Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Changing Landscape of Technology

Chapter 10 of Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology by Anthony G. Picciano focuses on the selection of hardware and software for a school system (2010, pp. 186-213). This topic has me reflecting on my many years as a teacher and how things have shifted. When I started teaching in 2000, I was an instructional support aide for our tech coach at an elementary school. I taught first through fifth grades  in the computer lab as a specials teacher. Back then, the students were only exposed to technology when they came to the computer lab with me or their teacher. The main emphasis of instruction was on the Microsoft product suite (Powerpoint, Excel, and Word) and the use of software such as Tom Snyder products which was basically skill-and-drill software which helped students practice basic concepts in an engaging way. Software was reviewed and recommended from the staff.
When I started to teach full-time in the classroom, two desktop computers and a computer lab continue to be the only hardware my students were exposed to. Fast forward many years to the year 2010, when our school district was piloting 1:1 program with Nook Tablet Readers. The district was ready to explore 1:1 computing in order to for our teachers to utilize technology in order to transform teaching. Picciano identifies seven key elements to analyze hardware: performance, compatibility, expandability, ergonomics, software availability, vendor, and cost (2010, p. 190). Most of these elements were in place except performance and software availability. Even though our wireless network was still new, it was strong enough to hold the new 1:1 devices. Unfortunately, the Nooks performed like what they were, a tablet, and not what we wanted them to be, a laptop. The software was limited to the apps and books created by an outside vendor. However, this was the best product on the market at the time. In 2014, the middle schools in my district started to pilot Chromebooks which were still new to the market. The pilot was a success and software (Google suite with addition apps and extensions) along with performance proved the Chromebook’s reliability.
During the planning phase of implementing Chromebooks 1:1 in the classroom, I was still a classroom teacher and was not part of the planning and preparing. However, there are many resources available to schools who  wish to move forward with a 1:1 roll out. Common Sense Media offers a complete 1-to-1 Essentials Program which includes detailed phases of a successful program (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1) which includes phase 1: envision, phase 2: communicate, and phase 3: implement.  
Picciano suggests in chapter 10 (2010) that districts have a way to evaluate instructional hardware and software. Compared to many years ago when I was in the computer lab, districts who are purchasing software and hardware not only have their staff to recommend but can also get advice from a more global audience. By leaning on other districts’ successes and struggles and researching new trends in software and hardware, I believe districts currently have a great chance for success when purchasing new equipment and software.




Additional Resources:




References:


1-to-1 Essentials Program | Common Sense Media. (2016). Commonsensemedia.org. Retrieved 25 March 2016, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators


Picciano, A.G. (2011). Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology (5th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Data-Driven Decisions in the Tech Infused Classroom

Data-driven decisions are at the heart of good teaching. Teachers and administrators who are able to collect data and analyze the areas of growth and strengths are often the driving force behind school change. Picciano states in Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology , “In this age of accountability and assessing student outcomes, one of the more important functions of school district personnel is to provide test results at the school building level so that principals, assistant principals, and teachers can understand the teaching and learning needs of their children and act accordingly “(2011, p. 78). The shift toward using data to track growth is growing even more apparent in the past few years with a greater emphasis on teacher accountability which can be seen in the recent proposed law, The RAISE Act. The pressure to use data, and use it well, is at an all time high.
As a technology coach, I often work with other literacy and math coaches in order to analyze the information collected in third through fifth grade on the yearly ACT Aspire testing along with quarterly Global Scholar testing. I often sit in leadership meetings where an analysis has taken place. Picciano emphasizes it is important for different stakeholders to evaluate the “effectiveness of the decisions and courses of actions taken” (2011, p. 89), and I feel fortunate to be able to help make decisions for the schools I serve.
While mostly summative data is discussed in Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology (2011) I believe as a tech coach my role has been to interpret that data and to help to improve on instruction in the classroom. During the fall, I was able to introduce a variety of different methods for collecting data through formative assessments. “Informal, or formative assessments are about checking for understanding in an effective way in order to guide instruction”  (Alber, 2011). During team meetings I guided and taught the teachers how tools such as: Padlet, Google Classroom, Google Forms, Plickers, and Class Flow can help them quickly assess what the students know and how instruction can be altered to meet the students’ needs. Technology is quickly taking on an even more important role in data analysis and data collection (Picciano, 2011, 97).



Additional Resources:




References:


Alber, R. (2011). Why Formative Assessments Matter. Edutopia. Retrieved 3 March 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/formative-assessments-importance -of-rebecca-alber


Picciano, A.G. (2011). Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology (5th ed.) Upper 
 
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.