Sunday, December 10, 2017

7 Key Considerations When Measuring Technology’s Return On Investment

If you are responsible for integrating technology into schools, then you must be prepared to discuss the return on investment stakeholders can expect to see. Those that don’t, may get caught up in an ed tech frenzy without fully thinking through why technology is important in the first place warns Michael Horn, executive director of the education program at the Clay Christensen Institute. This is what happened in Los Angeles with iPads he explains. "Districts are starting with the technology and not asking themselves: ‘What problem are we trying to solve, and what’s the instructional model we need to solve it?’ and then finding technology in service of that."


This was the topic discussed by technology leaders who came together from across the United States at the Tech & Learning Leadership Summit. They shared what their districts were doing to measure the return on investment when it comes to technology.

Know the Why

The consensus among the leaders was that if you don’t define the “why” upfront, you run the danger of it defaulting to increasing test scores.

Focus on Digital Inclusion

That is not a problem in DeKalb County School District in Decatur Georgia. That’s because Gary Brantley who serves as their CIO warns stakeholders upfront that they are not integrating technology to improve academic performance. Rather it is an issue of equity and access. Brantley shared what we all know: “It is common sense that you can’t have a job today without knowing how to operate on computer.”


DeKalb County School District is committed to digital inclusion. This means providing students with opportunity, access, knowledge, and skills needed for success in today’s world. It is Brantley's job to provide students access to opportunities in our digital age.


Brantley points out that conversations about if technology is worth the investment, are not happening in affluent districts where young people have access to high speed internet and multiple devices provided by families. However, he notes, when it comes to educating low income students, the need to provide devices is far too often questioned and issues like “screentime” creep their way into conversations as justification to bring us back to the days before technology was integrated into daily life.

No Screen time Limits

When the conversation of screen time comes up, Dr. Sheryl Abshire who serves as CTO of Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana explains that, the devices we give students aren’t entertainment devices. They are learning devices. Students are reading, writing, computing, creating, and making global connections in ways never before possible. Unfortunately, what is in the minds of the public is often the research around passive, unsupervised screen time, which is completely different. Educators need to help stakeholders understand the difference.

Technology Provides an infrastructure

What is clear, is that providing technology, is not providing some magic bullet to make kids smarter or do better on tests. Instead it is a necessary component of the infrastructure of schools today.


In the past, the infrastructure consisted of desks in rows, a blackboard, rulers, calculators, and textbooks. No one was looking at the ROI for that infrastructure. That’s because learning is not about the tools, devices, and equipment.


It’s about the lessons, the interest students have in a topic, its relevance to real-world learning, and relationships.


Somehow, we have forgotten the importance of these relationships giving teachers lots of technology along with class loads in the hundreds, and then wondering why the “tech” didn’t improve test scores.


Innovative educators understand when we focus on the technology, rather than on the people, we are focusing on the wrong variable.


If we’re not focused on test scores, you may be wondering what the focus should be.

Profiling Graduates Makes the ROI More Clear

Michael Marassa who serves as the tech director for Grayslake Community High School in Illinois, suggests than rather than looking at numbers, report cards, transcripts, and test scores, we start by envisioning who we want to see graduating from our schools. In his district, they have been following the work of Ken Kay who you may remember as the co-founder of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Today Ken serves as CEO of EdLeader21. An important piece of their work is to help schools and districts find a vision by focusing on students and the skills they will need to be successful in work, citizenship, and life. The build a profile of a graduate. This approach provides a framework for backwards designed learning that integrates technology. The model is taking off. You can view the gallery to see examples of what schools and districts are doing.

Showcase Students, Not Test Scores

Marassa’s colleague, Renee Zoladz who serves as associate supt for instruction explained that it is not enough to talk about the importance of tech and why it’s necessary for kids today. They now use a hashtag #D127GetsREAL (Relevant Engaging Authentic Learning) to showcase the work of students that can be shared with all stakeholders. Seeing is believing. A picture is worth a 1000 words. A video even more. Providing the opportunity to see REAL young people in action allows stakeholders to see the return on investment first hand. What we see is what happens when students are given the infrastructure necessary to produce successful graduates.

Package the Work in Portfolios
The snapshots provided by capturing students via social media is powerful. Schools can help students take that to the next level by capturing their work, artifacts, and microcredentials that demonstrate mastery into a digital portfolio using any of the free (a blog or website platform) or fee (FreshGrade or SeeSaw) options that map back to the profile. More and more colleges and universities are realizing both the uselessness of report cards and standardized tests as well as the reality that they exclude quality candidates who for a number of reasons may not excel using such assessments. 

Putting in place structures such as portfolios and microcredentials gives a clear picture of what we want the modern learner to look like. This helps students, families, employers, and colleges receive a much clearer picture of how schools are harnessing the power of technology to prepare learners for success in the digital world. 

What has your experience been? Are these considerations ones you've taken into account when thinking about return on investment in technology where you work? Anything missing? Anything new that you will bring back to your school or district?

Friday, December 8, 2017

3 Strategies to Attract Females to Tech

Are women less suited for work in technology? That's what some men at these companies believe. However, the women pursuing and working in such positions and the men who work with and for them, know that is not the case. While only one in four women currently hold positions at top tech companies, there are ways to increase the number of women pursuing these careers.

Students at the Phoenix Coding Academy shared some common sense ideas during a visit from leaders at the Tech & Learning Leadership Summit.

1) Go where they are and show them what is available
At the Phoenix Coding Academy they do this by having students go directly into schools and talk to their peers about opportunities. They share first hand what it is like for a female to pursue an exciting career in technology.

2) Show female students that tech careers are reachable for them
At the Phoenix Coding Academy they do this by bringing mentors from these companies to support students as well as bringing students to these companies to do internships. When making these matches it is importance to consider gender and ensure there is equitable representation.

3) Develop a learning network
Even if you're not a Coding Academy student, there's another way educators can help their students learn with, from, and draw inspiration from women in tech. That's by connecting with them online. Students can follow as well as reach out to some of the top women influencers in technology and teachers can help to so safely and responsibly. Finding them is easy. Onalytica just put out this list


What do you think? Are these ideas you could try to implement where you work? If you have tried some of these strategies what were the results? Is anything missing? 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

6 Strategies Everyone Forgets To Include When Delivering PD

I've helped facilitate or organize hundreds if not thousands of professional learning opportunities. These are the strategies facilitators most often forget when delivering professional development. With a little bit work, you can ensure this doesn't happen to you.


#NYCSchoolsTech educators at a learning opportunity.
Use this checklist at your next learning opportunity to have a more effective event.
  1. Post a sign with relevant information in the room or at each table. Doing this ensures instructional time is not wasted and the class is not interrupted. Here is a template
  2. At the start of the day, open the agenda and review with participants what will take place and when. Point them to the url for the agenda so they know where to find it.
  3. Put a link to your presentation on the agenda (here's how if you don't know). Let participants know where to find it.
  4. ALL materials, directions, information should be linked from your agenda. Do NOT rely on email. Having to search through emails wastes instructional time.
  5. Incorporate your online community into the the training early on i.e. use it as an ice breaker or for a poll. Project it with your response. The online communities are a lifeline after your opportunity ends. If you don’t have them do it while they’re with you, the opportunity is lost.  
  6. Don’t forget name tags / name cards. Here is a template

What do you think? Do you include all six strategies in the opportunities you deliver? Are these items you see missing in professional development you attend? Anything missing?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

8 Tips For Making Movies with Google Photos

Since discovering how easy it is to make movies with Google photos at the start of the school year, I've made several movies. Most movies were made to capture a day of learning with other innovative educators. I also made a movie to capture a vacation getaway. Another to commemorate an award a colleague received. And another movie to share with a friend the fun day her puppy had with my pup while I was pet sitting.

In a relatively short period of time, I've made more than a dozen movies.  



Here is what I've learned.

1) Opening Shot

Your first picture should set the tone for what the movie is about.  Try to find a sign, banner, sticker, book, welcome message, etc that let's people know what they're about to see.

2) Mix it Up

A mixture of photos and videos works well. 

3) Camera Direction

Capture everything in the same direction: portrait or landscape. This will make for a better, more consistent viewing experience. 

4) Pan

Capture a quick video (<5 seconds) panning the whole experience.

5) Closing Shot

Capture a photo or video that wraps up the experience. Think people waving goodbye, a cake with a message about what is being celebrated, a group photo.

6) Descriptive Title

When the video is complete you have an opportunity to give it a title. 

7) Edit

You can change the music, theme, and remove, trim, or reorder clips by tapping on one of three icons that appear on the bottom of your movie.

  • Theme: At the bottom, tap Themes Themes. You can change the themes while the movie is playing to see how they look.
  • Music: Tap Music . You can change the music and also turn it off so you can hear audio in the background.
  • Reorder , trim, or remove clips: Tap Edit .
    • Tap the clip you want to remove and then Trash Trash.
    • Touch and hold a clip and drag it to a different order.
    • To change the length of a clip, select the clip and tap the scissors icon. 

When you're done editing, tap Done Done.

8) Share

Share your creation on your fave social platform. Don't forget to tag people who were there and check in to indicate the location.  

What do you think? Were these tips helpful? Were there some you already incorporate into your movie making? Were any of these tips new to you? Is there something you do when making your movies that's not here?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The 3 Hottest Posts on The Innovative Educator

Haven’t been keeping up with The Innovative Educator? Don’t worry. That’s what this wrap up is for. 

What’s hot? Infographics!

The top two posts of the week feature infographics designed by innovative educator and graphic designer Eileen Lennon. She provides a visually pleasing way to think about management in the modern classroom as well as ideas to consider when we move from banning and blocking to embracing sites that were once blocked behind the filter bubble.

Rounding out the top is a post where we look at what we should look at to see if technology is effective in schools. Hint: It’s not test scores or student achievement.

So what are you waiting for? Now's your chance. Take a look at the articles below and click the link to read one(s) that looks of interest to you.

Nov 26, 2017
Nov 8, 2017

Nov 12, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

4 Ways To Support Civil Discourse in Online Spaces

Is it possible to help students engage in civil discourse in social media and other online spaces? That is the topic educators discussed at the #NYCSchoolsTech Summit on #DiversityMatters. 


The verdict?


Yes. 


Civil discourse is possible in online spaces if we work to prepare students to engage responsibly and in a civil manner.  Here are some ways to achieve that.



4 Considerations To Engage in Civil Discourse Online


  1. Consider the Source. Ask:

    • What are the sources?
    • Reliable sources?  
    • Look at data/ statistic - where did information come from?
    • Prep students to give resources for viewpoint.
  2. Consider the Facts

    • Check em.
    • Use em. Even if they do not support your idea.
    • Manipulation of data can support any story.
    • Teach students where to get information.
    • New sources are the starting point - then  look elsewhere(multiple sources are needed).
    • Consumers of information need to challenge/research data & how it is presented.
  3. Consider the Research. Ask:

    • Who is hosting site?
    • Who is writing the story?
  4. Consider Using Information Literacy Skills

    • Presence of misinformation makes people distrust all information.
    • People/youth give up.
    • Combat information illiteracy by ensuring students are prepared with information literacy skills

What do you think? Are some of these ideas ones you have used? Which might you incorporate into your classroom to support civil discourse in online spaces?