Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Teenage Brain - NECC 2007

The Teenage Brain – NECC 2007

Anyone with teenagers in their family or who works with teenagers knows it is a slippery slope to try to determine what makes them tick.

Traditional thinking for some has been that through time all kids are the same. That it's the cultural and societal influences that make them different. New research is out that dispels that as something of a myth. See research data at How often have you had conversations with colleagues and peers trying to determine or defend the value of technology by proving the educational value and it’s measurable impact on learning outcomes? Jukes suggests that the research isn't there because unless the measurements are changed to better align with the wiring of today's kids brains and the way they process information the impact of technology will hever be significant enough to measure. We are using old metrics for these new digital, different thinking kids.

Jukes talks about the importance of understanding and acknowledging that children today are wired differently than we are and were. That "knowing" is an important factor in how we will shape the educational landscape for kids to be successful as they navigate within those new landscapes.

Jukes lists several contrasting attributes between today’s learner and today’s educator that are worthy of some introspection.

1. Digital Learners prefer receiving info quickly from multiple multiplemedia sources. Many educators prefer slow and controlled release of info from limited sources.
2. Digital Learners prefer parallel processing and multi-tasking. Many educators prefer singular processing and single or limited tasking.
3. Digital Learners prefer processing pictures, sounds, color, and video before text. Many educators prefer to provide text before pictures, sounds, color and video.
4. Digital Learners prefer random access to hyper-linked multimedia information. Many teachers prefer to provide info linearly, logically and sequentially.
5. Digital Learners prefer to network simultaneously with many others. Many educators prefer students to work independently before they network and interact.
6. Digital Learns prefer to learn “just-in-time.” Many educators prefer to teach “just-in-case.”
7. Digital Learners prefer instant gratification and immediate rewards. Many educators prefer deferred gratification and delayed rewards.
8. Digital Learners prefer learning that’s relevant, active, instantly useful and fun. Many educators prefer feel compelled to teach to the curriculum guide and tests.

According to Jukes “it isn’t a matter of who’s right or wrong. It’s not a matter of either/or. This isn’t a matter of them or us. It’s not a matter of which way is better. The bottom line is that children ARE different. Through this understanding we can all do a better job of focusing on relevant and measurable outcomes that are aligned specifically to the students needs of today not yesterday’s kids.

He suggests that by changing instructional styles not changing what is important we can make an impact.

1. This requires more making learning fun and more relevant to kids and their world.
2. This means going faster so they can receive information quickly.
3. This means less step-by-step instruction and more random access, hyperlinked, just-in-time learning experiences.
4. This means less text and more pictures, sounds and video wherever possible.
5. This means providing more opportunities for multi-tasking, networking and interactivity.
6. This means applying what we now know from the brain and mind research about learning.

For the classroom teacher it may mean taking a small step. One day try to do something fun and relevant to kids and reflect on the outcome. Perhaps some material can be navigated more quickly with some differentiation strategies. Movies and pictures are readily available to all teachers, perhaps incorporating more of these in lessons will make an impact.

What ever it means to you, start small and build. We cannot wait for someone else to pave the way. The only way instructional change will happen in a way that will impact outcomes is if we each try to do something in our classrooms and build on it – at the kids pace not ours.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

School 2.0 - NECC 2007

Yes, I know it is hard to believe but trust me I heard it at NECC so it must be so. The US Government is actually on the leading edge of the web 2.0 wave according to Tim Magner, Director of Technology of the Office of Educational Technology. There is some compelling evidence of innovation behind Magners words.

They bring us School 2.0, a concept more than anything else. It is an idea of what a digital community is or can be. What a digital community might look like, or could look like with the appropriate planning. The unique piece of school 2.0 for most of us is that it encompasses not only the classrooms and schools but towns with stores, post offices, transportation systems, homes and yes, people.

School 2.0 is a drawing actually and is available on the web at On the page there is also a pdf. file. To help in understanding the concept take a moment to go look at it now.

You will notice in the graphic that the technology is clearly ubiquitous in this school 2.0 community includes not only the tools such as wifi access and computers and administrative systems but a planned infrastructure that supports everything that is necessary in this digital community.

Magner spoke of the upcoming eTools that work in conjunction with the map. There is a digital form of the map that will provide the ability to drill down into any area for a more in depth look at what the area is about what it means to the planning process.

In addition they are creating a very cool web 2.0 tool for drawing classroom or school. By simply clicking and dragging objects such as tables, desks, interactive white boards, computers into the space and jotting down notes in the space to record ideas as you are planning with your design team. The concept here is that often it is difficult to articulate an idea but if you can get it on paper (digitally speaking of course) –it can happen.

According to Magner these tools are intended to support districts by providing a framework for planning. He stresses that we need to change the way we plan and approach education and that districts need to align technology planning with
school improvement and accountability plans”. If districts are engaged in strategic planning at any level the technology must be included as a significant component of each phase if your school will be ready to meet the needs of the digital community.

One theme of this conference is clear. Contrary to prior beliefs the research clearly shows that today’s kids are wired differently and process information differently than the adults in their lives do. If schools have a hope of impacting educational outcomes, planning must be different, classrooms must be different and perhaps even jobs will have different definitions and parameters. Schools will not be effective teaching digital kids using tradition models of education.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Disappearing Laptop - NECC 2007

One to one computing is a big topic in Atlanta at NECC this week. One school has made significant strides toward making "laptops disappear" in their school. No we don't mean vandalized or stolen, the word "disappearing" refers to to how the laptop blends in with other tools like books, pencils, notebooks that students work with at any given time. The Urban School of San Francisco is a small independent high school. I know you are thinking that of course it can work in a "private" school, but the director of technology, Howard Levin, thinks it will work anywhere and it is a matter or priorty not lack of resources. The Urban School of San Francisco, California's web site is

What the Students Say
56% of the students in this HS say they are more organized with all of their materials in one place, even if they don't have good file management skills, it is all on the laptop.

How would your life be different without a laptop?
"I would be badly unorganized – papers everywhere, stuff everywhere, all my stuff is on laptop – it is important for me..." - Zee

"All my stuff is in one place – my parents are divorced and I live in two different houses. With my laptop my stuff is always with me never left behind. The only thing I wish I could do is google where stuff is in my room -- I really wish I could do that." - Lizzy

"Making the laptop like a pen, paper, or notebook. It is just something else you bring. If you are conscious about laptop then it is a distraction not a tool." - Unknown

"For me it is just Normal - I don't know what the big deal is." - Unknown

Levin says the students don't have the learning curve that adults have,which we already know. He suggests not trying to figure out how to train the kids on the laptops just get it in their hands. Lizzy who we heard from above comments on how she used Inspiration one time for a SS class and then second time did a comprehensive multi-layer concept map to plan a very large research paper she did. "It was pretty easy. Without it I would have had several versions of the paper in draft 1, 2, 3 etc. I would have post it notes all over it and it would be terribly dog eared and torn. Inspiration eliminated all of the chaos and helped stay organized and have her paper done in an efficient way.

Improved Communication

Teacher are often cautious when providing email to students fearing a barage of mail at the end of every day. However in practice - students will always go to each other for help before they go to a teacher so that the teacher questions are very relevant and have more to do with thinking than process or materials. Now students don't have to wait to get answers they can get them quickly and move on.

Teachers archive all class notes done on Smartboards so students can refer back to those notes when doing homework outside of the physical class to reinforce concepts or study for projects, quizzes and tests.

Can record demonstrations of how to use software and websites as a homework activity for students to view as necessary.

Students are doing peer to peer writing, contributing to wikis and blogs as part of their normal writing process. Much of this happens outside of the classroom because they have been provided access to the tools.


Students use probes and probe ware as a normal course of science research with the software on their laptops.

Immediate 24/7 access to software, communication tools (people), information.

The director of technology sent an email to all 9th grade students the first day of the conference asking what they thought about the laptops and how they help them. First of all let's realize school is out for the summer. He received a half dozen video recordings within 12 hours from kids lounging around homes, pools, and cafes who tookthe time to record their thoughts about the laptops. He was then able to easily insert them into his presentation that we participated in the next day. They could not have happened.

Kids can journal using video instead of writing - for some children this is a better way to communicate their thoughts and ideas than writing.

The conclusion for this Director of Technology was that an investment of about $1,200 per studnet has paid off way beyond their expectations and that while the fundng may seem like an obstacle, with technology planning that has educational objectives linked to student performance -- this becomes an essential tool that will be funded.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dissolving Boundaries Project - NECC 2007

Met two teachers from Ireland in this session. This project is a collaboration between students in Northern and Southern Ireland to bring the two politically separate geographic areas together in a variety of projects throught the year.

They use Moodle as the framework for all the work.
Students connect in collaborative writing on wikis they have discussions using video conferencing, computer conferencing and Skype.

WIKI Project Ideas
One collaborative project is story writing. One school write the Plot and the other school writes the story. It is all done online in the Moodle Wiki.

Monster Exchange Project Idea
Another project is "Monster Exchange" which may be familiar to many of us however the Wiki technology brings a real user friendly interface. Student in one locaton draw a picture of a monster and then write a description of a monster. Only the writing is posted on the wiki. The partner school/student will draw a picture (hand or computer) from the written description. In the end both pictures are added along side the writing. Students compare pictures to see how similar and different they are and how the writing could have been edited to bring them closer together.

An intersting point was raised about the use of colors on the web site. Orange couldn't be used because it was associated with a political group from the north. Green couldn't be used for the same reason but in the South. Red, Blue and White were associated with the UK so was off limites for political reasons. These seem minor but have major implications when trying to open lines of communications.

Benefits of project:
• Very motivating, great memories from past students
• Elements of sectarianism in school – student comments reflect that they have changed their views based on the project.
• Pupil develop better skills
• Sence of repsonsiblity
• Understanding of others.

Project Web Site:

NECC 2007

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