Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Challenge to Create a New EdTech App

Today, Aneesh Chopra, former Chief Technology Officer of the US Government, spoke to entrepreneurs, engineers, developers, designers, and business people at the StartNorfolk event. He invited me to share a few thoughts regarding trends in leveraging technology for learning and gave me the opportunity to issue a challenge for the development of a new app.

I’d like to start my remarks by telling you about David. David was an 11th grade student in my school district last year who was taking Algebra II. David is very quiet. He didn’t talk much to his peers or to the teacher. When it came time to review for the semester exam, his teacher decided that rather than providing the review herself, she would crowdsource the assignment: she would rely on the expertise of the entire class. She challenged David and all the other students to create math tutorial videos and post them on the internet. The students rose to the challenge-they loved that they were creating videos not just for their peers in that class but for a global audience. Because they were so into it, they worked hard to create coherent, easy-to-understand tutorials. David’s video was particularly compelling. Not only did he break down a complex solution into understandable steps, he integrated graphics and sound that grabbed the attention of viewers. The teacher highlighted his video as an example of an effective instructional video and he loved the recognition. The teacher reports that the review was much more effective with this approach. The class would not have benefitted from David’s ability to teach if she had not taken this crowdsourcing approach.
I share this story because it relates to several trends in leveraging technology for learning.
1.       Global Connectivity-it takes advantage of the Internet to provide students with a global audience, thereby increasing their willingness to commit themselves fully to their work
2.       Anytime/Anywhere/Any Device Learning-students in this classroom were able to access the videos, not just at school, but from anywhere that they have connectivity. Also, students are now able to create these tutorials with devices of their choice. Our school district allows students to bring smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and other devices to school and connect with our wireless network. Also, if they wanted to access the resources of our network from home in order to create their tutorial, they could do so because we have a virtual desktop infrastructure that basically serves as a private cloud for our students and teachers.
3.       Open Source/Crowdsourcing-There were no restrictions on who was providing or accessing content. The whole class was doing the job of instruction. This is a bottom-up, not top-down approach. And the content was free.
4.       Personalization/Choice-Each student choose what topic he would teach, as well as what device and software he would use to create the tutorial. And they choose which tutorials to access to prepare for the exam.
I have a confession to make. The story about David and the comments about these four trends were a set up. I was setting you up for an ask.  Aneesh gave me a wonderful opportunity-to issue a challenge to you regarding the creation of a new digital tool or app. I asked whether it could be any challenge and he said yes, so here goes.
Click here to view.
I want an app that helps teachers, and even parents and students leverage the newly created learning registry. Aneesh Chopra for being one of the driving forces behind the register. The learning registry is an emerging web-based library of resources. It is an open community. Any organization or individual can contribute or access resources. Right now, many teachers spend hours surfing the internet to find resources to help them create successful lesson plans. The registry will help teachers find the best resources, not only for their grade or content area, but for particular students.
Design Specs
·         Searchable: I want to be able to search the tagged content by topic, grade level, skill, author, and the time period it was posted to the registry;
·         Platform and Device Agnostic: I want to be able to use this app regardless of whether I am using a PC, tablet, or handheld device and regardless of the operating system I am utilizing.
·         Continuous Content Aggregation:  I want the app to constantly update available resources based on searches that I save.  If I do search looking for lesson plans, I want to be able to save that search and have the results of the search automatically updated as new resources are added to the learning registry;
·         Personalized Smart Search: I want the app to prioritize the resources it identifies based on my preferences, previous usage, and my rating of content I have accessed previously. I want the app to say, "Given what content you liked in the past, I think you'll like this content";
·         Freemium-: I want it to be premium (first-rate), but it must be free. I don’t care if you make money by selling ads or selling upgrades, but the basic app must be free and robust;
·         Sharing Features: I want to be able to distribute links to the registry--as well as ratings, comments, and questions--via social media.
So, that is my challenge and I sincerely hope that some of you will take it on. And if you are working on other apps that are related to learning, I hope they will reflect the trends I have addressed. This is an exciting time to be in K-12 education. I am more optimistic than ever before about our ability to leverage game-changing technology to support student achievement. One reason for my optimism is the League of Innovative Schools and Digital Promise. Digital Promise is a national center created by Congress with bipartisan support. Aneesh also played a key role in getting this off the ground. The League, created as part of Digital Promise, includes leading school districts, as well as some of the world’s most foremost researchers and education technology providers. The York County School Division iss one of the charter members of the league.  I hope you will join us in the league's endeavor to use technology to transform teaching and learning.

During the Q and A session, Bert Schmidt, with encouragement from Aneesh, expressed interest in joining me in issuing this challenge. Bert Schmidt is the CEO of WHRO (our local public television station). PBS is already actively involved with the Learning Registry initiative.

Special thanks to @ccrudy and @ldonvito for brainstorming with me regarding edtech apps! Follow them on Twitter.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Four Policies to Support EdTech

Dear School Board Members,
Too many school districts adopt a lockdown perspective when it comes to technology policy. They lock down access to digital tools in a futile attempt to try to prevent students from making mistakes. Instead, school districts should adopt a “student driver” approach. Provide instruction and then put students behind the wheel for practice under your supervision.
Here are four recommendations for creating policies that support, rather than block, student use of technology for learning.
Provide students and staff with robust access to Internet resources, including YouTube, Skype, Twitter, and Facebook.  Sonja Trainer, NSBA Senior Attorney, explains that the FCC ruled in August 2011 that Facebook does not fall into one of the categories that schools must block.  Besides, “banning is not the answer” to promoting acceptable, responsible use notes CoSN in a recent white paper. As suggested by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, districts should “reduce Internet filtering to maximize student access & provide opportunities to exercise judgment.” Let’s focus on developing students as responsible users. With guided practice, students can become responsible digital citizens.
Encourage students to bring cell phones, laptops, e-Readers, MP3 players, and other digital devices to school for learning. Many students own digital tools so let them use them. Even if you don’t sanction the possession of these devices at school, students will bring them anyway. You may be led to expanding your ban, like the school district which banned the Ugh boots because students were hiding their cell phones in them. Let’s put the students’ technology to use for learning.
Provide wireless internet access and sanction student and staff use of this Wi-Fi using personal devices.
Foster students safely blogging, tweeting, and posting work via  the Internet for audiences beyond students’ classroom. Obtain parent permission for safe collaboration, connection, and performances which extend beyond the walls of a student’s class.
You can make a positive difference with these four policies!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Are There Any School Board Members on Twitter?

Want to connect with School Board members via Twitter? Don’t know how to find School Board members on Twitter?
If you want to read the tweets of School Board members, candidates, and associations, click on this link to view a list of School Board members that I curate. Then select “Subscribe.”
To view just the stream of tweets from this group, go to your Profile page. Click the Lists tab on the left side of the screen. Choose the list entitled School Board.  You will immediately see the stream of Tweets from individuals on in this group. If you see the members of the group, rather than the stream, click on the “Tweets” button just below the subscribe/unsubscribe button.
I am not included on this list so please consider following me (@ewilliams65) as well.
As #NSBAConf proceeds, I will add tweeting School Board members to this list.
To see who is on the list, visit the link above and select “List Members” below the subscribe/unsubscribe button.
If you are a School Board member, but are not yet included in the list just mention me (@ewilliams65) in a tweet and let me know that you are a Board member.
Click here to learn more about Twitter Lists, including how to see what lists you are on and how to create lists.
You may also wish to view my post regarding tweeting at conferences.
Also, click here to follow a list of superintendents curated by @DanielLFrazier.

Three Types of Conference Tweets

You have a Twitter account. You understand the basics of tweeting. However, you are uncertain what to tweet. You are about to attend a conference or a workshop so you decide to ease yourself into the Twitterverse. Here are three types of tweets you can send at a conference or workshop. If you are hesitant about tweeting, you may wish to just stick with the first type until you gain more confidence.
1.       Identify noteworthy statements by the speaker. What statements by the speaker/presenter grab your attention? You may find a statement noteworthy because you agree or disagree with it or because it inspires, puzzles, or challenges you. List the statement in your tweet and attribute it to the speaker, using the speaker’s Twitter user name if you know it. Include the conference hashtag, such as #NSBAConf, so people following the hashtag will see it. Feel free, but not obligated, to include your reaction to the statement. 
2.       Respond to or retweet the tweets of others at the conference.  This is the best way to connect with others and expand your professional learning network. By collaboratively wrestling with ideas, you make connections that may extend past the conference via Twitter.

Follow the conference hashtag and identify particularly interesting tweets. Retweet an interesting tweet without comment. Note in the graphic below that the original tweet is reissued with the notation that it has been retweeted by you so that your followers see it too.

Alternatively, reply to the tweet with a reaction or a question, including the conference hashtag.
If the initial tweet was relatively short or you can shorten it without changing the meaning, you may reply to the tweet by copying the initial tweet into your response and then adding a brief comment. Apps like Tweetdeck make it easier to retweet with comments and questions.

3.       Send links to resources related to the presentation.  When a presenter displays a web site or video or makes references to individuals, organizations, or resources, conference participants may make a mental note to seek more information on these topics later. You can help your fellow attendees by sending a link to a web site related to one of these resources. Copy and paste the URL from your browser to your tweet. Note that Twitter automatically shortens the URL so that it uses fewer characters.
Enjoy the twitterverse. It needs your contributions!