Week in Lab Week Five 2010

October9

Day 126/366 - Interstate 5

My week was broken up a bit by a short stint in the jury pool for my county. I was not selected, so I only missed a day.

In addition to my prep duties, I also cover a class for the first half hour of the day while teachers meet in grade-levels to do what’s called common planning. It’s part of our implementation of Data Wise. This is the time our intermediate classes have their ELD block, so I get to cover that in one of the classrooms. I am anticipating using the lab for this, but for right now, I’m teaching “nekkid” in the classroom. It’s a good feeling, because there are some participation and discussion techniques that work better at desks than at computers. It’s nice to see I can manage without the technology, even as I look forward to adding a bit of it to their routine. I’m mostly doing the regular morning routine in other classes which is okay, but not worth writing here about.

First Grade

The students are continuing work on their VoiceThread on sounds and letters by adding sound describing the letters, words and sounds. I’m trying to figure out how to proceed after we finish the short vowels. Do I want to take a sound approach, or go to the alphabet hitting the consonants? I’m leaning towards sounds, which would mean long vowels, digraphs, blends, etc. Any suggestions from primary  or early reading types is appreciated! I’ll check in with my first grade team too.

Second Grade

Storytelling moved on to fables, another “lesson-based” genre. This week doesn’t have much to share, so I’ll say I’m more excited about next week, when we’ll do folk tales. I’m doing Ananzi (another story on Discovery Streaming) which is a “trickster” story from Africa. I will then read “Piecing Earth and Sky Together” which is Mien (Laos) folk tale. The document camera makes read-alouds from books much more do-able in the lab. I love both of these stories, and they are really culturally appropriate for our school.

Third Grade

This week’s theme was about having friends of different ages, and I started with a video of “Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge”, a very sweet story of a little boy and his older friend who is “losing her memory”. I then showed another video “Crow Boy” that was a Japanese story about a poor boy from the outskirts of a rural village and how he didn’t fit in at school, until a teacher recognized his worth and intelligence.

Most of the kids watched and seem to take in the story. One class though displayed some really inappropriate behavior (rather, a handful of students did), laughing at the character in the video.  For a variety of reasons (some environmental, some organic) a small number of students in any school (like say, Rutgers?) have problems with empathy. My first reaction when this happens is like any normal person, I’m horrified, but it’s what you do next that can either get the kids on the right path, or simply marginalize them more. I notified their teacher and we’re going to look at the video and talk to the students about why it’s not appropriate to laugh in those situations. You can’t just tell them, what you did is awful, you have to show and explain WHY. I’ve also worked with older students who have this problem. I tell them to look around, and when they see other classmates aren’t laughing, that’s a clue that it’s not appropriate. This teaches them a skill. I talk to support staff, so they can intervene and provide extra support to the students in developing social skills. It’s easy to write these students off as budding psycho-paths/bullies, but I’ve found that most of these kids have some empathy and caring, which suggests they be brought to more appropriate behaviors.

Fourth Grade

We didn’t do any writing, sorry, but I did show them scenes from the climax of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We discussed the various risks the characters take, and how they work together as a team, using the skills that each of them excel at to reach their goal. This worked really well. Considering how old the movie is, I was surprised at how many kids said they had seen it, but perhaps they meant more recent installments. I think having kids look at “success” but to break down what makes it work so they can see and learn is really important. When showing a popular movie like this it’s important not to just let the film run, but ask questions to clarify and check for understanding. For more on this, I’ll point to Mathew Needleman post on  The Right Way to Show Movies in Class.

Fifth Grade

I’m not kidding, I changed this lesson about three times over last weekend. I was reviewing my reader, and kept coming across great picture based Web 2.0 activities. I finally settled on PicLits. Below is a really great example of thinking (although the grammar is not perfect).
PicLit from PicLits.com
Here are the rest.

Sixth Grade

This week I had students working on coming up with a tag line for their soon-to-be Motivator posters. They did a good job. I find it really helpful, to have the students doing independent work, and calling them back one at a time to work on their writing. Since most of what I have them do is short, I can get this done pretty easily in a period. I only have half the comments up now, but the rest will be there soon. I’ll be happy to finish this up with them!

Two links and some questions…

June28

First, for those of you, who like me are following ISTE from afar, you can follow the Twitter feed in this neat “newspaper” format.

Next, I’ve spent the last weekend nursing a summer cold (bleech) and working on updating my portfolio. The results are here.

Last, if you are so inclined, answer a couple of questions about the network in your school district:

  1. Does your district allow for remote access of files and email via the Internet? How about mobile devices?
  2. Does your district keep centralized records of student work in electronic format? Does this include scanned copies of written work?
  3. What’s innovative about your district’s network? How is it behind the times?

Fast Fact Sheets on Education Technology

June25

I’m getting together some materials for my new administrator about different technology tools, and how they can be used in the classroom. I’ve done a series of quick overviews suitable for a busy administrator. I’m sharing them here for your input, critique, etc.

  1. Blogging Education Technology Briefing
  2. IWB Education Technology Briefing
  3. Podcasting Education Technology Briefing
  4. Skype Education Technology Briefing
  5. Teacher Laptops Education Technology Briefing
  6. VideoMaking Education Technology Briefing
  7. VoiceThread Education Technology Briefing

ED 667: Module One Reflection

May15
  1. How different or similar is the job compared to your previous perceptions of the job?
  2. What do you think is the most challenging aspect of the job?

The thing that struck me is just how differently the responsibilities could be depending on how the position is approached, and how it can exist at different “levels” within a district.

The text, The Technology Coordinators Handbook, described the position for a district at of my size as having fewer IT support responsibilities, more employees under them, a greater focus on curriculum, but they are a team leader, and at a mid-level in the district both developing and implementing policy. In smaller districts, as is true generally, you end up wearing more hats, may have more IT responsibilities, and obviously fewer employees working under you to support what you do.

The Technology Coordinators Handbook from Pinellas County Schools took it from a completely different perspective. Although a very large district (~150,000 students), they appear to have “pushed” the position down to the site level. That means that like at a small district, the person wears many hats, and does not have employees under them, but has support laterally, and above for their work. I had some difficulty quickly locating information, but my impression from peers working in Florida is that many of their elementary schools (especially new ones) are quite large (1,000 or more students) which would make that level of support fiscally viable, whereas older, urban schools usually max out at 500 – 600 students making it more expensive to support that type of position.

The University of Virginia graduate students, I think, had a very teacher-y perspective which is much like mine, and that was it was better to not have this position responsible for IT issues, but instead focused on curriculum and policy. This is how I’ve thought of the job, and how I think it is best done, but I’ve never worked in a small district with 10,000 students where everyone is wearing multiple hats, e.g. one of my fellow high school alums is teaching up near Mt. Shasta, and is both her district’s superintendent and high school principal, whereas our own high school had 3,300 students and that largest graduating class of that year in the state with over 700 students.

I would think this “dual” role would be the major difficulty of doing the job well because one of the roles (the curriculum aspect) is focused on human capital development, whereas the other (IT) is focused on widgets, and customer service. My own experience is also that IT may appreciate curriculum concerns, but they are not trained education professionals, and that unless curriculum folks are embracing technology, it can remain marginalized within a district.

This is the tension now in Education Technology. The national administration (US DoE) would like to fold education technology funding into general funding for education, reasoning that it should be “infused” throughout curriculum and instruction. But the reality is that many schools and districts may not prioritize ed tech without that requirement, and that many more are leery of committing efforts and money to projects because of how the money is rolling down.

On a personal basis, I would say that for me, I would find the administrative aspects of this position the most difficult. I would prefer to concentrate on training, working with students, and developing policies. I’m not as crazy about grant writing, but I don’t mind that either. I think I’d do much better as a tech coach or specialist, but my goals for this course will be to learn about what the coordinator position entails for the following reasons:

  1. It’s good to know what your boss does, because it helps contextualize your own work;
  2. The goals, and job description for a tech coordinator at a larger district are what the ed tech “team” should be doing, that I would be part of;
  3. It never hurts to learn.

Education Technology: Where Does It Live?

May15

This post was part of an assignment for my class on being a technology coordinator. Your comments and feedback are welcome.

Where does it live? This question comes from Chris Lehmann, a well know educator in education technology circles. He is principal at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy. After going through the assigned readings, looking at job descriptions, and thinking about my own district, that was the question that popped into my mind.
Educational ideas only have lasting power if they exist within the systems and structures of institutions that claim them. Everything — every system, every policy, every structure — in schools represent a pedagogical choice, and we don’t take advantage of that. The classes we choose to schedule, the length of the classes, the times they meet — every possible permutation privileges certain kinds of learning and makes other kinds of learning harder. – Where Does It Live? Chris Lehmann, http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/1071-Where-Does-It-Live.html, 11/13/2008.

Education technology does not have “home” in my district, and that is a sad, sorry fact. There is no job description for a District Technology Coordinator, because that position does not exist in my district. They used to have two technology integration specialists, but those positions were eliminated two years ago with budget cuts.

Here is the description of the job duties for a technology coordinator in a district of my size from The Technology Coordinator’s Handbook (p. 23-4),

  • a mid-level administrator;
  • with a staff of eight instructional technology specialist who provide professional development;
  • they focus on instructional aspects of technology, and information technology is handled by other departments;
  • their team helps develop technology plans for the district and write grants to secure funding for district initiatives.

Because education technology has been an “orphan” when we had tech specialists, they worked under the head of IT, rather than in curriculum. The problem there was that curriculum is a “power-base” in our district and by being outside of it, education technology was further marginalized. By all rights it should be embedded in the curriculum department, but they see no need for it, so we have a district of 50,000 students in a city of 500,000 (similar to the scenario in the text) with no district-wide vision of how technology can be used to further education goals with our students. We have an approved technology plan, but the reality is that most of the technology initiatives that have occurred in recent years have happened in isolation in individual sites. Meanwhile, neighboring districts have strategic plans that are district-wide and include technology, like integrating technology with IWBs, and have staffing to support training and teacher development. My district’s education technology training, by contrast, is provided solely by classroom teachers in addition to their regular duties for stipend pay.

The team that wrote a three quarters of a million dollar EETT competative grant was made up of myself, a middle-school resource teacher, the district IT Manager with a hired grant writer. That level of “expertise” is not unusual in a smaller district going for smaller grant amounts, but it’s a mighty thin expertise base for that amount of money from a district of our size.

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