Search this site
Other stuff

Follow me on Twitter at:


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

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest book:

       Available Now

Available now 

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

 The Blue Skunk Fan Page on Facebook


Must-read K-12 IT Blog
EdTech's Must-Read K-12 IT Blogs





BFTP: A better question

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post, March 2, 2009. (Be sure to read the comments from the original post.) As the tech department works ever more closely with our curriculum, teaching and learning, and professional development departments, this post makes an increasing amount of sense...

…technology is an accelerator of greatness already in place, never the principal cause of greatness or decline. – Newsweek, April 29, 2002

At a conference last week, Mark Weston from Dell computing stated that asking the question, "Does technology improve student learning?" is the wrong question.

The question should be, "Does technology support the practices that improve student learning?"

Is this a semantic trifle or is it actually profound? What are the implications for technology deployment and evaluation? What drives your tech planning? Should it be initiatives like these?

The direct link between information technologies and learning does not exist anymore than the direct link between a good stove and a good meal; a good automobile and a good vacation; a good word processor and a good book; or a good camera and good art.

This view, of course, has been expressed many times, in many ways. My own Tech Upgrade is one way; my advocacy for looking at best practices in the content areas, another. But I rather liked the simplicty of of Weston's alternate question.

Now if educators could only agree on what actual practices contribute to student learning, it would make the tech director's job a good deal easier.

And shouldn't all educators' efforts be bent toward that sole purpose?


Desktop & iPad vs Laptop: the results

Last spring, our district decided that the standard teacher equipment set up would be a desktop computer and an iPad tablet. Only special teaching circumstances would dictate that a teacher needed a laptop.

This was met with a, let's say, cool reception. So we promised to evaluate the impact of the switch. Here are the results from 87 teachers who received a desktop computer and tablet instead of a laptop.:

Having a desktop computer and an iPad Mini...

  • Has made more productive as a teacher - 44%
  • Has had no effect on my productivity - 34%
  • Has made me less productive as a teacher - 22%

Having a desktop computer and an iPad Mini has made my work...

  • More mobile - 45%
  • No effect -  23%
  • Less mobile - 32%
Given the benefits to the district of this move (lower TOC, less maintenance, less scrambling for computers for subs, encouragement to use GoogleDrive, more familiarity with tablet computing by teachers, etc.), I see this as win when only 22% of teachers have felt negatively impacted by not having a personal laptop (laptops can still be checked out on an as needed basis) and less than a third of teachers said they were less mobile.

The biggest complaint in the survey was about the functionality of the iPad Mini. Teachers simply expected it to be able to do everything a laptop could do, but found that doing grades, creating GoogleDocs, etc. was far more problematic. My sense is that the "right tool for the right job" sensibility will kick in eventually once teachers get more experience with tablet computing.

I have to say that a primary reason this transition went well was that my staff did an excellent job training teachers on the pedagogical uses of iPads - and their own enthusiasm was contagious. Having a firm foundation in using cloud-based productivity tools (GoogleDrive) changed the paradigm of what having access to one's work looks like. And we just plain have a great teaching staff who approached this plan with a mind open to new possibilities.

Thank you all.

So here's what I've been thinking about. What if we gave teachers an equipment stipend and has them buy their own computers, tablets, and other devices? Hmmmmmmm.


A short history of this idea... 

Tech metrics beyond surveys


Our district is finalizing its strategic roadmap for the next three years. Each of the directors - curriculum, special education, human resources, community ed, etc. - has been tasked with creating a "vision card" that outlines the core services of his/her department and identify metrics to determine whether those services are being delivered.

So guess what I am working on. Yes, tech gets its own card.

Our department has for many years defined its "core services" in the language of long-term goals. We've built annual short term objectives that support the long-term goal and track and report how many of these objectives we meet each year. Here's an example: 2013-14

The purpose of the vision card, as I understand it, is to assign specific metrics to evaluate the degree to which service is being met. So, OK. Here are some of my initial ideas...

Goal/Core Service #1: All students will demonstrate proficient use of technology to access, process, organize, communicate and evaluate information in order to answer questions and solve problems and to practice digital citizenship.

Measure: Percent of students who demonstrate mastery of identified technology-related skills through performance assessment. (Elementary level easy to assess; secondary, not so much.)

Vision: 100% of students at all grade levels demonstrate proficiency in information literacy and technology skills

Goal/Core Service #2: Technology will be used to provide the most current, accurate and extensive information and learning resources possible to all learners in the district and community in a cost effective and reliable manner at maximum convenience to the user. 

Measure: Percentage of students who have access to a computing device when needed.

Vision: There is a 1:1 ratio of students to devices supplied by the school 24 hours a day.

Goal/Core Service #3: All district teachers will have the technology training, skills and resources needed to assure students will meet local and state learning objectives and have the technological means to assess and record student progress. 

Measure: Percentage of teachers who participate in professional development activities with technology components (Do we want % of teachers having a tech IEP? Should this be moved to PD area?)

Vision: 95% participation in technology-related professional development activities that result in changed practice within 14 days

Measure: Percentage of teachers who use technology effectively in the classroom (Use “Look-for’s” in Danielson model to gauge.)

Vision: 95% of teachers effectively use of technology on a weekly basis

Goal/Core Service #4: The district will use technology to improve its administrative effectiveness through efficient communication, planning, and record keeping. 

Measure: Percent of families satisfied with ability to access their student’s information in real time.

Vision: More than 90% of families use student information system parent portal and report satisfaction with the information via survey

Goal/Core Service #5: The district will have a reliable, cost-effective, and secure technology infrastructure that supports the learning, teaching, and administrative goals of the district. 

Measure: Percentage of time digital resources are available to users in a reliable, adequate, and secure manner.

Vision: Less than .0001 unscheduled downtime and no reported security breaches. Bandwidth meeting 100% of COSN standards (2017-18)  of 10 gig per 1000 users.

If you've stuck with this this long, I'm guessing you may have done something similar in the past or want to do something similar in the future. So share your ideas. How do you measure the effectiveness of your tech department's services? And what's your vision for accomplishing them?