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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





What's keeping your ed tech from being used?

...70% of districts’ software licenses never get used, and a median of 97.6% of licenses are never used intensively. Arnett, "There's a Reason Why Teachers Don't Use the Software Provided By Their Districts." Education Next November 30, 2018

Quite frankly, I find these numbers rather shocking. Am I blind or naive, or is my district simply an outlier? We also use BrightBytes to analyze our tech usage, and while the numbers may not be as good as we would like them, they are nowhere close to being this grim. Not every teacher in our district uses all provided software, of course, but our LMS, our GSuites tools, and IWB software are all used by the majority of teachers and on a regular basis. Tools like SeeSaw, MyOnReader, and WeVideo are growing in popularity with student access to their own devices. We study the usage stats of the commercial software we license each year and drop those programs from which we are not getting our money's worth.  

Arnett's theory on software needing to help teachers get "jobs done" is a good one. For many teachers, the expectation that they reach and teach every student, especially those from culturally diverse backgrounds, has been a major challenge. Higher expectations for parents about home/school communication have grown. And the expectation that students not just memorize and apply factual information and skills, but problem solve and create is becoming more common. We try to focus on those expectations in collaboration with our curriculum department when selecting software.

I personally have been trying to understand why some educational technologies soar and others crash for 25 years. In PLSA Predictors (Education Technology Solutions (Australia), Vol 22, May 2008, I offered the following criteria based on observation and experience:

About this rubric, I asked:

Getting a “zero” in either the Usefulness or Affordability categories would seem to negate high scores in the others. Should these be more heavily weighted? And usefulness in itself seems to be a trump card – if the need is great enough, other factors are less important.

I believe Arnett would agree. 

In 2007 when I was writing this piece, I asked "Right now, what are the chances of large scale adoption in your district of these technologies?
  • Internet 2
  • MUVEs (Second Life)
  • Wiki spaces
  • Interactive white boards
  • Voice amplification systems
  • New reading/math programs
  • Online testing"

What are the new technologies today that are being touted in your technology conference vendor areas? How will you evaluate them?

As an educator, a child advocate, and tax payer, I find the numbers from Arnett's study appalling. Especially when dollars spent on un- or under-used resources could be better spent in so many other areas of education.



Happy holidays - however you celebrate

Wishing everyone a good time with family and friends this season.



BFTP: The gifts that keep on giving

Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your own children.
                                                                                  Erma Bombeck

Christmas morning. The house is quiet. The tree is lit. The snow outside is very white and very deep. All is ready for the children and grandchildren who will be invading next week for a few happy days.

I will admit that I can't wrap a package to save my soul, so it took hours gettting the robots and bicycles and LEGOs and underwear and books and computer games and noisy toys ready to be un-wrapped in seconds. You have to be a grandparent before the old saw, "it's better to give than to receive," rings true. I don't believe my grandkids are any more or less greedy than other children, but they do love presents - and their excitement is a gift to this grandpa returned many times over.

Material gifts for these boys are easy. A list from their mom, one's cash card, and the local Target store is all that's needed. I have no illusions that 90% of what the boys receive will be lost, broken, or forgotten within weeks. A few things might stick - a book that becomes cherished, a computer game that will engage, a special toy that will become "alive" and so escape the garage sales. But as I sweep the lost StarWars figures up from under the couch next week, I'll have to remember that material gifts are just this grandpa's shallow means of making his affection visible.

Were I able, I'd wrap these gifts up for each of my grandchildren with some cards attached...

  • Health. While about 95% of your health is due to genetics, for good or for bad, the other 5% that you can control is pretty important. Strike a balance between risk paranoia and complete disregard for your bod. Eat a candy bar now and then, but have the good sense to walk it off.  I hope you like the color and the size of your body. To a large degree, the shape will be up to you.
  • Passion. The luckiest people are those who find something that really interests them. What that something is makes little difference  - computers or hockey or inorganic chemistry or etymology or entomology or library science or whatever. Wear this every day.
  • Compassion. OK, this one is a little odd, but it's important, kids. The capacity to feel for others will give your life meaning and purpose. People who are best at handling the occasional blues do so by finding others to help. This one is polar fleece for the soul.
  • Adventure. Here is the courage to take a risk now and then. Eat a new food. Travel to a different country. Accept a challenge to your physical strength and stamina and comfort. Read something by someone you don't agree with or completely understand. Do at least one thing every year that none of your friends has ever done. Legal, of course. Take pictures. The people with the best stories, not the most money, are life's winners. Wear this hat even when it seems a little scary.
  • Appreciation. Never forget how truly lucky you are to be born to loving parents who can afford to feed you, clothe you, and take you to the doctor. Remember that you live in a country that is free of political violence and gives you both freedom and protection. Be thankful that you can get an education that will let you become just about anything you want to be. Even when things may not seem to be going your way, wear these glasses and you will recognize that you are still more fortunate than 99% of the rest of the world.
  • Problems. Yes, I am giving you lots of problems as a gift. You may be an old man like me before you come to appreciate this package, but it may be the most valuable one you receive. Problems engage our minds. Problems make us creative. Problems (and finding solutions to them) give us self-worth. Problems keep life from getting boring. Problem make life fun - really! When you put these in your pocket, it may feel like a burden, but they are boosters.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Winter Solstice or whatever flavor holiday you celebrate.

Original post December 25, 2010 

My grandsons are nearing the end of their toy-gifting days, but this is still one of my favorite posts.