Monday, July 30, 2012

Classroom tech clock is ticking

With less than a month before school starts,  it's time to catch up on plans for the digital revolution that's looming in classrooms.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is still moving toward a  "bring your own technology"  environment with wifi in every school,  though the pace has slowed somewhat during this summer's leadership transition.  Many public and private schools around the region are considering similar moves.  I'll be getting an update from educators soon.  Meanwhile,  if you're shopping for tablets, smart phones or other devices for your kids to take to school  --  or wondering what to buy  --  please give me a call  (704-358-5033)  or shoot me an email ( for a weekend story.

The CMS board will hold a public hearing on revisions to its student internet use policy on Aug. 15.  That "digital citizenship" policy,  designed to prepare for students to use their own devices at school,  generated lively commentary when I blogged about it in June.  So I was surprised and dismayed when a public hearing last week drew absolutely no speakers.  I felt like I bore some of the blame  --  I took a vacation right before the meeting and didn't alert readers it was coming.  The good news is there's another chance,  and I'll highlight it again closer to the time.  The hearing will come right before the board's vote,  so if you want to weigh in sooner,  consider sending a written comment.

Hundreds of CMS students will have new classroom iPads in August,  thanks to the district's program offering the devices to teaching teams with good plans for putting them to use.  As many of you have noted,  such devices can be both a blessing and a challenge.  THE Journal (it stands for Technology Horizons in  Education) offers this list of  "Five Things Not To Do During an iPad Rollout."

And as always,  keep me posted on questions, issues and trends you're seeing as schools go digital.  I'm solidly in the digital immigrant generation and some of this flies right over my head,  but tech-savvy readers are a big help.


Anonymous said...

As a classroom teacher who has had to deal with students bringing devices to school like PS2's and Smartphones that have been stolen even though they are not allowed. I hate to think about parents calling me about the more expensive equipment that will be at risk. Am I still going to held not responsible for these items when they come up missing since the students cannot remember to take home their agenda books and will leave these items around the school?

Anonymous said...

All this “bring your technology” nonsense does is open up a veritable buffet of theft for the free lunch crowd.

Anonymous said...

Bringing "your own" technology will turn our schools into Towers of Babel.

Google it if, like most school kids, you don't know what that means...

Anonymous said...

Ann, As you may recall the pull back on BYOT was due to CMS not being ready. Murri never had a #2 in the shadows to make it happen. (well done) I think we are still a few years away from really knowing what we can/cant use the technology for as a tool for learning. (as a district) I think it can be a tool for educational purposes , BUT as a district the theft/misuse/time management/support/direction all need to be defined first. At that point would I as a parent even consider allowing my children to bring the "tablets" to school in a safe enviroment. This should not be a hard task since hundreds of districts nationwide already do this. I am sure we can find a Broad qualified consultant to help CMS with the project. Keith W. Hurley

Rev. Mike said...

The new policy will absolve CMS from any and all responsibility for your stuff if it gets stolen. You're on your own, people. Congratulations to CMS, by the way, for introducing the basis for a 21st century Equity Committee. Taking bets now on how long it takes for the hue and cry to rise up over the "technology gap."

Anonymous said...

My guess is that it will take a while before details can be spelled out. The head of Instructional Technology just retired and the new CIO isn't on board physically for a while. Nobody is Instructional Technology is going to take a stand until both of those positions are on board.
If I was a parent, I would glue the device to my student if I even let him/her take it to school.

Bill Stevens said...

Rev Mike, the technology gap already exists. Through the feds and Title 1 funding, most urban schools have the latest in technology. Most non urban schools no longer have functioning computer labs. Most urban schools have the smartboards and all.

Additionally, from causal observation in both settings, more of the urban students have smartphones. Most of the non urban students' parents do not allow such a high cost item to go to school. The kids are limited to simple phones with only texting capability.

CMS has made it clear it will do not nothing about your technology getting stolen, damaged, etc. Years ago, a friend of one of my children told of the frenzy of students to break into lockers at the middle school, find your calculator and stomp it to pieces and leave it on the floor in front of the locker. It was simply part of the class warfare our students had to put up with during the forced busing.

Anonymous said...

The urban schools have the smart boards.

The suburban schools have the smart kids.

I know which I'd rather have.

Anonymous said...

Continued example of CMeS policy of Ready Fire Aim. All the while they slap the frontline worker in the face with the "market adjustment" fiasco. How many knew of the millions to be spent on raises of $17,000? Fighting for the teachers HA. They knew all along that the millions would be passed along to the administrators and all "non teaching" positions.

Batman said...

Charlotte is kinda behind the times, they are already doing this in other parts of the country. In Savannah GA, they have started using Ipads at schools and they have paid for every student to have there own Ipad. Including the "FREE LUNCH CROWD." Its cheaper than buying new books every year, just go to the book website and update the book on computer, alloootttt cheaper than buying new books every year.. Yes there gonna be a few that leave there Ipads and lose them and will cost the school some money, but still cheaper in the long run...

Anonymous said...

We can go ahead and auction off the Smart Boards they are worth about $18- today. Thank You PTA in most schools that raised the thousands of dollars to buy these. CMS has found a way for the parents once again to supply the tools for the classroom. They are too busy spending money on a " Spin News Station for propaganda TV" awesome.

Anonymous said...

50% of middle school kids, and 30% of high school kids can't remember to bring proper supplies to class.

How are they going to be entrusted with not losing their laptop, ipad,etc.?

Anonymous said...

You do an amazing job keeping us informed.

In our house we have already written off byod due to the policy. Draft or not, the policy indicated the direction of the CMS. Our read of this policy, it might be your device, but CMS controls that device and all information which said device may have access to locally and in the ether. There is no upside to the risk of having a CMS employee rummage through our file server or through the development provisioning profile information on or connected to the device.

Our experience with CMS has jaded us to already know the outcome. BYOD adds no value in the basic memorize and regurgitate content in public primary and secondary schools.

Craig Smith said...

There once was a time when allowing a class set of calculators was feared because of all the same reasons mentioned here.

Anonymous said...

12:38 - They will remeber the laptop , because its going to be a gaming device in which they can pass the day along. While in a classorrm setting with 40 other kids and 1 teacher (great job super Pete) !

Anonymous said...

I believe the new technology head said she was taking the job so she could slow down. Pretty good gig if you can get it.

BolynMcClung said...


If you don't like the policy, re-write it.

Ann has provided a link to the proposed policy. In mid-August there is the public hearing.

Re-write the dang thing. Send it to Policy committee members(Tate, Davis, McCray, McElrath, Stinson-Wesley)

BYOP- Build Your Own Policy

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...


Oh, yeah, I remember all the fun games and distractions we had on our calculators.


Anonymous said...

Still want to know why teachers weren't provided with tablets so that they could at least have some working knowledge of how to teach with them.

Darnyankie2 said...


Caveat computer.

How long until the precious little princess or prince loses his or her computer and the irate parent comes screaming into the office.

I'm giving it until August 27th.

Somewtime before noon!

Christine Mast said...

Thank you, Bolyn. I completely agree with you.

If you don't like the proposed policy, then sign up to speak at the next Board meeting.

Christine Mast said...

To July 30th, 11:44 am,

I beg to differ. Bill is NOT full of crap. And Bolyn doesn't need to go anywhere, either.

Christine Mast said...

I don't know if any of you read the link that Ann posted at the end of her blog, but I think it speaks volumes, so I'm posting it here:

Here are five things that you shouldn't do during an iPad rollout.

1. Go into it without first organizing classroom materials.

Before handing out iPads for the first time to her second grade students, Eileen Haggard spent time organizing the devices and their respective resources. A teacher at Stonewall Elementary in Lexington, KY, Haggard said she created a desktop (on her own classroom computer) where each of the 15 iPads are numbered and grouped according to subject (reading and math). This strategy allows Haggard to keep track of the iPads and easily determine what type of content is on each device. She can download only the most relevant apps to the appropriate iPads rather than using a "shotgun" approach to populating the devices with content.

Haggard said she uses a similar organizational approach with daily assignments, knowing that her young students will be most productive when given specific tasks to complete on their tablets. "By taking the time to get all of this set up early," said Haggard, "I've been able to really make the most of the devices."

2. Expect students to ignore Angry Birds.

If there's one thing that Bill Wiecking has learned from Hawaii Preparatory Academy's iPad implementation it's that students will invariably gravitate to computer games like Angry Birds when left to figure out the devices on their own. The private school in Kamuela, HI, uses the tablets in its "energy lab," where students collaborate and develop sustainable living solutions.

Wiecking, HPA's energy lab director, said getting students away from games like Angry Birds and engaged in educational projects on their iPads isn't always easy. Getting there requires a teacher who is committed to using the devices as interactive educational tools for collaboration, research, and communication.

"It's about students being engaged and on task," said Wiecking. "Simply purchasing the tools and handing them out is a lazy approach that doesn't work."

3. Assume that sharing information and files is easy.

Mineola Union Free School District in Long Island launched its iPad initiative by handing out 80 devices in 2010 and another 200 tablets in 2011. More are on the way, according to Michael Nagler, who said the fact that the iPad doesn't include an easy way to file and share information has plagued the district's IT team ever since the first device was distributed.

"This is not a network-friendly device," said Nagler. "Our students use folders to store and manage all of their work on PCs, but the iPad doesn't include that functionality, and there's no good workaround for the problem."

Nagler said the problem has grown as more devices were distributed and as more teachers recognized the limitation. The district has yet to solve the problem, but Nagler said creating e-mail accounts that allow students to exchange assignments and information with their teachers has helped. "Right now we're using an intranet," said Nagler, "but as our iPad program expands we'll be looking for a better solution."

Christine Mast said...

4. Forgetting to budget for apps. Tight budgets and poor planning can pose a challenge for districts and schools that don't allocate funding for iPad applications.

"Not only do you have an initial outlay for the devices, but you also have to pay for the apps," Nagler said. To control that spending and also maintain inventory "app" control on the devices Mineola Union Free SD signed up for Apple's app store volume purchase program (VPP). The program allows educational institutions to purchase iOS apps in volume and distribute the apps to their users.

"We were able to set up our own iTunes store where students can use vouchers (which the district gives them) to purchase apps for their devices," said Nagler. This method allows the district to control the app budget while monitoring which free and paid apps the students can and cannot download.

5. Ignore the fact that the device can be a distraction.

The iPad has a "cool" factor that can make getting down to business difficult for even the most dedicated student. Younger students in particular have a hard time ignoring all of the neat features that this tablet possesses. To get her second graders on task Haggard said she takes the time to introduce new apps and their functionalities before allowing them to work independently on the devices.

"I know it sounds controlling, but it's just too easy to get sidetracked when using iPads," said Haggard.

Haggard said grouping apps according to the way they are used in the classroom also helps alleviate some of the distraction. Productivity apps – such as those used for reading, writing, drawing, and note taking--that students use daily are placed front-and-center on each iPad's home screen. Haggard said the system works well and helps her students channel their attention on what's most important.

"If you want students to use their iPads in a constructive manner," said Haggard, "there really has to be structure and oversight on the teacher's part."

Anonymous said...

I assume the "bring your own technology" movement includes the cost of extra resource officers to deal with the issue of theft.

Anonymous said...


Angry birds? I'm only familiar with mad cows.

Anonymous said...

HEY is the issue. I love the new idea as a teacher, I am all for problem lies in the fact that it is Aug 15th...that the board will address it..... It sets up teachers for yet another FIRE, READY, AIM implementation of a great idea that will flounder because of top down policy making .. Let me guess in 2 weeks teachers will have to attend numerous required in services and meetings to be INFORMED about how the big wigs want it to be implemented. They will send out an email....have a required meeting in which some grandma from downtown read the email to staff....then send another email .....have another required in services in which grandmas assistant read the email because grandma got lambasted in the first set of meetings. Such shortsightedness from clowns who have not been in a classroom in 10 years...

Shamash said...

Dropbox or similar "cloud" storage apps make it easier to share between devices.

But, that is something CMS should standardize or else there will be chaos.

As predicted.

Anonymous said...

Christine you have once again went overboard. APPS...blah blah blah...when I use this technology in my classroom it won't be about APPs etc.... It is about having access to information....research....quick it is....hey check this out kind of stuff. I teach in a high school setting with 40 -45 kids... Moving around to pick up a variety of textbook resources is no longer practical.... I want my students to have access to information....I AM THE APP!!!!!!! I FACILITATE the learning...not some APP... Now if your talking about budgeting APPS for teacher OK.

Anonymous said...

This not NOT ABOUT THE IPAD!!!!!! It is about empowering kids with more technology in the classroom. It is about ACCESS without punishment....FINALLY!!!!!! I can embrace the reality of the21 st century. The talk about APPS is based on the premise that IPads are the only technology that will be used.....IT IS ABOUT HAVING ACCESS TO HE MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY in our world........INFORMATION....Jefferson!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

How about access for teachers? Why should they have to pay to teach? (like they don't already spend enough) Where are their tablests so that they can be trained on how to do all those wonderful things?

Anonymous said...


That scenario is so spot on.I have seen directors booed out of the room never to return for the reading of the emails.Now sure we have directors and administrators that have not been in the classroom for at least 10 years. Heck some were not in the classroom in the first place less than five years.Now how about a school board that writes policy with no classroom experience. Constant dog chasing tail experience for people that are actually in the classroom.

Jeff Wise said...

Ann's link and Christine's repost of the 5 things to do prior to iPad roll out will not apply much to CMS. This is a BYOT, so CMS has no real control over the devices.

If a student wants to add apps, they do it on their own, CMS has no control over that. The article was more about a school district having control.

More importantly, the premise of BYOT is about access to technology, not the actual technology itself. Having a school full of iPads is not going to suddenly improve student outcomes.

Having students and teachers understand how to use the technology will end up improving student outcomes.

So the question is not whether BYOT is useful, but what can students and teachers *do* with said technology?

Teachers will have to pre-plan lessons and know if their YouTube links, or other media links will even work inside the school.

CMS, like so many other bureaucracies, tends to use a county fair sledgehammer on picture nails when it comes to technology. Teachers have to jump through all sorts of red tape to get websites unblocked and even then they usually get turned down.

Bottom line, all the technology devices in the world will make for great file footage on the local news, but if the teachers can't exploit the network what's the point?

You can't be innovative with BYOT if you handcuff network access.