I have been working in education for the past eight years, and I look back and see how I’ve developed my own (very strong) beliefs about teaching and learning. Many of these have been inspired by things I’ve learned through ed-tech conferences, teaching my own classes, reading, and being surrounded by great teachers on Twitter. I decided that I wanted to make a list of things I’ve learned and hold very dear to my heart:
- If you can still do the same thing on a whiteboard/chalkboard, it’s not really technology integration.
- The ones who I’d honor with the title of teacher love their students and put the students’ learning first.
- Lessons that infuse critical thinking with student-led, student-centered learning DO take time and effort from the teacher in advance (in planning).
- Critical thinking does not happen on a multiple-choice, fill-in-the blank worksheet.
- The final product of a project is just that, a final product.
- Just because you call it project-based learning doesn’t make it project-based learning. It’s all about the process!!!
- Great teachers inspire their students to find out more on their own.
- Spitting back information word-for-word is NOT learning; it’s memorizing.
- Googling a topic and printing the first article is NOT research.
- The Google-print method above is NOT a good use of technology – we did the same thing with books, and it was called copying.
- Just because you use a computer (or any other device) does not mean you integrated technology.
- Not succeeding is almost better than succeeding because you can learn so much from failure.
- Saying things louder when students don’t understand you the first time does not help students learn.
- Flipped teaching is nothing until you infuse a methodology that incorporates strong pedagogy that supports student engagement, motivation, and learning.
- EdCamp is the best professional development. Ever.
- CUE conferences, local and state ones, are pretty darned good too.
- iPads are not really made for multiple users.
- Shiny new technology does not improve bad pedagogy.
- Great leaders challenge you, inspire you, and support you.
- If you don’t respect your students, they will never respect you.
- Sarcasm with students is just another way of insulting them in a passive aggressive way. Don’t do it.
- Tell your students that you support them and that you believe in them. Often.
- Don’t ask me to teach computer keyboarding/typing instead of teaching kids how to create using technology.
- Begin every class session with the thought: What will my students CREATE today?
- End every class session with reflection about the positive and negative aspects, and then FIX IT for next time!
- COLLABORATE with other teachers; let students COLLABORATE with each other.
- Twitter is your friend. Twitter is your mentor. Twitter is your PLN. Twitter is your Pinterest. Twitter is support. Twitter is sharing.
- Follow lots of people on Twitter.
- Teacher-centric teaching only helps the teacher; that’s why it’s called teacher-centered.
- Students need to know you’re human. You’re not a robot.
- You need to know students are human. They’re not robots.
- If we continue to teach without infusing critical thinking and creativity, we’ll continue to build a low-skilled, manual labor workforce.
- Attending professional development in-services does not improve teaching; acting upon what you’ve learned improves teaching.
- Not sharing good ideas is purely selfish.
- Change is hard, but you certainly couldn’t live in your mother’s womb forever, now, could you?
- If you truly are a life-long learner, you will be able to overcome challenge and change more easily than one who is close-minded to new ideas.
- The Borg were right: Resistance is futile. It’s so much easier to accept change when you aren’t running away from it.
- Kindergarten kids know more about using technology than some 8th graders. That’s how much technology has changed and become infused with daily life.
- If you make learning meaningful, not only will students remember it, they will want to learn more and more.
- Giving letter grades is a waste of time.
- A mixture of flipped classroom, project-based learning, problem-based learning, and collaboration baked in 100% strong pedagogy is the recipe to a successful year.
- Letting your students teach can be a powerful experience for you and your students.
- It is a small world after all.
- Complaining about that boring in-service/presentation? Ask yourself if you are viewed that way by your own students.
- Giving students a wider audience motivates students to shine.
- If you’ve ever played Angry Birds, you’ll see that getting one star will take you to the next level. If you get two or three stars, it takes you to the same level, but there will be an additional game or reward for getting all three stars. Why not treat report cards, grades, standards, and school in general like that? If you meet the standard, you get one star. If you do a little more, you can get two stars. If you exceed it, you get three stars. The best part: no stars means you didn’t meet the standard and you have to try a different way to earn that one star to move on. (I can thank @alicekeeler for opening my eyes to this one.)
- What is the best thing about teaching? If you answered summer break, you might be in the wrong field.
- Interactive whiteboards are passe, expensive, and teacher-centric for most classrooms. Try using something that allows collaboration between students, like a 1:1 laptop or a set of interactive tablets.
- Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for one day. Teach a man to fish, he will get sick of eating fish everyday. Inspire, innovate, and collaborate, and the man will be able to do anything he puts his mind to.
- These fifty things I’ve listed are sort of like technology, ever-changing and evolving. Don’t expect me to believe all 50 of these in 5 years, 5 months, or even 5 weeks…
What have you learned?
I believe that the Google Chromebook is one of the best new tech products to come out in the past few years. Google had a very ambitious idea – to create a notebook or laptop format device that runs a customized Linux OS and boots right up to the Chrome browser that many of us already use and love. The device promises fast, safe, and easy connection to the web on the Chrome browser, without the headaches and dangers common to Windows devices (dangers such as viruses and malware). I have to commend Google for having the guts to challenge the Goliath we know as Microsoft. As a consumer and a purchaser in the IT world, having more tech choices can only be a benefit. As a tech purchaser for a nonprofit, having lower cost choices such as Chromebooks is fantastic.
Google delivered 110 percent on their promise. I’ve used both the Samsung 500 series Chromebook (black) and the newer Samsung 550 (silver). Both are fast, easy-to-setup, and great to manage in our Google Apps console. They are very usable machines in our work environment. They have great battery life and comfortable keyboards. In most cases, I’ve deployed then as replacements for Windows laptops at my nonprofit, and people love them. Some managers have even requested them as “supplemental devices” – meaning that they use them in addition to their standard-issue computers. These are the computers that they grab as they dash out to meetings.
My only complaint with Chromebooks was really a very old one – that these machines did not have a way to run some Windows programs such as Microsoft Office. I’ve had this complaint for a very long time, going back many years in fact as I’ve played with various Linux distributions. I believe that in a business environment, there will always be some programs or applications that require Windows (unfortunately), and that Linux-based machines (such as Chromebooks) need some way to be Windows-compatible. I know there has been some success with Linux initiatives such as Wine (for Windows emulation), but there needs to be a better, easier way. I believe I’ve found one: Windows Remote Desktop Services or RDP.
When I attended Dreamforce 2011, I was very excited to see Chromebooks firsthand and was intrigued by Google’s claim that they would have Remote Desktop support out of the box. Immediately, my brain’s gears were turning; if Chromebooks had Remote Desktop support, then they could be used for Windows applications within Remote Desktop sessions! However, instead of allowing Chromebooks to connect to a Windows Remote Desktop server, Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop application gives Chromebook users and administrators a remote support tool. I already had a robust Remote Desktop (Terminal Services) infrastructure at my organization, but I needed an inexpensive, Chromebook-compatible, Remote Desktop client that could be deployed to all my Chromebooks. After some googling, I found ChromeRDP by Fusion Labs.
ChromeRDP was the missing piece to this puzzle. With ChromeRDP, my Chromebook users had an easy-to-use and secure way to connect to our Remote Desktop server. Network security is very important, so I was very happy to find that Chrome RDP uses the RDP protocol with Network Level Authentication (NLA) and CredSSP. Remote Desktop and ChromeRDP give us the flexibility to use the Windows versions of apps in cases where native Chrome OS versions do not exist. Kudos to the Fusion Labs folks for creating such a great app!
I’ve deployed around 22 Google Chromebooks at my nonprofit charity and most have ChromeRDP installed. This gives each user access to all the benefits of Chromebooks, plus access to the full Microsoft Office Professional suite, access to our shared network files, and access to any other proprietary Windows apps – all from within a secure Remote Desktop session. It’s really great that more of our Program Directors are ordering Chromebooks for new employees since they know that Chromebooks will give staff all the functionality that they need – while saving at least $600 each compared to the price of a new laptop purchase. Also, it is important to note that most applications accessed from a Remote Desktop server only require one license, even if multiple users will access the application in their Remote Desktop sessions. This can result in additional cost savings for expensive programs like Office and Photoshop.
I’ve also helped another nonprofit, a private K-8 school, to deploy a new server for Remote Desktop for their Chromebooks. They also use ChromeRDP to give their Chromebook users access to their gradebook application that requires a local install of a Java client. I believe that they are also quite happy with this system and are planning on deploying more Chromebooks this year.
In closing, I have to say that I’m thrilled that Google is doing well with Chromebooks. As much as I love tablet computers, the notebook/laptop form factor is not going to disappear from the business environment, for good reason. Businesses need a computer tool that managers and staff can use every day. Increasingly, this tool needs to be mobile. Chromebooks are a great, reliable, inexpensive computer that – with Remote Desktop and ChromeRDP – becomes a device that can replace a Windows laptop in most cases.
I have been having several discussions with my colleagues about the methodologies seen in many schools. While I was busily making preparations for dinner today, a great analogy came into my head. Why do I work so hard to prepare a lovely, nutritiously balanced meal for my family? Because I care.
The same can be said about my teaching style. Why don’t I just create thousands of worksheets per day for my 276 students? Why don’t I allow them to Google everything and let them regurgitate facts about a certain topic? Why don’t I let them do the skill and drill all day, every day? Because I care.
Some teachers do use the fast-food approach to teaching by putting out non-nutritious, mass-produced, processed lessons because these low-level copying skills are quick and easy. Others, the ones I consider to be great mentors and facilitators, create a well-balanced, nutritious feast of critical thinking and engagement for young brains.
My teaching (and cooking) takes a lot more work, passion, creativity, and yes, LOVE. If I want fast and easy, I’ll run to the local Golden Arches, but I want most days – if not all days – to be filled with a smorgasbord of healthier, smarter choices so my kids get the best education.
Ideally, I’d have a 1:1 laptop program at my school, but we did just move, update, and double the size of our former computer lab. The new location had to have major cleaning, painting, and electrical work done to it in order to house it all. This former art room is a second-story corner room, and the floor was covered in paint stains, rust spots, and general neglect. (The art classes moved to the fine arts room.) A parent volunteer helped to demolish the cabinets, old radiator-style heating, and the sink/plumbing in the room. We ordered custom furniture from KI.com after they gave us the lowest bid and the most remarkable CAD design/sketch-up of the new space.
My new classroom now has 34 student fully loaded workstations, and a teacher workstation as well. I have a work area where I can work on teacher laptops and other electronics that need repairs. New flooring was installed by the same parent volunteer, and the new coat of paint on the walls were done by several employee and parent volunteers, myself included. We also purchased a learning wall, with locking cabinets for all my spare computers, parts, and tools. The learning wall also allows me to project on the whiteboard surface – a virtual poor-man’s interactive whiteboard. I chose red chairs, black and stone grey desks and learning wall. I had a projector and audio mounted into the ceilings with connections going to the teacher’s area. I also had fiber cabled into the room to handle the load of 35 computers accessing the server, firewall, and internet connection. I use LANschool to manage my student computers, and we purchased software for all of the computers. I feel really blessed to have created my own teaching space with the generosity of parent fundraising (through the school auction).
On August 20th, the students walked into their new Media Center, and it was an instant hit. Visitors to the school can see that creativity and exploration lead students to learn how to integrate technology into their daily curriculum. While a 1:1 situation in every classroom would be ideal, other classroom teachers can bring their full classes to utilize the center for their lessons. Currently, I will share the computer resources with the science department most Fridays and with the resource/special needs department on Thursdays.
“Fast Internet, stay connected in a jet. Wi-fi, podcast, blasting out an SMS. Text me and I text you back. Check me on the iChat. I’m all about that http, you’re a PC, I’m a Mac” – The Black Eyed Peas
I sent the following email last week to all staff where I work. Response from those who have read it has been very promising.
Subject: Important: Please read, about wi-fi & computer security
Recently, I have had a few people question why I have made it a “policy” that all company-owned laptop computers are issued with a mobile broadband device. After all, we’re in the budget process, we’re a nonprofit agency, and with the prevalence of (often free!) wireless networks (wi-fi), why should we pay an additional cost of up to $60 per month, per computer, for mobile broadband service? This is an excellent question, and I welcome the discussion!
The quick answer is this. Wireless networking (wi-fi) is very dangerous. It’s dangerous on several levels. It’s dangerous to your private information such as private email, banking information, identity theft, etc. It’s also dangerous to our company’s information such as client data. This is very important! As an organization that serves clients, there are times when a client’s medical information or history is discussed in email or on web-based databases. Because of this, we are required to operate to HIPAA standards (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and ensure that client data is kept secure and private. It’s also dangerous to your computer. Hackers can exploit improperly setup shared files or operating system (or web browser) vulnerabilities and install malicious programs on your computer without your knowledge. These programs can spread to your home computers or our company’s computer networks and could be very costly to eradicate.
Please note that the danger is not restricted to free hotspots at cafes or fast-food restaurants, but includes ALL wi-fi. This includes your home, your friend’s home, and other businesses too. The ONLY secure wi-fi uses WPA or WPA2 encryption and a very strong wi-fi password (not one or more dictionary words, because these can be “guessed” by computer software attacks). If you connect to wi-fi hotspots or access points that do not require a password, they are not encrypted, and they are not secure. If they use WEP encryption (the most popular, even today), they can easily be hacked and your information intercepted and decoded.
Please make the time to watch these two informative YouTube videos. All together, they run less than 15 minutes long, but they clearly show some of the dangers I mention above.
Mobile broadband, on the other hand, relies on digital encryption to connect computers to the internet through the cellular telephone network. There is no worry of what encryption levels to use, as it is all hard-coded into the devices and managed by the provider. We can use mobile broadband and be assured that our computers, our private information, and especially our client information, is secure and private.
If you’re not using the mobile broadband device that we provided with your computer, please start using it. If you have any questions or wish to discuss this further, please contact me. Thanks,
I have to admit that our current second graders are wonderful. They follow directions, they are eager to learn, and they are simply a bunch of sweet kids. I was a little leery about introducing email to these young scholars, but after I finished the lesson, I realized I had nothing to worry about.
We started in the tech lab with their usual 45-minute session. They sat down, and I told them we were going to access our email accounts for the first time. Of course, they cheered with enthusiasm, making me feel more comfortable with their readiness. We talked about what a domain name was, and they figured out what domain we used for our email accounts through the classroom website. I explained to them that through Google Apps for Education, I was able to lock their accounts down so that they could only send and receive emails to and from their teachers, parents, and other students – all of them being within the same domain. I also told them that when they get something in their inbox, their parents will also receive it. This led to a short discussion on what is appropriate for email. We talked about .org, .com, .net, and .edu, and I gave them more reminders about internet safety. I told them that emails weren’t private, and I reminded them that if they weren’t sure about an email they received, they should show their parents, a teacher, or another responsible adult instead of deleting it.
Next, we talked about the parts of a friendly letter. There’s an opening, a body, and a closing. Then we moved it to email: To whom we write an email, the subject, and the body. The kids figured out from the domain discussion the naming structure for teachers, and I said that for this first email, they’d email me. When it came to subject, one student said, “We put technology as the subject.” I said that subject usually means which class we’re in, but this time, it was the main idea of the letter. In the subject area, we always put our first name (because who knows who firstname.lastname@example.org is), and then, we put our main idea.
Finally, we got to the body. This is where the friendly letter lesson they learned in first grade came in handy. How do we start a friendly letter? “Dear so-and-so,” a student eagerly responded. Exactly! I went on to explain the body, spacing after end punctuation, line spacing between paragraphs, and the closing with a signature. They were given 25 minutes to type their emails to me – only needing two sentences in the body of the friendly letter for this first round. In about 15 minutes, I had most of the class in my inbox. They were eager to write another, and they did, to their wonderful homeroom teacher. (She loved this, and she said she promptly replied to all the emails she received.)
In the end, the entire class did a great job sending email. I need to go reply to those emails, so we can discuss receiving and responding to an email next time. Soon, the second grade will also use Google Docs, and we’ll share documents between partners, using our email addresses. I am hoping it will be a silent class – because they’ll be busy chatting online with their partners who sit nowhere near them.
“You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife. You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” – The Talking Heads
Maybe I should answer the “who?” question first. I am Frank, the “his point of view” side of this blog. I am also a geek. I have had a love for technology, in one way or another, for as long as I can remember. Much of that love came with my love for science fiction as a kid. I loved robots and spaceships more than anything. I can’t recall building anything out of Lego bricks that was not either a robot or a spaceship. My early love for sci-fi started with reruns of Star Trek (the original series), Lost in Space, UFO, Battlestar Galactica, and Space: 1999. When I got a little older and my attention shifted to reading, I could not get enough of the classics like The Martian Chronicles and R is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury; 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke; Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein; there were so many more. These stories and the sci-fi movies of the time were filled with technology, but it was exciting, futuristic, and seemed (sadly) way out of reach.
Video games became part of my life just before my early teens. When I was around 11, my dad bought our family the Sears-branded Pong video game system. It only played the one game (no cartridges!) but we had so much fun with it! A year later, as I graduated eighth grade, I got a Mattel Intellivision console. Do you remember Astrosmash and Space Armada? I LOVED those games! One year later, I remember seeing my first real arcade video game – Space Invaders – at our local roller skating rink. I remember playing that game until my fingers and hands ached (or I ran out of quarters, which usually came first). A local arcade opened not long after and my early teen years were filled with Asteroids, Galaxian, Robotron 2084, and Defender.
To me, video games, especially sci-fi themed ones, had a certain magical quality. Yes, they still had the science fiction storylines that I loved, but I (the player) had the chance to be “IN” the game. I could interact with them and experience the story. I had to repel hordes of alien invaders, or “save the last human family” in Robotron 2084. Real technology hid behind the scenes giving us experiences that did not exist before.
Let’s fast forward to mid-1993. Previous to this time, I had graduated from high school and did not know what direction I wanted to go for my career. I opted out of college in favor of taking that “year off to work before going back to school.” That return to school did not happen for many years (topic for another post?) and I had worked many different jobs. I had worked in fast food, and did my time in retail sales. I remember buying my dad a Commodore 64 computer for his home business around 1985 and using it more than he did, to play games like Zork (1, 2, and 3) and Planetfall and Ultima II. I enjoyed working as a repair tech on the state lottery machine terminals but had to leave when my speeding tickets started to add up. I worked as a sales manager for an electronics store selling home theater and car stereo – which was really fun but there really wasn’t a career future there. That’s just about when my good friend Brian C. stepped in and changed my life’s direction.
My friend Brian had gone to college, and was working for a Fortune 100 company as an engineer. Knowing how much I had enjoyed working as a service technician for the lottery, he pushed me to apply for a service technician job at his company. I was afraid of this new career direction because I had avoided getting familiar with computers to the extent that I expected I would need in this new job. After all, when I worked for the lottery, I had been trained on their proprietary hardware, but never really worked on personal computers. I remember going over to my friend Brian’s house so he could teach me the basics of PCs. Not only did he teach me the basics of the (then) state of the art Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Office, but we played video games (imagine that!). My favorites were Doom and The 7th Guest. I recall at least 2 rushed trips to a local computer store to get RAM memory and an upgraded video card with Brian so we could play 7th Guest.
So I survived the crash course in computers (while having fun) and applied for the new job. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the position I wanted (service technician) was on a freeze and I was encouraged to temporarily apply for the open service dispatcher position at least as a foot in the door with the company. I did, and was hired. The job was fun and I had lots of great experiences there. I quickly became the office’s “go-to guy” when others had computer problems. This was fun for me, and I realized that I had a natural aptitude for trouble shooting computers. I remember being asked to help the Network Administrator cobble together a few working IBM 386 processor computers from broken, unused parts so that the service department could be outfitted with a few PCs. We used the computers primarily for client letters but I remember creating my first Access database to manage our service agreements. I also became part of a very early group to start using email for communication with my counterparts in our other offices, using AOL’s email service. I was very successful in my job and the company soon adopted some of the ideas that I lucky enough to test (such as email and using Access to help manage our service customers).
In the years that followed, I accepted a few promotions and moved from one office in northern New Jersey to another in Philadelphia, and finally to one in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. While in the San Francisco office, I ended up being asked to back up for the Network Administrator when she was out of the office. A couple of years later, when she moved and left the company, I applied for the Network Admin position and got it. My professional career in IT had begun.
To be continued…
My current addiction: Dead Space on PS3