Reluctance and Technology Integration

One of the questions I am often asked in interviews for technology positions is how I would approach dealing with faculty members who are reluctant to embrace or integrate technology in their lessons.

First, I think it’s an excellent question, and my answer to it says a lot about how well I would be able to work with faculty. It is a question to which any good technology integration specialist should have a good answer at the ready. Before I tell you what I think, however, it bears saying that I think a healthy skepticism of technology is not a bad thing. I have seen tools adopted simply because they will add technology to a lesson. If the only reason you’re using technology is to say you’re using technology, then you’re not truly integrating technology. Your faculty and students will see through it. I have been teaching fourteen years, which is long enough to see a few trends come and go. Technology has to be more than just flash. It needs to add something to the lesson (or whatever you are doing with it), and if it doesn’t, perhaps you don’t need to use it.

I personally feel technology has two propositions to answer before it should be adopted for integration in a lesson/class/school/activity:

  1. Will it make it easier to do what I’m trying to do?
  2. Will using it increase engagement?

Having said that, sometimes a learning curve is wrongly interpreted as making something more difficult to do. We need to be willing to invest the time into learning how to use the tools properly sometimes, but just because they are not immediately intuitive does not mean they are making everything more difficult and need to be chucked. One case in point is the evolution of sharing handouts with students. I actually have used one of those blue ditto machines. We still had one at one of my schools, and we had to use it if we did not turn in our photocopying with enough notice for the secretary who did our photocopying (a practice that is looking more and more attractive to me for reasons folks who work with me will understand completely). The ditto machine produced handouts that were serviceable, but damp and blurry. I only used it as a last resort. The photocopier produced nice handouts, but required me to hand in assignments early to the secretary, or, in other schools where I have worked, provide my own paper and assemble the packets and hole-punch and staple them, not to mention the time spent making the copies. Now sharing documents is as easy as creating and sharing a Google Doc or uploading a document to a content management system. The students have the freedom to print or even edit the document as needed, but they can also store it on their device using their personal file management system. Obviously, there is a learning curve involved in switching to Google Docs over a more familiar word processor (not much of one, but still), and users need to learn how to share the documents with others. Learning how to upload documents to a content management system also involves a small learning curve. Initially, learners who have a little more difficulty learning how to use new tools might balk at being asked to use Google Docs or a content management system, but once they learn how to use the tools and have been convinced that the tools are making their jobs easier, they will not be reluctant to adopt the technology and may even be your biggest evangelists.

On the other hand, sometimes using technology is not necessarily going to make our jobs easier, but will increase engagement. A good example of a project that fits this criteria is a recent lesson I did with our social studies department on how to use PowerPoint. I am told that the students were reluctant to come to my lesson because they didn’t think they would learn anything. They had, after all used PowerPoint before. I, like you, have seen many ineffective PowerPoints over the years, and I have actively sought presentation mentors who have taught me about creating more effective PowerPoints. I shared these lessons with the students. In essence, I taught the students:

  • You are essential to the presentation. If you make yourself inessential because you put all of your presentation text on your slides, you have no reason to be standing in front of the room.
  • Your slides are visual aids for your presentation and should therefore be light on text and heavy on images.
  • Go beyond the default fonts and prepackaged themes.
  • Give credit for using images and try to find images licensed under Creative Commons.
  • Practice your presentation in front of your mirror, your dog, your parents. If your teacher lets you, put cues on index cards, but you shouldn’t read from the cards any more than you should read from PowerPoint slides.

The lessons went very well. The students asked great questions. I was impressed by what I saw them creating in class. They shared at the beginning of the lesson when I asked how they feel when they see a PowerPoint on the screen that they associated PowerPoints with boredom.

Creating good PowerPoints definitely does not make your job easier. In fact, it is easier to create a bad PowerPoint with all your speech on the prepacked theme slides and few images (or perhaps the odd clip art image). But these PowerPoints are not engaging for your audience. In order to make your presentation more engaging, you will need to do some work. Most people who have seen a great presentation will say that it was worth the extra work to increase audience engagement.

I was thrilled when I received this feedback from one of the social studies teachers about the students’ presentations:

Just wanted to give thanks to Dana Huff for helping with a very successful technology integration project for 9th grade CP2.  Dana helped to teach my students how to utilize MS Power Point to create a dynamic and interesting visual accompaniment to a presentation.  My students took Dana’s lesson to heart and have come up with some compelling visual aids.

Dana spent two class periods with my students teaching them how to use the Power Point software itself and also reviewing best practices for using Power Point in the context of a 10-15 minute presentation.

Thank you to Dana for all of your help!  The students greatly benefited from the time they spent with you!

Another project that required more work but definitely increased engagement was a QR Code project I helped our art teacher with. Creating and editing student videos was certainly more work for the art teacher, and uploading the videos and creating QR Codes that linked with them was also time-consuming. Hanging up the art and calling it a day would have been easier, but putting the QR Codes next to the art work so that the art displays could be more interactive made the art show more engaging for the participants.

I think the best way to approach a teacher who is reluctant to integrate technology is to share a specific idea and be willing to do some convincing that the idea will either make their jobs easier or make what they do more engaging (for them, their students, whoever). After that, you must be willing to support that teacher’s learning with professional development. The worst thing you can do is give a teacher a tool and tell them to figure out how to use it. It won’t be used because it is much easier to just keep doing things the same way. Which is essentially what Tom Whitby said on Twitter the other day that prompted me to retweet:

So in the interest of learning more about what others thought, I tweeted the question “What do you do at your school to encourage teachers who are reluctant to embrace & integrate technology?” and added the hashtag #edtech in the hopes of attracting answers from folks who don’t follow me, but keep track of that hashtag. Here are some of the responses I received:Gary Anderson

Allison BerryhillAbbey WilsonAbbey WilsonDeej LucasShervette MillerSome definite themes emerge in the responses:

  • Offer extensive professional development.
  • Demonstrate using the technology is really going to make their teaching better.
  • Model technology integration (or provide models).
  • Provide resources and choices.

I would argue that there are simply cases when mandating is required, such as when a school-wide grade reporting system or content management system is rolled out. Inconsistency can cause a lot of headaches for a school, but the important thing is to allow faculty to be part of the decision about which tools to use so that they are more likely to buy into their use.

The worst thing a school can do is mandate use of some new form of technology without any professional development.

Leadership in technology integration comes from the top down, as I have said before, and if administrators are not prepared to support their teachers’ use of technology, their teachers will not use the technology. It’s not because teachers are not willing to change or to do the right thing for their students. It’s because teachers, like everyone else, want to see the relevance behind what they are learning, and they want to know why and how they will use it. In integrating technology, like everything else, you need to begin with the end in mind and determine where you want teachers and students to be, what you want them to learn, and what you want them to be able to do. Then you need to determine how you will get them to that place.

Some additional resources I found as I was thinking about and writing this post (via Twitter):

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Technology Goals

In the spirit of setting goals and writing them down somewhere so I will attend to them, I’m sharing some of the career/technology goals I have. My timeline for completion is a little up in the air as I search for a new position.

  1. Become a Google Certified Teacher. Some of my friends have this certification, and as I have become the go-to person for Google Apps at my school, I would like to learn even more about them (even though I am moving on, I think a lot of schools I have spoken with are doing amazing things with Google Apps). I also want to become a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer. Without knowing where I will be next year, I have elected not to start the application process until things are more settled.
  2. Become an Apple Distinguished Educator. Most of the schools I have spoken to are 1-to-1 Mac schools. I wouldn’t have been able to justify pursuing this program on my current school’s dime, as we are officially a PC school with no 1-to-1 program at the moment, but I can see that in a 1-to-1 Mac environment, this program would prove useful, especially as I would have more opportunities to use what I learn.
  3. Obtain OS X certifications, Certified Mac Technician Certification, and  iWork Certification. Depending on the needs of my future school, I’m willing to pursue Final Cut Pro Certification, but I don’t currently have or know how to use that software. I think most schools use iMovie for their purposes.
  4. Pursue additional SMARTBoard training. Many of the schools I’ve looked at have SMARTBoards, and I haven’t had as much training as I’d like, but there are several self-paced online courses I can take in addition to the ones I’ve already taken.
  5. Participate more often in Twitter chats like #engchat and #edchat. I have always got a lot out of these chat sessions, and my experiences in leading #engchat in the past have been positive, too (and are something I would like to do again). For the record, if you were not able to participate, I moderated chat sessions on integrating technology in English and on authentic assessment.
  6. Become more involved in my field through conference attendance. I’ve been able to attend English conferences, but I have wanted to go to ISTE for about five years and have not been able to do so. I sometimes feel out of the loop, even though I connect with several innovative tech leaders and teachers on Twitter and elsewhere.

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Innovation Takes Good Leadership

LeadershipWhen I was working on my undergrad degree in English Education, one of the texts I was required to read (and which I highly recommend) was Leila Christenbury’s Making the Journey: Being and Becoming a Teacher of English Language Arts. We were asked to write reflection journals as we read, and Christenbury made that very easy because she included journal prompts. I still remember one of the prompts. It asked the reader to think about the relative importance of administration, teachers, and students in a school. At that time, I felt that teachers and students were the keys to a successful school. Outstanding, engaging, dynamic teachers and students eager to learn. I did not see that administration had much importance. I recall that my instructor wrote the comment “Let’s see how you feel about this after you begin teaching.” It stuck in my mind because I knew that the comment meant I was talking about something I didn’t know. She didn’t belittle my opinion. She didn’t tell me how ignorant I was. Her comment was meant to make me remember. I didn’t have to teach for long before I understood what she meant. I do not believe a school can function for long without a good administration. The administration leads from the top. There is no change, no innovation, no organization, no rudder without a good administration.

I have been thinking about the role of administration in innovation, and recently Scott McLeod posted a short blog post that inspired this one. I think some schools invest in technology without offering the professional development teachers need to use it. In addition, some administrators do not change their expectations regarding the use of technologies. If teachers are not expected to adopt new technologies, change and innovation won’t take place. I’m not talking about using tech for the sake of using tech. But I am talking about using tech in ways that make learning easier and more engaging.

One example I’ve been thinking about is Apple’s announcement about iBooks textbooks. I don’t have an iPad, but a colleague demonstrated one of the iBooks textbooks. It’s gorgeous. The color pops off the screen. Embedded content like videos makes the text more interactive. You can take notes and highlight in them. And they cost a fraction of what hardcover textbooks cost at $14.99 or less. Global Equities Research estimates that the production cost for creating an iBooks text is about 80% less than a hardcover text. Let’s say a hardcover book costs $100. Schools often purchase the hardcover books and use them for several years. In Georgia, the textbook adoption cycle is usually seven years. Over seven years, that textbook costs the school between $14 and $15 if the school is on a seven-year adoption cycle. However, the iPad also has a large variety of apps, and iBooks also sells novels. Purchasing iPads is a serious investment for a school to consider, and it should be undertaken after thought and study. Teachers should be supported as they learn to use and to integrate the use of the iPad in the classroom. iPads could potentially transform a school, but in the hands of teachers who don’t know how to use them and aren’t expected to use them, they are nothing more than paperweights.

What I can easily see happening is a school deciding to adopt iPads and then not supporting their use through professional development. If teachers are required to use any tool, and the iPad is just one example, without professional development they will likely take one of two paths: 1) try to learn it on their own the best they can, or 2) give up and not use it. In addition, if there is no expectation regarding the use, the tools become useless as there is little incentive beyond a personal intrinsic motivation to use the tools. Some teachers have a strong motivation to continue learning and improving and using new tools, but others do not. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter that the leadership in a school did not expect teachers to grow or didn’t support growth through professional development because the teachers would grow anyway, but what I have learned over time is that teachers need both the support for their growth and the expectation that they will grow as teachers, and that support and expectation needs to come from administrators who have an interest in innovation. Otherwise, it’s just not going to happen.
Creative Commons License photo credit: pedrosimoes7

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Time for This

Transit spatio-temporel (Time & Space Transit)I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a couple of months. I have also had several conversations in that time that led me to believe the issue of what we decide we have time for is an important issue to explore.

A lot of people ask me how I have time to do the things I do. In fact, someone asked me that question just the day before yesterday. I don’t know how to answer that question because I have as much time as everybody else. How I’m choosing to use it may be quite different. I think if something is important to you, you will make time for it, and if it isn’t really that important to you, you won’t.

Case in point: Kirstie Knighton and I were discussing the EC Ning, which is a great resource for English teachers. She mentioned that she has tried to refer several colleagues to the Ning, but many of them claim they don’t have time to participate in the ECN community. Kirstie’s response was, “How do you not have time” for using this fantastic resource to grow and become a better teacher? The answer, of course, is that Kirstie has made that growth and attachment to the ECN community a priority, so she makes time for it.

I participated in NaNoWriMo last month (won, thanks!), and I have averaged about a book a week this year (first time ever!). Why? Those two things, my writing and my reading, are really important to me. I set aside time to do both. I don’t watch a lot of TV. The only show I have to see, aside from a few specials here and there, is Big Bang Theory, and that’s new because I only started watching at Thanksgiving. Sure, I miss out on all the pop culture references, and I don’t get to participate in things like the Lost phenomenon, but I decided for myself several years back that TV wasn’t important to me and that I needed to use my time in other ways, so I let it go. That doesn’t make me better than someone who chooses to watch TV (there is a lot of good TV). It just means I made a different choice regarding my time than someone who watches more TV made. (Interesting side note, there is no correlation between the number of hours of TV someone watches and the number of books in his/her home; I know this because I did a study using a random sample of work colleagues for graduate school and the resulting scatter plot was all over the place.)

Another thing I do is use technology to help me be more efficient. I think people sometimes either don’t use the right tools, or they don’t use the tools they have available to them efficiently. If I want to keep up with certain blogs, for instance, I subscribe to their feeds in my RSS feed reader. Then I check my feed reader and scroll through the updates, reading the ones that seem interesting, and skipping the rest. Dipping in occasionally sometimes makes it seem like I’m doing more than I am. Same goes for Twitter. I put everyone I follow on Twitter on a list. I scroll through the updates to my list in my Twitter client, not necessarily reading every single one, but reading the ones that catch my eye. I join groups that interest me on the EC Ning and the MC Pop Ning and set my email settings so that whenever someone posts to those groups that interest me, I receive an email. If the subject of the new discussion posted is something I think I want to discuss or something I can help with, I post a reply. I don’t necessarily consider myself extremely involved in the worlds of blogging, tweeting, or online discussion. I consider what I do to be dipping in when interested. This is something anyone can do. It’s easier to manage all the online conversations you want if you use free technology tools available to help you do that.

I also multitask. I might be reading RSS feeds or writing a blog post and checking Twitter at the same time. I read while I ride the bus to work (I always take a book with me). I automate certain tasks. For example, I use Diigo for social bookmarking, and I have set up my account to work with my Twitter account and my blog so that every time I favorite a tweet, it is automatically bookmarked, and all of my bookmarks are automatically published to my blog on Sundays. Many weeks, that post may be the only post on my blog, which is why I am always sort of  flabbergasted when anyone suggests they don’t have time to blog. Sure you do. Just don’t make yourself some kind of crazy schedule you can’t handle and otherwise post when you are inspired.

I use Google Calendar to manage my time and create appointment slots for colleagues who need technology assistance. There are all kinds of things that you can do if you make yourself a schedule and stick to it. Like anything else, the things you want to do sometimes take planning, and you need to schedule time for doing them during your day.

Obviously having very small children, going to school, or having long required work hours are going to eat up time, and I don’t think people who have such demands on their time should make themselves feel guilty when they can’t participate in activities they want to participate in, but to be honest, these aren’t the kinds of people who tell me they don’t understand how I have time to do the things I do. Most of the people I hear this from have older or even grown children, are not in school, and work a normal 40-hour week like I do. So what gives?

It isn’t that anyone has or doesn’t have time for this, whatever this is to you. If you are telling yourself you don’t time for something, I would counter that you aren’t making time. I have three kids, too. I work full time, too. There are ways to make time to do the things you want to do. You just have to figure out if whatever it is you think you don’t have time for is actually something you want to make time to do or if that’s an excuse you use for not doing things you’re not actually all that interested in, anyway.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Gilderic (Very very slow internet connection)

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Instructional Technology Degree Programs

I'm working.(1)

I have a question for those of you who are instructional technologists or are thinking about it. What degree programs are you aware of that can help teachers who want to work with other teachers on integrating technology in their classrooms? I’m thinking of programs in preparation for being an educational technologist, instructional technologist, or technology integration specialist (or similar).

I am not interested in going back to school right now, but I’m curious as to what is out there for anyone preparing to move into this area. I chose Virginia Tech’s online instructional technology master’s program, and I’ve had reasons to regret the choice, but I’m not sure what else is out there for others who are interested in becoming instructional technologists. Mainly I think the program is in need of some updating for new technologies and tools as well as research. I also think students need more room to pursue their interests in the field and more flexibility to do assignments in different ways. I have been asked a few times for advice, and I feel less qualified to respond without knowing more information. Please do share what you know about other programs in the comments.

Creative Commons License photo credit: purprin

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Doesn’t Play with Lion

Mac OS X LionI was recently asked which private schools in the Atlanta area had 1:1 laptop programs, and I honestly had no idea, so I contacted two colleagues, and I discovered that of the schools who have 1:1 programs, most use Macs. I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m a Mac fan. I wanted to upgrade to Lion as soon as it was released, but I discovered that several programs I run regularly don’t play well with Lion. This is probably no surprise, especially due to the fact that in Lion, Rosetta is discontinued. I advised my Mac-loving colleagues at work to hold off on an upgrade until I could find out when these programs would work with Lion. The main programs I’m concerned about are the following:

  • GradeQuick Web Plugin (not really a plugin, but a program). In my opinion, GradeQuick doesn’t work well even in Snow Leopard. It functions, but the UI is terrible, and it opens a different window for each class.
  • SMART Notebook 10.8. I only know of one teacher who regularly connects her SMARTBoard to her MacBook, but I am sure others use Notebook on their Macs to create files to use with their SMARTBoards.
  • Konica Bizhub copier drivers. We can print to our copiers using our Macs, but the Konica website doesn’t have a driver for 10.7 yet, and they have published no ETA for releasing one on their website.

I am going to an Edline/GradeQuick conference next week, and I hope to be able to find out more about when GradeQuick will work on Lion at that time. This email from Edline support to the LRSD Technology Center is the only information I’ve been able to find. The tone of the letter disturbs me because it sounds as if Edline is blaming Apple for the incompatibility. Apple switched to Intel-based processors some time ago, and Rosetta (at least to my understanding) was meant to be a way to transition from PowerPC-based to Intel-based processors. The announcement that Apple was making this change was made in 2005. Snow Leopard, which was introduced in 2009, was released as Intel-only and you had to download Rosetta in order to run PowerPC programs. To my way of thinking, software developers knew two years ago which way the wind was blowing, but because Apple was still supporting Rosetta, they effectively decided not to make any changes to their software until Apple forced them to. Education software is not always known to be the most proactive bunch, but given how many schools seem to be moving to 1:1 laptops and how many of those programs are using Apple, it just doesn’t make business sense to decide not to upgrade until you’re forced to. There are alternatives out there, and if you want to keep a school’s business, it seems logical to make sure your software runs on their hardware.

SMART is making the same mistake. A cursory glance at the SMARTBoard Revolution Ning reveals users are having a whole host of problems with Notebook 10.8 on Lion—actually, seems to be unstable with Macs in general. Take a look at this thread. The answer that the original poster was given when he asked when SMART would be resolving known issues with Macs and SMART Notebook? Not until next year when the next update is pushed out. So users need to downgrade to 10.7 if they wish to use Notebook on their Macs? When so many schools use Macs?

I tweeted Konica about the drivers for the bizhub copiers, and they replied that the new driver should be released next month, but that the driver for 10.6 would still work on Lion. That is good news for those of us who print from our Macs. Still no firm date, and “should work” doesn’t mean “will work,” but since I can’t upgrade due to issues with GradeQuick and SMART Notebook, I can’t test it.

I have decided that I want to install VMWare Fusion to run the programs in Windows on my Mac. I admit I feel frustrated. Would the software companies drag their feet like this on Windows software? Given the large number of Mac OS users in education, how can they justify dragging their feet on Mac software?

Do you know of any other programs educators might use that will not work in Lion? Please share in the comments. Also, feel free to share any other issues you’ve had with using Macs in school.

Image via TUAW.

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Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day

Who is Ada Lovelace?

Ada Byron Lovelace was the daughter of the poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron. She was a mathematician and is widely acknowledged to be the world’s first computer programmer. Her notes on her friend Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which would have been the first computer had it been built, constitute the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. The computing program language Ada is named in her honor.

What is Ada Lovelace Day?

Ada Lovelace Day is celebrated on Friday, October 7. A celebration of Ada Lovelace’s contributions to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) was inspired by a study conducted by psychologist Penelope Lockwood. The study’s results found that it is more important for women to see female role models in their field than it is for men to see male role models. “Outstanding women can function as inspirational examples of success,” she said, “illustrating the kinds of achievements that are possible for women around them. They demonstrate that it is possible to overcome traditional gender barriers, indicating to other women that high levels of success are indeed attainable.” Google executive Marissa Mayer says, “The number one most important thing we can do to increase the number of women in tech is to show a multiplicity of different role models.”

Ada Lovelace Day is a celebration of women role models in STEM. Fewer women than men go into STEM fields. Some statistics from NCWIT, the National Center for Women & Information Technology, and the Association for Women in Science:

  • Only 19% of students taking the AP Computer Science exam are girls.
  • Only 11% of top executives at Fortune 500 companies are women.
  • Women comprise less than 25% of engineering and computer science majors.
  • Only 18% of Computing and Information Science degrees were earned by women in 2009. This number has reduced from 37% in 1985!

Women have much of value that they can bring to STEM. The good news is that the numbers of women majoring in math and science near 50%. It is a myth that fewer women major in math and science because they don’t like or don’t have an aptitude for those fields; however, women are socialized to believe that computing and engineering careers are not for them.

The Importance of Role Models

I am a technology integration specialist at my school. In my department of four, I am the only woman. No girls take our course in Java script, which is taught by another member of my department. Only one girl signed up to be a technology ambassador, a new role we have created for students who help guest speakers and faculty with their technology needs when they do presentations at whole-school meetings. Clearly, I have some work to do, and I have taken it upon myself to be a role model for girls at my school, to encourage them to see themselves as good with computers and technology. I haven’t always felt that I was good with computers and technology.

As strange as it seems to me now, given how much students in high school today use technology, I never used a computer for school until I was in college in the early 1990’s. I did try to use a computer in the media center in middle school. I can no longer remember why, but I do recall being frustrated by never getting past the syntax error in DOS. I took and passed a computer competency exam in high school without touching a machine, ever. Computer labs or rolling laptop carts were not thought of, never mind 1 to 1 laptop programs or iPad/iPod programs.

When I was in college, I recall needing to use the Apple computer in the language lab to do exercises in Latin on a floppy disk. I also recall using the computer in Dialectology to see language use patterns for a project I completed on dialects in West Virginia. I thought UGA very high tech because it had such computer labs, but I still registered for courses by looking up course numbers on large dot-matrix printouts at Memorial Hall and bubbling in fields on a card, placing my bubble sheet in a slot in the wall, which was processed and either spit out my white schedule or a yellow error form. My roommate had a laptop with an LCD display that rippled when you touched it. I myself wrote my papers using a Canon StarWriter word processor that had four different fonts and saved files on double-sided, double-density floppy disks.

I never had a female technology role model until 1996. I had left college for three years after I married and had my oldest daughter, and when I returned to finish my senior year, Jenny DeWitt, one of my classmates, was our resident tech guru. She helped all of us figure out email and various other applications on the computer. All of a sudden, I was registering for classes on the computer. The Internet was younger and didn’t have the same sorts of resources (how I envy student teachers starting now all those free lesson plans!). Jenny demonstrated that you didn’t have to be a guy to get computers. I didn’t see myself as ever being as competent as Jenny, but I admired her perhaps more than she has ever realized. She probably has no idea how thrilled I was we reconnected via Facebook and eventually Twitter.

I was given my first laptop computer for a graduation present in 1997. I was very proud of the device, and I sometimes brought it to school to do work, especially when grades were due (we kept our grades on a floppy disk that needed to be turned in). Students who saw it were very impressed by it. It was the first laptop many of them had seen.

In 2001, I entered what Will Richardson calls the Read/Write Web. I began creating content for real with my first blog (of sorts). Eventually, I liked it enough to buy my own domain, built a website and blog, and share. In this endeavor, Jana Edwards, a retired English teacher, was my role model. After a while I found Vicki Davis‘s work. I remember meeting her at my first EduBloggerCon in 2007. Vicki became a technology role model to me.

I discovered Silvia Tolisano’s Langwitches blog a couple of years ago, and Silvia became another role model. It may have been Silvia’s blog that finally convinced me to earn a masters in instructional technology—I can’t remember. I just remember that in feeling my way around in the darkness, trying things, flopping and flailing sometimes, I found my way and discovered that not only did I have an aptitude for computers and technology, but also that I was able to teach others how to do things with computers and technology. I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I would do with my master’s degree beyond learn more about computers and technology so that I could use technology better in my own classes—in fact, all I was really conscious of thinking was wanting to be more like Vicki and Silvia—but shortly after I earned my degree, my school offered me this new role, and I took it.

Most of what I do is teach my colleagues. I have worked with colleagues this year on everything from using our electronic gradebook to transitioning from Outlook to Gmail. I have team-taught with two English colleagues on technology’s role in plagiarism and how to avoid plagiarism. I have team-taught with our AP Spanish teacher on how to record mp3’s of Spanish conversations, which will be a piece of the AP Spanish exam. I will be creating and implementing SMARTBoard training for our teachers. And it’s only the beginning.

I really enjoy it. As I have told colleagues, I feel very useful, and mainly it is because my feedback is often immediate. My colleagues offer their gratitude for my help. Teenagers don’t always do that, you know. Sometimes you never learn whether you impacted them or not. Immediate feedback is pretty amazing. I love what I do, but it’s a pure accident of fate that I ever started doing it. If I hadn’t stumbled into the edublogosphere in 2005, I am not sure I would be doing much of anything with technology. Seeing models made me realize what others were doing, and furthermore, that I could do it, too. I didn’t need to be a computer programmer or some kind of genius to create with computers or to integrate technology in my classroom. All I needed to be was willing to roll up my sleeves, be patient, and figure it out. And I did it, for the most part, without help or, it must be said, encouragement.

I wish that I had had more women role models. I think the main reason I landed where I am today is sheer stubbornness, but I worry that girls and young women are not always as stubborn as they need to be. I have seen the girls go ask one of the boys for help with her computer instead of trying to figure it out. Sometimes the students ask one of the male members of the technology department for help before they think to ask me. When I have made the offer to help, it’s as if they suddenly realize, “Oh yeah, you are in the technology department now, aren’t you?” Of course, a few students learned earlier than others than they can come to me for help or questions, but the majority don’t. Today, a student who was having trouble printing walked past me, to a male member of my department (who also happened to be busy with another faculty member) and asked for help with the printer. I actually knew what was wrong and could have helped. I was also free at the moment he asked. Students in my own writing class often ask a fellow student for help with their computers before they will ask me. It must be said that my colleagues probably have more confidence in and knowledge about my abilities, and they frequently ask for my assistance. My fellow department members have never, not once, made me feel inadequate, and they even ask me for help on occasion. But when I look around at the students, especially the girls, I see the work that needs to be done. The students can play with their computers, but by and large, they need to learn how to use them better for work. They need to learn how to troubleshoot. They need to learn not to be afraid and to try things. They need to learn to see themselves as technologists. Especially the girls.

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Question: Google Apps for Education Contact Lists

WhyMy school is using Google Apps for Education.

We are looking for a solution to a problem that is proving rather sticky. We have several contact lists that we maintain. For example, we have lists for all 9th grade parents, all 10th grade parents, and so on. All of the students, faculty and staff have email addresses in our domain, and they appear automatically in our contact, but we can easily make groups or contact lists from those emails. The parents do not appear in our domain as they are not given addresses on our school’s domain.

Does anyone know of a solution that allows Google Apps for Education users to create contact lists that could be updated globally so that each user in the system would not have to update every single change? We are trying to minimize the number of people who make global changes (such as when we add a transfer student’s parental emails or when a parent changes their email). CSV files are proving to be rather cumbersome, and they also do not allow for quick global changes.

Right now, we don’t know of a way for a single user to add a contact and share it with everyone on our domain using native Google Apps tools, which means we would have to continue to load CSV files or keep some separate list. This solution is not ideal mainly because of the support we would need to provide faculty and staff as well as the increased opportunity for errors to creep in.

If you have a solution, can you brief me on it in the comments and provide any relevant links as well as personal experience with the tool(s)?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tintin44 – Sylvain Masson

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Why, Microsoft?

Frustration (was: threesixtyfive | day 244)Microsoft, can you please tell me why you felt it was necessary to change the default line spacing to 10 pts. after a line? The default should be 0 pts., and if a user wants to change it, they can change it. I have to teach my students how to make this change every time they write a paper. Now that we are standardizing Word 2010 at my school, I can see I will need to help faculty and staff change this default, too. I cannot think of a single defensible reason for monkeying with this particular default feature, which prior to Word 2007, was always 0 pts.

Correct formatting for MLA (and every other style I can think of) calls for double-spaced line-spacing, and this setting you changed introduces extra space after each paragraph. You have introduced incorrect formatting by default and have forced users to change this default in order to correctly format their writing. That is not user-friendly, and it is not cool.

Also, I hate Calibri.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sybren A. Stüvel

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Preplanning

Golden Gate SunsetI began a new job this week (well, really last week, but this first week with teachers back made it feel more like the first week), and this image of the Golden Gate Bridge seemed to capture something about how it feels in many ways.

I am excited. The opportunity to use my technology skills to help my colleagues has been exhilarating, and they seem so appreciative. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

So far, I have written documentation for using our gradebook software and grade/homework site (Edline) and also conducted training in these two programs. I have also had training on our copiers that I translate into training faculty. I sent my first technology newsletter to our faculty (Gmail tips for Outlook users and Dropbox). I have also helped a few colleagues with some questions or issues that have arisen as they prepare for school. To be honest, I am starting my own classes on Monday, and I was completely unable to prepare anything this week, but I will work on that over the weekend.

Google Calendar has a new feature that allows users to create appointment time slots, so I have created slots and shared that calendar with my colleagues. I already have several appointments booked for next week. I have already learned so much, and most of all, I have actually had a lot of fun, even though I’ve been busy. I have been happier in my job than I can ever remember being. I think it’s really important to me to feel useful, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt this useful before (at least, not at work). It was a busy, busy week, but it was a good week.
Creative Commons License photo credit: vgm8383

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