Category Archives: Ed Tech 501- Introduction to Educational Technology

Tech Use Plan Presentation

For the final project of my experience in Boise State’s Edtech 501 class, I have created a Technology Use Plan presentation (this is the narrated presentation on screencast.com) for a school I refer to at The Holmquist Academy.  While the name is fictional, the school is based on one that is near and dear to me.  Development of this presentation has been a very enriching process.  It has allowed me to look critically at the school where I have spent the majority of my career and see what is needed to make real and lasting change.  As is the case with most change, this begins with a look back before heading forward.

Photo Credit: Lee Maguire

“Holmquist” is a school of rich tradition.  It is a unique educational institution in which students and teachers are closer to equals than in most places.  This goes back to the creation of the school which happened in the 1920’s.  At the time, the four founders of the school decided that establishing a school that allowed students to connect with the real world and pursue individual interests was key to a quality education.  As I sit here in 2011 and type those words, it is not lost on me that those are the goals of education in the 21st century.  Pursuit of passion, connecting with the world outside of the classroom and creating products that have real world use are all ideals I see as part of modern education.  Luckily, I work at a place that has that as part of it’s core philosophy.  We need only learn how to incorporate technology into that philosophy.

Photo Credit: Kurt Nordstrom

Creating the presentation has given me a great chance to see what my school does well and what needs to be worked on.  More importantly, it has given me a vision of what I want my school to be and how I want to see technology utilized.  One aspect that I found a bit surprising was that, while I was pitching the need for a technology use plan, I realized that the technology needs to become so integrated into the school culture that it becomes background.  We need to reach a point where the focus is not on the technology, but on the outcomes that happen to rely on the technology.  Imagine trying to conduct a time based experiment, but being lost when it came to the use of a stopwatch or trying to solve a complicated math problem but being bewitched by the calculator.

Looking ahead, I am hopeful for the future of my school and for education in general.  As technology becomes more a part of our daily life, it’s incorporation in daily teaching will become part of the norm.  Until then, I will push myself, my colleagues and my school to envision the possibility of being a leader in the use of technology in a stimulating and meaningful curriculum.

Below is an adapted version of the presentation without narration:

Speaker Notes for the Tech Use Plan Presentation

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Technology Use Planning Overview

“We can do dumb things with a SmartBoard.”

– Heidi Hayes Jacobs

In this modern, technological world, there is certainly a great deal to navigate when it comes to understanding and embracing the opportunities that exist.  There is a  pressure to not only be on the cutting edge, but to be obviously on the cutting edge.  There is pressure to have interactive white boards in every classroom and laptops in the hand of every student.  There is pressure to keep a school ahead of a curve that is moving at the speed of light.  All of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology integration in education.  Because the waters can be murky and because the potential benefits are so great, a technology use plan is critical to creating positive outcomes for our organizations (educational or otherwise) and our students.

Photo credit: Avi Schwab

A technology use plan is essentially a road-map that describes where you are currently, where you want to be and how to get there.  It is a set of goals, the reasoning for those goals and a detailed description of how those goals shall be met.  While there can be variation in terms of the exact steps that must be followed in developing a technology use plan the following is a guideline:

  1. Determine the needs based on the outcomes desired.  This is critical to the plan because without setting a destination, the journey will simply be a meandering trip through the technological countryside.  There may be some highlights associated with such a journey, but there is little chance of ending up exactly where you wanted to be.  It is important to go to the source on this one too.  Teachers, students, parents, administrators and technology leaders all have important roles to play in determining the desired outcome.  It is also important to view the plan as more than a way to enhance current curricula.  Modern technology provides opportunities that were not even dreamed of when the typical current school curriculum was developed.  Moreover, one could argue that the future professional needs of the students cannot be met using these data curricula.  In essence, that opportunities that technology present come part and parcel with the imperative need to embrace new learning outcomes.
  2. Once the needs are established, determine what technology is best suited to meeting those needs.  Again, this is trickier than it seems.  It is easy to get lost in the arguments of Apple vs. PC or operating system X vs. operating system Y.  Many of the arguments about the specific technology are rendered nearly moot because of the speed at which new technology is developed.  In fact, John See, the Technology Integration Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, stated Developing Effective Technology Plans– written back in 1992!- that technology use plans should be short term plans.  “Technology is changing so fast,” See said, “that is is almost impossible to plan what type of technology will be available for use five years from now.”  With this in mind, plans that are developed must be relatively short term.  The ever changing face of technology also forces our plans to be outcome based as well.  Teachers and students will have to adapt as the technology evolves.  Because change can be a challenge in any institution, this evolution of technology and the support needed, must be part of the plan as well.
  3. With the needs and desired technology defined, budgetary constraints should be addressed.  This, again, allows for two different views.  On the one side, there is going to be a limit to how much money may be spent.  While this is most typically seen as a limitation, it can, in fact, be seen as an opportunity to embrace the best tools for the job.  Too many computers are being used for simple tasks or basic drills.  See once again makes a great point when he says “why make high powered technology available to students and staff and then not let them use it to increase personal productivity because the computers are always scheduled to teach keyboarding or low level drill and practice games?”  The budget actually allows us to take the time to find the right tool for each desired outcome.  It forces us to be critical about each piece of technology, which, in turn, can prevent buying into a technology that looks great, but does not meet our needs.
  4. The next piece of the technology use puzzle is the road to implementation.  Having the desire and technology to meet learning needs is great, but it is useless if the ability to do so is not there.  Teachers, staff and students must have effective training in the use of the resources.  Ongoing faculty support is a must.  Because this requires many teachers to step out of their own comfort zone, their input must be sought throughout the process.  Many basic skills can be conveyed though video tutorials that are made available.  In addition, helping teachers connect with online resources and forums to control their own learning helps to model some of what they could and should be teaching their students.  Once again, the need provides an opportunity.
  5. Evaluation of technology use plan is the next step.  With all of this taken care of, it may seem that it time to sit back and enjoy the finished product.  When it comes to technology planning, however, this simply isn’t the case.  Rather, it is time to evaluate.  Does the adopted technology truly meet the desired learning outcomes?  Are those learning outcomes still the desired ones?  Are the training and support systems sufficient?  There is a need for nearly constant reevaluation.  While a yearly cycle may be natural as school budgets change and teacher turnover occurs, shorter term evaluations should also be considered.  Meeting with teachers to see how and why the technology is being used, seeking feedback from students and evaluating changing technology trends all have a role in the evaluation process.

In my years of teaching, I have most certainly embraced the incorporation of technology in my classroom.  Unfortunately, like many teachers and educational institutions, the technology use plan has not been part of this.  Though I have no doubt that I have created some very good learning opportunities for my students using technology, it is clear that to get the students to the true desired destination, a technology use plan is needed.  Moreover, a school wide plan, that ensures all classes are getting the most out of technology and that students are provided with the best learning opportunities, is needed.  While taking on the development of such a plan may be intimidating, the US Department of Education’s National Technology Plan 2010 can provide a good framework to get the planning started.  This document presents institutions with a guideline that helps define what learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure and productivity should look like in our modern society.  Though it should not be seen as a blanket curriculum guide, it is an excellent primer for institutions looking to embrace technology planning and use.

References
Office of US Dept.Education, (2010, March 5) Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, National Educational Technology Plan 2010 Executive Summary,.Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/NETP-2010-exec-summary.pdf

See, J., (1992) Developing Effective Technology Plans, The Computing Teacher, (19), 8. Retried from: http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm

TEDxNYED – Heidi Hayes Jacobs – 03/05/2011  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsUgj9_ltN8

RSS Feeds and You

Looking back at the history of information sharing, it seems that we have gone from a somewhat personal form of communicating relevant information (think relying on your neighbors to learn of town news) to broadcast based communication (newspapers, TV news, Web 1.0).  But that seems to be changing once again.  RSS feeds are a simple way to get the news feeds you want and trust.  Although there is a bit more work by the reader on the front end (deciding what is worth your time and subscribing), the news becomes much more personalized and tailored to you interests and needs.  (Although this is a great positive in many ways, it does raise some concern with becoming a bit too protected from ideas that are contrary to your own or that challenge you.)  Even better, the news comes to you!  The information you feel you want or need shows up where you need it.  It’s like having a personalized newspaper dropped on your doorstep every day (actually all day long as new news comes in).  News, sports, lessons or whatever else deemed worthy is included.  What a world.

It certainly seems like this can be used in the classroom by teacher and student alike.  At the most basic level, a teacher can blog assignments and have students subscribe so that they always know what they should be working on.  Teachers can subscribe to sources of material relevant to their subject and have students subscribe as well.  Opportunities for learning and ongoing professional development abound.

On a different level, there is an opportunity to replace clunky, static textbooks with a more dynamic source.  Feeds that provide lectures on subjects of interest, challenges to to test knowledge and skill and invitations to conversations with others interested in the same topic could change the way students approach their own learning.  Like many other aspects of the modern internet, flexibility and interaction are key elements of RSS feeds.

While it is still a work in progress, here is a link to my Google Reader Shared items page. Enjoy.

Plagiarism Video

The following video was created using GoAnimate and was created to outline some of the forms of plagiarism students may intentionally or unintentionally commit.  My hope was to add a bit of humor so that students would find the video interesting enough to watch.

GoAnimate.com: Presidential Plagiarism by joncfreer

It is also worth noting that I found the process of making the very simple video fun and also found that the forms of plagiarism became fairly ingrained in me while making the video.  Certainly this form of project making would be a great one to use with students in just about every subject.

The Digital Divide and Digital Inequality

As part of my work in EDTECH 501 at Boise State University, I was recently given the following assignment:

You are the Chief Technology Adviser for your State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and she has asked your help in budgeting some special funds. She has been given a special allocation of $50M to address digital inequalities in the state, and she wants you to consider the following seven options:

1: Install computers in all public libraries in the state and expand the hours when the computers are available.
2: Expand staffing and other resources so that public schools can be open to the public after normal school hours, on weekends, and during the summer months.
3: Provide individuals in disadvantaged communities with computers.
4: Provide high-speed Internet and mobile access for all state residents.
5: Subsidize Internet Service Providers to provide low-cost Internet to all state residents.
6: Provide information literacy courses to enhance computer skills and enable knowledgeable use of digital technologies.
7: Develop free online educational content, giving first priority to content most relevant to lower socio-economic groups before content that is relevant to the rest of the public.

Links (I am having some trouble with the embed feature in WordPress.)

Narrated Presentation

Presentation without Narration

Digital Inequality Presentation-Narration Notes

In researching the material needed to address these ideas, I learned a great deal about the digital world that I had not previously considered.  Over the past year and a half, I have pushing myself and my students to actively engage in online activities.  I have come to recognize that these skills are going to be more and more important for my students as they venture forth into the world after graduation.  Although I have always suspected that the vast majority of students are not receiving such education, I always assumed it was due to educational systems that were now flexible or teachers who were not willing to move outside of their comfort zone.  It had not occurred to me in any meaningful way that the education wasn’t happening because the access wasn’t there.

I am lucky in many regards in my life.  One of those is the fact that I am immersed in technology to just about any level I desire.  I can connect with family and friends, seek advice from virtual colleagues and learn as much as I want about just about any topic of my choosing.  (Just yesterday I watched a baseball game on my phone.  Now that’s immersion.)  The fact is, I can move in and out of technology use as I see fit.  This assignment has made me more aware of the fact that there are many around me-and beyond- that simply cannot do that.  As I state in the project itself, I feel that access to the virtual world is no longer a luxury, but a need.

Heading forward, I will much more aware of this issue as I engage my students in the online pursuits.  In many ways, I think it is my students that need universal access for everyone.  For if they are truly engaging in an online, global conversation, shouldn’t everyone have a voice?

The assignment itself aligns with the following standards:

Standard 3.2- Diffusion of Innovations: The production of the video allowed me to utilize a form of communication that I have and will continue to use.

Standard 3.4 Policies and Regulations: Clearly, the “rules and actions of society that affect the diffusion and use of Instructional Technology” can be seen in this project.  The project itself is about an inequality that is largely based on the rules of society and a social hierarchy.  If the age of the “lifelong learner” is indeed upon us, then it is critical to give all equal access.

Standard 4.2 Resource Management: The biggest jump I made in this regard was that I have expanded my use of Google Docs and PDF editing.  Housing all my documents in Google docs allows me access from anywhere.  In addition, I explored the ways PDF editing allows me to highlight and take notes within each of the documents.  During the project itself, I went from having a desk full of papers to highlighted online documents.

Elements of Educational Technology

Although the preface to the AECT definition of Educational Technology in Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary states outright that views of educational technology have been “evolving as long as the field has,”  the current definition is :

“Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating
learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing
appropriate technological processes and resources.”

One of the most integral parts of this definition is “resources.”  No doubt, the view of what resources have been available and useful has long been a concern of educators and those involved in the field of educational technology.  Today, however, the word “resources” takes on a much bigger scope and, in my opinion, changes the potential for learning for every person with a connection to the internet.

While the reading describes resources as “people, tools, technologies, and materials designed to help learners,” much of the description is limited to (or at the very least slanted towards) materials that can simply relay information of one sort or another to the learner.  I could certainly spend time discussing the fact that the availability of information in nearly every field has exploded in recent years.  However, as is the case with knowledge acquired through any means, technological or not, the possession of the knowledge if of limited practical use without the ability to apply it to real-world situations and problems.  Although there is a reference in the “Learning” section of this chapter to the different types of learning (retention, understanding and active use), it is not as clear how educational technology can facilitate the “deeper learning.”  Obviously, the ability to efficiently relay concepts and facts is a very valuable asset.  I do feel, however, that something is left out by the limited scope of the definition: community.  (Although this is implied by the inclusion of “people,” I feel this warrants individual recognition.)

As I get ready to publish this post, someone, somewhere is about to take to the internet in search of some analysis of educational technology.  If they happen to come across this post and decide to share their views in the comments area, a connection has been made.  It is possible that a dialogue will then follow in the form of back and forth comments in which we debate some of the points of this post.  Perhaps this reader then tweets the post to a colleague to get their input.  Now another voice joins the conversation.  The process continues as long as the learners are each having a learning need satisfied.   A learning opportunity has presented itself in a form that is something greater than simply “people.”  A learning community has formed.  A chance for individuals to come together to explore an idea, push each others thinking and come away with, potentially, different outcomes.  This idea of a community or network of learners is explored a bit in this post by Will Richardson, in which he looks at the networking of teachers.

Last year, I took part in a program that provided a structure such as this (PLP).  Time and time again, my thinking and learning was enhanced by connections I made with people, most of whom I had never met.  One of the leaders of the program wrote a blog post that highlighted just how much I was influenced by this style of learning.  One idea that I came away with is that the ability to connect and share ideas with a community of people is, perhaps, the best asset of modern educational technology.  It is also becoming increasingly more important for teachers to help students make similar connections.

I don’t mean to argue the fact that there exist now better and more varied ways for content to be relayed to learners.  As a science teacher, it is nearly impossible for me to teach without spending a great deal of time helping my students work their way through the basic content.  The resources described, “people, tools, technologies, and materials designed to help learners,” certainly fit the bill in that regard.  The point is that once the learner has a basic foundation, the development of ideas and the road to deeper understanding comes from the sharing with a greater community.  Because our virtual communities can be as important and enlightening as our face-to-face communities, it is important to recognize and develop these connections in the field of educational technology.

References:
 Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary
“Personal Professional Development” by Karl Fisch
“I Never Knew I Could Have a Network”  by Will Rirchardson
Powerful Learning Practices
Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary

The Filmstrip Projector- A First Memory

Although far from the best, the earliest recollection of educational media being used in my classes seems to be the good, old filmstrip projector.  I’m not talking about the classic reel-to-reel film projector that gave the pleasing “fwap-fwap-fwap” as the film continued to spin after the movie had ended.  No, this was a device in which a filmstrip

A filmstrip projector that predates even me

was advanced slide by slide by hand.  Typically, a student would be lucky enough to get the job of forwarding the slides by either turning a knob or, on later models, pressing a button.  The filmstrip itself was always rolled up in a small canister and had to be fed into the top (or was it the bottom) of the machine.  Once threaded, the teacher would hit play on a recording (typically a cassette tape) and a “beep” would tell the student to advance the slide.  (Clearly, we’re not talking rocket science here, but there are, in fact, instructional pages to help you learn the ins and outs of advancing a filmstrip.)  As the story moved along, the “beeps” kept coming until, finally, the ‘show’ ended and the filmstrip was rolled up and stored for the next group of lucky student.

Depending on the class, the material could range from fairly basic to surprisingly complex and allowed students to see a variety of places or make connections to things far away much like a film.  Interestingly, it seems like there would be some advantage to this format over a reel-to-reel film (which seems much more advanced to my mind.)  For example, the filmstrip does allow for the teacher to hit “stop” on the recording and interject with their own ideas or personal experiences relating to the subject matter.  Of course, there are disadvantages as well, as a this somewhat odd source of information called Vision 20/20  points out.

Clearly, this is just one, small part of the world of visual media in education, but it seems to me it was on par with films, VHS tapes or television of the time.  Although they are admittedly not as engaging as a film, filmstrips can in fact tell a story and share fairly substantive information as this example of a filmstrip on globalization demonstrates (be sure to listen for the “beeps”).  In terms of overall importance, it seems that filmstrips, television and most other audio-visual media are most important when they allow students to expand their own world and see places and things they might not otherwise be exposed to.

My goals for the Ed Tech program

As I sit here, this is the first day of my graduate work at Boise State and I couldn’t be more excited…and also nervous.  Looking back the biggest event that has brought me to this point was my participation in a long-term professional development program called Powerful Learning Practices (PLP). In this program, educators are exposed to the great many technologies that are available in the world (and are continually being added to the list) and, more importantly, how these technologies are changing the face of learning in this still young century.  I can still remember the first day of the PLP program when I had to assess my use and understanding of web 2.0 tools.  It was an easy assessment.  I had no idea what that term even meant.  Once the web 2.0 door was opened to me, I quickly understood that this was much more than a way to add flashy technology to my Biology class, but rather it was a new world of education in which each student’s individual learning takes center stage and the teacher’s role becomes more of a coach and guide.

Since concluding the PLP program, I have been working to incorporate as many of the ideas into my teaching as I could.  It has been a struggle though.  A combination of my inexperience, the traditional mindset of my students and the overwhelming tasks on my normal plate as a teacher kept me from getting as in depth as I wanted to.  Through Twitter, I managed to link up with many talented teachers and educational technology specialists around the world.  I have incorporated Voicethread lessons in my classes and have even gone so far as to create and produce video lectures so that I could “flip” my Pre-Algebra class.  I have found very useful sites such as Classroom 2.0 and the The Flipped Class Network.  Over the past year, I have done my best to share these ideas with colleagues and have talked with the school’s Headmaster about expanding my role to that of a guide for my colleagues into this world of educational technology.  The only real problem that I saw was that while I had a plethora of enthusiasm, I lacked any substantive experience and training in the field.

So, here I am.  The first day of graduate school at Boise State University as I pursue a Masters in Educational Technology.  My very clear short term goal is to learn as much as I can about Educational Technology.  I want to become a voice at my school and a source of inspiration and support for my colleagues as they learn the potential benefits that technology can bring to their student’s learning.  The long term is a little less clear.  While I certainly want to embrace any professional opportunities a Masters in Ed Tech may bring me, I am hesitant to leave the classroom entirely.  Ideally, I will end up with one foot in each world.  I will have an opportunity to support and teach colleagues while also having a classroom that gives me a space to use all that I hope to learn.