Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My perspective

Please respond to these questions in a document (word processor of your choice).

1. How is the technology function structured within your school? How do you staff it? How do you support it? What are the structural elements put into place to make technology happen, in terms of programs and people? What kind of structure are put into place to make things happen?

We are a one-to-one laptop school of approximately 320 kids, 30 teachers, 3 administrators, and support staff. We recently regionalized and became an RSU. The main office of the RSU is located at my campus. I therefore have more access to technology specialists than others in my school or region.

At my school, there is one person in charge of acquisition and installation of hardware and software including the phones. I do not know who controls filtering of the internet, or who troubleshoots Apple issues, because that seems to be a regional office now and not specific to my high school, so different people respond to these queries. I do not know who controls the policies of what to do when a kid disobeys the laptop program.  I do know that there seems to be one person in charge of all the computers for my high school. She checks them in and out and she filters their content. I do know that administrators have had a rough first year with one-to-one integration.

I can’t speak for other people in my school, but I know that having more curriculum time with my colleague in World Languages is key to integration.

Thought in my head that needs to just come out: There is never time to just play and do on the laptops. No time to do whatever we want. That's too fun.  I want to integrate. I need time to create using these marvelous apps and time to tinker and fiddle with these tools.  Who cares how fun it is if it gets the job done?

I think the fear is Farmville. I could be stuck up and say I despise Farmville, but there is a serious lesson in economics there.  Not to mention--if a user changed the language to a World Language, I bet there would be some immersion language learning. The point is the technology we do use, we are not sure how to use in the classroom and there is a fear of it. We are a school in flux—that is the underlying narrative push.

2. How well does your school do the human resource side of technology, in terms of the tech support and tech integration function and also in supporting and empowering non-technology staff (teachers and administrators) to use technology?

The tech support at school has not been what I would call helpful in terms of helping me to access curricular components that are blocked. On the other hand, I have been given things to play with—especially cameras—and we make things with them in the classroom. When I had desktops, support was superb.

Maybe we need to serve the kids at their level? Offer workshops for them, by them—offer hardware and software sessions?  Teachers and kids together, learning how to do cool stuff.

There is very little support at school by anyone for any initiative-there has been in the past, but this year tech presentations on Google, wikis, and other tools fluttered to a standstill as change creeped in and reminded us of how things are different.

My school is in flux. We regionalized this year and combined three districts. We have a new principal.
This post may be hard to interpret to someone not in my school world. I say things like school, region, district.  My school is 320 kids.  My region is about 1400.  My district is that 1400 plus two more regions, one bigger, one smaller.  When I say my school I mean 320 kids, not 1400 plus....  When I say my campus I mean where I teach which is separate from most of the 320 kids in a satellite building to the main building.  It just worked out that way--and I happen to be in the central office building, close to the tech action.

3. How well does this fear of technology operate within the political dynamics of the school system? Is it successful? Are there power struggles? Do you have troubles getting resources that you need? What are some political issues that surround technology function within your school?

The largest issue is regionalization and a desire to comb through everyone’s policies for “best practice”. The schools are so different in their approaches and so far this process has stymied the urge to grow with technology. The new one to one at the high school had given birth to new culture, one in which the kids are always in trouble for doing something on their machines that is not within the policy. Teachers are becoming enforcers. Learners have left the building and are reading Twitter feeds somewhere off-campus, where it is allowed.

The main issue is control and power. The balance has shifted and still shifts with the change that continues in our school. Combining resources and power structures is process that will happen over time.   I am not saying any one person, group or committee is vying for power, but power is shifting in a very large system.  And, it will take time to develop a new systemic culture.

I am most concerned with my school of 320 kids, and this small community and small culture we are trying to shape of kind, productive, thoughtful, contributing citizens.

The place for the most powerful growth, in my eyes, is to work toward a more open, transparent school.  Sharing tools and ideas and networking like mad would allow a lot of this control to be non-essential because everyone can see what everyone else is doing and there is a flow to work that includes these tools.

In this utopia of open sharing, no one ever has to ask for help. Someone is always there to show and guide. Awards are given out regularly to the best networkers, and they give workshops for how it is done. Average age of winners and subsequent expert presenters: 16.

4. What are the messages sent to your school about the technology? What beliefs do people hold in their heads and their hearts about technology in your school organization? How well is the symbolic function around technology fulfilled in terms of getting buy-in, getting passion, getting people to think that work is meaningful and essential as opposed to marginal and optional?

The message of the previous school year, when the one to one program was brand new, was that kids waste  a lot of time of the computers and often were "caught" doing bad things.  Some things were legit bad, but some things were just common ways of communicating today--through static messages of less than 160 characters.

Marginal and optional seems to be the key phrase in the preceding question.  Tech seems both marginal and optional to teachers and admins but not to learners.  In the times we are in, of flux, of change—no one seeks to buy in to the latest gadgetry and trainings and applications. People want culture to be steadfast, not fluid. People want less to do, not more. People want to teach, quite frankly—the tools don’t matter if the dialog is not there.

When I hear the word marginal I think about poverty.  I think about people living on the edges.  When I read the brilliant blog by John Spencer, it made more sense--we have told a lot of people these white boxes are purely entertainment, and there is no room for entertainment in school, and there certainly isn't time for learning at home since kids spend all their time at home catching up on their entertainment.

The idea behind the dissonance between learning at home, learning at school, entertainment at home, entertainment at school, is the tool can be controlled. Well, the mind can’t. That is the main problem. You just can’t control the mind.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

A few thoughts on what you wrote and a chance to see if I have it right.

It sounds like you have an okay system in place for distributing & supporting the equipment but it isn't very transparent (since you aren't totally clear on who does some things & if you don't know then other probably know less)? Who controls the blocking and how things get fixed is a bit of a mystery.

When you mention you have more access to technology specialists than others in my school or region but at the same time you need to play with the cool stuff to figure out how/where to use it in the classroom, it makes me wonder about your technology specialists…. First…. let me throw in one point. I know a bit more about your RSU than I do about many of the other schools in the area. Both b/c I work with the Gear Up grant sometimes and b/c I've had a few other students from your RSU in my classes. None of those students were at the HS though.

This is all to say that I have some notions in my head from what I've heard and read about your RSU & please correct me if I am wrong about your school or the RSU…

As I started out this thought several characters ago, this is all to say I have an impression that your technology specialists are great about showing you guys great tools & really show you all the great things they can do.

In my mind, this is a backwards arrangement & the cart is driving the horse. Ideally, what your students need to be able to do in your classes & your needs as their teacher should drive the cool tools your tech specialists review, select and help you to use. If this were the case, you wouldn't need (as much) time to play with the cool new tools.

Don't worry, I still think you need play time. Their IS value in playing with the cool new stuff and sometimes through that process you figure out some interesting new ways to do things that may work better or have a greater impact on your students. Some of that is good and valuable, but my impression is that finding tools that meet your students needs is not always at the forefront of the decision making process.

Why do you think support was better when you had desktops?

I agree with you on the subject of transparency. That always seems to be an issue.

I also wonder if on the subject of "policing" the kids, you could learn from what other schools (that are further along in the process) have gone through with student laptop policies. Not that many of them have is "right", but I'm sure they have learned quite a few lessons.

You make some interesting points in response to the final question set. I agree that many people want to categorize usage and that creates stereotypes that may be true in some cases, but I still hold on to the naive idea that when I get technology right in my classroom, it is so engaging and the perfect tool for the moment, that seeing it as an entertainment device falls away, the students focus & get engaged. I'll admit, I still have too many occasions where I don't get it right.

Thanks for your thoughtful responses to the questions. Your responses help me get a better insight into your particular situation.


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