Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Inventory: Roadmap2.0

We have to know where we are to figure out where we're going!  This week, I'm involved in helping to collect up-to-date inventory data for our network here in the district.  Wow!  What an eye-opening experience!  I've come from a background in a 1:1 high school program, where every student and staff member has a laptop and the wireless connectivity is almost seamless.  (I won't deny that there are times we fall off the cliff and find ourselves disconnected, but those times are few and far between!)  I spent the day yesterday visiting 3 of the district's middle schools, none of which had a wireless network (yet).  We spent a lot of energy simply trying to find a data port that worked in many of the classrooms!  Then we had to wait for the wireless access point to boot up (supposedly a one minute-40 second task that routinely took anywhere from 5-10 minutes).

We have bright spots that are rays of sunshine:  classrooms fully implemented with interactive boards, projectors, document cameras, etc.!  But more often than not, there were classrooms with either no computers or with a few that were woefully outdated.  It's no wonder there were rooms where the equipment wasn't even plugged in.  If the wiring won't work, we won't get on the world-wide web!  (I'll admit it, I just wanted to see how many "w"s I could get into that sentence!)  Instead we have a classroom-narrow frustration!

It's no secret that in our district, there have been two worlds, the haves (the high schools with their 1:1 program) and the have-nots (everyone else).  We're in the process of trying to address that dichotomy.  This inventory is another step towards leveling the playing field.  We have a plan to dispose of any old equipment that won't meet minimum standards and to begin working towards a more equitable distribution of "stuff!"  There may be some discomfort as we get there, but at least we now have a roadmap and a vision of our destination.  Bear with us as we follow this path into the 21st Century.  We really will get there!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Modeling Life-Long Learning This Week

We all make the proper noises about life-long learning, but this week, I have really been walking the walk and not just talking the talk!  I spent practically all of yesterday plugged in to the FETC Virtual Conference.  I heard some really great sessions, including one by Sheryl Nussbaum Beach who pointed out, "We are stronger together than apart! None of us is as smart, creative, good or interesting as all of us" She also advocates for "free-range learning," an atmosphere where learners are allowed to "roam around" and decide what they want to learn, thereby being invested in the learning experience.
Now, granted, it would be rather difficult to let schools run that way, although the Montessori movement has had success with a similar approach.  However, when it comes to professional development, that's not such a bad idea!  I would be much more tuned in to what I'm learning if I chose to learn it in the first place!  Coincidentally, this is pretty close to the concept behind the development of our Course Catalog for technology PD this year.  The technology survey at the end of the year last year had indicated that the district's elementary and middle grades teachers did not feel that they were receiving the training support they needed to be successful using technology, while the high school teachers felt they were being force fed too much training!

So we started the year this year with a survey asking teachers what training they wanted!  I know.  Novel concept!  But then we took the skill set the technology facilitators had and developed the course catalog around what our teachers wanted!  Now it's just a matter of the district's teachers getting used to the idea that they can request a training session at their convenience and we're expecting those requests to start pouring in any day now.

Meanwhile, back at Bridgers, I'll spend what time I have taking advantage of learning opportunities like the FETC Virtual Conference so I can share my new TechKnowledge with you!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Other News...

... related to my previous post, I completed and submitted a proposal for our team to present at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio this week.  If accepted, we will be presenting our procedure for setting up the course catalog described in my previous post.  Keep your fingers crossed.  We may be taking our show "on the road!"

Never Stop Learning!

I have had the most exciting week!  We are feverishly putting together the new course catalog for staff at ECPS.  We started out compiling a list of courses we have taught in the past.  But our fearless leader decided we needed to take a different approach.  All teaching staff in all the schools were surveyed to find out how they currently use technology and what they would like to try to incorporate this year.  They were also asked what tools they already feel comfortable using and which tools they may need additional support with in order to successfully implement them in their classrooms.

Then we took a step back and decided to give folks what they want and need and not merely what we know and do well!  What an awesome idea!  We have tweaked the catalog, making it more user friendly to the novice technology user, as well as our pros!  But this task in itself offered me an exciting opportunity to learn a new technology skill.  I knew that you could program a Google form to perform certain actions automatically (things like sending emails), but I didn't know how to do it!

Enter YouTube and a wonderful little Google script called FormEmailer.  You see, Google scripts are programming code that makes all that computer magic happen, and most of them are open-source, meaning they are FREE!  Our fearless leader (I love calling him that!) pointed us in the direction of a YouTube video explaining how this particular script works.  (I also love YouTube!  You can learn how to do anything you can possibly think of on that place!)  Then he got out of the way and let us muddle through it.  There's nothing more empowering than figuring out how to do something pretty complicated!

Anyway, to make a long story short, we now have a Course Catalog that is about to "go live!"  Much collaborative work by Shanda Edwards, Russell Smith and myself have made this a reality.  And the best part of all is that feeling of excitement that I got from learning something new!  Not knowing how to do something should never be an excuse for not doing it!  Figure it out... and enjoy the same high I feel today!