Inspiration for Leaders

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

TLI - Tech Forum Showcases New Technology Trends

The idea of media branding for schools, innovative approaches to STEM education, flip learning, and the adaptability of iPads in the classroom were just some of the interesting topics discussed at this year's Tech Forum held Oct. 19 at the Westchester Marriott hotel in Tarrytown.

The annual forum, which is sponsored by Tech & Learning magazine and the website, attracts many of the region's educators as well as an impressive lineup of technology company sponsors who use the forum as an opportunity to educate teachers and administrators about their latest products and innovations in the instructional technology industry.

Approximately 50 district TLI members from many of the school districts the LHRIC collaborates with on a regular basis were in attendance.

Similar Tech Forum events are held in other cities throughout the country, including Austin, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago.

In his opening keynote presentation, Patrick Higgins, supervisor of Instructional Services for Caldwell/West Caldwell Public Schools in New Jersey, suggested that schools might want to consider branding their institutions, similar to the kind of branding that is conducted in the business world. Mr. Higgins noted that by leveraging social media, school administrators could learn to grow their districts' brands.

Other noteworthy talks included the growing use of iPads in classrooms in our region. Rob Miller, the director of information for the New Canaan Schools, said there's been a lot of innovation throughout his Connecticut school district. Its benefits include enhanced learning, more self-sufficiency among students, closer alignment to the curriculum as well as reduced costs.

One area that is reaping the benefits of this technology is the special education classroom. Vicki Windman, a special education teacher in Clarkstown High School, has been using the iPad for two years. Her students, while technically of high school age, are developmentally between the ages of 4 and 7.

With over 67,000 educational apps available for download, Ms. Windman said the choices are endless. She subscribes to a site called Moms with Apps, which shares information each Friday on apps that are free to users. Ms. Windman said her students have adapted quickly to the apps she's introduced, and most importantly, all of them align to the state's Common Core standards. "My kids can't write, but if you put them on that iPad, they're masters on it," she said.

At Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, Patrick Fogarty, advisor of instructional technology, said the iPad has been transformative in raising student test scores and generally creating an environment where they have control over their own learning.

The school started using iPads in the classroom after examining the 1:1 iPad initiative at the Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock, Scotland, the first educational institution to fully engage students with the Apple device.

Administrators at Xaverian got "all fired up about going one-to-one with iPads," said Mr. Fogarty, and in a short few months, the machines were deployed throughout the school. Mr. Fogarty said the device offers a much richer educational experience for the students, something the Whiteboard cannot provide. "We don't want them to cherry pick the knowledge; we want them to be active parts in that creation," he said.

The one-to-one iPad initiative works particularly well at the high school level, noted Mr. Fogarty, with students using it to search for information, do homework, and send and receive emails, among other tasks. According to the Fleischer Research Group at Princeton University, 82 percent of teachers said students do more in-depth research when using the device and 90 percent of students said the iPad has had a positive impact on their learning.

Despite the fact that some mistakes were made at the start of the project, Mr. Folgarty said schools should not be fearful of the transition to such an initiative. "When we went into this initiative, we purchased apps that we expected to use frequently, and we didn't use any of them. But in the end, we learned what does and doesn't work in a classroom environment."

"Our goal was to untether the classroom from the physical space, to create a cloud classroom and to move from teacher to facilitator," he added.

A number of roundtable discussions kept participants engaged throughout the afternoon, including information on using social media to flip faculty meetings, using the iPad for movie-making in the classroom, digital storytelling, creating iBooks and more. A number of industry spotlights and demos from various vendors were also scheduled during the day.

Monday, October 15, 2012

LHRIC Teams Up with NYSCATE to Host First Mobile Learning Summit

The much-anticipated Mobile Learning Summit held last month at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor was well received by many of the region's school district administrators, teachers and college faculty who are eager to implement the proper policies and support structures that will enable mobile learning to flourish in their schools.

The all-day event, co-sponsored by the LHRIC and NYSCATE, served as an opportunity for the K-20 education community to discuss, learn and share best practices in this growing area of technology, a niche that is quickly changing the face of education nationwide.

In his keynote presentation, "Designing Mobile Learning: Personal, Portable & Engaging," Richard Culatta, deputy director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, talked about the need for cautiousness and planning when creating a mobile learning plan for students. He also described the opportunities for enhanced teaching and learning as a result of it.

"It's extremely important to think it through," urged Mr. Culatta, who has worked in the K-12 community, higher education, corporate and government training environments as well as private consulting. "If you can't answer the question, 'why are we doing this?' then I think it's time to stop and think about what we're doing with mobile learning devices."

Some, said Mr. Culatta, believe mobile learning is all about switching to electronic textbooks. The reality is that schools need fewer textbooks and more mobile learning technologies. In fact, they are "way better" than the classroom learning that has prevailed for hundreds of years, he noted.

Mr. Culatta suggested that today's schools have a good chance at getting the mobile learning revolution right. "When we transition to mobile, we need to step back and redesign for that environment, and when we do that, phenomenal things happen."

To make this a reality, however, he suggested that schools capitalize on mobile learning's ability to engage students and to realize the advantages it offers because of its portable nature and its focus on personal learning.

Some strategies to follow include:

  • 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.
As these strategies develop, Mr. Culatta said schools will gather more tools that will help them enhance the kind of personalized learning that is needed in today's classrooms. Citing the Detroit Schools and the New York-based School of One as good examples, Mr. Culatta said those students are learning at their own pace and participating in projects designed around their interests and needs.

"As this happens in more schools nationwide, it will become easier to do the right things in teaching and learning," he added.

In the second keynote of the day, Travis Allen, president and CEO of iSchool Initiative, talked about his own experiences as a mobile learner. In his presentation, "Becoming a Mobile Learner," Mr. Allen described his foray into technology after getting an iPhone a couple of years ago. "I, like many others, enjoyed the endless list of applications on it and shortly after, I began looking into educational apps to help me in high school. I soon realized the amazing capabilities this device would have in education."

Mr. Allen, 21, wanted every student to realize the unlocked potential of the iPhone and shared his opinion on the topic by producing a video, titled "iSchool Initiative." The company is a student led non-profit dedicated to revolutionizing the nation's education system through innovative technology.

Participants also had the chance to explore a number of breakout sessions that took place throughout the morning and afternoon. They included information sessions on the use of mobile devices in the interactive classroom; the implementation of iPads for administrators, teachers and students; a step-by-step guide for administrators and instructors on how to use the iPad; using the Barnes and Noble Nook reader as a learning tool in the classroom; the advantages of using Prezi, a free software for educators and students; recording, composing and learning about music with iOS devices such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod, and much more.

A number of educational technology companies that partner with the RIC and with local school districts were also available to showcase their latest products and services.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

LHRIC Offers More to Districts with Updated Model Schools Service

The Lower Hudson Regional Information Center's Model Schools service released its 2012-13 professional learning catalog earlier this month highlighting its many course offerings for local educators and school district administrators and adding some exciting new opportunities for members as well.

The 42-page directory, with a focus on supporting teaching and learning in the 21st century, includes some new additions to the Model Schools lineup of professional development opportunities. They include sessions on flipped classroom models, a form of blended instruction that uses technology to leverage learning in the classroom instead of the teacher delivering content; teaching with mobile learning devices; social media for educators; virtual coaching; and night owl ed chats (#edchat), a Twitter group that serves as a collaborative tool for educators to debate and evaluate solutions to various problems in education.

As in previous years, teachers who participate in any of the Model Schools professional development opportunities are encouraged to ask questions of facilitators and to try out the new technologies being taught. All of the sessions are intended to highlight critical elements of teaching as well as learning and assessment.

Many of the courses available to Model Schools members will be face-to-face sessions, although a variety of topics will be covered through a series of webinars.

To kick off the school year, the LHRIC will partner with NYSCATE (New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education) Sept. 28 for the Mobile Learning Summit, a daylong event designed for the K-20 education community to discuss, learn and share best practices in mobile learning. That includes information sessions on the value of teaching with iPads, using iBook Author and GPS technology to instruct.  

New also this year is the opportunity for Model Schools member districts to take advantage of keynote speakers from the Technology Leadership Institute (TLI) series by participating in afternoon breakout sessions for selected TLI events. These seats at the breakout sessions are available to Model Schools districts at no additional charge.

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.

Virtual coaching sessions are also available to Model School participants. Members can schedule between 30 and 45 sessions by logging on to the LHRIC website at

The LHRIC's technology lab at 50 Executive Boulevard in Elmsford has also been updated to include a bank of mobile learning devices so that educators can learn more about the practical and instructional aspects of iPads, iPod touches, Droids and other mobile devices that are being used in the 21st century classroom.

To register for any of the Model Schools courses, visit

Monday, September 10, 2012

LHRIC Wins Award of Honor from New York School Public Relations Association

The Lower Hudson Regional Information Center's quarterly newsletter, Alliance, has been recognized by the New York School Public Relations Association for outstanding achievement in the Community Newsletter category.

The prize, an Award of Honor, will be handed out at the 33rd-Annual NYSPRA Communications Awards luncheon, to be held Oct. 26 in Rochester.

The newsletter, which is written and edited by Colette Connolly of the Southern Westchester BOCES Office of Public Information, was chosen from a myriad of other entries in that category. The newsletter is designed by Crispin Hamilton of Denver. Colo.

The publication is designed to provide trusted advice and information on the ever-changing field of instructional and administrative technology, with a particular focus on LHRIC-sponsored events and workshops that provide information on best practices and how they transform education.

School districts and other BOCES throughout the state submit entries in a number of categories, including annual report, budget/bond newsletter, calendar, community newsletter, DVD/video, electronic newsletter, excellence in writing (for a single article), overall graphics and design, photograph, poster, p.r./marketing campaign, special purpose publication and website.

NYSPRA is a statewide group of professional school communicators committed to the development and dissemination of communications designed to engage parents, staff, community residents, partners in education and other stakeholders.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

YouTube for Schools: A Good Bet for the Future?

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:

 Originally posted by Evelyn McCormack, SWBOCES director of public information, on NSPRA: Social School Public Relations blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

David Warlick's Keynote Talk Urges Educators to Think like "Digital Natives"

A well known speaker in education circles and one of the "10 Most Influential People in Ed Tech for 2011" kicked off the LHRIC's annual Tech Expo held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor April 27.

David Warlick, the author of four books on instructional technology and contemporary literacy, and a sought-after speaker throughout the world, gave a thought-provoking presentation on the emerging new information environment titled, "Cracking the 'Native' Information Experience."

Mr. Warlick, a former teacher, recalled a time when the desktop computer had not yet been invented and when calculators cost approximately $200. "I taught in an information-scarce learning environment," said Mr. Warlick, adding that the new technology available today has empowered students to perform better and to accomplish more.

"Today's environment is abundant with knowledge, is networked and digital and has a direct impact on what it means to be literate today," he said.

"Cracking the code" on the environment that young people exist in outside of school and using that to develop new learning experiences inside the classroom is something that Mr. Warlick strongly advocates. Hyper-connected learners, he said, find each other and then share their knowledge, ideas and skills, turning them into what he described as "responsive learning."

Society, he said, is very much in tune with the responsive learning experience. "Google has turned us into a question-asking culture," noted Mr. Warlick, adding that there is a real sense of connection between people and learning through conversation. This generation of learners wants to know the rules that exist in order to reach their goals. "In the traditional classroom, we never did that. We need to approach these children in their native information environment."

An example of how students can invest themselves in the learning process, said Mr. Warlick, occurred when a teacher at Beacon High School, a progressive public high school in New York City, had a problem getting her students interested in Shakespeare's play, Othello. The solution: ask them to create a movie trailer based on their understanding of the play and then get other students, presumably those who will be studying the play in the future, interested in it.

Mr. Warlick said the purpose of school has changed. "Part of the native information experience means that students often succeed best by getting it wrong," he added. In fact, students should be thinking about what they did and then considering how they might change it.

In many ways, he added, it's about making formal learning more playful and giving students permission to make those mistakes. "It is a learning experience that is responsive, that provokes conversation, inspires personal investment and is guided by safely-made mistakes."

This, added Mr. Warlick, is requiring educators to rethink education. "It's not a race to the top; it's about being joyful, explorative, discovering information, and being inventive. Sometimes that can be as simple as the teacher who says, 'surprise me'."

To find out more about Mr. Warlick's work and to subscribe to his blog, visit

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pioneer Awards Honor Outstanding Work in Local Districts

A science teacher and a technology director from a school district that also received recognition were among those honored at the LHRIC's 19th Annual Pioneer Awards May 18, which was held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Each year the award ceremony recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond in exposing students to the latest instructional technology initiatives. It also honors districts that are forward-thinking in their delivery of technology.

The ceremony culminates a year-long series of presentations by well known speakers in the field of educational technology, as part of the RIC's Technology Leadership Institute series.

Science teacher Jasper Fox was the first recipient of the Distinguished Technology Teacher Pioneer Award. He teaches general science and a Regents Earth Science class at Copper Beech Middle School in the Lakeland School District. As a teacher, Mr. Fox knows that some students have difficulty completing their assignments, so he created screen casts of the science experiments he would normally do in class using screen capture software. In the past year, Mr. Fox has posted a myriad of screen casts to the class wiki, which his students can readily access.

Mr. Fox has created a learning environment in education known as the "flip classroom." It's a new way of teaching, he said, one that has transformed the practice for many instructors, allowing them to become coaches and facilitators rather than just instructors delivering a lecture.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Fox thanked administrators and others in the district for their guidance and support. "My students are not only gaining the skills to be successful, but are gaining additional 21st century study skills," he said.

Mr. Fox also credited the online social networking service Twitter for inspiring him and allowing him to communicate with other like-minded instructors. "This whole initiative started out as a way to provide extra help for my students," he said. "But it has now warped into something way more powerful than that."

The City School District of New Rochelle had the honor of accepting two awards during the hour-long ceremony. Director of Technology Dr. Christine Coleman was singled out for bringing mobile learning to the district. For that, she was awarded the Distinguished Director of Technology Pioneer Award.

For the past year and a half, Dr. Coleman has invested much energy in the "Mobile on the Go!" program, a Federal Communications Committee-funded grant, which involved collaboration with Verizon, the RIC and Carrot App. Referring to her can-do attitude and persistence, New Rochelle Superintendent Richard Organisciak praised Dr. Coleman for her efforts. "We as a district are very proud of the ideas and creativity from people like Dr. Coleman," he said.

The initiative has helped raise achievement levels among participating students and has closed the digital divide, said Dr. Coleman. Looking for ways to prepare its students for the 21st century workplace, the New Rochelle City School District has made incredible strides over the past year. Since winning the FCC grant, it has deployed over a thousand mobile-filtered devices to students. As a result, the Pioneer Awards committee felt it was deserving of this year's Distinguished District Pioneer Award.

According to Dr. Coleman, students participating in the mobile learning program are displaying an improvement in reading, writing and literacy, and the formal structure of the classroom has "flipped," creating an environment where they now work in clusters as opposed to working alone, and where engagement and interactivity are the primary goals.

The district's Board of Education president, Chrisanne Petrone, was equally delighted with the honor. "We know that our district is amazing, and we also know that all of our children can learn, but we must continue to ensure that we provide them with the tools to keep them learning," said Ms. Petrone.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sixth Annual Tech Expo Provides Educators with New Strategies for Learning

The latest updates and strategies in instructional technology were among the impressive line-up of topics discussed at the April 27 Tech Expo, an annual event sponsored by the LHRIC that attracted nearly 300 of the region's educators and administrators.

Here are some highlights from a day filled with informative workshops.

"Transmedia: The Next Technology Flood"
Teachers overwhelmed with the many resources available to them on the Internet should fret no more, said Dr. Annette Lamb, a professor at Indiana University and a former school library media specialist and computer teacher. Dr. Lamb (shown in the picture to the left) reassured educators they could "create fluid environments for teaching and learning" by using Transmedia, the technique of telling a story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.

Transmedia storytelling often involves nonlinear, participatory elements, explained Dr. Lamb. A myriad of resources are often connected to the stories, such as print materials, documents, maps, web-based clues, mobile Apps, cell phone calls, social media connections, activities and games, and media (including audio, video and animation).

"Whether you are reading a block of text or even an entire book, you can seamlessly move from one technology to the other and experience and participate in a story," explained Dr. Lamb.

Examples include The 39 Clues, an interactive and multi-platform adventure series combining books, collectible cards and an online game where readers become a part of the story. The Skeleton Creek series, the Cathy's book series and The Amanda Project are other examples of interactive books that Dr. Lamb recommended.

Pottermore is an online experience from J.K. Rowling that is built around the Harry Potter books. While it's far from being complete, said Dr. Lamb, there is already an opportunity for participants in the experience to write their own chapters to the series.

Dr. Lamb encourages educators to use all of the interactive media elements available to them, even gaming software that can be integrated into learning. "The students already have their cell phones ready and available, so let's make use of those," she noted.

Teachers might also want to direct their students to the website, We Tell Stories, a series of six stories based on classic novels that are being retold through different mediums. One story, "The Thirty-Nine Steps," the classic tale by John Buchan, walks readers through the story via Google Maps. Students can also create episodes of a new digital series called Inanimate Alice, a Transmedia project that unfolds over time and is on multiple platforms. Text, images, music, sound effects, puzzles and games all combine to tell the story of 10-year-old Alice, a budding game animator and designer.

To discover more resources for online learning, visit Dr. Lamb's popular website,

Skype in Schools: The Future is Now
In Amy Rosenstein's third grade class at Concord Road Elementary School in the Ardsley School District, children have the opportunity to learn about the world around them thanks to Ms. Rosenstein's efforts in using Skype as an educational videoconferencing tool. On a regular basis, Ms. Rosenstein connects with former students, Matthew and Josh Levy, who now live in Hong Kong.

Before embarking on the initiative, Ms. Rosenstein thought it would be a good idea if her students learned some Mandarin in the weeks prior to their first Skype session with the boys and their mother. They also used Google Earth to locate Hong Kong on a map.

During the Tech Expo session, Ms. Rosenstein talked to the boys and gave participants a chance to ask them questions about their new surroundings and the experience of Skyping with their friends in Ardsley.

Before embarking on a project such as this, Ms. Rosenstein said it is important that teachers define their goals. Are they doing this to try out a new technology or is this being done so that the children can learn something new?

"Be creative and relaxing," added Ms. Rosenstein, "and also prepare the kids for the unexpected, meaning that a connection might not work or may be lost during a conversation." Before a typical Skype session, Ms. Rosenstein asks her students to prepare questions ahead of time, which are reviewed by her. The process, she said, has taught her students the value of asking good questions that can generate a well-rounded conversation.

Interactive Textbooks and iBooks Author
Apple's latest digital textbook, known as iBooks Author, was of interest to many Tech Expo participants. Apple representative Seana Dowling explained the technicalities of the iBooks 2 for iPad and how teachers can use it to create textbooks using simple drag-and-drop mechanisms.

"The interactivity of such books will open doors for teachers who will be able to take the content they've been gathering over the years and put it into a really unique environment that's engaging for students and that's really accessible," said Ms. Dowling.

Recent examples of digital iBooks include "Life on Earth," by E.O. Wilson, which can be viewed on an iPad using iBooks 2 or on a PC or Mac using iTunes.

Other workshops covered topics such as virtual meetings using Adobe Connect, Skype, Polycom and Web 2.0; credit recovery and blended learning; Scratch, the MIT programming language; Verizon Thinkfinity; BYOD (Bring Your Own Device); Ning networks; integrating Common Core with state STEM standards; and more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TLI - Philadelphia Principal Chris Lehmann Urges Educators to "Reinvent" Schools

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.

Meaningful Instruction

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."

To find out more about SLA, visit To visit Mr. Lehmann's blog, "Practical Theory," go to:

Highlights from NYSCATE Mobile Learning Conference: Androids in Education Breakout Session

This is part two of a multi-part entry summarizing some highlights from NYSCATE's Mobile Learning Conference in March.

Androids in Education was presented by Ryan Mahoney from the Research and Development team at Mohawk Regional Information Center (

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:

-digital equity
-physical security
-misue of device
-CIPA filtering
-expectation of privacy
-educational records

Follow MORIC's mindshare and research/development efforts around Android devices at

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Highlights from NYSCATE Mobile Learning Conference, Part One: Kicking off with a Moral Imperative

(Before I share this series of posts, please note that during my participation in this day long conference, I saw all of two laptops, and I had one.)

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

Apple Unveils New iBooks Author Software

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.

Authors can copy and paste text from Word documents that is then automatically divided into appropriate sections, create titles for their book, and add interactive elements such as videos and images. Authors who know JavaScript and HTML code can add even more creativity to their books by developing custom widgets that would enhance a book's interactivity.

"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.

Apple Seminar Discusses Hands-on and Technical Aspects of Tablet/Mobile Devices

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rosetta Stone Unveils New Features to Popular Language Learning Program

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Outspoken Technology Advocate Vouches for Cell Phones in Classroom

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."

For more information on Ms. Nielsen's work and her ideas, visit her blog, The Innovative Educator, and check out her book, "Teaching Generation Text."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

School Administrators Turn Out to Hear APPR Expert Speak

Approximately 200 representatives from a variety of local school districts, including superintendents, assistant superintendents and administrative teams responsible for their districts' performance review decisions, turned out Jan. 12 to hear the much sought-after APPR expert, Charlotte Danielson, advise districts on the implementation of new teacher performance reviews.

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 discover more about the services Teachscape offers to school districts, visit:, or to find out how your district can work with Teachscape, contact Leslie Accardo at or by phone at 914-592-4203, ext. 3406.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Latest Technology Solutions Showcased at TSB Event

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."

Wireless Options

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 For more information on the specific products mentioned in this article, visit the following vendor websites:,,, and