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I have enjoyed serving as the first guest blogger for Dangerously Irrelevant.  I have benefited from the time to reflect on issues relevant to technology leadership in schools and I am reminded that thoughtful reflection takes time, something that many of us do not have much of.  I am going to use my last blog referencing a few websites that I have used in my teaching and service work with school leaders and teachers.  I am sure you have seen some of these, but I hope this introduces some of you to new and useful sites. As a parent of two young girls, I wanted to reference the starfall website because my daughters love using it as they learn to master reading.  Thanks for the opportunity Scott! DMQ

http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/

The IRIS (IDEA and Research for Inclusive Settings) Center for Faculty Enhancement was designed in response to a request from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. This national effort, serving college faculty working in preservice preparation programs, aims to ensure that general education teachers, school administrators, school nurses, and school counselors are well prepared to work with students who have disabilities and with their families.

http://reinventingeducation.org

The Reinventing Education Change Toolkit, based on the work of Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, is a Web site created by IBM to help education professionals be more effective at leading and implementing change. The Reinventing Education Change Toolkit was created through the collaborative effort of Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Goodmeasure, Inc.  The Change Toolkit helps you to: Diagnose your situation, Get quick, relevant advice, Poll your colleagues and get anonymous feedback about your progress, Read real-life vignettes from other educators about their experiences leading and managing change, Plan for your change initiative or project, Collaborate with your team and hold on-line discussions.

http://www.starfall.com/

The Starfall learn-to-read website is offered free as a public service. We also provide writing journals and books at a very low cost that can be used with the website or separately. Teachers around the country are using Starfall materials as an inexpensive way to make the classroom more fun and to inspire a love of reading and writing. Primarily designed for first grade, Starfall.com is also useful for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and second grade.

http://www.readplease.com

Read Please is a free downloadable text reading software program (PC only) that reads any text file aloud to students, e.g., text scanned into the computer with OCR (optical character recognition) software or downloaded from web sites, information posted on web sites, etc.

http://www.tumblebooks.com/library/asp/home_tumblebooks.asp

Animated and narrated storybooks and games.

Blended Courses and Online Programs

I just finished teaching my Thursday night class "Leading Change" and decided to blog about the changing paradigm of offering courses and entire programs entirely online or through a blended model using face to face and online instruction.  Over the last 4-5 years I have taught under a web-enhanced model.  Classes would still meet weekly but I used the web to provide additional opportunities for collaboration, uploading assignments, posting readings, etc.  This is a model that many professors use and I personally believe that it has been very effective. 

This past spring I taught my first completely on-line course – "Data-Driven Decision Making".  While I am a huge advocate for technology, I still believe in the power of personal interaction and the synergy that can emerge from a group of people deeply engaged in group discussions and activities.  I was somewhat trepidatious, wondering how I might engage students as meaningfully as I had within a classroom setting.  However, as the course progressed, I was extremely pleased with the level of dialogue and interaction that emerged among the 21 students in the class.  In a "good" face-to-face class meeting (like the one that I led tonight), students may deeply engage in discussions with four or five other peers, and may hear other classmates share out briefly in a whole group setting.  However, the online forums and wikis that I utilized in the DDDM class, allowed students to interact with all of their peers, not just a small group.  Many of my students commented that the depth of interaction in this online class was much greater than most of their traditional courses.  This didn’t just happen though. I put in much time preparing for the course and establishing expectations and norms to create a community of learners.  I have seen many of my own colleagues successfully transition to on-line learning.  I have also seen those who did not put the time and energy necessary for their on-line classes to be successful and the results were as bad as expected.

My preferred teaching mode is probably a blended approach.  I used this model this past summer to teach "Technology Leadership in Schools".  We met in a computer lab the first 6 class meetings and met face to face about every third scheduled class.  The remainder of the content was delivered in a similar method as my DDDM class with online discussions, wikis and other tech leadership related activities and assignments. 

I hope to continue teaching courses under these various modalities: online, blended,and face to face, because they acknowledge interactions needed for effective adult learning while utilizing new technologies to allow some of those interactions to occur from a distance.  Good night. DMQ

Data-Driven Decision Making and Change

I have learned much about data-driven decision making (DDDM) from Dr. Scott McLeod.  He is an acknowledged authority on DDDM and is especially knowledgeable about frequent formative assessment. My own interest in DDDM is focused on how individuals can use data to lead change in schools and create cultures that are more data-driven.  I wrote a monograph for NASSP in 1999 entitled "Using Data for School Improvement".  At the time I could see where the winds were blowing in the US in regards to school accountability.  Looking back, I don’t think I could have predicted how far along that continuum we have traveled.

In principle, most all of us believe in the ideals of DDDM which Scott has discussed extensively on this blog.  The problem is that for many policy makers and even educators, the only "data" that counts in DDDM are student test scores.  While I agree that academic success should be the primary focus, this perspective dismisses so much of what teaching and learning is really about.  My first grade daughter is an incredible artist (yes I am biased) and has been inspired by a wonderful public school art teacher for the last two years, but I worry that talent may not be nurtured in future grades because schools are divesting from art, music and other "non-academic" subjects to devote more resources for reading and math.

To investigate my interest in the relationships among DDDM, leadership, change, and school culture, I spent part of last year creating a survey instrument to assess teacher perceptions.  I have used the survey "Data-Driven Decision Making in Schools" in ten schools so far and I have begun factor analysis procedures.  One of the high school principals whose school completed the survey indicated that she has used the results to create her own professional development plan for personal growth.  She is building on her strengths as a leader of DDDM and is formulating action plans to address areas of concern.  I hope to conduct in-depth research and use this instrument to help school leaders understand teachers’ beliefs and learn what their teachers know or do not know about DDDM.  The initial data that I have analyzed does not paint a positive picture.  Not only are teachers lacking the knowledge about DDDM and concepts like frequent formative assessment. The data also indicate that teachers and even principals in many schools do not have access to the data that they need to make informed decisions about instructional practice. These are organizational and structural barriers that have to be addressed.

While educators sometimes complain about the application of business related research and theory to educational organizations, I have found much in this literature that has informed my work in DDDM.  I am especially impressed with the Balanced Scorecard concept by Kaplan and Norton and the practical application that it holds for education.  I am about to submit a manuscript for publication with one of my doctoral students, examining the relationship between DDDM and the Balanced Scorecard. Speaking of manuscripts, I have to take my leave to edit one now. DMQ

Levine Strikes Again

I wasn’t planning on blogging about Art Levine, former President of Teachers College at Columbia University, however his latest "research" report entitled "Educating School Teachers" was just released and it is going to shake up teacher education colleges and programs just like his first report "Educating School Leaders" sucker punched educational administration programs in 2005. Some bullets from the press release relevant to this blog include:

  • most education schools are engaged in a "pursuit of irrelevance," with curriculums in disarray and faculty disconnected from classrooms and colleagues. These schools have "not kept pace with changing demographics, technology, global competition, and pressures to raise student achievement.

  • fewer than half of principals reported that education school alumni are very well or moderately well prepared to use technology in instruction (46 percent); use student performance assessment techniques (42 percent); or implement curriculum and performance standards (41 percent).

    These two bullets would lead one to believe that his report would go on to address the deficits in technology integration in teacher education programs and make recommendations for improving the application and integration of technology.  However, after reading through the full 142 page report, the word technology only comes up 9 times and several of these are repetitions of previous sentences. So, this just seems to be more lip service and no substance.

    I just had a revelation.  By nature, I am not overly critical of others but the act of blogging seems to bring out the inner critic in me.

    These arguments about the lack of training around issues of technology are similar to those that Levine made about principal preparation programs.  While I believe Levine paints Colleges of Education with a broad brush and many have challenged his research methodology, he does bring to light many points that people like Scott and I have raised – for the most part we are not adequately preparing future teachers and school leaders to function in a world of ubiquitous technology.

    I’m back. A big lightning storm just rolled through Gainesville so I shut down just in case.

    I was going to blog about data-driven decision making tonight, but Levine’s report seemed an appropriate and timely topic.  DDDM tomorrow! DMQ

    School and District Technology Plans

    The pressure of being the first guest blogger!

    As Scott mentioned my name is David Quinn and I am an Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Policy at the University of Florida .  I am in my second year at UF having previously taught at the University of Arizona for six years.  I am excited about the opportunities that are emerging at UF especially being able to focus my teaching, research and service around issues of technology leadership in schools.  I teach three classes at UF: Leading Change, Data-Driven Decision Making and Technology Leadership in Schools and I am excited at the convergence of literature and research in these areas that are readily applied to administrative practice.  I just read through this bio and it is sounding pretty academic, so on to my musings.

    While teaching the tech leadership class this past summer, my graduate assistant, Matt Ohlson, and I were talking about how relevant or irrelevant school and district technology plans can be.  As we looked for school and district tech plans that could serve as exemplars for our students, we were amazed at the spectrum of plans.  Some might contend that a plan is just a piece of paper (or more often than not an Adobe Acrobat file) that schools and districts complete because of a mandate like receiving e-rate funding.  I would argue however, that an inclusive process of planning for technology can be a powerful stimulus for changing schools from something Frederick Taylor would appreciate into an organization that acknowledges that technology, especially the Internet, has radically changed our world over the last 10-15 years.  I am in schools on a regular basis and cringe whenever I see the same rote instruction led by lecture, while 5 networked computers collect dust in the back of the room (that’s a whole other blog entry).

    Getting back to the discussion of technology planning, one of the often-referenced district plans is from Bellingham Public Schools. This is an excellent “living” document that really drives the utilization and integration of technology in Bellingham Washington.  Searching the Internet for model plans tweaked my interest in what was happening at the district level in Florida.  Being new to the state, I with major assistance from Matt began collecting and analyzing as many of the 67 district technology plans as we could get our hands on.  Out of the 52 plans that we compiled, there are some powerful documents including those from Pinellas, Sumter and Palm Beach Counties.  Many of the plans fall far short of providing a guiding vision for tech utilization.  A majority of these plans follow Florida’s minimum guidelines for district technology plans without deviation.  I don’t blame these districts, they were told “if you want e-rate funding, you will submit a plan that addresses these criteria.”  Those districts that went above and beyond typically have large technology departments and experienced leadership, whereas many of the weaker plans are from small rural districts where the director of technology may also have numerous other obligations.  Colleges of education should also accept some of the responsibility because most are not preparing administrators how to be technology leaders.

    This investigation has been enlightening and we have begun to collect school-level technology plans for review.  While district tech plans provide a roadmap for many schools, a school-level technology plan is essential for guiding technology implementation acknowledging the unique context of each school.  The most rewarding part of teaching the tech leadership class was seeing a good number of my students become excited about the opportunities that technology provide for schools.  Several students are using their new knowledge and enthusiasm to start leading change in their own schools.

    This “stuff” as Scott so eloquently puts it, is always on my mind, and I am excited about the future of technology in schools.