Be at Graduate Student Fellow at CASTLE!

If you are interested in hangout out with CASTLE over a summer here in Lexington and you are an advanced graduate student, then check out the UCEA Summer Fellowship at Program Centers (which CASTLE is one). 

The fellowship provides $5,000 to cover expenses for travel and lodging during the fellowship. Dr. Helen Wang, now of Georgia State University, was a graduate student fellow last year. 

The deadline is April 4th, so act quickly. 

Our lovely city ... Lexington. 

Our lovely city ... Lexington. 

Google Trends for Data Analysis

Played a bit today with Google Trends to see whether it might be useful for education research. Conclusion is ... perhaps. For instance, this search for "Common Core" amongst the 50 states from 2010-present yielded potentially interesting data. 


The key, obviously, is to have very clear language that would not be used for other purposes. "Common Core" is probably a good example of a term that would work but "technology leadership" wouldn't work. 

Digital Life in 2025

PEW, who does some of the best research on technology, released a new report in their series celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Internet. This report looks at Digital Life in 2025

There is a lot of fascinating thoughts inside the report, which Pew organizes into "more hopeful" and "less hopeful" with about equal distribution. 

The do talk about education in their "more hopeful" section - noting that the Internet should continue to generate efficiencies in the system. 

The less hopeful one worth noting to me is that privacy may increasingly become something only the rich can enjoy. That's concerning, obviously. 

Give the whole report a read when you get a chance and let me know some of your thoughts. Also, it is worth seeing who got the last word, by the way. 

New Virtual Schools Report from NEPC & Barbour

The National Education Policy Center, with support from the Great Lakes Center, has released their second major report on virtual school policies and practices in the United States. CASTLE blogger and friend Michael Barbour served as a coauthor on the report and had this to say:

“While there has been some improvement in what is known about supplemental K-12 online learning, there continues to be a lack of reliable and valid evidence to guide the practice of full-time K-12 online learning. Yet it is the full-time K-12 online learning that has seen the greatest growth in recent years.”

This is the second consecutive year of this report and it is quickly becoming the standard for virtual school policy in the United States. 

New Pub: Districts’ Efforts for Data Use and Computer Data Systems: The Role of Sensemaking in System Use and Implementation by Vincent Cho and Jeffrey Wayman

CASTLE friend and fellow Vincent Cho and coauthor Jeff Wayman have a new publication in Teachers College Record out this issue on Districts’ Efforts for Data Use and Computer Data Systems: The Role of Sensemaking in System Use and Implementation. 


The overview is: 

Background: Increasingly, teachers and other educators are expected to leverage data in making educational decisions. Effective data use is difficult, if not impossible, without computer data systems. Nonetheless, these systems may be underused or even rejected by teachers. One potential explanation for such troubles may relate to how teachers have made sense of such technologies in practice. Recognizing the interpretive flexibility of computer data systems provides an avenue into exploring these issues.

Objective: This study aims to explore the factors affecting teachers’ use of computer data systems. Drawing upon the notion of interpretive flexibility, it highlights the influence of sensemaking processes on the use and implementation of computer data systems.

Research Design: This comparative case study draws upon interview and observational data gathered in three school districts. Matrices were used to compare understandings about data use and about computer data systems within each district by job role (i.e., central office member, campus administrator, and teacher), as well as across districts.

Results: Our findings challenge commonplace assumptions about technologies and their “effects” on teacher work. For example, access to a system or its functions did not determine changes of practice. Paradoxically, we even found that teachers could reject or ignore functions of which they were personally in favor. Although computer data systems can support changes of practice, we found that agency for change rested in people, not in the technologies themselves. Indeed, teachers’ sensemaking about “data” and “data use” shaped whether and how systems were used in practice. Although central offices could be important to sensemaking, this role was often underplayed.

Conclusion: We provide recommendations regarding how researchers, school, and district leaders might better conceptualize data and data systems. These recommendations include recognizing implementation as an extended period of social adjustment. Further, we emphasize that it is the unique duty of school and district leaders to share their visions regarding data use, as well as to engage in dialogue with their communities about the natures of schooling and data use.

This very insightful article on the integration of the data management technologies and the everyday usage of the personnel on site is a must read. I know I will now personally be requiring this article in my EDL 664 course covering districts, data, and technology. 

Our Friends at Big Ass Fans and the Future for Kentucky

Our friends at Big Ass Fans have been receiving more and more publicity lately for, well, just being better than everyone else. We have enjoyed not only working with Big Ass Fans on design ideas for the various spaces that CASTLE inhabits but also just watching the growth of their company. A key driver of their growth has been a different kind of culture, one in which they truly value their employees. This culture is reflected in everything they do, including how much they pay their people which this recent CNN Money story profiled. 

Photocredit: CNN Money from linked story.

Photocredit: CNN Money from linked story.

Big Ass Fans are very much the poster child for Kentucky's future. It is techy, it is advanced manufacturing, it is great jobs that pay well, but most important is that Big Ass Fans represent the kind of culturally different approach to our future place in the world. Kentucky is a great place to live, to build things, to innovate ... but it is a working class kind of place. Big Ass Fans builds fans, not semiconductors. We build the Camry here, not the Tesla Model S. We can be the place that builds the things that average people use, just better than it has to be. Kentucky has had a deep and growing relationship with Germany. We have an operational office in Hamburg and our Governor is actually there right now visiting to discuss the potential VW expansion into Kentucky.

Kentucky doesn't need to be Germany but we can learn a lot of lessons from them in how their manufacturing sector has been culturally different. Big Ass Fans seems to have a good handle on that and I hope more Kentucky companies take lessons from them. 


Zappos is transitioning to a holacracy ... a place with no job titles, no traditional managers, and a highly distributed work environment. Watch the video below for an overview. And here is a good article from Forbes on how this would work and the history of it. 

Whether or not this will work for Zappos is still an answer that is years away; but, whether or not it works, Zappos as an organization is strong enough to even try something like this, and that by itself is a substantial statement. Do we know any schools that are strong enough to even attempt such a distributed model? None really come to mind for me, although a few are close.

It does make me reflect, though, that the schools that seem to function the highest are schools that are usually highly distributed where staff members are taking on various roles beyond their official titles. So, I hope this leadership method works for Zappos and that we can think about adopting elements of it into our schools soon. 

Is this something you would be willing to try at your own school? 

h/t to Thomas Sauer for the find. 

Smart Clothes and School Uniforms

Just make a note of it ... this is going to be a legal problem for schools. It might be a few years out yet, but it is going to be an issue. 

We are already placing RFID chips on students in many districts and so it is the next logical step to just integrate the technology directly into the school uniforms. 

If you want some more academic background on smart clothes and the current and future possibilities, it is worth checking out this symposium that was held at Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. 

What do you think? Any reason to worry here? Lots of folks seem okay with the RFID concept, so this just seems a logical (and perhaps acceptable) extension of that.