Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Final Course Reflection

Anticipation for this class was high for me. I felt that I already had a good handle on the “Technology Link” having participated fairly recently in a Web 2.0 practicum where I had created a blog and tried a variety of Web 2.0 tools. Through this class I wanted to expand my understanding of how best to integrate technology into the curriculum. The course has been an exercise in frustration for me. This is not due to the course work itself, but to hardware issues. Two days before the course began, my desktop succumbed to a what we believe to have been a virus. After a disheartening weekend attempting to get connected through a practically new laptop, the first day of the course found me computerless once more as my laptop crashed during an automatic update. It was another two weeks of literally hours spent conversing with tech support and continual problems after a complete restore on the laptop which included a home visit from a technician. Meanwhile, I was carrying my school laptop (an outdated and slow machine) back and forth from school to home so that I could keep up with the course material. Add that I am now using Go Course instead of Brighten. So this was an additional learning curve as some processes are different in the two programs.. Once my new laptop was functioning again, I faced the task of getting up to speed with Vista—finding where the usual features are located cost extended time on all tasks. It has been a most disheartening experience, but has given me a much better understanding of what some of my teachers, students and parents experience when confronted with technology that I consider “everyday”. I believe this experience will help me to express more empathy with them as they struggle to master such everyday activities as circulation in the library and access and use of our online databases. I will need to prepare better lessons on new (and existing) technology that does not assume the skills that I take for granted. And I need to be infinitely more patient with those who are not yet there with technology. Further, as a result of this course, I have rethought much of my current instruction in the library and am revising not only how it is presented and how the students can make more choices on how they will learn it. I am trying to convince teachers to use wikis with students in the upcoming science fair projects. The groups can post, share information, organize their findings and track their progress better with a wiki that will be accessible not only at school, but also at home. More frequent interaction and ease of sharing information will make the whole process not only easier, but more transparent for the teachers for assessment. Updating information and making revisions will also be facilitated.
Much of what I discovered in this course has helped me engage in some fruitful discussions with my Campus Curriculum Integration Technologist. We have formed plans for helping our teachers and students to further their use of technology in practical ways.
Although I was able to submit assignments on time, I found my attitude toward the course was definitely clouded by my experiences. This resulted in my struggling to complete the assignments and the readings and postings on the discussion boards because I was not having fun with it. Although the readings presented me with new perspectives and I have more interesting research to do now, I found myself procrastinating on the work simply because of the intimidation of the hardware issues.
I wanted to do more with my blog, but after making the first post and adding my avatar, I lost momentum. I was able to make all the required blog posts and also commented upon and followed a few other blogs. But I had hoped to do more with the blog than that. Blogging is an exciting way to communicate with stakeholders. I have participated in a number of online communities, blogs and wikis. Although the blogging habit is not part of my daily routine, I do check my facebook account almost daily. I believe blogs are a great way for schools to keep stakeholders informed about a variety of school events and issues. Through blogs, administrators, teachers and parents can voice concerns, bring up topics for discussion (although this may be better handled in a wiki) as well as pass on mundane information. Additionally, I can see students using blogs to report their daily progress on projects, homework, course work and more. Students can publish their work for review not only by their teachers, but by a larger and more varied audience. Many schools like mine require students to do a journal. a blog could be even more motivational way for many students to accomplish this. Although blogging presents some issues, primarily those concerning safety, these are not insurmountable. Since blogs are “out there” on the net, students could be vulnerable to any number of predators or missteps. Course readings presented some quite practical suggestions on dealing with safety issues as well as allaying parental fears. Blogging and social networking is here and now and they are tools our students choose to use for interaction. We need to not only allow them these tools of choice, but also prepare them with the skills and discernment to use them wisely. We can use these same tools to efficiently and effectively communicate, share and continue on the learning path together.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Evaluation Planning For Action Plan

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Week 4 Assignment, Part 2: Professional Development Planning

While the interviews from the Week 3 Assignment reflected mostly positive assessments of the state of technology integration at the campus, the STaR Chart indicated that campus personnel were least proficient in this area--the latest survey (School year 2008-2009) showing its lowest response (2) in the area of "Professional Development for Online Learning". The recent acquisition of Smart Boards for each classroom has resulted in a high learning curve for many teachers. While some dove right in and began experimenting, others are only now (fully eight months since installation) starting to show interest in utilizing the technology for instruction. Some formal small group training has already occurred as well as informal sharing among teachers in their Professional Learning Communities and in faculty meetings. However, optimal use of the technology in all classrooms has yet to be realized. There fore, the following suggested professional development activities are recommended.

  • User Groups will be formed devoted mainly to training and sharing on use of the Smart Board led by teachers who have achieved a comfort level with the technology. This is truly "close to the campus" professional development as mentioned by Dr. Abernathy (Jenkins, Abernathy, Cummings, 2009) and makes optimal use of available personnel with no additional cost to the campus.
  • A "This and That" binder has been developed for each teacher which contains information and FAQ's on the technology (hardware and software_ available to them. This customizable collection of documents is designed to be a working tool that teachers can modify to meet their own technology learning needs. Regular updates and additions to this binder will be supplied to each teacher.
  • Professional Learning Communities (PLC's) will include technology discussions as a topic item in weekly meetings covering both sharing on technology use and review of "new" technology that might benefit instruction and learning. Resulting recommendations may then be made to the Site Based Decision Making Committee.
  • Teachers will be encouraged to participate in online training in all technology areas. Training is offered through the school district's Technology and Information Systems department as well as at hardware support sites such as the Smart Board web site
  • One-on-one individual support and training will continue to be offered by the Campus Curriculum Integration Technologist (CCIT)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coop Shines on Texas STaR Chart!

Presentation for teachers about our progress on the Texas STaR Chart

Teaching and Learning

“If you don’t use it, you lose it.” I don’t know who originated this now somewhat trite saying, but as it applies to technology use on my campus, it is TRUTH. Consistently, one of our school’s weakest areas in the Texas STaR Chart is the Teaching and Learning area. As described in the Texas Long Range Plan for Technology (LRPT), this area focuses on the use of technology
hardware and software by both teacher and learner.

All learners:
• have access to relevant technologies, tools, resources and services for individualized instruction 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
• use information and communication technologies to collaborate, construct knowledge and provide solutions to real-world problems and situations that are encountered.
• use research-based strategies in all subject areas to improve academic achievement.
• communicate effectively in a variety of formats for diverse audiences. (Long Range Plan for Technology 2006-2020)

The target is for “seamless” and proficient use of technology and facilitation in adapting to emerging technologies. Coop has made only small advances in this area over the past three years, while other campuses in the district are soaring ahead. Although there may be mitigating circumstances due to the recent move into a new building with technology tools novel to many of the teachers, this area needs to be addressed. Our campus is in a good position to take a leading role in developing curriculum integration of technology and online resources with growing and sustainable infrastructure, supportive administrator and on-campus Campus Curriculum Integration Technologist and Campus Network Specialist who support and aid teachers in this area.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pre-Kindergarten-12 Technology Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills

Starting in pre-kindergarten, Texas students are engaged in 21st Century learning through technology instruction guided by the Technology TEKS. Four-year-olds in Texas schools learn basic skills that prepare them for further technology interactions as they progress through the school system. These youngsters learn how to open and navigate through programs, basic terminology, and use of input devices, audio device operation, use of software applications for creation, and the concept of information accessible through the use of technology.
This basic knowledge forms the foundation for Kindergarten-2nd grade students to use a variety of input devices demonstrating more developed motor skills with them. K-2 students should be acquiring information from a variety of formats including text, audio, video and graphics using elementary keywords, and appropriate search strategies. They are able to input and manipulate data, and evaluate information to create products in a variety of media. They also start to exhibit an understanding of the ethics involved in using information by avoiding copying.
Building on the experiences of technology in the lower elementary grades, students in grades 3 – 5 continue to develop knowledge and skills in finding, evaluating, using and creating information. They use software programs to creatively solve problems and to express their learning. They increase their concepts of ethical use of information and proper citation. Evaluation of their products and the relevance is in evidence. Communication is shown in many forms including text, e-mail, audio and video and graphics.
Through online interfaces, middle school students continue to add to their skills and proficiency with technology applications including technology terms, concepts and data input strategies. Decisions are informed by the technology and they demonstrate efficient information acquisition strategies. They show better skills at analyzing and evaluating information. Problem solving is enhanced by choice of appropriate technology for the task. They communicate in different formats and to diverse audiences.
High School students concentrate learning in specific courses designed to give them tools for participating in a technology-rich work place. They continue to develop those skills on which they have been building since pre-kindergarten and demonstrate proficiency in research, appropriate and ethical use of information, more sophisticated products reflecting diverse formats and communication skills that enhance their creations.
Each level builds on the knowledge and skills of the one before. As students progress, they have multiple opportunities to develop the necessary skills to meet the TEKS for that level.

Texas Long Range Plan for Technology

The Texas Long Range Plan for Technology gives a clear vision of what is needed for Texas educators to meet the challenges of preparing learners for their technology-rich future. Some of the major issues addressed by the plan are robust and reliable infrastructure, funding, professional development, equitable access to data and information, and ongoing support. As I perused the report, I was struck by how far the school which I serve as librarian is well on the road to meeting the challenges presented by the LRPT. We already are engaged in decreasing the student to computer ratio with the addition of laptops and wireless carts. All our classrooms are equipped with data projectors and SmartBoards. A full-time Classroom Curriculum Integration Technologist helps teachers integrate technology into their daily instruction and helps orient students on new technology. We are discussing moving toward project-based curriculum.
In the library, I am restructuring instruction to be more student-centered and student-driven. I am hoping to interest more teachers in collaborating in this effort so that students can maximize their time with technology tools. My goal will be to have students doing much more “hands-on” experiences with the various technologies available to them at our school. I have trained students in a variety of “manager” positions that give build self esteem and allow them to become “expert” at something.
I will continue to share technology tips, articles and curriculum related web sites and activities with teachers along with suggestions for ways to integrate technology use into their instructional planning.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Assessment Reflection Tech Applications Inventory and SETDA

The “Technology Applications Inventory” was personally very affirming. Nearly all my responses were “yes” and I was amazed at how much I already do that fits the assessment! I still am unclear on some terminology such as the “vector graphic files” and “bit-mapped graphic files”. I have not done much in the area of virtual reality or simulations and am not sure how to set those up in the library. I have never before considered creating an “electronic evaluation tool or portfolio of my digital products. This will be on my “to do” list.
In contrast, the SETDA survey of our building was a much more formidable instrument. Since our building employs a Campus Curriculum Integration Technologist (CCIT) who works closely with teachers as well as with small groups of students, I asked her to help complete this survey. We have also held many conversations about the use of technology in our school and how we can positively impact instruction through the increased use of technology for, with and by our students (and their teachers!)
I found that we are not adequately collecting data regarding learning and use of technology by our students. Although computer classes do use to cover the Technology TEKS, and students are using software and programs such as Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, Voyager, and Ticket to Read, no real monitoring of their proficiency with the technology is involved. Our teachers are concentrating technology efforts in their planning of reading, math and science and not so much in writing and social studies. The district recently contracted with Renzulli Learning and teachers are slowly coming up to speed with that program to individualize and differentiate instruction with all students. Student’s use of technology is high in tutorial and drill and practice, but low in creative endeavors and research. This is recently made extremely clear to me as I work this month with students who prepared projects for history fair. The woeful lack of standard research practice and their blatant misuse of online resources were appalling. My goal as a library media specialist will be to collaborate more closely with teachers to ensure that students use proper databases and online tools to complete their projects with appropriate ethical considerations.
Unfortunately, the survey also revealed that we are only just beginning to integrate and implement technology use with our teachers and much of the hardware is not readily available for wide student use. Additionally, students do not have wide access to individual communication through their own e-mail accounts, although we are actually correcting this now.
Finally, while I personally score high in my own technology knowledge and use, I find that many of our teachers and most of our students are well below standard in their understanding and use of technology tools and software and resources. Our elementary school is well ahead of many in providing the infrastructure, but needs to improve in how we collect data on its use. Our principal is supportive of technology use, but does not openly acknowledge, showcase or reward it. I am hoping that I along with the CCIT and our part-time network specialist as well as our computer teacher can help to develop a comprehensive vision for technology implementation in our school.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Welcome to my new blog

Welcome to my new blog. I have created this new blog as a requirement for a class I am taking as a graduate student. I am looking forward to posting and corresponding with those who leave their comments. The ironic thing is that just three days before the start of this course, my desktop computer on which the course software was installed, crashed! No big problem--I have a practically new laptop. A frustrating weekend getting it to communicate with my modem and a frantic and frustrating search for the online version of the course followed. On Monday the day the course began, I was checking e-mail and preparing to access the course when there went my laptop! This is the technology connection course! So I have had to be creative and am now using the school-issued laptop carrying it to and from school. But I am in the course and am happy to be blogging my experiences!