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EdTech Update




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TIES Conference take-aways


Our state technology conference, TIES, was Monday and Tuesday of this week. Just a few thoughts before my Half-heimer's (not quite as bad as Alzheimer's) kicks in ...

I am once again reminded that technology conferences are the most exciting educational events one can attend. I love the new ideas, the new toys, the new teaching strategies - the sense that change in education really is possible and that individuals, not institutions or governments or consultants, will bring that change about. It is our state's most enthusiastic, optimistic group of educators who attend TIES.

I'm always struck by the disconnect between what I encounter at any tech conference and what seems to be happening in the rest of mainstream education. The big themes this year at "It's Personal" were implementing cloud-computing to facilitate collaborative learning, using technology to encourage creativity, establishing a BYOD program to improve access to classroom technology and taking advantage of the inherent engagement that technology contributes to the learning process. The big (tech) themes in mainstream education seem to be using technology for testing, for data mining, and for remediation/programmed instruction/intervention. It's the "learning how to problem-solve" vs. "how to get the right answer on the test" philosophies: the first at the conference, the second in practice.

Some really good sessions included "iPads and Apps for Administrators" in which an elementary principal talked about how his use of the camera in the iPad made for richer post-observation conversations. Chris Dede's analogy of how summative assessment is like closing the store to do inventory instead of doing a running inventory (formative assessments) with technology. He suggested that if the formative assessments are good enough, you don't need the summative. I suspect that's true from an educational perspective, but not politically feasible.

A library media director from Wisconsin did a great session called "Creating Student-Centered Mobile Learning Environments Using Facebook, Twitter and Cell Phones." He described a dozen ways that as an English teacher he used these tools to not only teach, but to communicate with parents. He said students prefer using Facebook to using Edmodo or Moodle for the same reason they want Fruit Loops rather than Fruity-Os - they want to use the "real thing," not a "knock-off." One problem I did have with his methodology is that he had students sign up for a second "professional/student" Facebook account which violates Facebook policy. I think Facebook should change their terms to allow both personal and professional accounts, but until then I have a hard time purposely violating a terms of service agreement with kids watching.

Jim Hirsh from Plano TX talked about his big district's move to the cloud and Tim Wilson from Osseo discussed that district's BYOD program, Copernicus. Both these sessions made me feel pretty good about where my district is in these efforts. (Ahead of Plano and just trailing Osseo.) 

The keynote speaker on games in education was entertaining, but games have been “the next big thing” in education for the past 20 years. I see kids playing the same dumb games on iPads that were being played on Apple IIe’s back in 1982.  My understanding is that there is no financial reward for developing sophisticated games for the educational market rather than recreational market.

I was very happy to see both our high school principals in attendance along with the usual assortment of teachers, media specialists and techs from our district. Every year, the interest and attendance grow. 

So maybe I am not the only one who thinks technology conferences are fun and exciting places. I hope they stay that way. These conferences, more than any other, are places for the change agents and subversives in education to congregate, commune, commiserate, and conspire. And if I might paraphrase Barry Goldwater:


I just have to get this off my chest. Is this the worst named breakfast cereal in history? We have a box in cupboard so I know they are real.


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Reader Comments (4)

You are my absolute favorite edtech blogger and I look forward to all of your posts, particularly those about leading teachers and administrators forward technologically even as they cling desperately to the past. Today's post, however, made me laugh out loud because we regularly buy Crispy Hexagons and actually call them that, too! My 6 and 4 year old daughters ask daily, un-ironically, for "Crispy Hexagons." I agree-- worst name ever, but pretty awesome at the same time. Thanks for the laugh, and keep up the great work!

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia Duell

Thanks, Doug! I was especially interested in the thoughts you shared from Chris Dede. Now, back to eating my breakfast of fruity trapezoids!

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Perez

Crispy Hexagons were on special at Hy Vee today so I bought some in your honor.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for the note. Have a great holiday! Enjoy your breakfast.


Hi Carrie,

Too bad the Hexagons don't come in the little boxes the boys like. See you next week!



December 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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