Monday, May 10, 2010

A New Life on The eDGe

I found myself with a few spare minutes this morning so I thought I would quickly post some initial thoughts on the Entourage eDGe.

In my efforts to go paperless, I grabbed my eDGe and headed off to 3 days of meetings last week. I experienced a little anxiety attack as I am used to having a pack of pens at the ready and my small notepad. It was strange showing up with my little cocoon case, my Blackberry and nothing else.
Long story short...I was very impressed. I found the eink side very easy to take all of my notes, store them, and retrieve them later. It is true that there is a slight bit of lag as you write but not enough to be disruptive. It felt almost as natural as writing on regular paper except for the fact that people kept coming over to see what this "funky" piece of tech was. It was also fantastic to be able to switch to my novel of choice by the press of one button. I don't need to be distracted but there was some downtime and I enjoyed filling it science fiction thrills and chills.
The tablet side was a trip down the lane fantastic! I felt like I was in Star Trek as I paid bills, read and responded to emails, scanned my RSS feeds, and seached for the latest news using just my finger! I prefered using the stylus for longer email messages but the virtual keyboard also worked well without it. For all you librarians and library fans...the eDGe utilizes epub files which means downloading books from libraries is a breeze!
There are a few things that definitely need some attention:
  • First of all, my hotel's wireless network was down which meant the WiFi on my eDGe was useless. The people at Entourage thought of this by providing a USB ethernet adapter option BUT they are sold out!!!! I hope they correct this soon.
  • My internet experience was also limited by my inability to access a lot of online video. If they want this machine to be a real contender then this needs to be rectified and soon. The 21st century is multimedia rich and so this device needs to navigate that world effortlessly. According to the tweets I have seen, this will be fixed with an update very soon. Supposedly very soon may mean this summer as they emphasized to me they want to be fully functional before the start of the next school year.
  • The lack of an app store also was a little frustrating. As an innovator...okay geek...I accept the fact that I will have to put in some effort to utilize new technologies. I toured forums and blogs to find apps and to find the tips necessary to install them. As a geek I view that process almost like a badge of honor. Most people (and me after the novelty wears off) just want to be able to effortlessly find, install, and utilize their apps. Once again I was assured that this is in the works and will be rectified soon so......we wait patiently.
  • Oh of the reasons I picked the eDGe was because it seemed more versatile than the iPad. It has USB ports, audio recording capability (works great) AND a camera. Too bad the camera isn't functional yet!!!!

The Entourage eDGe is a fantastic tool. I am thrilled I invested in this product. Judging by the number of principals who questioned me about it, the eDGe has the potential to take the world by storm. I just hope that their "very soon" to do list will be completed sooner rather than later. At the moment I fully trust this to be the case. Their staff has been highly accessible to me as a customer and they seem genuinely determined to be ready for back to school shoppers in the summer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Education, Tech Integration, Star Trek and Goofy?

I believe that much of what we need to know about the universe can be found in old Star Trek episodes. My musings about successfully integrating technology into schools solidified this claim for me.

Short Version:

Successfully integrating technology leads to the technology almost becoming invisible as the users get to focus on what is most important (see video 1 below). Investing in users' confidence and capabilities can empower them to overcome any obstacles technology can throw their way (see the second video below). Technology integration is about investing in people first and foremost.

Longer Version:

Integrating any technology obviously involves planning. In their article "All Aboard!", David and Margaret Carpenter (2008) break down some key aspects to consider. They utilized the Honk Kong International School as their model for this article and here is some of what they found in regards to integrating technology into instructional practices:

  • Empower teachers - Teachers at HKIS had intense workloads combined with high expectations. Allowing teachers to take the lead and collaborate with other stakeholders was very effective.

  • Focus - HKIS didn't try to rewrite the manual on education; they took manageable chunks and constantly reviewed their progress.

  • Collaborate - Very simple...a collaborative focus allowed integration to flow more smoothly horizontally and vertically across the curriculum.

  • Define everyone as learner - "classroom teachers learned new technology and information literacy skills alongside their students." (p. 20)

  • Include Curriculum - It needs to be mentioned that all of the above steps involved a concerted effort to involve curricular changes/implications to their integration efforts.

Take a look back at the above list and ask yourself "What was central to the integration plan...the technology? the users? the curriculum?"

TPACK is another model that looks at the integration of technology. Keep the above questions in mind as you look at the quote and the image from their website below.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPACK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK)...True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator.

Sorry for all the highlighting but the above information is crucial. The implications of the above videos and quotes on education in the 21st Century are huge. While some may be looking for specific tips, I am not at that point yet. I am still stuck at wrestling with the big picture and with all of the connections between this topic and countless others.


1. Investing in people is paramount! It has always amazed me how the characters in Star Trek just seemed to know how to fix, adapt, and utilize every piece of technology especially in the heat of battle. Sure, the technology was amazing but at some point in the past there must have been some amazing PD opportunities that solidified their skills. Imagine how different the episodes would have looked if Starfleet built starships but filled them with people who feared technology and had no clue how to use it?

2. Solely focusing on access is counterproductive! There is a huge concern about the digital divide in our nations and especially in our schools. The temptation to focus on access issues by purchasing computers is great but...what if these expensive hardware roll out plans are actually feeding the digital divide?

When new teachers enter the classroom, many are armed with a variety of
technological tools to enhance their curriculum, but too often,a digital divide
exists between teachers and students. Without reform and the empowerment of
teachers and students, schools will widen the digital divide and create an
unavoidable abyss. (Mullen & Wedwick, 2008, p.66)

This quote further supports the TPACK model above and its focus on the complex nature of technology and human knowledge. Mullen & Wedwick go on even further to bring up other topics such as 21st century skills and novel definitions of literacy. I have experienced the frustration of being thrown into a sea of new technologies without any clue about what to do with them. I remember feeling angry, stupid, anxious...but I never considered the broader ramifications. This limited definition of technology integration ("if we buy it they will integrate it") not only harmed me emotionally but actually may have widened the digital divide, undermined efforts to instill 21st century skills in my students, and greatly hampered the level of literacy in my school.

3. Evaluate who we are before we plan where we want to go! Every context, every individual is highly unique. This uniqueness has to fuel or temper your integration plans.

Our efforts to integrate technology will be facilitated or impeded by our answers to these questions. For instance, if we don't even acknowledge the pervasiveness of technology and that society demands novel skills from effective citizens, then integration efforts may be weaker or nonexistent. If we acknowledge the importance of 21st century skills BUT our view of risk directs us to filter everything then our integration strategies will follow suit.

One final thought. Integrating technology is not new. I came across a video today of a fictitious teacher who in his eyes had probably successfully integrated technology into his classroom. Watch the video through the lens of the above questions and ask yourself "Would this teacher embrace change?", "Should this teacher embrace change?", and "Who is benefitting from his use of technology?"

Nonhyperlinked Resources:

Carpenter, D. & Carpenter, M. (2008) All aboard! Learning & Leading with Technology, December/January, 18-21.

Mullen, R. & Wedwick, L. (2008) Avoiding the digital abyss: Getting started int eh classroom with YouTube, digital stories, and blogs. The Clearing House, 82(2), 66-69.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Professional Development, Complexity, and Mutual Responsibility

This week's exploration of technology professional development was probably one of the most intensely reflective weeks I have experienced in a long time. 1000 words is insufficient to describe this reflective journey we go.

Short Version:

Like snowflakes, every professional is highly unique and complex. In order for each professional to develop we need professional development opportunities that honor this uniqueness and complexity. Shifting topics in seminars does not actually produce diverse experiences. Responsibility for the effectiveness of professional development falls on the shoulders of the designers AND the participants.

Setting the Stage:

A) If the learning opportunity is passive, doesn't meet the needs of the learner, and the designer doesn't understand the participants then development is unlikely:

Click here for a humorous but poignant example.

B) Each individual has unique and specific needs, wants, histories, beliefs, experiences, working contexts, and perceptions that can make meeting their needs very demanding:

Judi Harris in her four part series "One Sized Doesn't Fit All: Customizing Educational Technology Professional Development" (2008) does an excellent job of exploring these complexities. Over this four part series she lists the following factors to consider in terms of technological professional development:

  • learning needs/preferences

  • personal/school/district goals. In Part 1 of her series she lists awareness, curriculum integration, shifts in instructional techniques, curricular/instructional reform, organizational change, and social change.

  • technological adoption style. In Part 3 of her series she suggests four highly distinct groups: innovators, early adopters, late adopters, and laggards. Individuals from each group vary in their openness to utilitzing new technologies and their ability to navigate the bumps and bruises along the way to adopting these new technologies.

  • curriculum content

  • pedagogical slants

  • and the list goes on

Kimberley Ketterer (2007) deepens adds to this discussion of complexity by exposing that different professionals prefer to learn in different ways.

  • Coach - "They are willing to take risks at integrating technology into their curriculum as long as they have support and encouragement from a colleague tbey can trust" (p. 21)

  • Nurture - "They need a nurturing teaching partner who is willing to help develop and model lessons. Someone to provide encouragement to move forward applauding small achievements while at the same time, continually building self-confidence." (p. 21)

  • Nudge - "only attend tecbnology integration workshops when attendance is mandated. They need to be gently pushed, prodded, and cajoled into learning how to integrate technology." (p. 21)

Hopefully the above points will support my claim that polarizing teachers into two camps (new school and old school) is not accurate.

As professionals we spend countless hours on differentiated instructional techniques for our students...why don't we apply the same principles to ourselves?


1) We need to redefine ourselves as learners above all else. If teachers, administrators, librarians, and educational tech. support staff did this then maybe we would afford ourselves the same level of expertise and attention we give our students

So much of professional development is throwing everyone in a room and having them learn the same stuff. Maybe there is some choice in the offerings, but by and large there is very little attempt at creating a customized professional development curriculum for teachers...Teachers are learners. If they’re not, they shouldn’t be teachers. In a world where we can engage in our passions through the affordances of connective technologies online, we need to be thinking about how to personalize the learning of the adults in the room as well as the kids. Will Richardson

2) Individualized development plans with a communal flavour is the recipe for success.

Technology-related professional development is undergoing a transformation. Previously, teachers were expected to become proficient with technology through a series of sessions and limited support resources (Plair,2008, p. 71)

According to Plair (2008) many plans lack the personal touch and the time investment needed to allow teachers to master the technology. Harris (2008) concurs:

"Research evidence indicates that 30 hours of focused professional development,
on average, is required to change teachers' professional practice...most
teachers probably have not had sufficient time or opportunity to engage in
the kinds of professional learning necessary to help them to use educational
technologies in new ways to assist their students'learning." (p. 18)

Personal learning networks may hold the key:

"A Personal Learning Network or PLN is a dedicated learning environment unique to each individual. What does that mean? It means that this is a place where people create their own environment which helps them to grow/learn. This can be done in many different ways through collaborating, blogging, social networking, etc. What makes PLN’s so great is that they are different for everybody but their goals are usually the same. That goal is to learn and share knowledge and to find a passion and follow it to the best of your ability." unquietlibrarian

In short, money and resources should be put behind teachers connecting with other professionals. These networks and communities mean more than sharing resources; they are mini research teams, instant "geek squad" tech support crews, midnight hour "Dr. Philish" emotional support teams, instantaneous/specific feedback syndicates and best of all...groups of professionals sharing real life examples of technological best practices. Thanks to web 2.0 tools there are countless ways to establish these networks with little or no expense. Cathy Nelson, David Kapuler provide some ideas on what these networks look like and how they can be set up.

3) Leaders are needed to make technology integration possible. Scott Macleod very bluntly asserts that "administrators are the only individuals with the ability to redesign school
organizations. They set the vision, control the budget, reassign personnel, empower others, alter school culture, establish priorities, facilitate buy-in, reallocate resources, and ensure organizational alignment." I agree with him that administrators are key as they can get creative to free teachers up to pursue professional networking opportunites and to play with technology. I would go one step further and say it is also the teachers' and librarians' responsibility to demand this type of leadership and creativity. If we don't demonstrate a desire for more effective professional development, if we don't persistently vocalize how present models hobble our effectiveness, and if we don't actively pursue technology integration ourselves then we are just as culpable for our inability to meet the needs of 21st century learners.

I am out of room for this week. Take a tour of my blog postings. I am the evidence for the power of sustained and focused professional development. Since September I have been part of a digital professional network and I can confidently say that I am a completely new teacher ready to tackle the 21st Century. Imagine the state of education if system wide professional development empowered every educator to make the same claim.

Nonhyperlinked resources (all of these are must reads):

Harris, J. (2008). One size doesn't fit all: Customizing educatonal technology professional development. Learning and Leading with Technology, February, 18-23.

Harris, J. (2008). One size doesn't fit all: Customizing educatonal technology professional development. Learning and Leading with Technology, March/April, 22-26.

Harris, J. (2008). One size doesn't fit all: Customizing educatonal technology professional development. Learning and Leading with Technology, May, 22-25.

Harris, J. (2008). One size doesn't fit all: Customizing educatonal technology professional development. Learning and Leading with Technology, June/July, 24-27

Ketterner, K. (2007). Coach, nurture, or nudge: How do you learn technology best? Learning and Leading with Technology, May, 21.

Plair, S. (2008). Revamping professional development for technology integration and fluency. The Clearing House, 82(2), 70-74.