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EdTech Update





PD seasoned with humor

A couple years ago I suggested a way we might "gamify" professional development efforts in "Gamifying PD," August 22, 2013. At the time I listed some things we were considering:

  1. Identify the technology skills and uses we think would be useful to teachers and create ways they can demonstrate the mastery of these skills. I believe we already have about 40 separate online activities teachers can work on in 10 areas, each with Substitute, Augment, Modify and Restructure levels.
  2. Create a means for teachers to report completion of each activity and mastery of the skill. Design a badge for each area of mastery and assign points. Badges could be put in e-mail sig files or on webpages.
  3. Re-design each activity as a "quest" with hints, clues and maybe even humor. I'm thinking that something like the old graphic adventures like Zork might provide a model.
  4. Create levels of overall mastery based on the number of points earned. For fun, let's call them Apprentice, Magician and Wizard levels.
  5. Run a tournament among buildings to determine which building has the highest percentage of staff at each level. Update it weekly. Give prizes???

I am glad that at least one school district has seen the benefit of games - and especially humor - when applied to tech PD. Check some of these course offerings by the Bettendorf (IA) Community School District:

Who fixes my stuff when I break it?  -A short introduction to members of the technology department
Passwords & Plug-Ins & File Names Oh My! 
FirstClass, you mean WorstClass... (they didn't hear me say that) 
To Infinity and Beyond! -An Introduction to Infinite Campus 
Where did I save my crap? -An introduction to server structure and where things are saved 
Why I need to work for NSA to make a phone call around here. -An introduction to our phone system
Planning Lessons using START...Your first of many acronyms in these lessons... make flash cards
Ahhh the Library, Remember When It Had Books! -A look at services that are available through our library
Mickey Mouse is Pissed -A look at copyright law. 
 I Tawt, I Taw a Twitter  - Uses of and Creating a Twitter Account 
   **Reward: Title- Tweenius
Facebook: Redefining a friend (loosely) - Facebook in the Classroom 
   **Reward: Title- Facebookaholic
Google +....nothing, just +  - Purpose and creating an accoun  
   **Reward: Title: Googlehead
For those of you with something useful to say... - Introduction to Google Blogger 
    **Reward: Title: Blazing Blogger
 I like my Moodle with marinara.
    **Reward: Title: Moodle Magician
Edmodo sounds like my dad's first car
    **Reward: Title: Edmodo Dragon
Wiggio, what kind of name is that? It just SOUNDS stupid!
     **Reward: Title: Wiggio Wizard
Probably the most needed but least used words in education today are "lighten up!" We, are indeed, in a serious business, greatly impacting the lives of our students. But being serious about our work does not necessarily mean we have to remove humor from our environment. It may be, infact, the only thing that keeps many of us going.

Love your work, Bettendorf! I hope your staff appreciates your 'tude.

Budget cuts - never fun

Even though the state of Minnesota has a $1.9 billion budget surplus this year, propose funding for K-12 schools will result in...

North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale [school district] is looking at laying off 90 teachers and staff members next year. South Washington County must find more than 60 positions to cut by next fall, most of them teachers.

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage* will lay off 50, Bloomington almost 30 and Wayzata 25. Minneapolis has already shed 120 jobs from its central office — a move depicted as pushing resources out into schools.

Indeed the only metro-area districts that are not facing cutbacks are those that recently asked voters to raise property taxes to cover past rounds of cuts. Many of those districts now will be unable to fulfill promises to use the money to staff back up. School districts foresee yet another fiscal cliff, despite Dayton's ed plan. MinnPost, 4/9/15

After working 25+ years in Minnesota schools, this boom-bust funding cycle has become sadly familiar. If the legislature would simply tie school funding to inflation, might the histrionics accompanying each legislative session might involve something other than K-12 education?

My fiscally conservative side (never use two mules when one will do), sees budget cutting as an opportunity for districts to take a hard, critical look at its programs, staff, and services and determine which are worth keeping and which are not. To a large degree, this is a subjective task, but increasingly less so, with performance on state tests** being the defining measure of school (and administrative) success. 

Or do we really know what impacts student performance on tests? Might, just might, a happy child who gets a balanced educational diet of the arts, physical activity, vocational studies, and constructivist activities perform better that the child who is test-prepped at the expense of such balance.

Is any school courageous enough to experiment?


*My district - the numbers are a very rough, very early estimate, but the cuts will be felt.

** Education could save a lot of money buy reducing the amount of testing it does. Hmmmm.


Why you need a systems integrationist Ed Leadership column, April 2015

My April 2015 Power Up column "Navigating the Seas of Data" is available online. The column explores why schools need a systems integration specialist.