September 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
Yes, I did just quote from Chicago 17.
Today was “Throwback Thursday” at La Vernia High School for Homecoming week, and I’ve had a couple of things come up today that fit perfectly with the theme of the day.
To begin with, our district locksmith came into my office this morning and asked if I could help him get past a password he’d forgotten on his personal laptop.
He proceeded to plunk down on my desk, a 20th century relic. An IBM Thinkpad running Windows 98.
It was actually in really good shape! The security on those, by the way, was stellar. In order to bypass the user name and password screen we had to press the escape key. No jiggity.
The other thing that reminded me of throwbacks, or old habits, was this evening. I had my Chromebook with me and I went to the kitchen to wash my hands. I very carefully set the laptop on the edge of the counter but left it open because somewhere in the back of my mind, closing the lid would have meant losing that page I had been reading.
So that got me thinking, not just about me, but about all of us. All of our teachers. How many of them are stuck in a habit that’s hard to break because somehow, it’s hard-wired into their brains?
I knew for a fact that if I closed the lid on my Chromebook that when I opened it again, the page I was reading would be right there in front of me, yet my first instinct was to leave it open and precariously balanced on the counter.
How many of us make life harder for ourselves because we’re stuck in old technology habits? How many teachers got yelled at once or made to feel stupid for doing something a little bit wrong with a piece of technology, and have been afraid to try anything new since?
Who had a bad experience on Twitter, or AOL, or Compuserve, and decided to never try again?
Our mission as technologists is to get people to push past these things and break their habits, or phobias, or whatever it is that’s holding them back. We have to be ambassadors of technology. We have to be the hand holders, but we also can’t do it alone.
We need help from administrators. We need the expectation that teachers will use the technology that they have to communicate, collaborate, and to teach differently.
We can’t just write these people off. We have to help them get there. We have to be the inspiration.
September 25, 2013 § Leave a comment
September 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
I attended the Region 20 Eduphoira customer appreciation event last week, which is basically just a mini conference for Eduphoria users. The opening and closing sessions are run by the CEO of the company, and the breakout sessions are geared toward use of the different modules within Eduphoria.
This is the second year (I think) for the event, and I like going because Colin, the CEO, give everyone a preview of where Eduphoria is heading and what’s coming up for the company. The big takeaway for me this year was the ability for districts that are currently hosted by Eduphoria to have an LDAP sync in the very near (as in, within the next month) future. Districts that are self-hosted have always had the option to sync accounts, and it was a great benefit in my previous job because it was one more account our department didn’t have to create, and one more password the users didn’t have to remember.
After the closing session, there was a brain storming session, and even though less than a dozen of us stuck around for it, I think it was the most valuable part of the day for me.
I love talking with smart people, and brainstorming is a wonderful way to talk about the what-ifs and come up with new ideas, as well as (for me, anyway) bringing clarity to things that may not have been crystal clear.
I brought back two things from the brainstorming session: I finally understood what Pinterest was all about, and how it could be very useful for education and I also came away with a deeper understanding of the challenges we all face as educators.
The big talk nowadays is data. Everything is data driven, and during the course of our brainstorming session, we talked a LOT about data, because data is what Eduphoria is all about. The biggest piece of their software suite (Aware) deals with data disaggregation. The discussion lead toward what Eduphoria is ultimately trying to do, which is look at your data (test scores) and tie that in to professional development. We talked about how Eduphoria could be the “genius” and suggest professional development pieces to teachers based on their data. Colin also talked about how they look at the different data pieces and try to pull them apart to give teachers and administrators a good picture of where students are at.
At the very end of the discussion, a question was posed: what measure effectiveness?
This sparked a response from me, which I wrote down in the Google doc I was taking notes in:
schools are not research institutions…we do not measure students with a control set in a controlled environment, so actual measurement is very difficult because there are so many external factors
So this is where the title of this post comes from. What, exactly are professional educators? We are part scientist, who look at data and try to extrapolate and correlate that with how are students are doing and where they will be at the end of the year. We are also part artist, trying to put together a mural of all of our students and paint a picture that all of them, with all of their different talents and world experiences, will see an understanding in. We are also part parent, sibling, best friend, counselor, and so many other things.
Trying to put all of that into a single test score that an administrator or legislator or board member can look at doesn’t do any justice to all of the things that fantastic educators do on a daily basis. Sometimes, there is just no way to measure a student in the timeframe of a single school year. Sometimes, you just have to wait it out.
Numbers don’t tell the whole picture, and they never will. We need to start describing ourselves as more than the test scores our students produce. We need to make people see us as experts in dealing with all sorts of children, whether they come from rich or poor families, whole or broken homes, and the plethora of other things that teachers have to handle every day before they can even think about getting kids motivated to learn.
Educators really are superheros. We have the unique ability to make a child love or hate a subject with the way we talk and teach about it. If you haven’t lately, go back and watch Talor Mali’s “What teachers make” and see how much of it you’re nodding your head through.
September 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
So, in case you missed it (and it’s entirely possible that you did, because I didn’t blog about it here), I have a new job.
I have finally achieved my goal.
I am now the Technology Director in La Vernia ISD. Yay me!
I’ve spent the better part of the past month trying to get my bearings. The previous director retired at the end of June, which was well before I was brought on board, or even had the job. In the interim, the woman who is the Instructional Technology Coordinator filled is as the director. She’s been in the district for a long time, so she knows a lot, but has only been in the department since January.
Needless to say, I’ve been asking a lot of questions over the past month.
It’s taken some adjustment, but I think I’m finally starting to settle in. There are an awful lot of things that the Tech Director of a 3A school district does that larger districts have specific people (or entire departments) to do.
One of my most unique challenges to date is learning about virtual machines. The majority of the district runs thin clients, and they’ve invested a lot of time and money into them, so it’s on me to work with our vendors to ensure we’re getting the most out of them.
Which brings me to my second unique challenge: vendors basically serving as my network admins. I really need to figure out how this is supposed to work, because supposedly, in the past, these folks were stellar. In the month that I’ve been there, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of communication and timely response to emails. I know we’re all going through a transition, but if I was a vendor, I wouldn’t be resting on my laurels when the new guy came in, I’d be busting my hump to make sure everything was taken care of so that the new guy didn’t start asking “what are we paying these people for?”
I’ve been a bit quiet in the past about my feelings about work, and have focused on mainly ed tech type stuff, but I think being in charge is going to allow me to be a bit more free with my expression, at least with those companies that want so desperately to earn a portion of my budget.
The biggest part of settling in, though, is going to be learning to trust and delegate. I’m still trying to learn the what knowledge and skills the folks in my department have, and until I know who can do what, I’m falling back to my old role of the help desk guy who is just trying to fix everything for everyone. I’m finding that I can’t do that effectively and still do the administrative portion of my job. I can’t be the social media guy, and the ipad fixer, laptop fixer, network fixer, server updater, erate getter, and all of the other little things that I need to do. I have to learn to delegate better. I have to learn to trust my department. I have to learn to give up control because now it all falls on me, but I can’t do it all.