Archive for November, 2011

EDTECH 501: School Evaluation Summary

Fishwater is a low-income community with the 2009 median income level of a family being $27,500 compared to the national average of $62,363 (U.S. Census, 2010). The present day economy of Fishwater is based on recreational activities such as hunting, rafting, fishing, and jet boating (Fishwater Chamber of Commerce, 2010), so much of the population works in hospitality and tourism services. As in many rural towns, community members support and actively participate in school functions (Fishwater Boosters, 2010).  Because of the low-income status, 36% of students do not have a computer at home and a larger percentage (48%) do not have Internet access in their homes (School District, 2009).

Fishwater  is located in the Big Canyon about 150 miles from Boise, Idaho. The town is located at approximately 1800 feet elevation surrounded by rugged canyon mountains (Fishwater Chamber of Commerce, 2010). Despite the geographical challenges, the two schools enjoy high speed internet connectivity via Metro Ethernet, which is currently 5MB (bidirectionally), but can be increased to 35MB delivered over copper, or 100MB over fiber. With over 150 devices, and 115 students, the district is technology rich. In addition, the State’s Educational Network video teleconference center provides additional online access to neighboring schools and universities. Access is available to all students and staff

In 2007, Fishwater Elementary and Junior Senior High School deconsolidated from a larger district to form the Fishwater Joint School District . The split was made to prevent bussing 1 hour each way for its (at the time) 140 students. The formation of a new district has allowed many decisions to be made locally, instead of at a distant district office. One decision was to implement new technologies with various grant funding opportunities. Another was to implement the Fishwater Online Learning Center dedicated to asynchronous classes, blended learning, and dual-credit courses. The center is proctored by a non-certified, but highly qualified, staff member. At any given period, the center is filled to capacity. Students use laptops, headphones and microphones to complete the interactive coursework.

This technology is not confined to the online learning center. Similar technology and related resources are available for all curricular areas. Classrooms are equipped with overhead projectors, sound systems, computers, dedicated student workstations, student response pads, and Interwrite ™ pads (interactive note pads). Some classrooms also feature interactive whiteboards and document readers. In addition, each school (elementary, middle, and high school) has a wireless laptop cart holding 12 laptops. Teachers use the cart regularly. Laptops have headphones/microphones that will eventually be used to consistently be tools for student creativity. High School teachers have access to digital still and video cameras, Kindle e-readers (15) and iPads (5); elementary teachers have access to an iPad lab (20 iPads).

The professional technical programs use technology and current industry standard software to produce such real-life products as the student newspaper, which is printed in a local area newspaper with a 3,000 – 5,000 delivery, providing an excellent venue to display student work. The desktop publishing class partners with the photography class to design, create, publish, and bind the yearbooks. The shop class use a CAD suite to design and manufacture various products that they later sell at a benefit auction.

Approximately 20% of teachers have fully adopted the student response pads and report they are invaluable assessment tools in both spontaneous and comprehensive assessment. Other teachers that use the pads occasionally report the pads take too long to initiate and cause too much of a classroom distraction. Most teachers indicate their interest in fully integrating the response pads if they could have additional one-one specialized training. Unfortunately declining funding prevents additional training. The teachers that have fully adopted the clickers have agreed to be mentors, but they have yet to actually do it.

Students and staff are heavily dependent upon information resources and use them daily, and resources are fairly comprehensive, providing depth or diversity, and moving toward a balanced delivery.  Staff, students, and parents use Powerschool for administrative reporting, data collection, and progress monitoring. Grades are entered and reviewed using a web interface. Areas that continue to need development are training (using available tools for more advanced activities), assessment, and availability of formal and/or informal tech support.

The administration is fully in support of professional development in educational technology and is eager to implement new and emerging technologies. The district is technology rich, and professional development is offered to teachers three times annually. Despite the available technology, few teachers use it to its capacity Curriculum is somewhat dependent upon technology and used in multiple ways in most classrooms. The science teacher is a model of technology integration, whereas four of the fifteen teachers rarely use any technology. Interestingly enough, most veteran teachers (10 years or more of service) are eager to learn the new technologies. 20% of teachers cite lack of time to learn and plan for the technology as the main reason new technologies remain unused in their classrooms.

Currently the technology leadership team, comprised of one administrator, two board members, the technology coordinator, the business manager, the online classroom proctor, the science teacher, the first grade teacher, and one student, is developing a new comprehensive technology plan and use policy. Formal policy exists, and further planning and policy is currently under development for approval by the board of trustees. The comprehensive technology plan will be submitted to the state board of education in mid December after board approval.  Two main themes are in place over the next three years: virtualization and integration of student devices.

The district has been operating for five years and has only recently begun to examine the cost of maintaining and acquiring new technology. Prior to this time, funding has been provided by a number of large ($50,000-75,000) grants. The grant funding has also provided professional development for staff members. They plan to have a technology line item for FY2013 of approximately $30,000, excluding the fractional time of a staff member maintaining the technology.

Currently the district is technology rich with full administrative support, high speed bandwidth, a glut of computers, current industry standard software, and a well maintained network infrastructure. At this stage it lies in the “integrated” status, with a few areas of immediate improvement. Additional resources and planning in staff development, technology integration, and more advanced skills taught to staff and students are still necessary to become an “intelligent” model as demonstrated by this survey.

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EDTECH 501: Technology Use Planning Overview

The National Educational Technology Plan (2010) offers a non-prescriptive means of achieving the goals set forth by our nation’s educational leaders. Using it as a referance point provides a common lens through which to view our own objectives and progress towards those goals. In our district, technology planning committee members print out key segments to research and discuss at committee meetings. This blog features the main categories within this post to define how technology planning, implementation, and evaluation impact instruction and student learning.
Innovate and ScaleTeaching: Our district is miniscule. With 57 students in our junior/senior high school, technology offers students a competitive education that would be unavailable without synchronous and asynchronous online learning. Teachers are isolated in their subject areas, teaching six different flavors of their content area daily. Thanks to technology, the days of one person spewing forth knowlege are gone. From cutting-edge industry practices to details of ancient museum pieces, content delivery is supplmented with the vast resources of the Internet that brings a world of knowledge and ideas into the classroom.
Prepare and Connect: I am part of a team of instructional technology leaders made up of teachers, administrators, and other stake holders. Currently we are in the midst of developing a three-year tech plan to replace the existing plan that has met its useful life. Our past technology plan was designed for five years, as the State of Idaho had requested at the time. We have found it to be insufficient to address our expanding use of technology, even though it was beneficial in guiding our newly formed district in the path we are currently taking (our district is in its fifth year).
Infrastructure: Access and Enable: Previous to working in education, I worked in business management. One of the mantras of the day was to think/plan/act/evaluate with the end in mind. I believe that guideline rings true today. Even though we are designing a written technology plan, it’s the structure of our organization’s mission and vision statements that drives the adjustments needed when a new route or detour presents itself.
Assessment: Measure What Matters: Our committee recognizes that the planning stage is ongoing and needs flexibility as technological advances continually change the educational landscape. Because of this elasticity, we believe our tech plan should be designed for not longer than three years, which is in agreement with See (1992). I also am in agreement with See’s comment that “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology.” Our committee strives to evaluate the effectiveness of current technological practices and endeavors to use technological and traditional methods to measure student achievement. The following example is how teachers in our dstrict have implemented student reponse pads, or “clickers.”
Productivity: Redesign and Transform After a committee determination that our district, teachers, and students would benefit from student response pads, we purchased a set for every classroom. The grant was written in such a manner that professional development for the integration of the devices was paramount to the technology. The first year, contracted trainers worked with teachers and teachers worked with one another redesigning their delivery and assessments to accomodate the devices. We experienced great success, with 75% of the teachers actively using their response pads and using the resulting data to steer their instruction. Students reported especially liking the instant feedback aspect of the systems. Three years later we have one teacher regularly using the response pads. What happened? Two key factors came into play resulting in technology without application: 1) administrative changes; 2) staff retirement, relocation, and replacing. The new staff does not have ownership in the decision, so they are reluctant to implement the devices because they do not see the added value. The unused clickers are waiting to shine, and Karen Roberts (1990) has provided me with 13 ways to bring them out of the storage closet and back into the hands of the students.
The National Education Plan (2010) and the articles provided at the National Center for Technology Planning have added insight and inspiration to the planning process that we are currently undertaking at our district.

Resources:
Robertson, K. (1990). PROMOTING TECHNOLOGY: 13 WAYS TO DO IT. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from National Center for Technology Planning: http://www.nctp.com/html/promoting_technology.cfm
See, J. (1992, May). Developing Effective Technology Plans. Retrieved November 8, 2011, from National Center for Technology Planning: http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm
U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology. (2010). National Technology Plan 2010. Retrieved November 4, 2011, from ed.gov: http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010.pdf

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