Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shrinking budgets! What is a Superintendent to do?

Shrinking budgets! What is a superintendent to do?

cross posted at TechLearning.com
Permanent linkPD for administrators

Chuck McLaughlin photo

In Southern Maine, the superintendents took action! After a county meeting, the superintendents asked their curriculum coordinators and technology coordinators to get together and see where collaboration would benefit the group.

For five meetings, spread across five months, this eclectic group met, offered ideas, discussed, created an action plan and went to work and designed a professional development day in the middle of August for county administrators. (Since most of the work was done during the work year there wasn’t an additional cost associated with this planning.) The group surveyed local administrators to see what they would be interested in, from a list of our suggested ideas.

With survey results in hand, a little bit of skepticism, the group continued with the planning. We had the normal questions, would anyone give up a summer day to attend? would teachers agree to be presenters for the administrators? would we be able to offer a valuable workshop for this audience?

This may be trite, but build it, do your homework, and they will come! We tailored the workshop to the administrator’s needs, we offered a workshop site where most people only traveled 20 miles to attend, we demonstrated the ISTE standards. You can download the standards for student, NETS-S the standards for teachers, NETS-T and the standards for administrators, NETS-A.

There was an audible gasp from the group, when a statement was made about the building leader being responsible for driving (and modeling) the change for technology integration and meaningful work by staff and students. The whole day was about driving this change and providing secure examples of rich technology lessons and what an administrator should look for during a walk through or teacher and lesson evaluation.

We talked about purpose and purposeful use of technology. There were over 60 administrators in the room participating in a technology rich day, all using their MLTI laptops. The survey results at the end of the day were full of anticipation for a new school year, excitement about taking some of the knowledge back to their buildings, and appreciation for what they learned throughout the day. A bonus, this group of administrators have their own personal learning network.

All the administrators joined an Edmodo social network where they can experience the continued virtual conversation. All the web 2.0 tools the presenters shared had a dual purpose, as the tools were FREE and something that an administrator could use when they returned to school. We will be offering two follow-up dine and discuss evenings in early autumn and early spring to continue the conversations and learning. Stay tuned.

Web 2.0 Tools used during the workshop day.
Wallwisher http://www.wallwisher.com
Edmodo http://www.edmodo.com
Twitter http:/twitter.com
LOTI http://loticonnection.com/lotilevels.html
H.E.A.T. http://loticonnection.com/HEATframework.html

To find more examples of other leadership initiatives, see the post by Dr. Scott McLeod,
Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University, also the Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vác Gates & Doors - The "Portrait" Collection

Vác Gates & Doors - The "Portrait" Collection
Originally uploaded by Istvan

Getting ready for my high school resource room and blog. The Learning Cafe, door to the future. I am going to use this photo by Istvan!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back to School with UDL

Cheryl Oakes here, blogging for Wes Fryer as he vacations with his family! Thanks for the opportunity. I hope this post adds a challenge to many educators heading back to school for the 2010-11 school year.
We are all familiar with accessibility on our sidewalks, the curb cuts were designed to make sidewalks accessible for people using wheelchairs or crutches. In 1990, in the USA, theAmericans with Disability Act, required that curb cuts be in all sidewalks. While the intent was to make access available for anyone using a wheelchair the outcome has benefited everyone from joggers, children with tricycles, strollers and packages on wheels. Who knew? ( It has taken 30 years for curb cuts to be ubiquitous!)
Who wouldn’t want to have more successful students? If it doesn’t cost much, who could argue? Let’s stop putting road blocks up in our classrooms, take down the barriers and allow our students to be successful by looking at brain research, learning theory and some fairly easy modifications. Some of the best support for making curricula changes are the advancements, ease of use, and access to digital media for educators and students.
In 2004 Universal Design for Learning hit the airwaves. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 and the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 have provisions for Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning. (Race to the Top also includes reference to Universal Design for Learning.) Similar to the Americans with Disability Act, this Act, was designed to benefit a few students, but has implications for the success of all students in our classrooms. Will it take 30 years for Universal Design for Learning to become ubiquitous?
Let’s look at some easy strategies and available resources to make this school year a differentiated and Universal accessible classroom for all. The best place to begin is with theCAST.org site and use their lesson builder after you watch their how to video. You can do this, your students will benefit. Without any scientific research for this, I am sure making these accessible changes in your classrooms, more of your students will meet standards.
You will need to become a FREE member at the Lesson Builder website of CAST.org . Once you do, you will have access to create your own UDL lesson. There are built in supports which will guide you through the design process. Challenge yourself and create one lesson based on UDL principles each week. You will see the differences in your students.
For your middle and high school students Strategy Tutor is a FREE web-based program designed to help with reading and research on the web. Check out this tool which your students can use on any computer, anywhere, anytime. As a bonus, there are resources for teachers with shared lessons and strategies.
For your grade 6-12 students there is a CAST.org support Science Writer which helps your students with their science labs and class reports. Using this online tool adds a text to speech toolbar to the webpage allowing audio access for your challenged learners.
Start your school year with a new mantra, Universal Design for Learning, for all learners.
Cross-posted at CherylOakes.com
Students say it all: thanks to Dr. Frances (Fran) G. Smith for posting this video!
Universal Design Learnsite- great learning site for students and adults

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What did you do on your summer (winter) vacation?

cross-posted at techlearning

During my school break I signed up for an  online graduate level course. I hadn’t taken an online  3 credit class for about 8 years and a lot has changed! All of my online experiences have been good, however,  my most recent class at University of Phoenix was exceptional! (http://www.phoenix.edu/)
You begin by signing up online, (http://www.phoenix.edu/students/how-it-works.html)  there is a online chat and phone connection you must make. I must admit that I was a little annoyed with extra step to actually speak to someone about my course selection, however Jennifer was great and gave me some choices I had not  considered, and reminded me to connect with my state Department  of Ed to be sure the class would meet the requirements for my certificate. If I had any questions, to be sure, they were anticipated and answered.Then there were phone calls and emails reminding me of the start date, a wonderful option since it is summer here in North America. University of Phoenix really has the personal touch in the forefront of their business plan.

Finally, the day arrived and our first assignment was to introduce ourselves, read the syllabus , agree to the university rules , learn how to navigate the website , get our online materials , whew I was exhausted at the end of my first two hours. The next morning, I awoke at 6 AM EDT, to start reading and joining some discussions, only to find out that I could not open any of the online text books. I called the tech support and Dave answered, a real person at 6 AM, and he calmly walked me through the Macintosh problem which auto-opened my ebook in Preview instead of Adobe Reader. Now that is service! He made sure I could open my ebooks and had access to all that I needed. By 6:20 AM and I was reading away. I downloaded my books , my articles, checked out the library articles and filled a folder on my laptop, in case I was without Internet service. After all, it is summer and you never know where you will be reading or if a thunderstorm will disconnect your power.

I even had time to enter into a discussion and found out that 3 out of the 13 folks were from Maine and another couple from New. England. There were other class members from Ohio and VA and MI. Our professor was from NJ and the mother of triplets! Some of us in class were on break, others were working, but, all participated 100%. This class was an asynchronous class. We participated in the class at our own pace and had deadlines to meet. We did not have any requirement to get on a phone call, video call or face to face meeting for this class.

During the 3 week time frame, our group read articles and our ebooks, answered prompts, and then discussed with each other the different perspectives we brought to the conversation. Our professor, gave a prompt, let us respond to the prompt, later added a new dimension to the conversation and the dialogues between the participants, formally known as students, drove the conversation. In this online class I truly felt the wisdom of the crowd throughout all the learning  and conversations that were taking place.

Our professor is very talented and knowledgeable about her subject area and how to get a conversation going and sustaining the participation throughout. There were time frames for answering discussion questions, but that only mattered as we made sure to participate by the due date. However, since each participant had something to add to the conversation, we never closed the discussions! Consequently , although it was week 3 there were still comments being added to week one!
The readings were rigorous, the discussions were thought provoking, and the connections all of us made strengthened our learning about severe disabilities. Since each of us had to respond throughout the week we all had an opportunity to get feedback not only from our professor but also from each other. I must say I have learned from each individual , from the kindergarten and preschool teacher , the music teacher, and special educators from across the nation.

The university walls have been flattened. I participated in my class from home, from Quebec City one day and from a weekend trip to VT. Time management during a 3 week class is tricky, but I didn't have to drive to class, most of the time I attended class from 6 to 8 AM and I read whenever I had free time.  I planned designated times to work on my 3 papers, 3 case studies, numerous discussion questions and one final project! I felt like I got more out of this class than my last, sit in a seat University class. I know that I heard the opinions of all my classmates throughout the class, not just in the final presentation.
After this evening I am going to miss my classmates, well that is until I take another class! Thanks to my classmates and professor for being part of my professional learning network, I learned a great deal.

photo Todd Morris