Why is planning important when implementing a district / school-wide initiative?
Planning is critical to properly implement any initiative on a district or school wide basis. Whether school or district they both must follow the same rigorous process. This became quite apparent as we developed our implementation plan. The first point that directly affected the plan was the allocation and distribution of resources. It was important that resources were not duplicated in ad hock purchases in each school and that each school was going to use the same communication network when addressing the general public. Without an overarching plan the parents and students could be using different communication processes with each school. Delegating this process to be managed and developed by the school board ensured consistency across the district. Coordination also became a cost savings in the budget as the district was able to buy a site license for some software that covered an entire school verse individual computer licenses. A coordinated district budget insured that resources were not expended prior to their need and allowed the district to take on tasks in segmented expenditures. Using a coordinated budget across the school district also allowed more funding options. K-12 TechDecision Magazine (2014) directed administrators to private companies that were willing to support your implementation plan with their products at little or no cost. The catch was that it had to be installed across a district or school as part of a complete educational technology plan.
What did you learn by creating a district technology plan?
That planning for an entire district is hard, more to the point is that the goal and mission statement must be focused and directed. Without concise and focused direction the entire project can balloon outside of the stated objective. Concrete decisions must be made on the scope and direction of the project. The goal statements and implementation plan will all take their cue from this first initial step. While important learner outcomes and funding are secondary subsets to the goal and mission. Having these to statements clear and aligned will aid the district in its ability to discourage non-essential add-ons which individual constituents may desire, but do not directly support the defined goal.
Is it important to involve a wide range of individuals such as teachers, administrators, and community stakeholders? Why or why not?
Sheninger (2014) discuss this point in his 6 elements that drive change. It is important to involve all the stockholders in the process. The involvement of the stakeholders will start the buy in process when the system or process is installed. Secondary, but not least, in this process is the life experience that each of these individuals brings to the planning process. A good example of this took place in our group when I was talking to one of my peers and they suggested that we investigate leasing the equipment rather than performing an out and out right buy of the equipment. This offered a quality second option that the district could choose in our plan. It offered a significant cost savings and shifted cost into a consumable rather than a depreciated cost. Given the rapid improvements in equipment and in conjunction with all the other cost layouts during the first few years of installation it may be the best option for a small school district. This dull path for implementation would have never taken place if the group would have depended on our own expertise.
Describe the difference in cooperation and collaboration. Which is more important? Why? Did your team cooperate, collaborate, or both. Provide specific examples from your team experience to support your response.
Collaboration is the process of working in a group or teams were each individual supplies input and produces product for a given goal. Cooperation is the process in a team or group which has a defined leadership structure and the individuals follow the leader to produce the leadership’s product. Neither is more important than the other. Collaboration or cooperation are depended upon the intended goal and the group participants. If my team is building a house I want them to cooperate with the lead architect to produce the design he has envisioned. If the teams try to collaborate with the architect then the finished product will be more than likely unusable. This project needs on vision with strong leadership. If my team is designing new curriculum for third graders I want them to collaborate. Work individually with minimal guidance to produce a common product. Team members developing their piece under a set of predefined standards agreed to by the group. Our team used both at given times. We collaborated by dividing the process and each of us developing portions that played to our given strengths as guided by the goals we established as a team. We cooperated in setting the goals and mission statements. Each person discussed why they thought this should be the mission statement and how the goals should be defined and then we elected the ones we felt best aligned with the mission statement. Neither process was more important but it set the tone and direction of how the group was going to work.
What are the benefits and challenges of working together? Why is it important to be able to work as a member of a team in education / business / government?
The benefits and challenges of working in a team our best explained by Paul (I Corinthians: 12) when he discusses the gifts of the spirit in 1st Corinthians. In this book Paul discusses how each of the believers has received a special gift from the Holy Spirit. Some have the gift of evangelizing, some the gift of teaching, and some the gift of servitude. He is very careful to explain how no gift is better than any other and uses the example of how a body could not survive without all of its parts working in unison. If the head thought it was more important than the foot this would soon be disproved when the head wanted to move. Without the foot it would be stuck where ever it lay. In a team each has equal importance and function. No one in the team will survive if pride enters the equation or a person fails to perform as expected. Just as in the example of the body government, education, and business must perform in a team atmosphere. In this team environment workloads are shared, individuals can utilize their talents to the best of their abilities and profitability (monetarily or productively) is accelerated.
Why is it important to establish group norms when teams are formed?
In any organization greater than one a group norm is required. The norming process establishes code of conduct, meeting structure, and expectations of the participants. These are the fundamental building blocks and will directly affect the dynamic of the group guiding towards a collaborative or cooperative leadership style. Failure of the participants to adhere to the norms of the group will also dictate a change in leadership style. If the participants can agree and follow the norms established at the beginning of the group then things may proceed along in a democratic environment. Failure to adhere to the norms and the environment quickly degrades to an authoritarian model.
How does technology (wikis, Google docs, OneNote, Prezi, Twitter, web/video conferencing, etc.) contribute to the development of “21st Century” skills: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity?
I will not be very popular for this but I do not think that 21st century technological tools do not contribute to the skills. All of the technology devices listed are just tools to aid a process that has been established long before. They just offer a faster method of communication over than pen and paper. The process of collaboration and communication starts with your siblings and graduates to the playground in grade school. Constantly texting or phoning may be perceived as communication but I think it is more akin to the idle gossip that took place in the hardware store or the beauty parlor. Effective communication is taught and practiced. I cannot effectively communicate in 140 characters or less. During my studies in this and other courses I am no more creative now than I was when I started. I am not a creative person. What I have done is evaluate a lot of tools in this course and decided how they will assist my learners in receiving what I am trying to communicate to them. Just like my tool chest at home some have had significant value and others will collect dust until it is time to use them. Educators talk a lot about critical thinking. Critical thinking only taxes place when the student is forced to formulate new ideas. This is a process of recall and reflection. Viewing a document as a group, posting something to a wiki, or participating in a web conference does not scream reflection to me. Sounds more like reaction which is the exact opposite of the desired outcome. These are excellent tools for us to use, but they are nothing but tools. It is still incumbent upon the instructor to decide which tool to use to get the most effect during the time they have with the student. No tool will replace proper planning and execution to achieve a desired outcome.
Which of these skills, if any, did you use to complete the Collaborative Technology Plan Project / the individual screencast assignment? (Think in terms of the total assignment–from researching goals, strategies, etc. and working on the collaborative technology plan and completing the individual screencast to learning to navigate new software, if applicable, or resolving scheduling conflicts, etc.)
We used google docs as the foundation for the paper. It allowed us to collaborate on the wording of the paper as a group. I used the online library and search engines to evaluate the research that had been accomplished for our subject matter. Prezi was the assigned presentation software and it will be used in conjunction with Hyper-cam or CamStudio to produce the final video product. The Microsoft office suite was used to communicate in an asynchronous manner and assemble the final document.
Why is skilled communication important?
I do not think it is required to be a skilled communicator in the classroom. I think you need to be an effective communicator. Myatt (2012) writes in Forbes magazine about 10 items that make you a “skilled communicator” these include be specific, focus on the leave-behinds not the take-a ways, replace ego with empathy, read between the lines, and when you speak know what you’re talking about. All of these things would be required for a skilled communicator but they do not have an effective component. Each of these attributes are guiding the person towards a one sided communication. People attribute the title of great communicators to Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, or Barrack Obama but does that make them effective communicators. Traits of an effective communicator as described by the University of Maine (2004) they include active listening, direct and assertive expression, maintaining dialogue, and expressing or receiving anger if required. These traits are more aligned with communication. As an educator it is critical that you become an effective communicator. Too often instructors become skilled communicators.
How can you use the information gained in this course 1) in your current position? 2) In a school or district leadership position?
The final project introduced me to Prezi. I was so impressed with the product that I demoed iot for a couple of instructors and have decided that nit has real earned value for the course material we develop. I submitted a non-standard software request for the professional standalone version of the software and it is in the final stages of approval. This version should allow us to do course overviews and summative reviews of course material. If it is compatible with the audience response system we could have some real fun. In a district or school leadership position my take away has been if you have to interact with members of the state or federal government to accomplish a task like this you could be in real trouble. Our project was based on a five year budget which can be calculated for a small district. If you are relying on the state or federal government to fund a project in continuing years based on that fiscal years grant requests you may wind up in hot water fast.
What could I have done differently (if anything) to improve my performance with respect to communication, collaboration, creativity, and / or critical thinking?
The process of communication is never stagnant and you can always perform better in the way you interact with others. I failed my team mates while I was on travel to teach a course at a remote site. I did not preplan the methods of communication as well as I should have. Collaboration and creativity went well. Critical thinking was none existent, but this project did not require you to reinvent the wheel to meet the expected goal. Sometimes off the shelf items will work just fine and have the added security of being tested in service at a number of locations. Reliability had a high market value in this project.
In all this was a well-conceived lesson that forced us to use critical skills, had enough detail to meet the goal yet deficient enough to make us come up with our own direction and solutions. I would say that transference of learning took place in this class.
Bulletin #6103, Effective Communication . Cooperative Extension Publications University of Maine, 5741 Libby Hall, Room 114 Orono, ME 04469-5741 http://umaine.edu/publications/6103e/
Holy bible (KJV), 1611. 1 Corinthians 12. Pearson press
K-12 Technology Grants: A Guide to Getting Money for 2014
Myatt, M. 2012. 10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders. Forbes magazine, 04 April 2012
Sheninger, E. (2014). Digital leadership: Changing paradigms for changing times. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.