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EdTech Update





Stop the summer slide - in your tech department

I love hearing the comment "Now that summer is here, you must be able to relax in the technology department. How do you keep busy until the kids come back?"

Anyone who works in educational technology knows that while summer work is different than school year work, we do manage to keep rather busy. Gee, what's on our list this summer...?

  • Support professional development for teachers and summer school (school never really lets out)
  • Upgrade servers and networks
  • Train and orient new staff
  • Replace end-of-life computers and other equipment (we'll be swapping out about 175 wireless access points this summer and up to 200 teacher computers )
  • Participate in digital literacy curriculum development
  • Move equipment within and between buildings (lots of old desktop labs going away this summer due to 1:1 programs expanding) Recycle, recycle, recycle.

  • "Roll-in" our 1:1 Chromebooks from seniors - wipe, clean, repair, store, etc - only about 600 or so
  • Plan "roll-out" of 2100 Chromebooks to middle schoolers in August, including distribution and staff training
  • Re-image computers throughout district
  • Move teachers who change classrooms
  • Meet one-on-one with all principals for planning
  • Monitor new construction activities
  • Gather and pay invoices for yearly licenses
  • Attend conferences and do personal PD
  • Get caught up on well-deserved vacation time before it is lost

Probably the biggest challenge I face is that there is a sense that summer will last forever and there is little urgency to any of these tasks. My own version of the summer slide. Then come early August and the to-do list has not shrunk as much as it should have. Our department continues to meet during the summer, discussing our tasks and setting priorities and deadlines, moving forward rather than sliding back like the director.

Summer work is challenging. Not as much fun without as many kids and teachers around. Bat least we can wear our jeans and tennies.

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Really long books and reading socially

An overly long and self-important blog post called The Stockholm Theory of Long Novels set me to thinking about both the joy and despair of reading long works of fiction in an era of social reading. I have been re-reading (or re-re-reading) one of my favorite historical novels by one of my favorite historical novelists, Aztec by Gary Jennings. At nearly 800 pages, it is for me a long book.

Given the right book, a plethora of pages don't put me off. Besides Jennings's tomes, I love James Michener, J.R.R. Tolkien, and other writers who manage to keep this reader's interest, not just through one fat book, but often a whole string of them.  What are there five George R.R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire novels now? Hmmm, 5 X 800 ... That's a lot of pages.

I will admit that reading longer books in an age of socially sharing one's reading is more daunting. Like a lot of my friends and acquaintances who are readers, I belong to Goodreads to share what I am reading, post reviews, and see what others are reading and recommending.

As the screen shot above indicates, I have been reading Aztec since March 31st. For two and a half months! My friends must consider me to be a very, very slow reader. It's a little embarrassing.

Another feature of Goodreads is the ability to set a personal reading "challenge" each year. Shades of fifth grade?

This year I decided I would shoot for two books a month. Despite the long delay caused by Aztec, I seem to be on target for meeting my goal. But for two reasons: three of these books I've listened to on long drives as audio books and one of these books was very short.

I don't believe social pressure is consciously influencing the the books I choose to read, but perhaps it is subconsciously. Given the competitive pull of other reading possibilities - blogs, Facebook posts, digital magazines free online from the public library, and newspapers - these old fashioned things called books are receiving less and less of my attention. I spend as much or more time reading than ever, but just not books.

To what degree does "social reading" - sharing what and how much one reads - influence the choice of reading materials by our students? I do hope any reading competitions are voluntary. I hope they track only the number of pages read, not number or titles of books read. If I remember my reading research, reading a lot at or even slightly below grade level is one of the very best ways to increase one's reading ability.

Are you a social reader? Do you still tackle the big books?


BFTP: Harsh? Your policy on computer accidents

This week was the "roll-in" of Chromebooks from our graduating seniors. Our other students keep their devices over the summer in our district. It's prime time for real and (mostly) imagined concerns about student carelessness with equipment. How does your school handle accidental damage to the devices in your 1:1 program? Personally, I'd give every kid the benefit of the doubt just as I give every teacher who spills coffee on the keyboard a pass. Anyway, here is an old post related to computer damage....


Here's a e-mail question I got this week:

Ethical senario for you. Teacher has a laptop from school. The teacher knocks water onto the keyboard zappying the logic board. My boss is charging the teacher for the repair. The teacher is burning my boss in effigy in front of everyone in that school for the charge. I think my boss is in line. Just wondering how you would handle it. Are we too harsh here?

And my response:

As mad as it sometimes makes me, I try to take the high road and accept accidents happen to everyone. We always assume that professionals take professional care of equipment and repair it without question. At least the first time (or two.)
What do you think? Any good rules of thumb for who pays for repairs in your school? If a teacher got into an accident with a school vehicle would he/she be responsible for repairs? Is saving a dollars in a repair budget worth engendering ill will from the entire teaching staff?