Technology Use Planning Overview

On the surface, technology use planning is easily defined by rearranging the order of words: planning for the use of technology. Digging deeper, however, requires asking specifically what this entails. What type of technology do we plan for? What length of time should this plan include? Who develops this plan? This would also suggest planning for the effective use of technology. In this post, I hope to better explain and answer these questions.

At the heart of technology use planning is the technology plan itself. A technology plan is a document developed by the technology committee of a school, district, or organization. It’s more than just a document, however. It can and should be a map, a driving force to get the school where it wants to be, and define when and how it will get there. A technology plan has the “potential for providing directions to success” (Anderson & Perry, 1994). Further, the “purpose of technology planning is not just to produce a document, but to produce continuous action that creates and maintains a technology-rich educational environment. The plan (noun) is a clear, written description of the plan (verb) that is put into action by members of the community” (Al-Weshail et al., 1996).

Thankfully, however, in effective schools, the plan is merely the physical manifestation of a major planning effort that focus[es] on improving all segments of instruction, using technology in a natural infusion process. The plan, ideally, shows to the total community that the school is dedicated to a particular goal, or set of goals, that will benefit the learners affected. Every good plan will include an aggressive thrust that extends beyond the range of ‘the ordinary’ into a level to which the entire community must strive. The plan will cause all concerned to ‘reach’ for the good stuff. (Anderson & Perry, 1994)

In 1992, Dr. John See, a technology integration specialist in Minnesota at the time, shared some innovative ideas about developing technology plans that are still useful today. He suggested that five-year plans are too long. It’s impossible to plan what type of technology will be available five years out. Instead, plans should be divided into phases, not years, with great emphasis on application rather than the technology itself. Focus on the output, not the input. What do you want teachers and students to be able to do? Then figure out what technology is needed to accomplish the goal (See, 1992).

I agree with Dr. See that technology plans need to be short-term rather than long-term in order to keep up with rapid changes in the field. However, I also believe that technology plans should have a long-term aspect, especially in regards to staff development, that builds upon the school’s overall purpose and mission.

I also agree with Dr. See’s focus on the application of technology rather than just the technology itself. This is sometimes difficult to do. I’ve learned this semester in my EdTech 551 grant writing course that a successful grant proposal is based on a need and then requests support to fulfill that need. Take the iPad as an example. Many people get excited about its features and possibilities and they want one. However, it is easy to overlook the basic question: why? What will it help teachers and students accomplish? What is the purpose? What need will it meet? If a teacher can answer these questions, he or she has a much greater chance of getting a grant proposal approved. The same principles are true when developing technology plans.

I liked Dr. See’s perspective about not separating keyboarding and the teaching of computers from what curriculum is already being taught. He notes, “It is wrong to teach about technology in isolation from other subject areas. Technical applications must be taught as part of an existing subject so students understand how technology can be a tool that makes them a more productive and powerful person” (See, 1992).

The 2010 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) calls for a “revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering” (p. ix).  This plan “recognizes that technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, and we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content, as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways” (p. ix).

If used effectively, the NETP can be a powerful resource for technology use planning. It can serve as a guide–almost a template–in the development of a school’s technology plan. One way to do this is to make sure the school’s technology plan incorporates the same five models of learning outlined in the NETP. These five models of learning are: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity. Within each model, the NETP outlines specific goals and recommendations that turn ideas into actions (p. xvi), many of which can be adapted to fit a school or district’s plan.

A detailed review and application of the NETP is outside the scope of this post, but I have read it and highlighted key phrases. A technology committee could greatly benefit by doing the same. They could use the NETP as a foundation for creating or revising their own plan and as a benchmark to measure their progress against.

I recently joined the technology committee at my children’s school here in Nepal as a parent representative, and this is the first time I have read or taken part in developing a school technology plan. So far I have only attended one meeting of the technology committee, which consists of an elementary school teacher, middle school teacher, high school teacher, technology teacher, librarian, and technology coordinator. This is a small international school with roughly 300 students in grades PK-12. Despite limited resources in this country, the school has made wonderful strides recently to improve their network capability and technology.

Their recently revised technology plan is for 2011-2014 and includes the following areas in addition to their school profile, mission, and vision: integration of learning and technology, staff development, environment (resources, labs, technology in classrooms, policies), monitoring and evaluation, implementation issues, budget, and action plan matrix. I like its vision and simplicity, and it seems to help keep the school and school board focused on technology improvement. I look forward to my service during the next two years on this committee as the school continues to seek after and embrace change.

In closing, I feel technology use planning is worth every effort in order to maximize the power of technology in our classrooms and schools. The 2010 NETP says it well:

The challenge for our education system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures…For students, using these real-world tools creates learning opportunities that allow them to grapple with real-world problems—opportunities that prepare them to be more productive members of a globally competitive workforce. (p. x-xi)

I couldn’t agree more.

References:

Al-Weshail, A. S., Baxter, A., Cherry, W., Hill, E. W., Jones, II, C. R., Love, L. T.,  . . . Montgomery, F. H. (1996, May 7). Guidebook for developing an effective instructional technology plan: Version 2.0. Mississippi State University. Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/downloads/guidebook.pdf

Anderson, L. S., & Perry, J. F. (1994, March). Technology planning: Recipe for success. National Center for Technology Planning. Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/tp_recipe.cfm

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010).
Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology.
Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010

See, J. (1992). Developing effective technology plans. The Computing Teacher, 19(8). Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm

Web 2.0 at the top of the mountain

I had the opportunity this past weekend to visit a small town called Gorkha, about 6 bumpy, dusty, cliff-clinging hours outside of Kathmandu. It was my first time out of the Valley, and I was thrilled to breathe again and be in the mountains.

My mission was to teach a group of ACCESS teachers and students about technology. This was no easy task, considering most of the students have never used a computer and Internet access is extremely limited. In addition, these students are learning English, so their skills are emerging. It was a challenge, but a fun one, and in the end was enriching for all of us.

The teachers were amazing. They teach English classes to these students, college courses to other students, volunteer large amounts of time, and juggle various professional pursuits. They were well-equipped with computer skills and were willing and gracious learners. I helped them explore Google docs and they were sold immediately on its practical application. We exchanged ideas and I felt an immediate connection with them and an appreciation for all of their efforts. It is a real challenge to incorporate technology into learning when 1) you don’t have the technology and 2) you don’t have the Internet. Yet, they are trying and hoping to head in that direction soon.I took my aunt and uncle, who happened to be in town and who are retired professors. They were great sports to make the journey. Word spread fast, and before we knew what we had gotten ourselves into, we were the “distinguished guests” of a panel in front of a room full of teachers that had come from all over to hear them speak. Though we were slightly unprepared, a lively discussion ensued and participants asked great questions about the differences of Nepali and American education systems, curriculum, outreach, and teacher training. We were even presented with a “Token of Love.”I led a few sessions with the students, and I immediately realized I wasn’t prepared. Their English skills were more limited than I anticipated and few have ever used a computer. The quiz I prepared on Internet 101 was too hard. So, I went to plan B. I pulled out my iPhone-sized projector, pop-up speakers, and iPad, and showed them some multimedia on the wall. I introduced myself and hometown of St. George, Utah, through a Keynote presentation, and showed them an iMovie trailer of their counterparts in Kathmandu. We talked about the usefulness of technology, a little about netiquette, and I challenged them to learn all they could.

They are great students: eager, willing, and polite.

We gave them some practice with a camera and printed out some photos for them. They enjoyed that. The first class I observed was about neighborhoods, and I enjoyed their list of their neighbors on the board.

While it was all a wonderful experience and I made some great contacts and connections, I came home a bit troubled. I truly believe in using technology and its power to enhance and further educational experiences. Computers and the Internet are valuable tools, nearly indispensable. But for these students, it just seems so unattainable, so unreachable, so far away. I have to ask myself, will it even help them? Do they really need all of the fancy tools and applications that most of us rely on? I’m torn, knowing that the answer is both a resounding YES and a cautionary no. I’m content knowing that they are learning English, receiving an education, and are empowering themselves to really make a difference in their lives. In the end, that’s what really matters. The rest will come, in its own time.

My new EdTech e-Journey Page

In addition to this WordPress Learning Log, where I keep  my coursework, reflections, and artifacts, I have designed a new page about my EdTech experience, with helpful links and resources. I’m sure both of these sites will evolve over time and will eventually help me with the completion of my e-portfolio prior to graduation.

In EdTech 502 this week we learned about CSS templates, which would have been like reading Greek just a few short weeks ago. Now, armed with weeks of practice, I was able to not only make sense of CSS templates, but tweak one into what I wanted. I still have a long way to go, but I am thrilled with what I’ve learned so far. I took the banner photo myself and edited it in both Illustrator and Fireworks. Check out my page!

Mobile Learning Activity: Taj Mahal

We all know technology constantly changes, and that is certainly true for browser capabilities and handheld devices. This week in EdTech 502 we were asked to create a learning activity for students to use on their handheld devices while at that location. This type of learning is valuable and opens up many opportunities, as students have access to information anywhere they go, not just at school or at home. Many of my classmates posted activities to be used at local places of interest and they had some great ideas. Since we recently visited the Taj Mahal with our young children, I designed a learning activity to be used by 3rd to 5th grade students on their mobile phones while at the Taj Mahal. It’s not very realistic, I know, but it was fun.

What was not fun, however, was configuring various CSS style pages for different devices: print, screen, and handheld. Since handheld devices and browser adaptation change so fast, it’s nearly impossible to make a website compatible on all devices. My iPhone, for example, pulls up my full website, complete with banner and graphics, even though I designed a scaled-down version with anchored links and less graphics. Sorting out these details became very frustrating.

More than anything, I enjoyed creating my banner. I clipped one of my own photos of the Taj Mahal on top of another photo of detailed inlayed gemstones. I also created custom Taj Mahal bullets. Cool.

RSS Feeds for Education


Gretel’s Shared Items on Google Reader

This is a link to a few educational technology RSS feeds I subscribe to and have shared publicly.

This week in EdTech 501, I explored RSS feeds in depth. This is a new tool for me, one I have not utilized much. If used effectively, Google Reader can save a lost of wasted time online by bringing the things I’m interested in to me, rather than me having to search for them. I included this reflection on our class forum, which I’ve copied below:

I was thrilled to dive in to RSS feeds for this assignment. I’ve been vaguely familiar with the term, and have subscribed to a few feeds in Google Reader, but I’ve never realized what a time-saving tool RSS can be. For so many reasons, I find myself wanting to use Google Reader more efficiently to minimize wasted time online. Teachers and students alike can benefit from using RSS feeds effectively.Teachers can use RSS feeds in a number of ways to make their classroom more efficient, and at the same time help their students gain some valuable time-management skills. Teachers can subscribe to their favorite blogs, journals, technology updates, news feeds, and any other curriculum material that will enhance the learning environment in their classroom. They can suggest curriculum-related sites for their students to subscribe to. Teachers can collaboratively make their own material available for others.Students can also benefit from RSS, such as subscribing to updates from the class blog, research forums, interest groups, clubs, and extracurricular activity pages. On a personal level, they can subscribe to friends’ blogs, receive news and sports updates, and keep abreast of anything of interest to them. Sharing feeds publicly could also be a good research activity for students on a given topic. If shown how to use Google Reader efficiently, students may find it to be a powerful tool.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of RSS, and why it is a tool worth mastering, is that it saves time. Rather than spending time surfing the Internet, wondering what’s new, hoping to stumble across pertinent information, teachers and students can have relevant information delivered directly to them through their feed reader. It is like having a personal assistant out there scouring the best of the web and delivering it right to your door.

Sounds good to me…

 

Introduction to Google Docs

For EdTech 502 this week, I designed a collaborative activity based on the jigsaw classroom approach by Elliot Aronson. I incorporated a table into my page, which was a little frustrating to learn, even using CSS table layout. I opted to stay simple until my skills improve. On the up side, I am getting more confident in repeated tasks each week for basic website design. The things I thought would never get easier…are getting easier.

Let’s hope this trend continues.

Horizon Report Tech Trend

Yesterday I was thrilled to discover that the ACCESS program I volunteer for is receiving a Kindle for their students. This is excellent news! They will be pre-loaded with U.S. based news, literature, and English-language instruction materials.  I’ve been asked to help train the students and teachers on how to effectively use this device. I was elated to volunteer my services and think the Kindle will be a wonderful tool for these students, most of whom have never owned a book of their own.

The funny thing is: I don’t own a Kindle. In fact, I’ve never even looked at one. I’m an iPad devotee, so I use it as an ebook reader. Now I have added incentive to purchase a Kindle, or at least become familiar with one. I have a hunch it won’t take me long to figure it out.

I’ve developed a lesson plan that will help me introduce this device to these students and their teachers. I’m not sure how to share a small handful of Kindles among a large class of students, but we’ll figure it out. One or two is better than none. These students come from underprivileged backgrounds and most have not used individual devices at all. The Kindle will open up a lot of doors for them, even if they can only use them while in class.

Since they are studying English, they will appreciate being able to look up definitions of words become familiar with American literature and newspapers.

In our EdTech 501 assignment forum this week, I made the following notes about ebook readers in general. I thought it would be useful to repost here:

1. E-books are significant in many ways and are becoming more widespread than ever. In 2010, they appeared on the mid-term horizon, but this year they were promoted to the One Year or Less horizon. This is in large part due, according to the Horizon Report 2011, to “the ready availability of both reading devices and digital content” that makes it “very easy to integrate electronic books into everyday portable computing” (HR 2011, pg. 8). In short, more people have devices that do more, thus making e-books more feasible and practical to incorporate into daily digital life. Tablets such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy have blended the ability to browse the Web with electronic books, thus creating a “new class of tools” (HR 2011, pg. 8).

The Horizon Report 2011 points out that “the most interesting aspect of electronic books, however, is not the devices they are accessed with; it is not even the texts themselves. What makes electronic books a potentially transformative technology is the new kinds of reading experiences that they make possible. (HR 2011, pg. 8)” I found this so interesting, and it caused me to reflect on reading in general and how I interact with books. It also caused me to look at how my own children learn (by engaging with the material) and it is no surprise that electronic books can really make a difference in teaching and learning. They create a new world of possibility for everyone involved: students, teachers, and publishers. The sky is the limit with what can be accomplished. Reading is no longer a solitary, words-in-print experience. It can be a social, engaging, collaborative, and tactile adventure.

2. Electronic books are directly relevant to both teaching and learning. E-books are extremely practical. They are compact, lightweight, cost-efficient, don’t age or wear, and are continually current. Even still, in order to be fully integrated in the classroom, there are real challenges, especially in education. Scholarly texts, including textbooks, must be more readily available. The Horizon Report 2011 adds that digital rights management (DRM) issues and constraints need to be sorted out, and that e-books need to be made available on all platforms. (HR 2011, pg. 9)

Steven Johnson paints a fascinating picture in the New York Times about how reading has become, for better or worse, a social activity (NYT 18 June 2010). He uses the example of “popular highlights” found on e-reader devices that keep track of what others have highlighted and then highlight the same passage on your e-book as well. He says soon we’ll be able to message, see, and interact with those other readers too. This type of collaborative reading experience may not appeal to all readers, especially since reading is often about escaping in solitude. However, this approach in a classroom setting may just what students need to engage and interact with each other. Many kids who have been less inclined to enjoy reading, may find it a more stimulating activity.

I think it is an exciting direction, and it will be fun to see how electronic books evolve during the next few years.

References:

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Steven Johnson, The New York Times, 18 June 2010