August 15, 2006

Reflections: School Technology Planning (Campus Week)

It’s interesting to look back on this class, after having taken the class, and completing my blogs on the reading assignments. Since blogging was such an integral part of the week, I though it was fitting to wrap up the class with a blog (plus, the semi-formality of a blog makes for easier writing, and, in my opinion, easier reading).

On the first day of the class, I thought I knew a lot about School Technology Planning, because a committee that I had worked on had just completed the revision of our School Technology Plan. The initial survey of students’ knowledge of School Tech Plans seemed to confirm my initial assessment of my skills in this area.

However, I quickly realized that if given the task to coordinate the School Technology Plan, I would be seriously lacking. That seems to be the way it is in life, though: You think you know all you need to know about a topic until you learn a little something about the topic, and realize just how ignorant you really are.

Now, although I no longer feel as if I have all of the answers, I do feel that I have the right questions, and in situations where I might not have the right questions, I feel as if I know where to go to find those questions. In the remainder of this entry, I will highlight some of the steps I would take if given the task of coordinating the development (or redevelopment) of a District (or school) Technology Plan.

Step 1: Current State of Technology - Description: In this step, I would be identifying where the entity (either a district or a school) is at in regards to technology. I would ask questions such as:
*Is there a technology vision and policy? (Does this vision/policy correspond to the district’s mission statement?)
*Is there an active technology plan? (How accurately does the plan reflect the current technology status in the entity?)
*What is the inventory of technology in the district? (How dated is the equipment?)
*To what extent are teachers integrating technology into their curriculum?
*What is the general consensus of technology in the entity by the stakeholders?
*What has been the history of technology in the district? (Including purchases, use, etc.)
*What is the organizational structure of the entity?
*What budgetary constraints are there?

In order to collect this information, I would form a technology committee (if one did not already exist). This initial committee would consist of representatives from key stakeholders. This committee would be small in number, and be the core of the larger committee that would be formed at a later time. As this information is collected, I would write up a summary of the current state of technology in the district, and present it to my (core) technology committee, and would revise as appropriate.

Once we are satisfied with the description, I would present this information to the board in order to obtain their reflections on the current status of technology in the district. (I would imagine that there would situations that could arise when what’s happening in with technology in the district is not what the board thought was happening.) I would then revise (or add to) the description as needed.

Step 2: The evaluation: At this point, I would assemble a larger committee that includes representative(s) from all stakeholders available to me. I would have brainstorming sessions, data collecting and fact-finding sessions, in order to obtain as many perceptions of technology needs in the district as possible. I would visit all schools involved (as I would have in the description phase as well), to inquire of each school’s technology needs. The purpose of this would be to obtain (as accurately as possible) a list of all stakeholders and their potential concerns in relation to technology in the district.

Using this information, I would create a list of questions my evaluation would entail (the biggest question would be ‘what goals should be in my plan’, however, I would want to identify several sub-questions to address in this evaluation/needs assessment). I would structure the data collection to be such that it could be easily repeated for subsequent updates of the Tech Plan.

Step 3: Plan Draft: After the questions are created and (hopefully) answered, I would start on the draft. I would use the ‘core’ committee to work on individual parts of the plan (or at least to outline key components of sections of the plan). I would then write the plan (or be in charge of editing), and bring various drafts to the core committee. Once the core committee agrees on a semi-final draft, I would bring this draft to the larger committee for review and feedback. Upon revision from this process, I would bring the draft to the board for approval.

Of course, this is only a highlight of large steps of the plan development process. However this would provide a rough outline for steps to complete the process.

Reactions to: Getting Our NETSWorth (Roblyer)

The article provided an overview and history of standards (in general), ISTE, and the development of NETS. These components along with the “NETS at a Glance? are a nice introduction for me, as I begin to take a closer look at NETS-T (Assessment – Resources for Assessment), NETS-S (Connecting Curriculum and Technology), and NETS-T (Preparing Teachers to Use Technology), which I had purchased for this class, but have heretofore only been able to browse.

Reactions to: For the Best Results, Schools Need Partners (GLEF Staff)

Not only will partnerships provide the benefits discussed in the article, but they have the potential of bridging learning and real world activities in a way not possible without those partnerships.

In this article the idea of Community Schools were discussed. Last year, the Stillwater School District began to look into the idea of a year-round school calendar. Initially, this idea was largely rejected by the community, however, it was noted from the results of the survey that they community felt uneducated about the topic. It is my guess that Stillwater will continue to look into this option. After reading some of the benefits mentioned in this article, I hope they do!

Reactions to: Getting the Most From Technology in Schools (White)

This was a good article. I had made some notes to myself as I was reading this article, and I will expand on these notes here.

Section 1: “Matching Technology with Goals?: It was good to read the summary of research stating that learning from technology (as opposed to learning with technology) was found to be beneficial when learning basic skills. As technology integrationists, we need to recognize the proper place for this type of learning (instead of just “throwing out the baby with the bath water?). If a teacher’s goals are to learn basic skills, learning from technology may be more beneficial than trying to design an activity to learn with technology.

Section 2: “Including Technology as 1 piece of the puzzle?: I highlighted two passages.

“In such classrooms, teachers used computers only when they were the most appropriate tool for completing the assignment, not simply because they were available.? As I have stated in previous articles, it is sometimes observed in my setting that teachers will use technology in their teaching because it is expected, not because it is the most appropriate.

“...teachers who took into account individual differences in interest and ability tended to maintain student engagement.? This makes since with what we know about constructivist learning (in addition to common sense). It is good to think, however, that with the use of technology, teachers can individualize student activity more to their interests.

Section 6: Making Equipment Accessible: Classrooms verses Computer Labs?: This seems to lend more credibility to a question I presented in a previous article: should schools that have 1:1 initiatives (or otherwise have a high computer to student ratio) get rid of computer labs.

Reactions to: Technology in Schools (NCES)

This article provides rich information that I would use when planning evaluation questions. The “key questions? focused on aspects that technology coordinators and/or administrators should take into consideration when evaluating a district’s current technology status. This article provided insights (and/or questions related to) areas of technology coordination that I am not as familiar with. For instance, since I come from the teaching side of technology (and not necessarily the technical and administrative components of technology coordination), I was interested in information related to finances, infrastructure, and maintenance and support. This article will be useful as a resource when planning an evaluation.

August 14, 2006

Reactions to: An Educator’s Guide to Evaluating the Use of Technology in Schools and Classrooms (Quinones)

This article walks the reader through the evaluation process (as I have discussed in a previous entry that are related to an Evaluation class I recently completed). The article even discussed topics from Michael Scriven (formative and summative evaluations). What was nice about this article, though, was the fact that it took evaluation theory and created a template for use in technology plan creation. This article would also serve as a good resource when building a new tech plan (or even when you have taken over a tech plan with several problems.)

August 13, 2006

Reactions to: Technology Planning (Porter)

When I filled out the characteristics of technology planning and assessment phases worksheet, I rated our district somewhere between Phase 2 and Phase 3. What kept me from finding our district to be solely in Phase 3 was the fact that not all kids (and therefore not all classrooms) have access to technology. Thankfully, those who are tech savvy have access to the technology, but other classrooms are lacking. Therefore, it depends who you talk to whether or not we are in Phase 2 vs. Phase 3. The 1:1 laptop initiative in our district has been highly controversial, however, throughout the campus week, I have begun to recognize what such technology access to children may do to transform our educational system, and am leaning towards supporting the initiative.

August 12, 2006

Reactions to: Technology Connections For School Improvement (McNabb)

As I was reading through this handbook, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between this plan, and a class that I have recently completed on “Principles & Methods of Evaluation? (King). Although the steps did not match up directly (between the handbook and the procedures for conducting an evaluation), many of the steps and tasks recommended matched up. Therefore, if I were to write a technology plan from scratch in a school district, I would likely conduct an evaluation in order to facilitate the writing of the plan.

Reactions to: Successful K-12 Technology Planning (Barnett)

There are many things I could comment on this article, as it provided much useful information for technology planning and integration. In this entry, I will highlight a few.

1) Te on-line tools provided in this article were helpful, and I have highlighted them for future use.

2) Step #5 indicated that access, more than just “one or two computers or a weekly visit to the computer lab? are needed in order to integrate technology into a curriculum. With an increasing number of laptops in our school district, I have been wondering about the usefulness of computer labs. The primary benefit (at least that I see) of a computer lab is that someone can set up the computers for you prior to a class. However, the same person could be used to set up laptops. Computer labs give the image that computer learning is separate from classroom learning. I will have to learn more about the potential benefits of computer labs, but I may find that with an increase in laptops, computer labs may be a thing of the past.

3) Step number #7 suggested that, "setting single standards for software, hardware, networks and video equipment is crucial.? This is always been a battle with those who want to hang on to what they are used to, but, in the long run, I agree with the author or this article – one standard is better.

August 6, 2006

Reflections: The Digital Divide (Tapscott)

It was interesting to note, while reading the article, just how quickly a technology article can become dated. The goals of the many organizations mentioned in this article was to become “wired?, however, today, the goal is to become “wireless? – not only organizations, but also entire communities and cities.

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I couldn’t help but think as I read the article, of the many things in schools we could do with computers. If you let yourself think of the vast possibilities, it is really mind-boggling. As I had talked with fellow students throughout the week, integration of technologies could, potentially, reduce or eliminate the problem with overcrowding in the schools. As schools become more tech-integrated, they could (potentially) offer on-line classes, thus reducing the need for students to be at a building 5 days/week. The problem becomes, though, what to do with families that are not “wired? (or wireless). However, this is not an insurmountable problem. Schools could find ways to provide computer access to all students (whether on-site or off-site).

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Another thought I had while reading this article: Technology is really a great eliminator or racial, economic, etc., etc., divides. If you didn’t know who I was, there would be little way of telling whether or not I am black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc. All you could know about me is my mind (and my typing/grammar skills). This is incredible! When people have access, the only barriers that are formed are those of thought and theory, not of economic status or skin color.

August 2, 2006

Reflections: Equity Revisited (McGrath)

The article mentioned a finding that poor and minority students were more likely to be given an “excess of drill and practice and very little opportunity to use technology for higher-order thinking tasks?. When I read this, my first question was, “why?? Were the educators of these students less apt to use technology? (Was there something fundamentally different about the teachers?) Or, was there something fundamentally different about the student? (Did the students tend to display more behavioral problems? Hence, the teacher responded by demonstrating tighter control of her content?) Often times, when reading about differences between different groups of people (particularly in education), a fact such as this is stated, but we are still left with the big ‘Why’ question. It would seem to me that this is the big question… Is there something fundamentally different about these teachers? about the students? or is someone/group of people advertently or inadvertently trying to keep these groups where they are. Or is it a combination of these? Oftentimes, the answers to these questions are assumed. Great things have been accomplished in school districts that have incorporated data-based decision making practices. This article gives another example about how techniques/skills can be incorporated to increase learning and participation of at-risk learners.
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(p. 39): “In addition to traditional content, schools need greater emphasis on glob al awareness, economic literacy, and civil literacy.? I couldn’t agree more. To often students ask the question, “why do I need to know this?? Educators need to do a better job grounding their lessons in real-world issues.

August 1, 2006

Reflection: A Nine-Step Program

This sounds like an interesting program. Central to the program's success is the requirement that a group of teachers and an administrator attend. This would create an in-group in the school community, with the administer leading the program, which would increase the probability of the tools/skills being implemented in the school.

The website was also helpful. I have added this link to my del.ic.ious account (that I share with my school's tech lead), and I am sure that we will be accessing this site throughout the 06-07 school year.

Reflection: Technology Learning Principles for Preservice and In-Service Education (Hughes)

There are a couple of things that I would like to comment on for this article:

1) Throughout the Campus Week, I was continually identifying new ways to reach those in my organization who were slow to integrate new technologies in their teaching. Prior to this week, I had one "tool" to use with these types of teachers, now, I have several. One additional tool that I added to my tool-belt from this article, was to let the teacher identify the problem, and then demonstrate a tech tool that will assist the teacher in solving the problem (p. 348). As I have mentioned in previous entries, we have tech tools readily available to us, and many are using the tools. However, some are resistant. So, we have attempted to encourage them by showing them potential uses for technology in their classrooms. However, a frequent response is, "when am I going to have time to do that!" If we were to take a different approach - listen for problems and then suggest tech solutions to those problems, we would likely have a higher probability of success.

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2) Page 350 mentioned the student-teaching model. One issue that I have observed with student teaching, is that regardless of the tech training completed during the student-teacher's schooling, if the student-teacher is paired with a Luddite teacher (which, unfortunately, many seasoned teachers tend to be), all that tech training is put aside when the student is first practicing their skills. How many of these teachers then pick up the tech skills they learned prior to their student-teacher experience and use them in class? I don’t know, but I assume that the likelihood is diminished by a student-teacher experience that does not incorporate these skills.

July 29, 2006

Reflections: Conditions for Classroom Technology Innovations (Zhao)

This article points out many barriers with current technology integration efforts in schools today. There are many things that I could comment on in this article. However, I was particularly interested in the statement, "successful implementation of classroom technology was more likely to occur when teachers viewed technology as a means to an end, rather than an end itself." In my experience, the computer equipment is purchased, and then teachers are expected to justify the purchase (by tracking usage data). Fortunately, in my school the percentage of the time that the laptop carts are used is quite high. However, it may be better for school districts looking into the purchase of new technologies (particularly when funding is coming from the community) to explore how these new technologies could enhance /transform current educational practices prior to the purchase of the equipment. In situations where the latter is not practiced, technology integration is the end (i.e., increasing the computer usage), instead of the means (how to use technology to improve student learning).

Reflections: How to Become a Technology Integrationist (Hughes)

As I reflect back on this article, and our discussion in class, I recall the discussion of some of the criticisms of the theory: specifically, that "Technology Knowledge" should be an independent category at all.

On one hand, I can understand the criticism, out of the three categories, TK is the most fluid. As was mentioned in the article, overhead projectors could at one time be included in this category, but no longer so. Likewise, one day e-mail may no longer be considered TK, but merely something that is essential to the teaching/learning process.

However, as is stated in the article, the purpose of the framework is to provide a "formative self-evaluation" instrument for teachers. Therefore, the TK category is a necessary category. The level of technology integration by a teacher cannot be assessed without consideration to technologies available.

Overall, this framework is also useful for those who are attempting to encourage the Luddites of education to expand their tech knowledge by providing a framework when discussing the advantages of incorporating technologies into their teaching practices.