Scott R. Laleman
August 1, 2002
I spoke with the Assistant Superintendent today about my idea for changing the way we do staff development--just in time training is what I think they called it at NECC. She really seemed to go for it, but at the same time wants me to do two sessions during the staff development days when the teachers get back. These two sessions are going to have all different levels of people and all different grade levels. It's going to be very hard to make the instruction worthwhile for all of them.
August 27, 2002
Very frustrating. I was told to do a tech training but not really told what to do. Last week was the new people and how to get on our system. That went OK, but again, we have people at the very beginning level (this is how you turn on the computer) and people who are at a more advanced level. Then you have the people who wander off onto the Internet and don't pay attention to what you're saying. I swear, sometimes teachers are worse than kids! Back to the ones I did this week--I prepared sessions on our grade book, which is new this year. I did not take into account that they kinder-3rd grade teachers didn't really need this training, so there went over half of my second session. I just let them go back to their rooms. I feel like they could have used the grade book if they had wanted to...this grade book is set up so that they could track with whatever system they want to (S, S+ instead of letter grades) but they are so stuck in their 'old ways' that they didn't even see the opportunity before them...and I'm too tired at this point to fight them. I've been scrambling to get tables set up for the new computers and making sure that everything is working for the first day. I never knew this job was going to be harder than teaching, but it is. Teachers are more needy than the kids sometimes!
One of the 7th grade teachers approached me and asked me if I could help out some of the jr. high teachers with the grade book I told her to get them together and we'd meet in the lab next Tuesday and I'd try to answer all their questions and help them get their grade books set up. I'm so glad that they're willing to learn. This is exactly what I want to start doing as part of my ARP...this will be a good indicator of whether or not this setup will work well.
It went over like gangbusters! I planned on an hour, we spent 1 1/2 hours on the grade book! The teachers that I met with are very excited to start using the grade book One of them told me, "I'm going back to my classroom to finish setting this up RIGHT NOW!" That was at 5:00! It's so cool to see teachers, heck, anybody, get excited about using technology. This went over really well. It just confirmed my belief that if you give teachers what they want, when they want it (or even what they don't know they want--as long as it's something they can use right away!) they'll use it and love it. I'm meeting with them again next week to show them how to export assignments and answer any questions they have come up with while using it this week.
I just did the same session with the specials teachers (art, music, computers, library). It's so nice to be able to tailor instruction to people so it meets their needs.
I launched the Tech Camp web site today and have already had a teacher come with two suggestions for topics for next week. I think if teachers just take the time and the word starts to spread, this thing is going to become big.
Tech camp is going great! I have at least one person a day ask me about it, and I have topics for the rest of the month. The only thing I'm a little bit weary about is one of the administrators who has pretty much mandated that I do a couple of topics on things she wants people to learn. The topics made sense, but I want the suggestions to come from the teachers, not from the administration. I really need to get a survey out to find out where people are at and what they would be interested in.
I also started on the second part of my plan this week, which was to get into the classroom to help teachers integrate the technology. I started with a third grade teacher who did a lot with technology next year. She wants her kids to type the second drafts of their papers, so we're starting with learning to type. Unfortunately, Type to Learn didn't work all that well when I took the mobile lab into her room the first time. We regrouped, sat down a day later, and talked about what wrong and I briefed her on what might go wrong the next time so that she could help better with the troubleshooting. I'm going back into her room tomorrow so we can work more on the typing.
Network problems abound this week, so I haven't been able to do very much on getting into the classroom. Here is the problem with my job. I'm it. I'm the network administrator, webmaster, Internet watchdog (we have 6 kids suspended from the computers right now for trying to go to forbidden sites, and I found several sites that were getting through our filter.), computer technician, tech curriculum director, staff development coordinator, technology purchaser, and about 11 other things I'm sure I've forgotten. In larger districts, they have several people to cover these jobs. In my little single-school district, I do them all. Sometimes, all of these other jobs get in the way of trying to do what I'm trying to do. I felt like this week was very unproductive, with a small ray of sunlight as I realized a valuable connection between my learning blueprint (which I'm changing again) and my ARP. The good thing is that my list is short (knock on wood) for the coming week, so I can spend more time reading and preparing for the looming deadline this coming week.
My teachers have started on their initial survey through the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. It is a comprehensive survey about where they see technology use in the district, in their classrooms, and where they feel it should be going. This should give me some great data about the level of integration that our teachers are at as well. I will also have them take this survey again at the end of the year to gauge how far we have come.
Tech camp sessions are becoming sparsely attended. I have had a few over the past couple of weeks that nobody showed up for. I have also not been getting many suggestions. I'm not quite sure what to do at this point to get people more excited about it. It's very frustrating, because I'm doing sessions that people have asked for, yet people don't come. I've though about doing a sign up sheet, so people will remember, but it's difficult when people have so much going on before and after school.
Tech Camp is going to have to be revamped and reevaluated. I think that adding another unstructured session where teachers can just come in and ask questions or show off something they've done may prompt more tech camp requests. I did not have any requests for the entire month of November. It is very frustrating to set up something different for teachers, but that they won't attend.
This week I sent out better descriptors of Tech Camp topics for the week. Note that one of the sessions was for a software product that we are considering purchasing. I had a few people show up for this one, and they really liked it, so I hope the word gets out and more people start asking about it. The lesson plan template I only had 2 people show up for, but the entire kindergarten team wants to do it the week of the 17th. They just couldn't make it this week. The CLAWS session only had 1 person, but I think I'm going to require it for teachers who want to use the mobile lab, so hopefully after Christmas break we'll have more people attending that one. I'm very torn over doing that, however, since I didn't want these sessions to become requirements. Next week is the web page session. I've already had several people tell me that wanted to come, but that happened last time as well, and I only had 2 people show up. I'm hoping that if I keep putting good descriptors in, more people will pay attention and see the usefulness of this to them. I should've gone into advertising...although, the way things are going with Tech Camp right now, I probably wouldn't have a very long career in advertising.
Today I presented the results of the technology survey at our faculty meeting. The response seemed very positive, and I took the opportunity to introduce Tech Talk to the teachers. Tech Talk will replace Tech Camp on Tuesdays (both morning and afternoon) and will be an opportunity for teachers to ask questions of me and each other about technology, see what others are doing, and learn about some of the latest toys and goodies that computer and software manufacturers are putting out. I am hoping that this will lead to a greater participation in Tech Camp, which will now be offered every day of the week, both before and after school. However, instead of me planning sessions for every day, I will only plan for sessions that have been requested by teachers. This will save me some frustration in planning for sessions that no one shows up to. I am hoping that with Tech Talk, more teachers will see the things that others are doing with technology in the classroom and this will spark ideas within them for things they want to learn through Tech Camp.
We had a half day inserveice on Wednesday (the 15th), and I was asked to do a session on iMovie. We had a woman from Apple come on our December half day, but like most Apple seminars I've been to, it was mostly talk and almost no play time. The teachers thought iMovie was cool, but were upset (in December) that they didn't get very much hands on time with it. This time, I gave them a 5 minute schpiel on how to work the camera, had them get into groups and told them to go tape for 20 minutes. When they got back, we went over how to import and the basics of editing and adding transitions, then the rest of the time was theirs. I also advertised Tech Talk and Tech Camp again during this session and got several Tech Camp requests during the rest of the week. It was very encouraging. I think I just need to keep showing teachers the cool stuff that's out there, but I also have a feeling that the Tech Talk sessions are going to be sparsely attended. It seems like teachers only want to come to things like that during the course of the school day. I may end up asking the administrators if I can do a tech session every time we have a half day.
I had several tech camps this week, and they were pretty well attended. We also had our tech fair, which was dismal. I think the biggest problem was that it took place during the day, when many parents couldn't attend.
I just left Orlando. It was great to see everyone again and reconnect. I think this time was a lot different than VirtCamp since we didn't have quite as much stress. I really enjoyed our learning circle meeting where we discussed each other's projects. It was very beneficial to me, and I confirmed what I had been thinking all week--that I need to go back and revisit my question. At this point, I'm not sure if I'm going to completely restructure it, or just add an element to it. My thinking right now is that I will add an element of research that will explore training in larger districts vs. smaller districts like the one I'm in now. However, I may just completely revamp my entire question.
I am both frustrated and excited at the same time. I am excited because I see more and more teachers using technology every day. I am frustrated at how it is being used. Most of the technology kids get to use in our school is drill and kill stuff without any real substance. There is almost no critical thinking going on in conjunction with technology use. In fact, the majority of the technology use is for testing! It seems to me that the point is to make things easier for teachers, which means being able to set a kid down at a computer and have them 'play' without the teaching having to do anything. There is no follow-up, no assessment, no assignment. I am seeing this mainly in the younger grades, but it occurs in some of the upper grades as well. Maybe I'm missing the point entirely, but shouldn't technology use enhance the curriculum, instead of being a babysitter? I think the thing that frustrates me even more is that I'm not sure where to go with the K-2 curriculum. I have one teacher in particular who thinks her kids are complete dolts and can't do anything on their own. When her kids were going to be working on literacy software last week, I showed her how her kids could get into the program. It involved 4 steps. When she said she would have to do it for them, I told her to just show them how and they'd pick it up. She said something about "yeah, but I'll have to teach them how." My thought was...isn't that your JOB?! This is the same teacher who complains about how much work she has to do and how much planning she has to do...wouldn't it just be easier to show the kids how to do it once and let them take it on their own every other time? It seems to me like she's creating MORE work for herself...like she wants to be a martyr or something! OK...done venting.
I didn't realize it had been so long since I had journaled. I guess with everything that's been going on, this kind of got lost in the shuffle. I completed my lit review last week, which was a big thing for me. I really feel like I'm falling behind, and I think a lot of that feeling comes from the fact that I now know that a large part of my research probably isn't going to be finished by the time I graduate. The other part is that I feel like I'm not accomplishing as much as I originally wanted to. I was just reading Rolo's journal for Kimberly's class and he talked about over planning. I guess that's what I did. It's very hard to plan and implement such a large change in just one year. The good news is that I have a lot more ideas and a lot more plans for next year. I wonder if these plans are going to be implemented, however, since the administration is changing. This has become a very difficult time for me, because the administration now is planning as if they're going to be there next year, when everyone knows they aren't. It makes me wonder how much of the stuff we're planning is actually going to happen. I have my sights set on other jobs, but I don't know if I should apply and leave everything hanging. I have some sense of responsibility to the school and staff with all the changes that have been made over the past 2 years, but I also feel like I have to look out for myself. I really would like to have a chance to try out my 'vision' for next year, but I'm being pulled by Texas as well. There is a real duality of what I feel right now. My personal self is saying to bail, go back to Texas, take a job in a small district, save a hell of a lot of money, pay back the district for my tuition so far and be happy. My professional self is saying stay another year, implement your ideas, see how they turn out, and you'll have that much more experience under your belt when you go looking for a job next year. And who is going to win? My professional self...I think that being happy is just a matter of being satisfied with what you do. If I get that much more experience, in the long run, I think I'll be happier and better off for it.
In looking back at my journal entries over the past several months, I can see where my frustration over things has taken it's toll. I want every teacher to be excited about technology and be willing to learn new things all the time, which many of them are not prepared to do. My frustration has led to me holding no tech sessions for the past month. Part of this is because I am so disappointed when nobody shows up...I feel like a failure when that happens. Part of it is because I have had so many other things going on that I feel like I don't have time to plan anymore. There is also a huge lack of motivation on my part. The weeks have been flying by and it's easy to let Tech Camp slip into the background. I feel like if no one is going to come anyway, or if no one is going to request sessions, why should I try? That's a horrible attitude to take, and I'm going to definitely turn it around. I feel myself slipping and I can't let that happen.
I'm now focusing on what should happen next year. I am in the process of writing a proposal for the laptop idea, which we will use NCLB money to fund. I am counting on about 10 teachers to participate. If it's less, that is fine. The main parts of the program will be that teachers will get to keep their laptops, but will have to commit to a certain number of staff development hours. I am also considering a requirement for being on the technology committee and being a tech mentor to the next set of teachers in the program. I'm not sure how much of that I can get away with, but if I can get the first 2 requirements, it should still work. I also am not sure if I should 'prod' certain teachers to join the program or not. I have a few teachers in mind who I think would do very well, but I'm not sure how they would feel about the time commitment. I guess it never hurts to ask, though.
My frustration with the staff became apparent, I believe, which led to people requesting less help from me in the last few months. I am working very hard to restore the staff's confidence in me as a technology expert and someone who is willing to help. I have found that having someone that is reliable, friendly, and willing to help is as important, if not more important, than having the know-how and the technology. I have not been very excited about teaching technology to adults over the past 2 months, and the teachers on my staff can see it. They want to learn, but they are afraid to ask me for help. This became very apparent to me when one of my friends on staff told me about another teacher she had been talking to. This teacher is getting ready to retire, and calls me at least 3 times a week to tell me that her printer isn't working and that she has forgotten how to email me. She called me at home over a weekend to ask how to turn off the laptop she had borrowed because it had frozen. I wasn't angry with her calling, but I guess I didn't sound thrilled to hear from her either. She told my friend that I had sounded upset that she had called, and my friend said she sounded as if she might be afraid of me now. I know that she was only kidding me, in part, but it really hit home with me. I'm in a business where I have to be the cheerleader and if I want teachers to really start using the technology, I have to be there cheering them on, making them feel good about what they can do, and helping them with what they cannot do. I am making a concerted effort now to put on my 'game face' even if I'm not feeling up to it.
In making a concerted effort to be more positive, I believe I have more people on my side now. I have been working hard to respond to help requests the same day, if not immediately, and it has had a positive impact on the staff. They know I am there to help out. I still have a few who think it's OK to stop me in the hall and ask me questions, and think that I'll remember their help request, but I just keep reminding them that if they don't email or call me, it won't get done. I had one teacher in particular who had requested to meet with me, which in turn I asked her to email me and tell me what times were good for her. She never did, and kept seeing me in the hall and saying, "I need to email you...well, maybe I'll just catch you when you have some free time." She caught me at lunch. Even though I was not thrilled, I was cordial and she seemed to appreciate it.
I was frustrated when we had our latest inservice day. I had specifically mentioned in my evaluation conference with the assistant superintendent that I needed some time during those days to do staff development. It's an easy way to introduce new software to everyone, and it sparks interest and generates requests for Tech Camps. I was given no time during the last staff development day to do this. Maybe I can 'train' the new administration to do things the way I need them done. =)
I find myself focused on fixing the things that teachers say were holding them back, and I am completely focused on next year. I am taking the time to experiment with out machines that are constantly breaking, and instead of doing the quick fix re-imaging, which works well on most machines but is a constant problem for others, I am completely rebuilding them from scratch. It takes a lot longer, but the results are better, and the teachers are happier. We are also in the process of leasing another 80 machines for next year to replace our aging G3 All-In-Ones. Hopefully, this will increase our classroom uptime to near 100%. We are also ordering another mobile lab to relieve some of the pressure from the one we already have. It has seen almost constant use in the last few weeks.
Lastly, I am really excited about our possible laptop program. I have a proposal which I am going to give to the school board next week, in which I will propose using NCLB Title II money to purchase laptops and provide training for teachers. If it goes through, it will be a huge step in getting teachers to use technology in their classrooms, and will be a very large part of what I do next year. We are proposing 70 hours of required staff development from the teachers who receive laptops, the majority of which will be in-house. Planning for this will be my cycle 3, and actually implementing it will be my final cycle.
My proposal to the board has been pushed back to June 17. In addition, the administration wants me to talk a great deal about the vision for technology in the school, what I have been doing with my Master's program, and what I expect to learn from NECC at the end of the month. I'm afraid the laptop thing is going to get lost in the shuffle. It has also changed from using NCLB grant money to using staff development money, which may make it a harder sell. It's frustrating when people mess with your plans, but I guess that's part of being in middle management.
I'm continuing my research by continuing to read articles on technology staff development to find things that I may have missed in my planning this year and to inlcude in my planning for next year. My gut instict has proven to be correct, because I'm finding validation of my beliefs in the articles that I'm reading. For example, an article by Jamie McKenzie from 1998 talks about how just in time staff development is the way to go, and getting technology in the hands of teachers to take home with them is key to them playing and discovering on their own. It's good to see that I am on track with what some of the 'experts' are saying about technology staff development. I have found, in my searches, that there are things I could have done differently, and will do differently, that would have made my staff development more effective.
Wow...it's been forever. I'm in the process of finishing my summary and reworking this web site. This has been a very difficult task as this is probably the most important thing I've every written.
The proposal to the board went really well, but they won't act on it until next month, which means that I won't be able to act on it until early August. I guess I'll just start planning like it's going to be approved so I won't have to throw together plans for those who get the laptops at the last minute. I'm trying to wrap everything up this week so I can spend a few days enjoying myself when I get back from NECC before we head out to California. I hope I can get it all done by Friday.This page last updated on Tuesday, June 24, 2003