Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From the iPad of Ron Dodson...(Continued)

Hopefully this epistle won’t be as long as the last, but here are some more important points that I need to share with everyone:

·         Teacher iPad shortage-  If you are a certified teacher and have not yet been issued an iPad, I know you are feeling as if the rapture has happened and you’ve been left behind.  We could only order a set number this summer that was limited by Apple’s capacity to build the devices and deliver them to us on a very short deadline.  This is a student-centered initiative, so first priority was given to the students in the pilot grade levels.  There were not enough iPads left to cover our entire teaching staff, so salary function codes (not names) were used to target classroom teachers who teach core academic content as the next highest priority.  We apologize for hurt feelings and disappointment, and we fully recognize that folks such as counselors, librarians, and instructional coaches are teachers as well who can and will produce instructional fruit when they are given the same tool.  Student iPads and Nooks are still being processed by our technology staff in a full court press to be ready for distribution by Labor Day.  Another iPad order will be placed soon which will make up the differences, and we will leave no teacher behind.  We ask for your patience as we work toward this goal. 

·         Our purpose-  Many of you have already heard me say this many times, but I ask for your indulgence because this is extraordinarily important.  It is essential that everyone understands that the use of instructional technology, as a single variable, has not been found to produce gains in achievement based on at least two decades of research.  However, significant gains can be realized when instructional technology is used to facilitate the implementation of research-based instructional strategies.  The two instructional strategies which we believe have the best potential for closing achievement gaps and increasing student success are differentiated instruction (e.g. ‘respectful teaching and learning’ or ‘universal design for learning’) and formative assessment (student receives and understands feedback, and teacher uses that information to make adjustments to individual and group instruction).  We are investing in this initiative because we saw differentiated instruction and formative assessment being implemented successfully in our own pilot classrooms and in schools outside of our state when the technology was decentralized and focused on the student.  We are calling this project the Engaged Learning Initiative because we believe that success comes from effort and effort comes from engagement.  As Vince Lombardi said, “The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.”  Engagement comes from making learning experiences relevant with personal learning goals (which, not surprisingly, aren’t always the same as our curriculum standards).  In this century, our learners will have to retrain themselves several times over to keep pace with modern career trends, and technology will play a central role in the individualized lifelong learning process of all 21st century workers.  The early stages of this initiative will focus a lot of attention and energy on the devices themselves, but once Christmas morning is over, it will be up to us as professional educators to ensure that the devices are used in such a way that achievement gaps are closed and more students succeed in achieving college and career readiness standards. 

·         Professional development opportunities-  The best professional development which will arise from this initiative will be the collaboration occurring between classroom teachers across the district as they share what works (and what doesn’t) with one another on a daily basis.  We have prepared three specific online learning experiences which we believe will provide further support this year for our progression as 21st century educators:

1.       HCS- State Required PD:  Remember those faculty meetings which are held every year where you cover all the stuff that the state says we have to review on an annual basis such as confidentiality or universal precautions?  Our technology coaches have created an online Moodle course which all certified employees will have to complete this year which covers all of that required content.  In addition to freeing up faculty meeting time for more important things, this will also ensure that all certified employees have been through a very basic online learning experience this year as a ‘student’.  This online course will earn 6 CEU clock hours in STI-PD which can be applied towards one of the PD flex days in this year’s academic calendar.  Instructions for enrolling in the Moodle course and registering in STI-PD will be provided at the school level. 

2.       National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers:  In order to achieve the purpose of this initiative as described above, teachers will need explicit instruction and guidance in the national educational technology standards for teachers (http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS-T_Standards.sflb.ashx).  We are in the process of creating an online Moodle course which will certify teachers in NETS.  It is our hope that we can identify up to 200 teachers in this first year to go through the course this year.  There will be a 6 CEU clock hour module each nine-weeks adding up to a total of 24 CEU clock hours for the year.  Participants will assemble a portfolio throughout the year demonstrating the application of what they have learned in their own classrooms.  Participants can choose between PD flex time (1 day per nine-weeks) or a $400 stipend ($100 per nine-weeks) for completing the course requirements.   Further details and instructions for registering will be provided soon by your school’s assigned technology coach.

3.       National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators:  What is good for the goose… We will ask the same thing from our administrators as we’re asking from our teachers.  There are specific standards for school leaders (http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS-A_Standards.sflb.ashx), and we will also develop an online Moodle course for administrators led by Dr. Camp and me.  This course will earn PLU instead of CEU credit, so teachers who hold administrative certification can also participate in this course if they need PLU’s to keep their certificate active (it will be a locally approved PLU, not ACLD).  We cannot pay a stipend to administrators, but the PLU credit can be used for PD flex time.  More details will follow soon. 

More bumps will come, but I am very excited about this school year.  We will get the wrinkles ironed out, and I know that everyone is going to be proud of where we’ve been and where we’re going as this pilot initiative grows to full implementation.   

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