Wednesday, March 23, 2022

How have we improved?


This Ted style talk was deliver in 2014.

Lots of things have changed since 2014.  We have faced global pandemic.  We have seen multiple presidents.  We have seen technology make numerous things easier.   We have seen education change.

As I looked back and listen it made me think about what have we not changed.   I pose that question to you, what hasn't changed?  And more importantly, what has changed?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Connecting and trying something new.

As the COVID situation changed education a new conversation started happening across Wyoming.  The task was to figure out how to connect educators with tools, people, organizations and other educator.  The motivations was simple, education has forever been changed and we want to help Wyoming to stay at the top for our children.  The group brought people together from the University of Wyoming, countess school districts and the Wyoming Department of Education.   

The conversation quickly turned to how do we share the stories that make Wyoming Education a beacon in our state...the answer - Wyoming WebEd Radio.  This show will be live streamed on Youtube, Facebook and archived as a podcast.  The group created  "Season 1" with 8 great episodes.

The new adventure part for myself was being elected to be the host.  So myself, along with my faithful sidekicks Joe Schroer & Mia Williams, from the University of Wyoming,  get the privilege of leading these discussions.  

Nervous, and excited we all are to kick this thing off.  July 7 will be the first episode.  

We really want to help connect all the things we can so teachers and schools can share and learn as we continue to face many unknowns for the fall.

Hope to see you there and hope you share advice  and questions  for the group to tackle.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Leading through this once in a lifetime event?

Q1.  How do you think Leadership will change as a result of COVID19?

DP: I think that leadership will, similar to teaching, be focused more on the social and emotional side of leadership. As leaders, we have to ensure our teachers have not only the materials, curricular resources, and support they need, we have to be working to support the whole human being. 


Very well stated Darrin.  Your answer highlights something we not only don't have lots of best practices for but we aren't totally sure how to train. Leaders must be finding ways to support those virtual and hybrid classes similar to how we have in brick and mortar. Leaders will need to ensure counselors, aids, parents, specialized staff and themselves are very visible in all those virtual environments.  

The challenge kids face with the emotional side of online experiences is they never know what is real.  Emojis are different from real faces.  Helping them express their feelings will be a key to their success.

DP: Absolutely James, we know that our kids are and will continue to struggle with this current version of normal and will need a lot of support from their teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals and so forth. In order for the adults to fill the bucket of their kids, we, as leaders, have to work to help them fill their own buckets. This might be through some organized strategy, planned timed for staff to disconnect, or even something as simple as one on one conversations asking, ‘how are you doing?’

Q2.  What are some strategies to help schools be prepared for the start of the new school year?

JK: With all things, I think we must keep the end in mind.  The number one question we have to address is how are we going to assess whatever we are teaching.  This is not proposing more tests but instead schools need to have opportunities for students to demonstrate their mastery of learning.  Once we understand how we can know what they know then we can look at the ways that we can teach.  

The other strategy is to communicate NOW with parents, staff and students and build options.  Schools need options that will address what hybrid, virtual and “normal” school can look like.  How will we address connectivity? What does childcare look like? How will the community adapt to fill the need for students not in schools?. The more specific we get, the more comfortable everyone is, with dealing with the what if.

And maybe the biggest elephant we need to address, what was lost?. We need to know where students are and be clear that next year's fifth grader might be at fourth grade level.

DP: I think it is imperative that we are sharing our thinking in a very transparent way with our communities. Moving forward for next year cannot be done in isolation. From an instructional standpoint, it is important that we focus on the most important standards. We lost a fourth of a school year to COVID-19 and we will see something beyond any summer slide we’ve seen before. 

JK: Transparent is a great way to phrase that Darrin.  We must work together and start working on this...last week.  Was part of a conversation with teachers about simply creating an at home supply list so we all could plan activities on what is truly common in home and not assume access to random things like ping pong balls.

Q3. ...What are some skills, support, PD teachers and leaders might need going into next year?

DP: We have been talking at length about blended learning professional development for our staff. It’s easy to look at the negatives from COVID-19’s impact on education. However, if we think instead of it as a shock to the system, we see opportunity. Teachers have so many strengths unique to themselves, and in blended learning they should hold fast to those skills. If we then can integrate use of technology in different ways to build on their current skill sets, the impact on student learning will be incredible. Focusing on blended learning will allow for improvement in engagement, lesson design, student ownership, and many other areas.

JK: I think you are spot on when looking at what teachers strengths are.  I really feel the chance to help us all understand what engagement looks like when on-line is very important.  We might need a few youtubers to help us.  This is not an easy task because most of the engagement experts that deal with on-line learning are not tied to public schools.  We need to reach out and build some digital training connections to assist in this process.

Q4….What do you see as the long-term impact on education from COVID-19?

JK:  I guess I am hopeful that COVID-19 lights a fire under education.  As a whole, the educational system has seen very little substantial structural changes in over 100 years.  School content and expectations have changed but the structure and delivery have been relatively the same.  As an earlier post, Never Waste a Crisis, I believe education will look different from this time forward.  I believe we will see more parents taking children out of school, (for vacations, family events, etc) and as result educational delivery will be much more agile.  That agility will allow us to deliver education in an engaging way that can reach students no matter where they need to be.  I do think schools will redesign schedules that allow for more personalized flow through the physical environment.  That will allow for schools to create more purposeful learning spaces instead of maximum capacity seating.

DP: As I mentioned earlier, this is a shock to the system. One which allows for a renaissance in education, if we will let it happen. Parents will expect more of their schools after our response to the crisis. Students should expect more flexibility and a more modern approach to learning. From an assessment stand point, accountability should and must change. We didn’t have our usual spring test-a-thon...and the world didn’t come to an end. Education continued, our system responded! Now, let’s capitalize on the love being heaped upon educators and bring a new, reborn education from this point forward.

JK  I love the idea of capitalizing on the heaping of love teachers are getting, now let's do something with that support for sure.

Thank You Darrin for taking the time to help us get further on the #roadtoawesome!  Always good chatting with you!

Darrin M Peppard, @DarrinMPeppard

James Kapptie @jpk38

James is a 20 year classroom veteran.  His experience includes Middle and High School, Administration, Technology Director, Education speaker and consultant, and Computer Science and “Purposeful Technology" Evangelist.  Creator of #wyoedchat.

Darrin….Dr. Darrin Peppard is a school district superintendent, speaker, author, consultant, and former high school principal. His expertise in school culture and climate along with coaching and growing emerging leaders has made him a leading voice in school leadership on the national level. Darrin was awarded as the Jostens Renaissance Educator of the Year in 2015, Wyoming Secondary School Principal of the Year by WASSP/NASSP in 2016, and in 2019, Darrin was inducted into the Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame. Darrin is the author of the upcoming book “Road To Awesome” being released in July from CodeBreakerEDU.

Friday, May 29, 2020

How can we connect more students during this time and/or how should we move forward? Guest blog w/ Brian Crosby.

  1. What does connecting students mean now that we have been dealing with the COVID 19 issue?


 We should have been connecting students globally for the last 10 years. Connected learning is a very powerful learning environment that leverages all that is good about project / problem based learning. But powerful connected learning that utilizes social networking requires all the safety considerations that students should learn from a very young age. We wouldn’t wait until students are in middle or high school before we teach them fire, bus, stranger, first aid, using scissors, playground and other safety issues. But to a certain extent that is what we have done with technology. If students, under the guidance and modeling of a classroom teacher, starting in at least kindergarten had been learning safe, ethical use we would be in a much better place. If this was the case students could be doing so much more learning that they make choices about. All the communication skills and collaborative connections they could be utilizing under the moderation of their teachers would be a good thing right now.

This is why I like blogging as a choice now. Student blogs at any age can be set up so the teacher moderates and OK’s everything before it goes live, whether it is an outgoing post or an incoming comment. That way if students (or teachers / parents) currently lack experience, knowledge or time during a work day in keeping children safe, the teacher is there to guide students appropriately. Also blogs can be writing, photos, videos, podcasts … almost every kind of sharing and collaborating is doable on a blog.


Totally agree that we are a little behind the curve with technology.  I liked blogging but feel we need to give it an image refresh.  It’s like Facebook to our kids.  We must show how the other pieces can connect, video,podcast, photos etc., and then highlight how blogs can be shared across the different channels ( Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc) to balance the ability of monitoring safe use and allowing it to be cutting edge.  

As with all things for teachers, what type of PD would help them feel more comfortable and not see it as one more thing is important to consider.

BC: Teachers have a lot, too much really on their plates these days, having said that we have an issue with educators not being willing to use these collaborative tools mostly because they don’t feel they have “permission” and that there are safety issues they might get blamed for. The PD, with total support from administration, should move teachers to new learning platforms and pedagogy and away from “the old ways.” I always say that society wants schools to change fundamentally how they do things as long as when they’re done changing they're pretty much just like school was when I was a kid so I understand them. But PD on new ways and resources typically fall flat because we don’t take any current curriculum resources or requirements off teachers plates, it just seems to be layered on. Teachers in general don’t trust that they can innovate after all the years of test and punish mentality. So education in general has to build trust and a sense of capacity and time to make real change.

  1. How can we increase quality connections with students in a hybrid or virtual environment?

JK:  I think this is a question that is very similar to the “old normal” classroom.  Quality happens when students feel connected to the teacher in some way.  To build those connections we have been given opportunities to connect with kids in private and personal ways.  I know that there will be student safety conversations to follow about this, with good reason, but the advantage is that schools and teachers have very direct ways to connect and hear from students and families.  Quality will happen when teachers find the way that works for each student/family and talk to them.  Education, under the “old normal”, has often allowed one size to fit the needs of the masses. We have parent teacher conferences, we have mass robo call/email systems, we have put information out on social media, but in general we have provided information in a one way fashion.  How do we improve the quality, we ask and we listen!  

As an example of how we evolve.  Some districts dove into Google classroom and the result ended up with students and parents getting hundreds of emails a day and overwhelming them immediately.  Parents wanted less  before we even got started. Schools had to come up with ways to share assignments without just posting them. One simple way was to create a “day assignment” that included all teachers the student had.  This highlights the challenges schools face; what’s too much & what’s not enough?  

Quality comes from two directions: staff has to work as a team and be willing to listen to students.  We no longer have a CAPTIVE audience locked in a classroom so we have no choice.  Are there potential software tools we can use, sure but we must protect the human side of communication.  Students get feedback and communication from digital tools everyday but its not personal and quality can be debated.

BC: Despite what we are experiencing right now we have a great opportunity here to make some real, robust changes in schooling as well. We have to be careful not to end up using places like Google Classroom to do what school has looked like for too many years but just do it online instead. Let’s get students learning what they want to learn about more often. We know that when anyone is learning about something they are passionate about they will focus more, spend more time, and have more incentive to do quality work. Now they have motivation to improve reading, writing and math skills so they can share their learning AND if they collaborate with others they build a support system of collaborators that learn from each other as they go.


What a great way of saying that. Do what school has been...just now in Google Classroom.  You are right.  This is our chance to not just throw a new coat of paint on the house but to remodel it.  And in remodeling we are not totally destroying what is there but reimaging what we can do.

  1. What does quality interaction look like when using tools like youtube, blogs, social media, etc.

BC: Besides the ability of posting work to the world, these applications open up the possibility of collaborating with and learning with the world of learners out there. Instead of just having access to immediate classmates as collaborators, now collaborators are available globally. Teachers, again have to be there as guides and moderators (and parents and other community members have a role here too) and be ready to note when a student needs skill  support or connection support or idea support and more, but teachers have always had those roles, now they’ll just happen in other venues and timeframes. And note, now a student’s address is less important because when collaborators are global the effects of where you live and socio-economic levels get blurred. I’ve lived this in my own classroom, where my at-risk, second language learner students often were pushed by their collaborators from around the world to deeper understandings and vocabulary and language skills. And when you engage globally lots of unintended learning takes place … time zones, and seasons, and weather patterns, and customs, and flora and fauna, and a whole plethora of other knowledge creeps in.

JK:  Opening students work up to the world and more collaborators is so important.  If we look at what the COVID19 issue has shown usat a professional level; we have the tools to connect remotely but overall there are alot of us that aren’t very good at it.  Working connected, while apart is the skill that our children are going to need for their future.  

The fear of something bad being commented must not keep us from exploring and using the moments to learn.  Using safety features to help moderate comments and chats will help and the possibility o f messy learning is why we should explore.  Students come across inappropriate communication in lots of social media but are often at a loss on how to appropriately deal with it.  This is where real learning can happen to create a more skilled generation.

BC: Part of not being very good at it is the intimidation many feel about using applications, but also what could go wrong and then who is responsible. The time issue for many, that sense that they don’t have time for this, that it will take them away from “covering” all the curriculum they're supposed to cover (for THE TEST) - like this kind of learning is only an extra piece instead of learning that is really important, so we don’t have time for this added on piece. In addition, many, many educators don’t feel they REALLY have “permission” to go there despite what the administration says. Some feel their students know more about these technology pieces and they’ll look bad or students will take advantage. We have to get past all of this. Imagine doctors feeling their patients knew more about medicine than they do. You have to stay up to date on all the new tools in your field and educators have not been put in a good position to do that based on “accountability,” time and access to technology (and more). So this situation as bad as it is may have the silver lining of educators getting more acquainted with the tech and in some cases more access to tech that makes connected learning doable and powerful.

  1. What positive impacts could be realized and carried over from this experience for teachers and students after students are back in the classroom?

JK.  We never know what we are capable of until we are pushed out of our comfort zones.  COVID19 took teachers, schools and education instantly from the question of: What can technology tools do for schools to how do we use all these tools to reach students?  Lots of pieces of the education process had been reluctant to try or use or implement tools that had amazing potential as it might upset the apple cart of traditional education.  So what now, what can be carried over?  I think the vast amount of experience has shown a taste of possibilities to not only students but educators.  As a result we know we need training to effectively use some of these tools past just screen time.  We also have all the new questions about equity and access to work to answer as well.  One thing to me that is very clear is that it should be clear that just going back to what we did isn’t enough.  We have lots of new exciting ways to explore how we evolve education for sure.

BC: When first stepping into collaborative technology use I often suggest to educators to make some fairly simple connections to attain some experience and competence in utilizing it as a learning platform. Too often though, I see teachers using video-conferencing to do 10 to 50 “Mystery Conference Calls” a year around the country and not much else. Those kinds of calls are fine, especially to gain experience, that’s basically what I did (same with blogging and other social media), but if that’s more or less all you do with video-conferencing or blogging, YouTube, etc. you’re missing the point. 

Educators have not embraced technology as a powerful learning tool for a number of reasons, fear, access, school policies, and more. But one of the biggest factors that drives those impediments has been lack of experience with the tools. One thing this Covid-19 experience has given us is more experience with the tools of collaboration along with more access to them and “permission to use them” because we were forced into it. Many of those experiences were not quality learning experiences, but mostly to “fill-in” during an unprecedented time. So when we get back into the classroom we should leverage the experience we’ve attained and now focus on how we can connect outside our own classrooms and schools and realize the powerful learning that makes accessible.

Studying a topic in history, science, literature, really anything? Connect with an expert anywhere and have them teach your students and answer questions or mentor a project or share data. Connect with students in a part of the world you’re studying and have them tell what it is like to live there. We used to use Google Earth to visit the locations of books we were reading, or the pyramids, or a volcano and so much more. We were reading a book that takes place in Saskatchewan, Canada, so we found a school there and video-conferenced with them about the locations in the book as we zoomed in on them with Google Earth. We also then learned about climate and culture and history of the area even though that wasn’t the main reason we were connecting. We sometimes did the same science experiment (sometimes live) in each other’s classrooms to see if location makes a difference in the result. Just collaborating in your classroom doesn’t require the tech, use the tech to get out into the world and find a plethora of collaborators.

This would be a major take-away that could be realized from this experience.

JK.  There is no turning back now.  You are so right, when we step back into the classroom, set goals as to how we will continue to find ways to share and work together.  Model, model, model and model some more.  Take your experience and build.  We can work together to be ready for all that education is becoming.

Thank you Brian, your perspective is thoughtful and important.  I appreciate you joining me on this adventure.

Thank you James for the opportunity. Will be interesting to see how things unfold from here.

Brian Crosby

James Kapptie


Brian has been an educator for 38 years. 30+ years as a classroom teacher and more recently as the K-12 STEM Learning Facilitator for northwest Nevada. He has co-written a book on blogging, Making Connections With Blogging and maintains the blog Learning Is Messy: Twitter: @bcrosby

James is a 20 year classroom veteran.  His experience includes Middle and High School, Administration, Technology Director, Education speaker and consultant, and Computer Science and "Purposeful Technology" Evangelist.  Creator of #wyoedchat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Technology: Parents, Teachers and students….can we get them all to the same page?

Once a cowboy, always a cowboy!  This was a great opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Dousay about the state of technology that has become more of a focus due to COVID19.  This is only the tip of the iceberg but it’s time to start chipping away at it.   Please jump in and tweet or post your comments as the conversation is more powerful than just these answers.

Technology: Parents, Teachers and students….can we get them all to the same page?

  1. What is the first step to improve this process?

JK: This is a huge question that impacts the whole educational landscape.  I think one thing that has been highlighted in the COVID19 time, is that education, really, can be delivered in different ways than we have been.  Any educational debate often hinges on defining the best way.  This event has hopefully changed the discussion to how many ways can we create education equitably.  If we think about ice cream as an example, vanilla was the starting point but soon many flavors were developed.  Ice cream shops know that they need that variety and let the consumer choose the flavor they want.  We have opened a lot of eyes to educational possibilities during this time and if we develop the flavors, I think we can get parents, teachers and students all in the same conversation to start.

TD: Communication is such a complicated endeavor in the information age. COVID19 has really revealed just how many channels we have for receiving information and engaging. The buffet of flavors is what we need to try and meet everyone’s needs, but it also has an overwhelming effect that can be confusing at best and paralyzing at worst. Now, more than ever, we need states to recognize the value of instructional coaches who have been in the trenches as a teacher, feeling these pains, and now function to facilitate managing that overwhelming effect--developing portals for clearly communicating what tools are used (and why), guides for how parents can support their learners with specific tools, quick and easy guides for students on how to access and use common tools, and of course supporting our teachers with how to use (and design learning with these) tools effectively.

JK:  I love the idea that instructional coaches can be used to help parents.  That is great way to build unity for sure.

  1. Is there a right way to move into this new normal for education forward?

TD: I don’t know that there are blanket right and wrong ways to go about improving our understanding and use of technology in education. However, I do see three conversations that can guide this discussion.

First, there are different ways to go about moving forward, which makes it messy and unappealing to many but also allows for flexibility and adaptation for local and regional norms and needs. Some states effectively use regional service centers to support districts with a variety of policies and initiatives. That existing structure could lend itself here–sharing coaches among rural districts and curating quality expertise. This structure also means easing off of cumbersome reporting and paper-pushing to focus on meaningful data collection and sharing, rather than adding more (you know, to document what we did even though no one will read the document and it will inform nothing). However, some states do not have anything like regional service centers while others have empty systems in name only.

Second, this effort needs to concurrently address breaking down silos to develop a new culture of open sharing rather than competition and mindfulness of privatization, including the pitfalls of fiduciary responsibility, personal privacy, and equity access when that happens. Teachers and educational leaders are microcosms of ethical practice and decision-making. As education is a humanistic endeavor and educational technology companies are largely driven by capitalistic goals, these two philosophical foundations can clash without an ethical relationship. Egos and moral compasses aside, this particular aspect requires a cultural shift that recognizes and values expertise, models ethical practice, and engages the whole learning community.

Third, we can begin by carefully equipping teachers with the knowledge they need about available tools, access considerations, and policy/ethical considerations–to include COPPA and FERPA. This requires quality instructional coaches and leaders (regional or building level) who can assist with this endeavor, but must be followed with freedom for and trust in our teachers. To borrow from business management, quality management begins with a focus on the customer, meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations. Our customers are our students. So, let teachers primarily focus on their students. The words "stakeholder" and "reporting" do not appear anywhere in these principles. Why then do we put such a priority on these two components when we talk about quality and improvement in schools? Quality performance and improvement does not begin with evaluating ourselves to death in the never-ending quest of answering to stakeholders and policy makers. 

This is a time for us to reconsider norms and practices, good and bad, in light of recent events, constraints, and demands. Education as we practice it is artificial and often contrived. Now is the time to reconsider our identity as educators and build something new for the future. 

JK: I think that your answer Tonia hits on a key won’t be easy.  The idea of looking at this from an “end in mind” mentality is important.  Can we hammer out the big ideas of what education is and needs to be?  Can we get past what it has been?  As I read your answer Tonia, I couldn’t help but think about a post I wrote seven years ago about using Amazon as a model for schools.  Schools are not businesses but can we shift focus of education to our consumers, students and parents, and make the process meaningful for all.

TD: Ahh, yes! The Amazon model could be an entire long discussion in and of itself. But this is exactly the kind of thinking that underlies the notion of teachers being true masters of their craft and facilitating education; aware of individual and collective learner needs and issues, monitoring broader trends locally and in the field of education at large through professional development, and (of course) achieving learning outcomes. Holding us back are standardized requirements and views that fail to embrace flexibility and responsiveness, ironically facilitated and managed with technology.

  1. Does school funding need to look at the shared cost of technology for families?

JK:  If we want equity...for sure.  As sources of funding change and become more constricted, I feel this question becomes more important.  If technology access is going to be a key for education then we must address it.  Expecting kids to go to a coffee shop or restaurant does not promote equity in education.  How do we address it, what if we consider connectivity a community obligation?  Can we allow cities to develop networks of access funded through ways that fit their community?   The challenge comes when we are essentially taking business away from private providers.  Can schools essentially issue devices that are filtered and have cellular access? Yes but in Wyoming and across the west there are lots of dead zones.  This funding could divert funds from potentially less building maintenance and transportation costs but that will most likely not be enough.

TD: School funding, especially as it relates to technology, often feels like a run-down farm truck that’s now formed by spare parts and pieces from every make and model of vehicle other than the original. And when something else breaks or a fancy new feature comes out, a mismatched solution gets applied haphazardly. Enter COVID19 and a realization that too few already knew and have felt helpless to change.

The equity gap of internet (and technology) access crosses racial and class boundaries. I’m a middle-aged white woman from a low socioeconomic upbringing, drowning in student debt, currently situated firmly in the middle class. I grew up in rural East Texas and have lived in suburban/metro areas such as Bryan-College Station, TX and Athens-Clarke County, GA. I’ve also lived in rural communities as a working professional, including Laramie, WY. As a tenured faculty member at a state university, my primary source of home internet service during COVID19 stay-at-home orders has been a T-Mobile hotspot running from my cell phone. I do actually pay $70/month for satellite internet company, which is my only “broadband” provider option. You see, I live on an unpaved road, surrounded by the very fields that grow the garbanzo beans for your Sabra hummus and lentils in your dried soup mixes, in rural northern Idaho, approximately 20 miles from the University of Idaho. I live this far out so that I can afford my rent; it’s $400/month cheaper. Unfortunately, Spectrum’s fiber ends 2 miles from my house (just on the other side of the Washington state line). Frontier/Ziply fiber ends 3 miles from my house (just outside of Potlatch, ID city limits). The Palouse Valley is also littered with small mountains and hills that make fixed tower internet viable for many, tricky for some, and impossible for me. With my satellite internet provider, there are many times that I cannot even get federal and state websites to load (partially much less completely)--and that’s while having all other devices on the home network turned off to conserve bandwidth. Had T-Mobile not expanded coverage in the area within the past 18 months, I would have been rendered useless during this time. Even then, I have to make sure I close Outlook and any browser tabs so that Zoom doesn’t kick me out of my meetings and classes. I’ve started introducing myself to people by saying, “Hi, my name is Tonia and according to Zoom, my connection is unstable.” In the words of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, it’s funny because it's true.

I offer this picture to highlight that even someone with privilege, who teaches about these tools and how they can be used, struggles with consistent quality access. This isn’t something my school (a university) can simply provide. Until our telecommunications partners (and elected leaders) take the need seriously, it won’t matter if schools have funding to support their learners. We’ve spent decades building an infrastructure up and selling it as a way to make lives easier, more connected, and accessible. During this time, we’ve moved a number of essential services into this infrastructure, including our normal communication and learning activities. Yet, we’ve allowed these partners to operate under the same capitalistic framework–a commodity to be bought and sold at a premium for those who can afford it. The efforts from these partners in response to COVID19 are a start. But they’re just a start.

I was once a proponent of calling on the community to come together and help provide. My preservice teachers hear me talk every semester about the McDonald’s program that allows any K-12 learner to use their restaurant wifi at no cost and no purchase necessary. Yet, what good does that do when you can’t go inside the restaurant? Sitting on the sidewalk outside or in a car is less safe and more disconcerting than it is a solution. This also doesn’t help communities that don’t have a McDonald’s, or other community partner, to provide this service. And then there’s the whole low-cost subsidized internet service for low-income households. Sorry, but when you’re already unable to afford groceries, you also likely don’t have the $5/mo for that internet bill. In other words, relying on community support and subsidy is simply, and frankly, not sustainable. To be clear, school funding as we know it is not sustainable, but that’s another discussion for another time.

I wish I had an answer to this other than “yes.” I don’t like agreeing with this statement without being able to provide possible options and solutions. If policy makers are not willing to enact the decisions to recognize access as a rightful utility and work to make sure the infrastructure functions for all users, then it falls on the telecommunications partners themselves. While we’ve seen a slight generational shift in expecting, even demanding, companies have a conscience, I don’t see AT&T or Verizon offering to cut into their profit margins to address the problem consistently or completely any time in the near future. As it is, they, like our policy makers, are reactionary, only succumbing when social pressure reaches a tipping point.

I applaud any forward-thinking leader (political or educational) who attempts to tackle this particular issue. Since toppling or resetting the system isn’t likely to happen in the near future, it’s likely that this will have to be a regional/state-level effort. E-Rate solutions of the past will not work for the future. Parking a few school buses turned wifi routers in low-income neighborhoods only shifts the burden of cost and work. Solutions have to reach the home and extend across an entire community, taking into consideration the fact that work-life-school boundaries have largely dissolved. 

JK:  You summarize this topic well in that this is not a “them” issue.  The COVID19 situation has highlighted that the technology infrastructure needs support and investment to be able to allow the technology we already have to reach its potential.  We have lots of great tools but if they can’t connect then all options become limited.  Your analogy of an old farm truck is a great visual to make what we face concrete.  Take the truck one step further, and imagine it driving down a back road,  and interstate or trying to keep up on a freeway.

Thank you Dr. Dousay for taking the time to chat. We must start to address where we want to go….before the old farm truck breaks down!  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Dr. Tonia Dousay: @tadousay

James Kapptie: @jpk38


Tonia is a K20 educator, Google Certified Innovator, & Google Certified Trainer with 20 years of instructional design and education project management experience. Tonia holds a B.S. and M.S. in Agricultural Education from Texas A&M University and a PhD in Learning, Design, and Technology from the University of Georgia. She is currently an associate professor of learning sciences and the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences associate dean of accreditation and inclusion at the University of Idaho.

James is a 20 year classroom veteran.  His experience includes Middle and High School, Administration, Technology Director, Education speaker and consultant, and Computer Science and "Purposeful Technology" Evangelist.  Creator of #wyoedchat.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Re-imaging teacher prep in light of #COVID19

COVID19 has allowed some opportunities that may not have been available without.  With a little extra time we, (James Kapptie & Carl Hooker), came up with a plan to do a shared blog.  While isolated in Wyoming and Texas the topic and discussion was created.  We hope, that as with all great blog posts, that you join and add to our discussion.

Re-imaging teacher prep in light of #COVID19

What are the biggest new requirements for teacher prep as a result of COVID19?
CH: I’ve been lucky enough to guest lecture several college teacher prep courses over the years. One thing that stood out to me is that lack of development on educational technology. College students generally “get” technology when it comes to games, social media, and learning a platform quickly, but generally, they struggle with when it comes to thoughtful integration of technology for learning. I think this pandemic has shined a bright spotlight on those deficits that start at teacher prep and continue somewhat through professional learning once they are with a district.

JK: I would totally agree with Carl that teachers in general miss some of the technology integration logic. We all are very similar to our students.  I am always amazed when students struggle with learning something and it never crosses their mind to “google” it.  We all are guilty of using youtube to assist us in some ways but don’t think of it as a place to help school learning. Maybe the spotlight will shine not only on the lack of prep to use the technological tools we have, but will also force us to look at what it is we want students to learn.  I always like a good analogy, imagine sending mechanic students out to work on cars without showing them how different tools are needed for different parts.

CH: I like that analogy and it’s so true! It’s one thing to have the knowledge, but that doesn’t necessarily equal understanding.

How should teacher prep approach working with parents as a result of COVID19?

CH: I think this should be addressed regardless of this crisis. As a parent of three elementary aged children, I’ve always felt like having some consistency when it comes to communication home is needed. Now more than ever, that communication needs to be not only consistent, but also clarify instructions for those of us trying to teach our students at home. Teachers have relied heavily on verbal instructions and then follow-ups for checking with understanding. Now they are sending home information in packets or weekly choice boards that have some limited instructions that can be confusing for both parents and students. While we need to give teachers some grace as they are ultimately doing educational triage on their lessons, I think this could be refined more in the future.

JK:  The point of “teachers doing triage on their lessons” is well stated.  Teacher prep courses need to have parent “practicums” if you will.  Teaching teachers how to ask the right questions so that they can build an effective team with parents is no easy task.   Most teachers become well versed at communicating  in the controlled environment with kids but communication with adults is not usually a topic we work into teacher prep.  Learning to talk to adults and asking them how we can make this work better is a great starting point.

CH: I also think giving them some basic expectations about sending home a list of tools and apps being used along with login information would be a great start to opening up those channels of communication when it comes to learning. Too many times that communication is about poor behavior but how great would it be to get a message from your child’s teacher giving you some additional learning strategies or tools to use at home?

What should school Administrators look for in new hires as a result of COVID19?
JK: I think school administrators should consider a few things in their new hires.  First, applications need to include technology “application” examples from candidates.  Show me a tool and how it has been used.  The tool that they model will not be nearly as insightful, as the chance to see their process.  This gives administrators and hiring teams a chance to see what level they are taking the learning to and how technology is offering something that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  Second, give them an opportunity to pick a tool and explain how they could use it to take learning across the DOK levels.  We need to see teachers committing to getting far deeper than just substituting technology for what we already do.  Writing in a Google doc is no more impressive than on paper...unless that online document takes the learning somewhere that would be nearly impossible without it.

CH: You hit the nail on the head there. Just trouble-shooting a google doc is one thing, but actually diving deeper into pedagogical practices and reasoning is another. One thing I implemented as an administrator when hiring Educational Technologists is something I called “The Gauntlet”. The idea was to mimic the issues and interactions the position might encounter on any given day. Applicants went through a series of challenges that involved presenting to a group, solving technical issues, supporting parents and administrators, and coaching grade level teams. It was a lot of work and a full day for each of the applicants, but my theory was that it was easy to hire people but harder to fire them. Why not start by coming up with a more in-depth process to hire high quality people that is more than just the traditional group interview (which really favors people that interview well)
 HR departments have needed to rethink their hiring practices for decades, but this pandemic has really highlighted the deficits some of our teachers have as they enter the profession.

JK:  Love the “Gauntlet” idea.  We can’t look to improve schools if we are not willing to look at new ways to assess candidates.   The analogy  that comes to mind is those solid rubber tires on the first cars would really work that well today, so why are we hiring so similar to how we did thirty or forty years ago?

How does professional development adapt for teachers as a result of COVID19?

CH: This is an area that I could spend hours discussing. As an administrator that ran professional development in a school district, I always tried to figure out different ways for our teachers to learn other than physically being in a building for several hours a day in the summer. I love the conference experience when done right, but that might not be an option now, at least physically in the same space. Much like learning with the students, there should be synchronous and asynchronous options available for our teachers. Synchronous options could be an online discussion via video conference or participating in a live webinar. Asynchronous options could be book studies, twitter chats, and other projects that can involve much more virtual collaboration.

JK: Well said Carl!  Professional development, moving forward should highlight the idea of “modeling” what learning can look like.  The PD can be meaningful and meet educators where they physically are.  There will always be an avenue for in person group learning but we can make the learning opportunities more cost effective and time appropriate so that more educators can take part.  If we have more educators involved it will hopefully help the needed ideas for improving education more quickly adopted.

CH: I’m excited to see what comes out as a result of this and have already started developing some of my own “Remote Professional Learning” packages for schools to use this summer and fall. It doesn’t just have to be sit-n-get in front of a computer screen.

What are some things we can do, once back in the classroom, to better prepare students of all ages for learning online?

JK: This is a great question.  I feel like schools need to incorporate this “new” hybrid mindset into our culture.  Schools need to make sure classrooms are connecting to places outside the school building.  Model what connected learning should look like.  Schools and communities need to be addressing the inequity that has become apparent during this crisis.  Plans to address making sure students have connecting tools but also that there is a connection.  Schools having busses with hotspots is great for the moment but we must come up with better ways to provide infrastructure when students are not in the building.  This planning can help us address summer learning loss, snow days or weather issues, family vacations, medical emergencies and if there is a recurrence of  COVID19.  The term “new normal”  means we have to address how we can create quality educational opportunities when we aren’t in school.

CH: I think the inequity of access is a major issue. Schools are applying bandages to this now, but it needs a long-term fix. I also think we could benefit by sending home more blended learning activities instead of digital homework. Too often I see busy work coming home that could be done with or without technology. We have been preaching the 4 C’s for years and see it in our physical classrooms but not so much when it comes to online learning. This will come with growth, training and understanding of what high quality online learning looks like for kids of all ages.

JK:  Creating high quality online learning will take education companies to help create simple to use tools that are more than just recording devices.

Thank you Carl, your perspective is thoughtful and important.  I appreciate you joining me on this adventure.

Thank you James for reaching out! We have a long way to go, but with connection and collaboration we can make the future even brighter.

Carl Hooker
James Kapptie

BIOS: Carl Hooker has been a part of a strong educational shift with technology integration since becoming an educator. As Director of Innovation & Digital Learning at Eanes ISD, he has helped spearhead the LEAP program, which put one-to-one iPads in the hands of all K-12 students in his 8000-student district. Carl is the host of ISTE’s Learning Unleashed Podcast and was also recently named a Future Ready Schools national faculty member. He's also the author of the six-book series titled Mobile Learning Mindset, a guide for teachers, administrators, parents and others to support and embrace mobile learning in our schools. Read more at Hooked on Innovation.

James is a 20 year classroom veteran.  His experience includes Middle and High School, Administration, Technology Director, Education speaker and consultant, and Computer Science and "Purposeful Technology" Evangelist.  Creator of #wyoedchat.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Brain drain... Never again #WillWe

Since 1906 there has been research published and discussed on the "summer slide".  "William F. White, a mathematics instructor at the State Normal School, in New Paltz, New York, wrote an article for American Education, a periodical for teachers, titled “Reviews Before and After Vacation.”  The Cost of New York's Summer Slide,  Rebecca Mead "@Rebeccamead_NYC. As we head toward another summer, learning loss may never  be more critical than now.  In 114 years since White's original research what have we done to address the issue?  The overwhelming majority of public schools still function on a nine month calendar.

COVID19 has shown us that the American education system is capable of reaching students when they are not in school.  Will we get better at connecting to students with the intent of learning versus being in a school, without question.

Let's look at some numbers and consider what this current situation can do for students.

The infographic suggests almost three months of Math skills are lost over the summer.  Two months of Reading skills are lost according to research.  We will use months to look at impact:
2 X 10 = 20 months
20 months = 2 + years of school

Two years of learning are lost by the time students get through their sophomore year.

How have we addressed this learning loss?

There are lots of options.  Summer reading lists, reading logs, asking parents to read to their children, playing learning type games, and the list goes on.  While these all are good options, they rely on a basic key ingredient, an adult that has the time and the resource faucet to help.

Let's not forget summer school as an option.  Although teachers are considered 12 month employees, summer school is an extra financial burden on districts and will be tougher  to provide as the economy is reeling from COVID19.

We know we have an issue, we have known we had it for over 100 years.  Are we willing to address it as a result of this current crisis?

We have options to consider moving into the summer of 2020.
We, teachers,  can connect with all students on regularly scheduled times throughout the summer! Will we?
We, teachers, can still teach throughout the summer and still allow children and families a "break' from school.
Will We?
We, teachers, can still connect with students while continuing our own education and recharging with family.  Will we?

Our students need us more today than ever before.  Are we willing to look at the 100 plus old problem and peel away the excuses and address it?  It's time! If we aren't willing to address why we won't change now then when will we?   Is public education about students or about protecting what has been?

The next time we see a student struggling with a problem, just tell them not to worry about finding a solution, we have 100 years to think about it.

I encourage us all to ask the tough questions, and ask what #willwe do to lead!

Summer  @SummerMatters2U . @OxfordLearning,9171,2005863-1,00.html . @TIME @DavidVonDrehle . 


How have we improved?

  This Ted style talk was deliver in 2014. Lots of things have changed since 2014.  We have faced global pandemic.  We have seen multiple ...