Monday, December 14, 2009

Technology Action Plan

Introduction:



Technology in Pearland ISD is ubiquitous, and growing. The district recently "tweeted" one high school's actions in a state football semi-finals football game. Podcasts tell the community of news in the district. An online survey last week gathered input regarding a proposed magnet school in the district. An online program allows teachers to update grades and lesson plans 24/7, and allows parents to access their students' grades in real time. However, as good as all that sounds, the district's implementation of technology to aid student learning is still somewhat weak. This action plan will help to address that weakness and raise students' learning and success to an even higher level. In developing this plan, I interviewed instructional technology specialists, administrators, teachers, and students. I studied the district's improvement plan, and its technology improvement plan. I also analyzed our STaR chart data for the last several years, and observed teacher uses of technology day-to-day in their classes.



Organization chart: (see below)



In the Pearland Independent School District, policy for all district programs is set by the Board of Trustees, and implemented by the Superintendent, including technology programs and expenditures. The Director of Technology Services reports to the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. This does not imply that technology services affect only secondary education, but rather reflects an emphasis by the district to share the responsibility load among the various assistant superintendents. The Director of Technology Services oversees both the hardware and software sides of the district's efforts, supervising the district's Instructional Technology Coordinator, who is responsible for student learning through technology, and the telecommunications, network, and technology specialists who ensure the systems are up and running. This person also oversees the district's Student Information Manager, who is responsible for the implementation of the PEIMS system, as well as the grade book and data management program Skyward. On the other side of the chart is the district's Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. This individual supervises the district's curriculum specialists, who work closely with the instructional technologists to identify and implement programs and products that will enhance students' learning.

The secondary campus principals also report to the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. On their campuses, they closely coordinate and work with the Site-Based Decision Making (SBDM) teams to establish and review the campus' educational plans, goals, performance objectives, and major classroom instructional programs. Among other things, the SBDM and principal work together to discuss the effectiveness of current technology, and identify new needs or adjustments to current offerings. On each campus there is a Campus Instructional Technology Specialist (CITS) who works not only to implement technology on that campus, but also to train the teachers in using the available technology. On most campuses, this person works closely with teachers and offers just-in-time training on the use of technology. For example, a teacher might want to implement a lesson about a particular new math concept, or review students before a test, and the CIT will help to set up an interactive clicker activity which will help accomplish that goal, helping the teacher learn how to use it just before the students need it.

Most importantly, however, are the relationships this organization chart does not show. On this chart, departments and divisions appear clearly delineated and compartmentalized. However, this is far from the truth. The CITS work with campus teachers, obviously, but also with the campus SBDM to help to determine needs and to review available resources. The teachers work closely with curriculum and instruction specialists to develop new ways to teach needed concepts. The CITS and Instructional Technology Specialists coordinate closely with the Curriculum specialists and with teachers to determine what technology will help meet their needs. A series of overlapping circles would better depict many of these relationships, than this straightforward progression of rectangles.





Professional Development:



Pearland ISD has a strong emphasis on technology, which can only be accomplished when all of its teachers, curriculum specialists, and even classroom paraprofessionals are best able to diagnose students' educational needs and meet them the best ways possible. Today, meeting those needs can be well accomplished through new technological advances.

First, however, students' needs must be accurately assessed. That happens through the district's myriad data gathering avenues. TAKS test scores are certainly one source of data, but the district also administers TAKS release tests annually, administers End-of Course field tests, TAKS field tests, and students' course grades. Additionally, the district has access to mobility information, socioeconomic status, discipline information, course grade and test performance history, at-risk status, and other demographic information. In order for educators to be able to use this data to help students, they first must be able to delve into its depths for meaningful information. The district has two sources from which such information can be mined. The first is the Skyward program, which tracks PEIMS data and student grades. The Eduphoria suite of programs are a second tool, through which the Aware component allows sorting and management of all quantifiable test data to which it has access. Not only are student's TAKS and release TAKS scores tracked in this system, but these data can be fully disaggregated. Students' full profile of strengths and weaknesses can be easily accessed. Teacher training for this area will consist of an initial, brief, in-person session which will help teachers simply see the types of data and its uses they can access via this system. Additional online tutorials will be made available so that when teachers need or want to access particular types of data, they simply need to access the online training for step-by-step instructions about how to access it, parse it, disaggregate it, and use it.

Secondly, teachers have access to a wealth of technologies which they either are completely unfamiliar with using, or have only a passing awareness of its existence. These technologies are myriad, and include interactive white boards, slates, graphing calculators, clickers, and other tools. Additionally, teachers have access to a wealth of programs that also will help with student learning, from word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs, to programs specifically designed to help students with particular subjects such as math. To help here, we will host a technology round-robin training day. Teachers will be allowed to select eight 30-minute sessions during the day, based on their wants and needs, and then rotate into and out of those sessions during that day. After the training day, all of the presentations and training materials will be stored on the district's web server, so that teachers can access them 24/7 either onsite or offsite.

Finally, and most importantly, teachers need the ability to brainstorm ways to leverage these technologies into totally new learning experiences for students. Simply using a new technology to teach an old lesson is no longer enough. Instead, the school's schedule will be adjusted so that every other Thursday morning, classes start an hour late. Students will arrive to school at their normal time, and be supervised in the library and cafeteria by paraprofessionals and administrators. Teachers will convene in subject-area and grad-level teams during alternating sessions. During these times, they will brainstorm and discuss upcoming lessons and topics of study, and seek ways to capitalize on overlaps and needs. Additionally, study teams will research best practices in project-based learning, and share these ideas during these meetings.

In short, this new learning will enable teachers to pinpoint needs, identify the technologies that are available to meet those needs, then have the time and information needed in order to effectively meet those needs and challenge students to new ways of learning.





Evaluation:



Evaluation is a means by which a program's effectiveness can be determined. If this program is successful, we will begin to see teachers accessing the online training more, and more frequently. Hit counters will make it easy to see whether this occurs. Additionally, teachers will begin to mention and use technology more often in their lesson plans. The online lesson planning software has check-boxes on which teachers can indicate what technology they are using, and monitoring this is a simple matter of pulling a report. Additionally, teachers will be using technology in a more innovative fashion, helping students turn from mere consumers of information to creators of knowledge. Monitoring and evaluating this area will occur during administrators' classroom walkthroughs and observations. Additionally, teachers' use of their web pages will increase significantly, as will the value of the information posted on web pages. Rather than a simple teacher biography, the web pages will begin to show items such as homework assignments and links to useful online resources. Teachers also will begin to create class blogs and/or wikis, for students to use in online learning. They also will share lesson plans and ideas via the Eduphoria program. Further and deeper use, disaggregation, and mining will occur much more often, and teachers will use the data to better understand and meet student needs.

From the Curriculum side, curriculum specialists and instructional technologists will team more closely to research, pinpoint, and share innovate means of using technology to help students learn. Most importantly, the curriculum specialists can research innovative lessons and projects that will more effectively help students use technology to reach higher levels of learning.

The technology department also will continue to research innovative learning technologies, focusing on the newest hardware and software available. They will work with the curriculum specialists to again identify helpful uses for the technologies, focusing on student learning rather than on innovation solely for the sake of innovation.

The district also will use technology more, and more creatively, to communicate with parents and other stakeholders. Training for parents and students about the new Skyward grade program will occur each semester. School and district web sites will be enhanced to include a question/comment section, on which parents and other stakeholders can pose questions that will be answered by district personnel. The district will improve its use of the Twitter technology, "tweeting" about district happenings and enlisting parents and other stakeholders to sign up for its Twitter feed. The district also will enhance its own use of administrative technology, including continuing to create and distribute podcasts, provide online audio recordings of board meetings, and utilize the TASB Policy Online portal. Additionally, teachers and administrators will make greater use of other online tools, including scheduling meetings via Microsoft Outlook.

When teachers and administrators attend professional development sessions, exit surveys will occur to measure their perception of the value of the training. Additionally, follow-up surveys annually will ask what trainings they perceived as most valuable, what they are and are not using that they saw in those trainings, and what they would like to learn in the coming year. The district's annual climate survey also will include questions about the perceptions of the effectiveness of technology use and levels of technology comfort throughout the district.

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