New Tool for SPS

This article appeared in today's Times. It's about a new on-line tool called L3RN:

"Similar to YouTube, the popular Internet video-sharing Web site, L3RN (pronounced simply "learn") is touted as a tool for professional development of teachers, allowing teachers in different schools to discuss ideas and upload lesson plans and other information.

But for students, it means they can comment on their peers' work and also show off their projects to their parents. According to Hale's Advanced Placement students, it also has proved to be a lot of fun."

Also from the article:

"Though many parts of L3RN are available to the public, at, only teachers can post to the site. They can designate certain files as private, so only other teachers and students can see them. To comment on students' work, visitors must have a login name and a password from the school district."

"The district gets the software free, and Hale estimates that L3RN saves thousands of dollars in paper.

"The less paper, the better," Hale said. "It's almost heartbreaking when I had students write an essay and watch them put it in the recycling bin on their way out of the door. This solves that problem."

"There is no anonymity on L3RN. Student comments are permanently attached to their online-user names. They cannot be changed or deleted by the student, so teens must think twice before posting something inappropriate or hurtful."

There's also another network tool, Medley:

This fall, the district plans to add to L3RN by introducing another online system called Medley, a social-networking site comparable to MySpace.

"Medley will allow students to have personal home pages. They can create online journals and send messages to their friends and teachers.

"It's great, because it's safer than a lot of the social Web sites that are out there," Pierson said. "Kids will feel secure on Medley because we'll manage it and make sure there's no bullying." "

I'm more on-board with the 3LRN than Medley. I like the idea of teachers sharing ideas as well as students sharing their work (although I hope there is a filter so that kids don't plagiarize).

I'm not sure I think it's worth the district's time and money to have Medley. Are kids really going to want to post to a site monitored by the district? Maybe younger students but I doubt if a lot of middle/high school students would (unless their parents wouldn't let them use FaceBook or MySpace). Frankly, why is the district getting into this business? It doesn't relate to academics.


Anonymous said…
I find the general trend towards placing everything education-related online disturbing. It seems that when it comes to computers in schools, we are more concerned with how educational content is delivered than with what that content is or whether the delivery is actually effective.

If L3RN saves a lot of paper, that's great. The question is, does it also improve learning? That is not nearly as clear to me.

As far as Medley goes, I don't buy for an instant that teens will like it better because it is supervised. Quoting from this article in PC World about legislation for Myspace: One of the reasons MySpace has risen to such popularity with kids is that it's almost completely devoid of adult supervision. Some guy named Tom runs the joint--that's all members know. If the influence of authority starts seeping in, if the site starts feeling like it's being "policed", it might be the beginning of the end for MySpace.

Most teens want an environment with less intrusive adult supervision than many parents feel comfortable with letting them have. However, the result of denying them a safe space where they can be relatively unsupervised will not be safer teens, it will be teens that take more reckless risks in order to assert their own identity and sense of freedom. This applies, incidentally, to both online and real world environments. But I digress.

Melissa is right: Myspace, great as it is (and I rather like it myself) is not about education, and neither is Medley. The schools have better things to do with their resources.
Anonymous said…
Ramona Pierson is most likely pushing this trendy untested product.
Charlie Mas said…
I tried to take a look at this, but I couldn't log on. It appears that registration is suspended.
Anonymous said…
Why build something they can have for free? Seems like this money could have been allocated somewhere else, like teachers.
Anonymous said…
Looks some "brilliant" programer thought teachers would like this one.
Anonymous said…
Why are they advertising these "tools" in the summer? Since they just opened it in June wouldn't it be better to see if the teachers use it before getting something written up in the paper?
Anonymous said…
This is how Microsoft starts something new (apologies to all you that made $$$ from shoddy products). Create something that sort of works, talk about it, and create publicity touting success. My guess is the board loves this and has no idea about the realities involved for this to work. They should do some investigation to see if teachers really want a tool like this or if it is worth the expense.

The article seems to be the usual education article, take some new idea and make it sound really cool with a couple feel good stories. Where is the research and data to support creating such a tool? This is a typical education puff piece, sounds cool and no depth!!!!!
I did write to Dr. G-J and the Board and urged them to get that laser focus on academics and forget the gimmicks or distractions.
Anonymous said…
Does somebody out there know about Ramona Pierson and why the comment about pushing the untested product?

The post implies that she has a history of creating something without testing. Can someone fill in this post?
Jet City mom said…
Have they done a poll to see what families have computers or prefer that information be accessible through the intranets?

We have a laptop- but while we are fairly savvy, we just have one computer for our household and we have dial up.

I hate the reformatting of the districts website- it is very bandwidth intensive and I am less likely to look for info than I was previously.

If this district is truely concerned about disproportionality- why aren't they spending this time and effort toward getting more families up to date communication rather than bells and whistles?

We already have few teachers using the source and few who keep it updated when they do-lets use the tools we already have to greater extent rather than keep switching around every year.
Jet City mom said…
Ramona Pierson leaves a comment over at Wes' place:

This brings up a great conversation as we all move forward. We are essentially functioning like a Dot com within a school district which has its benefits and its struggles. The benefits for a district is that we are nimble and capable of rapid development cycles and we are very customer centered. Our team spends a lot of time working with and listening to teachers, students, and other educators as we design and develop programs. The struggle comes from having a different cultural approach to development districts tend to purchase software solutions from large companies and are subject to vendors demanding tight controls on their source code; while we have approach development from a community/grassroots approach, which is comfortable being part of a larger open learning and open development community.

Unfortunately, one difference between a dot com and EdTech REA Seattle Schools, or whatever the official name of the people who have created l3rn is, is that a dot com does not operate in the crazy cone of silence which encloses a public school department. Why is this stuff such a secret? Why is there no web page describing this unique and important approach to developing software for schools? Or if there is one, why is it so well hidden? What they're doing should be a model for other districts.
Ramona said…
To add a bit more information about Medley because it appears that folks may not understand its value for students to have as a portfolio where they can demonstrate their learning authentically. I invite anyone to come in and see what we are doing and learn more about the tool, but imagine the ability for students to demonstrate their evidence of learning and authentically show they met a standard.

Also, now with Medley students and teachers can contextualize content...for instance, imagine teachers can search the system for content/curriculum that is "tagged" with a state the assignments that students post will provide a demonstration of meeting that standard. This tool provides us the ability to see the whole student and transcend only viewing student data as a number on a WASL score. We can now enrich the learning in a system that values the community of learners...and see students bring a rich world of knowledge and expertise that is not easily quantified in a single moment in time.

Also, Medley was developed with the goal of meeting the state requirements for Culminating projects, and High School and Beyond Plans. This tool allows students to have a portfolio to share with universities, their family and even future employees if they choose to. Students and teachers will have an opportunity to create unique learning opportunities as a community of practice.
Anonymous said…
Ramona P said, "Our team spends a lot of time working with and listening to teachers, students, and other educators as we design and develop programs."

As a teacher at a high school in Seattle, I do not believe this statement to be true. I had to live through a terrible experience with this Ramona and the rollout of the Source. The Source is a decent tool. Parents like it because they get information from teachers. But we tried and liked Edline, which basically is a better product. The Source implementation process was horrible and painful. Changes were made without consulting or notifying teachers. Promises were made and broken. Feedback was repeatedly ignored. Yet, we kept hearing the same words in the news, "We are listening to teacher feedback."

In the next PR article maybe this Ramona could share some real data demonstrating how they are listening to teacher feedback, not empty words and a couple feel good stories.
Anonymous said…
The Source is terribly frustrating. Kids come home and say, "teacher said it hasn't been updated, tell your parents not to worry, your grade is really a B, I haven't scored the assignments so they all went in as N..." How do we know what's true? Email the teacher who doesn't use email either? I have not met a single parent who feels the Source has been helpful for their high school kids. If every teacher used it daily, it would be a whole different situtation. But teaching 150 or more kids daily and recording grades daily is more than we should ask of our teachers.
Anonymous said…
"This is how Microsoft starts something new (apologies to all you that made $$$ from shoddy products). Create something that sort of works, talk about it, and create publicity touting success."

Look for the Microsoft connection in the ed tech leadership of SPS.
I'm not sure if the Ramona post is Ramone Pierson but we are talking about two different things here references in the article. One is L3RN which seems to cover what the post says and the other is Medley which seems to be nothing more than an education Facebook. If they are not different things then the district should notify the Times that their article is wrong.
Anonymous said…
This ed tech rea group is not Technology Services. This ed tech group is a rogue group making up stuff without hard feedback data. Their MO is make up the idea, sell it, and then try to force funding.
Charlie Mas said…
There are "rogue group"s in Seattle Public Schools? That's the most refreshing thing I've heard about SPS in years.

We have a skunk works? That's so cool!

Is it just technology or is there one for academics as well?
Charlie Mas said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Ms. Pierson either quit or got fired last week, so I would presume the days of gimmicks and distractions may be over.
Anonymous said…
What an absolute shame! And what irony that a bunch of people who sit around yakking at each other on a blog don't have the imagination to see where technological products could take students.
Anonymous said…
I am sick and tired of non-educators who think they know best. Read what one classroom teacher thinks about the consequences of losing one of the most brilliant people the district ever had working 24/7 for them. What a stupid, stupid move on the district part.
Anonymous said…
I am a teacher in a HS and Romona spent hours with me and my class actually modeling good teaching with data. She also helped me when I first learned EGP and it was impressive to have her sit with me every step of the way. The district cannot replace her. The best experience I ever had in the district was when I called her when I was sick during grade-marking, she came and helped me at home on a Sunday to get my grades in for my students.

How dare you people put her down when you never were teachers in a class or a parent needing help in the middle of the night! We will all miss her!

Mark A. was right when he talked about fear. You people have created the fear.
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