COSN, Day 3: Super sized Staff Development

by Brian Bridges

Here are the last of my notes from the COSN conference last March.

John Long is a curriculum integration specialist from Palm Beach, Florida. In Florida, each county serves as a school district. His county/district has 166 schools. To promote technology professional development, they hold an annual district technology conference. His handouts are at his mac address.

Participants asked for more time with an integration focus and they wanted additional follow-up (in florida, you can’t get service credit w/o follow-up).

To meet their needs, he created academies where were multi-day workshops that focused on integration, had homework, included follow-up sessions.

To reach all their teachers, they needed a cadre of trainers and focused on multi-media content, using Blooms Taxonomy; Previously, most training had been in Knowledge and Comprehension, but they wanted to move to Synthesis and Evaluation. He created a MOD (multimedia on demand) squad of 10 teachers who would help train additional teachers. Criteria for the MOD were a willingness to learn and a desire to collaborate, to integrate, to be open to new ideas, to adapt, and to attend meetings and trainings.

To fund his activities, he used formula EETT funds to create tech ambassadors at each site. To save money, all his training materials are online; nothing is printed. In return, all tech ambassadors conduct mini-workshops at their schools. As an incentive, all ambassadors received an iBook (had to turn it in if they didn’t participate); they received an LCD projector and one digital camcorder for their school. Each participant has to present at the district tech conference.

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COSN, Day 2: America’s Digital Schools – Approaching a Tipping Point

by Brian Bridges

Jim Bosco and Jeanne Hayes relayed findings from their research, America’s Digital Schools 2006. While this project is funded by Discovery, it is supported by SETDA, ISTE, and COSN. They surveyed the top 2,500 districts in the county to gather their data.
Key findings
1. Digital schools are transition from a desktop world to a mobile world
19% of all student devices today are mobile; 50% will be in 2011 including laptops, tablets, appliances, and handhelds. The implication is that we’re about to see a number of cool products.

2. Ubiquitous computing is growing rapidly
Each student and teacher has at least one internet-connected wireless computing device for use both in the classroom and at home.

3. Districts using ubiquitous computing report substantial academic improvement

4. Here are the fastest-growing products over the next five years
Student Appliances
Tablet computers
Handheld devices
Laptop computers
Interactive whiteboards

5. Bandwidth Crisis
We are approaching an impending bandwidth crisis. They studied the amount of bandwidth available in schools and found that the US is no longer leading developed nations. (we’re 12th)
Broadband is the new utility similar to water and electricity- United Nation’s conference on Trade and Development, Nov 2006

Growth areas requiring increased bandwidth:

  • Online learning will quadruple
  • Online assessment
  • Instructional networks
  • Home connectivity
  • Other factors (student devices, ..

To define bandwidth capacity, they create a calculation by student. They divide speed by the number of students. If the number is 40 or more, the district is prepared for the future. Today, the bandwidth average is 3.3/student.
Below are the key topics for this year’s survey.

1. Implementation success factors in 1:1 computing
2. Learning management sys tems
3. Online assessment
4. Student computing devices
5. Interactive whiteboards
6. Internet bandwidth

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COSN, Day 2: Integrating Technology and Curriculum with Moodle

by Brian Bridges

I’ve finally time to review all my session notes from the COSN Conference last March, so i thought I’d post some of my observations

Thomas Adams shared his implementation of Moodle as their choice of a Course Management System. They use two moodle sites. One is on a vendor site and they run the other. The links are: 1) and 2)

Norton Gusky talked about how they began using Moodle as an affordable, scalable version of Blackboard. His model was created after he talked to Bernie Dodge, who was distributing content through Moodle for his courses. He talked about using the forum feature for students to write, share, and edit each others stories

Moodle has two parts: resources and activities. He wanted an essential question that would engage students in interactive learning. Yes, you can put resources online, but what will you do to make the learning process more interactive.

For professional development, he trained all his teachers to use Moodle. In classrooms, teachers are using Forums to engage students in conversations about class concepts and work. They found that students who don’t speak in class are often actively engaged in online discussions.

Moodle Groups: He used Moodle as an online environment. To differentiate instruction, he created groups, and assigned students to those groups, so that each group would only see the work that they needed.

The initial phase of building online content did take additional time, but now that teachers have been doing this for a year, the time investment has been shortened. The speakers suggest that teachers just focus on developing one Moodle unit each year, and to not take on too much.

Brian’s question: Is it better for teachers to build each course themselves, or would it be better for a group of teachers to collaborate on a single shell that they all could use, but modify for their circumstances?

He suggests that teachers close their courses, so others don’t have access, partially for privacy, but also for copyright and fair use purposes. Some elements are open, like their library Moodle, but classroom Moodles should be closed.

Regarding Moodle’s instant messaging feature; many teachers turn it off. Some teachers use the chat feature just before an exam. A teacher uses the chat feature, at night, to help answer student’s questions. Often, a critical mass of students are online and they begin answering each other’s questions.

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COSN, Day 2: the Wal Martization of America – the Flat World vs. Education and Jobs

by Brian Bridges

Thursday began by spotlighting Pennylvania’s initiatives to utilize technology in support of professional development and classroom integration.

This session got off to a bad start when the governor of Pennsylvania, via a recorded speech, completely got wrong the effect of the flat world. He told a story of American companies who were granting H1B visas to field computer programmers for their companies. His call for educational reform was based on the idea that American workers weren’t prepared for these programming positions that pay between $45K-$50K/year.

OK, let’s step back. What talented American worker, having gone to a four-year college, would settle for this salary range, one that was easily double to triple a few years ago. The governor referenced that these H1B workers were making four times their home country salaries, which I’ve no doubt is true. However, what he completely missed is the flat world has enabled the Wal Martization of technology careers, moving jobs abroad or bringing cheaper labor here to increase profits.

He is right that we are competing not with ourselves, but with every country. The flat world has shortened the path and broken the barriers between workers and employers. Cheap, high-speed Internet and an increasingly large pool of talented, intelligent workers from abroad are quickly threatening high-skilled, and well-paid technology positions here at home. This is a natural effect of the flat world. There will always be cheaper workers, whether it be for making shoes or writing program code.

I would challenge that American workers aren’t prepared. Instead, I’d suggest that we’re really not prepared for a complete salary paradigm shift. As a society, we’ll either need to reduce our expectations or we’ll need to innovate new industries and applications. We either need to expect less of our employers and our government, or we’ll need to adapt our educational system to create more innovative professionals.

I’ll concede that we need to raise expectations for our students and reform education to increase the American talent pool. However, politicians rarely see the complex dynamics that are intertwined in the solution. Perhaps I’ll climb that hill another day.



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CoSN, Day 1: Data-Driven Leadership

by Brian Bridges

My session two choice was Tood Bloom’s and Betty Schweizer’s, “The Journey Toward Data-Driven Leadership.” Their project, TIE, is a consortium of 38 Minnesota school districts with the purpose of providing SIS, finance, payroll, and data to their member districts. They purchased Cognos for their data warehouse client. He discussed the national focus on evidence-based management and I heard my first new acronym of the day, D3M, which is short for data driven decision making. TIEs offers a Principals’ Data Academy to increase the use of data tool sets. Most administrators aren’t aware of data that is easily available to them. Like California’s AB 430, Module 3, each cohort of 15-20 administrators participants in 2 ½ days of professional development. To allow time for project work, readings and data exploration, they separate each training days by three to four weeks.

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CoSN, Day 1: Online Professional Development


by Brian Bridges

It’s day one of CoSN’s annual conference in San Francisco (CoSN is the Consortium of School Networking). During Session One, I was fascinated by David Myers’ description of Michigan’s online learning portal for professional development and by their Education Department’s commitment to extending online learning’s reach. Apparently, they’ve proposed to require all teachers to take at least one online course, which is their way of breaking the ice with the teaching force. From about $1M start-up funds in 1998, they’ve built a system, using their portal and Blackboard, to deliver a variety of professional development courses online.

Many of their courses are designed to last 25-30 hours, meeting two to three times per week online.

Jennifer Peace described her project, eLearning Delaware, which is being implemented in eight states. She discussed the group, EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO), which was designed to build organizational capacity to use online learning. Their class offering is a semester long class to train class facilitators, who are then certified to conduct online PD. Facilitators continue to be supported during their first year.

Their courses for teachers last six sessions, and contain an overview, readings, activities, and discussions. The noted the difficulty of creating discussion questions that engage your students. E-Learning also uses Blackboard as their course management system.

Very interesting. It makes me wonder why California hasn’t approached this model for some of the trainings required of teachers and administrators. With our emphasis on meeting the needs of underserved school districts (like small and rural sites), shouldn’t California being creating an online learning system?

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