Techconnects

Celebrating Connections – Ed Tech In Schools

August 30, 2011
by ncara
0 comments

Social Media Counter and What Counts

The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.
— Isaac Asimov

Below is Gary Social Media Counter. It counts social media interaction by the second. If we had seen this counter 10 years ago it would have seemed puzzling to us indeed. Now its terms are largely known to us. This is just one area of change and there are many others.
Preparing our students for the world they live in and embrace will require preparing them for a world that we would not recognize today. With change being constant, we can count on the fact that it will be one we can’t describe or quantify. They will have to count on open minded exploration, self direction, critical thinking and a comfortable working knowledge often with the use of digital tools. Preparing our students for the future will require leaders who ‘add in’ thinking differently, collaboratively, with innovation.

Students Are Counting Too

  • Students are counting on a future that is full of new discoveries, new technologies.
  • Students are counting on being ready to learn in new and innovative ways.
  • Students are counting on being able to use information creatively, analytically.
  • Students are counting on being able to responsibly use technology and information for good, productive purposes, to make a difference in the world and expecting the same of others.
  • Students are counting on entering college and the workforce with the skills they will need for the future
  • Students are counting on all of us in the education arena, on our school communities.
  • Students are counting on me and on you.

August 23, 2011
by ncara
0 comments

Choosing a Student Information System

School Necessities

School Necessities

In the age of information, schools truly must have a
quality means of tracking, sorting and reporting on student data. A quality student information system can support student achievement thus enhancing the programs you offer.

This function is offered in various forms by
software designated as ‘Student Information Systems’. These decisions for choosing the software used are often made by school
Technology Directors and School CIOs. Whether you are an individual school
or a district looking to make a decision such as this, it helps to have a checklist handy before you begin. This helps to make
your decision a strategic one and one that you can stand behind.

What types of data is contained in a Student Information System? 

  • Grades
  • Enrollment
  • Schedules
  • Progress Reports
  • Attendance
  • Test Scores
  • Discipline
  • Career Choices
  • Medical Information
  • School/Parent Communications
  • Meal Plans
  • Tuition
  • Teacher Assignments
  • Teacher Communications and Websites
  • Teacher Employment Data

Here are the most common functions.  There are others depending on the system chosen. Most vendors allow you to customize and choose only those functions or modules that you truly need.
Many schools moved to implement data systems after the introduction
of NCLB which discussed the importance of sharing data with parents and a means for
accountability. NCLB specifically stated that information should be readily available to parents.

In the age of Web 2.0, many parents expect interaction and quick communications. An upgrade to your current information
system may be needed to incorporate newer uses of technology and newer social media.

Items to Consider Before Purchasing a Student Information System

  • Determine your most critical information needs
  • Create a list of existing data/information collection methods
  • Create a list of current data/information collection tools and processes
  • Determine how information collection can be merged within the new system to create efficiencies.
  • Determine how if and how well it merges with any LMS or Learning Magagement System you currently have
  • Review specifications to make sure that your systems are a match for the software
  • Plan upgrades if needed or warranted
  • Decide what level of parent interaction is needed or desired
  • Review Student Information System options and compare several different options
  • Examine their tech support structure to make sure that you can get the support you need when you need it
  • Examine the system’s features to ascertain if it is incorporating mobile access, social technologies and other new communications media.
  • Read reviews and discuss with other schools or districts. Experience is a great teacher in this regard
  • Review the Student Interoperability Framework standards to see where your product fits in in relation to these standards

To Do Checklist – Once You Have Chosen your Student Information System

  • Look at your critical information needs list above
  • Determine who will administer the program
  • Decide what new roles are needed by staff and how they will be performed
  • Install the software and upgrade systems as needed
  • Create a time line for implementation which implements your critical needs first
  • Remember to phase in the uses of the various features gradually. You don’t have to implement all features at once.
  • Communicate with students, teachers and parents regarding the new system uses and time lines
  • Give frequent ‘how to use’ information to all in the school community
  • Create videos which demonstrate common uses and share them widely
  • Evaluate the use of your system periodically and strategically plan how you will continue to use it

A well functioning Student Information System can enhance communications and but more importantly can support student achievement. There is much to consider but with some pre-planning and collaborative support, you are well on your way to effectively gathering and sharing student information on behalf of the students you serve.

Related Resources:

  1. School Interoperability Framework -Main Site Sets standards for interoperability.
  2. NCLB – Main Site

 

 

August 15, 2011
by ncara
2 Comments

Online Options for Professional Learning

Flashes of Light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the flash which appears, the thunderbolt will follow. Voltaire

Ask an educator to describe a professional development or training day.
Do the words engaging, collaborative, enlightening, empowering come up? They should.
If your school or district is relying solely on sit down, one size fits all training, there is a good chance you are not getting the
participant satisfaction, or more importantly,  the results your school and your students need.

Making professional development days both effective and engaging is critically important as it is ultimately beneficial to students. A wide array of professional development options exist today which take advantage of the latest technologies and today’s rich online social learning environment. Adults today are accustomed to accomplishing many things online on their own time in a self directed fashion. There has been no better time than the present for taking a close look at online options for professional learning.

Blended learning is not only for students. Blended learning can be a real and powerful force in professional development. In the book Blended Learning by Curtis Bonk, we are reminded that Blended Learning is a concept whose time has come. Though the term ‘blended learning’ has been around since 1920, today’ s use of blended learning involves ‘technology mediated learning’.

  • Anytime
  • Online Resources
  • Media Rich
  • Learner Choice

How can schools open options to teachers and administrators beyond the simple one size fits all ‘sit and learn’ sessions? How can your school adapt and incorporate these new means of learning for teachers?

Online and Blended Professional Development Options for Educators

  1. Online Professional Learning Community – Consider using an online community for teachers. There, teachers can discuss topics relative to their schools and classrooms. They can pursue resources to support school academic goals and collaborative projects. Many schools administrators have found this to be an effective means for connecting with teachers outside of regular professional development days. Online communities can be made private for your faculty only.
  2. Virtual Sessions -  Provide online professional development. Archive it for later viewing. In the schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, virtual academy classes have been offered since September of 2009. They begin their third year in September. This has been an effective solution for providing professional development across a broad geographic area. Covering many 21st century learning themes, virtual sessions have been made optional to teachers and administrators during after school hours. As a result, 15% of teachers attended virtual sessions outside of school hours. Many more accessed the archives.
  3. Form a Professional Learning Network (PLN) – Teach teachers to connect online to other educators and to other ideas by forming a Professional Learning Network. Today’s web tools such as Twitter, Google Reader, Delicious and others allow teachers to read and comment on blogs and literally enter the classrooms of others online. Online communities exist also where teachers can network with one another sharing excellent resources. These connections can infuse teachers with new ideas, new strategies and allow for global connections in his/her classroom.
  4. Record Site Based Sessions – If you do happen to hold site based sessions, be sure to record them for later viewing. A teacher who was absent from the session or wishes to access it later for any reason will be happy to find it that it has been archived.

Increasingly adults carry out many tasks online. Why not provide access online professional development too?   Administrators and school CIOs can tap in to blended online learning professional learning options to create meaningful experiences for learning in today’s classrooms. A wide array of professional development options exist today which take advantage of the latest technologies and more importantly harness today’s rich online social learning environment.

 

Related Resources

 

August 9, 2011
by ncara
1 Comment

What Professional Development Can Learn from Zumba

beachrail

Professional Learning is a key to success in schools and in many organizations. Having recently attended my first Zumba class, I couldn’t help but think that professional development can learn a little about adult learning and engagement from Zumba.

In many towns and cities, the Zumba craze has caught on. What is Zumba? Zumba is a dance and exercise class. People attend  to stay healthy, to dance, to socialize. Why is it so wildly popular? Staying healthy is the main motivator but it’s most salient feature is that people have FUN  doing it!

  • Zumba teaches you something new – Dance and exercise moves
  • Zumba is good for you – Exercise on multiple levels – Cardio, Stretching, Dance
  • Zumba encourages people at every level of fitness – Beginner to expert are welcomed
  • Zumba is something you do can easily do with friends – It is social

The will to learn is an intrinsic motive, one that finds both its source and its reward in its own exercise. Jerome Bruner

Of course, you may not wish to hold a professional development classes where there is loud music and sparkly outfits
but you might want to take a some inspiration from the Zumba craze when engaging adult learners. The focus of all professional development is learning. The focus of quality professional development in education is to have a positive impact on student learning. Professional development planners and administrators make adult learning and the resulting student learning a top priority.  Consider incorporating  these ideas when next planning a professional development program.

Creating Engaging Professional Development

_Make it available at regular, predictable intervals. Make followup easy to find.
_Keep it short.  Make it no longer than an hour
_Make it interactive, engaging. Show interesting and useful skills. Present in an easy to learn manner. Play music too!
_Keep the focus on learning and content. Tie the PD to ongoing aims of the school/organization. – Keep the focus on healthy
_Make it social.  Build in collaboration. Work with a partner. Get some help from your friends. Bring a friend.
_Offer support at every level. Welcome all levels from expert to beginner. Allow people to go at their own pace, be self directed.  Build in friendly feedback. Make it scalable.
_Keep it practical. Make people want to return – Make the time worthwhile to the learner
_Encourage creativity – Encourage people to build upon what they learn, innovate and create.

Related Resources

Professional Learning Communities Online – TechConnects

Teacher Leaders – TechConnects

Adult Learning Theory – MCREL

Adult Learning Resources – Educause

 

August 7, 2011
by ncara
1 Comment

Social Media – A Listening Tool for Leaders

 

Submerged Rocks

 

Great leadership is a practice pondered by many. I believe that one of the most essential leadership practices is the ability to listen well.
Today’s technology offers leaders new tools for leading and communicating. Social Media is an excellent tool for the essential leadership practice of listening.

Social media allows for engagement with others, discussion, the exploration of ideas and collaboration . Best of all though, through social media leaders can get extended practice in listening. Through social media you can find out what people’s interests, needs and challenges are. Marketing professionals know this. Many educational leaders are finding this to be true. Many are talking about how important social media can be to improving their schools. Add social media use to your leadership practice and find out how to remove obstacles to learning with technology.

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
–  Thomas Paine

Listening via Social Media

As a central office technology administrator/technology director at a large archdiocesan school system, I found social media to be not only a great way to engage with people but a great way to listen carefully. I found social media avenues to be a great source of information for helping to find out what challenges people faced in incorporating technology into schools. Social media can help you learn about what obstacles stand in the way of teacher and student implementation of new strategies and new technologies. Additionally, social media can be a source of information about what you might want to consider adding or removing from your programs.

Social media is a great tool for the facilitative, listening leader. Facilitative Leadership means essentially creating an environment where employees can easily succeed. Facilitative Leadership is interactive, collaborative and connected.

In using a variety of social media and connecting to others via Twitter and Online Communities (via Ning) I found myself asking…

  • What can I do as a leader to remove obstacles?
  • What challenges do people face?
  • What do they need to know about the school/organizational mission or objectives?
  • What do they need to succeed?
  • How can communication be enhanced?
  • What can I do to empower teachers as they learn and implement new strategies, new technologies?
  • What are the ‘submerged rocks’ or obstacles and how do I help to remove them?

In listening via social media, I found some common threads on challenges faced. Below is a list of 7 items to remove. What others might you add?

Technology Leadership Checklist – 7 Obstacles to Remove

  1. Remove Obstacles to Quality Tech Support – Is tech help readily at hand? Make sure tech support help is always available.  One on one support is important.
  2. Remove Outdated Policies -Are your policies supportive of technology use? Do they encourage innovation?  If your policies are prohibiting uses of many websites, educational resources and tools, its time to seriously question the benefits vs. the cost of this practice.
  3. Remove Loose Ties – Can people easily explain how technology fits in to the overall mission of the school? Tie the uses of technology in your school/organization clearly to the vision, mission and objectives. Tie the the uses of the technology in your school to the academic goals.
  4. Remove Outdated Technology – Are you expecting success with equipment, software and peripherals that are not up to the job? Is internet slow and wireless capacity nil? Update on a regular basis. If you want people to use technology…Upgrade the technology!
  5. Remove Outmoded Professional Development – Is your mode of professional development relevant to today’s adult learners? Use online professional development options, differentiate professional development, and by all means – give teachers choice.
  6. Remove Obstacles to Collaboration – Do teachers have time to collaborate? Build in time for teachers to work together and share. Help them to develop a professional learning network of their own so that they can connect to new ideas, new practices.
  7. Remove Outmoded Thinking – Are YOU changing with the times?  Most people are not because put simply, it is hard to do. The world is changing rapidly. Learning about these changes and their impact on those in your school or organization is essential for leaders.

School and Technology Leaders can tap into many excellent uses of social media to connect and listen. Today’s new, social media makes this possible on a large scale.

This post is a post for Leadership Day 2011 as promoted by Scott McLeod.

Related Resources

Policies to Empower Learning

Communications Checklist for 21st Century Leaders

Facilitative Leadership

Emerging Technologies to Watch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2, 2011
by ncara
1 Comment

Professional Learning Communities Online

Professional Learning for the 21st Century Looks to the Cloud

Tulips - Spring Bloom

Choosing a new form of professional development produced meaningful and lasting results for our schools.

 

 

Technology and Education conferences present a great opportunity for learning and growth for attendees. Since conferences are chock full of information and because schedules are packed, it is always a good idea before you go to stop and think about what you would like to accomplish.

Before attending ISTE 2008 in San Antonio, I had a particular goal in mind.  As Director of Technology K-12 at the time for the schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I was looking for professional development that could meet the following criteria:

21st Century Professional Development Aims

  • Reach – Reach a large number of Teachers and Administrators at 20 high schools (1000 teachers and administrators approximately)
  • Result – Benefit students. Enrich their learning through new technologies and digital resources (20,000 students)
  • Focus – Technology infused and 21st Century learning focused. Keeping abreast of what was new was important.
  • Quality – Delivered by academically focused educational professionals who were knowledgeable of new trends and available to answer our questions. Also being that we were a group of Catholic Schools I wanted to be sure our choice worked well with our school’s vision and understood the importance we placed on our faith based environment.
  • Interaction – Collaborative, Professional Learning Community oriented
  • Capacity Building- Future focused and allowing individuals and groups to expand on what they learn.
  • Champion Building – Create a group in each school who would learn, implement, share and encourage
  • DeliveryONLINE – It had to take advantage of online learning for teachers. Not only would this be efficient and practical. It would expose the participants to the world of connected, digital learning.
  • Easy to Assess – It would have to provide a means of assessing progress.  There would have to be an end product that schools would produce. This would build in a way to measure the benefits and also build in accountability.

That was a tough bill to fill. The conference was coming to an end. I had attended every professional development session I could find that had an online professional development component. No luck. One more session.

I went in to the PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) session hosted by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach. I heard about a new type of professional development. They discussed their work in building professional learning communities around 21st Century learning which would take advantage of online learning shifts and social learning. It would last throughout the school  year and would be job embedded. This sounded perfect for our needs. Soon we were looking forward excitedly to a new type of professional development. Far reaching, job embedded, collaborative and online.

New Forms of Professional Development Leads to New Types of Discussions

Soon new conversations were taking place. Our schools could connect with other archdiocesan schools across the broad geographical area. Our educators could connect with one another and learn from other educators around the world.

Soon our teachers and administrators were talking about

  • Wikis, Blogs, Twitter, Nings = Tools
  • Collaboration, Reflection, Community = Engagement
  • Change, New Ideas, New Ways of Teaching and Learning = 21st Century Mindset

 

“Conversation is food for the soul” Mexican Proverb

Fast Forward

During past school year, for the third year in a row, a cohort/community group from our Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was formed through Powerful Learning Practice (PLP). The cohort begins in the fall and throughout the year is infused with the best learning that 21st century technology has to offer. In the spring, final projects are completed and then showcased in an exciting culminating event attended by all team members. At those culminating events our schools share what they have learned and discuss plans for the future.

Read about the work of some of the schools who participated here (Mercy Vocational) and here (Father Judge High School) , here Archbishop Ryan and here (Cardinal O’Hara High School). This is just a small sampling of our school’s projects.

Having participated and watched our schools learn and grow via the cohorts has been wonderful. The program was expanded to our elementary schools also. In many of the schools the teams chose professional development of their own faculty as their PLP project. This helped to spread the concept of 21st Century learning in their schools. For others, they chose a school wide or classroom project with students. St. Anastasia School in Newtown Square is doing a school newsletter integrating various subjects and storytelling. St. Pius School is having the students create videos about their science lab projects.

Thinking in New Ways

Accomplishing today’s professional development requires that we stop and think. What is best? What will produce the results we want for our children? What will provide the best support for teachers?

New conversations are necessary. New forms of learning for administrators, teachers and students can bring about the 21st Century classrooms we need.

Related Information

Action Research PLP 

Creating the Vanuard, Jamie Mackenzie

Cohorts for the 2011-2012 Year