Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Administrative Report to the Board January

I am sharing this with everyone, because there is a current of information being exchanged everyday and is grossly misunderstood. Awareness, I believe, is the first step.

Technology in Education - more questions than answers: Categorically I have a few questions and comments for the School Board this month. The questions are meant for personal analysis to contrast against my comments. I have posted this report on my blog where you can give me feedback if you'd like, or ask more questions for me to answer at the next board meeting.

Question #1: How (and where) do you get information on your profession?

Comment #1a: Basically how much time do you spend looking at the latest information on your career or your interests? Personally I used to gobble up trusted magazines from my professional organizations or elsewhere. I pride myself as to being able to decipher the "Slant" or "Bias" the publication, judging from the publisher or writer. "Tech Magazines" of course promoted the best technology, especially that of vendors who contribute ads to the publication. I would pile the magazines up and get to them on a day I had time (okay, so many were recycled before I read them). One summer, a few years ago, I cut the pile up, sorted out by article subject, and used several during PD or teacher meetings the next year. It took me a couple days of organizing and planning and I used maybe 1/16th of the articles I cut apart.

Comment #1b: For the past couple months I have waded into the world of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs). I've blogged about it before, but I have jumped waist deep into Twitter. The word "Twitter", when spoken, invokes images of star athletes making comments during games, about coaches; celebrities promoting their narcissistic activities; Politicians raising money, talking policy, ripping each other. General disgust for those who have not unlocked it's usefulness. For me Twitter is a constant stream of information and ideas from some of the brightest, most dedicated individuals in the education/administration profession. Articles, videos, transcripts, studies and anything imaginable on a variety of topics, flows across my screen all day and night at home. A day doesn't go by where 2-5 articles about something I'm directly working on pops up on my "Tweetdeck" alert. I can click on the resource (always linked to a website), minimize my browser, go back to work and digest the resource later. You see I can still pile up great resources, send the links to my teachers, link them to our PD site and use them almost instantly. Comparing it to the cut and pile method I described in Comment #1a, it take minutes compared to days. I am still piling, but I'm not going to have to recycle the articles later, and if they're really good I can "TAG" them and save for later use.

Question #2: How reliable are your sources of information and how timely?

Comment #2: Now I'm not believing, applying or deeming every article, comment or feedback I get online as Gospel. But I get a variety of opinions, viewpoints and perspectives from all over the country/world from very credible resources. I am impressed at the amount of quality articles and videos I am exposed to and it's rare that I get unreliable information. Blogs generally give opinion and like reading editorials it's more thought provoking and reflective than informative (unless it's a blog of online resources). Reliability is definitely an issue, but it is in traditional media as well. The beauty of the timeliness of internet information is that if there's something out there that's fraudulent, word gets around fast. If you need to find out how to check into a website, what people think or have found out, it's just a keyword or search away. Also, you can have any credible site or source "RSSed" to you without searching and on Twitter you can "Follow" people you know are credible. The information is current, and usually refers back to older information for background and perspective.

Question #3: How much do you use Google, know about "Open Source" applications?

Comment #3: If the district wanted, we would never have to spend another penny on most types of software including Microsoft Office. "Wait, Office is what is being used today in most businesses!" While that is a correct statement, it's mainly because it's been purchased already and we have all grown comfortable with MS Office. Google Docs, Open Office and other online programs can provide a free alternative that reportedly is very compatible when using or exchanging information with MS Office users. I personally am going to upload my documents from my hard drive to Google Docs, take a couple of their tutorials and get some practical experience as I really don't want to pay Microsoft a sizable chuck of change anymore if and when we have to upgrade or buy the newest version. Google Docs would also provide the storage as would Gmail if we were to go to using their email. I have used Open Office (an open source application) on my PC at home and have found it a good alternative, it loads a little slower but is very compatible with my Apple MS Office program. Moodle, or Curriculum Management System (CMS) is open source and didn't cost us a penny (just the server space) where alternatives cost two to 10 thousand dollars to purchase and maintain. If you can buy a program, it's features are probably available for free online. Photo editing sites are incredible. It's a discussion that needs to take place as it could be an option for cost savings in the future.

Question #4: Have you seen, or used a "Kindle", and/or something similar? (A Kindle is an electronic book reader that Amazon sells publications at 1/3rd the cost of the book version).

Comment #4: We have a student at school who swears by hers and is bringing it in for me to see. This electronic device is book sized and has a "page" background, so it's easier on the eyes to read. I have read some free Google books on my Ipod Touch, which also has a Kindle "Ap" (Which I haven't used yet). The touch is much smaller and doesn't have the screen size for a lot words, but does display them large enough to read. I have read a lot of websites on my laptop and now on the Ipod and it is a totally different situation from reading a book. I still pick up a book and read and I still buy books to read. But that's me, that's someone who graduated in the 80s. We're looking to purchase a Kindle or two for the library and possibly the SPED department (ideas not action at this point). Bottom line is we need student feedback on all devices as we move forward with technology in education.

Observation: Yes, there are many, many questions without answers but that's mainly because so many more people (thousands apon millions) asking them. And there are people who can, almost immediately, answer them credibly. If not an answer, a comment to spur your thinking further.

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