LoTi Leadership Symposium

Although I had been trained in the LoTi method of assessing a teacher’s level of technology implementation in the past, I knew that there had been changes made recently. I attended this workshop to bring my knowledge of LoTi up-to-date and to begin the steps necessary to implement its use in our district. The most noticeable change is in the meaning of the acronym, LoTi. It has changed from Levels of Technology Implementation to Levels of Teaching Innovation. In the words of our workshop facilitator and LoTi guru Chris Moersch, this new definition will remind users that LoTi is not just about technology, it is about current instructional practices, (CIP), as well!

Our small group size allowed us to focus on our specific district needs and concerns. Paramount for most of us is the ability to bring to our districts an understanding of how technology use should look in the classroom. Too often the use of technology as a simple add-on is mistaken for technology integration. The emphasis should be on contextual learning that enables students to transfer their content understanding to real world situations using the available technology tools in the classroom. Research tells us:

  • Technology use coupled with effective instructional strategies can improve student achievement.
  • Technology increases the complexity of the tasks that students can perform successfully, raises student motivation, and leads to changes in classroom roles and organization.
  • Technology can enhance both what and how children learn when used in conjunction with: 1) active engagement, 2) participation in groups, 3) frequent interaction and feedback, and 4) connections to real-world contexts.

Training in the LoTi levels and how to conduct 5-minute H.E.A.T. Classroom Walkthroughs will assist building administrators as they assess technology use in their classrooms. The walkthrough model allows administrators to evaluate student learning experiences based on 1) Higher-Order Thinking, 2) Engaged Learning, 3) Authenticity, and 4) Technology Use. This data can be stored on a local computer or wirelessly uploaded to LoTi’s web server. (The iPhone or the iPod Touch can be used for this purpose.)  The Observation Report is then printed out for use with the teacher.

How can we “bump up” the LoTi levels we observe? Creating a level of expectation in the classroom, and making sure that money spent on the instructional infrastructure is just as important as money spent on the technological infrastructure is a beginning. Implementation of LoTi and the H.E.A.T. Classroom Walkthroughs is another. This process has already been set forth in the Freehold Township School District’s 2007-2010 Technology plan and is also aligned with the NJ DOE’s requirement to assess technology use in the classroom. “If it is not measured it is not going to improve…What gets measured gets improved.”

TCNJ – Department of Technological Studies: 22nd Annual Conference

On Wednesday, October 29th, I had the pleasure of returning to my undergraduate alma mater, The College of New Jersey, to attend the 22nd Annual Department of Technological Studies Conference. We gathered in Armstrong Hall where I met up with the district’s two middle school Technology Education teachers, Tom Caruso and Kevin Goetz for the conference “Introduction/Greetings” facilitated by Dr. John Karsnitz, Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Technological Studies. He introduced us to key attendees before bringing us all up-to-date as to the events that are being offered in the field during the upcoming school year and recapping the undergraduate program offered at TCNJ. The opening session concluded with the presentation of the Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. John P. Hutchinson.

Kevin, Tom and I then moved on to our first session on the Technology Student Association (TSA). This organization is a national, non-profit organization for middle and high school students with an interest in technology. We learned more about New Jersey and National TSA activities planned for this year and heard about competitions and conferences that are held each year by local TSA chapters. We were informed that a grant is being offered to New Jersey middle schools, providing free two-year memberships to TSA. We snatched up all of those documents and made plans to complete the registration upon our return to the district. We discussed the possibility of including 12 of our students, 6 per middle school, in the leadership conference planned for November 25th and decided to further discuss this with building administrators when we returned. I also asked for the information regarding the T-shirt design contest to be emailed to my attention so that I would be able to pass it along to our district’s two Digital Arts teachers. The presenter talked about his involvement in TSA for over ten years and offered valuable insights as to how we might facilitate this program in our district.

After a delicious lunch we moved on two the second and final presentation we had selected, Middle School Program Innovation, presented by David Richards, Mt. Pleasant Middle School, Livingston, NJTEA Program Excellence Award Recipient and Kenneth Zushma, NJTEA Executive Director. These knowledgeable educators shared the curriculum they had developed for their two middle schools and provided examples of student lessons and activities as handouts. We were anxious to learn about new material we might add to our middle school program and to hear in-depth about the exciting techniques from the award winning Mt. Pleasant Middle School technology education program. We hope to be able to put many of these ideas to use in our district during the 09-10 school year, especially the use of the software, Google SketchUp for computer aided design (CAD). We will look at the option of transitioning to this free and easy to use software as we plan for next year.

As the session concluded, Mr. Zushma provided his contact information to all who were interested in receiving the grade 7 and 8 curriculum as a .pdf file.Immediately upon my return to the district I shot out an email with this request. He quickly replied with the attached document as promised, while pointing out the importance of a membership in the New Jersey Technology Education Association. (He serves as the Executive Director.) Through our membership in this group we would be able to share additional resources and take part in workshops and conferences geared to the Tech Ed teacher. Kevin, Tom and I are all very interested in signing up.

While we learned a great deal at these two workshops, our attendance at the conference was enhanced by the opportunity to meet the outstanding undergraduates who are currently completing the Technological Studies program at TCNJ.  Our discussions confirmed our belief that the Tech Ed program here at FTS remains on the cutting edge, providing students with a curriculum grounded in the key ideas of technology education.  

 

Videoconferencing!

Last week Janet Griffin, Karen Jahn and I had the opportunity to participate in two FREE video conferences sponsored by Polycom. Each was tailored to meet the needs of the teachers at specific grade levels. Tuesday’s videoconference, “Jump Start Videoconferencing in Your School,” featured sites and collaborations that would be of interest to middle school teachers, and on Wednesday, Getting the Wiggles Out,” spoke specifically to teachers in grades K-4. The set up was simple, once the IP address had been reported and the firewall had been cleared, any classroom teacher could easily follow the steps for set-up with a classroom web cam. Luckily we have an educational technology specialist in each building who will also be familiar with this process. However, we’ll talk about the technical parts of videoconferencing later, today I want to move from the technical talk and focus on the excellent collaboration opportunities that videoconferencing can offer your classrooms.

Our host on both afternoons was Sue Porter who is an educational consultant for Polycom and also serves as the special events coordinator. Sue was a patient and informed guide as she took us to some sample sites while handling some of the calls from participants who were having connection issues, which were all easily resolved by the way. J We enjoyed our hour with Sue, learning about the many video conference resources available via the Polycom Education Resources page. Today I’d like to take you on a quick tour of this page and encourage you to sign up for the resources there. Clicking on Programs and Resources from the sidebar of this page will bring you to Polycom’s long list of links that I will share with you here.

First, the Videoconference Program Database. Polycom provides a free searchable content database which offers educators worldwide access to more than 1,900 programs from content providers, making available both ISDN- and IP-based videoconferencing programs for the classroom. Updated daily, the database contains content opportunities from organizations such as zoos, museums, author’s experts in the field and much more. Polycom partners with Berrien RESA to bring you this database.

Next is a resource that all three of us have already registered for, Polycom Collaborations Around the Planet. CAPspace is a large scale global directory and professional network of educators for videoconferencing project collaboration. Their directory enables educators to connect with peers to globally collaborate thus expanding and enhancing curriculum. Registering with CAPspace also gives you access to Two Way Interactive Connections in Education. (TWICE) is Michigan’s organization for videoconferencing in K-12 education. TWICE promotes and supports collaborative connections for the benefit of all students.

The final Polycom resource I’d like to bring your attention to is the Education Videoconferencing Blog – Out on a Lim, Polycom’s education blog authored by an educator who shares experiences, curriculum thoughts, new resources, and technology comments related to videoconferencing in education.

In addition to these great resources from Polycom, be sure to take advantage of New Jersey’s own videoconferencing resources brought to you through The Center for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education, CMSCE. If you click on the link for the Peer-to-Peer Videoconferencing Directory on the left-hand side bar you will find the New Jersey/Verizon Videoconferencing Resource Guide. This guide contains over 200 excellent programs for students and teachers. Each lesson includes a short description, New Jersey standards, grade levels, content areas and contact information. The entire guide can be downloaded as a pdf and printed or you can search/print by grade level or subject area by clicking on the links found on that page. Here you will also find the link to register for the Peer-to-Peer Directory. This directory contains contact information for 100 New Jersey teachers who would like to do collaborative projects. The information will be updated a couple of times during the year, however the deadline to be included in the print version of this year’s directory is November 3rd. Sign up today!!!

Here in the Freehold Township School District, the focus will be on videoconferencing this year with the hopes of having at least one teacher per grade level participate in a classroom or grade level videoconference. If you are interested, click here!

By the way, today is my mother, Mary Reaney Thompson’s, 86th birthday. If you’re reading the blog this week Mom, Happy Birthday to YOU!!!

 

 

NJAET!

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending the NJAET’s 21st Annual Conference at Georgian Court University. What made it even more special was the fact that this year I was attending the conference in the company of the 11 Educational Technology Specialists from our district. This was an opportunity for all of us to share a day of professional development and discuss over lunch how what we had learned could be put to use back in our schools. While I spent much of my time presenting “Birds of a Feather: Assessing Technological Literacy,” I was able to attend two other presentations. Because this year I am continuing my focus on assistive technology I decided to attend Mike Marotta’s “21 Free or Cheap Technology Tools.” This session presented many tools we are already using in our district, such as Audacity and Microsoft Reader, but also introduced some new tools I was not familiar with. If you want to learn more about this presentation you can access it from the conference handout link on the NJAET site. The other presentation I was able to attend was on Microsoft’s Movie Maker. Since we have been using this software in our district for two years, I wanted to see if this workshop would offer new tips and tricks. The presenter had already facilitated a hands-on double session in the morning, but still had a full classroom for this non-hands-on seventy minute session. Sharon Faith, a business education teacher from Southern Regional High School, walked us through the basics of this free software (with WinXP operating systems) and shared examples of student work. This quick refresher reminded me how important it is to encourage teachers to attend in-district trainings so they will be able to make student work public using this easy to use software. For quick instructions on how to use Movie Maker you can visit the Windows support site or the excellent tutorials created by Ann Horan for teachers in our district found on the Staff Share. (Staff Share–>Technology–>Tutorials and Handouts–>Microsoft Products–>Movie Maker)

Each Educational Technology Specialist will turnkey information learned in the sessions they attended to the staff in their home school. Information on these sessions will be posted in either a handout, an email or on a web page they create and share. For those of you who cannot wait, you can find out more about the conference and the workshops offered there by visiting the NJAET home page.

Ed Tech Updates…What’s new this year @FTS

For the past few weeks I’ve been visiting the schools in the district to update faculty and staff with regards to the new and existing educational technology opportunities available in the district. Whether it be “Best Practices” software or hardware that meets specific student needs, such as the portable note taker, Fusion, the technology department is committed to providing the support teachers need to integrate technology into the existing curriculum. 

Teachers have been directed to seek out  “just in time” resources such as the TechTeachTalk page located on the Staff Share page on the district web site. The “Current Chatter” portion of the page is updated monthly and features links to resources of interest to teachers at all grade levels and content areas. Other portions of this page highlight district recommended web-based resources, the list of “Best Practices” software, with links to downloads where applicable, and district initiatives, such as the PodSquad, videoconferencing and the use of portable note takers. Teachers can access the FTS Quick Reference Guide, the 2008-2009 Tech Tuesday Schedule, and the PowerPoint presentation which allows teachers who were unable to attend their building’s Ed Tech Update to view all of this valuable information at their convenience. As you scroll down to the bottom of the page you will notice that the TechTeachTalk pages from past months are also linked for easy access and reference.

Beginning October 21st, Tech Tuesdays will offer teachers technology related professional development tailored to their needs and delivered in their own classroom. In addition, Educational Technology Specialists are in place at each building to provide teachers with embedded professional development and follow-ups to district PD, while helping to build a culture of ed tech users within each school. 

As we work to integrate cutting edge technology into the curriculum we have secured a place where district students can store files to access in and out of school. Upon completion of a project these files can be showcased on the World Wide Web  to share with other students and family. These files will be located in folders stored on individual student email accounts (School Bits) which are monitored by district administrators..

The important thing for all teachers to remember is that there is plenty of support at every level for all of your educational technology needs. If there is something you would like to try, if there is a resource you need access to, just let your ETS and/or building administrators know and they will get the ball rolling. If you’d like to bring something to my attention, submit a Trouble Trakker ticket, choose Supervisor of Technology as the problem and use the space provided to share your thoughts. We look forward to supporting you as you use technology tools to enhance the existing curriculum.

 

Books! Books! Books!

There are some new tools out there to assist teachers access information related to books. First is the Google Book Search @books.google.com, which I found out about when reading one of the last issues to be published of Connected Newsletter. (Sadly this valuable resource will end its print publication in the summer of 2008, and I’m not sure if I will be able to find an online resource that can replace it.) In the April 2008 issue of Connected Newsletter they focus on ways to liven up literature lessons and recommend Google Book Search as the place to start. You may search by title, author or keywords. The results include Reviews, References from Web Pages, References from Books, Other Editions, and References from Scholarly Works. Visit the site yourself to see the wealth of links and graphic displays of the book covers a simple search returns.

Next take a look at Scholastic’s Teacher Book Wizard @bookwizard.scholastic.com, with a database of over 50,000 titles, it promises to help teachers find the right book for their students. Like the Google Book Search, you may conduct an author, title or keyword search, but the Scholastic site also allows you to conduct a leveled search or “Book Alike” search to find “similar books at the reading level you need.” Additional features such as the ability to create book lists and the “List Exchange,” an online community of teachers sharing book lists, make this a must see site for educators today.