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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Internet Filters, Bad - Zoning, Ok

Unfortunately, the course I am currently taking does not provide many opportunities for this kind of generative thinking. In truth, this is probably not as "research based" as my professor would like, but I am happy with this post. :)

Assume we all are in agreement that students must have Internet access in our schools. If you were the Technology Coordinator in a school, what policies would you enforce to ensure students have access to appropriate educational sites only. Cite appropriate research but for this exercise feel free to draw on any personal experience and report what worked, what didn't.

I am going to take a controversial approach in my response to this prompt. I think that there should be no filtration of the internet in schools... especially in schools. If someone decides they want to filter the internet for themselves or their children in their own home, that is their own business (and by extension, if they want their student to have restricted access in school, I suppose we ought to help facilitate this, though I think precedence can be provided to argue that we shouldn't), but schools are the last places that should be trying to limit the information available to a person.

Instead, I would focus on preventative measures, primarily education. "The students should complete [an] introductory class before they are given access," suggests the Internet Guidelines Form of the Poynet School District. Though I don't think the authors meant for this to replace filters, I think this is a great place to start. If students are educated about the need to show discretion and be careful when dealing with people online in the same way they are educated not to take candy from strangers, they would be better prepared to make good decisions online.

Also, exposure to the sorts of decisions they will be confronted with (such as when a pop-up with an advertisement or inappropriate content appears) and the ways in which they can chose to deal with it will better prepare them for those inevitable moments when they will be confronted with such things. After all, they will not be protected by school filters after they graduate... or after 3 o'clock for that matter.

I feel it is far more important, part of information literacy in fact, to educate students to make the choices that are right for them when given the freedom to do so. The amount of information online continues to grow, and access to it becomes more and more ubiquitous. These skills will become increasing important life skills, and students are done a disservice when they are not prepared to use the full power (and temptation) of the internet without filtering.

Now, that being said, a sort of compromise occurred to me while researching for this post. Bayer (2002) explains a concept of zoning which is not present online, but which helps people to avoid things they wish to avoid in physical space.

"In the real world aspects of our life are separated either in time or in space: ... you may watch erotic films at home between 11 pm and 5 am, and unless you subscribe specifically to such a channel, you do not see sex and violence on TV in the afternoon. In shops there are signs what are not sold for minors, where they may not enter, and where you are not supposed to enter if you do not want to encounter shocking experience of seeing sexually explicit products. Before television programs you are warned if you are supposed to see something which may disturb you." (Bayer, 2002)


Perhaps software that serves the same purpose might make an effective and flexible school filter. Imagine a normal school filter such as websense which scans for inappropriate content in web sites and which consults a list of sites deemed inappropriate by the administrator... but instead of blocking them outright, it first displays a page suggesting why the site is inappropriate. The student would then have the opportunity to hit the back button (or otherwise navigate away from the page) before embarrassing themselves or their teacher.

More importantly, if a page containing legitimate educational content were accidentally blocked, then students would have the option of proceeding anyway.

This warning page could even include a legal disclaimer and/or instructions to the student to check with a teacher before proceeding. Such a scenario would help facilitate teachable moments as opposed to punishments, and would serve as scaffolding to alert students that they have a decision to make before proceeding.

Perhaps as important, students would be able to make bad decisions... meaning that they could learn from the consequences, and that their good decisions would be meaningful rather than simply the only path possible.

Call me a radical, but I am interested in your perspectives on these ideas.

-Mark


References

Bayer, J. The lefal regulation of illegal and harmful content on the internet New York: Internet Policy Fellowships. Available: http://www.policy.hu/bayer/ResearchPaper1.rtf

Internet Guidelines From Poynette, WI: Poynet School District. Available http://www.poynette.k12.wi.us/psd/internet_guidelines_form.htm

An AUP Critique

After completing my last big paper, I was at a residency for Walden University for five days last week. I played "get ahead" and "catch up" at work before and after the residency, so I am only now beginning to write and post again. This was, of course, written for class.

Oh, and in the "and Life" category... it is raining outside my office windows, and I love that. It probably comes from growing up here in Southern California - where any kind of weather is a special occassion.

Post web site critique of an Acceptable Use Policy available on the web (use search engine to find one). Include website address, reason(s) why you selected this policy for critique, your comments, questions, and/or concerns about the AUP.

The N-MUSD AUP

For the purposes of this assignment, I have returned to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Acceptable Use Policy. On the first page it states the following:

"This document consists of three parts:
1. Network Access Ethics — a less formal discussion of ethics for students
2. Acceptable Use Policy — formal rules & penalties
3. Consent and Waiver — for student and parents to sign-off that they are aware of the students’ restrictions regarding network access; and releasing the District of responsibility for students who choose to break those restrictions."

The first section on ethics is the longest at six pages long, but this is not reproduced for students and parents. I find this to be educationally sound, pragmatic, and positive in focus. Unfortunately this is not reproduced for students or parents. They must seek it online and download the pdf you have just now.

The actual acceptable use policy is another two pages, and is also not reproduced for students. Ironically, given it's title, this section does not focus on acceptable use, but tries to point out all manners of unacceptable use. I think this is a tactic destined to fail, as it invites students to find loopholes in the policy, and it can become quickly outdated. (See the handheld AUP below for my attempt at something that focuses more on acceptable use flexibility in the policy.)

Finally, the two page consent and waiver is a sort of mishmash of material that appears in the previous pages, and new material. There are a few positive points, but this too focuses on inappropriate use.
This form (usually printed back to back) is a part of the annual registration process; the N-MUSD still requires an affirmative signature in order to grant access. If the waiver is not returned, then it is presumed that the parents are not granting the student access.

When I worked there, tech coordinators campaigned each year to reverse the policy so that a positive response was presumed and students would not be denied access unless their parents returned a form saying so. This is often what would happen in practice... because these were completed on paper only and in many schools, only the tech coordinator would file them, so no administrative or support staff had access. Tech coordinators are not well paid enough (or at all interested in) policing the policy, so generally, unless a parent (or more likely, a guardian) contacted the school and said that they don't want the student to have access, students would receive access.

Once my site moved to unique and secure logins for each student, it was easy enough to use the AUP as a sort of permission slip for receiving an account. This was all but impossible during the mass registration at the beginning of the year, though. Finally, I settled on setting up a special account in the student information system so that a student helper could see and change the AUP field without seeing or changing anything else about a student... so that they could go through the 1200 AUPs and make sure each one was entered in the SIS. Then I could look up whether or not a student had an AUP... and could query for no's so I could deactivate their accounts.

The strange thing was that there was no way for the parent to indicate that they did NOT want their student to have access to the internet... there is no yes or no check box, only a signature line granting students access. So, we would often get back sheets with NO ACCESS scribbled all over to be sure we understood the parent was signing that they did not want their student to have access.


The Handheld AUP

When we set out to implement our handheld grant two years ago, we realized we needed an amendment to the network AUP to cover handhelds. As I set about writing it, I pulled out some of the positive phrases of the ethics document and tried to focus on acceptable use. I tried to make it brief and digestible, yet complete. I also tried to allow for some flexibility in the interpretation and enforcement of the policy in order to avoid students exploiting loopholes, and in order to avoid inane enforcement of the letter of the law in the face of obvious educational benefits. Given that students will always find a way around specific rules, I greatly prefer policies that capture the spirit of improving education.

I think this policy would have been perfectly useful with only this sentence, and it is what I focused on when presenting this to students as part of their orientation: All of the

"Students are expected to use a handheld computer for intellectual and scholarly pursuits."

All of the words you see highlighted in the handheld AUP offered opportunities for vocabulary lessons and discussions. These were the other elements I focused on during my orientation sessions.

Some teachers (and many students) understood the spirit of this policy are were thankful for their freedom. Unfortunately some teachers wanted a more strict policy (such as "no games" - ah, but what if the games are educational, oh, and do you really want to police that at lunch and after school?), and they wanted consequences spelled out by first offense, first major offense etc. My feeling is that such policies are not for the students' benefit, but are more a crutch for teachers who don't want to make judgment calls on the fly about a technology they are uncomfortable with.

I imagine some of you will have though provoking reactions to this philosophy, and I look forward to any comments on either of these policies, but particularly on the one I wrote.

-Mark

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Courting Success: A Small High School Funding Proposal (For Class)

Ok, this is too long to post here as text, so I will simply provide a link. It turns out this was a bit too ambitious a topic given the intended scope and deadlines involved, so I apologize that the quality of it has suffered. Still, I learned a lot about the logistical limitations of my ideas for high school redesign by following them through like this. Also, at least I'm learning what will probably be the most important lesson going into my dissertation... my goal is to get it done, not save the world. I can save the world later, they say.

Courting Success

Enjoy if you're interested. As always, I welcome comments.

-Mark

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Content Management Systems for Education

I am working on a paper due at the end of the week, and there are no discussion requirements in class this week, so I haven't been generating any writing for school (or for work) that would be worth posting here.

However, at work, I am finally turning to the task of selecting an interim Content Management System for our department web site (to hold us over until the county IT department completes their official one).

Any suggestions?

I will also post the results of my own research here... Probably Monday night or so.

-Mark

Sunday, April 10, 2005

1 to 1 Computing... or Pods?

Written in response to a classmate's criticism of my funding proposal abstract...

With this body of research do you think a computer for every student is the best way to go? Would it be better to fund computer pods where small groups of students can collaboratively work together?


Chris,

This is a thoughtful (and research based) critique of the abstract I posted. I had high hopes for writing a better response by the end of the week, but this will have to do.

I couldn't find either of your references in full text online, so I will have to work off of the quotes you've provided me (though if you could provide me with an electronic copy of the references, I would definitely appreciate it).

"Researchers and educators are now discovering that a bank of four to six computers in a classroom is one of the most pedagogically sound ways to create connections between curriculum and technology” (Whitehead, Jensen, & Boschee, 2003, p. 4)


I won't dispute the fact that a pod of computers in the classroom is one of the most pedagogically sound ways to create connections between curriculum and technology. In fact, there is very little question in my mind that pods in a classroom have very many pedagogical advantages, provided teachers are using them in pedagogically sound ways... such as using them for centers, for group work, or even as inquiry stations for use when questions come up during class... as opposed to being used for internet surfing for students who finish early or word-processing for students who haven't quite finished their essay at home. (Even pods can be misused... or ignored.)

Most of the research I have encountered on the topic of whether 1 to 1 or pods is better focuses on 1 to 1 in computer labs versus pods in classrooms. This seems to be one way in which the resource you have quoted has been used. I am with Papert and others (Including you, I suspect) who think that computer labs represent the sterilization of computers in schools... that, according to a popular metaphor, a very resistant organism (the traditional school) produced a sort of immune response relegating computers to labs so that they do not invade and infect classrooms with change. I will not dispute the research that says pods are more advantageous than computer labs. (Unfortunately, many teachers want every student to do the same thing at the same time, and prefer taking students to the lab... where they are most likely to simply work alone on word processing, online research, or maybe preparing a presentation.)

However, I think it is a very different thing to talk about 1 to 1 mobile computing that is with students 24/7! This extends the learning environment outside of the classroom. Students have the power to have all of their most powerful learning resources with them all of the time. I wish I had the references on hand, but the original EETT application that N-MUSD did before implementing handhelds for 1000 middle school students cited research that showed 1 to 1 (and 24/7) computer access resulted in higher homework completion rates and better writing. (Many technical and logistical issues plagued the N-MUSD project, but I believe Fullerton school district in Orange County is seeing positive results with their 1 to 1 laptop project.) I also think this scenario addresses the criticisms of your second quote.

The research indicates that an individual computer station can deter a child’s performance because they lose the benefit of working in small groups (“Computer pods,” 1998).


If used in pedagogically sound ways (and this is why I am writing a plan that starts small), a 1 to 1 student to wirelessly networked computer ratio can serve to connect students (and their teachers) in powerful ways. Students can collaborate using shared resources online (particularly the growing number of read/write web applications), can be constantly connected via Instant Messaging (which, like Walden's discussion forums, and UCI's synchronous online classes, would allow students to participate in many conversations without interrupting others in the class), can each play a role in creating meaningful multi-media projects (which never the less require a good deal of team work - consider the number of people it takes to write, film, and edit a good movie... or group skit), and - of course - they could participate in multiplayer online games and simulations. In fact, it is exciting that Second Life and Never Winter Nights are now available for OS X, so students can have the multi-media tools of iLife and access to open ended gaming and simulation environments on the same machine. (Hmmm... didn't build the licenses for these into my budget yet, though. Grr.)

At any rate, know that the issues you brought up did not fall on deaf ears, but that the vision I have for this project will address these concerns directly... and in a spectacular fashion, I hope.

Again, I had hoped to locate more specific resources before writing this, and if I find more I will put them in the appropriate forum. But, I also doubt I will find many formally published studies that would address all that is currently possible with 1 to 1 networked computing . Things are changing (for the better) very rapidly. Still, I suppose it will fall to me to find these resources in the coming months. :)

-Mark

PS - I have a funny feeling I won't be able to call a small group of computers in a classroom a "pod" anymore. People will presume I am taking about an iPod.

Educational Technology Incubators

Today I was exposed to the idea of an "educational technology incubator" for the first time. It came up in this post by two of my classmates (who are also working on a funding proposal for class):

Our proposal entails a plan to develop an Educational Technology Incubator to support the mission and goals of The John Leland Center for Theological Studies. As The Center seeks to prepare ministers for a 21st century environment, there is recognition that technology will be an integral part of most people’s lives. As part of Leland’s mission of “bringing together scholars, practitioners, and students to equip leaders for the emerging church.” the Incubator will serve to school in three important areas:



  1. Instructional Support


    • Provide technical resources and support to Leland instructors to assist them in utilizing technologies to enhance the effectiveness of traditional classroom instruction.

    • To translate traditional face-to-face courses for delivery in an online environment.


  2. Outreach to Local Churches


    • To provide churches with the resources and expertise they need to make use of technology in support of their own Christian Education initiatives.

    • Develop and implement strategies to allow local churches to tap into the academic and professional expertise provided by Leland faculty.


  3. Research and Development


    • Research and experimentation on the application of technological solutions to issues of spiritual development.



Even now technology is fast becoming a ubiquitous presence throughout society. It is the purpose of this project to harness the benefits of technology to address issues of spiritual development, ministerial preparation, and evangelism and outreach. This project will benefit theological educators throughout the academic world by providing a working model of technology integration in the context of theological education.



We will be approaching the Lilly Endowment for funding of this project.



References:

Byer, G. C. J., Clark, J., Mahfood, S., & Welch, L. J. (2002). Generative neo-cyberculture in the modern seminary. Teaching Theology and Religion, 5(2), 113-117.

Litchfield, R. G. (1999). Webs of connection using technology in theological education. Teaching Theology and Religion, 2(2), 103-109.

Soukup, P. A., Buckley, F. J., & Robinson, D. C. (2001). The influence of information technologies on theology. Theological Studies 62(2), 366-378.


Respectfully Submitted,

Susan R. Moore

Wyll Irvin




The following response to their post proved educational for me:

Susan Moore & Wyll Irvin, I must say that I am going into educational technology overload with all of the new information I have learned this week. I had no idea what an educational incubator was. The only incubators I know about is the one used for hatching eggs on the farm and the other is a neonatal incubator to keep newborns warm, when they have trouble with heat regulation. So, I searched for information to help me understand this concept as it realted to education. I stumbled upon two sites. You might have this one already and if so please disregard. The following is a site related on the how to evaluate incubators for effectiveness and this site is http://www.knowledgeplex.org/news/74068.html
The following provides a link to some notes made by Yuan in 2001 at a conference on Incubators. http://ree.stanford.edu/reee/2001/E_session.pdf,page 3, gives a detailed description, in outline format, of what an education incubator is. Yuan (2001) also listed that to measure success use "educational value", "relationship to the commuinity" and "inspiring alumni". I would interpret your proposal as supporting "relationship to the community". Thank you for such a great learning experience. Mary Ann

Reference
Yuan, J. (2001). To incubate or not incubate (Session by Babson, M. R. at REEE roundtable conference, Stanford Technology Ventures Program. As retrieved April 10, 2005 from http://ree.stanford.edu/reee/2001/E_session.pdf


In class, I am hoping that Susan and Wyll will provide additional background information on the subject, but in the meantime, if anyone else out here cares to comment on the subject, I'd be interested.

-Mark

Friday, April 08, 2005

Google Maps... of Ed Tech and Life HQ

I've been having fun with Google Maps since it came out... and the Satellite feature for, oh a week or so at best (and I'm afraid I must take the blame for shutting down work on the upcoming film Monster House when IMed a buddy on their animation team who then got the entire team taking virtual trips across the county - and across the Atlantic to Spain!) ... but it took me until I saw Will at weblogg-ed post a map of his place before I thought of sharing these on this blog.

Ever wonder where my black chair, colorful bookshelves, and green walls are located?

Here is a far away shot that shows Newport Beach to the south-west, and the foothills to the north-east.



And here is a near shot of our neighborhood of Oak Creek in Irvine. The marker is way off, because for whatever reason Google Maps won't actually let me use my address... it jumps to the corner you see. I suppose it might be a bit safer to post this marker in the middle of the road rather than my actual house though, eh?



I enjoy knowing a little something about the bloggers I read, so perhaps some of you will enjoy this as well.

-Mark

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Lessons Learned from a Handheld Implementation

Written in response to some other classmates' funding proposal abstract...

Funding is requested to provide PDA technology to each undergraduate nursing student as a means to access current medical information instead of textbooks which are outdated as soon as they are put to press.


Phyllis and Mary Ann,

This is an exciting project!

Speaking with some experience with large scale handheld implementations, I'd like to share some of the "lessons learned" from the project I managed in the Newport-Mesa USD. Hopefully these things can help you as you begin your funding proposal; though Newport-Mesa issued handhelds to middle school students, and you are talking about adult nursing students, I believe many of the same issues will still be relevant. Here, in a nutshell, are the issues we share when we speak on this project...

Desktop Software - Most handhelds, particularly Palm OS handhelds, were designed to work for one person using one desktop computer. Hotsynching to a desktop computer is essential not only to synchronize data with the computer (and other remote sources), but also to back up the data on the handheld, which in most cases will be lost if and when the handheld runs out of power. Unfortunately, it is a significant logistical challenge to hotsynch multiple users with multiple computers, particularl under Windows and Mac OS 9, which require that the user have full administrative access to the machine. (With OS X, at least an ordinary user can use the program, and their data will be saved in their home directory.)

Existing Network Infrastructure - If you chose to synchronize users data with a network home directory or with a web server, your network backbone will be important. (And even if you chose to synch with the local machines, these machines must be in good working order, or else all of the data on the handhelds is in jeopardy.)

Technical Support - When Newport-Mesa USD started their project, they sited research which suggested that handhelds require 1/3 the tech support of a laptop. Still when they implemented 1200 handhelds (the equivalent of 400 laptops), no new technical support personnel were hired the first year! This was rectified the second year. The ideal (and rarely, if ever, met) industry standard would be 50 ordinary computers per technician... and many schools operate at something more like 400 machines per technician... in which case they should have hired at least one technician. In the end they hired two. Also, even if you are providing for technical support of the handhelds, don't forget you also need sufficient technical support for the additional drain on the desktop machines and the network infrastructure.

Peripherals - This shocked me... but most people still want to print, even if they all have computers that can beam each other! You will want to consider what peripherals will be needed for your handhelds. Will the nursing students ever need to print? If their handhelds do not have cameras will they need a way to get pictures onto their handheld? Etc.

Logistics and Scheduling - Unless you plan on hiring a large support staff, there is no way you can roll out all of your handhelds at once. They need to be charged (and how many can you plug in at once?), loaded with whatever software the nurses need, and assigned (presumably) a profile name unique to each nurse (so that they are not assigning these on their own - making it difficult for you to know whose handheld is whose, and whose data is whose). We started with a far too aggressive roll out schedule. In the end, two of us could do about 180 or so every two days. One day was for prep, and one was for the roll out and first training.

Human Resources - You will likely need a technician (or two) to support the project, and an educational technologist, preferably with nursing knowledge (perhaps this would be one of you) to handle program development and trainings. HR departments are usually slow moving beasts, so leave plenty of time in your timeline to find and hire these people before your roll out.

School Culture - The concerns that others have brought up about resistance from some nurses cannot be exaggerated... and don't be caught thinking only of the nursing students... what of the nursing teachers who must instruct them using the handhelds? The resistance of teachers to the N-MUSD project was the biggest surprise, and the biggest challenge.

Administrative Support - Needless to say, I hope, this is imperative to overcoming any of the issues listed above. Ideally, the administrator should use a handheld, and "get it."

Games - It should come as no surprise that without being taught how, middle school students all learned how to get games on their handhelds. But, don't think your nurses won't do the same... so did our middle school teachers. Have a policy for this, but for heaven's sake, don't ban games. This won't work, and you can't police it. And, I suspect you don't want that sort of adversarial relationship with your staff and students. Consider offering a policy of ethical discretion. Perhaps it is ok for them to play games during their break, or on the bus, even though it would wholly inappropriate to be playing a game while inspecting a patient!

Well, there are many more lessons we learned from this project, but these are the ones I share most often . I hope I have articulated them in an effective way here, and of course, I hope they help. ;)

-Mark

Videoconferencing in Education

In response some classmates' funding proposal abstract...

The primary objective of this project is to unite students and faculty from 2 US high schools from each coast via real-time live discussions on social, political, environmental and global issues that impact our world.


Mia and Militza,

I'm not sure if this is what you are talking about, but the first thing that came to mind when I read this portion of your abstract was video-conferencing, or video chat (via IM). I'm not sure if this is what you are talking about, but these can be powerful learning technologies. In my first few months at the Orange County Department of Education, I have been able to see both in action.

You can check out the Video Conferencing program in the OCDE Ed Tech department for some examples of how this technology is being used. The most exciting program might be the ACME Animation program which uses video-conferencing to connect high school students to professional animators.

The video conference equipment has also been used to enhance existing projects, such as one teacher's parent child book club, which connected families using a blog, and then connected them to the author using not only the blog, but also using video conferencing.

Though the equipment used for these projects may be prohibitively expensive for most schools, video chat equipment for various instant message (IM) protocols are becoming more powerful, and more affordable. An iSight for iChat on Mac OS X delivers full motion video and sound over the internet for only $129. Right now this allows 2 way video chatting, but in the coming revision of the OS, iChat AV will allow a four way chat. iSightEd.com is a rich resource for educators who have iSights in the classroom (or for those interested in how iSights might be used in the classroom).

I hope this might be helpful as you develop your funding proposal.. and that it might prove interesting for others as well.

-Mark

PS - Here is an additional resource, a recent article on videoconferncing in Education at TechLearning.com.

Howard-Kennedy, J. (2005). Videoconferencing in Education. Educator's Outlook. Available online at http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=55300827

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

U2 // Vertigo // 2005 // Front row inside the elipse!

An "and life" entry for you...

Ryan Chan and I went to the U2 show in LA last night. We had GA Floor tickets... and were randomly selected to be admitted into the "bomb shelter" inside the eliptical stage. Yes, we were this close to the Edge. (The photo was taken with Ryan's phone!)



Life is good.

-Mark

Small High School Funding Proposal Abstract (For Class)

Here is an abstract for a funding proposal I am preparing for a class project...

Need Statement
I think I expressed the need for this project well in an entry I made on my old blog in December. "Why redesign the traditional high school?"

Funding Source
I chose the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Small Schools Grants used in the Chicago Public School system as a model. The following are excerpts from the web page linked above.

Grant funding from the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative provides up to $100,000 per small school for planning over one year, $500,000 per small school for implementation over three years, and $100,000 per whole school to facilitate the conversion process over two years.

The schools must be:
  • college prep in nature , non-selective enrollment
  • no more than 400-500 students (100-125 per grade)
  • open the first year with 9th grade only


  • Description of Project

    This proposal will focus on a one year implementation of the small school grant. As a model of the physical plant, faculty, and staff, I will use Estancia High School in Costa Mesa, Ca, with which I have many years of experience as a teacher and tech coordinator. The physical plant, built in 1965, is architecturally ideal for such an implementation. The entire school (of 1200 students) is housed in a single building composed of eight "courts", each of which currently houses an academic department. Each court is made up of eight classrooms and a large office facing a central "court" area. These rooms have large half-wall sized openings instead of doors, so there is a true feeling of community within the court, even as class is in session. For the purposes of this proposal, the current English Court will be re-imagined as home to a single college preparatory (and non-selective) school of approximately 100-125 ninth graders, to be opened in September 2005. (This would grow over three following years to a school of four courts and 400-500 students).

    Curriculum - This proposal will focus on the creation of a context-rich, inquiry-driven, socially negotiated learning environment, in which a teacher representing each curricular area will serve as coach and facilitator for students as they engage in various cross curricular standards-aligned projects.

    Professional Development - A significant portion of the proposal will focus on the professional development needed in order to support teachers in their efforts to provide such an environment for students, and in order for them to use the equipment detailed below to its fullest potential in this environment. At least 25% of the budget will be spent on professional development.

    Infrastructure, Hardware, Software, and Tech Support - In order to facilitate the curriculum goals expressed above, the proposed small school will offer students a 1 to 1 computing environment. Cutting edge but low cost 12" iBooks running Mac OS X v 10.4 Tiger, iLife '05, and a host of open source software suites, such as Open Office and GIMP, along with a smaller number of shared peripherals such as audio and video recording devices, will provide all students with the tools they need for cross-curricular and multimedia project based learning. Money will be allocated to pay staffing costs for the projected technical support costs. Approximately 65% of the budget will be spent on infrastructure, hardware, software, and technical support; approximately half of this will be technical support.

    Funding and Budget - All costs associated with the first year implementation of the proposed small school (above and beyond normal operating costs for this number of students) will be covered by the $100,000 grant. Approximately 10% of the budget will be reserved for administrative overhead of the proposed implementation.

    Monitoring and Evaluation - A systematic and ongoing monitoring and evaluation process will be established at the outset of the proposed implementation. Approximately 10% of the budget will be reserved for this process, and for expenditures that periodic re-evaluation reveals is necessary.

    And yes, with some creative financing, I think I can do all this with $100,000. :)

    -Mark

    PS - You may have noted this, but I am basing the structure of my proposal on the California Technology Planning Guide.

    Sunday, April 03, 2005

    The ONE Campaign

    Those of you who do not actually visit the site... and perhaps some who do... may not have noticed the ONE Campaign banner I've posted in the right hand column. So, here is a post dedicated to it.



    This is a campaign to recruit ONE million Americans to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty, particularly in Africa.

    U2 are dedicating a good deal of time during their current tour to promote this effort. During Pride (In the Name of Love) Bono declared Dr. Martin Luther King's dream big enough for the whole world. The least I can do, having been at the show, is to pass this on. Perhaps more significant action will follow, or perhaps my site will bear fruit as well.

    Check it out if you are interestd. If you're not, then as Bono says, "you don't have to go there."

    -Mark

    Teacher Technology Proficiencies II

    An excerpt from an interesting thread in class...

    Mark, I know that California is very advanced; as I spent 6 years there from 1979 to 1985. I bought my first computer there, the first Mac computer released. However, that is not the culture of South Carolina. In education, SC places 49 or 50th out of all the states in the union. Furthermore, I divide computer use into two categories, computer skills and computer proficiency. To me, these skills are two separate and very different skills.


    Mary Ann,

    I dare say things have gone down hill in California's education system since that time... and while the technology proficiencies required for a credential might be forward thinking, I'm afraid California ranks nearly as low in test scores, and certainly in per pupil spending. The state no longer financially supports the investment made in digital high schools in the late nineties.

    One of my professors last quarter, Maryfriend Shepard, works in Georgia and spoke often about the state requirement that ALL teachers become technically proficient by taking or testing out of courses in teaching with technology. Apparently many resistant teachers left the profession in the face of such strong forces for change. Whether or not this is a good thing, though, I am in no position to say.

    -Mark

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    Teacher Technology Proficiencies

    I piped in on another thread in class...

    Craig, I disagree with your statement that "Teachers should not be hired if they lack proficiency in using technology." I would need a definition of what Proficiency is. Further, where are the new graduates from college going to get the experience they need to implement technology if they never get hired to teach. Novice teachers should be hired and trained and retained.


    Mary Ann,

    I have a couple of reactions to your post.

    First, California now requires teachers to be proficient in both the use of computers and in teaching with computers before they eligible to receive their professional clear credential (which they must complete within 5 years of beginning service with their preliminary credential). Some universities wrap this all into a single program so that pre-service teachers graduate with a professional clear... thus they usually take two computer classes in school. In other cases, people with preliminary credentials can receive support in technology from the Beginning Teacher's Support and Assessment program, BTSA. So, I think (in California at least), it is reasonable to expect brand new teachers to be technically proficient. (The reality, of course, is something more disappointing... and many applicants are not going to be brand new teachers).

    However, my second response is that you are very right about the need to train and retrain. The specific skills that a new teacher comes in with are not nearly as important as their willingness and ability to continue to learn new things over the course of their service. This has once again brought me back to the need to equip our graduates (some of whom will of course become our new teachers) with the 21st century skills needed to succeed in a world where life long learning is more of a necessity than a luxury.

    -Mark

    Are we bound to teach resistant staff?

    Written in response to a thread of conversation in class...

    It is only when others are forced to get it for themselves that growth occurs. The administrator could indicate this passive aggression in the teacher's formal record and discuss it during the evaluation period. Most often, these long-time teachers perceive this as pressure to change or to force them out. Well, that is what happens to students on a daily basis.


    Evelyn,

    Your reaction to Lisa's post is very like my own. Perhaps I can take this comparison to what happens to students an additional step.

    I felt when I read Lisa's post about the resistant 35 year teaching veteran, that we have a sort of duty to help him learn, not only for his students' sake, but for his. I realize this seems horribly presumptuous, but isn't that what we presume about our students on a daily basis... that we need to offer them challenges so that they might learn the things they need to know... that we are bound to find ways to motivate them and overcome their resistance to change?

    In this age of the life long learner, does it make any sense to give up on someone because they are older? What would make this guy feel worse, helping him to adapt to new technologies - or writing him off? And even if the later is the answer in his case... then which is worse, regardless of what he feels? We certainly don't let our students off the hook because that makes them feel better.

    Now, how do I reconcile this feeling that we are bound to teach these people (for their students' benefit if for nothing else) with my feeling (and first hand knowledge) that mandatory professional development (or mandatory technology use) is not effective?

    Perhaps we simply need to model use of the technologies, communicate their usefulness to others, and find a way that technologies can enhance the lives of those we are dealing with (or at least find a way to help them see how their lives might be enhanced). If we can't convince them, perhaps they shouldn't use the new technology...

    -Mark

    Compensation for Educational Technologists

    Written in response to a colleague's post, this touches on the issue of compensation for educational technology specialists which came up earlier in the week...

    Our Librarian/Technology "GURU" works on mostly hardware, library automation, website updates... She is one of our most valuable resources. In fact I was speaking to another teacher and we want to show her how much we appreciate her with a special luncheon. I think she deserves more, but it will let her know how much we care. She is considered a teacher's assistant on the pay scale. That is about $6.50 an hour in a Catholic school.

    On one hand, your school is very lucky to have someone like that on board. On the other hand it seems almost criminal to be paying her so little. Could something be done to change this?

    I suppose, though, that it is no different than allowing a parent to donate time to the school... or to maintaining it's website. This could apply to the issue of teachers working too hard as well... one could see this as them doing their job well, and also volunteering for the school.

    Something I have seen often in the past few years (and been a part of myself) is that when a faculty or staff member (or administrator for that matter) develops an expertise that is out of the ordinary and becomes very valuable to the school, he or she is soon enticed to work elsewhere (for more money or greater opportunity). Is there any way to help schools build the capacity to keep key team members aboard (without requiring that they volunteer their time and skills)?

    -Mark

    Friday, April 01, 2005

    21st Century Librarians

    Also written in response to a colleague's critique of the Newark plan...

    I was very surprised to find no librarian on the Instructional Technology Committee. This is a huge omission.

    I agree. The district I worked for had made the same error, and as we ramped up for our 2005-2010 tech plan, we began meeting with the librarians. This partnership quickly became very powerful, as we discovered how many of the same goals both our departments were pursuing, particularly in the realm of information literacy. I'm not sure the articulation has continued in my absence, but assume it has (because it was my boss' idea in the first place) and because they were certainly off to a good start.

    The truth is that any modern librarian (and this is not to say that all school librarians are modern) is an educational technologist. Here is one of my favorite, Jamie Knight, the Loud Librarian. (Actually this is a link to his old school, where he still serves if I'm not mistaken, but he now teaches in the Academy of Performing Arts (APA) in Huntington Beach... and presented with his students at the Computer Using Educator's conference earlier this month.)

    -Mark

    Access for All?

    And one more...

    Dr. Hazari, How would this relate to a community college that "Team Teaches" and 50% of the staff are computer literate and the other 50% are not? We just got PDAs and already 2 faculty members have stored them into the closet for safe keeping because they don't want to use them or lose them. Mary Ann

    I know the truth of this statement first hand, having seen the same thing happen with middle school students (if you can believe that), teachers, administrators (of all levels), and even site technology coordinators, including my wife! She is an amazing tech coordinator, but I guess she doesn't have a use for the Tungsten E the district assigned to her... which I can hardly grasp, as I cary my cell phone, blackberry and iPod most places I go, and I have used a Handspring Visor, Toshiba Pocket PC, and Palm Tungsten E (and C) all in the past five years. Still, she is a leader among computer using educators, so I suppose I must trust her judgement. (She does use her iPod with her kindergarteners after all!)

    But it's still sad. :)

    Over the past few years, as I worked at the district level and studied organizational leadership here at Walden, I have come to develop the philosophy that any program that looks to bring a new technology to ALL of anyone is a waste of resources.

    Dr. Daggett suggests that all staff development be optional. The pattern he has obsevered is that 1/3 of a staff (the early adopters who are excited about the new technology or program) will come on board the first year. Another third (those practical folks who say "I'll believe it when I see it" and then do) will join in the second year, followed by the reluctant final third who will eventually bow to the pressure to conform... except for a small handful who inevitably leave the school one way or another to avoid the innovation.

    -Mark

    Educational Technology and Public Relations

    And another...

    One noticeable area of weakness is the lack of a public relations plan.
    ... It’s extremely important that efforts be made to sell the plan to the public, which is one reason why the need for a PR person on the planning committee is important.


    I think you've made an important point here. I have found something very like "public relations" to be critical to every educational technology position that I have held. Clear lines of communication to administration, teachers, and IT are critical, and it often came in handy to be able to articulate my position to parent groups (such as a school site council)... and to students on a daily basis. I have always spent a good deal of time on "publications" (electronic if I can help it) that explain why I am doing what I am doing, and these often have a tone very like marketing or political material.

    However, a perspective I heard during one of my organizational leadership classes, which has stuck with me, is that we should never try to "sell" something to stakeholders... that this is a somewhat underhanded thing to do. We should instead be sure that they feel a truly participatory sense of ownership. This is a good deal more difficult to achieve, quite a bit more chaotic, but eventually much more powerful.

    As in marketing, it is also very important to solicit input and feedback from stakeholders. I use surveys and focus groups often. Incidentally, a powerful and simple tool any educator (or researcher) can use to collect survey information is Survey Monkey, which can be used for free for up to 10 questions per survey and 100 responses per month... and the full account is only $20 per month and allows unlimited questions and up to 1000 responses before incurring an additional charge. Funny, I guess this is no longer worth sharing with Walden students... even the school is using it now... I just got one for the upcoming residency... asking which sessions we expect to attend, so that they can prepare the room reservations accordingly. :)

    -Mark

    The Information Age... and Paying for Educational Technology Coordinators

    Written in response to another colleague...

    The first item of interest was the statement made in the beginning of the plan that stated a “Model for the Industrial Age not the Information Age." Ruth (1977) wrote “MIT media expert Nicholas Negroponte, in his book, Being Digital, observes that while a medical doctor from the previous century would not recognize the technology in today's hospital, a college professor from that era would see virtually no change in the tools of education.” This was written in 1977 and in 2001 Newark is saying basically the same thing. We have not come a long way in the technology field for education.


    This section of your post reminded me of a few things I'd like to pass on, though you may have seen them before...

    NCREL's EnGuage document and 21st Century Skills framework:
    http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/skills.htm

    Recent stories about Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop effort:
    http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStoryts.cfm?ArticleID=5567

    (On a somewhat fun note, I just saw activist Irish rock group U2's new show, in which they call for 1 million Americans to go to work in Africa to show that we believe everyone is equal. Their lead singer, Bono, is also a supporter of bringing the $100 laptop to the world's children. Perhaps we will still be able to make the changes that Negroponte wrote about in 1977... but we will all need to be a part of the effort.)

    This may sound petty but does a Technology Staff Development Coordinator actually get $89,000.00. While teachers make roughly 45,000.00 to 50,000.00? I think this brings into light why many people do not come into the teacher and nursing fields. You can make more money elsewhere.


    I certainly have a biased perspective, but I think the bottom line is that there are far fewer people with both the educational and technical skills needed to be a technology staff development coordinator, and I think that the value of someone who can train many teachers (and thus affect correspondingly more students) makes it worth it for a district to spend additional funds on their salary (in the same way that administrators are payed more money). Also, I like to think that after each of us completes this doctoral program we will have developed something of value and that we should expect that to be reflected in our salaries, should we care to work for school districts. And naturally, I like to think we will be worth every penny.

    Consider the changes you are alluding to above... if we are able to be a part of making that happen, I think it is worth it to society to pay for our involvement.

    -Mark

    Long Term, but Flexible Educational Technology Planning

    Written in response to a colleague's post.

    This is a comprehensive plan. The plan has a sensible period of 3 years. Most district plans are 5 years. The pace of technology impels districts to revisit, evaluate, and adjust their plans sooner than 5 years.

    Perhaps tech plans need to be both flexible in the short term and consistent in their long term vision. I have argued at the site, district, and county level for a plan the establishes a method of ongoing systematic monitoring, evaluation, and renewal... on a annual basis at the very least. At the same time, some of the greatest benefits of technology cannot be achieved if a long term view (of more like ten years) is not considered. A plan that includes long term goals and vision statements (5 to 10 years out) to guide specific medium term planning (3 to 5 years out) and flexible short term planning (1 to 3 years out) would be ideal.

    The plans are research based. From that research, the subcommittee concludes that all children learn more and better when they have access to technology in an intelligently designed environment (Vision: TEST, 1990, pg. 9-10). They also summarized the educational technology research conducted between 1990 and 1992.

    I believe this is blatantly inadequate support for a 2001 to 2004 tech plan, and I think it shows in the plan's lack of vision and lack of cutting edge 21st century technologies and applications.

    -Mark

    Critique of a Tech Plan

    Written for class of course...

    Items that catch your attention, things you would do different, sections that you agree/disagree with, questions raised from the reading etc.

    Note that all page numbers below refer to pages in the Newark Public Schools Plan: http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/2001planfinal.doc

    The first item that caught my attention was that this technology plan, written for 2001 to 2004, is already out of date. (p. 1) So, thank you to Charnette, who provided us with the link to a draft of the current plan, written for 2004 to 2007: http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/techplan.html

    Like several others who have already posted, I also noted (and approved of) the presence of a student and parent on the instructional technology committee. (p. 2) The district leadership had clearly grasped that "for this plan to be effectively implemented there must be commitment from all sectors of the education community, including partnerships with business and higher education." (p. 5) Unfortunately, there was limited evidence of this within the plan.

    In order to lend some structure to my critique , I will consider the five primary elements of Commission on Technology in Learning's (CTL) Education Technology Planning: A Guide for School Districts.

  • Curriculum
  • Professional Development
  • Infrastructure, Hardware, and Software
  • Funding and Budgeting
  • Monitoring and Evaluation


    Curriculum

    This element of the California technology planning guide was primarily represented by the "Student Outcomes" section of the Newark plan. (p. 12) It's admirable that the plan referred to the "National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS) Project" (p. 4) in the executive summary, but I see only limited and non-specific evidence of the NETS in the Student Outcomes section and goals sections.

    The philosophy was sound, as expounded in the introduction ("Traditionally, learning has been under the teacher's control, not the student’s. Technology plays a vital role in facilitating the transition in the learning process by allowing the teacher to engage in interactive, adaptive and dynamic interaction with learners " p. 7), but again these things are not represented in the student outcomes section. I was frankly shocked by the small number of student outcomes.

    Ultimately, this plan does not start with the students and the curriculum and then work out from there, building everything else in support of the district's educational mission. This is my greatest disappointment with this plan.


    Professional Development

    Clearly the "Staff Development" section of the Newark plan covers this element of the California technology planning guide. (p. 53) There is a sort of professional development belief statement in the executive summary of the Newark plan:

    Effective use of technology depends on the knowledge and skills of the teacher, the person with the greatest impact on the classroom environment. Therefore, our vision also includes a charge to support our instructional staff, and provide them with continuing technical support and professional development.


    It is also admirable that they do not ignore their classified support personnel. In the Administrative Applications section they assert that "staff development in the use of administrative applications is key to the successful implementation of this plan" (p. 14).


    Hardware, Software, and Infrastructure

    Perhaps the "Administrative Applications" section of the Newark plan would fall under this element of the California technology planning guide. (p. 13) On the whole, though, I feel that not enough consideration was given to these issues. I was sad to see that CD-ROMs were considered new technology in 2001 (p. 7), and that it would take the entire life of the plan before the district would complete "installation of LANs in all schools" (p. 9).

    The "Facilities Management" section included some of the most specific plans within the document, and would also fall under this element of the California technology planning guide. (p. 56).


    Funding and Budgeting

    The "Spending Plan" (p. 58) corresponds most closely to this element of the California technology planning guide. Like many other sections of the Newark plan, though, it is full of general statements. The budget chart, however, is detailed and seems well thought out.


    Monitoring and Evaluation

    The brief "Evaluation" section of the Newark plan clearly falls under this element of the California technology planning guide. (p. 66)

    The executive summary does include the statement that If this plan is to succeed, it must be supported, not only in concept, but moneys must be identified to provide our students with the appropriate technology infused learning environments. (p. 5) The "Managing the Plan" section (p. 52) should have included a systematic plan for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the district technology plan and the use of educational technology within the district. Instead it includes only this final sentence: "They will also continue to review the plan and make adjustments."

    The final evaluation section does include the following:

    Data will be collected annually on the progress of the implementation of the plan. The data will include information on the status of the goals and objectives, the acquisition of equipment, the development of partnerships and the delivery of staff development. The committee will meet after the first year to review the data, modify and adjust the activities, and report on the progress.


    But, waiting a year before reviewing data seems fool hardy to me. Such an implementation would require constant ongoing monitoring and re-evaluation.


    Other things that caught my attention...

    The plan did acknowledge that "For this plan to be effectively implemented there must be commitment from all sectors of the education community, including partnerships with business and higher education" (p. 5) However, I see very little evidence of specific plans to achieve such partnerships.

    The plan makes claims such as "Every article, every report and every speech about education addresses the issue of reform and restructuring" and "a large body of research demonstrates the importance of using technology in education as the catalyst to effect change in the classroom" (p. 6) without substantiating these claims. What research it did include was sorely outdated (ie more than five years old at the time - most was over ten years old).

    I thought the statement that "although technology is not a solution to the problems of education, the research indicates that it can be a powerful educational tool to improve teaching and learning" (p. 8) was a powerful statement, but wish it would have been better substantiated in the plan.

    I was happy to see a section titled "Background/Needs Assessment" (p. 9), primarily on account of the "Needs Assessment." Unfortunately, this section was very heavy on background, and lacking in true needs assessment. I saw no evidence of an active needs assessment process, such as surveys of stakeholders or tests of infrastructure. It was also unclear to me that objectives were aligned with the needs assessment. Such alignment should have been the backbone of the plan.

    I sympathized a great deal with the assertion that "the Technology Coordinator must continue to be an on-site support for classroom teachers," but found the assessment that "all students and their teachers should have access to information in their classrooms, schools, communities and homes" (p. 11) to be unnecessarily and unrealistically lofty.

    Goals 4 and 5 (ongoing research, and digital content) were particularly ambitious and exciting, but the objectives were vacuous, and in the case of goal five, included meaningless (or poorly defined) percentages as benchmarks. I have seen the futility of trying to capture and define such things in percentages during my recent management of a round 1 EETT grant in California.

    The activity plans are lengthy, difficult to read, and yet almost entirely devoid of specifics that could drive implementation. I don't expect that these pages served as a meaningful guiding document during the past four years.

    All in all, if this is the first complete tech plan that the district had attempted, then it is an good first effort which at least touches on each key element of a tech plan. I hope that I will find something more comprehensive in their 2004 to 2007 plan, but at a glance this does not seem as if it will be the case.


    'Looking forward to your comments. :)

    -Mark