Archive for Nick Sauers

Becoming a digital citizen

Recently, I led an ISTE webi­nar focused on dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship for a small group of edu­ca­tors.  My ses­sion didn’t focus on all of the bad things stu­dents and teach­ers can get into with tech­nol­ogy, but instead the ways they can use tech­nol­ogy to enhance their learn­ing and teach­ing expe­ri­ences.  I’m cer­tainly not insin­u­at­ing that schools should ignore teach­ing about those neg­a­tive aspects of tech­nol­ogy.  Stu­dents need to be aware of the impact that their online activ­i­ties can have.  How­ever, it does seem that much of our focus when dis­cussing dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship focuses on those neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences.  My pre­sen­ta­tion focused on the ways teach­ers and stu­dents are using tech­nol­ogy in pow­er­ful ways.  The exam­ples below were some of the ones that I shared, and you can get the full list here.

  •  Class­room blogs-These two exam­ples (exam­ple 1 & exam­ple 2) high­light how ele­men­tary class­room teach­ers cre­ated a blog and gave their stu­dents a wider audi­ence.  With the help of Quad blog­ging and edublogs, their class blog has had nearly 4,000 views from around the world!
  • Face­book–This exam­ple is a high school teacher who uses face­book as one way to con­nect with his stu­dents.  By the looks of the page, it is cer­tainly effective.
  • Diigo–This diigo group was cre­ated by a tech inte­gra­tion coach, and it is used as a way for teams to gather resources together.
  • Twit­ter–Twit­ter chats are a great way to share and gather valu­able resources and infor­ma­tion.  This kinder­garten chat is just one example.
  • Pod­casts–These were cre­ated by ele­men­tary stu­dents, and then merged together for one mas­ter class pod­cast.   They cer­tainly sound very professional!

When mak­ing deci­sions about the use of tech­nol­ogy in schools, edu­ca­tors need to bal­ance the pros and cons of dif­fer­ent types of tech­nol­ogy use.  Too often, deci­sions are made because of the pos­si­bil­ity of a small group of stu­dents behav­ing inap­pro­pri­ately.  Unfor­tu­nately, those deci­sions also limit the ben­e­fits that many other stu­dents would have had.

Nick Sauers

Iowa 1:1 Institute launched!

For the past cou­ple of months I’ve received numer­ous emails inquir­ing about the Iowa 1:1 Insti­tute. I’m extremely excited to offi­cially launch the 4th Annual Iowa 1:1 Insti­tute which will be held on April 4, 2013 at the Iowa Events Cen­ter in Des Moines.  The con­fer­ence has been a great suc­cess over the past three years because of all of the edu­ca­tors who have helped make it hap­pen.  Our Iowa 1:1 edu­ca­tors have not only pre­sented, but they have pro­vided resources and peo­ple to help make the con­fer­ence run smoothly.  Last year we had more pre­sen­ters sub­mit pre­sen­ta­tion pro­pos­als than ever before.  A team of Iowa edu­ca­tors eval­u­ated the pro­pos­als and selected those that they felt would be most ben­e­fi­cial to con­fer­ence atten­dees.  I believe that process dras­ti­cally strength­ened the pre­sen­ta­tions at the con­fer­ence, and we’ll use that for­mat once again. Although the num­ber of 1:1 schools in Iowa have grown dras­ti­cally, our pur­pose has remained the same.

  1. Help Iowa’s 1:1 dis­tricts learn from each other about inno­v­a­tive teach­ing, learn­ing, and admin­is­tra­tive prac­tices that are occur­ring in their districts;
  2. Build excite­ment and ‘buzz’ around 1:1 lap­top com­put­ing ini­tia­tives in the state; and
  3. Help oth­ers who are inter­ested in 1:1 com­put­ing learn more about how to get started and be successful.

If you’d like to attend, please click on one of the links below and reg­is­ter soon!  Each year we have had to turn away par­tic­i­pants because of lack of space.  We antic­i­pate very high num­bers again this year!

We hope you will be part of what has become the biggest, and we hope best, one-to-one con­fer­ence in the world!

Nick Sauers

Using social media professionally

This semes­ter I am teach­ing a class that is a lit­tle out of my nor­mal realm of work.  I’m teach­ing a lead­er­ship class in the Kine­si­ol­ogy Depart­ment here at the Uni­ver­sity of Ken­tucky.  Most of the stu­dents want to be col­lege coaches, rec coor­di­na­tors, ath­letic admin­is­tra­tors, or front office employ­ees in the sports world.  Although this class is a bit dif­fer­ent from much of my other cur­rent work, I was very excited to teach the course.  I’ve been very involved with ath­let­ics and sports orga­ni­za­tions in many dif­fer­ent roles through­out my life.  I also rec­og­nized that the meat and pota­toes of this course were cer­tainly lead­er­ship skills and sports were just the gravy that adds fla­vor to the conversation.

While “tweak­ing” the syl­labus of the for­mer instruc­tor, I care­fully con­sid­ered ways to enhance the course.  With that in mind, I decided to add a com­po­nent that focused on devel­op­ing per­sonal learn­ing net­works through the use of social media.  In our first class, stu­dents actu­ally cre­ated a “Low-Tech Social Net­work” by cre­at­ing avatars and tags on note cards.  They then had to make con­nec­tions with one another.  Unfor­tu­nately, my board was too small for the group that I had!

(Check out Gamestorm­ing for this activ­ity and many oth­ers that are great for work with groups.)


Last week our class dove more deeply into social media, and I was encour­aged to blog about my findings :)

Prior to class stu­dents read a series of arti­cles around the use of social media in sports orga­ni­za­tions.  They also par­tic­i­pated in a class dis­cus­sion board led by two mod­er­a­tors.  I was sur­prised by how much the dis­cus­sion threads focused on the student-athletes use of social media. Much of the con­ver­sa­tion focused on ways to edu­cate, fil­ter, mon­i­tor, or block stu­dents use of social media.  Although I found that con­ver­sa­tion fas­ci­nat­ing, I was more inter­ested in two other ways social media can be used in ath­let­ics.  I wanted them to become aware of ways that orga­ni­za­tions were using social media.  More impor­tantly, I wanted to help them rec­og­nize how they can use social media to stay con­nected and informed about their pro­fes­sion.  I think this is so impor­tant that one of their assign­ments for the semes­ter is to grow their social pres­ence.  My cri­te­ria are fairly lenient.  Some may choose to grow their net­work by con­nect­ing and inter­act­ing with oth­ers in their field.  Other stu­dents may just dip their toes in and use social media as a lis­ten­ing sta­tion where they can gain insight from insid­ers and oth­ers in their field.

Although there are sure to be indi­vid­u­als in this new infor­ma­tion rich inter­con­nected soci­ety who suc­ceed with­out such tools, they won’t be the norm.  Orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als who embrace social media will be able to con­nect in ways that are not pos­si­ble with­out the use of technology!

Nick Sauers

Pillars of a 1:1 program

I recently read a blog post that is cer­tainly worth read­ing.  Brett Clark’s post, 6 pil­lars of a 1:1 ini­tia­tive, is a good read for cur­rent and future 1:1 edu­ca­tors.  His list included:

  • Learn­ing initiative
  • Pro­fes­sional development
  • Infra­struc­ture
  • Dig­i­tal Citizenship
  • Choice
  • Time and patience

His list stresses many of the things that I talk about fre­quently. How­ever, his point about choice is one that I don’t talk about nearly as often.  I like the con­cept of stu­dent choice, and it is cer­tainly a pow­er­ful way to engage stu­dents in many edu­ca­tional activ­i­ties.  I also won­der what that looks like in a school set­ting.  How do teach­ers deal with it and sup­port stu­dents?  How about tech direc­tors?  I’m not opposed, but I get lost in the logis­tics.  I’d love to know more!

Nick Sauers

1:1 implementation

This week I will have the oppor­tu­nity to work with a school that has imple­mented a pilot 1:1 pro­gram while simul­ta­ne­ously focus­ing on imple­ment­ing inquiry based instruc­tion.   Last year I had the oppor­tu­nity to work with a group of their teach­ers as they planned to make this change to their learn­ing envi­ron­ment.   Accord­ing to early reports, things have gone suc­cess­fully thus far.

Their imple­men­ta­tion was dif­fer­ent than the ways that many schools imple­ment 1:1, but it is a model oth­ers should con­sider.  The change in their learn­ing envi­ron­ment focused on an instruc­tional change (inquiry based learn­ing).  A 1:1 pilot pro­gram was just one part of the plan that would sup­port teach­ers as they changed the ways that they taught.  Too often, 1:1 schools approach their imple­men­ta­tion with a far dif­fer­ent approach.  Some sim­ply set their goal as going 1:1, and fail to con­nect that goal to any learn­ing ini­tia­tive.  For those of you that have been read­ing this blog for any length of time, that last sen­tence should sound famil­iar.  I am extremely con­cerned about how often schools tran­si­tion to 1:1 with­out hav­ing a goal other than “tran­si­tion­ing to 1:1”.  In fact, I think this prob­lem is becom­ing worse as more and more schools imple­ment 1:1 at a very rapid pace.   There are a cou­ple of good ques­tion to ask your­self and your col­leagues.  How does 1:1 con­nect to other learn­ing ini­tia­tives in your school?  Is it some­thing sep­a­rate or is it a tool used to sup­port other plans in your dis­trict?  My hope is that more 1:1 schools are able to pro­vide answers to these ques­tions that indi­cate that 1:1 is con­nected to a change in the teach­ing and learn­ing in a school.

New Year’s Resolutions

It is that time of year again when many peo­ple make their New Year’s res­o­lu­tions.  Unfor­tu­nately, many of those res­o­lu­tions fail for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons.  Two com­mon chal­lenges are that the goals are some­times unre­al­is­tic or there may be a lack of sup­port for the goals.  With those con­sid­er­a­tions in mind, I’ve cre­ated a list of pos­si­ble New Year’s res­o­lu­tions for edu­ca­tors along with pos­si­ble sup­port net­works for them. Change: Begin to replace out­dated or irrel­e­vant print mate­ri­als with more rig­or­ous online resources.

  • Sup­port:  Don’t throw out all of the resources you cur­rently have.  It may be bet­ter to tar­get just one course, or only por­tions of a course.
  • Sup­port:  Find another edu­ca­tor who teaches sim­i­lar con­tent and ask them to do the same thing and share resources with one another.

Change:  Cre­ate or expand your per­sonal learn­ing network.

  • Sup­port:  Sched­ule a 15 minute block once each week to build your network.
  • Sup­port:  Find some­one who has cre­ated a suc­cess­ful PLN to ask about rec­om­mended resources.  If you can find some­one with sim­i­lar inter­ests, that will be more helpful.

Change:  Imple­ment an online/virtual com­po­nent to a course that expands the learn­ing expe­ri­ence for stu­dents.  You could par­tially flip the class­room, bring in vir­tual guest speak­ers, or col­lab­o­rate with another class from a dif­fer­ent location.

  • Sup­port:  Chat with another teacher at your school or else­where who has imple­mented some of these items.
  • Sup­port:  Recruit stu­dents to help with the tech­ni­cal aspects of these items.
Change: Observe other teach­ers who are using tech­nol­ogy in inno­v­a­tive ways.
  • Sup­port:  Ask your admin­is­tra­tion for class cov­er­age so you can observe another class.  Although you couldn’t do this all of the time, most admin­is­tra­tors would be happy to do this a cou­ple of times.

Change (Admin­is­tra­tor Spe­cific): Pro­vide spe­cific feed­back to teach­ers around the ways they are using technology.

  • Sup­port:  Iden­tify an “expert” who can help you with your ini­tial walk-throughs.
  • Sup­port:  Iden­tify a sim­ple, easy to under­stand vocab­u­lary that you can use to pro­vide feed­back.  Berna­jean Porter’s Spec­trum is a favorite of mine!

It cer­tainly isn’t real­is­tic or healthy to try to imple­ment all of these changes at once.  How­ever, these items by them­selves are things that can be imple­mented with some effort and com­mit­ment.  Good luck and Happy New Year!

Nick Sauers

Thoughts for 1:1 teachers

Yes­ter­day morn­ing I had the oppor­tu­nity to work with a group of teach­ers at the Amer­i­can Embassy Schools in New Delhi who are cur­rently or will be imple­ment­ing a 1:1 pro­gram of some sort.  Unfor­tu­nately, I only had one hour and we didn’t get to have as deep of con­ver­sa­tion as I would have liked.  Dur­ing that time, I wanted to pro­vide teach­ers with some things to con­sider in their class­rooms, and I gave them three big ideas to consider.

Focus on HOW you are using tech­nol­ogy rather than just IF you are using tech­nol­ogy.
I cringe when I hear con­ver­sa­tions that focus on whether or not tech­nol­ogy is being used (at schools or at home). Some­times we equate tech­nol­ogy use, any tech­nol­ogy use, as an improve­ment to instruc­tion. As teach­ers and school lead­ers, the focus needs to shift to HOW tech­nol­ogy is being used.  Does it improve the learn­ing expe­ri­ence for students?

Con­sult the experts about ways to use tech­nol­ogy to enhance teach­ing and learn­ing.
We often think of tech inte­gra­tors, media direc­tors, and tech savvy teach­ers as our tech­nol­ogy experts in the school.  They cer­tainly are extremely valu­able resources. In addi­tion, I strongly encour­aged teach­ers to also iden­tify the experts that exist within their class­rooms.  All stu­dents cer­tainly are not tech­nol­ogy experts, but it is HIGHLY likely that there are a few in nearly every class. 

Cre­ate a pro­fes­sional net­work and stay informed on trends related to your topic.
Devel­op­ing net­works out­side of your school build­ing is one way to stay cur­rent on what­ever you teach.  Tech­nol­ogy should cer­tainly be a part of the con­ver­sa­tion with any group of edu­ca­tors who come together to dis­cuss edu­ca­tional top­ics.  Tech­nol­ogy is also the tool that will allow teach­ers to make those con­nec­tions even when they are not able to meet face-to-face on a reg­u­lar basis.

Although this list cer­tainly isn’t all inclu­sive, it hope­fully cap­tures a cou­ple of major points to con­sider for all 1:1 edu­ca­tors.  Keep­ing these ideas in mind when prepar­ing or work­ing in a 1:1 envi­ron­ment may bet­ter pre­pare teach­ers to use tech­nol­ogy as a real change vehicle.

Nick Sauers

Listening to students

After only one week at the Amer­i­can Embassy School (AES) in Delhi, I’ve had the oppor­tu­nity to gain some great insight into the school from the per­spec­tives of stu­dents, teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tion.  I’ve con­ducted some class­room walk-throughs and met with mul­ti­ple groups.  One meet­ing in par­tic­u­lar stands out in regards to the use of tech­nol­ogy at AES.  On Fri­day, I met with a stu­dent group and lis­tened to them dis­cuss their thoughts as they pre­pare for the tran­si­tion to 1:1.  Part of that dis­cus­sion was around the device that their school will choose.  The school is debat­ing whether to move to 1:1 with iPads or the Mac Air.  Inter­est­ingly, although most stu­dents (80%) already have some type of lap­top, the large major­ity of stu­dents indi­cated they would pre­fer mov­ing to 1:1 with the Air laptops. I was sur­prised by this find­ing from the stu­dent survey. The school is also meet­ing with each depart­ment to assess which device will bet­ter meet the needs of their depart­ment. Although the con­ver­sa­tion around the device is cer­tainly inter­est­ing, I found other parts of the student’s dis­cus­sion much more inter­est­ing.  In par­tic­u­lar, stu­dents high­lighted two extremely impor­tant points for all 1:1 edu­ca­tors.  I must also say that I was blown away by the way stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in the dis­cus­sion.  Not only were they extremely artic­u­late, they also truly lis­tened to one another and were able to respect­fully debate with one another. 

The first major point stu­dents made was about the ways that com­put­ers were cur­rently being used.  They deliv­ered a mes­sage that I often try to deliver.  They described how tech­nol­ogy was often used in ways that didn’t really change what they were doing.  It helped them with their orga­ni­za­tion and may have increased their efficiency,  but it didn’t nec­es­sar­ily change the ways they learned.  That mes­sage aligns with the ways that I often see tech­nol­ogy used.  My chal­lenge to the admin­is­tra­tors at that meet­ing was to aggres­sively try to empower teach­ers to use the tech­nol­ogy in ways that will truly change the learn­ing expe­ri­ence of stu­dents.  Next week I’ll be work­ing with the entire admin­is­tra­tion team, and I hope to help them develop a walk-through tool that can assess the ways in which tech­nol­ogy is being used.

 The next major point stu­dents made was that they wanted to be able to per­son­al­ize their devices as much as pos­si­ble and make them their own. The stu­dents had ques­tions about the things they would be able to put on their devices as well as sum­mer use.  Obvi­ously, both of these issues present chal­lenges on school owned devices.  They do, how­ever, raise some ques­tions to con­sider.  Are there ways that stu­dents can keep their devices over extended breaks?  If not all stu­dents, can some stu­dents sub­mit “pro­pos­als” why they need their device?  Are there other ways that stu­dents can make the device more per­sonal so that they don’t need a sec­ond lap­top or desktop?

 When describ­ing the design process, my col­league ,John Nash, always high­lights the impor­tance of hear­ing from all stake­hold­ers.  AES fac­ulty were wise to meet with and lis­ten to their stu­dents.  The con­cerns, ques­tions, and opin­ions they shared should help the school as they tran­si­tion to 1:1. Sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tions with stu­dent focus groups could also be valu­able for any 1:1 school.

*On a per­sonal note, I’m excited to say that I wrote this on my way to the Taj Mahal! It was more spec­tac­u­lar than I imagined!

Ed tech walk-throughs

For the next four weeks, I’ll be in Delhi, India work­ing along­side edu­ca­tors at the Amer­i­can Embassy School (AES) as part of their new vis­it­ing schol­ars pro­gram.  AES imple­mented a 1:1 pro­gram at their mid­dle school last year, and are cur­rently mak­ing plans for their high school 1:1 deploy­ment.  My work here will focus on ways that they can use tech­nol­ogy to strengthen an already very strong school.  One com­po­nent of that work will involve con­ver­sa­tions around a walk-through tool to use with teach­ers.  My work with school lead­ers as well as indi­vid­u­als involved with ed tech has revealed that there seem to be two major mind­sets around how to use walk-throughs to assess how tech­nol­ogy is being used in classrooms.

  • Camp 1-Technology is specif­i­cally assessed includ­ing the fre­quency and ways in which the tech­nol­ogy is being used.
  • Camp 2-Individuals who believe tech­nol­ogy should not be specif­i­cally mon­i­tored in the walk-through.  Instead, admin­is­tra­tors should just focus on effec­tive instruc­tion rec­og­niz­ing tech­nol­ogy is part of that model.

Throw­ing walk-throughs around tech­nol­ogy into two camps is cer­tainly over­sim­pli­fy­ing the sub­ject a bit.  How­ever, I do think this over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion high­lights much of the con­ver­sa­tion around what things to include on a walk-through in a tech­nol­ogy rich school.  So where should 1:1 schools or other tech-rich schools fall?  My strong belief is that “it depends”.  For schools that are new to 1:1, or are just mov­ing into a tech­nol­ogy rich envi­ron­ment, Camp 1 seems to make sense.  After invest­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands or even mil­lions of dol­lars in tech­nol­ogy, I would want to know two things immediately.

How fre­quently is the tech­nol­ogy being used?
How is the tech­nol­ogy being used?

  • How is the tech­nol­ogy impact­ing stu­dent learning?
  • How is the tech­nol­ogy impact­ing teaching?
Although those are pretty basic ques­tions, they can help paint a pic­ture of what is hap­pen­ing in class­rooms.  They can also pro­vide insight when plan­ning and devel­op­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment.  As schools become more com­fort­able with what is hap­pen­ing with tech­nol­ogy, the focus of their walk-throughs may cer­tainly change to what I referred to as Camp 2.  Their walk-through may become a bit more tra­di­tional in what they are look­ing at.  Rather than look­ing at the tools that are being used as well as the fre­quency of their use, these walk-throughs looks at the “big pic­ture” of what is hap­pen­ing in the class­room.  Tech­nol­ogy may become a bit of a foot­note on the walk-through.  How­ever, I would argue that most schools are not yet in a place to ignore how tech­nol­ogy is being used in class­rooms.  Con­tin­u­ing to assess the fre­quency and ways that tech­nol­ogy is used may pro­vide very valu­able for even more vet­eran 1:1 schools.
Although the data that is col­lected is cer­tainly impor­tant, the next step is much more cru­cial.  Schools must actu­ally DO SOMETHING once they have col­lected their data.  Cre­at­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment and learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties based on that data is essen­tial.  Walk-throughs may also pro­vide the oppor­tu­nity to pro­vide teach­ers with feed­back and allow them to reflect on their practice.



Tweens’ racist tweets…

I recently ran across a very inter­est­ing blog post titled How Should We Respond to Teens’ Racist Tweets.  Read­ing the post and the tweets rein­forced my belief on how poorly most schools are doing edu­cat­ing their stu­dents about dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship.  Although the sam­ple is rel­a­tively small, the tweets from the teens are dis­turb­ing.  I cer­tainly do real­ize that schools can’t be respon­si­ble for all of the actions of their stu­dents, but I also won­der how well the topic of dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship has been addressed with these stu­dents.  Of course, dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship is only part of the issue here.  The racist mes­sage the teens shared was cer­tainly the true prob­lem. That post along with the tweets may be great con­ver­sa­tion starters for your stu­dents around some very impor­tant topics!

One fear that I do have any time I read a post like this, is that tech­nol­ogy will be held respon­si­ble as the cause or dri­ving force behind this issue rather than the racist mes­sage the teens posted.  Is the medium, tech­nol­ogy, truly the cul­prit here, or is it sim­ply a new broad­cast­ing device?  Although I don’t believe tech­nol­ogy is the cul­prit, I do believe strongly that tech­nol­ogy adds a unique dimen­sion to this issue.  The audi­ence and pub­lic­ity of the mes­sage cer­tainly change things.  Schools need to focus on edu­cat­ing stu­dents about all of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of their dig­i­tal foot­print.  Unfor­tu­nately, that focus is often on the neg­a­tive things such as this.  A com­mon mes­sage is, “Don’t post X, Y, or Z on (insert web 2.0 tool here)”.  That mes­sage cer­tainly needs to be shared with stu­dents, but it shouldn’t be the only mes­sage.  There should also be a focus on all of the pos­i­tive things stu­dents can accom­plish using social media.  Social media can also be used as a tool for pos­i­tive social change!  I worry that a post like the one men­tioned may encour­age peo­ple to dwell on only the neg­a­tive aspects.  Schools should not for­get to focus on the good, as well as the neg­a­tive, uses of social media!

Nick Sauers


Nick Sauers