The 2006/07 California School Technology Survey – Sources of Technology Support

TechSETS, the California state support service for educational technologists, has just released its annual survey of California School Technology. The survey has some interesting data with implications about how technology support impacts use in schools.

One of the major findings of the survey is that students are a “significant source of support” — something that I’m pretty happy to have confirmation of. Many schools in which students participate in technical support activities think that they are the only ones doing it. So instead of student support being a well-regarded part of the solution to tech support, it is viewed as a one-off patchwork solution. This survey should help to alleviate that mis-impression.

The bad news from the survey is that the numbers of students involved declined last year. It’s tough to say whether this is a single year aberration or not. Unfortunately, this survey doesn’t provide any answers to why this is so. We can only hope that it’s a blip, not a long term trend. All our trends are up, with an increasing number of schools using our Generation TECH online tools and curriculum to structure their student tech support program.

The survey information is behind the login of the TechSETS site, but Ric Barline, the author of this report, has given me permission to post some of it here.

The introduction and some of the major findings follow:

Using Data From The 2006/07 California School Technology Survey To Determine Sources of Technology Support in Schools
By Ric Barline, TechSETS Cadre Member

The annual California School Technology Survey (CSTS) is an excellent source of data to help determine the extent to which technology is being supported in schools and what type of human resource is providing that support. This state-administered survey has been collecting data on technology capacity and usage since 2001.

TechSETS carried out an analysis of the responses to this survey in 2005, and again this year in an effort to better understand the sources of technology support in schools and, by extension, the potential audience for TechSETS services. This report describes the methodology and results of the 2007 analysis. The 2005 analysis is available from TechSETS upon request.

The major findings regarding the numbers of individuals involved in tech support are:


  • Schools depend heavily on site-based staff for support.
  • The district office provides a significant source of support.
  • Students provide a significant source of support.
  • Outside services and COEs [County Offices of Education] provide very little support.


The major findings regarding the trends over the last three years are:


  • The numbers of certificated and classified staff involved in providing technical support to schools has increased significantly in the 2006/2007 school year.
  • The numbers of students and others involved in providing technical support to schools have decreased in the 2006/2007 school year.


Numbers of individuals involved in tech support – The CSTS data were viewed longitudinally over three years to gain insight into both the current situation and trends. Figure 1 shows the estimated number of people performing technical support in schools over the last three years. These numbers are estimates that depend on assumptions made regarding the number of individuals that make up a typical full-time equivalent (FTE) in each category. 

Technical support is a vital part of  innovative technology use in schools, and knowing who is providing that service means  better understanding of the opportunities to improve in every aspect.  Thanks for sharing, Ric!


Technology in a McDonald’s Wrapper?

A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health study showed that young children preferred food, even carrots and milk, wrapped in a McDonald’s wrapper over the same food without branding. It’s a clear win for marketing, and an indication of how susceptible children are to branding and marketing messages.

Litter - McDonalds

In education, we tend to hear messages like this as a call to add relevance to lesson plans, like adding “hip hop” to word problems and hoping kids are fooled by this into liking math more. In technology, we like to talk about “engagement” as a goal rather than an outcome, which confuses the issue in a similar way.

The idea that children are swayed by marketing messages should not be a call to educators to use the same tactics, but to provide children with deep exposure to ideas so that they can see past marketing sleight of hand.

Children should learn about food, make food, grow food, and be taught to analyze marketing messages. They will get it, but they need time to taste it, to feel it, to see a flower change into a pea pod, and have a hand in it. Eventually they will read the calorie counts on the tray menu. Then they will annoyingly recite them to you when you are trying to enjoy a milkshake.

Children should also have the opportunity to live and learn with technology that puts them in control. Control does not mean pushing a button or clicking on the “right” answer. Control means using open-ended tools that allow for meaningful interaction with data, people, ideas, and concepts. It means programming and simulations. It means making, not consuming. It means giving students agency and responsibility for their work.

If not given that chance, they are more susceptible to seeing technology only serving trivial purposes, not a way to understand the world better.

Connecting ed-tech to ed-reform

The design of American education is obsolete, not meeting the needs of our students and our society, and ignores most of what we have learned about education and learning in the past century. This panel will explore a new paradigm, including some specific examples, of how education in America can be reshaped in more productive and democratic fashions. YEARLYKOS: Education Uprising / Educating for Democracy

At the annual Yearlykos 2007 conference, a group of educators, including teacherken from The Daily Kos, will discuss a year-long project to implement education reform in America. The opening paragraph above is followed by an essay on education reform and links to support resources.

What does this have to do with technology?
As educators find themselves re-imagining learning based on their own tech-based awakening, the sense comes quickly that this is not about new technology, access to information, 21st century skills, or even 2.0-goodness, but broader-based education reform. But just as quickly, it starts to feel like there is no hope of changing a lumbering, entrenched educational system with a tiny lever called technology.

However, we are not alone, and it would be a win-win for both tech-loving educators and education reformers to join forces. The tools of Web 2.0 could tip the balance in the effort to reshape education “in more productive and democratic fashions.” The virtual voices of students and teachers alike could finally be heard in force.

Roadmap for education reform
The online handout from this session is a roadmap of current education reform efforts focusing on teacher autonomy, authentic student work, and educator-driven reforms.

Just a few gems:

Forum for Education and Democracy, founded by a group of prominent thinkers in education, including Deborah Meier, Angela Valenzuela, Pedro Noguera, Linda Darling-Hammond, Ted and Nancy Sizer, and others:

The Education Policy Blog is group blog in which both Sherman Dorn and Ken Bernstein participate. It has the purpose of examining education from a social foundations perspective, and many of the participants teach social foundations of education in teacher training programs.

Educators Roundtable is the product a group of educators who came together to attempt to stop reauthorization of NCLB in anything like its current format.

Coalition of Essential Schools, based on the thinking of Ted Sizer:

And wait, there’s more… This is not just whining about how bad things are, it’s a positive call to action. Be sure to read all the way to bottom of the page for a manifesto of how to change the teaching profession, not from the top down, but by leveraging (and listening to) teachers themselves.

Teachers and Teaching: Prospects for High Leverage Reform
Peter Henry (aka Mi Corazon)

Wedged between two Byzantine bureaucracies—unions and school districts, constrained by unreasonable public expectations, hammered by ideologues, criticized by the media, saddled with policies shaped by non-educators, America’s teachers have almost no room to maneuver. Their training, workplace, schedule, and assignment are mostly determined by others, and their curriculum arrives “canned” in the form of textbooks from large, well-connected corporations. In some schools, extreme instructional strategies tell them what words to say, when, and how, as if teaching can be reduced to a standard script.

There is, however, reason for hope: If teachers are liberated from these structural limitations, they have tremendous potential as “high leverage” reform agents. As Peter Senge maintains in his thoughtful classic, The Fifth Discipline, small, subtle modifications of a key organizational element can have a major systemic impact.

It goes on to call for two fundamental reforms:

  1. Giving teachers autonomy, power, control and authority
  2. Ending teacher isolation

And ends on this uplifting note:

A great and resilient society, capable of successful adaptation and change, cannot thrive with an educational system built in the 19th century—managed by top-down hierarchies, one-size-fits-all models and ruled by the cudgel of fear. Excellence is achieved through individual mastery, a collegial network awash with inquiry and creativity, undergirded by trust and tangible support from the larger community. If we want teaching excellence and the resultant development of full student potential, teachers must be lifted up, given the responsibility, authority and training which enhance their natural human abilities, and then respected for taking on this most crucial and challenging work.

Educators inspired by technology and looking to create their ideal of authentic learning will see parallels in these resources with many of the thoughts expressed daily in the ed-tech segment of the edublosphere. There is much to learn and much to do.

But finally, at this time in history, we have to tools to actually make this happen. Ed-tech reformers have an important part to play… and we are not alone.


Calling HS students – Global Debate Series

Student activists in Ghana This Fall and Spring, high school students across the U.S. and select countries will have the opportunity to participate in The People Speak: Global Debates. Occurring over ten days each in October 2007 and March 2008, students will organize public debates in their high schools and coordinate a global student vote on the debate topic.

  • October debate topic: lowering carbon emissions
  • March debate topic: water rights

The Global Debates are an opportunity to develop the skills of being a global citizen and informed community member. This seems like a great, authentic opportunity to use Web 2.0 tools to plan and organize debates, or even to have a virtual team organize a virtual debate.

In addition, participating students and their teachers will have the chance to win a trip for their six-person team (four students, two teachers) to a Global Youth Leadership Summit at the UN in July 2008. There they will meet students from around the world, tour the UN building, and interact with UN officials. Teachers will receive a special training on integrating global issues into their curriculum.

Visit for more details. The contest and debates are an initiative of the United Nations Foundation.

Web 2.0 and historical perspectives

There’s been an interesting discussion on David Warlick’s blog about what Web 2.0 means, and is it really new. David Thornburg weighed in with some historical perspectives on the subject and the discussion really took off.

The historical perspective is important, but I think it got techno-centric very quickly. My concern is that we’ve already forgotten (or never knew) the history of what happened to the last education reform that starred technology.

Right now the concept of Web 2.0 in schools is in the hands of excited educators who have felt the power of learning something new and want to share it with their students and other educators. It’s a contagious, revolutionary feeling that we are on the cusp of something that will change the world.

This feels SO much like the 80’s, when computers first started trickling into schools. But the dark side is how schools, instead of letting educators show the way, turned to corporations and publishers to commercialize and pre-package the computer into school-friendly forms. It deprived students and teachers of authentic chances to program, to make music, and to create. Instead of the revolution in learning that seemed to be ever so temptingly on a permanent horizon, it turned computers into test prep machines that reinforced the way school “delivered” information to students.

The score: Technology – 0, “School” – 1

Now we have a chance to recapture the authentic use of computers for education. It is, however, just as likely that history will repeat itself, since schools tend to purchase “solutions” that meet administrative needs for control and search for ways to “scale” any innovation until it becomes a bland caricature of itself.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I hope that people who are new to educational technology as a result of Web 2.0 know that a whole movement of school reform started by technology pioneers had a tragic history, because its meaning was co-opted by corporations and the willingness of schools to give up their control of the educational process.

Maybe it won’t happen again, maybe the free/open source concept is a weapon that will help this time. Maybe we’re smarter, maybe we can stay more connected on blogger networks. But free stuff can be bad and mis-educative just as much as stuff you pay for. Lines of communication can become self-referential. The vigilance HAS to be on individual educators to stand up for what they believe in, and unfortunately vague, techno-centric Web 2.0 terminology is not much of a educational foundation to stand on.

As I wrote in a post a while back, the use of fill-in-the-blank 2.0 is what marketeers call an empty vessel. It’s a way to convey feeling without meaning, using words to convince a buyer that the product is good because the wording is so vague that everyone can write their own script. Watch carefully as school product marketeers co-opt the language of 2.0 and turn it on its head.

I’m not here to lecture people about what the right term is. Find your own — it’s the ownership that makes it concrete and actionable for each individual. Project-based learning, constructivist, inquiry-based, student-centered… whatever. But make it educational, not technical. Tell me what you believe, not what tools you use.

By the way, I’m guilty too! I’m not going to give up saying “2.0”–it’s way too convenient a shortcut. But I will try harder to say what I mean by it. That’s my Promis2.0.


Looking to the future, missing the present

Wes Fryer had an interesting post yesterday, The Future is Unwritten. He said a lot of especially smart things (as usual) about changing policies to move beyond 19th century factory models of school. However, there was one part that got my mind spinning.

How do we prepare students for an unwritten future? Certainly we have to study the past, but as Steve [Jobs] also said in the interview, we can’t just be always looking to the past. We have to look to the future. We need to collaborate, create, struggle and build together now to develop and refine those skills which will serve us well in the uncertain yet amazingly exciting world of our present and future.

How often do we forget that all important present? There is no more “present” member of society than a child.

What if we stopped thinking about preparing children for the unwritten future and concentrated on their present. We’ve all heard the usual “we must prepare students for the global workplace of the future” mantra. But worse, schools make a practice of preparing students for the unwritten future only months or years away, and thus let opportunities of the present slip by.

Pre-Ks now better be able to recite the alphabet–no more finger paints and sandbox for our little achievers! Parents are told that their 5 year olds should be held back from kindergarten so they will be better able to compete in later grades. Fourth graders have to buckle down so they will be ready for middle school. Why is learning to multiply fractions important? So you can do well in pre-algebra! Middle school focuses on teaching kids research skills for high school. High school classes teach the 5 paragraph essay “for college” and how to write memos. Memos? What’s that?

If we turn every learning experience into preparation for something else, we just convince kids that what they do today isn’t important. Every day is the day that a kid might find his or her bliss, create something that didn’t exist before, or have an aha moment that changes their lives.

If change is the norm, it’s even more important to seize the opportunities of the present day.


Pepperdine OMET – Ten Years of Online Learning Excellence

Ten years ago I joined 25 other pioneers in a grand experiment in online education. I was accepted into the first cadre of the Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology’s fully online Masters in Educational Technology (OMET) program. What seems so commonplace now was almost unheard of then.

In the past ten years, online classes have become mainstream, but I believe that the experience I had is still exemplary. It modeled community of practice, collaboration, communication, and constructivist pedagogy. We used primitive tools, but we really used them well!

The Pepperdine OMET program is this years recipient of the highest honor of the United States Distance Learning Association, the Platinum Award for Best Practices for Online Distance Learning Programming from a national field of entrants. It’s well deserved!

The education I got from this program gave me the vocabulary and the academic grounding that helped me put my vague thoughts about education into practice. The books I read, the lessons I learned, and the colleagues I met still impact what I do everyday. I owe any ability to articulate coherent thoughts about learning to this program.

If you are attending NECC in Atlanta this year, there will be celebration of this 10th anniversary of OMET and this well-deserved award. Hope you can join us there!


NECC – 4 weeks and counting

Generation YES booth NECC 2006The National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Atlanta, Georgia, is about 4 weeks away (June 25-28) and things are getting exciting! For Generation YES, this is “the big one” — the conference that we really go all out for. We even have a yearly “theme” for our booth. For most conferences, we don’t really do much decorating, but for NECC, well, we try. Of course, for us, that means imagination over money! But that’s always more fun, isn’t it?

Last year was our tenth anniversary, so we went to the party store and bought party favors and decorations with a Happy 10th Birthday! theme. That was fun (and cheap!) The Generation YES students are always the best decoration, after all.

This year we had a tougher time, but finally, Megan’s southern picnic idea won the day. We plan to buy a roll of astroturf (cheaper than renting conference carpet) and find a picnic table to use as a meeting table (cheaper than renting conference tables – see a pattern here?) We’ll be back at the party store looking for red checked tablecloths and picnic accessories for decor. We want to use part of our booth to set up a “drive-in” theater, with blankets on the grass and a film projector showing some great student projects, videos, and other movies.

And of course, students will be there to “walk the talk” of student empowerment and ownership of their learning experience.

Constructivist CelebrationThe Constructivist Celebration pre-conference event is completely sold-out, so on Sunday, we will be playing in the Atlanta Botanical Garden with almost 100 constructivist educators and our partners from the Constructivist Consortium. We have students from nearby Barber Middle School in Cobb County coming to help out and show off the technology skills they’ve learned in their TechYES class this year. Tech4Learning, one of our Constructivist Consortium partners, has already sent Barber Middle School packs of their software so that the students could practice ahead of time.

At NECC, we have a full round of events, panels, sessions and of course, time spent in our booth, talking to people about student empowerment through technology. I’ll put up another post with the full schedule next week.

During the conference, the Constructivist Consortium will be giving away some amazing prizes–more on that later as well, this post is getting too long!

We love meeting old friends and new, and NECC is always a great place to do just that. Hope to see you in HOT-lanta, as they say, so come by and chill out with us at the Generation YES picnic!

Hole in the Wall – Can kids learn computer literacy by themselves?

In India, several foundations are working together to build Playground Learning Centers – computers built for the sole purpose of providing Minimally Invasive Education (MIE) opportunities for poor children.

Minimally Invasive Education is defined as a pedagogic method that uses the learning environment to generate an adequate level of motivation to induce learning in groups of children, with minimal, or no, intervention by a teacher.
Hole-in-the-Wall website

MIE was defined and extensively researched by Dr. Sugata Mitra, in an amazing project called, “The Hole in the Wall.” This experiment began in 1999 with a single computer literally placed in a hole in a wall between the New Delhi office of NIIT (a computer training school) and the slum outside. The computer was accessible to children and became an instant hit. Local children, many of whom did not attend school regularly, quickly picked up how to use the computer tools, including word processing software and graphics programs and learned to surf the Internet. Some progressed to more complex skills. All of this without understanding a word of English or being able to read at all, even though all the programs and interfaces were in English.

Researchers and newspapers from around the world have documented the success of this first installation, and many more have followed, all with similar results. The impact on many impoverished children has been life-changing. The PBS show Frontline did a story, “One boy in particular, Rajinder, has become a computer whiz and a celebrity in India. “Mainly I go to the Disney site,” Rajinder tells FRONTLINE/World, but he also regularly visits news sites and likes to use computer paint tools. His teacher says that Rajinder is a much better student now: “He has become quite bold and expressive. I’ve got great hopes for this child.”

Computer in the wall

Articles, videos and research online

What about the usual worries? Security, inappropriate access, testing…
From the Christian Science Monitor:

  • In five years, across all locations, [Mitra] says, Hole-in-the-Wall computers have experienced “less than 0.5 percent pornographic access,” adding that the computers “are clearly visible to passing adults.” The fact that both boys and girls have access “completely eliminates pornographic or other undesirable access,” he says.
  • Despite this unconventional, unstructured setting, Mitra claims that, in the past five years, participants have been tested in controlled studies “many times,” and passed the government board examination with no other assistance, with the results documented in scholarly journals like the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.
  • Hole-in-the-Wall has awakened new aspirations in some participants, who have gone on to take courses in preparation for high-tech careers, Mitra says. Many have changed their goals from say, rickshaw driver to engineer, and most now want to go to college.

Classroom Implications
Far from being a repudiation of classroom learning or an insult to teachers, the research on MIE shows that unstructured learning strengthens behavior that translates to classroom success.

Learning Dynamics

This doesn’t mean that teachers don’t teach, but can look for opportunities to leverage unstructured success into more structured academic success. By asking an interesting question or by providing a clue to a frustrated student, teachers can scaffold student learning more than by direct instruction. Allowing unstructured learning opportunities frees the teacher up from teaching basic skills to focus on the big picture and give individual help as needed.

“If computer literacy is defined as turning a computer on and off and doing the basic functions, then this method allows that kind of computer literacy to be achieved with no formal instruction. Therefore any formal instruction for that kind of education is a waste of time and money. You can use that time and money to have a teacher teach something else that children cannot learn on their own.” -Dr. Mitra

Many veteran Generation YES teachers tell us that their best experiences come when they “let go” and let students take the lead in the classroom.

In many new Generation YES schools, teachers want to spend time teaching application features to students with the the thought that once learned, students will be better able to tackle projects of interest.

From more veteran Generation YES teachers, however, we often hear that it’s better to do a quick intro and then jump immediately into project work, allowing for student collaboration and discovery. Rather than being chaotic and out of control, teachers report to us that it creates a unique classroom laboratory, where students share discoveries and go further, faster.

For some teachers, this is a leap of faith that students will gain the necessary skills for the long run. A peak through this “hole in the wall” might be convincing!


Speak Up 2006 – listening to student (and parent and teacher) voice

Speak Up Day logoThe Speak Up 2006 survey gave 232,781 students, 21,272 teachers and 15,317 parents the opportunity to speak out about their views on technology, education, and the impact on their lives. All the survey data is online at the Speak Up site, including useful podcasts and slideshows you can share with others.

One of the most interesting sections of this year’s survey reveled student interest in math and science.

  • Students want to learn science and math through real world problem solving, visiting places where science is in action, talking to professionals in those fields and using technology in many ways.
  • While 86% of students in K-2 are interested in specific careers in science and/or math, starting in grade 3 that interest starts to decrease. In grades 3-12 over 1/3 of students say that they are not interested in any careers in science, math, technology or engineering.

It’s not surprising that students are not connecting real-world problem solving and authentic science with the test-focused curriculum in their schools.

Students ARE interested in doing hard work–but interesting, engaging work, just like real scientists, engineers and mathematicians do. We are doing students a disservice by not listening to their voices, and not giving them a glimpse at the jobs that matter in this century.