Friday, June 25, 2004

The best "thing" I found at NECC

As usual, I came away from NECC with lots of ideas, information, and connections. If I had to name the single most important thing that I am taking back, it would have to be the information that I found out about LeapFrog SchoolHouse and their products. I will be revising my technology budget next week to purchase enough of their products to pilot them, demonstrate them and evaluate them for possible implementation a year from now.

Before leaving for NECC I had received an invitation to attend a special event sponsored by LeapFrog SchoolHouse and had declined. After stopping by their booth and finding out more about them and their products I asked if the invitation was still open. Following are notes from that event (which I still got to attend :-) )

LeapFrog SchoolHouse sponsored a breakfast with
Dr. Therese “Terry” Crane as the featured speaker. She is the Senior Education Advisor for Infotech Strategies; Chairman, Nobel Learning Communities, Inc.; and a former Senior Vice President for Education, Apple Computer.

Children develop in the world, not on a growth chart. They don’t all learn to read at the same age or at the same rate.

Technology is only Technology for those born before it was invented.
Alan Kay

For the average teen, Technology items make up half of the top ten things important to them (mp3 players, instant messaging, etc.)

Humor is important, we can use technology to connect and communicate with students. The are looking for interactive products.

Millennials (term for students of today)
The average 15 year old
Has never dialed a phone
Purchases movie tickets over the Internet
Plays computer games rather than board games
Downloads music one song at a time (some of us used to buy music on 45’s that way :-) – Craig)
Pays with debit cards rather than checks

Today's education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn.

With todays education we need to bridge the gap between kids learning and their use of technology.

We need to move away from
teacher centered to student centered
single sense to multisensory
single media to multimedia
isolated work to collaborative work
passive learning to active/inquiry
factual/knowledge to critical thinking
Isolated context to Authentic/real world

–empowered by the latest technologies

Dream how technology can not only improve education but also transform what we think of as education.

If we were to teach every standard it would take 22 years of K-12 teaching. Standards movement needs to get to reality – there isn’t enough time

Ian Jukes says that education will not be confined to a single place, a specific time, a single person, human teachers, memorization, paper based, linear learning, the intellectual elite, childhood, controlling learners

The Third Decade of Educational Technology

For technology to succeed it needs to be easier to use and reliable, affordable for sustaining 1 to 1 technology initiatives. Years ago Apple made the eMate – the goal was to come in under $500 and it ended up selling for $650. The goal now is under $100. This makes it capable of extending the school day by sending it home. We need solutions directed toward giving teachers the daily data they need to succeed.

Leapfrog is promoting Personal Learning Tools (PLTs). These are technology powered learning kits, intelligent workbooks, multisensory books, with data uploadable to current infrastructure (desktops or laptops).

Desktops, laptops, PDAs were not designed with us in mind. We try to get them to fit into education. Leapfrog technologies are being developed with teachers and students in mind.

Cost of illiteracy in the US is $20 Billion per year.
Those without a HS diploma earn 42% less over their lifetime than those who graduated.
75% of dropouts have reading difficulty.
33% of welfare recipients not literate.
75% of prison inmates – no diploma.
38% of 4th graders can't read.
Disproportionately (70%) prevalent among children living in poverty.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says:
Systematic, Explicit, and Intensive Instruction in–
Phonemic Awareness
Reading Fluency
Reading Comprehension Strategies

Intervention can change the 38% failure rate to less than 6%!

Technology in Education 2003 –Market Data Retrieval Schools that have failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress requirements for NCLB are "slightly below average" when it comes to giving their students access to technologies.

It was really more about teachers' ability to use the technology well and use it often than it was about what kinds of technologies were available to the schools.

Keep your mind open to new technologies and new paradigms that are coming.

There’s a new wave forming – Jump on the wave!


Author’s note: The rest of this is information that I found by searching for more information about LeapFrog SchoolHouse.

It was announced that her PowerPoint presentation was going to be available on the LeapFrog SchoolHouse web site, but it hasn’t been posted yet.

LeapFrog SchoolHouse Advances as the Fastest Growing K-12 Instructional Software Publisher in 2003

Research information can be found in one of their newsletters at

U.S. Department of Education Selects Leapfrog Schoolhouse to Participate in Multi-Million-Dollar Early Literacy Studies

Sunday, June 20, 2004

ISTE 2004 Special Interest Group - Alan November

On Sunday afternoon, June 20, 2004 Alan November addressed the ISTE Special Interest Group for Technology Coordinators at NECC in New Orleans. (This is a group that any technology coordinator, technology leader, or technology specialist should belong to.)

It was a serious presentation, but interlaced with a lot of humor. Even though I don’t agree with everything that Alan says, it sure makes me stop and think about what I am doing…

These are my notes from the presentation. They are as accurate as possible – his ideas came so fast it was hard to get them down and not miss the next idea he was on to. Corrections and additions are welcomed and encouraged.

Marketing is important. The grocery stores don’t advertise “Dead Cow” but they market hamburger and steak. We should not market ourselves as Technology Coordinators but as Learning Results Coordinators. The two things we should be promoting is Critical Thinking and Communication.

Grapes of Wrath. A new technology – tractors – changed the number of people working on farms from 80% to 2% now. The digital version of “Grapes of Wrath” is the worldwide network and transfer of information.

We are in the business of managing change. If not, we would be working to keep things the same as before and we shouldn’t be here.

The goals of using technology should be

We should have big goals.

Start with the interest of the teacher! An example is a teacher who was incubating duck eggs. The suggestion was to put a web cam in the incubator with the eggs and monitor it 24/7. Then talk to the teacher about the benefits of a web page.

Students must learn to be self directed so that they can learn to work without having a boss.

In 1990 32% of the young adults (18-29) lived at home at least part of the year. In 2003 65% of the students lived at home at least part of the year. These are the boomerangs. Talk to the school board about solving this problem!

- Reading by 3rd grade and Algebra I

Writing is the #1 predictor of test scores.

Do you spray and pray? Put all kinds of technology out there and hope something works?

Students should be able to access information, access people, solve a problem. We can’t cover the standards.

Every K-12 student should have a writing plan. They should have a portfolio with all the writing they have ever done. We should use Inspiration, Kidspiration, Polyester and the Princeton online writing assessment.

In one school the principal took pictures of the teachers best practices and put their “stuff” on the web. We should celebrate the life of the teachers. Then talk to them about the value of classroom web pages.

Students should play with mathematics all the time.

Every family has to have access to the internet.

Redesign our schools. In one example of a charter school, half of the kids had their own office. The students who had their own office started their school day 45 minutes earlier because they didn’t have to wait for a teacher to get things started. Funded by the Gates foundation

Instead of selling technology we should be selling results. If not, in the next ten years another $40 billion will get us back where we are.

The real skill of teachers is to empower students to manage their own learning.

What skills should you teach teachers and students that will outlast any changes in technology.
Do workshops on the Socratic method
Teachers – empower students to manage their own learning
Kids – critical thinking

American schools cut the parent out of the learning process.

We should give every teacher a video camera and have them send video tapes home to the parents.

We should be teaching teachers informations literacy before teaching them Powerpoint or any other technology.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A web tool to plot locations on a map

This comes from Andy Carvin’s Blog.

WorldKit generates a Macromedia Flash map of the world, and allows you to mark the map with text and images, plotted at a particular latitude and longitude.

Each time you plot something on the map, you can hyperlink it to a web page as well. It’s a fairly simple tool, though you need to be able to look up the latitude and longitude of places you want to plot on the map. But apart from that, it’s just a matter of editing the XML code of an RSS feed, filling it in with descriptions of each place you want to plot on the map.

It’s easier than it sounds. If you look at Andy’s feed at you can probably figure out how to edit new map plots, even if you just know basic html.

And this comes from M Guy Durrant, Technology Director at Daggett SD in Manila, UT.
IndyJunior is a similar “where am I” Flash tool, which can be found at
It uses a configuration page so all you need are long/lat coordinates.

To see an example of it in use, check out Bernie Dodge’s web page at

M Guy Durrant
Technology Director
Daggett SD
Manila, UT 84046

Friday, June 18, 2004

Weblogs @ School

There were many good sessions, workshops and discussions last week at NECC about Blogs, RSS and Wikis. Many of the sessions were blogged at NECC 2004.

The Blog@School workshop was invaluable. (My apologies for the blatant ripoff of the workshop title to use for this post )

Consensus by many of us that this is going to impact education more and more in the years to come.

Much more info – click on More… below to read the rest of this post.

Bernie Dodge did a great session on using Blogs and Wikis to make WebQuests more interactive.

Anne Davis also had a good session which I had to miss due to an ISTE meeting.

One of the things I wanted to find when I went to NECC was the killer app to run on our own servers to host student blogs. This is the only way to keep them secure on an Intranet and not have them published to the world, but gives you the option to publish them to the Internet if you want. Also, our policy is to not have school or classroom content posted outside our firewall.

What I found out from the experts is that we should not make any decision this year that would cost much money or time as things will be changing drastically in the next year. The three blog engines that get recommended the most often are Manilla (inexpensive for schools), Moveable Type (fairly spendy) and Word Press (open source). Just this week Apple Computer announce major support for RSS andBlogs in the next version of OS X (Tiger). Apple has an online video showing RSS support in Tiger. Tom Hoffman adds some good comments about Blojsom in his blog.

We were using pMachine on our server but it does not support multiple blogs well. With the full version you can have multiple blogs, but each person can post to anyone else’s, sometimes by accident. This blog and our district blog are now running off Word Press. It was the easiest install of any of the blog software that we have tried to date.

For more information check out the resources I have bookmarked forBlogsWikis and RSS. Note: these are currently in a format for a college class on web design that I am teaching, so ignore any references to required reading or assignments

Check out my web site for Technology Leaders, and my collection of “techie” links.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Information about Blogs and RSS

There is a good article in the June 24, 2004 Time magazine about the popularity of blogs.

It is online at,9171,1101040621-650732-1,00.html

This week I will be in New Orleans for the National Educational Computer Conference (NECC). They are doing a blog dealing with the conference, vendors, sessions and special events. Check it out at

Todd Slater email: wrote a brief introduction about RSS. It is posted at

My collection of links about Blogs and RSS can be found at – Click on Blogs or RSS, the URLs are too long to post here because they are generated from a mySQL database using PHP.

I also have information about blogs, wikis and RSS that is online for a college class I am teaching for Minot State University.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Technology Department Creates “Raving Fans”

I would suggest that all tech support staff read the book Fish! (or better yet watch the video).

Fish! is a short read about Pike’s Fish Market in Seattle, and how they became “world famous.” The book is based on how an executive used the Fish! philosophies to turn their department around. The video actually interviews people from Pike’s fish market. I play the video for my tech staff each fall to get them back into the customer service mode.

They base their success on four things:

Make their day! (The customers, that is. Our customers are the teachers and staff we support.)

Choose your attitude! (Come to work expecting to have a good day, and love your work)

Be there! (Listen to your customers, don’t put them down or half listen while you are thinking of something else.)

Make their day! We ask all our staff to enjoy what they do, to have fun, to listen to the teacher, and to leave them with a new website, a new or updated app, a new tip, a note on what was done to their computer, etc. to “make their day.”

I try to get new equipment for my staff to “play with” since we need to decide if we want to introduce new items district wide, and also know how to use it if we are going to support it. The “toys” help make their job fun. We also take time to share stories and jokes with each other, and neat things we do with digital cameras and videos with our own kids and families as well as things like digital music (iTunes and iPod) and TiVo. But we are always learning!

Another book that I picked up this summer and am ordering a copy for each of my staff is “Raving Fans!” by Ken Blanchard. This book says that having “satisfied customers” is not enough, because they may be satisfied with poor service that they are used to getting. You must create “raving fans” that brag about the service you provided after you are gone.

In one example a cab driver picked up a customer at his hotel. The driver was dressed very neatly, opened the door for the customer, offered him his choice of coffee or decaf that he had in thermos bottles, water or a variety of sodas that he had in a cooler, a current newspaper and several current magazines to read, his choice of radio stations or CDs to listen to, and an offer to be quiet or to talk about any subject other than politics or religion (to avoid arguments). This cab driver no longer sat in cabbie lines, but took reservations because he had created “raving fans.”

Several other books that pertain to a technology department are “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, M.D., “Whale Done!” by Ken Blanchard, "The Fred Factor" and QBQ (The Question Behind the Question." "Who Moved My Cheese?" talks about change and how different people react to change. "Whale Done!" is about improving staff performance by recognizing what they do well and minimizing criticism. "QBQ" deals with asking "what can I do to help solve your problem" rather than "that's not my department." "The Fred Factor" is about how you can do extraordinary things beyond your job description.

As I hire for our tech team (we have 16 full time staff in our district of 7,500 students) I look for people skills and an interest in technology rather than existing technology skills.

Have fun! (This is easy to do if you enjoy working with technology and constant change.)

Fish! Philosophy

Raving Fans!

The Question Behind the Question

The Fred Factor

Whale Done!