Monday, June 27, 2011

Are Technology Trainers No Longer a Need in Education?

I have to start this post with a disclaimer.  Please note that in this post I am referencing "second-hand" information from a meeting/workshop I did not attend.

I was conversing with a colleague today and he shared that at a recent gathering of K-12 Chief Technology Officers, the topic of training educators on new technology came up. There seemed to a prevailing tendency reported among the CTOs to roll out new technologies without setting up formalized training for the end users. My take on this new trend was that it was not out of necessity that formalized training was not part of the equation, but rather part of a new "process" for introducing new technologies to educators.

As an example of how this works, the presenter asked how many people at the presentation were on Facebook.  Almost every hand in the room went up. The presenter then asked how many of the Facebook users had taken a training class in how to use Facebook. All of the hands went down. His point was they had all learned to use Facebook without participating in a formalized training event.

The presenter did not advocate for leaving educators completely on their own. Training resources that can be accessed when needed would be made available in this approach.

These ideas relayed second-hand to me were intriguing. As I ponder this method/possible trend, I have some definite thoughts and questions. But before I share mine, I'd like to see how readers of this blog post might react.

What do you think of this approach?

Have you used this approach or something simliar to it in your school/district? If so, how did it go?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you share. I will share my thoughts in the comments later, or possibly in a follow-up blog post.

Post image from Flikr user superkimbo, used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/superkimbo/5131434958/



NOTE: Please continue learning from the comments  below, and also my follow-up blog post of July 26, 2011.



Friday, June 24, 2011

Do You Make Your Learning Transparent to Others?

Life-Long Learner Wordle by EdTechSandyK
Feel free to re-use, but please give credit...
To be a good educator is to be a life-long learner. I'll never forget hearing over and over in my first few years as a teacher that it was important to be a life-long learner. There I was, believing that with a B.A. under my belt I had arrived at a destination, only to discover that a journey encompassing the rest of my time on the planet had just begun.

Do you make your learning transparent to others? If so, how do you do it?


Do you stretch yourself educationally on occasion to stay mindful of a learner's perspective?

I've been pondering these questions recently in light of some experiences both professional and personal.

When you are seen as a technology expert or specialist it may be difficult or embarrassing to admit when you don't know how or why something technical works, but I think it's highly important to share when you don't know. And as much as possible share the learning process with the person or people looking to you to help answer a question or figure out a process.

Admitting that you are still learning, that you don't have a special gene which allows you to instantly absorb the inner-workings of all things technology, can have the effect of showing those less confident with technology an example of how it can be learned - even by them.

What does it look like to admit and show your learning? Here are three recent examples from my life:
Example One: During a workshop I was leading on Teaching with Multimedia/Digital Storytelling, I could not remember for the life of me how to export PowerPoint slides to .jpg files so they could be imported into Microsoft PhotoStory. (I can never remember this because I use it infrequently.) So, when a teacher/participant asked me for assistance, I sat down beside her and asked her to poke around in some PowerPoint menus. Then, we searched the PowerPoint help together (which is always fun if you don't know exactly what the help calls what you are wanting to do). After a few minutes of looking, realizing time was short, I asked for the keyboard and went to Google. Answer found and used with in a few moments (It's under "Save As" by the way; at least in Office 2003 it is). Both myself and the teacher/participant learned something together. And hopefully, she learned even more - some strategies to use when the answer won't come quickly to memory and searching Help just isn't enough.
Example Two: This one also comes in a workshop setting. Our instructional technology coordinator and myself co-facilitated a workshop for teachers in our school district on creating online courses in the Epsilen learning system. Epsilen is being provided to all K-12 educators and students in Texas as part of the Project Share initiative, and since it is free and we're in a budget crunch, it is now our approach to blended learning in our classrooms. Kim and I have, between us, created a total of three courses in Epsilen, and we did so mostly by trial and error, having only recently found an excellent manual provided by Epsilen. So, one of the first things we told our workshop participants was we were pretty new at this too. We would answer the questions we could and work together with them to find the answers we didn't know. During the day-long training, as participants made discoveries about Epsilen courses, they shared them with us and we made sure everyone in the class heard any new information. You might think hearing from your workshop facilitator that they are not an "expert" in the technology would be disheartening, but in this case I sensed it put the participants at ease and created a climate of co-learning. I'm hopeful this climate will carry on into an online Epsilen group we've created for all the participants where they can share their questions and discoveries.
Example Three: This one is more personal in nature. I have a good friend who for the last month has been battling back from an 11 hour brain surgery which was necessary to remove a tumor. While he has been in the hospital, many members of our church have been praying for him and looking for ways to support him and his family. Last Sunday, the worship pastor asked myself and other mutual friends if any of us had a cell phone that could record video. I piped up and said "Yes" before I asked why he was asking. The pastor then asked me to record a short video of our friend, who had recovered tremendously, so others could be encouraged by his progress. "I'll figure out how to do that!" I said. See, I'm not much of a video person and I've only had a smart phone for six months. But this was important, so I was going to learn. So last night, in my friend's hospital room, I figured out how to use the camcorder on my phone and we shot a fairly decent thirty-second video. I then commented that it would be fun going home and figuring out how to get it from the phone to the computer to the worship pastor. "Can't you just send it from the phone?" asked my recovering-from-brain-surgery friend. "Oh, yeah, duh," I'm thinking. And I stood there and figured it out - not on the first try, but eventually it worked! I told my friend and his wife at that moment that accomplishing that in front of them was humbling, but in a good way, because it reminds me of how folks I teach all the time might be feeling as they try to figure out this technology stuff.

Do you admit to others when you are learning, even if it is in your area of expertise? Do you draw them in and invite them to learn with you when the opportunity presents itself? Please share your examples in the comments below!

If you can't think of any recent example of "admitting to learning" in your life, I challenge you to find ways to share the experience of learning with others. Then come back here and share as well, so we can continue to learn together. :-)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Please Share Your Favorite Web Search Tools, Techniques, or Lessons


Search Engine Roundtable Wordle
used under a Creative Commons License
courtesy of Flikr user toprankonlinemarketing.
I am putting together a three hour staff development session for K-12 teachers entitled Google Search and Beyond. I get kind of excited about search tools and digital literacy, so I'm having fun working with this theme.

I know many in my PLN have excellent ideas for teaching teachers about effective search strategies and ways to pass them on to our students. If you have an idea that has worked well for you in the past, would you please share it in the comments below? I'd like to glean from your experiences, and I'll give you credit in my sessions.

Feel free to describe as much as you want in the comments or leave links to resources you have learned from or used.

Just to prove I'm not trying to get you to do all of my work, here is a rough outline of topics I have been brainstorming for the session. It is under continuous revision as I plan. I want to balance providing information with giving the teachers time to plan for using these strategies and tools with their students, so it's likely I won't get to cover all of my topics. Quality over quantity, you know!

Thanks in advance for any ideas you are willing to share!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Need Help With Disqus Commenting

After seeing Disqus commenting on a few blogs I read, I installed it here on the EdTechSandyK blog over the weekend. I also imported all of my previous standard Blogger comments into Disqus.

If you click on the title of any blog post so that it opens on its unique page, you can clearly see  a link to the Disqus comments at the bottom of the post.



If, however, you are on my main or home page, http://edtechsandyk.blogspot.com, you cannot see a link to the comments at the bottom of each post.


I would like to have a link display there to encourage blog visitors to read existing comments and/or add their own.

I notice on the Cool Cat Teacher blog that the links display even at the bottom of posts on her main or home
page.

I am using a standard Blogger template. I believe I have all of the comments settings tweaked the way the Disqus instructions stated I should. And, I know the links to comments existed at the bottom of posts on the home/main page of the blog before I installed Disqus. Does anyone have any advice as to how I can get this working properly? Please leave information in the comments. Thanks!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Please Avoid Unnecessary & Harmful Changes to Education Law

Texas Capitol © 2006 Larry D. Moore
Used Under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Texas_capitol_day.jpg
Below is the text of an email I just sent to my representative in the Texas legislature. When Senator Wendy Davis forced a special session to bring to light the major changes to education funding in our state that were being ramrodded through at the end of the regular session, she did a good thing. Unfortunately, the special session has also provided opportunities for harmful education legislation that died in the regular session to see the light of day again. If you are a Texas parent, educator, or concerned citizen, please look into these issues for yourself and write your representatives ASAP with your concerns. The session is moving at a furious pace...time is of the essence in communicating with your legislators!

I am thankful for the many educators and organizations who are helping to keep me informed of these quickly evolving issues via email and social media. By working together and letting our voices be heard, we can make a difference!


Dear Representative Gonzales,

I recently wrote about my appreciation of you during this legislative session on my blog. You can visit the post here if you are interested: http://edtechsandyk.blogspot.com/2011/05/learnings-from-participation-in-texas.html. It's a lengthy post, so you can scroll to the My Representative Listens section toward the end if you want to just read what I wrote about you.

As bills regarding Texas school children, their parents, and their teachers are being rapidly filed during the special session, as your constituent I would ask you to avoid unnecessary and harmful changes to Texas education law. As my blog post stated, I have appreciated your listening ear throughout this legislative session, and I know I can count on you once again to consider my views on these matters. 

My understanding of education issues this session is that they revolve around the overall state budget shortfall. I know that the House and Senate are close to an agreement on how to cut $4 billion in spending on public education from the 2011-2013 Texas budget. While the issues surrounding this shortfall have been frustrating to me, I am even more frustrated with the "related" legislation that is working its way through the special session and is potentially harmful to students, parents, and teachers involved in our education system.

As I list the bills below and ask you to oppose them, my fundamental questions about each one are: 
  • What is the purpose of the proposed legislation in light of the current education funding crisis? 
  • Does the proposed legislation help mitigate the the present budget crisis, and if so, how
  • If it does indeed help to mitigate the crisis, should it not be a temporary measure to answer what should be a temporary crisis?
  • How will the proposed legislation, be it temporary or permanent if passed, negatively or positively impact the educational experience of students, the right of parents to be informed about their child's education, and the professional and ethical treatment of educators in Texas?
I realize that some of these bills may not make it out of committee, but given how quickly things seem to be moving, I feel it is prudent to express my opinions now rather than later.

Please Oppose HB 8 (Eissler - still in Public Ed. Committee)
  • HB 8 would eliminate the state minimum salary schedule for teachers, replacing it with a single minimum salary of $27,320. What is the purpose of this elimination? The minimum salary schedule is not breaking Texas public schools (most schools pay over this salary schedule already) and it gives persons who choose education as their profession assurance of a minimum salary which increases based on experience over time. If Texas wants to keep attracting potential educators to our schools, we need to stay competitive with the multiple other states who guarantee minimum salaries for their teachers.
  • HB 8 would also make it easier for districts to fire teachers in the middle of the school year if needed for a reduction of force. Such a provision would allow districts an "out" if they plan poorly for the number of staff they can afford at the start of a school year. It would also negatively affect students who would loose teachers with whom they've already bonded and who know their educational progress and needs well. There is no reason a properly run school district should have to declare a RIF in the middle of a school year.
  • HB 8 includes a provision for increasing class sizes to up to 25 students without directly notifying parents. Parents should be notified individually in writing, not simply via a website posting, if their child's educational experience is going to be impacted by increased class sizes.
  • HB 8 strikes the requirement that in the event of a RIF teachers on continuing contracts are to be let go in reverse order of seniorityGetting rid of this requirement will put long term, experienced educators at greater risk for losing their jobs because they make higher salaries than teachers with fewer years of experience. To deprive students of the most experienced educators is not in the students' best educational interest, nor is it in the best interest of less experienced teachers who depend on the mentorship of their more experienced colleagues. Throwing out seniority as a factor in RIFs is also disrespectful to teachers who have dedicated themselves to the profession and their district for the long term.
  • HB 8 strikes the requirement that in the event of a RIF teachers are to be let go in reverse order of seniority. Getting rid of this requirement will put long term, experienced educators at greater risk for losing their jobs because they make higher salaries than teachers with fewer years of experience. To  deprive students of the most experienced educators in a district is not in the students' best educational interest, nor is it in the best interest of less experienced teachers who grow in their educational practice under the mentorship of their more experienced colleagues. Throwing out seniority as a factor in RIFs is also disrespectful to teachers who have dedicated themselves to the profession and their district for the long term.
Please Oppose HB 17 (Callegari - still in Government Efficiency and Reform Committee)
  • HB 17 would eliminate the state minimum salary schedule for teachers. My reasons for opposing this are listed above under HB 8 which includes the same elimination.
Please Oppose HB 18 (Eissler - passed out of Public Ed. Committee June 5th)
  • HB 18 eliminates the need for districts to show undue hardship to petition for class size waivers during the critical literacy building grades K-4. Class size waivers at these grade levels should only be considered as a last resort.
  • HB 18 also allows a district to delegate waiver requests to the superintendent, which would bypass the need for a public hearing before the school board. Parents should have a right to hear from a district why an action which will impact their children's learning opportunities is being considered and should have a forum for asking questions and sharing their opinions about such a decision.
  • HB 18 allows notice of a class-size waiver to simply be posted to a district website rather than individually mailed to the families of affected students. As I stated on a similar provision of HB 8, parents should be notified individually in writing, not simply via a website posting, if their child's educational experience is going to be impacted by increased class sizes.
Please Oppose HB 19 (Aycock - passed out of Public Ed. Committee June 5th)
  • HB 19 will take away the rights of educators to a hearing in front of an impartial, independent hearing examiner when faced with a mid-contract termination of their employment because of a declaration of “financial exigency” by their school district. This bill changes the non-renewal process for all educators on term contracts. Instead of holding termination hearings before the school board or an independent hearing examiner appointed by the commissioner of education as in current law, school districts could hire outside attorneys to conduct non-renewal hearings with lesser procedural safeguards than under current law. Surely an educator should be able to directly face the persons who are deciding not to renew their contracts and should have the right to an impartial party taking part in the process?
Please Oppose HB 20 (Huberty - passed out of Public Ed. Committee June 5th)
  • Like the same provision in HB 8, HB 20 changes the number of days prior to the end of the school year that an employee must be notified of non-renewal of contracts from 45 days to 15. This will lead to increased anxiety for teachers wondering if they will be employed the next school year and lessen by a month the amount of time they have to pursue another position. A 45 day notice allows most teachers in a district to put away concerns about future employment and allows them to focus more energy on teaching students during the critical Spring standardized testing season.
Please Oppose HB 21 (Shelton - passed out of Public Ed. Committee June 5th)
  • Like a similar provision in HB 8, HB 21 strikes the requirement that in the event of a RIF teachers on continuing contracts are to be let go in reverse order of seniorityGetting rid of this requirement will put long term, experienced educators at greater risk for losing their jobs because they make higher salaries than teachers with fewer years of experience. To deprive students of the most experienced educators is not in the students' best educational interest, nor is it in the best interest of less experienced teachers who depend on the mentorship of their more experienced colleagues. Throwing out seniority as a factor in RIFs is also disrespectful to teachers who have dedicated themselves to the profession and their district for the long term.
  • Additionally testimony was given on this bill that the legislation, if passed, would retroactively change the provisions of continuing contracts and as a result would very likely be struck down when challenged in the Texas court system. 
Please Oppose HB 33 (Sid Miller - still in Government Efficiency and Reform Committee)
  • HB 33, the proposed Taxpayer Savings Grant Program, effectively initiates a private school voucher system whereby parents who put their children in private schools will be able to receive partial reimbursement for their private school tuition from the State of Texas.
  • The argument that money will be "saved" because the grant will be less than the per-pupil allotment that would have gone toward the child's education in public school is weak at best. Regardless of the amount of money spent, the fact remains that taxpayer money meant to fund public education which is already $4 billion dollars short for the next biennium will be given to private schools which are not accountable through adherence to state law and mandates for how they spend the money. 
  • It is the right of every citizen to decide how to best educate their children, however, money collected for the education of public school children should stay dedicated to public schools.

Representative Gonzales, I thank you once again for taking the time to read my views on pending legislation. These requests and opinions come from the heart of an experienced professional educator who is deeply concerned for the future of our public school system and the teaching profession in Texas.

Above all else, on these bills as well as other education and budget related bills, I ask you to make decisions that you know in your heart are in the best interest of and which prioritize the quality education of Texas students. Legislation which weakens parental involvement, reduces the number of experienced educators serving our children, or results in current and potential educators being less attracted to the teaching profession in Texas is not in the best interest of our state's children.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...