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What is your IT vision?

Some thoughts about IT in schools. Thoughts are my own and not those of my employer or the Diocese of Dallas.

Updated: 2016-12-22T06:39:19.504-06:00


November in July


As Diane and I are want to do, we hit the road to Boston. I was fortunate enough to attend BLC15, Building Learning Communities which is hosted by November Learning. To borrow a phrase from Darren Kuropatwa, it was truly brain candy.

As so many in the ed tech world have experienced, once you gather with people of similar ilk, you find both a comfort and non comfort zone, but you are not threatened in any way. The comfort zone because you are with people that understand you as well as you understanding them. The non-comfort zone because you start to feel that maybe, just maybe, you aren't doing enough. Enough for your faculty, staff or students.

Hopefully over the next few days or weeks as I reflect on what I have been through I will take some time in this space to put to words those things I have unpacked. There was a lot of learning, a lot of brain stretching and a lot of thoughts.

So much to learn and so little time.

A Long Way Back


While it may seem dramatic, the title just spoke to me when I was contemplating this post. It seems I have been gone for some time, especially when thinking of the ed tech folks I am usually around. Life got very busy in the last 2 years and I retreated, in many ways to protect myself but mainly just to be able to keep my head down and grinding. Trying to avoid the distractions.

Now in the last month or so I have started to see a little bit of clearing and light (hopefully I don't jinx it). I have also been contemplating making some changes in the blog area. We will see. I have continued to try and stay on top of things in the ed tech world but I am sure I am woefully behind. Again, we will see.

So much to learn and so little time.

Culture Club or not?


Lately I have been trying to understand the culture of a school, my school, your school, my wife’s school. I don’t fully understand the one at my school even though I have been here 37 years. I think that hurts me and it hurts my interaction with all the people walking the halls of “my” school. And that right there may be a big part of the problem, it is NOT “my” school. It is the students' school.

Let me try to explain more. I found myself getting frustrated with some of the questions I was being asked. As I reflected back on those questions and who was asking, I started realizing that the people asking were newer to the school, newer to the diocese as well. While they were in some cases seasoned educators, they were not seasoned at our school or the diocese.

With that in mind I am now trying to better think about how we can help to enculturate newer people in to the school’s culture. That then means I have to fully understand our school’s culture and what exactly that might be for someone.

For a school in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas there are things which people look for such as “Catholic Identity.” What makes our school Catholic? And are we Catholic with a big C or catholic with a little c. Is being Catholic our culture? Is being well versed in the use of technology our culture? Is being service oriented our culture? Is being an inner city school our culture?

As a result of some of this thinking I now have more questions than answers and would appreciate any input you might have. How do you define your school’s culture? Is the culture of a school important? How can we help newer people to our school understand and participate in that culture? Do you think about school culture are am I way off base? Let me know.

So much to learn and so little time.

Playing School


Over the years, I have often heard people say that "students have perfected the art of playing school" or somesuch. I got to wondering, where did they get it from? Where did students learn the art of "playing school?" Then I thought if we are the models for our students are we, us, the adults, modeling that very thing? Are we ourselves playing school?

I have learned so much from so many people, but I get tired of trying to do it differently, trying to push the envelope all the time, trying to be out on the edge, constantly trying to know what is best, what is right, what will take us the direction we all know we need to go.

Then I got to thinking, is that what is taking place? Lots of people getting tired, or merely waiting until it comes back again full circle? Education has for so long be on a merry go round. "Just wait it will come back to this again. For my wife and I, after 37 years of education, we have both seen things come full circle. On occasion, I too,  have sat back, doing what was right for my students, but basically playing school.

Where are you in the mix? What is holding you back? How can I support you if no one else is supporting you? I'm done slipping in to playing school mode. No matter how tired I am it is time to move on and model what is best for our students!

So much to learn and so little time.

I got Tagged - Did you?


The other day Dean Shareski tagged me here. My first thought was what can I tell people about me that they don't already know. Here are 11 random facts about me:1. I love road trips.2. Both our cars have twitter accounts - thanks to @BigPurpleHat. 3. I feel I am incredibly late to the tech party.4. I worked with the Senior golf tour for 11 years every time it came to Dallas..5. I have worked at the same school for 37 years.6. I also graduated from this school and those years are not counted in the number above.7. I played baseball in college after turning down offers to play football in college.8. I was in charge of the university kitchen on the weekends to help pay my way through college.9. I am an ordained deacon in the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.10. I love picking up people and safely delivering them places when they come to Texas.11. The university I graduated from just honored me by naming a full scholarship after me that will be granted every year to a deserving student from Bishop Dunne..Those are the random facts about me that some folks may not know. By the way the Prius also known as the Eco Ride is @PaulRWoodsPrius and the Lexus which is known simply as The Ride is @PaulRWoodsLexus. They can be uppity at times but it is fun to have those accounts.Dean asked the following questions so here are my answers to those:1.How do you feel about pants? Highly overrated.2.What was the last movie you saw in a theatre? The Butler3.Where are your car keys? Left pocket.4.What time is it? 8:05 p.m.5.What’s the last tweet you favorited? Joel Adkins Tweetabout 6.Outside of your immediate family, which relative do you like to spend time with? My Aunt Geneva7.Have you ever been to Saskatchewan? Yes, and even stopped in Moose Jaw and Regina.8.How long did it take you to walk to school as a kid? Most of my schools were more than 10 miles away so we didn’t walk.9.Besides you, which blogger should I be paying attention to? Unfortunately anyone I think is important to follow I believe you already pay attention to Dean so I don't have a recommendation.10.Name one golf course. Dallas National. But here are some others.11.What’s your favorite Seinfeld episode or line? Any one with Elaine trying to dance like this.Here are the 11 folks I am tagging:1. Scott Floyd2. Matt Gomez3. Toby Brown4. Christine Voigt5. Angelyn Cheatham6. Zach Snow7.  Joel Adkins8. Phillip Cummings9. Amber Teamann10. Martha Lackey11. You. (this includes all the people I didn’t name because I figured they thought  they were too cool to do this as well as those I never even thought, which could be you. Either way, I’ll read what you write)Questions for those listed:1. What is one thing you are proud of that you have participated in?2. Do you follow a particular professional or college team? If yes which one?3. What is your superstitious ritual? The one that goes with the commercial  "It's only weird if it doesn't work!"4. What has been your favorite age so far and why?5. If you could drive any car what would it be?6. What is your favorite comfort food?7. What is the holiday you enjoy the most?8. What is your go to music when you really need a pick me up?9. What is your favorite movie?10. What was the last book you read for fun?11. What is the fastest you have ever driven?Here’s how it works:Acknowledge the nominating blogger.Share 11 random facts about yourself.Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.List 11 bloggers.Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.Have some fun with this. I did. Let's hear from you.[...]

50 Years Later


It has been interesting watching all of the news, videos, documentaries, etc., surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President Kennedy. As a fourth grade student, I remember the day very clearly in my head. Sitting in Sr. Mary Rose's class as St. James Elementary School, I believe it was a reading class, the day was interrupted by an announcement from the Principal, Sr. Jan. She asked the boys to stand and the girls to remain seated and we would all recite the rosary together.

After a while, the Principal again interrupted the rosary by telling us over the PA that President Kennedy and some others had been shot, and that President Kennedy had died. Our parents had been called and we would be going home from school. We were told that we needed to continue praying for our country.

It was a weekend of watching the black and white television at our home and what became continuous live coverage of all the activity. Then the news came in that an officer had been shot at the Texas Theatre, a theatre we went to many times to see movies. Then the next day we watched Lee Harvey Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby while being transferred and seeing Mr. Harrison, who was a police officer, member of our parish and a friend of our family right in the middle of the craziness in the basement of the jail.

The funny thing is I remember when that happened and spending time sitting around with my family and watching things on television, but I don't remember going back to school or things surrounding the return to the "new normal." A country in continual turmoil, the Vietnam War, eventually Woodstock, the sexual revolution, and on and on.

The next summer while on vacation, we were traveling in New Mexico from our home in Dallas and we stopped for some lunch and a bathroom break. We did that a lot with 5 kids, stopped a lot for bathroom breaks. While there, a man asked where we lived and I said Dallas. I remember his response was simply "Oh you people kill presidents don't you." I couldn't understand why people didn't like anyone from Dallas.

Diane and I have talked many times about what is there historic to see in Dallas, compared to places like Boston, Philadelphia and so many other cities throughout the United States and all we can come up with is the 6th Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza and South Fork Ranch where they filmed the show Dallas. After that there wasn't much to see.

Dallas continues to try and figure out it's place in the world in my opinion and once again the nation and the world focuses it's media eye here to try and figure out who, and how many actually were involved. Me, I still wonder why?

So much to learn and so little time.

Be The Difference!


Disclaimer: While most of this will be about my experience growing up in high school it is to relate to you my experience of the video link that Michelle tweeted. Do NOT feel sorry for me in any way. That is not what this post is about. Thank you.Fun, friendship, learning and people that truly make me think. That is what twitter does for me.  Recently Michelle Baldwin, aka @michellek107tweeted the following “Watching this--> The One Thing All Men Feel, But Never Admit” I clicked the link and sat mesmerized, but at the same time I was flooded with memories of growing up and not very good ones.Being a middle child, bigger than most growing up I lived a life of Insecurity, inadequacy, and never being good enough, or at least that is what I thought. My size, in an all-boys middle school meant play sports or be ridiculed. I played and did my best until I broke a friends ribs near his spine. I walked away from football the next day. I also played basketball, ran track and tried out for the baseball team my freshman year. I enjoyed basketball except for the constant “don’t dribble the ball, rebound and pass.” Or walking down to the boys’ locker room to see if I made the baseball team only to be told by an upper classman “Wood, you don’t really think you made the team do you? Well you didn’t.” Be strong, don't show emotion.My participation in sports dwindled and I was only playing basketball, at the same time my grades suffered. I felt inadequate. I wanted more but I didn’t want to open my mouth, I didn’t want to say anything that people might use against me, I didn’t feel good enough. One day in class one of my teachers asked what do you want to be when you grow up, my response was  "I want to be a psychologist." The room laughed. Be a man.My junior year a new coach came along and had heard about my ability as a kicker, he also liked my size. He wanted me to come out and play football. I told him I would be happy to kick for him but that was it. He said fine. One week into the season I was told I was too big to just kick and they needed me to play full time. Tight end and defensive end. Maybe I could be someone playing football again.  I also made the baseball team that year and I was still playing basketball. My grades improved but I didn’t want to say anything, I didn’t want to be laughed at, I tried to do everything right so people would be OK with me. A safe life. A life that was never an adventure, I didn’t want to risk being ridiculed. Don't be a wimp.Another new coach my senior year and I learned to hate football. I hated it enough to turn down offers. I played basketball but there were better players, I was tired of practicing and sitting. I didn’t want to be a minute man plus I knew I wasn’t going to play in college. We got new uniforms and they had to special order mine. I can still hear the ridicule from my own class mates from the bleachers. I played baseball and did OK. Stop being a wuss.I could go on and on but this truly is not about me. However, many of you know me and the reason that I am writing this is all because of Michelle Baldwin and that tweet. With school preparing to start, we all know students, boys and girls that don’t “fit” what so very many think is the right mold. Help them to be the best students, people, individuals that they can be, please. All it takes is for you to be interested, to take a moment, show up at a game, stop and talk in the hall, sit with someone at lunch. We say it is OK for our students to fail but what about the one’s that are fine with academics but feel they are already failing life? Are we looking out for them? Be the difference. Please be the difference that you are capable of being. I could have used a teacher that picked up on what was going on. I am thankful I never made the decision to follow through with what I had concocted in [...]

I dropped out of grad school and don't know if I am going back


The following is a post that I wrote in anger one evening after dropping out of my grad school courses. I have 3 classes to go for the level I was working on and have not gone back. I am starting to get the urge again so maybe. Here is that post and hopefully if you are teaching online courses you might think about some of these things.I dropped out of my grad school class. It was a tough decision but I had enough. I am not looking for sympathy and I am not here to throw anyone under the bus. My hope is to inform you of some of the things I felt were lacking in this program. I would like to think people I hang with would not do this if they were online teachers or even teachers in a live classroom. If this causes you to think about how you do things, then I have done my job. I felt there were mistakes on three sides of this equation, the university's, the professor's and my own. Me - Last year I sat out of grad school for a year due to health and medical procedure reasons. I am also an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. Along with that I am a high school director of technology, and many of you know my wife Diane. I came to the grad school table with a lot on my plate as so many of us have and yet I thought I could handle it. I was frustrated for most of this semester as I didn't feel I was doing a good job. I like to do a good job. The University - I don't know what the situation was that brought the University to hire this professor, but I would venture a guess that they were in need of a teacher, they found someone willing to handle an online course that is a core requirement, and with little to no training they tossed the professor in to the deep end of the pool. The university also switched from an online form that they had been using and went to a new system right before the new semester and everyone was scrambling to make it work. The Professor - With a new PhD and trying to get hired on, the professor said yes to a core course, yes to a new program, yes to an online class and in all likelihood, yes I will figure it out. The first week the recorded lecture video was off. We could only see 1/4 of the screen material. The professor sent us the slides at least so we did have those. One lesson had the same word misspelled throughout the entire slide presentation. Over the next 8 weeks there was confusion as to where to post things, we were told either the discussion board or the dropbox. I found out later that the professor thought they were both the same thing. I looked for feedback other than from other students in the class who were doing the best they could, but only got one line of feedback in the second week of class. I kept looking for grades in the gradebook, but the only thing there were asterisks and possible points. By the end of the semester, I would have read about 1000 pages, 20 other posts from 20 classmates each week, answered 10-12 weeks of discussion questions on my own as well as written about what new insghts I had that week, listened to an average of 60-90 minutes of lecture online each week, leading up to a major paper, a major reflective essay and a cumulative final exam. I am sorry but rigor - mortis has set in my posterior. If you are a university, I hope you give your professors all of the help, support and training that they need. If you are a professor, I hope you aren't afraid to ask for help, are willing to give feedback and can get by on fewer than 6 textbooks in a semester and especially for an online course. I also hope you are willing to help your students seek deeper and more relevant thinking. And don't forget to give feedback, feedback, feedback. If you are planning to be the student, make sure you know full well what you are getting in to, I thought I did, but there is also life to live as well.So much to still try and learn and so little time.[...]

ISTE 2013 - Some Retrospect


I want tho thank the folks at ISTE for once again bringing together so many people that continue to help advance my education, knowledge and inspire me to continue doing what I do for the students I come in contact. I am wondering if the show has gotten too large.

Vendors - I was worn out both physically and sensorially by the vendor area. The sights and the sounds were to the point of being overwhelming. Even with a map I had some difficulty finding the vendors I needed to speak with, and yet in the Bloggers's cafe and the ISTE Newbie lounge I had less trouble finding vendors and or people willing to pitch their products or their printed paraphernalia without an invitation. These areas need to be used by the people who they are intended for and not by the vendors. If I am not mistaken, there is a vendors lounge and most vendors also have areas to meet people and work on deals. I hope someone can get a handle on that.

I know that without vendors it is difficult to make this show happen. Everyone wants to make money and no one is in it to lose money. So I truly understand the need for vendors to be present, but because they pay for the privilege, that doesn't mean they can run over folks in different areas. Even in the HackEd unconference on Saturday, people had to be reminded that they could not hawk their own products during the smack down.

What would the difference in the conference have been if instead of 10,000 Surface tablets, Microsoft were to offer 5,000 teachers an opportunity for conference attendance and some money toward room and board while in San Antonio? Would that have been beneficial to some of the school districts or even our student's classrooms? How many vendors that are Tier 1 Sponsors are ever asked to do this? Might be a thought for future ISTE events. That idea came up in the comments section of Lee Kolbert's blog about ISTE found here.

I am still mulling around some other things and hopefully I can get to them soon before this old mind loses them. So happy to see so many good people, have so many great discussions and be able to laugh and share as well as cry with so many of you.

So much to learn and so little time.

Thank you Microsoft


In a time where school budgets are dwindling, the need for equipment is important, Microsoft took a bold step by supplying 10,000 surface tablets to the first ones there of an announced 20,000 people at the ISTE 2013 Conference. Whether it is the right move or not, I am amazed at some of the negatives I have heard from folks.

I challenge you to take the Surface back to school and hand it to a child that can’t afford any type of equipment and see how much that child whines. The phrase I hear over and over again is that it should not be about the tool. So let a student decide if it is the right tool for them or not.
Even at my school, a private, Catholic school, we have students that live below the poverty line and we subsidize their education. I dare say that just about every school has someone that they know in the same situation. It is time for us to continue to think about what is best for our students as opposed to what we like. Maybe it doesn’t run everything that we want it to run because it is the lighter version Surface, but why not let a child figure that out. You might be surprised what that child can show us all.
Thank you Microsoft.
So much to learn and so little time.

Part 3 - The People - It's all about the people


In this 3rd installment of what we did on our summer vacation, I mentioned that it would be about the people. Our jobs are people, students, faculties, friends and most especially families. But we are all about people in some way shape or form.  Part 1 is the trip to the destination of Washington State and the people we visited along the way. Part 2 was the trip home, so this is Part 3.I happened to mention on Twitter that we were going to the Pacific Northwest one night and that I needed to look for places to stay and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations. I had decided to not attend ISTE12 in San Diego so I figured that most people in that part of the country would be gone anyway. Then I started to get some DM's from folks in my network. Stop by and visit, would love to meet you and visit. Then I received a message from Julia Fallon. When are you heading this way? What are the dates? After an exchange of messages Diane and I suddenly had a home base to work out of and a place to stay while in Washington State. Julia would be leaving for ISTE and we were more than welcome to stay at her house while in Washington State. We took her up on it.Kelly Dumont always seemd like my kind of guy from the first time I started to interact with him on twitter. We stopped to visit with Kelly and his family while watching his son play in a baseball playoff game. That was a fun time. On one side high school ball players and behind us beautiful mountains. Kelly loves baseball like I do, He has played it I believe and I know he has coached it and he went to the same game in Baltimore that we went to when ISTE was in DC. Down to earth and so real it was nice to be able to share some time with kelly and his family.Julia Fallon and I first met in Denver. I vaguely remembered that after she refreshed my memory. A bunch of people came out to our Denver ISTE Mansion and visited and I drove her and some others back to their hotels from the house. As with so many people on Twitter or at least in my network of folks, I have shared things, more privately than publicly but am always grateful for the people I know. Julia and I have listened to each other, shared with each other, worked together as a result of her working with John Pederson and Todd Sanders and their Mercedes Benz Super Bowl race. That was when I really interacted with Julia as so many of us did. To me she was the organizer of the chaos that was the race. Upon our arrival we sat and talked for a bit and then the next morning she was gone.Jennifer Dhalby - While I don't know how I ended up with Jen in my twitter stream (probably thorough seeing her talk with Alec Couros, Stuart Ciske, or Tim Lauer) but anyway she constantly gets grief for the ever changing avatar picture but is incredibly thoughtful with a great deal of depth. She invited Diane and I out for a visit so we made our way out for a visit. We spent a few hours at her place visiting with the children and talking work and networks and life in general. Then she offered brownies that had been made. Good eats are always worth the trip but the opportunity to meet people face to face makes it that much better.Luann Lee - I can't remember when Luann showed up in my network but I knew she was a passionate science teacher and for her it was all about the students. And then she started posting pictures of the "farm." A place they lived on the edge of Yamhill. Beverly Cleary Yamhill. So a trip out to the farm. We missed it the first time going down a winding two lane road and then on the return we actually saw Luanne coming down the drive. Such a beautiful area. She invited us to lunch, had a beautiful black lab named Jake that could practically knock you over with his tail wag, and a great setting out on their deck. We talked and laugh[...]

Part 2 The Trip Home


I finally decided to write about our summer trip, but have also decided it needs to be broken up a bit to make it palatable. Part 1 is the trip to the destination of Washington State and the people we visited along the way. Part 2 will be the trip home and the people we visited and part 3 will be about the people themselves.With no real plan in mind, the next to the last day Diane and I sat down and tried to decide which way to head back to Texas. We didn't want to cover the same ground and we wanted to see more of the country. So the question was "West coast and cut across or into Canada and cut down?" "How much farther is it if we go through Canada?" 100 more miles was the answer. "Let's go through Canada."When we left Dallas we also made sure we took our passports since we were going to be near Canada just in case, so it all worked out well. With thank you gifts hidden for Julia Fallon, we hit the road. On occasion you just have to stop especially when you find places such as this on the side of the road:So worth it - Cocomut Creme and Chocolate Creme pie. Like they say life is short, dessert first. So we continued on toward the Canadian border.We headed toward Idaho to enter Canada north of Coeur d'Alene. Unfortunately on the way to Idaho we started having headlight issues with the Prius. Upon arriving we stopped to gas up the car and found this funtional piece of early Americana equipment at the corner.The Toyota store was already closed for the evening so it was decided that Diane would get to sleep in and I would handle the car being serviced. I could not have found nicer people not just in Idaho but also at the Toyota dealership I went to in Coeur d'Alene. While sitting in the dealership I got to thinking of what I could do as we traveled through Canada. I sent Alec Couros a dm and asked if we could stop in and visit with his family. He said yes. Then I asked if he could possibly get me Dean Shareski's home address. Knowing that Dean was down in San Diego at ISTE12, I started to do a bit of scheming.Vehicle serviced and light repaired, I called Diane and told her to get ready. After finding her some Starbucks and breakfast we rolled. Small wonderful towns, a cool easy rain and lots of conversation about where we had been and where we were going helped to pass the time. Then we arrivedInto Canada we went. I know not the best picture but we were there. Cool, rainy weather. Easily a 50 degree difference from Texas. So sweet. Into Alberta, up to Highway 1. A couple of days to travel to Moose Jaw and Regina, to see more friends.Alec had been busy getting me Dean's address so we cruised through Moose Jaw and found "the house." So we walked up and knocked on the door to find the Shareski's youngest daughter. I introduced myself and Diane so she wouldn't be too creeped out about who was taking pictures and let her know what we were hoping to do. I truly think she was creeped out anyway.(Something about wierd friends coming over to the house.)The cool thing was that we were unaware of the underground tunnels in Moose Jaw and the ties to American mobsters and the city of Chicago. So we had a leisurely lunch in downtown Moose Jaw and saw the sights and then headed to Regina and a visit with the The Alec side of the Couros family.Fantastic folks, wonderful children, a tour of Regina and some of the sights, a great meal at a local Greek restaurant and a lovely stay overnight. Needless to say the conversation was fantastic.As I said in the beginning I will talk about the people a bit in the next post. From Regina we began our slow drive back to Dallas, back into the US and the heat, through the Dakota's, into Kansas, my cousin in Oklahoma for a morning breakfast and back to Dall[...]

It Truly is About the People -Part 1 The Trip itself


I finally decided to write about our summer trip, but have also decided it needs to be broken up a bit to make it palatable. Part 1 is the trip to the destination of Washington State and the people we visited along the way. Part 2 will be the trip home and the people we visited and part 3 will be about the people themselves.This past summer Diane and I took a two week car trip. We like seeing the country, I truly hate flying because now I get TSA'd every time at the airport, but that is a story that doesn't matter. We love seeing the country.If we had been flying over the country we could have looked down on the fields of grain but instead, because we were driving, we were able to see this cross made of wheat at the Cathedral of the Plains in Kansas.Our first night of travel we went from Dallas to Salina KS and spent the night. We talked with several people in my network but none were in Salina. We could have easily had a meal and a roof if we had diverted out destination some. So the next morning as we traveled along I-70 we saw the twin towers of the Cathedral rise along the landscape. Then the cool thing of car travel was a simple "let's go look."  This article written about the Church in 1972 tells a beautiful story about the Cathedral.A few hours later we were on our way and heading toward Colorado. Talking (AKA tweeting) with people along the way when I wasn't driving of course, we tried to visit with people along the way. In some cases we were successful and in others schedules didn't work out. In Colorado as we skirted Denver, it was hard to tell what was smoke and what were clouds and it went on for miles. It was sad to think about all that was being destroyed.In Wyoming we were surprised to see that interstates could actually be shut down due to snow. For us Texans, that was hard to imagine, so much snow that you block an interstate highway. Our problem in Texas is not being allowed to drive as fast as we want on the interstate. Signs such as this one added humor to the trip. Through the northeast edge of Colorado near Estes Park which brought back memories and discussions of ISTE10 and the Estes Park family(You know who you are). Then into Wyoming and on to Utah.We made it to Utah in time to watch some high school baseball with Kelly Dumont and his family as his son was on the team. They won that game and went on to bigger and better things afterward.From Utah we traveled through Idaho, Oregon and Washington to our home base so to speak courtesy of Julia Fallon. Julia was leaving for ISTE12 the next day and had offered us a place to stay while she was gone. Thus our home base in Washington State had been established.While based in WA. we went to Yamhill and had lunch with Luann Lee, we went to Portland and had pizza at "derLauer house" with Tim Lauer, we spent an evening with Jennifer Dalby and her lovely family. Truly about the people and the experiences. Part 2 soon.So much to learn and so little time.[...]

Tonight I Connected Some Dots


Each year I have many opportunities to attend conferences. One day, two day, week long, travel, local and yet, I still feel there are so many I would like to attend. As people get ready to attend ISTE 2012, I can either be sad that I am not there or I can be happy for all those who are going. I choose to be happy for all those going. For those going to ISTE12, do turn to someone and greet them and introduce yourself. Don't use the usual line of "I follow you on Twitter" instead take a moment to introduce yourself and tell them why you follow them on the Twitterz. Was it something they said, something someone said about them, who recommended them, just something other than I stalk you.So that being said, how did I connect some of the dots. Diane and I went to Memphis this past week for a conference called The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence. This is a wonderful, collaborative effort between a philanthropic family, The University of Memphis and Presbyterian Day School for boys. These three organizations bring together public, private and charter school teachers alike, for the sole purpose of trying to help them become better educators. Professional development. Come learn, come teach, come see what others are doing in their classrooms.This is the third year for this Institute and this year the keynote was John Hunter. Many may know Mr. Hunter from his TED talk back in March. Maybe you know Mr. Hunter's fourth grade students and the game John started called the World Peace Game. Somehow Diane and I had missed any news about John, the game and his fourth grade students. However, due to the Martin Institute, we were able to see and learn as well as talk with John and hear all about the World Peace Game.On the way home from Memphis, Diane and I did things like listen to the TED talk that John gave back in March, talked about what we had seen and heard at the conference, and I also got to meet many new and seasoned friends from Twitter. Today I listened to John's talk again for there was something tugging at me. I knew the town name, I knew people there, but how? In what context did I know them? Albemarle County, Virginia. Wait, Pam Moran, Paula White along with several others in my network are from that area and work in those schools. This is where John Hunter is from?So I sent Pam Moran a tweet asking if she was the same Pam Moran that John speaks about in his Ted Talk? She said she was and I was immediately flooded with feelings of joy. Someone out there who has been talking about what we need to do in classrooms had someone talking about what he got to do and how it helped his students develop wonderful, critical, thinking skills. I was blown away. Someone who trusted one of their faculty members to do the right thing, somone who treated another person with true professionalism and it all worked. Pam's simple response to me was "...make sure paths stay open and permissions remain in place to create, design, make, engineer, build, compose learning." How beautifully simple is that? All coming down to relationship.While I realize this is somewhat scattered, trust that I will be writing more about all of this.So much to learn and so little time.[...]

A New Year


Happy New Year to you all. It has been an interesting year to say the least. That being said, I have returned hoping to add to the conversations through my blog. It took me a bit to get all the dust off and think about what direction to go now that I am here again.

The school semester has been one of attempting to get everything settled in as this summer we shifted from a Novell network to a Windows server based structure. With the switch to Windows, we also gave the students and faculty web based storage and eliminated some of the additional servers that were used to store student work. The students also have their own email accounts as well. Our students don't need to hit the servers at all. With web storage, our LMS and their email accounts our students can progress very well.

The faculty also has a couple of different ways to store their work. Our LMS has unlimited storage for our faculty and the faculty also has web storage with the same company the students are now using.

We still continue to work with the faculty and staff on the student use of their electronic textbooks as we are 95% all electronic textbooks. Many of the Diocesan schools have been meeting with us and looking for ways to move that direction as well. It is interesting to me to see some of the changes people look to make in their systems based on the direction we have moved to and progressed.

The New Year looks to be a good one and off to a great start, of course that is easy to say when you are only 3 days in to the New Year. My hope will be to talk about some of the things we have done to help make changes in our educational efforts as opposed to merely talking about what I think is wrong.

What changes have you made that are leading your students and faculty to educational success? I would enjoy hearing about them.

So much to learn and so little time.

Some Post ISTE11 Musings - with more to come


It is always interesting to me to see the buzz build the closer the ISTE conference gets. Then I am at EBC11 and the conference has started and then all of a sudden it is over. Time goes by so quickly once the conference gets started. Yet, there is so much to absorb that I will be pouring over the ISTE website to look at videos of different presentations and keynotes over and over again to try to absorb even more. Of course there is always the #ISTE11 hashtag to take me to other areas of learning as well.

There is never just one take away from this conference because there is always so much to learn to try and do things better. To listen to people and how they make things happen at their schools or districts and to try and figure out how to tweak that to make it happen in my own. So many ways and so many ideas. It almost becomes overwhelming. Overwhelming until I remember one simple thing - it is about the kids.

Many of the discussions that I had during my time in Philly and the ISTE 2011 conference kept bringing me back to the idea of relationship. Relationship with admin, faculty, staff and students. Along with the idea of relationship, we have to TRUST for that relationship to grow. In order to trust we have to let go of some of the things that get us where we are today and part of that letting go is the death grip on ego. Trusting our students allows us to open our networks. Trusting our faculties and staffs to be the professionals they truly are allows us to be about what they need to teach and our students need to learn.

Relationship is so very important in all we do, that this conference continues to be an important encounter for us all. Trust yourself to learn something new with each and every encounter you have even if it is a social encounter, trust that the presentation may well have something you need to hear or know and if not then quietly and respectfully move to another one. Trust that being quiet allows you to hear from someone else, trust that you are here for a reason and you make a difference. Trust that thought you have that has been marinating in your mid is useful and needs to be put out htere. Trust that the feedback you get is important and valuable and not a personal attack.

Thank you to all the people I met for the first time face to face and my sincere apologies to those I missed. Thank you for the time you spent sharing and caring and most especially for the work you do each and every day. You all continue to teach me a lot and for that I am truly thankful and I hope to continue to learn more from you each and every day.

So much to learn and so little time.

I Like to Drive


As a young boy growing up I always looked forward to vacation and the ride we would take to wherever. The big station wagon and the road newly being constructed on the way to San Antonio or the west Texas heat on the way to New Mexico. Either way we were going to see relatives and we got to travel. No ipods, no TV's built into cars or dvd players for that matter. Merely a book, non-tinted windows and the incessant cries of "are we there yet" or "how much longer" from any of my 4 other brothers and sisters or myself.

The landscape seemd to go on forever, games in the car helped to pass the time and yet as I grew older I couldn't wait to be able to fly wherever I wanted to go. I could get there quicker and see more, do more and not waste time. I could look out the window of the plane and see all of the land at once.

However, last year my wife and I decided to drive to NECC/ISTE. See the country again for a change. Relax in the car. So we packed not only our things but some from our friends as well since we were going to meet them at the same place. New Mexico, Colorado, Estes Park, Denver, the ISTE Mansion, Amarillo and home again. 10 days. Lots of sites and new place to rediscover.

This year with Philadelphia being the goal, we went through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, the Smoky Mountains, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania and on the way back we added Tennessee and Arkansas to the list of states. The ISTE Mansion aptly renamed the ISTE Row House was the destination for yet another ISTE Conference. With some of the same folks a memorable trip was had yet again.

I was aksed if I didn't like to fly and I would have to say the answer is no. The joy of the road is a simple one - we have a beautiful country. We also have a great deal of freedom to move about the country. No matter what the politicians decide, we are living a great life with wonderful freedoms and abilities. The cool thing about traveling in that manner is that with the available technology, we can look up anything we see and decide if we want to go and explore more. We have that freedom.

Today as we celebrate the birth of our nation, know that we have all been placed in this time and this place for a reason. But along with that, we have many wonderful men and women that have fought and defended the right we have to move about the country whether by plane, train or automobile. My prayers on this day will be for all the men and women who are put in harm's way and for their families who also have sacrificed much. Be safe out there, come home soon and I will continue to pray for peace. Thank you all for that you continue to do day after day and for all those who have gone before you.

So much to learn and so little time.

Pre-ISTE 2011 Musings


As I sit and contemplate the beginning if ISTE 11, I wonder how many are concerned with being heard, seen, or just being noticed? Lately there have been many wonderful posts about what to do and how to approach ISTE and the immense overflow of input that people will face as they try to ingest the gluttonous amount of stimuli. I have even already heard someone state "I am star struck." So many people are here to be heard, so many here that need to be heard and so many that want someone to hear them.Recently Bud Hunt had a post wondering if we are listening with all of the talk and "chatter" that is going on. While Beth Still has done a good job trying to include more people, especially the "newbies," I still wonder if we are reaching out enough to truly be inclusive?There are many folks who have worked hard to attain the "status" they have and I do truly applaud them and I hope they continue with their work and forging the way. There are many trying to be heard and will all of the talk and noise going on I sometimes feel that it is hard for anyone to hear over the din. Everyone knows there are problems with schools, everyone knows that the politico's are trying to balance budgets on the backs of teachers and schools, and everyone knows that the economy is hurting everyone.As I look around, many of the things were are doing today are merely a GUI digital version of what we have been doing for years. One of the differences is that we can do the same things with people from all over the world. I have so many questions rumbling around in my head and the main part of ISTE has not even started. I guess my main point is all of this is YES, we do have problems but what are we doing to solve them? What are WE doing to make things right? How are we as leaders laying it on the line to make it better for all those who are trying, who do give a damn, who do reach kids each and every dayand may not even have the electronic tools that some of us have?How are we supporting what our children need? I believe that tech directors ( and yes I am one) or the keepers of the networks, need to loosen their death grips on "their" networks. The world is unfiltered. Does that mean let it all through? No, of course not. To me it means block the crap but still teach our children to continue to refine their crap detectors. Show and model responsible citizenship and in order to do that we have to allow our colleagues to be the professionals that they are each and every day.We also need to listen and we need to listen the old fashioned way with mouths shut and both both ears open with an open mind. We may need to do it the truly old fashioned way by repeating what the other person says and stating it so that they have an opportunity to say no this is what I meant before we even formulate an answer. I must admit that when I first started as a tech director it was all about the hardware, the stability and the speed of "my network." Now I work with my boss and the curriculum director and it is in the educational needs of our students and school that drive what our network does and definitely not the other way around.Fortunately, I have a great boss that allows me a lot of freedom and as a result this is my 13th or so ISTE. But 4 years ago I met some folks I consider true leaders who helped me to understand and truly "get it." I am just thankful that the Lord helped me to be open minded and willing to continue to learn because that way I can take the time to hear what is being said and continue to learn from there.I hope you have a great experience at ISTE and don't merely run from one thing to another[...]

Getting Back to Basics


I had a chance to present at the Region 10 ESC Technology Planning Conference last week and had a great time meeting new folks and learning some new things. My presentation "Twitter? Really" Show me why and how!" was received well, but I learned a lot in the middle of my presentation. When I asked who had questions a woman raised her hand and asked "So what is the difference and the importance of the "@" & the "#"?" I quickly applied the brakes and we slowed down to address the question at hand. Along with that were several other questions that were all about basic tweeting.

So what did I learn? No matter where and when we are presenting are we taking care to make sure that we are reaching out to those who are just starting to dip their toes in the water or maybe those who are eyeing the kool-aid stand but not sure they really want to buy the drink itself? I wondered how many walked down the hallway and went in to the presentation which I would have loved to be in titled "Tweeting Out of the Box" and were lost as to what was going on?

I know sometimes I have been so immersed in what I have been doing and have become so very comfortable that I forget new people come to the well each and every day looking for ways to communicate and finally willing to try something different. My hope is that those in my session feel that once they left they could contact me and ask questions at any time.

How do you handle the new folks when you are confronted with those questions when presenting? We talk about how students learn in different ways and at different times but are we taking the time to make sure those adults who have come to learn are getting the same attention?

So much to learn and so little time.

Are you equitable?


Equity - a wonderful word as long as everyone has it, but we know that isn't true. Everyone does not have equity. Schools are not funded equitably, unions are not treated equitably where there are unions, people are not taxed equitably and on and on. What about in a classroom? How does equity play out in a classroom full of students? Students - both boys and girls are the first to pick up on who the favorites are or who is "in" or who remains on the "fringe." Do teachers know? Do we fully understand the ways that we help to keep someone on the outside while allowing others on the inside? I would like to think I do things the right way but I also know that in reflecting on my own practices, I am more than willing to help those who are willing to incorporate new things in to their classrooms and those who just don't get it. I am not talking about using "tools" just to use them. But that is not right wither. So what about the child who is given greater access to a teacher than another student is given? Equitable? We talk about bullying a lot and in so many different ways, but are we helping to establish a bullying system by these seemingly small inequities of access to a teacher or to technology? Is it any different that through my actions I am able to keep someone on the fringe as opposed to the "inner circle?" Is that merely a more subtle type of bullying? I have a lot to learn and so little time left to learn it, but I am looking for some real answers to these questions because I know that I am really thinking about how I might be creating inequities as a result of what I do. Anyone care to jump in and help out? I hope so.

Ejection Fraction


In the last 6 months I have learned a lot about this phrase ejection fraction. As defined on Wikipedia "ejection fraction is the fraction of blood pumped out of the right and left ventricles with each heart beat." Now this post is not about personal health but rather educational health and just what is left beating as states begin their budget cycles.

Here in the State of Texas, a non-union, right to work state, the estimates so far are that the number of teaching positions cut could very well come close to 100,000. Possibly 4,000 in Dallas alone. The numbers coming in are staggering. Word is that out of 11,000 school districts in Texas, only 40 are solvent. We have been bleeding out for some time if that is truly the case and the percentage of what is pumping is dropping more and more each day.

Tonight I saw different tweets from friends Ryan Bretag, Jon Becker and Angela Maiers in relation to homework their children were doing in Ryan's case, the desire to find the right school in Jon's case and trying to know and find out that her children were cared about and for in Angela's case. Frustration was the course of the night. The pulse continues to get weaker. The number of people that joined in those conversations lending support and talking about it also showed a great deal of frustration from throughout the country.

What does any of this have to do with ejection fraction? The heart of any educational facility in my opinion rests on the heart and passion of the very teachers in the building, the people that are passionate about what they do and the children that are under their care each and every day, and yet, people elected to office continue to perform heart surgery with axes instead of scalpels. There are many people that have said it so much better in so many more ways than I could here. I simply hope that those teachers who work with kids are not on automatic pilot because they are worried about their jobs, I hope they are not mailing it in waiting for the axe to fall on them while supposedly educating our children for their future.

It is during times like this that so many people I have know have risen to the top of their game and continue prove to people over and over again that the reason they are in that classroom is that they are passionate about what it means to be a teacher. I hope for our children's sake that some folks were having a bad day and I hope for our schools sake some people in charge start thinking out of the box, otherwise we may learn how upset our teachers, parents and children can be when the revolution shows up here. The pulse continues to get weaker.

So much to learn and it needs to happen now.

E-Books and Bring Your Own Technology


This year we made some major changes at our school. After upgrading our infrastructure last summer to have wireless throughout, we then progressed to allowing students to bring their own connectivity. This year we asked them all to bring their own connectivity and we added e-books. We are about 85% electronic books throughout our grades 6-12. We made recommendations to parents about what level the machines should have. We have areas where students can plug in to charge up and for those who may have had difficulties obtaining their own equipment we took our COWs (computers on wheels – the big carts) and cleaned those machines up as much as possible and loan those out to students to use. They take them home after signing an agreement that they will be responsible and if not then they are charged a fee for replacement.The main focus this year is the E-Books. The school is fortunate to have an instructional technologist that works here who has taken the bull by the horns and wrestled this program into submission so to speak. Christine Voigt has replied to several people who have asked about e-books and here is what she has to say:“The eBooks are online digital editions of the actual printed texts. The advantage is that they have interactive content in addition to just being a PDF. The world language teachers really love their eBooks, because it allows student to hear and in some cases interact with the languages they are learning. Video and audio clips that previously were only available in class via DVD (or in some classes video tape!) are now integrated with the eBook so students can access them anytime, anywhere.All the eBooks are online subscriptions. The students login to the publishers website and have a digital bookshelf with titles they need for their classes. What I like about the online login is the fact that they are not tied to one computer. If their computer breaks, or the battery dies, etc. they can login and get their books on another machine. All of their notes, highlights, and work are tied into that online account.We use eBooks from Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, and also use CourseSmart for all courses that use college level texts (primarily our AP classes).The only texts that can be accessed on an iPad are the once from CourseSmart- they have developed their own App for the iPad that is really quite nice.The regular texts rely on multiple plug-ins such as Java or Flash and they will not work with the iPad, smart phones, or Kindles.Although many of the publishers strongly encouraged and even gave us bundled pricing for purchasing physical books and the digital ones, we opted to go with eBook only. Overall it was a bit cheaper and we saved a lot of shipping costs, and many trees in the process.”One of the nice features in most of the e-books is the fact that they will speak. So while the machine may not have text to speech the books do. Our biggest struggle for the students is to make sure they have downloaded all the free Adobe apps. Things like Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Adobe Air and Adobe Shockwave. All of these play a role in some of the more in depth parts of the books for demonstration or even speech.So very much to learn and so little time.[...]

A New Week & Some New Challenges


The first week of school has come and gone and the tech team has been busy trying to make sure everything has been up and running. This year, as I have stated before, our students are bringing their own connectivity and we are using as many electronic books as possible to get. All of our students have a school email address and they each have their own access to Edline which is the school's learning management system. So what has the first week been like and what are some of the good and the bad that has happened? The tech team put together very specific instructions about how to connect to our wireless network and passed it out to our faculty. They had the chance to then work with the students on getting connected. Each teacher also has the ability to pass out access codes to Edline and then we also passed out the school email addresses to several key faculty who were in charge of specific grade levels. Along with these codes and instructions teachers were given the licenses for their particular classes and they are responsible for passing out the instructions for the ebooks in their classes.Some of the problems that were run into were things like not enough time to get everything passed out in one class period. Students are at varying levels of connectivity and ability so it takes a little longer. Some faculty are more sure about what they are doing than others so it became a case of checking on those teachers. Machines seeking updates from the internet for windows or snow leopard or adobe. This all decreases the amount of bandwidth that is available for the things we really need to do, then compound that with the fact that while teachers are working with other students those that are connected and ready to go are using Facebook and Youtube to entertain themselves and visit with friends in other classes. Our Facebook usage was 65% of our bandwidth and Youtube usage was 35%. That doesn't leave much for the rest of what we were trying to do. We sent this information out to our faculty and reminded them about engagement in the classroom as well as if you aren't using the laptops for things in class have the students put them away. The next day those percentages dropped incredibly.The largest problem that the tech team ran in to was suddenly we could not get students on the network at all. They were not getting an ip address assigned. After a lot of discussion and talking with some different folks we discovered that our ip pool had been drained and our DHCP server had nothing to dish out when people tried to connect. As we talked about it we have approxiamtely 230 desktops, 40-50 laptops, several dozen printers and some copiers and these are all assigned IP addresses along with our switches for managing the network. After adding another 512 ip's to the pool info started flowing. We still have some work as our leases are set for 90 days and we need to change that as a a parent could walk on campus, log on to our wireless and leave and we lose an ip address for 90 days.We will continue tweaking our system to make it the most efficient and secure possible meaning vlan, guest network and the likes. Feel free to ask any questions as we continue on this journey this year. Our hope is to help other miss some of the obstacles that we face along the way.So much to learn and so little time.[...]

Wireless, ebooks and maybe paperless!


This week our students begin their orientation camps for the new school year. By Thursday all of our students will be in for classes. It will be an exciting year this year with a lot of changes taking place. We have asked our students to bring some type of connectivity so they can be hooked up to the wireless that we put in last summer. While a fee was charged each student for books, the school will supply whatever book is available for the class be it electronic format or hardback. Our students have email online, file storage online, learning management accounts online for their classes as well as the ability for electronic turn in of homework. We are truly encouraging our teachers to go as paperless as possible. We will see.

I hope to summarize each week how things go this year as we venture in to this area. I am sure there are some other schools doing this but I have not heard as of yet. I hope everyone has a great year and you are able to help implement the change that is needed at your school or district. Be the change you want to be in the world. (Ghandi)

So much to learn and so little time.

Are you burned out or connected?


Having just left ISTE10 and Wichita, KS where I was attending Podstock10 with Kevin Honeycutt and many others in my network of friends and folks, I continued to hear a recurring theme. The statement that I have heard way too many times in the last couple of weeks is something along these lines: "I am glad to be somewhere with like minded people so that I can get re-energized before I go back to school."

That statement alone is another great reason to work on building your network of friends, colleagues and peers. This is a way for people to be connected year round to those like minded individuals, another way for us to not be isolated islands battling the tides. Many people are in the same boat and we need to make sure that we are able to reach out and use those connections we have. These connections are important for all types of things such as our sanity, our strength, new ideas, along with other ways for us to continue to learn and branch out in our respective positions.

If you are one of those people needing to make connections, come join me, I will be more than happy to connect with you, introduce you to my network of friends. Together we are better, more knowledgeable and more energized.

So much to learn and so little time.