Friday, September 28, 2007

Catching up -- Imported from old blog

September 27, 2007
More people pleasing By SandyWagner
Another people issue reared its head this week. It was a simple issue and really was just a teacher who needed to feel like someone was hearing her frustration, but was not communicating it clearly. The techs were not even sure what the problem was.

Add to that the typical issue of techs sometimes seeming abrupt in their communications and you get an unhappy teacher sending email to administrators. Conversations with both the teacher and the tech staff, along with observing a class to try to diagnose the cause of the teacher's frustrations led to a very quick resolution and a teacher who is happy and confident that our tech staff is paying attention to her needs.

The teacher is happy, the techs are glad to have the teacher off their backs, and the emails have settled down. Add to that that our students are spending more time on task and less trying to get computers to work and everybody wins!

Posted on: Thu, Sep 27 2007 6:35 PM
People problems By SandyWagner
I knew coming in that one of the biggest challenges in administration is managing people. Personality conflicts, differences of opinion, and addressing poor performance are part of the job. Still, it is one of the big challenges of leadership.

Our library, particularly at our high school, has been slightly dysfunctional. A library task force was put together to attempt to make some changes. Some of these changes are not be implemented as anticipated.

In reaction to this some teachers emailed the librarian, ELA Supervisor, and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. There are some aspects of this that apply to technology integration and instruction so I got involved in the mix. The ASI and ELA Supervisor were both previously engaged, as was the building Principal. The task force, through emails, had decided to meet that very afternoon. Allowing this meeting to take place without any administrative facilitation would not have been productive to say the least.

I was fortunate in that a few other parties could not meet that afternoon either, and the meeting was postponed until Friday. I will be at that meeting, along with the ELA Supervisor. I took the opportunity to assess the situation by talking to a few of the teachers involved and the library aide. I will at least head into this meeting with a bit more information.

The most interesting information that I have gotten is that students are not permitted to use study hall time in the library to browse the internet freely without a specific written assignment from a teacher. I am shocked that a librarian would take this approach. Many of the teachers assignments are osted online, but the librarian is insiting on an assignment on paper. Am I missing a piece of this logic?

Information Literacy is still literacy and reading online is still reading. It is the place to read the most up to date information on international news, presidential candidates, as well as any other area of interest. Would a librarian tell a student not to read the newspaper? This must be addressed.

Posted on: Thu, Sep 27 2007 6:09 PM
Policy and progress By SandyWagner
When I first decided to take the position as Coordinator of Technology in this district, I thought one of my biggest challenges would be policy related. Policy here is that students will not be given access to individual email, newsgroups, or chat. OUCH!
How do I promote the use of new tools when district policy says we are not supposed to allow students to access them? It was clear coming in that I would need to promote some changes and I thought I would face opposition from administration and the tech staff. To my surprise, the tech staff is 100% behind me. Administration is a bit worried about how it will be used (as they should be). They are worried students will misuse the tools (as if they are not already doing this with the tools at home).
My argument is simple. If we are to teach students how to use these tools ethically and responsibly (as our standards tell us to), how can we justify blocking them?
The tech committee appointed a subcommittee to look at the policy. This committee agreed the policies need to change. The next step is to review the proposed changes with the superintendent (scheduled for tomorrow morning). If he agrees with the changes, he will then run the proposed changes to our legal representatives and bring them to the board for approval. We are on our way!

Posted on: Thu, Sep 27 2007 5:16 PM September 18, 2007
Frustrating, but fun. By SandyWagner

Our superintendent approached me this morning with an interesting concept. Design the ultimate classroom. He gave me a $150,000 budget for it. Of course the first reaction is to jump for joy.

I am disappointed in the assignment though. The way funding works, capital money cannot be spent on existing classrooms unless they are being completely redone. This means I can' ttake the money and just get a projector in every room. Putting 25 great machines in a room with smartboards, great sound, video conferencing, etc will be nice. The impact on teaching and student engagement would be bigger if I could put a little into every classroom.


Posted on: Tue, Sep 18 2007 10:51 AM September 12, 2007
What were the issues? By SandyWagner

In my previous post, I failed to mention what the big issues were. As I begin this journal/blog/reflection I have to remember I may not be the only one reading it.

One big issue identified was simply a lack of a clear plan to integrate new staff into the systems we have in place. It can be rather complex as they need to be entered into student information systems, payroll systems, email systems, general logins to the network, and access to specific databases depending upon the users position. The outcome... a group of all of the stakeholders will get together to formalize a process. It has been done in a very piecemeal fashion in the past and this is inefficient and leads to confusion as to who is doing what.

The other big issue is one that carries through education today across the country. Currently our students do not have email, are prohibited from online chats, newsgroups, etc. We are already in violation of our own policy in some of our uses of Moodle and our web pages. There is also a concern about linking to other pages that do not comply with our policies.

In looking at the issue, the group was unanimous in that our policy needs to change. Of they do not all agree on how it should change. A committee will be convened to work on the issue and make recommendations to the team.

I think I handled this well. It can be a sensitive issue with varied opinions and can have profound effects on what our teachers and students are permitted to do with technology. With changes coming to NCLB as well as a bill that asks us to teach "appropriate interactions on social networking websites and in chat rooms" (Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, S. 1965) we will clearly need to make changes.

Posted on: Wed, Sep 12 2007 11:23 AM September 11, 2007
The Technology Planning Team By SandyWagner

I just held my first District Technology Planning Team meeting. I was a bit apprehensive. It is early in the school year and like most districts, some things have started smoothly, some have not.

The meeting went well. I didn’t do anything fancy. No cookies, not cute videos. I began with our district goals and made clear to the group that this was why we were together.

Obviously, the hot issues took the most time. I am impressed with the level of understanding and even research that some of our administrators come to a meeting with. Some came in with their own research and articles on issues of social networking. I had volunteers to work on a committee to review district technology policy. Volunteers!

This group was clearly together to tackle issues, not complain. I was relieved and impressed. There is a good possibility I came to the right place. They just need someone to put it all together. I hope I am the one.

Posted on: Tue, Sep 11 2007 3:13 PM September 5, 2007
First Days of School By SandyWagner

So, school has begun. Teachers started yesterday and students came back today. It is almost lunchtime and I am feeling very disconnected. In the past I have always been with students or helping techers get technology up and running. So far, I have spent the day in the office chasing around gremlins in logins to our systems. This does not feel like it has much to do with our kids.

The importance here is to remember why all of this needs to be done at every minute. I am making sure our teachers can accurately record attendance information quickly and effectively. I am ensuring that the district can then get this data back. Tracking this information reliably will help our school identify those at risk. It will tell us which parents we need to communicate with, and which students need our attention.

Sure... this part of the job is not directly related to student performance... or is it? Can more accurate monitoring of attendance allow usto identify our at-risk students earlier? Can earlier intervention with these students keep them in school and improve their academics? I believe it can, so I continue to make sure the data can be recorded accurately by all. Not a very exciting day, but an important one.
Posted on: Wed, Sep 5 2007 11:29 AM

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