Colin's Sandbox

Technology Planning

Keep on rocking: Reflection on #aktechplan week 6

by on Dec.10, 2013, under Technology Planning

As I was stomping through the woods these past two days looking for deer, I spent a lot of time wondering why we don’t spend more time using the outdoors as our classroom, and I keep coming back down to the block of time / management overhead / expense / logistical hurdles and it’s a bit of a shame.  For every subject I could think of to be explored at the primary and secondary levels, be it math, science, reading, history, humanities, the arts, and so on, there’s something to be added from the environment that we live in.   Sometimes I get down at being in the educational technology sphere in a state with such underwhelming bandwidth, high teacher turnover, limited expertise and experience in the technology field, but we could be playing to our strengths and that I feel is often right outside our door.

From reading the blog posts and comments This week I think folks in this class really enjoyed having the venue to describe their thoughts on creativity’s place in technology planning.  I was expecting a video or comic strip about it, but I think people really had a lot of *stuff* to put out there, with nuances, that apparently wouldn’t fit easily in other mediums.  Chris did make a pretty nifty graphic, but it too was packed with goals, elaborations, and the like.  I think if we took the maxim “A picture is worth a thousand words” and did this week over again I think we could get some rather nifty ideas about what creativity’s place in tech planning.  I’ll give it a shot here from a quick web search, of what I would like to see more of in technology in education:

Note that just about everyone, with the exception of the girl on the left with a blue coat, is totally engaged.  I’m sure there’s a lot of ways we can incorporate technology into this (I’m thinking using Evernote to take pictures and notes for later creative use), but first things first: there’s a discussion going on with [just about] the whole class taking part.  We need to make sure that technology doesn’t interfere with this important aspect.

Now we’re down to the final final final stretch I’m looking at what’s in front of me to do writing wise and presentation wise and I’m a little intimidated to be sure.  I have much to do in the next couple of days, not a whole lot of time to do it in, but I feel well prepared to get it done at least.  I have really enjoyed the discussion that our small class has generated and have really enjoyed the feel of getting outside the box so to speak as far as tech planning goes.  Thanks everyone for the discussion.

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#aktechplan Vision of Creative Leadership

by on Dec.08, 2013, under Technology Planning

I’m having a difficult time writing this week’s post.  I’m soon leaving my position at SERRC, one in which I’ve held for roughly 8 years, to focus on my graduate school work.  I think it’s the right call – but it throws in a snag, a writer’s block.  The various components we’ve studied in this course, from the first look at the technology plan, to the strategic plan, to examining your group’s professional development practices in greater detail, and so forth, these are all seen in a different light for me; more foreign perhaps.  There’s some areas where I go back and forth between negativity on one end balanced with the more objective “areas for improvement” on the other.  I’m hoping to feel more objective as I move through some writing this week.

I was going to stick with the pixton.com outlet for this week’s post but there’s just too much *stuff* that I saw as I went through the reading.  In order to overcome the writer’s block therefore, I turned to my tried and true standby, essentially an unordered bulleted list.

So, without further ado, a snapshot of my thoughts on creative leadership after this week’s reading (Robinson, chap 9-10):

Organizations as systems

Almost right off the bat the work of Frederick Taylor was mentioned at length in chapter 9 of Robinson.  Suddenly certain aspects of how enterprises are structured totally made sense to me, particularly the categorization of job positions, roles, managerial tasks.  It would seem there’s a naturally tendency for large (read stodgy) institutions to develop and refine this over time, particularly in long intervals between disruptive innovations.  I would claim that we need these disruptions to challenge us, provide us a sense of mission, a narrative to be a part of.  Hoo-rah!

Culture of learning

The example brought up of Pixar’s internal university was apt.  I really enjoyed that all employees are able to participate across the different options because the focus is for everyone to be a part of the movie making process.  I have had the pleasure of touring parts of the studio before and it is amazing.  A really neat art exhibit, large open spaces where people can work away from their office / workspace, lots of good light (can’t say enough about how important that is), and the guy I was visiting who worked there is hooked, totally engaged, and is 100% on board with the movie making mission.  Culture win.

Collaboration vs. cooperation

A small piece, but I will re-quote this from a unit trust manager that Robinson interviewed because I think this represents a big change in how one views the world, and their work within it: “I began to delegate, realizing that actually others were more competent than me.  I began to listen, rather than compete with others to produce the cleverest answer.”

Teaching for Creativity: Encouraging, Identifying, Developing

I read this section and thought, “Every student, even in the secondary grades needs a teacher that’s checking in with their studies and could work with the student on these three things”.  For me that role was primarily held by my parents.  In some institutions it can be the counseling staff.  My own personal experience was that there were far too few interactions between myself and the academic counseling staff to have much sway one way or another.

Emphasis on balance of assessment (diagnostic, formative, summative)

I enjoyed Robinson’s discussion on the current state of the assessment culture of our education systems, one in which the primary focus is on summative assessment due to the oft-cited “high stakes” nature of the tests.  I have mixed feelings about this topic to be sure, and I don’t think I’m alone out there.  I have seen from afar efforts to get data during the diagnostic and formative stage, and teachers I’ve spoken to do look at the data.  Their complaints seem to largely stem from the amount of time it takes away from instruction as well comments that reflect the Elliot Eisner quote mentioned in Robinson: “Not everything important is measurable, and not everything measurable is important”.

Other Areas Open to Innovation

I was intrigued by the “democratically run studio” (Room 13) mentioned in Robinson, all staffed by children who were not even in high school (ages 8-11).

Service Learning – What are some examples that you can think of where it’s been effectively done in an existing school?

Standards-based grading – I would like to see arguments against standards-based report cards.  It seems like a logical evolution away from the {A,B,C,D,F} grading set that I find many faults with.

 

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#aktechplan reflection for week 6

by on Nov.26, 2013, under Technology Planning

I’m trying to figure out what place art should have in a technology plan such as SERRC’s. Our agency’s mission is to provide support services to districts around the state, as well as adult education. There is some direct student services involved as well, but I don’t think that directly teaching art to students is something that SERRC has done, nor do I think it fits into the mission.

Creativity is another matter, for I see that as something to strive for in how we deliver our services to our clients. Creativity is inherent in the process by which we find, customize, and develop processes in a more efficient, responsive manner. Creativity is knowing intuitively how the pieces fit together to be able to develop something novel to meet some new need. Creativity is intensely difficult to quantify; its firmly planted in the qualitative domain. You can whittle away at aspects of the evaluation of an individual artifact and develop quantizations of desired qualities, but still there would remain some amount of *something* that one could summarize with “creativity”. I think you can’t mandate “creativity” more than you can mandate “coolness” but I think it is possible to create environments where creatively may be subjectively judged and the environment nudged one way or another in response for future evaluation periods. I’m just going to make this leap: does an emphasis on project based learning result in more creativity? Does an emphasis on supporting project based learning belong in a tech plan? The State of Washington would seem to think so:

The rise of data-driven instruction and monitoring, and the call for critical thinking skills, collaborative scholarship and creative, project-based learning intensifies the need for technology-enriched instruction across districts large and small.

Imagine a project involving designing a solution to a real world engineering problem, say designing a second crossing over to the Douglas Island from Juneau. Let’s say a junior team of planners and engineers is on the task, develop ing a plan (and alternatives potentially) to balance different factors such as: environmental impact, traffic density, future growth expectations, and the costs associated with each alternative.  I believe complex projects like this with no clear right or wrong answer would yield great benefits.

I made a conscious effort this week to get out to more people’s blogs this week.  Matt mentioned in his blog: “it seems like our correspondence has been minimal. I can’t quite rap my head around why this is” – and I think this is something useful to track.  I don’t know how much research has been done in online classes in an open environment such as this but there would seem to be a threshold on the number of interactions a person has in a week, beyond which they are fully engaged, and below which the motivation drops precipitously.  The more of others’ work I read, the more it helps me keep in the game upstairs, even when I have other assignments that are more pressing.  Commenting / blogging just flows easier for me than “serious” writing.  Someone once described it to me as a coffee klatch sort of feel.  I agree.  I hope that my commenting helps keep others in the game as well but  I can understand a bit of the tedium with seeing the same people’s work pretty often. For this class, perhaps right after Thanksgiving would be good to have a WebEx or Google Hangout on occasion to go over a loose set of topics and have free time for a discussion penciled in.  Final push to the end.

Happy Thanksgiving, from Google Image Search

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Role of art, collaboration, and emotional intelligence to technology planning (#aktechplan week 6)

by on Nov.22, 2013, under Technology Planning

I find it hard to conceptualize either a technology or strategic plan that evokes “creativity” outside of the mission statement area.  Its use and measure is seemingly just so subjective.  Instead of simply using the nebulous term “creativity” I would emphasize the ability of technology in the differentiation of student output while still meeting coursework objectives as a start.  In addition of stressing the importance of topics of “emotional intelligence” and “self-actualization” I would mention how computers can help students reach a worldwide network of peers with whom they can turn to for collaboration ideas, critical evaluation, encouragement, and opportunities to mentor others.

When it comes to examining SERRC’s most recent tech plan, there’s no mention of either art or any sort of emotional intelligence.  Specific mention of the word “collaboration” is found in a few different spots; namely between management and staff, between the agency (SERRC) and other leadership organizations, and between members of the technology committee.  In the technology goals explicitly spelled out, there’s two tools that in particular that are commonly used in what I would classify as a collaborative sense: WebEx, and Google Apps.  However, there’s no justification given for using these, simply that they are to be setup (WebEx) rolled out (Google Apps) and that staff would be trained on their use.  There are no benchmarks given for the evaluation of these goals.

It seems as though with all this catering we’re being seemingly being called upon to meet, it makes my head spin around a bit. I created this quick comic to demonstrate what I thought of when I think of the various warring factions all attempting to guide planning in their own interests (click to view full screen):

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#aktechplan Reflections, week 5

by on Nov.18, 2013, under Technology Planning

Robinson (2011) is of course very readable but I had a hard time making the leap from chapter 6 of “Out of Our Minds” to this week’s essential question: “What is your vision for technology in schools?”.  Instead I found myself supplementing my reading with some side tracks on Social Construction of Technology, whereby “human action shapes technology” (Wikipedia, Social construction of technology), in contrast with Technological Determinism, which “seeks to show technical developments, media, or technology as a whole, as the key mover in history and social change” (Kunz, as cited in Wikipedia, Technological determinism).  Whenever I get burrowed, however minor, into a philosophical discussion with diametrically opposing theories I get to thinking of two apes scraping lines in the ground in front of them gesticulating wildly, indicating that it can only be their way.  Doesn’t the answer truly lie somewhere in between?  Is society strictly SimCity like where an inexorable march towards some as-yet-unknown technological future is in the cards, a la Asimov’s “Foundation” series?  Or does society play a big hand in determining what advances they choose to pursue to greater or lessor degree based on what is currently known?  I would like to think the latter.

Dwelling over this topic at the airport before my next flight, I had no idea that my next location was one in which access to the Internet was a scant luxury compared to what I was used to.  Over the past few days it’s been somewhat tough to get online, due to a variety of factors.  How we take access everywhere for granted these days, even at schools!  That experience grounded my vision for technology into something akin to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”; developing a great tech presence is dependent on underlying factors.

Due to the limited Internet connectivity I had some difficulty checking out Chris’ blog, which may have to wait until I get back home I fear.  I really do like the efforts others are putting into expressing their views creatively in their blogs, and I look forward to being able to contribute in kind in the weeks ahead.

References

Technological determinism (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 18, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_determinism

Social construction of technology (n.d.).  In Wikipedia.  Retrieved November 18, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_construction_of_technology

Kunz, William M. (2006). Culture Conglomerates: Consolidation in the Motion Picture and Television Industries. Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 2. ISBN 0742540669.

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