Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Backseat Blog

Happy Thanksgiving to the assorted family, friends, Twitter associates, and complete strangers that read this...
Rarely do I ride in a car that I am not driving... But it gives one time to think.
I am only a few weeks away from the end date of my professional growth plan.  Crazy, I know.  I spent Wednesday at school in a teacher institute learning about the direction that our district is moving in.
Lots of initiatives were shown in various stages of implementation.  Long story short...  the miracle work is not going to end.  We will continue to do more with less, and the odds will continue to be stacked against us. 
It reminded me of the scene in Return of the Jedi when Han Solo asks Luke Skywalker "How are we doing?"  Luke replies "Same as always."  Han retorts "That bad huh?"
Come to find out that as a prize for being in the bottom 20% of schools in the state (after some really weird math and a list of exceptions), our district will be required to add a student growth component to our teacher evaluation a year early. 
Because if anyone needs less time to adjust to the metaphoric beatdown that is the Common Core, it is high-poverty, high-mobility, high-needs schools.
But that is for another day.   We also talked technology.  And while I got hopeful, I am confident in our ability to misuse this opportunity.  Whether it be rollout, training, support, or maintenance, my hopes will be dashed I am sure.
Meanwhile I look like a genius because I am taking the Google Apps Teacher Certification tests.  It sounds like we are going full Google.  So let me share with you my vision...
Currently teachers have Google Apps at their disposal...
Suggestion 1:  Give kids access. 
There is no reason not to.  It is the point.  Give kids Gmail accounts in our domain with privileges to do what they need to do.  Email can be modified to stay in district only... letting us keep our house in order.
Suggestion 2:  Use Drive for all storage needs. 
Our network is brutal.  Time to save to the cloud.  No more lost research papers. No more saving locally on accident.  No more disappearing thumbdrives. 
Suggestion 3:  Train teachers.  Then support them. 
This has to become institutionalized and sustainable.  There is such potential, but teachers are creatures of habit.  New ideas mean more work.  We have to show where more work now turns into less later.
Suggestion 4:  Update infrastructure
We are doing this.  Wireless overhaul along with a jump up in computers.  Looks like we are headed down the Chromebook path.  Which if true means...
Suggestion 5:  Give every staff member a Chromebook.
Not every teacher, but every adult in the building should be given a device.  It goes back to institutionalization.  Demand the use school wide through equal access and support.  If all adults use it, we can all help kids use it.  How do we get the adults to?
Suggestion 6:  Automate everything. 
This is where Google Calendar would be awesome.  Scheduling between teachers, administrators, support staff, etc. would be simple.  Imagine getting kids to do this.  Imagine posting assignments this way. 
Not to mention this is a handy way to organize the use of resources like computer labs.  Imagine knowing any time if the lab is available.  That impulsive midnight lesson you come up with that is a stroke of genius has a better chance of coming to fruition.
Suggestion 7:  Rethink PD
This type of change requires lots of PD.  But that time is most likely already allocated.  So why not ask for what needs to be done to be done through Google Apps.  Supercharge your PD by killing two birds with one stone.
Suggestion 8:  Give incentives.
Reward staff for their use of new things.  Recognize it.  This is where blogging and social media come in. Set up PD through the tools.  Collaborate from home.  Use Twitter chats.  Publicize the work.  Sponsor contests, have drawings or giveaways for participation.  Compel with kindness... and perks.
Suggestion 9:  Have a plan and commit.
Beyond what I outlined, someone has to steer this ship.  They have to be knowledgeable and accessible.  This is systemic.  It is not a one-time thing.  Commit to the use of integrated technology, not its token use.  Until teachers are secure in its use, the technology provided will not be utilized.
Suggestion 10:  Change the paradigm.
Someone will inevitably say that this type of technology integration isn't for them.
You are absolutely right.  It is for our students.
They will take over a world demanding cutting edge skills.  We have to show them as many tools as we can today so they can make the tools of tomorrow.
Like I said.  That is my vision.  Only part of it, but I am not getting my hopes up yet.
It doesn't exist in our district but I am going to be our director of technology one way or another.  I can't let us screw this up.

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