with one time dollars and no plan for hardware obsolescence or replacement. Daily integration of technology into instruction on a district wide scale is completely new for most and to think a district can succeed with common core and online assessments without increased student access to technology is just plain crazy.

    Along the same lines, in many school districts there has never been a concrete relationship between the  number of devices a school purchases and the amount of support the district provides. In my experience, individual schools have been able to add more and more devices and keep older and older systems running while expecting the same level of support from the continuously stretched District IT departments.

    And while there are ways to mitigate some of this through communication between Principals and IT, the use of technology committees and district standards, nothing is more effective than a Cabinet level CTO who can bridge the gap between Business and Instruction and guide the district strategically through what is now a constantly changing technology landscape with profound implications for student learning and assessment.

    The SBAC challenge is a major structural problem facing districts and many are ill prepared to address the scale of technology that it requires. Districts need CTOs now more than ever to inform and guide them through to the other side of SBAC and the future beyond with online and blended learning, virtual schools and learning analytics.

    At a basic level, how a district funds and purchases devices has to change. How support is funded, allocated and structured has to change. How technology is used in the district, in school offices and in classrooms has to change. All of this can’t be done from a second tier seat on the back end of the leadership team.

    And when it comes to technology support for the classroom, building an expectation for daily technology integration which relies on technology to work more often than not requires a support system more like modern business has been using for the past two decades than schools have ever been used to before. Schools have some of the worst device to support staff ratios in the business world. In an environment where technology down time was acceptable or at least tolerated, these high ratios were ok. But moving into environments where down time measured in days will have serious impacts on student learning and the ability to administer online assessments, support ratios are going to have to change. Some districts are already in the process of hiring more tech support staff and creating help desks with live people manning the phones for immediate tech support. Who is driving these changes in districts without CTOs? Is anyone listening?

    In addition to basic technical support, teachers and principals need support integrating technology into their instruction like never before. It’s not just enough to make sure the tech works, the district needs to provide resources to help teachers integrate it into their daily instruction because not knowing about technology is no longer an acceptable answer.

    Let me reiterate that, online adaptive assessments are not a school problem. Districts can’t leave these decisions up to principals the same way they’ve left technology decisions to them in the past. That has led to the situation I see at many Districts, where some principals invest in computers, support and technology for students and others do not; creating an uneven distribution of technology access for students. Districts are going to have to step up and start owning technology from start to finish if reliable online assessment results are important to them. Kids are going to need screen time to be ready for the tests. All kids, not just the ones that go to the school where the PTA fund raises for computer labs.

    A district without a CTO at the table has a good chance of missing the forest for the trees. With a CTO on board; making sure technology is integrated into common core implementation plans and the strategic long term vision of the district, the district will ensure that it isn’t just being reactionary and doesn’t find itself unprepared for the many changes being driven by the rapid advances of technology in the education policy making space.

    It’s important to note that none of this is about the technology. It’s all about providing teachers and students access to the resources that are taken for granted everywhere else in the modern world but in our classrooms. It’s about preparing districts for the 21st Century and Common Core. It’s about building schools and school cultures where students want to learn. It’s about empowering teachers through technology to become better teachers. It’s about preparing kids for their unknown futures and districts for the unknown challenges yet to come.

    Cabinet or bust!

  • Andrew T Schwab 9:00 am on October 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Random Thoughts on SBAC Preparedness 

    Just a random thought exercise. By no means definitive.

    • Internet Bandwidth – 100Mbps per 10,000 kids. (SBAC Tech Specs)
    • School WAN connections to the District Office – 250Mbps-1Gbps (more is better)
    • Campus Backbones – 1Gbps, 10Gbps if you can (again, more is better)
    • Bandwidth Shaping at the Firewall
    • A Wireless Access Point in every classroom. 4-5 in the Gym/Multi-Purpose Rooms
      • Look for low cost, high value, easy to setup and support, should not require a certification in wifi to manage
    • An online, platform agnostic collaboration suite. Preferably free – I’m partial to Google Apps for Education
    • Devices for teachers – See “In A Perfect EdTech World
    • Student Devices (Goal should be 1:1)
      • 1:1 Take Home – iPads. Management overhead in a shared cart model is problematic.
      • 1:1 Classroom Cart Model – Ubermix 11.6″ Notebooks  or Chromebooks
      • Shared Classroom Cart Model/Library/Learning Labs – Chromebooks
      • 1:1 Take Home With No Internet – Ubermix 11.6″ Notebooks
      • K-2 Learning Environments and Special Ed – iPads
      • 3-8th SBAC (Cal-MAPP) testing – Chromebooks or Ubermix 11.6″ Notebooks
      • In A Perfect SBAC Free 1:1 World – A tablet or every student with Chromebooks sprinkled throughout the classrooms
    • PD – The Elephant In The Room, as Dr. Vollmert likes to say.
      • Basic Tech Skills
      • Online Collaboration and Creation Skills
      • Content Search and Acquisition Skills
      • Technology Integration Into Daily Instruction Skills
      • EdTech Departments – Need a Cadre of Instructional Support People to help teachers and administrators develop these skills
    • Tech Support – The Hippopotamus In The Room
      • Site Techs – One for every 3-13 sites isn’t going to cut it anymore
        • 1 Per Comprehensive High School
        • 1 Per every two Middle Schools
        • 1 Per every 3-4 Elementary Schools
    • Sustainable Funding
      • No more school by school technology purchases
      • No more “one time money” tech planning
      • Need scheduled refresh cycles – student devices have a three year shelf life
      • LCFF lets districts set priorities, make sure sustainable equitable access to technology is one of them

    What did I miss?

    • jgreenlinger 1:32 pm on October 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Andrew, thanks for the Joyce-esque stream of consciousness. I am like you, my mind is swimming with all types of junk getting ready for SBAC while still trying to stay true to our teaching and learning goals. As a former principal of a school that successfully fundraised A LOT for technology and current director of technology for the district, I am really struggling with the idea of one school having SMART boards and iPads, while others are still using Dell GX280s and CRT monitors. I feel a blog post of my own coming….

    • pop art 1:06 am on October 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your article seem to be running off the screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The style and design look great though! Hope you get the problem fixed soon. Kudos

  • Andrew T Schwab 10:00 am on October 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    What Does A Kid Need To Learn? 

    What does a kid need to learn these days? If you believe as I do that access to the Internet is a fundamental requirement for learning and living in the 21st Century, then the next question to ask is what is the best device to achieve that? It’s a question I hear asked often. Everyone seems to want a simple answer. Buy this device, it’s common core ready. Or buy this device, it’s SBAC ready. Or buy this device because it’s the IT department’s standard and it can be “managed” and supported the way we’ve always done it. Well, I suppose there are some factors that need to be considered but my requirements for a 1:1 device for all students are fairly basic. I did agree to hand out iPads to High School students, after all.

    I believe a student’s everyday device should do three things really well. I’m leaning on my everyday device (iPhone) use for guidance here. First, the device’s battery has to last under heavy use through the entire school day. If the device has to be charged in the middle of the day, that presents all kinds of access issues. Ideally, the device would last a day and a half, given that some kids might forget to charge over night. Not that I have ever forgotten to charge my iPhone. Second, a student device has to be cheap and relatively durable. These devices will see a lot of wear and tear. Some will be stolen, some will be broken. It’s possible to wrap devices in protective cases to achieve durability, but it would be nice if they were semi-decent out of box. And last but not least, the device has to perform. It needs decent specs, good speed, a responsive touch screen or trackpad and it has to have wireless 5GHz connectivity because it needs to get kids onto the Internet in high density environments.

    What does cheap mean to me? Well, as someone who works for a public school, it means sub $300 per device. This knocks out quite a few devices right away and leaves us with basically Chromebooks, 11.6″ Notebooks, iPad minis (if we close one eye and squint past $29) and 7″ Android tablets. Of the four, the 7″ Android tablet, specifically the Nexus 7, pretty much beats all the rest on price and handily meets the other two requirements. So why isn’t every school in CA buying these low cost Internet connected devices for students? Well, I think the main reason is because our new next generation 21st Century tests won’t work on a 7″ screen. A light weight, inexpensive device that can access the world’s knowledge yet we can’t give one to every student because the “new” online tests were written for desktops? Desktops are done. It’s Ridiculous.

    Cheap Android Tablets

    But lets pursue the 7″ tablet idea further and pretend that perhaps we still can provide every student a low cost tablet (I really wish google made a $150 wifi only Nexus 4) while living in a utopian world where we might buy carts of Chromebooks for our testing labs to meet the requirements of the folks in Sacramento.

    What might students be able to do on a daily basis with a device that has no physical keyboard and only a 7″ screen? Well quite a lot if my wife’s computing experience over the past year is any indication of how the world has changed. Everything that she used to do on her Laptop she now does on her iPhone, including reading, shopping, bill paying, registering the kids for activities. Everything. Up until I got Printopia setup, the only reason she ever had to use the Laptop anymore was to print. And now that’s no longer an issue. Granted, she’s not writing 5 page essays anymore. But she’s posting on Facebook, communicating daily with her friends and family via iMessage and recording pictures and videos of the kids. She’s creating content as well as accessing it just fine on that dinky 4″ iPhone 5 screen. I think a small, light weight, affordable, portable device is the perfect way to go in education. It would get every kid connected, affordably and immediately. If not for the silly tests and their 10″ screen size and physical keyboard requirements.

    So back to reality, if it weren’t for SBAC, I think I’d be advocating for 1:1 tablets for kids (7″ Androids for cost, unless Apple gets on the ball with the iPad mini pricing next week) with a few Chromebooks in every classroom and a few Chromebook carts in every Library. Google Apps for Education (GAFE) would be the bridge between the devices and students would have access to their content on any device, anywhere and anytime. But SBAC is here and providing an equitable testing solution for all students is going to be a real challenge for many schools. The hodge podge of devices currently found in my district’s schools provide neither ubiquitous Internet access for students nor a robust and standardized testing platform. We really need to move to a 1:1 device scenario and when we do, the solution will be more costly and a bit stuck in the past all so that we can support a test platform that was built in the early days of the Internet.

    The world is quickly moving towards mobile and just as the Education community begins to realize the importance of preparing kids for their futures using the same technology rich experiences they are used to using outside the classroom, we should be very conscious of the incredibly rapid pace of change happening in that world right now. Mobile is the future. Tablets are the future. Are we testing kids for their future? Not without mobile and touch we’re not.

  • Andrew T Schwab 9:30 am on October 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    If A Tree Falls In The Forest… 

    I usually don’t post episodes of my rebootED and smallschoolbigtech podcasts (videocasts?) on this blog because after all, each show has its own site where they live. They also can be found on YouTube and iTunes but for all that, discovery is still an issue. I’m no marketing genius and wether or not anybody watches or listens isn’t really why I spend the time and energy to post them. If nobody watched, I’d still do it because it’s an amazing learning experience for me. Just like writing this blog. However, occasionally an episode comes along that I think is pretty awesome and I’d really like people to discover. This happens to be one of them. So watch or not, it’s up to you but in this rebootED episode Mike and I reflect on new models for PD, EdTech choices for the classroom, new Pedagogy for 1:1 and changing culture in schools.


  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on October 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    iOS7: So Far, Not So Good 

    So iOS 7 happened. Two months into the start of a new school year. Again. And right after we handed out iPads to teachers and students. All that UI training, gone. Poof. The number one question I get now; “Where did the airplay icon go?” Seriously. Maybe it’s a good thing people can’t find it, because teachers are no longer able to airplay for more than a few minutes before the connection drops. Just as we had teachers excited about using Mirroring in their classrooms, iOS 7 happened. The solution? Power down the iPad and restart. Not exactly the user friendly iOS 6 that made tech in the classroom easy.

    And Configurator? Well, all I can say is thanks for setting the default behavior to update to the current iOS, cause that’s what they all did. Before we changed it to never. Unfortunately there are some apps that just plain demand iOS 7. I guess they are too good for iOS 6 now. That means we can’t load them onto iPads that we haven’t updated which means teachers can’t use them, which pretty much defeats the purpose of the iPads because they run Apps, it’s what they do. But if we update to iOS 7 to install the Apps teachers want, we might have to un-supervise and re-supervise them all, and that’s not much fun. We’ll also lose our Management profile, which doesn’t like to load via Configurator for some reason. Oh, and we have to go through the Welcome screen again. Sometimes the old wifi settings stick and sometimes they don’t. It’s quite the mess really.

    And don’t get me started on VPP and all the promises of over the air app installation and supervision. It’s October. Where are all the things that mattered to us in education? Sure the interface is more Android like, but can I pull an app back from an AppleID yet? No. It’s not nice to tease.

    Today I was using Skitch on my iPad mini which has been on iOS 7 since day one and after a few app crashes, the whole iPad totally crashed. It went into a restart during my demo. The only thing missing was a BSOD. Not cool iOS 7, not cool at all.

    All in all, this has been the worst iOS update since I’ve been working with iPads in education (like the iPad 1!). Everything that was good and right with the iPad for the classroom is basically broken at the moment. It’s time for a fix Apple. Past time.

    • Mike Vollmert 2:39 pm on October 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Wait – Apple doesn’t really care about education? Again? Half of our apps now crash – the ones with no update ready yet… Configurator is still a joke (agreeing with you), and there’s still the issue of the weakest documentation for enterprise management I’ve seen in a long time.

  • Andrew T Schwab 3:00 pm on October 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Mobile Carts Suck 

    Mobile Device Cart

    They look so nice on day 1. Can’t wait for day 180.

    I don’t know how else to say it. Mobile device carts pretty much suck as a way to increase student access to technology. Particularly when carts are shared between classrooms. Take a school with just one mobile device cart to share between all the 3rd-5th grade classrooms. The logistics of dividing up the days and weeks for equitable cart time would make a FedEx employee cringe. Then there is the time spent taking devices in and out of the cart, hoping they are ready to go from one classroom to the next, not to mention all that time spent moving the cart around campus. We’ve all seen it, the giant cart being ferried from room to room by students in a harrowing run of bumpy side walks, stuck wheels and the grass of Doom.

    Frayed Cables

    This cart is shared between 12 classroom

    And then there is the responsibility factor. With shared carts, no one is every truly responsible for what happens to a cart or it’s devices. All the check out sheets and daily logs in the world can’t make everyone who uses the cart care about it as much as you do. It’s inevitable that a device’s Tab key will go missing without anyone noticing for a week or one device won’t charge anymore or a cables will get crunched. Whatever it is, it won’t be anyone’s fault but it will affect everyone’s ability to use the cart effectively in their class. This is the biggest downside I see to the cart model. The cart is a Nomad. It belongs to no one.

    Now before you say, “So computer labs are better!”, let me say, No! they aren’t. Computer labs suck too, but for different reasons. Labs require dedicated space, power and cable infrastructure investments (using a 48-port switch on a table top and daisy chaining power strips along the floor doesn’t count) and fixed desktops don’t allow for flexible learning environments. That’s not to say that a dedicated media lab per school isn’t an awesome idea but labs as a way to provide daily access to technology integrated learning environments aren’t the answer.

    What about a mobile cart in every classroom then? Best of both worlds? Access for everyone, mobile, and flexible. Well, that would certainly address a lot of the issues with shared carts. For a district that doesn’t trust it’s kids to take devices home, carts in every classroom is really the only answer to increasing student access to technology on a daily basis. However the cart still represents a cost overhead that could go into buying more student devices, presents challenges with power cords, wastes time taking out and putting devices away and provides a convenient conveyance for a thief to take all 36 devices in one haul. But certainly a cart is better than no devices in the classroom at all.

    Power Cord Mess

    Power adapters installed by the teacher. A for effort!

    The bottom line, if you haven’t guessed already, is that to me anything short of providing every student a device to take home is a half measure. It’s trying to jump the canyon in two leaps. By assigning a device to a student they have ownership of it. By allowing them to take it home, they have responsibility for taking care of it and charging it every night. We’ve been sending books home with kids for years. This really should be no different.

    That’s why I’m very disappointed in LAUSD’s 1:1 iPad roll out. The administration obviously wasn’t prepared and they didn’t adequately prepare the community. Not only that, but they approached the device as something to be controlled, as if student learning could be confined to just those bits that LAUSD determined was required. They artificially constrained the devices and missed the point of providing every student with access to an internet connected device. Worse, they made it harder for the rest of us to get 1:1 programs off the ground.

    1:1 for everyone. With open devices and lots of communication to students, parents and staff. It sends a message of trust and empowerment to students, provides the opportunities for teachers to transform learning in their classrooms, makes device support much simpler, requires less overhead for storage, power and time and spreads the risk of loss across all individuals.

    How are your carts working out for you?


    • Devorah Merling 3:26 pm on October 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Andrew, I agree with the above and just would like you opinion on this topic. What do you do with the students who perpetually do not charge their device? What is your answer for schools who are building new innovative programs with high powered laptops that need to be connected during the day as the battery power isn’t capable of lasting throughout the day? I feel while the ideal situation is for students to be responsible for their device, there are many additional factors we need to consider in a 1:1 program.
      And I agree – the LAUSD debacle will be used as a reason for district to veer but if they investigate thoroughly, they will see the program was doomed from the beginning – too large of a scope too fast and definitely not enough control to the students, but they showed them that very quickly!

    • Kris Boneman 5:48 pm on October 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I sooooo agree. The only successful mobile carts I have seen, are those where the mobility has been eliminated. Devices need to have ownership. A teacher needs to have both ownership and availability. Creating curriculum for students for every other Tuesday will never transform instruction. When the ownership is transferred to the student even better. Having students hold responsiblity for their devices and their learning is a goal I have for our district. We are not there yet, but every nudge we take that directions feels like a better fit.

      We are implementing technology at our 13 sites K-12 to help support SBAC transition, about 80 devices per site. The recommendation I am giving sites is to identify a teacher to own the cart, and use the cart to change the way they do business. Don’t try to give everyone a little bit, go all in with a couple of classrooms. This will increase the chance that the technology will actually be in working condition come SBAC time.

      The saddest thing I ever saw was a one year old laptop cart at one of our middle schools. It had been scavenged. The laptops left were missing keys and chargers, what a waste.

    • Cameron Moore 7:29 pm on October 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      What device did you go with? I see VGA ports!

      • Andrew T Schwab 7:42 pm on October 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        The Acer V5 11.6″ notebook with ubermix.

    • Mark Hall 8:53 pm on October 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I agree Andrew, as usual. But with one point to add. What to do about those kids who do not have a safe secure home where their device will not be stolen. Or a safe secure route to and from school? There is not a huge resale market for literature texts, but stolen laptops? There is a market. Yea, you can insure them, but what happens when the device is stolen the second time?

      • Andrew T Schwab 9:55 pm on October 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Not sure how many people would want to steal a Chromebook with a big “Property of BUSD” laser etching on the lid but it is a valid point. The first stolen iPad at Le Gand was stolen from a kid’s home by some of his older siblings friends but that was the only incident that I know of. I think if the school makes it very clear that the device is required for learning and their is a major parent outreach component of the deployment, like Sylvan Union is planning, then sending devices home will open up more possibilities than problems.

        As for “neighborhood” theft with kids going to and from school, again, it didn’t happen in Le Grand. When every kid has one, why steal one? It might be different in an Urban setting but we haven’t even seen those stories coming out of LAUSD. I’m thinking it’s one of those Fear obstacles that just had to be overcome by the adults in the room. But maybe chromebooks need to come in theft deterrent pink to make some people feel better?

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