Saturday, October 28, 2006

EdTech ..... InfoTech.... is there something we can learn from the business side?

NOTE: This has been one of my works in progress since the middle of November, but many other things have gotten in the way! Please excuse the length and the and gap between blog posts. I have figured out that it is much easier to make several smaller posts and keep them coming more frequently, than to work on one HUGE post.

Take a look at the graph above. Does is hit you over the head, like it does me? There's a gap that we have to fill... problem is that there isn't a foundation to build upon that will be stable enough to carry the weight of the structure we need to create. Therefore, we need to look elsewhere for models that can be adapted to help us fill those gaps.

Over the past several months I have been reading lots of different things, some of which have come from the 'business' or 'high tech' field. And some of the ideas I saw, I thought I could apply to EdTech literacy and integration. So, I am going to take one article I have read from the High Tech field that has a lists of things professionals should do and tweak them a little with an EdTech spin.

Taken from InfoWorld's October 16, 2006 edition: "20 Tips to get Promoted." I am going to change this a little bit and make it... "20 Tips to build your EdTech Program."

1) Think Education First, Technology Second:

This was actually titled, "Think Business First, Technology Second," but since education is our business, it was OK to change it. I think too many people get caught up in the idea that technology in education is a panacea, it's not. What we are doing today is the same thing that we were doing 20 years ago, we are teaching students to become active and literate members of the society. Folks... we are teaching literacy, not technology. Technology is just the conduit that makes all of this easier and more valuable to our students.

2) Raise the Bar... and Leave It There.
Having high standards is what all teachers believe they have for their students. The disconnect I have is that once many standards are set, there aren't enough intermediate check points for students to perform a self-evaluation and receive some feedback regarding their progress. Teachers are the one's that set the standard, but also must be the one's to create the checkpoints for students to receive the feedback they need.

3) Hold your Nose and Raise Your Hand.
In the 'InfoWorld' article, this related to the idea that you should volunteer to do the tasks that no one else wants to do. In relation to EdTech, this means doing the ground work to make the resources accessible and available to students. You need to be the one to create the accounts on what ever software application or service your students will be using. You need to be the one that goes in to make sure that the applications are loaded on the computers, the bookmarks are added to the browser to make a certain sites available to students, so that they aren't spending the entire period trying to find the site you want them use.

4) Dont Pass the Buck:
In you are the EdTech leader in your school or district, you need to act like Harry S. Truman. "The Buck Stops Here" You need to be prepared to answer any question in relation to tech resources/assets that are available within your school/district. If you don't have an answer or can't definitely answer someone, promise to find the answer and give them some response. I have tried to do this with most of the tasks I perform as the Tech Coordinator of the district, and for the most part, I am able to get back to people within 24 hours of their initial request / question.

5) Be a Lone Voice in the Wilderness:
If you feel strongly about something, you need to be willing to stand behind it. This is the way I feel about Web 2.0 and its application into the educational environment. I may not be the most popular because of this stance, but I know deep in my being it is the right thing to do for the kids we teach.

6) Back Down Gracefully:
When things don't exactly go the way you want them to go, admit it. But, do not let being incorrect in one instance deter you from moving forward with what you know to be the right thing to do for the students we teach. One of the phrases I use with people all the time is... "If you don't ask the question, the answer is always, 'No'"

7) Develop a Killer App:
Most teachers are not going to develop a 'Killer App,' but many teachers can develop a 'Killer Process.' Any dedicated teacher can create a process to make it easier for another teacher or student to incorporate tech skills into their teaching / learning repertoire. Once you do this... share it with everyone! One of mine is... the troubleshooting strategy I teach in my computer system design class. The troubleshooting strategy the kids learn is Vietnamese noodle soup. Well, the name for this is PHO, which stands for: Physical, Hardware and Operating System

8) Stay on the Cutting Edge:
To me, this all happened in the last 18 months. I started subscribing and reading blogs. This led me to books that interested me in the directions I thought education is going. Personally, I have read more over the past 18 months than I did when I was in my 20's. In the past year, I have read 10-12 blogs on a daily basis ( I don't read every post, I only read the posts that interest me.) to keep up on what the conversation is in Educational Technology. I have also read; 'The World is Flat," "The Tipping Point," "Being Digital" and "Convergence Culture."

9) Feed Your Mind:
This directly relates back to #8. In order to stay on the cutting edge, you have to feed your mind and constantly be learning something new. This leads me to the quote I have on my blog and is something I try to live by. "There is a big difference between teaching thirty years and teaching one year thirty times." Is information going to stay static? How much has your field changed since you graduated from college? Shouldn't your teaching refelect the changes in your academic field?
10) Find Your Yoda:
Find mentors where ever you can. They don't have to be green, lived for 300 years or have pointed ears, they do have to have qualities that you feel are exemplary and will help you grow personally or professionally. I have had a ton of great mentors, most of them never knew they were my mentors at the time, but I can list four off the top of my head. Some of the phrases I have used in this blog post came from a coach I worked with a few years ago. The reason I finally decided to enter into the realm of educational administration came from having a principal who was a educational leader, not someone who is just trying to get to the end of the year. Thanks Tess!

11) Take Deadlines Personally:
Deadlines are always difficult to deal with, especially when they come too quickly and they don't give you enough time to do the best possible job. The only thing I can say here is: Plan, Plan and Plan. One thing you can always count on when dealing with Educational Technology, it's NEVER going to go completely right. Have several backups!

12) Share the Wealth:
Anytime you achieve something, make sure you share what ever kudos come your way with the people around you. In EdTech, that can be the computer technician, the Tech Director, a teacher that served as your guinea pig when you were developing your new program. Recognize everyone, regardless of their role and its significance in the big picture.

13) Be Your Own Cheerleader:
You can be doing great things at your school and noone will know it. Personally, I have had a tough time with this one, since I figured that if I am doing something well, it will eventually get noticed. Why wait to get recognized? If you are doing something well and tell people about it, it will increase the number of people that can benefit from it. What is one of the best ways to be your own cheerleader? Blog! Like this one!

14) Build Your Own Portfolio:
Keep records of everything you are doing. Storage space is cheap and you never know when something you have done in the past will fit in nicely with what you or someone else is doing and you can repurpose something you had archived. Find ways to post your work on the web. The quickest, easiest way to do this is to have a wiki for each of the classes you teach. I have a wiki for both my Cisco Networking Class and Computer Systems Design class. Anytime someone asks what you have done, you can instantly direct them to one of your wiki sites.

15) Schmooze It or Lose it:
I often get schmoozing confused with being a brown-noser, but there is a subtle difference between the two. Schoozing means keeping the lines of communication going, even though they might not be 100% in your favor, it is definitely a two-way communication, where there is an exchange of ideas. In brown-nosing, there is an appearance of two-way communication but it is only a facade, the communication coming from your end is you putting up a mirror and reflecting back what ever the other person says. This is also a whole lot easier in the digital world, where there are many, many more outlets to interact with people using message board, instant messaging software, blogs (like this one!) and wikis.

So, schmoozing is OK... and there is a play on words here that helps. Some people say, "Its not what you know, its who you know." I want to twist that around a little and say, "Its not who you know, its who knows you."

16) Walk and Talk:
This is a double edged sword for me... There are two meanings I take from this phrase. The first is to 'Walk your talk,' which goes back to my days in athletics, where you better be prepared to perform if you are going to say something about it. The second meaning, I take from Peters and Waterman's book, "In Search of Excellence." The phrase, "Management By Walking Around," was a central theme in the book and I feel that it is important get out and see how people are using technology on my campus and other campuses in our district.

17) Hire Your Own Replacements:
I have been doing this since I started as the Technology Coordinator at Capuchino. I knew that there would be times when people that have worked for me would leave for greener pastures and there have been some that have, but I have always felt that you need to give the people working with you the opportunity to grow

18) Embrace the Gray Areas:
Gray areas... let's talk black areas! There are times when you don't have a clue about how to implement something, you just have to find ways to get something to work. Now, this doesn't mean drop everything else to make one thing work, but what it does mean is keep moving forward until you get stuck and then take a break. Taking a break of a few days, a week or even longer can give you a fresh perspective. The other thing that happens, is that by giving yourself some time and discussing things with people you work with or online, via blogs or message boards, can give you a solution to your block. There have been projects that I left hanging for a few months and kept in the back of my mind and had something hit me out of the blue that solved the road block I had hit.

19) Keep Your Nose Clean (Not Brown):
I'm all about pushing the agenda forward. I know that this makes some people feel uncomfortable, but you always need to make sure that what ever you do, you have a sound educational purpose in doing it. Administrators can't argue with something that has a strong educational purpose. You may be asked not to do something, but there won't be any disciplinary action.

20) Consider a Switch - For the Right Reasons:
Just remember that more than half of all teachers leave the profession within the first five years of their career. It takes a special breed to teach over the long haul. After the first five years, switching in education doesn't happen too often, if at all. In our district, I see a few teachers coming in from other districts for monitary reasons, otherwise there is usually some other mitigating factor (Spouse's employment, health of a parent, etc.) for a teacher switching districts.

Well, its been ... long... drawn out... and finally finished. I know it's not something that everyone will use, but it's worth a look and maybe find one good idea to use in your school.


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Friday, October 27, 2006

Google Teacher Academy - Part II

I'm in! I received word late in the day on Thursday, that I was selected to take part in the Google Teachers Academy. After the training, participants will become 'Google Certified Teachers.' The 50 people chosen will attend an all day seminar at the Google Campus in Mountain View, CA on November 7, 2006. Now, when I say all day... I mean, ALL DAY. The e-mail I received said they would feed us Breakfast, Lunch and DINNER! All of this is part of the new 'Google for Educators' site the company has just unveiled.

I'll post plenty of information about the day afterwards. I am totally psyched and ready to go!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Google School: Making a difference around the world.

I wondered how long it was going to take Google to step into the educational arena. It seemed logical, like most large tech companies, Google needed to reach out to the educational community in some way to build consumer/user loyalty for their product.

The first part of the process is to create a 'Google for Educators' web site. The site has links to all of their educational tools, including Blogger, Calendar, SketchUp and their new Docs and Spreadsheets. Included are some sample lesson plans that teachers can use with their classes. I think this is the beginning of what Google has planned to dive head first into the educational arena.

The second project Google is working on is the 'Google Teacher Academy,' which is a collaborative effort with WestEd. Google will be holding an initial training day at their Mountain View campus on November 7, 2006. The training will create 'Google Certified Teachers,' who will lead training sessions for other teachers in how to use Google tools. The application was due on October 22, 2006 and included two 50-word answers to "Why should you be a 'Google' teacher?" and "Tell us about one rewarding teaching experience?" as well as a 1-minute maximum video dealing with motivation or K-12 education. I was able to get my application in under the wire. The space is limited to 50 participants and when I applied, my confirmation number was 1107. More to follow if I am chosen to be one of the 'Google Certified Teachers.' Here's a link to my 1-minute movie.

The 'Infinite Thinking Machine' is a blog where the people from WestEd and Google will be posting best practices of teachers using Google Tools. There are also short video's on the site showing some of the Google tools being used in the classroom by students. The video's are hosted by Chris Walsh of WestEd, some of us will remember Chris from his work around San Mateo County. The first ITM video has students using 'Google Earth' explore Hart Island in New York and information on the Google Educators web site. There is also a clip with Hall Davidson talking about California Student Multimedia Festival. The second ITM video deals with writing on the web with Mike Lawrence, the Executive Director of Computer Using Educators (CUE) and has students using 'Google Earth' to plot the routes they walk to school and finding the distance. There is also a section on using the Big 6 Information strategies.

Google has also launched their 'Google Literacy Project' web site. This is a international web site that is a joint venture between Google, LitCam and UNESCO (United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization). There are a number of videos on literacy on the site from locations around the world. I think we will be using some of the videos on the site in our Global Communications course.

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Possums, Tails and Literacy

The last few weeks has had more than its share of ups and downs to last awhile, therefore the blogging was put on the back burner. Now, that everything has quieted down a little I can get back to pushing the literacy agenda again. In my best southern accent I want to say, "Friends, I have a word for you today. That word is 'Literacy.' It's all about giving to our students... giving our students the gift of life long literacy."

Over the past few months, I have written about integrating technology, but in some of the things I have read over the past few weeks, I have been wrong about this. Integrating technology isn't something we should think of as separate from literacy as a whole, it is an integral part of what will be necessary to be considered literate in the world our students will spend their adult life in. So, to quote the Pogo cartoonist, Walt Kelly, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

To clarify what I mean, I think that teachers and the educational establishment have been barriers to the 'new literacy' in our schools. The skills that we think constitute 'information literacy' in the past truly support and enhance what we think of as 'traditional literacy' skills. Currently, we think of literacy as 'possessing' a certain number of facts and the ability to apply them to situations that present themselves to us in our everyday life. In the society our students will live in, it will be impossible for them to 'possess' all of the knowledge that will be necessary to work in the society of the future. The current definition of 'Information Literacy' includes: defining, locating, selecting/analyzing and organizing/synthesizing. It is these last two sets of skills that are the most important to our students.

The way schools have been organized over the last 100 years have been based on the Industrial Manufacturing model, with students traveling from class to class, like an assembly line, to have 4 quarts of History or English poured into their bodies. Henry Ford would be so proud! Educational pundits have recoginized that this model has been flawed when they use analogies that the teacher needs to stop being the 'Sage on the Stage' and move over an become the 'Guide on the side.' So, what will it take for us to move toward a model like this?

Like all 'new' ideas, especially those in education, they usually come into being from some type of business model. And 'New Literacy' models come from business as well. A new theory of collective intelligence and collaborative creation of knowledge comes from a book called, 'The Long Tail.' Want to see a little of what is meant by the 'Long Tail,' check out this video on the Long Tail Blog. David Warlick, one of the most respected Information Literacy authorities (lecturer, blogger, author) wrote about his interpretations of the Long Tail on his blog.

Next Steps:
1) Sign up for a Bloglines or Google Reader account. There is a video on the Google Reader site that will teach you about adding feeds to your reader.

2) Subscribe to 4 RSS feeds and read them at least every other day. Make sure these are feeds you are interested in.

3) Create a Blogger account and write a blog. Your audience could be for you, to get your ideas on paper. Your friends, to discuss the latest ideas, books, the weather, etc. Your class, to identify blog postings or other articles you have found on the Internet that will bring greater definition to what you are teaching in class.

If you need help. You can always contact me... I will come out to help. There have been 5 people that have contacted me about some of the things I have written here and I have either personally connected with everyone, either in person or e-mail, and sent links or helped them set up an account. There is one person I need to get back to and make sure they are ready to go. One of the teachers at Capuchino is currently on leave and living in Hong Kong, before he left he asked me how to set up a mailing list so he could keep in touch with all of the students that want to stay connected to him... I told him to start a blog. Check out the Hong Kong Chronicles.....

Happy Blogging and e-mail me when you create your blog so I can subscribe.