Getting Admin Buy In for Tech

Many thanks to Indiana Jen for her recent post, “How to Gain Parent Buy-In for Classroom Technology Integration” for inspiring this post!

I’m in the opposite situation: I’m a parent that trying to get administrators to pursue tech integration! I’ve been talking to the admin at both of my kids’ schools for the last two years about these issues. One kid is at a large first-ring suburban high school, the other kid is at a very small “hippy” private school.

While they sometimes humor me when I ask questions about why the philosophy and pace (or lack thereof) of tech integration, it is rare that I am taken seriously or given more than a token nod. To their credit, both schools are taking tiny baby steps to better understand the benefits of tech integration. I’m just incredibly impatient!

To that end, I have adapted Indiana Jen’s post to help parents get Administration’s buy-in for tech integration! The bold headlines are from Jen’s post (or slightly edited for my purpose), the content under the headings is solely mine. Don’t blame her for any of it!

Start Early 

Do your research: start talking to the principal, superintendant, school board, tech directors and more. Ask questions about how they plan to successfully integrate tech, and don’t take no for an answer! If they say they’re not moving in this direction, ask for clear reasons why not. Find the teachers in the system who are the thought leaders — there will be some. Find out what they’re doing and how the administration is supporting them — or not.

Emphasize Skills – and Job/College Readiness

As an employer, I often emphasize the skills I look for when hiring staff. I don’t care about staff who can take a multiple choice test. I want staff who can easily learn new skills, who can communicate in many ways: written, visual, spoken. Written communication in the working world is rarely (e.g. NEVER) a 5 paragraph essay. It’s an email with short, succinct arguments. It might be a business case or a white paper that incorporates research, facts and statistics. It is often a visual presentation, using a presentation software or a video.

By next year, it’ll be something else! I want staff that can be flexible, figure things out, know how to find and evaluate information. I want staff who can identify and solve problems, who can be creative in thinking of new products and services.

These are the skills that tech integration can teach when used appropriately.

Keep Communicating

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to superintendents, principals, teachers, tech directors and more about how to work with districts that are slow on the uptake. Their advice has always been to keep talking. Keeping telling the decision makers how important it is to move towards integration. How important it is to empower teachers to explore and make new choices. How important it is to prepare our children for 21st century skills, not the factory model.

That said, it doesn’t go over well when you tell an administrator that you think their philosophy of education is like a factory. I have found other ways to phrase this…. but I do keep up the communication. I am respectful of the fact that their plates are very, very full and that there are emergencies and immediate issues that need to be handled. I make sure I’m at events, that I send interesting articles (not too often), and that I take opportunities to connect with administrators where we’re not discussing tech issues.

Enlist the Aid of Other Parents

There is power in a group. The more parents you have asking the same questions and asking for the same things, the better. It’s hard to be taken seriously on your own. Yes, you often do have to educate other parents. People like to think of education staying the same as when they were in school. Not every parent will agree with you, but it is amazing how many do.

Provide Time in Class

In one school, I’ve been able to provide examples of the advantages of tech integration. In another, I was able to see examples of teachers doing great things with tech integration. Using these examples has been helpful to give a good illustration of the whole point of tech integration. I do things like not letting my kids print assignments – they turn them in electronically. I model how homework can be done with digital media.

Time. It takes a lot of time to convince people that something that we once thought was so evil (NO Cell phones in class!) can actually be a good thing.

Don’t Grade the Tech

I do think kids should get grades on tech skills. It’s something they’ll need throughout their life. There are kids who will just take off when allowed to explore with tech, and may find incredible new opportunities to shine. I do agree with Jen, however, that that shouldn’t be the focus especially at the beginning of tech integration.

As for getting buy-in with administration, this applies in don’t focus on the tech. It’s really not about whether you’re using an iPad, Chromebook, iPhone, Nexus tablet, whatever. It’s about how you think about information access, assessment and assignments. This is a paradigm shift, and it’s hard. Putting tech tools in kids’ hands but still focusing on the drill and kill testing, rote memorization and teacher-as-expert atmosphere will guarantee failure.


There are no guarantees that this will work. I have seen small, tiny, baby steps, and hopefully things keep moving. I can only keep asking the questions and give support when I can.

Thank you

Many thanks to Jennifer Carey for inspiring this train of thought for me. I hope I haven’t taken her original post out of context or offended.

It’s NOT a Book!

I’ve been working on digital content delivery of a curriculum for the last year or so. I haven’t seen very many good models out there, and am constantly looking for an appropriate way to delivery content in way that truly takes advantage of the media (online – be it iPad, computer, whatever) and doesn’t just look like a book.

My kids have “online books” that really are just that: print books that have been put online. Oh, there might be a few videos dropped in or an audio of a vocabulary word, but basically, it’s a book. Most are pdfs, with perhaps an interactive element or two dropped in. It’s a book.

I love books. I have thousands in my house. I read print books. I strongly prefer printed books to ereaders.

But digital isn’t a book! Digital delivery offers us different things. There are so many more options, choices, opportunities. When building digital content, we sell ourselves short if we retain the print model. By taking advantage of the interactivity and multi-media possibilities, we can create richer platforms for learning.

Screen shot 2012-12-22 at 8.53.23 AMA recent feature in the New York Times, “Snow Fall: Avalance at Tunnel Creek”, is an interesting use of digital media to deliver a story. An Atlantic Monthly article refutes the claim that “Snow Fall” is the “future or journalism” because of the time and personnel resources required.

I can see their point. But it’s a great model for education content delivery. I can easily see how I could use this model of delivery for content. It’s not cheap – the multimedia time/expertise is pricey, as is the content development itself.

But it’s a great concept — far better than a pdf of a print book!

Tony Wagner at the AP conference

Found a video of Tony Wagner’s keynote to the AP conference this past summer. It is similar to the keynote he delivered at TIES in Minneapolis, which makes me happy because then I can watch it again!

Interesting that he’s presenting to the AP conference because he makes no secret of his criticisms of AP tests, although he does acknowledge the proposed changes that move to more analysis and content creation over factual recall.


What my Kids Deserve, Part 2

After attending the recent TIES conference, I have updated my list of things my kids – and all kids – deserve. I’ve kept almost everything from my earlier post. I’m just adding more!

My kids – and all kids today – deserve to experience a 21st century classroom.  As I’ve thought about this, I have created a list of things I think kids deserve.

  • My kids deserve to go to a school that prepares them for their future – not for the future as we saw it 50 years ago.
  • My kids deserve to go to a school that uses current tools and techniques. As one teacher said, you wouldn’t take your kid to a pediatrician that used 1970s tools. Remember, the pencil was once considered a radical idea.
  • My kids deserve to work with teachers and schools who are willing to step aside as the expert and become a guide.
  • My kids deserve teachers that become co-learners.
  • My kids deserve teachers who are willing to learn new things and new ways of doing things. That’s the way the world works. Just because it worked 20, 10 or even 5 years ago doesn’t mean it’s the best way now.
  • My kids deserve to learn in a place that understands that students don’t all learn the same way – that kids have different learning styles. Just because the teacher learns best by reading doesn’t mean my child does.  All kids benefit from learning by using different modalities.
  • My kids deserve to use tools that they use in the rest of their life. At home, my kids use the internet to find facts and resources. They use cameras and phones to communicate their ideas in many different ways. They deserve to be able to do that in school – and not in a lab. (See this excellent post, “Snapshot of a Modern Learner” by Mike Fisher.)
  • My kids deserve to be taught how to access and analyze information the way the world is moving, not the way the world used to be.
  • My kids deserve to be taught to be collaborative, like they are in the rest of their life, and like most of us do our work. My kids are social, they expect to be able to communicate with their friends and work together. Empower them to do this. Don’t call it cheating.
  • My kids deserve access to their learning 24/7, wherever they are. Make their class materials available. Make their assignments available online – not just when they’re in class.
  • My kids deserve to be able to express their learning in ways that fit them. Why can’t they do a documentary? Create a digital story?  Design an infographic? There’s no reason that the traditional ways of expressing knowledge are the only ways.
  • My kids deserve to have their learning assessed in ways that are applicable to the world outside of education. The world does not function with multiple choice tests. The world relies on oral and written communication, on visual expression, on analysis, problem identification and problem solving. It does not ever require a multiple choice test.
  • My kids deserve to learn higher level thinking skills, not rote fact memorization. The amount of information available is more than a human brain can contain. We have Google, smartphones, computers. To quote a teacher, “If you can find the answer to a test question on Google, it’s not a good test question.” Students need to be taught to find and analyze information –  NOT memorize it.
  • My kids deserve to learn skills that are in no way related to taking a standardized test. They deserve learning that isn’t just focused on that test. I have never taken a standardized test in my working life.
  • Above all, my kids deserve to find their passion. They deserve to be in a school that introduces them to a variety of subjects, of learning and of skills. They deserve to be allowed to explore, be curious, try new things without the fear of a test or a score limiting them.



“You wouldn’t s…

“You wouldn’t send your child to a pediatrician that practice medicine from the 1970s. Why would you send your students to such a school?”

Awesome quote from a Project Red webinar about the need for urgency in adopting technology in education. Will post link to webinar when it’s up.


Processing a great two day TIES workshop, even with crazy weather.

I presented two sessions on Monday, so most of my day was taken with that. I did catch a couple of sessions:

  • Android and Friends: got some great suggestions for device agnostic tools, such as, Screenleap, Infuse Learning, Cloud On and Layared
  • I missed the Simon Sinek keynote, but it sounded excellent. May try to find a TED talk.
  • My session on primary sources – -a couple of the sites people liked were Beyond the Bubble, Crash Course, Piktori and Thinglink
  • Chromebook session with Molly Schroeder: I’m checking out Chromebooks for my son’s school. They are thinking about buying a cart of Chromebooks to replace an aging cart of MacBooks. Chromebooks are a real possibility. The new version is $249 + $30 in maintenance. Info from this session:
  • Keynote for iPad: I have recently discovered Keynote for the iPad. I will never look back! I love love love it. So, was excited to see a presentation by Chris Russell all about Keynote. Chris always has great tips and tricks, and I learned a few new things. Fun to say hi, even if just briefly. (Chris – your show was incredible, by the way! My daughter was drooling at your facilities….)

Tuesday: Much more relaxing, no presentations.

  • Doug Johnson on Technology Manifesto. I so enjoy hearing Doug’s talks. I’ll go, no matter the topic. He’s funny, incredible insightful, and leaves me with many new perspectives and ideas. This session was no different. Here are his materials, including the Manifesto and powerpoint slides:  I have to say, reading this manifesto sounds different than at the session. He’s a strong proponent of tech, and using it to embrace existing best practices. the manifesto sounds almost anti-tech. Some of the comments I got from the session:
    • Is there an articulated goal for tech use? An educational outcome that you want?
    • THere are NO jobs that do not require tech skills.
    • Tech itself doesnt‘ improve achievement. It’s tech used to support best practices that does.
    • Good examples: using Google docs to support writing. It’s the collaboration, wide audience that improves writing, not Google docs. Or, Google spreadsheets allow data to be visualized instantly, allowing discussion of which graph/chart is best.
  • Hierarchy of Tech Needs
    • Adequate Infrastructure
    • Efficient admin
    • Expanded resources
    • Improved teachings
  • Thinks librarians should be the tech trainers

Keynote: Tony Wagner

I do love a good keynote. They can be impractical, yet so incredibly inspiring. Tony Wagner didn’t fail. His had great quips, tweetable comments. Critical of standardized tests. Critical of multiple choice tests, of tests that are content recall (um – most of my daughter’s tests!)

  • It’s competencies, not content that should be valued now. No need to memorize content
  • Survival skills:
    • Effective written and oral communication
    • Collaboration
    • Accessing and analyzing info
    • Curiousity and imagination
  • We need people who can identify and solve problems, not spit back content (50 state capitols example)
  • Global achievement gap…
  • Critical thinking is learning to ask the right questions
  • Teachers that make a difference are the outliers. Culture of school is at odds with learning to be innovative:
    • School values individual achievement. Innovation is always a team effort
    • Schools compartmentalize knowledge – subject specific instead of cross discipline
    • Schooling involves deeply passive approach. Innovation requires creating, not consuming.
    • School is a risk averse environment. Awards compliance – for kids and teachers. Innovation is the opposite
    • Culture of school relies on extrinsic motivation of grades. innovation needs intrinsic. Parents, teachers who raise innovative kids emphasize PLAY, PASSION and PURPOSE.

He has some great ideas, such as sample testing – not testing every kid every year. Require capstone projects. EVERY student should have a digital portfolio! Teachers, too.

Great Keynote. I need to look for his TED talk, and requested his book from the library.

Brad Flickinger

Great ideas for ipads. And, guess what – he only has 12 in his school!

Zen Design

Oh, how i needed this session! He had some great ideas for better design in slides. Quick rundown:

  • Remember the Grid and the Power Points. (seriously – yes)!
  • Have pics go off the slide
  • Use FACES
  • lay text over an image – fabulous idea
  • Use images. Use images. Use images. If a picture can say 1000 words, let them
  • Books: Presentation Zen by Gar Reynolds


I finished my day with a techie session — using HTML5 widgets with HYPE and iBooks Author. It reconfirmed my plan to build some NL content in Author. I just need more time!


In the exhibit hall, I connected with Providence eLearning. They are publishing some great iBooks about classical literature. Interesting conversation about epublishing models. I need to connect with them.

This was a different conference for me, in that I knew so many more people! Roseville people were there, bummer I didn’t connect with any. I talked to a number of the folks I’ve worked with recently: Charles Duarte, Craig Roble, Ryan Canton, Chris Hesselbein, and Marti Starr and Rebecca Slaby, who presented with me. Also saw some folks from edcampmsp, and Mark Diehl from Little Falls. I must say these connections start to make a conference like this a whole different experience — one where the connections start to become the primary learning opportunity. We made plans to continue working on projects, which is super exciting.

On a personal note, I am really bummed I didn’t see more Roseville folks there. I give them credit for getting stated, but every time I attend one of these conferences, it just confirms how far they have to go. It’s a paradigm shift, a change in philosophy. I don’t want my kids in this environment anymore.

AP Revisited

I’ve had the chance to look closer at AP history offerings lately and do additional research into the detractors. From my admittedly limited observations of my daughter’s AP World History course, here’s what I see:

  • huge scope of content
  • no depth
  • no primary sources
  • assessment is by far memorization through multiple choice exams
  • no creativity in assessment
  • no formative assessment
  • teaching to a specific test
  • no relation to current events
  • little evidence of teaching historical skills – it’s just memorization of content

I’m sure some AP courses involve primary source, creativity, and in-depth anaysis of historical evidence, but not this one.

But hopefully, there will be changes. A recent article in Education Week, College Board Improves AP Exams & Supports For Deeper Learning & College Readiness, by Tom Vander Ark, discusses proposed changes for AP exams:

“The redesigned AP exams are increasing their focus on essays and open-ended problems, and reducing the number of multiple-choice questions; the remaining multiple-choice questions are shifting to measure not just content knowledge, but content knowledge and the skill to use that knowledge in meaningful ways essential to college and career success in that discipline,” said Trevor Packer, Head of AP at College Board. “There’s not a single exam question now that measures memorization only. They each evaluate skills and the application of knowledge.”

I’m encouraged by this quote:

“I think skills are vastly more crucial to success than content knowledge,” said a faculty member from a AP U.S. History study.

Sounds like the College Board is considering a capstone project, a year-long project of service learning, creativity and depth. Excellent!!  Sorry it’ll be too late for my daughter.