This week you completed a brick for a technology. In your current capacity (teacher, etc.), how could you use this same process to improve your practice?. For example, could you use a brick to determine which instructional tools you use (or would like to use) or which curriculum resources?
I think that in my current position using a brick to analyze my practice would be beneficial. We are looking at piloting a new curriculum and new set of course materials for next school year. We need to have a systematic way to evaluate the new materials that all teachers can understand and relate to.
The box that I think will be the most useful is the “strategic” box. As we evaluate a new book and curriculum, knowing the alternatives will be essential to making our final decision. We have the leeway with our administrator to try new materials until we find one that works best for our students.
This week’s discussion reminded me of the sales presentations we have been sitting in. Each publisher makes their book and materials seem like the “perfect” solution. None have tried to appear as a one stop shop of course materials, but they all make their curriculum appear pretty darn good. Luckily, our team is extremely inquisitive, so we spend an enormous amount of time asking the presenter questions. Each of us creating a brick on our experience with the pilots would help to guide our questions. I think that this is a useful tool that I could introduce to my team.
Reflect on the work you did to collect information for the SBAC testing requirements. What stood out to you as key discoveries?
The work that I did to collect the information for the SBAC testing may be different from other students in the cohort. My main difficulty all semester is gaining access to knowledgeable personnel at the district office. If I were to start this assignment over again, I would choose to look at the district I work in, this way I know exactly whom to contact. Luckily, I went to the CUE conference and ran into the person I wanted to speak with on the last day. We had a good conversation and he admitted that my emails had been ignored due to a triage of importance. He asked me to remind him on Monday of this week of the questions I needed answering and mention in the subject line that we met at CUE.
Some of the key discoveries was the advanced thought process of a back-up plan. I know that this sounds judgemental, but I don’t have much faith in my local district. Our community doesn’t have much faith in it either. I know that the brand new school board and new Superintendent are working hard to restore the communities trust, but they have a long way to go. I truly like that they did a load test and, while it worked, still had a back up plan of installing more AP’s for a “just in case” scenerio. I mentioned this to my neighbors who, like me, were surprised and pleased with the forward thinking of the Informational Technology Department and School Board.
The more I look at the district through the lense of Enterprise Architecture and other tools we have learned this semester, the more I can see that the new leadership is working hard to take a district in chaos, identify the problems, and then provide solutions. By analyzing my local district I am seeing the “big picture” of how this course, 630, and 600 work together to provide school improvement.
My former Director of Technology said that the first question he asks himself before he makes important decisions, “What is the experience of the end user (students)?”
As a technology leader in an educational organization it is important to keep focused on the purpose for the districts existence; the education of children. Support systems are important to have and understand, but at the end of the day we need to make sure that our students learn. Applications that students use should always be high priority. Classes are immediate and, based on current educational standards, often unrecoverable when time is lost. District personnel have schedules and timelines as well, however, they are secondary to the students sitting in the classroom.
One of the longest conversations I had with district engineers in North Carolina, was about how to understand the immediacy of the needs of the classroom. I worked in the corporate world for many years before I chose to move into education. I understand an office environment, complete with timelines and project demands. The classroom is an unique environment that is different from anything that I had ever experienced before. Those who haven’t taught have no frame of reference to understand.
This lack of reference made it difficult for the engineers to truly understand the urgency I was trying to help them make a connection with. It took a full day meeting with a working lunch for me to completely describe the dynamics of the classroom. It was an eye opener, having them walk in a teacher's shoes for a short time. By having all departments involved in creating the evaluation of applications you ensure that all voices are heard. There is a disconnect between classroom based personnel and district office based personnel. The lack of common reference can cause conflict, and by involving all in the Application Rational, you will have the best information with which to make decisions.
Reflection: Schools are often working against themselves as there are distinct applications for various needs:
In the district that I am evaluating for this class, I see the draw of various departments to have their own systems and processes for their tasks. Teachers have instructional sheets on the various processes to follow based on the department they need to contact. This causes confusion and wasted time for the teachers, who have more important things to do, lesson plan, grade, tutor, etc…
Identifying the problem is the easy part. Solving it is more difficult. Districts don’t purchase a wide array of counterintuitive systems just for the fun of it. Most departments have compelling reasons why they need a particular program. HR, for example, has confidentially (social security numbers, background checks, bank account information, emergency contact information) needs that other departments don’t. Teaching and learning have specific needs that are integral to the mission of the school district, educating students. Back office systems and supplemental systems are also specific to their functions.
So again, how do we rectify the problem and make the systems more streamline? As with any big decision, we need to gather data, and evaluate it. The systems themselves need to be studied for functionality, purpose, ease of use, security, among others. Once this evaluation is complete the district should employ an Enterprise Architecture like approach to determine if any uses cross departments. If they do, then it should be possible to purchase, or create, a system that is multifaceted enough for all stakeholders to use.
Many products currently on the market claim to be a one stop shop for district needs. As much as I would like to believe that products like this truly do exist, I have to be hesitant until I see them in action. Pearson makes Power School, which according to them, “technical ecosystem for district and school ... operations.” This is one system that could be evaluated by the Enterprise Architecture group mentioned above. If it does provide a complete ecosystem, then this can alleviate many difficulties that districts encounter.