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EdTech Update





Going public

My friend and colleague, Principal Matt Hillman, wrote a very good post on LeaderTalk yesterday called "Getting the Word Out." In it he stressed the importance of schools taking their messages to the public beyond "web sites, fliers, or parent nights" and...

personally spreading the news about what we do for kids and our families to folks who might not typically cross paths with school personnel.

Given that in our community fewer than 25% of our households contain public school children, finding effective ways to inform all voters, taxpayers and community opinion leaders about our schools is increasingly important.

Matt's posting is weirdly coincidental since next Monday I will be giving a 20 minute talk* to my Kiwanis Club. Titled "Do You Know More Than a Fifth Grade Teacher?" it has these three objectives:

  • To raise the level of respect for teachers in our community (not that they really need the help)
  • To raise the awareness of the importance of technology in classroom (which really does need help)
  • To demonstrate the district has spent technology referendum dollars wisely

A letter will go out next week to other service clubs in town, in which I'll offer to give this talk at their meetings as well.

I've done lots of talks for service clubs. The members of these organizations have a high tolerance for bland food. They often meet at ungodly hours. They sing, pray, pledge, and conduct silly rituals.

But I also I find in every case that these club members are interested, involved, supportive and ask good questions. They care about kids and the community. They work hard and are generous with both their time and money. And they make you feel welcome and appreciated. 

My simple suggestions for an effective community talk include:

  • Keep it short - 20 minutes max
  • Show pictures of happy kids (HPLUKs)
  • Wow'm a little
  • Stress the positive
  • Make it about kids
  • Make a point

Matt concludes:

Groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, and the Lions Club are just a few examples of civic organizations where individuals committed to our communities gather and talk. These are great organizations to engage. What are some public relations efforts you have used to spread the good word in your community?
Well. library and tech folks, how do you engage the larger community? It's vitally important.


My slides for Monday's talk are available on Slideshare. If you are confused by the first few, they are simply there to illustrate this little introductory story:

A pundit once speculated that should a 19th century physician be transported to the present day, he or she would not recognize a modern operating room. A 19th century banker would not be able to function in today's bank. In fact, the writer observed, the only professionals whose working environment would have changed so little that they could begin working immediately would be public classroom teachers.

And the rest of the talk sets out to disprove it.

Have a great weekend.

The talk went fine. Thanks!

Club member Doug Johnson, Director of Media and Technology for the Mankato Area Public schools updates the club on new technologies used in the classroom at the July 29, 2008 meeting.

Where's the light switch?

An Apple representative once compared changing software versions to moving to a new house.

For the first few weeks, when you can't find the light switches, where you put the scotch tape or remember to turn left or right to get to the bathroom, you wonder, "What was I thinking moving to this new house?"

In fairly short order, though, the new house becomes more familiar and you appreciate the reasons for moving - bigger garage, nicer yard, more bedrooms, etc. The light switch location isn't a big deal anymore.

I am trying to remember this little analogy as I learn the new version of the squarespace blogging software. I am finally finding some of the new locations of old features, but I am not at the stage of being able to appreciate any improvements.

And while the site may look nicer, the product's done nothing to improve my writing or my ideas. Maybe that is asking for too much.


Blame the user

When three people call you an ass, put on a bridle. Spanish proverb

I will be running close to the edge of my "Complain globally, praise locally" blogging guidelines in this post . But I am pretty angry.

Our state's Library Services Department wanted to collect data on school library programs using an online survey tool. Great!

We need a good set of data. We don't know for certain how many libraries, librarians, resources or computers we have in our fair state's schools - and whether those numbers are increasing or decreasing. It was embarrassing during legislative testimony to be asked for school library data and to not have such numbers available. The lack did not help our case.

So the intent itself was outstanding.

But the execution was terrible. Irrelevant questions, confusing questions, unreadable formatting, unreasonable tech requirements, malfunctioning website, and just an incredibly daunting length were all "features" of this survey. But school librarians in 42% of schools bravely made the attempt - including our district. Many of us tried working the department to make the survey more useful and meaningful - work with seemed to have been simply ignored.

But this is what put me over: a scolding letter from the department saying...

Please note that of the 383 respondents, only 80 reports were correctly answered. Every library has a dictionary because of the importance of understating the meaning of a word. It’s equally important to understand the intent of the question to obtain comparable data.

So let me understand this... Of the 42% of surveys completed, only 21% of those were completed "correctly?" That is a rate of less than 9% of possible survey returns that the state deems as "correct."

Uh, might the problem be with the survey and not with the 91% of us who either didn't complete the survey or got it wrong?

Creating a good survey is a task best left to professionals, not well-meaning amateurs. The validity of the data requires it.

There is a larger issue here as well: When any of us don't get the response we were anticipating (amount of use of a new resource, attendance at an in-service, number of readers or responses to our blog, etc.), it's very easy to "blame the user." Maybe we should be looking at what we are offering instead.

Good intentions do not make up for incompetence.

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