Friday, December 18, 2009

EDLE 5352 Reflections

It was not until I began to look over the course materials that I realized how much of the course was to be based on technology integration. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised because I am technology savvy and a leader in my school regarding the integration of technology into the classroom. Even though I did not envision this course correctly, I changed the goals I had for this course very quickly. And, analyzing my goals versus what I have been able to achieve, I would say that I have been able to achieve my goals. The assigned articles and required responses were incredibly helpful for increasing my knowledge of the principal/leadership aspect of technology integration. In addition, my fellow students had great quotes and responses and allowed me to truly scrutinize my own thoughts. I am extremely pleased with this course and wish that other administration graduate programs would incorporate this. It is essential for principals to have knowledge in these new technologies and how they can be integrated and other issues relating to technology in the classroom.

As the technology liaison of my school I continually utilize the information provided in this course. While I am fortunate enough to have already come across and addressed some of the issues discussed in this course, I was happy to see that there were issues that I had not researched fully and this class afforded me the opportunity to really evaluate those issues. For instance, I have looked over the STaR Chart results for my campus for the last few years; I have not compared these results with the average results from the state. Additionally, I have been able to use some of the arguments from the articles about filtering systems, to present to district technology personnel and I tried to show them that the filters in our new laptop initiative are a bit overzealous. So, I am hoping that these articles, along with other articles and arguments made by others will help my district see that our laptop initiative could be much more productive with a few changes.

However, one goal that I was not able to achieve concerns blogging. I used to have a blog that I used with my students, but this year I have been busy and did not find the time to incorporate a blog. So, one of my goals was to instigate a blog with my students for this year and when I realized what this class entailed, I thought I could start a blog with my class. Well, that goal was not achieved, mostly due to time constraints. But I am still hopeful that I will get the blog started soon. I plan to use the winter break to give me the time I need to begin a blog for my students. Then, once school starts back up in January, I can start off with the blog and get my students to utilize this tool as often as possible. Also, I have not utilized Podcasting as much as I would like, so I plan to record several of my lectures and post these to my website for students.

I was able to carry out the course assignments and I feel as though I turned in high-quality work. I was discouraged by the amount of work, especially in the beginning. However, the work was not too complicated and I already understood most of the concepts and had even read some of the articles prior to the class for my jog as technology liaison. But, I am not sure how some of my fellow students accomplished some of the assignments on time because many of them mentioned their lack of technology savvy. Also, this timing of this course, with all of the holidays (Thanksgiving and the end of the first semester – for both this class and our jobs) made this seemingly more difficult than it could have been otherwise. However, the need for this course far outweighs any of the difficulties. And, really, the work was not as difficult as I first thought.

I learned more about my “accent” as a technology immigrant, such as my preference to read articles after I have printed them, as opposed to reading them online. Also, I was able to more thoroughly analyze the technology perceptions through the STaR chart. And, I was able to learn more about what it takes to gather a team of technology immigrant and technology natives to implement curricula. Moreover, I have a better understanding of the online dangers and safety issues and how to combat these dangers. Furthermore, I enjoyed reading about newer technologies and how they might be implemented in the classroom, such as the cell phone and personal data tools. Finally, my attitude towards teachers who refuse to utilize technology in their classrooms has tempered somewhat. I now am better able to understand their attitudes and how to work with these teachers to encourage them to use technology more and effectively, in the future.

Various technologies are continuing to be integrated into our classrooms and blogging is a colossal role in this integration and this role is growing. Blogging is an outstanding tool for communication in a plethora of ways, with students, amongst students, with parents, with colleagues, etc. Blogging is a type of communication that students are used to with Facebook and texting. This is just a way to bring education to the level of the students and putting their curricula within their comfort zone. Although there are security issues and issues with students using the blogs appropriately for the classroom and using the correctly language (not texting language), these can be life lessons on how and when it is correct to speak and write in certain ways. Another benefit of blogging communication is the ability to keep the parents updated on the students’ progress or slacking. Now, we have a tool that can be accessed 24/7 (as long as they have internet access) and parents can keep up with their children and their grades without having to wait for the report card or progress report.

I alluded to some of the issues with blogs above, and the biggest concern is security. When my school first tried to implement Wikispaces, there were a few teachers who thought that students would be able to see anything on any Wikispace site. This is not the case however, and we were able to show the teachers that the filtering system was still in place and many of the Wikis were controlled (meaning there is a moderator [i.e. a teacher] which monitors posts) so students are less likely to be exposed to inappropriate material. Additionally, we put together a contract for students to sign that reinforced the district’s A.U.P. and made it clear that students were only allowed to go to the Wikis that their teachers requested. The other major issue is students’ lackadaisical attitude toward writing appropriately on blogs. Many students think that texting language is appropriate, when it is not. Thus, teachers must be aware of this issue and speak with his/her students prior to blogging. There are many other issues, but we must deal with them as they come in an appropriate manner in order to be able to continue to use this great tool.

I have already begun using blogs to communicate with stakeholders. I began a blog for my student groups, the Principal’s Student Leadership Council and the Junior Gals. In addition, the media specialist and I set up a blog for a Reading Club at my school. Also, I have a blog set up on my staff website that I pass on to all of my students and as many of the parents as I can contact. I am involved in the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) group for my school and I have created a blog for us to use instead of having to meet so often. Finally, I have set up blogs in the past for my students to utilize, these blog discussions are mandatory, but I will allow my students time in class (and they can use their laptops) to participate or they can chose to do this at home, but I make sure that I moderate all posts before they show so there are no issues with any inappropriate materials. I see all of this increasing in the future and I cannot wait to get started on utilizing more technologies.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Week 4 Assignment Part 3

Technology Action Plan
1. Tasks/Action Steps: Training for the staff regarding effective use of the staff webpages with communication and in the classroom and create trainings for both advanced and beginner levels using Moodle, and SmartBoards (allow teachers to decide which level they belong in). Also, have administrators take part in the trainings.
2. Responsibilities: The Director of Instruction, Staff Development Liaison, and the Technology Liaison will work in conjunction to create a lesson combining best practices, and effective classroom technology use.
3. Resources: Meetings will take place in the library after school and/or before school to teach other staff members about the new webpages, using Moodle, and SmartBoards. No funding will be needed. The Cy Falls Staff Development Liaison, Director of Instruction, and Technology Liaison will train staff members. The materials needed include: computers (already in place in the library) and copies of training instructions.
4. Timeline: The Technology Liaison will train the Director of Instruction and Staff Development Liaison on the webpages by the third week in December. Then, there will be several opportunities for all staff to be trained before or after school, so that all staff should be trained by the end of December, 2009. Next, staff must show some implementation of effective classroom use by the end January 2010. Then, data on Standardized Formative Assessments (SFAs) and the TAKS will be used, along with Speak Up survey questions, to gauge the effectiveness of the staff webpages for all stakeholders (students, staff, parents, and community members).
5. Monitoring: All staff will need to sign in that he/she has completed the trainings by the end of December. Then, all staff will need to send the Director of Instruction a plan of use and an explanation of how this will improve student achievement in his/her classroom.
6. Evaluation: Ultimately, the data from student achievement on TAKS, from Speak Up surveys, and from the AEIS report will provide the best information on the success of this initiative.

Week 4 Assignment Part 2

In the week 3 assignment, Cy Falls demonstrated the most need regarding the integration of technology using laptops in the area of connectivity, which is too slow and inconsistent, and a filtering system which is too stringent. Outside of the laptop initiative, the STaR Chart showed our largest area of need to be educator preparation, where we ranked as “developing”. Thus, this preparation needs to be addressed with better and more effective professional development to ensure that teachers feel comfortable in utilizing technology in their classrooms.
CFISD uses data from the STaR Chart, from Speak Up surveys, and from Infoserv (which is an information system that gives teachers and administrators data on students including grades, discipline data, TEKS test scores, schedules, etc.). All of this is compiled into reports and graphs through a system called COGNOS which can further delineate the data by ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and other factors and this will help with further analysis. Most administrators and several teachers know how to use these systems. However, I think it would help to have a formal training on what these two systems can do because many more teachers would use the reports to help them individualize instruction for their students. But, this does not happen as much because not enough teachers know everything that tools can do.
I would suggest professional development with trainings on how to best utilize information and data gathered in the Infoserv and COGNOS systems (which would need to include how to make charts and graphs in Excel). Additionally, professional development needs to be set up for advanced and beginning users of some of our technologies (i.e. SmartBoard, multimedia projectors, Airliners [Smart Slates], websites, Moodle, etc.) But, this professional development needs to include administrators. Many times administrators are not included in the technology professional developments, but if the administration does not know about these new technologies, then they cannot evaluate the teacher’s use in the classroom through the PDAS system. Also, the administration needs to model the use of technology and there are many administrators who do not know how to use basic technology in the classroom. If this training of administrators were to become the norm, then maybe some of the issues that CFISD is facing regarding the laptop initiative could have been avoided.

Week 4 Assignment Part 1 (section B)

Classroom Teachers are to utilize instructional technology in order to increase student performance in using networking capabilities and guide students through the creation of assignments which utilize this technology. Principals are to ensure technology is being utilized in classroom instruction by conducting walkthroughs and facilitating the training of his/her teachers. Then, the principals meet and are trained in the new technologies and their implementation in the campus.
PDAS evaluations are used to ensure that the required technology is implemented through instruction. One of the administrators in the CFISD set up is the Director of Instruction, this administrator is charged with the job of checking to see if lesson plans include appropriate levels of technology integration in the content and to ensure that staff development contains technology integration and is offered to teachers. Evaluation of student performance in utilizing technology is used to examine the success of staff development programs. CFISD uses a system called HEAT to evaluate Technology Assistants and the hardware usage and quality. Also, CFISD uses the STaR Chart to analyze the technology utilized in the classroom and teacher’s perceptions of the quality of the technology and the assistance and servicing provided to teachers when using the technology in the classroom.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

STaR Chart Evaluation

Educator preparation is Cy Fall High school’s greatest weakness according to the staff’s perception on the STaR Chart. While I agree that no matter what training is given, there is so much new technology out there that one can never feel completely prepared in all technologies. But, my analysis is that the area of infrastructure is Cy Falls’ greatest weakness. I believe we are advanced in every area, but infrastructure is hampering many of our technology implementations. This is most evident in the area of the one-to-one laptop initiative because there have been many issues which could have been avoided if the wireless connections that were supposed to be in place were in place. We were supposed to have wireless connections throughout our building before the beginning of this school year, however we have yet to get that strong a connection and the school year is almost half-way over. Connectivity is a critical element and should be remedied as soon as possible.
According to the statewide summaries of the STaR Chart, most teachers feel they are developing in teaching and learning and educator preparation, while they rank themselves as advanced regarding administration and support and infrastructure. These assessments coincide with what the staff members of Cy Falls high school stated. In my opinion, however, the STaR Chart may not be an accurate measurement of teachers’ perceptions and their perceptions may not be completely accurate. My reasoning for this judgment is based on my experiences with getting teachers to complete the STaR Chart for the last few years. It has been my job to post dates for submission, facilitate the submission process for my entire staff, and continually check to see who has submitted the charts. And, what I have realized is that many teachers do not read the chart descriptions, and will not take the time to really analyze what the survey is asking in each question. Many teachers just try to complete the chart as quickly as possible. I think this chart would be more accurate if it was not completed in the middle of the school year when teachers are inundated with teaching and filling out other forms, mentoring students, and inputting grades, etc.

Pre-K Technology Foundations (The Key to Learning)

The Pre-K Technology Application TEKS give Texas Pre-K students the skills to operate various forms of technology which lay the groundwork for future student success in utilizing technology appropriately. The students use these basic skills to help them learn various aspects of curricula. By the end of Pre-K, Texas students are required to open and steer through software programs, use and identify a variety of computer input devices, manage voice/sound recorders and touch screens, use software applications, and comprehend that information is accessible through technology. In order for this to happen, teachers must be able to work these technologies, have time in their curricula, and know how to teach students how to use these programs.
The best way for children to learn most curricula (including technology) is through spiraling and scaffolding. The spiraling and scaffolding of curriculum is a technique for teaching which uses the student’s prior knowledge as a foundation, then adding a layer of more information and using this as the basis for the next layer. This allows for the increased difficulty and complexity, thus higher-level thinking is the end result. This is a methodology which is an on-going process that continues throughout the student’s education. These foundations have to be taught in order for the student to be successful in later grades. Eventually, if this spiraling of curricula has been accomplished appropriately, the students will become competent problem-solvers, self-directed learners, and responsible citizens.

Long-Range Technology Plan Analysis

The Long Range Plan is an immense document which attempts to map out a course for technology and educational integration for the entire state of Texas. In this ever-changing world of the 21st century, education must keep up with a society obsessed with technology. In addition, this plan must be comprehensive enough to prepare students to utilize technology and compete for jobs which have yet to be created. This plan incorporates suggestions for teachers, administrators, funding, infrastructure, etc. to be completed by 2020. This plan is crucial in insuring that students and teachers are obtaining the tools needed to educate students to be able to compete in the 21st century.
As an instructional leader, it is vital for me and other instructional leaders to comprehend the need for schools to improve technology teaching and integration. I will endeavor to create an environment where technology integration is seen as fundamental by my entire campus. I will utilize the Long-Range Technology Plan, the technology TEKS, and other sources of data to show reluctant teachers the importance of technology in education. Then, I will work with my campus leadership (both formal and informal leaders) to overcome the budgetary constraints in order to obtain funding for the proper equipment to integrate technology. I already work toward this goal as a technology liaison, but I think I will have much more say as an administrator. Next, I would like to have my campus be a model for future technology integration and prepare my students for this technology-obsessed world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Technology Assessments Reflection

When reviewing the two technology assessments required for the first week I realized that my skills as a technology liaison skews the results. My self assessments are not typical of most teachers or administrators. I knew that I had some skills that others did not regarding technology, but I was under the impression that I was much closer to average. However, I have learned most of what I know about technology by teaching myself. I have taken a few classes, but mostly what I know has been through trial and error. Thus, I do not always know the correct terminology. So, when I completed the Texas Education Agency’s Technology Applications Inventory, I was unsure as to what I really knew. I do realize that one of my weaknesses concerns creating spreadsheets. I rarely work with spreadsheets in Social Studies (I only have used Excel limitedly). This is beginning to change since I am on a team that uses spreadsheets to analyze data regarding student behavior issues (i.e. number of tardies each period, for each day). With regards to the SETDA survey, I recognized that my district is doing a good job with respect to the technology hard ware and soft ware. Cypress Fairbanks ISD (CFISD) attempts to be one of the forerunners with technology integration in the classroom. Some examples include: mounted projectors in every secondary core-curriculum classroom; interactive whiteboards in a majority of classrooms (all levels); technology assistants and technology liaisons in every secondary school; and a laptop initiative where every 11th grade US history student receives a laptop and lessons which utilize the laptop software. Additionally, the administrations on both the district and school levels encourage and support teachers’ integration of appropriate technology in their classrooms persistently. Furthermore, CFISD endeavors to fund technology programs by giving schools and teachers time and money to implement technology into their classrooms. All teachers and administrators have websites, many teachers use blogs (such as Wikispaces), some teachers use text alerts with their students and their parents for reminders of upcoming tests, quizzes, and major assignments, and some teachers are beginning to use podcasts with their students. We can always use more money and time to integrate technology better, but CFISD is working hard on getting the technology to the teachers and the students.