Friday, February 1, 2013

We've moved!

We're moving this blog inside our school district web site in order to take advantage of some tools within our District web site software. You can now access the blog at:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Transformational technology proposal, public meeting schedule

The Northfield Public Schools Board of Education were presented with the “transformational technology” proposal at their January 28 meeting. The proposal includes a 1:1 tablet computer initiative for students in Grades 6-12 and a “pod” based approach at elementary schools using a ratio of one device per 3.5 students. You can read the proposal narrative by clicking here.

Two public meetings have been scheduled to review the proposal with the community: Saturday, February 2nd from 10 am – 12 pm and Monday, February 4th from 7 pm – 9 pm. Both meetings will be held in the Northfield High School Auditorium.

You can contact Director of Human Resources & Technology Matt Hillmann with any questions about the proposal or the public meetings.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

12.26.2012 Update and public meeting dates

We shared an overview of the information from our transformational technology task forces at the December 10 Board of Education Meeting. Below is the video from the meeting. You can fast forward to 109:15 of the video to view the report:

We have also scheduled a series of four public meetings in January about the transformational technology project. 

Task Force Report and Feedback Sessions

Task force report and feedback sessions will be held in the Northfield Middle School media center on Saturday, January 5 (10 am - 12 pm) and Monday, January 7 (7 pm - 9 pm.) These sessions will focus on sharing what has been learned over the last several months through our task force work as well as key recommendations from those task forces. We will ask those who attend the meeting to work in small groups to discuss some of the concepts presented. The goal of these meetings is to engage in discussion with the community prior to formalizing the proposal for a potential student initiative to be presented at the January 28 Board of Education meeting. This proposal will be focused on which grade levels are recommended to begin using iPad tablet computers at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

Proposal Feedback Sessions

The second set of meetings will be held on Saturday, February 2 (10 am - 12 pm) and Monday, February 4 (7 pm - 9 pm) in the Northfield High School auditorium. These sessions will provide the details of the proposal for a potential student iPad tablet computer implementation for the 2013-14 school year. The community will have an opportunity to hear the proposal and ask questions about it.

In the mean time if you have questions about the status of the project, don't hesitate to contact Matt Hillmann, Director of Human Resources and Technology, at (507) 645-3458 or by email at

Friday, December 7, 2012

Update 12.7.2012

Our project is entering a critical phase this week -- the initial round of task force meetings have completed and we are preparing status reports on their work for the Board of Education meeting on Monday evening. We will provide a report on the following transformational technology task forces:
  • App and Content selection
  • Communication
  • Policy and Procedure
  • Professional Development
We'll also share our progress in working through some of the details in regards to long-term financing of a potential student initiative as well as some of the technical steps we have or plan to take in order to support such a possible implementation.

iPad Minute segments

We have also continued with our "iPad Minute" segment at Board meetings. Below is video from the November 26 Board meeting. This presentation focused on how Grade 7 Life Science teachers using a virtual frog dissection app with their students. The segment begins at the 98:58 mark:

We also had an "iPad Minute" segment at the November 13 Board Meeting. It featured Greenvale Park teacher Tony Seidl leading a professional development session on using Science apps on his iPad. The segment begins at  70:03 mark of the video.

Student Technology Advisory Council

One of the best events I've been involved with the transformational technology initiative has been working with our student focus groups. Our high school student technology advisory council met last Wednesday and was very enjoyable. We had students discuss their views on appropriate consequences for misusing an iPad in a 1:1 environment - as adults, our initial thought is to take the device away for misuse. However, a 1:1 environment means that the student relies on the device for much of their academic work - taking the device away isn't very practicable. They discussed limiting student privileges on their device as well as other measures. I love seeing teenagers talk through these kinds of situations in a group setting. They often have more keen insight as to what motivates students than we do as adults. We also had these students provide reaction to the iPad Mini as a potential student device. Thanks to High School Media Specialists Rebecca Glassing and Julie Wolner for orchestrating the student technology advisory council!

Preparing the proposal

Our District Technology Steering Committee also meets today to put together the core of our proposal for potential student initiative. Their work will be passed on to the Superintendent's Cabinet, who will put the final touches on the proposal that will be presented to the Board of Education in late January.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Update 11.8.2012

The progress of our transformational technology project continues to move forward! Here are some key events from the last few weeks:
  • Continued professional development: Our buildings are hosting (almost) weekly trainings on site. These sessions are now mostly being conducted by teachers at each building. Greenvale Park Grade 3 teacher Tony Seidl share a number of science-related apps with colleagues last Friday. My favorite was SciFri - an app that has a number of science resources based on the National Public Radio Science Friday program. Sibley Elementary's Grade 3 teacher Katie Morris shared more information on Notability with her colleagues this past Tuesday morning. Each week we continue to build the capacity of our staff when it comes to understanding apps and how they can support professional efficiency and student learning.
  • Task forces: We had two great task force meetings last week! Our content and apps selection group worked with rubrics and checklists from Learning in Hand. They also reviewed how the current curriculum review process can adapt to evaluate digital textbooks. Our policy and procedures task force made great progress in developing our draft iPad Student Guide! We have been basing our work on the success of other districts in the region while adapting the documents to our local needs.
  • Our district technology steering committee met last Friday and began the process of debating what grade levels could benefit the most from tablet computers and what an implementation at various grade levels might look like. Their work will form the basis of the recommendation we'll make to the School Board in January.
  • We got our hands on an iPad Mini and are evaluating whether or not this might be an effective option for our students. The general reaction has been positive about this device. We've been sharing it with teachers and  were able to ask some Northfield Middle School students their initial impressions of the iPad Mini vs. the bigger iPad 2 that our teaching staff is using this year - again with positive first impressions. We'll continue to discuss this in the coming month.
We also have continued our iPad Minute segment at School Board Meetings. The video below is from the October 22nd Board meeting. The iPad Minute segment begins at 62:10 mark.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Update 10.13.12

This past week, we shared the decision making timeline for determining a potential student iPad implementation for the 2013-14 school year.

While we have quite a distance to go before presenting a recommendation to the Board of Education, the deliberate approach we are taking is allowing us time to consider a number of different issues without having to rush the discussions.

You can view the timeline by clicking here. Below is video from Monday's School Board meeting where the timeline was presented. The presentation begins at approximately the seven (7) minute) mark of the video.

Our task forces are meeting monthly, discussing and planning things like policy, procedures, professional development, rubrics for selecting digital instructional materials, among other topics.

Our District technology steering committee, comprised of teachers and administrators from across the District met last Thursday to review the status of our staff iPad project to this point and began transitioning to discussing what grade levels would be included in a potential student implementation.

We've also begun sharing an "iPad Minute" at Board meetings where staff members share the ways they are using their iPads in the classroom. This past Monday, I shared a video of art teachers Chris Holmquist and John Bade in a creative way that they are using iPad for instruction. The "iPad Minute" begins approximately at the 20 minute mark of the video above.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1, 2012 Update

The month of September continued to be a great learning experience as we begin to see the evolution of staff use of their iPads. We continue to offer training for staff and have transitioned from large group, centralized training like our Tech Boot Camp to targeted, on-site sessions at each building on a weekly basis - a total of 15 of these sessions were held in September. The training is moving toward building-specific needs. We have demonstrated the use of QuickOffice HD, ShowMe, talked about synchronizing calendars, and shown the process for mirroring the teacher's iPad to their classroom projector. General problem solving also takes place at these sessions -- it is an opportunity for teachers to gather and share the new things they are learning with one another.

Here are a handful of examples of how staff are using iPads in the first month of school.

  • Our 7th grade science teachers have purchased a frog dissection simulation app and are preparing to implement this as a station for students to use during lab time in the coming months. They like the fact that the app they've selected allows students to make connections between the frog's biology and the human body.
  • One physical therapist has used her iPad to record changes based on strategies she is using with her students. She writes "When students begin wearing new foot and ankle orthotics, the skin goes through an adjustment phase, which I can now easily document with a photo.  I also have taken movies of students’ walking patterns as baselines for this academic year." These things could have been completed before but using several different pieces of technology. The process becomes more seamless with the ability to integrate photos, video, and notes on one device.  
  • One elementary teacher shared how the ability to take attendance on her iPad frees her SMART Board in the morning so that students can begin to interact with the "morning meeting" message on the SMART Board as soon as they walk in the door as opposed to waiting until after the teacher had taken attendance on her classroom computer. This makes a more fluid start to the school day. Even if just five minutes are saved per day, this equates to 14.5 hours per year that can be devoted to additional instruction!   
  • We continue to see administrative tasks being moved to the iPad - for example, the continued movement toward sending meeting agendas and other documents ahead of time, saving significant paper.
We have been installing software that allows teachers to mirror their iPad on their classroom projector. The manner in which this can be done has really changed in the last several months - moving from the ability to use a VGA connector that is directly plugged into the projector to a low cost piece of software that will allow teachers to mirror their iPad screen to their classroom computer and onto their projector. We have chosen to use Reflection. It works for both PCs and Macintosh computers using Apple's AirPlay technology. It is lower cost -- $8 per license. In many cases, we need to add a wireless adapter to our PCs or update our Mac OS X software to be able to run the software. We have started slowly, piloting it in about a dozen classrooms to ensure reliability and adding more classrooms each day. The approach is significantly less expensive than using the AppleTV or other larger scale software.

Our task forces, charged at looking at areas associated with a potential student implementation for next school year, started their second round of meetings last week. Task forces tackled a number of other districts' policy and procedures in preparation for developing the policies and procedures that Northfield would use with any possible student usage. They also looked at possible methods to guide the larger-scale purchase of apps and digital textbooks.

We have also started an "iPad Minute" segment at each Board of Education meeting to highlight the ways our staff are using their devices for student instruction and professional efficiency. You can watch the "iPad Minute" segment from the 9/24/2012 Board of Education meeting by clicking here. The segment begins at the 55 minute mark of the video.