A Good Year

It’s been a good year. Throughout, I’ve felt challenged by so many professional and personal goals that it’s hard to believe it all happened in just a year. Students are doing well at school, our own kids are doing well at home. We’re learning a lot about balancing work and life, servers and sailing.

Next year, I have even more goals set. Two conference presentations, a consulting trip, and an ISM workshop are at the top of the professional list. A two-week sailing charter in the San Juan Islands, an advanced cruising course and some racing experience on the sailing list. I’m also looking forward to the week-long cycling trip to Napa Valley with OES students.

My wife and I occasionally laugh, because it often seems like last weekend was months ago. It’s nice to take it slower during this holiday break.

Quiet Time

Tomorrow, my family and I take off for our traditional pre-Christmas winter yurting trip on the Oregon Coast. It may sound like a family psych experiment, and it is. :)

Years ago I heard an NPR story about “good stress.” Basically, the body responds to good stress in the same ways that it responds to bad stress (tension, loss of sleep, higher blood pressure, etc.). The example given was of kids during the holidays being whipped into heights of expectations. And waiting. And hoping. Hopefully, with a grand mal payoff of family gift ripping bliss.

I remember some Christmases like that, but more so I remember the rather irritating days leading up to “the day.” Not much to do, bad traffic, crowds.

Yurt PicturesAnyway, for the past several years we’ve gone yurting on the Oregon Coast for three or four nights before Christmas, and then drive home on Christmas Eve. It’s a nice way to spend some time at a favorite campground (Beverly Beach), explore the winter coast, see Newport, visit the aquarium, look at sailboats, and read in the heated yurt. This can all be done, rain or shine, cold or warm. It’s fun to go someplace quiet and interesting.

This has been so popular, we now do the same at Thanksgiving.

So, that’s where we’re going tomorrow. We have all we need for the holidays right there.

Learning the Differences

What I really like about Wikis is that they are collaborative and they are a “shared content” environment, which I think we do a rotten job of teaching kids about. In fact, I recently floored one of our best history teachers by discussing it in light of his upcoming “full court press” with kids about plagiarism.

My concern with Wikis is that they need to be balanced with blogs. Not because one is better than the other, but because blogs are personal and owned by the writer like a self-publication. Kids should know the exact difference between the two in terms of ongoing ownership of their original content.

Here’s what really concerns me. Most users don’t read the fine print on public bulletin boards, of which many have this clause in their user agreements:


For information regarding use of personal information you supply or communicate to the Website, please see our Privacy Policy. Except as expressly provided otherwise in the Privacy Policy, you agree that by posting messages, uploading files, inputting data, or engaging in any other form of communication with or through the Website, you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, enhance, transmit, distribute, publicly perform, display, or sublicense any such communication (including your identity and information about you) in any medium (now in existence or hereinafter developed) and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, and to authorize others to do so.

Source: the bulletin board user agreement of our local newspaper.

I guess this bothers me, since it means that users release all rights to their content in perpetuity for any use. I shudder to think of all the photos being posted that could become part of clip art collections, re-publication, etc. The user agreement at MySpace is far more user-friendly by comparison.

Anyway, before kids get too excited by Wikis and other “free” online publishing options, I think we need to help them understand what they are offering and giving up, if these are really the rules.

Okay, that’s the end of my dark secret for the day…

Winter Break Begins

December 16 Sail

Yesterday was the last day with students before the winter break, so we celebrated with a cool sail today on the Columbia River. 39 degrees, some decent wind, floating debris everywhere, the heater going “full” in the cabin, and some nice memories. Additional pics here.

Increasing Numbers of US Student Laptops

Chart of Laptop Use

As you can see in the numbers above, we had a bumper crop of home-owned laptops brought to OES this week for Upper School finals. The only technical issues we had were minor problems with printing, which were almost entirely resolved by the proctors having students email or jumpdrive files to a school computer for printing.

To put these numbers in perspective, during the Fall 2004 finals, we had 177 computers in use, of which 87 were laptops brought from home. Of the home laptops, 76% were PCs and 24% were Macs.

During the Fall 2005 finals, we had 203 computers in use, of which 97 were laptops brought from home for Upper School finals. Of the home laptops, 54% were PCs and 46% were Macs.

During the Fall 2006 finals this week, we had 247 computers in use, of which 128 were laptops brought from home. Of the home laptops, 61% were PCs and 39% were Macs.

If I’m reviewing the data correctly, we had an increase in home-owned laptops from 2004 to 2005 of 11.5%. The increase of home-owned laptops from 2005 to 2006 was 32%. Also, for the first time ever, there were more home-owned laptops in use than school-owned computers.

Next year, a majority of incoming ninth graders will be from our 1:1 laptop program in the Middle School, and they will have the choice of bringing a laptop from home, borrowing a laptop from us, or just using desktops around the Upper School. We won’t always have increases of 32%, but we expect increases to continue.

Little Computers

The OES Network Administrator and I have carried Treo smartphones for several years. We started with the gray Treo 270, then the 300, then the 600 and 650. Tip: never take on a $400 phone without the hardware replacement policy.

Motorola QSo, we like these phones, primarily for the Palm OS calendar that we sync with our Outlook calendars. Last week I got lost on the way to an off-campus appointment, so I pulled over, Googled the web site of the organization and called them for directions help.

I’ve also noticed that doing SSL Outlook Web Access on my Treo 650 is a bit better than before, as well as checking some of the bulletin boards I frequent. Pictures downsize pretty well. Even reading this blog is doable.

Of course, at $400 a phone, and the Internet service contract, the entry price is pretty steep. Now, of course, there’s a new Blackjack phone for about $200, and a Motorola Q phone for about $100. They both have thumb keyboards (like I must have), and they have Windows Mobile 5.0 operating systems that promise Outlook, PDF reading and other niceties.

Recently, Bill Gates said that kids in developing countries didn’t need $100 laptops. Instead, they need smartphones that can use keyboards and TVs for monitors, while connected to the Internet via the cell networks and being a phone. It is an interesting counter-proposal.

The other thing I find interesting is that we’re likely to see more and more $100 smartphones on campus, and gradually more of them will have direct Internet access that bypasses our content filters and other safeguards. Again, it brings to light the need for students to self-limit and self-protect themselves. The future is more open than closed.

iBooks at Work

As the year progresses, our Middle School Tech Coordinator keeps track of innovative iBook uses as they appear in the classrooms. These types of use go beyond the typical “productivity” uses that have been common for several years (writing, email, SharePoint sites and web research, for example). Here’s a quick list of what he’s recorded this year:
Student Use of iChat
• Students are using the Notebook Layout view and voice recording in Microsoft Word to check oral proficiency in Spanish. Students send the teacher samples of their pronunciation of exercises sent to them by the teacher.

• 8th grade Humanities – listening to and reading online interviews from The Urban School in San Francisco and other sites.

• Listening to and commenting on Audio Podcasts from NPR and other news sources.

• Scanning and making available electronic copies of old newspaper articles and other old print resources, saving paper and printing costs.

• Making more PowerPoint files available online for students and parents to look at and use.

• Student creation of advanced PowerPoint files, complete with appropriate music, to present information to the rest of the class.

• Beginning the use of electronic grade status reports by sending PDF files to students.

• Use of iChat to partner students for research and study.

• Use of iChat by students to deliver files to teachers and distribute files to students.

• Use of iChat to develop portions of a team’s debate during class without letting the other side of the debate know their strategy.

One more that we didn’t list: A teacher came across three girls in the hallway, talking in French to an iBook. It was connected via voice iChat to one of the girl’s pen pals, in Paris.

Another Student Laptop

Intel ClassmateIt’s worth reading the review and checking out the pics of the Intel Classmate laptop.

It’s more expensive than the OLPC unit, and more like a conventional ultraportable laptops, but some of it’s design choices, including the 1 gig of RAM instead of a hard drive, are interesting.

Other articles suggest production will start in Q1 2007, but we’ll see. I wonder how these would work in our Lower School?

A Catalog of Benefits

I wonder if anyone is really cataloging the benefits of technology for individual users?

When I think about my personal use of technology, what “price tag” could I put on the ability to draft ideas with a keyboard and screen, instead of the Smith Corona I had in high school? Or the ability to do a limited “self-publish” like this blog, and be encouraged or challenged by other thinkers around the world. What is the value of being able to read so many fascinating articles, personal reports and ideas shared by others online that would never be in my local newspaper, TV news or library?

Maybe I should try to calculate savings based on better purchases of cars, real estate and other durable goods based on the expanded comparison research I can do. Or retirement investments, subscriptions and other expenses I choose to take on after research. The availability of the position I have now was discovered online.

Without personal computers and the Internet, life would go on. We’d work and live and make decisions without it. But I wonder if the opportunities wouldn’t be more local, and the creation and sharing of ideas and voices a little more difficult. Some people seem desperately concerned and worried about an increasingly connected planet, but respect for each other appears to be increasing as our lives become less local.

PBL: Project Based Learning

I enjoyed reading an Edutopia article about projected based learning last week. I came across it when perusing The Committed Sardine Blog, and the article also echoed an interesting post on Kassblog last week.

Basically, Larry Cuban and others (myself included) are noting that 1:1 laptop programs don’t magically transform schools. Even when fully supported and funded, the programs can often lead to “automation” instead of “innovation,” and in general the gears of school don’t move very far forward.

The Edutopia article ties this issue to a review of project-based learning programs, and how how a combination of 1:1 laptops and project-based learning can create a powerful synergy. Not everyone is ready for the “student as worker” model, but the article had a lot to say about what the new targets are in such an environment. Hmmm, they do seem to resemble 21st Century Learning Skills… :)

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