Monday, December 2, 2013

School Evaluation Summary

Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to conduct an evaluation of technology resources and usage within my school district, and more specifically within my school. It is evident that the district has made technology readily available to staff and students, but there are clear gaps in implementation and integration. In order to effectively utilize the investment in technology, this gap must be addressed.
In completing this assignment, I learned that our district has the equipment and network potential to do some great things with technology, but implementation and integration are lacking considerably. It is sad to think about the vast amount of money invested in providing technology in our classrooms, but not using the technology to really impact our teaching, or possibly more importantly student learning. SMART boards are used as a shiny overhead projector in most classrooms. Much of the technology utilized is teacher-led and is still lacking student engagement.
    I don’t think the teachers are to blame for this. While teachers are responsible for providing the best instruction possible to all students, we can’t be expected to do things we aren’t trained to do. It’s great to have money invested in our classrooms, but it is frustrating that we are expected to fumble through and create our own activities with little guidance and support.
    One thing that I would like to see happen within our district is to have a forum set up where teachers can post great units, lessons, or activities they have used in their classroom. Being able to access these resources that addresses our district’s curriculum expectations would do a couple of things. First, it would eliminate the endless hours of everyone creating mediocre activities. Increasing collaboration would create more of a team atmosphere within our school and district. With many students we have, it is essential to understand we are all in it together, and just like we need technology support from the district and administration, we need support from each other. Second, it would provide some examples that others could use, revise, and make even more powerful to impact our students’ learning and progress. I would love to see the district take the technology that is available in each school, ensure that it is equitable in each school (device to student ratio), and focus on integrating technology into the curriculum.

Survey Summary Spreadsheet
Evaluation Summary Document

*A pseudonym has been used for the school district and the elementary school included in this evaluation.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Technology Use Planning Overview

Technology Use Planning
Technology use planning is a way to discuss and plan for current and future technology needs, goals, and learning implications. It allows for a reflection of current facilities, tools, and uses as well as a vision of what the future holds. It is a way to set forth goals for furthering learning through the use of technology and technology tools.

National Educational Technology Plan 2010
The National Educational Technology Plan 2010 is a plan that looks at five key areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity, to transform both teaching and learning in this country. The plan addresses many shifts evident throughout the Common Core State Standards in developing 21st century skills through a variety of methodologies. The goals are ambitious and include integrating technology to provide opportunities for creating, critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. The plan looks at ways to incorporate individualized learning, differentiated instruction, and personalized learning opportunities effectively and efficiently. The Universal Design for Learning ensures that learning opportunities are available for students of all interests and abilities and allows for multiple ways for students to demonstrate and showcase their learning to address the variety of learners in our classrooms. The plan helps educational institutions to focus on building digital citizens that will be able to not just function, but to contribute to our digital world.

Short Term vs. Long Term
I agree that technology plans should be more short term than long term in that technology is changing so rapidly it is nearly impossible to plan for 3-5 years into the future. However, I also strongly agree that long term planning should focus on financial planning. Without resources to acquire the new technologies, or to repair and upgrade existing technology, it is very difficult to keep up with the digital learning community.

Effective Technology Plans
I agree 100% that technology plans must focus on the output rather than the input. I feel that there needs to be some attention paid to ensuring that students and teachers will have adequate access to devices, however, this should not be where the planning stops. I think that if teachers are clear on the expectations or the end result and are provided with the time, tools, support, and training to meet those expectations, student progress will accelerate at a very fast pace. Simply equipping schools and classrooms with devices with no support, professional development, or even expectations will not change anything. On the contrary, if expectations and presented and explained, and proper training and support is given, yet there is not adequate access to the technology tools and devices to carry out the plan, it will not be effective, either.

My Experience with Technology Planning
I have had very limited experiences with technology planning. My experience has been relatively informal in taking surveys or being interviewed about my current technology use and integration in the classroom and my opinions regarding changes. I have not had the opportunity to serve on either district's technology planning committees, however. In my opinion, however, the planning has focused mainly on two things: purchasing new equipment and overcoming financial barriers. I think that while it's great to get more and more equipment and devices, without training or time to focus on transforming instruction, the potential learning benefits will continue to go unnoticed. It is also frustrating when there has been no planning for maintaining and servicing the equipment and devices that are available. I think it's great to have committees to talk about technology, I think that the focus of those committees needs to shift just as our instruction needs to shift with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. When these things happen, I think the potential for student growth and success will increase tremendously.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Digital Inequality

This assignment was very applicable to my school's situation. I was surprised with the number of families and households that have some internet access, but was not surprised that the majority of African-Americans and Latinos have access via a cell phone. While mobile devices are great, mobile computing has some limitations. In my previous district, there was a huge push toward 1:1 computing with a lot of talk about Bring Your Own Device. There was no plan as to how to level the playing field for students who could not bring in a mobile learning device, and no thought about solutions to families who can not afford internet service, or families with multiple students all needing devices. In my current school where nearly 100% of families qualify for free or reduced lunch, there is no talk of mobile learning devices beyond our 25 laptops that are shared by 6 classrooms of 20-30 students each. While many families have cell phones, many are prepaid or do not allow access to the internet, and many get turned on and off quite frequently. Computing on a cell phone does not offer all capabilities as computing on other mobile devices. While I found that in the United States, the digital divide isn't necessarily about being able to access an internet connection, but is now about the type of device that the capabilities and limitations of those devices.

Link to Presentation Link to Voicethread

Sunday, October 6, 2013

EDTECH Research

In this assignment I was able to explore the benefits that Google offers in conducting research online. Google Scholar provides educational resources in a topic searched. The "cite" feature under each article in the search results offers MLA and APA citation styles, which is very helpful. I chose to research the use of educational technology to improve student writing. I looked specifically at using weblogs to increase motivation and writing quality as well as to provide opportunity for collaboration. Limited vocabulary is an issue for students with their writing, so I looked at the use of virtual field trips to create a common vocabulary that students can use to communicate. I also looked at the use of technology to improve ESL and students with disabilities. A link to my research can be found below.

EDTECH 501: Research Assignment

Saturday, September 21, 2013

RSS in Education

I am familiar with RSS readers, and enjoy using The Old Reader personally, but I never really thought about using one in the classroom. I like the idea of having one spot that can be set up for students to go to where they can find safe, age appropriate content. This sure beats the old method of trying to bookmark each site that you want students to go to for research, or expect students to type in a long URL without making any errors, or follow instruction through several steps to get to the part of the site you want them to get to! I am particularly excited to try this out with my 1st graders when we get our classroom blog up and running. I think it'll be a great place for students to be able to check in and see new activity on their blog or on the classroom blog. Here is my screencast explaining several ways to use RSS in the elementary classroom:

I had never used a screencast tool before this assignment. I can see this being useful if posting a lesson or tutorial for students and parents to use at home! (I've always used the document camera to capture video clips for these purposes.) I think it would be helpful to show how to navigate to educational sites that we want students to use at home or resources available for parents on our district website which can be difficult for some to navigate.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Elements of Educational Technology

In this assignment, we looked at the ever changing definition of Educational Technology. I was surprised to see that there are 13 elements to Educational Technology. I was even more surprised that all of these elements related to good teaching practice. The two elements that stood out to me were learning and creating.

I think that it is a given that educators should be focused on student learning. However, looking back at my own education, many of my teachers had the mindset of "I taught it, it's your job to learn it." Their "teaching" entailed a lecture of some sort, students in their desks quietly taking notes, doing an assignment on that day's topic, and eventually taking a test on the unit before shifting to a new unit. If we didn't "learn" the material by the end of the unit, it was up to us to figure it out on our own because the teacher was moving on to the next topic. With technology, educators and students alike can truly focus on learning. With numerous resources, experiences, networks, and progress monitoring software available, the focus truly can be on learning at the student's pace, and teachers are able to provide a high level of individualized instruction.

Students have a number of opportunities to create and publish products to a worldwide audience now, too. Creating is the highest level of thinking on Bloom's Taxonomy, and is a great assessment tool. Assessment through the creation of a product lends itself to differentiation much more readily than the traditional paper and pencil assessment.

My thoughts on the elements of educational technology can be found here.