Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Smartphone or Spyphone?

I must admit that I have drug my feet a bit adopting new smartphones over the years. In all fairness, I am lucky enough to be provided a phone through my employer and for that I am extremely grateful. Our smartphones have allowed myself and staff to answer tech tickets, research issues and contact one another, at any hour of the day. Until recently however, we have used our phones until they can no longer be fixed with electrical tape and super glue, then the spares are used until they turn into dust as well.  Because of this I hung on to my Blackberry(s) for far to long until graduating to an HTC Windows phone about a year ago and most recently a Samsung SIII. With the addition of the iPhone 5C as a choice now, we are finally living closer to what the real world has available to them.

by Mark A. Hicks
One topic that has been coming up recently in conversation with all the media buzz around NSA, security and Skynet conspiracy theories, is app permissions. Each app that I download seems to have additional permissions that seem very invasive. Don't get me wrong, eight out of ten times I am still going to download the app, however I need someone to explain to me why a flashlight app needs permission to take pictures and videos without my confirmation. Another permission that seemed a bit troubling was an app that asks for permission to my messages and asks for the ability to edit, read, receive, monitor and possibly delete my text messages without making me aware of the actions. I'm not concerned yet about Neo having to levitate in on the Nebuchadnezzar and save humankind from intelligent machines, rather where is the line for why an app needs permission for deleting a text that I haven't read yet?

Carry On
I am not going to retire my beloved Android phone because of a few app permissions I think may be stretching a bit, at least Android makes me aware of these permissions. What is a good idea is to take some time and become more familiar with why an app may need the permission it is asking for. I stumbled across "Why Does This Android App Need So Many Permissions?" article on that contains a number of great resources on app permissions, why they are necessary for certain app functions and what to look out for. With close to a million Android apps and over a million apps in the iPhone app store, it is safe to say that we need to be aware of what we are downloading to our pockets. As a bonus, this may be a great opportunity to introduce our younger generation to Arnold and the T1000 in a teachable moment about becoming responsible cyber citizens!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Nominations for the 2013 Edublogs Awards

If this post looks very similar to one by Tracy Watanabe, your are correct. We actually do follow many of the same blogs, so no shame for borrowing from her list. Although my list is not identical, nominating any one blog per category is difficult as there are so many bloggers out there contributing great things everyday!

The purpose of the Edublog Awards, or Eddies, is to raise awareness of educational blogging and social media for learning.

Image Credit: Edublogs
Here are my nominations:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dump Truck Model

Back Up

Models haven't changed much over the years when it comes to implementing technology in our schools. I have by not been perfect by any means, but have learned a few things along the way that I use as guiding questions before making implementation decisions. However often circumstances seem to get in the way and decisions are made that produce large blanket purchases of technology that is hastily thrown into classrooms. We have seen this happen many times and on such a large scale that it gathers negative press when things don't go oh so perfect. My concern with the dump truck model is the negative impact it could have on the smaller roll outs that generally take more effort to set in motion.

Don't get me wrong, there are any number of large roll outs around the world that have been well planned and executed and remain a model for others to follow. It is those scenarios that we need to celebrate and hold up as examples to promote the importance of providing our students the relevant environment they deserve. The recent publicity that LAUSD has received with their billion dollar ipad initiative is one that is too big to fail. Without being involved in such a gigantic project, I can only reserve judgment on why they have had their issues, but it has drawn attention and gives the nay sayers fuel that is unfairly used in other situations. LAUSD will work out their issues and find success, they have to, and it will benefit other educational technology projects in many ways. Many of us do not have the resources that larger districts possess and having a successful model with resources to share is important for success outside of LAUSD.

Take Steps
I did a quick search for "steps for implementing technology" and had a wide range of returns, which included a variety of business world ideas also. One article that held my attention was titled, "Eight steps for implementing a technological overhaul", written by Ken Tysiac and highlighted the work of author and consultant Geoffrey Moore. Although the focus was business, many of his eight points easily cross over to the K-12 environment and I have highlighted a few below that I feel are very relevant to implementing a successful technology implementation.

  • Determine which tools would have the biggest impact on effectiveness in those key moments with clients.
  • Calibrate ambitions with their organization’s technology adoption tendencies, such as whether employees tend to be innovators, pragmatists, or conservatives.
  • Recruit to the effort first those employees who tend to embrace new ideas.
  • Engage with outside help to design and prototype the first new tools for communications and interactions
  • Focus on user experience as the critical acceptance criterion.
  • Get feedback from early adopters to create the case for applying the system to more pragmatic, less enthusiastic adopters.
  • Align the technology to solve a particular issue that causes the pragmatists pain, and do whatever it takes to solve that issue.
  • Once pragmatists are convinced, deploy a global roll-out.

Moore's ideas were addressing a specific need for client employee relationships and did not include the initial employee input on the best tools to address the need, which is something we rely on in the K-12 space, or should. But the idea of recruiting the high flyers that are always willing to embrace new ideas and listening to their feedback is critical.

It is difficult not to take advantage of grants, overrides, large funding sources of any kind when they present themselves. My hope is that the dump truck model is put in perspective and the audience, early adopters, and their feedback is kept in mind before that familiar sound is heard...beep...beep...beep. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Phantom of the Cell Phone?


So we have all heard of phantom vibration where you think your Smartphone is ringing or there is an incoming text, and when you go to check, nothing. Sometimes it is disappointing right, you were expecting your friend to hit you back or waiting for that call from your significant other and it is just your imagination playing tricks on you. I stumbled across a recent article on phantom phone vibrations, thanks Feedly, and was surprised that there are researchers that have actually studied this. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, there is probably a study for just about every behavior known to the human race, but still. I was hooked however, because I have some "ring-xiety" myself and wanted to see how this was going to turn out for me.

Makes Sense
The article quotes a research psychologist who studies how technology affects our minds, Dr. Larry Rosen. Rosen talks about how technology is affecting the way our brain processes information and possible obsessive behavior with our devices and backing away from them may be a way to keep ring-xiety down. I can't help but think of other situations over the years that seem to bring on similar behavior as phantom phone vibration. If you have children, how many of you would wake up multiple times a night thinking the little one was crying, only to find them sleeping soundly. Or sitting on the couch and you think you hear a car pull up in the driveway, walk all the way to the front door to look out and nobody there. Hopefully you have experienced something similar, if not I may need to take a little time off.

Martin Cooper
As time changes and technologies become more prevalent in our lives I am sure our brains will process things differently. Moving from a chalkboard to whiteboard probably caused some dryerase-xiety in the past, just as phantom phone vibrations are making news again now. Dr. Rosen makes a good point about backing away from your devices every now and then. We all know that to much of anything is not a good thing, so take a break once in awhile from that device, it will be there when you get back.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Scan It!

Make It Yourself
I wrote about 3D printing in a post titled "Creative Juices" quite awhile ago, here is a few sentences on my view of 3D printing at the time. "
Another technology device that I am amazed with is the 3D printer. Maybe it is just a shiny object that is distracting to me personally, but it seems like the device has a tremendous amount of potential to be used in schools. What better way to incorporate essential standards into a project based activity and actually be able to build a product, literally have it appear right in front of you." My views on 3D printing have not changed, but I still haven't found a way to procure a 3D printer for my school district, something I need to work on. Since writing about 3D printers almost two years ago, I have seen 3D printers small enough to fit in a backpack. It is amazing how quickly devices improve and become more economical to produce, but it just keeps getting better.


When I saw the recent unveiling of MakerBot's Digitizer,
I kept saying to myself, it just keeps getting better. My

first thought after watching the demo was, now I will be able to wreck my bicycles, come home, pull up the scan of a not so broken part, print it out and back in business. After thinking about it a bit more, the possibility of using a 3D digitized scan of a stock part and then modifying to my own specifications, truly intrigued me, not to mention making this happen in my garage.    

The Movement
It is technologies like 3D printing and digitizers that keep me thinking about our classrooms and how we are to keep up with the pace that industry moves at. I attended an ISTE session this past summer where Gary Stager was presenting, titled, "The Creative Learning Revolution You Can't Afford to Miss". Gary spoke about the maker movement, and focused on three game changers, fabrication, physical computing and programming. Many of his thoughts speak to the answers that we continually ask about preparing students for today's world and that is allowing students to do things that matter through "making". 
Digitizers, 3D printing, and other technology I could only dream of as a kid are becoming a reality due to their affordability and can enhance the learning environment. If we want our students to be critical thinkers, creative, and possess 21st century skills, they will need learning experiences that foster this in the classroom. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Up In The Sky

Have You Heard
Newsflash, the Internet has changed the world! I know, I shouldn't have let that secret out, but think about how quickly we have become a global community and it is truly amazing. For most of us we work, play and communicate daily from our multiple devices, but there are still billions of people that do not have access to the Internet.

In The Sky
By now everyone knows that Google is filling the sky with balloons to bring the Internet to rural and remote areas. If you have 4 minutes, watch how loon works, it is amazing what humans can do when they have the desire to innovate. The project has begun testing in New Zealand and most recently has asked for volunteers in California's Central Valley area to participate in generating traffic. Like all big news makers, there has been some criticism of Google putting the cart before the horse with Loon, but we all know you need a solid infrastructure before adding devices.

Enter Facebook
Recently Facebook has been in the press with their internet everywhere initiative through Zuckerberg's plans are a bit different than Loon, as he imagines bringing the Internet to world through mobile phones. The plan doesn't seem quite as flashy as sending up giant balloons that ride on the edge of space, but having the power of mobile carriers on your team is never a bad thing. My only thought is thinking about driving to my families house in the White Mountains of Arizona. It is difficult enough getting solid 4G service in the town that they live, much less on the ride there. If establishing a reliable cell network in our country isn't easy to do, what will it be like in a third world country?

One Request
I am excited that Facebook and the other corporate giants involved are working to help connect other nations around the world that lack the infrastructure to become part of a global society.'s focus will be on these emerging markets, and I am ok with that as we will all benefit and grow as a world if we are connected. Just one request, don't lose site of the emerging markets that have no access right here in our own rural and less fortunate neighborhoods.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guest Post: How are We Using Technology in Classrooms?

Good People
If you look closely at any successful district, school, or business, you will find that the leader has surrounded themselves with amazing people. Those people are the ones that make things happen on a day to day basis, and without those people, one person alone can not make an organization great.

I am very fortunate to have a great team in place that makes the day to day happen in our district. I learn from them weekly and they make my job an easy one. Among our team members is our district Technology Integration Specialist, Tracy Watanabe. I will always credit her for inspiring me to get in the game and start a blog. I would recommend her blog to any teacher K-12 as she does a great job of breaking down technology integration into easy to understand pieces. I wanted to share one of her recent posts as it is relevant for not only teachers but any educator. You can visit her blog or follow her on twitter. Enjoy!

How are We Using Technology in Classrooms?
Technology has changed how we do things in our daily lives such as shopping, banking, communicating, and it has changed how we should do school.
Photo Credit: Reeding Lessons via Compfight cc

When I was a child, I remember spending so much time going through microfiche to find just the right bit of information to share with the teacher. In those days, finding the right information and recollecting that information was the mark of a good student. 

Today, knowledge and information is at our fingertips. In fact, there is so much information that it's tough to know where to start and what's the best source to use. Therefore, accessing the right information at the right time is more important than just finding information.

Focusing on skills rather than knowledge is a shift in how we do school. It changes what students are taught and how they are taught.

What do these shifts look like in the classroom?

This type of learning is easy to capture because there are artifacts as evidence of learning. I could have gone to any number of AJUSD blogs to look for artifacts, but was able to find a plethora of content to share from Mrs. Hamman's post titled, The End of Another Great Year!

Final thoughts

How we “do school” has changed, and focusing on 21st century learning skills is the shift taking place. We see this shift in the Common Core State Standards, and we see this shift as a necessity to prepare students for college and careers.

Change isn't easy, but it's a necessity. I'm proud of our school district, because we are focused on giving our students 21st century, student-centered classrooms.
  • What shifts do you see in how we "do school"?
  • Change takes time, and progression occurs one step at a time. What goals have you made to take another step forward this school year?
  • What questions or comments do you have regarding this post?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Too Big

Isn't it just crazy how some celebrities work all their lives to become larger than life and then after they get there, things seem to fall apart? It becomes trendy to dislike them at a point, their decision making skills go out the window, they start believing in their own persona, or they relieve themselves in mop buckets and spit on people, allegedly, (sorry Beiber fans). That is when a good publicists steps in and cleans things up. If the situation is completely out of control an entire team will go to work recreating an entirely new image for the person.

It may be a bit of a stretch to compare celebrities to companies, but I can't help but see some similarities at times between the two. They start small and many grow quickly to what seems like a larger than life company that can't do anything wrong. But give it enough time and there will be some backlash or their product lines stay the same for so long that disruptive innovation is not a priority. I am not an expert on Blackberry history, but it seems like a good example of a powerhouse that had to play catch up in a market that quickly passed them by, and it seems like their clientele focus stayed to narrow. I am still a huge fan of Blackberry and their influence on messaging and e-mail use on a mobile device, but their name isn't on my radar when thinking about a new phone.

Microsoft restructure
When Microsoft recently made news with their big restructure plan, I couldn't help but think of the larger than life celebrity that became to big and then starting making questionable decisions. Ballmer seems committed to creating something that is more collaborative and focused, but is the direction a catch up approach or create game changers one, that will put them back on top as an innovative powerhouse. If they decide to keep throwing Hail Mary passes like giving away 10,000 Surface tablets at ISTE this year, I am not sure they are going to reconnect with their audience.

Bring it around
So how does it all apply to the local IT shop? I think it is rather simple, do not become to comfortable with the service you are providing and become something larger than life. When you become complacent and feel there is nothing that you can improve upon, the backlash will begin. Continue to look for ways to innovate and ask your customers for feedback on your service and please, stay away from mop buckets.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Soak It In

It's Over
Isn't it amazing how fast time passes when you are engaged in something you enjoy doing. The ISTE conference is one of those things that always seems to go by a bit to quick for me. It's that one session that you just could not squeeze in, the byod session that you didn't register for early enough, and most importantly that last opportunity to talk with someone from somewhere else. But that is the great thing about making all those connections, they are so engaging and refreshing, that you can't wait to plan for next year's trip.

Not A Commercial
I know that sounded like a paid advertisement for the conference, but that is not my intentions. The point that I am trying to make is very simple, we enjoy taking part in engaging activities. The range of those activities are all over the board at the conference, lectures, panels, byod's, keynotes, poster sessions, the list goes on.

The Magic
So what is the piece that makes all the different varieties of presentation so engaging, wait for it...the presenter(s). The great ones are able to use a variety of ways to engage us and keep us glued to their words, but more importantly, creatively finding ways that allow us to participate, collaborate and create, all within a small window of time. A good presenter quickly makes a connection with the audience, has us involved in communicating with one another and often leaving with something we have created. Hmm, this is sounding very similar to what a teacher does on a daily basis. Maybe start over and replace conference with classroom and presenter with teacher, any similarities? Good teachers, like good presenters, use a variety of approaches to make the magic happen and technology plays a very meaningful part. Take some time and review your ISTE notes, reflect on the experience, and share all the magic with others.

Monday, June 24, 2013

ISTE 2013!

World Stage 
The best way to describe the start to ISTE in San Antonio this year for me is, global. From the moment you arrive at registration,  the global presence is felt. There are thousands in attendance from over 70 countries, almost staggering to think that one conference can bring so many together. ISTE even presented their new logo at the opening keynote, which contains a global flare.

Global Collaboration
To reinforce the global connections that were happening, I attended the Global Collaboration Projects session. This session is a poster session with 30 different booths setup with a small display area. All the projects in this session followed the theme of global collaboration and the highlight is the students that have come to share what they have developed to connect themselves to the world. I met a number of amazing young kids that were so excited to share what their teams have been working on. Yeah, they used technology in their projects to connect with the world, but it wasn't about the technology. It was refreshing to see the shiny gadgets take the back seat as the students described how they developed their ideas, collaborated with others and continue to share their success with the world.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the glitz and glamour at ISTE, with all the corporate involvement, the giant tablet giveaway this year, shiny new gadgets, and free pens being handed out :-). I don't have a problem with it, it is part of the show and must exist. Just try and keep things in perspective and remember the students at the global collaboration session over the shiny object.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Social "Media" Bigfoot

Here are a few questions that I often hear when social media is being discussed that deserve some attention.

  1. What is a social media footprint?
  2. How big should it be?
  3. Why do I care?

The Numbers
From a pure numbers perspective, it seems to make sense that jumping into the social media landscape can be a benefit to the professional growth model. Facebook currently has over a billion active users a month alone, even if you discount that 100 million of those users are pets, objects, or brands, 900 million is alot of humans. Twitter has 554,750,000 active registered twitter users that tweet on average 58 million times a day according to Statistic Brain.  As of January, 2013, Linkedin reached 200 million users, "LinkedIn now counts over 200 million members as part of our network, with representation in more than 200 countries and territories. We serve our members in 19 languages around the world." Google+ is a bit harder to get a true read on numbers, but even if we go with 135 million users actively posting to Google+ Pages, that is no small number.

Why Do I Care
All the numbers above can be dissected, debated and manipulated for company purposes but I see them as an opportunity to connect with others that run in the same professional circle as myself (no pun intended). I care about growing as an individual and bringing new ideas into the workplace and sharing my successes with others, which is easily done through social media.

                                        How Big
The size of your social media footprint depends on your comfort level in this arena. Some can juggle multiple feeds while others feel overwhelmed with more than one. My suggestion is take your time and find what works for you, and use technology to help you organize. There are a number of programs out there that will help you streamline your feeds and better manage the large amount of information coming in and out of your busy day. HootSuite is one that I have found to be very helpful for me and worth a look if interested in managing multiple streams.

Give It A Try
We often hear the saying that you have to get out of the four walls of your classroom or office to see what is happening out there. That is a true statement as we all know that sharing, collaborating and having an open mindset will help us grow as individuals. To grow professionally you have to care, why not use social media as one option to step outside those walls.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Quick Feet

The Future
I have said before that I like change for a number of reasons. Maybe it is because I am not a big story
teller of past experiences or don't spend a lot of time day dreaming about the good old days (there is nothing wrong with that of course). I just personally enjoy looking forward to the new experience, it keeps things fresh and even though it can be a struggle at times, the world we live in waits for no one.

Quite often I hear industrial age model, traditional, slow to change, creatures of habit, as words and phrases commonly used to describe our public school system. Having two elementary age children, I would rather hear the words collaborative, innovative, student centered, challenging, and ready to adapt for each individual student. Those environments do exist in public education and we should hold them up as models for others to see.  The question is how did they get to that place many schools and districts struggle for everyday?

An Agile Staff
When I say agile, I am using the word it in the purest sense:

-quick and well-coordinated in movement
-active: lively
-marked by an ability to think quickly: mentally acute or aware

I am not an English major, so hopefully I am using the word correctly, but I can't dismiss the notion that if a staff is agile and prepared to be quick on their feet, they probably have a mindset that is open to change. The question becomes how do we build in a comfort level with our staff that allows them to be quick on their feet, embrace change, and allow that quick thinking, lively personality to take over?

Supportive Environment
Start by building a supportive environment that fosters collaboration, risk taking, and direct answers that address concerns when they arise. If staff members have support from their leadership and peers, change can become more of an opportunity for improvement and not a scary situation that threatens the comfort of what we know.

Change is inevitable and it is necessary for moving forwarding in any school, department, or business. Embracing the concept is difficult for most because routine is something that is built into us as humans from birth, so maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise. But a supportive environment is also something that most are provided from birth and that allows kids to grow and develop and enjoy new experiences. Maybe we just need to provide that supportive environment at the shop and see what happens.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Give Us Space

Collaborative Space
I have written about classroom space before, Kindergarten Classes Rock, and how much learning takes place in that type of environment. "Kindergarten classrooms are setup in such a way that just screams collaboration and student centered learning!" So when I saw this article about Nvidia's new campus and then 21 Inspirational Collaborative Workspaces, I thought it was very interesting and worth passing along as food for thought. This is a drawing of Nvidia's new campus, they are based in California and have been making graphic cards and other technology since the early 1990's. What jumped out at me is the caption above the picture. "The nature of building Nvidia products requires experts from multiple disciplines to come together, and the building is designed above all for collaboration."

Photo Courtesy of eWeek

On Vacation
I have been to a few buildings outside of the K-12 arena in the greater Phoenix area, that echo collaborative spots as where the real thinking takes place. Pearson and ASU Skysong are two that stand out as having created great collaborative areas for their employees and students. Each location provided simple, yet comfortable spaces, equipped with whiteboards, presentation devices, and areas for small groups to gather. Visiting other places is kind of like going on vacation, you usually don't want to leave and begin trying to convince your spouse that a move would be good for the family. That feeling however should promote reflection on your workspace and more so thoughts on what our classrooms look like. Here are a few companies that may sound familiar and what they have done with collaborative spots.




Real World

I understand that classrooms are not going to turn into the plush spaces like we see at JWT and Google, but we can't dismiss the idea of opening them up and providing ways to allow collaboration. If you noticed in the examples above, there isn't a podium or anything that forces the direction in one particular spot at the front of the room, sound familiar? Maybe we can help show the benefits of these collaborative spaces by picking a few spots around campuses where adults gather and set them up to be more collaborative locations. Subtly making some changes may be the way for others to realize the benefit and be more comfortable with transforming their workspace and classrooms. Here are a few ideas.

-Ask teachers what type of environment best suits collaboration.

-Hang a whiteboard where teachers gather.

-Comfortable furniture.

-Place to plug in device, could be a power strip makes the difference in staying in a group of collaborating teachers or retreating back to classroom.

-Coffee, you've been to Starbucks right?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bye Bye Reader

Retirement Announced
It has been about three weeks since Google announced the retirement of Google Reader on July 1, 2013. Petitions quickly appeared and many supporters have been very vocal about their favorite reader being laid to rest.      

"We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months."

Move On
I can understand being a bit sad that Google Reader is nearing the end of a good run, it has become a home page tab in my browser since 2010. But instead of trying to understand Google’s decision or what significant damage some may think shutting down Google Reader will cause, I am focused on finding a replacement 

The good news is that there are choices and room for new and innovative ideas to come to life. In the world of RSS feed reading services now is the time to let your voice be heard on what you want in the perfect reader, ears are listening.