February 21, 2011

Sheesh, I love a good Quote!

On the trip over to  Portland I happened across some quotes that ended up being just too rich to ignore as I was heading into 2 days of educational technology saturation.
Here's some of them. They’re pretty awesome.

  • “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” Kenneth Olson, President/Founder Digital Equipment Corporation 1977
  • “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” Marshall Ferdinand Foch, French Military Strategist and future WWI Commander, 1917
  • “[Television] won’t be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Darryl F Zannuck, Head of 20th Century Fox, 1946
  • “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” Western Union Internal Memo, 1876
  • “Nothing of importance happened today.” Written by King George III of England on July 4, 1776

It got me really thinking about how a person/organization can avoid making short-sighted mistakes with technology. In an environment where change is the only constant and fads and trends go viral with the same alacrity, how do we know when something has real merit? How do we recognize the game changers when we see them? How do we plan? These are especially important questions when we’re talking about educational technology, because the decisions we make about what “gadgets”…ok, “tools” are important today directly impact the futures of our kiddos for better or worse.  I really want to have some excellent foresight and nail this thing at least a little better than Darryl Zannuck did…for the kiddos sake, you know?!

I suppose that’s why when I wound up with Joe Morelock at my table this afternoon, I just had to ask him what was behind the decision he made 3 years ago to just hand a 3rd grade teacher a whole pack of iPods. The tool was brand new and certainly not yet a legitimate educational adoption, at least not the way most of the industry sees it. He asked me, “Do you want the real story or do you want me to make up something good?”

Real story, please.

It goes like this: He was at a birthday party with his young children. All the dads were doing the dad thing (which nowadays means, so he informed me, that they stand around and show each other pictures of their kids on their iPhones). Some 3rd grader came up to him and said, “Hey, can I see that?” So he handed it over. The kid had never played with an iPhone before but started immediately playing games and moving things around as if it were an old friend. Joe said, “at that point I just thought, huh…there’s something there. I didn’t know what it was, but I went ahead and got 30 of them, because I wanted to do it right and gave them to Julie.” (Julie is the awesome teacher who also knew nothing about the tool but took them and implemented them into her instruction in phenomenal ways).  “I figured even if it turned out to be nothing, I could find some place to use 30 of them somewhere in the district, so it was worth trying.”  He looked up at me then, almost apologetically, knowing I wanted a better answer. I didn’t though. His answer was just what I expected, especially after reading those quotes the day before. I kind of think that’s how all great things happen…someone opens their eyes for a moment and notices something. They think to themselves, “huh, there’s a thing here,” and for whatever reason that thinker is allowed to try it. Somehow they find themselves unhindered by protocols and naysayers and they get to just try it. And sometimes it works and changes the entire game.

My take away:
Listen and pay attention to the little people. (Yeah... so, this was already my life policy pre-conference).
Believe my gut instead of the naysayers when it tells me “there’s a thing here.”
Accept that I don’t always have to be able to explain the thing but I do have to let myself (or someone who is amazing) try it.

And, just because I love a good quote, here are a couple beauties I picked up over the weekend!

  •  “Never memorize what you can look up in books.” Albert Einstein
  • “I don’t set trends. I just find out what they are and I exploit them.” Dick Clark, American Bandstand

February 20, 2011

There's a Thing happening.

Marena and I are at the Instructional Technologies Strategies Conference this weekend. I might have snuck into a conference session this morning that I wasn't signed up for...

The thing was, I wanted to hear about Canby. I had to hear about Canby.  So I might have snuck in...

You see, in Canby
"There's this thing happening. We don't know what the Thing is, only that there IS a thing." 

They're using iPod Touches and iPad's in classrooms. I love technology, but I'm definitely not a gadget girl, so the iPad certainly doesn't twitter-pate me. However, what these teachers are doing with this little tool does! Oh my heart! Here's why. If you have a second to look at this achievement data, it's kind of awesome.

I'll summarize. Canby deployed 30 iPods 1:1 to 3rd grade students who then used them to practice reading fluency, math skills, writing. The little gadgets sat on each student's desk day after day. Little readers would record their voices into it as they read an unfamiliar passage and then listen to themselves. As soon as the first listen was done they would have this overwhelming urge to do it again! So they would...do it again, and again, and again. (*We actually did this together this morning, and I will say, the urge keep trying to make it better is unbelievably compelling) Now any reading teacher knows this is the way to build fluency, and that's exactly what happened. The Oaks scores for this third grade classroom, completely outpaced district scores.

The same thing happened in math. A couple of little apps on the iTouch that lives right there on the student's desk means that when there is 5 minutes left before lunch, the teacher can say, "Hey...pull out "Numberline" and play for a couple minutes would you?" Of course the kids jump right to it, because they get to play a game. But this game requires them to take a mixture of fractions, percentages and decimals and put them in the correct place on a number line for speed and time. (Can you do this?...Which is higher, 0.21 or 2/8; 7/16 or 48%?) They play these little games for maybe 5 minutes every day, and a teacher can love it as much as the students, because there is NO transition time wasted. And by the end of the year, these students have actually gotten the equivalent of at least 2 full days practice on decimals, percentages and fractions. And their Oaks scores are reflecting that.

Of course, it's brilliant.
The gadget is a calculator when necessary, a dictionary that will tell them how to pronounce a word, a thesaurus and a spellchecker, a self-correction tool and a motivator.
-They use it for their writing. They'll finish their first rough draft and then read aloud. When they listen back they can hear for themselves what ought to be changed.
-They use it for their reading. When they come to a word they don't know, they look it up instantly. No long stroll across the room to the dictionary shelf, by way of the pencil sharpener, drinking fountain and turtle tank, by which time they return, reading is over. (You know this kiddo!)

intrinsic motivation.
appropriate scaffolding.
active engagement.
student ownership.
Sheesh...talk about multi-functional. Is it all the tool? Of course not. This grand experiment is being done with really good teachers...who love the tool that's helping them accomplish their goals. It's just a tool, but it's an unquestionably good one.

Canby is pretty jazzed about what they're doing. They went from having 50 classrooms with iPod devices last school year (2009-100) to deploying the same to over 100 classrooms this school year (2010-11). Now they're starting to add iPads...260 of them this year.

It's kind of awesome.
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