Monday, March 29, 2010

Technology Plan Results

Thanks to those of you who added suggestions/encouragement to my post about getting to contribute to my district technology plan. It was a very good day with candid discussions about the current state of technology use in our district and where we would like to go.

I truly did not know what to expect going into this meeting. I knew that I would have an ally in Derek Braman an elementary teacher in my district. I also was excited when I got there to see Ron Houtman there. Ron is a great guy who works for our intermediate school district and introduced me to blogs, twitter, RSS, etc.

The purpose of the whole meeting was to fill out a strict outline required by our state in regards to our future plan. The best part is that this could have been treated as an unpleasant task and just completed by IT, instead we had IT personnel, administrators, and teachers all contribute in productive conversations. At Ron's suggestion we used a Google Doc to write the plan collaboratively in groups. Many had never used GDocs before so it was a good chance for them to see its potential in the classroom.

My worst fear going into the meeting is that I was there as a token teacher representative. The exact opposite was true. I was able to voice all of my ideas, vision, and concerns. Of course, not everyone agreed with me but I truly felt that I was heard!

I feel confident that my district is heading in the right direction even though it is slower than I would like :) There will be another meeting in a month to continue to hash out some of these details. I think real solutions come when IT, teachers, and administrators engage in dialogue with each other.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Teachers as filters

Check out this suggestion from Mitch Wagner A Simple Fix for Internet Censorship in Schools  Simply stated: Give teachers a code to override the filter when a site is blocked that teachers want students to go to. It seems easy enough and I do not see how it would violate CIPA. I do not buy the negativity in the comments about time wasted. I waste enough time testing sites I want students to access to see if they are blocked and then trying to find work arounds or alternatives. I would gladly take the time in my room to type in a code to override the filter.

If each teacher had their own code then it could be monitored for abuse (the main abuse I would predict is students "stealing" a teacher's code by watching them type it in) and IT could change the codes if neccessary. Teachers could use their login code that they already have.

Ideally filters would just be opened up for students but as many districts are reluctant to do this using the teacher in the room to judge whether content is "safe" and "educational" is much better than some computer algorithm.

Any IT people out there want to share a problem with this concept? The only drawback I can see from this philosophy is if one does not trust teachers.

Thanks to @anderscj for the link to this article. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

HELP! District Technology Plan

Not a very catchy title, I know, but I am so excited by the opportunity I have this coming Tuesday. I will be one of two teachers meeting with administrators and IT people in my district about our technology plan. Here are the brief details of what we will discuss:

1.  Any ideas for our district with information on how it would increase student achievement.

2.  If you have evaluated our Technology Plan for a graduate class or created a technology plan for a graduate class, please bring it.

Now I have lots of opinions on where I would like to see our district go. The top items for me are

  1. 1:1 or as many computers in student hands as possible
  2. Opening up the filter as much as possible for students
  3. Consider Google Apps
  4. Student email accounts
  5. Teacher training for student-centered PD
  6. Wireless and student owned devices including cellphones, netbooks, and ipods.
  7. Buy less software and use open source instead
My district is moving in the right direction as teachers used to be blocked from pretty much everything students were, but now very little is blocked for us. I greatly appreciate this opportunity, but have to assume that these ideas will meet with resistance by some on the committee who truly do not know what great things are being done by other schools around the country and world. It is not that they are against these things as much as it will be new ideas to them. I confess I am zealous for these things and believe this is the right path to take.

It would be very helpful for me if I had some excellent examples of schools already using these tools effectively and/or example technology plans from your school/district. That way I will not look like a radical loner, but have "evidence" to show that these ideas are successful. Please share your thoughts (anything I forgot that you would add to my list?) and links to any "ammunition" to help me with my case in the comments. Thanks, I do not want to waste this excellent opportunity.

I am going to push the limits on this expecting them not to go as far as I would like (i.e. blocking only porn and truly harmful sites, but opening up social media sites for students) but hopeful that they will continue to move in a continuum toward openness and student-centered learning through technology.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stressless Paperless

I have been too busy lately and neglecting my blog. What I have been up to includes my first conference presentation at MACUL titled "Stressless Paperless." My slides are mostly pictures that are meaningless out of context, but I created a wiki with lots of resources to share:

 Note to self: next time I would create a dummy page on the wiki that I would let participants into to "play" and a Google Doc that I would share with participants also to "play" in. My back channel was not that useful for me during the presentation, but did help me get some feedback afterwords.

I also am doing some basic training with teachers in my building and here are two Google Presentations that I have created to help teachers use Google Docs and wikispaces on their own.

Feel free to share or use any of these resources if you find them helpful.