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Web 2.0 and School Administrators
Thursday, 1 December 2011
Edublogs Award Nomination
Topic: Leadership Issues

It's time again to submit nominations for the annual Edublog Awards.

I'd like to nominate the TBLOGICAL ( blog in the Best School Administrator Blog category. Written by a dedicated group of current and former school administrators, this blog covers a wide variety of topics relevant to school leaders. Check it out! 

Posted by sjbrooks_young at 9:48 AM PST
Avoid Carmen Sandiego Syndrome
Topic: Emerging Technologies

Educators all over the country are exploring ways they can use iPads and other tablet technologies as tools for teaching and learning. Apps—free and low cost programs designed to be used on these devices—are a primary attraction. What better way to provide quick and easy access to instructional activities than by downloading and using some of the thousands of education apps? But I'm noticing a troubling trend.

Many of the apps labeled ‘educational’ are developed by programmers with little or no background in education; use of these apps does not support student learning in any fashion. In addition, there are teachers who are spending a lot of time and energy figuring out ways to use apps that make no claim to be educational and do not support the curriculum in any obvious way, but that are fun to play. It reminds me of the days when desktop computers were initially introduced to classrooms.

The year was 1985. Good educational software was still difficult to come by. Once a teacher had run through the offerings from the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, (think Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand), there wasn’t much else available. Then Brøderbund Software released Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The goal of this fast-paced game was for players to travel the world solving geography-based clues, track multiple villains, and finally arrest Carmen Sandiego herself. The software was a hit, becoming a staple in many computer labs, despite its limited applicability to the curriculum for a narrow range of grade levels.

This is what I call Carmen Sandiego Syndrome, the willingness to use a software program for instruction even when there is little or no educational value. For school leaders this becomes a problem because first use of a new technology often becomes entrenched use. It is critical that we help teachers avoid this pitfall.

One strategy for avoiding Carmen Sandiego Syndrome is to insist that teachers take time to carefully review new apps using tools that measure how well the objectives of an app align with the curriculum. There are three free tools I recommend that can be used for this purpose. The first is a rubric called Evaluation Rubric for iPod/iPad Apps created by Harry Walker (Johns Hopkins University) and modified by Kathy Schrock. The second is the Critical Evaluation of an iPad/iPod App checklist developed by Kathy Schrock. And finally, eSkills Learning’s Mobile App Selection Rubric. These resources and more are available in the iPod Touch & iPad ResourcesLiveBinder which Chris O’Neal and I developed and maintain.

This is not a time when more is necessarily better. Take the time now to insure that teachers are making well-grounded decisions about the apps they have students use. Students will reap the benefits for the long term.


Posted by sjbrooks_young at 9:44 AM PST
Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2011 9:50 AM PST
Saturday, 5 March 2011
iPad2 Released
Topic: Emerging Technologies

Cross-posted on TBolgiCAL 

Rumors have been flying for some time about what the 2nd generation iPad would—and would not—include. On March 2, Apple set everyone straight by announcing the release of the iPad2, which will be available in Apple stores and online on March 11, with no pre-orders accepted. While there are a few enhancements, it doesn’t seem that the iPad2 renders the original iPad obsolete—yet, anyway.

The iPad2 is a little thinner, a little lighter, and sports a 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 SOC processor which makes it more powerful, supporting use of FaceTime, Photo Booth, iMovie, and GarageBand as well as improved performance for Safari. There are also two cameras (front and back). But much is the same. For example, screen size and resolution has not changed, nor has battery life, and there are no additional I/O ports.

There is already a new version of iTunes that supports iPad2 which also runs on the original iPad and other devices (e.g., 3rd and 4th generation Touch), and a new operating system (iOS 4.3) will be released on March 11. This free download will run on all iPads, the GSM iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and 3rd and 4th generation iPod Touch.

Pricing for the iPad2 is the same as the original iPad, and Apple has dropped prices on 1st generation iPads by $100 each. Those who purchased 1st generation iPads within two weeks of the iPad2 announcement are eligible for a $100 refund, but need to visit a brick and mortar store or, if purchased online, contact Apple’s 1-800 number soon.

At this point, no one is sure how long the original iPad will be available for purchase. Some tech gurus think Apple may continue to sell this model as a less expensive alternative, while others believe that it will be available through 2012 and then disappear when iPad3 is launched. The fact that it’s now possible to purchase a 16GB WiFi only 1st generation iPad for $399 will be tempting for cash-strapped schools that want tablets, but had shied away from the $499 price tag.

Personally, while I may end up purchasing an iPad2 for business purposes, I’m perfectly satisfied with my 1st generation iPad and would prefer to wait for the iPad3. It’s been my experience that this is usually when new Apple devices really come into their own.

You can stay on top of breaking iPad2 news at

Posted by sjbrooks_young at 3:54 PM PST
Monday, 18 October 2010
Picture Me in Computing
Topic: Leadership Issues

Originally posted on T-Blogical

It began with a casual remark about Mattel Inc.’s plans to release a limited edition Computer Engineer doll as part of its Barbie® I Can Be…TM series. Julia Fallon, Technology Integration Program Manager for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education for the state of Washington, and Kiki Prottsman, Chair of the Women in Computer Science program at the University of Oregon met for the first time at the recent NCWIT (National Center for Women in IT) conference in Portland, OR. Both are strong advocates of the belief that technology fields need more women working as scientists, engineers, programmers, software designers and similar positions. They were intrigued with the idea of how the doll could be used to promote this interest. Before the conference had ended, the idea was hatched for Picture Me in Computing, a way to get women who work in IT to stand up and say, “Join us!”In almost no time, Picture Me in Computing went from concept to actual planned event. On Wednesday, November 10, 2010, hundreds of people working in technology-based professions will participate in a virtual flash mob by uploading on-the-job pictures that illustrate to women and girls all over the world how it is possible for them to realize a highly rewarding career in computing. The virtual flash mob will use social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Picasa to spread the word and share images. IT specialists who work in educational institutions are encouraged to participate by sharing photos, blog or other posts, even short videos all tagged #picmecomp. But the main point of the event is to reach out to girls and women who might not have considered a career in the field of technology. Educators who want to share these resources with students can search social networking sites using the #picmecomp tag; however, first they need to know that Picture Me in Computing is happening. Please tell your staff members about this event. Encourage them to participate, either as contributors or as consumers of the information posted. To learn more, visit Picture Me in Computing.   

Posted by sjbrooks_young at 4:07 PM PDT
Monday, 5 July 2010
Just Because You Can...
Topic: Leadership Issues

I attended ISTE 2010 last week. Overall, it was a great experience for me both personally and professionally. However, the main conference got off to a rocky start when a feeding frenzy hit Twitter and other social networks during the opening keynote.

The behavior of many of the backchannel participants was appalling. I have no issue with constructive criticism, but many of the comments were way over the top. What I'm finding interesting now is that some of these folks are on the defensive, justifying their behavior by basically saying the speaker 'made' them behave that way...for example, if he had done more research on his audience or if his slides were better, people wouldn't have bashed him.

I cannot fathom this type of thinking and suspect that most of these educators would be on the warpath if their students used a backchannel in this same way.

I was going to write more, but have found some thoughtful discussion about what happened in other blog posts. So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm adding links here. Bottom line, the speaker deserves many apologies!

Backchannel or Bashchannel?

Message and Delivery

How a Bad Presentation Can Help You

Posted by sjbrooks_young at 10:28 AM PDT
Friday, 18 June 2010
Employers May Monitor Employee Text Messages
Topic: Leadership Issues

Cross posted on TBlogICAL 


A ruling by the U.S. Supreme on June 17, 2010 may impact school districts and other education institutions that provide cell phones to employees. The court agreed unanimously that governmental agencies may access and read an employee’s text messages under certain circumstances.


The case that was brought to the Supreme Court involved a police officer in Ontario, CA whose text messages were reviewed when department officials became concerned that SWAT team officers were using department-issued pagers for too many personal text messages. And sure enough, in one month alone, of the 456 text messages sent or received by the officer in question, 400 were personal.


The city does have a policy stating that employees have no guaranteed right of privacy when using communication devices provided by the department, but officers had been told informally that their messages would not be audited as long as they paid for additional charges. So the officer and three others sued the department for violating their constitutional right to privacy. A lower court ruled in the officer’s favor, but the Supreme Court has now reversed that decision on the premise that the search itself was reasonable.


The decision is the court’s first related to Digital Age technologies and 4th amendment guards against unreasonable search and seizure. And while the court did not provide broad guidance on employees’ privacy, the decision did identify conditions that must be met before government agency may review an employee’s personal texts. They are:


  • The cell phone must be provided by the agency.
  • The employee must be told in advance that any messages sent using the device may be monitored by management.
  • There must be a legitimate work-related reason for reviewing the messages.

As increasing numbers of education agencies provide cell phones to some employees, it is critical that policies be created that outline acceptable use and privacy expectations. It is equally important that these policies be enforced in an even-handed, consistent way. How does your agency handle this issue?

Posted by sjbrooks_young at 4:46 PM PDT
Friday, 16 April 2010
What's New with Google Docs?

Cross-posted on TBlogical


Launched in 2006, Google Docs is built on three web-based applications: word processing; spreadsheets; and, a presentation tool. These free, easy-to-use tools make it possible for users to not only access files from any Internet-connected computer, but also to invite others to view and edit files, supporting real time collaboration at a level not previously possible.


Why blog about a tool that’s nearly four years old? This week Google launched several new features making it even easier for users to work collaboratively to create and edit word processing documents, spreadsheet files, and now drawings as well. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most useful new features.


Word processing: Updated editing capabilities are the main feature here. It’s now possible to see character-by-character editing being done by collaborators without having to refresh the page. This means collaborators can make changes without having to worry about over-writing one another. A chat feature has been added as well so collaborators can ‘talk’ with one another as they work. It is also now possible to format documents using tabs and real margins. As a result, it will be easier to retain formatting when uploading and downloading documents.


Spreadsheets: Speed is a key descriptor for improvements made here. Spreadsheets load faster and are easier to navigate (both scrolling and from sheet to sheet). It’s now possible to edit cells in the formula bar and to drag and drop columns.


Draw: The drawing tool, launched a year ago, made it possible to embed drawings in other files. Now it’s possible to create and collaborate on stand-alone drawings thanks to a new drawing editor that allows users to work collaboratively on individual draw files.


Google Docs has become an indispensable tool for many educators. The price is right, the learning curve is minimal, software compatibility issues are eliminated, and it facilitates true collaboration for educators and students. If you haven’t given Google Docs a try, now is the time. If you are a current user, you’ll definitely appreciate these most recent improvements.


For a quick recap of the information provided here, or to share with colleagues, check out this YouTube video, Introducing a New Google Docs. 

Posted by sjbrooks_young at 9:00 PM PDT
Innovation at Preschool
Topic: Emerging Technologies

Cross-posted on TBlogical 


Research shows that language development up to the age of five impacts a child’s success in school throughout his or her academic career. Children who spend these critical years in language rich environments are far more likely to be successful students than are children who do not. But with 20 children in a class, how can teachers insure that all children have ample opportunity to be exposed to high-quality language experiences? And how can teachers increase the likelihood that children will have similar experiences at home?


Marsha Daniels, Director of the South Central Services Cooperative (SCSC) in Camden, AR presented this challenge to staff early in 2009. As a result, 22 Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) preschool teachers and paraprofessionals representing 11 classrooms across SCSC’s region are leveraging the fact that preschoolers are one of the fastest growing group of technology users and ready availability of inexpensive mobile technologies such as iPods and Flip cameras to extend their accessibility to youngsters in the classroom and to the children’s parents.


Launched in July 2009, participants have received equipment and training designed to increase children’s language experiences in the classroom and extend the school day by engaging parents in activities they can do with their children at home. The focus for year 1 has been to get the initiative up and running. Each classroom received an iMac desktop computer, an iPod Classic, and a Flip camera. Five days of training scheduled across the 2009-2010 school year and provided by an outside consultant, classroom visitations by the consultant and director, an on-going support provided by SCSC staff have resulted in teachers and paraprofessionals creating monthly podcasts and videos for children and their parents. Participants also each created a classroom wiki site where parents can access these files along with other online resources and news.


The results for year 1 are very positive. Every teacher and paraprofessional has exceeded original expectations. The children are regularly accessing short language-rich podcasts and videos. Parents are slowly, but surely coming to the wiki to use these files with their children at home. The focus in year 2 will be on innovative use of these technologies in lesson design and in helping the children become more independent in their use of the technology.


To learn more about this project, which is listed as an exemplary case of blended in- and out of- school learning on the new National Education Technology site, visit


Posted by sjbrooks_young at 8:58 PM PDT
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
A Kindle In Every Backpack?
Topic: Emerging Technologies

Cross-posted on


When Amazon released its second generation Kindle in February 2009, there was speculation that the enhancements in this new device would make it a natural for storing and accessing textbooks. But the limited number of textbooks and other instructional materials available in Kindle format made this seem like a pipedream. Now, as the true impact of the recent fiscal crisis continues to make itself felt nationwide, there appears to be increased serious interest in schools making a switch to electronic textbooks or ebooks to save money.


Just this month, ABC News and several other news organizations reported on a document released on July 14 by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). Titled “A Kindle In Every Backpack,” this report suggests that the government could purchase a Kindle or other ebook reading device for every student in the U.S. so that textbooks could be distributed and updated electronically and to enable teachers to customize instructions for students. The proposal still needs a lot of work, and the initial cost would be high ($9 billion the first four years), but members of the DLC predict that schools would save hundreds of millions of dollars in subsequent years.


Amazon is not the only business looking at this market. There are a number of ebook reading devices currently available as shown in this table. And there are websites like Shortcovers that allow users to purchase and download ebooks onto a variety of devices ranging from ebook readers to laptops, MP3 players and smartphones. In other words, it might be possible for students to shift to use of some electronic texts right away by using devices they already own!


With states scrambling to cover huge deficits, it may be time to serious consider ways this technology could be used to reduce costs and make sure students have access to up-to-date instructional materials in a variety of formats. What are the questions you would ask?

Posted by sjbrooks_young at 2:07 PM PDT
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Cell Phones on Campus: Finding the Middle Ground?
Topic: Emerging Technologies

Frustrated by students' refusal to adhere to the school's ban on cell phones, a principal in Canada recently purchased and installed a device that jams cell phone signals (see article). Of course, these devices are illegal in Canada (the U.S. as well), so it wasn't long at all before he had to pull the plug. Yet another failed attempt to deal with the cell phone issue through force.

In going back over The Starfish and the Spider, which I'll be referencing during a talk in Calgary next week, it came to me that the cell phone thing is a classis example of a spider institution (schools) attempting to deal with cell phone toting students as though they were spiders when, in fact, these kids are acting just like starfish. What happens when you try to clobber a starfish? You don't get rid of it, you create more. And that's what's happening with kids and cell phones.

Bans aren't successful- instead, kids have learned to carry disconnected phones or fake phones to hand over to teachers. They text while the phone is in their pocket. They download ringtones that are out of the range of most adults' hearing.

What if school officials tried some different approaches? The authors of Starfish and Spider suggest three strategies for working with starfish. First, try to change the ideology.  Micro loans are far more successful at squelching terrorism than any military action because these loans change the ideology from one of despair to one of hope. What could we change to impact kids' thinking about cell phones and their place at school?

Second, try to move the starfish closer to the center. When people have something tangible they care about, they're more likely to go along with the program. What might that look like with cell phones?

Finally, maybe educators should decentralize themselves a bit. Maybe there is a place for cell phones in the classroom!

Not all three strategies work in every situation, but surely we can find some common ground here. I'd be interested in hearing how others are dealing with this situation.

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Posted by sjbrooks_young at 6:30 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 April 2009 6:33 PM PDT

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