I can still remember the carrels of Apple IIgs computers in my middle school library. Friends and I would play “Oregon Trail” during lunch or during free class periods. Later, those computers somehow brought me my first taste of the Internet. Those computers had been there for at least five years before I arrived, and I know that they were there five years after I left.

Obviously, things have changed, with implications for long-term hardware adoption strategies.

Through no fault of their own, schools are now stuck in the same adoption loop as the rest of consumers around the world: every year, the replacement to the product they just bought comes out. Every 3-4 years, their devices are obsolete,  and no longer supported by the manufacturer.

What does this mean for tech funding?

Even though iPads might be less expensive overall than those old Apple II’s, the lifespan for a new device is three times shorter.

School technology funding might not reflect this business model. Schools used to make large technology purchases every five years or so. Districts would stagger the funding around the county or city. That timetable now has to be sped up, requiring coordination with all funding sources—local, state, and federal.

One solution might be leasing devices, as many schools have done successfully with Chromebooks. This model shows promise as a way to prevent schools’ need to deal directly with outdated hardware.

Where do the replaced devices go?

We’re very early in the tablet era for schools. Some are just now making their first bulk purchases of iPads or Android tablets. In large districts, that could mean 10,000 devices or more.

Fast-forward to five years from now; what happens to these devices? They will probably not support new OS updates, meaning they can’t be upgraded. Eventually app developers will phase out support of their OS version. Apple’s latest SSL vulnerability is an example of a critical OS component that isn’t available to older devices. This is a dealbreaker for security-conscious administrators.

One way to combat this trend is to embrace the mobile web, questioning the assumption that a “native app” must be installed on the device. That was how the original iPhone worked, so it’s definitely a valid approach. For schools and districts, mobile-friendly web apps are a great way to go.

When the time comes, schools would have two options for offloading old devices. They could sell them at the same auction where they sell old office furniture and broken down school buses for pennies on the dollar. Or these devices can end up in the recycling center/landfill, which doesn’t seem like a suitable end.

There are no easy solutions

These technology tools have the potential to be transformative to the educational experience, leading to better student outcomes. We can’t ignore them. But schools and districts need some help from manufacturers to make this model sustainable for them.  Schools need the ability to keep their devices in working order for longer periods.

-Scott Sterling

FETC 2014

February 05, 2014


I just returned from FETC 2014 in Orlando, FL. Conferences are a great way to take the pulse of the education technology industry, and FETC is the first major event of the year. Companies tend to be debuting their latest and greatest in the exhibit hall while the thought leaders in breakout sessions cover new trends in pedagogy.

Here is what I found over the course of the week:

The Overall Health of the Industry

To say the education technology ecosystem is growing is an understatement. Not only did the exhibit hall have the full complement of the big players there, but for the first time FETC set up an “incubation corridor,” where ed-tech start ups presented their fresh, new ideas. These companies included:

  • Mapstory, using Google Maps and Street View to create visual representations of events
  • Learning Bird, an intuitive tutoring solution
  • TeacherMatch, helping administrators place teachers using an algorithm
  • Zyante, providing computer science and coding courseware

Backchannel Chats

I must have stumbled into 3-4 sessions that leveraged backchanneling. For the uninitiated, backchanneling is providing a safe chat environment for students during a lecture or video, so they can react to the information without disrupting class.

As more classrooms and schools move to 1:1 environments or BYOD policies, more backchanneling will occur and solutions will become more robust. These solutions can range from a free chat website like todaysmeet.com to simply establishing a Twitter #hashtag before class.

Augmented Reality

Just as augmented reality has recently moved from the edge of possibility to a legitimate use of technology in mainstream life, so to is the education industry taking notice of products like Google Glass and a wave of new apps for mobile devices.

Several people were walking around with a Glass, while there were a few companies in the exhibit hall whose future plans for their LMS or content product included the augmented reality space. It’s still so new that the applications haven’t been fully realized yet, but these tools will be appearing in your classroom sooner rather than later.

Facilitating Flipping

A lot of the “tips and tricks” sessions tended to focus on media creation. Everyone was sharing video editing sources and podcasting sites, like PowToon, TubeChop, and Easel.ly, for one purpose: to facilitate flipped learning. The movement has gone from merely explaining what it is to helping teachers flip more efficiently and effectively. The barrier to entry for flipping a classroom is shrinking, meaning that more and more teachers will be able to take the leap.

The Next Level

Did you go to FETC? Did you come away with new ideas to implement in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or via Twitter @KidblogDotOrg

Learn more about how Kidblog provides a safe, productive blogging environment for students.


Kidblog began five years ago in a single 4th grade classroom. Since then, we’ve grown to become the world’s largest student blogging platform, with over 4 million users spanning every country across the globe. Throughout our history, Kidblog has focused on meeting the unique needs of K-12 teachers by providing a safe, easy-to-use platform for students to share their voice with an authentic audience.

Like many companies, Kidblog was initially funded by its founders. Later, as Kidblog gained popularity and functionality, our operational costs (web servers, databases, software engineering) also grew. In order to scale our infrastructure and expand our user base, we secured venture financing from Silicon Valley and Midwest investors. With this funding, we’ve been able to grow our team of developers to offer new features and benefits to users.

As a company, Kidblog’s goal is to provide long-term value to teachers, students, and families by building a sustainable business that can grow and respond to users’ needs. To this end, last September we rolled out upgraded subscriptions with premium features for users who need extra resources. Our Class Premium and Admin Pro plans complement our traditional Basic Free account level.  This “Freemium” model allows us to fund our operational costs while continuing to offer a robust free option as well.

Upgraded Subscription Options

You can read more about the different upgrade options at kidblog.org/pricing

Basic Free – $0

Join Kidblog for free – create a class, add students, and start publishing today

  • 2 teacher accounts
  • 50 user accounts
  • 100 MB storage; 10MB max per file
  • Teacher-selected theme
  • HTML embeds
  • Email support

 

Class Premium – $5/month per class (or $25/year – 58% off paid annually)

Take your students’ publishing experience to the next level

  • Unlimited teacher accounts
  • 250 student accounts
  • 20 GB storage; 50MB max per file
  • Individual student themes
  • HTML + Google Drive & Evernote integration
  • Priority email support

 

Admin Pro – $2/student per year

Designed for tech admins who support a group of teachers across multiple Kidblog classes

  • “Super-Admin” role
  • Unlimited teachers and students
  • Unlimited storage; 100MB max per file
  • HTML + Google Drive & Evernote integration
  • Priority email & phone support

 

We believe that Kidblog provides true value to teachers in their daily work - and we hope you share that sentiment. Whether or not you choose an upgraded plan, we’re here to help you and your students succeed in your publishing endeavors. Please contact us any time at support@kidblog.org with comments or questions about how to implement Kidblog in your classroom or school.

 

-The Kidblog Team

Scholars and Citizens

August 12, 2013


As an educator reflecting on ten years of professional practice and four years at Kidblog building the world’s leading student blogging platform, I often ponder the question:

What is the purpose of school?

The answer is certainly open to thoughtful political, economic, philosophical, and even spiritual debate.  A Google search for “purpose of school” reveals myriad opinions.  My answer is the same today as it was when I welcomed my first group of students into the classroom ten years ago:

The purpose of school is to create scholars and citizens.

This mission remains constant, regardless of technology’s and politicians’ role in creating an ever-changing education landscape. The two terms “scholar” and “citizen” embody the essence of the purpose of school.

  • As scholars, we value learning for its own sake
  • As citizens, we apply our knowledge in the context of a broader community

Full credit for this succinct philosophy of education goes to Dr. Michael Hartoonian, former professor at the University of Minnesota. In his own words:

It is only the citizen-scholar who can create wealth – wealthy families, schools, firms, and nation… In this light, schools are community wealth creators, not wealth consumers. Those who do not understand this have little business in the profession of education, for they don’t know what to protect, sustain, and improve…

[E]ducators must embrace the responsibility of their profession and align purpose with practice. The ascendancy of intellectual virtue manifested in scholarship and citizenship may be the only way to transcend and address issues like achievement gaps, drop-out rates, and even global competition. It’s amazing what a person can do with the identity and responsibility of citizen-scholar.

In this way, school represents a microcosm of the nation’s collective cultural ecosystem, fueled by the fire of knowledge and the engine of interpersonal engagement. Schools give us a framework for cultivating rich learning experiences and empowering positive social responses to these new understandings. In short, meaningful learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Will Richardson, one of the foremost advocates for creating conversations around this topic, states:

I have hope because I see more and more individual classrooms that are beginning to understand what abundance means, places where teachers and kids are getting connected, doing real, meaningful, beautiful work for real audiences that help students become true modern learners in the process.

Our work at Kidblog is all about helping students share their voice with a meaningful purpose for an authentic audience.

While education thought-leadership is fraught with abstractions and trite motivational phrases, I continue to believe in the power of scholarship and citizenship as (perhaps the only) forces for the betterment of individual well-being and our global society.

-Matt Hardy
Co-founder & CEO, Kidblog Inc.

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