Tuesday, December 7, 2010

OLLIE Courses This Spring

We are offering 3 OLLIE courses this spring:

Technology for Online Instruction (2 credits, 1/10-2/14) 
Course Description: With the demand for online instruction rising, both in K-12 and for professional development, instructors need support in understanding the available tools and their appropriate pedagogical use.

This course will help teachers feel comfortable using Moodle for a host of different purposes, including online courses, hybrid courses, web portals, and online communities. Participants will develop content in the Moodle platform, including activities, forums, lessons, and assessments. Skills and concepts will be analyzed in context of the Iowa Online Teaching Standards and Online Course Standards. The course is delivered online, in an asynchronous delivery (participants work at their own time and place).


Instructional Design (2 credits, 2/21-4/03)
Course Description: Clayton Christensen, in his book Disrupting Class, boldly predicts that half of 9-12 instruction will be online by 2019. For educators, this means re-learning the principles of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, otherwise known in e-learning as instructional design.

This course introduces educators to the core principles of online instructional design. Participants will experience and discuss how to create student outcomes, assessments, and lessons for an online asynchronous format. They also will have exposure to existing online technologies, including web 2.0 tools, as well as online resources and repositories. Participants will create 2 instructional units, with lessons and assessments, and will practice their understanding with work in small groups. All content and activities created by participants will be able to be used after class is completed.


Online Facilitation (2 credits, 4/11-5/15)
Course Description: Teaching online is not the same as teaching face-to-face. There are many differences between the two, and a quality online instructor will understand strategies that they use in an online format.

This course gives instructors an understanding of the important differences to teaching online. The course pays particular attention to the biggest challenges that beginning teachers face, such as how often to provide response to students, how to overcome the barrier of no face-to-face communication, and how to ensure academic integrity. And most importantly, this course focuses on the current research and best practices in establishing an online community among students.


Click on the corresponding link for each course to register.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Danger of Online Teacher Overcompensation

Re-read the overview of Rena Palloff's and Keith Pratt's "Building Online Learning Communities" in preparation for a course I'm teaching.  Really struck by the following quote:

"Many teachers feel that the online classroom is simply not as robust or rigorous and not worthy of consideration, a belief that has caused those of us who teach online to overcompensate and create classes so full of content and activities that sometimes our students simply cannot keep up."

Hmmm... very true.  It's the same as when you are 16, and your parents hesitantly give you the car keys, assuming the worst.  And you drive the speed limit and signal a full 10 seconds before changing lanes, and keep more than proper following distance, all in the efforts to prove yourself a safe driver.

This having to prove yourself ends up having a detrimental effect on the student and the effectiveness of the course, and becomes just as much an issue as the lack of robustness in the first place.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moodle Monday: Learning-Object Repositories

In most face-to-face classes, digital resources have been underutilized.  That happens for many reasons: lack of teacher planning time to implement new content, no access for students to reach the digital resources, not wanting to veer away from approved curriculum or a textbook... you name it.  And while this weakens the richness of a face-to-face class, it still is able to function, as students plod through the textbook like they have done for years.

In an online course, however, weaving digital resources into a curriculum is an absolute necessity.  While there has been progress in digital textbooks, they still are not prevalent.  Access also isn't an issue, since if students have access to the course in general, they will have access to the resources within it.  And given that the entire instruction takes place through a digital medium, a teacher's personality or classroom management cannot make up for dull materials lacking interaction.

But as most instructors will avow, it is the time factor that matters.  While looking to weave in a webquest or a digital lesson into your face-to-face course could take up quite a bit of your planning in a face-to-face class, it will actually save you time in your digital classroom, since you would be building that lesson or resource from scratch yourself.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE?
There are a slew of resources out there, ranging from full lessons to video tutorials to simulations, and much more.  The term for all of these is learning objects.  Well-made learning objects are easy to implement in the digital class (whether directly linked, embedded, or imported into your Moodle class).  They provide clear outcomes and instructions that are intuitive.  They also make it easy for the teacher to find what she's looking for, with a searchable database and drill-down options.  Here is a quick glance at some excellent learning-object repositories out there.

Merlot - MERLOT (Multi-media Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a database of online resources. MERLOT offers descriptions and links to web-based resources, simulations, learning objects, lessons, and more in virtually every subject area. In addition, MERLOT offers user ratings and comments of the items.

While MERLOT is designed for higher education, the resources they link to are often very applicable for K-12 education. In addition, MERLOT offers an online content builder for teachers to create their own learning objects, as well as many resources for online teaching.



Curriki - Curriki is a repository of all types of resources for K-12 online education, ranging from individual rubrics, resources, activities, or lessons, all the way to full courses. Like Merlot, it features a community of educators who contribute lessons and rate/evaluate others, to give you a peer review process for determining quality.

One bonus feature for Curriki is the extensive amount of resources for K-8 in addition to 9-12. It will allow you to search the site by those grade levels as well.



OER Commons - Just like Merlot, the Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons has a database of learning objects available on the web.  However, this is geared about equally to K-12 as it is post-secondary.



Connexions - Connexions, like Merlot or Curriki, is a learning object repository with an online community that ranks and rates objects in addition to submitting them. Connexions has a great range in the grade level of intended objects. While mostly designed for higher education, there are resources available all the way down into elementary grades.


NROC/Hippocampus - Hippocampus offers interactive courses and units that are free for individual educators to use with their course (there is a cost for institutional use). These courses are in high school subjects such as Government, Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Religion, Physics, Statistics, and US History.

The materials are aligned with both free digital textbooks as well as published textbooks (which many schools might already own).


Wisconsin-Online - Wisconsin-Online has an extensive learning object repository, featuring quite a few interactive simulations. It features an expanded range of learning objects in many specific vocational areas (even cosmetology, hydraulics, criminal justice, and dental hygiene, among others). It also offers quite a few ELL materials.



Udemy - Udemy offers recordings of seminar lectures and other materials brought together around a specific course topic. The materials are all modular, and can be used separately.



In addition to these, don't forget the "learning object repositories" of DE Streaming, Atomic Learning, YouTube, and Teachertube, all of which offer great amounts of multimedia content for your classroom.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Establishing Online Community and Virtual Office Hours: A Case Study

I had the opportunity to sit in on Brad Niebling's Virtual Office Hours this morning.  Brad is the alignment consultant at Heartland AEA and has been chairing the Iowa Department of Education's work on the Iowa Core with alignment.

Brad has a unique challenge in front of him.  He is by all accounts the expert in this area in the state (at least at the K-12 level).  And, unfortunately, alignment is not a topic that many are voluntarily flocking to in the state.  Brad wants to build awareness, understanding, and interest in alignment across the state, where individuals can learn and discuss with each other.  And therefore needs to overcome limits in time and geography.

In essence, Brad wants to create an online community.

He's taking a new spin on professional development which could have a big impact on future professional development in the state, especially as we begin to see fewer and fewer consultants being asked to serve more educators.  He can best bring about this awareness, understanding and interest, not in some isolated presentations and courses, but by connecting things together, and allowing the internet to serve as a great on-ramp for getting people up to speed.  Here's what he is doing.


1. GOOGLE SITE.  
Brad is not a programmer and mentioned he has limited webpage design skills.  So instead, he has used Google's easy, intuitive interface to make a site for all things alignment.  This site not only has documentation he has created, but is eschewing an info-dump in favor of a learning experience.  When visitors attend, they are part of a conversation.

How so?  Take a peek.  He is using interactive surveys for participant feedback.  He has gathered testimonial stories from curriculum directors in the state, sharing their experiences with others.  He is utilizing screen-cast tutorials to help participants navigate the ICAT alignment tool.  He has a FAQ.  Brad's site is a model of how to make interactive websites for educators, without any knowledge of flash, javascript, or other programming languages.

2. TWITTER.  
Brad (@bniebling) has a good emerging presence on Twitter.  The social media serves him in many ways here.  First, he can use it as a method to give quick feedback to questions, sharing those questions with all his followers at once.  Twitter's constant conversation makes it a more ongoing learning experience than his Google Site.  Simply put, an educator might not check into the Google Site to catch the latest update, but those will come across the Twitterfeed.

Twitter enables Brad to leverage national expertise in alignment as well.  I'll be honest... I know little about alignment and even less of where to go to get current research in the area.  That's okay, though.  Brad tells me where it is, through his retweets.

And of course, Twitter serves as a promotional piece of communication, as people through connections will eventually get connected to Brad even if they weren't to ever stumble on the Google Site.  Which helps Brad promote...


3. VIRTUAL OFFICE HOURS.
  As I mentioned, his latest effort is to create a virtual session (using Adobe Connect Pro) where he answers questions or conducts conversation about alignment with whomever stops in.  When I peeked into his virtual office this morning, he was in conversation with a local curriculum director about some recent developments with the Iowa Core.

Brad has structured the room so that he can show his desktop for step-by-step demonstrations, field questions from an ongoing chat stream, point participants to various resources and links, all while talking via his computer speakers with passers-by.  Brad's next virtual office hours, by the way, will be on Nov. 23 from 2:00-3:00.


THE IMPACT?
I believe this to be the future of consultation and leadership in the state.  An online community of educators, interacting through synchronous tools, social media, and online resources, makes for a much more flexible system to join and a more constant conversation.  Think about an AEAs team of literacy consultants, for example, having a weekly webinar to field questions from teachers or demonstrate some latest techniques or resources in quality literacy instruction.  And then, coupling that with an ongoing dialogue in a social media format, be it Twitter or a social network.

There is a similar model being employed by the University of Georgia, whose Bridges program has been connecting teachers for almost a decade now.  When I visited with Julie Moore, an assistant professor who has coordinated the system, she mentioned the research they have conducted points overwhelmingly to the facilitator of the community as the linchpin to the community's success.  Good facilitators had thriving communities, and not-so-thriving communities lacked that good facilitator. 

Moore identified 3 key factors to that lead to a good facilitator:

1. Enthusiasm and vigilance towards the importance of the community's focus
2. The ability to connect with people and make them feel involved
3. The willingness to devote the time necessary

Note, there wasn't anything about being an expert in certain technologies, or even an expert in the subject area.  Instead, it was more about the creativity of getting people connected, and doing so because of a passion for the subject.

So, while Brad continues his work in these areas, it isn't as simple for other consultants to go create a Google Site, Twitter account, and Virtual Office Hours.  They have to start with the essential ingredients above.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

At what point do we have too many rights?

Even though election day brought little in terms of surprises (the Republican wave was prognosticated over a year ago), it certainly is the fruition to a shift in public privilege (entitlement is probably too strong a word here).  Everybody wants their rights back.  I'm not sure anyone knows how they'd like to exercise those rights, but they sure don't want even the thought of someone taking them away.

Public education was not on the radar at all this past election cycle (this is not a surprise, as it seems to be the only area that Republicans are willing to praise Obama).  So, what is the natural extension of this "I have my rights" mentality in the public school debate?

Probably something like this.  The editorial makes the case for the public's right to know the quality of teachers they support with their taxpayer money.  This means the public release of teacher evaluations, including the "value-added" scores which measures how a student compares to their predicted success score.

This brings many questions to my mind:
  1. Have we developed the value-added formula to measure the band teacher's performance, yet?
  2. Can we do the same for police officers?  Because I'd really like to know which ones are pulling over the most people.
  3. Would the general public understand the dataset?  Would they care to?
  4. Once the public has the data, what will the actually do?  Are they enabled now?
  5. If I'm an administrator, how likely am I to add constructive criticism into a teacher evaluation, knowing I could have any citizen with a grudge looking at it?

Where do I begin?  Measuring students on student achievement data alone is already a problem, as it is to measure teachers on it alone.  This action would only reinforce the idea that this is what makes kids successful.  Even if it was a valuable measure, collecting a dataset which will demonstrate the value of a teacher in student achievement is an impossible task.  The data will be tainted with a myriad of other variables.

But what strikes me most is that the thought of communities being "enabled" to act on this information is utopian.  What are they going to do?  Spend a lot of time and money to try to force them out of work?  That principled dedication is reserved only for action on our state supreme court justices.  When it comes down to it, the community passion for a wave of change in schools isn't there.

The end result is instead that teachers feel ostracized and unfairly judged more than ever.  Simply put, it uses "accountability" as a cover word for implementing "motivation by fear".

Yes, schools need changing.  But this change requires cooperation between educators and the community, not distrust.  Community need more rights, more data?  Open the doors.  Invite them into the school to observe what's going on in the classroom.  Find ways for them to take part, to offer their reflections on what they see.  This offers accountability in a constructive manner, with all parties on the same side. 

Kids cannot be a political football.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Foundations of the Iowa Core

The Department of Education, in conjunction with the AEAs, released over the summer an online module entitled "Foundations of the Iowa Core".  The module is to be used as a component of professional development, or simply as an information piece.  While its development began as a response to some confusion amongst educators about what the Iowa Core, where it began, or where it is heading, it has also been beneficial for parents and community members to get a sense of the initiative.

The module focuses on
  • The basic features and terminology of the Iowa Core
  • Understanding the 6 Outcomes
  • Identifying the characteristics of effective instruction
  • Discussing the benefits of the Iowa Core for students, educators, communities, and the state
The module is intended to be use either individually or in conjunction with others.  There are several collaborative learning team (CLT) activities for schools who use it as part of their face-to-face inservice, as well as individual activities if a person is looking at it alone.  In addition to activities, the module features video interviews with teachers, students, and community members.  The content itself will take about 1 hour to complete if working individually, and will take 2-3 hours if groups are discussing the CLT activities.

RELATED POSTS
Iowa Core in a Nutshell
5 Characteristics of Effective Instruction


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Online days instead of snow days?

Never too early in Iowa to start thinking about snow days, of course. 

Boone Grove High School in Valparaiso, IN is one school that last year dealt with snow days by creating "online days".  The premise was that students could still meaningfully interact with the curriculum working online through Moodle, and it would cause less disruption to the continuity of the learning process.

I ran across this reflection from a high school student, Jacob Knecht, who was writing for the school's newspaper.  While there isn't much there in terms of the structure or logistics of the day, it is clear that the "online day" was well received by students, faculty, and especially parents.  The concern of access at the home was not identified as an issue for BGHS.

One school's success does not dictate it is right for schools in Iowa, but it is good to see that while many Iowa administrators have hypothesized about an "online day" every time they have to call off school, there are schools that have put that into action.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things that bug me, part one million and 26

I've been known to complain too much, and this really is a minor thing.  Still...

My son's quiz question:
Why is voting a good way to have a voice in your community?
a. Voting is easy
b. Voting helps make towns and cities better places
c. Voters choose who will help make decisions for the community

The answer guide of course says c, but you could easily argue b.  That's what my son chose.  And, he got it marked wrong.

It's not that he got it wrong that bothers me.  It's that he didn't get a chance to explain why he chose that answer, as he told me.  They never went over the questions as a class.  This is a golden opportunity for students to justify their answers with rationale and logic.  At the very least, the teacher should explain why a given answer is correct and others wrong.  But instead, students won't have a chance to learn and engage in dialectic discussion.

The answer sheet said c.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Digital Learning, Illustrated

One of the better activities for teachers to do is to look at the following YouTube video and answer the following questions:
  • What type of learning is taking place?
  • What role is technology playing?



It is worth it to take a look at the comments the boy has received (66 total when I posted this).

The type of learning that is taking place is illustrative of "digital learning".  It is student-centered, inquiry-based.  It draws upon teachers from around the world.  The individuals who are helping this boy out, the boy does not even know.  It is an authentic real-world experience for him, not something contrived and solely useful in the walls of a classroom.

In brief, he is learning through making connections.  And, it's not about the technology at all.  He didn't create this just to "make a YouTube video".  We aren't interested in assessing his videography or editing skills.  He wanted to learn how to use a bowdrill set, and the technology was merely a conduit to get to that learning, just as he would use a pencil or a calculator in other situations.

In this sense, digital learning is not about the technology at all; it is about the deeper purposes and important learnings that you want students to have.  It is about a curriculum that creates connections for students to multiple sources of learning, not to simply the one answer in the back of the book. 

The easy mistake to make, the wrong conclusion to jump to, is to think it is about the technology, since as an outsider that is what you see when you walk into a 1:1 school.  But if a school is doing it well, it's not what students should see.  As Chris Lehmann from Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia points out, technology "should be like oxygen, ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible".  Students should no more be conscious that they are using the computer than other pieces of technology in their room.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moodle Monday: Can we have some Moodle please?

A presentation from Tomaz Lasic, Moodle entrepreneur.  Ask and you shall receive, as Moodle's array of functionality meets the wishes of many educators.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Online Learning Initiatives in Iowa

(My presentation given to the Statewide Leadership Teams)

Online learning initiatives in iowa
View more presentations from Evan Abbey.


1. Iowa Core materials on Moodle
The Iowa Core professional development, alignment, and assessment for learning sub-committees have been placing their resources and instructor guides on the Heartland Moodle server (will soon be on the statewide Moodle server).  

2. ARRA
The state has been awarded $2.7 million for the developing our capacity to deliver K-12 online content.  This includes content development/acquisition, professional development, and technological support.  An overview of the grant can be found here

3. OLLIE
The AEA Online Council is developing a PD sequence for online pedagogy, called Online Learning for Iowa Educators (OLLIE).  There has been a proposal to offer a cohort for curriculum consultants from the statewide team this spring, with the purpose being common collaboration to create PD content, K-12 content, and prepare consultants to teach online.  If you have personal interest in this, contact me and for more info, check out here.

4. ITSI-SU
Heartland AEA is currently participating in a National Science Foundation grant coordinated by the Concord Consortium.  The grant is looking at the use of digital tools (including a portal and simulations) to enhance inquiry science.  It is entitled “Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry – Scale-Up” (ITSI-SU).  While the grant is paying for a piloting group to receive stipends and digital probes for their involvement, the online tools are available freely to all teachers.  If there is statewide interest, Evan Abbey and Rob Kleinow can train other consultants in a “train-the-trainer” model.

For more information, visit http://www.concord.org/projects/itsi-su
To see and try out the portal, visit http://itsi.portal.concord.org/signin/


 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Moodle?

The recent developments with both ARRA and AEA PD Online have gained many administrators interest.  However, one question that surfaces is why did we choose Moodle over Blackboard, Studywiz or other LMS products?  Both of the initiatives will be standardizing the content into Moodle.

First, there isn't much debate, that we need to standardize and choose one.  AEAs and districts have limited resources, and content and expertise are easily shared when everyone is using the same platform.  So, why Moodle and not a different one?

It is not because of functionality.  In comparison of features, many of the top platforms have very similar features.  You could argue Moodle has a wider range of plugins for installation than commercial products, but that doesn’t mean overall it has more functionality.  So, this is not a deciding characteristic.  Here is what are:

1. Cost – Moodle is open source, meaning there are no annual per pupil costs for the license to use Moodle.  This differs from commercial products, which usually range from $5-10 a student, plus the yearly license fee (and some have support contracts on top of that).  Open source doesn’t mean free, as there are costs involved to have someone maintain the server, but those costs go back to support local employees. And, while there are other open source LMS products out there, Moodle remains the option with the most visibility and support, meaning the cost is lower over them as well.

2. Present Scalability – Because of its open source nature, it allows all types of deployment.  Districts can dabble with a trial server.  An individual teacher can set up their own server.  There can be cheap hosted versions for as little as $7/month.  A district can set up their own Moodle installment, including robust options (the largest self-managed Moodle installments have up to 500,000 users).  And, there are many full-fledged Moodle hosting options a district can use if they would prefer not to host it themselves.

3. Experience & Market Share – The AEAs have each used Moodle, in some cases for over 5 years.  Leading districts in Iowa have used Moodle for just as long.  In fact, the current market share of K-12 educational entities in Iowa for Moodle is overwhelming.  Having a community of users makes for a more valuable statewide effort, allowing content, professional development, and knowledge to be exchanged.

4. Professional Development – The AEAs have developed professional development materials (including modules and courses) for Moodle.  This material can be used flexibly in either online, self-paced, hybrid, or face-to-face options.  Developing professional development for other LMS tools would be a considerable cost for the AEAs.

5. Future Scalability – Moodle’s market share, especially among open source options, means it isn’t going anywhere and will continue to thrive.  Moodle has a vibrant community adding many different plug-ins and options.  The ability to add your own individual themes, plugin tools, templates, and layouts make it a flexible option for the future. 

That's not to say a district could not choose a different platform and be pleased with the results.  But, it will inhibit that district's ability to participate in the statewide effort.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So, what is OLLIE?

Online Learning for Iowa Educators (OLLIE) is a new initiative by Iowa's Area Education Agencies.  Its central aim is to deliver quality professional development in online pedagogy to Iowa teachers, and do so in a systemic way.  It is a 5-course sequence built around best practices in online teaching:
  1. Introduction to the Online Learner (1 cr.)
  2. Technology for Online Instruction (2 cr.)  
  3. Instructional Design in an Online Course (2 cr.) 
  4. Facilitation in an Online Course (2 cr.) 
  5. Assessment and Evaluation in Online Courses (2 cr.)

The AEAs began offering courses in the sequence during the 2009-10 school year, and will have all 5 courses being offered by the summer of 2011.  Currently, the AEAs are also partnering with Drake University, which will be offering a 15-credit certificate in online teaching, using a core of the 9 credits above with 2 electives (6 credits) from their online pedagogy offerings.



As taking an online experience is one of the keys to learning how to teach, the courses are all online.  More importantly, they are being delivered in a train-the-trainer, modular format, meaning that schools can deliver school-wide professional development to teachers using the course content with a local or AEA facilitator (we are currently in the process of training a cohort of AEA trainers).  Courses will also be offered as catalog courses through AEA PD Online for instructors looking to learn on their own, outside of a district initiative.

The courses do build on each other sequentially.  Participants have hands-on activities helping them construct an actual course they will use, so the learning is an efficient use of time.  However, the "Introduction to the Online Learner" is an excellent course for all educators to take, whether they will be teaching online or not.  Given that many administrators, counselors, at-risk coordinators, and TAG coordinators are pondering online offerings for students, this course gives must-have information on ensuring student success online.


OLLIE & THE ARRA GRANT
OLLIE is a central part of the ARRA Ed Tech grant to help build capacity in Iowa to deliver K-12 content.  Some of the grant dollars are being used to provide piloting districts with stipends for early adopter teachers who take OLLIE courses.  This summer, we held a cohort of 19 districts who completed coursework in the OLLIE sequence, representing over 100 teachers and administrators.  In addition, the Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Des Moines, Norwalk, and Van Meter school districts have committed to delivering OLLIE content to selected teachers in their district.





Map Channels: free mapping tools

Teachers participating in the cohort not only had a chance to engage with the content, but they also had the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers across the state on similar projects, including the creation of common courses.  Several teachers participating in the summer program are implementing hybrid units this fall as the first step into online learning.

One important step for schools looking to dip their toe in online learning is to target specific teachers who will actively challenge themselves to deliver the curriculum in new and exciting ways for students.  More cohorts are planned to begin this year in regional areas for district trainers or early adopter teachers.  Districts interested in professional development should contact me or their AEA Ed Tech consultants to find out more.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting Your School Started with Online Learning

(Below is my presentation for Tuesday, 11:00 at ITEC).


Key Concepts
How online learning can be used in your school. (Blog - 4/26)

• Most common roadblocks facing Iowa's schools
- Fear for teachers of being replaced
- Primitive view of what online learning is
- Tradition of what "school" is to look like
- Money

• Action Steps
1) Become an advocate
2) Share and refine a vision of online learning in your school (Have conversations with your influential people)
3) Sell your idea to your publics
4) Lay the foundation--plan your course server, your student access, your policies, your professional development. Examine the processing questions
5) Learn what resources/opportunities exist (network)
6) Target specific areas & early adopters to work with
7) Commit. If you wait for the perfect course to be developed, you will never offer one. You learn by trying.

• Current Efforts in Iowa
- Iowa Learning Online (contact Arlan Thorson).
ILO offers free courses in several areas for Iowa students. They also offer free content for schools to use, and have brokered courses for schools, helping with marketing & registration.

- ARRA Grant.
The state AEAs, in partnership with Cedar Rapids CSD, Davenport CSD, Sioux City CSD, Waterloo CSD, Iowa City CSD, Council Bluffs CSD, and Dubuque CSD have received a $2.7 million grant to develop capacity to deliver online learning in Iowa.

Goals of the grant =
1) Provide online content for Iowa schools in math, science, and literacy.
2) Help connect teachers with free online content.
3) Build a repository to host the online content.
4) Provide systemic professional development in online pedagogy for K-12 schools.
5) Connect schools with Iowa Learning Online to use their services to enhance online offerings.
6) Help schools find new models for providing credit recovery and alternative programming.

- OLLIE (Online Learing for Iowa Educators).
To help build internal capacity for online learning, we are developing a sequence of professional development courses, to be facilitated by AEA consultants or locally at an LEA.

The modules include
1) Introduction to the Online Learner (1 credit)
2) Technology for Online Instruction (2 credits)
3) Online Instructional Design (2 credits)
4) Facilitation (2 credits)
5) Assessment, Feedback, and Evaluation (2 credits)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reflection on Eric Scheninger's Visit

Eric Scheninger (@NMHS_Principal), a frequent colleague and collaborator of Van Meter High School principal Deron Durflinger (and many others in Iowa), recently made a visit to Iowa State's CASTLE program and several central Iowa schools.  He liked what he saw.  Here's his reflection from his visit.  Definitely worth a read, since it gives us a view from outside of the work that is happening in the state.

A few of my thoughts:
• Eric is a proponent of constructivist education steeped in technology integration, so the benefits he saw are not surprising.  Still, it is reinforcing for Van Meter, South Hamilton, and United to hear that it is obvious to outside observers the enthusiasm and enjoyment with the learning process that their students have.

• The "parental-acceptance-curve" is a poignant observation that future Iowa 1:1 schools will grapple with... parents being a bit leery before roll-out.

• Obviously, Eric's visit was limited in time.  While it is one thing to observe creativity on display in student reactions and enthusiasm, it is another to quantify it against other schools.  The big question that remains is how students are achieving in 1:1 schools.  Are students actually learning more?  Is the constructivist theory of education bringing about higher gains, or is it a bunch of sound and fury?  If I'm a school weighing this decision, this question has to be at the center of my decision, and we need that data.  The data on higher attendance and fewer referrals are steps in the right direction.

• Eric hit the nail on the head with his observation about needing more professional development.  The AEAs were a bit blindsided by the explosion in 1:1 environments and are scrambling to catch up.  Most distressing to me: Over a majority of the AEA Ed Tech consultants who are training Iowa 1:1 teachers have never actually taught in a 1:1 classroom.  Good news, though.  The INTEL Elements courses will help provide system professional development in this area.

• One concern for me is that Eric highlighted certain student work--creating original music for their presentations, developing Wordles, putting in slide transitions, and using Paintbrush.  At first glance, I don't see how any of these actually lead to mastery of objectives.  They are the equivalence of making your posterboard look really pretty.  And undoubtedly, they are time-consuming, taking time away from student analysis, conversation, and direct focus on the end outcomes.  This is a chief criticism of technology integration by critics such as Dan Willingham, Robert Pondiscio or Jay Matthews, and something that our 1:1 schools need to be conscious of.

• One other bright spot in this reflection is Eric sees most teachers thriving in this type of teaching environment.  From my conversations with Deron and Van Meter superintendent John Carver, this is not always easy.  While it can appear schools like these 3 are fully embracing the mantle of change, there is a lot of background working with staff and community to help them with this second-order change.  Not every teacher was originally excited about the move to 1:1, so this shows the work that school leaders have put in.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

So, what is the ARRA grant?

The ARRA Ed Tech Grant uses federal stimulus dollars for the purposes of enhancing education through technology in the classroom, using a similar structure to the E2T2 system.  In applying for the roughly $3 million, Iowa is prioritizing capacity-building for its schools to deliver K-12 online learning.

The needs for this are self-evident: Iowa has limited statewide options for online learning that pale in comparison to other states.  This has come as the result of its fine educational system (and the pride that the state takes in it), as educators and community members alike have been slow to demand fixes when what we are used to "wasn't broken."  But, times have changed, and the most vocal group for needing the benefits of online learning have been administrators.

To address this need, all 9 AEAs and 7 of the 8 largest districts in Iowa banded together to create a common proposal.  They were awarded $2.7 million, to be used to address the needs of online learning for rural access, high teacher shortage areas, credit recovery, and disaster/pandemic preparation.

The specific action steps have quickly materialized:
  • Develop/purchase online content for schools to freely use
  • Link to and vet free online resources that exist on the web
  • Deliver professional development to train K-12 teachers in online pedagogy
  • Create a common repository for schools to access the content and deliver online learning
  • Partner with Iowa Learning Online, which brokers courses that districts can open up to other district students
One distinct thing about this is the speed at which things are moving.  This isn't a 6-year development process before schools can peak behind the curtain (okay... maybe that was too blunt of an allusion).  These things are coming quickly.  We had a 100-teacher cohort complete summer training in online pedagogy from 19 different Iowa school districts, and we are currently in the middle of a train-the-trainer sequence for AEAs to deliver their own training.  We also will have purchased some content from Florida Virtual Schools this fall, and will have the repository up and running by next summer.

I've had the pleasure to work closely with Nancy Movall, who was named the grant specialist, and has been overseeing the governance of the grant.  Nancy has been vigilant about 3 things--sustainability, efficiency, and results.  The grant's funds are limited to one year, so purchasing seats in a program like Plato or Apex won't have any sustaining effects.  Neither would they be transformative, as it would emphasize the same detached form of online learning that schools had been engaged in, one where the student works through endless modules in isolation.

She has stressed that we need to own content, that we need to make one-time purchases and have the content indefinitely.  This will include some local development, geared around specific aspects of the essential skills and concepts.  But given that we have limited resources in the area of instructional design, we have to be systemic about what we choose to develop ourselves.

Most importantly to Nancy, we need to avoid situations where teachers are developing content on their own.  It is a model that is highly inefficient, and past track records have shown a tendency to take traditional face-to-face lessons and move them online, not taking advantage of the features about online learning to make it unique.  Instead, teachers will be trained on how to take existing content, be they units, lessons, activities, or resources, and weaving them together for a powerful learning experience.

So, what do schools need to know?  First and foremost, that help is coming.  Schools interested in systemic professional development in online pedagogy now have an option, the OLLIE sequence.  This professional development can be delivered in different formats to fit a school's needs.  In addition, schools will have a solid base of content to choose from within a year's time, eliminating the need to purchase high quantities of seats in packaged programs.  Plus, the process for schools to become participants in the arena of online learning will be made much easier with the resources that Iowa Learning Online offers.

Interested?  Contact us:
• Evan Abbey - eabbey@aea11.k12.ia.us
• Nancy Movall - nmovall@gwaea.org
• Arlan Thorson - athorson@iowalearningonline.org

Friday, October 8, 2010

10 Things You Need to Know About Being an Online Teacher

(Below is my presentation for Monday, 1:45 at ITEC).


More and more, I receive random emails or calls from those with an interest in teaching online.  The reasons for their interest are different; some are looking at retirement and see this as a more flexible way to stay in teaching, others see themselves as changes agents for educational delivery, be it a constructivist pedagogy or a tech-infused classroom, and online learning is the next frontier.  Some in this rough economy see teaching online license renewal courses as a decent part-time job that allows them to keep their present position.  And still others are being asked to by administrators.

Whatever the reasons, my responses are usually the same.  Online teaching is not easy.  Whether you thought so or not, you have to understand that it isn't as simple to do what you do in a face-to-face classroom, only this time with a keyboard.

I've seen several good face-to-face teachers who are not able to teach online (and vice versa).  It is a completely different skill set.  Not an impossible one, mind you (and certainly one we need to learn as a state).  But it is different.

Here are the ten pieces of advice (not in importance, but rather in terms of when you'll encounter them) that I would recommend for any person looking to become an online teacher:

#10. Take an Online Course 
Or five.  You'll learn more from being a student in an online environment than you will researching it.  You will see first hand what type of organizational structure or communication patterns work for you and what don't work at all.

Of course, a problem is that there are currently many bad online courses out there.  My wife recently completed one where she was asked to read the two articles and make two reflective posts in the forum each week for 9 weeks.  And that's it.  She never discussed the content with her instructor or fellow classmates... it was simply a sequence of hoops to jump through for her credit.  So, take the course with a critical eye, and take a variety of courses to gain some perspective.  This one step will help you not just at the beginning, but throughout your online teaching career.

#9. Online Teaching is Time Consuming... Have a Plan!
You know, when I receive evaluative feedback from my participants at the end of the course, the most frequent comment is how surprising the amount of work is.  They were thinking an online course would be less work than a face-to-face course.

The same misperception holds true for the teacher as well.  It takes a considerable amount of time to read student's work, answer student questions, communicate through announcements, etc.  Your evening hours can quickly evaporate.  What makes it worse, students who are used to getting an answer immediately in a face-to-face class will wonder why you haven't emailed back to their question (it's been 5 minutes already!!!).

For your own sake, have a plan of when you will be teaching.  Block out some time from your schedule.  And communicate this plan to your students.  Let them know that Wednesday is "Church Night" and you will be busy, or Saturday morning is spent watching each of your sons' flag football games.  Let them know when you will be grading assignments, and how frequently you respond to questions.  The more up front planning and communication you can add, the more sane your life will be.  Which leads us to...


#8. Communication Online IS Different
You probably already get the whole netiquette, "You-don't-know-how-they-will-interpret-sarcasm-online-so-don't-use-it" thing.  And yes, use emoticons.

But there is much more.  As an instructor, you have to use many different tones, be it analytical, informal, inquisitive, humorous, concerned, reassuring, or more.  You have to know how to phrase things positively, even when students aren't reading the directions (which you will be tested on even before your first class starts).  And, you need to know when and how to jump in to online discussions, helping steer them to the learning outcome you desire, without people knowing you are steering them.

#7. Remember, Online Students Have Issues, Too
Which, is better stated as "Online Students have Needs".  They will need to have clarity about assignments, meaning you will need to provide many levels of support.  That includes a "Question & Troubleshooting Forum", screencast tutorials showing how to navigate the site, and virtual office hours for asking questions.

But the bigger needs are social needs.  Students need to get to know other people.  Research out of UW-Madison has shown an interesting phenomenon:  When students rate the quality of online courses, even if they are in the exact same course, they will pick different reasons why it was a good course or not.  But actually, the biggest constant for good courses vs. bad courses is something that appears later in the survey... how well did you get to know your fellow students.  Even though participants can't articulate this, their perception of being in a close social group in class makes the class good.

Social presence can be built in several different ways.  How you have students introduce themselves is critical.  How you have them keep connected at the end of the class is critical.  And, how you structure assignments so that there is honest interaction, requiring a person to converse with others is critical.  As a beginner online teacher, this is a hard area to perfect right away.

#6. Flexibity... and yet, structure
Online courses are synonymous with being flexible.  "Any time, place or pace" is the mantra.

Well, that's not quite correct.  Flexibility is important, even more so than in a face-to-face environment.  In addition to differences of prior knowledge, learning preferences, and favorite topics, online courses bring in differences of technological proficiency and technological access (doing certain online activities on dial-up = not fun).  So, it is important to provide choices for students.

But, that doesn't mean you don't have due dates.  Letting students wait until the last day of class where they turn everything in is a recipe for disaster.  Items like pacing charts help students budget their time to meet weekly due dates.  And with each choice, you will want to provide models of the desired outcome as well as the steps to get there, so students can see clearly the path of their learning.  Without this structure, students are left wandering the great desert of online courses.

#5. Need-to-know vs. Nice-to-know
The most common mistake a new teacher make is putting too much into their course, not too little.  Myself included.  I haven't had a course yet where I haven't taken out considerable portions after teaching it the first time (I know... if you have taken my course, you are allowed to say "No Fair!")

When you design your course, be sure you clearly identify what you want your students to know, and then stick to it.  If you have other material, clearly identify it as "Enrichment" that participants can learn on their own.

#4. Make it Interactive
This video really says it all:


Interaction isn't jump-through-the-hoops forums. Your class need to have high quality multi-media, simulations, scenario-based activities, and role-playing.

#3 You can't just take everything off the internet
Take some time to understand copyright, including Creative Commons.  Copyright for an online classroom is very grey at the moment.  While you are a teacher and you are guided by fair use policies, you also are putting things on the web.  There is debate right now between whether a learning management system like Moodle is an online classroom or a webpage (which has a great impact on whether you can use items through fair use).

#2 Rethink assessment
How could you assess student ability to graph inequalities online?  How about singing?  Physical agility and endurance?  Oral speaking?

Not everything can be taught online, but more can than you think.  A common mistake is, for a performance-based objective, an online teacher will require non-performance-based assessment.  Taking a multiple-choice quiz to see how well you can sing, for example.  There are a multitude of tools out there, be it podcasting or data-collection tools (heart-rate monitors and video cameras for a PE class, for example).  Don't settle for inferior forms of assessment.

#1 Make it fun
You know which face-to-face courses are fun within minutes of being in them.  The instructor has a personality, uses humor, and doesn't take themselves too seriously, making everyone feel relaxed and safe to learn in the process.  That's harder to do online, but just as critical.  How can you make your course fun right away?

From the moment you introduce yourselves to your students, let them know your personality.  Use personal anecdotes.  Use a theme throughout the course (best online course I took was from a Disney nut, who kept putting random images of Walt Disney World throughout the course).  And, be sure to show them you are not perfect either.  Show them how you have learned the content you are currently teaching, and point out some of the mistakes you made at the beginning too.  All of these things make the course more enjoyable and safe for students.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So, what is AEA PD Online?

As I mentioned yesterday, we have 2 concurrent initiatives regarding online learning in the state at the moment.  The first, which had been called "the statewide system" for months, has now been dubbed "AEA PD Online."  But, what is AEA PD Online?

A little over 3 years ago, the chief administrators of Iowa's AEAs commissioned what was called the AEA Online Council.  It featured at least one representative from each AEA, and the representatives came from a set of diverse roles within their respective AEAs; we had Educational Service directors, Media Service directors, Educational Technology consultants, and License Renewal coordinators in our group.  In addition, we had representatives from other partners, such as the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Learning Online, and IPTV.  Recently, that has expanded to included representatives from higher education as well.

The chief administrators commissioned the group out of a concern of duplicating resources.  There was the reality that as AEAs began to develop online content or online professional development, there would be some unnecessary duplication from one AEA to another if they did not communicate.  So, in its infancy, the Online Council was that vehicle for communication.

It did not take long for the members of the council to realize that by actually pooling together resources and proactively working together, they could work most efficiently, producing the most amount of professional development for the money.  This could only happen if the AEAs worked as a system with dedicated staff and resources being not for one AEA, but for all the AEAs.  In 2009-10, it was a goal of the council to make this system a reality, and by this last summer, we had hired a project manager to oversee the system, started laying down our online technological supports of a registration system, Moodle server, and website, and developing a legal agreement to govern this new system.  The birth of AEA PD Online.

The mission of the Online Council is:
  • To develop a statewide system for development of content for online professional learning related to statewide efforts and mandates by determining the vision and managing the process
  • To develop a single, transparent system for delivery of online professional learning content
  • To serve as an advocate for quality online professional learning by collaborating with other state organizations
AEA PD Online will bring to Iowa educators those 3 things.  Our goal is to offer 150 online courses in 2011 and double that for 2012.  Included in this are the rapid deployment of several state initiatives, including Iowa Core professional development, the Intel Elements series, training on the Google Apps, and the OLLIE professional development series.  We have recently added a training to our training server on 103b Overview of State Requirements Regarding Seclusion and Restraint, a legally-required area of professional development for Iowa schools, and we have plans to continue adding more.  We will aggregate the webinars and webinar recordings from the AEAs in one place, and will help host statewide webinars.  And similarly, we will gather together and support the online communities that allow Iowa teachers to connect with each other.


SO, WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN?
The AEAs, through AEA PD Online, are in the process currently of applying for license renewal provider process, a process that should go through December.  By that time, the aforementioned registration system and Moodle server will be put in place, meaning we will see our first official "statewide" courses in April.  However, individual AEAs are already hosting online courses.  A list of them can be found on the AEA website.  The training server has already existed statewide for some time, although individual trainings are new.  And, while the aggregation of current webinars, recordings, and online communities will happen once our new website goes live in April, you will see more efforts in those areas in the spring.

But, this does not happen without you.  We need instructors willing and interested in teaching online.   And, teaching online is not the same as teaching face-to-face.  If you have a desire to teach online or want to know more, please contact me.

In an upcoming post, we'll look at what it takes to be an online instructor, and let you see if it would be right for you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A return to blogging, with a look ahead and behind

I had promised to myself that I'd have met my year-long goal of re-designing the look of the blog before I started blogging again, but that's still a work in progress.

In the meantime, it is fall conference time, and I'll be presenting at the following in October:
But, I'm more excited about what has happened over this past summer. The AEAs are making headway to having a statewide system for online professional development, a one-stop shop for Iowa educators for online trainings, webinars, online communities, and for-credit online courses. That should roll out this winter, with complete offerings in those areas up and running next summer.

In addition, the AEAs are collaborating with the districts of Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux City, and Waterloo on a federal stimulus money grant. The grant brings nearly $3 million to the state to build the state's capacity to deliver online learning for K-12 students, especially in the areas of rural schools, high-need/teacher shortage areas, and credit recovery. The grant will do this through 1) systemic professional development, 2) collection and development of content that is free for Iowa's schools to use, and 3) creation of a repository for online learning to take place.

These are two big developments (and directly responsible for my blogging hiatus), and Iowa's teachers and students will greatly benefit. In upcoming posts, I'll help highlight the details of these developments.

Monday, June 21, 2010

TICL

My time to blog has pretty much evaporated over the past month, as we are busy working on the Online Learning for Iowa Educator consortium this summer, as well as putting in motion several items to develop the statewide system for online professional development. Here's a quick update:

Northwest AEA and Prairie Lakes AEA are holding their 3-day TICL (Technology Integration and Instruction for the 21st Century Learner) conference starting today. I present today at 1:00 at Buena Vista University on the professional development opportunities available online for educators. I've included my presentation below.

In addition to me, there are several presentations on online learning, Moodle, and online courses for K-12 students. Many schools in these AEAs have already considered implementing K-12 online courses (and a few are on their way to putting those in place in 2010-11). This promises to be a good chance to see what others are doing and considering.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Online Learning for Your High School


This is the question that I've recently discussed with superintendents and principals across Iowa, at least those who are seriously considering the benefits of online learning and the future reality of it as well. Here's a synopsis of what they have said:

SCENARIO 1: CREDIT RECOVERY
Our number of dropouts is way too high. We've got students who fail a semester of algebra 1, which means they cannot enroll in second semester or geometry the following year until they pass. This puts them a year behind. Fail again, they are now 2 years behind with almost no way of graduating on time, just because of math courses alone (or substitute in the science course sequence).

If we could have our present curriculum placed in an online format, a student can work through the portions of the course they failed with the assistance of an at-risk teacher; do so at their own time, pace, and place; and be back on track for graduation. We could purchase packaged programs like E2020 or Apex, but that yearly cost is expensive, and if we had our own online curriculum, it saves money for more at-risk teaching staff.

SCENARIO 2: CONSORTIUMS FOR TEACHER-SHORTAGE AREAS
It is difficult to find a Spanish teacher in many rural school districts, let alone a language like Chinese or Arabic. Plus, the vocational areas of Family Consumer Science and Industrial Technology are hard to staff as well. On top of that, in many schools, those teachers have class sizes of 5-10 students, making it hard to justify the costs.

Sharing staff between two districts has worked somewhat well, but consider the time spent for the teacher to drive between one district or the next. Instead, what if we had the teacher teach online, putting students from 3 different schools in the same course and raising numbers to a more sustainable amount. That teacher could drive to a different school each day (as opposed to several within a day) and still keep the course going.

SCENARIO 3: FLEXIBLE SCHEDULES
If you like impossible puzzles, you should try developing our master schedule for next year. There is no way to get courses placed so that students can be out for Band, Choir, and Computers, which not only upsets the students, it also upsets the teachers of those respected programs.

But if we offered that Computers course online, then the student could take it during their free hour, whenever that would be. Or if they have a full schedule, they could still take the course and work as time permits. That flexibility sure makes scheduling an easier proposition.

SCENARIO 4: ADVANCED COURSES
The hardest students from scenario 3 are students who are the most academically-inclined. Not only because they are more likely to fill up their schedule rather than take a study hall, but also because their courses tend to be ones that there are only 1-2 sections of it (and in many cases, courses whose numbers don't allow a separate section, like scenario 2).

The result is if we have a student enrolled in Advanced Algebra 2, AP Biology, Honors Humanities, Advanced Chemistry, Band, Choir, Journalism (because they are the school newspaper editor), and Honors US History, as well as PE somewhere, they are over capacity, despite often having the ability and desire to take all of those courses. But, by putting Honors US History, Honors Humanities, Advanced Chemistry or Advanced Algebra 2 online, we have some flexibility we didn't have before.

SCENARIO 5: FLEXIBILITY, PART 2
I have a student who was recently suspended, and because of tensions with fellow students, I don't want him back in his course. Or, I have a student who is pregnant and finds it difficult to be in a class with other students. Or, I have a student who consistently butts heads with our one and only government teacher, and government is a required course. I wish I had another option.

SCENARIO 6: FUNDING OPPORTUNITY
In addition to the other scenarios, we have enthusiastic staff and belief that this is the future of education. If by putting our courses online we can offer them to other schools, we could stand to get weighted funding from those students. In essence, online learning makes increased enrollment a possibility.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ACCESS & LEARNING
Here's the upshot, of course. All of those have to do with the access of the curriculum to the student, which is a primary reason for online learning, and realistically, this is where Iowa's administrators should be initially thinking. But at some time, we also need to get to the point where we see students learn more from an online or blended learning opportunity. That, even if the above were not true, there would still be benefits to putting a course online in that it:
  • Is a media-rich environment
  • Allows both synchronous and asynchronous communication
  • Uses ongoing group collaboration
  • Connects students with outside resources and people
  • Creates a digital portfolio of student work
  • Puts the student in a position where she can share her work with the larger world easier

I don't know when the conversation in Iowa will turn from "Online learning brings us better access" to "Online learning brings us better learning"; what I see is that until the first one is fully understood by a majority of Iowa educators, the second one cannot happen. But ultimately, we need to get to that second conversation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer AEA Online Courses


Here's a quick list of some of the summer AEA online courses available with links for more info and registration. Note that in some cases, 2 sections of the course are offered... I have linked to each section by their dates.

I'm teaching the courses with an asterisk by their titles.

DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION

ONLINE INSTRUCTION

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

COUNSELING/AT-RISK

MUSIC


TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION
FOREIGN LANGUAGE & CULTURE

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ning eliminating free networks

Ning announced that they will be phasing out free accounts, part of their shakeup of the company. If you used the service for your school, you'll have to pony up or lose the data that your social network has created.

Ning joins many other popular services, such as Gabcast and Yahoo's Geocities that have discontinued free services. This is the day of reckoning that all the web 2.0 companies will eventually face. Starting off free to drive up traffic, they have to find what their funding source will be. Twitter recently announced they will be using "sponsored tweets" as advertising to drive up revenue so that the basic service is still free for users. Of course, that is what Ning tried to do as well.

This will probably be a bigger blow to Iowa schools than it should be. Ning, while extremely easy to use, never had "must-have" features for social networking. Regardless, many schools started their own Ning among teachers, and there are also several statewide Nings tied to teacher organizations. Will those teachers find Ning indispensable that they will pay for it? Will they make a jump to the cheapest alternative? Or, will they figure the bump in the road isn't worth it, because the next free option will dry up in a few months anyways.

Given how we were having a breakthrough year in Iowa with the social networking of teachers, the timing couldn't be worse. Social networking is crucial to 21st century professional development. Just another reason that the expense for Iowa to create a home-grown social networking engine would be well-worth the cost.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts on I11I


The first reflection by anyone attending the session has to be a big thanks is in order to CASTLE. That includes Scott McLeod for the vision and Jamie Fath, Nick Sauers, and John Nash for the work putting it together. We can't lose the fact that this conference was:
  • Free
  • Brand New
  • With Limited Marketing
And yet, it was powerful to connect with other educators on this magnitude. Almost 600 people were there, and enrollment was capped back in February. When we were originally kicking around the idea of this conference last May, I believe I had told Scott he would be looking at about 200 people the first year. I won't underestimate the enthusiasm of Iowa's educators again... when we estimate that we'll have to double enrollment for next year's session, I believe that will be too low as well.

Reflection #2 is one I'll echo from Steve Linduska. Steve has been working with Iowa school districts and 1:1 computing initiatives for over a decade (and with technology in general much longer than that). He mentioned he never thought he'd see the day there was this level of enthusiasm for 1:1 computing in the state.

And what is most amazing is, conference aside, this enthusiasm has been at a grassroots level. We at the AEAs and the DE haven't made a big push for 1:1 computing, and in many ways, are now coming along for the ride. Look at who was presenting at this workshop. Teachers and administrators, not AEA/DE consultants. This is a refreshing change. Just as we need to shift our classrooms away from teacher-centered to student-centered learning (moving the teacher to facilitator), we need to shift the conversations around school change away from the statewide positions towards those at a local level. And, this conference did exactly that.

Which leads to reflection #3. Iowa is still a state of rural school districts, despite the growing migration to the urban centers and the consolidation of districts. Having taught in some very small districts, this was amazing to see the leaders in the state were small districts. This conference, much more so than ITEC or SAI, gave districts a concrete vision of what could be. Visiting with many of the teachers and the administrators who attended, they all had a very similar response to what they saw: That can be us in a year. Where else have we provided the avenue for that much change and hope in a year's time?

The most lasting image for me was the image of the map in the foyer with the pushpins from those who were attending. The pushpins were colored based on your district's current thoughts on 1:1... whether you were implementing, starting next year, next couple years, or wondering if this is for you. It is lasting predominantly because of the number of pushpins, representing a large percentage of Iowa.

But there's more to it than that. I met with Audubon's superintendent Brett Gibbs a year ago, almost exactly. At the time, we were preparing for a professional development session on technology with his whole staff. Brett was (and still is) very excited about what technology could do for achievement as well as enthusiasm within the community. I asked Brett what his current technology was like, and in the midst of describing it, he said "We do what we can... we can never go 1:1".

Audubon had a pushpin through it on the map, saying they are going that way in a couple of years.

This is serious change on a transformative level in the state. Naysayers will question the effectiveness of 1:1, and it is true that just getting the technology won't necessarily make a difference for students. But Brett will tell you that in rural Iowa, it is very difficult to make any sort of change against the inertia, even though it is critical for small district's survival.

Many state leaders, just like Brett, have found empowerment with CASTLE's leadership, whether directly or indirectly. I'm very impressed with all of them.