Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday App Card

Each year, we try to produce something to share the holiday spirit with our staff. This year, we asked our superintendents, directors and principals to participate.

Designed in Pages, each person contributed their favorite app, website or just plain tech tool.

Then we made the links active to the iTunes apps or websites. Export as a PDF and voila!

KISD Holiday Wishes 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Executing a Better Meeting

There are three books that have really changed me this past year. Three major influences that have undone my method for engaging people in group settings. The posts on this blog and conversations I engage in now are completely due to the literature I have been reading that is helping shape me better to be an agent of change. 

And I direct anyone who has to lead, participate in, or attend many MEETINGS to consider changing that  fundamental task into something more than it has ever been for you. 

Good meetings should not be events. Every meeting should be a GOOD MEETING. 

Try changing yours up!

I purely picked this book up one day based on the title and cover. I was engaged from the starting question asking "who taught you how to run a meeting?". I then discovered that the fundamental activity of meeting people in grouped spaces was a skill I never honed. 

When it comes to teaching people about collaboration online and using innovative technology in education, I have found that I get more response to understanding this when collaboration is done in person first. 

People need to see what collaboration is like in a real space first. When this happens regularly, then the introduction of online tools to enhance real space collaboration work SO MUCH better. 

2. Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo

This book was the first I read in my evolution. I suggest it as a second book after Petz's. This is the guidebook for changing how you run collaborative and innovative meeting spaces. The book has great ideas for "low-tech" collaboration and 2/3s of the book contains actual activities explained not only how to do them but what type of results one can expect from them. 

Their blog has up to date ideas and reflective comments from those who are putting Gamestorms into practice. And now, there is an App for referencing Gamestorms on the go. 

3. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

This book is helping me open the partnership up between my colleagues to allow those I work around to become the leaders and decision-makers for innovation. A multiplier is someone who increases the intelligence of those in the room by letting them make intelligent choices and contribute out-of-the-box ideas and discussions. 

This is the concept of the facilitator vs. sage on the stage in education, but applied to those of us in leadership roles. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Shopping!

Tis the season!

The season when people call, email, text or stop by because they want to know "what computer do you recommend we buy for _____?".

This is really a difficult question for me to answer. Being the Chief Technology Officer, I cannot recommend ONE product over any other. I don't have secret deals. I don't know what store has the best discount. I don't have special coupon codes. I don't know which computer is going to be the best for what you or your kid needs.

I can only point you to places to help you find the best deal for what you want.

Seriously, this is THE list of places to go to shop for the best deals. This is where I go to shop for the deals I get for my family and friends.

First - learn smart. 

In 2009, I published this holiday shopping guide for the teachers and staff I work with. It is online and available still to help explain what to look for when purchasing a computer whether it is a laptop or netbook.

Second - shop smart.

CNET is awesome. CNET is like a shopping guide and consumer reports rolled into one. CNET evaluates all technology products. And for holidays, they have a directory to help you find products of interest to you. They can help you find a list of products based on exactly what you need.

Finally - price smart.

As for pricing, I suggest you look to Amazon or use a search tool like Google Shopping or Bing Shopping to find price ranges for what you want.

One last recommendation:
Find an actual store that sells the device you are looking at spending your money to purchase. Drive yourself and/or the person you are buying this for to the actual store and get your hands on the device. Hold it, weigh it, check to see that the keyboard is a size you like, etc. Gadgets are expensive. So just like any other investment, you need to get your hands on it to see if it is what you want before you spend your money.

Anyone have any shopping recommendations to add? Please add in the comments below! I am sure some of you know good ideas and tips to share.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rethinking Classroom Design

I am huge into design and learning spaces. Last year while giving a standardized test, I spent my time walking around the room checking on the kids and also redesigning the room in my mind. If I were teaching in the room, how different would it look?

The answer is usually that the room would look completely different and that I would be broke and have an angry Maintenance Director upset that I didn't get approval first. That statement defines the learning spaces I taught in when I worked in classrooms.

So it is thrilling for me to see videos about not only classroom furniture design, but designs made by kids who will use those designs.

This comes from NBC News Education Nation 2011 blog "The Learning Curve" and today's post on Rethinking Classroom Furniture.

There are three videos toward the bottom of the page that I linked to above on Classroom Furniture. One is on the chair kids use. One is on the desk kids use. And one is on the locker space kids use. 

Who wouldn't want this furniture? Does this type of furniture make sense for kids?

And if you were to invite kids to redesign their learning spaces, what types of comments would you get about their current furniture? Leg pains? Back pains? 

For years I have sought to petition TLC or Discovery to bring back the Trading Spaces show and to create a spin-off or special edition called "Classroom Edition". Let's bring back simple design tips that can be replicated in schools by top designers!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Summer Staff Development....Development

I know it is November but my mind is already planning Summer Staff Development. I am already in June and working out some fresh ideas for planning summer staff development.

I am being influenced by outside resources that are sparking innovative learning ideas to share this summer. I started reading Marc Prensky's book Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning and the ideas are connecting gaps I feel I have left out of the past few years of staff development. I haven't been doing integrated technology training. I have only been showing tools and leaving the guesswork up to teachers to figure out what to do with those tools.

I apologize for this error. And the frustrating thing is that I know better than to do this. So I am unlearning and now learning to develop integration training strategies for teachers.

Gone are the days of staff development focused on only one tool or one resource. Now we are looking to hone in on changing the entire structure of classroom instruction to make it relevant and interactive.

We are going to look to create the types of learning partnerships established in Prensky's book as well as in all true personal learning network research that are successful for establishing trusted cooperative learning environments.

So here are a few titles in development for this summer. This is on-going and we hope to have a variety of trainings for every type of teacher in the district. Below is a draft list of topics we are developing. I would appreciate input into developing more topics and ideas!

  • Exploring Setting in the Worlds We Only Read About
  • Community Service Learning Projects
  • Preserving Elder Voice
  • Flipping Out: The Flipped Classroom
  • Mobile Math Wizards
  • Partnered Learning Method
  • Evaluating Student Work
  • Asking Better Questions
  • Harnessing Search on the Web
There is also a topic near and dear to my heart that isn't so much for teachers but for anyone who engages in providing staff development. I believe we as a district need to develop standards for organized meetings and engaged staff development. We need to look into ways to rotate from the "sit and get" style of 1 speaker talking down to the audience.

We need to stop ignoring the intelligence of the room and capitalize on it by encouraging collaboration and partnering with our own staff. So there will be staff development on staff development as well!

Please let me know other ideas or concepts you would be interested in either learning or sharing. This is the time to start considering sharing ideas and developing our summer offerings! Thanks for any input!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Everyone's Got One

Remember when our Texas Education Agency announced Epsilen's Project Share as the unifying bridge to connect teachers across the state together in a collaborative system? This was to connect us not only to learn updates and news about TEKS and new standardized testing procedures, but a real collaborative showcase of best practice in the classroom.

It didn't live up to its promise as concerns about ownership and long-term initiative success for this type of implementation caused many of us to keep away. In its fourth year now, we are just now starting to see the content that was supposed to be available in year one.

But Project Share was initially conceived as the one online tool that was going to unite districts together. It was to be the state's portal for professional development and developing professional learning communities. It was also going to connect us to rich media content to create eCourses for students to access as a replacement to the TxVSN system.

And now we are fractured and will continue to fracture out as many of our vendors are now developing their own PLN portals. TEA supports Project Share. TCEA supports TIME from TIME is the portal where teachers can connect to their digital subscriptions based on the learning objectives matched to corresponding media. Along with the SKY system in Learning's web tools, teachers can create, share and manage content for complete lessons online.

Is this a good place to mention TCEA's goal?: "Our goal is to become the dominant force for technology in education."

Don't forget the  ESC Regional Service Centers are selling eduphoria! Suite which is about to release the Forethought Community and StudentObjects systems. These two additions will allow eduphoria! users to be able to share online courses and manage student learning online. Districts can toggle if they want to share their courses with other districts in Community. They can even manage fees for courses offered to other districts.

Several of the online SIS (student information systems) are now offering spaces for teachers to collaborate online and integrate with student accounts to share calendars. They can communicate with the students, share notes and even create course content inside the actual gradebook systems.

And Google has partnered with Pearson for HigherEd to create a system called OpenClass which is also an LMS system. So now Pearson resources will work inside an LMS that works inside of Google Apps for Education. Course content can be shared among teachers collaboratively as well as incorporate the vast Pearson resources (you pay for) and the Google/YouTube empire. I bet this opens up to K12 soon!

Like I said in the title of this post: "Everyone's Got One" and everyone's choosing sides. TEA supports Project Share. TCEA supports TIME. The Service Centers seem to dig eduphoria!. Districts are using Moodle, Joomla, Druple and whatever else they wish.

And when everyone's got one, we have many and not ONE. We aren't collaborating anymore. We aren't sharing. We are fracturing more. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Question for Classroom Teachers

I started reading a new book today and I plan to discuss some of the things I am reading in it later. But the book starts off with a question that I want to ask our teachers now. I am curious to know what their answers will be.

What works in the classroom today?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Piloting iPad Mirroring

This image bothers me. We have invested a lot of money into SMART Boards in our classrooms. The teachers like using them. The kids like seeing what is projected and interacted with on the screens. We are still adding these boards as we can for teachers who are using them.

We have iPads rolling out at campuses and they are taking off like wildfire as well. But the biggest question we get about them is "how do I project my iPad up to the screen?".

We haven't had a good answer to connect an iPad to a screen because of cording. A ceiling-mounted projector makes it difficult to connect the Apple VGA cord up to and the cord is only 3-foot in length. It immobilizes the instructor. We sort of do it with a document camera but the video isn't always high definition and lighting is difficult.

We looked at pico projectors but then you may have 2 projectors in a room and that seems very wasteful.

But some educators are finding some ways to make iPads work on a projector that is ceiling-mounted using an AppleTV to connect wirelessly. AppleTV has an application for iPad2 and iPhones that lets you broadcast to an AppleTV box using an app called AirPlay. The box then broadcasts to a TV or projector.

There are some costs because AppleTV only broadcasts out in HDMI format so you have to buy a conversion box to change the signal to VGA which is the plug our projectors use.

So rather than bemoan how technology changes so much and how hard it is to keep up, I want to report that we have ordered these components and we are going to test them out in multiple locations. We want to see how to mirror an iPad in a classroom to see how this really works. We also want to see how this could work in meeting spaces as an alternative to funding adding SMART Boards to non-instruction rooms.

In other words, we have started a pilot program. We call this Operation Mirrorball. More details to come as we only ordered all cording today. Let me know what you think of this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Google Docs Updated!

It has been a frustrating week here with email up and down. I was planning to post about that turmoil but decided that it is too depressing to write about. I didn't have a positive thing to say and I don't want this place to be about griping. So I decided to post about something just announced from Google!

For years, we have been talking about and using Google Docs with the presentation tool for making online "Powerpoint" presentations. But the templates have started getting old and the lack of animation/transitions made it something people just weren't thrilled with.

This week, Google updated their Docs system with a bunch of really cool features including the ability to add animations and transitions. They also have more contemporary templates to choose from. 

There are new features for sharing with collaborators including the ability to have someone comment without having the ability to edit. I also appreciate that they changed their system to work with readers for visually impaired visitors. 

Here is a list of all the Google upgrades to Docs.

If you want to be using Google Docs more, use our online training site as a step-stone. Also, contact Joel and access the Google Apps for Education account he already has setup for you or try it yourself by entering your morning login and password to access your account!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

TEC-SIG and State of KISD address

I am writing this from my hotel room in Austin, Texas. Today and tomorrow are the TCEA's TEC-SIG Fall Meeting and since I am the President of this group, I have been putting these days together over the past few weeks.

TCEA is the Texas Computer Education Association and it is the largest state organization for technology in education. TEC-SIG is one of several Special Interest Groups (SIGs) under the umbrella of TCEA. Our function is aimed more toward technology coordinators, instructional technology leaders and other administrators to advocate for instructional technology in legislation and the TEA. 

Last year I was voted in as Vice-President where I served a year before moving into President. Next year, I will be simply "Past President".

Each year, our SIG puts on 3 meetings where we have breakouts, sometimes a keynote speaker, updates from within our SIG groups, updates from TCEA and updates from TEA. We have a 2-day meeting in the Fall, one luncheon meeting during TCEA convention in February, and another 2-day meeting in the Spring.

We also have a listserv where each day, any member can post a question or idea to share with the group. We collaborate and share ideas. We help each other out. We nitpick sometimes with each other. But generally, we are family because we are all trying to push the giant boulder of technology in education up a very steep hill.

Our meetings are great not because of keynote speakers or fancy door prizes. Our meetings are great because we get to talk to people with the same struggles who are coming in from all over the state. The time we get to spend chatting with people at the same table is time well worth coming to such a meeting.

I write all this to share with my Kerrville peeps because I want you to know that your CTO is putting on a great meeting with instructional technology leaders and sharing how awesome it is to be in Kerrville. We aren't bleeding-edge like some other districts who are doing 1:1 computing or BYOD or Open Source. But we are cutting-edge in that we are consistent in providing flexible infrastructure to support technology in your classrooms.

We are really supported well by district administration and campus administration in our district. And teachers are really spectacular in using technology for instruction in our district. They aren't forcing it or pushing themselves to adapt in a frenzy. Our teachers are working in stride to use resources that support their teaching.

So I am posting this blog to share this as our own micro "State of the Instructional Technology Department Address" for our district. We are doing great! Our AEC Committee is looking into BYOD and other interesting ways we can use new technology and save on funding. We are building a group of internal district technology trainers to provide more interesting (and fun) professional development opportunities. I am continually amazed by the number of invites I get to visit classrooms to see what people are doing and being greatly impressed by what is going on.

People are starting to share more with their colleagues about what they are doing. People are sharing ideas and working collaboratively in our district. And some people are using tools like Skype, Twitter, Google+ and other tools to work collaboratively with other districts in the US and around the globe. I am sure the people here are sick of me talking up KISD so much!

The meetings here are work so don't think I am goofing off while here and I have to get back to posting information for all the other members who may not have been able to come this week.  But I wanted to share that even while I am here, I am learning and adapting ideas to bring back with me to share so we can continue being on the edge.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Flipping Classroom

Tonight, I've been catching up on some "tweets" that I starred in my timeline to look into when I had time. Some of these are from September! It has been a while since I was able to go back and look at the various links, articles and blog posts I meant to check out over the course of the past few weeks.

Some interesting articles have been generated about education and the idea of a Flipped Classroom. Ever hear of that?

It is an interesting concept of flipping the tasks assigned as homework and the tasks assigned as classwork. The video below is from one of the founders of this idea explaining what Flipped Classrooms are. It is a fast-paced video but an interesting look at how teachers are changing the use of time in their scheduled classes.

If you don't watch the video, then this is the explanation: the teacher pre-records video of their lessons. All their lessons! The time students spend outside of class at home or wherever is time spent watching the teacher's lessons. A lesson could be a 15-minute video with animation for example.

Then the time spent in class is the work of implementing the lesson. What we used to call "homework". And the teachers can interact with the kids who are struggling because they are able to see how they are implementing the lesson they watched.

Sound interesting?

So what would this look like? Aaron explains that most English teachers are familiar with this because the setup for their classes is that kids read the stories and books at home and then discuss at school. But Aaron is a math teacher and he knew that math classes are different. Kids learn the lesson in class and then go home and struggle with understanding and implementing what they learned hours earlier.

By Flipping, kids watched videos explaining concepts and then come to class to apply what they learned in real-world problem solving scenarios.

So if you were to flip a class, what would that look like? What do you think about this concept? Is it realistic for our students? If not, what detractors are there to prevent something like this from happening?

For me, I would be interested to see what this would look like in professional development. How can we flip staff development?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Appy Hour

Today was our first Appy Hour. This was an event I heard colleague Carl Hooker from Eanes ISD complete with his staff.

Our group met at a local Sonic for some windy weather and throngs of middle school kids picking up snacks. There were five of us for most of it. We had four others who dropped in and out during the course of the event.

But we sure packed a list of recommended apps to share!

Quite a selection in our list - see our list link below.

Someone asked the group "how do you have time to find all these?"

Answer: Appy Hour. The event itself is to share apps and recommend finding apps.

I have to say I like this method of staff development that exists beyond our institutions of education. I want to explore this more by having professional learning take place in buildings or open areas not really associated with professionalism.

We had a good and very informal time talking and sharing. Some of us were strangers but we all left with the common bond that we had shared about the tools and games we enjoy using on all our devices.

And yes, we all lifted our stryofoam cups in a toast to Steve Jobs.

Our "menu" of Apps if you want to check them out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is the device necessary?

Last week, Amazon announced new Kindles in the bid for taking over the mobile device war. Today, Apple announced a new iPhone and some changes to the operating system that runs all their hardware. And next week, Google will be announcing some new device and ever changing apps.

Many people are saying that we are in the device war. That this is the time when devices are battling for top reign in the market.

But I am someone who literally lives in the cloud. All my work and personal files are stored online. I don't have cable television but I keep current using streaming Internet media and online music streaming. Banking and personal finance are also managed completely online. I even have my voicemail accessible online if I lose my phone.

My dependence on a particular device is no longer something I am taking part in.

To me, the battle is on between the browsers because certain web applications run smoother in different browsers. And the device is just a conduit for browsing the web based on the browser that is fully supported by the device.

And that is the problem with rushing to buy the latest and greatest new devices as they are released. You have to consider the browser first.

What you do online and the types of sites you visit should dictate the phone or device you purchase.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Newest Thing!

I found this commercial embedded in a blog post by SAISD Instructional Technology Director Miguel Guhlin on BYOD in schools.

As the new Kindle Fire is released and Apple about to announce the "next big thing" next week in terms of iPhone and probably some other iDevice, it is difficult for so many of us to feel like we can keep up with technology as these roll out.

And as these roll out, the conversation among many of my peers and colleagues is an attempt to figure out which one device is the best device to use with students.

Because technology is about change and in the education circuit, educational technology is about changing education, I fall out of the conversation about which one device is the saving grace for revolutionizing learning.

I don't believe a device, a gadget or one resource will revolutionize education. Real change does not come in the form of piece of hardware. And we are inundated with products all the time that promise to change how we live, work, entertain ourselves and accomplish a multitude of tasks. But we have to force these "revolutionary" products into a system that is not revolutionary.

The state recently changed funding rules in Texas to allow districts to eliminate the word "textbook" from the state funding source and use money to purchase "instructional materials" including technology.

I have to say I am somewhat tempted to tell the state to keep their money and use it to enact real change in education because the devices aren't helping us. The instructional materials aren't changing a flawed system. Sure they make learning more fun and interactive when used with engaging teachers and engaging curriculum. But are computers and devices really changing education?

In 1981, the IBM computer began making its way into Texas schools as the drill and kill system for labs. It's been 30-years of technology in education. 30 years of technology available for students to use in schools. How has the foundation of education changed in 30-years for the better?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stateless with Chrome

Today an event is taking place in Austin to introduce educators to using Google Chromebooks. The Chromebook is an interesting idea and the video below explains what one is as well as the concept of "stateless".

What do you think of this type of technology? Do you foresee this type of technology in our schools?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gamestorm Activity: Project Premortem

Those of you who attended Techpalooza, or any summer staff development course this summer, may have heard me mention the book Gamestorming by Dave Gray, James Manifuco, and Sunni Brown. This book contains a variety of activities to add creativity to our meetings. They not only make meetings fun but they serve to spark creative collaboration in the collaborative spaces where we work. I highly recommend it!

A blogger for Harvard Business Review named Gary Klein wrote about an activity he performed as a type of Gamestorm called the Project Premortem.

The concept is to increase the probability of the project's success by assuming that the project has failed and then listing the reasons why it failed. You then spend the time eliminating as many of those reasons as possible for the rest of the gamestorm.

So here is the activity for our group and anyone who reads is welcome to add their thoughts and comments below.


We rolled out Google Apps for Education to all staff across the district. We migrated mail services to Google Mail and uploaded Z:drives to Google Docs. All staff were given access to the system but it failed. Miserably. Explosively.

People aren't using the system and they are harboring resentment toward all technology, especially the technology staff. They are distrustful of our department and there is even resentment within the department among our team.

Now, you now tell me why this failed. List reasons or narrate why it failed. Don't tell how to fix. Just list the reasons why this project imploded.

What Inspires You?

I had seen this video before and even used it in a presentation once. But it is a good reminder of the power of creativity and change in action.

The bicycle rider Danny MacAskill takes bicycling in a totally different direction that I would ever imagine for myself. And that is what makes this so amazing! I would never have thought to try to ride my bike up a tree trunk or in a circular tunnel.

I grasp the concept of the bike because I have ridden on a bike in my life. I can see how this is completely possible and it astounds me because I have also fallen off bikes. It is very creative!

On the concept of creativity, Thomas Edison once said, "There is a way to do it better. Find it.".

I think Danny found a better way to use his bike. I don't think I would do it that way. I would fall onto a fence or a concrete slab.

Then I would have a really funny video for YouTube.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Microsoft Unveils Windows 8

Today, Microsoft revealed more details about its new PC and tablet operating system code-named "Windows 8". The OS is actually running on a system that the developers are also calling "Metro" so these two names Win8 and Metro are synonymous. The video gives a good look at some of the aesthetic features of using touch in a Microsoft environment.

Other features to consider are the ability of the OS to load in 10-seconds. This means you power up your PC, laptop, netbook or tablet and the OS is running in under 10-seconds. For those of us using Windows XP or 7, this is a time saver!

What does this mean for KISD?
Well, we never left the Windows XP environment for several reasons and I can list those here:

1. Cost - an upgrade to a new OS has a financial cost. Licenses for education markets are tremendously cheaper than other markets. But there is still a cost and we could actually afford to move to a new OS when we are ready for it.

2. Time - upgrading a PC to a new version of Microsoft isn't something that can be done quickly. EVERY computer would have to be hand-installed. This means every bookmark, file save, and setting would be wiped out on each computer. So time is a consideration. Training staff to save their files and backups to an alternate location would take time. Then the install and then the restoration of the settings would take more time. Time is a huge reason we aren't ready for an upgrade.

3. Stability - before we upgrade, we have to make sure every piece of software in the district will work on a new OS. In some of our labs, there is software being used that was purchased in the 1990s that is STILL used today. We know for a fact that some of these programs would not have worked if we had gone to Windows 7 so we couldn't make the jump then. But as more applications move to "the cloud" and the web, then the less we are reliant on the operating system to be able to run them. At that point, we enter the "browser war" to find out if Internet Explorer is the best option or if we use multiple browsers for different tasks.

4. Upgrade - Operating Systems used to come out less frequently. Windows 98 was out for a full 5-years until Windows XP came around. Now, operating systems turn out less than every 2 years. This goes back to each of the other reasons why we don't upgrade on each release: cost, time and stability. We don't want to buy a brand new OS until we know it is the solution we need and are willing to invest in the time and cost to complete it.

All this being said, we are keeping our eyes open to learn about the new Operating System because we want to provide a secure infrastructure for our district. The more reliant we are on older systems, the more at-risk we put our entire network system.

We have an AEC Committee this year that will be looking into the idea of upgrading the OS on computers and helping us figure out how stable this type of move could be.

Google Apps for KISD?

We are getting geared up to roll out Google Apps for Education. Currently we are looking into rolling out Google Calendar and Google Docs for staff to access. At some point, we may incorporate Google Mail (25 GB inbox PER user).

Check out our training site available at:

What do you think about using Google Apps?

Our Blog

This is the blog of the Kerrville ISD Instructional Technology department. We plan to post articles and links to resources of value to us that we feel are important enough to share with our district teaching staff.

This blog will be maintained by all staff in our department and we each will have the ability to post something of interest to everyone who visits or subscribes to the posts. Linda my post about something she learns this week. George may share some helpful tips. Mario could share about Internet speeds. And on it goes as we learn and share what we learn with everyone who checks this blog.

Have a topic you want to hear our opinion on? Let us know in the comments below!