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Friday
Aug152014

Technology in adult meetings

 

The use of technology in staff meetings and other gatherings of adults automatically seems to be viewed as a negative. When e-mail and other "distractions" are available, won't staff members, like kids, be distracted by default?

I would argue that technology should not only not be banned, but encouraged in meetings and workshops for adults in a school. For a number of reasons:

  1. Paperless meetings (with updated information accessible online) can be held*.
  2. Collaborative documents, back-channel communications, and other responsive activities can be modeled.
  3. People can get actual work done when items on the agenda do not pertain to them.
  4. School leaders can demonstrate the same device management techniques (put your device in listening mode), that we expect our teachers in 1:1 programs to display.
  5. Devices might encourage meeting leaders to create more interactive, engaging, and meaningful meetings rather than just sit-n-git with read-aloud PowerPoints.

Here's the deal. We as school administrators must be the change we want to see in the world. (Hey, that's pretty good. Think I will write it down.) We have to model good tech use in all situations regarding human interactions - meetings, classes, communications. 

Do you really think that as a teacher, I am going to try to integrated tech in my classroom when encouraged to do so by a principal who uses paper handouts and lectures at staff meetings?

Give me a break.

* OK, why would a state TECHNOLOGY LEADERS meeting still use paper agendas? (Yes, TIES, I'm singling you out.)  If we as tech coordinators don't lead the leaders in our districts on tech use, who will? 

Wednesday
Aug132014

What programs reside on your hard drive?

Gartner on Monday said that sales of Chromebooks will reach 5.2 million units worldwide this year, with more than 80% of the demand in the U.S. That's an 80% increase in sales from 2013.

But this demand was driven almost entirely by education last year, which accounted for nearly 85% of Chromebook sales, according to Gartner.

... the Chromebook was attractive to the school system, especially because of its management, cost and low maintenance. School System CIOs are Sold on Chromebooks, ComputerWorld, August 11, 2014.

When it comes to technology, I hate to buy more machine than is needed to the job. And I am beginning to think about 90% of educators would do just fine with a Chromebook or Chromebox.

Just how many drive-based programs do people run anymore?

I use Photoshop Elements, iPhoto, and, uh, well, that's pretty much it. Everything else opens in a browser. And I am not such a sophisticated user of Photoshop that I could not do what little editing I do using an online tool. I need to move my photos and photo management system to the cloud.

The old standbys of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint have been replaced by GoogleDocs. It's painful to use Outlook. I don't edit video. The rare game I play is now online. 

I wonder just how many teachers are in the same boat - able to complete nearly every task online using only a browser? Moodle, Schoology, Edmodo - all web-based. Gradebooks - web-based. IWB software may be the exception, but I don't see us replacing IWBs as they wear out and screen mirroring software takes its place. 

As the opening quote suggests, Chromebook/Chromebox management compared to MDM for iPad or the re-imaging of desktops is a breeze. And one could buy 3-4 Chromebooks for the cost of a laptop. 

Look to see the next big tech wars in school be Chrome vs regular laptop, not Windows vs OSX. I hear the banners flapping now...

So, what am I missing?
 

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Monday
Aug112014

A little steamed about STEM

 

Is it just me or does questioning the motives of educational "reformers" just sort of come naturally?

The big push to get more kids pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) always seemed somewhat dubious to me. Anytime one has to make special efforts to get someone to take classes or enter a field* makes one naturally wonder why. Could it be the way the classes are taught, the working conditions in the field itself, or the image of the professions involved?

The reason most often given for the STEM push is that our economy needs more workers in these fields and that by having jobs which are in demand, students will be making a smart career choice. Sound plausible given the degree to which technology seems to dominate economic growth news and that math, science, engineering are components of doing technology well.

But not everyone agrees. Last year in the IEEE's Spectrum newsletter, Robert N. Charette's well-researched and well-sourced article The STEM Crisis is a Myth states:

And yet, alongside such dire projections [of the need for more STEM workers], you’ll also find reports suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs. One study found, for example, that wages for U.S. workers in computer and math fields have largely stagnated since 2000. Even as the Great Recession slowly recedes, STEM workers at every stage of the career pipeline, from freshly minted grads to mid- and late-career Ph.D.s, still struggle to find employment as many companies, including Boeing, IBM, and Symantec, continue to lay off thousands of STEM workers.

and

[A] Georgetown study estimates that nearly two-thirds of the STEM job openings in the United States, or about 180 000 jobs per year, will require bachelor’s degrees. Now, if you apply the Commerce Department’s definition of STEM to the NSF’s annual count of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees, that means about 252 000 STEM graduates emerged in 2009. So even if all the STEM openings were entry-level positions and even if only new STEM bachelor’s holders could compete for them, that still leaves 70 000 graduates unable to get a job in their chosen field.

and 

Clearly, powerful forces must be at work to perpetuate the cycle. One is obvious: the bottom line. Companies would rather not pay STEM professionals high salaries with lavish benefits, offer them training on the job, or guarantee them decades of stable employment. So having an oversupply of workers, whether domestically educated or imported, is to their benefit. It gives employers a larger pool from which they can pick the “best and the brightest,” and it helps keep wages in check. No less an authority than Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said as much when in 2007 he advocated boosting the number of skilled immigrants entering the United States so as to “suppress” the wages of their U.S. counterparts, which he considered too high.

So do we encourage our own children and our students to take STEM classes and for our schools to make STEM curricula a priority?

While it's not as sexy or PC as promoting STEM right now, I'd rather see us do a better job of career counseling, encouraging the exploration of many academic disciplines, and sending a strong message that pursuing training and work in any field can be rewarding. And no matter what your vocational choice, good communications, problem-solving, personal technology skills, critical thinking, and a host of dispositions are needed for success. 

Maybe we just need a catchier acronym.

OK, STEM winders - have at me.

*Increasingly such as education.

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