Friday, January 8, 2016

Use a Technology Roll Call to Prevent Loss


Your school has invested money in a large scale technology implementation.  Student all have a device, and in some cases they are allowed to take them home.  Although the school and teachers are excited about using the technology, the actual use of the devices is scattered and inconsistent.  At the end of the first year of the technology implimentation the technology team sets up and event to retrieve all of the technology from the students.  Many of the devices are missing.


This scenario is common in many technology programs, especially if you plan on having expensive technology go home with students.  The key issue of this scenario comes from the fact that in the early implementation of whole school technology, teachers are not using the technology in a consistent way.  In some cases, as unfortunate as it is, many of the students are not utilizing the technology at all.  This lack of use, places less emphasis on the technology.  Students that accidentally lose the device, are not in a hurry to replace it, and often fear repercussions from letting teachers or the technology team know about the loss.  By the time the school finds out about the loss of technology often several weeks (or months) have passed, making the recovery of the devices much more difficult.


Technology Roll Call.   In the early days of a technology program, I recommend strongly having a daily (at least weekly) roll call for the technology.  This means once per day, when attendance is normally taken, the teacher should have the students proclaim their attendance by holding up the device, or having it on their desk.  This ensures that each device is in the building each day.  Any students that do not have their devices present for more than two consecutive days are elevated to speak with the technology director or the school office.  This puts more emphasis on the technology and also allows the technology team to determine any loss within days of it going missing.  In addition the teacher can do a brief inspection for any broken glass, or damaged machines.  These can then be fixed promptly before the situation gets out of hand.  The result of this will be the decreased loss of equipment, and the increased emphasis on the importance of the technology to the students and school staff.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It is time for the VR Classroom

In January 2016, Oculus will be releasing the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality device that is as impressive as the name indicates.  Recently they also released the Oculus VR by Samsung.  A $99 device that transforms your cell phone into an amazing VR headset.  There are also many other virtual reality devices heading our way.  Google has done an inexpensive Google Cardboard implementation that brings 360ยบ views to everybody for pennies.  Soon the market will be flooded with headsets, glasses and other virtual viewing devices that will shape our entertainment.

Remember however that this technology is still in its infancy.  Like the dot matrix printers of yesterday, they will soon be replaced with high definition versions with views so real you will be immersed in virtual worlds.

Now imagine this.  30 students in a classroom getting instruction about the human cell from an excellent teacher.  The teacher is explaining the cell and mentioning what activities they will be doing together in groups and as individuals.

A switch is flipped.

None of these students were in the same classroom in real life.  These 30 students are from around the world.  The teacher is one of the finest subject matter experts, and her lesson plan is flawless.  And while the teaching is happening, and the switch is flipped, something very unexpected takes place.  All of the students are suddenly immersed inside a virtual human cell.

They are in a classroom without walls and boundaries.   As the cell starts up the process of protein synthesis the teacher pauses for a moment to point out the chemicals that are about to come into contact with one another.  Suddenly all of the students get it.  They lived it.  They watched it happen in a world so engaging they can't escape its glory.

This is what I think Virtual Reality can do for education.  History class is now an everyday virtual field trip to the places and times where events happened.  The understanding of these events comes from learners of all types experiencing the content in several different ways.  Combine the virtual reality with other forms of technology and you have yourself a spicy learning sandwich.  And at a price we won't be able to refuse.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How Microsoft's Continuum Might Impact Educational Technology

Every teacher knows the frustration of texting in class.  Idle tech does the devils work.  The day of the cell phone basket, the place where students put their phones before entering class, might be a thing of the past. It is possible that teachers soon will be saying "everybody, get out your cell phones, time to work!".

With the release of the Lumia 950 and 950xl, Microsoft shared with the world a new vision for being productive with your cell phone. Continuum is the system they have created to allow a Windows 10 enabled cell phone to work as a full blown PC when hooked up to a small dock. Now instead of a laptop, you carry around your cell phone, which acts just like a cell is supposed to, but also works as a desktop computer. At that moment when you need to be increasingly productive you simply plug it in to a full size monitor and instantly boost your options for getting work done.  Pair that with the cell phones ability to boost to an optional two terabytes of storage, and you can take your entire office with you everywhere you go. As technology shrinks and becomes more powerful, it doesn't seem crazy that most phones will eventually work like this. If other cell phone manufactures follow the lead, every student will be carrying around a full size computer in their pocket.  All the school will need to supply is a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

It really makes good sense for the business world, but it might also be a tremendous idea for the education space. BYOD is interesting because there has sometimes been a disconnect between the types of devices and the ability those devices to be productive using the variety of educational tools out there.  It isn't always easy to make a lesson plan for all types of devices, but it is easier to make one if the student has access to say, a full size browser window.  If cell phones move in the direction that Microsoft is looking to steer them, student owned and carried devices could become powerful tools in the classroom.  Tools that teachers could count on, utilize for real work and rely on being compatible with most lesson plans, LMS systems and productivity suites.  By allowing them to simply plug into screens and keyboards at the school, students would be tapping into the unused power of the mobile device.

While it might be a few years for an idea like this to catch on, I think it could be a great one for BYOD programs.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Difficult Conversations at School

Last night I had the opportunity to join Oscar Cielos Staton and Dr. Greg Goins on a conversation about difficult conversations.  It was a great opportunity to look at some of the ways in which we approach those times at school where we are faced with tough talks.  Please watch the video and support Oscar at

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Use Kahoot in PE Class!

Kahoot is a game-based classroom response system.   This easy to use application can be used on just about any browser enabled device.  Most of the time Kahoot is used to perform interactive quizzes in classrooms.  What you might not know is that it can be a great tool to use in gym class as well.  Here is how:

First learn how to Kahoot at  Next it is time to organize your gym class activity.  You will need the following:

At least two devices that run Kahoot, although this activity can be expanded to as many devices as you would like.  Kahoot works with almost any device, so it could be a cell phone, laptop or tablet.

Projector, or TV hooked up to the host computer (You could probably just use a laptop if you are creative).  This will display the questions that the teams will be seeing before they race to answer the questions. 

Set up the projector at one end of the gym where both teams can read the questions on the floor.  Divide your students into two or more relay teams.  Place the answering devices at the other end of the gym, or at the end of an obstacle course. 

Your Kahoot questions will be displayed on the screen.  When the first student in the relay knows the answer they can take off running.  They will race to the other device that will allow them to answer the question. 

Now, Kahoot keeps score.  The score is based on getting the answer correct and how quickly the responses are entered.  The next relay member will start as soon as the teacher is ready.  This allows the teacher to keep a great pace to the lesson, check for knowledge of content, while also grading physical performance of the teams.  You won’t be able to win if you get the questions wrong, and you have a better chance of winning if you are able to race to the answering device as quick as possible.  It is the perfect balance of mind and body. 

Enjoy this awesome Kahoot activity after completing your Kyte Learning Course!

-Jason Cross-