Sunday, September 26, 2010

Since When Did Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Become an Education Expert?

These are really bizarre times we live in. We are asking software makers, talk show hosts, and even the “snot-nosed kid” founder of Facebook for advice on how to reform the education system in this country. What could these people possibly know about education in this country? Our society is quickly turning into one in which “he who has the most money, is the holder of all truth.” Why does their opinion in matters regarding education even matter? This post about Mark Zuckerberg’s comments about education show his ignorance and lack of understanding about education. He just spouts the corporate party line that all the other corporate CEOs are saying. Since when did we elevate corporate CEOs to the status of prophets of effective education? Was it not the greedy practices of many of these same people who have put us in our current economic depression? Here’s what I suggest for our CEO-Education Prophets:

  • Spend two or three weeks in many public schools. You are not going to really get to know the problems of the school with your drive-by visits.
  • Since you are so knowledgeable, maybe you can actually teach some classes for your two or three week visit. There’s nothing like getting down in the classroom trenches and facing what teachers face every single day.
  • Let us pre-test your students at the beginning of your visit, and then re-test them at the end to determine your value-added measures.

It is honestly beginning to look like our media thinks CEOs of corporations know more about education than those of us who have spent years in the schools. The problem is, many of our CEOs led us into this economic mess we’re in. Do we trust them with the children of our country?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Obama Administration’s $442 Million Dollar Investment in Pipe Dreams

I used to feel like Velma Hart, who at President Obama’s town meeting the other day, stated to the President, “I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.” (See Video Here.) While she was expressing her frustration about the economy, I once felt the same way regarding the Obama administration and its education policy.

Today, President Obama’s Department of Education pushed ahead with providing grants of $442 million for merit pay programs, even after the much publicized study by Vanderbilt University has shown that a bonus-pay system had no overall impact on student achievement. I understand the need to experiment with different combinations of merit pay and other incentives. Who knows, there might be something that will work. But a half-billion dollar experiment in an economy that has been tanked for months, and with all the screaming about the deficit, it just seems at one-level indefensible, and at another level just plain politically dumb. If I were a Republican right now, I would have the biggest grin on my face, because the Obama administration has just painted another big, massive target on its own back. I would be screaming as loud as I could at this administration’s frivolous spending of tax payer money. Well, I know, they are already doing it. But does President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan have to make it so easy? Spending a half-billion dollars on any kind of merit pay program in these times is indefensible.

The reality is, I have moved beyond the exhaustion and frustration that Velma Hart feels. I have long since moved to resignation when it comes to President Obama’s education policy. As long as Arne Duncan remains the Secretary of Education, we’re going to continue to see the same misguided education policy. Secretary Duncan is a politician, but does not have the mind of a educator. For that we can expect the same education policy that we have seen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

8 Things to Consider When Considering Wireless Access for Your Students

This past week, our school district looked closely at the idea of allowing our school to experiment with opening our wireless network so that students can access the Internet with their personal laptops. Naturally, there is a great deal of uncertainty and fear when school systems and administrators decide to let go of some control of technological resources. But the reality is, and most of us realized this, with the continued proliferation of 3G phones and portable wireless hotspots, we are really losing the battle for control anyway. Our discussion focused on moving from trying to control technology to guiding our students to be proper digital citizens and consumer of technological resources.

In preparation of that meeting, I tried to think about all the issues and concerns administrators and our technology department might have about opening up our wireless network so that students can access with their personal devices. Here’s the list I came up with.

  • Classroom Problems Such as Off-Task Behaviors and Class Disruptions
  • Security of Personal Property
  • Threats to the Network by Malware and Viruses
  • Students and Staff Accessing Inappropriate Content
  • Students Using the Devices in Inappropriate Ways
    • Transmission or Creation of Unacceptable Content
    • Posting or Making Personal Information on Web
    • Cyberbullying
    • Plagiarism and Copyright Violations
    • Using Devices to Engage in Academic Dishonesty
    • Downloading and Using Illegal Software
  • Network Threats Such as Hacking or Unauthorized Access
  • Maintenance and Support of Personal Devices
  • Search and Seizure Issues

Each and everyone of these is a legitimate concern, but it is amazing how many of these concerns melt away upon closer examination, and with the realization that by actually opening network access to students, we have an excellent opportunity to both lower our technology costs and really take seriously the job of making our students better digital citizens.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Diigo: Still the Bookmarking Tool of Choice for Educators

The other day I read a post that pointed out that Diigo was going to a pay-to-use model. This post accused Diigo of following in Ning’s footsteps who suddenly went from free to pay accounts. I was not that affected by what Ning did, because I was a rare user of that product. I just became a non-user, at least until someone can convince that I need to pay for their product. In the end, it turns out the post was wrong, and my Tweet of that post was wrong. Diigo is remaining mostly free to educator users. It turns out, the tools that I currently use are to remain free as well. Diigo has been extremely receptive to feedback as evidenced by their blog and by their attempts to keep educator users.

Several other bloggers rightfully pointed out that Diigo must look for a means to make money. I do not begrudge them that. In fact, I will continue to use their product, because they have developed an excellent product to collect and gather information from the web. If their product improvements are enticing enough, then I will even consider the premium, but not before they offer compatibility for my browser of choice Chrome.

Thank you Diigo for your product, and for demonstrating an amazing responsiveness to your users. You will win many more users and even premium users due to your user-oriented focus.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

3 More Android Apps for the 21st Century Administrator

Since purchasing my Droid 2 phone a week ago, I have continued to experiment with the device and several applications. I am amazed at what is available. Here’s some more  applications that I would recommend to administrators who have an Android phone.

Power Note

Diigo is a powerful tool that allows users to basically collect information. What I quickly discovered after using my Droid for a while, was that I would read my email, and discover in that email a recommended web site link. Since I use Diigo heavily to collect items of interest from the web, I thought it would be great to have an app on my Android phone that would allow me to quickly bookmark these sites for later reading. I searched the “Marketplace” and discovered Power Note. This app has so far proven its effectiveness. I can add text notes, bookmarks, and other items as needed to my Diigo library. This is a must download for users of Diigo. For more information on Power Note, check here.


For any heavy MS Office user, Quickoffice is a must have. It allows users to create, edit, and view Office documents. Since many of my administrative files are either MS Word, MS Excel, or MS Powerpoint, this tool is invaluable. Add my Dropbox tool to this particular application and I have instant access to any of my working administrative files. For more information about Quickoffice check here.

Barcode Scanner

I really didn’t think I would have a reason to use this particular app, but I downloaded it to experiment just a bit. I scanned the bar code on a book that I had lying around, and instantly the information of that book appeared on my Droid screen. It provided me with basic information about the book. A Google books page appeared with a rating of the book, synopsis, related books, information about the author and bibliographic information. This tool provided me with a great deal of information by simply scanning the book’s bar code. This is another one of those have-to-download apps for further experimentation. For more information on Barcode Scanner, check here.

Gimmicks aside, these three apps have already shown their promise to me as an administrator. The Power Note program allows me to extend my ability to bookmark, annotate, and share information I have discovered, even when I am not in close proximity to my lap top or desktop. Quickoffice extends my ability to read the many Office documents I generate in the course of my day. This app also allows me to generate those documents as well. Finally, the Barcode Scanner allows me to use the barcodes found on many items to search for relevant information about those items. In my tests with books, it shows real promise. These are the next three downloads for your Droid phone if you have not done so.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is the True Agenda of Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama to De-Professionalize Teaching?

There’s no doubt that Secretary Duncan and President Obama have seized the opportunity to demonize teacher unions as the villains who have been the true opponents to education reform and promoters of the status quo. While Secretary Duncan and President Obama have used laudatory language to suggest they embrace teachers, there have been times when their actions and words seem to suggest a darker agenda. When both President Obama and Secretary Duncan applauded the firings in Rhode Island, and in doing so, they appeared to be callous to the struggles teachers face in schools each day. More recently, Secretary Duncan’s praise of the LA Times publishing of teacher names tied to test scores seems to suggest a total lack of compassion for teachers. He can take all the bus tours he wants, but he has no idea what it is like to teach in a public school. It is his uncanny ability to say things at the wrong time or in the wrong way that make him look phony to many educators. He does not just make teachers who belong to unions angry. He makes those of us who do not belong to unions angry too. Perhaps the Obama administration and Secretary Duncan do want to “de-professionalize” teacher unions as the Democracy Now video below states. Their willingness to put school reform in terms of you are either with us or against education reform is a dirty tactic by itself. Perhaps that to is part of their agenda to “de-professionalize” the teaching profession.

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Top 6 Android Apps for the Droid Using 21st Century Administrator

image[4]I have had my Droid 2 for a week now, and I suppose you might call me a true “Droid head” now. I hardly remember my previous phone. It think it was called a Palm or something like that. This phone has lived up to the promises I found on the web before I purchased it. It has been easy to learn how to use, and best of all,  I like the access to loads of free apps. In one weeks time, I have already have my favorite apps, and I am exploring others each day. As of today, here are the top six apps I have found useful in my day-to-day tasks as an administrator. I also threw in some of the other apps I have found fascinating.

1- Twidroyd: This Twitter Android client was recommended by many Android users both on the web and off. It is an excellent Twitter client, not prone to the lock-ups and crashes I encountered with my Palm twitter clients. It does everything I am able and want to do with Tweetdeck. I started with the free version, but finally couldn’t resist. I upgraded to Twidroyd Pro. I tried the Seesmic client and the Twitter client, but Twidroyd was the one that worked without a hitch. For more information, check out their web site. (

2-Dropbox: Dropbox has become a PC favorite for me as well. Now that I have the Dropbox app on my Droid 2, it just gives an additional avenue to access those files that are part of my everyday experience as a school administrator. Dropbox is quickly becoming one of those apps I can’t live without any more. For more information about the Dropbox app, check out the Dropbox blog. (

3-Evernote: The Android Evernote app proved its functionality to me the other day during a principal’s meeting. During one particular point of the meeting, I needed to take notes about some upcoming projects. I opened Evernote on my Droid 2 and just typed my notes there. Because of my Evernote account, I now automatically have those notes on both of my laptops. Adding photos and other kinds of media is a snap. For more information about the Evernote Android app, check out this site. (

4-Google Talk: Since our school system converted to Google Apps this past summer, this application has increasingly become an indispensible part of my daily use with my laptop. Now that I have a Droid 2 phone, I have added that instant messaging ability to wherever I might be during the school day. For example. recently a teacher needed to ask me a simple question during my meeting, and she needed the answer quicker than email could provide, but did not want to interrupt my meeting. She sent the question through Google Talk, and I was immediately able to respond without leaving the meeting. Here’s a review of interest on Google Talk for Android. (

5-Google Calendar: Again, because our school system is using Google Apps, this Android app is just another natural extension. I now have access to my Google Calendar on my Droid. I can perform the same functions that I can with my web access. For more information on Google Calendar App for Adroid, check out the Google Mobile web site. (

6-GTasks: With this app, I have access to my Task List in Google Apps. I have been using the Task Manager native to the Google Apps for some time. Now I can access that To-Do List from anywhere. Here’s a  Lifehacker review of GTasks. (

Honorable Mention Fun Apps

These apps did not make my current “Most Useful Android Apps” list for administrators, but they are interesting and I have found them interesting and entertaining.

Pandora: App provides access to Pandora music web site.

Grooveshark: App that provides access to the Grooveshark web site.

Facebook: Were I a more heavy user of Facebook, this would be higher on the list.

Google Sky Map: Point your Droid to the sky and obtain a map of constellations, planets and stars found in that region of the sky. The amateur astronomer in my found this one fascinating.

After one week, it is becoming harder to remember what life was like Pre-Droid. This past week has been a week of fascination and discovery. One big observation: the Droid can make my life easier as an administrator.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Advocating for 21st Century Learning Tools: Getting Rid of Textbooks

There are number of reasons for schools to get out of the textbook purchasing business. Besides the fact that they are sometimes used unwisely as the sole tool for classroom instruction, there’s also the skyrocketing costs for purchasing textbooks as well. I had honestly hoped that textbook companies would begin to follow what general book publishers are doing: offering e-book versions at almost half the price (or less) of the physical textbook. Honestly, I have not looked too closely, but I looked at what Prentice Hall charges for their e-books versus the physical textbook, and they are still charging almost three-fourths of the cost of a regular textbook for an e-book. I think it’s time that schools begin looking for alternatives to traditional textbooks rather than continuing to pour our scarce funding into books that will be outdated in a few years anyway and only be good as doorstops and dust-collectors. The time has come for the development of both Open Source textbooks and teaching materials, and for low cost, web-based text and instructional resources. With the passage of time, there will be more and more sources of textbook alternatives available to use as instructional tools. We need to avoid purchasing any more textbooks and take advantage of the free and inexpensive resources available on line.

Here’s a list of links to some Open Source and Free text sources that teachers might find as a starting point for instructional resources.

A First Course in Linear Algebra

Wired Story About Open Source College Texts

Wikibooks (Open Source Books)

Community College Open Textbook Collaborative

Connexions (Open Source Content)


Textbook Revolution


Online Math and Science Textbooks from University of Colorado

This list is certainly not definitive. There are a number of resources for online texts and learning materials. Our schools should not purchase another single textbook. Instead let’s use our money to buy 21st century, relevant teaching tools.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Cell Phones: Ban Misuse Not the Devices-An Administrative A-ha

All through my years as a student in the public education system, and my years as an educator, I have seen many times what I would call the “Ban the device” management approach to problems caused by new technologies. I am telling my true age here, but when I started teaching in the Before Cell Phones era or BCP, administration banned pagers. Many of my students at the time sported pagers, and I can recall a few times when that beeping sound would emanate from some student’s backpack, and due to policy, I would have to confiscate that pager and turn it in at the office. Like cell phones are now, many of students had pagers stuffed in their pockets, purses, or backpacks. Once when I asked why they had a pager, most responded with pretty much the same answer our students give today for cell phones. “I like being in-touch with my parents, family, and friends.” Some of the rationale for banning pagers carried over to the cell phone era. I can remember one principal saying that pagers are banned because drug dealers use them. I’m sure that was true with some students, but I was uncomfortable then and I am just as uncomfortable now with that rationale because banning devices because they can misused can ignore the positive uses of such devices.

This morning I came across an article from The Daily American in Somerset, Pennsylvania that described the debate occurring with their school board over cell phone policy. Everywhere, school systems are struggling with the question of what to do with these devices. In this particular instance a network administrator did a safety presentation that outlines all the bad things such sexting and cyberbullying that can happen with the use of cell phones. This is common in many places. Many times administrators hear the horror stories and take the “It’s-not-gonna-happen-on-my-watch approach” and ban cell phones entirely based on how they can be used negatively.

In this case, it took a forward-looking board member to remind everyone of a simple fact: “You don’t ban the devices, you ban the behavior.” This board member summed up simply how administrators need to approach cell phone use. Don’t ban the device because students can misuse it. Focus instead on its positive uses, teach students appropriate and positive uses, and deal with cell phone misbehavior, not as a technology problem, but as a behavior problem. As I see it, we administrators have a choice. Choice A: Embrace cell phones as a natural part of like now and teach students how and when to use them appropriately, or Choice B: Continue an exercise in herding cats that will never do anything but consume our time.

Here’s the Daily American Article if you want to read it. (Internet Access Further Complicates Cell Phone Policy)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Teacher Welcomes Texting in Classroom: 21st Century Administrators Need to Welcome Teacher Experimentation

I came across the video below from ABC News regarding a teacher who is using texting in classroom. She is obviously using texting as a part of her lesson as a backchanneling method. I am not surprised at this teacher’s decision to welcome texting. I applaud loudly and clearly her efforts to try to use the technology to bring about classroom innovation and student engagement. We need more teachers exploring the edges of innovation. I support open and experimental uses of all technologies in the classroom. This video captures student reactions very well. Teachers who are willing to experiment with new technologies keep their students slightly off-balance, so that they do not always know what to expect in teaching. Administrators must be willing to support teachers as they stretch their experimentation with technology.