2012 Training Team — Oregon Virtual School District

2012 Training Team — Oregon Virtual School District

Group juggling with the ORVSD Training TeamGroup juggling with the ORVSD Training Team

I have been part of the Oregon Virtual School District Training Team since 2009. The Oregon Virtual School District is a program of the Oregon Department of Education that provides online curriculum tools, hosting, and resources for the state’s public K-12 districts. Steve Nelson, the project director, has been smart about funding support and training for the districts, as well as the large technology stack itself.

Our training group includes teachers, tech directors, and administrators from Oregon schools. During the school year, we meet virtually via Google Hangouts and WebEx. In August, though, we meet face-to-face to plan our schedule and activities for the coming year. We spend some of the time getting to know our new teammates and getting to know the products and platforms we support.

This year’s retreat included refresher sessions on WordPress and Google Apps. We filled in our workshop grid for October’s Oregon Google Summit and mapped out the webinars, workshops, and training events we’ll host across the state this fall. We’ll also be presenting at state and regional conferences; creating tutorials and how-tos; and traveling to school districts and ESDs for ORVSD training days. It’s been a pleasure to help for the past three years.

The 2012 ORVSD Training Team The 2012 ORVSD Training Team

Consumerization in K-12 Education

Consumerization in K-12 Education

In April, I presented two sessions on Google Apps for Ed at the Southern Oregon Ed Tech Summit. It was a great event, co-hosted by Southern Oregon University and Southern Oregon Education Service District, with support from Oregon Virtual School District.

I had a free hour between Esther Wojcicki’s thoughtful keynote and my first session, so I sat in on The Journey to Google Apps, led by Andrew Krug & Daniel Defreez. The session was a technical one, focused on domain management and configuration options. BUT, the beginning of the story held the spark for this post. And for much of my work this past year and the next.

The beginning of the story…. Southern Oregon University needed a new email system. Their existing hardware and software were due for a major refresh. After the IT department narrowed the options to three solid choices, the university turned this decision out for a campus-wide vote. Over 90% of students and faculty chose GMail. Ummmm…. Plurality.Simple majority.Super majority.Almost unanimous. (By the way, the also-rans were not unworthy competitors or choices.)

SOU tech engineersAndrew Krug & Daniel Defreez

I tweeted this little tidbit and picked up a new term, consumerization. (Thanks, @thesethings.) Before that day, I had heard the word, but I hadn’t put it in context of what I see around me. During the next week, it reverberated through my brain, louder each day. I’ll synopsize the Wikipedia article on consumerization — consumer tech has eclipsed work tech; hold on tight. The phrase was first coined a decade ago, but I think we hit a tipping point in education sometime during the past two years with the confluence of shrinking budgets and the suddenly-ubiquitous iPad.

In April, in another of those freaky convergences, I was transitioning to a new role as the CIO for the High Desert Education Service District in Central Oregon. We provide technology support for the Bend LaPine, Crook County, Redmond, and Sisters school districts. Consumerization is impacting our schools, teaching, and learning. Every day. I see it as an opportunity, but it’s a challenging one from an IT perspective.

When this year’s high school seniors were in kindergarten, there were a measly 50 million users on the Internet. By the time they graduated this spring, over 1.3 billion users were surfing and creating content. Computers evolved quickly during that decade too, changing from the dusty boat anchors in the corner of offices and classrooms to mobile communication tools that fit in a backpack or even a pocket.

We have teachers, students, and parents who are carrying more tech on their persons than we can provide in our schools with our beleaguered education budgets. And we have students who have been using this tech for learning and communication for years before they walk through our door. This changes how we look at K-12 technology at an enterprise level. The IT department is no longer the sole arbiter of useful technology in the classroom. (I would argue that even the idea of an EdTech department is approaching its expiration date, but that’s an argument for another post. This one’s too long already.)

If we are no longer the chiefs, what are we? My hope is that we become the sherpas for our teachers and students in their choices. We still provide infrastructure and backbone (wireless networks in every building is top priority). We still try as hard as we can to keep our students safe on the Internet without stifling the amazing learning opportunities that it presents. We build apps, explore and manage tools in the cloud, and connect our users to the resources they need in the friendliest, easiest way possible.

In short, it’s going to be a messy decade, but one where we get to help address equality of access for our most vulnerable students; policy and safety for all our students; and tech skill boosts for our teachers. The IT department doesn’t become less important or less needed. In fact, I believe it’s the opposite. We make the trek to the summit possible.

Over 90% of Southern Oregon students and faculty chose a tool they were already using in their personal lives. Over 90%. Get those 90% using a tool that they’re already happy with and start tackling more exciting things on the to-do list.

Google Search at Astoria High School (Revolution in Libya)

Google Search at Astoria High School (Revolution in Libya)

The Oregon Virtual School District Training Team was at Astoria High School this week. Astoria is one of the Google Chrome Notebook pilot locations. We spent two days talking Google Apps and information literacy with the students while the teachers were getting some intense training by Wendy Gorton and Christine Archer, Google Apps Trainers from CUE (Computer-Using Educators, California). Astoria Bridge Astoria Bridge On our first day, we used a zombie theme for a lesson about Gmail and Google Calendar. Labels and filters save the day! When Zombies Attack presentation When Zombies Attack On the second day, I had a great time talking about search with large groups of students in the auditorium. students searching the web Students Having Fun with Search We talked about quotation marks — I was shocked to discover that only a few knew about and/or used phrase searching. (We took a quick detour to search — Google or Bing — our names in quotation marks. Great exercise for high school.) We also talked about triangulating resources. Don’t trust a single source, no matter who it is — Wikipedia is not the devil’s work and major, reputable sites mess up sometimes. And there are fake sites and hoaxes. Always double or triple check your sources…. We experimented with simplifying search terms and the impact on results. I chose an example on the fly in first period and couldn’t have planned it better if I tried. First search string: revolution in libya 2011 Libya search results   Second search string: revolution libya Libya search results It was a timely, interesting, accidental choice. The students sifted through the first page of results for each string (two tabs side-by-side) and determined that the second string returned better results. I agreed. It was a perfect illustration of one of the first tenets of good search: start simple. Nota bene: We ended up with a history and government lesson on the fly, also. Many students noticed that, “Hey, wait a minute! Muammar Gaddafi was at the front of the original modern Libyan Revolution.” Today, we say “Libyan Revolution” to talk about the rising against Gaddafi. For the past forty years, though, the phrase referred to the uprising led by Gaddafi.
Gone Google

Gone Google

students at google summit
Sherwood Students at the Google Summit, October 2010

Oregon has Gone Google. We were the first state to provide a state-level agreement for Google Apps for Education. I’m part of the training team that travels the state, providing Google Apps training and support to Oregon districts and teachers. We do things like the Google Summit.

Training is available in-person and via WebEx. We’ll also be presenting sessions at most of the Northwest edtech conferences and events in 2010-2011. Visit the Oregon Apps training site for more info. You can also email to book a training.