Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your Brain on Video Games

How can gaming affect your brain and biological acuteness?  It is an on-going argument about the effects of gaming.  Dr. Bavelier share a laboratory analysis of how gaming can improve your sight, awareness and other biological skills.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Looking for an AWESOME Instructional Technology Masters Program?

UNI Instructional Technology Masters Program from Leigh Zeitz

If you are looking for a 21st Century Instructional Technology Masters program, Look no further!!!

Review the slideshow above and see how our program provides opportunities to engage in 21st Century Learning, Instructional Design and Research.

For further information, visit our website at  
Learn about our 2-year Online Masters Program that begins in June, 2014 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Horton Hears a Tweet? ABSOLUTELY!!!

What a WONDERFUL title: Horton Hears a Tweet!!!  This is the title of an EduCause article by

Related articles
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Monday, November 04, 2013

Infants going Mobile

Are YOUR kids using technology?

Of course they are. My 2-year old grandson is continually grabbing my iPhone from me and then using it to identify animals, play songs, shake rattles, play drums, take photos and even make the occasional phone call.

While some educators argue that infants are too young to use these tools, the fact of the matter is that our kids are learning through using technology. A recent study by Common Sense Media found that 8% of children under 2 years old use mobile devices at least weekly. The numbers jump from there.  One of the reasons for this huge use is that in the past 2 years,  smartphone ownership has increased from 41% to 62%.  Tablet use has jumped from 8% to 40% in the past 2 years as well. Time spent on non-mobile computers has dropped sharply.

Read the rest of the facts on usage at the Buzzfeed article about this phenomenon, The Babies are Going Mobile.  Thanks for telling me about this posting, Zach Benton-Slocum.

Acknowledgement of these stats is not saying that technology should replace using crayons or playing on the playground or climbing trees. It is just that these mobile devices can expand their learning experiences.

What are your experiences in your students/children using mobile devices?

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

21st Century Learning is ALL ABOUT Moving Beyond Uncomfortable Beginnings

I was just reading through my email when I found a link to a PBL article about Moving Beyond Uncomfortable Beginnings by Theresa Chimenti

This article rang a bell for me because the author talked about a student who "was really frustrated because I was making her think."  I know that this is true because I have experienced this myself. I teach courses in an unconventional manner where I want to see the students explore the world and then make decisions on their own. I have had students in tears saying "Why can't you just tell me what I need to know and then ask me on a test on Friday?"  

The key to creating successful 21st Century Learning Environments is to pose difficult questions that require learners to make decisions and explore the world. Read the article to see if anything rings true.   Do you have additional resources or ideas you want to share?
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Guest Blog: Why Do Schools Begin 1:1 Computing Initiatives in Iowa? - Part 2

Dr. Jerry Schnabel
In my last post, we looked at factors that did not influence superintendents to implement a 1:1 initiative in their district. These included “keeping up with the Jones,” attracting students from neighboring districts, increased student achievement and budget. So . . . onto factors that did influence their decision:

School Visitations: When I had finished the interviews with the superintendents, my first observation was that the decision to implement a 1:1 initiative was not made in isolation.  Without exception, a factor that influenced the superintendent’s decision was visits to others schools that had implemented a 1:1 initiative. All the superintendents I interviewed told me that they had sent teams to schools that had already implemented a 1:1 initiative to see for themselves, firsthand, a program that was already in place.  These teams consisted of teachers, administrators and in some cases school board members and students.  The number of visits each team made to other schools ranged from 3-20.

Political Considerations: The superintendents also talked about the multiple efforts they undertook to work with staff, school board, parents and the broader community to engage and keep them informed of the progress of the consideration.  Most superintendents assumed the students would be receptive to the idea, but in one instance, students got the notion that once the computers arrived, all the teachers would be fired and students would receive their education strictly via the computer.  So, a lesson learned was not to overlook the students and to enlist them in the exploration process.

Equity: Equity was another factor that influenced the superintendents in the study in their decision to implement a 1:1 initiative.  The superintendents talked about equity in terms of equal access to learning opportunities for all students. These opportunities included access to technology and online resources.   

Staff Readiness: The superintendents in the study indicated staff readiness was an additional factor that influenced their decision. Staff readiness fell into two categories. The first was characterized by the staff being open to or supporting the idea of implementing a 1:1 initiative. The other category of staff readiness was their comfort using the technology.  There was a consensus among the superintendents that staff would need to gain further technology skills, but none of the superintendents were held back because of the technology skill level of the staff.  Districts were also on a continuum of teacher possessing the pedagogical skills required to teach in a one-to-one classroom.  But all superintendents felt their staff could gain this understanding through training and experience in the one-to-one classroom.

Student Engagement: This was an important factor in the decision.  One superintendent remarked that “when we observed and went to other schools and we saw student involvement in the classroom, that became our number one thought.  What a wonderful thing—you have 27 kids in class, everybody is involved, everybody is interested.”  Even once implemented, when the students told the administration in one district that they were not using the computers enough, the district’s response was to send the students to another district that was using the technology successfully. Students wanted to be engaged and after the visit to another district, they returned to their district and helped design changes in the classroom that increased student engagement.

Best for Students: The most important factor that influenced superintendents to implement a 1:1 initiative was they felt it was what was best for students.  This was an unexpected finding and the conclusion was based on examination of the transcripts in response to the question: “As you reflect on the various factors that influenced your decision to become a one-to-one school, what was the most important?”  One Superintendent articulated acting in the best interest of children in terms of increased opportunities for students being the most important factor in her decision.  “To be able to create things for their classes and projects.  To have an endless amount of resources to do that.  I see some of the projects that our kids are doing and I feel that it has been a smashing success with seeing the kids create stuff even more amazing than we thought they would when you give them these tools.” 

This was also cross-referenced using Wordle, an online tool found at  When the transcripts of the interviewee’s answers were displayed in Wordle, “important” and “kids” are used most often and thus, appear as the largest words.  The words that were used most frequently after that included “students,” “involvement,” “education,” “everybody” and “projects.”  In contrast, when asked, “as you reflect on the various factors that influenced your decision to become a one-to-one school, what was the least important?” the word “kids” does not appear.   

Figure 1: Wordle Display for the Most Important Influence on the 1:1 Decision

As the map of 1:1 districts in Iowa continues to add more schools, there is a likelihood that many of the factors discussed in this piece influenced the decisions to implement the 1:1 initiative.  And it’s good to know that these decisions are not being made to “keep up with the Jones” but rather to do what is best for students.

Jerry Schnabel is the Director of Information and Technology Services at AEA 267 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He may be reached via email at:

Thursday, October 03, 2013

21st Century Classes are Teacher-Led but Student-Driven - Vlog

Here it is . . . I have been wanting to use the Vlog (Video Blog) format for my blog for a LONG time so I decided to do it today to tell you about an AWESOME experience I had in class last Tuesday night.

I teach two 1.5 hour online courses on Tuesday night through Adobe Connect. These are video conferencing sessions that allow the students and me to keep a connection that we wouldn't have otherwise.

This past Tuesday, I was meeting with my Emerging Instructional Technology class. This is a class of 15 students who are a mixture of Masters students and Undergraduate students. Good group of people. I had decided to spend some time getting feedback about how the class had been running. I received the typical feedback about too much work, but as we probed their comments we found that there was a difference between the perceptions of the undergraduates and the graduates . . .

I am not going say anymore or you won't need to watch this 7-minute video.
Tell me what you think and whether or not I should continue with periodic vlogs like this.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Blog: Why Do Schools Begin 1:1 Computing Initiatives in Iowa? - Part 1

Dr. Jerry Schnabel
Have you heard that Bill Gates is giving $5,000 to Facebook users who click on a share link? I got it in my email, so it must be true, right? Well, thank goodness for sites such as that can either confirm or debunk many of the urban myths going around the Internet. (And no, Mr. Gates really isn’t giving money away to Facebook users).

Okay, maybe that was an easy one. Well, have you heard that the reason school districts are implementing 1:1 programs is to “keep up with the Jones?”  In my position as Director of Information and Technology Services at AEA 267, this is a belief I have often heard expressed.  Unfortunately, can’t tell me if this is true or not. And this is important for me to know, as the reasons and expectations schools have for implementing 1:1 programs give direction to the work of the AEA in the support of schools. So in the fall of last year, I went on a trek to visit a number of superintendents in Iowa to explore what factors influenced their decision to implement a 1:1 initiative.

I asked all the superintendents I interviewed if “keeping up with the Jones” was a reason they implemented their program.  They discounted this as a factor, although a few didn’t seem to mind that they had a 1:1 program and their neighbor did not.  Even given that nod to a bit of competitive school pride, I concluded this was not a factor in their decision. 

I also wondered how enrollment trends of the district influenced the decision to implement a 1:1 initiative.  I thought that an initiative might be part of an effort to attract more students from surrounding districts and retain the students the district already had.  This was akin to a “getting ahead of the Jones.”  All but one of the districts had experienced declining enrollment in the past five years.  Enrollment ranged from a one-student gain in five years to 20% fewer students in the same timeframe.  Even then, this was a minor factor at most.  While some superintendents felt it couldn’t hurt, none used a 1:1 initiative in an effort to attract and retain more students.

Another factor that I speculated might have played a part in the decision was increased student achievement.  With the emphasis of NCLB on student achievement, I thought that might explain the surge in the number of programs.  But I discovered student achievement was a minor factor in their decision.  In fact, most superintendents that I interviewed went to great lengths with their constituencies to downplay the possibility that a 1:1 program would increase student achievement.  When I asked why, some superintendents pointed to the mixed research results, with some studies finding a link to increased student achievement and others not.  Some said they did not know how they could determine that an increase (or decrease) in student achievement was directly linked to the 1:1 program.

A possible factor that puzzled me was how in a year of 10% across the board budget cuts to the general fund and a year of zero percent allowable growth, districts were moving ahead with 1:1 initiatives, without apparent budget concerns. The answer to that was the two-fold.  Almost all the superintendents I interviewed used proceeds from the one-cent sales tax to fund the program.  The other source of revenue was the PhysicalPlant and Equipment Levy (PPBL).  Both of these revenue sources largely escaped the hits that the general fund experienced and were available for 1:1 initiatives. With a steady source of funding, budget was not an issue.

So in the interviews I conducted,  “keeping up with the Jones,” attracting students from neighboring districts, increased student achievement, and budget were not really factors in influencing the superintendents to implement a 1:1 program.  So what factors did influence them? I’m no Snopes, but I’ll share with you what I discovered in the next edition of this blog.

What is your opinion on why schools go 1:1?

Jerry Schnabel is the Director of Information and Technology Services at AEA 267 in Cedar Falls. He may be reached via email at:
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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Iowa is a Leader in 1-to-1 Computer Use in Schools

Do you realize that over 50% of the 327 school districts in Iowa's 99 counties have 1-to-1 computing initiatives? This doesn't mean that all of the students in each of these districts have their own computer, but it does mean that most of our school districts have decided that providing students their own laptops/tablets can be a positive influence on their learning.  

Above is a map of the school districts and the brands/types of computers they were using as of the 2012-2013 school year. It appears that there are more Mac laptops and iPads than any other brand. This may change over time. I understand that there are a number of districts that have decided to invest in Chromebooks.

NOTE: The map above is a screenshot of the interactive map that is available on the Iowa Area Education Agencies website. Link to the active page, and you will be able to Click on the district within the map to get additional information around implementation date, platform used, and technology coordinator. There is even a link to a spreadsheet with the specific data. 

Over the next few weeks, I plan to write (and have guest authors write) about some of the 1-to-1 activities in Iowa.  We have a burgeoning 1-to-1 culture in Iowa schools and it will be fascinating to see what we uncover.

Are you doing 1-to-1 and how is it changing what you do in your schools?

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Internet: Pacifier of Digital Natives?

Is the Internet the Digital Pacifier of our Digital Natives? 

This is a question that was posed by Bill Lammers.  He conveys an incident in his high school classroom where the students were working intently on their assignments when . . . suddenly . . .  the Internet Died.

Some students squirmed because they didn't think that they would be able to work on their assignment without the Internet.  Others squealed in delight when they realized that they didn't have to work on their assignments but moaned in anguish when they decided that they "couldn't do anything else" because their window to the world, The Internet, was down.

Read Lammers' posting at The Pacifier of the Digital Natives

Blammer (Bill Lammers) makes an interesting observation when he notes how tied to the Internet his students were. I was talking with a reporter the other day who told me that some of his interns were literally lost without their GPSs. They had no problem finding places when their smartphones had full access to the web, but they had no idea about how to read a map. They had no idea how to find north and what all of the squiggly lines on the map meant.

Is this a crime or merely a Symbol of the Times? What do you think?  Read Lammers' article and then join in the discussion here about being connected to the world through the Internet has changed the skill set for our digital natives.

Join the discussion in the comments section below.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Happens on the Internet in 60 Seconds?

A minute isn't what it used to be . . .
  • We used to hold our breath for a minute. 
    •  Now we upload 72 hours of video on YouTube. 
  • We were excited if we could stand on one leg for a minute. 
    • Now we upload 20,000 new images on Tumblr. 
  • We could boil 1/3 of a 3-minute egg in a minute. 
    • Now we have 20 million photo view on Flickr. 
Qmee Online in 60 Seconds InfographicOnline in 60 Seconds [Infographic] is an infographic that was produced by Qmee

What do you do in a minute?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What are Superintendents Believing This Week? - Gallup

Wondering what your superintendent is thinking?

Gallup was thinking the same thing, but they asked them. This was all described in their What Superintendents Really Think report. They wanted to know what they thought about Common-Core Standards, Education Beyond High School, Affected Areas in Budget Cuts, and Technology in the Classroom.

What do you think?  Do these results match your superintendent's opinion last time you spoke with her/him?


BTW, I am actually riding my bike across Iowa with 12,000 other cyclists in RAGBRAI. I am with Team Flamingo and we are having a blast.   (Thank goodness for Blogger's capability to schedule posting releases.) 
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making Learning Meaningful at ISTE '13

Well, I'm back from the ISTE '13 conference in San Antonio in late June.  We had a wonderful time. Gaming was the theme of the conference and it was exciting to see Joan McGonagal talk about how life changing gaming can be. She autographed  my book with "Play with Purpose."

One of my highlights was my opportunity to share my ideas about Making Learning Meaningful to Millennial students. I was honored that ISTE decided that my presentation should be video broadcast to those who couldn't make the conference.  These broadcasts were recorded and are available through the ISTE channel on YouTube.

I decided that instead of providing a lecture full of facts and platitudes about what Meaningful Learning meant, I would provide a framework for the content but it would be more important to create a learning environment that demonstrated what we were discussing.

I was quite impressed with quality of the video production. Thank you for your work.

What do you think?  I think that it went well.  Were you there?  If so, how did you like it?

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Focusing in the Age of Digital Distraction

Do you ever feel like you live in the Age of Distraction?

I was just taking (not teaching) a course on how to teach online, when they introduced us to a wonderful diagram about dealing with Digital Distraction and I thought that I would share it with you.  It is from

This is an interesting diagram that suggests strategies for managing time, how to work, reflecting on your work, and managing your space.

Some of the ideas are common sense and some are quite ingenious.

Upon reviewing the Learning Fundamentals website, it turns out that they have a collection of such Mind Mapping Diagrams that address: Getting Motivated, Getting Ready for Exams, Mindmapping, Busting Procrastination, Getting organized and a whole lot more.

I will probably be including them in the future, but you can take a look at them at the link above. If you use them, remember to follow their Licensing Agreement.

If you find this or any of the other maps useful, please share with us how you used them.

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Friday, July 05, 2013

Social Media Landscape Infographic

The Social Media World is huge and ever-exploding.  I was just reviewing graphics on social media when I came upon this Social Media Landscape infographic from the All Twitter Blog. 
I found this graphic most useful by reading the topics to better understand the multiple aspects of the Social Media Landscape. Once you have an overview of the categories, explore the apps that are mentioned.  Unfortunately, there are a few recent additions to the SM World that are not included (like Pinterest) but that will be included in Version 2.0.

How will you use this Infographic?

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