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Monday
Sep082014

Norms for a Tech-Using Educator - Guest post

I challenged Blue Skunk Readers in last Monday's post to create a set of norms for educators to adopt when working with technology and technology departments. Librarian Christie Burke rose to the challenge by leaving this comment:

First, I'd like to say that this list makes me appreciate our tech team - they do most of these things VERY well, with a particular focus on "education first." Here are my thoughts about the flip side - the teacher dealing with the technology department:

  1. Education first, just as you say. :) We are all on the same team. 
  2. Be patient. A teacher has one tech issue, but the tech department supports many and may not be able to bump a given request to the front of the queue. Allow for flexibility in response time/method, especially if tech support people wear multiple hats. 
  3. Be clear in communications. Screenshots and documentation are always helpful, but "I can't explain what happened" is tougher to work with. [Be prepared to say what you were doing when the problem occurred.- Blue Skunk]
  4. Be kind. Remember that thing everyone's mom always said about catching flies with honey or vinegar? Honey really is better; please and thank-yous go a long way. Complaining behind someone's back has no place in a professional setting. 
  5. Be willing to learn. Even those who are intimidated by a new tool or platform can move further along the path as long as they don't decide that they can't. A mindset that is about resistance and fear gets in the way of what students need to do and keeps the tech team from doing their jobs fully. [This is great!- BlueSkunk]

I'm a librarian, not part of the tech team - but I do work closely with tech, as I am often the front line of support for students. They are trying to do a hard job well, like the rest of us in the building. 

My only quibble with Christie's list is her statement "I'm a librarian, not part of the tech team ..." I'd like all librarians to see themselves as the teaching/learning part of the tech equation. 

I would also like to add that teachers could do a few routine tasks before calling in tech support: 

  1. Turn it off and turn it back on. (I know, it's a cliche, but it is still true.)
  2. Empty your browser cache.
  3. Check your cables to make sure they are securely plugged in.
  4. I find that if I am stumped by a tech problem, walking away, getting a cup of coffee, and coming back often presents a solution.
  5. Put in a helpdesk ticket. Helps us track what devices and software cause the most issues and to balance the work load among techs.

Thanks.

Teachers and techs - we can make a great team - and we should for the sake of students.

 

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Sunday
Sep072014

BFTP: I will as a teacher

I Will As a Teacher

Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future. I, as a teacher, will use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil. Are you ready…?

  • I can provide up-to-date information to my students
          - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
  • I can find and change all my instructional materials, worksheets, study guides, tests, every year and place them online where students can access them easily 
          - you better hope the master is good enough for one more photocopy.
  • I will model 21st century skills - technology, information-problem solving and life-long learning
         - you will lecture about them.
  • I will provide my visual learners an accessible means of grasping concepts through multimedia resources
         - you can use simpler words and speak more slowly.
  • I give my students a world-wide audience for their creative work
          – you will share your students' work with the rest of the class. Sometimes.
  • I will give my students access to study materials and resources online 24/7
         - you hope they remember to bring home the textbook and worksheets.
  • I will honor the range of reading abilities and interest of my students by providing topical materials on a variety of reading levels and subjects
          - you will use the basal reader and the textbook.
  • I will allow my students to take their learning as far as they want
          – you will keep everyone at the same place at the same time.
  • I will communicate with my students and parents electronically
         - you can hope to catch them after class or at home in the evenings.
  • I will give parents real-time access to how their children are performing in my class
         - you send out report cards and have two parent-teacher conferences a year.
  • I will use the information gathered from computerized value-added testing to know exactly what my individual students' strengths and weakness are
         - you will use whole group instruction.
  • I will stay current on best educational practices using online databases, listservs, professional blogs, and the myriad of news sources
         - you can go to a conference once a year and read routed professional journals if they get to you.
  • I will create a personal learning network with educational leaders, experts and colleagues using e-mail and social networks
          – you will try to remember the advice of the instructor in your college methods class from 1980.
  • I will collaborate with my peers from around the world
         – you will stay behind your classroom door.
  • I will save time by drawing on the generosity and genius of others who have created and shared digital versions of lesson plans, handbooks, templates, guidelines, reading lists, and more
         - you will use the teacher's guide.
  • I will harness the power of personal devices in the classroom to provide an interactive learning experience through response systems and tools
        - you will ask students to raise their hand before they speak. 
  • The cost of a laptop per year? - $200
  • The cost of teacher training? – Expensive, but no more so than other staff development activities
  • The cost of effective schools? - Priceless

My notes show this was a take-off on a John Pederson posting, I Will for which the link no longer seems to work. I also show it  was posted on the Abilene, Kansas High School Dialogue Buzz website: 

Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future. I will [as a student] use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil. Are you ready…?
  • I will access up-to-date information - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
  • I will immediately know when I misspell a word – you have to wait until it’s graded.
  • I will learn how to care for technology by using it – you will read about it.
  • I will see math problems in 3D – you will do the odd problems.
  • I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world – you will share yours with the class.
  • I will have 24/7 access – you have the entire class period.
  • I will access the most dynamic information – yours will be printed and photocopied.
  • I will communicate with leaders and experts using email – you will wait for Friday’s speaker.
  • I will select my learning style – you will use the teacher’s favorite learning style.
  • I will collaborate with my peers from around the world – you will collaborate with peers in your classroom.
  • I will take my learning as far as I want – you must wait for the rest of the class.
  • The cost of a laptop per year? - $250
  • The cost of teacher and student training? – Expensive
  • The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? - Priceless

Original post January 19, 2006 and updated August 18, 2009.

Saturday
Sep062014

Crunch time for the tech department

In every district I know, the week before school starts and the first couple weeks after the kids get back are crunch time for tech departments. Teacher computers needing to be set up, labs needing re-imaging, telephone numbers needing changing, system user accounts and permission needing creation, new wireless access points needing installation, and a raft of other "fires" needing to be extinguished keep many on the tech crew working long hours. 

Why, educators ask, does this happen when you've had the whole summer to get these things done?

It's a great question and I wish I knew the complete answer. But here are some thoughts:

  • We are often not aware of a problem or a need until personnel return from summer vacation.
  • Cleaning and maintenance is often scheduled to be done as close to school start as possible and we can't reassemble teacher workstations until that's done.
  • Teachers change rooms and desk locations at the last minute.
  • Employees are hired at the last minute and new families join the school at the last minute.
  • By law, equipment may not be purchased until a new fiscal year begins July 1 (at least in MN).
  • Summer construction projects run up to the wire.
  • Outsourced tech projects get delayed. Equipment purchasing and delivery gets delayed.
  • Summer school and other programs keep labs and libraries in use for much of the summer.
  • Professional development, when the discovery of systems not working well is made, often starts just before school starts.
  • Techs, like other employees, like to take vacations during the summer.

I am fully aware that a reason to one person may sound a lot like an excuse to an other person. I am also fully convinced that good technology planning and practices can reduce the severity of the school crunch. 

But if anyone has found a way to eliminate the technology stress, I'd love to know how you've done it.

Oh, while I don't put in much physical overtime during back-to-school weeks (my staff doesn't let me touch computers or go near a screwdriver - I mostly attend meetings and do administrivia), I do put in a lot of mental overtime. Every night for the last three weeks, my eyes open and brain starts at 3AM. Just so you know.

 

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