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Friday, May 22, 2015

Check out - The Right Connections - how to keep school communities informed

Judson ISD and it's fantastic home grown Parent Center app were featured in Technology & Learning's May 2015 cover story, Now Hear This: The Right Connections - how to keep school communities informed - from  

Friday, May 15, 2015

What keeps CTOs up at night?

Judson ISD along with two of my great counterparts at Tyler ISD and Calcasieu Parish Public Schools are featured in the eSchoolNews May 2015 cover story, “What keeps CTOs up at night?” which I have attached and can also be viewed online at http://www.eschoolnews.com/current-issue/ 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The economics of 1:1

While a lot of us preach that it is not about the device (it’s not), devices are obviously important to digitally transforming learning. But many school districts still feel that 1:1 device initiatives are just not affordable. A $300, $500, or $1000 device cost per student can seem like a lot to spend per student. Is it? U.S. Census Bureau data show that the average cost of educating a child to be $10,608 per year. Ford states like my Texas spend less and Cadillac states like Kevin Hogan’s New Jersey spend much more. So if a “typical” district wants to fund a $300 device to be purchased once every four years, it would need to budget $75 per year. While I may not be able to pass the fifth grade Common Core assessment, that means a typical district would need to spend less than .7% (point seven percent) of the cost of educating a child per year to fund a device for learning. This is next to nothing in the total cost of educating a child. Sure there are many other costs that need to be incurred to fund a successful digital learning program, but device costs are plummeting and becoming so low that they can soon no longer be used as an excuse by schools. Then there are the budget expenditures no one wants to discuss - one Texas district (and probably many more) was spending $1,300 a year on its football program per player (and $1348 for a cheerleader). And in the last couple of weeks, Google and its partners announced $150 Chromebooks. Can’t afford 1:1? I’m just saying... 

(this blogger sees great value in extra-curricular activities, but wonders why their funding and expenses are never discussed)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Are testing companies really "spying" on students if they monitor social media during testing?

Another day of standardized testing, another controversy.  The latest being around the administration of the PARCC Common Core test in New Jersey.  In this case the controversy is not over the usefulness of testing, or current problems with the online test administration, but rather the monitoring of social media by the testing company, Pearson, to detect test cheaters and other irregularities.  The controversy is detailed in this Washington Post blog, with a superintendent being upset by the perceived big brother monitoring of their students.  Why is this at all disturbing?  Haven’t we always monitored students and schools during high stakes testing?  Test administrators and monitors are rigorously trained, certified, and then required to monitor schools and testing, to ensure a fair testing environment for all students.  As much time and money as states and schools spend on this massive undertaking for arguably little return, is it wrong that Pearson monitors publicly posted social media posts?  If a student, teacher, or administrator chooses to publicly post test questions to social media during a test, then they have made a poor choice, violated testing rules, and must face the fall out.  But there are allegations detailed here that the spying was in fact looking at private student social media posts.  If those were somehow monitored or if action was taken on students’ opinions of the test, then shame on those involved.  But come on, to call monitoring public social media posts “spying” shows a lack of understanding of social media that is for all intents is public information.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Student Data Privacy Worries Grow

The worries and media coverage around the privacy of student data are growing as fast as the amount of funds being funneled into educational technology startups, and for good reason; The amount of apps and programs that are being used with students by teachers and schools are growing faster than ever, and often being implemented with little to no planning and oversight. 

Natasha Singer, of the New York Times, who has investigated the (in)security of educational applications produced by signatories of the Student Privacy Pledge, wrote a new story highlighting the difficulties faced by schools in managing all the apps and related student data. The story features Judson Independent School District amongst others.

At the same time a coalition of groups, including CoSN, the Consortium for School Networking, released 10 principles for protecting and guiding the use of the personal information of America’s students

It's great to see media coverage highlighting the issue that is also willing to recognize that there are many groups involved with trying to help schools with this issue.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What is keeping education CTO's up at night?

During the recent February 2015 TCEA conference in Austin, several CTOs participated in panel about their most pressing issues and worries in their roles as CTOs.

What keeps CTO's up at night?  Check it out at eSchoolNews
The panel, moderated by Kari Murphy, Chief Technology Officer at Deer Park ISD included John Orbaugh, Executive Director of Technology at Tyler ISD, Karla Burkholder, CTO at Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, Barbara Brown, Chief Technology Officer at Lewisville ISD, and myself, Steve Young, Chief Technology Officer at Judson ISD.  Our dear colleague, Sheryl Abshire, Chief Technology Officer from Calcasieu Parish Schools, was unable to join the group.

eSchoolNews did a short follow up piece and interviewed several panelists for the article.

It is a quick and worthwhile read at: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/03/11/cto-night-752/?   


Monday, February 23, 2015

Innovation is Not About the Technology

A reporter recently asked me, "Are any of the new technologies being introduced into K-12 education actually causing student test scores to increase?" While the question has been asked a lot, her point was that with all the venture capital being poured into educational technology now, investors and the public may start wanting products to show actual data on how they actually improve test scores. In the case of many products, a lot of which focus on remediating students for particular subjects, this is certainly a valid question. But I think many times we are hoping software, hardware, remediation systems, and other assorted educational technology products will magically transform education, when they will not. 
Read the great article at ISTE

One of the best pieces I've read this week was written by Grant Lichtman and published by ISTE. The author traveled to tens of schools across the country and visited with teachers and students and observed the learning process at many innovative schools. The author concludes that the innovation is really not about the technology at all, but rather about how learning is structured where the students are the leaders in learning. Of course this does not mean that technology can't play a role in the process, but the critical factors include how classes are structured, how students take charge of their learning and investigation, and how teachers and administrators must release control of learning to students. I urge you to read this great piece and join the conversation by sharing your thoughts.