Sunday, September 15, 2013

Are our games taking advantage of social learning?

Games-based learning strategies are engaging, fun, and effective. The most-utilized games fall into the Cooney Center’s definition of short-form games, focused largely on content recall with one player interacting with the software - and (hopefully) the teacher in the background monitoring progress and adjusting teaching. But that's only one aspect of what games can accomplish.

In my earlier post, I shared 8 characteristics of  transformational learning environments needed in Games-Based Learning. Let’s explore one in more detail.

Respect that people are social learners. They make meaning from, with, and for each other.

The premise is rooted in social learning, which could be an entirely separate post. But suffice it to say, that social learning emphasizes the role of others in how we make meaning. Others provide models; we learn from and with them. Much of what we learn and share is for others.  It’s how we validate, amend or reject our ideas.  Social learning is highly dependent upon the structure of the environment in facilitating others in the learning process.

This is an environment that schools (and most of our games) - despite having lots of people - do not naturally foster. Learning in schools is largely a conversation between one student and the teacher (or one student and a game-designer). Models for learning - even the rare student exemplar - are generally reluctant to be shared because in rote learning situations these models are seen as a stepping stone to copying and regurgitation - and that’s correct… and also where the problem lies.

When we don’t set up experiences where students can see each other’s thinking, results, and rationale, we’re not taking advantage of all those collective learning experiences. Instead, we have 25 one-way conversations with teachers (or game-designers)  - where Student A is largely ignorant of how Student B approached the problem.

One solution is Problem-Based Learning. PBL advocates know this, and structure environments where social learning is encouraged.  The next step for Games-Based Learning advocates is to establish these types of naturally interactive environments:  
  • where the intelligent application of content is required,
  • where multiple correct answers are possible,
  • where students can learn from one another, and
  • where students are intrinsically motivated to find the best solutions to authentic problems.  

Now educators (and game-designers) can rightfully argue that most accountability metrics measure fragmented learning, and therefore throw up their hands and revert to the teaching the testable content. But certainly there’s some room where we can apply all the benefits of GBL (engagement, fun, clear sense of purpose) with the open-ended PBL approach - an approach where we ask ourselves, “How can I approach this content in a way that has “students practicing skills and thinking like a _______?”  (INSERT YOUR FAVORITE ! historian, mathematician, physicist, writer, etc.).  That’s our next step - for educators and game-designers.

These are the environments that foster social learning, where students can explain and test out their ideas. And, in the process, learning becomes a lot more relevant.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Three Want Ads

SCENE: Three strangers at a coffee shop, reading the same page of the want ads.
(This post was originally shared on ASCD's SmartBrief.)

Business leader seeks educated students who effectively work independently and collaboratively to problem-solve by applying information in new ways to produce creative solutions. Contact: pie-in-sky?

Educator seeks a new set of priorities where my content is secondary to the 21st Century skills and attitudes my students will need in the future. I want to be judged by my results on the latter, not my test scores on the former.  Email.

Student seeking a relevant education. I am more than my test scores of recall on ubiquitous information; With the wealth of information and tools in my grasp, I am capable of creatively producing with knowledge today. Contact:

We're losing the battle for relevance in education, and it's getting worse.  The 2013 Gallop Poll found shows that only 44% of high school students find school engaging. That's down from 61% in Middle School and 76% in Elementary. The longer they're with us, the less involved they are. What's wrong?

Coincidentally, the same poll shares that 45 % of students plan to start their own business - that's "plan to" not “are interested in” starting a business.

Business and Financial Education classes are electives, if they are offered at all. And classes in entrepreneurship are like bicycle horns - rarely seen and offered as add-ons.
"Ninety-three percent of Americans believe all high school students should be required to take a class in financial education. While a handful of states have adopted varying degrees of financial literacy curriculum, only four states require high school students to take a semester-long course in personal finance."

That's disappointing for a few reasons.

To function in today's world, we needs students who are equipped with skills in entrepreneurship and financial literacy. According to Brian Page, an award winning educator and working group member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability,  " Inequality has skyrocketed, and economic mobility, that is the likelihood of a child moving “up” an economic tier, is now worse in the United States than most advanced economies throughout the world.
We need a modern education system with equitable funding and opportunities for every child that prepares our next generation of everyday Americans for the complex reality of our new financial world."

Again, Page notes, "K-12 financial education is in the infancy stages, the catalyst is often legislation mandates of the integration of financial literacy concepts rather than a dedicated course of study. As schools in impoverished areas are being defunded, the limited resources they have must be focused on new and high stakes federal and state education legislation and testing that rarely include financial education."

As an elective class, this mean that most students will never be exposed to these concepts. But it also means that we are taking engaging topics that are holistic, multi-disciplinary, and authentic experiences and breaking them down into subsets of skills, taught in isolation of other subjects to a few students.

We need to foster entrepreneurial thinking; this goes far beyond business and financial literacy. Entrepreneurial thinkers apply the four Cs of 21st Century Learning (creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking) as they:
  1. find and define problems, opportunities, and potential within an open-ended context
  2. display creativity and adaptation in their solution
  3. recognize the dynamic nature of situations. There is no "correct" answer that applies everywhere.
  4. learn skills, content, and entire disciplines for the purpose of action in an authentic arena
  5. are motivated to improve

For better or worse (and I would say better !), students have dreams of opening their own company and are asking to learn more about controlling their own financial destiny.   While we wait for legislation to catch up to reality, we have an opportunity to tap into that desire to make schools more relevant, provide an authentic context to learn traditional content, and produce a generation of entrepreneurial thinkers.  

If we take advantage of this opportunity, we might just find that those three strangers in the coffee shop have more in common than they think.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"PBL and GBL Sitting In A Tree..."

(This post was originally shared on ASCD's SmartBrief.)
“Hello Games-Based Learning; this is Problem-Based Learning.”
Like two pandas in a zoo, we need to do all we can to ensure that these two find a soul mate in one another.
Games, by definition, are meant to be fun. But, in the race to transform schools, we’re missing out if the goal of games-based learning is to help us run that race faster or provide students with more fun while they run. We’re running towards the wrong finish line.
Games transform education and learning. The question is: transform “towards what end?”
If our goal for games is to take traditional school content — multiplication tables — and spice it up as more fun for students, then we are missing a golden opportunity.
In the recent research from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center on short-form games  (quick tools for practice) versus long-form games  (higher-order thinking skills better aligned to the common core), they rightly advocate that there is significant potential for these long-form games to transform education. Long-form games focus on the 21st-Century skills we all know our students need. These games hold more promise, but are also more complex to integrate. The Center advocates that game designers “affiliate selectively with school reform leaders to help move schools towards content-rich, deep curricula that foster critical thinking and problem solving.” [my emphasis]
We've all heard the familiar student refrain, "Why are we learning this?" Short-form games can decrease this cry, but only temporarily.
Any game, by definition, has a context.  But if games are only taking our same-old learning outcomes and making them fun, then we're missing out.
Game have the potential to set a context and purpose for this learning that is rich, complex and authentic — something followers of problem-based learning have been advocating for years. This is element of game design we need to better leverage.
Like pandas at the zoo, we need to foster collaboration between the philosophies of Games-Based Learning with those of Problem-Based Learning. 
Games-Based Learning
Problem-Based Learning
dynamic environmentscontext rich, authentic, real-world environments
immediate feedback, where failure is a natural part of the learning processopen-ended solutions with no “correct” answers
multiple decisions / choicesauthentic audiences for student work
clear goalsrecall not sufficient, application of content / skills is required
meta-cognition (“How am I doing?”)naturally holistic and cross-disciplinary

The best games — with or without technology —  can set a context for learning that can combine the characteristics above to strive to create new environments for learning.
New environments for learning will:
  • Empower teachers to customize the environment dynamically, so that content can be specialized and individualized as needed.
  • Enable students as creators of solutions — beyond recall and decision-making.
  • Encourage students to be environment evaluators — aware of each others’ creations/ solutions.
  • Allow students — and the teacher — to act within an interdependent environment, where the actions of one user affects others.
  • Respect that people are social learners. They make meaning from, with, and for each other.
  • Provide a context where the game is not the teacher of “content” but rather it is the “context” through which learning happens.
  • See learning and assessment as individualized. The teacher — not the game — is in charge of the learning and that happens at the teacher-student level. The game is simply the introduction to that interaction.
  • Strive to mirror the real world by giving students multiple roles and goals which sometimes conflict. Students are not simply an all-out pursuit of a single goal as they strive for points, badges or rewards.
This does not mean that all games need to fit into this category to be useful. Creating games that get us to the very limited goal of content recall can be one piece. But we should distinguish this from the nature of what games can be and the role they can play in transforming education. Otherwise, we’re just running the race faster to an out-dated finish line.
As we gamify our schools, we’re missing a huge opportunity if we’re not considering “games” in multiple perspectives. Certainly, the combination of PBL and GBL elements has vast potential for changing the way we prepare students with the 4 Cs of the 21st Century. It needs to be on our radar; we need to use our limited time, energies and money to to scrutinize our understanding of games to create these new, transformational learning environments.
There is no silver bullet. Creating games like this can’t be done with every topic and it’s not always the most efficient way to get students from A to B.
Not every panda-romance is a match made in heaven. But, for the propagation of the species, we need to encourage this budding romance to grow.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Hey I'm learning. Anyone there?"

I'm a big fan of constructivist learning. We want students creating their own meaning. 

But do any of us really construct our own meaning?  It sounds a little lonely.

Continuing the theme of setting up strong learning environments that align with the characteristics of team sports, that's a pretty central question if we want to put students in a situation where they
need to create and regularly be able to adjust that creation to solve a specific problem.

Team sports naturally do this. They make for great learning environments. 

If our classrooms better resembled these environments, we'd be laying a strong foundation for engaged students constructing knowledge. Games like MineCraft are obvious examples of this but we shouldn't limit ourselves to technology.  We have many opportunities to allow our students to construct knowledge in this way, and Problem-Based Learning advocates like the Buck Institute are out in front in this regard.

While most PBL exercises ask students to solve a problem.  With just a little more imagination we can add a bit more to the environment so that they are not only a creating a solution (great !) but able / encouraged to adjust that creation (even better !) as the environment changes. This is where games like MineCraft and basketball game excel. They allow students to create,  but they ask students to be continually evaluating the actions taken by their fellow participants along the way. 

The work isn't done in isolation to be turned into the teacher. 

Student work is a piece of the environment and the goal within that environment remains constant even while the pathway changes.

It's what makes games-based-learning so fun.

Which helps us answer the question:  
Do any of us really construct our own meaning?
Do we even want that?

Imagine a basketball player who continually constructed her own meaning and disregarded the conditions of the environment and the input of those around her.  She repeatedly catches the ball, turns around, and tries to shoot over a much taller player. Despite those around her (and the repeated blocked shot) telling her otherwise, she continues this method because she has read it's "right".  Meaning gets constructed pretty quickly during this game. And there are 4 teammates 5 opponents), and 2 coaches who are making simultaneous meaning - and adjustments - based on this scenario.

In reality, none of us learn in isolation. We construct knowledge and we put it to the test at some point by sharing that knowledge. Social learning folks know this to be true - we truly learn for, with, and by our interactions with others. That is when learning is at its most profound. 

How often do we structure classroom experiences to maximize the chances for social learning by having students create and potentially adjust those creations in an inter-dependent environment?  
Those experiences are likely alive with learning. 

Think of it as game-like practice for the game we call the real world.

I received some feedback/dialogue regarding my earlier post which I've paraphrased below.
1. "Games shouldn't be the outcome. Learning should.
Agreed !  Games give users a purpose, but if that purpose isn't important or not connected to relevant content, it has minimal uses in the classroom.  (My June 27 post says that too.)

2. "It's not just team sports. Individual sports have these learning characteristics too."
Agreed. But team sports do add an extra layer of meaning-making by adding complexity to the social learning network. As today's post indicates, we are on the lookout for expanding these opportunities. It doesn't mean that team environments stress the same components as or are better than individual sports. But generally, schools give plenty of opportunities for students to showcase their individual skills while the real world is becoming increasingly dependent upon individuals who can interact within a more complex, team-oriented network.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Combine PBL and GBL. The software (and learning) we need.

In the last post, I explored the idea that creating quality Games-Based Learning resources aimed at real-world skills our students will need to succeed could be better understood by trying to integrate five essential elements that are essential in team sports.

  • Students need to create and regularly be able to adjust that creation to solve a specific problem.
  • Students are simultaneously evaluating the actions of each other and making adjustments accordingly.
  • The player's actions effect the entire game and all who are playing. 
  • The game is dynamic, constantly changing due to the actions of the other players and the outside factors.
  • There are multiple and competing goals with no right answer.

So, the next question: How do we create and structure these types of experiences?

We don't need to re-invent anything here; we know what good research tells us about quality learning. But we do need to consider those factors when we design software (or any learning classroom learning experience) for our students. 

Research tells us what students need to experience in order to be engaged in learning where they are constructing (and remembering) meaning.

The table chart below comes from a presentation I shared at ISTE advocating the combination of Problem-Based Learning, Games-Based Learning and common Best (Classroom) Practices.  I plan to talk more about these elements in future posts - especially in relation to the elements of team sports. But in the meantime, I share the chart below with a few concluding thoughts.

1. The left side (PBL, GBL, and Best Practices) include the characteristics of effective learning. If we structure experiences like this in school, would we feel better about our ability to prepare them for this future where they will be creators and social learners solving unknown problems in unknown environments?  

2. Notice that the right hand side represents that topics that we need to focus upon. If we want engagement, then we need to structure problems that are relevant for students and for the 21st Century.  That's a tall order - but it's important.  With simCEO, we've  chosen to do that by tapping into the topic of entrepreneurship and financial literacy. It's a vital topic - both in the business sense and "mindset" sense, producing students who can create and solve problems. And, it's a topic that sadly is squeezed out of the traditional school day at a time when it's never been so badly needed.  If you want to see more about how we are using entrepreneurship to integrate the left-hand side characteristics, check out this presentation from the SIIA conference. But other topics are certainly possible (see chart). We want to explore more applications with this kind of learning, and hope others are too.  Collaboration welcome.

3. Are there characteristics missing from the model?  The better the model, the better the student experiences we can develop.

4. The more I share, the more I'm aware just how much great stuff is happening already. If anyone   out there shares this interest in changing the way we learn, are using or developing similar resources, or simply want to be involved in the process, I'm always looking to expand my network. Share this and connect.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Basketball and Games-Based Learning: 5 Takeaways

I love sports. Hardly a day went by when I was young where I wasn't playing basketball, tennis or something else.

I just returned from ISTE 2013, hearing a great keynote from Jane McGonigal on the benefits of Games-Based-Learning. We're making progress (but still have a ways to go) in our attempt to create games that can be integrated into the classroom easily.

Sure, we can acknowledge that there will be adoption resistance by some schools and urge them to come on board. But we also need to acknowledge that we are not creating games that generate genuine, intuitive, widespread interest for teachers' use in the classroom while at the same time addressing the 21st Century skills we want to target. We are struggling to create games that link content to purpose. Until we do, we will only get early adopters and innovative teachers as consistent users of GBL.

There are characteristics of team sports that need to be better incorporated into the games we design for learning. These are the characteristics that make team sports so challenging and so rewarding for players - both in the moment and for their future.

We need to design game experiences that move beyond rewarding "right" answers with points and badges as the main goal. We need to start designing games with these five elements - present in almost any team sport, and sadly lacking from most classroom games.

If there are games out there that do all five of these (or even a few of them), please share. We need to recognize, honor, and PLAY these games!

1. Students need to create and regularly be able to adjust that creation to solve a specific problem. A basketball player is making multiple decisions every second. He is both planning and executing his creation in real time.

2. Students are simultaneously evaluating the actions of each other and making adjustments accordingly. Is someone shooting well? Get her the ball. Has the other team (player) changed there defense? I better adjust my offense.

3. The player's actions effect the entire game and all who are playing. 
When I decide to go for a steal, what happens if I miss? What will be the consequence? How will my teammates handle this?

4. The game is dynamic, constantly changing due to the actions of the other players and the outside factors. (coaches, referees ... aka: teachers)

5. Most important: There are multiple and competing goals with no right answer.  As a player within a team, there are multiple ways that we can strategize to try to win. That strategy is important and may change throughout the game. But in the quest to get a team victory, there are a hundred sub-plots going on. Should I shoot more if I feel like I can score against my defender?  What if I'm not my team's best shooter? Should I deviate from our planned offense?  What will my teammates think of me if I do this often? Is my girlfriend in the crowd... and what things could I do that might look good to her but harm my chances to have my team win?

A basketball game is multi-dimensional. We are individuals within a context of a community and those roles are sometimes confusing. If the classroom games we play are simply one-dimensional representations where there is a right answer and we want to try to find a fun way to have students arrive at that answer, we are sadly misrepresenting what the real world holds and missing out on a whole level of engagement and challenge.

Give em a basketball instead.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Effective PBL ... and a request for educators to share design ideas for simCEO

Well, summer is upon us and that means the end-of-year chaos has subsided to a point where I can blog again!

Three points I wanted to share with everyone.

1. Yesterday, I was the featured guest on Education-Talk Radio with Larry Jacobs to talk about simCEO.

Below, I've listed a few bullets from the discussion with Larry about PBL that were really interesting to me.

i.) Educational software/environments needs to let students create AND evaluate each other at the same time.  That's what adults do in the real world all the time; we create solutions to problems (problem-solve) while simultaneously:
          a)   evaluating other solutions that others have done in similar situations, and
          b) looking at if our solutions are judged as effective by others

ii) We need software that can bridge the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning with an authentic purpose for students to learn content.
Collaboration between my classroom and one in Brazil is great for collaboration, but likely not an effective/ efficient way to help students learn content - and unfortunately, "content is king" when it comes to testing (despite what we say about the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning)

iii)  Entrepreneurship is a 21st Century topic. We need to either provide time to teach it, or harness students' natural desire to learn it by integrating it into traditional subjects. The recent Gallop Education Poll confirms that we're losing student engagement by not tapping into entrepreneurship.

2. I met Larry at the SIIA Conference in San Francisco in May. In case you haven't seen it, SIIA just posted the video from the conference.  Below you can see the simCEO presentation that helped win the Most Innovative Ed Tech Award at the Conference.

3. We are seeking out a few courageous educators who dabble in graphic design to help us in our re-design of the simCEO site. Graphic design experience is helpful but not necessary. Knowledge of successful classroom learning is essential ! We're hoping to get 3-5 educators who can help provide feedback to us and/or contribute their own design ideas. 
If you're interested contact us at 

I'm getting prepared for the upcoming ISTE Conference in San Antonio next week. Hope to see some of you there.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Most Innovative Ed Tech Product, 2013

A short post just share the results (and toot my own horn !) from the Software & Information Industry Association's Education Technology Conference where our simulation,  simCEO,  was voted the Most Innovative Ed Tech Product in 2013.   More details here.

Congratulations to all ten of the finalists.  Cool ideas. Cool products.

There should be videos posted by the SIIA on their site shortly so that everyone can see the presentations made by the companies to the 350 attendees who did the voting. They will be informative to see.

It was a crazy weekend, and I met so many great people willing to help me, offering advice and experience.  And, I want to make sure to thank SIIA for putting on a conference like that - where ed tech entrepreneurs can get together, meet others in the ed tech space, and help bring some of these promising technologies into classrooms.

A special virtual shout-out to Christie McKee, Mitch Weisburgh, and Carrie O'Donnell who helped me along the way.

It was great to have the opportunity to share what makes simCEO so unique, and an example of how education can change. Namely:

1) We need to move beyond software that helps students get at 'right' answers. That's the wrong goal.
simCEO: Student Company Share Prices
For 21st Century students, we need to let them create and evaluate, simultaneously, in problem-based, real-world environments where people determine success, not a computer algorithm. The goal of right answers is standing in the way of teaching the 4Cs of 21st Century learning.

2) The best learning environments and tools are set up by teachers. We need flexible environments that teachers can customize - not cookie-cutter programs that are sequential and scripted.

A student's portfolio page
3) That we need to utilize students' natural desire to be entrepreneurs to engage them in more traditional content. Give them an authentic context to learn, practice, and apply traditional content.

4) That entrepreneurship itself - and entrepreneurial thinking - is a 21st Century topic that we need to find a way to teach. Unfortunately, in its traditional form, entrepreneurship is being pushed out the school day more frequently now more than ever.

For those of you reading this who are intrigued by way that simCEO has the potential to change learning, we are looking for others to join our team in the development of simCEO and other products. As a small company, we're grateful for any and all support, ideas, introductions, and pats on the back.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Who is the Audience for Student Work?

In my last post, I shared a document from Alan November's website entitled Is Technology Adding Value? 

It's a useful tool for how learning can and should change if we are effectively harnessing technology as a transformational agent in education.

In it, he outlines 5 ways that technology can transform.
1. Paper Becomes Digital
2. Audience: One to Many
3. All Kids Create Together
4. Limitless Boundaries
5. Building Legacy

Alan rightly challenges us to focus on the audience for student work and it's what 
I'd like to focus on in this post for two reasons.

1. It is low-hanging fruit. It's often neglected and usually doesn't require a re-writing of a unit, assessment, or task - just the altering of the audience and purpose. (Whereas, numbers 3-5 are extremely powerful elements but typically would require teachers to re-structure the very nature of the task.)

2. I do not agree 100% with the descriptor, "one to many".  (Just to be clear, I've heard Alan speak a few times.  To me, his sheet leaves a little too much open to interpretation. But I've never heard him say anything contrary to the point I'm trying to make below.)

It makes sense to start with powerful learning experiences and see how technology can facilitate these experiences to be more collaborative, efficient, effective, etc.  And, this very closely related to an earlier post where I noted the two types of edtech solutions - both with their shortfalls - and the need for a bridge connecting them.

So, let's revisit the GRASPS model from Understanding By Design.  Quality assessments strive to give students a: 

        Goal  - Convince your mayor to adopt stronger environmental laws
        Role - Citizen,  (Producer of knowledge, Contributor, etc.)
        Audience -  The mayor
        Situation - you (your group ) has been granted a meeting with the mayor to help sway her opinion on this issue.
        Product - ?? Powerpoint,  video?   petition?  note-cards/outline for speech?
        Standards and Criteria - (teacher created rubric of expectations)...

My small problems with the "one to many" descriptor are:

1. The "many" is not always the best target audience for learning. It's not THE goal.
      Ex. If the "many" is the goal, I can imagine teachers planning Rain Forest units with the goal of having students create a podcast outlining the general characteristics (problems, data, locations, etc.) of a rain forest with the goal of sharing it with many.  (Should we say congratulations? It's certainly a big step up from sharing it with the class ... or just with the teacher ! By the way, where are all these podcasts meant to live anyway?)  But the learning might have been stronger if the students were targeting their presentations at a more limited audience.  For example:
     - citizens of cities near rain forests
     - write to the CEO of and company that capitalizes on rain forest resources
     - etc.

2. Some teachers might interpret "the many" with an effective integration of technology.   This can hinder the adoption / integration of technology.

Should the teacher above be congratulated? 
What about Teacher B who uses a GRASP approach to assessment which includes no technology. She knows she is implementing powerful authentic learning, but the teacher above gets recognized by the principal in the next faculty meeting for creating podcasts that are shared with the world.

Is Teacher B more prone to implement technology if she feels she has to sacrifice her authentic experience for one where the product can be shared with many?

(And "yes", Teacher B could keep her same authentic assessment and utilize technology in ways to Leave a Legacy, connect with others to gather better data, or collaborate with other schools and broaden the backing of their ideas. But, it's my blog post and I'm trying to make a point :)  )

If we glorify the many, or ask teachers to make sure they Tweet everything or post everything on Pinterest, I think it turns off some  - especially if they can't see the steps about how these tools can lead to more effective and efficient learning.  They see technology being implemented for technology's sake. 

So, let's make sure we start with quality learning tasks and then see if and how technology can be utilized to help make them better.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Innovative Tech Tools and Resources

Having recently returned from our CEESA conference, keynoted by Alan November, I'm settling back into that uncomfortable reality when the daily tasks start to over-shadow the impressive ideas and tools shared at the conference.

The theme of transformational learning was a good one. Just last week, I led an internal PD session with our staff on some of my key 'take-aways' from the conference.

I better get to sharing!  So, here they are:

1. Alan asked a great keynote question: "What are the look-fors in a 1:1 (or BYOD) school to know it's being implemented effectively?"

It's a good question, and one that I want to pursue as we start our own BYOD process next year.
Alan, has a great website filled with resources - one of which is the handout: "Is Technology Adding Value?"   It's a good starting point as we plan units around the changing nature of what learning should look like.

The question above helps to frame why some of the tools below resonated with me.

2. Jing for student feedback
I've used Jing for years, but wasn't promoting it as a student feedback option.

For those new to Jing, Jing is free. It allows users to quickly create voice-over videos  while capturing the screen (or screenshots with captions). All videos / images are saved in the cloud and accessed with a URL - no software other than a browser!  I've created an extremely rough Jing to give you an idea of how it works.

Research shows that students prefer online, verbal feedback that is personalized. It also shows that teachers are more likely to applaud positive characteristics of student work instead of simply writing about what needs to be improved.

Check it out as a  fast, effective (and permanent!) way to share student feedback.

3. - as a means to get Formative Feedback and as learning tool for students.

PollEverywhere (and other similar sites) are the online version of the "clicker system" we've heard about in classrooms. Students can submit answers to questions dynamically by texting, tweeting, typing a url into a browser. 

Teacher created choices can be multiple-choice text, multiple-choice images, or open-response.

Student answers are displayed immediately (if desired) and stored for discussion as needed.  It opens up all kinds of interesting ways to use data on the fly. Consider:

    a) Wait time...  giving every student time to answer and contribute 
    b) Hide or Show Data immediately...  to show results or re-visit results later
    c) Group consensus... sharing group responses, and then asking student groups to form a consensus on the correct answer.
    d) Scaffold learning... display results and then give hints, give readings, have students re-poll and re-visit answers.
  Overall, there seem to be many quick, easy ways for how a tool like this can foster inquiry based learning?

4. Wolfram Alpha 

Words have a hard time with this site. It's a visual Siri.

Type in topics that have factual information... in their words, "Enter what you want to calculate or know about:"

Check it out. Then ask yourself how often we should ask students to make posters again by transferring loads of data from different sites when this site does it in seconds.  And, if this information is at their fingertips, what sort of questions should teachers now be asking of students?

5. We all know about Khan Academy, but what might be new is www.ed.ted  

A free non-profit from the folks who bring you TedTalks, Ed.ted is taking teacher-generated ideas and creating professionally designed learning videos on the topic.

All the videos are available for free and are intended to be used in the flipped concept model.
Unlike Khan where only internal developers are coming up with video, Ed.Ted seems to be harnessing the crowd-sourcing idea to leverage a potentially far more powerful learning site.

These five ideas seem more than enough to absorb and implement.

So going back to our initial question:

What are the look-fors in a 1:1 (or BYOD) school to know it's being implemented effectively?

It has to be more than faster access to information...which help students answer the same types of questions.  We better be using these tools as more than $1,000 pencils with access to Google.