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EdTech Update





What will you leave behind?



The last post asked: "What skills do you have and contributions do you make that make you essential to your organization? Like most people, I would like my boss to regret eliminating me or my position should he make the misguided decision to do so.

But I also look at this from another perspective. Were I to suddenly disappear from my place of work, my community or my family, I would hate to think that the people I care about would be left in a difficult situation. 

There is some irony in these observations:

  • The proof of effect parenting is independent children.
  • The proof of effective teaching is self-directed learners.
  • The proof of effective administration is empowered workers.
  • The proof of good leadership is a vision and philosophy that continues when you are gone.

Ethically, I believe I am always working my way out of a job, not creating situations where success or sustainability depends on my presence.

As a librarian what would continue after you are gone?

  • A climate of intellectual freedom, a respect for a diversity of ideas?
  • Students with good information seeking, evaluation, use and communication skills?
  • An atmosphere of inclusiveness and welcome in your media center?
  • Excitement about learning?

How long will your passions, your policies, your philosophy remain when you are no longer there to shore things up? How do you shape your organization's climate beyond doing important daily work? What long-term efforts are you working on?

If Kirk's indispensability is the theme of the last post, perhaps Obi Wan's ongoing guidance, even after being zapped by old Darth, is the theme here. A paradox? Perhaps.

Will your students and teachers hear your voice, feel your force after you meet your Darth Vader?


What makes you hard to replace?


From  Star Trek Inspirational Posters (initially found in a Stephen Abrams PPT)

Uh, our state's budget deficit is projected to be $2 BILLION next legislative season. School buses cost more to run. School buildings cost more to heat. School employees cost more to insure. Our special education and ELL populations are swelling. Tech Director salaries are expected to increase by 50%. (I wish.)

Ya think there might be some program and position cuts in Minnesota schools coming?

Schools will have higher expectations made of them to teach more children to higher levels, to reduce the drop out rate, to teach HOTs, to supply a stream of future engineers and scientists, to keep children safe and healthy - and all with fewer dollars.

Ya think there might be a reshuffling of how money is spent in Minnesota schools coming?

Librarians, who would suffer and how if you didn't come back this fall? What critical jobs would go undone - or be badly done? Who would miss your professional services? (We know everyone would miss your charming personality.) Why might the administrator who cut your job suffer and rue having made the cut?

I would work right now to:

  • Be your building's webmaster.
  • Be your building's network administrator.
  • Be your building's staff support for the student information system, online testing, and new technologies.
  • Be your teacher's support system for all things inquiry-based.
  • Be your students' go-to person for the next great book to read, hard to find information, guide to completing complex problem-based assignments.

That's my short list. What is on yours? Find jobs that need doing that no one else can or is willing to do. (Sound familiar?)

Don't be your school's Ensign Ricky.


This was my original post. But another side of job security haunted me as I wrote it. The companion piece is next.


Obsolete or obsolescent?

The adjective obsolescent refers to the process of passing out of use or usefulness -- becoming obsolete. The adjective obsolete means no longer in use--outmoded in design, style, or construction. (

A study in contrasts:

  • This month hundreds of people lined up to purchase the latest iPhone. It allows people to place cell phone calls. Just like the phone they already own.
  • This month with the retirement of one of our kindergarten teachers, the Mankato Schools got rid of its last Apple IIe computer. It was still used as a word processor, spreadsheet, keyboarding tutor, and skills tutor (via MECC games.) Just like the ones we are buying new this year.

AppleIIe_platinum.jpgWhen should we label a technology obsolete and when should it be called obsolescent? Is this differentiation merely annoying pedantry of interest and importance only to English teachers? Or do we all need to be more thoughtful about how we use these two adjectives - and be aware of their subtle influence on our views and actions?

Miguel Guhlin mentioned a couple times in his SecondLife talk last Tuesday evening that his district has a high percentage of obsolete computers - a factor that impedes the successful integration of technology into common pedagogical practice. (Miguel, correct me please if I misunderstood.) I suspect many district technology specialists make the same complaint about obsolete computers.

Yet I often wonder if this not often an easy excuse for many educators. Our district holds on to its computers and other technologies for a very long time  as my example above illustrates. But at the same time we have always practiced a form of "sustainable" technology implementation.  Our mission-critical computers are replaced on a regular rotation schedule of not more than five year and the older machines are moved to less critical areas or where we can establish a good deal of redundancy. We do not pretend we can support more computers than we can replace on an established basis. The theory that is it better to have one computer that works all the time than two computers that only work half the time.iphone-apple.jpg

We find that while computers suffer from obsolescence for a very long time, they rarely become truly obsolete. To be categorized as obsolete, computers in our district must be more than five years old and:

  • Need repairs that cost money - in terms of parts or extensive tech time or need expert repairs.
  • No longer run any software that supports either administrative or curricular purposes.
  • Are sufficiently unreliable or slow that neither staff nor students are willing to use them.
  • Can't find a home in a classroom, lab or mini-lab.

I'm seeing a paradox in our schools. The functional lives of the computers we buy seem to be getting longer. (When is the last time you could really tell your new computer had a faster processor? How many of your apps are now web-based and require little computer power?) Yet educators are demanding shorter replacement cycles. I am not sure why.

Are your computers really obsolete...or just obsolescent?

Your not yet obsolete, I hope, author...