My #ISTE2015 Animated GIF Day

Jun 29, 2015 by

For many years I protested that I had no clear need to attend the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference. From the social media streams and vendor receptions, it has the appearance of an ostentatious event focused on selling the latest and greatest gadgets, apps, and technology solutions to educators. Many of my colleagues and educator friends have protested, “but Ben, the connections?! How can you be missing out?” Truth be told, I’ve been intentional about the individuals that I’ve networked with; I’ve prioritized developing relationships with educators that I have the opportunity to collaborate with face-to-face at state-level or regional events. Many in the ISTE crowds would likely see my actions, and choice not to attend in previous years, as shortsighted, professionally unsound, and otherwise snobbish of me. All of that may be true. Regardless, I didn’t want to attend this major event until I had something to offer to...

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Tech Director Chat #025 – Putting Learning First

May 27, 2015 by

It’s late, I know, I know! Insert “end of the year, far too busy excuse” here. Thankfully, it’s only a week off, and with the final podcast being recorded later this week, that will make 26 conversations revolving around technology and education that Pete and I have had this year…well 26 conversations that we’ve actually documented. I’ve got some ideas on where to take this for next year, as well as incorporating more voices from learners and teachers, but for now, enjoy! Our teachers are getting new laptops this summer, and there’s a lot of concern over the lose of DVD drives (we’re going to MacBook Airs), and we address those concerns with some optimism about moving to online video. We talk about how certain technology purchases are made, and thanks to Todd Bloch and Michael Medvinsky, we also answer some “big” questions about trying to put learning first...

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10 Simple Ideas for Minecraft in the Classroom @ #EdCampDetroit

May 9, 2015 by

If you’re a parent with children of gaming age, or a teacher that hasn’t been hiding in a bubble of luddite ideals, Minecraft is huge! So much so that LEGO has gone on record as wishing they had built it and Microsoft bought it for a cool 2.5 billion dollars late last year; yes, that’s billion. It’s a juggernaut, and while I’ve played with it off and on for a few years alongside my daughter and DS106 folks, I haven’t really dipped into the Minecraft EDU waters; a special version of Minecraft made just for classrooms. For those that have explored Minecraft in the classroom already, these ideas may not be terribly new, innovative, or informative; it’s just a place for me to gather some good starting points as I begin to explore the world of Minecraft beyond  the playful building I’ve experienced. If you want a quick idea of what Minecraft EDU...

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Tech Director Chat #024 – Who Controls the Web Filter?

May 6, 2015 by

This week’s episode gave Pete and I a chance to delve into a topic that was mentioned in last week’s podcast, and it’s one that certainly deserves not just one good conversation, but many. Web filters can be both a teacher’s bane and blessing while navigating the internet with students. Yes, they are often heavy handed in what they block (most web filters pull from pre-built lists of “block sites” that are updated constantly via computer algorithms), but they also provide safe comfortable boundaries for teachers that want to ensure certain areas of the web stay dark for students. It’s a constant struggle trying to find the happy medium between providing a secure walled garden for students, yet poking enough holes through the walls for learners to explore beyond the walls. We repeatedly come back to issues, conversations, and arguments about what we allow through our school filters, and...

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Tech Director Chat #023 – The Death of DVDs?

Apr 28, 2015 by

This week we answer ALL the questions! Well, just about all of them, and what a varied bunch of questions they were. From blended learning and basic tech help, to some deeper questions about evaluating IT and what to do as we look at the future of DVDs, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in this episode. Pete has a moment of silence as he contemplates an interesting question from Jeremy on Twitter about how the Technology Department can be more connected to the classroom and get better feedback, I talk about how he’s embraced the cloud when it comes to video, and we even touch upon some ways to safely dispose of older technology (hint, the Michigan DEQ has a database of locations in each county to call for Hazardous or eWaste collections or more information). Pete also gets to share his favorite acoustic guitar maker, Volbrecht,...

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Tech Director Chat #022 – Apple Watches & New Laptops

Apr 23, 2015 by

This week’s episode focused on some more practical issues of web browsers, operating system upgrades, and hinted at Pete’s upcoming involvement in helping the Village of Mattawan get some truly high speed internet as opposed to the slow speeds residents currently have. There still plenty of smaller rural communities that big telecom companies don’t want to invest in as there’s not a clear return on their investment. We also addressed a good question about Google Chrome vs. Firefox, but discovered after we recorded this that not all recommendations are good, as we learned the hard that our student information system is bet not used with Google Chrome at the elementary level for many crucial functions. Firefox is the go-to to make sure everything works as well as advertised. Outside of the browser issues, we chat about new teacher laptops, the hype around the Apple Watch, and Pete gets stumped! Click here to listen...

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