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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CoSN 2015 Texas CTO Clinic Supports K-12 Technology Leadership Growth

Missed the 2015 CoSN Texas CTO Clinic?  Check out some missed highlights at Technology & Learning Magazine's web site at http://www.techlearning.com/blogentry/9469 



Can Schools Become Future Ready When Families Aren’t Connected?

One of the most vexing challenges for schools trying to convert to becoming Future Ready by transitioning to digital learning, is the persistently large number of students from families that do not have Internet access

Internet access alone will not bring about a change in learning, but it can support reshaping classrooms and schools that are embracing flipped classrooms, student-based discovery, and personalization of learning. For schools looking to put devices in the hands of students, the lack of Internet access in many homes is a major stumbling block. Schools and some Internet service providers have tried to address this access gap with varying degrees of success and creativity. Coachella Valley Unified School District parked Wi-Fi equipped buses in neighborhoods of greatest need, while Forsyth County Schools partnered with local business who would offer students free Wi-Fi and a safe place to work on homework. Comcast has offered a basic Internet plan to families in its markets for $9.95 a month. Pasadena ISD near Houston, Texas is going so far as to build their own LTE broadband network, but for most school this type of build out has far too many technical and financial hurdles.

 Will the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) come to the rescue? It very well might, as last week the FCC voted to change its Lifeline program, which subsidizes telephones for low income families. The change would subsidize just under $10 a month for broadband Internet for low income families. The FCC already transformed e-Rate this year. Will the Lifeline program change be another shift in policy that can really help schools bridge the access divide? This could be a huge opportunity for schools to encourage families to sign up for low- or no-cost Internet and have the same learning opportunities that other families with Internet access have.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Data Privacy Fervor

The activity around student data privacy has reached a new level of fervor, with state and federal legislators locked and loaded, ready to take aim at vendors, districts, and teachers alike. There are an amazing number of parties and organizations weighing in on this very important topic, from parent groups, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), to many educational organizations like the National School Board Association (NSBA) and the National Education Association (NEA). 

There are literally tens of bills pending at the state and federal levels, with assorted rules for companies, districts, and school staff members. California was early to the game with its landmark SOPIPA legislation, which passed in September of last year. Others that joined, like Louisiana, passed laws that place teachers in the crosshairs, with looming large fines and possible jail time for each student data privacy violation. Yes, teachers do need to take protecting student data much more seriously, but are fines or jail time really the answer? We all need to start focusing on the basics, starting with policies, procedures, and staff and student training. 

Regardless of the pending laws affecting us in each of our states, the need to inform staff and students of the dangers of data over sharing and the responsibility to protect it have never been greater. If you are just starting your student data privacy journey, I suggest downloading the excellent Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning toolkit from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), which can serve as a privacy roadmap for districts. Also try visiting the Student Data Principles site, Stay Safe Online, and the Privacy Technical Assistance Center, which will give you the ammo needed to start moving your school forward with becoming a student data privacy advocate. 

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.