July 2009

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The NYSED Technology Plan’s first goal addresses digital content:

Standards-based, accessible digital content supports all curricula for all learners.

Accessible is defined as: content available anywhere, easy to retrieve using multiple technology devices, and content is universally designed. Aligning digital content to the New York State learning standards is how we will ensure quality and relevance in the PreK-12 environment.

Learners and practitioners both need access to rich digital media. Alignment with standards help make appropriate content more easily accessed by all.

New York has moved in this direction already through the auspices of state public broadcasting stations. EDVideoOnline is a portal to PowerMediaPlus which provides teachers with access to downloadable video, audio, and images for use with their students. They also include worksheets and quizzes.

Unfortunately, this is a subset of what was available in the past. When I started using this program, it included full access to the Discovery Education library. Public stations scaled back the program to the current offerings. They said too few were using it to justify the expense. I didn’t see a lot of teachers using it either, but those who did were excited about it.

Beyond PowerMediaPlus and Discovery Education, New York needs go further in digitizing and providing access to its own holdings. New York museums and libraries hold a treasure trove of material. Some institutions have done a great job digitizing materials and providing access, while others have done little.

I hope this means access to more content in the future. Access to a broader audience is also essential. While everyone can access some of the material, students are shut out of PowerMediaPlus. This repository could provided a wealth of content for independent study, exploration, and working on assignments.

Access to digital content also encompasses licensing. Let me relate my own experience. I have spent countless hours creating media rich presentations for delivering engaging social studies lessons for my class. They include historical documents, images, maps, and embedded digital video. Under fair use, there is no question that I was legally using these materials for my own classroom.

I thought it would be great to share these materials with other practitioners throughout the state (and ideally beyond), so I contacted PowerMediaPlus about doing such. In essence, they replied that there was no way I could do such legally.

We need to be able share what we create with this digital media with other learners and practitioners. They need to be able to reuse and remix that work to adapt it to their individual needs. NYSED should explore Creative Commons Licensing for content that is state owned and that of state funded institutions. They need to negotiate for means to more broadly share the content they pay for through entities such as PowerMediaPlus. Further, it needs to create a platform to facilitate such sharing.

In conclusion, there is more to digital content than availability. There needs to be access and the ability to remix it and share with others.

I will continue a discussion of New York State’s Educational Technology Plan in future posts, including a discussion of each of the six broad goals. I look forward to hearing your comments.

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While I attended the NYSCATE Leadership Summit last week for a variety of reasons, the main motivation was to hear the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) presentation on their proposed state technology plan. Beyond the presentation there were roundtable discussions to provide input and feedback followed by an opportunity to ask questions.

When the opportunity to ask questions arrived, I raised my hand. I told the them that I hadn’t heard about the proposed tech plan through regular channels, rather through Twitter. Then came the question: Would they consider setting up an account and using Twitter?

The answer: We’ll have to check with our counsel.

Let’s juxtapose this with Goal Two of the Statewide Technology Plan:

Learners, teachers, and administrators are proficient in the use of technology for learning.

Proficiency is defined, in large measure, by standards for desired levels of skills, knowledge and performance. Proficiency encompasses such areas as social networks and internet safety.

Apparently, while NYSED wants students, teachers, and administrators to use social networks, they fear doing so themselves. They seem flummoxed by the same issues that technology pioneering districts and practitioners have been wrestling with for years. The message is that NYSED regards the very activities in which they wish us to engage as legally questionable.

Educators know that good leadership involves modeling the desired behaviors. NYSED knows that and should do the same. Using social networking tools shows that they understand them. They could model what they regard as best practices.

To succeed NYSED needs to help cut through the systemic fear and uncertainty that runs from practitioner to district to BOCES and beyond. Hesitation is the enemy of change and innovation. We need some degree of guidance in what are acceptable practices.

Twitter is a simple tool. It’s a good place to start. The US Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control, and President Obama tweet. NYSED needs to tweet too.

I plan on a number of posts on aspects of the NYS Tech Plan soon. I’m eager to hear comments.

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