Leveraging Technology to Improve Educati

Leveraging Technology to Improve Education | Steve Wozniak HPU Innovator in Residence http://ow.ly/UPqj30bklxd #edtech #education

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Shooting 360-Degree Video With A GoPro I

Shooting 360-Degree Video With A GoPro Is About To Get Easier With Fusion Camera http://ow.ly/Tu6f30b1lEi #edtech #VR #makerspace http://ow.ly/i/u0Gz9

Future-proofing Your Students

I was recently giving a talk to our faculty on my planned direction for teacher and student devices over the near term at my school. In my talk, I began by reviewing a bit about why we do technology in education…things most everyone knew but I felt a level set might be worth while. One of my points referred to a shift we are seeing in education…moving away from the “old-school” model of knowledge transfer and moving toward a focus on teaching soft skills (some refer to them as super skills).  These are skills like Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Innovation.  As I was standing in front of our early childhood faculty reviewing these soft skills and doing the “old school vs new school” compare and contrast, I was struck by a thought.  

But before I share the thought, let me give you a bit more background on where I am currently.

I have a son who, at the time of this writing, is a senior in high school.  He was introduced to computing technology at a very, very early age…largely due to my job at a highly progressive 1:1 laptop school as well as his attendance at said school.  As a result, he discovered a deep interest, dare I say a passion for all things tech.  Yes, he is an avid gamer, as are most school aged kids today…but it is much more than that.  Yes, he had a significant viewership on his YouTube channel in middle school where he produced videos discussing gaming tips and tricks.  He began coding, everything from a smart-glass project with his brother to a coding-for-hire gig for developers in the UK.  Now in high school, he is also in his second year on the robotics team.  It is the robotic team participation that, I believe, led to his proclamation that he wanted to study computer science in college…more specifically CS with an emphasis in Artificial Intelligence.  AI…GASP!!  Images of Sonny from “i, Robot” danced in my head!!

But I stepped back and took a breath.  And as a result of his interest in AI, his quest for a university to further his education (prepare yourself for his arrival High Point University!!) and his desire to ultimately pursue a career in the field of AI, I felt compelled to learn more about the topic myself.  Let me just say, there are amazing things going on in the field of Artificial Intelligence.  And it is highly probable that there are even more amazing things at the research phase that the average private school Director of Technology like me cannot possibly dream up!  

However, I read almost as many pieces that were more negatively reactionary than informative.  By that I mean that there are plenty of folk who are concerned about developments in Artificial Intelligence.  At best, many believe all of our jobs will be taken by robots.  At worst, some believe AI will be the end of humanity.  

Robophobes abound!!

I currently come down somewhere closer to the “wow” aspect of AI and machine learning, and I believe there are significant advantages to be realized and rewards to be cashed in as society moves down this path of extreme automation.  I believe it is an exciting time to be alive!  However, I do not believe every job is at risk of being automated into oblivion.  Yes, I believe there are things that computer machines cannot do well.

So back to my faculty talk.  Imagine if you will, all these thoughts occupying space in my aging brain as I was speaking to my teacher community.  As I gazed down my list of soft skills and began to discuss how education technology can help the classroom teacher to focus student learning in this direction, all of my thoughts around AI and these skills developed into quite the swirling vortex.  And that is when I was struck with the thought.  The list of skills I had on the screen were in-fact skills that were uniquely human and would prove difficult to automate.  

I do not believe computers can innovate.

I do not believe Robots can create something from random components.

I do not believe Artificial Intelligence can be programmed to think critically.  

My swirling vortex led me to conclude this; if we teach students these soft/super skills, we provide them with talents and abilities that will serve them throughout their adult lives.  We will, to a great degree, future-proof them!  These are skills that employers will always need regardless of the level of automation.  These are skills that will propel future entrepreneurs to untold heights of success.  

Gone are the days of knowledge transfer as the education model.  Content is ubiquitous and in today’s society, to quote Dr. Nido Qubein, knowledge becomes irrelevant.  Equip students with future-proofing skills and school will become more relevant than ever before.  Do not allow students to fall victim to Robophobia!!

Additional reading…
Employers Find ‘Soft Skills’ Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply
Why the Soft Skills Matter Most
How To Get A Job At Google
‘Basic Skills’ or ‘Soft Skills:’ What Should Be Taught and Tested?Beyond the Test: How Teaching Soft Skills Helps Students Succeed

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4 good computer habits every teacher sho

4 good computer habits every teacher should have #edchat #edtech #education http://ow.ly/zdHI30a5103

iPad vs Chromebook…the better classroom device is a Chromebook

A team member recently made me aware of this article by Kelly Croy called, “The Best Chromebook is… an iPad.” I realize the post is approaching two years old but it obviously still has a life so I feel the need to post a rebuttal of sorts. My primary issue (beyond the fact the post continues to have a life), even in light of its original publication date, is that the author seems to approach the topic with a bit of bias toward the iPad because he spends no time espousing the virtues of the Chromebook as an educational device. I will point out the biggest winning virtue of the Chromebook in my conclusion but I will first go bolded point by bolded point and address each area of comparison that leads the author to his unfortunate conclusion and why I feel differently.

Myth #1: The iPad is about consuming not producing.” Hardly a myth and here’s why. The iPad was and continues to be a consumer device. Steve Jobs even admitted it in his iPad rollout as summarized by this Wired article…”Most people don’t buy a laptop for the tasks they were originally designed for — heavy office work, such as writing, crafting presentations, or financial analysis with spreadsheets. They use it mostly to communicate via email, text, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook; to browse the Internet; and to consume media such as books, movies, TV shows, music, photos, games, and videos. Jobs said that you could do all this on an iPhone, but the screen was too small to make it comfortable. You could also do it all on a laptop, but the keyboard and the trackpad made it too bulky, and the short battery life often left you tethered to a power outlet. Jobs felt what the world needed was a device in the middle that combined the best of both — something that was “more intimate than a laptop, and so much more capable than a smartphone,” he said.” During his presentation, Jobs threw up a slide that listed the tasks you’d use the iPad for…they were, “Browsing, Email, Photos, Video, Music, Games and eBooks”…for the average user, consumption. So to recap, the iPad’s creator identified the reason he created the device was “to consume”!!! So Myth #1 is not really a myth at all.

Now I will give you a certain amount of leeway here due to some of the more recent app development that does facilitate creation in, on and with the device (which by the way I believe has been a result of and response to the adaptation of the iPad in education)…but the majority of the tasks done on the iPad still today, even in schools, involves consumption.

But I may well take away the leeway for suggesting that creating using the Google Apps is the same as creating on a Chromebook using the Google suite of tools. It isn’t. There is functionality in Google docs, slides, sheets, etc. that simply doesn’t exist in the Apple version of the apps. This idea of using the Google Apps on the iPad as a normal course of action would suggest to me that Mr. Croy has never attempted to create a comprehensive presentation using the iPad only.

“Myth #2: The iPad doesn’t have a physical keyboard”. Hello? Earth to Mr. Croy. This is absolutely not a myth but 100% fact. No one on the planet to date has ever bought an iPad that does have a physical keyboard…no one! Now obviously what you meant to say here is, “The iPad doesn’t come with a physical keyboard…but you can buy one for a mere forty six dollars and fourteen cents.” Oh wait, that’s not a myth either. Ok, so I’m not sure where you were headed with this “myth” but the bottom line is that the iPad doesn’t come with a keyboard but you can buy one if you want.

And frankly I’m puzzled by the balance of his sentences under the “Myth #2” paragraph. I thought I might list every sentence and respond to them individually but frankly, this one is hardly worth the effort. So I’ll just sum them up this way:
Students do have devices with physical keyboards…they’re called computers or sometimes laptops.
The idea that students would/could complete all types of assignments on a virtual keyboard is wrong-headed…I doubt any student assigned to write a 10-page thesis would reach for an iPad to do it. This one covers his thought that only old people think physical keyboards are superior…again, wrong-headed.
Adults are quite adept at the use of a virtual keyboard and the notion that we’re not is a bit demeaning to say the least.

“Durability:” They’re equal, he said so himself.

Portability: Not sure what his point is here. Is it size? Is it weight? Is it boot time? If it is size, well there are Chromebooks that are smaller than the iPad…but honestly smaller isn’t always better, if it were, Mr. Jobs would have stopped with the iPhone. If it is weight, well not all Chromebooks are created equal here either, some are lighter than the average iPad. If it is boot time, well if the iPad is new and running the latest iOS, it will boot faster. But let’s line up a 4 year old iPad and a 4 year old Chromebook and open up a Google Doc to start editing and let’s see who wins. But wait, this is not “boot time” but more the concept of “mean time to productivity” which, in my opinion, is a far more important metric.

“Reading Device:” Really? See Myth #1.

“Apps:” Here’s another one I’ll give him a pass on. The landscape was vastly different a couple years ago when this article was typed on the virtual keyboard of an iPad (Ok, i’m only assuming he wrote it on an iPad but, if I were a betting man, I’d bet he did it on a device with a physical keyboard). The fact is, that just a few weeks ago, Google announced that the entire Google Play Store and all of its Android Apps will be available on the Chrome OS. So, Apps: Equal.

“The Game-Changer:” If the only educational resources available to a connected student was within iTunes University, then yes, this would be both a game-changer and a really sad world. The good news is, the real world is vastly different and there are more educational resources available on the internet right now than there were when I started writing this article a short while ago. And while those resources are in-fact available on the iPad, they are equally available, and often easier to manage on a Chromebook.

“Price:” I’m not sure what Amazon he used to find his pricing. My query returned no new iPads for around $300…add his physical keyboard and you’re easily over $300. I have a quote for a Lenovo N22 with touchscreen that comes in just over the $200 price point. Without the touchscreen, just under $200. Multiply this difference by the number of students in your class or your school/district and we’re talking serious money.

So in summary Mr. Croy, I would have to disagree with virtually every point made in your article. But as you said in your blog’s comments, that’s the beauty of this blog/comment venue.

Stopping here would seem logical since I’ve addressed each of Mr. Croy’s bolded talking points and I’ve addressed a few of the Chromebook strengths along the way. However, the most significant feature of the Chromebook in an educational setting has not yet been discussed primarily because the iPad features in this area pale in comparison, and that is administrative control features.

The Google Admin Console provides an incredibly comprehensive level of control over every functional aspect of the Chromebook. It’s far more than merely blocking websites. It is fundamental machine level control that works wherever the Chromebook is and whomever is signed into the device. Now there is a certain amount of device management that can be implemented for the iPad. However, the best products come from 3rd party vendors (just Google “apple device management for education” and you’ll see 5 companies listed ahead of Apple in the results) and they are far more expensive than the one-time management license with the Chromebook.

Now Apple is clearly attempting to patch this deficiency with bandaids like Apple School Manager and Managed Apple IDs…but these are clearly afterthoughts. The reality is, nobody at Apple saw the education market coming. Google, on the other hand, was in the education business long before the Chromebook launched and, as a result, they were able to anticipate the functionality tech directors like me would want in devices we were putting in the hands of 8 year old students.

In conclusion, beyond consumption vs creation, beyond form factor, beyond apps or device durability, I need to know that I can do everything possible to make the use of any digital device as safe, secure and distraction free that I can for the benefit of my students and my faculty. Google does this well with their Chromebook device…Apple, well like my network guy says, “These iPads are like the Wild West, no law around for hundreds of miles!!”

A Screen Fast? Seriously?? Is that even a thing???

A fairly prominent member of the parent community at my former school shared this article that suggests much of the medical community is mistakenly diagnosing children with conditions like ADHD and even more serious conditions like bipolar disorder.  The article further proposes that the real root cause of the child’s symptoms is simply too much time in front of a screen…suggesting even further that a “screen fast” (days at a time away from any sort of technology with a screen) will markedly improve their children’s attitude, among other symptoms.  Go ahead, read the article, I’ll wait.

I will not attempt to support nor refute the claims made in this article because I am not a child psychologist as is the author.  However, as a private school administrator at a highly technological educational institution who, for the last thirteen years, has been surrounded, day in and day out, by young students using technology, I have a few points I would like to make about the article.

Untitled presentation

First, my biggest fear is that parents of perfectly normal, healthy young people will read this article, grab it with both hands and run with it, thereby depriving their children of the most educationally transformative tools to find their way into a classroom…EVER!  

All parents must do what I am doing here, and resist the temptation to take this limited knowledge and play psychologist with their own children and implement this “fast” just because a doctor has written an article.  If parents are truly concerned about their children, take them to their own doctor and let the doctor make the appropriate diagnosis!

Next, let’s say for a moment that screens are leading to the issue.  I would propose that equipping students to deal appropriately with technology is a much more worthy endeavor than completely stripping them of it.  This may come as a surprise to some, including the author of the article, but technology is not going away.  Smartphones are here to stay.  The internet will live on.  Our job as both parents and educators is to adequately equip students to succeed in their future, not ours.  And their future will include technology.  And that technology WILL irritate them from time to time.  However, walking away from it for days will simply not be an option for almost every student in school today.  I have no statistics on hand to support this claim, but I feel certain that the percentage of the first world population that does not interact with technology on a daily basis is far less than one-half of one percent…and that number is approaching zero more and more every day.

Now lest you misquote me, let me be clear.  There is nothing wrong with walking away from technology for a while.  All things in moderation, right?  But I see no valid reason to force a child to live in a world for a week that looks nothing like what their future will be.  It’s an unreasonable and even drastic approach.  Teach your children how to deal with life.  Prepare them and equip them, but don’t handicap them.  

If you’re a parent who can’t engage with your child because of a screen, I might suggest you have more of a parenting issue as opposed to a technology issue.

If you’re a teacher who can’t hold your student’s attention in class, I submit you have more of a classroom management issue than you do a technology issue.

I recently had a lunch meeting with a head of school who told me he was headed back to campus to deal with an issue of several students using their phones to cheat on tests by Googling the answers.  I suggested he had more of a teacher problem than he did a student problem or a technology problem.  I explained if his teachers were asking questions that Google knew the answer to, they weren’t asking the right kinds of questions.  Instead of asking, “When did the Civil War begin?”, ask something like “Explain the Northern and the Southern common man’s reason for engaging in the Civil War”.  Google might be able to help answer that question but they will not be able to hide their device and type that long question in!  Harder to grade you say??  Sure, but I suggest far more meaningful in the end.

I have no doubt these symptoms are real and need to be addressed…but a “fast” is a band-aid looking for a cut.  Device banishment as a consequence of poor choices offers no real solution to help a child make better choices.  In a classroom, if a student is reading ahead in his/her textbook, and as a result is off task, the teacher would never suggest taking away his textbook as a consequence, right?  How about a “back-in-the-day” example of a student passing notes.  Would the teacher take away that students pencil for the rest of the class…or the week?  No.  Children need to be equipped and empowered to succeed in their future.  I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but I can guarantee you, there will be screens.