Challenges to Online Learning

A new learning modality has emerged and it has the potential to turn the current model on its head. Online learning offers greater flexibility and fewer overhead costs (busing, building maintenance, etc) making it a financially viable solutions. Some, including Clayton Christenson, have predicted that online learning will become the dominant form of education within the next 20 years.

Despite this bold prediction, there are a few of challenges to an educational system that is entirely online:

1. Parental supervision
Most families feature two full-time working parents. School provides childcare as well as an education. Having students at home taking online classes would not work for most families. Potentially, a whole new industry of supervision could emerge for students who need a safe place to go during school hours.

2. Geocentric Thinking
The US Constitution gives responsibility for education to the states. This works great if education can be contained within state lines but in a virtual system everything becomes fluid and tracking students becomes more difficult. If a student lives in Michigan but attends a virtual school in Florida, who gets to count the student for state and federal funding?

Inconsistencies amongst the states in regards to online learning is a challenge that must be addressed. Some states have very clear and well developed policies while others have no policies at all. The iNACOLKeeping Pace” report demonstrates that legislative inconstancies
between the states presents challenges for the expansion of online learning in the United States.

Teachers unions will also need to undergo significant reforms to adjust to the changing dynamics of an online industry. As geographic location become less important and more difficult to determine for both teachers and students, union membership will also be challenged as will support systems such as the PTA and school boards.

3.Teacher Preparation

There is shortage of experienced online teachers. Teacher education programs are simply not preparing students for online learning. I have spoken to many new teachers about their pre-service training and only one had any experience facilitating an online course. While most college graduates have had a least one experience as an online student, very few have had any experience as an online instructor. Pre-service training must be rapidly reformed in order to prepare students for the current needs and demands of the industry.

What do you think? What are some other challenges to online learning?

Is Qwiki the next, best platform for digital storytelling?

The Web needs something new for education. I’ve talked about this before. Teachers have been happily using Glogster,  Voicethread, and Google Apps for the past couple of years. Then the economy went in the dumper, Silicon Valley focused on “social,”  and we’ve been quietly waiting for some of the new platforms to emerge that might have education in mind.

It’s been a long wait, but friends, we may have a winner (however, they may not know this yet). See, last week, at TechCrunch Disrupt, Qwiki announced that soon- people would be able to Qwiki themselves. From TechCrunch:

The company will soon allow you to “Qwiki yourself,” meaning you can create a personal Qwiki of the social data about yourself available on the web. The feature will combine photos and information from Facebook and other social media sites.

Here’s how I think this will work: at first, you can think people are going to go into their Facebook profile, integrate their Facebook with a Qwiki, maybe write a short biography-  this could be the evolution of the business card. Folks may have Qwiki links on their websites, and QR codes that lead to their Qwiki page. That’s really cool, but does that have education in mind? Well, not really, but it is popular culture- and my guess is this will catch on like wildfire and have a tipping point. Everyone is going to know about Qwiki very soon. Everybody is going to want their own Qwiki. The next logical step in this evolution to me is: stories.

The visual style of Qwiki lends itself perfectly to creating portfolios and original stories- and I could see teachers and students getting really excited about using a platform like that. When I think of all the poor timeline tools out there, and some of the uninspired presentation tools, I think that Qwiki could fill the void that we are lacking in new, imaginative creative platforms. When I show my students Qwiki, they constantly ask for more: “Qwiki Illinois! Qwiki Chicago!” – they ask- already using Qwiki like a verb. That’s a strong sign that the people at Qwiki have their hands on a winner. While most of the non-fiction Qwikis will already be done, thanks to Wikipedia (which is where Qwikis draw most of their data)- creating original Qwikis based off of original characters could be something of a Internet sensation. Having students create end-of-year portfolio Qwikis, could be a wonderful summative, reflective process.

Voicethread wasn’t originally intended to be an education tool, but educators jumped on it. Now they have a separate domain for education at Same with Glogster ( In fact, here’s a list of just a few startups that saw the light and began cornering the education market:

These companies realized post-haste, that marketing themselves to students is a great way to get buy-in for a new platform, and it has done wonders for many of these companies in terms of users (some would say that Glogster is having trouble with all the demand). Huffington Post highlighted this trend in a recent article.

Can Qwiki aim themselves at education’s way? They’ve already shown that Qwiki has a place in education, and worked with EdReach and other sites to create the Education Qwiki of the Day (EdReach sidebar). It’s actually a really nice piece of code. While educators will continue to thrive using many of the tools available to us today, I think we’re ready for a company like Qwiki to bring education into the fold and give us some new, inspiring tools to work with. Does this Qwiki give you any ideas?

View The War of the Worlds and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.

EdCeptional Show #11: All About Assistive Technology in Alton, IL!

Greetings everyone!  A huge shout out to all of you veterans out there…Thanks for everything you do to make our country an amazing and safe place to live! Tonight we are joined with a smaller Edceptional crew than normal and one amazing special guest, assistive technology specialist Mr. Brian Dowd. Brian is an AT specialist with Alton School District in Alton, Illinois. His district’s top initiatives are the roll out of iPads and the use of Read and Write Gold for co-teaching in mainstream classrooms.

For this week’s roll call, each panel member shared one instance where they have witnessed AT make a difference in a student’s life by either enabling him/her to be more independent or to demonstrate new knowledge.

1.  Brain Dowd – During my first AT assessment, I witnessed a student use a light touch switch to operate a fan and a radio.

2. Jeremy Brown – My first year of teaching I had a student start using a high-tech AAC device (Vantage).  It took him a few weeks to the learn the basic navigation. One afternoon my class was having snack and I had brought in cupcakes for another student’s birthday. Well, this student independently used his Vantage to communicate “I want more like muffin.” Cupcake was not part of the vocabulary programmed into the device, so he found something similar to communicate his request!  After he enjoyed his second cupcake, this student and I then went on to have a short conversation about why we were having the special treat and how the cupcakes were so yummy.  Furthermore, I received several emails from this student’s mother about how they he was using the Vantage at home to make requests, have simple conversations, and even say his prayers each night.

3. Your host, Anne Truger:  Mac laptop for her son, who has Aspergers.




INTERVIEW: Mr. Brian Dowd, Assistive Technology Specialist

  • Background about Brian & Alton School District
  • AT initiatives:







  • Recent & Upcoming Conferences:


Don’t forget, you can find all of tonight’s links at the EdCeptional Diigo Group.


You can e-mail the EdCeptional crew or follow us all at:

Jeremy Brown – @techieteacher or iTeach Special Education: iOS Devices in Special Education group on Facebook

Anne Truger – @atruger

It Is The Network

Joe CredeJoe Crede (pronounced CREE-DEE) was the starting third baseman on the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox (not to be confused with the Chicago Cubs who last won a World Series when there were only 46 states and Teddy Roosevelt was President). USA Today reported in 2002 “The 6-3 Crede . . . hits with power to all fields and makes good contact for a power hitter. He is a good athlete with soft hands, good range and a strong arm.” But with all that promise, Crede no longer plays professional baseball.

Unfortunately, with all that hitting and fielding ability, Crede had back surgery in 2007, 2008 and 2009. His much publicized lower back problems kept him from the field, and though he attempted a comeback in 2011 with the Colorado Rockies, he retired from baseball shortly thereafter. No matter how much ability he had, he could not use any of it because of his bad back.

And this is the analogy with our schools today. Too often teachers, administration and school boards need to be tempered in their purchases for the classroom. You can have all the shared vision, money, professional development, want, desire, etc, but probably the one thing that goes unseen, the one thing that does not get noticed until it is not working properly, is the network. It does not even have to be a high tech device, but we shall use the iPad as the example.

Think of the iPad in this analogy as Crede’s ability to hit and field. All that potential and promise, those things that made Crede’s statistics look so good between 2003-2006, are the things people love about the iPad. It’s flashy. It’s sexy. It looks good when school boards and administrators and teachers get their pictures or stories of their schools in the paper.

However, there needs to be a good network supporting the iPad to make it that sexy and flashy device. Much like Crede’s lower back, if the network is slow or non-functional or has no room for growth, then what you have is the results of Crede’s last three years in baseball. Nothing would kill an iPad initiative, or any other Bring Your Own Device or 1-to-1 faster than a bad network. Imagine a class of twenty kids attempting to access online content at the same time in a school with a slow network. What was fine in planning of a lesson can quickly become horrifying as the tension and frustration levels mount with the students. And nothing will turn off that first-time-tech teacher to using all these amazing tools than having their first attempt out the gate destroyed by a bad network.

So, in planning for all these amazing devices that are around us, it is vital to also consider building the invisible network in our schools to support the educational potential.

The above image may be found here and is in used within the Creative Commons rights described.

iBroke My iPhone and Lived to Talk About It

Preface to post: I am passionate about using iDevices to improve the learning experience, and I personally consider my iPhone to be my lifeline. To people who know me well, this is common knowledge.


As my iPhone 4 slowly slid off a stack of papers just out of my reach, I had the perfect view as I watched it drop and land face down. I heard gasps escape from every person in the crowded room. My first thought: it’s fine, I’ve dropped it before. My second thought: I have a case for a reason. Even as I got up and leaned over to pick up the iPhone, I assured everyone that, “it was fine, really.” Unfortunately, when I picked my iPhone up I saw that it was not fine: my iPhone’s front screen was severely cracked. It technically still worked, but I had shards of glass in my thumb from swiping. The room full of teachers watched me carefully, waiting for my reaction. I could almost hear everyone thinking about how they were about to console me. I calmly told the shocked crowd that, “it was no big deal, it’s just a phone. It’s replaceable. Anyways, it still works.” And I thought I meant it. I felt sort of numb to the situation. I continued to do exactly what I had been doing prior to The Drop. I could feel the awkward stares, and I knew people were puzzled by my lack of reaction. That was period two.

By the time I walked into period three, the news about The Drop had spread. My students offered hugs and sincere sympathy at my loss. Was it true? How did it happen? I reassured my students that this was not what we were to be concerned about, and began class. Once the students were taking some notes, my co-teacher pulled me aside to ask how I was doing. I told her that life happens, and then added a very sarcastic “I’m sure I will live” before refocusing my attention back on the students.


Things started to change period four. I had the same questions about The Drop from period four’s students, yet my responses were very different this period. How did it happen? “I dropped the stupid phone,” I told one student. Another student overheard my answer and quickly asked me, “Did you just call your iPhone stupid?” I unnecessarily snapped at the student to get back to the classroom task assigned. Later as my students left forth period, I heard murmurs of “she’s just mad because she broke her iPhone.” And I was.


Period five was lunch and the topic of conversation turned to Memorial Day weekend plans. (No one dared to bring up The Drop.) As I listened to others’ plans, I was quickly reminded that I had plans of my own: hosting my baby sister’s bridal shower in a different part of the country. I had to race out of school that day to catch a flight for the celebration. As the matron of honor, it would be my duty to be the contact for eight bridesmaids and many other guests traveling into town. Thinking about this, my thought process about my iPhone started to change again. I left the lunch room and called Apple to see how I could replace my iPhone 4 immediately. After hearing about the obscene cost to replace my iPhone 4 and knowing that iPhone 5 is right around the corner, I started bargaining the with Apple representative. Can you see on my account how many Apple products I’ve bought? Isn’t there ANY way we can work out a better deal? All of a sudden, I felt desperate to replace my iPhone before I had to get on that flight. How could I manage traveling without my iPhone? I hadn’t even printed my airline ticket… it was on my iPhone.


I was late to period six. Halfway through the period, another teacher stopped by to speak to me, “I heard about The Drop. Why don’t I take over here and you can go handle your phone issue. You look really upset about it.” I took her up on the offer without thinking twice. I called store after store in the area, desperately looking for someone to replace my front piece of glass in a hurry. After trying six stores, I hung up my office phone and stared blankly at a wall for about twenty minutes. Why bother at this point? There was no way I could ever get it fixed before I had to leave town. I let out a deep sigh, said ‘whatever’ and went back to class. I was pretty much silent and very moody for the rest of the school day.


The school day ended, and I headed up to the airport. Once I was in my car, the tears came. How could I do something like this on a day like today? I knew it was silly to cry over a phone, but I was stressed about how I was going to make it through a very busy weekend without my iPhone. It felt good to shed a few tears over The Drop. By the time I went through security, I was finally able to offer a smile to the security person as she commented and joked about my phone’s cracked screen.

Once at the gate, I didn’t have to worry about finding a seat near a plug. As I sat and looked around at all the other people using their smart phones, I realized that this was the longest I had gone without checking my iPhone. I remembered the days when I didn’t have a cell phone at all, and I had survived just fine. I had travelled many times in my life without an iPhone, and I could do it again. About 5:00 p.m. that evening, I had finally accepted that I broke my iPhone and could even attempt to make light of it: I sent out a tweet about how I had been sucker-punched by gravity. It was good progress for me after a very trying day.

Some Thoughts.

It is true that we live in a digital world, and that we heavily rely on technology. But when did I become so unbelievably dependent on technology? How had a broken electronic caused me to go through the five stages of grief? I know I am not alone. So many people are stricken with grief when they lose, break, or have their technology devices stolen. Was I upset because I love to use technology and couldn’t? Or was I upset that I didn’t have the tools that I needed for the weekend? I know that I enjoy technology, but have I gone overboard? I’m truly left wondering, am I too dependent on technology? And more importantly, are our students?



EdGamer Episode 13: Have Board – Will Game

Do you have trouble getting access to technology, within your school, for gaming? Board games offer a simple and nice alternative for gaming in the classroom. Gerry and I discuss our childhood board gaming experiences, which includes Candy Land and Axis and Allies. We explain why board games should be part of your classroom resources and how they can lead to learning. Listen to the Boardwalk of educational gaming podcasts!

Show Host: Zack Gilbert

Show contributors: Gerry James

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The complete show notes are now on the EdGamer Wiki.

Call us on our comment line!

If you’d like to leave some feedback you can call us on our very own EdReach Comment line: That’s: (443) 93REACH.




Google Educast #17 – Gone Google with Dr. Henry Thiele

Google Educast LogoOn this episode of the Google Educast we welcome our special guest Dr. Henry Thiele for a one-on-one interview.  Hank is currently the Chief Technology Officer for District 207 in Park Ridge, Illinois. Before he moved into this role he was a technology coordinator and also taught science and music at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Hank earned his Doctorate from Roosevelt University in Chicago while investigating the impact online communication can have on learning. He is a Google Certified Teacher, Administrator, and Trainer and believes that personalization of instruction, assisted by technology, allows students to become adaptable and productive in today’s world into the future. You can find out more about him on his blog at  Hank discusses his district’s Google story, some special Google-related projects in his district, his experiences as a Google Certified Teacher, Administrator, and Trainer, and more about District 207’s summer Google Apps training opportunities for potential Google Certified Trainers and Teachers (more info at

Steps in the Right Direction

There is no shortage of blogposts or news articles about the positive aspects of the use of mobile devices in schools. You’ll find quite a few right here on EdReach. The article Principals Call for Mobile and Social Technologies in Schools from THE Journal has me hopeful for those schools where mobile technologies are banned or are in short number.

The article explains that the National Association of Secondary School Principals  (NASSP) has written a position statement encouraging (practically mandating) the use of social networking and mobile technology in schools. The position statement is inclusive of ALL students and is open to many types of mobile technologies: tablets, netbooks, smartphones, laptops. It also recognizes students as integral partners in the creation of acceptable use policies.

So now schools, at least high schools, have permission and an obligation to make this happen. The NASSP is even so bold to suggest that administrators model the use of mobile and social technologies. There will still be those who oppose these ideas and cite reasons it won’t work:

We don’t have the bandwidth

Bandwidth is addressed in the “Policymakers should” section of the NASSP position statement. Perhaps they are a little too hopeful to suggest funding should come from government sources. They also advocate access for student-owned devices.

We don’t have the money

Money is always a tricky point for schools, but the NASSP has a few statements to address money. They urge district leaders to provide “financial support” to schools and suggest policymakers provide a “funding stream” for infrastructure and devices. There is also encouragement to allow students to bring their own devices. Let’s hope the money comes through like they envision.

The teachers don’t want them/know what to do with them

The NASSP is suggesting districts provide professional development on the effective use of these tools; even recommending principals participate! Some districts may feel their budgets can not support this. There are low-cost and no-cost solutions. Much information can be found online on the effective use of social and mobile technologies. Principals and district administrators can form their own networks to seek out schools and districts who are having success in these areas. Involving students in the planning and implementation of effective uses for social and mobile technologies is another no-cost option. A professional development swap, someone provides training at your district and one of your teachers provides training in their district, is a very economical way to provide quality experiences for teachers.

REDUCE filtering? Are you nuts? What about CIPA?

No one is suggesting districts remove all filters, but to see where things might be loosened up. A district can still be in compliance without locking everything down.

The absurd part of these objections is they are the same ones heard twenty, ten, even five years ago from teachers and administrators; same complaints just the technology changes.

The information within the position statement is not earth-shattering, but the authorship of the statement is significant. Will this position statement have an impact on the implementation and use of mobile and social technologies is high schools? I certainly hope so. For some districts, this may be the impetus to begin to provide students with the opportunities for an education consistent with their 21st century lives.

Perhaps middle school and elementary school principals will be inspired to craft a position statement appropriate to the needs of their students. (I hope this principal sees the light!)The NASSP has certainly provided a good model to follow.


Four Common Misconceptions about the Modern Gamer

Stereotypes can be true, partially true, completely fabricated, dangerous or useful for categorization. That being said, each stereotype needs to be closely analyzed for its accuracy, particularly the completely fabricated or dangerous ones. This week, I’m taking a look at four common stereotypes about gamers that are largely inappropriate or just downright wrong. In all honesty, these fallacies can be hurtful, particularly when indulged in by educators; however they are entertaining to those who truly know gamers. Here goes:

1. Gamers are all dorks. Oh contraire! In fact, the digital world is booming with connections between celebrities and video gamers. Systems like Xbox Live and the Playstation Network make it easy for people from all walks of life to connect and play together. The Xbox Live network recently started a “Game with Fame” event that allows users to log on at a certain time and play with their favorite celebrities. Don’t be mistaken in thinking that this is the only forum in which celebrities play, either. A simple Google search will give you a better idea of just how many celebrities happen to be playing online. With the ability to design, create, and share virtual profiles, many celebrities are either playing online under pseudonyms or exploiting their fame by promoting their virtual spaces within other games (see Deadmu5, the music producer/DJ, on Minecraft).

2. Gamers are lazy. Of all the stereotypes about gamers, this one bugs me the most. Many people consider gamers lazy and figure the only reason they hole themselves up in front of their games is to avoid responsibility and to kill boredom. This, once studied, could not be further from the truth. The games that people are playing these days require serious devotion, concentration and problem solving abilities. If you don’t think I’m serious, pick up the controller of a gaming system unknown to you and give it a shot. My guess is you won’t last 15 minutes. Gaming has changed over the years, and that is important to realize. Gone are the days of ‘simple games.’ Those time-wasters have been shifted to cell phones and iPods…and yes, the kids in your class are typically playing them because they are bored (brutal honesty alert). The games of this age are progressive and require serious dedication to the medium before mastery of the game is complete.

3. Gamers have no social skills. Well, that truly depends on your concept of a social skill. If you believe that it involves two face to face people, you may be surprised. With so many virtual worlds and networked games (not to mention real-time communication head sets) being used, the interaction between gamers at any given time could potentially be tenfold the interaction a student may receive all day in class with their peers. Also, the interaction itself tends to be more sincere since it involves clear self-motivation on the part of the player. No longer are social interactions limited to the walls of a building. Let us not forget either the people who struggle with social interactions. Special education students (namely those with autism or other communicative disorders) or those who feel they need more interaction in their lives can use video games to interact from a “safe zone.”

4. Gamers are all teenage boys with severe acne who want to blow up the world. This stereotype is as wrong as it is dangerous. In my last article I outlined the different possible types of gamers in your classroom. However, it is also important to remember that, as the generation of digital natives gets older, the average age of gamers is greatly increasing. Many of the at-home platform gamers who grew up with 8-bit systems are now in their thirties. Their love of gaming is seemingly no less intense. Subsequently, there have been multiple waves of learning games for toddler-aged children all the way to brain-sharpening games for senior citizens in the last years. Just as there are multiple genders enjoying video games, there are multiple generations as well.


In conclusion, the term ‘gamer’ has been a pitfall for generalizations and stereotypes, especially in fields where their work is underappreciated and underused (ahem…education). I happen to think that close examination of these stereotypes brings us closer to being able to relate to today’s student. Besides, after reading this, perhaps you are closer to a gamer than previously thought…


Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons (question mark and game controller), Collage assembled by G. James 2011


MacReach Show #15: APPsolutely Comical!

Kelly Dumont and I cover the good and the bad this week in the world of Apple… and have a few laughs along the way!



  • It is APPsolutely comical! We take a close look at using Comic Life and PhotoComic on the iPad… does price really matter for similar apps?
  • App Comparison: Comic Life vs. PhotoComic

App Challenge:

  • With a range of comic creation apps available to choose from, we had a lot of fun coming up with at least 9 ways to use these apps with students. We left the tenth spot open to hear what you have to say… how can your students use a comic creation app like Comic Life?

Macs for All:

  • Kelly shares a great tip for organizing windows and workspaces on your Mac: Spaces

Calling All School Leaders! Professional Development Matters; Don’t Rely On Luck!

If we want education to move forward we need school leaders who are serious about research based practices, 21st century learning, thinking, and perfecting their professional development craft.   If you are a school leader or an instructional coach I highly recommend Doug Reeve’s book: Transforming Professional Development Into Student Results. In the book Mr. Reeves goes in depth into his “Leadership and Learning Matrix”.  He examines successful ways to get away from just being ‘lucky’ as a school.

Where does your school fall on the matrix?  How can you effectively use every minute of time you have with your staff to build capacity and replicate success?

Review some of the following resources that can enhance your professional development skills, and take your schools from ‘lucky’ or ‘losing’ to ‘learning’, and ultimately ‘leading’!

Stay current with research based best practices:

  • Regularly read ASCD and NSDC publications, their work and authors are phenomenal!

Sharpen your presentation skills by admiring great design and thinking deeply about engaging your audience:

  • Check out some of the great featured presentations on SlideShare, and be sure to also see Garr Reyonlds’s “Brain Rules” For Presenters.  Don’t kill your audience with small fonts and bullet points!
  • Check out some of the best presentations available by tuning into some of the 1,000s of TED Talks available.

Don’t waste your staff’s time!

  • Make your presentations meaningful and show your staff you value their time.  “Stimulating purposeful interaction – horizontally and vertically – provides the glue that helps complex systems to focus.(Fullan 2008).”
  • Look for ways to utilize e-learning, and social media(Twitter and Facebook) to help nurture on-going collaboration and learning.
  • Customize learning feeds in Google Reader for your staff to subscribe to (be sure to include EdReach)

Practice, model, and follow the gradual release of responsibility when presenting:

  • The more you practice the more comfortable you will become in your speaking ability.  You can also practice your phrasing, in fact a recent study shows that the rate and pauses in our speaking help persuade our listeners of what we are teaching.
  • Anything you are selling your staff on you should first be modeling.  Your presentation, modeling, and follow-through may be more effective if you follow The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model.

“High-impact learning is not about creating a life of efficiency and ease for teachers and leaders.  It is about undertaking the challenge of professional work with deep meaning and lifelong impact (Reeves, 2010).”

Sources: Fullan, Michael (2008).What’s Worth Fighting for in the Principalship?, Second EditionReeves, Douglas (2010) Transforming Professional Development Into Student Results


Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Valerie Everett


EdReach Show #22: Freemium Blend

This week brings us the debate over whether the “freemium” model of pricing Web 2.o tools and platforms is fair and reasonable. Also, with the recent tornadoes, we share a few teaching strategies and ideas for using that as a teachable moment. Additionally, we respond to Jennifer- from Glogster EDU’s reaction to our EdRoundtable post: Have you read the morning Glog? from last week. She offers some insights to Glogster’s strategy as a new media platform, and we discuss Glogster’s role in education as a growing company. Finally some great On the Radar (Jay’s app prototype tool really takes the cake).

Show Host: Daniel Rezac

Show contributors: Judi Epcke and Jay Blackman

Subscribe to The EdReach Podcasts on iTunes

Subscribe to the EdReach Podcast Feed.

The complete show notes are now on the EdReach Wiki.

Call us on our comment line!

If you’d like to leave some feedback you can call us on our very own EdReach Comment line: That’s: (443) 93REACH.


EdCeptional Show #10: An Inside View from an App Developer for Special Needs

Tonight we welcomed Jeff and Lisa Johnson from Grembe Apps to our show. Lisa is a physical therapist and Jeff is a software engineer together they formed Grembe Apps as a way to help their child and others to communicate. Grembe apps are apps that make a difference.





To start off our roll call we shared an app that has made a difference in either a student’s life or your own childs.

Jeff Johnson & Lisa Johnson: iCommunicate
Patrick Black: Angry Birds
Deb Truskey: ProLoQuo2Go & Tap To Talk
Your host for tonight….Jeremy Brown: iReward, WH-Questions, and Word Magic









  • AUGCOM CHAT: (Facebook) – June 13 & July 10 via Skype


Don’t forget you can find all of tonight’s links at the EdCeptional Diigo Group –


You can follow our contributors at:
Patrick Black - or @teachntech00
Deb Truskey - @debtruskey or @slpdeb
Jeremy Brown - @techieteacher

Be Careful Assuming

Forreston IllinoisLast week, I accepted a new position with a rural school district in a town called Forreston, Illinois to be Director of Instructional Technology. It is an amazing opportunity for numerous reasons, but I am in unfamiliar territory.

First, the buildings are amazing. Not that I have not worked in amazing buildings, but all three have been renovated or built recently. The oldest building was last renovated in 1996.

Second, the administration is young and willing to really, I think, make true systemic change across the board. We are talking bringing in mobile technologies, redesigning learning spaces, moving to the cloud, enhancing the classroom with a digital learning space – all those things that many believe are the way we can transform learning and pedagogy. The teachers also seem very much on board with moving forward. The students are excited. There is a shared vision!

My struggle is location. This district is rural. Very rural. Looking at a map, you find it is between Freeport and Dixon, Illinois. Where are those places, you might say? To the surprise of few, when I took a drive out there last week, I had no AT&T service. I don’t mean to say that my iPhone flipped to the Edge Network. What I am saying is I had zero bars (however, Verizon and US Cellular work out there). And with this remote location I am trying to figure out how I will be able to provide services at a level that can actually be supported.

And that brings me to the larger thought. For all the writing and podcasts made on EdReach, I think there are several things that are assumed about EdTech:

  • High-speed bandwidth availability
  • Shared vision for learning
  • Equity
  • Flexibility

As I am quickly finding out, two hours west of Chicago, there is no fiber optic network to tap into. It is going to happen soon, but it may be another three years before I can access that level of speed. For the meantime, I might have to live on T1 circuits. That greatly affects the large scale deployment of devices and applications that live on the Internet.

We also assume that school district have a shared vision for learning. I was a bit stunned this weekend at EdCamp-Chicago that a very large district in the Chicago suburbs does not have a wireless campus network. I so surprised because this district does have the people, I think, who are leaders in this field that this would be a basic feature of their technology department. In fact, this district has been a leader in creating a rich virtual course catalog to support their learners. Wireless seems so ubiquitous today that for this district to not have it kills any opportunity for them to begin to have the discussion of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) (even though I do agree with Scott Meech that BYOD is the future), 1-to-1, Chromebooks, iPads, Netbooks, etc.

Finally, we assume that there is equity throughout the school district. Initiatives such as 1-to-1 can help bridge inequity between students of various socio-economic backgrounds, but sometimes schools cannot write the check to cover that cost. School districts look at that additional $500 cost to each student and with enough students that could equal a teacher or two. So then some schools go with the idea of BYOD, but then you are back to inequity problems. Also some buildings, or grade levels may disproportionally sap resources because of programs or initiatives. I oversaw a 1-to-1 program that cost about $100,000 for just one building a year, while the three other building IT purchases did not even come close to that figure.

And a 1-to-1 cannot be a one-size-fits-all for our divergent student needs. We have entered an age where there is tremendous potential for student flexibility to use these devices as we THEY [edit made 5/25-it is what I meant to say] see fit – yet schools, administrators and teachers are attempting to define just how students use these devices. And to relegate students to using a web only device actually limits flexibility and sends a troubling message about a student’s digital footprint if digital citizenship is not addressed incessantly. What I admire most about the OLPC XO is they really have worked NOT to define what this device can do. Yes, it is a device used to enhance learning and connect students to the world, but it is also a light source for some families, a device used to educate entire families, a way to conduct business, a tool for social justice, etc.

So how can you create a viable EdTech program that despite some of these assumptions? I will begin to answer that question on tomorrow’s Razor’s Ed Show #14.

NOTE: Due to scheduling conflict, episode #14 will be posted the week of May 30.

Education Can Rock Too

After having lunch at a Hard Rock Cafe recently, I am more hopeful than ever about how technology can be used in education in the very near future. I am an avid supporter of allowing students to use touch screen devices to enhance the learning process, so I was absolutely delighted when my party was seated directly next to something that resembled an 18 by 4 foot iPad hanging on the wall. While waiting for our lunch, we were invited to explore the popular attraction known as the RockWall.

The RockWall allows visitors to access the Hard Rock Cafe’s extensive and impressive collection of more than 70,000 authentic Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia items that can be found throughout their many restaurants and hotels around the world. For many years, people were only able to view the museum quality items behind glass cases and expensive frames in select locations (for good reasons, of course). Now, the RockWall offers an innovative way for people to access items located around the world while learning about the music and artists behind the items and how they helped shape history. The RockWall acts as an interactive, virtual museum where you can zoom into things like John Lennon’s hand written lyrics or Jimi Hendrix’s custom guitars for a more personalized learning experience than you could ever have if you were just viewing the items through a glass display case.

I have not been able to stop thinking about how much I want this kind of touch screen  technology in my classroom since playing with the RockWall. How fantastic would it be if each of those floating pieces of data was an application available on my iPhone or iPad? Can you imagine running multiple iOS apps at the same time, with multiple people interacting simultaneously? Say goodbye to whiteboards, and make Interactive White Boards really interactive and magical. Educators could take learning to new places with that kind of technology.

If we can start to combine the technology we already love and depend on in education with the technology that Hard Rock Cafe is using for entertainment value, we could create a whole new learning atmosphere for students. People are already starting to think about creating more types of virtual museums so more individuals can have access the the valuable information that sits in museums around the world. Apps like Art Authority for the iPad give people access to some of the world’s best artwork from anywhere. Even more interesting, watch Amit Sood discuss his work with building a museum of museums on the web in this TED Talk:

(Click here to watch TED Talk)

This inspiring technology reminds me of a blog post by Scott Weidig, “Inspiration: Do you have effusive passion?” where Scott introduced me to another glimpse of how touch screen technology might be used in the future: A Day Made of Glass

It is an exciting time to be an educator right now, as we have access to tools that can dramatically change our students’ learning experiences. Technology is changing quickly, improving daily, and becoming more affordable for schools to purchase. The iPad is only a little over a year old and already I can’t imagine having to teach without it. Web 2.0 tools are making it easier than ever for students to create and collaborate, and the popularity of using electronic games to facilitate students’ learning is growing rapidly. I am excited for the technology that is headed toward our classrooms and students’ pockets… What kind of opportunities will technology offer students next?






The future of Ed Tech is “Bring Your Own Device” … BYOD

The future of Ed Tech is “Bring Your Own Device”, (BYOD), and schools will more than likely move away from providing devices for students sooner than later.  While BYOD is far too radical for many school districts at this time, it is inevitable that this is the future.  The sooner districts embrace this future and begin to plan for it, the more effective this transition will be.

Today, while attending EdCampChicago, BYOD was a hot topic.  I repeatedly heard, “my school bans student owned technology and it won’t change anytime soon.”  While the technology may be banned, it has not prevented BYOD!  The sooner we can stop pretending that we have truly banned student owned technology the better.

The effort to ban personal mobile technology is simply not cost-effective when you consider hidden costs such as human labor, the ongoing negative impact upon school culture and the prevention of effective learning in the 21st century.  Instead of dealing with these issues proactively, banning continues to prolong the inevitable.

We all know technology changes rapidly but I am not sure that we really have a good perspective on those changes that have taken place in our lifetime and in our schools.  We are judging the change within the change itself and that is really tough to do.

How are we going to continue to truly ban all of this “student owned” technology in schools?  Take a look at the latest iPod Watch. Take a look at sites like Advanced Intelligence and think about the ability to hide technology.  Will clothing be the future one-to-one device?  Isn’t it time to stop pretending that we can really ban it?

True BYOD will never be a solution for schools that continue to focus on standardization of hardware and applications.  Reasons for one-to-one devices have morphed over the years as we do not need devices to do it all.  Please keep in mind that BYOD does not proclude “targeted purchasing” of technology within a school system.  Schools will continue to need specialized equipment for specific learning needs.

Let’s face it, human beings tend to take better care of something they own versus something they rent. It is time to give our students ownership over their learning through the use of their own devices.

I plan on taking a closer look at BYOD through my Sunday posts over the next several weeks.  Please let me know what your thoughts are on the BYOD movement, if you have a successful model, issues to consider, and anything else that is important to consider.

While there are many issues surrounding effective use of technology in the classroom,  I am convinced that the issues surrounding BYOD are really at the core of ineffective integration of technology in the classroom.  The lessons we can explore surrounding this issue can really paint a picture of the entire ed tech movement. As Jim says, “It is time to give up control of Ed Tech.”

EdGamer Episode 12: World of Warcraft, 3D GameLab, and Games You Can Use in Your Classroom

We brought back episode 7 guest Lucas Gillispie.  He is our resident expert on the use of World of Warcraft within the classroom.  Lucas discusses his curriculum and the use of machinima.  Machinima is the use of real-time video graphics (from games) and creating a cinematic production.  Lucas is finalizing a full year curriculum based on WoW and he has connected these lessons to the common core standards.  We also discussed 3D GameLab, new games, and upcoming games, which should be helpful for those who are searching for some fun.

You can Find Lucas Gillispie at EduRealms.  He is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for Pender County Schools in southeastern North Carolina.

Outline and Notes



Find this EdGamer podcast on iTunes

EdRoundtable: Have you read the morning Glog?

Welcome to a new column on EdReach! The EdRoundtable. One of us will throw out an idea or question, and the roundtable adds their views. This first EdRoundtable has some questions about, and its strength as a media platform for students.

I quite like the idea of Take elements of the web- videos, links, photos, text- put them together and posterize the Web; that- I get. If there’s not bandwidth problems, kids quite like the tool, too. It’s colorful, has lots of interesting shapes and fonts, and allows you to do things like take elements of the web that you enjoy and put them in one snazzy place. That is fun for kids! I’ve had fun doing it too.

However, from a media literacy standpoint, Glogster is beginning to puzzle me, which is why I’m throwing this out to the group. When I say media literate, I mean it in the sense that students will have the knowledge of knowing the best media platforms to tell a story, or send a message. They will know how to best get their message across to an audience. Is Glogster the appropriate tool for this? I’ve been using the tool for two years, and I’ve expected Glogster to evolve a bit more. The question of media literacy has come up a lot in our school district, and it occurred to me- what do teachers and kids do with Glogs, once they’re done? As awesome, fun-looking as they are, they’re still not really a relevant platform. I know Glogster aspires to be relevant, but I start to question whether a Glog, as slick as it is- with its embedded YouTubes and audio uploads- isn’t more than the equivalent of the Internet version of the home refrigerator. The fridge is the place where projects go…and then die (at home they usually fall under the fridge, then die).

Is Glogster a relevant media platform worth spending time on with our students? Or should we focus on platforms that are better consumed and reach a wider audience?


Jay Blackman

I agree with many of Dan’s points, but just like you can’t grade the web on what people did on Geocities you can’t judge Glogster on the glut of bad glogs. Like any new tool that people (educators included) jump on en masse, most early attempts won’t be shining examples of incredible mastery.  I think Glogster is really in its infancy as a tool, but will grow as people master it and figure out new uses. If it gets students thinking about how to remix their media then I’m all for it. I can’t recall a tool that my teachers have taken to so quickly and decisively – if we can’t get second graders to get excited about PowerPoint but we can get them to do a glog then why not stick with what works?

The real indictment should come from the argument of whether or not Glogster has the vision to grow their platform. I’m not even sure they know what they are sitting on – the potential to build an educational framework from a simple tool that classrooms can jump on easily to a complex social learning tool.  They have the eyes and attention of a million educators and students, now it’s a question of what they are going to do to take it forward.


Judi   Epcke

Is Glogster really helping create “new media”? Or is it simply a fancy way to “mash-up” other media? Don’t get me wrong, I do think Glogster is a handy and creative way to showcase learning. There is nothing I have found that is easier for compiling text, audio, video, and images all in one place. I also appreciate the fact that they have created an education portal so the environment can be customized to the needs of students of different ages.  To call it a “digital poster” really does Glogster a disservice, and is a weak attempt to connect the familiar with this new idea.

I agree that Glogs, like many projects digital and otherwise, are viewed and forgotten. But I don’t see that Glogs are inviting interaction by the audience other than consumption. Alternately, a VoiceThread allows comments so the audience can become a part of the project with their thoughts, opinions, questions, and praise. Conceivably that is what Glogster is missing, a social interaction piece; a way for the audience to engage with the content and leave their digital mark on the project. Why stop with Glogster? Perhaps more tools should give digital content creators the option to allow the world to participate in the creation of their project or provide commentary? Like VoiceThread, wikis, blogs, Google Docs, Google Sites, Flickr, and many other tools/sites already allow for this interaction. Maybe that’s the hook to having daily consumption of a Glog.


Scott Meech

Glogster has a lot of potential beyond the “poster” concept.  The idea of looking at Glogster as more than that- is an issue I think with how we continue to use technology in our schools.  Too often we are looking at how the tool will fit the curriculum and not at how the tool can be an extension of learning.  Glogster could certainly be a home base for student work or a portfolio.  The ability for the students to design their own portfolio is really powerful.  How many other tools are there that can really allow the students to be this creative with a presentation of their ideas and thoughts?  The ability to embed multimedia and linked text is so much more powerful if we think beyond it being a tool for students to post “resources” about something that is in the curriculum.

So tell us: what do you folks think?