Public Schools Educational Technology Plan

The Colchester Public Schools Educational Technology Plan 2012-2015 follows the Connecticut Technology Plan Framework to the T, from the cover page to the LEA pages to Needs Assessment and Plan Implementation. In terms of the goals, the district has five while the state template has seven. The five goal categories for the district are Engaging and Empowering Learning Experiences, Assessment, Connected Teaching and Learning, Infrastructure for Teaching and Learning, and Productivity and Efficiency.

In terms of Educational Technology Literacy, eighty percent of grade 8 students were considered technology literate. In K-8 the numbers of certified staff considered technology literate was at sixty-seven percent, while at the 9-12 level, the percent of was at seventy percent. Students being technologically accommodated consists of “the number and percentage of each grade level of students that can have high-speed internet access at the same time; that students are grouped in clusters of no more than thirty and no less than ten; and that students remain in their own school” (Colchester School District, 2012, pg. 4-5). Forty-four percent of grade 4 students could be accommodated; forty-two percent of grade 6 students, forty-two percent of grade 8 students, and sixty-percent of grade 10 students.

A place where the district is at the idea step is with the Electronic Portfolio. Creating electronic portfolios at the high school on a webbased wiki as a pilot is seen as one of the weaknesses at the high school in general instruction. It’s wonderful that they are starting a portfolio project at the high school level, as this can be used in their college application process to easily show colleges their work. However, this idea could be expanded to younger grades. By starting this process at the other side, with the elementary schools, by the time they get to high school it can be used for applications, but also for teachers. A portfolio of student work could also be helpful at a time when students can legally dropout. By having more information on them, specifically on their academic work, this may be a step to prevention.

A place were the district is integrating the technology and is at the invention stage is through the implementation of cell phones in academic settings. As stated by Anderson (1996), “the plan (noun) is a clear, written description of the plan (verb) that is put into action by members of the community” (pg.9). The Colchester plan for each subgoal designates who is in charge of spearheading the task. For example, with subgoal 2 under goal area 1, it reads “with increased access, students will demonstrate responsible and ethical use of technology” (Colchester School District, 2012, pg. 14). In the high school, cell phones are being used for academic purposes. A new policy was being created for this addition to the infrastructure to teaching and learning. Therefore multiple people and groups are responsible for this change. Board members whose policy change will affect high school students and then the high school administration and teachers will track the use and misuse of phones by students, as well as create lessons that use cell phones in academic means. It also provides a timeline of beginning in Fall 2012. The “When” could be more specific, including during what time intervals data will be assessed and when more formal assessments on the process, where teachers and administrators explain how cell phones are used in the classroom to the planning committee, perhaps once a year.

A place where the technology is firmly implemented and innovation is occurring is the use of databases to store data to make informed decisions. The district is data rich and this data is accessible through databases. The school uses STAR, AIMSWEB, NWEA, CBAS, and DIBELS as means to assess the students during benchmark periods. This benchmark data is made available online for teachers and administrators to analyze (including with drill-down capabilities) at school grade level teams monthly. A limitation to this data is that you can only view one year’s data at a time. It would be better if students data from all their years in school was accessible, in this way, their achievement can be tracked more precisely. In addition to benchmark data, there is the “continued use of SWIS as an online behavior management tool” (pg. 16). This programs is used by administrators to track student behavior referrals, what the referrals are for, and who is involved in the referrals. This data is analyzed by school teams, including the PBS coordinator, monthly. These two databases of course are possible, as Stringfield, Wayman, and Yakimowski-Srebnick (2006) point out due to the improvements in software (pg. 134). With both of these software programs, administrators can make knowledge based decisions about students by looking at their benchmark scores and referral information. Teachers have access to information regarding their students and are not allowed access to other student’s data unless they are a specialist or special education teacher. One large piece of data not available online is students CMT scores. The only way to fins student’s scores is to pull out their curriculum files and find the record sheet. However, with students moving in and out of the district, sometimes this data is not available. By making this electronic, students CMT data can be accessible to the school much more readily, even if they move.

One issue in the high school is the “need for systematic instruction on evaluation of sources and consistent requirements regarding documentation of online sources, copyright infringement and intellectual property.” At the middle school level, “Systematic instruction in the middle school regarding documentation of sources” is considered one of their strengths.” It’s interesting while documenting sources is strength in grades 6-8, by high school it is seen as a skill students don’t have. Through collaboration between technology and language arts teachers at the middle and high schools, a standard practice and instruction can be developed that is repetitive and reinforcing.

Looking more closely at the plan, some places could be improved or clarifed. For example, in one section it mentions for non-certified staff, their technology access includes “Web based meal payment system.” Additionally, it says “Paraprofessionals will be evaluated using the new plan [Noncertified staff evaluation revised in 2010] and effective use of technology and updated training will be required for advancement.” It is curious as to what this technology use consists of as the only technology access mentioned besides the meal payment system is “Access to computers, webbased email, and substitutes.” The phrase “required for advancement” is particularly interesting. If the paraprofessional has not mastered using a computer, their email, SubFinder, and the meal payment system, they won’t be advanced to the next pay step? There also is no training for these basic technologies – paraprofessionals are expected to master them on their own with help from other paraprofessionals and faculty.

Additionally, although iPads are listed as being made available to the high school math department, these grant obtained iPads have sat in a closet since they were attained because there is a lack of training. One of the more interesting sub-goals under Goal Area 5 (Productivity and Efficiency) is “Use online tools to reduce paper and textbook costs” by 2015 through “Curriculum implementation will include online components and technology skills for each new curriculum” (Colchester School District, 2012, pg. 20). This will potentially will achieved through the use of websites, such as Edmodo, and the use of iPads and computer technology in the classroom. One hindrance to this implementation is budgetary issues, as the beginning of the Needs Assessment states the five-year replacement has not always been implemented due to budget constraints. However progress towards this goal can nevertheless be gained through increased use of existing technologies and websites.

Overall, the district technology plan is sound. It recognizes its shortcomings and strengths and details how it will improve within the next three years. It is moving more surely towards implementation and innovation, especially as the use of cell phones and portfolios become more established and policies and best-use practices are identified.

References:

Anderson, L. (1996.) Guidebook for Planning 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/guidebook.cfm

Colchester School District. (2012). Colchester public schools educational technology plan.

Stringflied, S., Wayman, & Yankimowski-Srebnick, M. Scaling Up Data Use in Classrooms, Schools, and Districts. From Dede, C., Honan, J, and Peters, L. (2005) Scaling Up Success: Lessons learned from technology-based educational improvement. Jossey-Bass.

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