Course Reflection

With the semester now drawing to a close, it is time for reflection.  As I look back on this course, with the questions we were asked in mind, I find that I don’t really have all that much to say.  I honestly don’t plan on doing anything within my district as a “result of this course”.  The demands of my position, budget, and district goals are the driving factors behind any and all changes within my classroom and department at this point in time.  It is, frankly, unrealistic given the current circumstances.

That is not to say that I did not get anything out of this course, I gained an insight into the true state of technology and its use within my own school district.  The district evaluation is the single most important item for me from this course, it also happens to be my best artifact.  This particular project allowed me the opportunity to examine the overall technology use within my school district and compare it against some metric for “success”.  Success probably is not the right word for it, perhaps it is more like criteria for knowing you have achieved a particular level.  In any event, I was able to extensively examine and critique what is actually going on in the district, not just what is written on paper.  As a result, I was able to create a lengthy evaluation that has given me a much better understanding of where the districts strengths and weaknesses lie.  Additionally, the entire process provided me with the opportunity to see what was occurring outside of my buildings and to engage in candid conversations with others.  It was a highly valuable, probably the most valuable, assignment for me during my time in the course.

As for challenges I faced and how I addressed those challenges, I can’t really think of much.  Perhaps the time factor given that this course is taking place during the school year, so balancing an extensive workload with coursework.  A problem that was dealt with pretty much by pushing everything off until the weekends and then getting things done in a two or three day span.  Other than that, simply getting used of APA.  It is a new way of writing for me, so it took a little work.    Outside resources like OWL helped to explain things a bit, but it is still a work in progress.

 

School Evaluation Summary

For this assignment we were asked to evaluate our schools districts using the Technology Maturity Benchmarks developed by Sibley and Kimball.

This assignment was very interesting for me, it’s not everyday that I get to examine what is going on in the districts and critique it.  Through the examination of various topics I was able to gain a better feel for what the district is doing well, not so well, and absolutely terrible at.  I cannot say that there were any really huge surprises from the district side of things.  Pretty much everything fell into how we in the technology department have viewed the districts situation as a whole.  How would we describe the situation here?  In a word, complicated.  Because of this, the hardest part of this assignment was figuring out exactly how to explain the various things that are taking place, or not, in the district.  I can say, however, that I was a little surprised by how well the district did when it came to network connectivity.  As a result of various state efforts the district scored very well, in my opinion, in this area of the benchmark.  Not every state has the same programs in place though, so I am very curious to see how the categories turns out for others.  I must admit though, I almost became a bit depressed when evaluating the districts support structure.  It is one thing to know how a situation is, but when you have to explain it to other individuals, well frankly it sounds even worse.

 

Overall, the district has a very complex Technology Maturity Benchmark.  There are parts of the benchmark that the district is excelling at and areas where the district is struggling.  There is room for improvement and refinement; there are also key indicators that serious discussions need to take place in order the achieve those improvement and refinements.  The district has a long way to go, but the first part of improving things is identifying those areas that need improvement.  If we can address the issues in the benchmark, my district would be well on the way to truly preparing our students for life in the digital world; how to be content creators instead of just consumers, and how to make informed decisions by gathering reliable information for reputable sources.

 

The links to my Evaluation and Survey are provided below

School Evaluation Summary

School Survey

Tech Trends: Google Maps Evaluation

With the increasing amount of technology that students have access to within RSU #52, there has slowly been a move away from students as simple consumers of content and being passively engaged in their education. Within the technology department there has been a push to integrate technology in meaningful ways for students, this has meant that students create items using hardware and software that are related to classroom content. These projects can and do fall into several trends within both NMC Horizon Reports that we had the opportunity to examine. I have elected to focus on the “Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators” from the NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education.

I should note that there is a significant difference between many of the examples that were outlined in the report. The major difference is that, in most cases, our students are not creating physical items and that the complexity of the projects are not at an advanced level. These two differences reflect budgetary restraints that public school systems in rural areas face, time constraints faced by the technology department, and the skill sets of our younger learners.

The Software:

For this assignment, I elected to examine Google Maps Engine Lite. This program is provided free by Google and allows an individual to create customized Google Maps. These maps can then be map public, shared with selected individuals, or exported and uploaded into Google Earth.

The Project:

6th-grade students had been discussing and examining their ancestral heritage within their regular classrooms, within the confines of the immigration requirements for social studies. Classroom teachers and I discussed what part of the final product would be for this unit. What came out of these discussions was the idea that students would research a country that they have some family ties to and make an interactive map. Ultimately these maps would be published and shared with classmates, hopefully helping their classmates learn about the various places around the world. The project had two phases, an information gathering stage and a construction phase. For the information gathering, stage students were provided with a “Country Information Sheet” which listed items that needed to be identified and provided instructions for note taking. The expectation was that students would research these items, take notes about the items, and then move into creating their map. The map portion of this project was explained to the students in terms of thinking of a tourist map. What this means is that students had to assume that someone looking at their map knew nothing about the country or the features of it. A Google Maps rubric was created and given to students that outlined the exact expectations that their map needed to meet.

Rationale: How this fits Students as Content Creators

At the beginning of the entire project, classroom teachers were not even considering having their students to research or a project that related to the countries their students had ancestral ties to. When it was suggested to have students do something related to those countries, initial thoughts centered around research or exploring the country via a digital field trip. However, part of my job is to have students create products, and this seemed like a pretty good choice for that type activity. As a result, the idea was introduced that students would create a virtual field trip utilizing Google Maps. It was this thinking that brings the project under the umbrella of Students as Content Creators. Students are not simply consuming a product that some other individual created or company created. During this project, our students would be going through the entire process of creating a digital field trip through an interactive map. From the research to publication, everything would depend on the student’s actions and choices. Once completed, students would be allowed to publish their map online and upload them to the districts website. After the maps are uploaded, students would then be asked to explore the maps of their classmates, taking a survey about that they learned afterward. It is acknowledged, though that this project also fits under other trends.

Software Evaluation: Layout and Features

Google Maps Engine Lite is not a new software application, but it has been reworked recently and Google is now making an active push to get the program utilized more within education. Students use their existing Google Apps sign in to sign into the application and once signed in are asked if they would like to open a map or start a new one.

The interface is drastically different than anything students are familiar with inside Google Apps. This is understandable, however, considering that the purpose of the application is drastically different from other programs. Although the interface is different, it is incredibly simplistic, clean, and highly functional. There are seven buttons located under the search bar at the top of the map. These buttons, in conjunction with the search bar, allow students to perform all the essential functions on their map. It is incredibly easy to search for a location utilizing the search bar to add it to the map; it is equally as easy to manually add a point using the “Add marker” button. In addition, students can draw shapes and directions to their map using the “Draw a line” button, add directions from one location to another with the “Add directions” button, and find distances by utilizing the “Measurements and distance” button. Located on the left-hand side of the screen, Google has provided the user with further options for customization. This box allows for the addition of up to 3 that can be turned off and on, the option to change the type of map that is being displayed, and give the user the ability to change icons that a viewer will see on the map. The interface design allows the user to do many different things quickly and efficiently.

Once a point is added to the map, the use of two simple buttons makes adding and editing content incredibly easy. To edit a point students click on the point they want to edit and, on the information box that pops up, then click on the edit button. Once this button is clicked student can change various items for that point. These items include the title, description, photos, and video content. To add photos or video content student are required to click on an additional button, which has a camera on it. Once this is click a box will pop up that allows a student to find pictures and videos in a variety of ways. However, the best way to find these items is by using the included Google Image and Video search options. Using these two options will show videos and pictures that student can preview without leaving the application. Once a student finds what they want to include, clicking on the item and then a “Select” button will insert their selection into the point. Once a student has performed all the edits that they wish to do, clicking on the save button will save all of their work.

Utilizing the features to the left on the screen, students can also change the icons that a viewer sees on the map, add layers that include different items, or change the default map. These features can be used depending on what the goal of the map is. It is not required that these items be utilized for every assignment, but they offer a great deal of flexibility for using the application in unique ways.

Software Evaluation: In the classroom

Students found it incredibly easy to login to the application; most are extremely comfortable with getting into their Google Apps accounts. This is extremely important considering that time is precious and the longer that it takes students to sign into an application the less time they have in class to actually accomplish a task. Once students were logged in, many found it very easy to follow along with the demonstration of how to utilize the various tools the program provides. The entire demonstration lasted approximately 15 to 20 minutes. When the demonstration ended student were asked to complete a series of tasks using various tools. Students were able to complete all the required tasks with ease. The program was so easy for students to use that over a week later, when students were asked to demonstrate they remembered how to complete essential tasks, most students were able to complete the tasks with no assistance at all. The remaining students needed a very basic reminder about how to complete a task or two, and once the explanation began several students had an “Oh yeah” moment and no longer needed help. Once the actual project began students had little to no issues completing the requirements that were lays out in the rubric.

Software Evaluation: The Quirks

While students had very little trouble using the program, that does not mean that everything went smoothly. As the project progressed, there were several quirky things that kept occurring. First, there were more than a few times when students trying to add pictures into their maps ran into an interesting problem; pictures or videos were not appearing. When this occurred, it made no difference what a student searched for, pictures simply refused to show up. It was discovered that a simple solution for this issue, close out of the image search, save any work done on the point of interest and then close out of that point. Students then immediately went back to edit the point and add in an image or video, only this time the images and videos showed up. This solution worked in 100% of the instances where images or videos failed to appear. Second, the connection to the application started to drop out on students. The drop in connection turned out not to be such a big deal, as the connection was re-established what appeared to be moments after it was lost. There was no loss of data, that could be seen, but students were concerned every time they experienced this anomaly. Third, upon attempting to sign in approximately six students immediately lost connection to the application. Upon refreshing the page, the issue persisted. The only solution appeared to be shutting down the internet browser and then restarting it. There were a few instances where this was not required, but when students were able to sign in they were directed to their Google profile page and not Maps Engine Lite. Aside from these technical issues the program performed well and was easy for a student to use. Also, to be fair, it is currently unknown if the issues we experienced were a result of issues with the application or our equipment. To help determine whether the issues were caused by something on our end of things, notes were taking on which computers appeared to have connection issues.

Software Evaluation: Conclusion

Overall this application has the potential to offer students and staff opportunities to become content creators vs. strictly being consumers, through the creation of interactive maps. Maps Engine Lite does this in a manner that is not overly complicated, yet offers flexibility in how the application is used. Students can quickly learn the basics of the program and customize their project to make it unique. Furthermore, the ability to share, embed, or export student work provide opportunities for users to combine their work with other projects, such as websites. The stability issues are a concern, but as I have stated it is unclear what is causing these issues. Google’s Maps Engine Lite is a tool that provides k-12 students with great opportunities to expand their horizons and create some product that goes beyond the typical poster or report.

Annotated Biblography

For this assignment, students were asked to create an annotated bibliography utilizing peer reviews articles on a topic within the realm of educational technology. What follows is my reflection on the assignment and link to the bibliography.

I elected to focus on the flipped classroom due to my work with the Adult Education program. Within my district there is an initiative towards providing more flipped, blended, and distance learning opportunities for students in, or are interested in attending, the program. As a result, there are days when I am neck deep in Canvas, Schoology, Moodle, or a number of other programs that we are utilizing to accomplish this task. I know what I am doing and why I am doing it, but, I do not really know why I am doing it. By that I mean I have never done any research, real research, on distance learning or the flipped classroom approach. I figured this assignment gave me an opportunity to do just that.

The assignment was a difficult one for me to complete. It is the first time that I have ever really looked for peer reviewed articles online, so I did not really know what to expect. It is also the first time that I have ever done an annotated bibliography; as a result it was challenging determining what to include and what not to include. I had no concept of appropriate length for any of the required components and frankly I did not really know what to include in the assessment piece. The entire process was interesting to say the very least. Additionally, this was the first time I have every really done any research on the flipped classroom. All of the “research” that I had done on the topic, thus far, was more how to do it, not some of the theories behind it or student data. In that respect the assignment was very insightful, helping me gain a better understanding of why I do the things I do, sort of a justification I suppose, should anyone ask.
Below is a link to my Annotated Bibliography

Flipped Classroom 

RSS Lesson

For this assignment, we were to examine and explore RSS and then develop a lesson plan in which we could utilize this tool.

While I appreciate being able to sign up for news feeds and updates from websites, and not having my email get bombarded daily by random spam and useless updates, I sort of struggled with this assignment. It was not the technical aspects of RSS or even finding sites that are RSS enabled. The biggest problem that I ran into was the practicality of utilizing RSS in the classroom. Perhaps this is because RSS has never been something we’ve focussed on in my district, despite the fact that we 1-1 at the middle school level and nearly 1-1 at the high school level. As far as I can tell, it is not being used at all, at any level. That being the case I have nothing to base a lesson off, so figuring out how to do it made me scratch my head a little.

In the end, I elected to use RSS in a Social Studies setting, that way I could take advantage of the numerous news organizations that are RSS enabled. I also decided to stick to using Feedly during this assignment.

As for the assignment itself, students were asked to do research on various social, political, and economic issues. The goal of the lessons was not just to have students become informed about a topic, it was also to have a student become able to identify bias in informational resources. Students were assigned a current event and then asked to use news feeds through Feedly to locate articles to gather information. While students were gathering information, they were also looking for bias in the article from the author (or organization). For this lesson to occur, it is acknowledged that a lesson about Feedly and bias in informational media takes place in the previous class. You can view the entire lesson plan below.

RSS Lesson Plan

Even with this lesson, however, I had a difficult time buying into RSS. Frankly, with all the other resources that we have available and the different standards that we have to meet, this is not something that I will be asking my staff to use. Most of my staff utilize resources that are not updated often, by that I mean they utilize subscription resources, online references, interactive sites, and databases. Furthermore, one of the things that we are trying to teach our students is how to do an effective internet search.

I do recognize that there is are some pretty big mobile implications that might be had, considering that utilization of RSS apps could potentially end up saving time. Taking into consideration that mobile devices in my district are issues to individuals (laptop computers are not), I think that RSS could be more effective here in terms of time management. A student could download an RSS application, create an account, and add resources to their account. RSS could be advantageous in this instance because the student can be constantly logged in on their assigned device, so one touch of the finger and their feeds are at their fingertips. Additionally, depending on a student skill set and abilities, this method could prove to be faster than traditional search methods via Google. I say this simply because it removes the need to type everything out, search and filter through results. However, it is all going to depend on what resources a district has access to and if RSS supports your programs goals.

It is a tough sell though, and I am not buying, yet. There is a state conference on Friday, and I am going to keep an eye out for any sessions that involve RSS. Perhaps I can get some idea as to how this is being used in real-world classrooms.

 

**edited 10/17/2014

Digital Divide/Digital Inequaility

During the course of this assignment, I examined the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality within RSU 52. Over the course of this assignment, I gained a better insight into the lives of my students and staff. This is critical in understanding how to approach the issues being examined. From the data that was collected, I learned that the Digital Divide has shrunk considerably for students in our district. More students have access to technological devices and the internet than ever before, though not all students are experiencing this. Combined with knowledge of the trends of the electronics industry and the emergence of the mobile web, I am lead to believe that the divide will continue to shrink over time. There are so many devices and services out there that it is becoming easier and easier to become connected in some way. Unfortunately, as the divide shrinks the inequality may grow. Just because an individual has access to a device or service does not mean that they possess the same skills and abilities as others. It also does not mean that they utilize and get the same benefits from technology. Many of our students see technology as entertainment, not as something that can truly be used to better their lives. It is a challenging issue considering that so many different things can impact this outlook on technology, in addition to student skills and abilities.

Moving forward, I plan on utilizing the information I have gathered to influence my instruction directly. Meaning, providing more skills lessons and trying to do more projects that will help students become active in the learning process. No easy task considering I am spread between 3 buildings and have more than 400 students every week. I may share the information I have gathered with classroom teachers as well, that way they too can help to address some of the concerns that I have.

Were I to have more time to work on this assignment, I would have gathered more detailed data from more students and staff. Data about the lives of our students can greatly help to determine how we approach teaching and what is being taught. It also helps to drive the activities and programs that we utilize. Were I to discover through more complete data that students were experiencing X, Y, and Z, then I would be compelled to address X, Y, and Z. The same can be said for the staff, though the data would be more focused on how to help teachers more effectively utilize technology within the classroom. Additionally, I may have expanded the scope of the observations or choose different items completely.

VoiceThread

https://edtech.voicethread.com/share/6104585/

 

*edited 10/17/2014

Code of Professional Ethics in Educational Technology.

Having examined the issue of improper or inconsistent citation in student work during this assignment, I have come to several realizations.  First, I was correct in my decision to look at this issue through the lens of the selected code portions, section one, subsection seven and section three, subsection ten respectively.  Although the code does not specifically address the issue of citations, these two sections provide enough flexibility that it is covered.  Furthermore, by working through the problem, I discovered that yet another section of the code was applicable, section three, subsection four.  This section states “Shall strive to continually improve professional knowledge and skill and to make available to patrons and colleagues the benefit of that person’s professional attainments.” (Table 11.2, p 297).  It applies mostly because professional development is being offered to staff members, but it could be argued that students are “patrons” and thus benefit as well.

Generally speaking, reading the AECT Code of Professional Ethics has not really changed my life at all.  Frankly, I did not experience any “ah ha” moments, or even any “oh yeah” moments.  It is not that the code does not have good items in it or that the code is irrelevant.  I think it has to do more with how I have approached my job and the principles that I have applied from my more formal educational training.  Everything in the code reflects things that I do on a daily basis, it is  engrained into what I do.  There are a few things in there that make me think the code needs to be updated a bit.  For example, an individual “Shall not use coercive means or promise special treatment in order to influence professional decisions of colleagues.” (Table 11.2, p 297).  Honestly, does this need to be said?  Nowhere I have ever worked has it ever been okay to coerce colleague into making decisions favorable to myself.  If the code does not feel that it is necessary to discuss research standards because those are covered by other professional codes, then why do they feel the need to mention this?  Is there a profession, perhaps with the exception of politics, where it acceptable for an individual to lie, cheat, steal, or promise things in order influence decisions that favor your position?  Alternatively, how about “Shall promote positive and minimize negative environmental impacts of educational technologies” (Table 11.2, p 297).  This subsection of the code seems random, out of place, and in some ways out of the control of practitioners. What exactly does this mean exactly?

Overall the Code of Professional Ethics offers some good advice, or guidelines for an individual to take into consideration.  Many of the items within it seem to be items that individuals can achieve and follow without much thought.  I am not saying that a practitioner will not run into issues from time to time, but the code is somewhat designed to be easy to follow.

Link to Ethics Paper