Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Ways to implement the ISTE Administrator Standards

August 11th, 2014

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has created a set of standards for educational technology applicable worldwide. While there are discrepancies in the availability of technology, five standards for educational leaders help ensure that schools are moving in the right direction for student equity and tech efficiency. I’ve included summaries of those five standards below alongside my personal recommendations on how to implement these standards.

1. Visionary leadership – This is an administrator’s ability to involve all stakeholders in purposeful change, follow through on a strategic plan, and advocate for policies and funding.

Implementing a vision is why we need leaders and the best leaders create opportunities for those impacted by a decision to help create that decision. Involve teachers, students, and families in brainstorming sessions regarding the direction for technology at the campus and district level. It is important when gathering feedback to include those who may not be the most comfortable with technology. Even though they may disagree with you, they will be the ones working with you and potential problems can be resolved early on in the process with shared understanding.

Keeping the change purposeful is also key. Too often it is tempting to implement new technology simply because it is new. Everything that the school does must support the big picture vision and mission of the school, which leads to…

2. Digital age learning culture – The innovations that technology can bring to a school must focus on improving instruction. Educational leaders must also model a learning lifestyle for students and teachers in part by participating in learning communities.

Instruction is what we’re about. It may take on various forms depending upon the style of the teacher and the content of the curriculum, but, at the end of the day, we are about students learning. If an activity – technology included – does not help students learn, cut it.

Modeling positive behaviors in education is crucial. Educational leaders must live out what they expect students and staff to do, otherwise it can be dismissed as hypocritical ideology or chasing a trend. A principal who uses a shared network drive instead of making hundreds of copies for faculty meeting handouts is one simple example of using technology to help the school. Modeling the use of collaboration software (such as Google Drive, Evernote, or One Note) with department chairs will in turn show them through experience how to use technology with their students.

3. Excellence in professional practice – Resources such as time and money must be allocated for educators to engage in professional growth. Educational leaders must also stay current on educational research and emerging trends in order to evaluate which practices to pursue.

Money is tough to allocate when the economy is struggling, and time is a commodity that teachers do not have in excess, so creativity is needed to implement this standard. With regards to time, faculty meetings or weekly staff emails can have a section dedicated to sharing best practices. Experienced teachers can be the best experts and money could be saved on not having to hire an outside presenter or consultant and have more practical applications of technology on a campus by campus basis. Opportunities to use teacher-led workshops for recertification credit must also be available.

To stay current, social media is probably one of the quickest ways to see new trends emerge in technology. The issue will be to sift through what is reliable, what is applicable, and what is worthwhile. There are various blogs and Twitter feeds to follow that emphasize Educational Technology, such as The Digital Shift and Michael Karlin’s The Ed Tech Round Up. Another technique is to follow non-educational tech blogs to get a business world perspective.

4. Systemic improvement – Educational leaders need to collaborate with the staff on their campuses and with other administrators to establish ways of measuring success and to interpret those results for the growth of the campus. Leaders must also develop a sustainable framework for technology which includes recruiting and retaining personnel who use technology effectively.

Measuring success is key in determining whether technology use works towards the mission and vision of the school. Is success defined by student scores on summative assessments? Find the correlation. Is success a reduction in late homework turn-ins? Check to see if the data lines up. Data-based decision making is the reality of modern schools.

A sustainable infrastructure is also essential. It’s not a good investment to send a teacher to a training for them to quit the next year. Ways to build connections between teachers and the community, to find what resonates with employees, are crucial for retaining top talent. Autonomy is also something that teachers may find motivating. This is tough when addressing technology because there are so many things that could potentially go wrong, but the flip must not be forgotten: there is so much good that can happen when teachers take calculated risks to inspire students to be better learners.

5. Digital citizenship – Each advancement in technology provides opportunities to educate students, staff, and other community members on the ethics of technology and to create opportunities for increased cultural understanding.

While the fast-paced development of technology makes it tougher for educators to stay current and opens up new ways for students to break a school’s code of conduct, our students must learn how to use technology ethically. Inappropriate use must still have consequences, but a clear definition of appropriate use must be given. Instances where teachers can leverage a Bring Your Own Device initiative to enhance instruction will replace rules of not allowing devices on campus at all.

One of the best ways to help teachers acclimate to new technology is to give them a choice. Teachers already feel like more and more aspects of their jobs are being dictated by groups that they perceive as outside of their circle of influence. Adding a Bring Your Own Device requirement for every classroom will not be well-received. Highlighting teachers who have implemented it well and sharing those effective lessons and strategies will have the natural progression of increased adoption. It is slower than forcing everyone to do it, but will last longer due to incorporating a teacher’s motivation to look for ways to improve his or her practice.

We run a Bring Your Own Device system at our campus, so if you are interested in how to launch/improve something like that on your own campus, just leave a comment here. Also, Vicki Davis has a great list of BYOD apps/web sites that can help you sift through everything that’s out there. The options are ever-increasing, but her information is a great starting off point.

Smithsonian X 3D Explorer

November 14th, 2013

The Smithsonian is scanning in some of their items from their exhibits and making them 3D models. That’s great because now there will be digital copies that will act as a back-up in case something were to happen to the originals.

But it gets better.

Not only can you browse the 3D models by visiting their website, on some models you can download the 3D model. Let’s say that you have a 3D printer and would like to make a copy of a dinosaur skeleton – now you can! I wonder if anyone will put Lincoln’s face in a video game mod now…


August 27th, 2013

When I do my library orientation or teach a technology lesson, I sometimes want to record what I’m doing so that an absent student can follow along. Check out Screencast-O-Matic. It lets you record 15 minutes of footage, add your voice, and download the video as a file to your computer – for free. The trade-off is that it puts a watermark in the corner of your video. Normally screen capture tools put a watermark in the center of the video, which sometimes can confuse the person that you’re trying to help. Screencast-O-Matic seems to be a pretty viable solution. It does require you to run a Java applet – something that makes me nervous – but I haven’t seen anything too questionable. The fact that I can start recording straight from the homepage without requiring a login is a bonus.

Fixed Camera Stand for Tourists

July 25th, 2013

It was one thing to hand a disposable camera off to a random stranger to take your picture on a vacation, but with phones and tablets being the number one vacation camera right now, it’s a little much to hand over your device to someone who could just bolt while you’re still posing (imagine the amount of data – even contact info alone – carried on devices).

Check out the Sunpoles on Enoshima (in Japan). Put your camera or smartphone on the pedestal and set the timer. Now you also have a bit more control over the photo and don’t have to rely on someone trying to fit your feet in the photo even though you’re really tall (not that I’ve experienced that, right?).

Photo by John Sypal

PDF to Excel

May 29th, 2013

Nancy Owens from CometDocs approached me about writing a review of PDF to Excel, so here are my thoughts.

First off, I’m a fan of Zamzar, so that’s the baseline that I use for my file conversion experiences. (Check out CometDocs for file conversion AND file hosting, which is pretty cool.)

PDF to is a site dedicated to – you guessed it – converting PDF documents to Excel. At first I wondered why I would need something like that. For the most part, I just send Excel sheets to the people that need them. But then I realized that book orders, budget reports, and other documents that are sent by others as PDF files might be nice to edit on my end of things. The biggest benefit I could see would be to grab tables from a PDF and keep the rows and columns.

Like Zamzar, PDF to Excel has you select a file and then type in an email address to send the link to once the file’s converted. I did not download the Able2Extract app featured on the site; I just want the web-based tool. It was able to take a book order that I had submitted for a price quote and convert it into a pretty easily-read Excel file.

One of my complaints with Zamzar is the time that it sometimes takes to register that I’ve uploaded a file for conversion. With PDF to Excel, I got the email saying my file was ready in under five minutes. That may change as more people start using the site, but for now it’s something to capitalize on.

Nancy promised conversion for files up to 40MB – which, if you are trying to convert spreadsheets larger than 40MB, please contact me because I always enjoy hanging out with people from NASA. She also promised that the data gets deleted, which is a must, I think, when you’re dealing with spreadsheets. That’s why I chose a book order instead of something with personal information on it.

Moral of the story? Keep PDF to Excel in mind for that specific type of file conversion. It seems to be reliable for what it advertises to do. Check out CometDocs, as well, for a more Swiss Army knife approach.

Imagine a future where you print your food.

May 21st, 2013

So, you know how printer cartridges hold ink? What if the printer cartridge held proteins, sugars, and carbohydrates and then could layer them into food that is semi-recognizable? Anjan Contractor is working on that and has been awarded $125,000 from NASA to develop the food printer for space travel. Anjan has bigger plans than space travel, though. He wants to cure world hunger.

If the foodstuff was in powder form, it could last up to 30 years. That’s a long time and could help with portioning out the right amount to avoid waste. It’s a pretty ambitious and world-changing achievement to pursue. If it could be made cheaply, even better.

The next question would be taste…

Search the Internet like an NSA agent

May 8th, 2013

The National Security Agency has a guide for how to use Internet searches in ways that you may not have considered. The guide was just released through the Freedom of Information Act and the NSA has posted a copy here. For anyone who loves thinking through how search engines actually work, it’s a fascinating read. As a tech instructor, I also am intrigued by how some of the best spies in the U.S. search for information.

How much does a video weigh?

April 29th, 2013

Check out Michael Stevens’s TED talk on hooking audience members through curiosity. It’s a great framework for instructional design. The video also has links to other educational video channels.

Voice-to-text may be just as dangerous as visual texting

April 23rd, 2013

A recent study at Texas A & M suggests that using voice commands to dictate a text message while driving may be just as dangerous as looking at the phone to do it. There are two factors involved. First, the driver’s brain is still distracted, especially if the voice recognition software is not recognizing voice. Second, drivers sometimes have more of a false sense of security when they use voice-to-text, leading them to not be as cautious.

I’ll be curious to see how Google Glass impacts this. (Another factor then would be distracted pedestrians in crosswalks.)

Seeing Google as a BBS is making me nostalgic

April 8th, 2013

Yes, Google was after the BBS era, but it’s still fun hearing that modem successfully connect. The image search with an ASCII preview is even funnier.

Now to play a MUD…