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  • Andrew T Schwab 7:15 am on December 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply  

    The New Macbook Air – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? 

    We’re faced with a big decision in the next few months, what laptop will we upgrade our teachers to next. They are all rocking the 13″ MacBook Air from 2014 and aside from some battery issues on the oldest ones, I must say, the devices have held up really well. In fact, if Apple had simply upgraded the processors in the old MacBook Air chassis and maybe thrown in a bit higher resolution screen, we would have already made the decision.



    But, unfortunately, Apple had to go and “improve” on what was arguably already the best laptop ever made. So, I’ve been demoing one of the new MacBook Air 2018 models for the past week and here is where I’m at:


    • Nice Screen – brightness seems fine in daily use, despite the reviews
    • Small Bezels!
    • Decent performance (although I’ve seen Chrome stutter a bit here and there)
    • I can use my Pixel phone charger to charge it!
    • Speakers are nice
    • TouchID Power Button is awesome


    • I really miss the old MacBook Air keyboard –  The travel is non-existent and I am missing more keys when typing than usual
    • No MagSafe adapter to save me from myself
    • Surprisingly heavy, especially for the reduced size and when compared to the old MacBook Air 13″
    • Headphone jack on the right hand side (that’s just wrong)
    • Apple Logo doesn’t light up – gone is any external indicator that the machine is on, or sleeping when the lid is closed.

    So, is this the device for 350 educators to use day and in day out in their classrooms for the next 4-5 years? At this point, I am not sure. I think for next steps it would make sense for use to order a few more and put them in the hands of teachers in the classroom to find out. Given the magnitude of this decision, I think we need some heavy classroom use before we can make an informed choice.

    On another note, from an organizational perspective, I wish Apple would think about more than just the individual user sometimes. We have invested in an entire system of spare power adapters and display dongles to support our fleet of MacBook Airs. Regardless of what device we end up moving forward with, we are going to have to replace all of that with new accessories. Thanks USB-C.


    With this new MacBook Air, I feel like we’ve taken one step forward and two steps back. We had the best keyboard on the market. We had MagSafe, which was just brilliant at saving ourselves from ripping out the power cord. We had a thin and light chassis that really only showed it’s age around the screen resolution and bezel size.  In the end, we gave up a lot of user friendly innovation and all we really got in exchange was a TouchID enabled power button.

    One thing is certain, ever since Apple got rid of the polycarbonate MacBook, they’ve continued to limit the options for Education if we want to stay on the Mac OS platform. Maybe we should be testing teacher Chromebooks instead…

    • Tim Goree 1:32 pm on December 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the info – this is really helpful!

    • Matt Penner 6:52 pm on December 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      I agree. The magsafe adapter was a thing of brilliance, why the heck they removed it several years ago makes no sense to me. I understand wanting usb-c charging, but now I’m searching for a usb-c magsafe adapter.

      If pressed I bet we could show that 95% of our teacher activities are now easily accessible on a Chromebook, and those that aren’t have modern equivalents, are no longer relevant practices or can be handled through VDI. Only the specialized curriculum that require dedicated hardware/equipment (I.e. Photoshop labs, video editing, CNC, etc) still require dedicated legacy O/S’s and those are being addressed every year.

      We are still ~2 years away from our refresh and I’m hoping to move to a 90% Chrome environment.

  • Andrew T Schwab 2:10 pm on April 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply  

    Life After 1:1 #Lead3 

    Every student has access to an Internet connected mobile device. Now what?

    If you are at a district that has entered the 21st Century and made the decision to provide technology access to every student, congratulations, you’ve taken you’re first step into a larger world. What happens in that larger world is up to you. It can look a lot like before, and probably will at first. But if you embrace change and explore the possibilities, you can start to transform reality into something new and relevant for the age of information overload and the 4th great industrial revolution. In the slide deck below, I walk through the possibilities we’ve explored and the change we’ve experienced over the past four years at Union School District, where technology is now ubiquitous and we’ve moved past the initial tech as a tool phase into the exciting world of future ready learning.

    Questions are welcome.

  • Andrew T Schwab 6:51 am on April 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply  

    Rubber Bands and Change at #Lead3 

    This guy John Eick, @John_Eick, (pronounced IKE not ICK), just blew my mind for the second time in less than a month. We were fortunate enough to have John keynote our district PD day a few weeks ago and I thought he rocked the house then, but yesterday as the Lead 3 keynote, he brought the house down. In about an hour, from a tiny stage in front of a crowd of school administrators seated at round tables eating lunch, John taught a master course on organizational change leadership. We’ve all read the standard leadership books but what Eick did in an hour with an imaginary Rubber Band, Hollywood worthy sound effects and an acronym, is distill all that book theory into 7 practical steps a school administrator can start working on TOMORROW. And it’s not rocket science. To use another Jon’s terminology, Eick has built a protocol for educational leadership that gets right to the point. So, if John isn’t writing a book, he should be, because his STRETCH ideas are some of the most succinct and accessible how-to’s for being a change leader I’ve heard, ever. And we need more practical, real world ideas for educational leaders if we’re going to change the system to meet the needs of our kid’s futures. Status quo is not an option.


  • Andrew T Schwab 9:27 am on December 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    Goodbye Small School Big Tech 

    In April 2010, Danny Silva and I sat down and recorded the first episode of the Small School Big Tech Podcast. The premise was simple, two educators talking about our experiences implementing technology in our school district. Along the way we chronicled our 1:1 roll out in real time and got to meet and talk with a bunch of awesome educators. Danny dropped off in 2011 when he left for CUE and Mike Magboo stepped in to pick up the slack. Five years and 66 episodes in, Small School Big Tech had run it’s course. I posted the last episode on March 18th, 2015.

    Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 9.22.09 AM

    Since that last episode, I’ve kept the Small School Big Tech website and domain name while watching as the traffic dropped off to almost zero. Coming up on three years since the last post, I think it’s time to let it go. I’ve unchecked the Auto-Renew option in Hover for the domain and with that done, I now have a few months to figure out what, if anything, to do with the content.

    All of the audio files are hosted on Archive.org, so they will essentially live forever, minus the index associated with the small school big tech web site itself. I’ve been debating sucking all the episodes from Small School Big Tech over to this site. I know it will break all the external URL references like iTunes and Feedburner but at least the references to the Archive.org links will exist somewhere in one place. What I’d really like to do is create one page with every episode title and link on it, old school web index style.

    Or maybe I’m being nostalgic and should just let them go. Leave them to live on at Archive.org forever, to be discovered, or not, in the ever expanding historical record of the Interwebs.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on December 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    EdSurge Fusion: A Reflection 


    Last month I attended the EdSurge Fusion Conference where the focus for the event was on Personalized Learning. Right off the bat, the presenters acknowledged that we lack a common definition for what Personalized Learning is, what it looks like and what it might mean for the future of education. The idea behind Personalized Learning isn’t new. Since the one room school houses of old, Personalized, Differentiated, Individualized Instruction has been sought after, nostalgically it seems, in response to the success of the factory, one sized fits all model of education. It’s not a new idea, Personalization has just been very hard to do well at scale in the current system.

    Personalized Learning represents the perfect intersection of Technology and Education. It is the space where Technology will eventually (finally?) disrupt education as we know it, the way technology has disrupted almost every other sector of our lives because technology has the potential to make Personalization at scale a reality. Essentially, Personalized Learning is the disintermediation of the system of education and, if the big thinkers at EdSurge are right, it will be powered by AI (Artificial Intelligence).

    My last few EdSurge events had been vendor heavy and education leadership light, with a scattering of messages about education reform and the startup culture driving change from diverse approaches with technology. This event was different. At Fusion I heard a unified front from vendors, philanthropists and educational leaders alike around the promise of Personalized Learning. AI is going to power Personalized Learning of the future, and big money is being concentrated around this idea to make it a reality.

    What learning looks like powered by AI, with Natural Language Processing (think Siri or Alexa for schools) and the world’s information being sucked up by Big Data, one can only guess. And yes, Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant all pretty much suck at accepting spoken commands, but if we’ve learned anything from Moore’s Law over the past 15 years, it is that compute power gets faster and cheaper exponentially. Natural Language Processing and AI will get better and fast. With the big vendors and philanthropists converging on Personalized Learning, educationally relevant Big Data will form a trifecta that will, in the next 5-10 years begin to transform education in a way technology has never been able to do before.

    This is not the next overhead projector, or the next interactive white board or even the next 1:1 device. This is technology that will understand the spoken word, search the sea of infinite information available on the Internet and return a relevant answer. Call this vision version 1.0, which we’re already living in, by the way. In version 2.0, AI will add contextual understanding and factual information retrieval will become faster and more accurate. Relevancy will increase and it will seem as though AI knows what information you need before you do. Information will be presented in ever increasingly easily understood interfaces.

    Versions 3.0 is where it will get really interesting. When AI starts to provide relevant, real time feedback on student learning. This will be the shift from teaching content to teaching learning strategies. When AI makes this jump, and it will make the jump, learning as we know it will change forever. This is the kind of change brought on by the modern industrial model of school or the cheap information access made possible by the printing press before that. Natural Language Processing + AI + Big Data + ubiquitous Internet access and student devices will make learning truly Personalized: Anywhere, Anytime, with Real Time Feedback, Just-In-Time Context, formatted to fit the needs of each individual student. Think an Iron Man “JARVIS” for every child. Far out there, I know, but not so far out that we can’t begin to see it now.

    If you had asked me a month ago how soon I thought we’d see the Vulcan School from Star Trek, I’d have guesstimated 20-30 years. Certainly after my 1st grade graduated high school. But after listening to a bunch of smart people at EdSurge Fusion describe how they are directing their efforts (Time, Money, Political Capitol) on AI powered Personalized Learning, focusing on student centered learning paired with the exponential innovation of the technology revolution, I came away from EdSurge thinking the future is much closer than I imagined.

    The education system faces many challenges. Technology has been nipping at the heels of education reform since the Internet was invented, but the convergence of AI and Personalized Learning will challenge the system like never before. Once an AI powered device learns to “teach”, what will become of School?

  • Andrew T Schwab 12:02 pm on March 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply  

    Off to #CUE17 (http://www.cue.org/conference). Perhaps it will prompt a blog post or two…

  • Andrew T Schwab 11:48 am on November 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Three Wishes for G Suite (for Education) 

    As I sit here at Google getting an update on their awesome Google for Education tools, I have a few features on my wish list:

    1. Auto Play Embedded Videos in Google Slides – I don’t think I need to explain this one.
    2. YouTube Red for Education – AdFree Youtube, duh!
    3. Create a real Groups platform – We need a robust Group Collaboration platform, think hybrid Sites & Groups. Or better yet, make Google+ more usable for group/enterprise collaboration with support for under 13 year olds and walled garden collaboration in school.

    And for a personal one: Please solve the email black hole when it comes to project and task management. Bring the power of the big blue Share button to gmail – Sharable Gmail Labels or a way to send Email to a Google Doc to be shared as an action item.

    What would you wish for?

    • Ryan 1:30 pm on November 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Great list! I have been asking for Google Classroom to let me choose what calendar is used with their product. I already have a calendar for all of my classes and I do not need a calendar just for one class.

      Ad Block Plus extension is pretty great for blocking ads on youtube.

      How about text boxes in google docs. Yes you can use them in drawings that can be inserted in docs, but having a text box feature would be awesome.

  • Andrew T Schwab 7:30 am on November 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Thinking Out Loud About Instructional Leadership 

    What does Good Instructional Leadership look like?

    It’s a question that has come up often in the past year. As a leadership team in our district we’re reading through Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo (#gocrickets) and Tony Sinanis, which has great practical ideas for education leaders. But what does that look like when applied to instruction?

    During one of our back and forth brainstorming discussions, this came up:

    “It comes down to regular formative assessments (not just 3 benchmarks) and a leader who can ask guiding questions, inspiring teachers to do better”


    That’s a pretty powerful concept right there. Powerful in it’s simplicity and powerful in it’s focus on student learning. This got me thinking about what’s really important for learning and how do we make sure we’re focused on supporting that as instructional leaders.

    Supporting learning really comes down to building a culture around a common vision for what learning looks like. We aren’t all fortunate enough to build a school culture from the ground up (like @jcorippo & @mwniehoff) but we can all strive for a student centered vision of learning for our own schools and districts that can help frame (or re-frame) the current culture. A vision where everyone believes in success for all children, where we have high expectations like:

    • Every child will read at grade level by 3rd grade.
    • Every 5th grader will make an impact in their community for the better.
    • Every 8th grader will be part of a team that problem solves world challenges for a better future.

    Where we come together around action statements that look like:

    Students will – Be present and engaged, ask tough questions, explore big ideas, have fun and change the world for the better.

    Teachers will – Create engaging learning experiences for all students, assessing early and often, using the data to provide individualized student support towards standards mastery.

    Principals will – Support teachers through reflection and guided questions that inspire teachers to move all students towards standards mastery.

    Staff will – Provide support, inspiration and guidance while removing obstacles to learning along the way.

    I guess for me, good instructional leadership looks like building/supporting/promoting/growing a community of dedicated educators, support staff and parents around doing what’s best for kids.

    So what would your definition of Good Instructional Leadership look like?

    • Arnie K. 12:05 pm on November 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      It would look like a district in which the school board actively worked for everything you presented in this post.

      Boards are way too hands off.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on November 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s Still About 1:1 #CETPA2016 


    Back in April, Adam Welcome wrote a blog post that really got me thinking entitled It’s No Longer About 1:1. As I’ve been an advocate for 1:1 in schools since 2009, I immediately drafted a response, one that I uncharacteristically then let sit for several months so I could stew on it a bit more. In that time, it looks like the post has gone away, but my thoughts on it still remain. This is what Adam said that got me thinking:

    “Even if you have the money to go 1:1, I’m not sure it’s the best idea right now moving forward. Showing students a multi-pronged approach with collaborating, creativity, problem solving, investigation, art and other relevant skills is important. Leveraging those needed skills in different ways is important as it builds different capabilities for our kids. Being able to transition from Google Apps to coding an obstacle course as part of their math instruction, to taking an iPad around campus on a picture walk looking for different angles or types of trees to include on a presentation are all really important skills that produce well rounded kids.”

    What caused me to pause in my initial response was that I agree with Adam on the importance of building diverse opportunity learning environments. Many valuable learning activities in class do not require every student to have access to their own device and we should be providing opportunities for students to have a variety of technology tools embedded into the learning. But I also believe that providing every student with an internet connected device must be a fundamental educational tenet given how we access information today. That doesn’t mean that kids should be on the devices all the time, but their device should be available to access information when and where needed. I think it’s too soon to stop advocating for 1:1 as not everyone is there yet.

    Not going 1:1 limits options for learning. A whole class collaborative essay with real time teacher feedback is hard to do without 1:1. Blended learning is hard to do without 1:1. Flipped learning is hard to do without 1:1. Real time classroom assessment with data capture is hard to do without 1:1.

    “What do your classrooms look like? What do you want your classrooms to look like? What can your classrooms look like? More importantly – how can you leverage the money you have or don’t have to give your kids a well rounded technology experience that will build their skill level in many different ways.”

    The crux of Adam’s argument really revolves around funding. Fund 1:1 or fund 1:2 or 1:4 with Spheros, 3D Printers and other collaborative tools added to the classroom. Funding is a real issue for us in CA, since we have no dedicated funding source for technology and priorities are set by individual districts. Unfortunately, 1:1 is still seen in many districts as beyond their reach. This is where I struggle with what Adam was saying; if a district can afford 1:1 and chooses not to go that route, then I think they are constraining what I consider to be a foundational element of the modern learning environment.

    Another reality to consider is state online adaptive testing. We call it the CAASPP here in California. Every 3rd-8th grade student needs to feel comfortable and confident with navigating their device, accessing information and responding to assessment questions online. This is infinitely harder if students don’t have access to their own device.

    Spheros and 3D Printers are cool. I think things like Spheros, LittleBits, 3D Printers, Lego Robotics, Drones and their like are the modern day equivalent of the Computer Lab. We should be providing students access to these experiences. But right now, these tools are still relatively expensive, specialized tech that require a lot of care and feeding (support and technical know how) just like the Computer Labs of old. There are definitely times when being in a 1:2 or 1:4 device to student based activity is better suited to the learning objective. Classrooms should have multiple types of devices for learning, especially for Multi-Media projects. On this, I totally agree with Adam, but we shouldn’t compromise on a base line expectation of 1:1. An Internet connected device for every student is the “textbook required” equivalent for the 21st Century. Thankfully, the devices can do so much more than just access information and it’s our job as educators to make sure they are used for more than electronic versions of worksheets and textbooks.

    This disruptive path we are on in education will continue. Fundamentally, how we access information has changed. Constraining access to information in a classroom does not help students learn how to successfully navigate a world of abundant information. Until classroom devices are as ubiquitous as textbooks, paper and pencils, we can’t let go of the goal of ensuring every kid has access to an Internet connected device for learning.

    • Arnie K. 12:01 pm on November 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Perhaps you are too benevolent to schoolsand the funding process for tech. California’s limited money stream should be encouraging creative solutions. Instead, I see only a general spirit of throwing up our hands since nothing we do as teachers or as a school is seen as making a difference. This leads to a “don’t rock the boat attitude”.

      Secondarily, some of the same money that goes for salaries would/does go for technology so there is a disincentive for teachers to advocate for tech spending since it means more work for teachers to adapt to new tech and less pay at the end of the month.

    • Lisa 2:28 pm on November 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I agree that 1:1 is the way to go (whether district provided or BYOD) – every student needs their own device. We give every kid a pencil…

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on October 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Information Revolution Is Real 

    And I think anyone would be hard pressed to find someone that disagrees that it is having a profound impact on the world we live in today.

    This post on twitter got me thinking this morning:

    I found the below video in the pre-twitter years of the Internet and used it as a conversation starter around teaching with technology for many years. Then, I forgot about it. It was lost to one of my old YouTube playlists, never to be played again. Until yesterday, when I used it in a team building exercise to talk about my Why. The reason I’m a self described 1:1 evangelist and believe infusing technology into core instructional practice is absolutely critical for the future of education.

    The video quality is bad and the tech is pretty hilarious, but to me, it is still one of the best examples of the dramatic shift in how we interact with information that is currently underway.

    While the video is starting to show it’s age, I think it’s even more relevant today because if anything, the changes it depicts are accelerating, not slowing down. In Education, we have a responsibility to prepare children for their futures, not our pasts. How many schools are actually preparing kids to be successful in a new post information revolution world?

    If you have a video that highlights the information revolution happening now, please share in the comments. I’m looking to refresh my old Building A 1:1 Vision Playlist. Thanks.

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