Larry Cuban: Trusting Technology After a Career of Mistrust

To be clear, I think most would concur that Larry Cuban is an intelligent, well-respected thinker who's earned his reputation by expressing powerfully worded arguments that have withstood the test of time. One quick glance at his work and it's easy to detect greatness. Four brief quotations from his reserve illustrate his facility with words, the strength of his thinking, and a tone that's inhabited many of his arguments.

Four quotations...

Larry Cuban (1993):

...The seemingly marginal use of computers and telecommunications in schools and classrooms is due less to inadequate funds, unprepared teachers, and indifferent administrators than to dominant cultural beliefs about what teaching, learning, and proper knowledge are and how schools are organized for instruction.
Larry Cuban (2001):
Without a critical examination of the assumptions of techno-promoters, a return to the historic civic and social mission of schooling in America, and a rebuilding of social capital in our schools, our passion for school-based technology, driven by dreams of increased economic productivity and the demands of the workplace, will remain an expensive, narrowly conceived innovation. The next generation of Americans will wonder about the wisdom of previous reformers seeking technocratic solutions that ignored the broader civic and social roles of schools in a democratic society.
Craig Peck , Larry Cuban , and Heather Kirkpatrick (2002):
In the end, innovative technology remains relegated to the periphery and has not made any dramatic inroads into the academic mainstream.
Larry Cuban (2009):
Close scrutiny of ads about cancer treatments that will save lives and claims by school officials about the miracle-like qualities of laptops are tasks high school teachers might undertake when they teach critical thinking and educational policymakers should seriously consider when they make decisions. Were such scrutiny undertaken, a self-evident truth would emerge: too much emotional appeal and too little hard thinking hurt those seeking miracles from cancer centers and from schools buying new electronic devices.
An observation...

In spite of Dr. Cuban's well-documented mistrust of technology’s use in education (both on-line and off-), I think his behaviors of late speak far louder than his words. At least to me, his mere presence in the blogosphere:
  • Signals a new-found reliance on technology to communicate academically. Who might he be reaching here that he wasn't reaching before?
  • Indicates that some technologies - like blogging - are no longer “relegated to the [academic] periphery” but rather, rolling swiftly into the mainstream.
  • Powerfully illustrates dramatic changes regarding the “dominant cultural beliefs about what teaching, learning, and proper knowledge” are.
Why else should teachers blog? Because Larry Cuban does.


Original image source: Flickr user horizontal.integration.

Free, As In Look Over Here: Media Literacy 102

I just finished perusing "Seth Godin's new ebook" entitled What Matters Now. On the surface, it's an interesting read full of humor, wit, emotion, and timely advice; written by seventy-five of the most influential thinkers of our time/type. Big thinkers? YES!

Still, upon viewing the book, I'm struck by how much it feels like that stack of advertisements that comes with every edition of the Sunday paper.

Honestly, it's not that the content is bad, quite the contrary. Rather, it's that the content therein is so amazingly good that it's a shame it's been presented in such a way that each plug is so blatantly obvious. It's also as if the message they're really trying to send is that what really matters now is exposure, marketing, and my blog can beat up your blog.

First there was Web 2.0 - and now, well, there's free. Sure it's exciting; it's even liberating. But this example alone illustrates yet one more tragedy of the commons, unintentionally cloaked as a clarion reminder that nothing in life truly is free.

What Matters Now (A Description of Modern Economics):

  • Cost of production: time, creativity, and the networking skills required for assembly.
  • Cost of consumption: a population of readers duped into thinking the production is anything more than it really is: a professionally tailored advertisement for those whose work is featured therein.
Now, where did I put that Sunday paper?


Image sources: What Matters Now and Flickr user pappalicious.

(Mis) Communication

Yesterday morning, I learned clearly that one of the weaknesses of blogging is that in attempting to communicate with one group of people, it’s very possible to unintentionally miscommunicate with another.

For that reason alone, I think many administrators hesitate to put their thoughts out (t)here, regardless of the importance of the conversations that might take place online.

Sometimes my brain is too small.

Thank You

In 2007, I guess I did a decent enough job at giving thanks publicly for all of the amazing things I have to be grateful for. And while last year I sadly dropped the ball, I hope to pick it up again now and take it a few steps further toward the end zone.

First, I'm breathlessly thankful for the amazing ride its been for me in this past year. I'm thankful for my current job and thankful for the experiences I've been privileged to have. Remember, it was only about a year ago that I was being pulled on-stage with Alan November, taking my turn at inspirational quotes, and sharing the Educator's Guide to the Creative Commons - at the top of my game (?) as a Curriculum Technology Specialist in the Jordan School District. Since then, my district was split and I've shifted gears slightly. It's been an amazing ride, no doubt about it.

Next, I'd like to publicly thank the following people for doing what they do so well:

  • My beautiful wife and supportive family. Without them, I'd still be nothing.
  • The fine folks I used to work with in the Jordan School District. While I've seen much good come about from the split, I miss the friendships we had built up over the years. I hope we can do more in the future to strengthen those relationships.
  • The fine folks, supportive administration, and amazing team that I work with now. Building a district from the ground up is an incredible experience I wouldn't recommend to anyone. :)
  • The helpful faculty at Utah State University that continue to push me forward with my dissertation. It is coming along, slowly but surely.
  • Chris Craft, Jeff Utecht, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Robin Ellis, David Jakes, David Warlick, Sue Waters, Steve Hargadon, Doug Johnson, Kevin Honeycutt, Dean Shareski, Joyce Valenza, Chris Lehmann, and Will Richardson - for doing me a solid last July by helping to give my Ed Tech team one of the most spectacular introductions to their positions that I could ever imagine. I did a horrible job in thanking you then, but want you to know how much I appreciate your efforts. The audio for some of our conversations is available below.
Finally, I hope I never sound ungrateful for the good health I often take for granted, the freedoms I enjoy by living where I live, and the opportunities I'm afforded by playing the game in such remarkable times.

- - - - - -

The following audio clips result from an introductory "retreat" that we held the week of July 13, 2009, for the then-newly-hired Ed Tech team in the Canyons School District. While each of the conversations was directed to my staff in particular (via Skype), there is a wide range of interesting ideas shared by each of individuals. Sorry I haven't had time to clean them up more, but work with me here people: this is good stuff. Topics include the benefits of networked learning, techniques useful in motivating teachers to change, and other helpful selections of advice.

The Perfect Copyright Policy

Because of our background with media and technology, Jethro Jones and I have been asked to participate on the committee charged with creating a copyright policy distinct to the Canyons School District. Rest assured, this will be no insignificant task. My eyes go blurry just thinking about it.

Ironically, the ID tag given to the Copyright Compliance policy nails the overall experience perfectly:

If I could wave my magic wand, I'd create a policy that didn't require a full eight hours just to read it. That alone would likely translate into more teachers and students being willing to follow it.

What do you think? Does your school or district have the perfect copyright policy? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

Those Content To Lurk

I've added a comment to my recent post about online participation (or lack thereof) that deserves a little focus time on the stage:

Upon thinking further about this topic, I've decided to add a few important words to my second category of educator. Originally it read:

2. Those content to lurk but still hesitant to contribute.

I've edited it to read:

2. Those content to lurk but still hesitant (or unable, for whatever reason) to contribute.

The fact of the matter is that there exist a very large number of effective educators that are simply not able to contribute in any significantly recurrent amount to online discussion. All told, it's not that they're incapable of participating and it's not that they're unwilling. Rather, this group maintains perceived silence online because their professional priorities prohibit them from spending the time or energy required to provide plausible contribution.

As I think Jared was suggesting in his comment, this population includes some teachers. Likewise, I think that school/district administrators and other members of the school community should be included. Furthermore, any inference that the offline contributions of these professionals are insignificant is simply unjustified and honestly inappropriate.
Now think carefully about this:
  • Do you think there is legitimate justification for a lack of participation in the important discussions that occur online (or are some conversations simply too important)?

Image source: Flickr user horizontal.integration. No clue what this picture has to do with lurking, but it sure made me smile :-)

Smart Rooms

Dave Weinberger was right: The smartest person in the room, IS the room.

Librarians: The Three Types I Still See

One week later, and I'll admit: I'm concerned.

Scott McCleod has posted a list of ten incredibly important and equally complex questions about books, libraries, librarians, and schools.

Doug Johnson has begun to react to Scott's questions, by stepping back as a (very good) librarian himself and challenging his peers to step up to the plate. we respond to folks like Scott says a lot about us. Can we explain our values and mission and realities without sounding defensive, self-serving or reactionary? Read the responses to Scott's post, put on your classroom teacher, principal, or parent hat and evaluate!
With such a provocative challenge and important list of questions, wouldn't you think that every librarian would want to respond? Unfortunately from where I sit, however, I still see three kinds of librarians (and teachers, for that matter - the same we've seen now, for years):
  1. Those that read and participate in the online think-tank we call social media.
  2. Those content to lurk but still hesitant (or unable, for whatever reason) to contribute.


  3. Those still stuck in the analog paradigm.
Sadly, the "professionals" behind door number 3 have likely yet to see the questions posed by Scott - and probably never will - unless some caring person prints the list out for them and tapes it next to the library copy machine, feigning violation of some abstruse portion of copyright law.

Roland Barth has said it best:
The problem of all educational institutions isn't that they are no longer what they once were. The problem is that they are precisely what they once were, while the world around them is changing in revolutionary ways.
Is it ever too late to change? Sometimes I wonder. More importantly, I continue to wonder what we can do to help current educators break out of their molds and into this century.


Image source: Flickr user Lester Public Library.

Why I Share

David Wiley:

For me, for my students, and for the informal students who looked in on or participated in the course outside my university, this “open teaching” was better than a two-for-one. It was a thousand-for-one. When the costs of “open teaching” (freely allowing people outside the university to view course materials and informally participate in the course) are so low, I ask myself a question. Do we professors, who live rather privileged lives relative to the vast majority of the planet’s population, have a moral obligation to make our teaching efforts as broadly impactful as possible, reaching out to bless the lives of as many people as we can? Especially when participatory technologies make it so inexpensive (almost free) for us to do so?

I believe the answer is yes.
As do I.

For that reason, I pose the same questions to professional developers that David has to professors above - and plan on studying the impact of open professional development environments on teachers. What follows is the first chapter in my dissertation proposal. Fun, I know.

I welcome any feedback you might be willing to give and hope you'll find the mistakes I may have overlooked.

- - -


A number of elements have combined in the educational landscape to make teaching and learning in the 21st Century exhilarating and strikingly different than ever before. Not only are students and teachers afforded different opportunities for learning in the formal classroom, there now exists a large body of learning possibilities through the access of open educational resources (OER) and additional information freely shared online (Hylén, 2005; Johnstone, 2005; Downes, 2007). The utilization of OER is rapidly gaining traction in K-16 environments worldwide (Brown and Adler, 2008).

In addition to the educational resources that might be labeled as OER, modern collaborative technologies can provide meaningful learning experiences (Parker and Chao, 2007; Boulos, 2006). Specifically, social software provides an array of powerful information and collaboration components, acting as cognitive reflection and amplification tools by assisting in the construction of meaning (Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999).

Wherein the term ‘social software’ is used in many different contexts (and the assortment of technologies covered by the term are not necessarily developed for educational purposes), Terry Anderson’s (2005) definition of “educational social software” (p. 4) is particularly relevant. Educational social software exists within the context of distance education as a growing set of “networked tools that support and encourage individuals to learn together while retaining individual control over their time, space, presence, activity, identity and relationship” (p. 4; see also Belderrain, 2006). Such pedagogical tools can provide a learning experience unparalleled in educational environments past (Dalsgaard, 2006).

To continue, in spite of the learning opportunities that students might have outside of their formal schooling with OER, educational social software, and other educational technologies, there still exists a need to improve the pedagogy found within our schools. To that end, a number of researchers have maintained that the quality of what teachers know and can do has the greatest impact on student learning (Ferguson, 1991; Ferguson and Ladd, 1996; Wenglinsky, 2000, 2002; Darling-Hammond, 2000; Muijs and Reynolds, 2000). Furthermore, Supovitz and Turner (2000) have put forth logic that is difficult to refute:
The implicit logic of focusing on professional development as a means of improving student achievement is that high quality professional development will produce superior teaching in classrooms, which will, in turn, translate into higher levels of student achievement. (p. 965)
Moreover, while some have contended that teacher professional development can lead to an increase in teacher efficacy (Ingvarson, Meiers, and Beavis, 2005), others consider the training and professional development of teachers as the keystone to educational improvement (Hawley & Valli, 1999). In any case, such experiences designed to help teachers grow, are generally created to assist teachers in the learning of new skills, knowledge, and attitudes to support students’ learning and teachers’ own performance at a high level (Miller, Smith, & Tilstone, 1998). Indeed, teacher professional development is very important.

In considering the kinds of professional learning and interactions that can occur online, Bill Ferriter (2009) has argued that technology has made it easy for educators to embrace continual professional development. While describing how he has personally utilized blogs and wikis to create a “uniquely authentic” (p. 35) learning environment, he states:
Specifically, thousands of accomplished educators are now writing blogs about teaching and learning, bringing transparency to both the art and the science of their practice. In every content area and grade level and in schools of varying sizes and from different geographical locations, educators are actively reflecting on instruction, challenging assumptions, questioning policies, offering advice, designing solutions, and learning together. (p. 35)
Through the networked connections inherent to learning with emerging social technologies, teachers are now able to reflect, collaborate, and participate in a form of professional development regardless of geographic and other constraints. Additionally, educational social software aids in the promulgation of the original vision of the Internet as a space wherein all people might participate (Schaffert, Gruber, & Westenthaler, 2006).

A New Genre of Teacher Professional Development

Beginning in September 2007, a new genre of teacher professional development was developed that allowed teachers of various levels, subject areas, and cultural backgrounds to participate in the same formal class at the same time, regardless of geographic location, and without monetary costs to participants (Draper, 2007). The classes, termed OpenPD, or Open Professional Development (OPD) were built upon several key principles, largely centered on the foundation of open education (Downes, 2007; McLoughlin & Lee, 2008) with its many dimensions and numerous interpretations (Iiyoshi and Kumar, 2008). Furthermore, the classes were dependent upon the collaborative technologies available through social software and were designed to “teach social software using social software” (Draper and Ellis, 2008; Roblyer and Edwards, 2000). Since the inception of OpenPD, a number of similar open, synchronous, professional development efforts have ensued that have relied heavily upon educational social software not only for content distribution but also for direct delivery of instruction (see for example, Jones, 2008; Couros, 2009).

According to its creators, OpenPD was chiefly designed with a number of characteristics at its definitive core (Draper, 2008):
  • Open enrollment (all that desire are welcome to participate).
  • Free of charge to participants.
  • Combines the established tradition of sharing good ideas with fellow educators and the collaborative, interactive culture of the Internet.
  • Built on the belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint.
With several successful iterations having been completed and a growing population of interested participants, OpenPD has given teachers a learning experience different than more traditional approaches (see Viegas-Reimers, 2003; Borko, 2004; Viegas-Reimers, 2003). Furthermore, it has advanced the field in making significant strides toward the realization of the recommendations set forth by Stuessy and Metty in 2007 that “professional development providers acknowledge the power of communication and feedback in dissolving the traditional boundaries by which they normally define themselves” (p. 746. See also Knight and Boudah, 2003; Borko, 2004).

Problem Statement

Because professional development has been shown to improve teacher efficacy, it is vital that ways to improve the methods that are used to help teachers learn are identified. Furthermore, since few (if any) studies have been conducted that analyze the combination of open education as it applies to teacher professional development and the modern collaborative technologies of the Internet, more research is needed in this area.


The purpose of this mixed-methods experimental study is to determine the impact that OPD environments have on teacher attitudes toward technology use and their utilization specifically of social software in the classroom.

The following questions will guide the study:
  1. How do teacher attitudes toward technology use in the classroom change while participating in OpenPD?
  2. What impact does OpenPD have on teacher utilization of social software in the classroom?
  3. What do teachers learn by participating in OPD that isn’t specifically covered by the explicit topic(s) at hand?
Literature Review

A substantive, thorough, and sophisticated literature review is the antecedent to any successful research endeavor (Boote and Beile, 2005). Therefore, an analysis of the literature in connection with this study will:
  • Include a historical review of the origins and principles of open education and (educational) social software.
  • Consist of an overview of the literature associated with teacher professional development, linked methods, and procedures.
  • Contain a summary of the literature in connection with factors affecting teacher attitude.
  • Discuss the concepts of communities of practice and communities of interest as they have been established in the literature.
  • Highlight key understandings of educational change theory as they apply to this study.
  • Anderson, T. (2005). Distance learning – social software's killer ap? ODLAA 2005 Conference. Retrieved July 11, 2009 from
  • Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153.
  • Boote, D. & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher 34(6), 3-15.
  • Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3–15.
  • Boulos, M. N. K., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: A new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education, BMC Medical Education, 6(41).
  • Brown, J. S. & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on fire: Open education, the long tail and learning 2.0. EDUCAUSE Review, 43(1), 16–32. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from:
  • Couros, A. (2009). Open, connected, social – implications for educational design. Campus-Wide Information Systems 26(3), 232-239.
  • Dalsgaard, Christian (2006, July 12): Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning (EURODL). Retrieved July 2, 2009 from
  • Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teacher quality and student achievement: A review of state policy evidence. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8(1).
  • Downes, S. (2007). Models for sustainable open educational resources. National Research Council, Canada. Retrieved June 13, 2009, from
  • Draper, D. (2007, September 6). Open professional development – A whole new level. Drape’s Takes weblog. Retrieved June 24, 2009 from
  • Draper, D. (2008, February 7). Open professional development – A definition. Drape’s Takes weblog. Retrieved July 3, 2009 from
  • Draper, D. & Ellis, R. (2008). Open professional development [Video file]. Video posted to
  • Ferguson, R. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation 28(2), 465–498.
  • Ferguson, R.F. & Ladd, H.F. (1996). How and why money matters: An analysis of Alabama schools. In Holding Schools Accountable: Performance Based Reform in Education, Brookings Institute: Washington, DC.
  • Ferriter, B. (2009). Learning with blog and wikis. Educational Leadership, 66(5), 34-38.
  • Hawley, W., & Valli, L. (1999). The essentials for effective professional development:A new consensus. In L. Darling-Hammond & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession: Handbook of policy and practice (pp. 127-150). San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.
  • Hylén, J. (2005). Open educational resources: Opportunities and challenges. OECD-CERI. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from
  • Iiyoshi, T. & Kumar, V. (2008). Opening Up Education: the collective advancement of education through open technology, open content, and open knowledge, Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press.
  • Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, A. (2005, January 29). Factors affecting the impact of professional development programs on teachers’ knowledge, practice, student outcomes & efficacy. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(10).
  • Johnstone, S. M. (2005). Open educational resources serve the world. Educause Review. Retrieved June 23, 2009, from
  • Jonassen, D.H., Peck, K.L., & Wilson, B.G. (1999). Learning with technology: A constructivist perspective. Columbus, OH: Prentice Hall.
  • Jones, J. (2008, July 30). You’re Invited! Online Show and Tell Thursday, 11:00 AM PST. INJENUITY weblog. Retrieved July 9, 2009 from
  • Knight, S. L., & Boudah, D. J. (2003). The impact of teachers’ participation in collaborative research on secondary students’ classroom behaviors, engagement. In D. Wiseman & S. Knight (Eds.), The impact of school–university collaboration and K-12 student outcomes (pp. 151–165). New York: AACTE.
  • McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. (2008). Future learning landscapes: transforming pedagogy through social software. Innovate 4(5).
  • Miller, C., Smith, C. & Tilstone, C. (1998). Professional development by distance education: Does distance lend enhancement? Cambridge Journal of Education 28(2), 221-230.
  • Muijs, D. & Reynolds, D. (2000). School effectiveness and teacher effectiveness in mathematics. Some preliminary findings from the evaluation of the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (Primary). School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 11(3), 273–303.
  • Parker, K. R. & Chao, J. T. (2007). Wiki as a teaching tool. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 3, 57-72.
  • Roblyer, M. D., & Edwards, J. (2000). Integrating educational technology into teaching (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Schaffert, S., Gruber, A. & Westenthaler, R. (2006). A semantic wiki for collaborative knowledge formation. In S. Reich, G. Güntner, T. Pellegrini, A. & Wahler (Eds.): Semantic Content Engineering. Austria: Trauner Verlag.
  • Stuessy, C. L. & Metty, J. S. (2007). The learning research cycle: Bridging research and practice. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18, 725-750.
  • Supovitz, J. A., & Turner, H. M. (2000). The effects of professional development on science teaching practices and classroom culture. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(9), 963–980.
  • Viegas-Reimers, E. (2003). Teacher professional development: an international review of the literature. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO.
  • Wenglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into the discussions about teacher quality. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
  • Wenglinsky, H. (2002). How schools matter: The link between teacher classroom practices and student academic performance. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(12).

Formally Learning Informally

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birth of a new world is at hand.
Thomas Paine, February 14, 1776
In reflecting over today's version of EduBloggerCon, I'm struck by how important informal learning is to the educational experience of people - regardless of age, race, and socioeconomic status. Strange that it took an EduBloggerCon to help me see it.

Nonetheless, today's didactic experience - for me - was a very good one (and it wasn't because of the "sessions"). Rather, the experiences during which I learned most involved spur-of-the-moment conversations with a number of different people on a wide variety of topics. Today, because of the formal gathering provided by the EduBloggerCon unconference, I was able to engage in meaningful conversations (for which I was extremely grateful) with a number of people, including: Michelle Baldwin, Jon Becker, Liz Davis, Vicki Davis, Kelly Dumont, Scott Floyd, Wesley Fryer, Steve Hargadon, David Jakes, Karen Janowski, Kevin Jarrett, Doug Johnson, Lee Kolbert, Julie Lindsay, Angela Maiers, Scott Merrick, Sylvia Martinez, Scot McCleod, Beth Still, Henry Thiele, Lisa Thumann, Maggie Tsai, Jeff Utecht, Joyce Valenza, Mark Wagner, David Warlick, Paul Wood, and many others.

Because of these informal learning “sessions,” I learned a lot. Were they “conversations”? Yes. But there was more to it than that. These were conversations of intense meaning because the people involved effectively served as resources uncommon to the typical day. Clearly these conversations were better than merely “shooting the breeze” because the topics discussed had particular value to those engaged. Furthermore, while similar “conversations” take place on a daily basis online (among people with similar interests but with different cultural backgrounds), because today’s conversations were held in a seemingly traditional face-to-face setting, the emotions and passions felt by conversation participants were easily conveyed.

Which brings me to my questions:
  • What will it take to provide our students daily with the kind of meaningfully rich learning experiences that typically result from informal learning?
  • Can a formally constructed informal learning environment be recreated with more than sporadic frequency?
  • How might we structure the learning environment in our schools to allow for more informal learning while teaching concepts assessed by federally imposed standardized tests?
In other words:
  • Why can’t we make informal learning an integral part of the formal learning process?
Once we do that, the learning revolution that so many crave will become a reality, essentially marking the birth of a new world of learning for students and teachers alike.

- - -

Update: I apologize for seemingly dehumanizing the events of EduBloggerCon in this post. I wouldn't normally do so but I'm really trying to wrap my head around what it is about today's landscape that is essential to the learning processes of our students. Frankly, I see even clearer how little our students need us to feed them with information. They can get that for themselves, thank you.

Rather, students need teachers to give them what the Internet can't: love, empathy, and a physical person in the room that genuinely cares for their needs.

Original image source: Flickr user WOScholar.

A Beginner's Guide to Twitter During NECC For Those Not Attending NECC

Step back and slowly walk away from your social networks - cause it'll be nothin' but NECC for the next five days. Don't worry: Your regularly scheduled networked learning will return to its normal state on July 2.

Thank you for your patience.

Just Sayin'

Seth Godin:

Sometimes we spend more time than we should defending the old thing, instead of working to take advantage of the new thing.
Not that there's anything wrong with Singer sewing machines, or boring our students, or even teaching to the test. It's just that I think our patrons deserve better pedagogy, more support, and now.

Onward and upward.

Let the Games Begin

I sent this in an email to my doctoral committee today. I'm getting excited.

Executive Summary:

I’m moving forward with my dissertation and would love your input/feedback. I hope to study professional development and how it impacts teacher practice. In working further with Dr. Bentley (my Chair), I have narrowed my focus to the following research questions:

  • What are the characteristics of teacher professional development programs that encourage teacher use of technology within communities of practice?
  • What are the characteristics of teachers that utilize social software in the classroom?
  • What impact do open professional development environments have on teacher utilization of social software in the classroom?
Thanks for your help,



Additional Detail:

Therefore, a major component of this study will be several professional development classes that are offered this Fall in the Canyons School District:

Furthermore, because the treatment for this study will be to conduct professional development in an open environment, a brief understanding of that concept might be helpful. Similar in concept to open education efforts and even open source software, open professional development has the following characteristics (see my original description here – as this is a concept that is just emerging):
  • Free of charge to participants.
  • Open Enrollment - All that desire are welcome to participate.
  • Combines the established tradition of sharing good ideas with fellow educators and the collaborative, interactive culture of the Internet.
  • Built on the belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint.
  • Not limited to the course we've named OpenPD. Thus more of a movement - like Open Education - than a particular class.
In further researching the characteristics of open PD environments, I would also compare and contrast a number of PD efforts that fall within the realm of being open. For example:
  • OpenPD – This is a series of PD classes that I taught wherein teachers were invited to participate, regardless of their geographic location.
  • K12 Online – This is a free conference wherein teachers can participate with others, receiving a level of professional development and tailored to individual teacher needs.
  • Connectivism & Connective Knowledge – This online course has also been termed a “Massive Open Online Course,” has been used as a form of professional development by many teachers.
What are your thoughts, how well do you think these methods will answer my questions, and what suggestions do you have regarding these efforts?
What do you think? Have I got a leg to stand on?

Teaching Teachers that Teach Teachers

When a new school district is built, then entire departments must be created anew. When entire departments are created anew, then entire teams must be hired. Once entire teams are hired, then entire teams need to go through some sort of introductory "training" to ensure that everybody on those teams is on the same page, working toward the same end (and I'm not just talking retirement here).

So... after hiring an entire ed-tech team (we're almost there) to join an entire newly hired IT department because we've been building this new school district... we'll be conducting our introductory ed-tech "training" in a just few weeks (the week of July 13, actually).

In preparation for such a task, I've invited folks to share.

Needless to say, the responses I've received in answer to my query have been extremely helpful. Here's the list (a pretty decent selection, if I do say so myself):


Via Corrie Bergeron:

Via Beth Still:

Don't be shy. Feel free to throw your suggestions in the comments...

I'm Still Talkin' Priorities

George Siemens:

Facebook and Twitter are recording enormous increases in amount of time spent on their sites by visitors. Twitter records an increase of over 3700% (year over year). Understanding which sites are increasing is use is only part of the discussion. I’d like to know what we are doing less. My email use is still the same as last year. I still read the same number of RSS feeds. I can’t think of anything I’ve dropped from my online habits. I’m still at a “net add” stage. Guess that will have to change soon…
My gut feeling is that many of us are still at the "net add" stage. Translation: Many of us are at the "offline subtract" stage, as well.

Is that good?

Gary Stager:

Glenn Moses:

I'm just sayin'. Still.

Telling the Story

In this week's Tech Learning post, I decided to follow Dean Shareski's lead and include my first attempt at mashing an inspirational quote with a selection of stock photography since Dan Meyer offered his constructive push-back against the practice in April. For the most part, I find myself agreeing with Dan's arguments and have had to seriously reflect on the message I've tried to send and the manner in which I should send it.

Which brings me to my question. Given that I want the medium to be a 1024 x 768 still image:

  • How might I now better tell the story?
Personally, I think that the quote is the story. However, combining the correct image with the quote brings added depth to the story and how it might be perceived. To illustrate, in this example the picture serves to bridge the gap between what many might perceive as a traditional media center (with books, call numbers, and signs pointing the way) and the kind of library portrayed in the text (a sort of social gathering place). Furthermore, the small sign in the picture - edited by me - additionally and almost subconsciously promotes a message that I would include in the text: that learning is social.

No good?


Classroom 2.0 Live Workshop - Salt Lake City

Classroom 2.0 LIVE Workshops are two-day hands-on workshops that focus on the use of Web 2.0 in education. They are intended to be much like the Web itself: free, open, engaging, participative, and highly collaborative.

The workshops are also designed to be highly practical, and beginners are especially invited and encouraged to attend — in fact, if you are a beginner, you are the reason we are holding these workshops! We promise you will have a lot of fun as you learn about these important technologies. Each workshop is a blend of presentations, facilitated discussions, and hands-on creation, with lots of time for "drilling down" by getting individual help and instruction.
  • Who: YOU!
  • When: August 10-11, 2009
  • Where: Jordan High School (95 E Beetdigger Dr., Sandy, UT)
  • Cost: Free
View the agenda (and sign up to present) here.
Sign up to attend here (sign up for Classroom 2.0 while you're at it).

For additional information, please visit

Technology Services in the Canyons School District

Here's a quick run-down snapshot of the team we have been developing to serve the technology needs of the Canyon School District.

Canyons School District:

  • Formed because of the division of the Jordan School District, near Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Consists of 29 elementary, 8 middle, 4 high, and number of special schools
  • Approximately 33,000 students, 1,700 teachers
The CSD Department of Information Technology (click each of these images to enlarge)*:

A clean copy of the org chart for you to hang on your wall:

The Technology Services Team:

Technical Support (Classified, break-fix):
  • Serve as level 1 technical support in the schools. Will be the first point of contact for break-fix technical support issues.
  • One Technical Support Specialist per high school, housed in the schools.
  • One roaming Secondary Technical Support Team Lead to serve as a coach and a mentor to other support personnel, provide consistency throughout the secondary schools, and to help individual schools where necessary.
  • One Technical Support Specialist shared among every two middle schools, housed in the schools.
  • A team of Technical Support Specialists to service the elementary schools (geek squad approach), at a ratio of just over one Specialist to four schools (including the Elementary Technical Support Team Lead). We anticipate using smart devices to push out job requests to the Support Specialist physically closest to the issues at hand.
Help Desk (Classified, change management):
  • Serve in the critical bridging role between the Service and Deployment teams.
  • Will provide some level 1 technical support to district office personnel.
  • Will continue to support the same systems that are currently maintained by the Jordan School District Information Systems Department (and then some). At this point, the number of systems currently sits at 55, with new systems seemingly being added weekly.
Educational Technology Services (Certificated, curriculum technology):
  • Will inherently provide some level 1 technical support but will focus primarily on assisting teachers and students to utilize technology to teach and to learn. Each member of this team will also provide teacher professional development as it relates to their specific realm.
  • One Educational Technology Consultant per every secondary school to teach half time, and help teachers with technology the other half.
  • Six Educational Technology Specialists to provide ed tech support to elementary teachers at a current ratio of roughly one Specialist per every five schools (with another six Specialists being deferred as future hires = final ratio of roughly 1:2).
  • One Extended Technology Specialist (with one deferred) to assist teachers and students with technology in special learning environments (i.e. special education).
  • Four Media Technology Specialists to work with on-site Media Assistants in maintaining the Media Centers (collection development, Big 6, etc.) in our elementary schools at a ratio of roughly one Specialist per every 7 schools (with another two Specialist positions being deferred as future hires = final ratio of roughly 1:5).
  • In the end, the coveted "Social Media Specialist" position has been merged with the "Distance Learning Specialist" position to form the Media Technology and Distance Learning Team Lead. After all, shouldn't every librarian/media coordinator/specialist be a "Social Media Specialist" in today's landscape? I certainly think so. Our students are using social media to learn without us. Why shouldn't we, as educators, be expected to understand what they're experiencing in order to best help them use such technologies effectively? This person will also work to coordinate many facets within of our district's Ed Net/Concurrent Enrollment programs.
It is our sincere hope that the organization we've created will be able to provide the kind of technology support experience that the teachers and students in our schools clearly deserve. Furthermore, I greatly appreciate the confidence, trust, and support that has been given to our department by the Canyons School District administration and Board of Education.

Questions, comments, suggestions? I'd love to hear what you have to say!

* TBD = To be determined or hired before August 2009.
* Deferred = Currently budgeted for but not to be hired in the immediate future.

Media Technology Specialists

I was scolded today by one of the Media Specialists in my old district for having "too much technology" and "not enough library" in the description of the Media Technology Specialist positions that we opened today.


That's exactly what I was talking about when I worried about bringing aboard all of our current media coordinators. Sorry, but at this point, some librarians still don't understand that:

21st Century library
15th Century library - all the monks

Baby steps, one teacher at a time, and with lots and lots of love.

Open Textbooks in K-12

In response to one of the most refreshing conversations I've read on the tubes in quite some time (starts here, continues in subsequent posts):

Dear David and Stephen,

Perhaps I've missed some of the multi-year conversation you've been having (do you even bother to link to each any more?), but I can’t help wondering why you both seem to ignore k12 and the potential power they have in helping you both gain the leverage you’re clamoring for with regard to the adoption of open textbooks. Can you please help me understand why – as you see it – the key to this venture is that things must first take hold in higher ed?

Surely there must exist some progressive district(s) out there willing (financially forced?) to take a gamble on what many of us see as a very possible future for textbook creation and distribution. Or is it really a gamble? Frankly, to me it appears to be one of the best options out there. For I see the creation of open textbooks – by the very teachers that will be using them – as a way for teachers to finally get the textbook they’ve been hoping for. Not the text that teachers must endure, but the one that they collaboratively fashion. Furthermore, with the kinds of budget cuts that have been forced upon k12 schools world-wide, their leaders would be foolish to not want to support an initiative that will dramatically decease costs in the long run.

With this in mind, I now beg you to tell me:

Aren’t teachers hired because of their abilities to create an effective learning environment (and aren’t districts tightening the belt)?

Then why shouldn’t schools take a year off of textbook buying and put that money into the creation of open texts? With that money, districts could pay the best of their teachers to begin the process – not really with money, though, but with time. Time to create, time to share, time to collaborate.

In time, I have every confidence that the quality of open textbooks will greatly surpass that of their commercial competitors – and as k12 students come to expect the flexibility that only open textbooks can provide, surely they’ll come to demand them in higher ed, as well.

Or is student demand simply not enough to get some of the more stubborn professors to budge?

Community Building

Will Richardson:

Our continued emphasis on tools in pd misses that larger point, obviously, because the power of the Read/Write web is not the ability to publish; it’s the ability to connect. Broken record, I know, but tools are easy; connections are hard. And so the question becomes how to best help educators realize these potentials in the learning sense first. Because at the end of the day, community building has to become an integral part of what we do in our classrooms with our students, as well. We have to be able to model those connections for them and understand them in ways that are meaningful to our own learning practice.

The challenge is, of course, that “continual, collaborative, on the job” learning isn’t very convenient for professional developers or for teachers in classrooms. It means re-thinking what learning looks like, and that’s a scary place still for most in education.

Now that's what I'm talking about.

In my recent on- and off-line discussions about the role of a Social Media Specialist in our schools, I've had in my mind the requirement that community building is an essential skill to be taught, modeled, and emphasized in our schools. That technology and social media are tools to achieve this end has merely been implied.

Clearly, Will is correct in his articulation of the challenge that comes with community building. Potential for and processes of learning have changed and some of the good news is that many teachers, educational leaders, and even policy makers are beginning to understand this fact (at least I know that many in our still infantile district have a very good hold on what it means to learn in the 21st Century). Nonetheless, other challenges still exist - and getting it all done the way it should be done is simply not as simple as some might hope it to be.

With this understanding in mind, I've spent a tremendous amount of time and energy in my attempts to create - with other key leaders in my district - the ideal technology support structure for teachers and students in our district. When we've finished, I'll share what we've created with you, with hopes that you'll pick apart what we've done and freely offer your suggestions for improvement. After all, aren't we all in this together?

Quick update: Karl Fisch (still) rocks! He's taken the time to archive our social media specialist conversation here. Thanks Karl!

Investing in the Status Quo

Arne Duncan:

If all we do is invest in the status quo, then we've missed this once-in-a-lifetime historic opportunity to give our children the education they desperately need and deserve.
Seems like this would make a nice mantra even for folks starting up a new district.

On that note, have I mentioned that we're hiring? School-base tech support positions will be opening this week.

Time Suck

In this week's Tech Learning post, I make a few arguments that you've likely heard me make before - not because the issues have changed - but rather because there are simply so many distractions in modern life that we need reminding far more often than we'd ever like to admit.

Here's a summary, in case you might be too busy for the entire post itself.

Now I'm not saying that Twitter is any worse than Facebook.

In fact, what I *am* saying is that ALL of these social media tools can be an incredible time suck, and if we don't keep them in check, there's a good chance we'll miss out on many things in life that are simply better than whatever we might get from Twitter (and Facebook, and even bacon).

Twitter: Better Late Than Never

With so many high-caliber people finally digging in (acquiesce?) to the utility of Twitter, I'm finding myself approach such widespread new-found enthusiasm with mixed emotion. On the one hand, I'm grateful that people are finally realizing what we've been saying for years: Twitter can be an extremely powerful tool/experience. On the other hand, I feel somewhat dismayed that it has taken so long for folks to catch on. Regardless, I'm excited for the direction now being taken by leaders in my new district.

In yesterday's Between the Lines, my Superintendent publicly admitted that he's willing to give Twitter a try:

Canyons [School District] also may be able to use such communication tools to foster learning, civil public discourse and more active participation in classrooms and communities. Our staff is investigating several technologies as opportunities for engagement, including blogging, Twitter, mass text messages and e-mails. That’s also part of the reason (curiosity, I’ll admit, is another) that I’m checking out Twitter. If we are going to understand how these tools might be used in positive ways to improve student achievement or public dialogue, we must be willing to try them out and learn about them ourselves. As for my experience, so far so good.
I can't tell you how excited it made me to read this. Definitely better late than never!

Quick questions:
  • Why don't more school administrators use Twitter (what costs/risks are involved)?
  • Does your district administration currently utilize Twitter or other social networking technologies?
  • If not, what would it take to change their minds?

If you, too, are new to Twitter, then you may be interested in a few of the conversations we've already had regarding its usefulness in educational settings. These are a few of my favorites that I've thrown out there to chew on:
Image source: Flickr user Scott McLeod.

Tech & Learning

So, this should be a good gig.

Skype + iPhone = Yum

Sign me up, man. You can have my freakin' BlackBerry.

Computers Suck At Giving Hugs

Interesting points made by

But one question still nags; if the evidence suggests that instructor-led instruction still has a long, healthy life (whether in the classroom or online), why do bloggers continue to insist that its death is imminent?
For the record, here's one blogger that's convinced that computers will never fully replace real, live, human beings in their capacity as instructors. The human element, filled with compassion, emotion, empathy, and genuine understanding simply can't be replicated by technology - and is desperately needed by every student, whether they care to admit it or not.

Image source: Flickr user Old Shoe Woman.

Good Bye Google Reader Shared Items

I'm kissing the Google Reader "Shared with Note" button goodbye.

No more convenience. No more quick click. No more easy share.

Having been less than prolific lately in this space, I've come to re-realize that one thing I really value in blogging (and other online interactions) is the conversation - and conversation is what Google Reader shared items lacks (yes, even "Comment view").

Close, but no cigar. (What good's a social network that's not social?)

Thus, if I have something to share - found grazing the feeds - I'll do it here, thank you. Publicly search-able, archived, and with conversations intact.


Image source: Indexed.

Sometimes I ONE-der

It's been too long since I've shared any of my selections of binary poetry. Better than Fibonacci, let me tell you.

01010111 01101000 01100101 01101110 00100000 01110111 01100101 00100000 01101100 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01100010 01100001 01100011 01101011 00100000 00101101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110010 01110100 01111001 00100000 01111001 01100101 01100001 01110010 01110011 00100000 01100110 01110010 01101111 01101101 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110111 00100000 00101101 00100000 01110111 01101001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01110111 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01101110 01101011 00100000 01110101 01110011 00100000 01110001 01110101 01100001 01101001 01101110 01110100 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01100010 01110101 01110011 01101001 01101100 01111001 00100000 01100100 01101001 01110011 01110100 01110010 01101001 01100010 01110101 01110100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100010 01101001 01110100 01110011 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01101001 01101110 01100110 01101111 01110010 01101101 01100001 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00101100 00100000 01110011 01101000 01101111 01110101 01110100 01100101 01100100 00100000 01101001 01101110 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110110 01101001 01110010 01110100 01110101 01100001 01101100 00100000 01110111 01101111 01110010 01101100 01100100 01110011 00101100 00100000 01100100 01100101 01110011 01110000 01100101 01110010 01100001 01110100 01100101 01101100 01111001 00100000 01101000 01101111 01110000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01111001 00100000 01110111 01101001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01100010 01100101 00100000 01100011 01100001 01110101 01100111 01101000 01110100 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01110011 01101111 01101101 01100101 00100000 01100011 01100001 01110010 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01101100 00111111 00100000 01010011 01101111 01101101 01100101 01110100 01101001 01101101 01100101 01110011 00100000 01001001 00100000 01001111 01001110 01000101 00101101 01100100 01100101 01110010 00101110 00100000 01001110 01000001 01010101 01000111 01001000 01010100 00101110

No good?

Change, But On A Larger Scale

Lest I'm accused of a mindset only focused on the staffing needs of the Canyons School District, I thought I'd share a comment that I left last night on Karl Fisch's blog. The post, simply entitled Disconnect(Ed), shows a picture of a collection of cell phones, obviously swiped from students while they struggle their way through the current round of standardized tests. All told, I've collected paper box lids of cell phones like that myself, because I had to, and even at times because I wanted to.

Before I left my response, the only comment on the post was written by Andrew Neely. In it, he gives the type of reasoning that is typical of forward-thinking educators and, at least in my opinion, seems to echo the sentiments of the glaring majority of writers that frequent our online conversations.

In that, Andrew's my kind of guy.

Nonetheless, I feel somewhat unsettled - not so much by the matter-of-fact tone in Andrew's comment - but by how easy so many seem to think that the kinds of change we're begging for will take to honestly become a reality. Thus my response (with spelling corrected and emphasis added):

The implication you're making here is huge, Andrew.

You seem to be saying that our current systems of traditional learning are broken - that not only are our assessments flawed, but that the very foundations upon which we have built our schools (societies?) are no longer supportive of the kinds of learning that we (society) now need our students to do.

In other words, not only do we need to change the way we test, but the way we teach - and all this because of the ways that our students can now learn. Is it so wrong now to want our students to prove what they know and can do all by themselves? Apparently so - after all, we now live in a networked world.

No wonder it's taking so long for shift to happen in our schools.
We're talking about colossal shifts here: In schools, in teachers, in assessments, and in attitudes. All because we can (?), and ultimately because we should.

One teacher, one class, one school, one district, one nation, and one world at a time.

Original image source: Karl Fisch. Amazingly edited with Aviary.

Captured by Those Addicting Chains of Information

[I've posted this, removed it, re-posted, re-removed it, and now I'm re-posting it again. Last night my wife mentioned how she really liked this post. "It's one of my favorites," she confessed. I figure if my wife doesn't think I'm a total crack-pot after reading this thing, then what do I care what others think? :) ]

I'm not so sure about this one.

Addicted? Yes, probably.

Well, maybe addicted, I guess.

I mean, maybe not though, really, 'cause I can STOP, you know.

Addicted... to:

  • Checking my email.
  • The iPod, Blackberry, that buzz that says "New messages waiting."
  • Wiis, Webkinz, and "When's it gonna be my turn?"
  • Solitaire, duh, and maybe even Morocco.
  • Blogging, Twitter, Facebook.
  • Skype, chat, and "Wouldn't it be waaaaay easier if we could just type the paper?"
  • Free. iPhone. Apps. Why? Because I can.
  • Photos and videos and wow, that Jib Jab's funny.
But I'm not really addicted to my computer, now am I?

Well am I?

While I want to think that I'm addicted to my "friends" - all 1,429 of them - to be perfectly blunt:
  • I think it's the input,
  • The information,
  • The new ideas and c h a i n s of information
That I crave most.

Or is it the power? That might just be it:
  • The power of computing,
  • The power of expression,
  • And the power of the network.
After all:
  • My computer does exactly. what. I. tell. it.
And people sometimes don't.

[Blue screen of death]. Doh!

Some addictions are more painful than others.

  • Are you addicted?
  • Am I?
  • I mean really. And if so, to what?
  • I mean it's not like I get the Joneses if I don't get my Twitter fix. Or do you?
- - - - -

Image Source: Flickr user and powerful thinker shareski.

We're Hiring

Amid all the economic turmoil that's plagued our world, we're actually hiring in the Canyons School District. Right now, because we're building a district from the ground up, my department has posted team lead positions in a variety of flavors:

Many of these positions will be closing soon, so you'd better move fast if you think you might be interested. Click here for application and other information.

Join me in the Canyons. I think you'll really like it over here. :)

Original image source: Flickr user dougwoods.

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