Monday, December 17, 2012

Device Cornucopia #Chromebooks #iPads #Nexus7 and Labs in Schools

Adapted from
How are Texas schools "set" for conducting computer-based achievement testing (e.g. TestNav from Pearson is the program used to administer STAAR)? Have Texas schools invested the same way that Missouri has, and does such an investment in technology test-readiness equate to preparing students for the future?
A new report shows that a majority of Missouri’s public schools have the technology necessary to conduct computer-based achievement testing set to begin during the 2014-15 school year. Missouri schools reported in a survey that about 95 percent of their computer devices provide the level of technology necessary to handle the testing. “We were pleased to see that most schools in the state have been able to invest in the technology they need to help prepare students for the future,” said Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. Educational Technology
This really raises the question, What future are technology test-ready schools preparing for and is that the future our children need to compete in a global innovation economy? 
It is tragic that we select devices based on vendor "intervention" programs and mandated testing.  Just think of the possibilities if we focused on collaborative instruction and learning. (Source: Susan Smith)
Another point to consider is that as innovation surrounds new technologies like iPads, Google Nexus 7 tablets and Chromebooks, should we be investing in that version of the future focused on creativity, collaboration, or on a future focused on test-readiness?
We should be using technology to help students learn how to think on their own, problem solve, create.  Higher level thinking comes from these components.  That is what makes these web based computers so powerful. You don't have a network drive?  What can you do to get around it?  You don't have PowerPoint (which should almost be banned at this point), find a different multimedia presentation tool.  We can't restrict our choices to what Texas wants us to test.  We have to think outside the box.  We have to open the door and allow our students to think outside the box. (Source: Stacie Boudrie)
Yes, there are lot of questions to ponder. And I've been asking myself these questions, trying to identify how we can "bowl a split," that enviable position of using limited funding to hit two pins in the bowling alley.
"Bowling a Split" - Trying to use limited funding to address testing AND innovative uses of technology.
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For example, would the ideal mix for a Middle School look something like this:
  • Computer Labs: An appropriate ratio of computer labs--with desktop/laptop comptuers setup permanently with wired connections, headphone/mic sets per station--to student population. Ideally, all students on campus could be cycled through a computer lab twice a week if desired.  Software: Windows 7, LibreOffice, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Java.
  • Classrooms: 
    • 1 to 1 Access: Sufficient devices to provide one to one access. This can be accomplished through inexpensive laptops running Linux, Windows, or Mac. It can also be accomplished with class sets (30) WiFi only iPads ($500 per device or $15K per set), Android tablets like the Nexus 7 ($250 per device or $7500), or Chromebook ($250 per device). These devices can also double as testing units for high stakes testing depending on device compatibility with testing vendor (e.g. Pearson's TestNAV).
    • Multimedia Station Access: Provide 3 multimedia video-editing stations per grade level or department team.
  • Virtual Tools:
    • Teacher and student use of web-based virtual classroom and online storage tools appropriate for use in school such as:
      • - Great tool accessible on all platforms, including tablets with file-saving capabilities and GoogleDrive integration.
      • GoogleDrive/GoogleApps for Education - Not only provides access to cross-platform tools, but also storage and creation of ePortfolios using GoogleSites or simple web page hosting now enabled.

What do you think of the configuration above that addresses both tech-test-readiness and Partnership for 21st Century Skills?  I've been pondering the use of Chromebooks in K-12, and although there are many uses, I am leery of using them. 

Here's why:

Last night, I sent a tweet out asking "Does testnav work on chromebooks? How about istation? Think through math?" (iStation and Think Through Math are being deployed state-wide in Texas).

The responses were essentially, "No for iStation, and Yes for Think Through Math." While we may argue about the benefits of these two tutorial programs for students, the fact that they are being pushed by the Texas Education Agency makes them "must-have."  Here are the actual tweets in reverse chronological order:

  505  scout2i@drrios @mguhlin we have been testing this too. The assessment piece on Istation will work on a chromebook but not assignments. · Reply · RT
3 d  209  vscheivert@mguhlin Testnav does not run on a chromebook, unfortunately. No Java support.
  298  drrios@mguhlin Think Through Math works like a charm on Chromebook! · Reply · RT
3 d  298  drrios@mguhlin iStation does not work on Chrome book. Requires installation. · Reply · RT
3 d  794  timholt2007@mguhlin wow, that question sounds familiar… · Reply · RT
3 d  6023  mguhlin: Does testnav work on chromebooks? How about istation? Think through math? ;-) 

A colleague also asked in the ChromeEDU Google+ Community, composed of 268 Chromebook education users:
Has anyone tried to use FastMath, Read 180, System 44, SRI, SMI, or SAM on a Chromebook?
Here are the illuminating responses:

  • Not sure, but I believe the Scholastic applications you refer to require a client installation...the basic premise behind the chromebook is to operate off the web. Before you go any further I'd ask Scholastic/or wait for more input from the group.
  • We are running the scholastic app suite on our chromebooks just fine.  Thankfully ChromeOS runs the latest version of flash, thus Readabout, System 44, etc, run great.  Feel free to contact me if you need some help with the setup. 
  • I believe our district is running read 180 on the chromebooks.

Yes, that's right. Only 3 responses, only one of which appears definite. The only way to test this is to install the software on a Chromebook and see. Is it any wonder that without a definitive answer, schools aren't investing in these devices?
View complete chart online, and update it

To that end, I setup a device chart and invited folks to update takes a list of programs (many of them ones that I see Curriculum Depts using, as well as some Tom Brawley (Texas) contributed) and outlines what devices they will work on. The Device Chart is public on the web and can be edited (it's a GoogleDoc).

For me, that means that the era of computer experimentation is over, in spite of marketing efforts to the contrary. Thin clients (Listen to this podcast re: TestNav on Linux thin clients), Chromebooks (Read Chromebooks for Assessments), netbooks running Linux/Windows with too small screens and processors that just don't cut it. To implement state-run programs and assessments, you need technology you can rely on--desktop computers or laptops. Although Pearson is working with Apple on a client for the iPad, that's not been rolled out as far as I know for mass deployment.

For labs, you still need desktop computers/laptops. You can't get away from this given the top-down software being encouraged by the TEA initiative.

For one-to-one or BYOD supplements not intended for testing, you can use whatever low cost flavor you want, including Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, Linux-based netbooks since work can be saved in the cloud.

The problem with such a setup is that, while flexible, it can be expensive. iPads aren't inexpensive solutions...once you factor in an iOS SyncStation per classroom, app purchasing budget, you're talking $22K per classroom. Compare that with a $400 laptop/netbook running Linux...that's $12,000 per classroom with no additional software investment that has full cloud access, a hard drive, etc. Even a Windows laptop at the same price ends up being less expensive, even after you add $200 for critical software ($18,000 total). 

But the real test, pun intended, is whether we should be investing limited funds in 1 to 1 or BYOD supplemental tech when our budgets are being slashed. It just doesn't add up financially, and instructionally, when children are doing poorly in academics, "engagement" doesn't seem a powerful enough motivator to reform the school system. What happens when teachers fail to use the technology--any tech--in the classroom to achieve transformative levels of SAMR? And, we also have to consider failed teaching strategies that lack differentiation, authentic assessment, cooperative learning, active learning. 

Introducing technology into those classrooms seems a waste of funding as well, given that technology's shelf-life is relatively short. I can walk into a writing/reading workshop classroom and see awesome learning happening that requires no technology. Yet, if that approach isn't replicated, will others use that approach with technology when it requires more work and effort?

Just some thoughts that have been percolating. What do YOU think?

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

1 comment:

Ted Jongbloed said...

I would hope that legislators (or administrators) don't look at the Missouri press release "Missouri’s public schools have the technology necessary to conduct computer-based achievement testing" and jump to the conclusion that Texas is dragging its feet. Missouri has but two High School level Tests, 11th Grade English, and 11th Grade Math. For Texas EOC exams to be online the technology requirements jump astronomically. When you look at the resources needed to do 100% online testing for HS EOC test you immediately run into a through put problem. You can have the entire student body take a paper English EOC test (9 through 12) at the same time, but to take an online test, you need days to run all the students through the computer labs or you need some sort of one-to-one initiative.

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