#PositiveStories and the #GoodNewsAmbassadors @BCPSSTAT

Is BCPS a business worthy of advertising or an educational institution for Baltimore County’s 112,000 students?

Is it a mechanism for marketing or a place for kids to learn?

Perhaps it’s a futuristic animatronic museum in which our vendors and other school systems from across the country can come see a glimpse into the future.*  To see where humanity is headed, to see the future of America, where, as Superintendent Dance has said, “you can come into a classroom and not even be able to find the teacher.”  Perhaps that’s precisely why our vendors and other school leaders come?  To enthusiastically hashtag -#foundher – when finding one – like a game of “Where’s Waldo?” in a BCPS classroom?

Whatever the reason, this certainly appears to make for an amazing advertising opportunity for our vendors.

#buyfromustoo? #freeadvertising?

It’s no secret that Baltimore County has become the hub of school innovation for the country. Maybe even for the world, according to our Hewlett Packard representative.  Does all of this hashtagging help with the momentum of leading the way?  After all, BCPS and the hashtag did become fast friends under the leadership of BCPS’ current administration.

Walk the Walk Award – DILA 2014 Winner: “Dr. Dance is constantly tweeting to BCPS stakeholders…”

Why not?  As a school system, we have not only embraced technology, but we are rocketing out to space on it.  But what is the impetus behind the advertising?  Who does it serve?  And is it safe?

Some parents on, coincidentally, social media, as well as at BCPS Board of Education meetings, have raised concerns; they do not think that it’s safe. In fact, some think that it’s downright dangerous.  Yet the response to these sentiments has been a familiar-sounding one.  The same response heard time and time again about any hiccups with STAT, Baltimore County’s 1:1 digital initiative: the problem boils down to the professional development of the teachers, they say.

And yet, BCPS’ own Department of Communications and Community Outreach seems to have opened the Wild West of Twitter in the first place. Why is it, then, that the teachers are being pointed to as the ones lacking in social media etiquette? 

BCPS’ Chief Communications Officer, Mychael Dickerson, certainly gave the greenlight. In fact, he suggested it in this June 2015 article, stating:

“We simply asked people to send photos of them wearing Team BCPS Blue and to go to social media to post their pictures or to let us know how they were celebrating Team BCPS Day.  To our surprise we received hundreds of pictures and thousands of tweets and Facebook posts. We also held a competition recognizing the youngest Team BCPS member (mothers-to-be were sending in photos pointing at their stomachs indicating they had the youngest Team BCPS member), the oldest Team BCPS member, the largest Team BCPS group etc., the most spirited, etc.  The pictures and tweets came from all over the world and from all sorts of people to include: students; parents; families; staff members; businesses; religious groups; senior citizen homes and many other organizations and stakeholders. It was an incredible launch and this year was even more successful.”

With almost 60K followers and 10.4K tweets, @BaltCoPS has had a very busy 5 1/2 years since the account opened in April 2011. Discovery Education, one of STAT’s main vendors, which has been on Twitter since 2007, does pretty well with 314K followers and a whopping 25K tweets!

In fact, Discovery Education’s very own National Director of Educational Partnerships – who, incidentally, is also on the Board of Directors for the Education Foundation for Baltimore County Public Schools – even tweeted about us a month ago, stating: “Awesome students share our thoughts-BCPS STAT Initiative. ‘More fun way to learn’ #bcpsstat”

In 2014, BCPS’ Department of Innovation (under their previous name) even gave Hewlett Packard a shout-out! And a BCPS principal took some time to thank Daly Computers (Daly Computers contract)! Meanwhile, teachers tweet about their students being on DreamBox, yet another BCPS vendor.

All of this tweeting and none of it proven to assist with our students’ educational outcomes.

So, whom is this tweeting all about then? Who does it help?  And what is it actually for?  Is this “edu-tising” good for our students or does it serve some higher motive?

Some of us are still waiting for the “how much screen time are the students getting question to be answered.  All of this tweeting and still no answer?

#justsayin’

*From the 11/7/16 BCPS E-Newsletter:

“Dear Team BCPS: This week, BCPS hosted representatives from around the nation who visited our Lighthouse and Passport schools to see firsthand how we are implementing our Theory of Action.

Our visitors were in Baltimore attending the 2016 League of Innovative Schools’ Fall Conference. I am very proud of our students, teachers, and administrators who welcomed these special guests into our classrooms to show them outstanding teaching and learning. I also extend my thanks to all members of Team BCPS who were involved in the planning and implementation of these visits. Our visitors were impressed, and it was truly an amazing experience for all of us.”

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Baltimore: Ed-Tech Hub

Baltimore is an ed-tech hub. Pearson’s K-12 virtual learning company Connections Education is based here.  And Tom Vander Ark says so.

Towson University, a former state teachers’ college, which still provides Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) with the majority of its teachers, hosts Maryland’s only business incubator specializing in ed-tech, the TU Incubator. The University’s first Presidential Scholar for Innovation in Teacher and Leader Preparation is Dr. Nancy Grasmick, the former Superintendent of Maryland public schools. The 2012 creation of this teacher-prep program — the seed money for which came from Grasmick’s friend, Baltimore developer Edward St. John, and from PayPal exec Vince Talbert — made Michelle Rhee very happy.

Baltimore is apparently becoming the hotspot for ed-tech conferences. We reported on two of them here and here.

Now another is scheduled for later this week. On September 28, Baltimore (City) will host the 3rd Annual Education Technology Innovation Summit (ETIS2016) at Mindgrub Technologies. The keynote speaker is Frank Bonsal, leader of the above-noted TU Incubator and self-described EdTech Investor and Edupreneur.

Topics include:

  • Building the Cyber Generation: Connecting the Dots from the Classroom to Employment
  • The Rising Interest in Alternative Credentialing
  • Why the Resistance to Innovative Technology in Schools? Let’s Solve it:  A Panel Discussion
  • Create Blended Learning Tools That Bridge Learning Across the Digital Divide
  • How EdFinTech Supports Financial Analysis for Schools and Equity for Students
  • Multi-Dimensional Learning: The Power of Game-Based Learning
  • VR, AR, and the Internet of Things are Changing Classrooms for the Better(Note:  VR=Virtual Reality, AR=Augmented Reality)
  • Case Studies in Mobile Gaming

Depressing, isn’t it?

But it gets worse!

Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools Fall 2016 Meeting will be held in Baltimore in early November. The meeting’s co-host is Baltimore County Public Schools.  We’re an LIS District, after all, and our Superintendent was:

a 2014 DILA Walk the Walk Award winner

(The write-up notes that Dr. Dance “leads the S.T.A.T. (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) initiative and reinforces this focus through his personal Twitter account, as well as with BCPS outreach on Facebook, bcps.org, a blog, RSS feeds and more. When visiting all 173 schools, programs and centers each school year, he is rarely seen without at least one device, pushing the importance of technology as a useful communication tool.”)

and 2015 DILA Open Door Policy winner 

(Because we have so many corporate visitors, including many from BCPS partner Discovery Education, as seen in this video.  When you read the project overview, keep in mind that STAT only launched in 2014.).

In keeping with our open-door policy, the LIS Fall Meeting will feature two days of BCPS school visits — this was a feature of last November’s Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning (linked above).  BCPS loves to showcase certain BCPS schools (the shiny new ones, not the decrepit ones) full of “engaged” young explorers in the STAT digital eco-system.

Mid-Atlantic Conference to Observe BCPS Schools

Do you want your child observed during their school day by attendees of the Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning (MACPL) “Connecting Innovative Educators”?

This conference is scheduled to be in Baltimore on February 29 and for $80, attendees will be able to observe Baltimore County Public students in class.  This is the description as stated on their website:

“Monday, February 29, 2016
Optional
8:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Site Visit to Innovative Schools (Optional) (Baltimore County Public Schools) 

Join us for a visit to Baltimore County Schools on Monday, February 29. Find out how Baltimore County Public Schools Strategic Framework for Transformation is creating a fundamental shift in teaching and learning. Visit two schools participating in the Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT) initiative to see how they are personalizing learning for their students. Learn from teachers, administrators, and students how this new teaching and learning environment is working in their classrooms. We’ll leave by bus from the hotel at 8:30 AM and return at approximately 3:00 PM. Space is limited. Cost is $80 and includes lunch, transportation and guide.”

Here’s the link to the whole conference and the site visit to Baltimore County Public Schools:

http://www.cvent.com/events/mid-atlantic-conference-on-personalized-learning-macpl-connecting-innovative-educators-/agenda-0a690b9c98a44340aff005a7d72a071c.aspx

We wonder if they mean “optional” for parents and children to opt out of being observed by conference attendees or optional for those attendees who may or may not choose to attend?  Why are our children being used to sell STAT when there has been no evidence of efficacy over small traditional classrooms? Is it safe to have conference attendees in school buildings?  Will they be required to bring identification just as parents are required to do so on their first visit?

If anyone knows which schools will be observed in Baltimore County Public Schools, please add in the comments. And if you are a parent at a lighthouse school and you have an opinion about this, please go to the “Who do I contact” category to find contact information.  Or better yet, come speak at the Board of Education Meeting on February 16, 2016 at the Greenwood building (you must sign up before 6:30 to be selected – 10 speakers are selected):

https://www.bcps.org/board/current_year_schedule.html

More about the conference: 2/29/16 to 3/2/16, Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, organized by iNacol, sponsored by Pearson and MSDE

iNacol, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, describes itself as a “nonprofit organization with the mission to catalyze the transformation of K-12 education policy and practice to advance powerful, personalized, learner-centered experiences through competency-based, blended and online learning.”  Sound familiar?

Here are two recent blogs written about iNacol by Emily Talmage, INacol’s Trojan Horse, and Morna McDermott on ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Available Session in Baltimore: 

Gaining Stakeholder Buy-in for Blended Learning:  Bruce Friend, INacol Chief Operating Officer
This session will address the importance of gaining stakeholder support as you seek to build a blended (or online) learning program. Stakeholders include students, parents, teachers, school leaders. We will share effective strategies in gaining the support of these key contacts; discuss barriers to gaining support; and share examples of the consequences when stakeholder support is not achieved.
Friend is best known for founding the Florida Virtual School, the first statewide internet-based public high school in the U.S.  Friend spoke at the just-concluded Pearson CITE Conference.  His topic?  Gaining Stakeholder Buy-in for Your Online/Blended Learning Program.