The Good Stuff

January 30, 2008

haulin netThis year has been a good one for technology infrastructure in our school system. All schools are benefiting from the creative partnership struck up with the county to fund technology at levels that haven’t been seen around here in a long while.

But as more and more of the “stuff” gets situated, our true heavy lifting—what we do with technology to enhance teaching and learning for 100% of our students and staff—begins in earnest.

A recent e-mail from our school system’s Director of Technology Millie Temple shows some innovative ways that various schools are using technology to support teaching and learning.

A good exercise to build upon this info would be to link each of the following datapoints to a digital artifact that represents it. Further icing on the cake would be to show the percentage of student body and staff who use it and the effect it has on academic achievement, 21st century preparation, and/or personal growth.

Media and Technology Advisory Committe

Agenda Item #1: Time for Sharing
Members shared the following information regarding technology initiatives that have taken place in their schools this year:

Morehead City Middle School

  • All data projectors are being used
  • Guitar Hero used for a math class (Deanne Rosen, 7th Grade Math)
  • Airliners used in Science classes
  • Teachers love wireless presenter mice (software eliminates the need for airliners/SMART boards)
  • Portable labs/wireless canopy have been great
  • Investigating the possibility of posting podcasts without using MP3 players (call-in process)
  • Web Cams being used in 6th grade Social Studies

Broad Creek Middle School

  • Podcasting w/ MP3 players
  • Downloading books on MP3 players
  • Use of Senteo presentation systems
  • Use of 19 SMART boards
  • New telecommunications system allows virtual field trips
  • Creating digital yearbook
  • Purchased GPS systems
  • Purchased “Wii” game system for adaptive PE
  • Held a “Technology Silent Dance”—students listened to their own music on MP3 players and iPods; Purchased splitters for students who didn’t have an MP3 player so they could share with a friend
  • Teacher laptops have been great!—can work at home while still spending time with family (E-grades, e-mail, etc.)
  • Teacher PowerPoint presentations are being added to teacher web pages (using a wireless presenter—records video and sound—can be purchased from Best Buy for approx. $50.00)—great for students who are absent or for remediation
  • Investigating new projection system (projects keyboard on table—projects monitor on any flat surface)

Croatan High School

  • Moodle (can be used to replace teacher web pages). Students can submit assignments electronically to the teacher. Students who are absent don’t get behind.
  • Tablet PCs for Math teachers; Teacher dictates while working the problem; problem is recorded and can be accessed afterwards on the teacher’s website (great for absent students or for remediation!)

Harkers Island Elementary School

  • Researched an alternative to tablets/air writers–$100 pen to be released possibly in Feb.-March that can be used to digitally capture what is written by a teacher/student

Bogue Sound Elementary School

  • Had to change computer scheduling due to demand for more time on laptops–cart is being used 1.5 hour at a time instead of smaller increments
  • 3rd-4th grade podcasting (Jason Vanzant)

White Oak Elementary School

  • Laptop cart has been a huge plus
  • New version of SuccessMaker has been installed and students have been enrolled—started using it this week—students love it!
  • Using SRI-Scholastic Reading Inventory (to find lexile levels)
  • Lab with new computers is staying full
  • Teachers are enjoying the new projectors!!

Newport Middle School

  • Studio/Morning Broadcast is being used as a model for Jones Middle School who has recently received a grant for that purpose

Distance Learning Update, 1/30/08

January 29, 2008

My wife and I live with four teenage girls under our roof. Every day, for us, is an exercise to remain relevant.

Extend the example to a school system with 8200 diverse students—a microcosm of our local population, which spans the gamut of human potential. Every day, for that school system is an exercise in remaining relevant.

One way to remain relevant is to expand the set of options. In North Carolina, we are on the forefront of this with some nifty distance learning opportunities for our middle and high school students.

Students take distance or virtual courses for various reasons. Maybe it’s a scheduling conflict, or availability, or medical, or juicing the GPA. Every student who takes a virtual course has a unique story. Here is one girl’s story of how distance learning be of value to students?

Two free distance learning options exist for NC middle and high students—

Here are the most recent stats from North Carolina Virtual Public School—

  • Total NCVPS enrollment since June 1, 2007 is 17,661 students
  • Fall 2007 Course enrollment was 4,384
  • Spring 2008 enrollment is 6,301
  • LEO enrollment is 1,113 as of 1/22/08
  • 38% of fall 2007 semester grades were A or B
Here is the breakdown of how our Carteret County distance learning students performed in Fall 2007. 62% of Carteret County students made A’s or B’s!
  • 34 class enrollments
  • A = 15
  • B = 7
  • C = 2
  • D = 1
  • F = 3
  • WF = 5
  • WP = 2
Finally, here is the ultimate, over-the-top example of an on-line class. This class, free to NC high school students, counts as a college credit at State, Carolina, UNC-G and other state schools:
ECO 201: Principles of Microeconomics
Alien beings end up on a desolate planet earth and have to figure out how to survive.A first of its kind and taught entirely as an ONLINE GAME, this course introduces microeconomic principles and analysis. Topics include: the market economy, supply and demand, shortages and surpluses, competition and monopoly, international trade, and public policy issues.
Prerequisite: Junior or Senior Standing (social and behavioral science)


January 29, 2008

The last thing the Tar Heels (women’s soccer team) see as they exit their locker room for the pregame talk is a poem taped beside the doorway.  The poem is titled “Push”:

The challenge isn’t someone else
The challenge is within
It’s the aching in your lungs
It’s the burning in your legs
And the voice that yells can’t
But you don’t listen
You just push harder
Then you hear a voice whisper can
And you realize the person you thought you were
Is no match for the one you really are.

—from the chapter on Mentality (The Man Watching:  A Biography of Anson Dorrance, the Unlikely Architect of the Greatest College Sports Dynasty Ever).

Sign Man, Cone Man and Gate Man—revisited

January 27, 2008

Another neat feature of blogging—I wrote the original version of this piece the day before Christmas and posted it to LeaderTalk. It caught the eye of an editor:

Nice posting today on LeaderTalk. Although the magazine I oversee is mainly directed at superintendents and others at the district level, I think your message in this posting has important meaning for school administrators at all levels. Wondering if we might possibly use your piece as a guest commentary in a spring issue of The School Administrator?

ESPN: New Widgets for New News Habits

January 27, 2008

ESPN Widgets are portable applications that you can place almost anywhere! You can put them on your blog, your iGoogle home page, your Facebook profile, and many of the other most popular sites on the internet. These ESPN Widgets are updated frequently, so you can keep up-to-date with breaking stories and the latest scores and stats. Add an ESPN Widget to your favorite site today!

Being a sports nut (and AD), I’ve added this one to our school system’s athletics webpage


ESPN offers a variety of widgets at its widget center. Services for the widgets include embed code, e-mail, google, facebook, myyearbook, myspace, netvibes, hi5, xanga, friendster, tagged, blackplanet, blogger, typepad, livejournal, multiply, eons, pageflakes, webwag and vox.

Why is this significant and blogworthy? It has to do with preparing kids for their futures not our pasts. Remember gathering ’round the TV for the evening news? How many of us still do that?

Writes Laura Mckenna at Pajamas Media:

I will not be sitting in front of the 6:30 network news.

More importantly, neither will any of the college students in my classes.

They are the news consumers of the future and the evening news has no place in their lives. I teach Politics and Media with reading assignments from the most widely used textbook in the field, but the students don’t know what to make of it. To them, it reads like ancient history. The author writes as if the world still looked up to news anchors. She refers familiarly and respectfully to Brian Williams and Katie Couric in a tone that assumes her readers – the students – also worship them.

Wrong. The students worship Jon Stewart. They have never watched the 6:30 news, not even once. They have never watched the local 5:00 news shows either. I have to actually assign students to watch the local news in order to get the students to watch those shows, so they will know what their textbooks are talking about. I might as well have asked them to go to a museum.

My anecdotal evidence is supported by research. In a recent study, Thomas Patterson from Harvard found that young people – surprise! – don’t tune into Katie or any other traditional news anchors. They don’t have the same daily news habit that their parents had.

Patterson writes:

For young Americans, most of them do not make any appointment with the daily news, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have some exposure to it. They are so media connected that it’s really difficult for them or anyone else in this society to not have some news exposure, but they essentially don’t put part of their day aside to partake of the news.

Got widgets?  How about relevance?


January 27, 2008 Wake Forest football player dismissed (1/27)—

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A reserve running back for the Wake Forest University football team has been dismissed after writing on his Facebook page that he would “blow up campus.”

Campus police said 19-year-old Luke Caparelli posted the note on the social-networking page on Jan. 13. The note was written in third person and included a threat that Caparelli would have an Uzi submachine gun “locked and loaded in his bag.”

I am reminded in Sunday vespers that humans are a fallible lot. We make mistakes, atone for them, learn from them, and hopefully achieve forgiveness for them. But digital dirt is unforgiving.

The authorities found no evidence that Caparelli was going to carry out his threat. This fumble not only cost him his place in a vaunted football tradition at a prestigious university, but it will most likely haunt him in the eventual job hunt.

Whether on the football field or on Facebook, a misread is a misread. And no amount of filtering in K-12 can teach cyber ethics to kids growing up on-line.

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Their Young Eyes are Watching

January 24, 2008

Children often accompany their parents to the local gyms to watch high school basketball. When the towering center slam dunks with thunder, their young eyes are watching. When the star shooter nails a three-pointer at the buzzer, their young eyes are watching. When the speedy defensive specialist steals a pass and goes coast-to-coast for an easy layup, their young eyes are watching.

When their dad refuses to abide by the school and gym rules, gets loud and abusive towards the administrator-on-duty, and eventually gets tossed by security—their young eyes are watching.

Much parental concern is rightfully directed at children’s behavior on the Internet and on cell phones. Because the parents’ experience and reference with these technologies are often so far removed from their children’s, schools have a responsibility to outreach on the topic (as we did in 06-07). That outreach should be refreshed periodically, perhaps annually.

I do not aim to downplay the possibility of threats in any communication medium or personal encounter. However, ill-informed outreach programs and over-zealous safeguards can backlash and create a false sense of security.

Balance is the key . . . and that takes an open mind and comprehensive study.

The recent PBS Frontline: Growing Up On-line gives precisely that balanced approach. If you missed the show on 1/22, you can catch it on-line. It is offered in the following six segments of 7-9 minutes each:

  • Living Their Lives Essentially On-line
  • A Revolution in Classrooms and Social Lives
  • Self-Expression: Trying on New Identities
  • The Child Predator Fear (recommended for parents)
  • Private Worlds Outside Parents’ Reach
  • Cyberbullying


One of the biggest myths of Internet safety is heavy-handed filtering. Although federal law requires filtering in schools, it —in and of itself—fails to prepare kids and community for what they may face after school hours and after school years. Balanced filtering has to be twinned with teaching Internet safety to 100% of our stakeholders. That is our charge in a new world order where kids are growing up on-line.

As schools consider the next Internet Safety outreach effort to stakeholders, they should consider using some of the quality PBS video. Also, accompanying resources found in “Keeping Kids Safe” provide context, strategies, and balance for educators and parents alike.

I would urge concerned and committed parents to watch these PBS segments with their kids, then unplug the wireless router for a bit.

Maybe take them—their young eyes— to watch a basketball game where by choice or happenstance, much like on the Internet, they are privvy to the range of human potential.