Sunday, February 21, 2010

Migrating to Google Apps for Education

We've made the decision - now it's time to move... Our district has been contemplating the switch to Gmail for some time, but a recent scare with our current email server has convinced our Tech Services department to take the leap. We are now in the beginning phases of deployment. What this really means is that, as one of the tech leaders, it is time for me to do some serious research and planning. While many of our teachers and staff will be excited and dive right into the new system, we all know the other side of the story. There will be a large number of people who won't accept this adjustment lightly, and it will be my job to help them through. Fortunately, that is one of the things I love about my job. While scouring the web and "playing" with our test site, I have found some interesting sites that will help us through.

This seems to be an excellent starting point:

FAQs are always helpful:

Google Apps Education Community, a site to share, connect & learn

Kathy Schrock's Blog - Ideas for the effective use of Google Apps (includes student email permission slip)

If you have any helpful hints, ideas or questions feel free to comment!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Perfect Storm of Literature - A Book Review of Sorts

I have a really bad habit of trying to read too many books at one time. I have a serious passion for reading, but often leave a book unfinished only to start the new one staring at me from my nightstand just waiting to be enjoyed. The lure of the next book is overpowering! In general, I can juggle two books at a time if one is a non-fiction professional or self-help type of book and the other is fiction novel. Right now I'm in a really bad spot, though. I started reading Stephen King's latest bestseller, Under the Dome, on my Kindle. So far it's a great book, but I've been reading for a long time and am only halfway through. At the same time, I picked up 21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadeland, and I've been reading that when I'm more in the mood for non-fiction. This is where it's gotten interesting. Since then I downloaded Born Digital, by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser on my Kindle and purchased Drive, by Daniel H. Pink on the latest trip to my favorite bookstore. Depending on where I am in my house, car or waiting room, you can find me reading any one of these four titles.

While it might sound confusing to keep all of the information straight while reading so many books at one time, it has actually evolved into the "perfect storm" of literature. The one that I'm most intrigued with at the moment is Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The book describes human motivation and the different factors that make people do what they do. Motivation 1.0 is biological. We do what we need to do to survive. Motivation 2.0 is the "carrot and stick" philosophy. We do things based upon rewards and punishments. The most interesting and newer idea on this topic is Motivation 3.0. There is a drive in all of us to learn and create new things, achieve mastery and make the world a better place. The teacher in me is longing to find a way to bring Motivation 3.0 into our classroom and schools.

This leads to the next book that I am reading, Born Digital - Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. The focus of this book is on digital natives and in it the authors "document the myriad ways downloading, text-messaging, Massively Multiplayer Online Games–playing, YouTube-watching youth are transforming society". There is so much talk today of how our students have to "power down" when they come to school. We need to tap into what motivates them at home to reach Motivation 3.0 and technology seems to be the obvious answer. These kids are in the "flow" doing things on their own, but bored and disengaged in school. My two teenage boys use their computers to create videos, music, and computer programs, while networking on Facebook and learning about Renaissance Italy in the latest installment of Assassin's Creed. They impress me more and more every day, and none of these skills were learned at school.

Completing this perfect storm is 21st Century Skills - Learning for Life in Our Times. This book discusses how we need to prepare our students to meet the challenges of our century. We need to do this by changing our schools so that students can apply knowledge to understanding and solving real-world problems using, among other things, digital literacy skills.

The answer is forming in the swirling tornado of information that I am gathering by reading all of these books at once. In order for our students to meet the demands of the 21st Century, we need to tap into the things that bring them into the flow (Motivation 3.0). The best way to do this is to meet them where they are in terms of technology. Allow them to solve problems through social collaboration, using the tools and creative processes that they love. This is why I became a technology leader, and reading these books together is solidifying the things I've been thinking about for a long time.