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Technology in Education: The Houston Landscape Stephanie Sandifer, Technology Coach, Houston A+ Challenge February 2012 “As educators, our challenge is to match the needs of our learners to a world that is changing with great rapidity. To meet this challenge, we need to become strategic learners ourselves by deliberately expanding our perspectives and updating our approaches.” – Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Curriculum 21, 2010 In alignment with Houston A+ Challenge’s values of creativity, innovation and collaboration, and within the scope of the work throughout the Challenge Network schools, this document provides an overview of the current landscape of technology in education across the Houston area with respect to the levels of technology integration, learner-focused activity, and “connectivity” as it relates to pedagogy, andragogy, and professional collaboration activities. This document also outlines a vision and potential “action steps” and policy recommendations for developing 21stCentury "Connected Learning" – at all levels and among all stakeholders – using a variety of emerging technologies. Advancements in technology have impacted all aspects of our world. We have transitioned from an industrial-based society to a globally connected information-based society. While many aspects of our life, our work, our economy and society have shifted to include – by necessity – technologyfacilitated and technology-enhanced connectivity, the general structure, arrangement and pedagogy of our classrooms have remained primarily “industrial” in nature. Based on an understanding of these facts, Houston A+ Challenge is adopting and promoting models of and for “Connected Learning” and “Connected Working/Collaboration” that leverage available emerging technologies. We must “become strategic learners ourselves by deliberately expanding our perspectives and updating our approaches” across all of our work, collaboration, and initiatives. Observations, interviews, and teacher surveys conducted in Challenge Network schools for this analysis indicate a relatively low level of technology use in the classroom that is primarily teachercentered, and a level of technology use for professional learning that is primarily limited to the use of email for communications, the use of standard productivity software, and the use of districtprovided applications for administrative tasks (eg: gradebooks, SIS). These six campuses (which span five school districts) are representative of many Houston-area schools in terms of available resources, current state of technology integration, and instructional methods used in the classrooms. Overall, the general landscape of educational technology across Houston is very uneven, with some exciting pockets of innovation and promising pilots scattered across districts. However, these pockets of innovation and pilot programs are few and far between. Many students in our classrooms, especially in low-income areas, are not experiencing powerful, authentic, and meaningful student-centered use of globally connected digital tools.


Teachers’ self-reported use of technology was in agreement with observations and walkthrough data. The chart at left shows how teachers' selfreported use of dozens of different digital tools indicates that the uses of the tools are limited primarily to teachercentered use such as PowerPoint or SMART Boards for lecturing or whole class instruction. Student use of technology is often limited to skill-specific software or word processing. However, during interviews and within the teacher survey results, there is an expressed interest in expanding the use of technology use for professional activities, professional learning, and studentcentered "connected learning" in the classroom at all campuses. This highlights the need for policy changes that impact professional development and support for adult learning and access to a variety of tools and resources. Observed Potential & Existing Resources Standard classroom setup: teacher workstation, ceiling mounted projector, screen, document camera Other available tech on campuses: Mobi tablets, Smartboards, labs located in library/media center or in other areas of campuses, basic wifi connections Campus Technologists on staff – specific roles & responsibilities vary across campuses Leadership generally supportive of increased use of technology, but may need more support to fully understand next steps and their role

Observed Challenges Few or no student workstations in classrooms, few or no mobile devices available, limited wifi District policies on use of personal mobile devices varying, but generally prohibit use even by faculty & staff Level of observed teacher tech integration is “Early Tech” – teacher-centered mirrored after more traditional instruction (document camera in place of overhead projector) Awareness of existing pilots or innovation “pockets” is very low No central or shared “showcase” to highlight promising practices across all districts for purpose of sharing and learning from each other Funding & budgets


In order to achieve the goal of transformed classrooms and transformed schools, we must create a paradigm shift to transform professional behaviors, practices, and habits among education professionals at all levels. The diagram above provides an overview of a process to create this paradigm shift or transformation in professional behaviors and practices. The overall process requires a pathway that builds support for each successive step. For example, Classroom 2.0 cannot exist until teachers have been transformed or have shifted to Teacher 2.0. The transformation process to Teacher 2.0 requires Leadership 2.0 – principals and technology specialists who have already transformed into Principal 2.0 and Technology Coaches.

Some Characteristics or Behaviors of Educator 2.0 (Leadership 2.0 & Teacher 2.0) Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness Model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with colleagues and others in face-to-face and virtual environments Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations; use 21st century tools in own learning and leading Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital-age media and formats Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to collaborate and locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve learning; understand how to build a personal learning network Exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others Evaluate and transparently reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging technologies Adapted from The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall (2011)


Recommendations For Individuals Change your language -- from “yes, but...” to “yes, and...” or even better: “What if...” Become a learner first and an educator second – play, explore, connect, ask questions, reflect, and collaborate within own personal learning networks and WITH students. Explore use of Google Docs or a wiki as a better option for working on collaborative documents (curriculum or lesson plans) with colleagues. Stop waiting for policies to change or for test scores to improve – act now! For Schools Make this a priority and emphasize the urgency of moving forward now. Our Five-Year Plans do not matter to the 11th grade students sitting in our classrooms right now. Administrators & other campus leaders must model the use of digital communication, collaboration, curation and creation. Require the use of a wiki or Google Docs to develop and share all lesson plans. Create webinars instead of “sit-and-get” faculty meetings. Revise campus-based device policies to allow classroom use of student devices. Provide flexibility in how, when and where professional learning occurs – encourage development of PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) and implement Google’s 20% flex time (or a shorter version – 15%, 10%, 5%) during collaborative planning to allow free exploration of tools or strategies for use in professional work or in classroom instruction. Seek out “early adopters” and develop these teachers into “Peer Coaches” around innovation and technology integration. Increase student-centered use of technology – get technology out of the hands of teachers and into the hands of students (even if only one device is available in the room). Redesign learning spaces and classroom arrangements to model more innovative spaces that encourage and spur creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and connecting. Think about space design and how space can be used differently in order to change behavior and interaction patterns. District-level Practices & Policy Recommendations Revisit technology device policies to take advantage of student-owned devices for learning. Revisit filtering and blocking policies that prevent easy access to powerful digital tools. District leaders must become models of 21st Century Connected Learners & Leaders; change the tools and practices that you use to lead, collaborate, communicate and curate information. Redefine “Technology Specialists” as “Technology Coaches” and provide training to help those individuals change how they coach & collaborate with teachers. Scale up successful technology pilots and innovative practices to impact more students. Recommended Reading Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World by Heidi Hayes Jacobs Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools by Barnett Berry and Teachersolutions 2030 Team

Technology in Education - The Houston Landscape  

In alignment with Houston A+ Challenge’s values of creativity, innovation and collaboration, and within the scope of the work throughout the...

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