Archive for April 2011

Message for publishers

I was recently asked to make a very short video that would be shared at the con­fer­ence for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Edu­ca­tional Pub­lish­ers.  My response focused on the need for pub­lish­ers to change in some of the same ways that schools need to change.  Rather than sim­ply adding tech­nol­ogy to tra­di­tional prac­tices, I encour­aged them to think of ways to trans­form pub­lish­ing to help pre­pare our stu­dents for today’s world.  You can view my video below, or check-out my prezi for the pre­sen­ta­tion.  Feel free to add some of your own com­ments as well!

Nick Sauers

Free conference

The Spring FETC free con­fer­ence will be on Thurs­day and Fri­day this week.  The con­fer­ence is a 100% online edu­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy con­fer­ence.  I expect to be drop­ping in on the con­fer­ence for the next two days.  Ses­sions will also be recorded.  One ses­sion of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to me focuses on iPads in the class­room.  It seems that recently iPads have become a hot topic in 1:1 con­ver­sa­tions.  I cer­tainly have some con­cerns about the iPad as a 1:1 device, but I’m also inter­ested in learn­ing about some of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the iPad.  Steve Dembo’s ses­sion on the topic, described below, is slated to include a Q & A section.

iThink iNeed iPads in the Class­room
*** Inter­ac­tive Q&A fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion***
Steve Dembo, Online Com­mu­nity Man­ager, Dis­cov­ery Education

Sure they’re bright and shiny, but are they really learn­ing devices? We’ll take a close look at how exactly these tech­nolo­gies are being lever­aged in the class­room and what the best Apps are for edu­ca­tional pur­poses. We’ll also explore some cre­ative ways that you can fund your own i-initiative!

Nick Sauers

Reflections on Iowa 1:1 Institute #i11i

Year two of the Iowa 1:1 Insti­tute is in the books, and over­all it seemed to be a huge suc­cess.  We had over 1250 par­tic­i­pants reg­is­tered and 130 dif­fer­ent ses­sions through­out the day.  There were also over 25 dif­fer­ent ven­dors at the event.

What went well:

This was truly a “grass roots” event.  We recruit, and even bad­ger, 1:1 edu­ca­tors to help make the event a suc­cess.  1:1 schools are espe­cially instru­men­tal in pro­vid­ing pre­sen­ters and even pro­jec­tors and speak­ers for the event.  I’d like to thank all of those indi­vid­u­als who pre­sented, or helped make the event a suc­cess in one way or another.

There was an extremely wide vari­ety of ses­sions through­out the day.  At any given time, par­tic­i­pants could select from 26 var­i­ous ses­sions.  We hoped that this gave every­body some­thing worth­while to attend all day.

The event included many of the top edu­ca­tional reform­ers in the state.  ALL of the major edu­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tions in the state were present.

The day pro­vided a great plat­form for rich and diverse con­ver­sa­tions for any­one who truly wanted to participate.

What we need to improve:

Once again we had inter­net prob­lems.  They weren’t as severe as last year, but they were still very prob­lem­atic.  We’re still work­ing on deter­min­ing exactly what hap­pened.  This is the sec­ond year we have indi­cated we would pay what­ever it takes to make things work, and the sec­ond year things haven’t worked.

Pro­vide more direc­tion for our roll-alike ses­sions.  Many groups really ran with this topic and had great con­ver­sa­tions.  Other groups were much more appre­hen­sive to get started.  Assign­ing facil­i­ta­tors may be a pos­si­ble solu­tion, although I really want to assure that these con­ver­sa­tions don’t become dom­i­nated by one individual.

We may want to con­sider exert­ing a bit more con­trol over ses­sion sched­ul­ing.  This could help avoid hav­ing time slots that are loaded with some of the high inter­est pre­sen­ta­tions, or sim­i­lar pre­sen­ta­tions dur­ing the same time slot.

Please feel free to leave com­ments with any thoughts, sug­ges­tions, or reflec­tions that you have for the day.  You may also email me directly at

Nick Sauers

Iowa 1:1 Institute

I first need to apol­o­gize for my lack of post­ings over the past two weeks.  Trav­el­ing to New Orleans for AERA and prepar­ing for the Iowa 1:1 Insti­tute has greatly ham­pered my blog­ging!  With that in mind, I am EXTREMELY excited for the 1:1 Insti­tute tomor­row in Des Moines.

There will cer­tainly be a fol­low up post from the event, but here are two ways for some of you to vir­tu­ally par­tic­i­pate in the event.

  • Hashtag-#i11i (pound sign, lower-case i, num­ber 1, num­ber 1, lower-case i)
  • Resources from ses­sions–You will need to join this ning to access mate­ri­als, but that should be fairly simple.

If you are attend­ing the event, I would wel­come guest blogs about ses­sions from the event that you attended.

Nick Sauers

Planning on becoming a school of the future?

Cross posted on Cre­ative Tension

Some­thing very excit­ing hap­pened when our lead­er­ship team met for a lead­er­ship retreat to work on our vision for Graded. For the longest time we have been focus­ing on our 1:1 ini­tia­tive in the mid­dle school and amaz­ingly enough, dur­ing the entire retreat, tech­nol­ogy never entered the con­ver­sa­tion. We even framed our learn­ing around five of ISTE’s Essen­tial Con­di­tions to Effec­tively Lever­age Tech­nol­ogy for Learn­ing. The five that we chose were Skilled Per­son­nel,  Cur­ricu­lum Frame­work and Stu­dent Cen­tered Learn­ing, Ongo­ing Pro­fes­sional Devel­op­ment, and Assess­ment and Evaluation.

I think that we owe the National Asso­ci­a­tion of Inde­pen­dent Schools (NAIS) and their “A Guide to Becom­ing a School of the Future” for this accom­plish­ment. I highly rec­om­mend it as required read­ing for any school that is plan­ning for the future. I think that we spent so much time focus­ing on the core of a our school in the future, that it was just assumed that tech­nol­ogy would play a major role in the teach­ing and learn­ing process.

What does the guide have to offer?

The first sec­tion is enti­tled, “Mak­ing the Case for Schools of the Future”. Even if you don’t need con­vinc­ing, I sug­gest that you read it and share it with those who need to be convinced.

We can choose to adapt, accept­ing that we do not know this world as well as our chil­dren and look to them to help us learn. Or, we can be infex­i­ble immi­grants, focus­ing on how good things used to be. If we are to reach our chil­dren and help them learn, we must adapt, we must face the fact that our stu­dents are no longer the peo­ple our edu­ca­tional sys­tem was designed to teach.”

The sec­ond sec­tion is, “Essen­tial Capac­i­ties for the 21st Cen­tury”. We linked this to a cur­ricu­lum frame­work where the main cat­e­gories are Ana­lyt­i­cal and  Cre­ative Think­ing  and Problem-solving; Complex Com­mu­ni­ca­tion —Oral and Written; Leadership and Teamwork; Digital and Quan­ti­ta­tive Literacy; Global Perspective; Adaptability, Ini­tia­tive,  and Risk-Taking; Integrity and Eth­i­cal  Decision-Making. There are many frame­works out there that describe what stu­dents should know and be able to do. This is just one that pro­vides food for thought.

I love the third sec­tion and think that it is the core of the guide because it pro­vides schools with a vari­ety of mod­els and resources for change. It’s great that they start the chap­ter off by saying:

The inten­tion is not to pro­vide a for­mu­laic approach to the chal­lenges of teach­ing and learn­ing in our times but rather to encour­age explo­ration, inno­va­tion, and trans­for­ma­tion within each school in a man­ner that is con­sis­tent with the school’s mis­sion and the needs of its students.”

One can spend hours in this sec­tion explor­ing the ideas and the links to resources from a wide vari­ety of school and teach­ers. The Sto­ries of Excel­lence guide has exam­ples of class­room units where tech­nol­ogy is used (unfor­tu­nately, It looks like they have blocked it to non-members).  This is one resource that is teach­ing and learn­ing with tech­nol­ogy focused.

The authors iden­ti­fied the fol­low­ing uni­fy­ing themes:

  • The schools are aca­d­e­m­i­cally demanding
  • Project-based learn­ing, as an inte­gral part of the school’s pro­gram, is woven through­out all grade lev­els and disciplines
  • Class­rooms extend beyond the school walls, actively engag­ing stu­dents in the world around them
  • Dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and a global per­spec­tive infuse all aspects of the curriculum
  • Vibrant arts pro­grams help pro­mote cre­ativ­ity, self-expression, self-discipline, and fexibility
  • The adults are actively engaged with one another and with the stu­dents in a process of con­tin­u­ous learning
  • A cul­ture of engage­ment and sup­port invites par­tic­i­pa­tion, inno­va­tion, and a “growth mind­set” on the part of teach­ers and students
  • Trans­for­ma­tional lead­er­ship chal­lenges the sta­tus quo, draws out the issues, nav­i­gates through con­fict, and mobi­lizes peo­ple and resources to do the adap­tive work nec­es­sary to cre­ate and sus­tain effec­tive change.

Finally, the appen­dix has addi­tional resources to use in your planning.

If you haven’t stud­ied this guide, you’re miss­ing out. It’s a must in my hum­ble opinion.

Task Force 2012: our plan for using collaborative tools

Cross posted on Cre­ative Ten­sion.

While our mid­dle school has a 1:1 pro­gram in grades 6 and 7 our high school is plan­ning to roll out a 1:1 pro­gram in August 2012. We have cre­ated a 27 mem­ber task force com­prised of teach­ers, stu­dents, par­ents and admin­is­tra­tors whose job it is to get out in front of the learn­ing and to make rec­om­men­da­tions for the 2011 school year.  The task force lead­er­ship group decided to struc­ture the group, which has a Decem­ber — June lifes­pan, around these ideas and goals.

“We will strive to keep the learn­ing pur­pose­ful and the task force focused on cre­at­ing rec­om­men­da­tions (action plans) for the 2011 school year.” Goals

  • Develop recommendations/action steps for the high school for the 2011-12 school year. Rec­om­men­da­tions will be based on the Inter­na­tional Soci­ety for Tech­nol­ogy in Education’s Essen­tial Con­di­tions.
  • Share infor­ma­tion on 21st cen­tury edu­ca­tion with the Graded community.

The group meets monthly for four hour chunks of time so we real­ize the impor­tance of com­mu­ni­cat­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing vir­tu­ally. There are three tools that we are rely­ing on heav­ily for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and collaboration.

1. Ning - The 2012 Task Force Ning is our hub for com­mu­ni­ca­tion. While there are 27 mem­bers of the task force, there are 56 mem­bers on the Ning. We have opened it up to our entire com­mu­nity. We started by post­ing notes from our ini­tial meet­ings in the dis­cus­sion forum and are encour­ag­ing video uploads, ongo­ing dis­cus­sions and blog posts. We use it as a por­tal for dis­cus­sions and an archive of our process. Recently, we asked our high school lead­er­ship team to review the Ning so that the mem­bers could gain a sense of what the task force is doing. While we’re never sat­is­fied with the level of par­tic­i­pa­tion, the amount of infor­ma­tion that has been gen­er­ated after 3 months is fantastic.

2. Diigo - We have cre­ated a group called Graded 21st Cen­tury that mem­bers can use to share web resources. Mem­bers can also share high­lights and notes with the rest of the group. We are find­ing that the long tale prop­erty  holds true with a very small num­ber of mem­bers con­tribut­ing mul­ti­ple sources. It will be inter­est­ing to see how par­tic­i­pa­tion improves over time.

3. Google Docs — We use Google Edu­ca­tion tools to col­lab­o­rate and present infor­ma­tion. These tools are avail­able 24/7 for mem­bers to use and we have a rich archive of information.

So, what have we learned in rolling out these tools?

1. Build­ing the Ning doesn’t mean that peo­ple will auto­mat­i­cally start using the tool. We found that we had to pro­vide sup­port to help the teach­ers, stu­dents and par­ents to get started. Send­ing the infor­ma­tion out via e-mail only worked for some of the participants.

2. Using the tools dur­ing the face to face meet­ings is a must. Aside from the obvi­ous rea­sons, this allows the par­tic­i­pants to dis­cuss the tools and they can get help, if necessary.

3. We’re work­ing with an out­side con­sul­tant and she is able to track our progress and par­tic­i­pate in the dis­cus­sions. On a recent Skype call with her I asked her to guess which direc­tion the group took in a recent meet­ing and she had already seen the work and was able to com­ment. It’s so effi­cient and effec­tive to have her linked in with our work.

4. Mak­ing a monthly post an assigned task has had mixed results. Some were more com­fort­able with expound­ing on their ideas that related to spe­cific online resources and oth­ers just shared resources on the Ning. We’re hop­ing that with feed­back and dis­cus­sion that post­ing will become a habit and that the qual­ity of the posts will improve.

5. We’re con­stantly look­ing for ways to increase the chat­ter on the Ning. We are opti­mistic that we’ll develop a cul­ture of online col­lab­o­ra­tion but it seems to be some­thing that we can’t give up on.

We’re very excited about the work that this group is doing and it will be excit­ing to see how this online cul­ture evolves. What sug­ges­tions do you have for us?

Staying connected

I’m writ­ing this post while on an air­plane as I’m head­ing to New Orleans for the annual AERA con­fer­ence.  As I sit here and strug­gle to find some­thing to write about, I’m forced to reflect on how depen­dent I am on being con­nected.  Some may see this as a bad thing, but not me.  In my mind, I real­ize how those con­nec­tions have helped me grow pro­fes­sion­ally in tremen­dous ways.

Con­sider this post a tip of my hat to those of you who have helped me build my skills through one of the tools listed below.

Twitter-Yes, I con­fess that after ini­tially being intro­duced to Twit­ter I thought it was stu­pid and only for the “real techies”.  Since that time, Twit­ter has turned into one of my best ways to get infor­ma­tion.  Any time I expe­ri­ence “writer’s block”, I log onto Twit­ter to see what my net­work friends are talk­ing about and what links/resources they have listed.

RSS-I use my reader account as a one stop shop­ping loca­tion for all of the best blogs and web pages that I find.  It is an extremely easy way for me to quickly scan what new infor­ma­tion has been posted.

These cer­tainly aren’t my only  lis­ten­ing sta­tions, but these have been invalu­able for me.

Nick Sauers

Teachers vs. technology

In an April 1 post on NEA Today enti­tled Lap­tops Are Not Teach­ers, author Tim Walker pits tech­nol­ogy against teach­ers. He talks about the state’s plan to “cut teach­ers’ jobs, salaries, and increase class size.” This post isn’t intended to weigh-in on the debate in Idaho. As a for­mer union pres­i­dent and teacher, I cer­tainly value the work of teach­ers. Unfor­tu­nately, Walker seems to be attempt­ing to make his point by devalu­ing tech­nol­ogy. The entire post high­lights many of the com­monly held beliefs that some edu­ca­tors have about tech­nol­ogy. I’ve hand picked some of those state­ments from the arti­cle that I’d like to address.

You sim­ply can­not replace a teacher with a laptop

Although this is a good sound bite, I think this is extremely rare in most schools.  It is cer­tainly pos­si­ble that online courses could even­tu­ally elim­i­nate some teach­ing posi­tions, but even in those cases there is still a teacher.  In actu­al­ity, a school may replace a face-to-face teacher with an online teacher.  For some schools this means increased effi­ciency and wider course offerings.

Replac­ing expe­ri­enced edu­ca­tors with online classes is undoubt­edly a risky move, espe­cially since the rush to do is not founded on reli­able research.

It is worth not­ing that a report for the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion came to the con­clu­sion that “On aver­age, stu­dents in online learn­ing con­di­tions per­formed bet­ter than those receiv­ing face-to-face instruc­tion.”  Sure, the research cited may not be the golden stan­dard for research, but it cer­tainly is bet­ter than the “gut feel­ing” that online learn­ing can’t match face-to-face instruction.

Specif­i­cally, online classes and dig­i­tal tools could under­cut the need to take stu­dents’ indi­vid­ual learn­ing styles into account. Any ben­e­fits new tech­nol­ogy may bring would then be over­shad­owed by the dam­age done to stu­dent learn­ing and the teach­ing profession.

Many online edu­ca­tors would argue that online learn­ing more eas­ily allows for indi­vid­u­al­ized instruc­tion.  I also think that it is worth not­ing that if you take online learn­ing out of the con­ver­sa­tion, many edu­ca­tors would also argue that our tra­di­tional schools are doing a poor job dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing instruction.

My point in this post isn’t to say tech­nol­ogy should replace teach­ers.  Unfor­tu­nately, the NEA arti­cle in response to Idaho schools Super­in­ten­dent Tom Luna’s reform effort made this debate about com­put­ers ver­sus teach­ers.  In that effort, the arti­cle misses the mark by embrac­ing some of the tech­nol­ogy myths men­tioned above that are ques­tion­able at best.

Nick Sauers

A video is worth a thousand words.….

At the end of the work­shop with Punya Mishra on Tues­day, he shared two videos with us.  His short two minute video response to the pop­u­lar Kaplan Uni­ver­sity  com­mer­cial is a great exam­ple of what I often write and speak about.  The three min­utes it will take to watch the two videos is well worth the time!

Orig­i­nal commercial

Punya Mishra’s response

There were some inter­est­ing responses to these videos on YouTube.  Some peo­ple argued that the for­mat did enhance the lec­tures because lis­ten­ers could stop, rewind, and/or fast for­ward parts of the lec­ture.  Some­one also made the point that access to a lec­ture could be enhanced through var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies.  I don’t dis­agree with any of those points, but I would argue that the exam­ple in the com­mer­cial isn’t using tech­nol­ogy as a game changer.  Instead, it is using tech­nol­ogy to tweak and pro­mote our cur­rent sys­tem of teach­ing and learn­ing which is too fre­quently not engag­ing for students.

Nick Sauers