Live Streaming the HSE School Board Meetings

One of the ways I find that I differ from the other candidates is that I haven’t waited to see if I get elected before trying to address issues that are important. I have been attending board meetings, asking questions, and pushing for change well before my name was filed to run for a school board position.

Simply put, the issues don’t wait for elections.

This year alone, HSE has had a referendum discussed, a roll-out of the iPads in the elementary schools, two bonds approved (totally around $15.5 million above and beyond the referendum and state money), issues with technology, changes to school policies and handbooks, continued loss of good teachers, and a multitude of other topics. In the case of the ten million dollar bond passed earlier this year, I was one of the few people to stand and ask a question about its purpose. Similarly, in this last school board meeting, I was the only candidate that was not an incumbent to raise a question about the spending. I’ve asked the administrators, school tech lead, and board members questions on other topics as well. These range from discussions on why open standard tech wasn’t used to why there was a push to eliminate paper magazine subscriptions in the elementary schools.

On topic I’ve questioned has come up a few times by other candidates. This is the topic of live streaming HSE School Board meetings.

In early July, I created a page on Facebook specifically for streaming the HSE school board meetings. While board meetings are “meetings in public”, out of consideration, I asked Dr. Bourff if I could live stream and record the meetings. I stated that I would take care of the recording, streaming, and any editing with the target media source being a live stream on a Facebook page. There would be no need for any effort by the school board or administration.

The idea of streaming the meetings is not a new one, and one that it was clear Dr. Bourff had already considered. As such, Dr. Bourff was able to provide insights toward the downside of streaming school board meetings.

By filming a meeting, there was a real concern that the level of discussion by members of the board could decrease. With a camera rolling, it would be clear that their questions and words were being caught on film. Statements that were made could be viewed differently than they intended. This could diminish discussions, and thus negatively impact results. For example, a board member might choose to avoid asking for clarification so they wouldn’t seem to lack knowledge on a topic. Because it is critical to keep the discussion free flowing among the board members, having to worry about a rolling camera could be a detriment. Having been to a large number of board meetings as an audience member, there have been a few meetings where the limited knowledge around technology was hard to watch. Had the board members been recorded, it truly could have not reflected the best on a couple of them.

Live streaming also has the potential to cause grandstanding by members of the community. While this sounds easy to control, I have facilitated a number of live online events as well as meet-ups. As such, I understand how grandstanding is actually a very serious concern.

The opposite of grandstanding is also an issue. A number of people have attended board meetings to present on topics that were sensitive, and yet very valid concerns. In a few of these cases, I do believe that the presenters might have avoided making their comments if they knew it was being recorded and streamed live.

There are other issues with streaming as well.

The reality is, school board meetings are held in public. As such, there is nothing that prevents a person from streaming the events now. Live streaming has become so simple that nearly anyone can do it with a smartphone and a Facebook account.

At this time, I have not pushed to stream the board meetings even though they are open to the public. There are two core reasons for this. First is to respect Dr. Bourff’s request to not cause the disruption in the board meetings. Second, and more importantly, not enough people have indicated they care or would watch a live stream. While streaming sounds like a great idea, when Dr. Bourff streamed an event earlier this year related to the referendum, the engagement was also extremely low. Having experience with live chats and streamed events online has often shown the same results.

While there are people that would watch the stream or an on-demand versions of the board meetings, the level of active interest just isn’t there to justify pushing against Dr. Bourff’s statements at this time. I’ve raised the topic, and over time will bring it forward again whether elected or not. I believe that recordings will eventually happen, but until there is real proactive demand by the community with a real commitment to view, I find that my own attention and time are better spent on topics such as spending, academics, and the well-being of our students.

Tech and Computer Questions in HSE Schools

Kids on Computer

While there were some technology questions asked of the candidates for the HSE School board at the HSEA candidate forum, I was surprised of a few that didn’t get asked. Questions such as:

  • What is being done to monitor screen time?
  • What is being done to secure the school networks better so as to keep kids from VPNing or getting out of the school network to sites that are not appropriate?
  • What is being done to prevent kids from playing non-educational games in the classrooms or at lunch?
  • What is being done to make sure the devices are secure at all times, including those when they are not in use?
  • What is being done to make sure teachers are fully versed in how to effectively use technology as a tool and not as a ‘babysitter’ or distraction?
  • How is the use of technology being balanced with that of other learning methods (such as paper periodicals and books at the lower levels?
  • Is there a review in place to make sure recommended devices are sufficient to cover the length of time they will be used? Specifically, if the school expects the life of a device to be four years, then are the devices being purchased this year going to still be usable in 4 years with the changes and deprecation of support that companies like Apple make?
  • Who is reviewing issues such as COPPA (Child Online Privacy and Protection Act) and software licensing to make sure that what is being used is not only appropriate for kids under 13, but also legal for kids under 13 to use? For example, Adobe licensing including Adobe Reader at one point did not allow for use by kids under 13.
  • Should we review the appropriateness of iPads in middle school and junior high where kids really need a keyboard?
  • ISTEP rules were going to require a wired keyboard on testing computers. Is this a possibility with whatever new testing replaces the ISTEP? If so, how will this be addressed by the school?

There were a few good technology comments that were brought up in the forum that included:

  • Technology and computers are just a tool. Like other tools, they are used to execute on the teaching.
  • HSE21 is not about computers and technology. It is a learning, teaching approach focused on project-based, inquisitive learning styles that is more open to allowing kids to engage with creativity and innovative thinking. The use of technology (and thus a 1:1 computer program) can make elements of HSE21 easier to execute.
  • There are great areas where technology can make a big impact on helping individual children. Several people echoed how they can be used to help children who have hearing issues.
  • More research needs to be done in regard to appropriate use and handling of devices in the lower grade levels, especially K-2.
  • Better communication needs to occur with incoming families in regard to technology expectations.
  • We should be using the technology to enable more communication
  • The technology is being used in cool, creative ways in the classrooms.
  • While it might seems trivial, the iPads are being used to cut down on paper and ink costs. A few cents saved for each piece of paper with ink adds up in the long run.
It is interesting to note that HSE has set up technology advisory committees that include teachers, administrators, and parents. Ironically, in the first two meetings of these committees, most of the questions and issues around technology have not been addressed. Given time, hopefully these are addressed.

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*photo credit: Lupuca Children at school via photopin (license)

 

UPDATE:

October 27, 2016 – The tech committee meeting on October 27th focused on open-ended questions. This included a lot of great, positive feedback on how technology is being used. It also included a number of comments and suggestions on making things better. Issue such as VPN access, screen time, computer monitoring, and appropriateness of device selection were all discussed. As to be expected, many topics are bigger than a one hour meeting can address; however, the topics were highlighted and brought to light. That’s a great step towards being able to build better solutions for the long term.

Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) School Board Candidate Forum “Live”

I’m not a fan of myself on video. Regardless, below is the recording of the school board candidate forum that occurred on October 4th at HSE High School in Fishers. A special thanks to the Hamilton Southeastern Education Association for hosting and recording this event.

In watching this, you’ll get to see the questions that were asked (or not asked) as well as hear the answers. None of the candidates proposed building walls around HSE, nor did any discussions occur about lost emails. In fact, everyone is focused on the issues related to our kids, our schools, our teachers, and our district.

For most questions, we were given one minute to answer. As a note, these are not questions that can be clearly answered in 60 seconds. Even with my quickly jotted notes, there were a multitude of things didn’t have time to say. Other candidates were able to make some of the comments that I hoped to highlight, which is great. In the end, we are building awareness on the topics impacting our schools, and hopefully the result will be for more people to feel open to engaging with the school board in the coming months and years.

Here are the recordings:

Part 1:

Part 2:

If you have any questions on anything I mentioned, feel free to contact me.

HSEA School Board Candidate Forum for the HSE Board

The Hamilton Southeastern Education Association (HSEA) held a forum tonight for the candidates running for school board. I was honored to be invited to this forum to get to talk to a number of teachers, community leaders, parents, students, and others.  The event was video taped and should be made available to the public in the near future. When it becomes available, I’ll post a link.

The forum was an interesting process, that was different from anything I’ve done in quite a while. In this event, each candidate was asked the same question and given 60 seconds to answer. The questions that were asked, came from the audience, so there was an interesting set of topics. There were several issues that weren’t brought up that I expected to hear, and there were a few questions asked that were new to me.

Providing answer to these serious questions in 60 seconds is tough. With such a little amount of time, the attempt was to focus on the core elements and hope that people understand the context for the answer. I found that after most of my responses, I had a number of additional things I would have liked to have included. Because the forum didn’t allow time, I’ll work to comment on some of those topics here on my blog over the next few weeks and months. There were good questions that deserved deeper responses.

In the meantime, below is a summary of information I’ve put into a handout that you can download from here. This is also sparse in that I tried to get information about myself along with some of the core issues that have been raised for the board. This information was created to fit on a single, two-sided piece of paper that I’ll be handing out. If you live within the HSE district, please feel free to download the document and share it with your neighbors.


Bradley Jones –  for Hamilton Southeastern School Board

I’d like your vote on November 8th for a position on the Hamilton Southeastern School Board.

Why You Should Care

Whether you have children in the public schools or not, the HSE School Board is making decisions that impact you and impact your child’s future. Even if you don’t have kids in the schools, the passing of bonds and referendums impact your taxes, and the quality of our schools impacts the success of our city to draw new businesses and families into Fishers. There are a lot of issues and topics that the HSE School board is or needs to address. I’ve listed just a few on the back.

My HSE School Board Commitment

Friends, families, teachers, and several others suggested that I run for the HSE School Board based on my interest and passion for what is happening in our schools and with our kids. When I’m elected, I commit to:

  • Putting our kids first
  • Demanding fiscal responsibility in all decisions
  • Represent you and our community
  • Keeping an open ear and an open mind to ideas that will benefit our kids and their future
  • Listening, researching, and learning so I can to make the best decisions for the benefit of the students
  • Giving my full attention to tackling the issues that have been raised (See the back side of this document for a list)
  • Putting our kids first (This was worth repeating)

A Few Tidbits on Me

The following provide a little information about me:

  • I am a dad of two attending HSE Schools.
  • I am a regular volunteer at the schools, as is my wife.
  • I prefer to solve issues rather than just talk.
  • I am proactive. I also am not afraid to go to the source to get answers firsthand.
  • I grasp the details needed to get things done and don’t just buy into the hype.
  • Prior to deciding to run for the board, I regularly attended HSE School Board meetings so I could be informed.
    • Edit: I’m the only candidate other than the incumbents that was regularly attending the school board meetings prior to putting my name on the ballot. Over the past two years, I was often the only parent in the audience for the main portion of the board meetings. I didn’t wait until an election to get involved.
  • I’ve been a room parent for the past six years. I’ve been told I execute a good class party, and teachers have complimented the learning aspects of some of the games played.
  • I’m actively involved in our community in driving technology education through user groups and meetups. I co-founded and ran the Indianapolis Developers Association for over a decade growing membership to over 3,500 at its peak.
  • I’ve been recognized as a technology influencer by companies like Microsoft.
  • I’ve written technical books that teach people of all ages how to program computers. My internationally bestselling books take technical topics and make them easy to understand.
  • I am a board member for the Danville, Illinois Rescue Mission, which service homeless men. The mission recently purchased a new building, and will be serving short-term homeless women and children as well. (I graduated from Danville High School.)
  • I interact daily with a diverse group of people from around the world through my job.
  • I have experience with personnel issues, contracts, project planning, technology, and more.

How School Board Voting Works

School Board positions are non-partisan positions that will appear on the November 8th ballot. It’s not about political parties; it’s about the students. There are three of seven school board positions up for election this year. You’ll be able to vote for one candidate in each of the three townships within HSE. I’d like to ask that you vote for me to represent Delaware Township and then vote for one other person in each of Fall Creek and Wayne Townships. While we are aligned with a township, our decisions impact every student and family in our entire district.

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Important Topics for the Hamilton Southeastern School Board to Address

While the HSE School Board does a lot of smaller tasks such as approving contracts for changing LED bulbs in our schools and recognizing community and school achievements, they also address a number of critical topics. The following are just a few of the topics the school board will be addressing or needs to address in the near future:

Our Kids: Kids First

Ultimately, it is all about the kids. Overall, we have great schools, wonderful teachers, and fantastic kids. Even so, we can continue to improve. Regardless of the area of focus or the topic, the core to any decision is the students. The following are a few kid-centric initiatives I expect the board will be talking about (or that I will be raising).

  • Making sure the middle 60% aren’t overlooked; making sure every student has the chance to succeed
  • Supporting the related arts (music, art, library, P.E.) to give our kids valuable experiences
  • Incorporating mental health programs for our children’s social, emotional, and overall mental well-being
  • Teaching the right world languages for our kids
  • Maintaining smaller class sizes*
  • Making sure the kids in our district have get a fair chance at opportunities to learn or participate in activities**

Clarifications: *The 2% growth projected for the City of Fishers over each of the next 10 years would equate to 300 to 400 kids added each year, thus needing 10 to 15 more classrooms. **Allowing out of district kids to go to HSE schools could take sport and academic positions away from in-district kids.

Technology

One of the hottest and most controversial topics the past five years has been technology. This topic will continue to be critical as the policies on the following items need to be evaluated:

  • Managing screen time
  • Security, privacy, digital footprints, and related topics
  • Preventing cyber bullying
  • Getting technology installed and working
  • Use of proprietary tech vs. standard (“Why iPads?”)
  • Evaluate keyboarded devices in lower grades
  • Licensing, app, and hardware costs
  • Confirming COPPA compliance

Fiscal Responsibility

With an increased referendum (now at .23/$100), an increase of annual state funding per our student allocation increasing, and the approval of capital bonds, HSE Schools has tens of millions of additional dollars. Our schools need to be fiscally responsible as well as transparent without obfuscating. Fiscal issues include:

  • Address the need for more school buildings
  • Evaluate updates to existing buildings – Schools like Durban require updates
  • Need for a larger administrative building
  • Reduce use of referendum dollars to pay ongoing recurring costs
  • Lower fees for things such as pay-to-play, student technology and other fees
  • Ensure competitive teacher compensation

Teachers and Teaching

Our teachers and teaching policies are the core to our success. We need to support the success of our teachers and programs.

  • Support of project-based, inquisitive learning programs (HSE 21)
  • Continued education of teachers, students, parents on technology as a tool
  • Avoid fads and focus on the kids
  • Get the best teachers and then keep them
  • Create an effective school calendar
  • Support opportunities for professional development of teachers
  • Promote more consistency across grade levels
  • Push for a stronger focus on developmentally appropriate curriculum

Final Message

We need to do everything that can be done to safely prepare our kids for the future, while remaining fiscally
accountable to our community. Help by voting for Bradley Jones for the HSE School Board on November 8th.


As already mentioned, the above are abbreviated lists made to fit on a handout. If you have questions on my positions on any of the above, feel free to ask. Ultimately, it is the group of seven board members that will determine how each is addressed.

Things That Make HSE Schools Better: The HSE Foundation

The Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation (HSSF) supports the schools here in my hometown of Fishers. The foundation makes it possible for teachers to get grants to do special projects as well as provides a number of other services and scholarships. While local PTOs, such as the one I am a part of at Riverside Intermediate, are also providing the opportunity for teachers to get grants, the HSSF has the ability to support bigger initiatives than we can do.

This week the HSSF has posted an infographic and video on what they have been able to do this past year. Rather than rehash the details here in my blog, I’ve simply included the video.

The HSSF and their activities are one of the many things that help make HSE schools among the top in the state and in the country.

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Would You Let Me Hold Your Wallet? Protecting Your Privacy

I asked a police officer if I could hold his wallet. He obviously said no.

I told the officer that if he let me hold it, I would not glance at his license or look at how much money he had. I’d just hold it.

You are likely wondering what would transpire to get me to ask an officer if I could hold his wallet. While this might sound like a crazy situation, my question to the officer was to help illustrate that a point he had made earlier in a presentation was flawed. Specifically, it was to help illustrate that if you download applications and visit websites, then you are likely in a similar position of being asked to hand over something important to someone asking you to trust them. Unlike the officer, if you are like most people, then you will probably not say “no” when asked if you are okay with handing over personal stuff.

The officer had just done a fantastic presentation on his role with internet safety in the local school system. He had presented information to help parents understand more about cyber bullying, internet safety, and several other student issues in a digital age. It was one comment relevant to the latest fad, Pokemon Go, that caused me to ask for his wallet, and then to write this blog.

Accessing Web Sites and Using Mobile Apps

When you use a website or when you download and use an application, you are generally are agreeing to a license or term of service (ToS) for that site or application. Many sites and nearly ever application will have you confirm that you agree to their ToS by having you click a small checkbox that often simply says you agree. If you download an app from one of the app stores, you will often get a screen that says that the app wants access to some services on your machine or phone. Chances are, you simply click the box or button and continue. This action is generally required to use the software; otherwise, if you don’t agree, then most installation ends or the page doesn’t load.

Have you ever actually read or paid attention to what you agreed to? If you have kids that are allowed to install applications, do you know what they have agreed to when an application is installed?

The Danger of Phone Apps

Many mobile applications require you to agree to give access to features on your phones. These features could be access to your contacts, to your phone, to your files, or more. Pokemon Go has gone supersonic in popularity. One of the areas where Pokemon received a lot of attention was that it requested access to features and information that didn’t seem to be necessary for playing the game. This included access to contacts, files on your mobile device and even to your calls.

Chances are, if you installed the Pokemon Go app, you clicked the button and blew past the screen asking for permission to access all of this information. The following picture shows you want Pokemon Go asks for today.

Pokemon Go

You should consider what permission you gave when you installed the application.

If you were asked for contacts, then that is access to people listed on your phone. The app might choose to contact those people. If you said okay to location, then the application can keep track of where you are, where you go, and when it was you did this. If you said okay to access to your files, then you likely gave access to everything that is on your device since everything is stored in files. if you gave access to your “phone and calls,” then you are basically agreeing to allow your calls to be monitored.

When Pokemon Go first released, contacts, files, phones and calls were included in the permissions granted by users that installed the app through the Google App Store. When Google was asked if the data on a person’s phone was going to be accessed, the reported response was that the information such as contacts and email were not being accessed. Just like I said I wouldn’t look at the officers wallet, Google said the data on a person’s phone wouldn’t be looked at.

Regardless of what a company says, if they are asking you permission and you grant it, then you have granted them access. They can say they have not accessed the information, but you gave them permission, so they could access it at any time. You removed your ability to complain when you agreed it was okay.

This is not only apps

The idea of giving away information or of giving away your rights is not limited to mobile applications. This also applies to websites. There are two common areas where people tend to misunderstand or ignore what permissions or access they’ve given away. These are in:

  1. Creating accounts
  2. “I Accept” check boxes for Terms of Service (ToS)

Do I own accounts I create on the web?

When creating an account on a site, whether it is on a service like an online email provider, a localized forum, or a social media site, you should be aware of who owns the account. Most people assume the account is theirs. They also assume it is private. Depending on the terms of service, all of these assumptions could be wrong. For example, there are some email services that can monitor your activity and then use that information to market to you.

When you create an account on the internet, it is important to realize that you are creating that account on a machine. This is a machine owned by someone else, and often owned by a company. As such, it is their machine, so they have any access to what is there that they want. This can include anything you happen to put into your account.

Accepting Terms of Service

Relevant to an account you might create is a site or apps Terms of Service (ToS). A site’s ToS is a list of rules that you agree to by either agreeing to a request, or simply by accessing a site. On many cases, you are asked to check a box saying you agree to the terms. If you say no, you are often bounced off as site. As a result, many people simply check the box and continue.

Reading the terms of service is wise. Most will state what the site or company plans to do with the information you provide. The information you provide might not be obvious. It can be as simple as your IP address along with browser information, such as your location, the machine you are using, and other sites you have possibly visited. If you create an account, that ToS will also define the privacy they are willing to provide.

The ToS might have other statements in it as well. The following is from a popular home services site:

“You agree to promptly pay <site> One Thousand Dollars ($1,000) for each item of Content posted in violation of this Agreement.”

Per this clause, if you use this site, you are exposed to being fined for thousands of dollars. This is not as unusual as you might think, but you’d only know that if you read what you are agreeing to.

Conclusion

You need to be aware of what you and your kids are agreeing to when you click on buttons or use a site. In many cases, the information you give away could be equated to handing your wallet to a stranger. This is true of all applications and all sites. You should always try to be aware of what you are agreeing to in the digital world. Not everyone is as trustworthy as your local police officers.