Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bob, the Three-Legged Goat Gets a New Leg

Today in Speech class the students were practicing their stories for storytelling at the elementary school. Since we finished so early in the period, the students asked me to tell a story. Even though I didn't have a story prepared, I agreed to tell a story about a character who has gone through many evolutions as it has journeys have been told throughout the years to my daughters as a bedtime story. It was funny to see the cell phones pop out to record me in storytelling mode, and since I had just recorded them telling stories, it was only fair. It was fun to relax for a bit and share a story about a character created for my daughters. I don't know what it is about the Three-Legged Goat, but he sure is popular with little kids at bedtime!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflections on Teacher Leadership and Creating a 21st Century Team


Photo By @boetterJacob B√łtter
Reflection on Becoming a Teacher Leader
            Learning about various leadership models and frameworks has been an advantage when deciding how to create and organize people to work together for a cause. In forming the framework for the 21st Century Skills Team to integrate both technology and 21st Century Skills (http://www.p21.org) into classrooms in order to improve student learning and understanding, to differentiate instruction, and to better prepare students for college and career readiness, I have been able to review leadership models and ascertain that the appropriate leadership model for that project is a Personal Learning Community (PLC). As Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010, p. 266) and Hord (2009, p. 42) advise, regular meetings are crucial to the success of the Team. Because the Team will also be planning ongoing Professional Development (PD), Hord’s (2009, p. 42-43) conditions for success, especially the support and participation of the principal, are necessary components. Having an explicit purpose for the Team allows for the focus of the PLC on both student learning and teacher learning. Time and a place for regular meetings will give the Team the opportunity for members to discuss research, technology tools, and instructional strategies. It will also give the Team members the opportunity to learn and use the technology tools and instructional strategies so they can model them to the rest of the educational system.
            Hord (2009) identifies six research-based aspects of PLCs which include a shared mission, a distributive leadership, support with resources as well as time and place, an atmosphere of mutual respect among members of the PLC, a focus on educator learning that addresses student needs and increases the effectiveness of the educators, and peer sharing for improvement (p. 41-42). Setting up norms and protocols to ensure that collaborative meetings run smoothly is imperative. Continuing efforts I started last spring in promoting Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) with the teaching staff must continue in order to allow for both collaboration of ideas and strategies within the Pleasant Plains High School (PPHS) educational system and collaboration of ideas and strategies with a global network of teachers through various tools such as Twitter, Google+, The Educator PLN, and Classroom 2.0.
            The progress of the team can be monitored by giving surveys, interviewing teachers and students, observing classrooms, and reviewing artifacts. Free survey tools and protocols can be used from State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), which are made available on their website (http://www.setda.org/web/guest/PETItools). SETDA’s tools are designed to evaluate educational technology effectiveness. A survey can be given prior to PD for integration of both 21st Century Skills and technology tools. The data from the initial survey can be compared to later surveys, interviews, artifacts, etc to determine the progress and effectiveness of integration.
            Some barriers and obstacles that might make it difficult for me to involve myself in teacher initiatives are my schedule, teacher self-efficacy, and my responsibility to my family. Because administrators and leaders tend to overuse the teacher-leaders who are the most successful, I am often volunteered for several committees. In addition to time consuming teaching responsibilities such as yearbook advisor and web advisor, I usually end up a member of several school improvement committees simultaneously, such as the RtI Committee, the Bargaining Team, the Technology Committee, the Teacher Evaluation Committee, and the Freshman Orientation Committee. I have been asked to be on other committees, but have had to decline because of my current commitments. Teacher self-efficacy in technology is a continuous obstacle to overcome. Low self-efficacy slows the process of down since ongoing PD is needed to teach technology integration strategies and to allow teachers time to develop those strategies. Finally, my family responsibility, which I sometimes neglect for my profession, may become an obstacle. I struggle to develop a “family first” mentality, but often compromise too many times. I need to be sure to build my professional time around my family time as much as possible.

Reflection on Communication and Collaboration
            Encouraging and supporting teacher-leadership at PPHS has been a steady process. Administrators and teachers at PPHS have been holding PD on new pedagogies as well as on differentiated instruction. This practice has born impromptu Critical Friends groups throughout the last couple of years. Some teachers participate in Communities of Practice (COP) and have PLNs through Twitter, Google+, the Educators PLN, Classroom 2.0, and more. These efforts are being modeled for the rest of the educational system and are gaining popularity. This practice has also promoted the forward thinking of administrators and teacher-leaders that PD needs to be more individualized. The question currently centers on how to personalize the PD since that culture, with the exception of a couple of CFGs and individual teacher-leaders, does not and has not existed at PPHS.
            The creation of a PD Team is a possible solution that will not only build consensus, but will also develop a collaborative approach to PD. Lee (2010) states that it is necessary to establish a shared vision with all stakeholders involved in the creating the PD and working toward that shared vision (p. 29), which is what a PD team could do. Lee (2010) further states that “PD should incorporate opportunities for small groups of teachers to learn collaboratively” (p. 29). A culture that accepts the use of mentors based on skill needs rather than based on years of service is also required. In mentoring teachers, supportive communication must be used. Crippen (2005) states that “educators are great communicators and must be good listeners, to themselves (through their inner voice), as well as to others” (p. 6). Therefore, listening becomes one of the most important communication skills that teachers can use to enhance relationships. Listening to objections can lead to the “real” reasons involved and make solutions easier to discover. Listening to small successes without criticism, but in asking more in depth questions regarding the parts that the teacher is most excited about can lead to self-reflection on the part of the teacher. Follow up questions can be asked about what the teacher would recommend changing if another teacher would like to use the same strategy.
            Continuing to promote CFGs, PLCs, and COPs at PPHS will bring teachers out of isolation and will lead to the accomplishment of the goals of teacher self-leadership and life-long learning. Providing teachers with a safe, supportive environment (Curtis, Humbarger, & Mann, 2011, p. 51) to share their ideas and student work will build a culture of trust that enables objective peer observations where true self-reflection can be an outcome.

Reflection on Leadership for Student Learning
            Determining how leadership affects student learning first requires defining instructional leadership.
According to Brewer, the instructional leader is defined as follows:
One that requires focusing on instruction; building a community of learners; sharing decision making; sustaining the basics; leveraging time; supporting ongoing professional development for all staff members; redirecting resources to support a multifaceted school plan; and creating a climate of integrity, inquiry, and continuous improvement. (as cited in Doyle and Rice, 2002, p. 49)
Brewer’s definition of an instructional leader identifies components that implicitly focus on improving student learning. Because the Illinois Common Core Standards emphasize both 21st Century Skills and the integration of technology into the classroom to improve student understanding and achievement, the creation of both the 21st Century Skills Team and a PD Team at PPHS will directly benefit student learning. In general, teacher leadership strategies are perfect models for the skills of collaboration, cooperative learning, communication, and research-driven solutions that academic standards require of students.
            The 21st Century Team that will be created this school year at Pleasant Plains High School will follow the PLC model and will utilize Hord’s (2009) conditions for success, which include principal support, a distributed leadership, time made available for educator learning, and data use support (p. 42-43). State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) tools (http://www.setda.org/web/guest/PETItools) to survey and measure the integration of 21st Century Skills and technology tools into classrooms will not only be a great resource for the 21st Century Skills Team, but will be a great asset for any team of the district. Creating a PLC that is successful in integrating 21st Century Skills and in integrating technology into the classroom will increase student achievement as the structure of the PLC promotes a focused outcome and reflective discussions on the progress of the work. The SETDA tools will enable the team to monitor student learning and identify what is working and what needs modified to increase achievement.
            In creating a collective purpose and vision for PPHS, creating a PD team who would provide a structure for individualized PD would be appropriate. The PD team would find out what each department PD needs are, then offer 3-4 (initially) PD choices that are “hands-on” each PD day in order to create the habit of teachers taking charge of their own PD. The ultimate goal would be to create a culture where ongoing PD is individually pursued by each teacher. If teachers are motivated to continually learn new pedagogies and tools to improve student learning, then that collective purpose and vision will be solidified as teachers share those strategies and tools with their colleagues.
            In allowing teachers input into their PD and in demonstrating that 21st Century Skills and technology integration are part of state learning standards, teachers will be motivated to integrate these into their lessons. PD that is meaningful and specific to teacher needs is half of the requirement for motivation. The other half is allocating ongoing learning time for the teachers to practice strategies and share ideas/strategies with their peers. Seeing and sharing successes and providing a system for supportive feedback to improve strategies will also increase the motivation of teachers to integrate these strategies into their own classrooms. Buy in for any effort is based on models of success. As more models of classroom success are produced, the teachers who are hesitant to move forward will be motivated to buy into the efforts. Data/artifacts from improved student learning and evidence from SETDA surveys will be used to demonstrate the effect on the initiatives and to inform modifications needed to the initiatives.


References
Crippen, C. (2005). The Democratic School: First to Serve, Then to Lead. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 131, 1-17. doi:EJ846732
Curtis, R., Humbarger, J., & Mann, T. (2011). Ten Tips for Coaching Adults: An Emotionally Healthy Approach. YC Young Children, 66(1), 50-54. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals. doi:2387291781
Doyle, M. & Rice, D. (2002). A Model for Instructional Leadership. Principal Leadership, 3(3), 49-52. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals. doi:236822521
Ertmer, P., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2010). Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(3), 255-284. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals. doi:2212521271
Hord, S. (2009). Professional Learning Communities. Journal of Staff Development, 30(1), 40-43, 78. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals. doi:1611220721
Lee, M. (2010). 7 Principles of Highly Collaborative PD. Science and Children, 47(9), 28-31. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals. doi: 2067104121

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Creating a 21st Century Skills Team

Integrating technology and 21st Century Skills (http://www.p21.org) into teachers' classrooms is a challenge that is currently facing Pleasant Plains High School. In order to facilitate the change, I have been speaking with the principal about creating a 21st Century Team of teachers, administrators, and students who will plan the integration of technology and 21st Century Skills into classrooms. The purpose of the Team will be to integrate technology and 21st Century Skills into classrooms in order improve student learning and understanding, to differentiate instruction, and to better prepare students for college and career readiness. The goals of the Team will be to 1) create a culture in the educational system that reflects the learning styles of current students, 2) plan ongoing professional development for teachers to build self-efficacy in technology tools, 3) plan ongoing professional development for teachers regarding new pedagogies, 4) create a culture where both students and teachers are life-long learners, 5) provide a means for teachers to build Learning Communities and utilize Personal Learning Networks, and 6) create a culture where students have a way to collaborate with teachers about their education. In order to accomplish these goals, the Team must create a culture of teacher leadership as well as plan for roadblocks to the success of this project.
Creating a team for this project “means creating a phalanx – including the principal – of true believers who assume ownership of new ideas and learn strategies for implementing them and winning adherents among their colleagues in the school community” (Maeroff, 1993). Maeroff (1993) notes the importance of including the principal in the team in order to reduce possible resistance. Thousand and Villa (1992) and Villa and Thousand (2000) note that “collaborative teams are hypothesized to function optimally when team members pursue shared goals, hold mutual levels of respect for the unique areas of expertise and input of members, engage in distributive leadership, and hold members accountable” (as cited in Phillipo & Stone, 2006, p. 230). With this in mind, the 21st Century Team members will need to know and agree to pursue the purpose and goals outlined for the project. Larson and LaFasto identify eight characteristics that successful teams must have: “1.) a clear, elevating goal; 2.) a results-driven structure; 3) competent members; 4) a unified commitment; 5.) a collaborative environment; 6.) standards of excellence; 7.) external support and recognition; and 8.) principled leadership” (Maeroff, 1993).
With the purpose and goals clearly outlined, the next step is to work on team building concepts with the team. Curtis, Humbarger, and Mann (2011) identify ten tips for effective coaching of adults that also make good ground rules for team interaction during meetings: “1. start with a safe, supportive environment” (51), “2. build [positive] relationships” (52), “3. consider staff [and student team members] capable” (52), “4. observe with an open mind” (52), “5. ask and actively listen” (52), “6. highlight strengths first” (52), “7. help staff connect behavior with results” (53), “8. investigate alternatives” (53). “9. nurture work on the goal” (54), and “10. grow your skills – build your strengths” (54). The team must then be trained on integrating technology into the classroom so they can become knowledge brokers. Plair (2008) states that “knowledge of educational or instructional technology is a commodity to be shared, exchanged, valued, sought, and purchased, and the concept of a broker, or go-between, fits what teachers need and want when integrating technology” (72).
In preparing the team members to be knowledge brokers, the team must research and review technology integration for 21st Century Learners. Lawless and Peligrino (2007); Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2007); and Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde (2005) all note that “using technology simply to support lecture-based instruction falls far short of recommended best practice” (as cited in Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010, p. 257). Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) continue that “we need to help teachers understand how to use technology to facilitate meaningful learning, defined as that which enables students to construct deep and connected knowledge, which can be applied to real situations” (p. 257). Because the first step is to provide teachers with the knowledge of the technology available (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010, p. 259), the team will need to identify ways to provide professional development to the faculty on basic technology tools so they will be able to transfer that knowledge to technology tools that better fit their own classrooms. Next, the team needs to identify professional development in “pedagogical methods that facilitate student learning, and the specific ways in which technology can support those methods” (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010, p. 260). Professional development will also need to be planned to build technology self-efficacy by providing teachers with
Intense professional development experiences, followed by continued support and community discussions
Opportunities to practice managing technology in the classroom by providing additional help (teacher aides, parents, advanced students, etc.)
Opportunities to share success stories related to using technology to facilitate student learning, at grade-level or discipline based teacher meetings
Opportunities to witness other teachers using technology in the classrooms
Encouragement/expectation of small changes with technology over extended time period
Implementation of a culture that encourages and supports experimentation (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010, p. 260)
Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) also recommend that the team hold regular meetings to check on the progress of professional development (266).
            In order to create a culture where students have a voice in their education, the 21st Century Skills Team should consider the creation of a technology team of students as well. Students generally know what their learning style is and which technology tools they might use in various instances. A team of advanced students who are knowledgeable about various technology tools can fulfill the need that Plair (2008) says that teachers have for on-the-spot professional development (p. 73). By arranging for a team of students trained to assist teachers with technology tools as issues arise, the school will adapt a culture where it is acceptable for teachers to learn from students in addition to students learning from both students and teachers. The process will not only empower the student trainers, but will also provide them with real world, relevant experiences.
            Once the 21st Century Skills Team is trained and has a plan in place, the Team will need to prepare for the implementation with the understanding that “change is then thwarted by [teachers’] tendency to change as little as possible” (Fullan & Stiegelbauer as cited in Maeroff, 1993). Maeroff (1993) advises that the team begin the conversation with the rest of the school as conversations that spread until they become schoolwide. He also says that at first the team members should do most of the talking, but other people who take up the team’s beliefs should be encouraged to promote the beliefs as well (Maeroff 1993). Maeroff (1993) identifies ten ways that teams can promote change in their schools:
·         Teams can set priorities so that all of the team’s ideas are not just dumped on the school with no sense of what is important.
·         Teams can model the kinds of behavior that they would like to elicit from their colleagues.
·         Teams can try to anticipate objections so that the answers are provided before some of the negative reactions are registered.
·         Teams should remember that each member is only part of the team and does not speak for the entire group unless delegated to do so.
·         Teams can make certain that team members interact with their colleagues.
·         Teams should keep the school community informed about the team’s progress.
·         Teams should be positive whenever possible.
·         And, finally, team members should maintain a sense of humor about the serious work at hand. (Maeroff, 1993)
Using these strategies, the team can formulate a plan for both implementing and promoting the shift to integrating technology into the classrooms. The strategies will also help with the introduction of the concept of students as technology tool trainers.
            Maeroff (1993) mentions some other barriers to change, such as societal barriers, budgets, unions, teachers’ knowledge, team functioning, school schedules, and continuity of staffing. In addressing these barriers, it is notable that budgets and unions will likely not be issues. The leaders of the Pleasant Plains Education Association have been promoting 21st Century Skills and technology integration to the faculty of the district for the last two years. Since most of the technology tools are free web tools, there will be little to no expense for implementation. The purpose statement of the 21st Century Skills Team aligns with the district technology plan as well. School schedules will need to checked to determine which students are in classes where they can be utilized as technology trainers as well as which students can work with teachers and students during the PACE (student assistance) period.
            As one of the goals of the project is to provide a means for teachers to build Learning Communities and utilize Personal Learning Networks, it is hopeful that an outcome of the project will also be the creating of teacher-leaders. A healthy ideal self of both the 21st Century Skills Team and the teacher-leaders will need to be created. Boyatzis and Akrivou (2006) identify the ideal self as “the core mechanism for self-regulation and intrinsic motivation” (p. 625). It is “an evolving, motivational core within the self, focusing a person’s desires and hope, aspirations and dreams, purpose and calling” (Boyatzis & Akrivou, 2006, p. 625). Intrinsic motivation is key in the success of the both the project and in the success of teacher-leaders. Boyatzis and Akrivou (2006) identify three paths leading to a healthy ideal self that the 21st Century Skills Team should address (p. 634). The first is to assess if the ideal self has been articulated – if it is explicit. This path requires an increase of mindfulness concerning the ideal self. If the ideal self is low, then “the person is mindless or in denial of a desired future” (Boyatzis & Akrivou, 2006, p. 634). The second path is to determine the importance of the ideal self in terms of desire for its components. A low ideal self would result “in superficial commitments to change” ((Boyatzis & Akriou, 2006, p. 634). The third path is to determine if all of the components fit in with the person’s desire for the future. A low ideal self in this pathway may result in “unintended consequences in other parts of their life” (Boyatzis & Akriou, 2006, p. 634). In defining the ideal self, Boyatzis and Akriou (2006) state that “optimism and efficacy are seen as the main determinants and generators of hope, and therefore, key determinants of the ideal self” (p. 630). They blatantly state that “people who are relatively lower in self-efficacy and optimism experience less hope” (Boyayzis & Akriou, 2006, p. 632).
            Addressing the ideal self is important throughout each step of the process: in developing the 21st Century Skills Team, in preparing the Team, in planning professional development for the staff, discussing the project with others schoolwide, and in implementing the project. Building teacher self-efficacy in instructional technology and maintaining an optimistic attitude with the Team will provide the hope that teachers need to successfully integrate technology into classrooms. Teachers all share the ideal of preparing students for their futures. Developing this ideal to include the component of ensuring that students receive the 21st Century Skills required for their futures is imperative. In doing so, teachers are likely to achieve the healthy ideal self that enables each of them to be effective teacher-leaders in their schools.
            The 21st Century Skills Team will need to meet throughout the project to maintain the collaboration between teachers, administration, and students. The Team will need to continue to assess the needs of both students and teachers as it plans professional development activities. The Team will also need to plan for the turnover of team members as student members of the team change and as new teacher-leaders rotate into the Team. The Team, however, needs to strive for continuity by maintaining focus on the original purpose and goals. If that focus is maintained, then the Team will be able to create a culture of success in the school. Curtis, Humbarger, and Mann (2011) state that “when people feel they are making a difference in the classroom, they become more involved in their work and their job performance improves. They reconnect with the excitement of being an integral part of a dynamic team” (p. 54).

References
Boyatzis, R. & Akrivou, K. (2006). The Ideal Self as the Driver of Intentional Change. The Journal of Management Development, 25(7), 624-642. doi:1079220841
Curtis, R., Humbarger, J., & Mann, T. (2011). Ten Tips for Coaching Adults: An Emotionally Healthy Approach. YC Young Children, 66(1), 50-54. doi:2387291781
Ertmer, P., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2010). Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(3), 255-284. doi:2212521271
Maeroff, G. (1993). Building Teams to Rebuild Schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 74(7). doi:5004446
Phillippo, K., & Stone, S. (2006). School-Based Collaborative Teams: An Exploratory Study of Tasks and Activities. Children & Schools, 28(4), 229-235. doi:1177685511
Plair, S. (2008). Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency. The Clearing House, 82(2), 70-74. doi:1592650381

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Making Customer Service Come to Life in Education

I can remember working at Osco Drug as a teen in a time when Customer Service was extremely important. It was a matter of esteem to have your voice announce the "Thank you" over the intercom to designate that you had the customer service call covered, whether it be a phone call or a question in one of the store aisles. Every time a call came over the intercom, it was a race to be the one to answer the call. If you didn't know the answer to the customer's question, it was also customary to find out or find someone who might know. Helping a customer locate an item meant walking the customer to the item on the shelf. If there was a price check, any questionable signage in price went in favor of the customer.

That same great customer service experience continued for me as I began my career in banking. At the teller windows, it was customary to greet the customer, refer to the customer by name (Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Doe). The transaction was verbally detailed to the customer as it was processed, and a "thank you, have a nice day" was given as the transaction was completed. The drive-up window tellers commanded the same service. As soon as a vehicle pulled up to the tubes, it was customary for a teller to greet the customer and let the customer know that someone will be with him/her as soon as possible. When grabbing a transaction from the tube, the teller followed the same service routine as the window tellers.

Incidentally, customer service has been important to me throughout my life. As a customer, if I get good customer service, I feel good. If I get bad or apathetic service, it makes me want to teach a customer service workshop for that business. I also try to subtly lead the employee into good customer service. The results of good customer service are

  • customer feels good/happy
  • customer loyalty
  • employee feels good/happy


It's funny to think that as customers we all know what we expect for good customer service, but as employees do we give that good service that we expect? It seems so common sense.


How does this all apply to Education? That same customer service does apply to Education. How? Educators create the same feelings of satisfaction with regards to students and parents. A culture of good customer service begins at the top. Employers/administrators must treat their employees with respect - respected employees are good employees. Teachers/employees must be trained in what good service looks like. The goals of good customer service in Education remain the same. We want the students to feel good about their education. We want parents to be happy with their students' progress and achievement. We want both students and parents to be loyal to the academic mission and vision of the school. It's common knowledge that if someone has a good experience, that person will tell a few friends. We want our students and parents to be able to brag about the academic experiences at our schools.

Good Education customer service:


  • smile and greet students (by name if possible) as they enter the building and/or walk down the hall
  • smile and greet students by name as they enter your room
  • be knowledgable about your content
  • be knowledgable about pedagogy
  • be knowledgable about student interest - know your students
  • be professional and respectful to students/parents
  • respond to questions promptly
  • listen to students and parents
  • if you don't know the answer, find out and/or show the students/parents where to find the answer
  • respond to phone calls and email messages promptly
  • hold the students to high expectations that are realistic
  • clearly communicate expectations
  • make learning resources easily available to students and parents
  • clearly and promptly communicate concerns to students and parents
  • provide feedback in a timely manner
  • make sure staff is trained
  • make yourself available to students and parents
  • know that the impact of your teaching may not be realized until much later
  • avoid letting negative people bring you or the people around you down - battle them with kindness, respect, and procedure


While this is a good start, I welcome you to add more Education customer service tips in the comments.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Educational Technology Goals and Adapting to the Digital Natives

Based on The ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and Performance Indicators for Administrators, Teachers, and Students, following is a list of short-term goals and long-term goals that I would like to achieve as an educational technology leader.

Short term goals
I plan to
• In regards to inspiring student learning, more consistently model communication of my thoughts and analyses of literature and classroom activities on my classroom blog.
• Create and publish video lessons for various lessons such as copyright, Creative Commons, and netiquette as well as more how-to videos for writing, speech organization, Photoshop techniques, beginning photography concepts, lighting concepts, etc., which will serve as a means of both differentiated instruction for learners as well as reference tutorials for students.
• Communicate regularly and consistently with administrators from each building regarding technology professional development needs required by teachers and training needs required by students and/or parents.
• Facilitate the installation of and transition to the Edline site that is replacing the current district websites. The system is similar to Blackboard, and I will be on the team of trainers who will train staff regarding site management and classroom applications.
• Facilitate in the training of parents and students in Edline applications that will improve student learning and parent communication in the district.

Long term goals
I plan to
• Lead Personal Learning Network groups at each building of the district by promoting the Teacher Share websites that were created for each.
• Participate in twitter #edchat’s as well as Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0 webinars to explore technology trends and applications that will improve student learning.
• Infuse technology into my classroom as a means to differentiate instruction while providing students with college and career readiness skills. I also plan on using the Edline tools to improve student learning.
• Continue to participate in flatclassroom projects such as NetGenEd that engage student in collaborative communications with students from other cultures, creating global awareness
• Create a student Geek Squad at the high school and middle school. The squad will be comprised of students who will train teachers, administrators, and other students in using technology tools and in problem solving technology issues.

It is imperative that education systems change in response to digital natives. The first time I heard about digital natives was three summers ago when Dr. Leigh Zeitz from Northern Iowa University presented, for the lack of better term, a technology workshop for the district (personal communication, 2008). Dr. Z opened up the possibilities of technology as a tool for improving student learning. At that time, Pleasant Plains School District was in the process of re-evaluating the learning styles of current learners.

Milman says that educators must shift the focus of education onto students and their educational needs, “making thoughtful, informed decisions about how to engage learners in the process of learning, accepting learners for who they are, understanding learners’ strengths and weaknesses, and capitalizing on their [learning styles]” (2009, p. 60). It doesn’t matter what generation a student is from or what label educators stick on a student or group of students. The pedagogical philosophy must remain the same: adapt the teaching methods to the learning style of the learners.

21st Century Skills and Common Core Standards are also designed to guide educators in preparing today’s learners for their futures. This generation has educational needs that differ from previous generations as those generations had needs that differed from their predecessors. It is the responsibility of educators to change “instruction to meet the diverse needs of one’s target audience – and not blaming individuals for being different than students one might have had 20 years ago” (Milliman, 2009, p. 60). It is also our responsibility to promote this philosophy to our colleagues. As times change, learners change, methods must evolve and adapt to the needs of the learners.

Reference
Milman, N.. (2009). Are Students Today Really Different? Distance Learning, 6(2), 59-61. Retrieved July 6, 2011, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1903519841).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Adaptive and Assistive Technologies (ATs)

What policies or procedures do you have in place for adaptive and assistive technologies (ATs)?
Neither Pleasant Plains School District nor Pleasant Plains High School has policies in place for adaptive and assistive technologies. General education teachers routinely infuse AT tools into their classrooms for all students. The special education department reviews each student individually and determines the best adaptive and assistive technologies necessary for that student, making the AT part of the IEP for the student.

Does your school/district have ATs? If so, what are they?
According to the PPCUSD8 Technology Plan, the district does not have any adaptive or assistive devices. However, the special education and general education classrooms have ATs that are routinely used.

While it is not a global practice at the high school, in several general education classrooms, PowerPoint presentations are made available online for students to access before, during, and after in most classes; assignment and project instructions with due dates included are made available online for student and parent access; essay and project rubrics are made available online for student and parent access; and classroom expectations and policies are made available online for both students and parents. In addition, textbook companies such as McGraw-Hill, the provider of our Glencoe Literature books provide a digital textbook for pc’s/mac’s that allows students to take notes, listen to professional readings of the literature while reading along, highlight text, do a quick search for text, zoom in/out, and place post-it notes on the pages of the text.

Like most teachers, I have learned to be creative in my classroom in creating ATs. I have converted text from articles, websites, or essays to pdf so students with reading difficulties could listen to Adobe Reader read the passages aloud as they read along. I have also tracked down audio versions of literature either through the internet or through the library when necessary.

Pleasant Plains High School has continuously been striving to increase reading skills for all students with various reading strategies. Some of these strategies include the use of graphic organizers in all content areas possible. Pre-reading, reading, and post-reading strategies are also highlighted in all content areas. Ongoing professional development in reading strategies has been a core of Pleasant Plains High School.

According to J. Peterson, the use of AT tools in special education classrooms includes an OCR scanner that reads aloud printed text to the student, Jamestown Reading Navigator software for increasing reading skills, books on tape/cd, spellcheckers, a social skills software program, and math textbook company software for notes and tutorials (personal communication, June 21, 2011).

Are there other AT tools that you have used and have found beneficial in your classroom or school?
I use McGraw-Hill’s digital textbook with my American Literature students and am pleased with all of the ATs available within it. It was interesting to see students from all skill levels access the tools, which seemed to erase any stigma a student with reading difficulties might have. While Edyburn mentions that “the traditional textbook has become a representative symbol of an inaccessible curriculum” (2008, p. 62), it appears that textbook companies have begun to create tools that have become valuable assets in the classroom for all students. In addition to the textbooks, I have used Google Docs to share class notes/presentations with all students and Primary Pad to save collaborative classroom written discussions that all students could access afterwards. This past year one of my students, who is dyslexic, researched Spaaze for a speech project about a web 2.0 tool that can be used in the classroom and liked it so much that he began using it to stay organized.

References
Edyburn, D.. (2008). Research and Practice. Journal of Special Education Technology, 23(4), 62-65. Retrieved June 21, 2011, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1767837251).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Educational Technology Issues

What are your personal concerns about education technology?
One of my concerns regarding education technology is that education technology is not and likely will not catch up with business technology. In preparing students for college and career readiness, the technology that schools are using is already behind that of business technology. Students may well be using technologies that businesses have already cast off. The endless game of “catch-up” that schools play to get as close as possible to using relevant business tools is a concern. However, if educators are addressing the 21st Century Skills, then students will have the efficacy to handle new technologies as presented to them.

My other concern getting teachers to accept the concept of life-long learning and create a culture where Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) are the norm.

What technology issues are affecting your school/district?
While the district, like most other districts, is faced with the issue of funds for technology, the main issue is professional development for educational technology. There are so many web 2.0 tools available as well as cloud computing, that even hand-me-down computers/laptops are making do when necessary. The real issue appears to getting teachers trained to use technology that pertains to their curriculum and be able to use that technology to improve student learning. Professional development of the past has been a one-size-fits-all model that will not suffice any longer. McCombs (2010) discusses using “regular daylong collaborative planning sessions, [where] teacher leaders provide mini-lessons that highlight new technologies they have used in their classrooms since the last planning session” (p. 12). Administration and teachers at Pleasant Plains school district have just recently begun discussions for professional development activities similar to this.

Based on issues identified by your classmates, how have you resolved them (or how would you resolve them?)
Funding issues have been addressed by soliciting monetary or hardware donations from local businesses and booster organizations. Since the Pleasant Plains student population has a small percentage of low-income families, the district often does not qualify for any grants. However, several teachers have found organizations such as Donor’s Choose to be helpful.

As president of the Pleasant Plains Education Association the past two years, I strongly advocated for 21st Century Skills. I introduced both the faculty and administration to the concepts of PLN’s and pushed for collaboration between teachers. I facilitated Teacher Share websites at each building where teachers could post various project plans, rubrics, classroom management ideas, Web 2.0 tools, PLN nings to join, and, finally, twitter hashtags for collaboration. As I got teachers to start talking and sharing with each other, I started to have discussions with the administration regarding professional development. While the plan in the past for professional development has been to demonstrate a technology tool to teachers with the expectation that they will just “go use it,” the administration and I discussed the need for Teacher Technology Share Fairs where tech-savy teachers can demonstrate tools that they use. We then discussed giving teachers multiple professional development blocks of time to work independently or in teams to plan lessons that incorporate technology tools that make sense in their individual curriculums.

As administrators and teachers work together to build this model of professional development next school year, they will also need to look at collaborative evaluations of the professional development to allow for adjustments as they progress. Smolin and Lawless (2011) note that “by engaging stakeholders in both the processes and the outcomes of evaluation, professional development can be dynamic, responsive to the needs of a greater number of stakeholders, and sustainable over the long term”(p. 97). Professional development regarding 21st Century Skills is a long term need. Having a good plan going into the Professional Development and an evaluation tool to make sure professional development is effective only makes sense.

References

McCombs, Brenda. "Culture of Collaboration." Learning & Leading with Technology Nov. 2010: 10-13. ERIC. Web. 13 June 2011.

Smolin, Louanne, and Kimberly A. Lawless. "Evaluation Across Contexts: Evaluating the Impact of Technology Integration Professional Development Partnerships." Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education Spring 2011: 92-98. ERIC. Web. 13 June 2011.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reflections on Educational Technology

What is your personal definition of education technology?
My personal definition of education technology is that technology first, and foremost, a tool using in teaching the curriculum of the classroom. With that stated, I also believe that it is highly important to infuse technology into the learning process whenever and wherever it makes sense. Infusing technology into the curriculum will not only align with the way students learn, but will also provide the much needed 21st Century Skills students need to be ready for college and their future careers. Teaching technology tools just for the sake of learning the tool is preparing students for 21st Century Skills. Integrating the tools into lessons as a means for the learning process is the right path. I have been a driving force in my district advocating for technology as such a tool in the classrooms. I have organized Teacher Share websites for each of our district buildings where they can more easily share what works and possible uses. I feel that communication between teachers and time to explore are crucial to staying current with education technology.

How long have you been in educational technology? During this time, what are some changes in technology that you’ve experienced in your school/district?
As a high school English, speech, photography, and yearbook teacher at Pleasant Plains High School for 14 years, I have been an advocate of using technology tools in presenting lessons, in the learning process, and in the product created by students. Printed out word processed essays have evolved into collaborative Google Docs, blogs, emailed research essays, video essays using VoiceThread, etc. Speech class has progressed from presentations within the isolated walls of the classroom to global communication and involvement in flatclassroom projects such as the NetGenEd Project. Photography technology has grown out of the darkroom and into a fully digital photography class focusing not just on the photography skills and photo-editing skills, but also on an online digital portfolio that students can maintain to promote their art. Finally, yearbook class began with film cameras and UPS mailings of photos to the publishing company – a process that currently consists of digital photos as well as text placed in InDesign software and electronically submitted to the publishing company. Next year the process will transition to online software that students can access on any pc in which they have internet availability.

How has technology impacted your approach to teaching?
As a geek, I am continuously researching ways to improve not only my curriculum, but also fresh ways for students to acquire the knowledge and to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts. I have found that my methods have evolved each year as technology has improved. In the last couple of years, as technology has allowed, I have reached out to colleagues in other areas to create collaborative projects that our students could work on together, even challenging myself and my students to get involved in global projects. I encourage backchannel chatter in Google Chat and use Today’s Meet chat during class to open the classroom discussions to include everyone. I am available to my students through email, twitter, and telephone if they have any questions. When I first started teaching, I never thought about how learning can and does occur outside the classroom. I have been able to “be there” for student questions, comments, and demonstrations through technology that I would have missed otherwise.

How much has the process of teaching and learning changed over the last 100 years?
While teaching and learning have made significant changes over the last 100 years in terms of learning standards, reactions to globalization, etc., the major shifts in education are occurring during this century. Student learning has become an important part of the equation. Barbara Chorzempa identifies areas that new teachers need to address to make themselves proficient teachers (2011). These areas include developing a literacy base, creating a positive classroom learning environment, and preparing students for 21st Century Skills (Chorzempa 2011). These areas have become the hot topics of education. Teachers are encouraged to improve themselves not only through mandated continuing education requirements, but also through a culture created by our colleagues throughout the world to maintain literacy in both our areas of study and in technology. Nings like the Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0 are just two amazing ways that educators can stay connected and collaborate. Teachers have also tapped into Twitter, using hash tags such as #edchat and #edtech, among others, to collaborate. Personals Learning Networks no longer involve asking advice of the teacher in the room next door – teachers are now able to connect with their peers around the globe.

Chorzempa, B.. (2011). Don't Get Left Behind! Improve Your Experiences as a New Teacher. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 47(2), 72-75. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 2219873841).

Friday, May 20, 2011

How Cool Is That?!

photo by John Langley
Wow! What an amazing experience!

Towards the end of a meeting packed week that also included finalizing senior grades and assisting seniors with their graduation slideshow as well as a successful Student Summit for the NetGenEd 2011 project and a photography/art show at the PPHS Ice Cream Social (a fine arts festival), I was running out of steam. I was so worn out tonight that I was wishing that I could call in sick tomorrow, knowing that I could not because there is too much to do.

What rejuvenated me was a chance look at Facebook where I noticed a post that two English students were working on their Post-Modernism Final Exam Project and were streaming the session live on Ustream with the assistance of one of their friends. How could I resist? Shortly after I started viewing the live stream, they got excited that they had a viewer, and I commented on Facebook that it was me. I watched and commented for a while. The students even discussed setting up a regularly scheduled live show - how cool is that?!

I am so thankful that I was able to be an observer of learning outside the classroom. It fired me up again. I don't feel the weight of everything on my "to do" list now. I feel refreshed and ready to go! I could see that the students were excited that I was watching them work and that I was interacting with them during their live performance. Their creativity and ability to make "work" into "play" made me forget about the work I have been doing. One of my personal goals as a teacher has always been to make learning fun, and another has been to create a culture of creativity and problem-solving. These students hit the mark, and I was priviledged to be able to participate.

I also began to reflect on the "work" of one of my colleagues, who posted a song on Soundcloud this week. Ms. McGovern posted "Words for the Wise" to her seniors and "Rockin Guitar Class" among others. How cool is that?!

What about that Student Summit? Students presented in a web conference of a global project while Flat Classroom Project co-founder Julie Lindsay attended from the other side of the globe - how cool is that?!

Students and parents viewed the award winning photography that was on display during the Ice Cream Social - students were eager to show off their work to their family and friends. The choir and band sounded amazing! I actually got the tingling chills that you get when music is so good that it becomes an emotional experience instead of just an auditory experience. How cool is that?!

How do I cap off this week? I get to present a PPEA scholarship to an amazing student at graduation this weekend. How cool is that?!

How do you avoid burn-out? What keeps you fired up and motivated? Leave comments.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How students want to be taught

I have often throughout my teaching career striven to teach students the way that they learn. I take pride in providing a fun and engaging education for students. While I often guess or ask a select few students for their opinions on projects (and luckily have been correct in the past), this time, after having students read an excerpt from Don Tapscott's Grown Up Digital for their NetGenEd project, I decided to have students blog about it. Students consistently mentioned in their blogs that teachers who teach the way that they were taught should rethink their methods. Following are some passages from student blogs regarding education:

"This topic is something i feel very strongly about. After reading about Tapscott's 8 norms, i really realized teachers I come in contact with every day need to change the way they teach. We are in the 21st century in the year 2011. This is the future! So i have to wonder, why are they still teaching the way they did 20 years ago? School is about the STUDENTS. If that means changing up the way you teach to actually get the students involved and interested, then do it. There shouldn't be a question about it. We are bored in the classes that are still using worksheets from 15 to 20 years ago. Everything is evolving in the way we live, so why isn't our education, the most important thing, not doing the same? Interaction is key."

"The first things that teachers must realize is that instead of being angry for our push for complete freedom in the classroom, teachers should embrace the fact that we enjoy taking charge of our own situations and put that into their classrooms."

"Lessons should be entertaining, fast, and collaborative."

"For several years teachers have been using the same teaching techniques. They stand in front of a classroom and lecture about the given topic. Students are supposed to write down and take notes of what the teacher is saying. They give you heavy books and handout worksheets for you to read a[nd] fill out. What theses teachers need to understand is that although this an effective method, times have changed and students learn in a different way now. I believe that with the use of technology we can improve education greatly. This a more modern and effective way than just the old lecture and book work. Give the students something they are familiar with, and something that they will want to use. . . . If we can get teachers to upgrade their lesson plans and teaching styles we can prepare our students better for the future."

"Teachers should try to use the internet for some topics when they're teaching. If they find a video on YouTube, let's say, then they can show their students the related video and get them involved more."

"The importance of personalizing a students education could be the difference from someone graduating and dropping out."

Having honest discussions about Education with students is critical. We need to keep in touch with How students learn as well as what peeks their interests. Lessons need to prepare students for the 21st Century Skills so they are prepared for the next stage in life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trial Run for Global Project

As the speech class approaches the start of the global collaborative NetGenEd Project, they will be prepared.  The class has discussed the digital age, how today's students learn, communicate, etc.  The class watched and discussed PBS Frontline's Digital Nation.  Students blogged about digital communication and learned how to use Diigo to share research bookmarks.  Students then worked on a project that simulates a portion of the NetGenEd Project - working on a wiki.


Students each researched a digital communication tool and contributed to the class's 21st Century Communication Wiki.  The assignment required students to post collaboratively to the Digital Communication page; use class time wisely; post criticisms on the discussion tabs of their peers' wiki pages; and on their individual wiki pages, post definitions and examples about the digital tool researched, show how that digital tool can be used for social/personal use, show how that digital tool can be used for business, and show how the digital tool can be used for education.  Some of the digital tools that students picked to research seemed a stretch, but even those surprisingly had business and education uses.

Students are currently working on the Video Assignment of the wiki.  Just as the NetGenEd Project will ask of them, they are required to request that someone else does one of their video scenes for them.  After they have all scenes of their videos edited together, the videos will be embedded on their respective digital tool page of the wiki.

While my objective was both to enhance the students' understanding of digital communication and its uses for business and education and to expose the students to the tools that they will be using in the NetGenEd Project, it was also a lesson for me.  I found that the fear to post is not isolated to working with someone across the globe - it can also happen when working with someone sitting right in the next seat.  The class has two weeks to tie up the loose ends before we start moving full force into communication on a Global Level.  I am looking forward to helping students overcome those personal barriers and prepare for global communication.

2010 Plainsman Wins Awards

Congratulations to the 2010 Pleasant Plains High School Plainsman yearbook staff for winning the following awards in the Illinois Journalism Education Association Yearbook Contest:

Third Place in the Best Overall Yearbook
Third Place in the Copy Writing category
Second Place in the Photography category
Second Place in the Graphics category
Third Place in the Coverage of the Year category

Congratulations to last year's yearbook staff on their accomplishments!