Monday, November 14, 2011

Three Simple C's of Social Media Success for Educators

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.
I have to admit that when I first started using social media several years ago I was skeptical about how valuable it would be for me as an educator. But, the more that I learned about it, as well as how to leverage it for my needs, the more I wanted others to see that it really can be a valuable resource that saves time. But in order for you to be successful, and not be overwhelmed with the vast assortment of resources out there, you need to do some research and pre-planning as to how you will build your social media "tool kit."  Don't just jump in with both feet, but do some testing and talk to others that have had success to see which tool is right for you.

I like to keep things simple and efficient.  So, after reflecting on it a bit, I  have broken it down to the three steps or three C's that guide me in social media participation.   My three simple C's to social media success are Connect, Contribute, and Curate.

  1. Connect - This is pretty self-explanatory. You need to get connected to the right social media tool that works for you. There are many out there so do the research, sign-up, or "lurk" a bit by spending some time "playing" with them. Starting a free blog and inviting people to join is an easy place to start. Of course, Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Google + and Posterousare all great places to start too. This is an important first step because you want to pick a tool that will address your needs.When choosing, think about how easy it will be to use in order to connect with the right people to address your needs.  If you are a math teacher, and not that many math teachers are connected to the social network that you are looking to join, then you will only be frustrated. Keep looking and lurking.You have to get started so get connected!

  2. Collaborate- This may seem obvious but many people forget how important it is to success.  So many people connect to social media but do not leverage the "social" aspect it offers.  Yes, we have all heard the horror stories of the dangers of social media. But, if you are smart about your privacy you will be fine; and by all means keep professional and personal use separate!Let's say you join Twitter and just consume the information that is being shared. If you fail to contribute back to the community of people you are connected to you will be missing out on some really valuable connections. By contributing you will also gain more followers that will in turn allow you to increase your connections and collect valuable resources. If you have a blog see if your host allows you to connect to Twitter or Facebook. If so, whenever you create a new post it will automatically generate a tweet and/or wall post to all of your followers and friends with a short message and link back to your blog.

  3. Curate- OK, so you have all of this information, now what do you do with it?  Well, I am a big fan of using tools that make your job efficient while allowing you to integrate resources together in one neat package.  It is easy to become a "digital hoarder," when you see all of this great information coming your way. By selecting tools that allow you to sort things out and remain organized you will then be able to receive, and share what you have learned, more effectively.  You will be able to extend your reach in the realm of social media by becoming an efficient collaborator.By using a free social media "dashboard" like Tweetdeck or HootSuiteyou will be able to include multiple social media sites in one location that will allow you to both consume, contribute, and curate information. They will also allow you to curate who you follow. This is good because you need to make some decision as to whether someone is still a valuable resource.  You will need to curate your personal learning network (PLN) as well as your digital library of information.One of my favorite tools for digital curation is the social bookmarking site Diigo. Since many of the resources you receive point back to blogs or web sites, it's a great tool that will allow you to save, share, and organize your resources. You can connect with others that share their bookmarks as well as share your own to a group with like interests. Diigo has some very nice web services as well.  One that I use allows you to link your account to your Twitter favorites, so whenever you create a favorite in Twitter, it is automatically saved in your Diigo account. You just have to go in and organize them into lists, etc. afterwards.  The Diigo toolbar is also great for quick bookmarking as well as highlighting and note taking.That being said, don't be sucked into the practice of digital hoarding.  Go back occasionally and do some tidying up to make sure you stay current and you don't share out-of-date information. If you are a digital hoarder check out this blog post by Leo Babauta for a 3-step cure.

So, if you are ready to take the next step, I hope you find these three C's valuable.  Please, do your homework and get connected. Then find the right people to collaborate and share with and share them with others too.  Finally, if you take the time to carefully select and curate your shared resources you build a valuable network of colleagues and resources that will improve not just your professional experience, but those you share it with.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Top Three Most Important Issues Facing K-12 Educational Technology for 2011-12

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

Recently, Christine Wiser T&L's Managing Editor, asked the Tech Advisors the following question:
What do you think are the top three most important issues facing K-12 edtech this year?

I thought that this was a great question that would generate a lot of discussion. So, I wanted to share with you my top three and see what you have to say. After all, sometimes, the more voices heard the more progress can be made.
Here are my top three:

1.  Mobile device adoption. Especially bring your own device program implementation.

   Obviously, mobile devices are very popular and just about everyone has one.  They come in so many “flavors” that there are many to choose from. Also, with school district budgets not getting any better they are becoming more attractive for schools to explore due to their overall lower price points.

   Furthermore, with the diversity of technology assets available to consumers, bring your own device (BYOD) programs are starting to crop up all over the country. I really like this idea and think that with more and more students owning technologies that can meet their needs for school, BYOD promises to have benefits well beyond cash savings for school districts.

   The challenge lies, just as it does with a one-to-one program, in the implementation.  Policies have to be properly written, to protect not just your network but to comply with the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA).  Web filtering needs to be selected carefully so staff and students can still pass through the filter with their device so inappropriate sites can be blocked and network security solutions have to be carefully considered in order to protect the integrity of your staff and student data.

   So, although I believe that this is the way to go, there are many things that need to be considered and it’s important enough that we all, as educators, collaborate on effective models for success.

2. Getting people to really understand what is meant by 21st century teaching and learning.

   Twenty first century teaching and learning is defined in many ways. For the most part it is teaching our students the following skills - Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation. But, many educators are overwhelmed with the task of implementing a plan to address these needs. More understanding and training needs to take place and districts need to implement plans that work for them. This will help bring those reluctant, late adopters, along at a comfortable pace that will allow them to have small successes that will motivate them to continue and build confidence.

   One skill, which I believe is very important for our students to learn is empathy and I am not alone. In a February 2008 eSchool News interview entitled “Four things every student should learn...but not every school is teaching,” Alan November discussed global empathy -

“November said he was talking with a senior executive at a global investment bank recently, and he asked the executive: What is the most important skill for today’s students to learn so they are prepared to succeed in the new global economy?

“Empathy,” the executive replied—the ability to understand and respect different points of view.

Most of today’s companies do business with customers all over the world, and several also have branches in multiple countries. Chances are good that when students enter the workforce, they’ll be working with—or doing business with—someone from another nation, with its own culture and its own unique perspective, at some point in their career.
It’s not hard to find people who are smart, the executive said. What is hard to find are employees who have to ability to empathize with, and be sensitive to the needs of, people from other countries.”

So, we need to teach students skills that will prepare them to not only to be intelligent, creative thinkers, but also to have emotional intelligences to succeed in future jobs that are still to come. This is quiet a challenge, with a skill set that many educators need to learn in parallel with their students.
3. Anytime, anywhere learning.

   This is the piece that links together numbers one and two. If school districts are provided the opportunities to give students, and staff, the ability to access school resources outside of the classroom then powerful learning can take place.

   The advent of virtualization and cloud computing can allow a BYOD program to succeed.  Access to software and resources at home will allow students to do their work without having the fear of not having the correct software.  It can also save a school district money over time.

   If technology departments would look at putting resources into their “back end,” network development by implementing, for instance, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), then students with just about any device can safely and securely access learning resources and files.

    Mobile and BYOD programs can then be designed using the VDI environment as the vehicle to enhance and supplement teaching twenty first century skills.  Students and staff can use their own technologies, if they want to, and school districts can effectively extend the life of some of their older systems since VDI is server-based and requires a much less powerful workstation The teachers and students can then work on projects that will allow them to use the same tools both at home and at school.

   So there are my three.  What are yours? I urge you to take time and reflect on the question. Then contribute and let the readers of T&L know what you think. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Student Centered PLN's

I was thinking the other day just how much I have been able to learn from my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and how I have been able to take the information that I get from it and share it with my colleagues. The information that I have received from some of the most respected names in educational technology, as well as teachers in the "trenches," has been priceless. I primarily use Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and a variety of Ning's to aggregate and share information. As professionals we need to develop the skill of choosing these tools, as well as who to follow, what hashtags to use on Twitter, and how to "mine" for the information that we are looking for to achieve our desired result.

But, what about our students? In our 21st century learning environments it would be an injustice if we didn't teach them how to develop a PLN. If they can realize the value of the information that they can receive and share with others, as well as the collaboration that can take place, they will have a tool that will help them throughout their lives.

So, how do we do this and still accomplish our curricular goals and satisfy the requirements for standardized tests? Well, I have to say that I definitely don't have all the answers but, if we use the power of this PLN and collaborate then maybe we can all benefit. So here are some of my ideas:

  1. Be A Model - Show your students your PLN and have a conversation with them about how you went about developing it. Let them know the work you had to put in at first and, if your like me, how it just got easier as you made those connections and learned about more resources. Remember, once they get the concept, and see the value, they are going to start to get more and more ideas.

  2. Start with an inside out approach - Start in your classroom. Develop a PLN amongst you and your students. It's an easy thing to do with Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis. Start a class blog for discussion and collaboration or maybe a wiki for students to share resources or brainstorming ideas. There are a whole host of other tools out there, just think about how you can use them to start a class/course PLN. From there encourage your students to invite other teachers, administrators, or even parents to your PLN. You may be surprised at the response you get.

  3. Social Networking - Of course, there is Twitter and Facebook and Ning's, and now Google+. But, depending on the grade level that you teach, they may not be feasible. Facebook has a policy that you have to be thirteen years old to be a member, so that disqualifies most of the younger students. Some Ning's may not be appropriate for students and Google+ isn't widely available yet.
    Twitter is valuable if you use it appropriately. One idea is to teach your students about hashtags or create lists for them to follow on Twitter. It's important for them to see social networking as a tool for learning.

OK, so there are three of my ideas. You may think that they are pretty obvious but if you are innovative enough, and listen to your students ideas, then you will reap the benefits of your hard work. If you can get your students to buy in to the value of PLN's, and allow them to explore a bit, they will do much of the innovation for you. Heck, you may even learn something!

One of the goals of this post, as all blog posts should do, is to get your opinion and collaborate. So, please comment and post your ideas or resources for developing student PLN's here for others to see. Also, why not post to Twitter. Use the hashtag #studentpln and let's get the ideas "flowing." Remember, we are the examples!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Collaboration, Community and ISTE 2011

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

Last week I had the pleasure to attend the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia. This was really exciting for me since the last time it was even near me, I am in Southern New Jersey, was when it came to Washington, DC. Even then, it was far enough away that the budget, both mine and the school district's, was only able to handle one day. That day was spent just trying to make it through the vendor area, and poster board sessions.  Talk about a head spinning, overload of information!! This year was going to be different.

If you couldn't make it this year I suggest that you check out the following resources to give you a "flavor" of what you missed.  As well as the opportunity to get some quality PD.

Here you go:

  1. The ISTE YouTube Channel - It has some great videos of the key notes (see Chris Lehman's and be inspired), interviews and overviews of the conference.

  2. The ISTE Unplugged Wiki - It was created for those that always wanted to present but were not selected.  This wiki, run by Steve Hargadon, allowed attendees to sign up for spots to present to their peers. Don't be fooled, the recorded sessions (45 of them) have some good quality PD. Check it out!

  3. Use your Twitter hash tags to search out some good information that you may have missed.  Just do a search for #ISTE2011, #ISTE11 or, if you are an ISTE member and belong to a Special Interest Group SIG just plug-in the initials of your group.

As huge as this conference was it was still all about collaboration and sharing.  If you went and just wandered around this year with stopping in a "Playground," or a poster session you missed out.  For example, I was walking through the videoconferencing playground and got a chance to stop and talk, live, with the distance learning person at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I got a fantastic resource from a guy who was just sitting there on a computer screen waiting for someone to talk to him.  Overall, it was a chance to see the best of the best showing off their talents and being more than willing to tell you about how they do it.  That's what it's all about.

If you went, keep sharing and innovating. If you didn't, try to go when you can and look for the resources that are still out there for the taking.  There are plenty of blogs for information as well as other resources from this conference.  Do some searching, it will take you a whole lot less time then getting through the vendor area.  I can promise you that!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Innovate, Collaborate and Achieve!

As educators we can boast that we integrate technology, but can we do it meaningfully, and thoughtfully, to achieve our curricular goals?  I have seen, far too many times, technology used just because it is there or it looks good during an observation. I too am enticed by the newest instructional technologies on the market and sometimes just look for a way to include it somewhere in someone's curriculum. But, we have to remember to keep things in perspective and see where we, and our students, stand with our technology integration skills.

Are our students really as skilled and prepared as we, and they, think that they are? Overall they are used to using technology for entertainment. They need to learn how to use it as a tool to innovate and leverage for maximum benefit to achieve their goals. Students need to see that the technology that entertains is also the same technology that teaches and helps them innovate, collaborate and create.

Let computers do the computing! You are the ones that will encourage and engage your students through your passion for learning. Kids are more savvy than we give them credit for, the can sense it when we are "forcing" it. If we can learn how to do this, and use our creativity and innovation skills to get the technologies to do what we want them to do, amazing things can happen. But, this isn't always easy since many of us see technology as an analytical tool and not a creative one.

We need to be fearless in our teaching and we need to take control of our own learning. We need to be researchers and collaborators who move forward with the help of our colleagues. Furthermore, school leaders need to build a culture that fosters meaningful integration of technology that has measurable results. We all need a "road map" for success. Sometime we just need the path drawn out for us until we can create one for ourselves.

Students need to know that the same social media that they use to connect with their friends is the same one that can teach and connect them with very well-known, and well-educated people. They can "friend' and "follow" these experts, educators and innovators to enhance their learning. Technology has great potential to allow people to express their viewpoints that they may not otherwise share. It can unleash a great debate with minds and scholars once thought unreachable. We can't let this opportunity pass us by!

If you have done this for any period of time then you know that technology integration is a "messy" thing and nobody has really come up with a "clean" way of  handling it. If you think you do, or even don't, then speak up and share your thoughts. That's why we have the "Comments" feature on this blog. So, let's collaborate, debate and share right here and now. Our futures depend on it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Inspiration When We Need It Most

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

Recently, I have seen too many news stories about school budgets being voted down, federal educational technology programs no longer being funded, and the continued attacks on educators from politicians and other organizations. I know that this has been going on for a while but it has really made me reflect on where we are in terms of the state of our educational programs in this country and the attitude we must take. We are a country that is supposed to be a leader in this world and we are spending more time, and money, pointing fingers then trying to fix our problems.

As educators we are supposed to be preparing our students for their futures as wise content consumers and producers. Savvy technology users that can innovate, collaborate, and be creative with a global perspective. Yet, for the most part, we continue to feel demoralized for not being given the proper support and tools to achieve these goals.
Now that I have vented, I want to put this into perspective. I want you all to meet Moliehi Sekese, a Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teacher Award recipient. Moliehi, from the very small and poor South African country of Lesotho, has been globally recognized as an innovative integrator of technology. Her class size is about 100 students, that is not a typo, and the school does not have electricity. But she uses her personal laptop, as long as the battery lasts, and some innovative teaching techniques to teach and integrate technology. Please take time to listen to her words in the video below and read her story on Ewan McIntosh's bog. You can also, read more and see a longer interview on the Cool Cat Teacher Blog. She is an amazing woman who can teach us all how to be innovators in a time when we need it the most. As you will hear her say,
"Stop blaming the challenges. Use a stumbling block as a stepping stone to success."

So, if you are feeling sorry for yourself when you are faced with the one computer classroom or you can't get that new set of mobile devices for your school, take a minute and remember Moliehi, and what she doing to be innovative, successful and inspiring to her students and colleagues. She is certainly an example for all of us to remember when we think we can't overcome a challenge.

I will leave you with this quote, by Dr. Martin Luther King:
"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
It serves as a reminder to me when I get upset or depressed about that challenges that I face everyday as I try to help the teachers and students in my school district achieve their goals to become twenty-first century workers and learners. I hope it inspires you to move forward as well. I know that Moliehi is a living example.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prove Your Concept First!

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

There are many blog posts, articles, and debates going on among colleagues around the idea of whether education, as a whole, should be run more like a business or not. I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum on this issue as well as some with no real opinion. But, I really believe that this is worth discussing within the context of educational technology. Especially since school districts are investing so much money in their technology programs and are expected to infuse it throughout their curricula. So, a wise "business" model is a good idea.

Being in the position of technology coordinator, I have to play both sides of the line on this topic since my job requires that I be part educator and businessman. I am an educator first and, for the most part, look at the educational value of a technology before I look at the cost. If its value to the students and teachers is great enough, which means it can improve on teaching and learning, than it is worth the investment (if we have the funds). With that said you still have to do your "homework."

Besides the obvious research on-line and sales representatives coming to your school to give you their presentations. Educators really should look at the value that the proof of concept model can bring to their experience. In the economic climate that we are in educational technology vendors are clamoring for your business and, for the most part, are willing to let you "test drive" their products for a period of time at no charge.

I know that, for the most part, this is easily done with software and the ubiquitous 30-day trial version. But, doing this with hardware is of even more value and can really let you know if the technology is right for you and your students before you make your decisions. Plus, it can save your district money.

For example, my school district was looking to purchase about fifty laptops, and assistive technologies, under a federal grant for our special needs students. When approached with this project I assembled a committee of stakeholders that included teachers, administrators and technology staff. We contacted vendors and let them know our needs and usage requirements. We also attended workshops about assistive technologies and researched software and hardware solutions to gain a scope of knowledge to make an informed decision. Each vendor was of course very interested in our business. So, I felt comfortable enough to ask for some products to prove our concept and their use in an adaptive technology situation. One was a PC vendor who sent us two different model laptops to keep, for free, to test out with our students and staff. The other, Apple Computers, allowed us to take advantage of their Mac Integration Program (MIP).

We were very hesitant about bringing in a large quantity of Macs into our PC based network and had a lot of questions as to how they would integrate. So, the MIP was the best thing to do to prove our concept not only for the IT staff on the networking side, but also the most important end users, our teachers and students. The MIP program gave us a server, with an engineer to install it, as well as computers to test out for a period of one month. They came in gave us some training, and also spoke to our committee about what the computers could do for our special needs students, for no charge.

Through this experience, we were able to prove our concept that they would not only work on our Windows network, but that they had enough assistive/adaptive technologies built into their systems that we would actually realize a cost savings due to the fact that we would not have to purchase additional hardware or software. So, we really learned a lot about our choices and proved our the concept that we can make the Apple computers connect and function on a Windows-based PC network.

Since then we have repeatedly tested products under the proof of concept model and have been able to get better instructional technologies and save our district money. Our teachers are happier, more effective and learning is improving. Also, via this model we have realized cost savings by finding out that sometimes a product is too much for the actual need and a better result was achieved through a different, or less expensive option.

Case in point, we were buying $700-$800 document cameras. We are now buying $70 document cameras that give the teachers the results they desired for a fraction of the price. This allowed us to purchase more of them and get them into the classrooms faster. The teachers are very pleased and so are our taxpayers!

The moral of this story is that you really should not be afraid to ask vendors for products in order to see if they are going to work for you or not. Most will really go out of their way to help you out. You don't have to be a technology coordinator or administrator either. You are their customer and your students deserve to have instructional technologies that will best help them learn.

Now go out there and ask for "stuff," to prove your concept. You will be pleasantly surprised as to what you will find out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Web 2.0 - Like Drinking Water from a Fire Hose

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

It seems that every time I turn around I see another new, or new and improved, tool out there that catches my attention and sends my mind into the, "I gotta sign up for that," mode. I have to admit it is very enticing when you see all of these innovative new tools coming at you fast and furious.

When you look at all of these new Web 2.0 technology offerings, making a choice can be like drinking water from a fire hose. I mean before you know it, if you lose your focus, you are signed up for a large number of sites that you find out you don't have any time to master or really integrate into your curriculum. The best advice that I can give is to take a deep breath and do your homework while developing your own Web 2.0 “Tool Kit.” By doing this you can develop skills and lessons based around your tool kit and then grow them from there. It’s very tempting to want to try all of the new things that you come across, but you need to explore them and make a decision as to whether that will work for you or not. Don’t try to “drink” them all in, take small “sips.”

So, how would one go about developing their own Web 2.0 toolkit? Here's my advice, and of course, I want to hear yours and what you use:

  1. Take time and reflect on your curricular goals and try to pinpoint areas that could be improved by the integration of a new tool or technology. Reflection is the key here, don't jump into the world of Web 2.0 without a plan and a clear focus on what you want yourself, and your students, to get out of it.

  2. Once you have a plan start to reach out to your colleagues both in person and through any networks that you have developed via your Personal Learning Network (You are developing your PLN aren't you??). Ask, what others in your curricular area have had successes and struggles with and filter that through your level of expertise as well as the vision that you have created in step one.

  3. Once you have made the decision take "baby steps," and make sure that you learn it well enough first before you fully implement it. Then identify a group of students that you feel would be a good group to pilot your new-found tool. Don't be afraid to have it fail at first, let the kids teach you what they have found it can do. They may come up with an entirely new, and innovative, approach to using it. Remember they are the experts sometimes.

  4. Once you have gone through the steps above stop and reflect again. I can't stress this enough, reflection should be a part of your daily routine. If it's not, then you are missing a very important step in your personal and professional life. Reflect on your successes and failures, as well as the feedback you received from your students and any observations that you have made.

Creating your Web 2.0 toolkit can be a daunting task. But, every craftsman has one and if you want to be successful educating our modern learners the you need your own to master your craft as well. Like real tools, your Web 2.o "Tool Kit," will get old, and better tools will come around, so always remember to go back through the process every once in a while to see if it's time to re-tool. Also, by all means continue to add new tools and grow it as well!!

So, now it's your turn. How have you developed your tool kit? What implementation strategies have worked for you and what are your favorite tools? Let's share our success and failures so we can all grow together.

Remember don't "drink" too fast, take small "sips" and leave time for reflection!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tablets - We're Almost There!

This article is cross posted at the Technology & Learning Advisor blog.

A whole lot of attention has been placed on the vast array of tablet devices that are on the market right now and their potential for changing the way we teach and learn.  Obviously with the release of the iPad 2 the discussion has ramped up a bit.  It seems to me that the talk about how the iPad 2, and other tablets, are going to "revolutionize" education, and how they are going to replace the computers and paper texts that we are using, is a bit premature.  Although I agree that the mobile computing platform is where we need to head, I still think that there is a whole lot of work that needs to be done.

Many people are talking about how the combination of  apps and e-textbooks are "the way to go."  There are so many great apps out there, and trying to cull your way through them can be cumbersome. Sure, there are ways to find the best ones but there are a lot that aren't viable either.  I think that we are still at the beginning of the true impact of  small applications that can be easily downloaded and are inexpensive and useful for the educational technology market.

The same goes for the way we are approaching e-texts.  There is a big difference between and e-book and an e-textbook.  An e-reader device or app works just fine for e-books because they are designed to be primarily flat text that is consumed in a linear fashion without any real interactivity. Just think about when someone is using a traditional book for study, not pleasure, they are going to interact with it in a variety of ways.  They will want to do what one would do with a paper text whether it be to annotate, highlight, or "dog ear" a page.   What I think we need to see are the designers of the devices, as well as the texts, look more towards interactive, dynamic and flexible content that will allow user to customize their experience.  The devices also need to be able to manipulate and create content in order to enhance any lesson that they are used for in the classroom.

I am not sure that they really have their act together yet on this because everyone is so busy just trying to get a product to market that they are trying to be all things to all people. Manufacturers, software designers and publishers need to get together and come up with a model that will make a tablet and digital text something that is more than just a tool for consumption.

The tablet creators are producing for a wide-ranging audience, not just educators, and I think that is where the challenges begin. A tablet that will revolutionize the way we teach and learn has yet to be produced because that device needs to be geared towards education as well. The iPad, which I am an owner of, as well as other Apple products, is truly a great innovation with a whole host of worthwhile educational apps. But, when I stopped and thought about it a bit, I have had a device similar, yet not as small, for a couple of years now and that is my tablet PC. Yes, it is a lot thicker and, a bit heavier, but not all that bad. I have a touch screen, stylus and a keyboard. Most importantly, I can produce content in a very efficient manner. It also costs about five times more than the iPad. Big downfall!!

So, we are still waiting for that fabled device that bridges that gap between a full-blown laptop and a powerful tablet that is affordable and capable of content creation, consumption and expandability. Now, don't get me wrong we are getting there and there are a few real players out there that are worth a look. One that I think is on the right track is the Kno Tablet.

The creators of the Kno have put together two models of the device, a single slate or a double that opens like a book. It has a built-in e-reader, notebook and browser. It allows the user to interact with their texts in a way that the others don't. They have also teamed with textbook companies to deliver e-textbooks that allow users to read, write and research all in one place. Users can write notes and highlight with their fingers or a stylus. You have the ability to keep multiple notebooks as well which makes it more of an "all-in-one," device. They are also offering a Software Development Kit (SDK) and recruiting developers for an app store to build upon its features. For now, it is marketed to higher education with the idea that e-textbooks are cheaper and that it will pay for itself in the savings they offer.

Check out this video to see its features in action -

In my opinion, and I want to hear yours, the concept of the Kno is good, but it is still a device that is primarily for content consumption and notation. Sadly, the producers of the Kno have halted production and there is a lot of speculation as to why. Some have speculated that the company is going to concentrate on developing their software and will team up with a better known hardware manufacturer for more market exposure. So, the future of the device is yet to be determined.

While we wait for that one device to come along that satisfies all of our educational technology needs it sure is fun to watch and see what innovations will take place. Early adopters need to give feedback to these companies and in turn they really need to reach out to consumers, educators and students. These conversations will continue to drive the innovations and really solidify the tablet's place in the educational market.

So, my question to you is this: "What features do you want to see in a tablet that could "revolutionize" education?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Welcome to Our Blog!

I hope you noticed that I did not say my blog. I have wanted to do a project like this for a while because I have strong feelings and want to share them and be challenged. You see, I don't believe that this blog, or any blog, should be a place with static postings by the author. This blog is for a community of like-minded people who agree that in order for creativity and innovation to be taught and learned, in the context of instructional technology, that we need to challenge and push each other to continue our quest to give our students the best educational experiences that we can. We owe it to our pupils and colleagues to be, as I heard Alan November once say, "...fearless in our teaching." In this day and age of political, economic and societal challenges we need to be innovators to lead and progress in our endeavors to educate our youth.

Instructional technologies need not only be looked upon for what they can do on the surface. We need to leverage the various tools that are at our disposal and use them in unintended and creative ways that serve not only to help educate, but as an example of innovation to our students. Teach your students be "Fearless Students," as well and give them tasks that make them take risks, collaborate and explore. Also, by all means listen to them!!

Please join me to make this blog a community of fearless, innovative, creative and collaborative educators and learners. In fact, don't wait, please comment on this post so we can get the discussion going and come up with more blog posts and collaborations.