Educational Technology or Educational Administration: My Digital Journey to Leadership
Shannon Dawn Copeland
Educational Technology or Educational Administration: My Digital Journey to Leadership
I began teaching at my current school district in 1991 and was asked to be the District Technology Coordinator in 1998 due to my extensive use of technology in my Special Education classroom. This appointment began a long term relationship with educational technology. My technology experience also readied me to be my district’s choice for the Technology Application certification in 1992 when TIFF grants paid for the technology boon in Texas education. I tried, at that time, to continue my technology training to receive an Educational Technology masters through the University of North Texas, but no one else in my cohort responded positively and my local professor-of-record didn’t pursue it. I do, however, feel fortunate to have been involved in that ground-breaking endeavor.
As a result of my Technology Application certification, I promptly began teaching Webmastery, Digital Graphics/Multimedia, Video Editing, and Desktop Publishing. The experience I gained teaching these technology application courses helped me immensely when I was asked to serve as District TAKS Coordinator in 2004. It is stunning to realize how heavily the web of test coordinator duties relies on technology.
Everything I do is increasingly tied to computers and I have, at last count, 18 passwords for everything from my online grade book to my Texas Education Agency Secure Environment (TEASE) accounts, to the online assessment ordering website, www.texasassessment.com. I originally began this master’s to stop my CPA husband from jokingly brandishing his master’s in accounting at me but my attitude changed after a couple of courses when I decided that I would like to also study for my principal’s certification. It seems that my mid-life crisis expenditure will result in life-long learning tools and possibly open job opportunity doors concurrently.
Position and Leadership Goals
I would like to begin this section on a personal note summarizing a conversation between my husband and me. We were discussing the title of this comprehensive exam and I mentioned that I wanted my title to convey the turn my degree plan and my attitude took when Dr. Abernathy announced that we could add the leadership component to Educational Technology and be eligible to take the principal certification exam. I have been in leadership positions in my school since I was asked to become the District Technology Coordinator in 1997 and my colleagues seemed to follow my lead easily. I began wondering what it was about me that caused co-workers to come to me with anything from retirement plan questions to marriage woes! I do not like writing about myself in this manner, but introspection is introspection, even if a person doesn’t like doing it. I told my husband that while thinking about the portions of assignment one in 5370, I couldn’t separate my educational technology experiences from my leadership experiences, which both began long before I ever heard of Lamar University. I have discovered that educational technology and leadership are intertwined within me and I’ll have to write this paper accordingly. His response was to tell me that “you have lived that path and you can talk in detail about how they (technology and leadership) inter-relate, especially in today’s electronically-enhanced society and if that is the way you see this journey, then I think it would be both easier for you to write and it should make it an interesting read”.
I like my current position as District Technology Coordinator, but have always believed that I should continue studies in the area of technology to stay current with the rapidly changing digital world. This masters program began as a project to fill my time and to better my classroom instruction, but blossomed into a full blown endeavor to make an upward move to, possibly, a technology curriculum director position with a larger school. The principal certification was just a bonus and even though I do not want to be a principal at this time, but I believe that the certification’s presence on my vitae and my SBEC certification will be advantageous while pursuing future jobs. In addition to increased knowledge of new technologies, I have also been given more responsibility in areas not associated with technology or assessment at my school since beginning this course of study. My principal came to me in early October and asked my thoughts on our grading policy and what changes I’d like to see made to it. I feel like this master’s in technology with the leadership component are already opening doors for me.
Developing high-quality leadership goals is something that occurs with time and experience. I hope to lead with strong ethics and compassion for all stakeholders, including parents, teachers and students. A leader must also have an idea or vision of the direction he/she wants the campus to follow and what he/she wants the campus to resemble in the future because curriculum development, staffing patterns, needs assessments and collaboration among stakeholders are huge tasks for one person to try to implement and articulate. A good leader must also, as referred to in one of the standards, be able to distribute, or delegate authority. I don't think that I'm at the point where my vision is entirely clear, but the experiences that I've gained over the last 20 years definitely color my perceptions about all these aspects and I feel like I'm beginning to pull all of this insight together into a plan. If my prior experiences and the training that I’ve received in this course of study have helped me grow as an educator and possibly a future school leader, then perhaps I’ll be able to recognize pitfalls while becoming a good proactive leader.
Classroom of the Future: Built for Creation and Presentation
Schools and classrooms of the future will take advantage of a number of new technologies outlined in the 2010 Horizon Report. This resource explains the exciting new services that are becoming mainstream. Cloud computing, collaborative environments, game-based learning, mobiles, augmented reality and flexible displays are discussed at length in this report. These technologies are broken down into the categories of near-term, mid-term and far-term depending on their entry into mainstream use in schools. They also show great potential for teaching, learning and creative expression. (Johnson, Smith, Levine & Haywood, 2010) Cloud computing seems to be the cornerstone for all of these technologies, with collaborative environments and mobile and augmented reality apps based in the “cloud” already. I find cloud computing a remarkable step towards unlimited storage space and application availability. We are sure to by-pass physical hard-drives completely someday, having thin client computers that take advantage of cloud-based applications and storage exclusively.
Amazon.com recently launched its cloud drive offering 5 GB of free storage, access from any computer and secure storage. This service made me wonder about how long the concept of cloud computing has been around. I was astounded to find an article written in 1996 that actually describes an idea that would become what we know as cloud computing today. More astonishing is the fact that the author even refers to “a concept of a kernel (seen as a fix point, real place allowing social interaction and direct contact of learners with ‘live’ knowledge) and the concept of a cloud (seen as a virtual place allowing remote access to or interaction with knowledge and people)”.(Vivet, 1996, p.664) Vivet envisioned online learning communities operating with real-time communication such as Skype, chatrooms, facebook and the many other social and educational sites available to the masses.
The classroom of the near future will have access to all these technologies and more. I think I would use many of the ideas produced in the “Classroom of the Future” video for my classroom. (mediaineducation, 2007) My classroom would be designed specifically for creation and presentation of projects and ideas. If I could design a classroom from barebones to fully functional, I would begin with power concerns. There would have to be power available by means of wall-length, mounted power strips on every wall and multi-outlets in the floors. There would be wireless access with maximum frequency bands for use with mobile devices, such as cell phones, iTouches, iPads, laptops and streaming video delivery systems. Most of the mobile devices would lend themselves to game-based learning. I have students in my current classroom using iPads to play games presenting a number of strategic games and logic activities. I heard a speaker at ESC17 mention one time that all students have an attention span, we just have to find what holds it. If traditional means of teaching don’t keep students interested, many times game-based learning does. I do worry that this generation is becoming more isolated and withdrawn in real social situations, even though they are quite prolific in their online “lives”.
There will be two Promethean smart boards (one for my instruction and one for student presentations) and a document camera for presenting both student work and teacher instruction. I’ll also expect 1 to 1 computing with all computers mapped to a shared server and students with their own logins. The computer pods will all have networked scanners and printers. Although flexible displays are mentioned with the far-term technologies in the Horizon Report, I have seen, on television, desktops that worked much like a giant iPad or touch-phone. The designers were using a table-top computer screen the size of an office desktop. It reminded me of a cross between an iPad and a Promethean board in its functionality. The classroom desks will be modular as to accommodate several students into cooperative learning groups as mentioned above in the description of the learning pods. The walls will be covered with whiteboards that can be used as either writing surfaces or projection displays. My current classroom has both whiteboards and cork bulletin boards for student collaboration and presentation of projects. I’ve noticed that our English teachers are also using whiteboards in their classrooms, but not attached to the wall. Three of them have gone to Lowe’s Home Improvement and purchased “shower boards” and had our maintenance department cut them into sizes that can be placed in the middle of groups of students for collaboration and brainstorming. The students all use different color markers to show evidence of their work.
All of this design and planning must go hand in hand with sound teaching, leading and learning. Instructors must provide problems for students to solve and practice at solving them. Learning must also be presented in logical sequences allowing exposure to pre-requisites before more complex tasks and students need instructor-guided learning in conjunction with collaborative and self-directed learning to be successful. We have learned a great deal since I became a teacher 20 years ago. Students are now more experimental learners who are interactive and social. They have become multi-taskers and are less linear thinkers than my generation. That concept hits close to home with me due to my position as District TAKS Coordinator. I haven’t been able to train anyone to help me with TAKS testing because I’m such linear thinker that I can’t hand any part of the process over without severing some of my internal checks and balances for the procedures. Today’s students also EXPECT technology to be a integral part of their teaching and learning. It is up to school administrators to direct teachers to get the training they need to deliver this type of instruction.
In addition to being the District TAKS Coordinator, I’m also the District Technology Coordinator. This means that I authored our District Technology Plan and had it very much in mind when designing this classroom of the future. My district conducted a needs assessment and found that “Our research indicates that there is a need to expand the use of technology in our classrooms, across our campuses, and in our community. For this to be done successfully, the teachers must receive in-service instruction to effectively integrate technology into their teaching strategies.” (Copeland, 2009) Our goals and objective clearly state the needs for our students and district. We have 3 main goals: Anton ISD will prepare students for a technologically advancing world, AISD will access and utilize current technologies, and AISD will form a partnership with the community to provide opportunities involving current technology. These 3 goals are supported with numerous objectives and strategies that will be described more completely in Week 5’s assignment detailing our technology plans.
Technology Leadership Skills, My Attitudes and Myself: What Have I Learned?
This has been a journey that began with a desire to hold a master’s degree in a subject that consumes my life. Every aspect of my job includes technology in some way. Whether I’m ordering TAKS/STAAR tests online, teaching digital graphics or explaining why an email video of someone’s grandchild won’t deliver because it’s too big, I’m using technology. Along the way, I began to formulate what is still becoming my vision of technology and leadership in respect to not only my current job, but also a job that I might hold in the future. Technology can no longer be an “extra” in school. It must be an integral part of our curriculum and cannot be taught in isolation because our world is becoming less industrial and more digital.
I learned a few hard and irritating lessons about myself during this journey. It was about this time that I began strongly questioning the teaching methods in my school and became suspicious that in order to teach these kids without boring them to death, we needed to stop giving notes in lecture form and start getting them out of their seats and into groups brainstorming, collaborating and researching with digital tools. I WAS one of the teachers that kept students in their seats quietly working before I began teaching technology applications courses several years ago. I guess I experienced an “awakening” of sorts in that I began to see years ago what I want my colleagues to know now. The Teaching with Technology course illustrated to me how the UDL philosophy allows us, as educators, to rethink materials, methods, goals and assessments using its multiple means of introducing and learning concepts. If our students are motivated to create and learn using digital tools, then we need to provide them with the opportunity to do so. “Effort is the only controllable source of success and students who truly believe that they can be successful have more motivation and initiative than other students.” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 155) I believe that even if the task outcome isn’t a success, the reinforcement of it is and students will continue to work towards the achievement of goals. Our students need to “learn how to learn” because there is too much to memorize. I recently attended a conference in which the presenter used Google as an example of why students need to learn how to question. He simply typed an inquiry and his point wasn’t with how many hits were returned, but with how fast the information was returned. This re-enforced my belief that today’s kids need to know how to THINK. Linda Darling-Hammond (2007) expressed in a video this week that school teachers and leaders need training to be emotionally and socially intelligent in order to educate the whole child. I believe this would allow children to handle the stress in their lives and to relate well to a variety of peers if collaborate careers are our future.
I feel like my school is always one step behind with technology that other schools seem to have now. The challenge of providing our students with the technology tools they need to be successful in the world, both today and tomorrow, isn’t an isolated problem. It seems that the same obstacles abound in many areas and there are various reasons for this. We have administrators in my school and elsewhere who don’t want to try any new technology due to fiscal or logistical issues or to competing demands on time and resources. Solomon and Schrum (2007) say, however, that some schools are taking the first steps in the process of including full integration of technology into their classrooms. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major contributor that helps to sponsor a great many of these full integration schools. It’s frustrating for me, as a potential administrator, to see and read about the schools that use technology seamlessly in their everyday lessons and know that other schools are just struggling to pay for the unfunded mandates being meted out by our state.
My unenthusiastic attitude over the last few years was the momentum I needed to push me toward returning to school. I was burned out teaching the same things that I’d been teaching since receiving my Technology Applications certification in 2003 and I felt as though I was standing on the sidelines of something awesome. I knew that there were so many new tools and so much open source material available and this knowledge was one of the reasons I sought out a degree program that would place me squarely in the present using the most current digital tools.
"Information also flows free of the containers that we previously managed as the gatekeepers” (Warlick, 2007, p. 20) I’m excited about teaching again because of the new avenues that have been opened for me. We are no long the keepers of the information and we, as teachers, should be learning right alongside the students. I am definitely more compassionate toward core subject area teachers who are preparing students for state assessments and try to use the knowledge that I’m gaining both through this master’s program and through my own research to help them have successful outcomes. As a life-long learner, I have subscribed to a new educational theory that includes students, teachers and administrators all learning and growing together.
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