Let the 1:1 Fun Begin!!

In 2009 I started posting about the idea of 1:1 computing in classrooms.  Five years ago, the idea of giving each child his or her own device was more of a dream than a reality for me.  Back then, the devices were more costly, and our Broadband capabilities were not in place to handle 600+ devices all connecting to the Internet during the school day.  The idea was exciting, but our school district was not ready for implementation.  We were able to purchase some netbook carts to be shared by teachers. This was a very good start at the time, and the staff and students were excited to use these machines.

The start of this school year, however, marks the realization of the dream to equip every student with his or her own device in a 1:1 learning environment.  All kids in grades K-2 will be receiving an iPad, and all students in grades 3 through 8 will be receiving a Chromebook on the first day of school.  Kudos to our board of education, district administrators, and some pilot teachers who worked so hard and tirelessly last year to make this a reality.  Well, here we are, ready to embark on more than a new school year; we are moving into a new era of teaching and learning.  NOW is when the really hard work begins.

So, what is my role in a 1:1 learning environment? I believe the teachers are the key to successfully implementing the1:1 initiative.  As a principal, I think my job will be to support them in as many ways as possible.  I will have to listen to them, problem-solve with them, celebrate successes with them, and support them when they feel frustrated.  I will need to work students as they are using the devices, and throughout it all, I will need to learn what types of PD will be needed to support the teachers.  I will need to stay current on the most effective tools and techniques for teaching in a new-era classroom, and I will need to find time for teaches to share, plan, and observe others using these devices.  Additionally, my role will be to model the use of technology and to be a “cheerleader” to the staff as they strive to change their teaching methodology.

Last week I attended the Leyden 1:1 Symposium.  The keynotes were very inspiring, and the sessions I attended were very informative.    I learned about such tools as Socrative, AnswerGarden, and TodaysMeet, and I learned more about the SAMR model.  I saw how Google+, Google Sites, and blogging can be incorporated into classrooms, and I learned about assessment in a 1:1 learning environment. Speaking with others who are either starting the 1:1 process or who have been doing it for a while was another important component of the three days I spent at Leyden.

Now, as we have entered the month of August, I am psyched to get the 1:1 teaching and learning started.  I have a sense that there will be a lot more questions than answers as we embark on this new adventure as a school and as a district.  But, that is what makes our work so interesting, and I plan on getting myself right in the thick of it all!  My goal is to use this blog as a place to share my experiences and points of view during the rollout and continuing implementation of 1:1 classroom learning environments.  I hope to write at least one post per week on this topic, and I hope to get some good dialogue going with anyone who is interested.

To quote my favorite baseball broadcaster, Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, “Sit back, relax, and strap it down” because this year is going to be quite the ride!

Back on the Blog!

Happy 2013 to anyone who may be reading this post!

Well, it has been quite some time since I posted anything on my blog.  I have spent the last two and a half years taking two classes per semester as I have been working toward my Ed.D.  I am now finished with all of the classes and am officially an  “ABD!”

I now am going to try to get back into posting about life as an elementary school principal and father of two teenage girls – one in college and one in high school (oy).  I also will be looking for ideas and assistance regarding my dissertation topic for which I am just about finished with chapter 1.

For my dissertation, I am combining two passions – 1.  Hiring and retaining the very best new teachers and 2. The use of instructional technology in classrooms.  I am looking for new teacher induction programs in place in school districts which are also strong in the area of instructional technology.  What kinds of PD are these districts providing to their new teachers in order to get their new teachers up and running on the first day of school and throughout the entire school year?

Any ideas or resources on the following would be wonderful:

1. Examples of high quality new teacher induction programs and rubrics to evaluate them

2. Rubrics to evaluate effective instruction technology plans in schools

3. Names of elementary (K-8) school districts considered exemplary in the area of instructional technology.

Thanks, and have a great new year!

Dave

Now THIS May Be the Future of Computing

Back in November I wrote a post about a new computer called  “The Rolltop.”  When I looked past the cool flexibility of a computer that rolls up and can be tucked away I did not see anything really different than what a current laptop can do.  Here is the video:

In that post, I wrote the following:

In the future (like next week), I want a new computer that is the size of my iPhone with a projected infrared keyboard that can be adjusted to fit any flat surface, and a projected screen that also can be adjusted to view anywhere.

Well, the future has arrived!  Check out this TED video of some new technology that I can’t wait to get my hands on!  This is what I am looking for.  Watch this:

What do you think? Is THIS the future of technology?

Is This the Future of Computing?

A friend sent me this YouTube video of a new concept in laptop computers – The Rolltop.  Always the one to oohh and aahh at new technology, I have watched this video about 10 times.  I am trying like this new machine, and I am trying to see why I will need this in the near future.  I am not convinced.

First, try to look past the goofy animated dude (in a previous life, I would have called him a PUHA, but that is a story for another day. Hint: Check out how he walks). Anyway, I am hoping that the new and cool machines coming in the near future will get smaller, not more flexible. As much as this computer looks cool, it still takes up the same amount of space on a desk or a lap.  Actually, when spread out, it is even bigger than my current laptop.

Second, I hope the “tablet” feature that lets you write on the screen with a stylus pen works better than ones I have used.  I have just started to mess around with a new Dell Latitude XT2, and so far, I am not blown away by it.  More to come on that in a week or two.  Basically, guys like me, with terrible handwriting, will need a really smart computer to decipher my writing and convert it into readable text.

Then, there is the rolled up carrying case design.  Do I want to walk around with that on my shoulder?  Will it fit in my briefcase, and what if I grab it in a rainstorm, thinking it is an umbrella?  (OK, that would be stupid, but I have done dumber things before – like that time when I was showing my kids that I could still do a head stand, and I fell over and smashed a big hole in the wall.)

In the future (like next week), I want a new computer that is the size of my iPhone with a projected infrared keyboard that can be adjusted to fit any flat surface, and a projected screen that also can be adjusted to view anywhere.

What is your opinion of this rolltop computer?  Does it look user-friendly or is it a silly gimmick?

Can 2nd Graders Use Netbooks? You Betcha!

I spent an hour in a second grade classroom, observing and assisting them with their first experience using the new Dell Latitutde 2100 netbooks.  The class was led by our school’s technology coach and the classroom teacher.

We explained to the students that bringing these computers into their classroom is like bringing the kids to the computer lab, and that the log-in process was exactly the same.  These younger students appeared much more apprehensive than the fifth graders I observed being introduced to the netbooks last week.  The older kids were really jazzed up about the machines, while these little ones seemed a little nervous.

I can understand their nerves, especially since most of them had never worked on a laptop before.   When we surveyed the class, we learned that the majority of their experiences on computers had been with desktops and mice.

The first challenge for the class was distributing the machines in an efficient, organized manner.  If this process takes too long then we are defeating one of the main purposes for 1:1 computing in the classroom:  Transparent, seamless computing and research embedded in the regular instruction of a lesson.

The students were called up to the cart by their “magic number” (their alpha number in class).  They were instructed to carry the netbooks back to their seats with two hands like a tray of food, and the were told not to open them.  I only saw one boy start to open his.  Otherwise, they were very good about following the directions.  At this point, I could start to sense the excitement building in the classroom.  Distributing the machines to all 21 students took six minutes.  Not bad!  It takes longer to walk the class to the computer lab and get everyone situated at a machine.

The key to the success of the initial launch of netbooks in the classroom, it appears, can be summed up in two words:  Organization and Simplicity.  The classroom teacher must develop an organized system for distributing, collecting, and charging.  Time cannot be wasted, or we will be defeating the purpose of using these computers in a classroom instead of a lab.

Keeping the directions very clear and simple also will help ensure the success of 1:1 computing in the classroom.  For this class, the students were instructed to remember four simple steps for logging on to the machines: 1.  Open; 2. Turn on; 3. Control, Alt, Delete 4.  Log on with the school password (which was written on the board).   We need to use the four step approach in every classroom and in every grade, and soon, the kids will have these four steps memorized .  Within a matter of a few lessons, the students will have this down pat, and they will be doing this completely on their own.  I watched 21 seven-year-olds logon for the first time, and it only took 10 minutes.  Eventually, this should take no more than two minutes.

The fact that most of the students had never worked on a laptop did not impact their ability to navigate around the machines.  I was amazed how well they took to it.  We did not train them on the use of the touchpad; the kids figured it out on their own.  By playing for just a moment, and by showing each other, they took to the pad quickly (digital natives in their comfort zone?).

The first part of this lesson on the use of the Dell netbooks with second graders was successful, and it got even better when we asked the students to open Kidspiration 2.  We instructed the kids on how to open a new project, insert new text bubbles, and type in the text bubbles.   Then, we taught them how to save their new projects in their student folders located on our district server.  Again, we made it as simple as possible, with the knowledge that the concept of saving on a school server can be complicated.  Finally, the students were able to quit and shut down without a problem.

I believe the potential for netbooks in the classrooms (even in primary classrooms) is great.  I can envision a time, maybe a month from now, where the students are able to independently use these machines at their desks without direct assistance from an adult.  I can envision a teacher working with a small group of students at the back table, while the rest of the students are successfully navigating around the netbooks, completing authentic projects that they can share with others (like Photostory, Voicethread, blogs, or wikis projects).

As we are quickly learning, the key to the success of these machines in classrooms is to establish a systematic, organized procedure for distributing and collecting the computers, and for teachers to very clearly articulate their directions in simple terms.

I can’t wait to get back into that same second grade classroom in a month to see the improvement the kids have made in using these machines independently!

The Dell Latitude 2100 – A Review

It is 6:30 in the morning, the school is very quiet, so I started this post.

The first action plan item in my technology goal was to learn about the netbook computer.   So I have decided to take one home to play with it.  I am not a “hardware guy.”  I am a teacher and school principal.  Consequently, this “review” of a computer will probably seem naive to anyone who knows his way around a motherboard.  That being said, I can professionally comment that, upon first inspection,  this new little computer is uber-cool!

That was my first reaction when I opened the laptop cart and saw 25 of these canary-yellow and black netbooks staring back at me.  They are very enticing.   That was the students’ reaction when they first saw the machines, too.  The kids were calling them bumble bee computers.

Our school district leaders chose the Dell after looking at and playing with most of the models on the market.  At first glance, it appears as if the Dell was a good choice.  It is covered in a colorful, protective rubber coating that seems perfect for younger children.

Later this day…

I have spent about an hour using the Dell at home, and I have created a list of Pros and Cons about this mini-machine.  I have tried to look at the netbook through the eyes of a teacher and a 5th grade student.  Here is what I think so far:

Pros:

  • The computer was very easy to transport home in my briefcase.  I think it would commute home with 10 and 11 year olds in a backpack without a problem.  I am not planning on sending these home with kids yet, but maybe one day…
  • I had no problem connecting to my home wireless system.  With some simple directions, we could teach students how to connect to the wireless.
  • I first went to my district email system and pounded out a few emails.  This was simple to do.
  • The MS Windows xp Professional software feels and works exactly the same as any other PC (I am not sure why that surprises me, but I was expecting a different look and feel).
  • I like the touch pad and buttons.  You can easily scroll up and down on the right side of the touch pad.
  • I took a couple of digital pictures with my camera.  Then, I connected the camera to the Dell with the camera’s USB wire.  A window immediately popped up and I was able to download the pics without a problem.  There was no need for any software.  This is great for students, and we plan on doing a lot with digital photography and these machines in the classrooms.
  • I also took a still picture with the built-in web-cam, and I saved it to the desktop.  That was simple, but earlier in the week I took a picture with the web-cam and was unable to upload it to a blog post.  That could be problematic, and I will need to work on that.
  • I closed the cover with the battery power at 64%.  (It was dinner time!)  I opened it an hour later and the battery power still registered at 64%.  Is it possible that the computer slept so soundly that it used no power?  Is that how all laptops are?
  • It does appear as if we will get about 6 hours of use which is fine in an elementary school.

In most areas of use, the Dell mini performed just like a regular laptop computer.  There are some areas, however, where I have some concerns.

Cons:

  • When I walked into the house with the bumble bee computer, my 12 year old was immediately attracted to it like a bee to a daisy.  But, she had just finished her math homework, and her hands were dirty from the pencil.  She left marks all over the yellow cover from her hands.  These marks were not so easy to clean off.  I wonder if we should have purchased solid black machines, and not bright, colorful computers.
  • The screen is just too small for my 47 year old eyes.  I tried typing this post on the Dell mini, but the WordPress post template is too small on this screen, and I could not read the words.  Will this be a problem for kids?  Maybe.  I had to switch over to my desktop to finish this post.  I will try to upload two pictures from the Dell later on in this post.
  • The keyboard is noticeably smaller, too, but I don’t think this will be a problem for children.  I kept hitting the wrong keys.  Eventually, I think I will get used to this size.
  • While I was working on the desktop, I had the netbook sleeping next to me.  When I went to wake it up, I discovered that it was in a coma.  The machine had locked up with a Windows xp message stating “Please wait…  Preparing to stand by…”  I was unable to wake it up using the keyboard, touch pad, or buttons.  This was a problem.  I needed to do a hard shut down.  This will not be good in the classroom.  It takes time to get back in, and if this happens in a classroom with 25 of these machines and one teacher, it will be very frustrating for everyone.

I did try the Dell again, but I had a hell of a hard time reading what I was writing, and I was unable to upload pictures from the desktop to this blog post.  I kept getting an “IO” error – whatever that means.  I had to add the pictures below from the desktop computer.

Aside from the small screen I feel very comfortable with this new netbook.  I think this will be an exciting new addition to our classrooms.  I now need to focus on helping teachers become comfortable with the mini-computers, and then work in classrooms with them.

This is the computer I borrowed from our new netbook cart.  Don't worry, I will return it.  Plus, it has LoJack, so I won't get far with it if I decide to leave town!!

This is the computer I borrowed from our new netbook cart. Don't worry, I will return it. Plus, it has LoJack, so I won't get far with it if I decide to leave town!!

The machine feels solid, and it will be a nice addition to our classrooms.

The machine feels solid, and it will be a nice addition to our classrooms.

1:1 Computing and My Professional Goals

Most principals are required to write yearly professional goals with explicit action plans to outline how they will meet their goals.  I, too, have been asked to develop action plans that I will be working on all school year. Last week I held a lengthy discussion with my superintendent regarding these plans, and she has approved my work for the year.  The purpose she has set forth for all of the administrators in the district is for us to take three different topics and delve deeply into them.  She expects us to become experts in the areas we have chosen.

I am stepping out on a limb with this post and future posts because I will be posting about one of my professional goals for this school year.  Why is this a risk for me?  Because my professional goals have always been personal, and I have only shared them with my superintendent.  I have never shared my goals publicly, and I certainly have never journaled publicly about my progress in meeting my goals.

So, for one of these goals, I will be documenting my learning, my successes, and my failures throughout the year.  We have been asked to journal our progress, and I am choosing to complete my journal here on my blog.  This may be of no interest to anyone who reads this blog, but by publishing here I feel as if I am committing to doing my very best job.  Similarly I believe that when children publish for a larger audience on the web, they are more motivated to do their best work.

My goal and action plan is to learn how to use netbooks with students in classrooms in a 1:1 setting.  We have purchased three netbook carts with 25 machines in each cart, and we have added a wireless network to the school, so the hardware is in place.  Now I need to learn how to effectively use the mini-computers in classrooms where each child his own machine at his fingertips.

I actually started writing about this in the previous post.  As I search and read articles and blogs on this topic, I will share my thoughts in this forum.  As I talk with teachers about the use of the netbooks with their classes, I will share my thoughts. And as I work with students in the classrooms, I will share my thoughts here.

When the time comes for me to share my progress with the superintendent, I will share all of the posts I have written instead of turning in a report.  It seems obvious to me that if I am learning about technology, I should use technology to report my progress.

So, I will be tapping into my PLN in the blogosphere, on Twitter, on the Ning sites that I belong to, and on delicious.com to find as much as I can on the use of 1:1 computing with students in the upper elementary grades.  I hope that others will join me in the conversations.