Nov 26, 2008
I recently attended a conference for technology directors in the state of California, and I must say I was heartened by some changes in the program and, in some cases, the attendance of the sessions. What was different, you ask? The focus of these sessions on students and education. To be sure, these sessions were in the minority. But they were there, and they indicate the beginnings of what I believe will be an important shift in education technology. My only question is, are we too late?
Oct 15, 2008

Open Source at ILC 08

This week I had the pleasure of presenting at the CUE/FETC Innovative Learning Conference in San Jose, CA. Once again, I presented on the topic of Open Technologies, in the form of a case study on our use here at SUSD. Since this is essentially a classroom-oriented conference, I decided to focus primarily on desktop and web applications, including our use of open source on PCs, Macs, and Linux machines, Green Computing Initiative, and web technologies.
Enjoy this audio podcast from the session. Be sure to get the resources from my prior post.

Download mp3
Oct 14, 2008
Today, I look forward to my presentation on open technologies at the CUE/FETC Innovative Learning Conference, entitled "The Value of Open Technologies." Rather than trying to fly up a pile of resources, I am posting the materials here for those in attendance (and even those who aren't but are interested.)

The first is a document I wrote about open technologies in general. This is a great resource to hand to administrators and other educational leaders to help them understand why these technologies are important.

Open Technologies In Education application/pdf

The second is what I call my "short list" of open source applications which I believe are worthy of your consideration.

Open Source Short List application/pdf

And finally, a listing of the great open source applications on the Open Disc, which is a fantastic resource for teachers and students.

OpenDisc Programs application/pdf
Aug 18, 2008
Saugus has made significant strides in the use of open solutions in the K12 environment. From servers, to desktops, to devices, we deploy and use open-source software far and wide. But did you know that the use of open-source can have a significant impact on the environment? In fact it can! Take a look at these numbers from the The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator. Re-using just one computer and monitor saves:
Aug 11, 2008

We're very excited about our new 21st century learning initiative, SWATTEC: Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.

We've created a public service announcement for our 4th grade teachers, which you can view below. A special thanks to Mary Mann, Jon Baker, and Arlene Anderson for helping with the video!

For further details, check out the SWATTEC wiki pages at
Jul 22, 2008

We are pleased to announce that our 21st century learning project, Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration (SWATTEC), has been fully funded and will commence this fall. Through this project, 1,700 fourth grade students at the Saugus Union School District will receive what we are referring to as an Ultra Mobile Device (Asus EeePC), and will engage in collaborative learning through the use of Web 2.0 evaluation, assessment, and social media tools.

The SWATTEC project has been carefully conceived, backed by tremendous research, and will be comprehensively supported through extensive staff development, evaluation, and district-wide support. We embark on this journey with great anticipation and high expectation that the development of a sustainable, one-to-one environment, coupled with the power of Web 2.0 tools will create a culture of transparent technology integration and generate academic, personal, and social gains never before realized in elementary education. We look forward to sharing the results with you.

Rather than post a number of blog entries on the project, I will instead post the details on my wiki pages at Be sure to check back often for updates.

Jul 2, 2008
For the final NECC keynote, Idit Harel Caperton shared her vision for the future of education technology. She is tremendously accomplished, perhaps best known as the co-editor (with Seymour Papert) of the 1991 book, Constructionism, the first book about constructionist learning.

Idit's presentation was, to say the least, challenging for many of us.
Jun 29, 2008

EduBloggerCon 08 is over and it was quite a day. For me, it was something of a battle just to get there, having flown through the night, with flight delays putting me on the ground (exhausted) at 9:00am Saturday morning. I rushed over to the convention center, grabbed Arlene out of the waning moments of her first session (Google apps, I think) and she graciously oriented me as to the "whos" and "hows."

This is a unique conference, or "unconference" as Steve likes to refer to it, in that it is run entirely by the participants. Session ideas are submitted via the conference wiki, and the participants vote on which sessions they want to attend. Sessions themselves are less of a typical "sage on the stage" session, and more group discussion. The trick is to get the right people in the room to drive the conversation, so gathering opinionated bloggers (like me ;-) in one space is a master stroke for engaged, vigorous idea wrangling and debate.

Jun 26, 2008

Every once in a while, something comes my way that just drives me batty. Such was the case today when the following message came across my desk from a tech director's mailing list. For those of you who feel like IT is your adversary, this will surely offer some valuable insight into the mindset of many of today's education IT managers:

I want to first say I do not hate Apple, they make a great PC. I just don't know how to support them, I have never worked on one for any length of time past 1994.

With that said, I really need some help stopping my district from buying Apple PC's. There are 2 techs for the entire district and we have been a Dell PC district for some time. Neither me or the other techs here know anything about Apples OS and are really busy and don't have a lot of time to learn all the ins and outs of it.

We thought we had successfully stopped anyone from buying Apples a few months with the argument that we just didn't have the trained staff to support it. That and having two PC platforms with only two techs is a really bad idea.

Well someone has found away to convince the Superintendent to buy Apple laptops in a lab. Now everyone in the district who thought we were oppressing them has sent us e-mails saying they all want one also.

I need good solid technical reasons why this would be very bad for a network that is running strictly Microsoft products (till now). We run Windows Server 2003 R2 (mostly) and Windows 2000 to Windows XP SP3.

Your help is greatly appericated.

This kind of thing is all too common in the world of ed tech.

Jun 25, 2008

NECC 2008 is right around the corner and I must say, I'm pretty excited about it! I'll be doing two sessions, My Space, Your Space: Effective Social Networking Using Open Source on Monday, 6/30/2008, 2:00pm-3:00pm in HGCC 217 A, and Social Networking in Education on Tuesday, 7/1/2008, 2:00pm-3:00pm in HGCC 217 A. I'm looking forward to meeting up with educators from around the world to share and discuss technology in education.

There has been a great deal of interest in Elgg, which is the social networking platform that we used to create this site and the SUSD Student Community, and there are a lot of other schools and organizations using it. To help us all "group up", I have created this group on the NECC Ning site. If you are interested in Elgg, or educational social networking in general, please join us on the NECC Ning! I'd love to get a great discussion group going, and maybe coordinate a meetup or two with those of you who will be at NECC next week.

See you in San Antonio!

Jun 19, 2008

Today I stumbled upon a blog post by Miguel Guhlin entitled "TexasCTO2008 - Legislative To-Do", which was about a recent CoSN Chief Technology Officers Clinic held in Texas on June 18th. In it, Miguel referred to the comments of a member of the Texas legislature, who was part of a panel presentation, "A Vision for Education Technology in Texas: Legislative Landscape."

Ordinarily, I would not have found such a thing of interest - I rarely find that a state legislature is really in touch with what's going on in the classroom, especially when it relates to technology. But I was particularly fascinated by the comments of Scott Hochberg, Vice Chair, Higher & Public Education Finance, Select Committee. With regard to education technology, Scott said the following:

Jun 2, 2008

I'm often asked to speak, write, participate in webcasts, and serve on panels discussing education and technology, and enjoy the opportunity to share some of the things we are thinking about here at Saugus. Having done so on many occasions over the past year, I find myself struck not by the value of the discussions, but by the consistency of the responses. For it seems that no matter how much we speak of change in education through technology, no matter what is said, no matter what is offered, or who leaves inspired, the foundation is rarely shaken. Most often the light of new ideas is bent through the lenses of personal perspective and bad habits, which results in technology decisions based on personal appeal, a sense of safety, or worse, a desire to be part of the "in" crowd, rather than utility, value, and potential.

I was reminded of this today when I happened upon David Jakes excellent post, "The Tragedy of the Commons", and read the comments of many who would disagree. I'm certainly late to the "cocktail party" on this one - it was posted more than a month ago. But, while I would never suggest that discussion isn't valuable, the thing about the discussion that stood out to me was the undercurrent of those in opposition.

May 19, 2008
After much delay (sorry, been pretty busy), here are a few of my favorite Web 2.0 apps. Keep in mind that there are a number of issues that must be addressed before using any of these applications in the classroom. Discussing these issues up front will be critical to a successful project and the safety of your students. In particular:
  • Privacy: Take the opportunity before using these tools to discuss issues of privacy with your students. You will have little to no control over what they post on these sites, so you will be relying on each student's sense of what they should and should not post. It is your responsibility to plant a sense of what is OK and what is not in their minds. Safety should be your number one priority.
May 15, 2008

Consider This

Consider the classroom of tomorrow. That place where students come not just to gain, but to consolidate their gains. That room with no barriers, no boundaries, no limits. That place of infinite height and depth, unlimited reach and unhindered access. A space with many addresses, many cultures, many views. A place where success is honored, and failure is embraced. Where creativity is rewarded, where collaborations are built, where teams are celebrated.

There are no time limits there, no restrictions, or walls. Ideas are welcome, voices are heard, friends are cherished, connections are nourished. This is the classroom of tomorrow, the "open" classroom, and it's time to start building it today.

May 13, 2008

Today I was referred to this excellent article by a high school senior from Plano Independent School District in Texas, entitled Open Minds with Open Source (page 46, should your browser not automatically take you there.) It was written by Alex Hirsch, son of Plano ISD's Jim Hirsch, who is a long time open-technologies advocate and former board chair of CoSN. I was particularly taken with his perspectives on open content and invasive copyright enforcement in our digital age:

It is at this point that we must look to the government, as well as large institutions and libraries of knowledge, to continue the march forward, not only to get the information out there, but to ensure true availability. That means no more proprietary formatting and no more invasive digital rights management. We need to unite under a common front of distribution before the system can really work to its fullest; it all starts with cooperation on a global scale.

Music to the ears of many of us who have been for so long preaching the gospel of openness and freedom. How refreshing it is to read that the next generation - the future of America - not only understands, but seeks to right the ship and set a course that might just restore this nation's great legacy of creativity and innovation.

And yet, many would disagree with Alex. Many still believe that the knowledge ownership model is superior. To them Alex offers this warning:

While I admit Wikipedia may be much more enjoyable for some than "Intro to Physics" or Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, the fact is they all hold equal potential for education, and should be as equally available to students. The danger lies in that if one is easier to obtain than the other, students are much more likely to opt for the easier option, and may miss out on experiencing fundamental concepts of science and literature.

Alex's words speak volumes to the demands of 21st century learners in an age of ownership and control and, while I think he could go further in his call for fundamental change in the education environment, I applaud his thoughtful vision of an "open" future with unhindered access to knowledge and information.

May 12, 2008

Last Friday I had the pleasure of hosting a round table on the topic of open source software in education at Technology and Learning's Tech Forum West in Long Beach, CA. Our lively discussion included K-20 classroom teachers and IT people from both education and industry. Topics truly ran the gamut of open source, including desktop applications, security, deployment, perception, web applications like Moodle, and ultra-mobile devices like the Asus EeePC.

It's a little noisy, but I hope you enjoy the recorded discussion and, more importantly, will share your thoughts on the topic!

Download mp3

May 2, 2008

OK, so it's been a year since I dared to float the controversial idea that interactive whiteboards are little more than a big, expensive white mouse, whose functionality can easily be replaced by far less expensive solutions (see my prior post, "Is the debate over the value of interactive whiteboards really about the boards?") I received tons of feedback from a variety of sources, which did little to sway my view of them. Most from proponents were testimonies of increased student engagement, etc., etc., very similar to those I mentioned in the prior post, all subjective and lacking in any real data. Even Smart's favorite "evidence" of student achievement from the EU is vague at best, listing their boards as one of a number of technologies (emphasis on the words "one of") that were implemented. Then there are the health risks, which are only just starting to surface.

Don't get me wrong, I too can appreciate the value of including a variety of media types when explaining a key concept or working through a problem,

Apr 23, 2008

Throughout the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to present a number of sessions and panels related to Web 2.0 and social networking in education at several conferences, including the Consortium of School Networking Professionals K12 School Networking Conference in Washington D.C., the Computer Using Educators conference in Palm Springs, CA, and the Community College Foundations's TechEd 2008 in Ontario, CA. If you attended my sessions, thank you very much! It was thrilling to see so many educators excited and engaged in the discussion about the potential of Web 2.0 in schools. I personally believe that social networking tools can change the way we think about educational content creation, student and teacher interaction, collaborative, project based learning, and 21st century skills as a whole.

I have already posted some great social networking related content on this site (like here, here, and here), but, for those of you with whom I have been unable to connect, I thought I'd post a recording of the session. Enjoy!

[ Download - audio/mp3 ]

Creative Commons License

Apr 2, 2008
Below is a list of a few of my favorite open source applications for the desktop. Most are available for any platform, and many are available on the OpenDisc for Windows systems (which you can download here, or, if you are a Saugus employee, simply ask and we'll send you one.) It's important to keep in mind that these applications:
  • Are free
  • Can be given to students to install and use at home
  • Offer educators the opportunity to introduce new technologies in their educational environement
  • Provide essential skills that are transferrable to applications of similar types in the commercial world
Mar 28, 2008
Each year, the Consortium of School Networking Professionals (CoSN) holds the premier national technology leadership conference dedicated to policy and effective implementation from school district, state and national perspectives. The conference attracts more than 1000 key technology decision-makers seeking to learn from other leaders as we define the future of information and communication technologies in our nation's schools.

As a part of this excellent conference, I was offered the opportunity to lead a session entitled "Virtualization and Consolidation: The 21st Century Network Infrastructure," in which I covered a variety of topics related to server and storage virtualization.

Enjoy! (approx 1 hr.)

Download mp3
Mar 15, 2008
Wow - it's been a busy couple of weeks out there in conference-land, with CUE and CoSN back-to-back this year. I was personally involved in a total of 7 presentations and panels on both coasts across the two conferences. On Friday afternoon at CUE, Steve Hargadon hosted a live panel on Social Networking in Education (on the EdTechLive channel on Panelists included:
We had a lively discussion with a great group on the merits of social networking in K12 education - I hope you enjoy it. Running time: approx. 60 minutes.

Feb 15, 2008
Yesterday, I participated in an excellent discussion on Creative Commons, Open Content, and Copyright, hosted by Steve Hargadon for the new Classroom 2.0 Live Discussions series. The panelists for the discussion included:

As educators' adoption of Web 2.0 technologies continues to grow, and as students and teachers continue to move from mere content consuming toward content creation, copyright and licensing issues will undoubtedly represent some of the greatest challenges in the learning environment. It is critical that we, as tech-savvy educators, endeavor to not only understand the issues at play, but also that we find ways to foster discussions around the topic of "digital citizenship" in our environments, and seek every opportunity to share our knowledge effectively with our peers.

Click below to listen to the podcast (approx. 1 hr):

Download mp3

Creative Commons License

The notes from the discussion are here, and the chat log, which contains a number of great links to valuable resources is here.

Our next, live conversation is scheduled to take place on February 20, 2008 at 12pm Pacific, 3pm Eastern on Talkshoe. Feel free to join the conversation!

Jan 31, 2008
ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) has posted a feature article from the February/March issue of Learning and Leading with Technology entitled "Social Networking for the K-12 Set," written by yours truly. In the article, I discuss the potential of social networking tools, the development of the SUSD Teacher and Student Community sites, (you're in the SUSD Teacher Community site now,) and the impact that their use has had on our education environment.
This article also offers an example of a successful open- source based education technology project in every respect. Not only did we leverage open-source resources and the community around them, but we also made modifications to the software necessary to fit our environment, and have made the new code available to the community at large, in true open-source fashion (you can find the latest version of the code here.)
There has been much talk of Web 2.0 in education these days, with social networking tools receiving much attention. I, for one, believe that social networking tools have the potential to change the way we think about education and community, by providing a platform upon which 21st century skills can be nurtured and developed in both students AND teachers. The trick is to figure out how to do it well, and to create a safe, effective, and comfortable environment for students and teachers to work in. (I discussed some of the reasons I believe social networking has yet to see wide educational acceptance/use in my post, "Why Hasn't Social Networking Taken Off in K-12 Education?" from last April - check it out, and let me know what you think.)
For more information on open technologies, visit the CoSN Open Technologies Initiative web site at There you will find a wealth of relevant information for K-20 educators on open-source, open standards, and open content.
Jan 24, 2008
Lawrence Lessig is perhaps the most prolific proponent of open content and copyright reform in the nation. He is the former CEO and continuing board member of the Creative Commons organization. His talks are always inspiring, thought provoking, and controversial, yet, in my view, foundational to our understanding of content and freedom in the digital age.