Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Enriching Writing Instruction with Technology at IS 93

I always enjoy sharing successes I encounter in NYC schools. During a recent conversation with a reporter looking to do a story about how innovative educators are using technology in their classrooms to enhance writing, I was reminded of a wonderful visit I had to a teacher's room at IS 93 in Queens.

The email excerpt below will give you a glimpse into some of the ways he is using technology to enhance the delivery and receipt of writing instruction at his school.

Dear Nate,

Thank you so much for inviting us to see the wonderful work you are doing to enrich literacy instruction with technology at your school. It was truly a pleasure to see how your students were using technology to enhance their writing. The motivation and engagement of the students was evident as we saw students eager to share the work they were doing. As we watched the lesson, we saw how excited students were to see their work published onto the “Writing Matters” eZine. It was also great to see the work from the OIT literacy professional development incorporated into instruction. One student, Miguel, enthusiastically showed me the comments that were color-coded and inserted on his writing draft from other classmates. He explained to me how the revisions he made in response to their remarks made his writing even better.

It was also interesting to see the feedback students provided on one another’s writing drafts using the discussion boards. This is something I think will take on an even larger role in future units as students were very interested to read their classmate’s reactions to their work. Several students explained how they were able to extend their learning outside the classroom using innovative methods (class website, discussion board, usb drives, "Writing the City" website) to transfer their work and access the internet so they could work on their writing and respond to the work of others outside of class.

It really was a pleasure to see how enthusiastic students were about the work they were publishing and how eager they were to share their pieces with all of us. I look forward to visiting again to see more of the great work the IS 93 students and staff are engaged in.

Low-Price Laptops Tested at City Schools

I was just interviewed by The New York Sun along with my friend and colleague Lynette Guastaferro (Teaching Matters, Executive Director) and Bruce Lai (CIO-Chief of Staff) about Low-Price Laptops Tested at City Schools - September 30, 2008 - The New York Sun. The article tells of the upcoming availability of low-cost laptops (under $500) across NYC schools and in particular mentions two schools that are piloting Nicholas Negroponte's XO laptops at P.S. 5 in the Bronx and P.S. 20 in Brooklyn.

I had the pleasure of visiting P.S. 5 this week and met with the school's principal, Ms. Padilla and Literacy coach Ms. Leuzzi. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens at this school as they roll out this program in November with a focus on using the laptops to accelerate literacy achievement and engagement. As I shared in The New York Sun article, as a former literacy coach, I had the opportunity to work rather closely with Lucy Calkins at Teachers College, Columbia University who when I told her of my desire for every student to have a laptop asked why we should spend $1200 on laptops for kids. She asked, "Wouldn't that money be better spent toward purchasing books for every student??? As I explained to P.S. 5's literacy coach, the answer is a resounding, "No!" Providing each kid with a laptop not only connects them to endless information, countless resources, experts around the world and more, but it also instantly puts hundreds of thousands of books and texts in the palms of student's hands. When I told P.S. 5 Literacy coach about this conversation she asked, "How?" I explained and sent her the following resources which are posted at The Innovative Educator wiki.

Free Online Book Resources

  • Digital Book Index
    Digital Book Index provides links to more than 141,000 full-text digital books from more than 1800 commercial and non-commercial publishers, universities, and various private sites. More than 100,000 of these books, texts, and documents are available free, while many others are available at very modest cost.
  • LibroVox
    Objective is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet.
  • Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Books are available in multiple languages.
  • KidsClick!
    A website that provides resources for students by reading level.
Thanks to The New York Sun for sharing with readers an exciting possibility that has potential to positively shape the future of education where all students will have access to tools that will help them succeed inside and outside of schools.

City Public Schools Receive New Laptops for NY 1's coverage of the story.
Note the outdated video footage. It looks like it was taken at a school I worked at about 10 years ago in Harlem. You'll notice those are definitely not the kid-friendly XOs.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thinking Outside the Ban Pays Off - NYC DOE’s Million Project Explores and Finds Educational Value of Cell Phones (Then abandons the project)

When I began writing this post, the headline was, “Thinking Outside the Ban Pays Off - NYC DOE’s Million Project Explores Educational Value of Cell Phones.” That was before a phone call from a reporter on Friday asking for my help with a story she was interested in doing about using 21st Century tools in education. After our call, it is clear that the headline needed updating to include the addendum (then abandons the project), but you’ll need to make your way to the end of this post to discover why.

During the call she asked whatever happened after the stories ran about using cell phones in education. I shared that I was encouraged because following the NY Sun article Despite School Cell Phone Ban, Course Sees Them as Aid that I was featured in expressing my belief that cells have education potential, I was contacted by the DOE’s Equality Office who shared that they would like to speak to me regarding one of their projects, called the Million which provides students with free cell phones and enables them to earn minutes and text messages through achievement in schools.

While I share the publicly-acknowledged disconnect (pun intended) about the NYC DOE having a cell phone program for kids despite them being banned in schools, I welcomed the opportunity to promote the use of technology for educational gain. After speaking with the office I learned they were minimizing the disconnect, because what they were actually researching was ways to use cell phones to engage middle school students in academic content "outside" of the regular school day.

As an enthusiastic advocate of schools investigating the use of technology as an educational tool I was excited about the decision to investigate using the technology most kids already have…cell phones. It also seemed like a potentially natural progression into the future. Once teachers, administrators and students begin acknowledging, using, and becoming comfortable with technologies such as cells for educational value outside of schools, eventually they may be able to transfer these ideas within school walls. As District Administration’s recently reported, “Now is the time that schools should purchase mobile computers. But in the near future, students will bring their own mobile computers to school-smart cell phones. Cell phones or cell phone use is banned from many school districts now, but savvy administrators will realize they can avoid buying computers since the students' own devices will be sufficient for most learning tasks.”

As a result, I did quite a bit of work this summer to support the Equality Office’s investigation into determining the educational of cell phones including setting up focus groups, developing and distributing student and teachers surveys, and connecting the office to industry leaders including Liz Kolb, Marc Prensky, Will Richardson, and Shawn Gross and others. Each of us devoted time to this project as we were thrilled to learn that the NYC DOE was involved in a program that was dedicating time to research and recognize the educational value of technology.

This was exciting work and this group of individuals came up with various recommendations for using cell phones in education including:

At the end of the summer I received a nice email from the office stating:

I wanted to thank you once again for all of your help. You really played a vital role in every step. Thank you. I also thought you might be interested to hear some of my conclusions. I found that teachers are skeptical, but excited about the possibility of utilizing cell phones to engage student learning. I also found that if a cell phone initiative is implemented well, it will focus less on providing content to students and more on providing opportunities for students to create and share their own content. As such, I recommended that we pursue a gradual approach that consistently phases in greater student control. But first, we must sit down and talk to students to find out what they really want and then work with teachers to recruit a pilot cohort and get them the proper training.

It seemed all this dedication paid off for what appeared to be a promising educational technology program at the NYC DOE. But things were not quite what they seemed.

NYC DOE’s Million Project Discovers Educational Value Cell Phones – Then Disappears

After sharing my excitement about the direction and future of the NYC DOE’s program the reporter hesitantly shared that there was just a story in the NY Times about the demise of the program due to lack of funding.


I was on my way out for a date that evening, so I didn’t have the opportunity to investigate what she said. I tried text messaging Cha Cha on the way to my date to find out if this was true. I asked Cha Cha, "Is Roland Fryer's Million project for NYC Schools occuring this year?" My Cha Cha guide said, “So far there is no mention of Roland Fryer doing it again this year.” Hmmm, this would definitely need further digging…. When I got home, here’s what I found.

While the program had come out like a lion roaring as recently as this summer in a press release where the School Chancellor hailed the campaign as a bold idea to re-brand achievement and motivate students…it has gently faded away right under our noses.

Just a few days ago, on September 25th the NY Times reported Dr. Roland Fryer, the guy behind the program has, “quit his part-time post as chief equality officer of the New York City public schools to lead a $44 million effort, called the Educational Innovation Laboratory, to bring the rigor of research and development to education.” Further down in the article they report, “A separate Fryer initiative, which rewarded New York middle school students with cellphone minutes for academic performance and classroom behavior, was discontinued because the city did not raise enough money from private donors to pay for it this fall.” However, he said he hoped that the cellphone idea would gain traction in other cities.

Wait? They couldn’t get donors to pay for this incentive program, but Fryer is starting a $44 million dollar effort with $6 million handed up front by Eli Broad of the Broad Foundation?

And, in the same article they report, “New York schools plan to continue Dr. Fryer’s experiment of paying students in the fourth and seventh grades up to $500 a year for doing well on reading and math tests” even though as the article goes onto say, “Conclusive evidence about the effectiveness of this program has been scant, and Dr. Fryer said officials are still examining the data on last year’s cash incentives.

So, it seems NY Schools are funding a program without conclusive evidence about it’s effectiveness, but are not continuing the Million program despite the Chancellor’s recognition that with the Million program, we have seen encouraging results, including: The Million pilot achieved a high degree of engagement among students and their families during its first months of operation. More than 85% of eligible students opted to participate, and the impact of the program can be observed in preliminary data from student and parent surveys administered in late May 2008:

  • 65% of parents said their children are doing better in school since the start of the program;
  • More than 75% of Million students said the program impacted their schools in at least one of the following ways:
    1) Students are working harder; 2) Students are “more competitive in a good way”; 3) Students and teachers interact with each other more;
  • Over three-quarters of parents noted at least one of the following changes in their child since the start of the Million program:
    1) Spends more time doing homework; 2) Gets more excited about certain classes; 3) Receives higher grades and/or better progress reports; and 4) Studies more with friends.

Educational Value Cell Phones Can Be Realized without Million Program Funding

Let's hope that at some point the NYC DOE puts the recommendations from staff and leading experts to use. Using cell phones is a smart idea and it doesn't require the level of funding that a program paying kids to do well on tests requires. Students already have access to cell phones. They don’t need the NYC DOE to buy them. Let's teach teachers how their students can use the phones they or their parents have as motivational educational tools. While we’re at it, how about partnering with Google and other companies that have cell phone app downloads to get free incentives, contests, rewards and programs for kids who do well in school.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Filter Fun

Will Richardson's bring up an important issue in his recent post Filter Fun where he shares his sentiments about believing that filters make our kids less safe. This is an issue that those who know me know I feel strongly about and am frustrated that so often we are not preparing or protecting kids inside schools for the world they live in outside school walls. At the very least we should begin with providing teachers with unfiltered access. This would enable them to share countless valuable (but blocked) resources with their students and model appropriate use.

When I began teaching I had about 25 computers donated to me (from a company that was upgrading) and arranged for them to be driven from L.A. to New York. I worked in a inner-city school in Harlem and had no problems with an unfiltered network (back then, this was possible) where expectations, guidelines, and policies were set. The students did come across inappropriate sites from time to time, but this was usually accidental. Those became quick teachable moments about how that should be handled. While there was, of course, ooooo-ing and awwww-ing early on when students stumbled upon an inappropriate site, after not too long, the students all knew the proper protocols and behaviors expected, and an unfiltered network was not an issue. I did enlist the help of students who were instructional technology officers who provided a great way to extend my own eyes and ears but their services were rarely needed as the kids valued and respected having the ability to use the computers and appreciated having an adult interested in speaking to them about their online environment.

I know this is not the ideal setting for all teachers and schools, but I do think there has to be something set up where individual teachers, or schools can set their own filter preferences enabling those educators who are ready to navigate the waters of the internet with their students, the ability to do so.

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Instructional Technology Tips for New Teachers

I was asked to put together a short guide that would be helpful for new NYC teachers in the area of instructional technology. I thought this might be useful to others. If you see something missing, let me know and I’ll be sure to add it.

Welcome to the Office of Instructional Technology!
The Office of Instructional Technology provides innovative solutions to transform teaching, learning, and leading with real-word, standards-based, integration of technology throughout the curriculum using standardized services and customized support - all with the goal of preparing our students to succeed in a global community. Our services support the entire teaching and learning community.

Professional Development for New Teachers
We offer a variety of professional development opportunities for educators including institutes and workshops to support educators in using 21st Century tools to enhance teaching and learning. Instructional facilitators are also available to consult with schools. New teachers can learn more by registering for classes at http://pd.nycoit.org or visiting our website http://www.oit.nycenet.edu.

Principles of Quality Instruction in Instructional Technology
The Office of Instructional Technology uses the International Society of Technology Educator’s (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) to serve as a roadmap for improved teaching, leading, and learning. The standards, used in every U.S. state and many countries, are credited with significantly influencing expectations for students and creating a target of excellence relating to technology. The National Educational Technology Standards for students focus more on skills and expertise and less on tools. Specifically, they address:

§ Creativity and Innovation
§ Communication and Collaboration
§ Research and Information Fluency
§ Critical thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
§ Digital Citizenship
§ Technology Operations and Concepts

For a description of technology literate students at key developmental points in their pre-college education visit, http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForStudents/2007Standards/Profiles/NETS_for_Students_2007_Profiles.htm. There you will find the NETS-Students profiles that highlight a few important types of learning activities in which students might engage as the standards are implemented.

Useful Instructional Technology Curricular Resources for Teachers (Listed Alphabetically)

Classroom Management: The Power of Procedures
This article discusses effective management techniques and procedures for every classroom. The article includes a PowerPoint that is used by a teacher with her students. For further study, read “First Days of School,” by Wong or take the online class at www.classroommanagement.com (fee based).

Classroom 2.0
This is a networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technology tools for education.

ISTE's Educational Technology Standards
ISTE's Educational Technology Standards serve as guides for teachers, students and administrators to help them focus on the skills and expertise needed to teach, learn, and lead more effectively in an ever changing global community. Teachers can use the standards to facilitate student learning and creativity, create digital work and assessment, model good digital citizenry and pursue personal growth and leadership.

New York Learns
NYLearns.org identifies, organizes and delivers educational resources that are aligned to learning standards. The site also provides teachers with easy to use integrated classroom tools that enhance their teaching effectiveness. The site offers a curriculum section, which features all of the NYS Learning Standards and is searchable by standard area, grade level, course, and key word; the educational resources section, with thousands of peer-reviewed instructional resources that are searchable by standard area, grade level, content type, and key word; and a catalogue of face-to-face and on-line professional development opportunities for teachers across New York State.

Online Safety
The NYC DOE offers a comprehensive K-12 Internet safety curriculum to schools and workshops for parents. You can ask your school's parent coordinator, librarian, or technology specialist about what your schools is doing. If they do not have plans but are interested in launching the curriculum, encourage them to contact the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, School Library Services, or Office of Instructional Technology to arrange for internet safety training for teachers, parents and/or students at your school. To participate in an online safety professional development class visit http://pd.nycoit.org and do an advanced search for "Cyber Safety."

School 2.0
The School 2.0 eToolkit is designed to help schools, districts, and communities develop a common education vision and explore how that vision can be supported by technology. School 2.0 provides a “big picture” perspective on community-based, next-generation schools that allows for a common point of entry so that all community stakeholders can participate in this important conversation.

Teachers Network: New Teachers New York
The Teachers Network: New Teachers New York provides many resources for educators including information about upcoming events; curriculum units and lesson plans; how-to’s; grants; research; videos and more.

Technology Integration Matrix
The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) illustrates how teachers can use technology to enhance learning for K-12 students. The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, constructive, goal directed (i.e., reflective), authentic, and collaborative (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003). The TIM associates five levels of technology integration (i.e., entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation) with each of the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments. Together, the five levels of technology integration and the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments create a matrix of 25 cells as illustrated on the website.

Technology-Rich Classroom Visitation Rubric
This rubric was created to help educators determine how well they are using 21st Century skills in the classroom.
21st Century Skills
Teachers can use as a resource of the six skills that students need to master to be successful in the real world environments of the 21st century. The website contains illustrations of how these information and communication skills can be integrated into the core academic subjects.

Useful NYCDOE Resources for Teachers (Listed Alphabetically)

Email Services
To activate your DOE email account, please call the helpdesk at 718-935-5100 or visit the website above.

Help Desk & Tech Support
This Web site serves as an extension of the Division of Instructional and Information (DIIT) Help Desk. You are always invited to speak to a technical support analyst by calling the Help Desk at (718) 935-5100.

Internet Acceptable Use Policy
Visit the New York City Department of Education’s rules for Internet Acceptable Use at this site.

ProTraxx Online Class Registration
To view all the courses that are offered through the Office of Instructional Technology, log into ProTraxx at the above site. To locate an Instructional Technology course do a "Quick Search" for and select either Instructional Technology or iTeach/iLearn.

School Websites
The Office of Web Management Services has created dynamic school web portals. Please visit this site for details on how to get your portal started.

Teacher Page: A Resource for Teachers
The Teacher Page provides New York City Department of Education teachers with helpful links and information such as information on subscribing to Teacher’s Weekly, salary information, email information, scope and sequence for various content areas, and more.

Unblock/Block Websites
To unblock or block websites visit this site, which is accessible only through the NYC DOE intranet and can only be activated from an administrative line.

Filter Lookup


Allows you to determine if a website is blocked by the web filter. Enter the URL for the website you would like to research in the “Enter URL” field. Click the Submit button. In the “Disposition” field of the form it will now inform you if it is blocked or not.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Webcasts, and Blogs, and Tech Tools…OH MY!

In the age of the 21st Century data deluge how’s an innovative educator supposed to keep up with all the information out there? If you’re like me every time you turn around, pick up a book, stumble across a website, attend a presentation, etc. etc. etc. you learn about a new tech tool, tip, trick, blog or webcast and more. First there were wikis, blogs, and podcasts, then there were Ning, UStream, and Twitter. While the technologies sound great, it seems nearly impossible to keep up with them all and how do you follow up to see who is using what and how it’s working?

In response to this issue, I have set up The Innovative Educator site where I have shared videos, webcasts, blogs, recommendations for parents, and more that I have found helpful in my work. I have also set up several discussion forums so readers can share their recommendations and comment on using the tools and suggestions posted on the site. It is my hope that this will be a valuable resource for educators.

I invite you to visit The Innovative Educator and if you like it, post a comment to share your feedback with others. If you have any suggestions please post them on the site. If you want to contact me directly about comments, thoughts, or suggestions, email me at theinnovativeeducator@gmail.com.