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EdTech Update





Ethical budgeting, security, and playing the odds

There is only so much money in a school budget. David Lewis calls the public budget picture a “zero sum game,” and states that decision makers can’t give programs money they themselves don’t have. (Lewis, 1991) In tight financial times, I believe school districts with inadequate budgets should drop some programs totally rather than watch all programs become mediocre as a result of 10% cuts year after year. You may have to make a case for the media/technology program strong enough to take money from other departments. Prepare to make enemies. You had better sincerely believe that your program offers to children knowledge and skills and opportunities no other program in the school can. You’ll need a professional mission and the courage to do the right thing. Budgeting for Lean Mean Times, MultiMedia Schools Nov/Dec 1995

I have always seen budget-making as an exercise in ethical decision-making. As I stated in the article above, education budgets are usually zero-sum which means spending more in one area means spending less in another.

As I work on my district's technology budget for next year, I am acutely aware of some difficult choices that will need to be made. Our basic operation costs for things like salaries, Internet bandwidth, district-systems like the SIS and HR/Payroll, and equipment replacement keep creeping (or sometime surging) upward. We need take a closer look next year at our security and business continuity plans, spending dollars on both consulting services and perhaps on monitoring programs and increasing redundancy. But our tech budget is static.

So unhappily, the only source of those funds may be in "discretionary" areas such as student resources. Fewer learning materials, less student technology, fewer instructional technology specialists? Even if we can shift the dollars to the technology budget from other places in the general fund, that will mean someone else will get less - larger class sizes, older textbooks, fewer band instruments, etc.

I'm sure this realization is why my techie colleagues sometimes view me as a security "skeptic," openly questioning the need for some of the more costly protection and prevention efforts used by businesses. I openly ask: Does a school need the same level of data protection as a bank? Are we as susceptible to hacking as a business? Are the records we maintain as sensitive as those kept by a medical clinic or insurance company?

The real trick here is to figure out what can be considered an acceptable risk. Doing little or nothing is foolish since crashing networks don't serve anyone in the school, and students and families need to feel secure in the care we take protecting their data. Yet on the other end of the spectrum are hugely expensive and often times limiting and inconvenient policies, programs, and hardware that can decrease (but never eliminate) the downtime and security breaches.

Personally, I am happy to play a little bit longer odds on systems failures if it means getting more resources in the hands of students and teachers. And I can live with that ethical decision.


BFTP: Evolution of babysitting with technology

According to a recent study by market researcher Nielsen, adults commonly use tablets to pacify their children while they are out of the house. 

More than half of adults said their children used a tablet as a form of entertainment while traveling. Two out of five gave their children a tablet to keep them occupied while they were at a restaurant or event. 

Horrible parent skills, one might conclude. But it's not new. Haven't we used technology as a babysitter for a very, very long time?

(Education commentary below.)

1950s - TV (My babysitter)

1970s - Color TV (My daughter's babysitter)

!980s - VCRs (My son's babysitter)

2000s - Computer websites (My first grandson's babysitter)

2010s - Apps (My second grandson's babysitter)

Today - More apps (My third grandson's babysitter)

My thought is that we've used technology as a babysitter in school as well. But has there been an evolution?

Number Munchers 1982 - Apple II

Number Munchers 2012 - iPad


Original post March 9, 2012.


12 point library checklist for principals - 2017

The first version of this document was written in 1996 and updated in 2003, 2009 and 2012. As fast as the profession changes, I've tried to keep the document updated. As always, this tool is meant to be discussion starter, not a definitive evaluation tool. Use as you can and comments for improvement are always welcome.

A 12 Point Library Program Checklist for School Principals

The simple checklist below can be used to quickly evaluate your building’s program with your building principal’s collaboration.


Rapid changes in technology, learning research, and the library profession in the past 40 years have created a wide disparity in the effectiveness of school library programs. Is your school's library keeping current? The checklist below can be used to quickly evaluate your program.

1. Professional staff and duties

  • Does your library have the services of a fully licensed school librarian?
  • Is that person fully engaged in professional duties? Is there a written job description for all library personnel: clerical, technical, and professional?
  • Does the librarian understand the changing roles of the librarian as described in current professional publications?
  • Does the librarian offer regular staff development opportunities in information literacy, information technologies, digital resources, digital citizenship, and integration of these skills into the content area?
  • Is the librarian an active member of a professional organization?
  • Is the librarian considered a full member of the teaching faculty?
  • Is the librarian evaluated on a regular basis using a tool similar to that of other teachers?

2. Professional support

  • Is sufficient clerical help available to the librarian so that she/he can perform professional duties rather than clerical tasks?
  • Is sufficient technical help available to the librarian so that she/he can perform professional duties rather than technical tasks?
  • Is there a district library supervisor, leadership team, or department chair who is responsible for planning and leadership?
  • Do the building principal, site leadership committee, and staff development team encourage library personnel to attend workshops, professional meetings, and conferences that will update their skills and knowledge?
  • Does the librarian participate in your district’s Professional Learning Communities and in informal Personal Learning Networks, both face-to-face and online?

3. Collection size and development

  • Does the library’s book and digital resource collection meet the needs of the curriculum? Has a baseline print collection size been established? Is the collection well-weeded?
  • Is a variety of media available that will address different learning styles?
  • Have on-line resources been added to the collection when appropriate? Are there sufficient computers and Internet bandwidth for groups of students to take advantage of these resources? Is there plan in place for making the "digital conversion" of educational tools?
  • Has a recent assessment been done that balances print collection size and digital resources? Have some print materials been supplanted by on-line subscriptions? Has space formerly used to house print materials been effectively repurposed?
  • Are new materials chosen from professional selection sources and tied to the curriculum through collection mapping?
  • Do digital materials link to the schools learning management system? Are they accessible using devices used as part of a 1:1 program or recommended in a BYOD effort?

 4. Facilities

  • Is the library located so it is readily accessible from all classrooms? Does it have an outside entrance so it can be used for community functions evenings and weekends?
  • Does the library have an atmosphere conducive to learning with serviceable furnishings, instructional displays, and informational posters? Is the library carpeted with static-free carpet to reduce noise and protect electronic devices? Is the library climate-controlled so that materials and equipment will not be damaged by high heat and humidity, and so that it can be used for activities during the summer?
  • Does the library contain general instructional areas, a story area (in elementary schools), a presentation area (in secondary schools), and spaces for individuals, small groups and entire classes to work?
  • Do the rules of library encourage collaboration and group work in the least restrictive means possible.
  • Does the library contain a computer lab or wireless laptops/Chromebooks/tablets for students and teachers working with a class or independently in the library and for the librarian to use to teach?
  • Does the library contain and support multi-media workstations and digital video production facilities? Does the library house the school's makerspace with multiple types of equipment and tools needed for students to create products?
  • Is the library fully networked with voice, video, and data lines in adequate quantities? Does the library serve as the "hub" of these information networks with routers, file servers, video head ends, and technical staff housed there?
  • Does the library support any 1:1 or BYOD project by offering a "genius bar"-type help desk, charging stations, and adequate wifi strength?
  • Does the library maintain a useful, up-to-date web presence with linked resources for students, staff and families?

5. Curriculum and integration

  • Is the librarian an active member of grade level and/or team planning groups?
  • Is the librarian an active member of content curriculum writing committees?
  • Is the librarian a part of grade-level or content area Professional Learning Communities?
  • Are library resources examined as a part of the content areas’ curriculum review cycle?
  • Are library and information technology skills taught as part of content areas rather than in isolation? Are the information literacy skills of evaluating, processing and communicating information being taught as well as accessing skills?
  • Does the librarian curate both print and digital content to support differentiated/personalized learning efforts?
  • Is the safe and appropriate use of online resources a part of the information and technology literacy curriculum?

6. Resource-based teaching

  • Does the librarian with assistance from building and district leadership promote teaching activities that go beyond the textbook and provide materials to help differentiate instruction?
  • Do teachers and administrators view the librarian as an instructional design and authentic assessment resource? Does the library program support inquiry based and student centered learning activities throughout all curricular areas? Does the librarian collaborate with students and teachers to create a wide range of opportunities that enable the development and practice critical thinking skills and responsible digital citizenship?
  • Does some flexible scheduling in the building permit the librarian to be a part of teaching teams with classroom teachers, rather than only covering teacher preparation time?
  • Is a clear set of information literacy and technology benchmarks written for all grade levels available? Are these benchmarks assessed in a joint effort of the librarian and classroom teacher? Are the results of these assessments shared with stakeholders?

7. Information technology

  • Does the library give its users access to information technologies such as:
    • an on-line library catalog and circulation system for the building collection
    • access to an on-line union catalog of district holdings as well as access to the catalogs of public, academic and special libraries from which interlibrary loans can be made
    • full on-line access to the Internet
    • a wide variety of online reference tools like full text periodical indexes, encyclopedias, atlases, concordances, dictionaries, thesauruses, reader's advisors and almanacs
    • a wide variety of computerized productivity programs appropriate to student ability level such as word processors, multi-media and presentation programs, spreadsheets, databases, desktop publishing program, graphic creation programs, still and motion digital image editing software
    • access to collaborative learning/networking tools such as wikis, blogs and other online sharing programs and cloud computing resources such as online productivity tools and file storage?
    • access to desktop conferencing equipment and software
    • educational computer programs including practices, simulations and tutorials that support the curriculum
  •  Are the skills needed to use these resources being taught to and with teachers by the librarian?

8. Reference, networking, and interlibrary loan

  • Does your librarian have the expertise needed to provide effective and timely reference services to the building students and staff?
  • Is your school a member of a regional multi-type system or library consortium?
  • Does the librarian use interlibrary loan to fill student and staff requests that cannot be met by building collections?
  • Does the librarian participate in cooperative planning and purchasing opportunities with other schools, both locally and regional?

9. Planning/yearly goals

  • Does the library program have a district-wide set of long-range goals?
  • Does the librarian set yearly goals based on the long-term goals that are tied directly to building and curriculum goals in collaboration with building leadership?
  • Is a portion of the librarian’s evaluation based on the achievement of the yearly goals?
  • Is the library program represented on the building planning committees? On the district technology planning committee?

10. Budgeting

  • Is the library program budget zero or objective based? Is the budget tied to program goals?
  • Does the librarian write clear rationales for the materials, equipment, and supplies requested, with student and staff need as the focus?
  • Does the budget reflect both a maintenance and growth component for the program?
  • Does the librarian keep clear and accurate records of expenditures?
  • Does the librarian write grant applications when available?

11. Policies/communications

  • Are board policies concerning selection and reconsideration polices current and enforced? Is the staff aware of the doctrines of intellectual freedom and library user privacy? Do these policies extend to digital resources?
  • Does the district have a CIPA-compliant safe and acceptable use policy (or responsible use policy) for Internet and technology use?
  • Does the librarian serve as an interpreter of copyright laws? Does the librarian help others determine the rights they wish to assign to their own intellectual property?
  • Does the librarian have a formal means of communicating the goals and services of the program to the students, staff, administration, and community? Is the library's web presence professional, easy-to-navigate, current and useful? Does the librarian use social networking tools to communicate with stakeholders?

12. Evaluation

  • Does the librarian determine and report ways that show the goals and objectives of the program are being met and are helping meet the building and district goals? Does the librarian create an annual library report for administrators, staff and parents that includes qualitative and quantitative measurements?
  • Do all new initiatives involving the library and technology program have an evaluation component?
  • Does the district regularly evaluate the library program using external teams of evaluators as part of any accreditation process?
  • Does the librarian participate in formal studies conducted by academic researchers when requested?

The purpose of this tool is not serve as formal evaluation of either the librarian or library program, but to help the building administrator become aware of areas where you may need additional resources and assistance in order to make a major impact on you school’s overall program.