Friday, April 27, 2007

The Frustrations of a Newbie the arenas of Special Ed

Where do you see the information from today’s workshop making the greatest impact in your school?

It has been only 10 days since participating in Will Richardson’s seminar and so many emotions have been stirring inside me. As a “technology immigrant” there has been much bewilderment and panic. The first evening, I was discussing with my husband what I had learned and the impact that the Web 2.0 technologies could have on the field of education. Since his career is not in education, it was difficult for him to understand the daily challenges that I deal with as an administrator and the very small opportunities that are available to discuss vision.

And since that evening, when I bring up the subject of this workshop, the first reaction that I receive is this glazed look that I am speaking a foreign language! Then it usually moves into a couple of directions of having no time to do one more thing in my day …and then it will land on the “morality” topic that students will explore areas of the internet that are inappropriate. Also, sprinkled in the conversation is the NCLB and AYP that is dealt with on a daily basis.

My frustration is how do you open the eyes of colleagues to this huge paradigm shift that is occurring in education. I am asking them to just be aware and a “try it you might like it” view?

Since the workshop, I have had discussion with a couple of the other attendees around other staff about the topic. Even in these discussions, I am surprised about their views of the material that was presented and where they see its application in our own organization. There is the fear of…we are not there yet.

Then there is the lack of discovery of these technologies in the arenas of Special Education, Speech Pathology, and Assistive Technology. I have not discovered very many bloggers or other technologies on the Web 2.0. When I was reviewing the preconference workshops for the Closing the Gap (National AT Conference), I was holding my breath that perhaps there would be a topic of the use of these technologies as one of the sessions. Another disappointment. It as if this part of the Internet is unknown or being ignored in these arenas.

So back to my response to the question …after reflecting on the past 10 days, I have decided that as in past endeavors, I will start small. I will find staff that are like-thinkers of mine…and encourage them to explore this new area with me. I will continue my daily hour of reading articles in my aggregate reader, adding to my blog of and wait with bated breath for a comment to appear. Then at that time, perhaps the impact will begin.

I have included the following article some ideas for moving forward with these ideologies with staff. The ones that appeal are:

· Action Learning Teams.

o These teams could be created during the summer with an overview of these technologies and information about how to get started.

Then throughout the school year have staff include these topics in their blogs:

· Frame specific teacher behavior for technology use

· Expectation of certain design elements in lessons to occur

· Acknowledge instructional delivery that has been observed

· Redefine effective teacher communication to parents and educational teams

· Effect on student outcomes

Using A Web 2.0 Credo to Help Frame Administrative Actions

I really want my whole staff to start blogging. And to have individual web pages. And to encourage students to self-publish. And to create on-line tutorials…and…and…and…

And that’s my challenge. (OK, I started to say problem, but it really IS a challenge.) I want my whole campus to embrace technology and implement as much cutting-edge innovation as possible. I want a true “Web 2.0” campus.

But how best to proceed?

Our district began Action Learning Teams (ALTs) last year as the primary means of professional staff development. There was an “implied” mandate that each team would create and maintain a blog. Honestly, so far it’s been a mixed-bag of results. But it does raise the issue of requiring someone to blog – or for that matter, requiring anyone to use ANY form technology in their classroom.

Thus my challenge… As the principal, do I mandate that every teacher on my campus create and maintain a web page and blog on our school’s web site? It is one of my goals for taking the whole school into the world of WEB 2.0, but how effective is any strategy, or program that is dictated from the top and not necessarily bought into by the entire staff?

Rather than twist arms, cajole, bribe, threaten…or, worst of all, dictate, I would much prefer that my staff see for themselves the direct and tangible educational benefits of having a web page and blog. The idea of posting assignments, tracking data, keeping a calendar for the students, providing tutorials with posted podcasts, having on-line dialogue with students, parents and other teachers, etc. are all ideas I will be exploring with staff in future inservice meetings.

But the immediate issue remains as to how I can effectively INFLUENCE my staff into the directions I want them to go. Modeling is certainly one I’m using. (And yes, I do have teachers coming to me and asking, “how can I start doing that?” )

All of this has led me to the idea of writing a “credo” that states my philosophy and can be used to frame expectations for future directions on the campus. As I attempt to move my campus in the “Web-, Classroom-, Campus-2.0” direction, I am going to actively promote the following:

Our Campus Web 2.0 Credo

  • Believing that all Web 2.0 educational endeavors are populist not elitist in nature, equal and full access to technology for learning will be a guaranteed right of all students on this campus.
  • Every student is entitled to an education that includes on-going opportunities for involvement with and participation in web-based learning communities.
  • Web Literacy** will be considered of equal value to all other forms of literacy.
  • Student self-expression, initiative, intuition, and exploration within the Web 2.0 environment are to be promoted with as few outside rules and as little authoritarian supervision as practical for an educational environment.

My plan is to APPLY and PROMOTE the credo on my campus. I believe that in doing so, combined with my on-going modeling, my staff will gradually follow me into compliance and a sense of buy-in will slowly evolve.

With this as a campus credo, it is axiomatic that all staff must become familiar with “2.0” trends and technology. In their posts of April 13 and 21, Joe Poletti and Barbara Barreda raise outstanding and highly relevant questions regarding the “tools and the instruments we use to reflectively guide and support the faculty.”

I will propose that if we START with a credo or philosophy such as I am proposing for my campus, we can begin to:

  • frame specific teacher behaviors to watch for (what “2.0” lesson components was the teacher modeling in the lesson?);
  • expect certain types of design elements to be common place (what “2.0” types of activities are included in the week’s lesson plans?);
  • watch for specific instructional delivery models (what specific “2.0 type” activity was observed in a walk-through or observation?);
  • redefine effective teacher communication being observed (does the teacher use a blog or web page to communicate with students, parents, other staff?); and
  • measure student outcomes in 2.0 terms (has the student self-published?, posted to a wiki?, etc.)

**With thanks to Will Richardson who pointed out that my original wording “Computer Literacy” was inconsistent with what I was really after here. It’s not the machine I want students literate with, it’s the information the computer allows us to connect to. Thus, I’ve change the original posting to Web Literacy…it does hit closer to my true intent.

1 comment:

Scott McLeod said...

You ask, "How do you open the eyes of colleagues to this huge paradigm shift that is occurring in education?" How did you start making this shift? To what information sources and workshops were you exposed that started moving you forward? How can you get more of your folks exposed to these transformative experiences?

Maybe this will help: