Category Archives: Logistics

Awesome App, Maybe, Maybe Not

With 1.5 million apps on the App Store we expect you’ll find one not on the LTP Provided and Recommended list that you may want your students to download. Before you start planning that amazing lesson plan that will require this new app you’ll need to make sure of a few things.1 To help you with that our team wrote a 1-pager to help guide teachers through the steps of what they need to do to meet the district guidelines for using 3rd party apps and web services.

chartoftheday_3530_app_store_growth_n

 

Just the other week Westview Middle School initiated a process that provides a systematic way to ensure teachers meet these guidelines. This came out of a conversation about iPad expectations for students during their tech team meeting. Stemming from a desire to be clear with students and parents about what apps are allowed on devices they decided to have a “whitelist” document that includes all the apps students are approved to have on their device.

Patrick Mount, Cindy Thompson (Westview’s Teacher Librarian & BTC), and myself created a  Google Form that teachers will need to fill out in order to get the app approved. Once they do this both the principal and AP are alerted and will approve or disapprove the app. Here’s a copy of the form. 

Please reach out to the ITCs  if you’re interested in making one for your school.

 

 

 

 

  1. Especially when you consider what the company may be asking from the students and what some of them may do with their data. []

Sharing Student Images

We advocate for the sharing of learning AND appropriate use of student images in the media we share.  Here are a few considerations and ways to share media that may involve the use of student images.

First, it may be helpful to consider these questions prior to using student images in what you share:

  1. Is the purpose for sharing the media justifiable to community stakeholders?
  2. Are you including any identifiable student information along with the image?
  3. Even if the parent has given permission, is the student comfortable with their image being shared?

Here are some creative ways to include student images without exposing their identity:

  1. Use the Retouch feature in iPhoto to blur faces.
  2. Use an app to blur faces in videos. Here’s an article from Wes Fryer that explores some of these apps.

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image

 

The way to access the permissions report for a class in Infinite Campus is to navigate to Instruction > SV Custom Reports > Permissions Table.

The category that addresses student images is “District Publication.” The language parents read when signing off on this category follows:

I give permission for the St. Vrain Valley School District (and any person or company authorized by the District) to use and copyright all photographs, film, video, and/or recordings taken of this student by District staff (or their representatives) and understand that the District may use reproductions, alterations, or additions to them. I also understand that these reproductions may include authorized District websites and school district publications.

Patrick Mount, DTS’s data-security extraordinaire, explains that if parents choose yes for this category this would give permission for folks to use student images in public spaces. Even so, he notes, it is important to consider that students/parents may be comfortable having their image shown in some public spaces, but not in others.

Let us know if you have any questions, or student work displayed in photos or videos that you’d like to share!

 

Just Because It’s Out Doesn’t Mean You Have To Update

Tomorrow’s a big day in St. Vrain.  It’s the first large iOS update release since we deployed our LTP 1:1 iPad minis at our middle schools.  iOS 8 will go live some time tomorrow.  Many students and staff will want to update to iOS 8 immediately.  That’s cool.  But be prepared – it might be a very slooooooow process on the district network.  6,000 or so district iPad users will be updating, too.

Also – your favorite app or apps might not love the new OS.  They might be a week or two away from awesomeness on the new platform.  Be prepared for that.

One more thing – it’s entirely possible that there’ll be a bug or hiccup or two as you transition to iOS 8.  Some stuff might not work right out of the gate.  

So if you’re not sure why you should update just yet, perhaps you’ll want to wait a day or two for others to discover the problems for you.  iOS 7 will be just fine for the next week or two while you ease into the new OS.  

We’ll share out some of the new features over the next few weeks here on the blog.  But if you want to check them out right when you update, check out the new “Tips” app, or if you’re not updated yet, check out some of the new features on the iOS 8 Tips website.

Filter Update

filter requestAs many of you noticed the filter seemed to be working in overdrive last week.  It  was blocking many educational sites such as classroom management ideas or assessment rubrics.  Although frustrating what you were experience was our way to ensure that we were providing a safe network for students.  We believe the problem has been fixed and the filter should be functioning properly.

What Happened?  There was a glitch in our filtering system.  As discussed in an early post, one of the ways the filter works is to identify adult keywords and filter those sites.   The feature called Safe Search, when operating correctly, will automatically filter out websites from search engines that contain adult keywords.  Unfortunately this system broke down and was not properly identifying keywords, allowing inappropriate content through the filter.

An Immediate Solution: To immediately solve the Safe Search problem our Network Engineers enabled an additional keyword feature.  Although this prevented students from accessing inappropriate content it was overzealous and blocked any site that that had an adult keyword embedded within another term (such as classroom or assessment).

Current Situation:  Our Network Engineers were able to solve the issue.  Currently Safe Search is working and will  prevent students from accessing inappropriate content and filter only sites containing adult keywords in isolation.

Please let any of the ITCs or the Help Desk know if you continue to experience problems with the filter.

 

 

Introducing the SVVSD Learning Technology Plan

At the end of the last school year, we announced the broad strokes of our future technology plans for classrooms, teachers, and students. Over the summer, we’ve been working to further develop and begin action on those plans, and we are now ready to share more details in order to help you plan for the future and its impact on you, your students, and your school.

While our Instructional Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC) group will continue to meet and advise us as we move forward, we want you to know that the plan is now known as the SVVSD Learning Technology Plan, or LTP for short.

Here’s an overview of what is in the works and what the plan will mean for teaching and learning in the district.

SVVSD Learning Technology Plan

Why Are We Doing This?

After the 2011 mill levy override ensured a consistent stream of funds for technology refresh, we convened the ITAC group to help us better understand the best way to invest those dollars.  They first did some thinking and planning around what we would consider to be the essential environments and activities that would best promote learning environments that will be ripe for the types of learning that must happen in St. Vrain.  The group generated a collection of considerations – actions and attributes that the group felt was essential for framing their work. These considerations were largely formed from their understanding of the technology skills required by the new Colorado academic standards.

The specific plans derive from those initial conversations around what students and teachers needed their technology to help them accomplish.

What will change?

Currently, each school has a set of desktop computer-based labs that are available for student use.

As we move forward, each school will continue to have physical labs, with Mac mini computers replacing any existing iMac computers. In addition, carts of Chromebooks in the schools will reduce demand on labs for many tasks and ensure sufficient capacity for future assessment needs.

Currently, each classroom has a Citrix thin client available and some classrooms have mounted projectors.

As we move forward, each classroom will have a Mac mini computer and a mounted projector. (Note: The installation of the mounted projectors will follow the bond construction effort.)

Currently, students have access to a mix of laptop carts, computer labs, and other mobile devices such as iPads and iPods.

As we move forward, each classroom in grades PreK-5 will have a dedicated number of iPad mini devices and each student in grades 6-12 will have an iPad mini assigned to them.

Currently, teachers have access to a thin client, with some schools providing laptops for teacher use.

As we move forward, every teacher will be assigned an iPad mini.



(PDF Version
Learning Technology Plan – Final)
When will these changes occur?

In our elementary schools, some of these changes have already begun as half of our schools have updated Mac desktop machines in their computer labs and 90 of our PreK and K teachers have received their teacher iPad mini to prepare for the GOLD assessment.

Our middle schools will see many changes to their sites over the next 18 months. In February of this year, every middle school teacher will be equipped with an iPad mini and will have opportunities to engage in professional learning about the iPad as an instructional tool. In the fall of 2014, middle school students will receive an iPad mini.

In our high schools, changes will begin to occur in the summer of 2014 as Chromebook carts are delivered to schools, followed by a fall deployment of classroom Mac desktops and a spring influx of iPad mini devices for each teacher.

These are just of a few of the changes in store. To see a more comprehensive look at the rollout plan, take a look at this document or use these presentations to see a summary of changes in elementary school, middle school, and high school.

What will the district take away?

While there are many laptops, iPads, iPods and other devices in the district that will not be refreshed or replaced beyond their current life, DTS will not be removing them from schools (with the exception of classroom thin clients).  These devices will live out their functional lives in the schools where they are now before being recycled at the end of their useful lifespan.

One other change that is significant is that DTS will not be approving additional school-level purchases of technology beyond this plan unless a school can demonstrate plans for refreshing and sustaining that technology.

How will our district do this thoughtfully and intentionally?

In just a few short weeks, Westview Middle School and Coal Ridge Middle School,  our two middle school readiness sites, will begin distributing iPad mini devices to teachers in their buildings. They’ll be helping us work through the processes and procedures that will ensure a well planned rollout to the remaining secondary schools.

How can I give feedback and follow the progress?

We’ll continue to share our process and progress on the Instructional Technology blog as well as through the ITAC committee blog. As always, we welcome your questions and comments via email or telephone.  Please don’t hesitate to contact an instructional technology coordinator to share your thoughts.

We are excited to implement this plan with you.

 

 

Doing Things Differently

At the beginning of the school year we decided to try something (sort of) new. We offered an open lab for people to learn more about Google Mail and Calendar. From 8-3 people could stop in the Clover Basin conference room and get some specific and personal help with their new email.

We also offered an online version of the ‘open lab’ as well. Bud hopped on Adobe Connect and spent time giving overviews and answering questions from the audience. We had a few schools that gathered together in a lab and viewed the web session.

We had about 15-20 people come to Clover Basin for help and between 40-60 people attend the web session. These sessions were not ‘required’ and we know we missed some people that wanted to attend but could not because they had other obligations or they just didn’t know about it. Still, this method of reaching people around the district is interesting to us as Instructional Technology Coordinators. When Bud was in the Adobe Connect room he was instantly in at least 8 schools at one time. He pretty much cloned himself 7 times and if you ask me 8 Bud Hunts is a wonderful thing1. As we move forward this year, we are going to think hard about how we can build capacity to serve you. Ways we can make learning as efficient and enjoyable for you as possible.

So if you see us trying some new things this year don’t be afraid to participate and offer suggestions for ways we can improve. We reserve the right to be learners, too.

  1. Michelle would disagree with that, actually.  8 Bud Hunts is just plain scary. []

Setting Goals for the New Year

Just this week, Bud, Kyle1  and I sat down to talk through our goals for the 2011-2012 school year.  For us, it’s a chance to make sure our work will be centered on the priorities and important work that will most benefit the district. It’s also an opportunity to ground ourselves on where we’ve been and where we hope to go next.

To me, it’s not so much the writing of the goals that’s significant, but the time we spent working on adding, deleting, refining and finalizing the points we agree best describe our hopes for the year.  The words are important because they become our common text; but the undocumented negotiations, clarifications and explanations that are hidden in the conversations that led to the final document are even more essential.

And so, we’d like to share our goals, essential questions, and benchmarks with you. You’ll be hearing more about each of these areas this year through the sharing of our work on this blog and in other venues.  As you look through these, let us know where you think we’ve hit the mark and where we should be moving in new directions.

Focus Area: Communication

Goal
To provide regular communication on best practices in instructional technology on:
• Tools, resources, instructional practices, ideas, integration models,
• District provided hardware and software resources that have direct classroom impact,
• Classroom and staff connections and Works in Progress discussions,
Instructional technology personnel and availability of help.

Essential Questions:
What does the St. Vrain community (staff, students, parents, larger community) value and need to know in order to accomplish district goals and objectives?
What do we need to articulate in order to share our essential priorities with the larger community?
How do we model a practice of public work in order to promote thoughtful and purposeful sharing within the district?

Benchmarks:
Regular postings on blog and other online sources by Instructional Technologists (ultimately with guest postings by others in the district)
Publication of relevant and useful forms of media that model or support the work of the district

Focus Area: Professional Learning 

Goal
Develop a process for identifying and meeting the instructional technology support needs within each school community through:
• Adoption of a common language for levels of instructional practice and technology integration,
• Alignment of instructional technology training and learning goals with School Improvement Plans and district goals,
• Continuing to refine systematic collaborative and cooperative procedures for meeting identified needs and determining the success of the outcome.

Essential Questions
How do we best support the learning needs of the students and staff in the district?
How do we measure the effectiveness of instructional technology personnel and programs as it relates to improving the practices of teaching and learning through the use of technology?
How do we model professional teaching and learning using the tools, resources, and practices promoted by the district?

Benchmarks
Evaluation of best practices and developing models both in district and elsewhere for incorporation into district context
Work with OPD to further develop formal learning opportunities around needs
Develop a community-based, sustained model of practice to support informal learning needs
Develop further formal and informal methods of evaluation that assist us in determining the success of our work as aligned to district priorities
Experiment with and model thoughtful uses of technology to create professional learning spaces and opportunities

Focus Area: Practices and Policy

Goal
Provide guidance and vision regarding district policy and good practice with regards to the use of technology in education.

Essential Questions
How do technology practices and policy impact educational and community environments?
What are the rights and responsibilities associated with the use of technology for teaching and learning in the 21st Century?
How does the access to digital tools modify the rights and responsibilities of staff and students?
How does technology support collaboration and participation in a digital culture?

Benchmarks
Support and facilitate conversation and implementation around district technology policy and practice
Give continual attention to ensuring that policies and practices that define good and thoughtful uses of technology are in alignment with school and district culture and habits

Focus Area: Technology Tools and Environments 

Goal
Provide guidance and vision regarding current and future tools and toolsets and how they work to support district goals and objectives.

Essential Questions
How do the tools offered and managed by DTS work together to create a rich district digital learning environment?
How does the inclusion of new tools modify that environment?
What does the next generation of tools for teaching and learning look like?
How do physical structures and learning environments influence the use of technology for teaching and learning?
What tools do learners need in the 21st Century?

Benchmarks
Continuous evaluation of the digital environment for all district stakeholders
Continue to help increase interactivity and interoperability between district-supported and managed tools
Explore available and developing tools and environments for future inclusion into district work to ensure maximum functionality and minimal duplication
Work to communicate care for staff, students and learning via the toolsets and environments we manage and facilitate

  1. Kyle Addington is our newest Instructional Technology Coordinator in the district. We’re so glad to have him join us and bring his expertise to St. Vrain. You can meet Kyle through his bio page on our blog. []

Online Office Hours. Useful?

Michelle and I are always wondering about how we can be more helpful to district staff and students as they work to use technology thoughtfully to improve teaching and learning in the district.  One idea that we’ve been talking about for a while is a regular online office hour type of virtual meeting.  We’d open up an Adobe Connect room and make ourselves available for first come, first serve Q&A or teaching on various topics.  We’d share information about what we’re seeing around the district and seek input from folks who had an idea or a concern that they’d like to share.

But, before we move forward with this idea, which wouldn’t take much more preparation from us, I thought we should ask if such a time on a regular basis would be useful.  And, if you think it’d be useful, then the question becomes when?  I suspect we’d run a couple sessions whenever we did this – in order to catch folks when they were available.  Might do a morning and a late afternoon, or something like that.

So, if you’ve any thoughts on what you’d like to see in online office hours from your instructional technology coordinators, we’d love to hear them.  Please respond in the comments with your ideas.  If we get enough of a response, we’ll get started with something right after Spring Break.

Looking forward to your ideas.  Thanks.

DLC’s Teacher Research – Time to Share

For most of the last year, the 1st Cohort of the Digital Learning Collaborative has been working to better understand the technology in their classrooms and the impact it’s having on student learning.  We’ve been using a teacher research frame to do that.  With help from our friends in the Colorado State University Writing Project, we’ve been working thoughtfully and systematically through the inquiry cycle.

We began by digging into our wonderings about our classrooms, student learning, and technology.  We then collected data to help us better understand those questions and to think about possible answers to them.  Then, we moved into a deeper look at that data to see what it was able to tell us.  Along the way, many of us have shared our Works in Progress with each other as a way of deepening our understanding.  And now, it’s time for the last step of that process.  It’s time to share what we’ve learned.

That’s going to happen here in St. Vrain in two different, but equally important ways.  First, we’re going to write about what we’ve learned.  Then we’re going to get together to share and celebrate our learning.

In order to provide a consistent frame for our discoveries, process and learning, we’ve created a template document that, according to our team leaders, will be a useful way to map out our work.1

By the end of April, we will have a collection of all of the research reports from our Cohort 1 DLC teams and members.  We hope the stories told in them can be useful to others engaged in trying to teach and learn differently.

Then, on May 27th, we will have a district wide share fair to share out what we’ve learned.  Over the summer, we’ll engage a few interested groups in a process of further writing and dissemination.  More on the share fair and the dissemination retreats soon. If you’ve an interest in sharing your learning at the Share Fair, please submit a conversation proposal. If you want to come and learn with us, please save the date.  We’ll be sharing more about the Share Fair soon, and would love to have you join us.  We believe credit will be available for in-district folks.

How are you sharing the thoughtful work you’re doing to improve teaching and learning?  How might we be sharing more thoughtfully?

  1. St. Vrain DLC folks – you can find this as a template in the St. Vrain Docs template gallery.  Create a new document from a template to find “Report on Teacher Research in the Digital Learning Collaborative.”  The instructions for completion are embedded in the document.  Non-St. Vrain readers – the link here is to a copy of that template.  Feel free to take a look and to adapt this to your own work.  This document is informed by our work with the CSUWP as well as by work done by Joe Morlock and his colleagues in the Canby School District in Oregon. []

DLC Year 1 Evaluation – Findings

This is a post discussing the June year end report from our evaluator, the Council on 21st Century learning, regarding the effectiveness of the DLC as a professional development model.  Our next post will discuss their recommendations and Michelle and my plans for implementing them.

As Michelle and I set out to create a high impact and longitudinal professional development program to supplement, enhance and replace many of the one shot training sessions that we offer here in St. Vrain, we realized very quickly that we wanted to have some external eyes and ears involved to help us stay accountable to our goals as well as to evaluate and measure our effectiveness.  If we were doing well, we wanted to document that.  If we weren’t, well, we wanted to know that, too.  And we wanted feedback so that we could improve what we are doing to make sure it has the highest possible impact and effectiveness to promote thoughtful teaching and learning with technology here in the District.

Our evaluators, Dixie Good and Stevan Kalmon with the Council on 21st Century Learning, have become true partners in our work.  They visit with DLC teams as they hold their monthly meetings, they’ve been present for our Team Leader meetings, and they’ve been paying close attention to what we said, what we did, and how that’s working for folks.

In their year-end report for us, they noted five important findings that I’d like to expand upon here.  First, here are their (abbreviated) findings:1

1.   Participants gained skills in three areas:  technology use, collaboration, and metacognition. They reported and observers confirmed:

  • Significant growth as technology users
  • Increases in collaboration and collaboration skills
  • Increased awareness of their own learning styles and habits

DLC participants surveyed in late April reported significant increases both in their ability to manipulate the tools and in the confidence they feel in using the tools.

2.   Participants transferred newly acquired tech skills to the classroom. This is a surprising finding for two reasons. First, integrating technology into classroom activities was not expected of participants in Year 1. Rather, project leaders encouraged participants to use this time to play, explore and become familiar with their new equipment. Second, as mentioned previously, this group is not comprised of advanced technology users per se. The level of initial technical expertise varied widely among participants, and many described themselves as novices and even fearful of technology in the beginning. Learning and doing alongside colleagues in small groups seemed to encourage teachers to try using technology in the classroom.

3.   Participants prefer informal collaboration processes to more structured processes. Though a half-dozen or more Adaptive Schools collaborative processes (including Trios PPP, 7 norms of collaboration, and visual synectics) were presented and practiced at team leader meetings, teams did not often use these processes. Of team leaders surveyed, 83 percent found the information on team processes useful. However, when team members and team leaders ranked six aspects of the DLC for their usefulness, “instruction on group processes and collaboration” easily won last place. Based on this information and C21L observations of team meetings, professional development on these collaborative processes does not seem to be an essential element of the DLC design.

4.   Digital networking habits emerged slowly and unevenly. Project leaders created a digital platform for hosting networked exchanges, showed participants how to use the platform, provided protocols (e.g., a tool analysis form) to encourage sharing of information, and emphasized the importance of this habit to the development of the DLC. By February 2010, evidence of participant contributions to the network was scant. Project facilitators provided almost all of the information, and participants’ contributions were typically questions about how to make things work. By May, participant contributions beyond questions had substantially increased. It may simply be the case that participants contributed more as they learned more and grew more comfortable with the tools and navigation.

5.   Most teams met or exceeded their SMART goals. By January 2010, all teams had established SMART goals. (See Appendix B for the list of goals.) By May, almost all teams had met their goals; most had significantly surpassed them. Reviewing the goals during their April meeting, team leaders were pleased with the progress made by their teams, yet also reported that they thought the goals were not sufficiently meaty or challenging. Many comments began with the phrase, “If we could write the goal again, we would have…”

The team leader(s)  .  .  .  indicate an interest in layered goal setting, or at least revisiting and revising goals once they better understand the tech tools.

All things considered, I am fairly pleased with these findings.  When we set out to create the DLC, we wanted a process that helped participants to better understand how they learned, time for them to learn new things, and opportunities to apply their learning via reflective considerations of what they were doing with students and technology.  The first two findings confirm that we are making progress.  Although I’m not sold yet on self-reporting as a solid measure of increased proficiency, my observations, Michelle’s, and the evaluators’ confirmed that we did see increased knowledge in both technology and in how to structure time towards a common goal or purpose.  Better yet, as teachers learn new things, they are able to work their new knowledge and habits into their classroom practice, even though, in year 1, that’s not our aim.2

We spent too much time, in our first year, on process.  We introduced processes for meeting protocols, discussion protocols, reading protocols, and perhaps even protocols for protocols.  Not that process isn’t important, but we have to move past a big bag of process and protocol to a few selected ones that provide the most value.  I think that Michelle and I have observed that our protocols around setting agendas, as well as using collaborative writing tools to co-construct and see those agendas, as well as convert them into records (or minutes), provides lots of structure with limited interference from “the District.”3  Those meeting agendas, too, are valuable to a variety of audiences for a number of useful purposes.4  So we will continue to pare away extraneous processes.

I am a little disappointed by the slow adoption of digital networking skills in the DLC, although it is still a new idea in the district to ask folks to share their reflective processes so widely.5  We did learn, though, that to truly move people to embrace time spent writing reflectively, we had to do more than say “Okay, go and write when you can find the time.” We had to work that time into each and every meeting.  We literally, by the end of last year, were stopping to write throughout most sections of our work time together.  So we are developing some of the composition habits that lead to digital networking.  But it takes time.  Time.  Time.

As we asked teams to build purposeful agendas, we needed them to be working towards a specific process.  So we made sure that they developed SMART goals together quickly.  It looks like we may have rushed that a bit.  We will be looking at how we might spread that goal development out over the first few months.  First some exploration, then a narrowing of focus to set a goal.

In the next post, I’ll take a look at and respond to the formal recommendations from Dixie and Stevan’s report.  As always, we’d be interested in your input.  If you’re a DLC teacher, do you see anything here that’s off base?  Right on the mark?  And, if you’re not a DLC participant, what sticks out for you?

We’ve still plenty of improvement to go.  But this isn’t a bad start.

  1. You can read the more detailed analysis in their complete report. []
  2. We know that teachers need time to learn before they apply that learning to their teaching.  So we built that into the model. []
  3. In this case, Michelle and I. []
  4. We use the records of these meetings as data for us on what folks are working on as well as ways to keep track of who’s doing work and who should get paid, while still getting big picture and up close views on how the work is going.  And, because we share those agendas with all of our other teams, we’re bootstrapping each others’ work along the way.  That’s a lot of bang for the buck. []
  5. Each DLC team has a dedicated discussion forum for their use that is available for viewing and participation by all other DLC teams in their cohort. []