Monday, November 24, 2014

How Long is Stuff Really Out There? My Students' 1995 Digital Footprint

Digital footprints last forever, but how can we prove this to kids who tend to live in the moment and think that Snapchats are temporary?  My favorite way is to show them my former students' work from our classroom website from 1995--still online for all to see.

I used to teach elementary and middle school.  "Way back" in 1995 I taught my students basic HTML code and we built out a classroom website where my students posted artwork, information about what we were learning, and wrote autobiographies. My class enjoyed receiving emails from visitors around the world to our website.  I used to have copies of their work on floppy disks as a backup but got rid of those long ago.  However, all of our work is still accessible through's "WayBack Machine." is like a museum of the Internet that has been saving over 435 billion websites since the early days of the Internet. 

To go back in time, I simply put in my school's web address and click on the "Take Me Back" button.  And after a few more clicks, I end up here in 1995. It is a completely working website saved where you can click on every link.   You click on my school, my fourth graders, their artwork and their names.   

For example, Anna was born in 1986 and was my student in fourth grade in 1995.  Her autobiography and art work is still up there for anyone to see.  It is saved and archived. Now Anna's digital footprint is pretty innocent, and it doesn't even have her last name or an actual photograph.  Students today have much more information posted and available in their digital footprints!

When I show this to students they are often amazed that any of their digital content may be accessible in the future.  It helps them realize how permanent their cyber footprint actually is.  I encourage them to clean up their footprint and keep a clean digital footprint from here on out in the future.  Just imagine how easy and interesting genealogical research will be in the future when you can look through Facebook posts and photos of your great grandma, and watch YouTube videos of your grandpa from his school days!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tip #1 for a Successful 1:1 Implementation: Execute the Rollout Carefully and Deliberately

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to present at the Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit in Boston with my colleague Ben Stanerson.  We presented the Top Ten Tips for a Successful iPad Implementation.  Our first tip is to Execute the Rollout Carefully and Deliberately.  It is something I'm continually thankful for as I meet educators from other schools and hear their stories, which quite often seem to be the opposite method--buy everything all at once and implement it at the same time.  Rarely do I hear much about that method that works successfully. Sometimes this disastrous implementation method even makes the news.

Four years ago, Minnetonka Public Schools launched a 1:1 iPad pilot in September 2011 with half of our ninth grade students (out of 750) at Minnetonka High School to create a seamless and dynamic 24/7 educational experience. Because we started small, we were able to focus on just 16 teachers in math, science, and English who worked with these iPad students. The pilot used digital curriculum materials, student collaboration tools and individualized instruction in math, language arts and science — all with the goal of enhancing student learning.  

The goals of our iPad program were to:
  • Enhance and accelerate learning.
  • Leverage existing and emerging technology for individualizing instruction.
  • Promote collaboration, increasing student engagement.
  • Strengthen 21st century skills necessary for future success.

After a successful pilot, the second half of the freshmen class received iPads in January 2012. The program has continued to expand each year thereafter. In year two, all ninth and tenth grade students had iPads. Year three was an expansion to our middle schools, with grade eight through eleven students and over 150 teachers using iPads.  This year we added two more grades, so we currently have 4,500 students in six grades (seventh through twelfth) using iPads.

We attribute this careful, deliberate, and well-planned rollout to our success. Rather than implementing a massive change that affected thousands of users at once in multiple locations, we began at one site with a small group and worked out the glitches.  This allowed us to fine tune our processes, training, and procedures before bringing the project to scale.  

Looking ahead to the future, we also allocated funds to give the entire faculty iPads one to two years ahead of student distribution, which allowed professional development to begin one to two years ahead of schedule. Running the pilot as a controlled experiment enhanced buy-in from all stakeholders. This systematic approach created benchmarks for success and channels for honest feedback. As a pilot, the goal was to learn fast, adjust accordingly, and establish processes for full-scale implementation. I attribute our success to this careful planning and execution. Come see for yourself at our Tenth Annual Technology Site Visit, March 4 & 5, 2014!

You can learn more about our 1:1 Program at

Monday, November 10, 2014

Parenting in the Digital Age Part 2: How Much Should Parents Snoop?

For about the past seven years I've been giving parent talks on cyber safety and digital citizenship. During that time, the technology has greatly changed. When I first started speaking to parents about how their children are using technology, it was about a site called MySpace and a phenomenon called texting. So much as happened since then, hasn't it?! Now days, some kids are getting smart phones in elementary school and beginning taking their first steps into the wide world of social media before they are teens. Conversations I once used to have with parents about their high school children shifted into middle school years ago and now I'm having these conversations with parents of elementary students. Although the technology has changed and the age of entry in which kids use it has gotten younger, many of the questions parents have had over the years have stayed the same: 

How do I keep up?  

How can I keep track of what they're doing?

How much monitoring is enough?  When is it too much?  

Isn't there a program that can do this for me?  

Unless you pretty much block your child from all technology and Internet access, there's really not a one stop tool that takes care of parenting children today's digital age. I certainly don't believe that is they way to go.  Technology is an integral part of our everyday lives.  As parents, we have the opportunity to help kids learn to use it appropriately and safely while our children are with us at home in order to prepare them for a successful future as an adult.  (The tips that I recommended to parents are here.  I also blogged about it previously.)

Start gradually and slowly expand the freedom
after practice and success.

A colleague of mine uses this picture and the analogy of learning to ride a bike when talking to parents about how much monitoring to do with technology and their child. When learning to ride a bike, you begin with training wheels, then you're able to ride on two wheels with Mom or Dad holding onto the bike, then you graduate to no assistance.   As you get better at things, you're allowed to move beyond the vicinity of your house and ride down the street, around the block, and eventually another part of town.  You still check in with your parents and let them know that you're leaving, where you're going and when you'll be back. So, too, it is with letting your kids use technology.  Start with the training wheels, then hold onto them as they learn on two wheels, as those are removed monitor them close by, and then eventually give them periods of time where they go off independently. Start gradually and slowly expand the freedom after practice and success.

But how much is too much?  

When should the monitoring end?  

How does a parent know when to step back and when to step in?

Recently a conversation with another colleague about this very topic was insightful. We were recalling how our parents never really had access to our conversations and communication with our friends unless they were in the same room with us, intercepted a note, or perhaps read a diary. I was reflecting how I would have never wanted my parents to listen to my phone calls with my friends or conversations I had in the hall or on the bus, but if I were to look at my child's phone it felt like that's just what I would be doing.  So how do you balance freedom with the worry of whether or not technology is being used appropriately? Today's parent certainly has a wide array of tools available at their disposal to be much more big-brother-like in their monitoring of their children's communication and social life.  My colleague said, 

"Let their behavior warrant the intervention."

I thought this was a great piece of advice.  Basically, she and her husband look for any changes in their child's behavior to determine whether or not any intervention is necessary, including technology use and monitoring. They watch for things such as changes in their child's grades, personality, friends, demeanor, and interactions they have with her.  When they see something change, then they decide whether or not they need to look at the child's phone and monitor social media more closely. They continue to have frequent conversations about their expectations for how their child uses technology, what's appropriate and inappropriate, and what the consequences are for not adhering to these expectations.  

What do you think?  What has worked well for you?  What advice would you share?

Monday, November 3, 2014

What's in the Ed Tech Graveyard?

What technologies are in your Ed Tech Graveyard?  Which ones are on their last breath or have a short life expectancy?  Submit them here.

Last week, right before Halloween, I took some time to remove some old Outlook email folders. These are folders with emails I haven't looked at for years. Purging old folders and files and sorting through emails that I kept years ago but no longer need is nothing I regularly spend time doing. In today's day and age where storage is seemingly limitless, the need to do this to free up space on a computer is almost nonexistent. I certainly remember a time where space was limited and it was necessary to delete old files or receive an error message stating warning of exceeding storage limits.  But these folders were clogging up my screen vertical real estate and cluttering my view so I finally did something to fix that. (Side note: we use Outlook email, which in some ways is a dying product in and of itself. Many schools have moved to Gmail...) 

I was surprised to discover a large number of Ed Tech Tools that are no longer used in our school district, including some that I'd long forgotten.  Some might still be in use in small pockets, but we're no longer offering training and promoting them:

Blackboard LMS, Respondus, StudyMate, PhotoStory, Making the Grade, Google Gadgets, Google Wave, Pinnacle, Kidspiration, Inspiration, Destinations Reading, Destino Lectura, Kerpoof, Tux Paint, KidPix, FrontPage, Lync, Quizdom, TurningPoint, Senteo, Airliners, SMART Tables, Type to Learn, Typing Pal, Zoomerang

So on Halloween, as I was walking around with my kids, I noticed the various decorations, including some neighbors with tombstones making their front yards look like a graveyard. Thinking about this upcoming post and my earlier experience ridding my email account of unused folders from long dead programs, it made me wonder what other technology tools are which have passed on in other schools, or perhaps are on their deathbed having difficulties breathing? Please enter your submissions here. It's a short Google form where you can either claim a cemetery plot or just let the caretaker know to be ready. The results of this form are listed here and I'll display in a Wordle soon. 

(If you know how to automatically generate a WordCloud or something similar from a Google Spreadsheet, please let me know.  Now that Google Gadgets are in the Ed Tech Graveyard, I'm not sure how to do it!)

I think it would be helpful to see a collective crowd sourced list of educational technologies that are in or headed to the graveyard in other schools.  If we're still using them it might be time to take a look and reconsider other tools and better options. Thanks for your help and participation!