Breadcrumbs for My Children

As the darkness gives way to light, I find myself reflecting upon who I am as a father but also what I want to share with my children as they grow.

Unknowingly, I started tweeting once a morning that wisdom  or at least what I feel is a life lived. But I soon realized that I was leaving breadcrumbs for my children should something happen to me.

Morbid? Maybe.

But this digital footprint has more value to me than anything I’ve done online. It stares at me. It reminds me. My greatest mission in life is my children.

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Mortality is cruel so these vignettes and what they help instill are my only way to combat it if only slightly.

Early Experience with Android Apps on Chromebooks

Early Experience with Android Apps on Chromebooks

Google made good on their I/O promise to begin sending Android apps over to the Chromebooks. From a school perspective, this is an important move for the Google Ecosystem especially with the outstanding potential with Google Play for Edu. And for schools that anticipated this and went with Chromebooks that have touch and tablet-lite experience like the Lenovo 11e Yoga, the energy is off the charts.

What is the experience?

Even with just four apps available now, Evernote jumps off the page given the great educational value. So let’s take a peak at just that one.

1. Install

Installing the app is quite simple. Whether in the Chrome Web Store or in Google Play for Edu, it is like installing any other app. One click and the install begins. The app is a bit over 100mb and comes across quickly. The web app for Evernote doesn’t go away so this can be a bit perplexing for students if they have two Evernote apps.

2. Launch of the App

The app resides within the app launcher. Given it is an Android app, it works entirely offline. This is important to note due the outdated criticism of Chromebooks requiring wifi to have any functionality.

3. App Experience

The app is exactly what you would find on your Android device. It is actually quite impressive to see and lives up to what you would expect from Evernote, Android, and Chromebook <– how cool is that? I was moving back and forth between the web and Evernote but also within various Yoga modes. In other words, I was getting uber excited by the cognitive and physical flow potential.

And then my excitement plummeted. For whatever reason, the handwriting piece does not function. This dropped the entire potential of the work flow that brought together these great worlds. If and when this is resolved, wow!

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4. Screen Size of App 

I’ve read some criticism on the app not launching the full size of the screen. I get that and was also a bit perplexed by it. After a colleague gave me the “Wow Factor” of us getting the best of both worlds we wanted (Nexus 7 and Chromebooks), I wondered if the size was in any way similar to the Nexus 7.

The reality is that the Evernote app and the Nexus 7 screen are almost identical.

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Overall

I’m excited. This is what we expected to see occur from Google and it is quite promising given we are 48 hours into it. Time will tell if this lives up to the expectation we have for it.

As the featured image of this post has in it from our pilot over two years ago, the Nexus 7 and the Chromebook brought with them many opportunities. It was hard to choose and hours of discussions went into it. All of us wished we could have the two in one. Google and Lenovo are making that possible!

Onward!!

 

 

The Value of Superintendents

Superintendents have little value when it comes to student achievement. This is, of course, if you value the the study done by Brown Center on Education Policy at Brooklings. For me, I have many questions and thoughts regarding the findings. Above anything else, I don’t see the value of the superintendent accurately measured and thus reflected in this study unless you are one that see state assessment results as the ultimate driver.

The Starting Point

It ultimately starts with two key questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the superintendent?
  2. How do we measure said purpose?

Is the purpose of the superintendent to raise student achievement? Perhaps I’ll be chastised for this but I would argue “no” at least in terms of directly. The purpose of the superintendent as I would argue for all central office administration is to create the conditions for the schools to be successful.

Thus, I would like a study to be conducted on the known conditions that need to be in place in order for schools to have the opportunity to be successful and whether superintendents are creating those conditions. What are those conditions? There are things such as financial stability, school agency and empowerment, policies and procedures, technology infrastructure and tools, vision and direction, and resource procurement.

And I would add Umbrella Management. The Superintendent and his or her cabinet work to place an umbrella over the schools so that they can focus on learning and teaching. This umbrella protects from the federal and state bureaucratic aspects that often distract from the real mission. By placing an umbrella over the schools and shielding them from this meaningless management work, the schools are able to focus on a meaningful climate and experience for students.

This is the study that makes sense to me. First, defined the purpose of the superintendent. Second, identify the research on successful schools such as Dr. Lezotte’s Effective Schools research. Third, measure the impact of the superintendent on those conditions.

The Student Achievement Problem

More than anything, I’ve grown tired of studies like these that emerge and become fodder for the media to use (see NPR) using the tired old “student achievement” framework. First, student achievement as measured my standardized test is a poor methodology fraught with problems. We know this. Yet, here we sit with a study framed around state assessment data.

If that is how we measure student achievement, we are all doomed in education because I fail to see much causation behind many of the correlations attempted to be made. Again, I’d love to see us really challenge ourselves to define student achievement differently. Can state assessments be one mechanism? Sure. It being the foundational bedrock though? Problematic to say the least.

 

 

 

Top Down vs Bottom Up

I find this idea of “How Google Changed when Larry Page Became CEO Again” a worthwhile topic of focus for schools.

Let’s start here.

  1. Is your school/district top-down or bottom-up?
  2. How do you know?
  3. To what degree is it one of those?
  4. And perhaps most importantly, what is and isn’t working with which ever one is operating in your school/district?

Chances are, you aren’t having a difficult time answering those questions. And there is a good chance, your answer to number 4 is directly aligned with your answer to number 2 (i.e. my knowledge of which one we are is associated with mostly positives or negatives and then influences my tone for whether it is working or not).

And I would also speculate that the results are intensely to one side or the other in terms of top-down vs. bottom-up.

Teachers: “We are heavy bottom up and kind of floating along though we are at least left alone” or “We are heavy top-down and left stifled, scared, and tired but have what appears to be a direction”.
Admin: “We are heavy bottom up and empower teachers”. You’ll rarely hear an admin state they are top-down even when they are clearly, “top-down”.

So what does the article about Page tell us?

Page finds top-down and bottom-up to be symbiotic not diametrically opposed.  One Google employee stated that before Page’s return, Google empowered everyone but empowered them without a feeling of direction. In other words, heavy bottom-up and kind of floating along albeit with an amazing level of success.

One employee put it best: “People were running around working on whatever projects they wanted. It was a bottom-up approach to figuring out the company’s focus.” That idea of “figuring out the company’s focus” is what resonates so much with me.

And so now, Page has according to the article a much more deliberate take on what Google needs to be working on now. However, he empowers them to explore, discover, and create as widely as possible within those questions.

I wonder which the employees preferred? Which approach created the agency and agility needed for sustainable innovation? What works and doesn’t work with the current approach vs the old approach?

But more importantly to me, what can we learn here because this delicate balance between top-down and bottom-up is a struggle for many school organizations in my opinion.

Perhaps the speculation at the end of the article is our best piece of advice to consider as school leaders:Google realized that if it really wants to solve some interesting problems, it needs to decide where to focus its attention” while empowering those that can solve those problems to the greatest degree possible!

Bullying and Play

While society spends much time blaming social media for increased quantity and intensity of bullying, I can’t help but feel this is classic correlation without causation. In fact, I wonder how much bullying today is connected to the over dependence on formalized/organized play leaving kids unable to negotiate peers.

My wife and I are now those parents. We shuffle our kids from one organized event to another. There are always adults setting the rules, setting the agenda, setting the movements, and setting the atmosphere. Adults handle any problem occurring during these organized events or the child runs off the field to their parent who then jumps in to handle it.

Gone is the right field is out. Gone is the army rules. Gone is the pitcher hand out. Gone is 50 yard field. Gone is the curb is out of bounce.

If you know these pieces, you know these are the rules established by kids. These are starting points for kids to learn how to navigate teams, peers, and society. Today, this is all done for them.

I sound like my grandfather and his tales of walking 5 miles up a snow-covered hill just to reach the top where he had 5 more miles to go in open fields just to reach school. But I see this the lack of empowerment of children at a young age to solve their own problems  and wonder what is it doing to them. Honestly, adults are right there solving all problems before these even become a problem. Two kids disagree on something. Adult jumps in and says “this is how it goes”. One kid calls another a name. Adult jumps in and says “we aren’t going to do this”. One kid isn’t getting the ball enough and adult jumps in to make sure s/he gets one grandiose experience. One kid cuts in line and kids tell an adult who jumps in… The list goes on and on.

There is little growth in navigating with peers, communicating with peers, expressing concerns/frustrations with peers, and negotiating with peers. All of this is done through an adult intermediary.

Maybe this has little correlation let alone causation. However, I simply can’t help wonder if the supposed increase in quantity and intensity of bullying is connected to the over dependence on formalized/organized play leaving kids unable to negotiate peers.

 

 

PD and Fitness

PD and Fitness

I’ve been involved in fitness since the age of 12 when I snuck my way into a gym.

Since that time, I’ve read, observed, studied, and connected with anyone and everything that could grow my understanding of how to alter my body.

– Nutrition
– Biomechanics
– Anatomy and Physiology
– Biorhythms
– Sports Psychology
– and the list goes on

One month ago, I discovered through a ten minute conversation that my positioning while training calves has been less than ideal.

Taking this ten minute conversation, I’ve modified my approach and have experienced an explosion in performance.

The Connection to Professional Development

There is so much talk these days about PD with various arguments. Most are overly complicated.

PD is about engagement of the heart, mind, and body. The best pathway to it is empowerment, choice, flexibility, and time.

When this done, conventional methods do not apply and PD is just happening at every moment. It also means that educators take responsibility to grow instead of waiting for another adult to dictate time, location, topic, and approach.

Organizations with roles dedicated to PD need to rethink the traditional “we own it and all PD comes through us” to a more sustainable, engaging model of “we create constructs throughout the organization where everyone is providing and participating in learning”.

In ten minutes, I learned something that will fuel me for years. I didn’t wait for someone to offer a session. I didn’t go to a person designated for training. Because of the constructs of a community of fitness minded athletes, learning is always happening.

When schools become this, think of how much we will grow.

Keys to One-to-One Learning Movements

When people visit to discuss our one-to-one movement, one question we always receive is about keys to success. I say you’ve probably heard all about first level changes that we know are important: infrastructure, policies, planning, support, etc.

Of course, everyone wants to know about professional development and this also part of the equation but not so much in the way you imagine. However, I am sure to point out that one-to-one within the Google Ecosystem is about all the professional learning that goes into that world prior to the devices even being there. In other words, your school should believe in the Google Ecosystem and should be deeply vested prior to bringing on devices especially Chromebooks or Google Play tablets. Once that is in place and the three keys I’m about to mention, being professionally develop fades to continuous connecting, learning, and sharing.

The real keys are second level changes. Failure to embrace these at the core of thinking and acting ultimately will lead to a poor movement or even ultimate failure.

  1. Lack of Agency
  2. Lack of Agility
  3. Lack of Self-Driven Adult Learning

How are you fostering these mindsets and dispositions? How are you thinking beyond the known aspects into what matters? How are you focusing on the heart, mind, and body? How are you pushing beyond “professionally developed” to “professionally encouraged”?

The Lenovo 11e Yoga Chromebook

The Lenovo 11e Yoga Chromebook

I’ve had the Lenovo 11e Yoga Chromebook in my hands for well over a month. No matter where I go, people ask me three questions:

  1. how did you get that when no one has it?
  2. can I play around with it?
  3. what are your thoughts?

I’ve shared my thoughts with many during these conversations but the mysterious look on folks’ face about touch and various modes led me to hold off on a blog post until after Google I/O and Chrome OS 36 Beta. Many that ran into me with the device have since contacted me saying, “I get it now!”.

In case you missed it, Google I/O made big steps towards a more seamless Android and Chrome OS world including running select Android apps and  the merging of Chromebooks into Play for Edu. It is here we get an understanding of why a device like this one make a lot of sense if one is looking towards the future.

From a pure specs perspective, the Lenovo 11e Yoga puts much into the machine:

Processor Latest Intel Bay Trail Quad Core N2930 2.16Ghz
Display 11.6 Asahi Dragontrail HD IPS multi-touch (1366 x 768)
Memory 4GB DDR-3L 1600 MHz
Batter 4cell 8 hours
Connectivity Intel 7260 AC 802.11 abgn 2×2 + BT 4.0
Ports 1 USB 3.0 port; 1 USB 2.0 port(always on to charge phones, tablets etc); HDMI 1.4: 4-in-1 card reader; Stereo Mic & Headphone Combo jack

Beyond just the specs, here is what I’ve seen with this device in my time with it and along the way with reviewing it for our district device.

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Design

At first sight, the Lenovo 11e Yoga Chromebook doesn’t wow you nor does it turn you away. One thing it doesn’t scream is cheap! It looks like that of a full size laptop one would expect from Lenovo or similar to that of  the Dell or Acer. But it is in your hands that you feel the difference and it starts to shine.

First, this is not your consumer grade Chromebook. It weighs in at 3.5 lbs with a thickness of .91 inches. While you can feel that weight, it plays well ergonomically and the weight is in the metal reinforcement within the shell. This is the tradeoff to the rugged build that includes rubber bumper tucked eloquently around the display, anchored keys, and metal encasement. Students dropped the device many times from various heights and it kept on ticking plus zero screen cracks.

Despite these rugged features, the device is not what one expects in terms of feeling like a tank as it carries the sleekness of the leading market Chromebooks like the Dell and Acer. It isn’t going to be mistaken for the HP 11 or Samsung 2, but  it plays comfortably.

Summary: It brings with it exceptional rugged feature set designs without sacrificing the look and feel of a modern laptop.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard is tremendous. It is one of the first things I noticed. The keys are firm and feel like being on a full size laptop. Spacing of the keys is good and there is quality space to move around the shell. The keys can play a little loudly than the softness of say the Samsung. This is something I’ve noticed with full-sized Lenovo laptops as well.

The trackpad is equally if not more impressive. With most Chromebooks and cheaper laptops, there is a hollow feel to trackpads. Nothing is further from the truth here: big, spacious, and highly functional. There is no trackpad that competes with Apple but this is the first one away from a Mac that  I stopped and said, “wow…”.  Gestures are easy on the trackpad and it is smooth scrolling with it.

Summary: The keyboard and trackpad are the best I’ve experienced on a Chromebook despite the keys being on the loud side.

Display

The display is crisp and plays larger than 11.6 screen size. It isn’t going to be confused for a retina display but it is a solid display built for what most would need. The touch is smooth and reactive. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how responsive the screen is as well as how durable it appears. The Dragontrail glass is quite impressive. As someone most used to working with Gorilla glass, this is an intriguing look.

In spirit of transparency, I’m a bad review in terms of display quality given my eyesight. With reviews to come from others once the device is in the wild, I would recommend others here.

Summary: The display quality is solid, the touch is quite responsive, and the Dragontrail glass is sturdy yet with good feel.

Heat/Sound

There is almost no heat permeating from this machine. I’ve done five-hour straight marathons with it on my lap. No heat. No sound.

Summary: It runs cool and silent.

Performance

While I’ll write more about the performance in the various Yoga modes, I am going to stick to general performance within clamshell mode for the purposes of this review. Given the Dell 11 and Acer 720 along with the Samsung 2 being the tops now on the market, I did a point to point load comparison. The Lenovo was slightly behind those (barley noticeable) but shined in performance strength with the smoothness of page movement, multiple tabs, and application work.

The keyboard to touch flow is strong and natural. In fact, I find myself unhappy without a touch screen on other devices. However, it is a greater feel than that of a tablet with an attached keyboard. The virtual keyboard enables in other modes and works well. Ironically, it loads more like an iPad keyboard than what I expected: an Android keyboard. This isn’t disappointing but I hope the virtual keyboard merges into the Android L world to further embed that aspect.

Summary: The performance is basically equal to other Chromebooks in terms of load but shines from there.

Battery Life

The device clocks in at 8 hours a day. I found it lives more around 7 hour billing so long as you are pushing the brightness to the max. I have little issues getting through a work day on the device and find that I end up charging it before going to bed. It isn’t built to go more than one day as I’ve seen with the Dell. This is one area where I’d like to see improvements. It is disappointing not to see this pushing over the 10 hour mark.

The rapid charger works as expected bringing 80% of the battery back in less than 60 minutes.

Summary: This is the weakest area of the device. However, it is a serviceable 8 hour battery and rapid charge power supply.

Overall

The three themes that emerge with this device when looking at it as a school option: design quality, durability, and viability with Google’s recent moves.  The device is flat out great. Like any device, there are areas of improvement that are needed and I’d fully expect in future iterations. However, this is a tremendous device that should turn heads in the education market!

The Power of Non-Core Academics*

Education speaks often about the whole-child, passions, and the adjacent possible. We talk about creativity and critical thinking as the core.

But actions don’t often align with beliefs especially today where the arts, activities, and “non-core academics”/elective cores are forgotten or worse dropped.

Education pushes college readiness as a set of skills and courses that will get our students there.

But then the story of Kwasi Ewin emerges and should give every school pause. I’m not talking about the fact he was accepted to all eight IVY League Universities.

I’m talking about what he attributes his sense of wonder and thinking:

Music has become the spark of my intellectual curiosity. I directly developed my capacity to think creatively around problems due to the infinite possibilities in music. There are millions of combinations of key signatures, chords, melodies, and rhythms … As I began to explore a minute fraction of these combinations from the third grade onwards, my mind began to formulate roundabout methods to solve any mathematical problem, address any literature prompt, and discover any exit in an undesirable situation. … Lastly, music has become the educator that has taught me the importance of leadership, teamwork and friendship.

And yet education as a whole places their emphasis everywhere but here (and equivalent/similar outlets) despite our rhetoric.

But his quote about where he finds peace emerges as so key:

My haven for solace in and away from home is in the world of composers, harmonies and possibilities. My musical haven has shaped my character and without it, my life would not be half as wonderful as it is today.

First, this speaks to his ability to understand flow. Second, this speaks to his ability to pause and self-regulate. Third, this speaks to his ability the disconnect and address stress. Finally, this speaks to his ability to move from interest to passion to purpose.

I’m not sure there is a more important mission, so I’m wondering what can education learn from this story. Share Kwasi Ewin’s Essay with your team and ask what does this mean for us

*I cringed when I hear noncore academics but it describes common language for disciplines outside of Science, Math, English, and Social Studies (though many are even sadly question this one) along with electives within these disciplines.

Why the Chromebook Institute Excites Me

This past weekend, we announced the inaugural Chromebook Institute for June 17-18 preceded by Google’s Leadership Summit on June 16.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be part of an experience that is designed with Chromebooks and the Google ecosystem as the main theme. There are so many educators and districts on similar paths that we can all benefit from greater opportunities to connect. However, we are also at different stages on that journey so the opportunities to learn from practitioners and to deepen existing knowledge with great expertise makes this an experience for everyone.

And it also provides that opportunity for schools to connect with members of the Google Education Team. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the concern about Google not having a store or a briefing center that is open to schools to better understand Google’s vision. Events like these provide those opportunities in a setting that is academic, is schools, not business. It is exciting!

There are so many more reasons I’m excited about this…

  1. Chromebook and Google Ecosystem Focused
  2. Personalized Pathways via SAMR, Project Red, and Google Strands
  3. 10x Thinking Talks by educators, for educators
  4. Network Building
  5. Implementation Driven
  6. Creation Centered Workshops
  7. Expedition of Discovery
  8. What If Manifesto Design Closing
  9. Time for connecting, playing, sharing, and celebrating
  10. Opening Keynote that will have people thinking about the moon!

I hope you’ll accept this invitation to join us on a wondrous expedition!

Registration Here
Call for Proposals Here
More Information Here