School Evaluation Summary

REFLECTION

I expected this to be one of my more difficult assignments due all the writing involved.  When I first started, those expectations seemed confirmed.  My initial thought was that two weeks wasn’t going to be enough; I would need that much time to fret over how hard it was going to be.  However, once I got going, the project- while no means simple – became less daunting.

Rating each section and subsection would seem the easiest par for a numbers guy.  Some of the areas fell out of my level of knowledge or expertise.  Those were the Administrative and the Connectivity.  In order to better understand them and accurately rate them, I talked to others at my institution.

Once the ratings were completed, I knew I had to justify them in the summary.  I knew why I rated each area as I did, but communicating it in a written summary was going to be  a task.  I started with the easiest ones, Curricular and Support.  I felt I knew these ones best as they most pertained to my position.  As I completed each section, I had more faith in my ability to do the others.

KNOWLEDGE GAINED

Upon reading the summaries of others, I discovered that I was not alone in feeling that we are not utilizing technology efficiently.  Many classmates shared similar feelings of frustration with their schools’ technology standing.  In some ways, I began to realize that my school was even ahead of many others in some ways.  We have Promethean Boards that allow for much application of technology.  We have more access for students to computers.

DESTINATION

My initial reason for seeking a Masters of Educational Technology was to be able to better use technology in the class room.  After this first course, I believe it would be more beneficial to convince my school to develop a technology department that could support the teaching staff.  That would require being able to convey the necessity of such a department through a process much like this evaluation.  I believe that I have gotten a start in that direction.  Hopefully, by the time I graduated, I will have a finish to go with that start.

SUMMARY

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SPREADSHEET

https://docs.google.com/a/u.boisestate.edu/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AscO3dSZ2U9KdEw4WGJFOGF0ZkZuZDkxb05rY2dESUE#gid=0

Technology Use Planning Overview

What is technology use planning? 

The Guidebook for Developing an Effective Instructional Technology Plan (1996) provides a very good definition:  “Identify the technology needs of the individuals and organizations in your educational institutions, identify the technologies that can be applied to those needs, and identify how they can be applied” (Al-Weshail, 1996, p8).  Like the guidebook, technology use planning is fluid; constantly changing and being updated (Al-Weshail, 1996, p5).  Technology use planning will both state where an institution is currently and where it desires to be in the future (Al-Weshail, 1996, p9).

Getting Started

The National Educational Technology Plan 2010 can be an effective and powerful resource for technology use planning by being the cornerstone of any educational technology plan.  From that cornerstone, many foundations can be constructed.  On top of those foundations, one can build a multitude of structures.  However, these structures and foundations all rest upon the cornerstone’s five components:  Engage and Empower, Measure What Matters, Prepare and Connect, Access and Enable and Redesign and Transform  (NETP, 2010).

Every school has different resources (foundation) and personnel (structure), but the overall goal (cornerstone) should be the same:  to give the future’s movers and shakers (today’s students) the capability to deal with whatever future arrives.  How those students get there – the routes they take, the vehicles that drive them – may be different, but if the plans come from the same basic elements, all students will have the opportunity to get there.

Developing the plan

In the article “Developing Effective Technology Plans”, John See emphasizes developing short term plans (See, 1992).  Even though this article was written 20 years ago, before many of today’s technology was created (and much of the technology of that time has since become obsolete), the words he write are still relevant today.  I agree with See’s contention that technology changes rapidly, but that doesn’t mean totally eliminating long-range planning (See, 1992).  It just requires that the plan be flexible.  Plan for the future, but don’t be locked in on a technology that becomes outdated.

See’s contention that technology plans should be driven by application (output) and not technology (input) is dead on (See, 1992).  Too many times, those who make the decision are not the ones who work with the technology.  They gravitate to the latest and hottest without regard to whether that technology is a right fit for the staff and students who work with it.  This point is further emphasized by his arguments against technology for the sake of enhancing technology programs (See, 1992).

See makes the point that technology should go beyond just computers.  In it, he states:

We are all used to seeing the finished products of WCCO and ABC or NBC. They use the right video grammar. When kids turn in a video project, we look at it with professional standards in mind and say, “What a piece of junk. Was it really worth all the time the kids put into this product”. What we really need to remember is what our first attempts at writing the letter “A” looked like. Then put early attempts at video production into the same light.”  (See, 1992)

I believe this is a message that teachers need to remember everyday (because I know I forget it everyday and have to remind myself).

I think that See oversimplifies the point of teaching “computer literacy”.  While we probably don’t need a whole class on how to use a computer, especially with many of today’s generation, new technology still needs to be taught in order to use it effectively.  I have ActivExpression devices with my Promethean Board.  Most of my questions are multiple choice.  And while that is a simple process, when I get a new student in the class, s/he has to be taught how to use the device, starting with turning it on.  But, many of this how-to learning can be part of the course curriculum.

See is correct when he discusses teacher’s awareness, application, integration and refinement (See, 1992).  However, he is preaching to the choir.  The staff is the first to say they need to have development time for new technology.  However, this requires eliminating other development that is obsolete or overdone.  Unfortunately, the same administration that makes technology decisions on what to purchase are the ones to decide what development is required.  And many times, these administrators never were teaching professionals or they were not very good at it.  Everything starts at the top and if the top is strong, the staff will be, but if the top is weak, even great teachers can be hindered.  To make the most of technology, those who use it, need to be trusted to learn it when given the time and some control of the funding to purchase the right materials.

Personal Experience

Before my school purchased Promethean Boards, the staff was given an opportunity to see them in action at a local school.  This gave us the chance to give intelligent feedback prior to the purchase.  While the decision to purchase them was practically made at that point, we were impressed with them as a staff and would have request approval.  Still, it would be better to see if the people who actually use them to make a case pro or con.  Also, while we went through 3 days of intensive training, many of our older teachers still only use them as glorified white boards.  I went through advance training and even train our new staff on them.  However, I still don’t use their full potential.  The reason for this, is because we are not given the time to prepare or continual development of our skills.  How many times do I really need to have annual training on the TPS report?  Thus, while I use mine everyday, I don’t feel I always justify the expenditure.  This is not to say we shouldn’t have bought them.  Instead, we should make sure we utilize them to their maximum power.

Conclusion

The reason I started this program was because of my growing interest in using technology in the classroom.  Hopefully, when I complete, I will have the opportunity to use what I have learn to make a difference in technology planning to better the educational value for the students.

References

Al-Weshail, A. S., Baxter A. L., Cherry, W., Hill, E. W., Jones, C. R., Love, L. T., . . . Woods, J. C. (1996).  Guidebook for developing an effective instructional technology plan: Version 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/downloads/guidebook.pdf.

National Education Technology Plan (2010).  Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology.  Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010.

See, J. (1992). Developing effective technology plans. The Computing Teacher, 19(8).   Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm.

RSS for Education

RSS feeds are a great way to stay updated on information.  They are efficient because you get updates automatically without searching every time.  Because of this, they can be very effective as a teaching tool.

Many times while teaching, I have students who need more work on a lesson than we have time for in class.  Making worksheets is not only costly from a supply point, but they require the student to wait for them to get checked to know if they have comprehended the lesson.  With RSS feeds, students can gain immediate access to information and feedback to help them learn.

RSS feeds can also be helpful in writing of lesson plans.  By subscribing, a teacher can receive updates to news and information that s/he can use to help create new lessons or update older ones.  They can also stay abreast of the most current theories in education in order to provide the best source of knowledge to their students.

Here is a link to my bundle of teaching resources:

http://www.google.com/reader/bundle/user%2F15725778326983108721%2Fbundle%2FTeaching%20Resources

Zotero Group Library

Another project that I had initial discomfort starting (I guess it comes with the territory of being a numbers guy opposed to a wordsmith).  One of the problems I always had with research papers was note-taking, specifically what to include and how to say it.  I always figured the people who wrote the papers I researched already eliminated the unnecessary and stated the important information better than I could.  Which leads to the best way I could think of as to how to use Zotero for research and collaboration.

By working with others, I could improve my note-taking skills by learning from my group members.  In the meantime, I could provide valuable information by finding articles and providing the key concepts from them (even if not the greatest notes ever written) to determine how useful they would be to our project.

In general, Zotero makes research projects, both solo and group, less cumbersome.  It makes easier the tasks of cataloging documents, note-taking, writing bibliographies and organizing.  It allows for sharing in a much more efficient manner, even with group members halfway around the world.  It also accentuates the strengths of each person in the group, allowing them to best contribute to the project.

Here is the link to my group’s library and the article I have included:

https://www.zotero.org/groups/edtech501-4https://joebodnar.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php175groupa

A Meta-Analysis Examining the Impact of Computer-Assisted Instruction on Postsecondary Statistics Education: 40 Years of Research

Horizon Report Tech Trend

This assignment involved creating a lesson plan incorporating the utilization of a technology trend from the Horizon Report.  Although I have been teaching for the last 8 years (and about 11 of the last 16 since I got my certification), I have only been at one institution that required writing lesson plans.  Not writing them regularly made this a tough assignment.  I am not sure how good my lesson plan is, but I believe the main goal of this module is to get familiar with upcoming technology trends and practice with some of them.

I started the assignment by reading the Horizon Report.  I chose two trends to include in a list with my classmates:  SimSchool (http://www.simschool.org/) and RFID (http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/7628).  I did not choose to incorporate either of these in my lesson plan because they are trends that are more training and administrative and not conducive to actual lessons.

The trend I selected was ALEKS (Aleks).  This is a tool that is very useful in the arena of individualized instructions.  ALEKS allows students to demonstrate if they master certain concepts and, if they don’t, to work towards mastering them.  I did a trial membership of this program.  I was impress with the design of the program and would love to see my school include it as part of our GED Program.  I will discuss with my manager and see if it is something that could be included in the budget.

This assignment addressed standards 3.1Media Utilization and 3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization.  The ALEKS program also addresses standards 2.4 Computer-Based Technology and 4.4 Information Management.  The former is addressed in that it is an online program, while the latter by how it keeps track of what students have mastered and what still needs mastering.

Overall, despite involving lesson plans, this was an assignment that I found very beneficial.  It introduced me to a lot of information on the future of technology and gave me more ideas on how to use current technology in my classroom today.

Ethical Issues in Educational Technology

The most current assignment was to do a VoiceThread on Digital Inequality.  This was group project.  My group consisted of Ron Gardiner, Mike Procyk, Beth Russell, Brian O’Neill and me.  This is the link to the VoiceThread:

http://voicethread.com/#q.b2752878

The scenario we were given is that our group are members of a Digital Inequality Task Force hired by our State Superintendent of Public Instruction to make recommendations on how to best utilize a special allocation of $50M to address digital inequalities in the state.

This was a three-week project.  The first week involved a lot of reading about Digital Inequality.  I mean A LOT OF READING.  By the end of the week, we were discussing our thoughts on Digital Inequality and the options given to us.  At times, it seemed like we would never come to an agreement as there was much debate (especially between Mike and me) over the options.  However, all of us maintained a civility that is uncommon today in many debates.  Turns out, Mike and I actually were in more agreement than we initially believed.  From our discussion, we came up with a ranking order of the 7 options.

The second week was dedicated to planning our presentation.  I felt the first priority was to elect a group leader who would keep track of what needed done and delegate assignments.  I nominated Ron because I believe he had the best grasp of the issue from the previous week’s discussions.  Plus, being a former military person, I know he had experienced leading diverse groups.  Ron was agreeable and no one else stated any objections.

Ron started by creating an agenda that everyone began to add to.  Well, almost everyone.  Turns out there are TWO Brian O’Neill’s at Boise State and we had the wrong one to start.  Once we figured that out, we contacted the correct Brian and he quickly got on board.  Amazingly enough, the group was so well in sync with one another, that whenever someone posted an addition to the agenda, it was accepted by the group as being an appropriate step.

The final week was the creation of the VoiceThread.  Ron started the thread by creating a power point presentation.  Everyone added to it, just like the agenda.  I was delegate as production chief, so I kept track of where we were and assigned commentary roles within the thread.  Also, we had a checklist for the rubric to make sure we didn’t forget any required procedure.

This project started off slow for me.  At times I was frustrated when things were not going smoothly.  The group, especially Beth, kept me in check and focused on the task.  In the end, I think our group created a well thought out presentation.  Not any easy task when we had one member 9 hours ahead of us and another (after we found the right one) 3 hours behind.  We literally covered half the world.

When Dr. Gardner first developed groups, I asked if they would change for different projects.  He said he wasn’t planning on it, but would consider it.  Well, Doc, I changed my mind.  I think our group meshes well together and I would like to finish the semester with them (no offense to the other classmates in other groups).

Evolution of Educational Technology

I created a Glog of the changing definition of Educational Technology that can be found here:

http://joebod.edu.glogster.com/joebod-edtech-501/

Initially, I had trouble getting my account.  The site could be a little more user-friendly when setting up.  Once I got through that, the interface was rather easy to operate.

My biggest difficulty was in the content of the assignment.  I am a numbers guy and finding media to fit the definitions wasn’t easy.  Finally, I settled with googling on “the definition of educational technology in xxxx” (the xxxx being the different years for the definition).  Then, I searched through the various sites to find the best one to fit each definition.

One thing I tried to do was select different types of media to be included.  That’s why I included video, articles and maps.

The overall design was influenced by math background.  I maintained an order to the design with a year banner on top, the definition in the middle, and the media at the bottom.

In conclusion, I think glogster would be an okay tool to use in the classroom.  I can think of plenty of uses in the math field.  But, I think it is an even better tool for students to use to create projects to show their understanding of concepts.