Archive for February 2008

Our Plan

February 26, 2008

Tomorrow is the district’s third laptop revisioning meeting, and two of the schools were asked to do a short presentation (5-10 mins) on our plans. My school is one of those presenting.

So, my vice principal and I discussed some ideas, and then I created a wiki and e-mailed it to him, my principal and some teachers. This wiki is what we came up with and will be how we convey our plan to the group. It was a collaborative effort that took about an hour or so to complete. Not too shabby.

The majority of the ideas mentioned in the plan, we already do; however, we can certainly still make improvements in all of the areas.  And, it is discussions, like the one that took place via comments on my one-to-one post that can help set the groundwork for change.

In the midst of comments, my second set of questions got “lost,” so I thought I would throw them out there again.

** Since teacher, student, administrative buy-in seems to be a crucial component in a one-to-one laptop program, how do you get it? How do you get your staff and students to get on board and see the importance of teaching 21st century skills?

** How important is professional development in a one-to-one program and what “kind” of professional development is needed?

** How do you perpetuate and improve upon a one-to-one laptop program once it is in place? How do you sustain it?

I would love to be able to share some of your thoughts at my meeting tomorrow, so get to commenting… please. 🙂


The TAKS Has Not Broken Our Spirits (at least yet)!

February 21, 2008

The ELA TAKS test is looming in the near future (March 5th), and since I teach 11th graders, which is the exit-level test, I am feeling the need to review some of the TAKS concepts. I don’t, however, want to beat my students down with TAKS drill-and-kill, so I have tried to be somewhat creative in reviewing the skills they need to know.

A couple of my assignments have been to watch a short video clip and answer some questions using key TAKS vocabulary (convey, author’s purpose, inference, summarize, etc.) The students seem to enjoy it and get a review of some TAKS concepts to boot. The video they have seemed to enjoy the most so far is Education Today and Tomorrow.

After watching the video (on their own laptops) the students answered these questions and submitted them to me via Blackboard… not a ground-breaking use of technology, but much more fun than TAKS drill-and-kill.

I was very excited to hear the answers to this question in particular “After watching the video, do you think you are receiving an adequate education for your future? Why or why not? Give specific reasons.”

So, I thought I would share some of their answers with you…

  • Yes I am. The technology and resources from my school is sufficient to help me form my path in life after high school.

  • I think I am getting an adequate education because I am in a school that is giving me the opportunity to have a better job.

  • I think we are, because what we are learning we are actually going to use it in real life.

  • Yes, because my teachers are actually doing their job and teaching us the right way and with the right tools.

  • Yes, the school I am in provides skills for a positive future.

  • Yes, I think that we are receiving a good education because we are learning things that we are going to use in the real world.

  • I think I am getting an adequate education, and I am studying for a career so I think I am good.

  • Yes, because we are using a lot of technology in my school. I do most of my work on my laptop.

  • Yes, I’m receiving a good education because I’m learning a lot and the technology in my school is advanced.

  • I think I am because a lot of teachers clearly explain everything, and you can always ask them for help when it’s needed.

And unfortunately a negative…

  • No, because we focus too much on TAKS testing than things that really matter. – I actually discussed this idea with the student and he made a very poignant argument… 😦

I was just glad to know that the majority of my students are proud of their school and what they are learning. 🙂

“It’s just a flesh wound.”

February 20, 2008

Fans of Monty Python and The Holy Grail will probably remember the scene where King Arthur and the Black Knight are in a sword fight, and King Arthur hacks away at the spunky Black Knight who perseveres without giving up as he surveys his injuries and proclaims, “It’s just a flesh wound.”

Well, I feel a little like the Black Knight lately.

As an English teacher perhaps I am a little too sensitive to the preciseness of language and the connotations some words carry, but I feel like the media is constantly hacking away at the school district’s one-to-one laptop program. Although the most current article in the Dallas Morning News was not overtly negative, I feel like little “jabs” were taken with some of the wording, that the article lacks cohesion and is a tad misleading.

That being said, let me further explain myself…

Irving school officials may buy smaller, PDA-like laptops to cut the cost of their novel practice of providing a computer to every high school student.” This use of the word “novel” in this sentence is, in my opinion, a little bit of a jab. The denotative meaning of the adjective novel sounds great – new, original, etc., but the connotative meaning is a little less positive and kind of condescending – like when you tell someone that what they said was “IN-teresting” when you clearly mean they are a little “off.” I would have preferred a word like “innovative”. Too picky? Perhaps.

I also wish the author would have taken a little bit of time to explain the district’s reasoning for originally going with the laptops we currently have and provided a more thorough explanation about the replacement costs because I think there is much confusion in the community about this expense. As a consumer I can purchase a lower-end Dell laptop for $550-700, but as soon as I have added a warranty program, software, a bag and an extra battery, I am well over $1000. I am not sure this comes across to the community when they can pick up a sales advertisement from their local “Big Box” electronic store and see a laptop on sale for the low, low price of $499.

Another problem I have is that little was mentioned in the article about alternate ways the district and schools have discussed lowering the costs of the laptop program; the majority of the article was surrounding the district’s decision to “look” at alternate devices such as the XO, the Classmate and eee PC, and although switching to one of these devices might be ONE way of lowering costs, it is certainly not the only way and perhaps not the best way to lower costs.

And, although I understand that it may have been difficult for the DMN to get information for their article, “Irving’s executive director of technology, Alice Owen, did not return calls requesting comment and declined to discuss the plans,” I also do not blame Dr. Owen for not discussing the plans with the DMN. At this point there is nothing concrete to discuss. There is a lot of brainstorming happening and discussion at this point but nothing else… yet. In my opinion, it is not really “news” at this point.

As educators our jobs should extend further than simply helping our students pass the TAKS test or graduate from high school; part of our mission should be to prepare our students for the world they will encounter when they leave the walls of high school. A world where technological and social change is increasing exponentially, where the three R’s are evolving into something new, and where with technology, they can easily be in charge of their own educational growth.

So, what is it I would like from the media? I would like to see some more positive stories about our schools and our students. No, we aren’t perfect, and we never will be. We are, however, here and we are chugging away despite setbacks and trials. And, we care what is best for our students today AND tomorrow and that is what is most important. It would just be nice for people to notice that once in awhile.

One-to-One Laptops… What Makes it Work?

February 14, 2008

I posted for the first time today over at Teach More Better, a collaborative blog in the very early stages of development, which will hopefully offer some insight and varying perspectives into the world of educators in a one-to-one laptop district.

Irving ISD is beginning to re-evaluate its one-to-one laptop program to better serve our students and teachers.  At each one-to-one campus we are being asked to create a gap analysis plan to lay out what we are currently doing well, what we would like to improve upon and the steps to get us there.  My school seems to be getting a lot of praise for the way we have implemented our laptops, and I am proud of us, but we certainly have areas to improve upon as well.

Today I was in a meeting with my fellow Instructional Technology Specialists and we discussed the laptop program and where we think it should go.  We also discussed why  some of the schools have been more successful with implementation than others.  I have some ideas about what a district/school needs to do to make a one-to-one laptop program a success instead of a disaster, but I am curious what you think.

What do you think a district/school must do or have in order to implement a successful one-to-one implementation program?