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We need assessment data. March 31, 2008

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Chris Lehmann indicated that he was not too concerned about data to support the technology program at his school.  I agree that one can get hung up on data and lose sight of the progress; however, data is a key component of any large scale change.  My concern would be that the powers to be will begin to question the validity of this technology base school if there is no data to support increased student learning.  Whether this data comes from standards based tests or not, that is irrelevant.  The important part is that there is some data being collected and analyzed to show increased student achievement.

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Distributed leadership March 26, 2008

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Chris Lehmann discussed how distributed leadership created an environment where staff owned the change.  This type of leadership is a vital for change to occur with a critical mass of staff involvement.  Without this critical mass, the change would be slow and may fizzle out.

The Access Demon March 26, 2008

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Chris Lehmann presented to our class this evening.  It was great to see a school that includes a 1:1 environment.  Access to technology is an issue in schools.  Can we teach without 1:1?  Of course, but if every student has a computer, access is not a barrier to their education.  Teachers can concentrate on learning, rather than how they are going to juggle the access to the technology.

Can I recommend Open Source? March 22, 2008

Posted by Ed 831 Ken in Uncategorized.
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Could I suggest a school division switch to open source software?  At this point, I could not for two main reasons. 

Reason #1. 

I remember my first open source experience at a convention in about 1996.  Open source has come a long way since then.  I could see myself using many of the programs successfully in a classroom environment.  Having said that, I have evolved through technology.  I know it will be frustrating at times. Is it fair to expose non-technology teachers to the expectation that open source is the way to go?  I think this would be a recipe for disaster (at the present time). 

I hear teachers reflecting about open source with comments like “it’s almost as good”, “it almost does everything you need it to do”.  This isn’t good enough.  For open source to take hold of the market share, it has to be equal or better than the competition. 

Reason #2 

I have been trained by Cisco.  They are the largest networking company in the world.  The training was about learning the standards of networking.  Cisco was a proprietary product.  The products they sell are expensive.  When it came to the school division upgrading, a cheaper product was used.  A few years have gone by, and the school division is switching to Cisco products, primarily due to their reliability and consistent platform.  Enough said about Cisco.  I don’t want to get too technical. 

Open source would be awesome, if there was a certain standard incorporated into the products.  Until this occurs, I’m not convinced that open source will grab a huge market share, even though the price is right. If these big companies like Cisco, Microsoft and Apple were smart (although they are way smarter than me) they would cater to the education field.  Chances kids use their product early in their life, they would tend to buy it as an adult (that’s when the $ skyrockets).

Incompatible Worlds March 21, 2008

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Brian Lamb and D’Arcy Norman were our guest presenters this week.  They indicated that the corporate/management world and the technology world are incompatible due the quick evolution of technology. Institutional change cannot keep up with the technological change.  Research and development usually is done without “approval” because it takes too long for the powers to be (in the top-down model) to make these types of decisions. The more I research the Steven Johnson’s theory of emergence, the more I think that this bottom-up model would help promote technology in a positive manner in the education system.

Second Life – Opinion March 16, 2008

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I experienced a program called Second Life this week. There were a lot of people in our session.  This added somewhat to the frustration of things not working so smoothly.  I felt sorry for the instructor, Kirk Kezema, as more and more people started to enter the room. 

This is a really neat application for distance education.  I taught an online learning course called Cisco Networking.  It had some multimedia parts to the course; however, it was quite dry in parts.  The face to face part of the course balanced out the pure online component to make it more interesting.  If we had a SL type of environment, the students would have been more motivated.

 I’ve never been a gamer; however, those that are would be highly motivated by this type of application.

Organized Chaos March 15, 2008

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In Stephen Downes’ presentation he eluded to the how technology and networks create order out of an otherwise chaotic system.  He used an analogy of a TV and a picture of Richard Nixon.  If we look at a single pixel it seems like chaos; however, if we look from the perspective of how the pixels interact with one another, they become organized in the form of a picture. 

When he was explaining these phenomena, I thought of an author that I have read a little bit about.  Steven Johnson explains his theory called emergence.  Emergent theory suggests a bottom-up structure with very few rules.  The structure is chaotic, yet the result is organized.  If you ever get a chance to read about emergence theory, it is certainly takes a different spin on the evolution of technology.

Customize The Web March 14, 2008

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The presentation by Stephen Downes was interesting.  As technology has evolved, it has become easier and easier to perform tasks using technology.  Examples of this are intertwined into our class – slideshare, voicethread, blogging, website development, wikis, and so on.  A few years ago, these applications would have only been possible by advanced programmers.  However, these applications are available to everyone today.  There is very little technical background required to use most of these applications at the beginner level.  This is a good thing for education.  Educators can concentrate on using the tools to enhance learning, rather than spending months (or years) learning how to use the tool. 

As an ex-computer science teacher, I appreciated Stephen’s presentation.  It was valuable to see how you could take these technologies and enhance them.  The result is an application that is unique and customized to the user.  This could be used in the computer science type classes.  It is not for everyone as most of us were overwhelmed with the technical difficulty of the application; however, it was a useful exercise in the behind the scenes inner workings of some of the technologies that we use. 

The Island Phenomena March 8, 2008

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As a technology leader in a school you often feel isolated.  Technology changes so quickly it is difficult (impossible) to keep up.  Few others (if any) in your school understand or have the same passion for technology as you.

In discussions on blogs and in our weekly class meetings, it is evident that teachers are frustrated with technology.

Leaders in the area of technology often feel isolated and wonder why teachers don’t get on board the technology train.  This creates frustration for the technology leaders in our building.  Clarence Fisher and Kim Brown alluded to this island phenomena.

The result of this is an environment where teachers criticize others and get their backs up in a defensive manner.  If this environment permeates a building, little (if any) quality change will occur.

How do we get the technology train permeating throughout the buildings?

We need a thorough plan which includes resources, training, plc’s, incentives and a shared vision.  This is easier said than done.  It will take courage to welcome other’s views and accommodate them, rather than isolate them through criticism.

As I reflect on my career in technology, one or more of these pieces has been absent.  It’s no wonder that the train stalls or breaks down all together. 

The psyche of 1:1 environments March 5, 2008

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Clarence Fisher discussed the change in students’ psyche when the classroom environment approached a 1:1 computer to student environment. 

There was no longer the pressure to get done because the computer time is over or the laptops need to be returned. 

Students used the technology as they saw fit.  Technology was incorporated in a less structured way than is normally done in classrooms.  The technology became just part of the classroom.  The technology was losing the “add on” stigma. 

I see 1:1 technology environments as a crucial piece to the puzzle of educational integration of technology.  The closer we can get to 1:1 environments, the greater success we will have in progressing past the “add on” stage into stages where technology is used in ways that are not possible without it.