Thursday, August 25, 2011

1-to-1 Laptops: 10 Lessons Learned

After a successful first year as a one-to-one laptop learning school for grades 4 through 12, we re-assessed what we had done well and the lessons we had learned before re-issuing our laptops to students for another year. Below are ten of the many lessons we learned in this new field of educational endeavor.

1. Screens are fragile. The laptop screens are more fragile than we realized. We had few problems, but the rigors of student life did result in some screen casualties. We simply continue to stress to students the incidents that have caused problems and how they can be avoided.

2. Maintain student care accountability. We had a soft rule that if a student damaged a computer, we would only re-issue a computer after any fine was paid. But it was our first year. Some damage was covered under warranty, and some was not. We were unsure what should result in a fine. In our zeal to get laptops back into the hands of the students, we were sometimes issuing fines after-the-fact. This resulted in a backlog of fines that we had to collect the following fall before re-issuing the laptops for another school year.

To do a better job, this year we intend to provide students with a loaner laptop for use only at school. When the fine is paid, the student may take the loaner home. If something later appears to be under warranty, we can always reimburse students for the fine.

3. The classroom arrangement changes. Teachers need to be more mobile. With laptops in the classroom, the guide on the side is more important than the sage on the stage. Teachers need to move around the classrooms to monitor what students are doing on their laptops. This means the teacher cannot just stand in front of the blackboard, and the arrangement of the desks may need to change to accommodate the movement.

4. Watch the power cords. Kids were terrific in caring for their laptops, but they were more cavalier when it came to caring for the power cords of the laptops. They are used to power cords and sometimes just grab the wire to pull the plug from its socket. Laptop power cords are not necessarily as durable as the cord for a lamp, and they are significantly more expensive. We continue to emphasize this to our students.

5. Teachers need not do technology every day. Some teachers, in their eagerness to be the most tech-savvy they can be, tried to make every lesson a laptop lesson. Simply put, not all lessons lend themselves to technology. Did you ever have a teacher who could absolutely captivate you with his/her story telling, and wouldn’t you like your kids to hear those same stories? Some of the best teaching can still be traditional teaching, and teachers should not overload themselves with their own high technology expectations for themselves.

6. Remove the clings. Our students were fantastic about caring for the appearance of their laptops and not using stickers, tape, or other adhesives on the laptop covers. Many took pride in their machines and purchased non-adhesive stickers (clings) to decorate their laptops. At the end of the year, we told students they could leave their stickers in place because they would each be re-issued the exact same machine in the fall. However, over the summer, some machines needed warranty work, and some pricey stickers were lost. This piqued some parents and kids. So at the end of the year, remove the clings.

7. Let the students lead. Many conscientious teachers feel they need to be the experts in the classroom. However, with this young tech generation going through the schools, teachers may never know the computers as well as the students. Teachers need to sometimes have the courage to say to the students, “Show me how this works.”

8. Watch the web usage. Although we had rules against students playing on-line games and watching silly kitten videos irrelevant to class, we were in no position to be the web police and constantly monitor what students were doing with their laptops during free time. This crimped our band width, and we had to work to make our access its most efficient. We did appeal to the kids to try to avoid during the day the videos that really gobbled up our band width.

9. Create tiers of access. Not all students are as responsible as others. In some cases, a student may violate a rule. In other cases, a parent may indicate that the student is distracted at home and unable to do school work. We created several tiers of access for the students. Our most responsible students have the fewest restrictions on their computers. It is a rewards system.

10. Emphasize professional development for teachers. We knew from what we researched up front that our whole one-to-one initiative hinged on professional development for teachers. We invested heavily in it, but we learned that the need does not really diminish over time. Ideas change. Web sites are added. Software changes. We learn. And we need to keep teaching our teachers how to get better.

O.K. Actually there are eleven lessons. The 11th we only learned after school got started this second year.

11. The new kids need to catch up. When we planned for our second year of one-to-one laptop instruction, we proceeded from the false assumption that kids are already tech-savvy and can catch on quickly. We created a boot camp for our new teachers. We learned we need a boot camp for the kids new to our school as well to help them get up to speed with the expectations of instructors.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bosses Need to Use E-mail Carefully and Appropriately

I had a boss once who felt his number one job responsibility was to point out to every employee every time the person was any less than perfect. To be as efficient as possible in his crusade to point out our flaws, he would use all means at his disposal, i.e., private conferences, team meetings, telephone calls, voice mails, and e-mails.

There are so many things wrong with this picture, but let’s focus on just one aspect. Personnel evaluation should be about the improvement in performance of the employee. This can best be accomplished through a dialogue--an exchange of views between the supervisor and employee. Some forms of communication lend themselves to this better than others.

Modern technology makes communication easy, but this does not mean this ease is appropriate for personnel performance coaching. Teachers learning how to control student behavior are taught that they need to understand why a student violates a rule. A student may leave his/her desk or speak in class without permission, but sudden illness or a perceived emergency situation may make a breach of the rules entirely appropriate.

Certainly e-mail messages have a Reply button, but that does not mean a supervisor is getting a fair exchange of ideas after the corrective message is sent. In this context and format, a reply is likely to come across as contradiction rather than explanation. Few employees will risk such a venture, especially with an irate boss.

I need to emphasize that the communication from the boss to his or her charges should be predominantly positive feedback. At least 80 percent should be positive, supportive, and complimentary. We tend to get that which we reward, so we need to recognize what individual members of our team are doing well. Then we need to come across very strongly with the positive messages of our appreciation.

However, when mistakes are made and correction is necessary, it should be face to face with an honest and open exchange of viewpoints intended to improve overall performance and that of the organization.

If you have an example of a time a boss misused e-mail, please add it in the comments below.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

144 School Execs on Twitter

Inspired by colleague David Britten (Twitter handle: @colonelb) who recently put together a list of school superintendents who use Twitter to connect professionally with the education world, I decided to add to it, including some central office and Department of Education personnel. He cited how a growing number of professionals are using this resource for their personal development. Together we are all creating a powerful network.

Below is my list of 144 school district executives who are  currently using Twitter to keep abreast of education and technology trends in the rapidly changing 21st Century. Anyone is welcome to subscribe to my curated list of these execs at @DanielLFrazier/supts .

If you are a school exec and are willing to be included in the list below, please comment on this posting. I would appreciate your contribution. We are all just trying to get better to do the best we can to serve our students.

Below is my collection (listed alphabetically by Twitter handle):

1.         anelsoneagle                             Allan G. Nelson
2.         ATorris                                    Andrew Torris
3.         bcampbell74                             Brian Campbell
4.         bdavisHPS                               Brian Davis
5.         benpettyiowa                            Ben Petty
6.         betavt                                       ned kirsch
7.         bltg                                           Becky Gallagher
8.         Bob_Pritchard                          Bob Pritchard
9.         BobMiller146                           Bob Miller
10.       bradfordgs                                Bradford G. Saron
11.       Brianjblake                               Brian Blake
12.       CadottSchools                          Joe Zydowsky
13.       camalcom                                 Cheryll Malcom
14.       cbrownwgcsd                           Christopher Brown
15.       cdsmeaton                                Christopher Smeaton
16.       Central_Supt                            Dan Peterson
18.       chadratliff                                 Chad Ratliff
19.       chrkennedy                               Chris Kennedy
20.       cjmurra                                     Cass Murra
21.       clindhol                                     Chris Lindholm
22.       CMolumby                               Cathy Molumby
23.       colonelb                                   David Britten
24.       D62supt                                   D62Superintendent
25.       dachelpo                                  Don Achelpohl
26.       dakeys01                                 Dan Keyser
27.       Dan_Cox                                 Dan_Cox
28.       danaginna                                 Dana Cole-Levesque
29.       DanielLFrazier                          Dr Daniel L Frazier
30.       danitrimble                                Danielle Trimble
31.       davidstegall                               David Stegall
32.       daviseidahl                                Davis Eidahl
33.       dbark13                                   Dave Barker
34.       DCPSTransformEd                  Tom Shelton
35.       deborahgist                               Deborah A. Gist
36.       demonogue                               Dana Monogue
37.       DenMozer                                Dennis Mozer
38.       dktrimble14                              Dani Trimble
39.       docwfs                                     Walter Schartner
40.       DrBradBuck                             Brad Buck
41.       DrChrisAnderson                     Chris Anderson
42.       DrCWJ                                    Dr. Christie Johnson
43.       drdsupt                                     Jeff Danielsen
44.       Drfredmaharry                          Fred Maharry
45.       DrMelSmith                              Melody Moss Smith
46.       drpaultedesco                           Dr. Paul Tedesco
47.       DrPeteMarcelo                         Dr Pete Marcelo
48.       drpoling                                    Dr. Poling 
49.       dsheppard40                            Doug Sheppard
50.       DSingl                                      Demian Singleton
51.       Eckles3                                    Edie Eckles
52.       edklamfoth                               Ed Klamfoth
53.       edubrew                                   Thomas Brewster
54.       Edwin_Shoemate                      Edwin Shoemate
55.       ericconti                                   Eric Conti
56.       ewilliams65                               Eric Williams
57.       fcdar                                        Darwin Lehmann
58.       fritcherb                                    Bill Fritcher
59.       GeorgeWelsh13                       George Welsh
60.       geschr                                      Rory S. Gesch
61.       gormang                                   Greg Gorman
62.       GreggSidSP                             Gregg Cruickshank
63.       HansenMark                            Mark Hansen
64.       haseibert                                   H. Alan Seibert
65.       herz6kids                                  Jeff Herzberg
66.       howellwright                             Dr. Howell Wright
67.       ijoelson                                     iner joelson
68.       jasonellingson                           Jason Ellingson
69.       jasonglassIA                             Jason E. Glass
70.       jaynicholsfnesu                          Jay Nichols
71.       JeffDicks                                  Jeff Dicks
72.       JereVyverberg                          Jere Vyverberg
73.       Jhnrbbns                                   John Robbins
74.       jjonessd08                                Jeff Jones
75.       jmweidner                                jmweidner
76.       joecrozier57                             Joe Crozier
77.       joedrake                                   joedrake
78.       JoeGothard                              Joe Gothard
79.       johnccarver                              John C. Carver
80.       johnjust                                    John Just
81.       jonsheldahl                               Jon Sheldahl
82.       JRonneberg                              Jeff Ronneberg
83.       KarlMKurt                               Karl Kurt
84.       kenslin                                      Kathy Enslin
85.       kevenelder                                Keven Elder
86.       kimberlymoritz                          Kimberly Moritz
87.       kycommissioner                        Terry Holliday
88.       Laures6                                    Brad
89.       LCsupt                                     Tom Hinrichs
90.       lectricjacket                              Thomas Sperling
91.       lyleschwartz                              Lyle Schwartz
92.       m_rhee                                     Michelle Rhee
93.       m4flynn                                    Mark Flynn
94.       malloy_john                              John Malloy
95.       mannyhwdsb                            Manny Figueiredo
96.       MarkMNW                             Mark L Egli
97.       MarkWhite55                           Mark White
98.       marthabruckner                        Martha Bruckner
99.       MaureenBedford                      Maureen LaCroix
100.     michaelvallely                            Michael Vallely Ph.D
101.     mikelubelfeld                            Michael Lubelfeld
102.     mleichliter                                 Mike Leichliter
103.     MMilesHSD2                           Mike Miles
104.     mp_k_suptmark                       Mark Schneider
105.     nathanmarting                           Nathan Marting
106.     ndcardinal                                 Jeff Fastnacht
107.     NNDSBSO                             Patrick Bocking
108.     NorthCedar                              John O. Dayton
109.     OskySupt                                 Russell Reiter
110.     pammoran                                pammoran
111.     patman28580                           Patrick Miller
112.     paulgausman                             Paul Gausman
113.     PellaHawk                                Mark Wittmer
114.     principalspage                           principalspage
115.     Rayg36                                    Greg Ray
116.     REarleywine                             Rod Earleywine
117.     RitaOlson                                 Rita Olson
118.     rjcordes                                    Rob Cordes
119.     RobertHollister                         Robert Hollister
120.     RSJeffery                                 R. Scott Jeffery
121.     sai_iowa                                   SAI - Iowa
122.     sammiller29                              Sam Miller
123.     saraheemery                             Sarah Emery
124.     sbenwell1                                 Scott Benwell
125.     ScottParks                               ScottParks
126.     scusdsupt                                 SCUSD Superintendent
127.     sfmurley                                    stephen murley
128.     ShannonJHolmes                      Shannon Holmes
129.     SOMSDsuper                          Brian Osborne
130.     Staudt1                                    Linda Staudt
131.     STCSupt                                  Kerri Nelson
132.     studentscount                            karen Nelson
133.     SuperScot                                Scot Graden
134.     suptflanagan                              Mike Flanagan
135.     suptsmith                                  David Smith
136.     TDOttawa                                Tom D'Amico
137.     tebotweets                                David Tebo
138.     timquinn5                                  Timothy Quinn
139.     tjschutte                                    Theron Schutte
140.     Tony_Bennett                           Dr. Tony Bennett
141.     TrishFitzGibbon                        Trish FitzGibbon
142.     VSSupt                                    Mary Hainstock
143.     william_decker                         William Decker
144.     wpsasstsupt                              Jerry Hopkins

Added 09-06-11
NoreneBunt      Norene Bunt
sgrayJCSD        Steve Gray
JHSTL              Jere Hochman
LeydenASCI    Mikkel Storaasli
scottlepke         Scott Lepke
DrDaveWilk     David J. Wilkerson
mrsliv               Mary Jo Livingstone
MPS_Super      Dr. Brian G. Ricca
acrozier22         Andy Crozier
bradjermeland   Brad Jermeland
reddellp             Penny Reddell
swtvsupt7          Chris Hoover
harrier007          Dr. P. D-Sweeney
danfrench           Dan French
HTSSupt           Alex Anemone