Nov 21, 2009
I'm a tech guy, as you have probably noticed, and as a tech guy I often find myself spending a lot of time talking about all sorts of great technologies, like social media and Web 2.0 tools, the latest hardware and gadgets, and how to use them to build online communities and develop collaborative practices in the education space. I attend and participate in a number of conferences and webinars on a regular basis, both as a presenter and attendee, and serve on a number of panels and implementation teams, all of which I believe to be valuable. But lately I have been struck by the fact that, even though everyone is gathering together to talk about education, we really aren't talking much about education. We're talking mostly about tools. Think about the last conference or webinar you attended - how much of the conversation revolved around tools and how to use them? I would bet the vast majority. While the geek in me really enjoys learning about what the hot new tool is and how I might make it work, I think as a whole we've jumped the shark on ed tech. Because when we think about ourselves as educators, what we do is not really about tools, is it? It's about kids. It's about helping kids to learn and grow, and to prepare them for the world they are about to enter.
I've given a number of presentations lately around the general theme of "Rethinking Laptops and Learning". For those who haven't been able to attend (and even some of those that were) below is a compilation of links to related information and resources.

SaugusUSD SWATTEC Project:
Saugus Linux on Netbooks (now the ubermix project):
Saugus K12 Social Networking Resources:
K12 Social Networking Presentation at Harvard:

Blog Posts and Commentary:
When do Laptops Become School Supplies? (Jim Klein)
Netbooks and Open-source: Rethinking Laptops and Learning? (Jim Klein):
Linux on Netbooks and Whiskers on Kittens (Karl Fisch)
Transitioning to 1:1 Netbook via BYOL (Wes Fryer)
The Value of Comment Moderation and Feedback... (Wes Fryer)
Quit Substituting Expensive EdTech Gadgets for the "Real Deal" (John Patten)

Key Open Source Projects:
The OpenDisc -
Elgg Open Source Social Engine -
Ubuntu Linux:
iTalc Project -

K12 Open Source Resources:
CoSN K12 Open Technologies Initiative:
Jim Klein's Open Source Pages:
K12 Open Source Help (Contractor):

Great Netbooks for Linux:
Asus EeePC:
Acer AspireOne:
Dell Mini:
Nov 13, 2009
On November 12, students in Ms. Gardner's 4th grade class at Rio Vista school had the wonderful opportunity to speak with a soldier in Iraq about being in the military and his experiences there. It was an excellent example of what happens when technology meets learning and enables new experiences in the classroom. Below is a brief (rough) clip from the day. You can also review some of the students' blog posts reflecting on the event at: . More student posts are sure to follow!

Nov 6, 2009
I was thrilled to hear from Tammy Parks at Howe Public Schools in Oklahoma that their teachers are beginning to spend some time with netbooks based on our open-source image from the SWATTEC program. It's been great to see the concept spread to other schools and districts across the country. I believe open-sourcing education technology implementation to be the most effective way to bring large-scale classroom innovation and lasting change to schools, and to drive student achievement into the 21st century.

Oct 7, 2009
Ask any progressive educator the following question: "If you were to select just one tool to give to each student - one that you believe would have the greatest impact on their learning - what would it be?" Nine times out of ten the answer will be "a laptop." Sounds simple, right? And yet it's not. Why? Because, while we all recognize the potential of the technology to transform the learning environment, the implementation of individual student devices is fraught with complexity and impracticality. Those that have dared to tread down the path have been met with high costs, massive support requirements, and fragile hardware, all of which combine to create a toxic mix that, at best severely limits the technology's effectiveness in the classroom and, at worst leads to epic program failures that have been widely reported in the media. 
Aug 31, 2009
I love what we call education technology "research" these days. It seems everyone is out to prove that this or that technology is the "magic bullet" that will fix education forever. And amazingly, the research always comes out favorably for the vendor who sponsored the study - go figure. So how do they do it? In reality, it's quite easy to setup a study to attain the results you want by doing what the vast majority of educational technology researchers do: don't isolate the technology in question. Let's take interactive whiteboards, for example. In order to get huge numbers for whiteboards, all you need to do is the following:
May 8, 2009
The fear of failure can be one of the most crippling things in life, perhaps never more so than in the educational environment. In a place where discovery and exploration are held in the highest regard, the opportunity to fail gracefully has been gradually weeded out in favor of a "pass/fail" mentality. Whether intentionally or not, we systematically condition our students to fear failure through a steady regimen of "proven strategies" (read scripts) that over-emphasize "standards" and "tests". Science fairs are eliminated, arts programs diminished, drama and dance are nearly non-existent, and technology is banished to the periphery because it doesn't fit neatly into a pass/fail model. Funny thing is, life doesn't fit this model either, which may explain why so many schools have settled on a goal of "preparing kids for college" (ie to pass tests), rather that preparing them for life.
Apr 7, 2009
This last Thursday I had the opportunity to pitch the idea of parents purchasing laptops (Asus EeePCs) for our current batch of 4th grade students who are participating in the SWATTEC initiative, as they will soon be heading into the 5th grade. To be sure, this wasn't the first time I'd floated the idea, however it was the first time I believe it was perceived to be "real" to the administration team (principals and leadership), as the end of the school year is rapidly approaching and the components of the potential promotion are starting to come together. There was much insight and a lively discussion, which I believe will be tremendously valuable as we work our way through the possibilities. One comment, in particular, stood out to me, which I believe could be the greatest challenge to each of us as we move away from the model of school provided technology and into one in which students bring their own (which I believe to be inevitable). That comment was: "if we make that [the EeePC I was holding at the time] a part of the curriculum, then we must provide it to the students."
Mar 27, 2009

No written word, no spoken plea, can teach our youth what they should be; Nor all the books on all the shelves, it's what the teachers are themselves. -- Given to John Wooden by his Father upon Graduation

I am a firm believer in partaking regularly of the wisdom of others, most especially our elder statesmen. John Wooden's TED talk, "Coaching for People, Not Points" touched me on so many levels, because it's fundamentally about education and what it means to be successful in life. Too often, we place such value on the destination (test results) rather than the journey (learning), that I think we lose sight of what it truly means to bring up a child.

Through poetry and wit, John reminds us that it's not our reputation, our awards, or trophies that define us, it's who we are - our character. As Coach Wooden says in the talk:

Success... is peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable. -- John Wooden

Mar 18, 2009
In light of the current financial crisis and its inevitable impact on schools of all sorts, I worry about the near-term future of education and, more specifically, the role of education technology in the classroom. In particular, I'm concerned that, in most cases, we have failed to effectively integrate technology as an essential, strategic part of the educational process.

Don't get me wrong, I believe we've been heading in the right direction with ed tech, albeit slowly. In fact, I have witnessed a number of programs that suggest the beginnings of what I believe will be an important shift in the use of education technology. My only question is, is it too late? When budget cuts come, that which is viewed as neither strategic or essential generally finds itself on the cut list.

So how do education technologists make the right choices and demonstrate a measurable effect on teaching and learning in the classroom? The solution requires no less than an organization-wide cultural shift with regard to technology in schools - from the technology directors to integration specialists to principals and teachers. A few thoughts: