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All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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EdTech Update





8 ways to reduce device damage in 1:1 programs

As a technology user, I have over the years:

  • Dropped and broken my phone's screen
  • Spilled liquid on my laptop's keyboard, frying the motherboard
  • Pulled cord out a device, breaking off the connection
  • Pushed a monitor off my desk onto the floor
  • Left my computer bag on top of my car's roof, and driven off

These acts were, believe me, unintentional. The costs of these mistakes wound up coming out of my own pocket.

So I have a degree of sympathy when our students bring their Chromebooks in for repair. Stuff happens to even the most careful technology user.

Unfortunately we see some students whose devices need repair so often, it casts doubt on just how careful they actually are with their devices. This seems especially true of middle schoolers who now take their Chromebooks home on foot, on buses, and on bikes and into households with siblings, pets, and who knows who. These are, of course, the same middle schoolers whose prefrontal cortexes are still works in progress. Our teachers and techs are often frustrated by the chronic Chromebook destroyers - and it becomes increasingly difficult to give these students the benefit of the doubt when they claim accidental damage.

Were there a magic fix to this problem, I am sure every district with a 1:1 program would be using it. To a limited degree, we find these things may be helping reduce damage in our schools...

  1. Making training on proper care of the student device mandatory for all kids, every year.
  2. Providing cases for devices.
  3. Establishing some degree of financial responsibility to students and parents for non-accidental damage.
  4. Requiring/allowing students to leave their devices at school rather than take them home (not popular with teachers whose homework requires technology use)
  5. Giving older, less valuable but still functioning, Chromebooks to those who show chronic difficulties in responsible use.
  6. Counseling with students, parents, and school staff when problems are endemic.
  7. Keeping filtering as least restrictive as possible in hope the personal value to the student of the device will be greater if they can use it for activities other than school work. (I want my Chromebook working so I can play a game, check a sports score, engage in social media with my peers.)
  8. Another strategy is being discussed. What we we try to use building culture to increase the care which technology is given? Make good technology use a building-wide effort and responsibility? Would a carrot approach help? Let's say we allocated $10,000 for computer repairs to each building and then any monies not used for repair of student devices could be used for elective technology purchases to be determined by the building.

When I taught junior high back in the dark ages, one of the teacher's favorite expressions was "You buy'm books and buy'm books, and all they do is eat the covers." Were that same teacher working today, would the expression be ""You buy'm devices and buy'm devices, and all they do is break the screens"?

I suspect this is a "wicked" problem schools will struggle with for a long time. I don't anticipate Apple or Dell or Acer coming out with a 7th-grader-proof computing product anytime soon. 

How do you improve the care and feeding of the student devices in your school?


At the junction of creativity and personalization

Joel VerDuin from Anoka-Hennipin Schools. tweeted this quote: "And now we are at a crossroads... The world needs flexible and adaptive learners, and people who will solve wicked problems. However we often ask students to solve problems that we already know the answer to." Pickup, Oliver. Educating children for the jobs of the future. Raconteur, Dec 5, 2018. The article is a good one and deserves a careful reading. Yet, it sells short the real need for encouraging creativity in our students. Creativity is not simply a vocational skill.

As a life-long educator, my mantra has always been that my mission is to create thinkers, not believers. A large part of thinking should be thinking creatively as a means of solving our own problems, solving the problems of society, and understanding that we all have the power to choose the paths we take in life.

I love the everyday MacGyver-like innovators I encounter - both children and adults. I respect those individuals who see an obstacle as something akin to a jungle gym - a chance to not just climb, but to get joy and satisfaction in doing so. I admire people who see their lives not as something into which they were born, but something they’ve created.

Can you think of a better reason that students need to practice creativity? Teaching Outside the Lines: Defeating the one-right-answer mentality and developing the creativity in every learner. Corwin, 2015.

The junction of creativity and personalization is magic in educational settings. Given a genuine problem of choice and the license to create an original solution, skills can be practiced in a real world context. As we spend dollars on 3-D printers, programmable robots, and other makerspace tools, I worry that we never achieve the true purpose for which these expensive toys were obtained. Ironically, I see too many activities in makerspaces and programming classes where the object is to follow the instructions to the letter, not to actually solve a genuine, personal problem.

Technology is not the answer to helping students acquire the skills they need for future success; a new perception about creativity held by teachers and media specialist is.


BFTP: Age, Energy, Privacy, and Morals

I suspect my New Year's Eve plans this year, as in most recent years, will involve staying at home, eating a pizza, watching a movie, and retiring long, long before midnight. "Planning" these activities reminded of this observation...

In my experience, most morally questionable activities tend to be committed late at night.

So as I get older and my bedtime gets earlier, my opportunities, temptations, and need for privacy/secrecy diminish. This may be why I am less concerned about privacy issues than some of my younger colleagues. No one has yet to respond to my question

Why do we as humans value privacy so highly?" One doesn't need to be a criminal or a pervert to still not want all of one's life in the public eye. The need for privacy is at a gut level, an inalienable right, and must have some primitive survival component behind it. But what are the tangible benefits of choosing what to share - and what to keep to oneself?

While I don't keep the "location" services turned on for most of my phone apps, I have yet to discover a concrete reason I should not.

The age/energy continuum may also explain why it seems people become more judgmental the older they become. My guess is that they condemn the things they not longer have the energy to participate in themselves. Personally, I don't think I behave better because I've gone older, wiser, and more ethical - I just don't have the energy to be bad. Being bad is usually a lot of work and just takes more energy than I care to expend anymore. I save my energy for more important things like breathing and remaining upright.

They're my theories and I'm sticking with them.