Sunday, May 18, 2008

In the Trenches...

Holy cow! It's been about a month since I've been here to update my blog. I never have set goals for keeping up the writing and sometimes the thoughts don't come when so many and varied things are going on. So...let's see if I can catch up a bit here with the events of life in the fast lane in just the last month!

Technology Site Visit
Each year, the National School Boards Association sponsor site visits to school district to "showcase innovative technology implementation." We attended a visit in Batavia that was really interesting. We saw the use of interactive whiteboards, document cameras, tablet PC's and we got to hear from district staff about how they've funded, planned for and implemented the use of technology in their classrooms. These were two well spent days. The NSBA did a fine job of organizing the visit and the staff in Batavia were very welcoming to those visiting from New York state, Arizona, Louisiana and elsewhere. Oh yeah...and their music groups entertained us all along the way. Batavia can be very proud of their music programs as well.

Five years ago we began a curriculum process in which we created documents that would guide the teaching, assessment and learning in our classrooms. We've begun to take a look back at Social Studies to review the alignment between the documents and our state curriculum. We've found that we're doing well in that area but we need to provide some additional resources for some of the topics. I've had an active role in this process and it gives me a chance to get a better idea of exactly how Social Studies is being addressed by our teachers and to make some recommendations for technology resources.

Collaborative Projects
For the past three years, we've been involved with the PALS project through our regional school library system. PALS is all about the librarian and the collaborative relationships that can exist with the classroom teacher when we all have access to the data that informs instruction and learning. As an instructional technology specialist, it's a lot of fun to help plan this work with our great library media specialists and classroom teachers. But the best part is the problem solving we're doing together as we work through the collaborative process and the implementation of the technology tools that support all of the projects that are being designed. Our work with collaborative projects continues to grow and expand each year.

This year, each grade level has had the opportunity to meet together twice to discuss small group instruction and the use of literacy work stations. As the basis for this, they've talked about the Daily Five (the excellent work of Gail Boushey and Joan Moser) as well as the work of Debbie Diller.

We have an excellent group of teachers who are known as ELA team leaders. They have been charged with helping to facilitate these groups and have done a really spectacular job with it. We have a Blackboard site for Curriculum and Instruction which we're using to support English Language Arts through the sharing of lesson activities and resources. Since I help to maintain that site, I stay involved in this initiative. Again, a great way to stay in touch with teacher needs and a great way to bring the use of technology into the discussions.

Teacher Training
This year, the decision was made to switch our elementary computers from Mac to PC. It's difficult to see this happen for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we've supported the use of Macs in the district for more than 20 years. Nevertheless, some of our teachers need to learn how to use Word and understand the navigation of a networked PC. In addition, we have computer lab assistants who are learning to use new software tools such as Scholastic Keys. We'll also be working with Google Picasa and PhotoStory 3. These are the kinds of issues occupying a lot of my time not to mention planning for the removal, discard or reallocation of all those computers as we make this switch in stages.

For the past three years, we've slowly been installing Smartboards in our secondary buildings - grades 6-12. This year, for the first time, we're beginning to install them in our elementary buildings as well. Unfortunately, they've just come in - too late in the school year to make arrangements for full training on the use of the boards and the software. So, late this summer, we'll be preparing these teachers to make use of the Smartboard in their instruction to begin the next school year.

Data Analysis
OK...I'm a data geek. We have some cool resources for data in my district and I've been taking all the facts and figures and putting them together for building administrators. I really do like that part of my job but it's really labor and time intensive. And...wouldn't you know it? The data isn't usually available until right about now. First of all, it doesn't come in a timely fashion that allows us to use the data to have an impact on this year's learning. The best we can do is to look at the results, let the next year's teachers for those students see how they did and try to find some patterns in performance that help us to know what kinds of skills in general are in need of remediation.

So, I think that's about it. How about you? Is the end of your school year as busy as the rest of the year or does everything seem to happen at the end? Cheers!