Big business and edtech

It is back to school time and this seems to have generated a number of articles focused on school districts and large technology purchases. One to one initiatives are being launched and when such purchases involve a district wide decision a great deal of money is on the line.

A common decision now seems to be the commitment to iPads or Chromebooks.This is different and more difficult than deciding which option within a given category makes the most sense. In the comparison between a tablet and a chromebook, each has advantages and disadvantages. If you have the opportunity to use both, you probably use a different device for different activities. I consume content (mostly read) on the iPad and the iPad functions as my discovery tool. I go through Twitter and my RSS reader to discover the content I want to process further and I save and organize that content using Evernote or some other app. I write on a Chromebook. Spending hours writing on an iPad seems less practical. For me, switching devices to take advantages of strengths seems productive.

I wonder how decisions are made for students. The apps available for the iPad must be an advantage, but educators who see a focus on writing probably prefer the Chromebook. Both categories of device can perform most functions so I would assume a logical approach is to consider which device is most efficient or cost effective for predominant activities.

Back to the “news” on this topic. Most are probably aware of the LA plan to purchase a huge number of iPads and then the difficulties that were encountered with the implementation. There appears to be more to the story than I realized. It seems that administrators may have made decisions without buy-in from what probably should have been participants in the decision process although it seems the focus was on moving decisively rather than some other less positive motive. It also seems that this was more than just a focus on the iPad with the desire to use Pearson curriculum material.

In other locations, accounts describe a commitment made to the Chromebook in some and a commitment to the iPad in others. It may be useful to process the rationale given for the different decisions.

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Google Slides

Google has released a Slides app for android and iOS. You can now create Google “slideshows” using a phone or tablet.



Given options, it would not be my preference to create presentations from a tablet, but students may be limited to this option.

One hint. I was baffled for a while when trying to do much more than add text to slides. I may have missed something in the instructions. The solution appeared to be creating a file and then exporting to PowerPoint before attempting to do things like insert images. Why this works and whether this is necessary is a little unclear to me, but this is what I had to do to access all features.

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Next Issue

Magazines have not been part of my content consumption effort for many years. Before the internet I used to subscribe to multiple computer magazines to keep up with tech trends. Internet content was sufficient to provide the info I needed and was less expensive.

A new service has caused me to reconsider my magazine decision. Next Issue is an app allowing “all you can eat” access to magazine content for $10 a month. Unlike the Amazon unlimited access book plan, the magazine options cover most of the magazines I am interested in reading. The opportunity to add multiple devices allows my wife and I to share an account.

One warning. The service is dependent on the formatting options allowed by the magazine. Some allow rotation of the page view or alteration of the text size and some do not. The pages look very attractive, but I have trouble with the small size font for some of my choices. The Kindle experience of altering text size to suit personal taste should not be expected. For example, I like the appearance of the content from the free MacWorld web site, but I have trouble reading the articles from the app. The free trial period is a good idea. I would recommend checking out the magazines you value and not being satisfied just knowing they are available.


So, this is not actual size, but you can see what I mean by an attractive page layout. The problem is that the pages from several of the magazines I want to read do not adjust themselves well to an expanded view and I need an expanded view to easily read the text.

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Rumor – Google may offer <13s a way to satisfy COPPA

Evidently 13 is a magic age when it comes to legal use of social media. After that age, what social services learn from your online behavior evidently can do no evil. We all know that children of younger ages have accounts often with the support of their parents, but this requires that someone, the child or parent, lie. It is rumored that Google will provide a way for young users to have accounts allowing access to gmail and YouTube. The approach will likely involve parental input and the opportunity to review activity.

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Another “solution” for higher ed

It seems that alternatives to the lecture class (and books) are popular. Here is another reported in the Atlantic. I am an ex-lecturer (now retired) and textbook author so my take on these alternatives tends to regard them as naive, uninformed, or unlikely to scale. My own research focused on similar techniques required of students outside of the class situation. It always seemed a waste to take presentation time and give it over to “study”. Technology-based systems encouraging responses, reflection, writing, and other opportunities for individual processing of ideas seems better served as activities that can be flexibly scheduled.

Rather than “arguments” in general news sources, I would rather see data reported in a more careful manner. Higher ed should always welcome experimentation and the evaluation of new ideas.

One more comment. Negative reactions to the large lecture are hardly new. Every individual who has carefully followed this issue likely has their own example. Mine comes from an article published in 1967 entitled “Goodbye teacher” (Fred Keller). The notion was that lectures are poorly suited to the needs of individual students. The solution was to focus more on books as individuals can adapt the processing of written content according to personal needs (the issue of motivation never came up). If the lecture approach is so flawed, one wonders why it has survived. I ask this question without assuming we should know better. I would have enjoyed working with 25 students instead of 200. A smaller group and more interaction would have been my preference. One perspective I would encourage is to move away from a given course/situation and attempt to take a broader perspective. How do we keep costs down? Do we increase class size in some situations so that we can offer smaller classes in other situations? What purposes do we assume higher education should serve and how are these various purposes to be funded? My point – do not assume this issue can be addressed without understanding the impact a given decision would have in other areas.

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Data on mobile web use

I collect data sources on technology use. Here is a recent source for mobile web activity broken down by user age. Much of the data of this type are collected by marketing companies and not all is available for general use. This is an exception.

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Those who teach coding

The ACM has been on a mission to promote coding in K-12. Their logic makes sense – coding is important to the 21st century economy. Who can argue? Among the limitations noted in the K-12 setting are the lack of graduation credits for CS courses (either math or science) and the lack of preparation for those who do teach existing programming courses.

A recent analysis from the ACM focuses specifically on teacher preparation.

Some states will accept teacher certifications in STEM-related fields like math, educational technology, and business for their CS teachers, while in other states educators who have only basic exposure to CS but are certified to teach business topics may teach computer science.

I wonder. I wonder what the faculty at my institution would think should the CS department be expected to prepare elementary teachers to teach programming. It is an interesting challenge.

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Coding is not for everyone

The strident arguments that all students must be coders or makers will likely be unproductive. For me, it is pretty much equivalent to the argument that all must play football or join the band. I just do not understand (unless I resort to political motives) how anyone can see universal value in any of these activities. What makes football or wrestling, or theater of value as school sponsored activities is likely that these activities offer opportunities to pursue personal passions. Coding and basketball were personal passions for me – theater and art were not. What is wrong with that?

See this post with a similar argument – Why extracurricular activities are essential.

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Creative Commons – In Pictures

I have created explanations of Creative Commons before. Sometimes better ways of explaining the system surface or at least methods that are more efficient. Here is a post from LifeHacker that explains Creative Commons licenses in pictures. The graphic representation can be printed as a poster and may be helpful in a classroom setting.

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Mozilla – Web literacy resources

You may or may not recognize Mozilla – the open source community responsible for many early Internet resources. The community continues in developing content and resources and offers this wiki related to the consideration of web literacy and responsibilities.

The Web Literacy Map is part of Mozilla’s ongoing goal to create a generation of webmakers – those who can not only elegantly consume but also write and participate on the web.



You may find this information useful as an instructional resource.

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