Monday, October 27, 2008

A Few Good Tech Coordinators

One of the email lists I belong to has a member that occasionally forgets that working with educators is vastly different than working in the business sector. He is the network manager of a K-12 district and is still learning the nuances of working with educators and how education works (or doesn't). His email signature ends with this: "CCNA/CCDA/CCDP/CCNP, MCSE 2003, CNE/CNI 5 and 6, LPI 1, CCA, and a few more."

At times, "foot in mouth" disease is rampant on his part. He was at it again last week, although this was a very mild case. One reply came from a fellow tech coordinator who said:

"Maybe you could just sugar coat things a little? I like to reflect on a quote from one of my favorite movies, A Few Good Tech Coordinators.

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Jessep: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has firewalls. And those firewalls have to be guarded by routers with access lists an supported by Technology Coordinators and Network Administrators. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Wetech? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly Wiki. You weep for Carmen Sandiego and you curse the Technology Coordinators. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Sandiego being lost somewhere in the world, while tragic, will eventually be found. And my existence, while Open Source and incompatible with Vista, saves bytes...You don't want the truth. Because during deep system scanning, in places you don't talk about at WAN and LAN parties, you want me on that firewall. You need me on that firewall.

We use words like binary, HTML code, script...we use these words as the Internet backbone and to a life spent downloading something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very network I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a flash drive and go blog yourself. Either way, I don't give a widget what you think you're entitled to!"

I thought this was a stitch. What do you think?

(Thanks to Jason Schenzel, Technology Coordinator at Newman Catholic Schools in Wausau, WI for the original post).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

SETDA's "Bloggers Thinking Bold Challenge"

Welcome to SETDA's "Bloggers Thinking Bold Challenge"

At our annual
Emerging Technologies Forum just prior to NECC, SETDA participants were treated to the "Ed-Tech Gladiator Challenge" featuring David Warlick and David Thornburg

Each gave a short presentation on the future of tech in schools and then challenged the participants to:

To come up with one action step per topic that crystallizes a solid, bold, action step that will help policy makers create district, state and national legislation.

SETDA wants your help -- help us identify some bold action steps!

Go to the "Bloggers Thinking Bold Challenge" -- BE BOLD!

Here are a couple of examples from or original SETDA Session -- 

STEM Education: Achievement and Innovation :  What is America’s next Moon shot? This group will develop a strategy to ignite the innovation in America’s students and identify effective approaches and tools to support an expanded Math & Science curriculum that is rich with technology integration to ensure America’s continued strength in the global marketplace.

RESPONSE: The Moon shot is sustaining/dealing energy, food and water shortages/issues.
  • Require each state to develop a strategy (local, regional or state) to implement multiple STEM academies (ie. similar to Illinois Math and Science Academy) to support a minimum 5% of total state student population.
  • Establish a real-world problems registry at regional, state or national level that describe current problems and solicit classes and educators to come in and collaborate with industry to develop solutions.
Technology Based Assessment Trends:  Assessment doesn’t always have to include a number 2 pencil and bubble sheets. Although there is a place for this approach, there are new assessment tools that can be alternatives to help teachers analyze “the whole student’s” progress in a timely and efficient manner in an effort to respond with appropriate interventions and/or enrichment activities tailored to each learner. Help SETDA identify some approaches that are working to increase student achievement through alternative assessments.

  • Require each student to maintain a K-12 e-portfolio of their learning that MUST show evidence of accomplishing 21st century skills. ePortfolios will be scored using rubrics based on state standards that have been aligned to state or national content standards and are tied to ISTE NETS-S.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ed-Tech Gladiator Challenge: David vs. David

Part of my responsibilities working for an state education agency (SEA) is to participate in the State Educational Technology Director's Association (SETDA) events prior to NECC. The SETDA events are usually fun, enjoyable and full of learning.

One new session this year to our event list is the Ed-Tech Gladiator Action Plan Challenge set for 11:30 am - 1:30 pm on Sunday, June 29. From the looks of the session description, it appears Mary Ann Wolf and the SETDA staff have done a great job in not only securing two top notch speakers, but have also created a participatory event for SETDA members and its corporate partners.

Below is a brief overview of the session. Let me know if this is something you might enjoy or if you have any BOLD Action Plan recommendations I need to take with me to the event!

Ed-Tech Gladiator Action Plan Challenge

Mary Ann Wolf – Opening on the Class of 2020 Action Plan & Introduction

David Vs. David:
David Thornburg and David Warlick will each have 20 minutes to provide a insights on education that is both futuristic & inspiring Presentation.

Gladiators Action Plan Challenge: Dare to be Bold! Two teams of 8 to 9 tables. Each table will receive ONE of the following topics to consider:

  • Powerful Broadband Access for All: Breaking through the Barriers
  • Empowering Teachers: A Professional and Collaborative Approach
  • STEM Education: Achievement and Innovation
  • Individual Learning for Every Child: Data Usage for Personalized Instruction
  • Accelerating Change through Systemic Reform
  • Robust, Rigorous, & Right-on-Time Learning through Online Courseware
  • Systemic Reform Models (TIP, eMINTS, IMPACT, etc.)

The Action Plan Challenge Goal: To come up with one action step per topic that crystallizes a solid, bold, action step that will help policy makers create district, state and national legislation.

Each David will push their groups by walking by tables and asking challenge questions to get the groups thinking boldly. Each table will pre-assigned with half corporate executives and SETDA members for a nice mix.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

NECC 2008 & ISTE: Challenges for the Here and Now

Ok - to be upfront I am in agreement with many bloggers, namely Wes Fryer and  Miguel Ghulin that the idea of having a seemingly iron-fisted policy against pod-, vod- or any type of "casting" of session at NECC 2008 "without express written consent......." seems a bit Draconian.

I believe ISTE has been hasty in this decision and the whole thing reminds me of the first chapter of the book The Starfish and the Spider.  In short, the new ISTE policy will do more harm than good and turn people away from what is a pretty good conference.

If someone from ISTE could tell me why ISTE feels the need to do this that would be great. To this point, I have not heard nor seen anything from ISTE on this situation.  I suspect it is one of three things:
  1. They believe any type of podcasting or streaming will affect attendance and thus reduce revenue. - and/or-
  2. ISTE has made a deal with a vendor to be the "official" caster or streamer of the event and thus wants control over the content. -and/or-
  3. ISTE is afraid of not enough bandwidth availability.
Personally, I think it's 1 and or 2.  By reading the blogs or following on Twitter many of the featured and well-known conference speakers, it is true that many of the speakers either podcast or stream sessions from conferences and make those sessions available to non-attendees.  Yet, and I do not have empirical evidence on this, my intuition tells me that conference non-attendees are non-attendees because of many factors, none of which are "I can always listen to the conference on podcast or via stream."

So it seem like number 2 it is.  As I said, I believe this has been done hastily and will cause more damage in the long run to ISTE's reputation.  It also bring up a very valid pint about who's owns the content of the presentation at a conference.  (And that will be a topic for another day.)

Subsequent to this topic being posted on Twitter on June 19 I responded to several posts from Gary Stager in which he took what I thought were some over-the-top potshots at ISTE, NECC and Pearson.

So, in the spirit of debate, I asked Dr. Stager a couple of questions in light of his comments about NECC, ISTE and Pearson.  Now, to the best of my knowledge, I have never met nor spoken to Dr. Stager in person.  I have responded to several Twitter posts of his, but that is all.  I took a bit of offense at his comments as they seemed biting and and too off-handed. I also realize that he is entitled to his opinion on these things, but since he put them out for public consumption, I felt the desire to ask a few questions.

I asked him if the Constructivist Consortium, for which he is the Eecutive Director, would allow participants to podcast or stream the proceedings of its next conference - Constructing Modern Knowledge.  After a couple of Tweets back and forth, he said yes, there was no prohibition against this at the Constructing Modern Knowledge Conference.

My second question dealt with his comments regarding Pearson, ISTE Alignment and corporate sponsors. Specifically I asked if "the big shakedowns ISTE gets" also apply to the 6 companies that are "founding members" of his Constructivist Consortium?  Thus the debate ensued and I was sort of lectured on dues paying, his lefleat of NECC in 1992 and his columns railing against the ISTE standards, ISTE alignment costs and other topics.  Soon Sylvia Martinez jumped in. Her organization, Gen YES, is a founding member of the Constructivist Consortium.  More Tweets and more Tweets.

My point to Dr. Stager (and Ms. Martinez), was that some of the things he was bashing ISTE about are similar in appearance to activities he is involved in. Corporate sponsorship is the main one.  

Why is he taking ISTE to task for "selling out" and having corporate sponsors and corporate speakers when it appears his organization does the same?  The Constructivist Consortium event on June 28 will give participants free software, coupons for future purchases and other things.  The Constructing Modern Knowledge Workshop features faculty who are prominent employees of some of the Constructivist Consortium "Founding Members."  At NECC, corporate sponsors and speakers are readily identified and if attendees blindly want to drink the vendor kool-aid, so be it.

Both Sylvia and Gary repeatedly told me it was different because ISTE is dues paying and Constructivist Consortium is not and that ISTE has sold out its members to the favor of sponsors.  I responded how is this different from what the Constructivist Consortium was doing?  Is giving free software to participants or having vendor presenters different because on organization charges dues and the other does not?  Are vendors not trying to position their products and services in a positive light in both instances?  Why is Pearson, who is soliciting assistance from educators on a project, deserving such sarcasm when ideas, projects and materials created at the the Constructing Modern Knowledge will also find their way back to the corporate sponsors?  Dues or not, it appears both organizations are doing the same thing.

The intent of my questions we not to be a personal attack on Dr. Stager or the Constructivist Consortium.  They were to solicit answers to what appeared to be some comments that I felt went too far and appearances that seemed too cozy.  I am sure that in agreeing to disagree, as I left it with Sylvia, life will go on.  I have no doubt that Dr. Stager and Ms. Martinez do great work on behalf of educators and educational technology.  I harbor no ill will toward either of them or their organizations.  I just believe the criticism, even if justified, was not done in the spirit and manner of a what I was taught an educator should do.

As a dues paying ISTE member, I believe this podcasting fiasco will light a fire under the members to ask for more accountability from the ISTE board and its leaders.  The policy is wrong and close-minded.

ISTE members also need to voice their opinion on the ISTE Seal of Alignment process where ISTE charges vendors a fee to review the vendor products to see if they align to various ISTE NETS. Until today, I did not know that ISTE charged to do this and I definitely will be writing to let ISTE know of my displeasure and the bad aftertaste this has left in my and many other's mouths.  To me, ISTE should make the process inclusive and not exclusive.  On the face, it looks like a blatant money grab by ISTE and for that, I am deeply disappointed in it as an organization.

I am no ISTE apologist.  While I support their efforts on behalf of educational technology, I also believe they need some self-examination.  To an extent, I agree with Dr. Stager who Tweeted me that ISTE has lost its direction over the years.  While corporate sponsorship is a necessary component of every organization, we must not, as members, let the organization forget who it serves.  

ISTE members and sponsors must live in a complementary relationship, not a balanced one. If corporate sponsors become so important in terms of support that their interests are put ahead of the dues paying members, then we as members need to speak out, speak up and elect board members who will serve our needs and interests first and re-focus the mission of ISTE.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Your Ideas for EdWeek's "Technology Counts" 2009

As an employee of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and specifically its Instructional Media & Technology (IMT) team my job related duties can be varied to say the least.

One duty that I enjoy is serving on various committees for the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), a national organization for ed tech proponents working at the state level.   I currently sit as the vice-chair of the SETDA Data Committee.  Our committee has two main purposes: to collect data to produce the annual SETDA National Trends Report and to work collaboratively with the US Dept of Education and other groups that collect ed tech data by providing guidance and advice from the field.  

On May 13, I will be part of a group of state leaders that will discuss the data collection and publication of EdWeek's  Technology Counts and how the current indicators and survey may or may not reach the fairest or most accurate results.

Although SETDA approached Ed Week, the people there have been very responsive and willing to talk about how to improve the current efforts. They did mention that the research division, led by Chris Swanson, is very short-staffed, so recommendations should be tangible and reasonable – but SETDA believes that is possible, especially if SETDA offers to review the questions.

In talking with Ed Week and a few SETDA members, we see several particular areas of focus for our call, including:
What I am asking you is for YOUR ideas, concerns, questions, comments and what not.  What do you like or dislike about Tech Counts?  How can we as an ed tech community make it better?

My meeting is at 1:30 PM ET so be quick and succinct!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I am here for the learning revolution

Scott Mcleod and Wesley Fryer are sponsoring a contest that, by the time you read this, will have met its May 1 deadline.  
The contest is to design a button with the phrase I am here for the learning revolution on it in some way, shape or form that Scott and Wes will distribute at NECC during EduBloggerCon 2008 and Classroom 2.0 LIVE .  I had been thinking about this for a week or so and had not come up with any really good ideas, primarily because my work laptop is devoid of any font or graphic that is out of the ordinary.  I struggled with this over and over and had resigned to not entering anything.

I was searching through the Flickr images to get some ideas - a photo of a shift key or  an enter key were my original ideas with the above phrase superimposed on it.  But I did not find anything that caught my fancy.  So, I did what any normal person would do, I "Googled" revolution.  I went to its Wikipedia entry then went to the list of Revolutions and Rebellions and there I saw the name Julius Caesar and it hit me - the Rubicon River.

I could use the "Crossing the Rubicon" as my analogy to I am here for the learning revolution.  Crossing the Rubicon  means to commit to the point of no return - and stems from Caesar's crossing the Rubicon River with his Roman Army to "invade" ancient Rome in January 49 BC.  Roman Generals were forbidden by law to cross the Rubicon with their army and when Caesar crossed, he made conflict or revolution inevitable.

I thought this was an apt analogy for the contest in that it suggests we, as educators, make that commitment to the learning revolution needed to ensure our students thrive in the 21st century!

So, here it is -- My entry emailed before the end of the day on May 1, 2008.  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

5 Essential Twitter Truths

Having been part of the Twitter community now for nearly 6 months and posting over 1300 tweets, I guess the nOOb status is off. Now, it's my turn to blog about what I have learned in this short time immersed in one of the many Web 2.0 tools. I try to keep in mind these five simple things as I use Twitter and as I invite others to join.

@sjciske's 5 Essential Twitter Truths

1. Not every tweet I produce is profound and not every @reply I send will be acknowledged. I consider myself a fairly decent writer (journalism undergrad, professional newspaper experience) and somewhat funny (intentional or not). Yet, it took me a while to have people warm up to my way of communicating in 140 characters of less. Some people have the gift of gab - it doesn't work in the Twitterverse. I follow only 120 or so people - other follow many more than me - and it can be overwhelming figuring out what to respond to and at times, what to post. Relax - it takes time to get to know people online, which brings me to the next essential truth.

2. If you don't fill out your profile with name, URL, place, etc.....chances are people will not follow you. Spit (spam on Twitter) happens and I personally choose not to follow people who do not fill out their profiles. Providing a URL allows a person to see what your about, what you do and your likes or dislikes. If someone following 3,000 others wants to follow me, fine, but for the most part, unless the profile is filled in - nada on my part. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my 120 on a regular basis. You can control who you follow and who follows you. You can keep it simple or go huge, but for many, the profile part is essential. In fact, I have personally gone to every one of the URLs listed for people I follow - sort of a Twitter background check.

3. Finding a friend or colleague on Twitter and following people they follow is a great way to wedge yourself into the community or personal learning network (PLN) you desire. Whether its EdTech, quilting, LOLkittens, roller coasters, food or politics -- look at friends and colleagues for advice or for introductions. It's never too late to join and become active in the discussion!

4. Twitter is a great way to learn about (_you fill in the blank_). Most of my followers/following are involved in some type of educational technology, yet I have learned so much about other topics: traveling, parenting, cooking, cultures, favorite teams and others. Some people like to be in the center of learning and others hang on the edge. It is easy to tell in the Twitterverse who is who. Everyone can contribute if they desires. People announce blog posts, conferences, tweetups and links to uStreaming content. It is there for your consumption. Or not.

5. If you blog, Twitter will energize you to blog more and blog better. I used to think that blog posts needed to be long, thoughtful and on heavy or weighty topics. Boy, was I off base. I now now that blogging is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. In reading other blogs, I feel better able to write my own, contribute to the community on a more regular basis. And this post, I believe, will be the start of that!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

In Praise of Visionaries

Today starts the 2008
Wisconsin Educational Media & Technology Association annual conference and in honor of WEMTA's 60th anniversary, I thought I'd dust off a draft of a blog I have been working on for a while, finish it up and get my blogging efforts into gear.  Here goes - an ode to some people with a vision for the future.

With school libraries facing ever increasing cutbacks in staffing and funding I thought it would be nice to mention some visionary people who have put into law a secure funding source for school libraries.

The visionaries I am writing about today had nothing to do the technology, the web, web 2.0, Student 2.0 or anything else we see today, unless you happen to venture in to a school library in Wisconsin.

FEEs, FINEs, and FOREFITUREs or Why Wisconsin likes Speeders!

Wisconsin is unique in many ways - and I am not talking about
Brett Favre (retired or not), the Packers, cheese, bratwurst or beer. The visionaries I am talking about were the founders of this great state (motto: FORWARD) who developed a plan to provide funds for school libraries and inserted it into the state's constitution in 1848.

Common School Fund Library Aid (CSF) is an annual entitlement program to all Wisconsin public school districts that distributes the net earnings from the Common School Fund, one of the state trust funds set up by the Wisconsin Constitution.

As directed by the constitution, the beneficiaries of the CSF are the public school libraries of the state. Each year in April, the
Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) informs the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) of the total interest that has accumulated in the Common School Income Fund.

The principal of the CSF grows by about $25 million each year through revenues from:

  • Civil and criminal fees
  • Fines and forfeitures
  • Wisconsin's Unclaimed Property Program
  • Timber sales on Trust Lands

(NOTE: Thus in Wisconsin, speeding really does pay - it pays right into the fund that assists school libraries!)

The BCPL, whose current Executive Director is Tia Nelson, daughter of
Earth Day founder and former US Senator Gaylord Nelson, is in charge of the managing the board whose mission is to "Manage Trust Lands and Trust Funds for the Benefit of Public Education in Wisconsin." Through the use of timber sales, investments and interest, the BCPL funds the CSF. I should note that the BCPL has the power to loan money to school districts, cities, counties and other governmental agencies usually with interest rates less than commercial lenders - so some school districts will borrow for building programs at a lesser interest rate and the interest they repay on the loan goes into the CSF! A win-win if I ever saw it!

This principal is invested in loans to local governments and school districts and in state and local bonds. The remaining funds are deposited in the State Investment Fund. The annual earnings of the CSF are distributed on a per pupil basis each spring with more than $375 million distributed over the last 25 years.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WDPI) calculates each school district's allocation, basing the amount on the number of children ages 4 through 20 living in the district. The allocation is sent to school districts by May 1. Districts must spend the total Library Aid allocation for appropriate library materials by June 30 of that same year.

In the school year 2006-07 the CSF provided $29.2 million worth of library materials to public schools in Wisconsin - not toooooooo shabby! Of course, there are
rules and restrictions on what can be purchased with the CSF but for the most part, the CSF is a driving force in keeping our Wisconsin school libraries well stocked.

What is disappointing is that with the continuation of "
Revenue Limits" placed on school districts in Wisconsin, more and more districts are using the CSF as the ONLY source for library books and materials.

All this started with the visionaries in 1848 thinking that a great way to provide the needed books and materials for school libraries should not fall just on the back of the school district residents. I really believe the genesis for this idea came from the fact that in 1848, book cost was high and that stocking a school library needed a boost or head start. 

Who would have thought this idea would pump over $29 million a year in school libraries 150 years later.

CSF is distributed to every school district - no application is needed. A truly wonderful program!

Any other state have such a program? Anyone envious of this program? Your thoughts?