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Open Letter to Tim Cook at Apple: Please Stop Making New Products

November 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Mr. Cook,

Thank you for continuing to provide innovative products.  Having said that I now implore you to stop.  More specifically, stop providing so many new products with such frequency.

As a technologist working in public K-12 schools it is very difficult to manage, plan and budget with the rapid release of new and improved products and services.  For example, it is now November 2013.  Schools need to plan now for any purchases through June 30 2015.  Yes 2015.  The budget for the next school year is prepared now.  It is then presented for public review and scrutiny.  This is followed by revisions and multiple public presentations of the revised proposed budget.  Finally, the budget goes before the voters for approval.

School districts do not have the flexibility to change direction from planned purchases in order to take advantage of new technologies which may become available throughout the school year.

Apple or any other tech companies cannot really be expected to slow down the rate of product development.  In all reality,  There is a simple solution which may be helpful for educators.

Apple should develop an Educational Advisory Board.  This group can provide Apple with insight regarding the technology needs in schools.  Further, the group may be able to help Apple understand the financial realities schools face when developing a technology budget.

While schools do consume technology, schools should not be treated as typical consumers.  The needs of the students and faculty of a school are very different from those of a home consumer or a corporate entity. Educators serving on this board will be able to clearly articulate what these differences are.  Instead of schools being forced to make consumer solutions work, Apple needs to develop solutions specifically for the education sector.

Through this Educational Advisory Board, Apple will have the ability to provide schools with a road map of what products are forthcoming to provide schools with an opportunity to properly budget.  Educators can provide Apple with an insight to the unique technology needs of schools and the best way for new technologies to to aide in instruction.

Schools want new technologies.  What is needed is a better way for new technologies to be acquired and integrated.

 

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What Parents Want From Technology In The Classroom

July 22, 2013 3 comments

In this article, originally posted on the Edudemic site, are the results of a study where parents were asked to identify there expectations for the use of technology in the classroom as instructional tools, are presented in easy to read infographic.

From the Edudemic

Here’s an interesting perspective to take on technology in the classroom. A new mobile learning report titled ‘Living and Learning With Mobile Devices‘ talks about a detailed study where parents were asked questions about technology’s role in the classroom, the technology being used at home, and how it’s migrating into education. In other words, the parents are the ones buying a lot of the BYOD we’re seeing in schools right now and it’s important to get their feedback.

So what are parents saying about mobile learning and all the education technology in early childhood / K-12 learning? Basically that technology needs to properly integrated, properly handled, and properly used. In other words, it needs to all be done in a relatively controlled environment where teachers leverage a blended learning environment in order to help guide students with their mobile learning.

mobile learning infographic

The World According to Google

July 22, 2013 3 comments

From the New Zealand Herald

It is Monday morning, and 150 “Nooglers” are gathered in a large room on Google’s campus in Mountain View, California.

Jennifer, a woman in her early thirties wearing a pair of hi-tech “Google Glass” spectacles, bounces around the stage welcoming the new starters. She is a compelling mix of preppy California girl and science fiction-obsessed geek that is de rigueur in Silicon Valley.

“I’m a little bit nerd. I love Star Trek. But I also love reading,” she says. “This summer, in fact, I’m reading all of Shakespeare’s works in chronological order.”

Her presentation is interspersed with science fiction jokes and slides of the Starship Enterprise as she tells the assembled audience they are now part of a company with the ability to turn “super-cool” sci-fi ideas into reality.

In the past few months Google has launched Google Glass, which allows users to photograph whatever they can see, or pull up information in their peripheral vision. Then there is Project Loon, which will use giant balloons to connect a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa to broadband.

 

Outside, self-driving cars navigate the campus. In the next-door buildings engineers are hard at work improving Google’s voice-activated search and translation tools, so that soon even people who cannot read or write will be able to request information in any language and find exactly what they are looking for.

Over the next few days the new starters – or “Nooglers” (for “new Googlers”) – will be drilled in the company’s mission to “organise the world’s information”, its history, and how, as “part of the Google family”, they must keep everything they are working on a secret.

“You can’t even tell your mom,” says Jennifer. At the end of the course they will attend a staff meeting hosted by Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The glasses and the broadband balloons are examples of what Page, now chief executive, calls “moonshot” ideas, adding glamour and the promise of new growth opportunities to what is, at its heart, a hyper-efficient advertising business.

Google’s slick web search engine helped to pull in US$50.2 billion ($64.4 billion) in revenue last year, more than US$40 billion of which came from display advertising. Its profit stood at US$10.7 billion.

Its shares may have slipped from their May peak of US$920.60, but at US$887.88 they have still climbed more than 50 per cent in the past 12 months, making the entire company worth US$295 billion. More than one technology analyst has bet their reputation on Google stock topping US$1000 within the next year.

But as Google’s near neighbours, Facebook and Apple, can attest, investors grow nervous at the hint of a slowdown or absence of a new growth story, never mind that the main machine is going full throttle.

Last year Google investors took fright at a 20 per cent dip in profit and a decline in the revenue it receives each time a user clicks on one of its ads. The balloon project might be inspirational, but it is also there to do the basic job of stimulating demand and keeping the foot on Google’s gas.

Shareholders are also concerned about the company’s outgoings – not least the cost of its enormous appetite for Nooglers. Google had nearly 39,000 staff at the end of the last quarter, a figure which is steadily growing.

Much has been written about the free food and the zany decor of Google’s HQ – the slide in reception, the treadmill desks, the sleep pods and the colourful bikes on which employees get around campus. Less well documented are the free dry-cleaning services, the complimentary buses to work, the on-site doctors, dentists and hairdressers.

The pay is also considerable. According to the jobs website Glassdoor, the average Googler – the company’s favourite term for its staff – receives US$110,000 a year, before share awards or bonuses. Even Google interns reportedly receive the equivalent of US$69,000 a year. And if an employee dies, his or her partner can collect half their salary for the following decade.

Just like on a university campus, staff are invited to join groups that reflect their interests. There are the “Gayglers” for gay employees, and “Jewglers” for Jewish staff.

Google and its staff are almost relentlessly upbeat, which can make some people uneasy. As the first British journalist to be allowed into the Noogler session, I couldn’t help but recall Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The company, as Jennifer tells the Nooglers, goes to some lengths to hire “the smartest people on the planet”.

Google’s prowess in search technology depends entirely on the quality of its engineers, many hired from Stanford University where Page and Brin met. The company’s entire campus is designed to make them want to stay.

“It’s the revenge of the nerds,” says one analyst who has followed Google since it started. “These were not the guys who were popular at high school. They don’t have a girlfriend waiting for them at home. They don’t have a life outside work. This is it. But life is so easy for them, they feel they have the last laugh.”

That stereotype may be a little extreme. There are certainly enough charismatic characters to balance the geeks. JOB CANDIDATES sit through four interviews with executives they may never work with, who are looking for four things. The individual’s skills are the least significant. The most important, says Lazlo Bock, Google’s senior vice-president of “people operations”, are the candidates’ cognitive ability; evidence of “at least a tiny, tiny bit of humility”; and their “Googliness”.

Humility is not a trait many people would associate with this company but Googliness is a word used often at the Mountain View campus. Some employees say they found it cringeworthy at first, but have now adopted it to describe a certain mindset. It means “comfort with ambiguity”, says Bock.

Sunil Chandra, who, as vice-president of “people technology” and operations, heads Google’s recruitment machine, defines it as people who are 100 per cent themselves at work. “They are people who are really inquisitive and want to do what’s right by others. You’ll find that they’re unbelievably down to earth,” he says.

Whatever it is, Page must be personally convinced that new recruits have it. He signs off on every single hire – upwards of 200 staff, week in, week out.

There is an argument to say that this focus on hiring people in a certain image can distance Google from public feeling, particularly over issues such as its tax bill in Britain or the privacy of its users.

But Chandra argues that the obsession with how staff “fit in” has been key to preserving its innovative start-up culture, even as it has developed into a multibillion-dollar machine.

Managing this evolution has been difficult. Page has made it a priority to slash the number of projects on which Google spends time and money. It has shut down – or “sunsetted” – at least a dozen operations in the past three years.

“We want more wood behind fewer arrows,” says Bock, borrowing his boss’ favoured metaphor. “Instead of launching 1000 arrows at our enemies, we launch one or two big ones.

“You used to very much have a system where anyone could work on anything on the technical side. You got a lot of creativity and innovation, but what you also got was a lot of pet projects which didn’t have a big impact on the world. Or, quite frankly, you got things where we were trying to do something and someone else was doing a better job.”

One of these was Knol, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia launched in 2007, six years after Wikipedia, a similar and superior service. Knol was shut down just over a year ago.

In recent weeks reports have emerged of a Google smartwatch and a Google videogame console. It also has plans to expand its Streetview project to include hiking and biking trails, as part of its ambition to create a detailed 3D map of the entire world. But all these are accessories to search, which remains its core.

Google already has an iron grip on the search market, but the way it views things, there is still huge change ahead.

“Google search is not done. It is far from done, in fact. I’d say it’s maybe 20 per cent, 25 per cent done,” says Jon Wiley, head of user experience for the search operation.

Users have become used to modifying their search criteria so they extract the best results from Google, he says. The company wants them to be able to ask questions using normal speech, to have discussions with Google’s technology and to use it to find answers to subjective issues.

If you asked an interior designer what colour to paint your bedroom, they would not shoot back “red” or “green”, Wiley explains. The first thing they would do is ask questions back, about the size of the room, its aspect, what colours the person happened to like.

“When we look at that class of problem, we say here is an opportunity for innovation for the types of problems we could try to solve. What kind of artificial intelligence could we create that could help people actually have a dialogue about what colour to paint their bedroom?”

Wiley also hints at how the new technology will help Google harness enormous new markets in the developing world. Voice-activated search, coupled with sub-Saharan broadband, could transform education and economic growth in those regions.

“People can ask a question, get a response, and ask again, and go back and forth and have a dialogue of information, in their native language,” he says. “I look at that as a goal, to be able to have that kind of experience.”

But Google is not relying on organic growth. Its appetite for acquisition has steadily increased over the past few years.

In 2011 Google paid US$12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, to get its hands on valuable patents. Last month it signed a US$1.3 billion deal for Waze, a traffic-mapping tool set to transform Google’s maps service, widening its lead over Apple’s rival product.

Against this backdrop, Google’s “Googliness” can cause problems. The company has had to tread a fine line as it has expanded overseas, coming up against cultures which take a dim view of the amount of data it collects about users.

Users in Europe, in particular, have been riled by projects such as Streetview, Google’s mission to photograph and map every street in the world by driving down it with a camera, or Google Glass, which enables people to discreetly take photographs without James Bond-style hidden cameras.

Last month Google was one of nine technology giants accused of routinely handing information over to the US Government as part of the Prism surveillance project. Google claims it has done no such thing, and asked the authorities to be allowed to publish statistics about the number of information requests it has pushed back on.

But even with the categorical denial, the episode remains incendiary for staff as well as the public. Google employees demanded answers from Brin and Page at their routine meeting that week. In Britain, anger has also rumbled around the company’s tax contributions. Google paid just over £10 million in corporation tax to the Treasury in the past five years, on revenue of £11.5 billion.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, has argued that the company has a moral duty to shareholders to pay the tax that the laws of each country say it owes, and no one has accused it of breaking any laws.

Many would agree, but the row over Google’s financial contribution has tarnished its reputation. Last year Britons identified Google as the fifth most desirable brand in the world. In the same survey this year it had tumbled out of the top 20. Senior Google staff privately admit the episode has taken a toll on morale.

It remains in Google’s nature to constantly push the envelope. Its modus operandi is to experiment, get products out fast and fix any problems on the fly. “Launch and iterate” is a phrase used often.

Allied to Google’s fearless ambition, and its increasingly strategic approach to investment, is also the fleet-of-foot behaviour that will underpin its future growth. Google might shoot past the US$1000-a-share mark before the year is out.

– Daily Telegraph UK

By Katherine Rushton

Public Education at a Crossroads

March 28, 2012 1 comment
"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...

"(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good friend of mine and respected colleague, David Gamberg, recently posted some thoughts on the state od education.  David always provides an insight that provokes thought and discussion, and frequently challenges the way we think and behave.

View the original source for this post

How do we judge performance while maintaining the humanity of a profession that rests on an exchange of ideas between the child and adult? Thus is the dilemma faced throughout our nation as we grapple with the impact of testing our students and evaluating our teachers in the age of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) process. The art and science of teaching and learning is of course more than either the sharing of ideas and the grading of students and teachers.

The system of educating our youth has been a public covenant, which has supported our economic, political, and social growth for over 230 years. In recent years, we have arrived at a crossroads in education, one that requires a careful balance to move forward. The basic platform for the delivery of knowledge and skills that has been the centerpiece of our system for the past 100 years often referred to as a factory model of education is under assault. Disruptive forces from many directions are challenging the very foundation of the educational establishment as we know it. What will it take to preserve our democratic way of life throughout the twenty-first century given the tumultuous changes that are at hand?

Our American way of life has benefited greatly by supporting and promoting this covenant with education. Public schooling has led to advancements in science, business, and culture that transcend the borders of our country. As the beneficiaries of this covenant we are now wondering how to rekindle the spark of innovation in public education that has been the thread of our democracy woven together since the days of Jefferson and Franklin. Is it through charter schools? Merit pay? Enhanced testing and evaluation measures?

In times of data driven decision-making, rapidly advancing technologies, and disruptive innovation, a battle is being waged for the hearts and minds of many stakeholder groups both inside and outside the world of education. The public-at-large demands results and looks to either a return to basics, or to an elevation of expectations by applying pressure on students, teachers, and schools that is born out of a competitive spirit which is as American as apple pie.

The rhetoric is at a fever pitch given the high stakes of how a well-educated populace will drive economic growth both now and in the future. Those who seek to reform education simply by applying the metrics of a return to the good old days, or those who apply the analytics of contemporary high performing corporate entities, possess only a partisan or a partial view of the picture. The image of a Norman Rockwell classroom, or a teacher crunching numbers as though they were reading the latest profit and loss statement reflects the larger chasm between those who cling to the past and those who have taken up the false mantle of educational reform predicated on an overly simplistic business model.

Many teaching and learning models of old, along with the dispositions of practice that reigned supreme can appear outmoded. In the front of the room looking out at rows of desks, the teacher has stood at the chalkboard lecturing to students with them dutifully following along in their textbooks. The fountain of information that was once poured from a singular source be it the teacher or the textbook, now flows both to and from multiple sources at lightning speed. There is, however, one element of the process that is essentially the same since the dawn of time—rapport. This is the element that shall not give way to any new methodology, technology, or structure.

When a teacher and student have rapport there is a relationship built on trust and respect. The student can confidently approach new material, take risks, and know that their interests are primary. It is not simply that the student enjoys either a class or the teacher. Rather, as with a great coach, the teacher can demand and expect an intrinsic desire on the part of the student to come to a deeper understanding of why something is so, or how something works. To be taught something is to acquire this understanding such that the student may use this knowledge or skill in ways that lift the quality of any process or product.

We see this every time a teacher kneels down and reassuringly works at the eye level of a student to provide insight into a problem or task. When a teacher checks in or checks back repeatedly to ensure that learning has taken place that reassurance pays dividends, as the student is more willing to step forward in new, more difficult directions. What may be misrepresented as building self-esteem is actually a carefully orchestrated set of uniquely human traits to create the conditions for optimal learning.

Delivering content at the touch of a finger on a 24 hour, seven day a week basis is now possible and cost effective. However, who will step in and guide a child towards a path of self-discovery that bears any resemblance to what we may consider to be truthful and accurate? Separating fact from fiction, and imparting the basic tenets of an understanding as to why and how things are in math, science, history, and literature has always been the province of our teachers in school.

Unfortunately, the notion of exercising what may be akin to “a bedside manner” in rendering the teacher-learner relationship now seems to give way to a boiling down of the bottom line of test scores and tax dollars. Advancements in technology, brain research, and organizational efficiency have produced new, more effective structures and tools that can be harnessed to replace old ways of doing things. The new paradigm shift demands a new kind of educational system, one that not only embeds the use of these tools and structures, but also one that captures the imagination of all participants in the process, both students and teachers.

The art and science of how a learning organization moves forward and progresses towards any definition of what we may generally describe as “improvement,” requires many components. There is no silver bullet for the prescription of success. Returning to the notion of a bedside manner, a doctor cannot write a script formulated simply on data from a chart or solely based on the cost of care. Careful attention to these and other details including rapport with the patient creates the dynamic that results in the wellness of any individual.

The American experiment in a free and boundless democracy, at least in part driven by a public system of educating our citizens, has come as a result of an unquenching determination to try new things, be bold, work hard, and take risks. In this ever more complex world where students acquire the habits of mind that will allow them to prosper and carry forward the values of our society we must ask ourselves how to build a system that promotes and protects a true understanding of that which is important to the soul of education.
-David Gamberg

I LOVE My New iPad

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment
A photograph of a metro Wi-Fi antenna in Minne...

Image via Wikipedia

Recently, Tony Robbins tweeted an off-handed joke about what do air and sex have in common? The answer is you do not think much about either until you are not getting either. Funny enough.

The need for air is obvious enough. There is no need to discuss the other here. It got me to thinking though about Internet Connectivity, in the sense that it is something else that is taken for granted and not thought much about, until you do not have it.

With the expansion of WiFi to places most had never dreamed about, it is easy to see why Internet connectivity is not always a thought or concern. Every Starbucks, library, book store etc., now provide WiFi for customers, at no charge. Some local cable TV providers are even beginning to blanket their coverage area with free WiFi. Considering how many places Internet connectivity is available in, many take it for granted. That is until, it is not there when needed.

Internet connectivity is what telephone dial-tone service was a generation ago. When a phone is picked up, it is automatically expected that there will be a dial tone and a call can be made, without any issues. We have come to expect the same of our Internet connection. The expectation is that it is just always there, always available, whenever and wherever needed. Thankfully, depending upon where you live or work, a connection to the Internet is generally available. Frequently, broadband is even available.

Schools should be no different. Anytime, anywhere, learning cannot take place without adequate network/Internet connectivity. With the benefit of e-Rate, most schools are now providing wired Internet connections to all classrooms. As the transition to portable devices takes place, schools need to ensure wireless connectivity for their students and staff as well.

Be a Committed Sardine

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Check out this terrific site, The Committed Sardine and you won’t be disappointed.

This resources found at this site are always plentiful, and often thought provoking.  Mr. Ian Jukes and his colleagues never fail to produce.  If you ever get the opportunity to see Ian in action, do not miss out.

If you are curious about the interesting name for the site you can find out all about it by reading why we’re called committed sardines.

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