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EdTech Update





Cracks in the base of the ivory tower

I should probably just turn in "speaker/consultant" license right now to the proper authorities. It's been the kind of week here in the district that makes me think the only example of how to run a library/technology program I am setting is a bad example. So all in one week...

  • The mail server decides to be temperamental and refuses to move e-mail when it reaches a certain degree of busyness. Yes, there have been warnings that I should have been more diligent in heeding. A new server with greater capacity is now on order and serious discussions about retiring our faithful Sendmail and hiring Microsoft Exchange software are ongoing. Management by crisis. Sigh...
  • A Twin Cities television station airs a program on student blogging and its "dangers," singling out MySpace. Parents in Mankato, en mass, discover MySpace and that their children are actually using it. Parents call principals demanding MySpace be blocked. Superintendent calls me ordering MySpace be blocked. Quite honestly, I don't have a problem with blocking MySpace in our district, but I am worried that this is the start of a "guilty until proven innocent" approach to website blocking which has not  been our procedure in the past. Discussions, I am assured, will ensue. Sigh...
  • First district-wide inservice on blogging was held after school on Thursday. Out of 800 possible attendees, 12 people showed up, one of whom was the LWW attending out of sympathy. Sigh...
  • Work overloads and miscommunication at one of our high schools is requiring that we go back to using a formal work order process for any technology maintenance or repair requests. Nobody likes the paperwork and the time it takes - neither teachers nor techs. But it looks like it will be a necessary evil. Sigh...
  • To cap things off, a long meeting as part of an advisory/steering/focus group on state-wide online testing here in Minnesota. Taking computers out of kids' hands for learning for at least six weeks each year so they can be used only for high-stakes, traditionally normed (not value-added)  testing. Sigh...

But all in all this turned out to be a good week. Why? I visited schools on Friday morning and here's what I found:








 So the Ivory Tower has leaky windows, a bad septic system and cracks in the foundation. But the view is still pretty nice - when one takes the time to look.

OK, one more reason it was a good week. Grandson #2, Miles, started on solid food. Check out the writing on the bib..



Too funny

Introducing technology to middle schoolers.

Thanks to Merideth at the Information Wants to be Free blog for this link. 


Technology enhanced schools

I've been in a bad mood lately. Since analyzing and writing about our district's technology successes and failures (Looking Back), reading various diatribes like David Warlick's Letter from a Principal, and experiencing some Seasonal Affective Disorder, I'm been in a real funk. But there is nothing like a little warm weather and request by the PR Department to pull one's socks and spirits up a little!

One thing I have always liked about working in the Mankato Schools is the feeling that I'm working for some damn smart people. The board and the superintendent always seem one step ahead of the curve. ( No, I'm not sucking up - I don't think anyone in Mankato reads this. Prophet without honor and all that.)

Hiring a PR Director a few years ago was a sign of those smarts.

Like it or not, education is a competitive business. As a parent living in Mankato, I have more places to send my children to school than I have of fast food restaurants. Other schools in our district, other schools in our area (open enrollment is state law in Minnesota), charter schools, great parochial schools, home schooling (no thank you), or online schools are all options I have for my kids. So when new folks move into our community, we want to make sure they make the right choice: enrolling kids in ISD77. Our board/administration figured this out long ago, so we share a very good PR department that we share with the City of Mankato. We do blow our own horn. We must if we are to attract students and the dollars that come with them. Period.

 Shelly, the PR Director, called the other day. She is revising our district's parental information booklet. "I think good technology would be a great draw to parents," says she. "I agree," says I. So below is a list of all the good tech stuff your children would benefit from should you, as a conscientious parent, send them to our schools:




Mankato Area Public Schools are technology enhanced!
Mankato Area Public School students:
  1. Have ready access to up-to-date computers in library media centers, computer labs and classrooms in all buildings. Computers are a on a 5-year replacement cycle.
  2. Have access to state-of-the-art computer technologies in the business and technology education departments.
  3. Are taught an articulated set computer and information literacy skills grades K-12 in both library and classroom units.
  4. Have district-provided e-mail accounts and online file storage for their personal work.
  5. Have access to a wireless Internet connection within all buildings so they can use their personal computing devices.
  6. Have access to the software and equipment needed to create multi-media projects – digital cameras, scanners, and video editing software.
  7. Have both home and school access to a full set of online resources including magazine databases, encyclopedias, and video libraries. All schools are connected by reliable computer networks with fast connections to the Internet. Access to the Internet is filtered to meet the Children’s Internet Protection Act law.
  8. Have access to excellent print and non-print resources in modern library media centers in every school. (Our school libraries were finalists for American Association of School Libraries National Library Program of the Year Award, 1999.)
  9. Have access to the services and guidance of qualified, professional library media specialists.
  10. Have classroom teachers who receive regular training in and updating of technology skills, and has a classroom computer for his/her use.
  11. Have classroom teachers that have precise, useful data for each child in his/her classroom.
Mankato Area Public School parents:
  1. Have online access to student information  - grades, assignments, health information, attendance – for all their secondary students. May request that a report of a failing grade, missed assignment, or unexcused absence be automatically e-mailed to them.
  2. Can contact teachers readily. Mankato teachers all have e-mail addresses, telephones in the their classrooms, and voice mail. Most have webpages.
  3. Can use the district website to access district calendars, events schedules, hot lunch menus, personnel contacts and other information.
  4. May use the website to make payments or purchases with the district electronically.
  5. Have the opportunity to serve on the District Technology Advisory Committee.
So maybe it's not as bad as I thought. The old definition of PR is the ability to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. But not one of the things listed above is a fabrication. I am not sure how many other districts can make these claims. Could be worse.


What would be YOUR district's pitch to parents in regard to technology and libraries? Are you making your district more or less attractive to parents?