Inspiration for Leaders

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Healthy Jealousy - Quick Reflection on Virtual High School

I actually don't know if there is such a thing as a healthy jealousy. But I could not help but to recognize and name the feeling as such as we met today as a region to look at Virtual High School, a not-for-profit global organization that makes available some of the most interesting full and half year high school level courses you could imagine. Students talking about taking pre-veterinary medicine classes on their way to Cornell; other students nurturing personal interests in entrepreneurship; and still others taking rich literature offers driven by their personal love for writing. The fact that these courses are online offers obvious challenges and opportunities: the students who shared their tacit experiences with us via videoconference spoke of the discipline both needed and developed in order to thrive in such an environment. They verified the rigor of the coursework and spoke very highly of the content and the opportunity to collaborate with other students across the planet. I can't help but to think of how their experiences were enriched (in ways most likely not measurable)by exposure to different strengths and virtues presented by students from different cultures and nationalities. Made me feel somewhat provincial, thinking back to my own high school experience where doing "group work" was about as global as it got. Hence the jealousy: what I wouldn't give to enroll in high school again and live as a pre-collegiate learner in the 21st Century - not simply learning 20th century content with modern tools, but developing an understanding and a knowledgebase that is unique to these times we all share.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Educating the Mobile Generation - Elliot Soloway & Cathleen Norris

Elliot Soloway and Cathleen Norris of Universiy of Michigan talk about the opportunities cell phone computing has for one-to-one computing in schools. While this is a conversation you've likely had over the past decade with some frequency - perhaps its time has finally come.

Due to some advances in technology, the state of the economy, and some significant pedagogical changes in schools, cell phones may actually be at a point where districts can explore their use in classes.

You may remember the NY Times article "Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops" several years back. The article cited three basic reason why: the devices didn't have educational software; lacking adequate professional development; and the cost of sustaining the hardware was prohibitive or impossible.

Soloway and Norris suggest that it is for these very reasons that the cell phones or maybe even netbooks can be successful and point out how schools can ensure that they are.

Educational Software - Establish the device as an Essential Tool

It is critical for success to create a device that is an essential tool. A tool that students and teachers can't live without to do their jobs. To do this we must provide operating systems and software that is job specific. In the private sector essential knowledge workers have devices that do just that. Real estate agents, accountants, doctors and engineers all have software that is specific and "essential" to their jobs. Education need to create portals and dashboards that deliver information and tools to our knowledge workers; students, teachers and even administrators that is essential so they can be successful knowledge workers in the 21st century and beyond.

Create professional development that is Sustained and Virtual
Professional development programs need to be "just in time" , relevant and continous for teachers. Bring online courses in to the mix of options for teachers with Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard, Angel and Epsilon.

Cost of Sustaining - Outsource device and connectivity costs to telco

Schools have learned that while they are experts in the education business they need out outsource services such as food services and transportation - why not technology. In this mobile market why not pay the telephone provider a monthly fee and get the device and the connectivity - making the entire thing eRateable. If you have a device that costs $300 divide by 10 months that is $30 per month. Cell companies can create plans that do not provide phone service - data only is all we need to provide students.

While they recognize we are in the infancy of this converged technology for schools, the presenters believe now is the time to get started in our district school with pilot projects. Start small with a target group, find a teleco company that will support your the effort.


Redfly - cell phone device that has full size keyboard and larger screen.
mobi Controller for controlling cell phone devices -

Monday, June 29, 2009

Collaboration and Synergy - Jamie McKenzie

International author, presenter, thinker, and former superintendent of Bellingham schools in Washington State, Jamie McKenzie considers the idea that schools need to do a better job prepare teachers and students for synthesis and collaboration.

Taking ideas from Pete Senge, he reminds us that there are significant differences between passive listening and active listening. With active listening individuals are required to "suspend their assumptions". Take a moment to reflect on the last adult meeting you attended and think if you saw any evidence of suspended assumptions or worked with your colleagues toward the synthesis of new ideas and thinking. McKensie suggest that this is a necessary part of any "true" collaboration framework and that we will never really get the results we want in the collaborative web until we do.

McKenzie suggested trying Debono's Thnking Hats model with your staff to facilitate the appropraite level of thinking in activities.

On the side:
Did you know Virtual Thesaurus has multiple languages?

From Now On
- McKenzie's web site

Malcolm Gladwell NECC Sunday Keynote

Renowned author and writer Malcolm Gladwell greets ISTE/NECC Conference on Sunday evening with thoughtful ideas about "Learning Environments" from his book "The Outliers".

Gladwell points to the learning theories of Capitalization and Compensation (anyone remember Psych 101?) to demonstrate the idea that learning environments where indivduals are challenged and have to overcome conditions actually are met with higher levels of success than those that are considered "gifted and talented" out of the gate.

Capitalization Theory suggests that you build on successes and advantages in a linear sequential way toward a goal.

Compensation Theory is a multi-directional approach that reinforces the idea of "learning from mistakes".

That individuals with Dyslexia may in fact experience higher levels of success because they have learned to "compensate" for the challenges they face with reading and writing. Skills such as negotiation, leadership, communication all compensate for a lack of ability in reading and writing. "30 % of the best known entrepreneurs suffer with Dyslexia" suggesting that these compensation skills are as if not more valuable that the standards for that type of work. These individual learn how to work in teams because they need others to help them, they learn how to lead those folks getting them to help them and finally they communication with verbal skills because they do not have the skills to communicate with writing.

Gladwell suggest we should consider creating learning environments where students are appropriately challenged and to build skills where they may not believe they have an inate talent such as math or music. Gladwell believes that by challenge peopole appropriately you will watch them work creativity and develop innovations as they compensate.

Friday, June 19, 2009

To Strengthen and Empower the Consortium

Another June is upon our region, but this particular year will stand out as being peppered with moments of both great travail and change, and great possibility and promise. Within the Model Schools service the consortium has spoken and expressed ideas which will help us to maneuver our talents and advocacy on your behalf for the best possible outcomes. What follows are some of the ways we believe Model Schools can adapt to help you sustain a modern learning environment in your respective districts:
Facilitate and nurture true professional learning communities. Each member of a school community has a story to tell about how technology is changing the way they conduct their profession, from principal to director of technology to administrative assistant to faculty member. Model Schools will work diligently to use every possible tool to help connect the dots, build bridges, and foster a true sense of "e-community" during the next year.
Deliver more sustained professional development opportunities. The anchor of the Model Schools program has been the face to face session and while these sessions continue to play a role in the program, we realize the need to build in more sustainable structures so that the experience of learning can truly "stick" after a teacher leaves a Model Schools session. We will diversify our offerings in terms of locations (using host districts from within the region), time, and delivery method (look for more webinars and opportunities to participate via videoconference in next year's Core Catalog.) Provide strong curriculum correlations to Model Schools sessions. We know technology does not occur in a vacuum, but within the context of curriculum with specific learning objectives and goals. We will continue to design our courses and sessions with an eye on 21st Century Skills as well as core content competencies. Keep up the strand for building administrators. This past year was the first year we designed a strand specifically with the needs of building principals in mind, as the instructional leaders of their building. We will continue to develop and expand this series of sessions in a way that respects your specific feedback and increases the exposure and participation.Build and manage a robust online collaborative and informational environment. We have the tools to deliver, archive and redistribute content both synchronously and asynchronously. Look for a "Model Schools eLearning Center" to provide access to archived webinars and instructional sessions, podcasts, media clips highlighting what other districts are doing that's innovative, and a place to dialog and compare notes about common problems and accomplishments.
Thanks to each of you that participate in the service. No matter what the extent of your individual participation, your voice is valued as a component district that we serve. We'll be posting some periodic updates on the development of the Core Catalog for the next year and always welcome thoughts, feedback, and involvement.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Picture is Worth.....Well, You Know (authored by C. Calabrese, LHRIC)

Apparently that old adage is indeed true. In her presentation about Visual Literacy,, Dr. Lynell Burmark shared several facts that support the idea and how we as educators can use that information to shape our teaching. Several concepts really struck me as critical to education.

The brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text

In a school environment where educators are expected to impart more and more knowledge to students, one would think we would jump at the chance to speed up that process. We could spend weeks on a concept that could be represented and supported by pictures.

Brain ‘bandwidth’

Our eyes send information to our brain through two optic nerves, each consisting of 1,000,000 nerve fibers. By comparison our auditory nerve consists of 30,000 fibers. I can only think of Confucius’ quote "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."

“Words can only recall images we have already seen” – Lynell Burmark

At first glance I wasn’t sure about the truth of that statement. If someone were to describe lots of details of an image, surely I’d be able to have an image in my mind. Instead, what happens is that I bring my prior experiences to my image building and the person describing the image brings their experiences. What happens when those experiences are not similar? An example that Dr. Burmark gave was to say the word ‘flower’ and then ask what the participants had envisioned – how many ‘saw’ a daisy? a lilac? a rose? white baking flour? A simple word could be interpreted in many ways.

Start with the picture, but the picture itself doesn’t always tell the story

In her example, Dr. Burmark showed a photo of two women laughing and asked us to tell her who they were, why they were laughing, what was the event and what was their relationship. Needless to say we all came up with a different interpretation. So the photo itself does not necessarily stand alone.

Start from concrete tasks and move to abstract ideas

Using the photo above, ask students to write a story from the point of view of one of the characters. Only after the students have experienced the varied points of view would a teacher introduce the concept of point of view.

Dr. Burmark challenged and encouraged us to

  • use pictures first, then text or audio
  • put a projector in every classroom
  • start lessons with a picture
  • don’t assume that one person’s experience is the same as the next
  • use humor

Visit her website is for many resources for images and project ideas.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Effective Use of a Wiki in a Classroom

Hedi Lappi 2:40 – 3:40

Heidi has some very practical uses of wikis in her classroom. I’m assuming everyone reading this blog understands the functionality of the wiki so I will jump to the important points.

Heidi teaches 9th grade Living Science and an Honors Marine Biology course for seniors. She purposes her wiki for the level she is teaching to.

I was impressed with Heidi's knowledge of learning styles. She has every student take a learning style quiz at the beginning of the year and the students reference their learning styles throughout the year (wow - sounds so simple, why didn't I think of that?).

How does she use the wiki in 9th Grade Regents Course?
Students have to create review questions and answer the questions on the wiki.. Students then use this as a learning tool and some use it as a review when studying for a test.

Throughout the year Heidi also has students, in groups, post science information/resources related to their learning styles. Students must add a digital resource; a description and what learning style this resource will meet. Heidi then uses the resources throughout her lessons that year and she tags them and adds them to delicious. As a teacher she now has 20+ students times 3 periods combing the Internet to find the best resources on a variety of topics in Science. She has the learners mining the Internet while simultaneously building her own database of resources to use in subsequent years. I couldn’t’ think of a better use of instruction.

This is Heidi’s second year using the wiki in her classroom. Last year she started it mid-year. This school year she implemented the wiki in September. She announced that she saw a 10% increase in her mid-term exams from last year. She believes it is because of the 100% participation she receives through the wiki.

12th Grade Science – Honors
Students select an environment to study. They are responsible for both individual and cooperative grades. She has a 5-page rubric (see resource links below) that she has created to structure the project so effective learning happens.

As students work on experiments she embeds data sheets into her wiki from Google spreadsheets so students can see the results of their data collected. Students get to see in real time the results of their experiments – sometimes without even being in the classroom.

She uses the historic data in wikis to see who is working when and to measure how much each team member has contributed to the project . She then uses the wiki history against their individual grade.

We should have given Heidi a 90-minute session; she had so much information to share. I felt while watching her that time was not on her side – probably why she embraces technology – she has so much to cover and assess that learning has to happen outside her classroom.

I measure a good teacher by a very simple filter – would I want this teacher to teach my own kids? The answer is an affirmative YES! She knows her content, she understands this generation and she embodies constructive learning. I think many of her students must walk out of her classroom and want to be biologists, researchers or scientists but most importantly they are excited about learning. Who knows, she may have taught the next “Google” creator or the next teacher but most importantly she has taught them to think, cooperate, share and manage their own time online. Kudos to Heidi!

So go visit her site SOON! She will only have the guest account access for a short period of time. And while you are there let us know what you found valuable and share with us how you are using wikis in your school. Remember the best teachers are thieves and in this era of social networking - thieves share their secrets!


Wiki Site:
ID: guest09
PW wiki2009 - google docs & spreadsheets
Flipcam – uses to record short video of student work and reflections.

Breakout Session: Wikis, Webpages, and Winning Over Students (Authored by M. Romano, LHRIC)

As part of the Model Schools offers, we help educators learn the power of wikis, web pages and other digital media. Peter LaMoreaux of Brewster presented at Tech Expo today with several exemplars of student work. Their projects were both informative and engaging. Peter spoke about putting a “digital spin” on some classic student projects.
A primary example is a student Science Fair. Picture a traditional Science Fair. Lots of tri-fold poster boards with pictures glued to the surface. Perhaps the students use different size and color fonts for effect…now head up to Brewster. Their Science Fair includes videos, web pages and wiki spaces that are used to demonstrate knowledge of the concepts being explored. Students are not required to utilize technology but they are given the opportunity to express their learning in a way they deem appropriate.
The student projects are then posted to a Science Fair website for peer review and review by other Science teachers and administrators in the district. The audience is more far reaching than people who walk around the gym looking at the displays.
Peter also utilizes digital publishing opportunities for basic classroom assignments. A significant part of the Physics curriculum focuses on completion of labs. In his class, students are not limited to submitting a hand written lab. They can complete the lab and submit it as a wiki, web page, video or other digital media they are comfortable with.
Part of his success with digital expression is the willingness of the district to keep things open; to let the student’s publish their work for the larger audience to see. Participants of the session raised concerns of privacy and protection of the students. Peter’s response was that, if you teach the students responsible use of the tools, they wouldn’t abuse them. He has been working with students in the digital publishing world since 1999 and has not had any problems yet.
Kudos to Peter and his district for keeping an open mind and an open ability for students to reach out and share their work. Before posting this blog, I attended Marco Torres’ keynote. His story was the same and his outreach was to all educators. Empower the kids, provide them with the tools and learn to deal with those in your district who say “No Way”, Yes But” and let’s focus on the “Yes Ands”.

Breakout Session: Digital Video Across the Curriculum – Diane Nerwen (Authored by C. Calabrese from LHRIC)

I’ve never considered myself a ‘creative’ person by nature. I believed that creativity equaled art in the traditional sense. I didn’t like to paint, draw or sculpt. I took lots of photographs, but mostly for the purpose of recording events.In recent years I’ve found my creative side by creating digital videos. These videos typically honor a person or an event – retirement, special birthday, memorial. As I experience my final projects with others, I am always amazed at the emotions that my movie evokes and realize that it is true art. To some degree I was rearranging reality and telling a story.In Diane Nerwen’s presentation about Digital Video Across the Curriculum, she spoke about Daniel Pink and his book "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future." Mr. Pink believes that the era of the ‘left brain’ dominance is giving way to ‘right brain’ qualities – inventiveness, empathy and meaning-predominate. As Ms. Nerwen detailed the process the students go through to complete their projects, I realized how much of that process lends itself to the ‘left brain’. In particular, the planning process includes storyboarding and organizing shot lists. Sounds like a logical, sequential, analytical – left-brain – process. Students have to use both sides of their brains to complete these projects or rely on a group member to balance out each side of the collective ‘brain’. Throughout her presentation, Ms. Nerwen shared examples of many different types of videos that her students create (poetry, music videos, documentaries, public service announcements, parodies). The preparation and planning phase was key to a successful video. For example, if you are going to make a PSA about gun violence, do you want to show guns? The discussions that follow go much beyond making a ‘cool’ video with the latest software. The products were phenomenal and the processes evident.Do you need to be ‘right brain’ dominant to rule the future? I believe we ‘left-brainers’ still have a place!

Do Kids Really Want to be Challenged?

Marco Torres Multi Media in the Classroom
Breakout Session 1:30 – 2:30

Enter Rosa, collaborating with Marco via live audio feed from California. Rosa a former student shared the presentation throughout the beginning of the presentation using a shared computer screen and audio. One to one collaboration and one to one professional development are effective and easily accomplished today.

Marco suggests that for him the digital storytelling process is about teaching kids to be effective communicators – technology is not the goal. Digital story telling is about writing through the framework of a story. Telling stories intrigues and engages kids – writing is part of the process not the end goal.

When Torres works on storytelling through the creation of movies, the first step is to craft a story. Kids need to think thematically and they use Inspiration software to organize and plan around thematic writing. Rosa takes control and demonstrates how she used an inspiration diagram a story on the idea of “stars”, people that are considered stars, to map out the movie making process. Using the inspiration mind mapping process allows students to focus on elements of the “story” that are interesting not simply talking heads. It also provides a place to map other roles that are necessary to the movie making process such as camera, sound etc. It also allows teachers to differentiate content and roles based on the story elements and strands based on their readiness and interest levels.

Photography and films have been a tool for liberation for decades. At the onset of the first proliferation of the color TV also was the Vietnam war. The color red had new meaning through the lens of a war, red…blood…emotion. Think of the civil rights movement and the images that come to mind. If we can capture that much emotion and memory via still images imagine what we can do with digital video.

Consider this – do kids love challenges? Look at your own behavior to find the answer. We love Iron Chef because we want to see how the overcome the challenges of the ingredients they are provided, make something from eel tails. We love “Myth Busters” because they are always finding ways to challenge themselves.

“Get kids to come back tomorrow by infecting them with curiosity today.”

What are the stories waiting to be told in your class?

Digital Storytelling: An Academic Process: Really!

Marcos Torres 11:20-12:20PM

This is my first time hearing Marcos – and in the first 5 minutes I’m enamored by his warmth and passion for life and what he does. Currently he is sharing with us a video of his children going to bed and as I look around the conference hall I see smiles as we all in the audience are reminded of why we do what we do. He does what he does so that they (students) come back tomorrow. “Kids love to learn, but school gets in the way-sometimes.”

He encourages teachers to start with “something” in technology and go with it. He related that George Lucas does not really use technology in fact he doesn’t email.

Problems with Digital Storytelling in Schools – they spend a lot of time editing video or they spend a great deal of time writing and little on the video end. Schools need to work on collaborating and integrating these programs more effectively.

4 P’s of Storytelling
Plan – use mind maps, drawings, writing.; sometimes not digital. Students spend a majority of time in this part of storytelling.. Uses inspiration to brainstorm, categorize and organize the content and he believes this is the fundamental building block of movie making. Visually the students begin to see how they would write their story, song, poem,video, etc. They know how many sections, paragraphs, verses to produce and b/c the technology allows us to drag and drop students can then quantify the most important to least important.
Produce – use something as simple as Power Point to movie making
Present – to the class, the school, district, community possibly the world

Have students write about what they are interested in. It makes the video capturing, editing that much more essential and real.

My reflection on Marcos – he inspires, he promotes, he is humble and he believes education is THE most important profession. He wants to be part of the change and he wants to move students toward a better tomorrow. So my questions to you – teachers, building administrators, superintendents, directors of technology, teachers – what is your story? How are you going to write and digitize your BOLD statement? Can these stories start with us first?

RESOURCES - presenter’s presentation
Inspiration – - concept mapping
Live Scribe – notebooks and pens for creation – website for teachers to ask questions about digital storytelling.

XO Project – Disrupting the Middle School Classroom (Breakout Session)

The rollout of these sturdy, laptop devices took off when the 5th grade students became the teachers. In putting the technology directly in their hands first, the hesitation teachers sometimes experience with technology vanished. It was a brilliant move to get teachers on board. The 5th grade students became problem solvers, both boys and girls, and were willingly invested in the process, when they realized they were in charge.

Gerald Ardito (Croton Harmon) met with technology team 3-4 times, helping them unbox, take the machines apart and put them back together. Students sitting around a conference table upgraded and made road-ready about 140 machines in a 2 hour period.

The teachers involved in this project learned a lot by watching kids adopt them, from the initial rollout, where the first order of business was to have each student pick the one they wanted. The XO devices seem to facilitate ad hoc networks which mirror how middle schoolers learn in the spirit of cooperative learning. The devices are friendly to free and open source software. According to Gerald, the kids treat them like their own personal cell phones and iPods - the device becomes truly “theirs.”

When first exploring the device, all the boys seem to find the games, web browser, Scratch and other applications; while the girls found how to connect machines together (form a network, in a technical and human sense), and chat. An interesting observation was the revealing of distinct modes of approaching technology, if you devote enough time for it to play out. According to the participating staff, this project helped to redefine intelligence – some students with significant learning problems have come into their own through their access to the device.

Lesson learned – don’t fight the ripple effect of students taking off with something. It’s much better and ultimately less stressful to “lighten up” and embrace an initial level of chaos and disruption. Plan for some chaos of having to keep up with different paces, but reap the benefits of authentic student ownership of the process.

21st Century Tools to Teach the Digital Child

Adele Kivel & Amanda Bulson 10:10-11:10

So how does the 21st Century student succeed in today’s world? It is by no accident that the presenters started with a self-created video of their students sharing what the world will look like when they graduate. It had a-Youtube- Edutube like feeling- sharing while students lifted up papers sharing their thoughts about how they- communicate; mainly digital -text, email, web. The students also expressed their concerne with how they might be able to survive in this digital world with the every-growing number of people in India, China & Japan who in their minds seem to be doing better academically. How will they compete in this global world?

How are educators across the globe dealing with this issue of developing problem solvers and entrepreneurs for our 21 Century? Most of us teaching are digital immigrants – as quoted by Robert Murdoch, those of us over 30 , “ …may never fully understand this technology but may assimilate.”

Teachers need to make the classroom active not passive; the guide on the side. Teachers need a current website that goes beyond homework. Teachers need to decide how to use iPods, YouTube, blogs, wikis, podcasts, texting.

How do teachers begin to develop a more technically literate student that can compete with the global world?

Web Sites - a website that gathers papers from around the world. She demonstrated how studying the recent Australian fire outbreak could be reviewed from an Australian resource and an American resource. Is there a different perspective from where the information is written?

CNN Student News – from iTunes, they discuss current news both domestically and internationally. This video podcast is engaging and valuable.

iGoogle – use iGoogle as a jumping point for dragging gadgets that relate to education. For example she used Online English Grammar, Word of the Day, Quote of the Day, History for are sites that will feed iGoolge daily.

iPod technology – how could you create homework assignments that engage and further educate our students beyond the “direct instruction” within the classroom.? They shared a site on NPR –that provides series of podcasts that can be shared with students to download. Creation of podcasts enable students to not only work on writing skills but also on their theatrical performance skills – hopefully tapping into their creative intelligence.

Twitter – social networking site that enables students to share a status update. Where are you and what you are doing – The end user controls who can see their twitter page. Could teachers have students answer a “Do Now” via the cell phone to hopefully get greater participation and potentially hear from students that may be afraid to voice their opinion. Students in the high school and middle school would benefit greatly from this because so many have cell phones. My question to all of you – how many of your schools allow students to access their phones?

As we look at all of these technologies it is very exciting and encourages me to continue searching for appropriate uses of these tools for instructional means. I am curious about how you are using these tools in your classroom. If you are not using them - tell us which one tool you would be interested integrating!

David, Welcome to the Machine - LIVE FROM TECH EXPO

On January 30, 2008, a 9 year old earned more fame than most of us will ever receive in our lifetimes. He wasn’t on the news, or in a newspaper article. In Sarah’s keynote she showed a YouTube video, “David after the Dentist” which chronicles in about a minute and a half this 9 year old’s odyssey through anesthesia and laughing gas after oral surgery. The video had the group in stitches (no pun intended) because of it’s wonderful spontanaeity and David became an instant star :14 million views since January 30. A few days later, David became a byline – the parody videos started, first with a rap version, then a feline version, then starring Darth Vader, then with a dramatic rendition of an adult David the divorcee.

Sarah introduced a term in order to clarify this phenomena – the “prosumer”; one who is both a producer and a consumer; one who makes content for the sake of it, without being on a payroll; one who wants to be part of a movement (in this case the “David” movement.) What else is YouTube about if not that – a self generating, spontaneous, playpen where people create without being told to, without outside influence, without being told to.

Speaking of playing, Sarah’s background has a lot to do with games. She grew up playing Galaga. Her doctoral research is on the rhetoric of virtual worlds: how people communicate in these virtual spaces. And she knows about playing and how game elements can instruct the formal business of school to simulate a more interactive reality. Take the lioness raising cubs, she says – she doesn’t whip out a chalkbord to identify the prey. She lets them wrestle, bite, yelp and experiment. And they learn by experimenting and testing things out, much like players do in games, where they “die” and start over, and over, and over. Games use failure for learning. When you lose, you start over and try again rather than being kicked out or put on a SINI list. How pervasive is gaming? According to Pew, 97% of US kids (12-17) play video games. That means there are 4 gamers for every 1 golfer in US.

The “school” , as an institution, has become “the machine” – a factory where bells dictate schedules instead of choices.

Sarah praised elements of games that the machine can learn from : games offer clear rewards and motivation, games are dialogic and conversational, games allow you to develop scaffolded skills and apply them immediately.

She also gave us permission to throw out the door, once and for all, the restrictions of diving the world into “digital natives and digital immigrants”. We all have the opportunity to Google something, to find instant satisfaction to intellectual curiosiry.

So, the way school is done is the real disruption, not the students, not the technology, not the teachers, not the administrators. The tension lies in strengthening active learning in a hypermediated culture. It’s about blowing the walls off the doors in classrooms and opening up channels of information.

So David, welcome to the machine. Now get out.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How Freedom Toasters can Democratize Education

(Reflections from David Thornburg, January 8 LHRIC TLI Session, "Open Source in Education")

If you’re like me, this is one of the many unrecognizable terms that we are building our careers and lives around. When David mentioned it in his keynote this morning, it was so intriguing to me that I had to “bold” it on my Word document. It turns out, that a Freedom Toaster ( is a structure that resembles a vending machine. There currently is one sitting in a school in Indiana. Students built it. As a matter of fact, a student in the automotive program adorned it with yellow and orange flames, and I hear that this pattern nicely complements his tattoos. You could turn it on its side, put wheels on it and probably go from 0-100 in 45 seconds. (Back to this student – there’s no scratches on his machine. There probably never will be. No one is brave enough to touch it without the utmost reverence.)

Anyone, including visitors, can pop in a CD or DVD, access a touch screen, and choose what software they wish to download. Open Office, Project Gutenberg, you name it. The machine produces the CD, ejects it, and the user leaves ready to be productive and satisfied, whether they return to a Mac or a PC.

The best feature is what this machine does not have – a slot for money. It’s free. And this started in South Africa.

We’re talking about Open Source in Education this morning: what it is, what it could mean, how other countries (like Brazil) and states (like Indiana and California) are saving astronomical amounts of money by basing their instructional infrastructures on Linux rather than Windows operating systems. Here’s an interesting statistic: in 1984, the student to computer ration was 65:1, and in 2006, decreased to 4:1. Impressive, yes? But if you represent the data another way, we see that penetration of computers has seen no real change since 2000. We’ve essentially leveled out to the point where only 25% of US students have access to computers in schools. Basically, the replacement model has become a “zero sum” game.

David made an analogy to vaccinations: we don’t vaccinate some kids (unless of course parents object); we tend to vaccinate all kids. The same goes, theoretically, for access to laptops, which apparently have become ridiculously cheap, especially if you visit Tiger Direct and grab a laptop off a shelf for $ 395.

Whatever you think or believe about Linux, it certainly is a compelling story: it’s free, it’s reliable, it’s scalable; Apple “figured out a way to charge us for it by building a gorgeous interface.” Sustainability and scalability: two key prerequisites for realizing the goal of 1:1 computing.

David told us about a case study in Brazil. The whole country is moving toward open source technology. Microsoft wanted to be the operating system of choice but whey they met with the president and gave him a cost, the president of Brazil basically showed them the runway back to the US. (They have to sell 60 bags of soybeans to pay for one Microsoft “seat” per year.) This President decided to expand program to home and businesses ; a computer for everyone: Computer para todos.”

For those who have heard about the common objection, which represents a deep entrenchment in the world of beefy operating systems -
“I want kids using the software they will use when they leave school.” – David reminds us, simply, that the software kids will be using hasn’t been invented yet. And he also reminded us that it’s more ubiquitous than we think: Spring uses Linux for all their switches, and the software that runs the docking to the international space station is based on Linux. According to a Gartner Group study, 90% of the world’s 2000 largest companies will use open source software by 2010; 70% will have migrated to Linux. (companies such as Morgan Stanley and IBM.)

“Kyle” is a mischievous looking 4th grader whose picture David flashed on the screen. If you looked closely you could see the USB key around neck. On that USB drive was a bunch of software that Kyle brings from home because he likes using it. So how is he able to do this on his school network? He has Linux on pen drive.

The points of David’s talk this morning about Linux in education highlights the following value points:
• Easy to install and maintain
• Reliable
• Low TCO
• Graphical user interface
• Useful titles for all grades

He reminds us that “free” software can be reliable, because:
• It’s created by people who depended on it
• The support is truly global
• There is intense pride of authorship
• And hey, just look at Wikipedia!

There ‘s a lot more to this conversation. I’m going to stop writing and listen now. In the meantime, we can take a drive up to New Hampshire or Indiana and see what they’re doing. In the meantime – take a look at .