Friday, January 31, 2014

What a Technology Coordinator Does

Our latest assignment for my Instructional Technology master's is to interview a technology coordinator and learn more about what they do.  I met with a technology coordinator from a small rural high school in northwest Iowa that implemented 1:1 iPads last school year.  The school includes approximately 215 students, 21 teachers, 2 administrators and 15 support staff; all but 6 have an iPad issued to them. 

When I sat down with this TC and asked, "what do you envision is your primary role in your position", this is the response I received:

"Support teachers in technology infrastructure and assist in technology direction."

From here we went on to discuss some of the roles and duties this TC has at a 1:1 iPad school.  Some of the duties mentioned included maintaining the district computers, iPads, wireless and hardwired network, and firewall; trouble shooting all systems; being the district Web Master and technology integrationist; and finally tracking the technology budget and keeping inventory records.  Another important job of this TC is liaison between the AEA, other districts, telephone company, software providers, and other outside supports.  This TC shared what was liked least about this particular job, stating that network infrastructure and windows maintenance were at the top of the list, but working directly with teachers and students were at the top of the list for most enjoyable about this job.  Ideally this TC would like to see this job split into two positions: a technology integrationist and a network administrator.  But since the world is not perfect these words of wisdom were offered to those looking into becoming a TC: be patient, flexible, and persistent. 

Below you will see my pre-interview web of what a TC does: 

This is the post-interview web of what this TC does:

As you may have noticed there are things that I listed in my pre-interview web that were not mentioned in the interview with this TC.  After the interview when I was reviewing the data collected I found that there were several things that I know this TC does that they did not mention during the interview.  Sometimes when there are things that we just do so naturally we often overlook them when asked what we do.  I felt that this was the case with this TC, there are so many more duties that were not mentioned just simply because they are done naturally and did not come to mind at the time of the interview.  For example, I know this TC spent many days during the summer getting equipment ordered and setting up three new learning labs in the media center so teachers could bring groups in to use the learning labs for cooperative learning experiences.  Sometimes we do not notice duties we perform but they are not unnoticed by all...this teacher noticed duties that this TC forgot to mention that are an important part of the job.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Apps to the Rescue!
According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, "UDL helps address learner variability by suggesting flexible goals, methods, and assessments that empower educators to meet these varied needs.   Also stated by Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA), UDL (Universal Design for Learning) is a scientifically valid framework that guides the educational practices  by providing flexibility and reducing barriers in instruction.

Three primary principles, based on neuroscience research guide UDL and provide the framework for the guidelines:

PRINCIPLE I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation
All learners differ in the way they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them.  Basically there is no "one-size, fits all" in the form of instruction.  
          1) Provide options for perception.
          2) Provide options for language, mathematical expression, and symbols.
          3) Provide for comprehension.

PRINCIPLE II: Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression 
Learners are different in how they navigate the learning environment and in how they express what they know.  There is no one way of action or expression that is appropriate for all learners, so providing options for action and expression are important.  
          4) Provide options for physical action.
          5) Provide options for expression and communication.
          6) Provide options for executive functions.

PRINCIPLE III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
All learners differ in the ways they can be engaged and motivated to learn and there are numerous sources that can influence an individual including neurology, culture, personal relevance, subjectivity, and background knowledge.  Since not all learners are engaged and motivated to learn in the same ways, providing options is essential to engagement of the learner.  
          7) Provide options for recruiting interest.
          8) Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence.
          9) Provide options for self regulation.  

With the number of schools going 1:1 iPad, there is greater need for apps that met Universal Design for Learning.  Below you will find a list of apps, descriptions, and UDL principle the app aligns with.

ShowMe is an iPad app that allows you to create lessons using a whiteboard.  This app is free which is excellent for educators and has unlimited possibilities.  ShowMe also offers a web-based community where you can share your lessons with other educators.  ShowMe also allows you to record your audio lesson while you write, so you can create lessons for students to view on their own at home or during their study times.  ShowMe is perfect for creating lessons for the flipped classroom.  ShowMe could be used with principles I and II.

Keynote is a presentation app for the iPad.  Keynote is similar to Microsoft's PowerPoint.  You are able to create slides with informational text and add themes, transitions, graphics, and video.  Once presentations are created they can be exported to PDF, QuickTime, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, HTML (with JPEG images) and PowerPoint. Presentations can be shared through iCloud or can be presented via LCD projectors and AppleTVs.  Both teachers and students can use Keynote to create presentations.  This app could be used with principles I, II, and III.

VoiceThread is a multimedia slideshow that can include images, documents, and/or videos.  VoiceThread can be viewed anywhere with the use of the Internet.  Once the VoiceThread is viewed participants can respond by leaving comments in three ways, through text, voice, and video.  VoiceThread can be used as a collaboration tool as well as a means of presenting information to students.  VoiceThreads can be created by teachers and students on a variety of topics and shared with others via the VoiceThread website.  This app could be used with principles I and II.

Communicate Easy is an iPad app that allows for communication with people with language or learning difficulties.  This app is geared towards special needs children with Autism, Aspergers, ADD, or ADHD, but can be used with any age person who is not verbal.  A teacher, aide, or caretaker can create a digital library of objects and activities that relate to the individual's daily needs.  With this app there is no need to print out cards and it allows the creator to create picture cards in the structure of their choice.  Features of this app include: flexible picture communication system, create multiple libraries, add own pictures, videos, sounds, and state, and a check system for completion of prompts.   This app could be used with principles I and II.

PhotoCard Lite is a free app that allows you to create custom postcards using Bill Atkinson's nature photos or your own personal photos, that can be sent by email or postal mail right from the iPad.  Once the photo portion of the card has been created flip it over and type your message. PhotoCards can be jazzed up with digital stickers and stamps.  There are different fonts, sizes, and styles available and the ability to record voice notes up to 60 seconds.  Students can use PhotoCard Lite to create postcards about countries they are researching or create a postcard to send to a pen pal.  This app could be used with principle II.

Notability integrates handwriting, PDF annotations, typing, recording, and organizing so notes can be taken the way you intend them to be taken.  Notability allows you the freedom to capture ideas, share insights, and present information all on the iPad.  With Notability teachers can upload guided notes to write on while recording their audio lecture or students can create papers and send them via email to the instructor who can open and edit the paper using the handwriting feature and even record audio comments and send it back to the student for revisions.  This cuts down on grading time and creates a paperless classroom.  This app could be used with principles I, II, and III.

Corkulous is an idea board that allows you to collect, organize, and share and access your ideas anywhere with the built-in iCloud support.  Boards can be shared with family and friends by storing the cork boards in DropBox. In Corkulous you can place notes, labels, photos, contacts, and tasks or you can group your ideas visually on one board or spread ideas out across multiple boards. This app can be used to plan an event, collaborate or manage a project, brainstorm ideas, track goals, or create a organizational chart.  Features of Corkulous include notes, labels, photos, contacts, tasks, index cards, and arrow flags, pinch zooming, search feature, email board as PDF or image, export board as PDF, and save images to Saved Photos album.  This app could be used with principles I, II, and III.

Visual Schedule Planner is a customizable iPad app that gives individuals an audio/visual representation of the "day's events".  Events can be linked to an additional activity schedule or video clip to offer further explanation.  This app is designed to aide individuals in transitions, lessen anxiety, or who simply provide a visual representation of the day.  Visual Schedule Planner is perfect for home, school, work, or community events.  Features of this app include the ability to view events daily, weekly, or monthly, customize images and sounds, activity schedules, video modeling, timer, checklist, reminders, and notes.  This app could be used with principles I and III.

Whiteboard Lite is a collaborative drawing app for the iPad that allows two users to create pictures together over a local Wi-Fi or Bluetooth peer-to-peer.  The unique feature of this app is that two devices can draw on the same canvas simultaneously.  Full screen drawing with adjustable marker widths.  Great for reviewing activities, partner work, and collaboration projects.  This app could be used in a math class to do partner reviewing were one partner does a math problem and another can jump in when they are struggling or show the individual where they made a mistake. This app could be used with principles I, II, and III.

Strip Designer allows students to create their own comics by drawing pictures, taking pictures, or importing pictures.  Strip Designer provides a variety of layouts from one frame comics to one page layouts to even multiple page layouts.  If students do not like layouts provide they can create their own custom layouts.  Students can use a combination of drawings and pictures to create their own comics.  Students can use Strip Design to create their own interpretation of a historical event, events in a story they read, or write their own comic or graphic novel.  This app could be used with principle II. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

TPACK: Putting the Pieces Together

Image from:
Technology integration is a big topic of professional development.  I hear many teachers commenting that they feel overwhelmed with technology integration and that they don't feel they have the time.  Technology is just one of the puzzle pieces  that make up our lessons and as a teacher of the 21st century, technology is the final piece to make our picture complete.  We have to be careful not to let the technology take over our teaching and focus more on the technology then on the content or the teaching itself.  TPACK or technological pedagogical and content knowledge is a way for us to break down all the pieces of our lessons so that we have the right pieces for the picture we are trying to complete. 

To gain a better understanding of TPACK check out Understanding TPACK. This site guides you through a set of sequential links that help explain what TPACK is and how it applies to teaching in the 21st century.  A couple of items that caught my eye on this site was the video of Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during a panel discussion of digital technology for students and teachers.  The other item was a TPACK lesson planning sheet, this worksheet helps to organize one's thoughts about integration of technology. 

There are so many things to think about when implementing TPACK, that I begin to wonder if TPACK would be a beneficial concept for my school.  My  thoughts go to how am I going to get teachers on board with a another technology integration idea.  And then I came across the New School Technology blog. 
In his blog post Mark Fijor, a technology facilitator in the suburbs of Chicago, discusses how focus tools can greatly help ease the fears of technology integration.  There are so many tech tools out there that Fijor says this, "creates a challenge for systemic integration of technology. When there are too many choices it becomes difficult for teachers to select the best tool for the task."  As a solution Fijor proposes a set of "focus tools", these focus tools are a set of 3-5 tools that are used throughout the school.  By using focus tools administration and technology coordinators will have a way to focus professional development and curriculum planning.  Fijor offered three criteria for selecting focus tools:
  1. Ease of use/Prior Exposure
  2. High Flexibility
  3. Affordability/Access
But its important to remember that when making decisions that affect the entire school that we should include them in the selection process of the focus tools, helping everyone feel they have some ownership in the focus tools.  Not only will these tools help to focus professional development, but also help build common vocabulary and experiences among the teachers.  

I think TPACK is something that many of us use when we are planning our lessons, we just didn't know that is what we were doing.  I think the main thing that we can learn from TPACK is that it is a balance, all the pieces must fit together for there to be a higher level of learning for the students.  So I leave you with this fun little video called the TPACK Anthem.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

VoiceThread: A Great New Tool

This has been one busy week, finishing the school year, moving rooms, project for MA, and the holiday weekend.  Amongst all those things I was able to experience a new tool, VoiceThread, well at least new to me.

Here's a short explanation of what VoiceThread is.  VoiceThread is a location where groups can have conversations, and those conversations can be collected and shared in central location from anywhere in the world.  And the great thing about it is that there is no software to purchase or install.  The jist of a VoiceThread is it is a multimedia slideshow that can include images, documents, and/or videos. 

VoiceThread will allow people to comment on the images, documents, and/or videos in five ways.  The first is through voice, this can be done via a microphone built-in or connected to your computer or through telephone.  The second, actually third, is through text.  You are able to simply type what it is that you want to say.  The fourth, is though audio files and finally through video.  Did I also mention that while they are commenting they can doodle.  So if you want to emphasize a point, why not circle it.  VoiceThreads can also be embedded on other websites so that comments can be seen and received.  They can also be exported to MP3 players or DVDs. 

I think this is going to be a great tool for teachers to use in their classrooms.  Students can put together group projects and get feedback or they can be used as an assessment tool about a book, or even maybe be used to check for prior knowledge of a subject. 

How do you think you will use VoiceThread? 

Podcasts, Podcasts, Podcasts - Part One

Wow, there are a lot of podcasts out there on just about every topic you could imagine.  It was quite overwhelming, but after some time of searching, I found a couple that sounded interesting.   I've decided to divide this post into two parts, in part one I will address the three podcasts and in part two I will go into more detail about what I learned from these podcasts.  Here are the ones that I viewed and what they had to offer to their viewers.

New Teacher Survival Guide by the Ohio Resource Center
Episode: Special Needs Students in the Science Classroom

This podcast had several episodes to pick from, on a variety of topics that are of a concern to new teachers.  I really don't think these podcasts are just for new teachers though, they can be of interest to any teacher, new or experienced.  The episode I viewed was one on special needs students in the science classroom.  I picked this episode because next fall I will be going back into the area of special education.  Since I've been away from the area for a few years I
thought something about special education would give me a refresher. 

During the podcast they touched on topics such as classroom environment, co-teaching, hands-on activities, the science labatory, educational approaches to instruction, and strategies for teaching special needs students.  The one thing I loved about this podcast was that all the tips they gave could be used with a general education classroom, becuase all students learn in different ways. 

The Reading Show with Dr. Joe Lockavitch
Episode: "Curriculum Casualties" and other hot topics

This podcast was intersting, Dr. Joe had a lot of interesting things to say about reading and reading difficulties.  Dr. Joe feels that students are not special needs but just have academic difficulties or learning struggles.  One thing that I found very interesting and liked was the fact that he does not like the traditional meaning of LD (learning disabled) but a new meaning, learning differently.  Maybe if education thought of LD in this way, things would be different for students. 

Mighty Mommy Quick and Dirty Tips for Practical Parenting
Episode:  Schedules are Important

I loved this one, the tips in this podcast are short and simple, which is what I need.  Being a mother of a 10 month old and a 3 year old Weimer, I don't have time to watch lengthy podcasts.  There are a lot of great tips for parents on this podcast, you can also find postcasts by the same author entitled Money Girl, and Grammar Girl.  Since this podcast was quick, I don't want to go into too much detail, otherwise there won't be anything to share in part two. 

I can't wait to send a little looking at the podcasts my cohorts have recommended and look for some others I could use in my classroom.  Don't forget to check out part two. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Distributed Learning Communities and their Value in Education

Can you image taking a class with people from all over the world and working on a single project and never seeing your team face-to-face.  The idea of Distributed Learning Communities is taking this idea to new levels.  

Distributed Learning Communities is the idea that emerging devices, tools, media and virtual environments is creating a new type of learning community for students and teachers.  This idea is centered around four characteristics 1) having a diverse group of experts who are valued for their contributions, 2) having a shared objective, which will advance the knowledge and skills of the group, 3) having an "emphasis on learning how to learn", and finally 4) having ways of sharing what has been learned.  All this is very different from what we classify as a traditional classroom, where students get expert knowledge from the textbooks and sometime the Internet, rather than with a Distributed Learning Community where they can get the expert knowledge directly from the expert. 

Distributed Learning Communities takes the emphasis off high-stakes tests and put more of it on 21st century knowledge and skills.  Does this mean that today's teachers are going to be obsolete, no at all.  Teachers will now take on the role of facilitator and interpreter.  For teachers to become outstanding facilitators and interpreters there must be changes in the education of teachers.  No longer will professional development focus on such things as improving test scores, but educating teachers about the 21st century skills our students have grown up with.  Dede states, "...professional development must expand a teacher's capacity to serve as a facilitator, guide and model of learning how to learn, rather than as a sage who is the single source of knowledge." For this to happen school districts will need to provide opportunities for teachers to become a part of a distributed learning community so that they can experience what their students will experience.  States will also have to put more money into education so that each district will have the opportunities for being a part of distributed learning communities as other districts, which will help to level the playing field for all students nation-wide. 

For us to prepare the next generation of students for "work, citizenship, and selffulfilled lives", we as educators have to become students of the 21st century ourselves.  Do you know your 21st century alphabet?  Are you prepared to be a facilitator and interpreter?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Resisting Drugs and Violence

Today was D.A.R.E. day for our 5th and 6th graders.  After graduating from the D.A.R.E. program the students had a fun day at a local amusement park.  We had a beautiful day and the kids even got me on a few rides.  They were able to get me to ride the wooden roller coaster and log ride...I guess if you were to ride a few rides why not those.  Thanks kids for a great day.