Repost: America’s High School Graduates Look Like Other Countries High School Dropouts

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/03/10/469831485/americas-high-school-graduates-look-like-other-countries-high-school-dropouts

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Too Much Ed Tech Too Frequently?

The following is an RSS Feed Reader snip from the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning (http://www.educatorstechnology.com/) site encompassing but the past six days.

snip_20160306192851Your school just might be well enough funded to have implemented 1 to 1 classrooms or maybe just a legacy computer lab or two, or maybe tablet carts or four or five static tablets assigned to each classroom. Many might still be saddled with ancient slow and cumbersome desktops. (Aside note: I remember a time [the late 80’s] when I lugged my “portable” 30-pound computer with two 5-1/4″ floppy disk drives back and forth to work daily using a luggage carrier.) Surely whatever devices on campus, all have access to the Internet and every faculty member has a laptop, notebook or tablet device. No? Whatever the case someone or someones has the explicit, or worse, the implicit task of vetting new educational apps, websites, browser add-ons, templates, ed tech tools, hardware, and all  stuff ed tech. Considering that these 60 some educational technology “things” above are from only one website, we can be assured that every six days produces many, many more, probably thousands. Who vets, recommends, budgets and buys ed tech stuff at your institution? Is it the administrators, the teachers, the IT guys, the education-technology integrator/coordinator, the cleaning crew? Who or what group would ever even have the time to visit each website and blog then look up and read a summary about each new thing. Does anyone even care that new and fabulous ed tech stuff, eminently capable of propelling students forward by at least two grades, goes on the market every day? What criteria is used? Do the teacher-users and student-user have input to decisions?ed tech tools, hardware, and all stuff ed tech. Considering that these 60 some educational technology “things” above are from only one website, we can be assured that every six days produces many, many more, probably thousands. Who vets, recommends, budgets and buys ed tech stuff at your institution? Is it the administrators, the teachers, the IT guys, the education-technology integrator/coordinator, the cleaning crew? Who or what group would ever even have the time to visit each website and blog then look up and read a summary about each new thing. Does anyone even care that new and fabulous ed tech stuff, eminently capable of propelling students forward by at least two grades, goes on the market every day? What criteria is used? Do the teacher-users and student-user have input to decisions?

Change Management and Technology

Two environments: 1) organization leadership is satisfied with the technology status quo; 2) organization leadership desires to update technology.

In the former environment, there is little the technology manager can do other than to promote the need for updating by relating the advances the competition is making and demonstrating the advantages of updating. In the later environment, senior management, having made the decision to update, often gives the tech manager very little time to execute and “incremental” is seldom not part of the discussion. The tech manager can alleviate the time crunch issue over time by continual planning (strategic and tactical) and frequently collaborating, communicating and presenting. Salesmanship is definitely a plus. In any case, you can be sure that there will be end user resistance and that some degree of change management will be required to implement the update(s).

As we all know, changes in technology tend to reverberate throughout entire organizations. Most, if not all, departmental processes are affected. Many policies and procedures may need to be rewritten. Of course, training to some or more extent will be required. Technology changes are seldom silent and invisible. New or significantly updated technologies tend to create fear. Okay, maybe mostly just apprehension but some will literally be scared. Change is stressful especially when it has the potential of affecting livelihoods. Leadership early on must do it best belay the fears and apprehension. Will I lose my job? Will my position be downgraded with less pay? Will my hours be reduced? Will I be able to learn to use the technology? The IT manager gives guidance to leadership and encouragement to employees as possible during this phase.

The IT manager has his/her own apprehensions revolving around whether the new technology will work and whether she/he can pull off a smooth implementation. It is best to follow a change management process of your choosing, one that fits your leadership style and organizational culture. There are many available. I am a proponent of the eight-step change process developed by John P. Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School. Here is a general outline of the process. More and deeper information can be found at the Kotter International website.

  1. ESTABLISHING A SENSE OF URGENCY
    • Top leaders must describe an opportunity that will appeal to individuals’ heads and hearts and use this statement to raise a large, urgent army of volunteers.
  2. CREATING THE GUIDING COALITION
    • Putting together a group with enough power to lead the change. A volunteer army needs a coalition of effective people — coming from its own ranks — to guide it, coordinate it and communicate its activities.
  3. FORM A STRATEGIC VISION AND INITIATIVES
    • Creating a vision to help direct the change effort and developing strategies for achieving that vision. Dr. Kotter defines strategic initiatives as targeted and coordinated “activities that, if designed and executed fast enough and well enough, will make your vision a reality.”
  4. ENLIST A VOLUNTEER ARMY
    • Using every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies. Having the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees. Large-scale change can only occur when very significant numbers
      of employees amass under a common opportunity and drive in the same direction.
  5. ENABLE ACTION BY REMOVING BARRIERS (empowering people to effect change) By removing barriers such as inefficient processes or hierarchies, leaders provide the freedom necessary for employees to work across boundaries.

    • Getting rid of obstacles (training, training, training)
    • Changing systems or structures that undermine the change vision
    • Encouraging risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities & actions
    • Engage employees as partners
    • Provide people with the opportunity to plan for and take action
  6. GENERATING SHORT-TERM WINS – Wins are the molecules of results. They must be collected, categorized,
    and communicated — early and often — to track progress and energize your volunteers to drive change.

    • Planning for visible improvements in performance, or “wins”
    • Creating those wins
    • Visibly recognizing and rewarding people who made wins possible
  7. SUSTAIN ACCELERATION
    • Change leaders must adapt quickly in order to maintain their speed. Whether it’s a new way of finding talent or removing misaligned processes, they must determine what can be done — every day — to stay the course towards the vision.
    • Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t fit the vision
    • Hiring, promoting and developing people who can implement the change vision
    • Develop people and projects to carry on the change vision throughout the organization
  8. INSTITUTE CHANGE
    • To ensure new behaviors are repeated over the long-term, it’s important that you define and communicate the connections between these behaviors and the organization’s success.
    • Creating better performance through customer- and productivity-oriented behavior, more and better leadership, & more effective leadership.
    • Articulating the connections between new behaviors and organizational success.
    • Developing means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Of course, before initiating these steps the tech manager has to have performed her/his due diligence: selecting the right technology (maybe more than one initially); networking with other users in similar organizations; and, her/his due diligence: selecting the right technology (maybe more than one initially); networking with other users in similar organizations; and, probably most important, collaborating with key employees; key operational supervisors, senior management, maintenance personnel, and cross-departmental staff.

The Advance of Technology

After reading the paragraph below, read the entire article, then, assuming Ray to be correct, try to envision and describe education in 2030.

“The Law of Accelerating Returns

“March 7, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

“An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21sst century–it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The ‘returns,’ such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity–technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.”

From <http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns>

Too Much or Not Enough High-Tech in Classrooms

NOTE: I use the term “high technology” to recognize the many non-digital forms of technology, e.g., the printed word, ball-point pens, etc.

This raging debate has been pretty much overshadowed by Common Core and high-stakes testing, but I believe we should revisit it periodically rather than just going with the flow which appears to be the status quo. Lacking definitive research we still forge ahead spending big bucks. “Just what if technology really does enhance learning?” “Do I, the teacher, the administrator, the board member, want to be responsible for denying students opportunities to achieve, gain a college degree, get a good job, succeed in the future digital world?” The answer: “We can’t take the chance, we must spend the money.” Or as is in many one-to-one schools, “We will dictate a BYOD policy and let the parents/guardians spend the money.” Maybe we don’t need to speed up, slow or stop the momentum, maybe we need allow the direction of the technology momentum to be guided by the practitioners, the teachers.

SmithSystem.com does a fairly good job of capturing the more common valid reasons behind too much or too little (http://smithsystem.com/smithfiles/2014/10/20/classroom-technology-much-enough/). Reasoning for more: eBooks, post-school tech use, gaming develops spatial skills and inductive reasoning, collaboration/communication, deeper engagement/broader learning, teacher tools, and support for PLEs. Reasoning for less: meaningful engagement comes from people, too much too soon, distracting, cost and obsolescence, taxes teachers’ expertise, and classroom management. I can agree with both sides.

So my answer (too much, too little?) is both. We are all aware of the technology resource “gap” between wealthy and poor community schools. (A short aside: this gap also exists within Catholic schools systems, particularly in urban areas where many schools are dependent on donors for the majority of their technology resources.) This is without doubt a too little situation. I don’t pretend to have an answer regarding how to close this gap without spreading the wealth which would mean lowering the amount of technology available to wealthier schools in order to raise the amount of technology available to poorer schools. Or without increasing taxes. Either solution requires more big government involvement, ala Common Core and high-stakes testing and I’m a firm believer in locally controlled schools, among most other things.

We are also aware, although we seldom admit, that gaps exist among teachers within even the better-resourced schools. Recent research points out that the teacher gap is not so much due to age and the digital native/digital immigrant thing but more to the pedagogical maturity and content adeptness of teachers. And that the gap is not so much regarding how much technology is in play but more so about how successful it is employed whatever the level of integration. In short, well-grounded teachers, if allowed, do their homework, select and implement the technology that works best for them. That’s not an easy chore. There are many hardware choices and tens of thousands of educational apps and applications. Each teacher can’t vet them all and obviously a certain amount of standardization is necessary. The standardization should occur at the lowest possible economically viable level but no higher than school level. Full collaboration among all stakeholders is essential. Technology budgets should be built from the bottom up beginning with individual teachers. Teachers should have full reign over the software applied within their classrooms. Again, not easy decisions, however, help is available through PLCs; individualized, non-workshop-based PD (please!); the Internet; mentorship; and the technology department.

The Changed Roles of the School/District Tech Director/Manager

Ten years ago, the guy in charge of IT had a relatively non-collaborative and straightforward job. Broadly we were responsible for the traditional management functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling. Specifically we oversaw the procurement, installation and repair of hardware and software, the network and servers. We seldom interfaced with faculty and staff other than to take direction, respond to service requests or request funding. Given the hundreds of tasks involved in successfully performing those functions, we were busy and, if we were lucky enough to have them, our staffs were busy.

The truth has changed. What we do less of and what we do more of, more or less cancels each other out. We still are very, very busy. In most institutions, we are well beyond integrating technology into our classrooms (provisioning with operable computers and interactive whiteboards). A major change, the main goal of the modern IT director/manager, is to facilitate (read “manage”) the successful integration of technology into the curriculum, instructional units, lesson plans and learning activities. The ideal approach is through coaching/mentoring, professional development and learning communities. A great discussion about these approaches is at the Center for Public Education website. I couldn’t say it better but I will emphasize that we’re not talking about traditional workshop-based professional development, which as been shown by numerous studies to be ineffective. Please read the article.

Other affective truths are the changes (I hesitate to use “advancements”–I’ll wait for validated results) in educational technology, the students, and pedagogies including:  the shift toward mobile technologies; cloud computing (SaaS -software as a service; PaaS-platform as a service; and IaaS-infrastructure as a service); all students are now “digital natives”, many being technologically sophisticated; open source software; the need to ensure that students remain familiar with technologies that they might be using after school; learning management systems (LMS) (e.g. Moodle); online courses (MOOC); staying ahead of the available apps and software to support each content area; one-on-one computing in the classroom; bring your own device (BYOD); the flipped classroom; blended learning; learning partnerships; game enhanced learning; project-based learning; peer teaching; brain-based learning; differentiated instruction; just-in-time teaching; deep learning (whatever that is); etc.

Educational technology changes are accompanied by fear and operational and resource problems: privacy, security, safety, available band width, available funding, qualified technicians, committed administrators and board members, and push back to name a few. The technology manager/director must become an expert in change management and an integral part of the change planning and execution team. As technology becomes more infused into administrative and management functions, the curriculum, instructional units, lesson plans and learning activities, the more involved the educational technologist should be.

The Various Aspects of Educational Technology Support & Integration

There was a time when performing as a Director of Information Technology I realized that educational technology support demands could and should be categorized so as to better prioritize, organize and focus technology staff and efforts. I came up with four distinct categories and a subcategory: 1-the interactive education learning process; 2-the unilateral learning process; 3-technology as a separate content area; and 4-school administration and management. Faculty/staff technology profession development is a subcategory integral of the four categories. These can be readily integrated into the ITIL framework. Note that the focus, while on the institution, does not address the constant back room support required to keep the systems running smoothly.

Faculty/staff technology professional development. I believe that if anything has held back classroom/curriculum technology integration, student self-directed learning and efficient use of school administration and learning management software, it is the insufficiency of technology professional development.  I would encourage establishment of a technology professional development program that took into account the personal situations, learning styles and instructional needs of each teacher/staff member and one that included a teacher/staff/administrator individual learning plan agreement consistent with the school’s mission, goals, objectives and budgetary constraints while maximizing use of internal expertise (technologists and teacher/staff-technology leaders from within teacher learning communities and staff offices). Though research has shown that traditional, workshop-based professional development is ineffective, I would not hesitate to lobby the administration, board and community for additional funding to take advantage of select commercial programs that have a proven track record. A bit of aside gripe coming. Remember when Microsoft Office switched from the traditional menu interface to the “ribbon”? Or when your administrators pushed to change out the teachers’ desktops for laptops? Or when the Board decided to implement a one-to-one computing program in the next school year? Yep, the techies were expected to develop change management skills overnight, design appropriate instructional sessions and execute.

Given finite technology resources, the interactive learning process should be the highest priority. Basically, it’s all about integrating (infusing, if you must) technology into the teaching-learning dynamic within the classroom. Enough has been written and said by others and me in previous blogs. For now, let’s just say that success in this category lies at the confluence of curricular content, constructivist pedagogies, and technology—that the interoperability of these three elements will foster engaged learning and encourage students to accept accountability and responsibility for their own education. Technology support in this category is on ensuring that classroom hardware is available when needed and operates reliably, that required software and apps are installed and functioning properly and that each classroom has reliable access to the network and the Internet. Each classroom should have a primary and alternate method of rapidly reporting issues to the technology department.

More and more emphasis is being placed on the unilateral learning process. This learning process can be defined as one wherein students without the supervision or oversite of, or immediate interaction with, a teacher, school staff member or another student use a digital device while performing learning tasks. Homework is the most common, traditional example. The flipped classroom, one-to-one computing programs and BYOD efforts are placing more emphasis on student self-learning. Whether or not these initiatives are enhancing or will enhance student learning, the tech department is obligated to ensure that the system fully supports the process 24/7. Coming into play here are various compartmentalized servers, interoperative operating system platforms, security and backups, remote access, acceptable use agreements and policies, safety, policies and procedures and I’m sure many more that do not come to mind readily. If students are expected to perform online research, analysis, synthesis, etc. from their own or family computers and the computer or their Internet is not functioning, what then? What if they don’t even have access to a computer outside of school? How does the institution accommodate them? If the school provides them, how does a tech department maintain as many as 2,000 tablets? The questions of expense and support are many and complex. If such programs are effective, I believe that the educational gap between the haves and have-nots will continue to grow.

The third category and priority, technology as a separate subject area, seems to have declined in popularity in K-12 schools. The decline in great part is due to perceived student familiarity with common use hardware and software from early ages. At the same time, STEM is being pushed at all levels. And surprisingly, the following is from the Business Insider, September 11, 2014: “This semester, a record-breaking 818 Harvard students — nearly 12% of the entire college — enrolled in one popular class, reports The Crimson. The course, Computer Science 50: “Introduction to Computer Science I” (CS50), pulled in 100 more students than the 700 that signed up last fall, making it the single largest class in the course’s 30-year history, as well as the biggest class at Harvard College this semester.” Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-popular-course-at-harvard-2014-9#ixzz3YMjsSDCt The course has little to do about hardware, instead focusing on such topics as algorithms, software engineering, and web development.  A reasonable prediction is that the success at the higher education level will shortly begin filtering down to at least the high school level. Support for technology courses is very similar to that for the interactive learning process, with the important exception of the addition of a highly technologically proficient teachers. Teacher content expertise and hands-on, project-based learning rules!

Lastly, on the priority scale is school administration and management support. Why last? Simply, it is not as close to the learning process nor nearly as time-sensitive. However, support is more complex involving uncommon software applications such as Blackbaud’s suite of applications, one or more of the hundreds of school management, bookkeeping/accounting, curriculum management and mapping, lesson planning, grade book, report card and assessment software packages. Keeping these applications repaired and up-to-date along with the incumbent database and database server administration and management  (both back room and user) takes a huge slice of time, efforts, and budget from the tech department’s resources. Not to mention the training required that needs to be scheduled and performed. Sure to take a big chunk out of the tech budget.