Teaching With Technology: Philip Lacy

Welcome to Teaching with Technology! This series of guest posts asks educators to share how they integrate technology in their classrooms. These posts are written by a very special group, CK-12 Foundation’s Champions.

Today’s guest post is by Philip Lacy. He is the Director of Instructional Technology at Niles Township Community High School District 219 in Illinois.

How do you currently integrate technology in your classroom (e.g., products used, devices, etc.)?
We have a Ubuntu based 1:1 program using Free and Open Resources wherever we can: Moodle, Open Office, NROC content, other OER.

What have been the advantages and disadvantages of using technology in the classroom?
Change is always difficult. Helping teachers and administrators see the value and quality of OER content, in addition to the whole paradigm shift teachers must experience and embrace to enable a new instructional model to evolve in which technology becomes a seamless tool.

How have your students benefited from technology?
Just-in-time access to materials, equal access to computers/technology in the house and at school.
Increased opportunities for authentic learning, supplemented by the access to information facilitated by ubiquitous access to technology.

If money were no object, what would you like to see happening in your classroom with respect to use of technology?
1:1 student/family and faculty access to devices with universally available, platform-agnostic interactive and engaging content.

We hear the phrase “21st Century Skills” often with respect to technology and education. What are “21st Century Skills?”
Learning how to learn. Technology based research, analysis, and collaboration skills are becoming more valuable than rote memorization. Knowing and understanding which tools to use and how to use them (or where to find the information to do both) are increasingly important in a world predicated on change.

Describe the “classroom of 2040.” What’s different? What’s the same?
Students would have individual, non-standardized devices. The curriculum would be competency-based, with rolling enrollment and blended or virtual access. There would be no classroom per se, as anywhere two or more people meet to learn would be a “classroom”.

CK-12 March 2012 Newsletter

CK-12 Foundation is introducing the next generation FlexBooks system in June. In addition to the current FlexBooks functionality, the new system introduces learning in the form of concepts. Concepts are small units of content that can be used to learn or review a particular topic.Click here to read the full newsletter.

CK-12 February 2012 Newsletter

CK-12 is excited to announce that in February, we reached 1,000,000 books downloaded! The downloads include books of all titles and across many different formats: PDF, Kindle, iPad, NOOK and more. The momentum is definitely building as educational institutions and individual learners search for high-quality and open solutions to their content needs. Click here to read the full newsletter.

CK-12 January 2012 Newsletter

CK-12 and OER on the Rise in 2012

Happy New Year! 2012 promises to be a big year for CK-12 Foundation and the OER movement. Momentum has already begun to build. In a recent press release the state of Utah announced its intentions to develop and support open textbooks, with math and science titles based on CK-12 content. The Washington State Legislature is considering an OER bill. Recent testimony from Reuven Carlyle, State Representative of the 36th district, showcased CK-12 Foundation and the importance of our content in the OER movement. We are looking forward to continuing our role as a key player in the OER effort. Click here to read the full newsletter.

To be commercial or not is the question?

There has been growing debate over whether OER should use commercial licensing.If this is an issue you feel passionate about, please check out the online debate being led by UNESCO/OER Foundation “Should OER Favour Commercial Use?” http://www.wsis-community.org/pg/debates/group:14358/phase/251476/252289.At CK-12, we believe strongly that licensing should be a choice, not a mandate.We believe that the choice should represent a true spirit of openness for both the users and as well as those providers who take the time and consideration to share their expertise with all.

Here is my invited reponse in this debate: Continue reading…

OER Presentation Dr. Louise Waters, Leadership Public Schools

This particular blog entry I am using a different format. I will share verbatim the presentation of Dr. Louise Waters at the Hewlett Foundations OER conference. It speaks to what I cannot seem to say as well as she says.

Open Source Educational Resources
Using the Power of Open-Source Resources to Transform Urban High Schools
By Louise Bay Waters, Superintendent & CEO Leadership Public Schools

A Presentation for the 3/30/11 Hewlett Foundation OER Conference Continue reading…

“Oh yeah, that’s right!”

Do you ever stop to wonder why we need someone to prove to us something that we innately know to be true?

We tend not to believe certain facts until and unless someone with credentials proves to us that they represent a truth. The proof comes from spending years of their life deciphering the concepts, followed by research papers, book/s on the topic, and that’s when we can safely say “Oh yeah, that’s right. Continue reading…

Why even bother with Superman?


For some time there has been much talk about “Waiting for Superman” but I now feel compelled to join the conversation.

I do believe that this movie did a lot to accelerate the dialogue about what we have done with our education system but to be honest I believe the conversation has headed down the wrong path.The problem is not charter schools vs. public schools and which is better than the other but rather what we, as adults, are doing to our children. Continue reading…

Common Cause

It was really thrilling to be invited to represent the educational part of a recent White House delegation to India, led by White House CTO Aneesh Chopra and Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.The trip was quite informative for me, since I have not kept up with the educational system in India.


An Indian Classroom

Use of Resources

To be honest, I was expecting the “same old same old” list of complaints… we don’t have enough resources, our teachers don’t show up or aren’t truly present in the classroom, our students are not interested, etc.But what struck me the most was the use of resources:when there are resources, they are not being used in a very productive way.For the most part, the Continue reading…

Words with Friends


I am a big fan of Scrabble – I played it on a board until Facebook offered it online. So, I played it with absolute delight with my friends. Life got even more interesting when “Words with Friends” (a twist on Scrabble) was offered on the iPAD and iPhone. Now – I play with my friends, my children, with their friends, colleagues, my nephew and my sister in India.By now you should be asking “where do you have the time?” I don’t.

“Aren’t you working on your dream project?” Actually, I work all the time.

So when do I play? Whenever I have a few minutes – you don’t need hours like I did with a board. The way these online games work is that you play at your own pace. For example, if I have a few minutes between meetings, when I need something different to do, I can take a turn with whoever else has their game turned on at the same time.

Earlier this year when I was at the TED conference (I love this conference and I go every year) I was watching Jane McGonigal – a game designer – present on gaming and its value proposition. I know that there is a lot going on in this field for learning. The proposition is very simple – by the time gamers are 21 years-old they have played for 10,000 hours. Now we all know that there is literature on this concept “making of an expert.” 10,000 hours is the number of hours that people have to immerse themselves to become an expert. So, I ask what do these gamers become “experts” at?

McGonigal believes that gamers learn four main things from gaming:

  • Urgent optimism
  • Creating a tight social fabric
  • Blissful productivity, and
  • Epic meaning

I have a different view of gaming. Here’s how I think gaming and learning affect players:

  • Excitement about the process – the appealing colorfulness, friendliness and fluidity all combine to produce an exciting process
  • Unpredictability – “what’s coming next” produces endorphins that keep the excitement going
  • “Fix it” mentality – the realization that this is not final and I can always restart and do it again
  • “Face saving” – only I will see the outcome
  • “Instant gratification” – both disappointing as well as rewarding, it allows me to keep going and fix it next time or at least have the chance to fix it
  • “Repeatability” – I can do it again

The question is… is there really any learning going on?  And what does this learning look like?  Can we compromise with this kind of learning with the kind of learning that we have traditionally accepted as real learning?