Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The ticket has been punched

I will be the Crocodile.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


They Say that when one door closes,
Another opens....

I will wait

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Revving up for a big summer!

With everything being frozen and all funds being swept up to meet the mid-year budget reductions, the movement on getting all of our classrooms up and going has been slowed.  I guess the good news is that it has not been stopped.  Our greatest priority is getting the two classrooms at each school implemented.  At this point we have nearly half of them completed or in construction.  We now have a purchase vehicle in place and all he remaining rooms will be done prior to school beginning in September.  For those teachers who have not seen anything, this has to be extremely frustrating, as they have been given one date after another for completion, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them.  On the positive side, the rooms are planned much better and the resulting product will be far more usable in the big picture.


They are just finishing up Glenknoll and Yorba Linda Middle has just had the last room finalized. We now have two schools that are complete.  The electricity is being installed at Valadez this week and that campus should be finished very shortly.  The good news here is that the initial five-year installation plan has been collapsed to 18 months.  By September of 2010, all classrooms will be smart classroom ready.


After looking at a number of factors, a list of schools was compiled for summer completion.  They are: YLHS, Tynes, Woodsboro, Brookhaven, Sierra Vista, Ruby, Bryant Ranch, Glenview, Mable Paine, El Dorado High, Lakeview, and Van Buren.  The bid for Sierra Vista and Brookhaven has already been completed and approved by the board and construction will begin there before the end of school this year.  Three other schools will be board approved at the May 12th meeting, so we are now moving very quickly.  You might remember that originally we were planning to get all schools done over 5 years and our target now is to get them all done in 18 months. 


We had originally set out to get 2 classrooms at each school completed during this school year.  We will not meet this goal, as the process has been extremely challenging.  We did manage to get almost half of these classrooms done during the year (albeit very late for some of them!), and will complete all of them by the beginning of school.  Although these teachers did get two days of training, they will need to be trained on the new software to be effective.  We look to having them join the summer training.


While this summer schedule will get each classroom in these schools smart classroom ready, we still need to equip the classrooms and give teachers the tool they need to be successful.  Robert Marzano’s recent research ( found that teachers who got professional development more than doubled the progress of their counterparts using interactive technology.  We have set up a series of two half-day workshops over the course of the summer that will allow any teacher who wants to, to get the training and support to be successful.  The summer schedule will be released very shortly!


During the 2009-2010 school year, we are planning to complete the construction on another 9 schools, and we will have a training schedule to support those teachers as 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Last Hurdles

This next board meeting on ‘Wednesday will remove one of the final two hurdles that are needed to get our classrooms constructed. We need a vehicle to purchase the parts for the switching systems that are the heartbeat of our classrooms. We have worked to define the different kinds of classrooms and the kinds of parts that are needed for each and getting our vendor to assemble them into kit numbers. After months and months of negotiating we are also at the point that we can purchase them directly form our wholesaler without having to go out to a Value added re-saler. This will save the district money and eliminate the need for us to bid each and every classroom that we build, a process that will cost money and time.

At the April 7th board meeting we should take our last contract to the board. That contract will be for the installation labor. That will give us a bid for installing the kits into various classrooms. Once we have the labor bid, then we will be able to move quickly through the classrooms. We have already set up a very aggressive summer schedule.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nouns and Verbs

The question that is most often asked about the Smart classroom project is: “ What technologies go into the rooms?” or “ What stuff will I get in my classroom?” I generally smile inwardly, and list off the equipment that we purchase to put into the classrooms and usually tag the list by saying that it is not about the equipment. Most people stopped listening at the end of the list.

Understanding the equipment is probably the easiest way to grasp the project, or the effect that it has in a classroom. These are the nouns of the project, the things that we buy and install into a standard classroom, but they are not the magic of the change in instruction. Those things are verbs: collaboration, learning, and engagement. These are the things that really make a difference and are the very hardest to explain. When you are in the classroom and you see the magic that a trained teacher can do to, it is breathtaking and so difficult to explain. That is why this not a technology project, it is not about putting technology into classrooms, it is about active learning and student engagement. It is centered in instruction

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Budget Meets Staff Development

As most of you know, 2009 has not been the best year for finances on either a national, state, or district level. The daily doom and gloom of the budget meeting running various disaster scenarios is depressing, and has direct and explicit impact on our smart classroom project.

First, the state budget and the potential cuts in the PYLUSD budget do NOT affect the Measure A funds. We still have the money to retrofit our classrooms and get the equipment and the installation to change our classrooms. This has not changed!

What has changed is that all district funds and budgets have been frozen to conserve as much money as possible to weather the coming storm. This is absolutely the right thing to do, to save jobs and programs that are vital to our district, community and students. But, this includes all the funds that would support staff development to support the equipment installs. At this moment we cannot get the substitutes to release teachers, or to pay teachers to learn how to use these wonderful tools.

The original professional development plan was a trainer of trainers model. We initially had 12 pilot teachers who had 4 months to use the technology in their classrooms, with the goal of training the teachers at their grade or subject level. This year, two teachers at each school were selected to learn the technology, focus on active learning and student engagement with the goal for them to be the site resources at their schools. Building the capacity at each school to do their own training and support to move the tools into the classrooms of any teacher that wants it. Installing the bulk of the classrooms this summer.

We began the training or our site leaders, and are about half way complete. The new software has just been released and we have no way to get this information out to our site leaders. As mentioned in an earlier blog entry, the progress in finding purchasing vehicles, getting vendors and actually installing technology in the classrooms has been distressingly slow and the site leaders will not have much time to work with the technology this year. Coupled with the elimination of funding, we will need to rethink the timeline; perhaps delaying the original timeline. What do we do?? All thoughts would be more than welcomed!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Solving the Aspect Ratio Issues

We ran into some challenges in trying to connect the computers, projectors and wide screen interactive white boards. It is not nearly as easy to make these work together in an easy way. The real difficulty comes form the differing aspect ratios of the equipment. The Promethean boards are in a “High Definition” 16:10 aspect ratio. Just like most movie screens, the display here is a rectangle that is wider horizontally than it is high. Most of our computers are not native in the “high definition” 16:10 aspect ratio, instead they have the old school square 4:3 aspect ratios that all older televisions have.

The projector has even more variables to it. You can buy projectors in either format with the 16:10 format called wxga or the 4:3 format called svga. There are even projectors that will take a svga signal (4:3) and then display a 16:9 image. In order to do this conversion, the projector must insert additional pixels into the horizontal image, and this can cause problems when used with a Interactive Whiteboard. The whiteboard needs to track the movement of the pen over the entire surface and if it encounters a band of these inserted pixels, then it can cause frustrating dead spots in the board. The computer and the interactive white board need to talk to each other and match each part of the projected screen to a pixel on the computers actual screen.

While you can use the display control panel on the computer to vary the image on the computer screen, and it is possible to get the computer to output a 16:10 format, it has to be the primary monitor for the computer and reset each time the computer is attached to the classroom system. This is just a pain, and more work than most teachers want to do. They just want to hook up and go.

After hours of research and testing various combinations of projectors, computers and our 95 inch interactive white board, we have decided to use the Epson svga projector and have it do the conversion to the 16:9 image. This will give us the ease of use that we feel is so critical to our program. Teachers will just be able to take their native svga computers and connect it to the system and have it work. They will not have to do any image conversion on the projector or the laptop. Finally, our testing did not reveal any noticeable dead spots in the board.