Saturday, June 25, 2011

EDLD 5306 Course Reflections

When EDLD 5306 Concepts of Educational Technology began, I was wrapping things up for the year in my own classroom. Honestly, I can’t be certain what I was envisioning about my own education because I was still completely immersed in the education of my students. However, I did have a vision of what outcomes I thought would result from the Technology Leadership masters program. I felt this coursework would help me understand technology well enough to assist others in the implementation of 21st century skills in their classrooms. Without a doubt, I have started down the right path to accomplish this personal goal. In these fast-paced five weeks, this course has definitely taught me so much more about technology than I knew before, but I’ve learned a great deal more than just technology skills. I’ve come to understand there’s considerably more to being a technology leader than just understanding those skills.

For years, I have considered getting my masters, but until I discovered Lamar University’s Masters of Education in Educational Technology Leadership, nothing seemed like the right choice for me. I didn’t just want something to help me further my career in education. I also wanted coursework that would benefit my students as I worked toward completing that degree. This program has already helped me achieve a small part of these goals. The articles and books I have read, the videos I’ve watched, and the discussions I’ve had with members of my cohort have given me ideas to use in my classroom in the fall. These are ideas I believe will help to engage students on my campus as a result of bringing 21st century skills into the lessons. It has also been helpful to learn that my district is in a relatively good place when it comes to the technology we have available for our use. We still have room for improvement, but we’re better off than many other school districts.

Fortunately for me, I was raised by parents who taught me to see the glass as half full (to use an old adage). Although I wanted to know everything immediately upon completion of this course, I realized EDLD 5306 gave me a great start in the right direction for becoming an educational technology leader. As a result of this coursework, I have learned about so many different resources that are used by those in this field. Quite often, I have told my own students that a really smart person doesn’t necessarily know everything, but a really smart person knows where to find the resources to get answers that can be used to solve problems. So, I don’t know everything (yet), but I now have resources at my disposal to help become a technology leader.

As I worked through EDLD 5306, there were days when I thought I must certainly be the most incompetent person in the cohort and possibly in the world! The first week I thought I might have made a mistake as I sat up late on Saturday and Sunday nights trying to finish the assignments because I had been so busy all week trying to wrap up the school year with my own students. I may never have been as grateful as when someone asked during the first web conference if anyone else was overwhelmed. Oh my, how the typed responses did fly. It seemed as though everyone in attendance felt the same way. It was almost strange how knowing others were just as frustrated as me somehow made things better. That almost seemed a bit twisted, but this common burden will all shared started the camaraderie that helped me get through the course successfully as I completed first one assignment and then another.

This course taught me about technology tools I had either never heard about or never used before, such as Web 2.0 tools, LAN, WAN, wikis, blogs, embedding videos, Animoto, and more. Learning about those things was exciting, especially since I have sons who are digital natives. It was fun being able to tell them about the tasks I was completing as the course progressed. I also learned more about myself. I realized I still have a lot to understand before I can be a successful technology leader. That understanding will come as I work through the remainder of the program. I enjoyed the opportunity to help others which made me believe I have the right mentality to be a good leader. Maybe most importantly, I realized that my attitude is healthy. I was desirous to keep moving forward even when challenges seemed insurmountable.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week 5 Web Conference

We really made it (well, almost). As always, Dr. Borel was patient, understanding, and infused humor into the situation whenever possible. Even with the end of this first course so near, there were still some very important things she shared with us.

A few new wiki pages need to be added before the next course starts (Field-based Activities Monthly Report, Internship Field-based Activities Summary Report Updates, and Reflections of Course-based Embedded Assignments). The first monthly report is due by August 1st. Summary reports will be done as activities are completed. The first reflection really should be completed before the next course begins, even though the deadline for that reflection isn’t due until the seventh course.

It was so helpful when Dr. Borel repeatedly reminded us we don’t have to make this hard on ourselves. Once again she gave examples of how we can fill out our internship plans and principal competencies charts. She also pointed out that we need to spread out our activities over the 18 months of the program. It was also helpful and a relief to know we can change activities from what we initially put on the plan or chart if a problem arises that would prevent us from completing the original activity successfully.

The team spirit of our cohort group A was very apparent during this web conference (thanks especially to Mary). I think our group motto has become “together, we can do this!”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Week 4 Web Conference

It's June 16, 2011 and we are winding down to the end of our first course in the Educational Technology Leadership masters program, with only a week and a half to go. Some very important things still remain to be completed before that time is up though.

Dr. Borel went over the details about documents we will be adding to our Tk20 accounts, such as the Internship Plan and part 1 of Assignment 1. She also showed us where to find the 33 ISTE standards in our textbook and how to use that information to complete our Internship Plans. It was a relief to have her remind us that most of the 38 principal competency skills will probably be fulfilled as we complete the 33 ISTE standards required. We were instructed to not take action on certain course-embedded assignments until we receive a revised handbook, which she said may not be until the end of August.

As Dr. Borel said at the beginning of EDLD 5306, we should work with the end in mind. That will help us avoid procrastinating on many of our requirements, such as completing a summary report as we work on the 33 ISTE standards and the 38 principal competency skills. She instructed us to update that report every time we complete an activity so it’s done as we go rather than having the daunting task of completing the whole thing at the end of the program.

Yes, the first course is almost done, but we must not slow down as we approach the fifth and final week. We have some crucial tasks left to finish before we can finally say, “We made it!”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Week 3 Web Conference

Tonight’s web conference experience was interesting. Video and audio never seemed to completely gel, but those who were in attendance tonight were still able to ask their questions and get possible resolutions for their problems. I learned that I need to check every source carefully, after realizing I had used the internship handbook on Epic which is the wrong version. I am so glad I’m starting this program in the summer so I have time to work through my mistakes before my own students need help in the fall.

The information Dr. Borel shared with our cohort during this web conference was helpful, just as before. We learned more about the Tk20 that will be used to create an e-portfolio. We also had the opportunity to help answer questions for each other which was priceless. The support and camaraderie felt during the web conference created a sense of security because we could see that many of us have questions (we weren’t alone if we were struggling) and everyone was genuinely concerned about the challenges we each faced.

I’m still having trouble scanning a document onto my computer, but I’ve made a blog and embedded my PowerPoint in it, and I’ve created a Wiki and embedded my video in it for this masters program. Hmmm. Does that sound strange to anyone else? I guess I still have a long way to go!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The National Technology Plan

Although management of schools in the United States is left to the discretion of the state and local governments for the most part, we have a national technology plan to help guide them. It consists of five goals in the areas of learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.

Learners are expected to receive an education based in current technology that will prepare them for all 21st century skills, but especially in STEM. This learning should be available 24/7.

Assessment is expected to be done using technology, possibly even using “gaming technology, simulations, collaboration environments, and virtual worlds” (Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, Draft of National Educational Technology Plan 2010. U.S. Department of Education. 2010, March 5. p.xii).

Teachers will be trained in order to move their knowledge levels closer to those of the students they teach. This will enable teachers to incorporate the most current technology into their classrooms, including global communities and online instruction.

The federal government has rather lofty ideas for infrastructure, especially considering the state of our economy nationwide. The plan calls for an infrastructure in which all students and teachers will have the digital tools necessary to access the Internet both inside and outside of school, including the Internet service itself, software, collaboration opportunities, and other elements of online instruction.

Productivity is expected to increase as technology is used to help track expenses and mange funds used for technological needs. In addition, the plan calls for finding methods of helping educators who resist the necessary reformation of the 21st century classroom to include technology so our children can compete in a global society.

The Technology Plan in Birdville ISD

The Birdville ISD’s overall technology plan is to develop and sustain a dynamic, integrated infrastructure of human, technological and management resources that empowers all stakeholders to enable students to learn to their fullest potential” (Birdville Independent School District Strategic Technology Plan, Appendix F – Goals and Objectives, p.97). Based on my campus experience, I believe Birdville ISD (BISD) is gradually achieving success. BISD plans its budget according to the needs presented in its plan and maintains the necessary infrastructure.  Teachers are provided technology training occasionally, but more is needed. As a possible result, technology in every classroom is still on the horizon for us.

Within this plan, five goals have been created, which will be carried out by numerous entities, including technology and curriculum specialists, consultants and directors, our superintendent’s leadership team, the IMS manager, the associate superintendent of finance, the director of assessment, and the Instructional Technology Specialists (ITS).

First, students will be provided a curriculum aligned to the Technology Applications TEKS for K-12, along with the tools (technology and online) needed for teachers to create instruction and assessments that help students achieve greater mastery in this area. Progress will be evaluated using documents such as Scope and Sequence, teacher lesson plans, and summaries of projects.
Second, all employees are expected to develop the necessary skills in technology to perform their duties successfully. The district will judge progress by evaluating staff development reports and analyzing the recommendations of a task force.
Third, the district will support the integration of technology with funding and human resources by ensuring that the Instructional Technology Specialists (ITS) are well-trained and are being used in the most advantageous ways. Progress will be assessed by reviewing surveys completed by all who have used ITS services, as well as evaluating the use of personnel in the ITS department.
Fourth, BISD will keep up with changes in technology and repairs of technology equipment by reviewing current technology publications and catalogs, and conducting surveys of technology usage.
Fifth, an infrastructure will be maintained to support technology needs through the use of such things as Skyward, PeopleSoft, EdSoft, and other research-based information systems.

Technology Assessments in Education

Whew! I wasn’t sure the technology leadership assessments were ever going to end. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a multiple intelligence survey, a leadership skills assessment, a technology literacy self-assessment, and others seemed to go on forever. The amount of time dedicated to taking all of those surveys was the down side of assessing my leadership knowledge and skills. The up side was that I found out a lot about myself. Some of the things I discovered were not so revelatory. Other were a surprise to me, not so much because I was in denial, but because I hadn’t realized some of the skills even existed. For instance, at the risk of completely embarrassing myself, I had never heard of some of the Web 2.0 tools that are available, such as Slideboom and Smilebox.

I don’t even want to imagine that someone could find a negative side of assessing the knowledge, skills, and needs of our students. As Marc Prensky said, “first, consult the students. They are far ahead of their educators in terms of taking advantage of digital technology….” (Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom, Prensky, 2005, p.5). In addition, as educators, we have to know the children in our classrooms, personally and academically. Although it may be a little demeaning to us once we assess our students’ abilities and have the proof that they are more (and in some cases, much more) knowledgeable than us, it’s a necessary function. From the perspective of a student, an assessment of technology literacy might be rather boring (because they already know so much), so I think teachers should be creative in how they assess this knowledge. For instance, students could be asked to demonstrate their skills rather than answer questions to verify what is known versus unknown to them.

I hope for a world in which everyone wants to continue learning, because, as Albert Einstein said, “learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” So the conclusion I can derive from that statement is that once we stop attempting to learn, we stop living.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Star Trek & My 1st Web Conference for EDLD 5306

I watched Star Trek growing up, but never honestly expected to be able to see people in various parts of Texas as well as outside the state while talking to them without ever leaving my house. Although I have done Skype many times, last night’s experience was new and exciting for me as I enjoyed a web conference with my professor and other members of my cohort.

As is prone to happen with technology of this sort, we had a couple of issues through which we had to work initially, but overall it was a fantastic event. Our professor displayed her wonderful sense of humor, yet kept us grounded in the reality of what lies ahead for us in our masters program. It was a relief to know that the other members of my cohort are just as uncertain as I am in regard to what is expected of us and how we are going to accomplish everything.

It sure seems like a lot to achieve in such a short time, but I’ve already made my principal happy with the ideas I have been able to present to him (thanks not only to the information I’ve been assigned to read and watch, but also thanks to the discussion board dialogue that has already begun).

I can’t wait for the web conference next week!  Until then, “beam me up, Scotty.”