Tuesday, June 12, 2012
During this past year the PdC Administrative Team was part of a cohort of administrators from across the state that participated in an Amplified Administrators (Amped Admin) series and I will briefly reflect on that course and what we can use locally. Administrators need to model and implement changes that are expected of staff. This series stretched our theoretical knowledge base on technology along with providing us with practical and technical hands-on experience and practice.
There is a rapid convergence happening in the use of technology in schools due to lower costs, more speed, and an almost unlimited access to information that is being coupled with a nascent realization of how those available resources can be channeled and used in education. We are at the beginnings of a trail toward how to more deeply embed technology to increase student learning and move beyond it being just a classroom instructional delivery tool or aid. Over the last three years, in the PdC Public School system, we have offered Smart Boards to all teachers. To this point we have all classrooms, except two, that are using Smart Boards. This is an excellent example of the use of technological resources as an instructional delivery system. However, now the questions need to reach further and are related as to how we go beyond that to raise expectations toward student lead learning using more open digital resources.
The ideas of blended classrooms, flipped instructional techniques, and byod or byot embedded in classrooms as much as a book or a pencil are only the tip of iceberg as to the next era of technology use. The richness of available digital resources has to be tapped. The National Technology Plan (NTP) calls for a need to “… build the capacity of educators by enabling a shift to a model of connected teaching. In such a teaching model, teams of connected educators replace solo practitioners, classrooms are fully connected to provide educators with 24/7 access to data and analytic tools, and educators have access to resources that help them act on the insights the data provide.” The Department of Public Instruction has realized that there has to be a statewide system of digital resources for professionals to access and they have jumped into creating the backbone for such a system. This open source model of sharing and collaboration is only the start of what can be a great vision.
A challenge that we occasionally hear is that we are attempting to substitute technology for human capital. The response is that it should not matter what we are using if we keep student learning as the number one goal. Plus, good teaching cannot be replaced. For next year we are experimenting with a Chinese and Spanish foreign language total blended program in grades five through eight. In an every-other-day format the students will alternate from using Middlebury Language CBL in a supervised N-computing lab, and on the opposite days they will be with the teacher in a normal classroom setting. We plan to monitor this closely as our goals are quite lofty. We hope to get these students, after four years of this blended program, to enter High School at level 3 or 4 of the language.
There are issues that need to be discussed and advocated for, such as all need for all students to have broadband access to the Internet out of school. We will be totally wireless in our High School and grades 5 to 8 to start the school year. The NTP states that students and educators need “the ability to use the Internet in school, on the surrounding campus, throughout the community, and at home”. Further the goal is to “ensure that every student and educator has at least one Internet access device and appropriate software and resources for research, communication, multimedia content creation, and collaboration for use in and out of school.” While laudable, this will require a major change in infrastructure in our rural areas and an associated huge expenditure. The value of BYOD, “devices … owned by the student or family, owned by the school, or some combination of the two” has to be explored.
At PdC Public Schools we have great staff that is not afraid to be innovative. We must encourage that process and create opportunities to expand knowledge and share what is working. The move toward more cloud based applications such as adoption of Google Docs is a great start. As I started in this short reflection piece, administrators must lead by being in the forefront and doing what they can to model and use the available tools. Amped Admin was a great way to encourage that process.