Student-Centered Support Systems to Sustain Logo-like Learning

It’s been crazy since I got back from Eastern Europe, but I promised to put my paper online once I returned. Here it is!

Student-Centered Support Systems to Sustain Logo-like Learning (PDF)

Conventional wisdom attributes the lack of effective technology use in classrooms to a shortage of professional development or poorly run professional development. At the same time, logo-like learning environments require teachers to develop more expertise not only in technology but also in pedagogy.

This paper proposes that the perceived lack of technology professional development is a myth and that traditional professional development is ill-suited to teaching teachers how to create logo-like learning environments. Furthermore, it proposes models of student-centered, student-led support for teachers that support classroom practice aligned with the attributes of logo-like learning environments. These models situate teacher learning about technology in their own classroom, reinforce constructivist teaching practices, provide support for technology use in the classroom, and enrich learning environments for students.


See ya in a bit!

I’m heading off tomorrow for Eastern Europe, a vacation wrapped around a presentation at a conference on the children’s programming language Logo in Bratislava (Eurologo 2007). My paper, Student-centered Support Systems to Sustain Logo-like Learning, was also selected to be included in Informatics in Education, an international journal published by Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. Very cool!

When I got my masters in educational technology ten years ago, I promised myself that I would continue to write and challenge myself academically. It’s been interesting to me that while writing this type of paper is one type of mental exercise, blogging is another that can be similarly powerful. Blogging is like doing wind sprints, while academic articles require pacing and endurance. They support each other nicely.


Summer Technology Leadership Conference & scary bike videos!

Just returned from CTAP Region 2 Summer Technology Leadership Conference at California State University, Chico. The conference was terrific in many ways, not the least of which was the devotion of everyone there to making sure that the attendee experience was top notch, from the sessions to the food!

The opening session was one of the best I’ve ever experienced – really different and an expression of professional devotion to teachers and students by everyone involved. The highlight of the morning was the tale of Paul Haas, Director of the Region 2 center. In May 2007, Paul decided to ride his bike around his entire region and blog about it. Despite having no long-distance bike riding experience or training, he decided to do it NOW, meaning that less than a month later, he completed a 775 mile ride in 7 days. Crazy? Maybe…. but along the way, he visited every county office of education, kept a blog with “handlecam” videos, cemented relationships, and collected over $50,000 in donated resources from sponsors.

Maybe every technology plan should include a little “crazy!”

In his first blog post, which echoes an open letter to the superintendents of the 134 school districts in the region, he outlines his goals:

I am preparing to embark on an interesting physical and professional challenge and hope that you might be interested in being part of it – or following along via the Internet. Beginning next Tuesday, June 19 and concluding June 28, I am going to attempt to ride my bicycle around CTAP Region 2 – the CTAP Region 2 Ride for Resources- hitting all nine county offices within approximately seven riding days. The trip is close to 775 miles and covers a variety of geographic areas – including mountains, high desert, the upper SacramentoValley, and foothills surrounding the valley. Basically, I am going to ride a ring around the region averaging 100 plus miles per day.

  1. End of the journeyCreate a Virtual Field Trip (VFT) of the nine counties within CTAP Region 2.
  2. Raise awareness of CTAP services and resources.
  3. Promote the CTAP Region 2 Summer Technology Leadership Conference (STLC) – approximately 200+ teachers attend annually.
  4. Build partnerships and sponsorships with companies/organizations that provide quality digital resources that support teaching and learning.

Paul says, “My job is to bring good people together so that good things happen.” The interesting thing is, this of course is not about technology. It’s about putting people together to do what’s right for children and education.

Scary downhill footage where he gets a flat tire and nearly goes off the side of a mountain

As Paul talked about his journey, it was clear that this was more than a physical challenge for him, it was an expression of the passion he feels about bringing technology to his corner of California (literally!) As he said, “It would have been good to have trained for this!” — don’t we all feel that way, but do what we have to do anyway?

Some of Paul’s thoughts along the way:

Day 1 – 151 miles. 6,000 foot elevation change. “Gravity sucks!”
Day 2 – 105 degrees
Day 3 – going to die
Day 4 – all is well, clarity achieved
Day 5-7 – Region 2 is all about the people and personal sacrifices we make

For next year, they are working on creating a website called Variations on a Theme. The concept is to start with a Garageband track of the famous Pachelbel’s Canon (also known as Canon in D major) and allow students and teachers from the region to add anything they create to the site, including music, writing, videos, or anything anyone comes up with as a variation on this theme. Very cool idea!

After lunch, the sessions started. I was there to facilitate two sessions about GenYES, which is one of the EETT grant projects running in two of the counties that make up Region 2. Five schools just finished their first year of having GenYES students help teachers use technology in their classrooms, and these teachers shared their experiences with everyone else. It was great to hear once again how the GenYES model had unexpected positive benefits for students and teachers alike. All five schools had excellent results and are coming back for the second year with innovative ideas for continuing to expand what students can do to help integrate technology into every classroom.

The new California EETT just added technology literacy to the requirements, so we talked some about TechYES and how student projects in any subject area can meet these requirements. I was also really happy to be able to show everyone our recently updated TechYES portal. The TechYES portal has freely available resources for middle school students doing technology projects, in addition to resources for TechYES teachers and peer mentors. I’ll write more about that soon, after we finish all our summer updates to the site and tools!

For those of you outside California, the CTAPs are the regional educational technology service centers that help districts and schools plan and implement educational technology. CTAP Region 2 is a large region comprising the northeast most part of the state. Fun facts:


  • CTAP Region 2 comprises 19.4% of the total land mass of California but is home to only 1.7% of the state’s population.
  • Region 2 is about the same size as the state of Maine or the state of South Carolina.
  • From corner to corner Region 2 spans about 300 miles and requires about seven hours to traverse by car.
  • In Region 2, there are 26 persons per square mile. The statewide average is 217 persons per square mile.



One-to-one Laptops is Hard, Right?

A few weeks ago I met Martin Levins for the first time, even though we’d been email pals for some time. Martin is the Director of Information Technology at The Armidale School in New South Wales, Australia, and uses TechYES – our student technology literacy certification program in his laptop school.

The following article by Martin appeared in the Anywhere, Anytime Learning Foundation July newsletter, and both AALF and Martin have agreed to allow me to republish it here. I find the emphasis on in-depth preparation and “learning, not the laptop” refreshing, and resonate with his own personal learning being enhanced by writing for an authentic audience. Life-long learning indeed!


One-to-one Laptops is Hard, Right?
by Martin Levins Director of Information Technology, The Armidale School

That’s what I get asked when I tell colleagues and other educators that our school has embarked on such a program. This year (2007), in our 600 student K-12 school, we gave out laptops to all students from grades 3 to 12 and one thing that has really surprised us has been how well the program has gone. Our school adopted an approach that was learning-driven, backed with three years of laptops supplied to teachers with carts for class work, and an opt-in lease program for parents. Our infrastructure had undergone a refresh of both switch gear and wireless coverage so we were ready; only a refinement of our management policies and procedures was needed. And we’re still learning here: while software and hardware are common to projects of this type, people, procedures and policies, this human “wetware,” is very much peculiar to a given institution.

Our preparedness was boosted by the level of executive commitment from the headmaster down. Backed by teachers and students who wanted more, this was an essential paving stone on the road to 1-to-1. Of course, it wasn’t all teachers who were ready to go; waiting for all to come on board is like waiting for Godot: it’ll never happen. It sounds harsh, but they’ll either adopt or leave. To help them with this decision, I had adopted the mantra of “changing, and staying the same,” asking teachers to really think about what they are doing, and since 2004, the discussion in the faculty lounge turned from sports scores to what makes effective teaching to, eventually, what makes effective learning.

Initially, teachers can be easily seduced by the wow factor, although that rapidly fades as (good) teachers realize that gloss doesn’t really make up for a lack of preparation or understanding. They take longer to realize that many of the shiny tricks are simple one-button mouse clicks and largely irrelevant.

An English teacher may worry that he, unlike his students, can’t make a transition that flips between two video clips. He perceives that he is somehow deficient, but good teachers are not deficient in their craft, irrespective of their IT ability. So a teacher can turn this situation around, asking the student showing such an effect, “How has that transition advanced the narrative,” shifting the focus away from the technology and back to the learning.

We’re noticing similar changes in our students as well. Lots of people talk about student voices: how students now have the ability to express themselves graphically, but we’re noticing more than this.

A ninth grade science class was working on the importance of binocular vision. One student generally described as “not capable of much” by many teachers grabbed his laptop after class and used the built-in camera to record his catching success with both eyes open, compared to one eye closed. He put the resultant Quicktime video onto his iWeb generated website (all of our students are provided with their own website).

Now here is the genuine wow factor: a student doing real science, designing his own experiments. Someone who is “not capable of much” doing real science in his own time, continuing his learning at home. Exciting, huh?

We’re seeing similar things with students writing more because their podcast sounds lame, but also writing less because their movie is too long. This apparent paradox is explained by Blaise Pascal: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time,” meaning that writing concisely takes longer. Students asked to build a thirty-second advertisement have to do more thinking than one asked for a “five or ten minute” video. It also takes the load off the network!

I’ve found myself benefiting greatly from this approach as well. One of my “other” jobs is education columnist for Australian Macworld and I prepared for our rollout by writing columns on the infrastructure, management, pedagogical, and financial issues surrounding a 1-to-1 program.

The discipline imposed by writing for an authentic audience really made me refine my thinking about our upcoming project, reinforced the importance of reflective writing and helped me model what I wanted my students to do.

Reckon you can’t afford 1-to-1? You can: if the argument is compelling enough, you’ll find the money.


Constructivist Celebration Slideshow

Hello folks who attended the Constructivist Celebration before NECC 2007! This is a slideshow of the photos I took during the day at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. If you have photos you’d like to share, you may post your links here, or tag them if they are on Flickr.

(constructivistcelebration07 constructivistconsortium07 necc07)

Created with Paul’s flickrSLiDR.

If you see a photo you would like a full size copy of, email me: sylvia at genyes dot com.

What is Student Voice?

After the recent NECC conference in Atlanta, several edu-blogs noted the absence of students participating in any meaningful way, with some calls for student participation in future conferences, and advocating organized student blogging.

The Fischbowl – NECC Reflection #1: Where were the students?
Beyond School – “Where are the Students?” Redux: Beyond NECC (A Tirade Against Infantilization)

We’re certainly glad to have some company in this cause! We’ve had Genertion YES students participating at NECC and other conferences for many years and this year at the Constructivist Celebration. I’ll be posting some of those reflections soon, but for now, I think it’s important to share some of the things we’ve learned about student voice over the last 10 years.

Generation YES was founded by Dr. Dennis Harper (see Edutopia article) on the idea that including students in the process of improving education is crucial, and that technology is a natural vehicle for that expression. The work we do with schools helps them start sustainable programs that create authentic opportunities for students to collaborate with adults and do projects that integrate technology. The key though, is that the research we base our programs on, and the research we do on our own schools shows strongly that DOING something is the key to student voice and student empowerment.

Student “voice” does not have anything to with talking (or blogging.) It’s about empowerment with a purpose — where students are guided by caring adults through the process of long term, meaningful change. When we offer opportunities to students to come to events like NECC, we don’t consider that empowerment. Students don’t have any stake in these conferences, and although they enjoy coming to these events (praise, lots of goodies, getting out of school, etc) the real empowerment happened back at their school.

Wikipedia offers an excellent article on student voice, well worth reading. “Student voice is the individual and collective perspective and actions of young people within the context of learning and education. It is identified in schools as both a metaphorical practice and as a pragmatic concern.

“Pragmatic concern” is a polite way to say that it’s a challenging effort that involves working against entrenched attitudes and traditional views that youth should be “seen but not heard”. It can also be the most insanely rewarding work in the world.

Adam Fletcher, coordinator of, is someone we work with in this arena, in fact, we used to share office space. The website has great resources, tools, and publications, all free. It’s not easy to create a climate for true student voice in schools, but resources like this and the work of dedicated educators can help pave the way.

Constructivist Celebration

CC LogoOver 100 educators came to the Atlanta Botanical Garden the Sunday before NECC to play, construct, and share at the First (dare we say Annual?) Constructvist Celebration!

Peter Reynolds and Gary Stager kicked off the day with inspirational words about children’s ability to use computers to “reach their North Star” and “BE mathematicians, poets, artists, and programmers, not just learn ABOUT mathematicians, poets, artists or programmers”. Shooting photos in the gardenEvery member of the Constructivist Consortium introduced themselves and a few project ideas that the participants could jump into. And jump everyone did! There were photographers taking close-ups of the garden’s amazing array of flowers, trees, orchids, and sculptures. People were painting, thinking, and talking. Suddenly movies, animations, videogames, mind-maps and more were taking shape on everyone’s laptops.

Everyone ran around, and shared ideas, files, and solutions. The noise level was “joyful” as one wise teacher put it!

TechYES students from nearby Barber Middle School and their teacher were there to lend a hand, and soon were immersed in making their own projects–at the same time as helping out, running a “sneaker-net” with thumbdrives, and pouring lemonade.

Constructivist Celebration sharingAfter lunch, everyone wrapped up their projects and we walked around the room in an impromptu exhibition. Amazingly enough, in just a few hours, a group of 100 educators had created an wonderful variety of projects using multiple pieces of software without one minute of instruction from the front of the room.

In the sharing session that wrapped up the day, educators shared their feelings of being “nourished” and of finding instant friends and collegues who understood their passion for putting the power of technology into student’s hands.

This was the first event of the Constructivist Consortium, a group of educational technology companies who have passion to support progressive educators using technology in the classroom in student-centered, project-based ways. The six founding members–Generation YES, Fablevision, Inspiration, Logo Computer Systems International (LCSI), SchoolKit, and Tech4Learning all hope that the spirit of the day gives these educators collegial support and ideas–who doesn’t need that!

NECC… Buyer Beware

When at NECC, you know that the minute you walk into the exhibit hall, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of vendors, all selling educational technology products. The lights, noise, free t-shirts and hats all signal that this is a place where vendors are working hard to gain your attention and your money.

On the other hand, attending sessions and keynotes at NECC is supposed to be an educational experience, since the sessions were submitted and reviewed by independent reviewers for their educational significance. They support the goals of educators using technology to improve education. Right?

Let’s take a look at one session in particular on this year’s program:

Assessing Students’ and Teachers’ Technology Skills: NETS as Benchmarks
Mila Fuller, ISTE with Don Knezek
Monday, 6/25/2007, 10:00am–11:30am; GWCC B211
Join ISTE’s CEO, Don Knezek, and other national leaders as they highlight various approaches to assessing technology literacy and ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards. (Commercial Content) (Exhibitor-Sponsored)
Blog Tag: n07s909

Ah, it’s a session given by ISTE itself, the sponsoring organization of NECC. ISTE, a non-profit membership organization, has created a set of standards for student, teacher, and administrator technology literacy called the NETS. So this is a session about how to use those standards to assess these skills. Sounds great! But wait… what does it mean, “commercial content” and “exhibitor-sponsored”?

This is where the “other national leaders” come in. Who are these national leaders? In the extended explanation (found online, but not in the NECC program book) it says that executives from Certiport,, Microsoft, and PBS Teacherline comprise the panel. All of these companies are ISTE 100 members, which means they pay an annual fee to ISTE. Each company has products for sale that assess teacher and student technology literacy. Each company has also paid fees to ISTE to have these products receive a “Seal of Alignment” to the NETS standards.

So, is this in fact, a session that helps educators sort through the issues of technology literacy, what assessment means, and offer educators a wide array of research-based alternatives? Or is the purpose to promote products of particular companies who pay ISTE?

While it is noted in the program that there is commercial content in this session, the implication is that since ISTE and “national leaders” are hosting the session, any commercial content will be presented fairly, with other alternatives noted. And what will be said, if anything, in the session to fully disclose the financial relationship and incentives for ISTE to promote these particular company products?

In the spirit of full disclosure, you should note that I work for a company that also works with schools to help them address student technology literacy, and we sell an alternative, project-based model of assessment, with materials for students and resources for teachers called TechYES.

The session I submitted on technology literacy was not accepted. Hey, that’s fine, I know that it was reviewed fairly (I hope, anyway) and I’ve had other sessions accepted in other years. And I was accepted for a Problem/Solution panel on Wednesday (Connaghan, Karen: ‘Assessing Student Technology Literacy’ in B213 at 8:30 on Wednesday (also: Kate Kemker, Sylvia Martinez, Mia Murphy, Nicole Piggott)).

But my panel does not have Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE, at the head of the table. This panel is more like what NECC is supposed to be, presentations of multiple viewpoints, multiple alternatives, without access sold to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, I expect the ideas discussed in our humble session will be bigger and the audience smaller.

Being fair is not hard to do. Several states have done extensive analysis of student technology literacy products and created toolkits to help schools deal with the issue of student technology literacy assessment. These states have worked hard to avoid any conflict of interest and not endorse or favor any one intervention over another. In both these cases, TechYES is the only project-based assessment on these lists.

The Georgia Department of Education created a comparison chart of approaches to the NCLB 8th grade technology mandate.

The Connecticut Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) Alliance created a report describing a variety of assessment formats and products meant to address student tech assessment.

Generation YES is not an ISTE 100 member. It’s very expensive to join ISTE’s program. We also have not submitted TechYES for the ISTE’s NETS Seal of Alignment; it’s also very expensive. We’d rather keep our products affordable. We have correlated TechYES to the ISTE NETs standards for students, and that correlation, along with the 40 pages of research supporting the methodologies of TechYES is freely available on our website. The correlation documents for the products blessed by ISTE are not publicly available.

When I presented about TechYES at NJECC a few months ago, one attendee came up to me after my session and said she was aware of a panel at NECC about tech literacy, and that she strongly felt that TechYES should be presented as an alternative. She gave me Mila Fuller’s name and suggested I email her. I did, and Mila responded that she would be happy to talk to me at NECC (of course, after this session is over). Since Mila is in charge of the ISTE 100 program, I’m guessing she’s going to “invite” Generation YES to become a member once again, and once again, I’m going to tell her that we’d rather spend our money on making great resources for students and teachers.

We have a booth on the exhibit floor, where commercial products are supposed to be. We feel like we’ve played by the rules, and this just doesn’t seem fair. Worse, it’s a misrepresentation by ISTE, and a disservice to their membership base. Educational technology educators pay their dues to ISTE with an expectation that their interests are first and foremost, that ISTE is not simply selling them out. I pay my dues to ISTE too, and I expect ISTE to promote a vision of educational technology that improves the lives of teachers and students, not one that improves the bottom line of companies who write the biggest check.

That’s hot – Web 2.0 and the empty vessel

“____ 2.0” is turning into a catch phrase for educational technology bloggers and conference presenters, who know that anything with 2.0 in the title gets attention. Taking a dip into the marketing world, it’s easy to see why. Although Web 2.0 has a definition that relates to the underlying technology, it has come to mean much more. It’s a social movement, a defining line between who “gets it” and who doesn’t, a feeling, a look, and a value system.

It’s what marketing mavens call an “empty vessel” – a phrase or name that has no real meaning, but sort of suggests someting. In that vacuum, people can insert their own interpretation and actually feel like they understand the product or brand better as a result. By simply adding 2.0 to pretty much anything, it neatly implies the “second generation” of something with a techie twist.

So themes like Classroom 2.0 and School 2.0 become a shared idea with no real meaning. They signal that something is changing without anyone having to say exactly what that is. We can all agree that “Classroom 2.0” is a good thing, because each of us fills that empty vessel with our own idea of what a new version of a classroom looks like.

Hey, I’m the first to admit I do it – I did a conference presentation this morning about including students in Web 2.0 implementations. My version of Classroom 2.0 has students involved in constructivist projects using open-ended technology tools in a collaborative learning community. It drew a nice crowd, even though everyone came in with a completely different idea about what Web 2.0 meant to them.

But that’s OK – at least we agree that something is changing and that’s hot*


* For those of you who hate TV and never read trashy magazines, “That’s hot” is the catch phrase of Paris Hilton, who has turned being famous for nothing into a major career.

Educomm – Including Students in Web 2.0

A big GenYES Blog welcome to everyone who attended my Educomm session this morning in Anaheim, Including Students in the Web 2.0 Adventure!

I’ve posted the PDF of the presentation here — all the links are active so just click and explore. Also, you might be interested in a couple of older posts in this blog, they touch on similar themes to our session this morning.

Also, the whitepaper about student leadership in your technology plan can be found on our main website, along with descriptions and research about all our programs for student involvement in technology integration activities.

Finally, it was absolutely fantastic to hear so many of the Educomm speakers talking about GenYES students in their own schools, leading the technology revolution! Scott Perloff, of the Milken Community High School in Los Angeles has been running a GenYES program so long we don’t even have records that far back! (Notes from his session) At the other end of the world, Martin Levins of The Armidale School (laptops grade 3-12) in Australia just started TechYES this year (Notes from his session). And Bruce Dixon of the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation made the point that the GenYES model fits perfectly with laptops. Laptop schools empower students by literally putting computers in their hands. What better way to “walk that talk” than by having students also responsible for teaching teachers technology and tech support. (Notes from his session)

Note about the session notes: Wes Fryer takes notes like a madman! It finally dawned on me what the title of his blog means, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” – duh. Wes had to leave early, so he missed my session, darn. I wanted to be immortalized right next to all these other amazing speakers.

It was great chatting with all the terrific educators there, the stories of what you do each and every day to create amazing educational environments for students are wonderful and inspiring.

On to NECC!