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Assignment 1 Running head: Instructor for a Day – Assignment 1

Instructor for a Day – Assignment 1 Michel Lacoursiere University of British Columbia – ETEC 520 (3146 Words)


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Instructor for a Day – Assignment 1 One of the essential purposes of education is to help students live, learn and work in a constantly changing world. For better or worse, our modern society has becoming increasingly reliant on Internet and communications technologies (ICTs). As such, part of the responsibility of modern public educators is to support students as they learn and work with technology (Sinclair, McClaren, and Griffin, 2006). Technology changes at a blistering pace and it is difficult to predict which technologies will prove to have staying power. As Bates (2000) describes, it is thought that technology can improve student learning, increase flexibility and help develop the necessary information technology skills in students; all factors that are of concern for most public educators. With this in mind, a group of five secondary teachers, a librarian and vice principal began an inquiry process to look into technology at their public school, Windermere Secondary, in Vancouver, BC. Being one of the teachers in that inquiry group the author of this assignment will draw on some of the preliminary findings made over the six meetings had by this group in the spring of 2010. With these observations as a basis and relevant literature as support the following paper will outline the context, environment, vision and implications of a new technology plan for Windermere Secondary School. Context Institution The Windermere Secondary School has over 1250 enrolled students from grades 8 to 12 and offers British Columbia Ministry of Education approved secondary courses, as well as special programs in leadership, visual and performing arts. There is no organization or plan in

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place for technology at the school although school administration is in support of developing new plans and investing funds available in the school’s technology. Students The students at Windermere Secondary are public school students between the ages of 12 and 19. The students are representative of the multicultural population of Vancouver and most students come from middle class families in the immediate neighborhood of the school. Students are motivated to attend Windermere to obtain a high school diploma so they may attend postsecondary institutions or join the workforce. Students have a general preference towards using technology and some have voiced their support for online materials and more technology-related classroom tools through a survey conducted by the inquiry group. Faculty and Staff Windermere Secondary currently has about 80 certified teachers, 20 support staff, three administrators and one computer technician. The computer technician spreads his hours over Windermere and another secondary school and he is responsible for maintaining computer hardware, software and the local area network of the school. The technology skill level among educational staff ranges greatly with roughly ten percent of teachers using e-learning tools in the form of classroom aids. These teachers are using devices such as projectors, tablets and wireless mice to control slideware, deliver written notes, simulations and videos. Most of the teachers using technology daily are those teaching math, science or technology studies. Roughly five percent of teachers have a class website of some form, be it a freely hosted blog or website. Additionally, two members of the staff use the Moodle course management system (CMS) to deliver course content, notes, grades and facilitate another level of communication among students, teachers and parents. The teachers in general have shown interest in educational

Assignment 1 technologies with many teachers requesting tablet computers and some unified online place to put announcements, course material and related material.


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Environmental Scan Internal Factors At the school level there are many aspects that will both help and a few that may hinder the development and the implementation of these new technology goals. In terms of internal factors the main concerns are the diversity among teaching staff, especially in regard of their own technology skills and goals, and the lack of any organized professional development and technology groups on staff. Not all teachers wish to use technology-based classroom aids or deliver material online nor will they be required to but the goal is to support any efforts they make in this area. Hopefully this variability in goals and attitudes does not alienate teachers and that through professional development and collaboration all teachers can benefit, even those not keen to use technology themselves. Besides the temporary technology inquiry team there is currently no technology committee or regular professional development committee for Windermere. The development and revitalization of these committees will surely prove to be decisive factors in the success of this plan. Although the disparity among skill level and lack of established committees may be a hindrance it they may also serve to spur on positive change. As Sinclair, et al. (2006) describe, a culture of collaboration is the key to engaging learners and Windermere staff does a great job of informal collaboration. By starting with a blank slate these committees can focus on the most pressing issues and further develop a new plan for technology. Although there are many teachers that don’t use technology there are some teachers who use e-learning tools who may serve as excellent leaders of these groups. Having teachers involved with these groups and actively making decisions should allow for increased staff participation and thus increased buy-in (Bates, 2000).

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An important factor for Windermere’s technology plan in the next five years is the current level of technology use and the support it is receiving from the computer technician and the administration alike. Windermere Secondary, unlike some other schools in the district, has been actively funding new hardware for the school over the past 10 years and has developed a sound technology basis from which to build a new system of e-learning. Although these purchases were done with little planning or attention to evergreen practices the school has three up-to-date computer labs each seating over 30 students as well as numerous computers for administration and teacher use located in classrooms and offices. In addition, there are many tablets and projectors already in classrooms with money set aside for further purchases, essentially the money is there for the remaining teachers who want to purchase such tools for their classroom. A critical aspect of this new technology vision will be an online course management system and the school has already invested in a new website and has been actively developing it into a strong online communication and information portal for the school. With full support from the computer technician and administration being in complete greement with the proposed efforts and actions, Windermere is a good position internally to move forward with this vision. When discussed by the inquiry group, one overwhelming aspect was the student feedback to surveys and questions about how teachers used technology in their classrooms. Students gave feedback in surveys and in a presentation to the inquiry team and expressed a desire to see teachers use more tablets, projectors and online sites for course materials. According to students the teachers using Moodle, course websites, projectors and tablets were not only making learning “easier� but they were sure these additional tools helped them achieve. If any changes are made in the e-learning strategy at Windermere ultimately it will be for the betterment of the students so their comments carry considerable weight going forward.

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External Factors Most of the external factors that may serve to limit future technology projects at Windermere are related to the Vancouver School Board’s current policies and financial standing. There are no expected changes in the demographics or government policies that govern how the school will approach technology. Similar to the findings of Zemsky and Massey (2004), three major areas of concern for e-learning are institutional priority, departmental support and budgetary priority. In terms of policies, the inquiry team has already encountered and discussed some potential actions which would not be approved at the district level due to current policies. A school-based wireless network and the implementation of a Moodle site on the district server were identified as actions the district would not assist with. The district staff did offer to purchase and install a small wireless system to try in one classroom to test wireless in the district but no concrete details were offered and it is unclear how this will play out in the e-learning strategy at Windermere. It seems at the district level there is currently opposition to the type of wireless network Windermere hopes to offer its staff and students but it seems they may change or consider changing this policy in the next few years based on the demos they are hoping to conduct. It simply remains to be seen how much of a priority technology and e-learning will be for the district over the next few years. Of utmost concern currently in this district are the ongoing budgetary deficit and the resulting cuts to balance the budget. With teachers in the district being laid off and proposed deficits any investment in technology could easily be viewed as an unwarranted cost and not entirely prudent from a budgetary standpoint. Despite this, administration is confident that the funding will be there for technology-related purchases simply because this is seen by the district as a long-term priority. To date, most of the budgetary overages and thus the cuts have come

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from staff and benefits. Although the budget for the district is sure to be very tight over the coming years, technology and computers are not seen as areas that will be cut and spending will remain the same or increase. Even with appropriate funding available to Windermere for technology any related costs for this plan will still be kept to a minimum as a matter of prudency.

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Vision Ultimately the e-learning vision for Windermere Secondary involves making technology and e-learning institutional and professional focal points for the next five years. The goal is to improve student access to computers in the school and provide teachers with technology-related classroom aids as well as a CMS to deliver class material and information online. By meeting this goal the hope is that students will develop better technology literacy and that teachers enhance their instruction and communication. E-learning technologies like projectors will be used to enhance instruction of students in face-to-face classrooms and Moodle will be used to aid in communication and distribute any available or related material to the classroom. A wireless network will likely be installed to allow student devices on the network in some fashion and more computers will be purchased for student and teacher use. All of these new tools will be optional to teachers but whatever their technology preferences they will be supported by their administration and their fellow staff in its use. According to Bullen and Janes’ (2006) categorization of e-learning technologies the model that will be implemented here would focus on classroom aids and mixed-mode with classroom learning at the center and the use of a CMS used in a purely supplementary manner. This blended model would provide access to class materials and aid in communication between the teacher and the home. The online materials are not seen as stand-alone courses nor would their use be mandatory by students or staff. The plan is to provide the space and support those who wish to build and use such resources. To support teachers in their use of projectors, tablets and the CMS there will be an effort to support teachers in their use of technology through professional development and staff collaboration. Similar to the Collège Boréal “tech-coach” scheme described by Bates (2000) the

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goal here is to support academic staff in their efforts to teach with technology and infuse available technologies into their lessons. By helping teachers develop in their computer literacy they will be in a better position to do the same for their students and utilize some of the benefits such technologies can offer the classroom. All of these efforts will be made in order to improve student learning. In five years Windermere will hopefully have active, involved professional development and technology committees that are making relevant decisions at the school. These groups will have planned for and purchased additional tablets and projectors for those teachers using such technologies and further assisted staff by helping them to use it in their classroom during flexible collaborative time provided by the administration. Students receive varying levels of e-learning in their classes with some classes posting notes, assignments, marks and even engaging in discussions through the Moodle LMS. When a student misses a class for one of these online supported classes he can download the relevant notes and be held accountable for what he has missed, with little intervention from the teacher. Students and parents can access many classroom resources online and have the ability to use their personal laptop on the school’s wireless network to stay connected and learning. Implications Staff Changes In order to implement this vision a number of actions must be carried out by both the staff of Windermere Secondary and the district. Firstly, and probably most crucially, new professional development and technology committees should be established, preferably with some committee members in common. As the current professional development committee has only two members, largely due to retirements last year, regular members are needed to guide the

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remaining staff in their development of new skills and the further planning of technology at the school. These teams should begin to meet regularly and plan for the professional days already in place for the district. These committees will then be able to guide and monitor the technological progress, an important aspect of meeting the goals of any vision (Bates, 2000). Based on the findings of the inquiry team these committees can begin to put this vision into action and hopefully bring about some of the desired changes. Upon first glance it may seem that this vision would require drastic changes for teachers at Windermere but there is time and money available to support these changes with relatively little impact. Since teachers will use the tools they prefer those who choose to use more technology will have the support from administration and fellow teachers in its use. In terms of time, Windermere Secondary has three school days (~15 hours) of flexible “collaborative time” which teachers use for meetings, get general teaching work done or engage in any independent or district-offered professional development. A portion of these relatively flexible blocks could be used for teachers to collaborate and develop skills around e-learning tools such as tablets and Moodle. Beyond this structured time, administration and staff could make an effort to informally collaborate and share resources and skills involving technology and the Moodle LMS. As many teachers already incorporate digital content into their lessons and some already post such material online there may not need to be drastic changes for staff. Over time with such tools available and those interested teachers using them and potentially promoting their use there may be a gradual uptake of such tools among the remainder of the staff. For those teachers who wish to use the LMS or instructional tools it is not enough to simply build or purchase such systems, so supporting students and teachers in its use will be of utmost concern. As Zemsky and Massey (2004) explain the “If we build it, they will come” assumption is not necessarily

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valid and that it is not enough just to build an e-learning system and expect it to just be used by all, they require support for both students and teachers. As per Bates’ (2000) recommendations a technology coach program will be developed and teachers will be able to use their flexible time to meet and collaborate over technology use in their classroom. This coaching program will ensure that teachers are supported in whatever choice they make in terms of technology and could potentially open teachers up to technology tools that fit their classroom. Institutional Changes With financial considerations being a major factor there must be an attempt to meet these goals without dramatically changing current spending. In order to reduce costs future technology considerations will focus on free or inexpensive open-course technologies in order to meet the LMS requirements of this vision. In terms of purchasing new computer, tablet and projector equipment care will be taken to develop an evergreening process by which technology is phased in and out over time as to minimize budget issues. Setting up a Moodle site at the district level seems unfeasible so the administration and support staff will be purchasing their own server space with flex funds to host a free Moodle site which will be installed and maintained by the computer technician. This relatively inexpensive purchase will allow teachers to use the Moodle CMS to deliver any class materials, notes, relevant links and teaching aids like simulations and videos to their students more easily and in a centralized location. Eventually Windermere hopes to further support learning and teaching through technology by developing a wireless network for the school. Although it is still unclear what role the district will play in this or what costs may be involved, this has been identified as a primary goal to meet over the next five years and one that could really advance the technology vision as a whole. Although there are many security and organizational decisions to be made the idea is that

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students could use their own wireless devices on the school’s network and thus further connect with and utilize the digital resources available. If these actions proceed, costs could be further reduced as students use their own devices and the school may be able to leverage the students’ personal technology for educational benefit in the classroom. Of course, this is a highly optimistic goal and again many external and internal factors are involved but the potential benefits to student learning, flexibility and computer access are numerous and thus wireless access will remain a focus of the school going forward. Student Changes As Fournier (2006) states: “E-learning is not only about training and instruction but also about learning that is tailored to individual needs, is flexible and interactive” (p. 6). Hopefully with a clearer technology focus and supporting teachers in its use Windermere Secondary will be able to better instruct students by meeting their needs as students and technology-users. Being a traditional classroom supported by resources online the focus on daily classroom activities and instruction, the online material is purely organizational and supplemental. With the increased availability of e-learning tools, classroom aids and more flexible computer access it is hoped that computer literacy among students will increase and those who make use of available resources will find success easier. In the end, all the efforts of the teachers, administration and support staff at Windermere Secondary in terms of technology planning are done for the students and to help in their learning process. As stated, technology moves fast and with this vision Windermere Secondary hopes to keep up and help students learn in the process.

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References Bates, A.W. (2000). Managing Technological Change: Strategies for College and University Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Bullen, M. & Janes, D.P. (2007). Preface. In M. Bullen & D.P. Janes (Eds.) Making the Transition to E-Learning: Strategies and Issues, pp. vii-xvi, Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing. Fournier, H. (2006). State of the Field Report: E-Learning. National Research Council: Institute for Information Technology. Retrieved May 29, 2010 from: Sinclair, G., McClaren, M., & Griffin, M. (2006). E-Learning & Beyond. Retrieved May 27, 2010 from: Zemsky, R. & Massy, W.F. (2004). Thwarted Innovation: What Happened to E-Learning and Why. (pp. 1-6).