Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reflecting on Year One of Technology Integration

During the past school year we implemented a plan to give all of our instructors Apple Macbooks. We also greatly increased the strength and bandwidth of our wireless network. Our newly formed director of instructional technology took on the challenging task of teaching and implementing technology goals for the 2008-2009 school year. Below I reflect on what worked, what didn't, and what we learned in the process. Our hope is others can learn from our efforts or give us some great guidance as we move forward. This post is inspired by Scott McLeod's latest post on urging school leaders to take seriously their obligations to advance technology integration through Leadership Day 2009.

1. Upgrading the wireless: Well it worked and it worked well. We went from a network that often slugged around at paces so slow checking email was a chore. The upgrade for the building all told cost around $30,000 for a high school of 800. I'd tell you are square footage but I don't know it. What we learned: design with the ability to add access points to handle 1:1 depth. Having a great network guy and team player helped enormously. After all its always about the people in the end.

2. To filter or not filter? Once the network was up and blazing what to do about filtering. We take a rather open approach at PND and aren't concerned with blocking social network sites, youtube and the like. After all why block what can be used for educational purposes. The "fear" card is too often overplayed and shouldn't be. Live a little. Of course we block the porn and other soul ruining sites, gambling etc. What we learned: blocking educational tools is a waste of time and more importantly creative talent. We encourage teachers to use facebook for their class nor personal communication with students. Here are some examples. Link to art page, school facebook account.

3. Choosing appropriate goals: Obviously giving teachers a laptop comes with the expectation that they will be used. What we often find is fear can get in the way. We also know that the worst way to do technology development with staff is to make them all sit in a room or lab at the same time. The problem is everyone is at a different level. Some teachers can easily create websites, blogs, and use social networking. Others struggle to create a powerpoint. With this in mind we created the position of Director of Instructional Technology to work individually with teachers throughout the year on their two identified goals. Teachers were given a number of options. Overall I would say this worked well. Not very well for some faults on my end. What we learned: I presumed all the staff would be pretty much a self starter in making their appointments and times. Those 5% of the wayward souls often need some more direct over sight. It will be provided next year. A year end survey of staff helped account for progress. I also made the mistake of assigning our Director of Instructional Technology to teaching too many sections not leaving enough time to work with the teachers. A great wiki was started about tech shortcuts and all and building PLNs with a number of staff was incredibly valuable. Once again it is about the people and our director did a great job in a challenging and new role.

This coming school year we are gearing up to prepare our staff for teaching and working in a 1:1 environment. Much work must be done between now and then but we are looking forward to the whole process.


Mike Parent said...

Great work Charlie. I envy your courage and determination to go without a filter. It is risky, but isn't reform risky, too?

We will be installing a wiki server later this summer. In the fall, we will begin training faculty on classroom wikis and sharing tools. It's a pricey endeavor, but I believe it is the best alternative to having no access to this technology.

I would be more than happy to assist you in teaching collaborative technologies in any way I can.

Keep that train moving.

Ed Shepherd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Shepherd said...

Great post Charlie... I appreciate you sharing your insights and what you learned from your experiences. I am really hoping we too can ramp up our wireless network within the building, as well as increase the overall speed of our network. Cost and percieved importance are always a factor, but as teachers begin believing more and more in their ability to utilzie technology as an extension of learning our needs will increase. Thanks for the post.

Claire Thompson said...

Charlie, thanks for sharing your reflections and for providing the link to your school's technology wiki. The training element of introducing new technology is always a challenge. The approach that you took this year sounds like a good start. You definitely have to meet people where they are at. In my dream school the director of technology would be a consultant. S/he would meet with teachers one on one; the individual teachers would outline what their objectives with a particular unit or project are and the director of tech would come up with a variety of ways to integrate technology. Doing a poetry unit? Let me suggest using Wordles, or Voice Threads, or... and here's how to proceed.

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Charlie Roy said...

@ Mike
Thanks for the comment. Hope your first year ended well. We'll have to get some collaborative projects up and running soon. Be well!

For us the bandwidth issue really allowed the growth with a number of our faculty to take place. Trying to show a web based video clip and having to wait minutes for it to load in a 45 minute period is not worth it. The foundation for any tech integration is probably a huge pipe in terms of bandwidth. Without that nothing is really going to happen.

@ Clare
Thanks for the comments. I love your dream school description. Steeling from Loyala Academy in Chicago I'd add students to the mix. I noticed in browsing their course catalog that they have a student driven elective for juniors and seniors that pare them with certain departments as technology coaches to assist in a similar concept. For my school with nearly 70 instructors this would probably be the only realistic way to bring those services to everyone.

@ Ashlee
I'll see what I can do.

Tomaz Lasic said...

Charlie, your words are heartening to read. It really seems not only the pieces are falling together nicely but you clearly share a vision across the school. That is over and over and over again shown to be the key to integrate anything, let alone something complex like technology.

Your choices are wise, I particularly like the (no)filter decision and reasons for it.

Well done to you and your team and thank you again for all your help and initiative with some of our projects earlier this year. Please let me know if there are things you know we might be able to do for you.

Keep up the excellent work, take care and enjoy your summer break.

Claire Thompson said...

@Charlie, students as technology coaches is a great idea!

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Kevin Hodgson said...

I sense a good balance here between being realistic and visionary and also, with moving ahead at a certain pace.

Colette Cassinelli said...

I appreciate the fact that you are a Catholic administrator who "gets it". Embedded technology won't happen if the technology doesn't work.

Frank Smith writes in his book "The Book of Learning and Forgetting" that we learn from the company we keep. Kudos to you for hiring a tech director who works individually with teachers on their goals. Creating a community where everyone is a learner helps with the "fear of failure"

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