My very first blog post for my very first UBC MET course, ETEC 565A. I am trying to balance one master’s course, working 0.85 as the Educational Technology Coordinator for Peace Wapiti School Division and be a Mom of two little people. I am excited about all of these new adventures and look forward to sharing some of them here.
My context in relation to Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Chapter 4: a Framework for Selecting and Using Technology. In Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education: Foundations for Success. (pp. 77-105). San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers
The SECTIONS framework by Bates and Poole was more applicable to my teaching context. The two sections that I find myself grappling with most often is students and cost.
Students, and teachers, need to be at the forefront when making decisions about learning technologies. But like Bates and Poole state, and I experience, you are dealing with insufficient and rapidly changing information from which you must base your decisions on. Eighteen months ago, I would argue, I was dealing not with a digital divide but a digital chasm in our large rural school district. While students and teachers that lived in town had access to high speed internet, a good number of our rural schools had only dial up with no prospect on the horizon of change. When student information systems were put in place to allow teachers to work from home and parents to access student work, this did nothing for these rural communities. Access to quality distance learning material was also hampered by the lack of high speed internet. Eighteen months later it is a totally different picture as many of these communities now have satellite internet. Polling students recently, up to 95% have home base computers with a high speed connection. This completely changes the learning technologies landscape and what can be offered in these communities.
The needs of different student demographics is also an area that I find myself struggling with. What is required in a large urban high school is very different that the needs of a small rural farming community that has seen a recent influx of immigrants. Likewise the changing teaching demographic, as the baby boomer bubble is hitting retirement and a large number of new teachers will hit the education system, has very diverse needs. What I find myself struggling with is how to adapt to these diverse demographics when we have standardized parts of our learning technology systems. Keeping the learners needs in mind, how can I bend Moodle or Sharepoint or PowerSchool, all standard systems we must all use, to meet their needs.
The part about cost that resonated with me in this framework was that the major cost of any learning technology is time. Time to work, reflect, train, collaborate and connect with colleagues and time for professional development to ensure the successful implementation of a learning technology. This expenditure item can often be forgotten after money is spent on infrastructure, software and IT, but without this (hopefully job embedded) time the success of a project is at stake. Part of my job is to provide professional development and support for our technology plan. This plan, most recently includes, a project to research the educational implication of cloud computing using LIVE@EDU. The majority of the proposal cost is time.
In education we are always looking to more with less. The advent of free web 2.0 tools has opened up learning technology opportunities for many schools that cannot afford high prices software and installs. I find myself frequently encouraging their use, sometime instead of the technologies that our school division pays for. However, I find myself having to consider the cost of these free tools. They are not free. Many still require installs of Java or Silverlight. They frequently disappear and have to be replaced and therefore retrained on. Or go from being a free service to a paid service. Our school division relies heavily on Moodle, open source software, it is free as we did not have to pay for the download but it is far from free when considering maintenance, training, backups and storage. Cost is one aspect of choosing technology that I would like to look at more in-depth.
Personal Assessment according to NET’s 2008 document.
Reflecting on my skill and confidence in using learning technologies to teach, I would say my skill level and confidence is fairly high. However, I do have to constantly remind myself that it is learning technologies and that learning has to go first. I am often guilty of putting the technology first and this is one of things I hope to work and get a solid foundation of during my MET courses.
During the past two years I was half time in a junior high classroom and half time providing support for teacher integration of technology into their classroom. Modelling digital work and learning is incredibly important. I have to be able to walk the digital walk if I hope for others to follow me. I use a variety of tools to communicate with teachers and students. Moodle forums, blogs, email and a variety of web 2.0 tools. It has been my hope that by exposing them to different mediums they may find the one that fits best for what they want to accomplish. Model teaching is something that I started recently. Offering to go to a classroom and teach a lesson, after planning it with the teacher, has been the most powerful in modelling digital learning. I think the most effective lessons have been the ones where the technology has failed. Modelling that digital work is not always a smooth process and even those who are seen as experts have difficulty.
Collaboration is also a theme that runs through NETS. I have found it much easier to provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate, to a lesser degree students and will need to work on parents and other stakeholders. The geographical situation of my school board, we are roughly the size of Whales, means it is important to harness digital tools for collaboration. We have a Moodle dedicated to teacher collaboration, of which I administer. In this space teachers can share and access the work shared by their colleagues. I try to keep this space fresh and find ways to encourage teachers to share what is going on inside their classroom by sharing a lot of my own work, encouraging the PD cohorts I work with to make this a part of our process and by recognizing the hard work and accomplishments of these teachers. Elluminate is another way that I try and foster collaboration. Last year I hosted, with my ET counterpart, a weekly elluminate session called Bright Ideas in Teaching and Technology: BITTS. We used the elluminate setting to meet to share ideas and reflections on teaching and technology. It was important that we were not the only ones doing the sharing. Recently while on Twitter I saw a group of colleagues struggling to find a meeting space for a conversation regarding the Daily 5, a literacy strategy my school district is just starting with. I offered up my room and myself as moderator for the Sunday morning conversation. The conversation that was recorded and later shared with others that could not make it, was an amazing collaboration of educators that have never “met” in person.
Part of my job as a Educational Technology Coordinator is to disseminate information on Digital Citizenship. A presentation about Wireless Internet to our Joint School Councils last year earned me invitations to present to students grade 3-10 and to other school councils on how best to manage your digital footprint and be safer online. Part of this presentation now includes a section on Creative Commons and Copyright and having students sit at a computer and bookmark the creative commons search engine. While this is a small portion of ethical use, it is a start. Being the Moodle Administrator also means I have to contact teachers and students, on occasion, and ask them to removed material that violates copyright.
I wear a variety of different hats which allow me to engage in professional growth and leadership. With our professional association in Alberta, Alberta Teachers Association, I am a PD facilitator for Region A in the north as well as the Region A representative for the Educational Technology Council where my portfolio includes learning management systems and professional learning networks. In these two roles I get to meet and work with people from outside my district and in some cases around the world. Being an active participant in the planning process for Professional Development from the far north has made me stretch my technical muscles to include such tools as Skype, Google Docs as well as moodle and elluminate which I am more familiar with. I am also actively involved with the Northwest Regional Learning Consortium in offering Professional Development sessions on Moodle, Social Studies and Smartboards, and Podcasting. I am an active member of twitter and try to participate in Tuesday’s #edchats, I read and comment on a variety of educational technology blogs and belong to a number of online communities like Classroom 2.0 and Smartboard Revolution. My goal this year is to encourage more of my colleagues to become engaged in these global sharing spaces. In turn these global conversation will be brought into the classroom.
There are a couple of areas that I would like to work on during this course, and others. “Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice” is probably the area of greatest need for me. I am becoming well acquainted with the Educause website which in turn has forced me to pull out some of my educational technology books. Taking the time to see where current educational research is an area that I have not made enough time for. Another area of need for me is helping teachers and students manage and asses their own progress. The assessment tools in Moodle is an area where I have had very little experience, even though I know they are powerful, and I am looking forward to experimenting with them further. Finally I am intrigued with the idea of blog as e-portfolio, this is something that I have been wanting to do with my students and teachers and this will provide me the opportunity to explore this on a platform, WordPress, that I am not at all familiar with.