Thursday, October 25, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
- having learners interact with experts in the form of real-time feedback
- allowing them to collaborate with peers, therefore instilling competitiveness in the learning process
- offering interesting content for them to learn from
- initiating a form of personal learning that means adapting to students' individual learning styles, offering differentiated instruction and leveraging their interests and experiences.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
TLI provides school district leaders with the opportunity to engage with nationally known educational technology experts in an effort to learn, share best practices and communicate the value of technology in education.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Thursday, June 7, 2012
You might remember a time when YouTube was, like its friend Facebook, the bad kid in the schoolyard. Those days might just be over for the video-sharing website once best known for documenting fistfights and piano-playing cats.
In March, The New York Times published a story about Google’s new tool, YouTube for Schools. Thought you’d never hear the words “YouTube” and “schools” together in the same sentence? Largely because of the support of tech-savvy teachers, YouTube has introduced a new tool that permits school districts to use a “gated” version of the website. With it, teachers and administrators are able to view all videos on YouTube, but students can’t log in, at least not in school. Still, the tool allows them to watch YouTube EDU videos like Khan Academy, PBS, TED Talks and Steven Spangler Science, along with videos posted by their school district.
This is a major step forward for YouTube. The site has gradually transformed its reputation by introducing YouTube EDU several years ago in a partnership with the country’s major universities, then by working closely with the fabulous Khan Academy to make its videos accessible to the world. Already, a number of school districts around the country have signed up YouTube for Schools, including the Chicago Public Schools.
Go to YouTube for Schools to learn more about signing up. To view some of the YouTube channels your teachers are just dying to use in the classroom, check out Khan Academy, Steve Spangler Science, PBS, Stanford University or TED Talks. You’ll find it hard to step away from the computer. Then advocate on behalf of your teachers, if necessary.
YouTube for Teachers is another useful resource, which includes hundreds of video playlists, organized by subject and grade, with many aligned to common core standards.
Here’s a video explanation of YouTube for Schools:
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Chris Lehmann, founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a progressive science and technology high school in downtown Philadelphia, has two children, ages 7 and 5. Like millions of parents across America, Mr. Lehmann sends his kids to school each day hoping the education they receive will inspire them, will keep them interested and will turn them into well-rounded individuals.
But Mr. Lehmann, who spoke Feb 10 at the LHRIC's Technology Leadership Institute event titled "Beyond Tools: Thoughtful 21st Century School Reform," is worried. Why? Because he believes the public school system is failing its students.
In a 2 ½-hour presentation, this former New York City educator suggested ways that schools in our area could implement the same ideas that SLA has successfully integrated since its founding in 2006, making it the nation's first legitimate example of a "School 2.0" design.
The inquiry-driven school, with a one-to-one laptop program, partners with The Franklin Institute, one of the oldest science and technology museums in the world, and focuses on science, technology, mathematics, and entrepreneurship. Admission to SLA is based on a student interview, previous test scores, the recommendation of a teacher or counselor, and the successful completion of a seventh- or eighth-grade project that strongly represents the student's abilities.
Building and Learning
Mr. Lehmann, who was honored by the White House last year as a Champion of Change, suggested that rather than continuously testing students, educators should allow them to "build and learn stuff that matters."
Referring to the popular book, "Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)," by Gever Tulley, Mr. Lehmann said educators might take a few lessons from Mr. Tulley's premise that mastery can minimize danger. Experiments in the book include licking a 9-volt battery, playing with vacuum cleaners and boiling water in a paper cup.
"Tools are important to let kids use," added Mr. Lehmann. At SLA, Mr. Lehmann explained that longer class periods allow for that kind of creativity, because additional laboratory work is encouraged in science classes, while performance-based learning takes place at other, more appropriate times.
Standardized Testing is not Enough
Referencing the educational system's propensity for data-driven decision making, Mr. Lehmann said that in order for the initiative to work, the collected data must be of a high quality. Standardized testing measures, which are used throughout the nation as a policy strategy to establish stronger accountability measures for public education, are "cheap and give us the false illusion of a number," added Mr. Lehmann.
Using the Nebraska STARS (Student-Based, Teacher-led Assessment and Reporting System) as an example, Mr. Lehmann said schools that are under the direction of their state education departments should be using testing either as a pedagogical tool or a policy tool, but never both. The Nebraska initiative requires school districts to develop local assessment plans that are aligned with state (or district) learning standards. It also emphasizes the importance of using multiple assessment measures, rather than relying on a single test.
At SLA, a school-wide rubric is used to assess benchmark projects that are conducted every quarter and that parents can easily understand. Students are graded on the design of their projects, their knowledge of the subject, how they applied that knowledge, the process they took to complete their projects, and on presentation.
Each week students spend a number of hours at various organizations that partner with the school on special mentoring programs. They include The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Franklin Institute, the Drexel Research and Demonstration Lab, and The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, to name a few. In addition, entrepreneurs visit SLA classrooms and law students come from nearby schools to enlighten students. A yearlong Capstone project, completed in the 12th grade, further enhances the inquiry-driven learning process at SLA, he added.
In Mr. Lehmann's opinion, the idea of meaningful instruction has lost its value and been replaced with the "delivery of instruction."
"I think we can dream bigger," said Mr. Lehmann, urging educators to create "caring institutions" where instructors teach kids, not subjects. In addition, schools should be inquiry-driven, and by that Mr. Lehmann means that educators can ask students how they think and feel about certain aspects of their education. "To ask those questions and to listen deeply for answers and then to change one's practice based on those answers is the sweet spot," he said.
Project-Based Learning in Action
Creating a school that is "understanding-driven and project-based" is what Mr. Lehmann would like to see for the future of American public education. And while schools throughout the nation say their assessment system is based on project-based learning, many of them rely on the results of a test to validate that theory, he noted.
At SLA, where Advanced Placement courses are unavailable, and where assessments are based on tests and quizzes, class participation, homework, and "real world projects that matter," allow students to own the work they do, he said.
Creating a Vision
Asked about their hopes and visions for the future education of students, some TLI participants pointed to successful summer programs as examples of more creative learning. Others expressed their concern about creating a balance between educating the whole child and the required testing of each student. Mr. Lehmann conceded that summer programs are great ways to get schools started, but he also acknowledged that visions are wonderful, but without structure they tend to be an illusion.
Paramount to that vision, said Mr. Lehmann, the co-author of "What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media," is in SLA's hiring practices. Prospective teacher candidates are asked to provide sample lesson units to an interview panel that includes the principal, current teachers, students, and parents. Described by Mr. Lehmann as "consensus-based hiring," the interviewing of candidates is repeated until a suitable candidate is found and his or her qualifications are agreed upon by all members of the hiring group.
Educators should be building systems and structures that reflect that type of vision, Mr. Lehmann added. "Teachers care about kids, but very few of us know how to care for kids in an educational environment." Every worker at SLA shares in the same vision, said Mr. Lehmann, even the school police officer and the janitors.
Though technology is a necessary part of school these days, Mr. Lehmann said it doesn't have to be talked about as much. Instead, it should be "ubiquitous, necessary and invisible." Rather than focusing on the fact that students are using technology, educators should focus on the work that students are accomplishing because of it. "Technology transforms the ways kids create, research, collaborate, present, and network," said Mr. Lehmann. "Schools have been doing these things for years; now they can do it better."
To create a similar vision in our local school districts, Mr. Lehmann encouraged participants to seek out stakeholders and then ask a series of questions to address their fears about change and what the worst consequences of their best ideas might be. Above all, he cautioned, "Be intentional about your time and about the tools you use, and don't do this by yourselves, because it's really hard and it requires all of us to be learners."
Androids in Education was presented by Ryan Mahoney from the Research and Development team at Mohawk Regional Information Center (moric.org.)
The MORIC has been devoted to research on different tablets for the past year. Here are some thinking points from Ryan's presentation.
-We're "Trending Mobile": consumer use and demand of laptops are on the downward trend. By 2014, tablet and mobile use will exceed laptop for internet access.
-Chris Dede's interesting observation: you can own a device that knows who you are, who you like to learn with, and where you are...and these devices are taken away when they go to school.
-a particular ACU professor, during a college course, saw the use of Blackboard increase with use of Ipads over laptops.
-Devices that MORIC evaluated- Kindle Fire, Asus EEE Transformer, Samsung Galaxy; all have different price points and management flaws. iTunes has far and away the most apps at 500,000+. The Samsung Galaxy is the next most-popular of the tablets and also supports Flash.
-These Android devices are not just for content consumption; content creation (multimedia) is now feasible.
-Management: currently, there are a lot of mobile device management vendors in the marketplace; “Airwatch” was mentioned as one of MORIC's favorites. Some management considerations and questions that MORIC used to evaluate these MDMs (mobile device management systems):
-register bulk or individually?
-remote wipe device?
-define max devices per user?
-regulate OS and device types?
-push wi-fi settings?
-restrict SD card usage?
-set compliance rules?
-restrict Native Apps?
-Blacklist Marketplace Apps?
-Silently remove apps? (Samsung devices) (feature specific to AirWatch)
-Secure document locker?
-control document access?
-push bookmarks and web clips?
-silently push locally developed apps?
-view device and network info?
-audit installed apps and content?
-locate device through GPS?
-view call and text message history?
And of course, the major points of worry:
-misue of device
-expectation of privacy
Follow MORIC's mindshare and research/development efforts around Android devices at moric.org.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
The opening session: John Landis, Development Executive with Apple, Discusses the Mobility Revolution.
John’s anchor question for the session was not so much about the iPad, at least at first. The idea we’re playing with is why does any mobile device make sense in education? At some point a tongue in cheek (or perhaps not) observation was made that throwing devices to faculty members without changing anything else makes for a “more expensive crappy teacher.” We all responded with a knowing and reserved chuckle.
John’s presentation used some familiar scenarios to illustrate a potent new reality: the fact that we track kids based on “flash card math facts” rather than their enduring understandings of math concepts (concept vs. mechanics); the fact that for some, memorization is a barrier in the classroom, and even the highest esteemed of his fellow (former) Chemistry-professor colleagues refer to a periodic table chart hanging over their desk. The point he was trying to make: memorization, or “facts”, should not be a barrier of achievement.
Think back to before Gutenberg, when only the wealthy or the church had access to written knowledge. Everything changed about the human condition in two decades after that revolution, and perhaps we are at an equally momentous tipping point in our history - the time when mobile internet access will outpace traditional internet access by 2014. In this scenario, the problems stem not from too little information, but too much, and teachers of all levels are being called to shift their value from “information expert” to “concept shepherd.”
John’s perhaps bold assertion - the value of a teacher is no longer to deliver content. Period. Content is “free, ubiquitous, and powerful. Content is no longer locked up in the professor’s head, and it’s not scarce anymore.”
The real value of an educator is about “meaning-making, contextualizing. Making the content make sense to you and your particular frame of reference.”
Hence why mobile devices make perfect sense in education: the iPad, illustrative of all mobile devices, is “content”, not technology. “It’s a piece of glass”. And this particular piece of glass has a unique grip on the market perhaps for the following value propositions:
-Growing library of ebooks: trade, professional, and textbook titles available that are more than just text, but interactive video and audio
-Universal access. The attention to detail so that every user can use the iPad or laptop is evident in the fabric of the machine. I personally did not realize that the iiPad will read to you in 30 languages; the user need simply change the base language pack which will change the voiceover as well. It is the only touch screen device accessible to the blind community, and point to point videoconferencing can be used for sign language interpretation as well via Facetime.
-The “apps”, of course, speak for themselves:
Ex. Shakespeare in Bits – since Shakespeare was really not meant to be read, but watched and listened to, this app visually displays what’s going on in the text and provides contextual feedback.
Ex. Science – The Elements. Completely up to date; not dependent upon “static dead tree resources.”
Ex. Note taking – multiple apps make your notes become multimedia events.
Ex. Art Authority – an app that replaces 13 textbooks. Contains artwork, commentary, and historical relationships.
Ex. eClicker – free app on Ipad that is a “student response system”.
Ex. Content authoring (Garageband, etc.) IMovie
Ex. Free app for Khan Academy.
Despite the attention to the device, and the apps that give that device meaning and purpose, John concluded that this whole discussion about mobile devices is not about technology, but about opportunity. Thinking in those terms makes the device implementation less about the technology, and more of a “moral imperative” that rests on the shoulders of districts who should treat these decisions as ethical, and not technical.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
A group of local teachers attending an Apple presentation Feb. 17 were excited by the latest software recently unveiled by Apple: an iBooks Author that allows users to create iBook-compatible books from document files.
The program allows authors to create textbooks with simple drag-and-drop mechanisms. Apple's educational sales representative Seanna Downing showed attendees how they could quickly create an iBook with specially designed templates embedded within the program.
"This is the first time we've seen book publishers get on board with what we've been asking them to do for a long time," said Ms. Downing.
A presentation outlining the benefits of Apple's iPad in the special needs classroom drew a large group of local educators Feb. 10, many of whom returned a week later to learn more about the technical aspects of managing other Apple mobile devices, all of which are becoming increasingly common in our region's schools.
Hosted by the Model Schools Program, the initial half-day session dealt specifically with the iPad's adaptability to the special education population. William Ziegler, an Apple Distinguished Educator in assistive technology, gave a 90-minute presentation on how the tablet can transform education for students with disabilities.
An additional presentation by Ellen Bergman, superintendent of the Mount Pleasant Blythedale Union Free School District, and Emily Hersh, principal of the Mount Pleasant Blythedale School, provided participants with real-life examples of how this new technology can work in the classroom.
The Feb. 17 presentation by Matt Roe, Apple's senior system engineer, focused specifically on how Apple mobile devices should be configured, deployed, maintained, and updated so that educators and students can get the most benefit from them. The session was specifically geared toward systems and network administrators, librarians and media specialists, help desk coordinators, and technology integrators.
Mr. Roe cited the Rochester City School District as a successful user of Apple products. The district currently has 2,800 iPads in schools across the district. Its One-to-One iPad Program, which is being used in fifth and sixth-grade classrooms, has been particularly successful, he added.
To get the most from Apple's technology, Mr. Roe said staff should be able to create accounts for multiple users, be able to restore, reset and sync devices, create and deploy configuration profiles, manage user access to iTunes, and secure their iOS devices for use in a school building.
The half-day session also included information on Apple's Volume Purchase Program, which allows educational institutions to purchase iOS apps and books in volume and then distribute them to students, teachers, administrators, and employees. Discounts are available to schools, said Mr. Roe, if they purchase 20 or more apps. Mr. Roe suggested that participants register for Apple's series of webinars that explain the workings of the program.
Mr. Roe also talked about a recently rolled-out initiative that allows users to automatically personalize their iPhones and iPads. Users, he said, can customize their personal profiles by adding one-of-a-kind wallpaper to their desktops as well as personalizing applications and settings, all easily recognizable through facial recognition.
For help with any technical issue concerning Apple products, contact Wayne Cobham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Representatives from 10 local school districts turned out Jan. 13 to get a sneak peak at the newest developments to the language learning program, Rosetta Stone, as well as learning best practices and discovering ways to make the most of this innovative software program.
The event, sponsored by the LHRIC's Model Schools Program, was geared toward current customers and those districts interested in implementing the blended software program, which uses a combination of images, text, and sound that helps students learn intuitively instead of learning through drills or translation.
Eight districts currently belong to the LHRIC service that supports Rosetta Stone. They include Carmel, Clarkstown, Nanuet, Onteora, Port Chester, Ramapo, Tarrytown, and White Plains.
In his introductory talk to the group of teachers and administrators, company representative Chris Brotherson reiterated the need for more proficiency in language among Americans in general. According to recent statistics, only nine percent of Americans are bilingual compared to 65 percent of the remainder of the world's population.
As a result, added Mr. Brotherson, schools should be looking at getting children prepared in the early years. "How much of an advantage can these kids have if they speak another language?" asked Mr. Brotherson. Some of the advantages include a greater chance of being admitted to the armed forces and the opportunity to "move ahead of the line" in terms of college admissions.
Company representative Annemarie Brockwell walked participants through the tools that many teachers may not be familiar with, urging them to set up plans and proficiency goals and to build a blended learning environment where expectations are set, benchmarks are established and each student's progress is easy to track.
For teachers who use the software but may not be as familiar with its support tools, Ms. Brockwell showed them how to access the software tutorials. For those instructors anxious to build their own language curriculum using Rosetta Stone Classroom, the software, Ms. Brockwell explained, is an ideal option. That strategy works well in classrooms with a diverse group of students.
Rosetta Stone Classroom is a powerful learning tool that incorporates seamlessly into a teacher's overall language learning curriculum. Features such as speech analysis tools, grammar and spelling components, and predefined course templates complement classroom teaching expertise. It also provides the support teachers need with Rosetta Stone Manager, a built in management tool that delivers real-time reporting capabilities, details on student progress and user-friendly administrative functionalities.
Totale™ is the upcoming evolution of Rosetta Stone, scheduled for release in July 2012. Totale will allow students to converse live with other learners and a native conversation coach, and Rosetta World gives students the chance to play and practice with other learners in the Rosetta Stone online community.
Districts interested in signing up for Rosetta Stone can contact Leslie Accardo at email@example.com.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
As a professional development manager for the New York City Department of Education Office of Instructional Technology, Lisa Nielsen is accustomed to either experiencing technology disruption within her own department or hearing of schools throughout the New York City School District that were forced to shut it down.
To Ms. Nielsen, a former library media specialist, the idea of enhanced learning through technology is second nature, and the notion of keeping it away from students is similar to holding students prisoners of their instructors' old teaching practices.
Speaking at January's TLI presentation titled, "Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning," Ms. Nielsen laid out her case for including cell phones in the classroom and encouraged participants to stop looking at technological tools as a distraction.
To enhance the use of technology in schools nationwide, Ms. Nielsen said it's important that educators adapt to the changing educational landscape. To do that, they must be as smart as a "screenager," meaning they should be adept at using mobile devices and screens for teaching purposes, and if not, they need to learn the tools that will get them to that point.
To successfully implement a policy that allows for the integration of cell phones and other devices in the classroom, Ms. Nielsen said schools need to "step out of the past and into the 21st century world of today's screenagers."
That involves obtaining secure parent/guardian and/or student agreements that are sent home as opt-out notices, developing a responsible use policy that both parents and teachers can understand, teaching students about safety and etiquette, establishing classroom management procedures with students, planning activities with students so that they take ownership of their work, and incorporating the use of technology into student and teacher assessments.
Encouraging educators to create what she referred to as "free-range districts," Ms. Nielsen said such environments allow students to bring their own personal learning devices to school, be they cell phones, iPads or laptops. In such environments, added Ms. Nielsen, students are not blocked from gaining access to websites like Facebook and YouTube. Instead, they are embraced as powerful learning tools.
Ms. Nielsen suggested that educators become familiar with many of the tools that students are already adept in, such as Google SMS texting; Twitter; ChaCha, a website that provides human-powered answers to a variety of questions; Voki, a free service that lets users create customized avatars that can be posted to blogs and websites; and Outsidemywindow, a project that connects people from around the world through photos.
"Obviously none of these suggestions are magic bullets, and you can't just drop technology into a district," said Ms. Nielsen. "There are many reasons for it to fail, but you must put the right building blocks into place for it to succeed."
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Ms. Danielson, an internationally recognized expert in the area of teacher effectiveness and the author of the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, was joined by Mark Atkinson, founder and chief of Teachscape.
The presentation, which was hosted by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center, was held at the Edith Macy Conference in Briarcliff.
The consulting firm recently teamed up with Ms. Danielson and her company, The Danielson Group, along with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), to develop the new Framework for Teaching Proficiency System, which is based, in part, on the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) research project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Teachscape's system is the online solution to Ms. Danielson's research-based work to improve and assess the quality of classroom instruction, a critical component of the state's and federal government's recent policy initiatives that place a greater emphasis on performance-based teacher evaluation systems. The LHRIC has partnered with Teachscape to help districts implement these solutions.
For educators practicing in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recently released Executive Budget stipulates that school districts will not be eligible for state aid increases unless they fully implement this new policy, which was enacted in 2010, and helped the state win almost $700 million in Race to the Top funds.
Under the new teacher review process, ratings will be compiled based on classroom observations, state test scores and other locally-decided measures. The Danielson model is one of several teacher and principal evaluation models that are in effect this school year for math and English teachers in grades 4-8 and their building principals, and for everyone else in the 2012-13 year.
Teaching, a Complex Job
At the start of the three-hour presentation, Ms. Danielson listened to some of the concerns that districts representatives have regarding the much talked-about process. Some shared their teachers' skepticism toward a one-time-only observation of classroom teachers, while others wondered how special education teachers might be judged.
Part of the problem, said Ms. Danielson, is that all teachers are being examined in the same way and that those outside the teaching profession are unaware of the difficulty of the job. "If you think about the complexity of the work that doctors do and the fact that they see only one patient at a time, well, we would call that tutoring," quipped Ms. Danielson. "The minute you add 26 additional students, you are talking about something much more complex."
Ms. Danielson admits, however, that the quality of the teaching can "always be a bit better." In fact, it's the obligation of every teacher to be engaged in a career-long endeavor that strengthens his or her practice, she added. But implementing a teacher evaluation system that focuses on professional efforts and the promotion of learning as a collegial endeavor would be more practical, said Ms. Danielson.
Reflective Practice and Self-Assessment
"Using my framework, learning is done by the learner through an active intellectual process," said Ms. Danielson. When a teacher is being observed, she noted, the observer should be looking at both the students and the teacher to determine if indeed the students are learning, if the teacher is being thoughtful in his or her method of teaching, and if he or she is making actual connections with students.
To define effective teaching, Ms. Danielson looks at what teachers actually do, in other words, how well they do the work of teaching, and what they accomplish as result of that, or how well their students learn from them.
Ms. Danielson, who has taught at every level from kindergarten through college, cited several studies on teacher practices and performance evaluations in various school districts across the nation, noting that value-added models of teacher effectiveness are often highly unstable and are dependent upon the kind of statistical model that is used to measure it.
To conduct a fair system for teacher evaluation, Ms. Danielson suggested that districts have a clear definition of teaching, have the appropriate instruments and procedures available to provide evidence of teaching, provide trained evaluators who can make accurate and consistent judgments based on evidence, provide professional development for teachers so that they understand the evaluation criteria, and have a process in place for making final judgments.
Her latest work, the "Framework for Teaching, 2011," is grounded in active student engagement, said Ms. Danielson, and also encourages a reflective assessment practice, which means that in addition to teachers reflecting on their practice in the classroom, observers must also identify what they saw, withholding judgment about it, and then taking the time to discuss with the teacher the circumstances surrounding that observation.
To implement the practices that Ms. Danielson suggests in her Framework, Mr. Atkinson recommended that districts consider Teachscape's observation tools. They include the Teachscape Walk, Reflect Live and Reflect Video programs.
To see a video of the presentation, which is housed in the RIC's Ensemble library of videos, go to http://tinyurl.com/7g75bw6.To discover more about the services Teachscape offers to school districts, visit: http://marketing.teachscape.com/K12-NYSAccess2.html, or to find out how your district can work with Teachscape, contact Leslie Accardo at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 914-592-4203, ext. 3406.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Administrators from several local school districts had much to consider Dec. 9 as vendors and experts from the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center outlined the latest trends and technologies that will most significantly impact education in the years to come.
The presentations were part of the LHRIC's Technology Solutions Briefing (TSB), an annual event that provides technology leaders and decision makers with a more in-depth look at what's new in the industry.
Held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, the five topics discussed at the half-day session included information on wireless technology, virtual desktop infrastructure, mobile device management, and the strategy, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
Here is a review of each session:
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Co-presented by Rob Predgo, the RIC's manager of Technology Services, and Steve Struthers of Dyntek, the 45-minute session on BYOD was an overview of a technology strategy that is moving, said Mr. Predgo, at a "breakneck pace." Because students are using their own devices (including laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smart phones) on a regular basis anyway, it makes more sense for them to access a school's wireless network, he explained. That would increase their technology access and their chances of succeeding in a 21st century learning environment, noted Mr. Predgo.
Because the BYOD initiative is still relatively new, many school districts are still trying to figure out the best way to implement such a strategy. As a result, said Mr. Predgo, best practices should be implemented to guarantee that a district's organizational data is fully secure, together with policies that protect that data. It's important also, added Mr. Struthers, that administrators choose a method by which students can access online information effortlessly, be it wirelessly or by other means.
Initiating a "trust model" is also important. That means identifying common personal device security issues and confirming the identity of users and the devices they are working on, among other safeguards. Determining if a district's Acceptable Use Policy extends to the use of personal devices is also crucial, added Mr. Struthers.
"It’s not about the technology," he noted. "It's really about setting up a platform." He added that the success of any BYOD program will depend on effective preparation, while its long-term sustainability will depend on the ongoing quality of the users' end-to-end experience.
Mobile Learning: New Rochelle's Experience
In her presentation, "Moving a Mountain: Mobile Learning on the Go!," Dr. Christine Coleman, director of technology for the New Rochelle School District, explained the process of putting 125 mobile learning devices into the hands of students at Jefferson Elementary School.
Dr. Coleman explained that as a result of the initiative, the formal structure of the classrooms has changed, creating an environment where students work in clusters as opposed to working alone, and where engagement and interactivity are the primary goals.
Halfway through the project, Dr. Coleman noticed that many of the students were using their netbooks on the school grounds. Since many of the students do not have Internet access at home, she worked to change the situation by applying for the Federal Communications Commission's "E-rate Learning on the Go" program, an initiative that helps schools and libraries deliver Internet connectivity and digital learning through mobile wireless devices.
In January 2011, Dr. Coleman applied for the FCC's E-Rate Deployed Ubiquitously (EDU2011) program, a pilot initiative to provide students or library patrons with broadband Internet access through the use of portable wireless devices. The idea, she explained, was to take the money that would have been spent on the purchase of textbooks and put it toward wireless learning, which included the purchase of Android smart phones and the utilization of Google Apps for Education.
The initiative, which has impacted over 3,000 students, many of them ESL learners and residents of economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the city, together with 150 teachers, has created a ubiquitous learning environment where collaboration is key and teachers and students can easily share learning resources, she explained.
Encouraging other districts to follow in New Rochelle's footsteps, Dr. Coleman said, "It’s not about the device, it's about what the kids can really do with it and how much learning they will get out of it."
In its infancy, school districts used wireless networks "very sparingly," said the LHRIC's Anthony Ferrante, in his presentation on the advances of wireless technology. Together with Jamie Bogert of Annese & Associates, Inc., a technology solutions provider to schools in New England and throughout New York State, this presentation outlined the primary benefits of using a wireless system in school district buildings. It also included information on the costs involved, the security steps that should be taken and the types of wireless systems that are most suited to a school environment.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of installing a wireless system is that it compliments a district's BYOD initiative, explained Mr. Ferrante, a network support coordinator at the RIC. Other benefits include enhanced scalability, increased mobility and accessibility, and simplicity.
When installing a wireless system, the most important aspect of it is in the planning, said Ms. Bogert. Because students and teachers have the ability to access the wireless network not just within the building but on the sports field and in other areas close to the school, the "conversation needs to move from, where do we need the coverage to how much coverage do we need," she said.
Other considerations include the types of applications that students have access to, in addition to using a system that combines data, video, and voice networks into a single cohesive infrastructure.
Districts must also take security considerations into account when converting to a totally wireless environment, noted Ms. Bogert, as well as choosing a centralized management system that secures information, defends against hackers and malware, and sets a control policy for users, devices and networks.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
For districts interested in repurposing their old PCs, in maintaining the central management of desktop images, and in seamlessly rolling out new applications, desktop virtualization might be the answer. Bill Stein, manager of the RIC's Systems and Operations, together with Jim Geueke of Mainline Information Systems, gave participants up-to-date information on what's happening in the industry.
The advantage in switching to desktop virtualization, explained Mr. Geueke, is that end user data is stored on servers and not on an endpoint device. In addition, user data is backed up along with server data and desktops can be available in a disaster.
When our local area experienced a surprise snow storm last October, shutting down power in several school districts, a virtual desktop system would have worked well, noted Mr. Geueke. The cloud-based strategy also compliments the BYOD initiative discussed earlier in the session because the end user provides the device and user acceptance, and there is minimal power needed.
"Your employees should be able to access their desktops at any time with any device," added Mr. Geueke. "Data should never be saved on the device that's being used, because there's only so much technology-related security that you can have."
Mobile Device Management
The final session of the day focused on mobile device management, including trends within the industry, the growth of mobile devices, the security risks that poses, and the smart phones that are most vulnerable to hackers and malware.
Led by Mr. Predgo and Jeff Sciueche of McAfee, the session focused initially on how the mobile devices being used by staff and students can be properly utilized and secured. Because of the changing nature of the industry, the information that is given today is "drastically different" than what will be available six months to a year from now, said Mr. Predgo.
With an app explosion that goes well beyond email and the Web, the presenters suggested that districts might want to think about the applications they want to allow and what ones they might want to ban. The security threat to mobile devices has been growing increasingly, with the Android being an early target.
Very often, noted Mr. Sciueche, there is a policy disconnect between the IT departments and the end users. Added to that, he said, is the fact that mobile devices are predicted to be the new malware frontier, that more than half of all users don't lock their devices, and that almost one in five devices are lost each year.
To access the PowerPoint slides for each of the sessions, go to http://www.lhric.org/networking.cfm?subpage=803. For more information on the specific products mentioned in this article, visit the following vendor websites: www.annese.com, www.dyntek.com, www.mainline.com, and www.mcafee.com.