Archive for June, 2008

It has been one year since I began my duties as the educational technology specialist for NPPSD. I have learned a lot and look forward to another successful year.

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I mentioned earlier our attempts at creating and organizing online resources utilizing del.icio.us.  The current repositories can be viewed at the following links:

NPPSD Secondary Online Resources

NPPSD Elementary Online Resources

See Eric Marcos student’s generated math tutorials at Mathtrain.TV (The link seems to be down for now; so, try this feed link to view the tutorials: Mathtrain.com with Mr. Marcos!!!

When I think back to my beginnings with the web over ten years ago, I remember my growing list of bookmarks that inhabited my browsers. Eventually I created web pages to keep track of links and tried to keep things organized the best I could.  As a classroom teacher I eventually developed subject area web sites that contained links within the content I shared with my students, and my students became the hunters and gatherers of interesting and informative web sites that helped us learn and grow.

Wikis became a good place for me to quickly add developing lists of links over time, but it always seemed that my bookmarks and favorites became scattered on various computers that I used on a regular basis. Exporting these links helped, but it always seemed I had a mess on my hands!  Often, as every teacher knows, time was the issue, and I would find that as time passed when I finally got back to sorting my links, over the summer, many were 404 and no longer found!

As a new educational technology specialist I now had the time to search for and organize web resources as part of my service for teachers; however, the key to valuable resources is working with teachers to find things that they need to embed into their curriculum.  This process has to be streamlined, simple, and manageable, and I have focused my attention on del.icio.us as a possible answer to our challenge.

Now, what is del.icio.us:  “del.icio.us is a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. You can use del.icio.us to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the del.icio.us community.
  • Discover new things. Everything on del.icio.us is someone’s favorite — they’ve already done the work of finding it. So del.icio.us is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy.

del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website — the primary use of del.icio.us is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On del.icio.us, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.

You can also use del.icio.us to see the interesting links that your friends and other people bookmark, and share links with them in return. You can even browse and search del.icio.us to discover the cool and useful bookmarks that everyone else has saved — which is made easy with tags.”

I have used del.icio.us personally for awhile now, but as with any list of links, they must be managed, sorted, and updated to be usable.  Over the summer I decided to share del.icio.us as a resource in my “Utilizing the Internet” workshop and it is proving to be a valuable resource.  The teachers I worked with, so far, helped to brainstorm an idea of creating a central repository of online resources based on their del.icio.us lists.  The process has begun.

A big plus with del.icio.us is that you can access your links anywhere you have an internet connection.  If you are on the road and find a great site it can be added via your smart phone, laptop, or any internet device!  A great feature of del.icio.us is tagging and the ability to search for other links based on the tags you create. This enables the social networking part of del.icio.us and makes for effective gathering of related links.  The tags also foster organization of content and help to easily put together a repository of information related to grade levels and subject areas.  You can also subscribe via RSS to various del.icio.us pages to keep up on added resources over time.  As one adds users to their network, a collaborative effort is facilitated as teachers easily can help build a repository of resources shared across the del.icio.us site while simply creating and sharing their personal list of sites.

To get things started I have begun gathering resources I have collected over time and have focused on the elementary grades at this point.  I put together some web pages to serve as the gateways to grade level and subject area information, but the key will be inviting teachers on board to share their personal resources. Teachers are the experts in their fields, and my goal is to facilitate the organization of the resources they find valuable for their students.  With ten elementary schools in our district, I know as teachers share their information it will be beneficial to all staff.

The potential exists to not only collaborate with teachers within our own district but also with educators around the world.  That is the power of such social networking sites, and this resource is there for the taking with only the cost of time.  Time is always an issue, but I believe that through collaboration the time will pay off for teachers and students.

The following link is our initial repository of links:  NPPSD Online Resources.  It is a work in progress, but I am excited about the potential and power that it will have in our district.  If you have a del.icio.us account, please add us to your network!  We are all in this together, and  as we share we can save valuable time that can be spent working with our students.

How have you used del.icio.us in education?  Please let us know!

One of the first tasks I was faced with as a new educational technology specialist was to offer sustained technology professional development to the teaching staff in my district. Time is always an issue in education, and it was not unexpected to find this resource limited. My initial approach to developing training for teachers, in particular, was to deploy a modified levels of technology implementation (LoTi) survey at the beginning of the school year. This data provided me with a snapshot of where particular staff members were in specific buildings concerning technology use.  The survey will be deployed again at the beginning of the new school year to measure growth from what has been implemented from the previous instructional year.

The survey results identified a majority of users at the exploration/infusion stage of the model and, along with information from a recent McREL report, I began the process of gathering resources to provide exposure to various technology tools that exist for educational purposes. With a limited budget, myself as the only instructional technology professional, but with some excellent tools such as a new training lab of 27 Windows XP work stations, I developed a strategy to offer one hour training sessions, immediately after school hours, roughly two days per week. The focus of the training was for certified teachers, but I allowed paraprofessionals to attend the trainings too. Continuing education credits were offered as incentive to attend the trainings, and attendance was voluntary.

Hardware was the driving force of the initial offerings with a focus on the new SMART Board and iPod technology in the district and the use of teacher workstations and the software contained therein as foundational tools. This was expanded to introductions on Web 2.0 technologies such as blogging (WordPress & Blogger), wikis (PBWiki & Wikispaces), and eventually spread to podcasting, digital storytelling, and video production. These trainings were offered multiple times and at varying levels to meet the needs of new, developing, and master users.

Utilizing the internet as a curriculum tool was also a focus as new labs required activities for students to use. In the past, CD software for Macintosh computers had been used, but with a move to a single Windows platform approach the situation required some ingenuity to not accrue additional costs through purchasing software. Several online activities were found to supplement student use of the new computer systems. This approach continues as some teachers utilize the Del.icio.us online tool to organize web related resources and with an effort to create a district wide online repository of these online activities.

Over time, it became apparent that teachers required a place to serve staff created content. Our First Class client software allowed the use of its web publishing feature to offer up such creations. A focus on utilizing this software was implemented during the spring semester to enable users to place their content on a server for student use. The podcasting feature of First Class (version 8.3) provided an easy way for staff to record student stories, poems, and reports and to share it online with the school population, parents, the community, and the world. Several teachers started blogs and wikis to also share their curriculum and student generated content and media.

Digital storytelling was a natural step in the progression of initial technology implementation. Photo Story 3, Windows Movie Maker, and Power Point served as ready to use software for the staff and students. Basic training in the use of this software was provided, and teachers and students began the process of using these tools to generate content. The district web site served as a gateway in sharing this content and led to an increased awareness and interest in learning how staff members were implementing these tools in their classrooms.

As staff members attended various trainings, individual support was offered on site and several projects were completed alongside the teachers and students on a daily basis. This approach supplemented the teacher’s attendance and learning during the trainings and led to increased application of the new skills. Many teachers were surprised by the level of competence that students already had in utilizing these tools even at the Kindergarten and first grade levels. Failed attempts were re-evaluated and modified to meet the demands of time, resources, classroom and lab management, and scaling back the expectations of initial implementation generally remedied initial complications. The combination of training, support, and guidance during implementation provided a recipe for success.

An Open Lab was also offered during the spring semester to supplement after school trainings. These were held generally three times per week and allowed staff to come to the central office learning lab and get one on one attention with their various projects. A limited number of students also attended some of these sessions to learn how to implement technology and create content. A combination of after school trainings, individual support, and Open Lab time provided a way to accommodate the use of precious hours that were in limited supply. These trainings were extended by utilizing continuing education days and via professional learning community days where whole district, building, and multiple staff trainings were offered. Some professional training was also brought in specifically through eInstruction and their CPS clicker systems. Over 460 staff members received technology training over the course of the school year with 25% of that number returning for multiple trainings. All staff had multiple opportunities for training via the two continuing education days offered over the school year.

With the end of the school year a summer training program was also implemented and staff voluntarily spent time in extended learning workshops during the summer months. This program is continuing and will be expanded for the next summer. In all 60 staff member have utilized the summer training sessions that provided time to work on blogging, wikis, podcasting, digital storytelling, video, utilizing the internet, and computer basics.

The key component to the success of this technology training implementation was the addition of a full-time educational technology specialist to facilitate and implement such a training program. The knowledge and experience of a former classroom teacher with specialized instructional technology training enabled this program to come to fruition. Instructional technology professionals can make a huge impact in a school district as they work together with a supportive administration, teachers who see a concerted effort to meet their technology integration goals, and via a technology staff that provides superior support for the district’s network, hardware, and software implementation.

It is difficult to imagine the widespread damage from the recent flooding in the Midwest.  The following site helps put it into perspective via terrifying and wonderful photographs:  Boston.com.