Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reflecting On Your Principles

George Couros asks some great questions in this blog entry. Here are the answers I aspire to in my head.

Miguel's Preferences
  1. An organization with vision for a preferred future
  2. A place where everyone is a leader because of the gifts they bring
  3. An environment that is flexible and realizes the gifts you bring as a person
  4. A job where you are trusted to do the job that you need to do
  5. A place where ideas are shared and common solutions are created
  6. A work environment that is open and shares what they are doing with all stakeholders
  7. An environment where risks are seen as necessary to learning and success
But the reality is different. As a leader, here are the answers that reflect my inclination and I have to struggle to overcome:

  1. An organization with vision for a preferred future
  2. there are a few managers based upon position.
  3. An environment that is flexible and realizes the gifts you bring as a person
  4. one where you are managed to do the job you need to do.
  5. one where all decisions lie in the hands of a single person.
  6. A work environment that is open and shares what they are doing with all stakeholders
  7. An environment where risks are seen as necessary to learning and success
In reflecting on my own practice, I have to confess a definite bias towards managers and position. The necessity of getting things done in a top-down environment force managers and decisions to "lie in the hands of a single person" or a small group of managers. That said, it's important to solicit input from "the managed," to get their insights and to make changes accordingly.

Yet, as much as I like the original answers, I find I have to overcome my 3 red areas every time decisions come up. Sometimes, I'm successful, other times, not. Each situation is different, and must be painfully weighed.

I'm not sure that such an approach is the wrong or right one to take...just the one I've grown comfortable with.

Time to think different.

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MyNotes - Writing Project Professional Development Continues to Yield Gains in Student Writing Achievement

Just catching up...if this works, why aren't more doing something with it?


Writing Project Professional Development Continues to Yield Gains in Student Writing Achievement - National Writing Project

Date: July 15, 2010
Student results are strong and favorable in those aspects of writing that the NWP is best known for, such as development of ideas, organization, and stance.In the overall or holistic measure, in every case the improvement of students taught by teachers who participated in NWP programs exceeded that of students whose teachers were not participants.

In overall quality of writing (i.e., the holistic score), results consistently favor the NWP students in every single study. Click to enlarge chart.On seven measures of writing performance tested across the 16 studies, students of NWP teachers outperformed their non-NWP counterparts in 103 of 112 contrasts.

In 55% of these positive contrasts, the differences were so large as to be statistically significant.

These findings—the overwhelmingly positive results favoring NWP and the fact that in no case did the comparison group significantly outperform the students in NWP classes—confirm the effectiveness of NWP professional development.

In each case, program students show growth while comparison students often show little or no growth in their writing performance and, on occasion, show a decline in writing performance.
Download the Research Brief

- Sent using Google Toolbar"


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Clueless

 Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/wide_large/100603-goleman-w.jpg

If you take a moment to read Dr. Scott McLeod's (Dangerously Irrelevant) "I misunderstood the technology" and Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog), you may give up blogging altogether, if you even bothered to start. And, lots of folks don't even have a clue about their digital footprint, whatever that is.

Doug writes:
One hazard is the negative impact of a public voice on one's career. I'll maintain that if you are a boat-rocker, a change agent, a questioner, a rabble-rouser, a radical in your online writings about your profession, your chances of getting a job and advancing in your career is jeopardized. In education especially, the people doing the hiring are conservative*. They may want someone who can remodel their home; they don't want someone who will burn it down and rebuild it.
I have often considered blogging as a learning conversation, sometimes with others, often by myself, and have found the act of blogging--writing privately in public space--to be incredibly beneficial. While I've enjoyed close scrapes regarding what I've written--usually, a misunderstanding about the disclaimer that now appears at the bottom of every blog entry--I would consider NOT blogging a detriment to my own learning.

I no longer care what conclusions others--including future employers--may draw from my published work. With over 8000 entries under my belt, it's immaterial at this point. Even if I wanted to take it all back, I couldn't. If I could, I wouldn't. There's nothing quite so satisfying as doing a Google search "mguhlin topic of choice" and being able to pull up something I wrote months, years ago that I knew I wrote but had forgotten exactly what I wrote. It's like rediscovering yourself but in the context of a conversation with others.

While I don't want to be considered a troublemaker, I have found that discussing some topics usually ruffle feathers of those who fear free speech, openness and transparency. It's as if by silencing others, they will eliminate the threat represented. Yet, if sharing ideas and information is the threat, then human beings will never be safe.

Perhaps the best measure of an organization’s commitment to transparency is to see what it does when things go wrong. Does it clam up and dribble out useless, incomplete information? Or will it embrace the brutal side of being open, warts and all? It’s much easier to be transparent with information that seems neutral or positive; true transparency is all about what you do when things go awry. Will you hold the line or retreat into the shadows?  (Source: Radical Transparency at Daily Kos)

I often see my blog as a place to share what I'm learning as I'm learning it. For that reason alone, most of my blog entries are valuable to me. Each entry is a page in my journal. I write about what I choose...why should anyone in their right mind fear that?

As I reflect on my blogging over the last month, I have to ask myself, which of my blog entries may bring down the wrath of employers, political parties, etc.? A more important question is, why aren't I writing blog entries that enrage/engage?
The very process of developing ideas, products, and messages is changing - from musing about it in a room with your top people to throwing it out on the Web and asking the global smartmob for a little help. (Source: The See-Through CEO)

When I'm learning, I do not pretend to be impervious. If I get called on the carpet for a blog entry I've written, I still get excited, my palms get sweaty. But blogging has given me a way to learn, connect with others that has provided me with a powerful stabilizing influence...like a tail on a critter that balances.

While I don't disagree with Doug on his points of what's wanted in education, the question that pops into my head is...What if what we need in education are more bloggers, unafraid to ask the hard questions and ruffle the feathers of those who, like career politicians, appear smooth as an oil slick in the Gulf?

Update: Re-reading this blog entry, I can't help but notice it's so darn serious. Blogging is PLAYING with ideas, your own ideas. If you can't do that, what business have you in education?


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Securing Confidential Info - Laundry List of Privacy Tools

Update 01/3/2012: I now recommend the free, open source AESCrypt in lieu of AxCrypt/NCrypt as a simple, easy to use cross-platform encryption tool. Find out more here.


 Image Source: http://www.aarontoponce.org/presents/gpg/images/public_key_encryption.gif

At a workshop today on "Securing Confidential Data," a colleague leaned over and asked, "Could we have a workshop on how to protect confidential data?" I immediately replied, "Yes, definitely!" thinking of all the neat tools I've learned to use over the last few years.

 Image Source: http://www.data.processing.st/uploads/images/public_key_encryption(1).jpg

Secretly, of course, I wondered to myself, How much of this do people really want to know? Sure, I encrypt everything, one way or another. It's taken years to get into the habit...will others really think it's worthwhile? For me, it's a digital citizenship issue...if you don't know how to encrypt data, there's a hole in your education.

Consider the list of tools available to protect your data and ensure no one--not even the Government --will be able to view it:

  1. AESCrypt - This is the easiest, cross-platform tool to encrypt individual files. Find out more here.
  2. PGP/GPG - There are a variety of tools available now that allow you to encrypt your email, files, etc. For example, consider these:
    • GPG4Win - Allows you to encrypt files/email/text easily on your Windows computer. Whatever you encrypt here can also be shared with others using public/private keys.
    • MacGPG - Allows you to do similar things as GPG4Win on your Mac. I still find this a bit of a pain since you have to drop to the command line (e.g. Terminal).
    • KGPG for GNU/Linux - This, IMHO, is the best GPG tool out there.
    • Android Privacy Guard (APG) - This gives you a LOT of functionality--encryption of email, files that can then be sent via email using K-9 email program--on your Android phone.
    • Wija - Allows you to have secure instant messaging conversations...but let's be honest, when would you use this in education? 
  3. TrueCrypt.org - Want to protect lots of data? Then using TrueCrypt may be one of the easiest ways to accomplish that. It allows you to create an encrypted drive container where you can store confidential files.
  4. KeepassX - Don't have a lot of data to protect, just need a place to store your passwords? Then take advantage of KeepassX. Works great on Mac, Windows, GNU/Linux, and Android phones...it's also available for your iPhone as iKeepass in the app store. MakeUseOf.com has a nice write-up on KeepassX.
Honestly, I personally use a variety of tools above. KeePassX, which I recently started using, has been great. With it and TrueCrypt, protecting confidential data is a snap.

Of course, the best way to protect work-related confidential data is to NEVER remove it from your work environment and keep it encrypted at all times, except when you're using it.

Is encryption worth the time and effort in your line of work?


Image Sources
Encryption keys diagram - http://rocketvox.com/tag/encryption
Confidential - http://www.utahcountylistings.com/extra/images/confidential_real_estate.jpg

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Retool Your School with Google

Find out more

Retool Your School is a book by Jim Lerman and Ronique Hicks. Check out this announcement from Jim Lerman....
Ronique Hicks and I are very pleased to invite all our friends and
colleagues in the NY-Northern NJ area to a gala book signing at the
Borders bookstore in the Garden State Mall in Paramus, NJ on Sat. Oct. 9 from 3:30-5:00. There will be fun and door prizes! 
We'll be featuring our new book "RETOOL YOUR SCHOOL: THE EDUCATOR'S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GOOGLE'S FREE POWER APPS".
More info is here: https://sites.google.com/site/retoolyourschoolbook/

Anyone read this book and can offer comments/feedback on it?

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Not Segregated Anymore, Texas?

In a memo entitled "Order on Civil Action 5281," Commissioner of Education Robert Scott points out the following:
The federal court with jurisdiction over the statewide desegregation order (usually called “Civil Action 5281”) has entered an order removing virtually all Texas school districts from the scope of the order. Since 1971, all districts have operated under certain restrictions on accepting student transfers, requirements for property deeds and other reporting requirements....

From September 27, 2010, all districts, except the original nine school districts that were party to the case, are no longer subject to the order. Except for those districts1, there is no longer any obligation to report student transfers or submit real property conveyances for approval. The agency will no longer monitor district boundary changes, transportation, extra-curricular activities, or staff and student assignment for purposes of the order. There is no action required of your district in response to the court’s order.
Read the complete memo online
Not really knowing anything about this--Civil Action 5281--I googled it and discovered this frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that explains this in simpler terms:

Civil Action 5281 is the name of a federal court order handed down by Judge William Wayne Justice in 1968, and modified in 1971. This court order was the result of a lawsuit brought against the State of Texas by the U.S. Department of Education. The court found the schools in Texas to be segregated in violation of the U.S. Constitution. In the court order, Judge Justice ordered the Agency to take actions to ensure that the state’s schools were desegregated to the satisfaction of the court.

My best understanding of this--without any background knowledge--is that Texas schools are no longer considered segregated and, as such, no longer in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Is that explanation accurate?


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Editing GoogleDocs on iPad


"Necessity is the mother of invention," Plato quipped a long time ago (well, maybe he didn't say it quite that way). Editing GoogleDocs with an iPad is a necessity for some, if not desperation! So much so that there's a Facebook Fan page petitioning Google. Whether it's really Google's fault or Apple's for making a Mobile Safari that isn't as full-featured as desktop Safari browser, well, that's up for discussion!

While I don't have an iPad (prefer a netbook any day of the week), I do have to admit to some curiosity about a device that has trouble editing GoogleDocs, which provides ubiquitous access to word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and other tools.

Kevin McLaughlin recently shared his discovery of how to edit GoogleDocs, albeit not directly, using the Osfoora.com Twitter client. Normally, you'd have to pay for a product like QuickOffice or Office 2 Pro ($8 app) to get the job done. Others are using apps like LogMeIn Ignition--remote access to a real computer with GoogleDoc editing capability. Another option is DocumentsToGo for MS Office editing.

And, others are holding out hope that DocVerse--recently acquired by Google--will take care of the problem of iPad and GoogleDocs editing! In the meantime, folks like Kevin continue to try....

He created a video of the experience and shares it on YouTube (embedded below):




Video Link: http://bit.ly/czBnZ6

He describes it in this way:



I found ts out entirely by accident tonight, you can edit google docs on the iPad by clicking on a gdocs link posted on Osfoora (Twitter client). The link will open the gdoc but within the osfoora client itself which somehow allows you editing of the doc on the iPad. I have provided a short video demonstrating this, just click on the link.

http://bit.ly/czBnZ6

It's laggy, caps stays on unless turned off and there's no option to change a document name nor add images. It's not a work around but a glitch which shows that it is possible and hopefully Google are working on it themselves to bring editing on the iPad and other mobile devices soon.
Kudos to Kevin for his discovery!

References
Image of iPad - http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/profile-ak-snc4/object2/697/108/n115522658476713_3107.jpg


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Responding to GoogleApps Domain Setup Questions

Multi-Domain Support and Managing Multiple Domain Help

Some of the GoogleApps for Education questions that come up involve setting up domains or subdomains. Apparently, if you don't set these up right, it's difficult for students and teachers to collaborate with each other.

This is an issue of Multiple Domains, I think (that means, i don't know for sure). This passage seems relevant:
Education Edition customers can associate multiple Internet domains with their Google Apps accounts, as long as they own the domain names. Each domain remains an independent entity, but Google Apps recognizes that the domains are part of a single organization. For example, each domain has its own set of user accounts, but users can share calendars or documents with users in any domain that is part of the organization. Gmail treats mail between users in different domains as if it were intradomain traffic. You manage all of the domains using the same Google Apps administrator control panel.

Would you happen to know the answers to these questions? Please share your response in the comments! Based on what I've just read, here are the answers I think are correct but don't really know for sure!! (questions in red, my answers in blue, source quotes in black italics).

Disclaimer: My district is NOT involved in a GoogleApps for Education implementation and this is all purely theoretical for me. It's fun, though, to learn new things and explore what the "correct" answer is. That said, take it all with a grain (or shaker!) of salt!

Here are the questions.
We are trying to set up a Google Apps domain for our school district.

We have been struggling with some questions:

1. Do we need different domains for levels of students? or In larger districts what is your expeience with the BEST way to implement domain names, i.e. lsmith@Elem.districtname.org, or lsmith@schoolname.districtname.org? We have several elementary schools, several middle schools, a secondary school and a high school...should they be designated as individual domains...as well as the administration building having it's own domain?

Since you can create 660 domains, why not create a primary domain of "districtname" and then add campus names as subdomains? Consider the following quote from this Google Web Site:
When you associate multiple separate domains with your Google Apps account, you have more flexibility in how you assign usernames. The same username can refer to different users in different domains; for example, mary@subsidiaryA.com and mary@subsidiaryB.com can be different users. (Source: Separate Domain or Domain Alias?)


2. Do we need a separate domain for staff, teachers and administrators so we can archive their email only?

Yes, that separate domain should be the primary domain. Consider this piece of information:

You cannot add additional domains to your account if you activate Postini Services through the Google Apps Control Panel. To use Postini Message Security for an account with multiple domains, you need to manage the Postini product separately.
(Source: Limitations for Multiple Domains)

3. Would all sub-domains 'speak' with each other within the one domain?
Yes, this is my understanding. There are limitations, though. For example, consider these excerpts:

You cannot share Google Docs documents across domains using "Get the link to share".
A user can share a Google Docs document with a user in another domain by clicking Share and inviting the user. However, when a user selects Get the link to share, recipients at other domains cannot use the generated link to access the document. Read more limitations here.

4. Do we have to set up a customized site for each domain and sub-domain?
No, you do not. You can have all sub-domains point to the primary domain.

5. Can student logons be tied to several teachers?
If students and teachers are in the same subdomain, then the accounts can still interact. However, if teachers and students are on separate domains, all the limitations outlined in the response to question #3 apply.


6. Is there anyone we can call directly?
Yes, if you have GoogleApps for Education setup, use the information on this web site to find out who to call.






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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Provide Student Email Passwords to Parents? #googleapps

A colleague recently sent me this question and I've been remiss in not responding sooner:
I am still thinking about this issue of providing our parents with their student's google apps username password.  I would like to provide it for them, but I am struggling with a way to provide it to them.  How would you provide them for your district'sparents (if you would, or do)?

What are your password policies for students?  How do you link different services that require student passwords and manage them?  Who has access to manage them when a student forgets them.

All this is making re-think our entire process for student passwords, and that would be a pretty massive undertaking at this point.

I wondering if it wouldn't just be easier to say: "Contact us and we can reset your child's password and give it to you".  It would be nice to be more proactive than that though.


As I read this, there are several questions which I'm going to summarize below:
  1. How would you provide parents with their students email passwords?
  2. What are your password policies for students?
  3. How do you link different services that require student passwords and manage them?
  4. Who has access to manage them when a student forgets them?
Here are my responses to those questions--including two responses from Google-Certified Teachers--and I welcome feedback from readers who have had to deal with this. I sense that some of the responses to these questions will differ from site to site based on the personnel you have available, their level of expertise in managing various solutions, and how your community approaches privacy.

How would you provide parents with their students email passwords?
If your District has a Parent Portal of some sort, then why not make the default password--the one that when an account is reset, the password is set back to--available from the Parent Portal? Provide parents with the ability to reset their child's password.

If you don't have a Parent Portal type solution, then send a piece of paper home with the student username, password, a variant of the studentID# (sometimes, using the entire ID# is not to be encouraged since it's confidential) and email. Share with parents that they can reset the password by completing an online form where they must provide all the information.

These schools--and I'm not saying their policies are exemplary, don't get me wrong--have some ideas about Student Password reset:

What are your password policies for students?
I'm not exactly sure what is meant by password policies, but the usual stuff that applies to adults applies to students here...really, don't share your password with others. It's a teachable moment, isn't it?

How do you link different services that require student passwords and manage them?
What comes to mind here is Active Directory/LDAP authentication, which is what we use in a large urban school district. You can read about that here. What's neat about LDAP authentication is that you can set Moodle to authenticate users against that, as well as others. How such a system would work with GoogleApps for Education, I'm not sure of. Anyone know?

Who has access to manage them when a student forgets them?
In one large urban district, the classroom teacher has the ability to reset student passwords. In other districts, it might involve a HelpDesk or a system administrator. I would consider a distributed approach--with one or two people at every campus--who could access the student account manager.

OTHER RESPONSES
Realizing that my responses are probably inadequate, I'm going to share two responses (anonymized) from Google-Certified Teachers below. My thanks to them (you know who you are) for sharing what you do in your District:

Response #1
The accounts we give students use their year of graduation and their first name and last name as their username, ie 13JohnDoe for a student graduating in 2013. This is easy because the school can generate a csv file of students and id numbers and I can upload them all as a group.

I suggested to my principal that he let the parents know how the accounts are set up and that he encourage parents to take a look at their child's "digital notebook."

Response #2
I don't know if this is helpful for you, but I encourage students to
let their parents know their passwords, and they use the same password
(or a variation of it) on every site where they have accounts.

They begin with a network password, which is also their Accelerated
Reader password, and their password for the school's SchoolFusion
website.  We assign them a 5-digit number password to use along with
their usernames.  (Usernames are first initial and last name, with a
number appended if needed in the case of duplicates.)

In third grade, the kids get Gaggle.net e-mail and Google Apps.  I use
the same password for both, though Google Apps won't allow the 5-digit
numbers, so we put a lowercase g in front of it.  In fourth grade, I
have them make PBworks accounts, based off their Gaggle e-mail
addresses, and they use the 5-digit number as the password there too.
Near the end of 4th grade, we have them set up Turnitin accounts.
Again, username is their e-mail address, and since Turnitin won't let
us just use 5-digit number passwords, we append a lowercase t to the
beginning of the number.

We recently started using Rosetta Stone with some grade levels, and
their passwords for that are the 5-digit numbers followed by SCM (the
initials of our school name).  In middle school, the kids need a Quia
account to use my Quia quizzes, so they use their usernames with _SCM
appended to the end, and the 5-digit number for the password.

This means that if someone finds out the password for a student, all
heck could break loose.  I use this as incentive to scare kids into
not sharing their passwords.  As soon as someone *might* know their
password, we assign a new one and change it everywhere.  There is
ALWAYS a disciplinary consequence involved for SOMEONE when this
happens, as it's a lot of work for me and a few others on campus.

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MyNotes - Texas Schools Get Bad Finance News





Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_mfhwQnmLl94/STVO4tEUxfI/
AAAAAAAAAtI/MPciPXvdI1w/s400/into+the+hole+ed+stein.bmp


If you had any doubts that Texas education may be facing troubles, be sure to read the complete news article from Abilene Reporter-News, salient points excerpted below.

What are my suggestions for saving money in Texas schools? Here's the short, albeit biased, list:
  1. Implement GoogleApps for Education and dump all the programs you're buying now to get that job done. Give out free copies of OpenOffice/LibreOffice suite to everyone if they feel they need to have something loaded on their computer.
  2. Eliminate expensive software few use to its full extent, such as Microsoft Windows OS and Office, Inspiration/Kidspiration, Adobe Photoshop, expensive drill-n-kill tutorial software
  3. Substitute interactive digital projectors and/or IWB alternatives instead of expensive fixed interactive whiteboardsFollow State of Indiana's lead in using Free, Open Source software on the desktop. Like them, Texans won't notice much change. Put UbuntuLinux on all computers.
  4. Stop buying print textbooks, put it all into eReaders at $149 or less per device. That's cheaper than 1-2 textbooks! And, you can put hundreds of other free ebooks on the devices, too! Give them a copy of the Bible, the Koran, and other literature if you feel so inclined. I'll take Baen Sci-Fi books  
What other suggestions do you have? 

Source: Schools get bad news about finances » Abilene Reporter-News

About 20 superintendents and school officials learned more about the state’s looming $18 billion budget shortfall, redistricting and other challenges ahead for legislators...

Every department in the state was asked to a make 5 percent cut in expenses.

Education and health and human services receive the most state funding — about 40 percent to 45 percent each, she said.

“The funding formulas for the school districts could be looking at a 10 percent cut,” said King, who is on the House Appropriations Committee....

Hochberg said the $18 billion deficit equates to a shortfall statewide of 20 percent from the $92 billion projected annual budget.
“You can’t get 20 percent back without affecting schools,” Hochberg said.
Hochberg had several suggestions on where the state could save money, including having a library of digital content that would be free of charge to every district and student. Also, he suggested cutting back on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing for students who pass year to year....
Anson Superintendent Jay Baccus, who is worried about current finance, said he hopes the district can make it through the year. He said that if the funding is not there, jobs may have to be cut. “I would hate to have to tell a teacher at midyear they had lost their job,” Baccus said.

The Copyright WebQuest

http://www.edsupport.cc/mguhlin/artifacts/consulting/copyright/

Back in 2005, I had the opportunity to develop The Copyright WebQuest. It was a consulting project that earned me significant amount of money at the time and came at the time I was saving funds to buy a house. It also caught me as I was transitioning from one position to another, so I am VERY grateful to the Education Service Center who aimed me in the direction of that consulting project.

Admittedly, The Copyright WebQuest quickly became one of the most popular web sites on copyright back in pre-Web 2.0 days and you can still find descendants (a.k.a. derivative works) online. Eventually though, due to space issues at my hosting provider, I had to take the Copyright WebQuest down. Although I had a backup somewhere, I lost track of the original files and thought they had been lost forever.

Cleaning out old CDs, I was surprised to stumble upon The Copyright WebQuest and have reposted it. Yes, please do feel free to modify it as you see fit and use it (Creative Commons Copyright ShareAlike-NonCommercial-Attribution). If time allows, I will probably go back and modify it to reflect much of the exciting new ideas that popped up since I first created it in 2005.



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Faith and Government - Should they mix? San Antonio 10/16/2010 Event

The Texas Freedom Network is proud to join with the San Antonio Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to sponsor a conference on October 16:

My Faith and My Government:
When Should They Mix?
 ~ Featuring ~
Rev. Barry Lynn, National Director
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Saturday, October 16
1:00 - 8:00 p.m.
TriPoint

(3233 N. St. Mary's -- at US 281)
TFN staff will be on hand to conduct a workshop on religion and public schools, which will include an update on the latest from the State Board of Education.


(Note: TFN members are entitled to the special "Participating Organization" rate of $15.)



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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MyNotes - GoogleApps Facilitates Class Collaboration

The following includes excerpts from Colorado news on schools using GoogleApps for Education. I like the idea of GoogleApps for Education being used for eportfolio solution; allowing any student assignment to become a collaborative one as needed; and the systematic use of something across the District because it's free and available. Systematic use of technology across public school districts is often a pipe dream, and it's rare to see it.


Source: 9NEWS.com | Colorado's Online News Leader | New Internet tools create class collaboration:

In Alison Saylor's technology class, she teaches her students more than just computers. In fact, she says they're learning things that just might revolutionize the classroom....
Saylor is using Google Apps for Education to create a virtual domain for her students. They can use word processors, spread sheets and graphic tools to create projects which are done entirely online.
For example, eighth-grader Alex Brown created his own imaginary company. His project included conceptual graphic designs, a business plan, an architectural layout and a spreadsheet containing a payroll outline for the employees...Google Apps for Education allowed Alex to put this all together in an online portfolio.
"The kids can share with a teacher, the kids can share with another student, or they can share with a small group if they're working together," Brooks said.
"This kind of system is not something we could create on our own," Brooks said.
Saylor says it creates an environment of complete classroom collaboration.
The use of Google Apps for Education is free and it contains no ads.
Brooks says last year more than 32,000 users within the district were active on Google Apps for Education. Jeffco is one of the largest groups nationwide using these internet tools. Now, Brooks is preparing all 85,000 students to start using the tools in every class at every level.
"I just talked to a kindergarten teacher yesterday who's ready to get kids on Google Apps," Brooks said. "The demand is huge and it seems to be meeting a need in this 21st Century learning environment."
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MyNotes - Dead LA Teacher's Profile Still Available Online

The LA Times allows you to search teachers online and see what the graph looks like representing your "effectiveness" as a teacher. It's unbelievable that Rigoberto Ruelas'--who committed suicide--profile is still found in the database. You can see it online here.
"Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, according to a new Economic Policy Institute report, Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers.
Is this what public education has in store for teachers who choose to remain in spite of the politicking going on? In spite of the research that says test scores ARE NOT the final word?

Source: LA teacher who killed himself recalled as caring | Top AP Stories | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle:
SOUTH GATE, Calif. — Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. was considered much more than a fifth-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School — he was a mentor to youth tempted to join gangs and a tireless booster that kids could make it to college.
But after a newspaper published a school district report that ranked Ruelas as a "less effective teacher" based on his students' test scores, colleagues saw him grow despondent.
On Sunday, his body was found at the foot of a remote forest bridge in what appears to be a suicide. Authorities are still investigating, but friends and colleagues suggest he was distraught over the teacher rating...The school was a big part of Ruelas' life. He lived just blocks away and started working there at age 22 as a teacher's aide. Four years later, he became a teacher. Over his 14-year teaching career, he had nearly perfect attendance, the district said. "We need more teachers like him," the district said in a statement.
The motive for Ruelas taking his own life is far from clear. But officials with the United Teachers Los Angeles union said he had been upset since August, when the Los Angeles Times published his district ranking as a "less effective" teacher based on his students' standardized English and math test scores.
Principal Martin Sandoval said many of Ruelas' former students told him they went to college because of his encouragement that they could do it.
"He came out of this community so he was more here than a teacher," Sandoval said. "There's no question he affected many lives."

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Power of Literacy Conference in San Antonio, Texas

The Texas State Reading Association is hosting three regional reading institutes this Fall instead of the annual conference in November.

The Reading Institutes have a full day of general session speakers, keynote speakers, and concurrent break-out sessions that will be second to none in quality for professional development.

Go on line to www.tsra.us to register for the San Antonio regional institute or download the registration form to register by mail or fax.





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MyNotes - Who's That Texting Your Kids in Class 66% of the Time? Parents | Fast Company


Who's That Texting Your Kids in Class 66% of the Time? Parents | Fast Company
BY Austin Carr
Wed Sep 8, 2010

According to a new survey by app developer textPlus, which surveyed more than 600 of its users aged 13 to 17, texting is more rampant than ever in the classroom.

A whopping 42.5% of teens admit to texting during class, and more than half of those say they text sometimes or constantly.

...nearly 80% of students say they've never gotten in trouble for texting during class, suggesting the eyes-down, cell-under-the-desk method is slipping past even your most yard-stick taunting school teachers.

Roughly 74% of students don't believe it's wrong to text during school time, a mindset which permeates not just learning but homework too: About one in three teens admit to using text lingo (e.g. 'u' or '4' or 'imho') in written school assignments. How do we change this? Perhaps we start with the parents:

A shocking 66% of teens report that they've received texts from their parents, even when their parents know they're in class.


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GoogleApps Walkthrough and Observation Forms (Update: Tech Support Forms)

As I highlighted in this blog entry--it's possible to use GoogleApps for Education Forms to conduct walkthroughs and observations. This can save Districts money...right?

In that blog entry I suggested the following:
Imagine a GoogleApps workbook that would allow a form per worksheet. Now, imagine that such a workbook contained worksheets--with accompanying forms--from every principal in a school district, or for every teacher in a school. Since the data was already in one workbook, it would be a simple matter of aggregating results, running summaries with pretty graphs of the data that would represent District needs.

Although I'm not aware if that's possible, others are sharing how they are using GoogleApps for Education Forms to save money while they do something that most campus administrators do every day--observe teachers via walkthroughs.

If you combine the idea of self-grading GoogleForms, you get an entirely different possibility. Check out this tutorial and video (thanks @dmantz7) on how to turn your GoogleForm into an automated assessment/observation/walkthrough/quiz tool!!

Here are some template examples via TICAL and other sources:

Google Form Template: Classroom Walkthrough and Observation Form
Courtesy of Kern Kelly and Fred Johnston,use this form from any computer or PDA with Internet connectivity to evaluate teachers' lessons, pedagogy, and classroom climate. Feel free to modify to fit your district's standards. All data will be recorded in a Google Spreadsheet and a second sheet has been created to quickly printout the results for the teachers and your records. Simply use the "hide column(s)" function in Excel to only show the specific teacher you want a printout for.

Google Form Template: Teacher self-assessment on the National Education Technology Standards (NETS·T)
Survey your teachers to determine how well they perceive their use of technology in the design and implementation of their lessons.

Organize and Chart Student Scores
An Excel template that can be used to enter and analyze student assessment data. For more information on how this template was first developed and used, see Using Technology to Make Sense of Data by Dan Ryder, here on the Portical web site.

Survey Templates Ready to Administer Using Google Forms
These Microsoft Excel files were created to provide you quick access to surveys you can administer in your school or district using Google Forms (a subset of Google Docs). You can either obtain a direct copy of the survey to send to your participants immediately OR you can load the original spreadsheet into Google Docs and create the survey from the spreadsheet.

 And there are more GoogleTemplates online:
  1. Building Level Walkthrough
  2. Classroom-based Assessment for Special Education
  3. Classroom Walkthrough/Observation Tool
  4. ITeachAZ Clinical Snapshot
  5. Observation Checklist Template
  6. Observation Template
  7. Teacher 4 Success Observation Template
  8. Teacher Pre-Observation Survey
  9. Teacher Observation - 5 minute daily walkthrough
  10. Teacher Observation Form
  11.  Walkthrough Observations
Have you shared YOUR campus or District's observation/walkthrough form yet?

Update 09/28/2010: Technology Support Forms
  1. TechSupport and Equipment Form
  2. Technology Request
  3. Technology Services Request
  4. Technology HelpDesk
  5. Technology HelpDesk

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MyNotes - Daily Walkthroughs with GoogleApps and the iPad

Over the last few years, I've had the opportunity to experiment and implement several handheld assessments, including ones for appraisals of teachers and walkthroughs of teachers' classrooms. While I've been generally pleased with the solutions offered, the cost has always presented an implementation problem. It didn't matter if a solution was plain awesome--such as Media-X's eWalk or PDAS assessment tools built to order--or mediocre (no, I won't mention the vendor's name), the fact remains that walkthroughs are critical.

In my own work, there is a clear concern to develop walkthroughs to gather data on how learning is progressing in classrooms across the school district. This data-collection is valuable to the District as a whole, but also to classroom teachers because it's not about appraisal but about reflecting on practice and how instruction is managed in the District. Speaking generally, if more C&I folks saw how their curriculum scope-n-sequences were being implemented in schools, there might be greater purposeful revision...or not.

That said, companies that make a lot of money for walkthrough software--as much as $200 per handheld device per site, which adds up quickly--may find themselves sweating at Chris Lehmann's approach of using GoogleApps for Education, and an iPad (but you really could use anything, right? a netbook would eliminate the technical issues Chris mentions in his "It's not perfect" summation). What we have to consider is that Chris' cobbled together solution doesn't have to be as good as the super-expensive solutions alluded to in this blog post. In fact, the definition of disruptive innovations is that new technologies don't try to replace the high-end solutions offered by long-time providers of those solutions...they just have to be good enough.

Imagine a GoogleApps workbook that would allow a form per worksheet. Now, imagine that such a workbook contained worksheets--with accompanying forms--from every principal in a school district, or for every teacher in a school. Since the data was already in one workbook, it would be a simple matter of aggregating results, running summaries with pretty graphs of the data that would represent District needs.

Is such functionality in GoogleApps' future? I don't doubt it. After all, every time I hear a principal share how much they love GoogleApps for Education, they always mention how they use it for data collection.


Daily Walkthroughs with GoogleApps and the iPad - Practical Theory:

One of the mandates for high school principals in the School District of Philadelphia is to give more frequent written feedback to teachers based on the teaching and learning we see on a daily basis on our walk-throughs. It is one of those mandates that is pretty much indefensible in theory, but the devil, as always, is in the details. For me, the trick is to create a way to give teachers feedback that is useful, as observational and non-judgemental as possible, easy to manage, both for teachers and me, and something that can be more than just sheets of paper that are put into a binder and then forgotten about.

So I am going to be using my iPad and a GoogleForm (and Spreadsheet) to get feedback to teachers quickly and (hopefully) wisely and well.

***

The technical side of things:


* Each teacher has their own spreadsheet that is shared only with me.

* I asked every teacher to set the notifications on the spreadsheet so that they get an email every time a new entry is added.

* I created a GoogleSites page for myself with links to all the teachers at SLA so I can get to the forms easily and quickly.

* I can do it without my bluetooth keyboard, although it's faster with the keyboard. The problem with the keyboard is that carrying the iPad and the keyboard is definitely clunkier.


So, overall, I like how it works so far. I don't think it's perfect. The lack of real integration of GoogleDocs on the iPad has been a pain, and while the form ameliorates that somewhat, it still is a bummer not to be able to easily pull up the actual spreadsheet after filling out the form. I think it creates a more authentic tool that teachers can look back on over time and get feedback.
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hunting Mammoth - Feedback on TA:TEKS Comments

Source: http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/departments/espm/env-hist/espm160/assignments/mammoth/photos/Mammoth_Hunting.jpg


When I first reviewed the revisions (K-2; 3-5; 6-8) to the Technology Applications:Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TA:TEKS), I immediately sent a copy of my favorite revisions to the TA:TEKS teachers I had the good fortune to work with. After all, it's important to keep these changes in mind when looking at the future. It is easy to feel jaded or depressed when considering the course of technology in Texas schools...it continues to be, as Tim points out, an after-thought, something school leaders do when it garners positive press.

Technology is, at best, a caged beast, dangerous to unleash, valuable to possess...not for what it does, but for what it is.

Tim Holt recently shared his opinion quite succinctly:
The TA-TEKS need to be woven into the fabric of the core curricular TEKS, not laid on top like an afterthought.
 He detailed his specific suggestions in a long blog entry about it. From that long entry, the following resonated with me:
The TA-TEKS are separated completely from the rest of the curricular TEKS. The TA-TEKS are not related, except theoretically and through implication in the rest of the core curricular areas.  Teachers and districts are still given an “either/or” choice when it comes to technology because the documents are not interwoven with each other, and how the core curricular TEKS are written. 
Simply, the TA:TEKS are irrelevant to how we approach teaching, learning and leading in Texas K-12 public schools. However, given that they are irrelevant, I'm not sure that fighting for relevance is entirely wise at this time.

Consider the following facts:
  • The State Legislature is facing an $18-$20 billion dollar hole in the budget.
  • The State Technology Allotment--which is what funds technology programs in many school districts, although it is intended to be used to support implementation of the Technology Applications:TEKS in schools--is currently funded through federal stimulus funds. Part of the legislators' job this year will be to determine how to fund the State Technology Allotment, if at all.
  • We already know that the allotment is being diminished.
If we should integrate technology into core curriculum without mandating changes in Curriculum & Instruction Departments, from Superintendent level on down, it's likely that the funding will disappear without any change at all in behavior of C&I Departments.

Let me try to be more blunt. If we integrate technology into core content areas, it will NOT be integrated when it comes time to implement. The reason why is that 1) Most administrators and C&I staff lack the training; 2) The right attitude; 3) The technical comfort level (not proficiency, comfort); 4) The top-down mandate and support required to change their practices.

As Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog) points out in this blog entry on Do We Need National Technology Standards....
My experience is that few districts:
  • Know how they compare to other districts in their technology implementation efforts;
  • Can determine the direction they should be moving to improve technology utilization;
  • Can visualize a technology infrastructure that fully supports learning, teaching and managing. 
When I consider some districts I've worked with, I find they usually die on the third bullet above. In spite of school district's best efforts, even after they collect data (e.g. STaR Chart which is laughable assessment, the LOTI which is better, TAGLIT, etc.), the political will and effort at crafting a strategic technology plan is beyond them. Often, Texas ePlans are lists of objectives of what has gone before (therefore safe to include in a plan) or deceptive documents that fail to address the nitty-gritty work of implementing technology district-wide.

Vision fails because funding is in short supply. And, to be blunt, improving test scores is the FIRST and ONLY priority of schools in Texas. Is it wrong to focus on that goal instead of blending technology into the daily work?

As a veteran instructional technologist, there is much to NOT like in Texas schools' approaches to technology. From drill-n-practice, tutorial software pushed down from above to off-set the perception that teachers can't teach or learn too slowly to the idea that technology can be uniformly sprinkled in schools and magically, scores increase.

Those points aside, I agree with Tim. We shouldn't segregate technologists, technology from the rest of core content. The problem is, I am 100% sure that core content would do it's best to resist, if not throttle, the changes brought about by technology. We are not dealing with reasoning individuals, but the unreasoning fear of change. Why would any core content specialist, sitting on the vaunted high horse of curriculum expertise dictating marching orders to legions of teachers slogging away in the trenches of calcified classrooms, listen to a technologist constrained to tiptoe and whisper in her ear?

Doug Johnson suggests a rubric to measure technology use in schools. Here is a checklist that reflects the expectation of a mandate:
  1. The Superintendent makes technology integration a requirement of employment for all staff, requiring teachers to achieve Level 5 of the Levels of Teaching Innovation (LOTI). That is, using technology to extend learning beyond the classroom walls. Level 5 assumes using technology as a tool to identify and solve real life problems, collaborative uses of technology at a distance, and the apt selection of information management/literacy tools.
  2. Curriculum & Instruction staff--from the top down to the lowliest district specialists--are required to stop crafting curriculum manuals/guides/scope and sequences until they have mastered the use of technology within their content area.
  3. Set aside 30% of local funds to upgrade technology in all schools and ensure ubiquitous access.
  4. Stop hiring outside curriculum consultants (like Willard Daggett, etc.) and inviting them into stoke the flames of fear. Instead, require all staff to institute their own professional learning network.
  5. Statewide testing efforts include technology applications.
I know, 4 simple suggestions. I remember an older colleague's reaction over 10 years ago when a new mandate came out. "You might as well be shoving it down their throats!" He hoped for people to come along willingly, making the change in their character on their own.

Sadly, the change wouldn't have happened in many districts until the requirement was put in place. How do I know this? That's what he and I were told when we visited districts that we served.

There's a lesson in that...if change is to be made, Tim's blog entry suggests that it must be mandated, perhaps as my colleague said, "forced down their throats."

For the majority of behemoth districts ambling along, content to chew their content like mammoths chowing on cud, reform seldom comes as a result of a few hunters armed with spears. . .instead, it comes as a cataclysmic charge off the top of a cliff that lay unperceived, in the opposite direction of goads and taunts.

My reflections on this are probably all wrong. What do you think?

Source: http://www.t-rat.com/images/ArchaeologyOfAz/mammothhuntcartoon.jpg


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure