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Technology Use Planning Overview

Before I get too wrapped up in following the instructions for this assignment, I need to express my joy with having someone who may be able to change how things are done in America state that our system of education is archaic and that we need to change the length of the school day and recognize that learning and schooling is a 24/7 event. Although Transforming American Education, Learning Powered by Technology, was not attributed to a single author, it was written in parts in first person so I am going to call Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, the author. In the Executive Summary, he states that we need to rethink “seat-time”(page xiv), a notion that I have fought with for years at the schools where I have taught. I wanted to teach classes from 4:00 – 6:00 pm, but my administrators always had a reason why I could not run my classes at that time. Similarly, I wanted students to do work online via a forum I set up in Moodle or by working on creating a Google site on “their” time. My students for some inane reason fought me because they claimed that their responsibility for doing their work ended when the class period ended. WT-Heck? I am overjoyed that we may finally break away from the agrarian structure of schools where the school year and school day were based on letting children out of school so they could work in the fields. Although, I know from having been a part of our dysfunctional school systems that this type of change may never happen. My philosophy of teaching being a 365 day a year job, of which I get to spend some of the time with students, may never actually be formalized by mainstream people, especially those who teach because they think they have weekends and summers off. It is a joy, though, to read that I am not alone in the pursuit of schools being run as if they are in session 365 days a year and as if learning is something that should be happening 24/7. To my delight, I am happy to read that there is a strong desire to make some of the 24/7 time being spent in online classrooms because that means I may be able to be a teacher who has “her own students” again. Now that I have put my personal opinions in, I should follow the assignment’s instructions so I can actually earn points for doing the readings and thinking about their realistic impacts on education.

Following the assignment’s guidelines, I will talk about:
1. Do I agree that 5 year plans are too long?
2. How do I define technology use planning?
3. How is the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) an effective resource when making a technology use plan?
4. John See wrote technology planning articles at the website, National Center for Technology Planning. We are to evaluate his comment, “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology?”
5. I also need to address, “What experiences have you had with technology use planning and what have you seen for outcomes (both good and bad?)”
6. And finally, I am to “use this assignment to reflect upon technology use planning and how you might address it in your school or business.”

1. Do I agree that 5 year plans are too long?
Simply put, yes and no. I agree with John See in his article, Developing Effective Technology Plans, “Technology is changing so fast that it is almost impossible to plan what type of technology will be available for use five years from now.” If we plan to have iPads in classrooms within the next 5 years, which iPads are we going to put in there? We can get a great deal on the iPad1 and soon we’ll be able to get the iPad2 for a good price because I think the iPad3 is supposed to be coming out in the next several months. Ok, so perhaps we say we want tablets in every classroom but don’t specify the brand. With the speed of technology, there is no practical way to foresee what will be relevant or still in use in five years. For example, I bought a new laptop in 2010 because my 2004 laptop could no longer handle Elluminate sessions and the incredibly complicated LMS of the company for whom I was working at the time. I spent enough on the laptop that I am sincerely hoping I can still use it in 2015. Even so, I’ve already upgraded the RAM to 8 Gb, the maximum it can hold. If we bought laptops today for the classroom, how much RAM would we put in them and would it be enough even two years from now? If we put that much memory in them, we would have to be extra careful to make sure the computers are locked down at the end of the day because they may be so enticing that someone would want to steal them. What about if we checked laptops out to students and held them responsible? Have you ever seen what happens to textbooks we check out to students or how many books never get returned at the end of the school year? What makes us think the consequences for laptops will be better? So to plan for 5 years of machines or objects that will be put in students’ hands or in classrooms, we are looking at a huge expense that will have to be repeated more often than every 5 years. I do not mean to steal Mr. See’s ideas, but to save you time from having to flip back and forth to his article, I am putting a huge excerpt of what he wrote here: “If you do develop a long-term plan, tie it to your district’s budget cycle. Pull the plan out every year during the budget process and review it to make sure you have not tied yourself into buying outdated equipment. Do not let a technology plan lock you into old technology and applications just because it says so in the plan. Newer, more powerful, lower cost technology may be available to replace what you have specified in your plan.” My skepticism even goes beyond the useful suggestions he poses because the idea of having an “annual” plan that gets seriously examined and updated every year, while a requirement for accreditation, is rarely taken seriously. Where I live, schools are usually visited by the accreditation team every 3 or every 6 years. Schools rarely do a thorough self-examination at any time other than the year preceding the accreditation visit. The annual report that is supposed to be updated annually or the five year plan that is supposed to be updated annually rarely is. Schools are working on lots of last-minute crisis behavior. The idea of having a plan that actually involved all stakeholders and is updated annually is a lofty and worthwhile goal, but is becoming unrealistic as schools are asked to do too much with too little time and funding.

2. How do I define technology use planning?
First, how the Guidebook for Developing an Effective Instructional Technology Plan, version 2.0, defines technology planning: “Technology planning is an activity that provides direction and helps users understand clearly where they are now and imagine where they want to be.” (page 9)
I thoroughly agree with the optimism expressed in the Guidebook, but can’t seem to stifle my critical voices that remind me of what I experienced in the school where I tried to be a part of the group that did the planning for our Digital High School grant and at the school where I was merely a teacher who wanted to do as much technology based activities with my students as I possibly could. In the former school, our planning committee did NOT involve all stakeholders through the entire process even though they masqueraded as if they were. To give you an idea of what they got away with… they eliminated our Mac lab which cost our technology person her job and denied teachers of a computer lab with machines that actually worked, switched us over to a PC platform that was not designed to handle the bandwidth needed for the equipment they chose, and within two or three years all of these “leaders” were off to be either with other schools or businesses where they could use this item on their resume to build a false impression of what they really contributed to our school. Our school was left with machines that did not work properly and continuously needed upgrading and various other challenges that should have never happened because they should have been anticipated. I want to point out that my husband bought them enough optical mice to stock one of the computer labs and gave them one of his “old” servers which was still good enough to become the school’s main server. Even with the digital high school money, the school was still in a position where they were surviving on the generosity of people affiliated with the school instead of on a well thought out plan. The later school was very good about having meetings, but I could never figure out when they were being held. I only heard about them after the fact.

I’ve given you the Guidebook’s definition of technology use planning and what my opinion is of what adequate technology planning is not, so I should step up and tell you what I think it is. I want to embrace the Guidebook’s optimism that there can be places where “planning is a fluid, ongoing process.” (page 10) I would like to imagine a living document that has the memory of a wiki, the collaborative possibilities of a Google doc, and the power of what what is turned in to the visiting committee before an accreditation. The document has a survey that is always live so they can accept stakeholder input 24/7. In addition, the survey results are updated and are made public so anybody can engage in a discussion of what others are saying. It is like doing a Google form whose results land in a blog that can thereby be continuously evaluated and considered. I want to see the leadership team for the technology plan to be people who have long-term investments in the school, the district, or whatever facility will be using the plan. I agree with the idea of focusing on applications, however I will share that opinion later in that section.

It is funny how the description of the process and document produced for the technology use plan mirrors what is expected of schools going through an accreditation process. The Guidebook suggests having a Vision Statement, a Mission Statement, a description of the demographics of the institution, a list of who was a part of creating the document, data collected, interpretations of the data, what the school plans to do as a result of the data they collected, and what will their “action plan” include. In accreditation terms, the action plan is the process the school plans to follow so they can address the needs that were exposed during the self-study process. I find this process to be universal and logical. I see no reason to change what the Guidebook suggests for the process of making a technology plan.

3. How is the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 (NETP) an effective resource when making a technology use plan?

The NETP has many inspiring phrases that make people like me happy. For example, on page one, they say, “schools must be more than information factories; they must be incubators of exploration and invention.” Oh how I tried to manifest this in my classroom! The NETP goes on to say, “Educators must be more than information experts; they must be collaborators in learning, seeking new knowledge and constantly acquiring new skills alongside their students.” You have no idea how difficult it is for me to curb myself from going on another tirade about my past and what I’ve experienced, and how it contrasts this optimism. Since this entry is already probably much longer than it should be, I will force myself to focus on answering the questions.

I would like to see their embrace of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) not only be implemented, but be something that happens because it has to. I want UDL to be automatic for everybody, not just those who have to prove they have a disability of some kind. Of course I’m speaking from personal experience, but it is more than that. The idea of us (the people without disabilities) and them (the people with disabilities) is a farce. All of us can and will benefit by making access to information easier. Even people without documented disabilities benefit from closed captioning. Since I have disabilities, documented and probably some that are not, I can’t use myself as the best example of how “normal” people benefit from the things that exist so that people like me can physically get from one place to another. In a more appropriate setting I will be happy to point out the numerous ways compliance to ADA has failed. To undo the “digital exclusion” (page 20), the technology use plan needs to seamlessly integrate how it is going to allow for all populations to not only have physical access to objects, but the digital ones as well. I dream about the time when universal design for textbooks is a reality. The hours I have wasted trying to maneuver the paper text used in 503 is ridiculous. Although I contacted the disability department at BSU, nothing came of my request for help. First, I should not have to contact a disability department so I can get “special treatment” to get a textbook that I can manipulate. Second, nobody should have to go outside the normal route to access a textbook they can use. Not only should objects be available, but we should not have to prove we are eligible for these special objects. These “special” objects should automatically be a part of the mainstream. It would be amazing if what the NETP describes on pages 19 – 22 not only became possible, but it was so much a part of society that the “accessible devices” would not be seen as an add-on to what is normally done. Inclusion should be automatic not an after-thought.

Another passage that would be ideal is for the assessment philosophies and suggested practices to become reality. I would love to see students engaged beyond the multiple choice exam, even the online multiple choice exams. Shifting to using the Internet and online courses has to go beyond making the Internet a cesspool of paper products that have become digitized. In the second section, Assessment: Measure What Matters, they not only detail how assessment can go beyond regurgitation factoids but how it can include authentic interactions and experiences. I would love to see their ideas reach not only the populations they feature as exemplars of how the assessment can happen, but the designated under-served populations, as well.

The third section is about training teachers. That, too, is something I have experience with and have seen how it can be done poorly. Again, this is already long enough- I will have to tell that story elsewhere. I see their philosophies and ideas about how teachers need to be trained in how to utilize technology in the classroom as once again, a dream that I hope becomes reality. Some of what they give as examples of what is already happening such as, online collaboration, PBS TeacherLine classes, or Twitter networks, are things I am already doing or have been a part of. That part of the dream is already a reality, but how do we pull in the teachers who are still uncomfortable using a computer or those who think the school day ends thirty minutes after the students leave? While I don’t mean to be pessimistic with all of my approaches to a technology plan, it will still be several years before the teachers who are not embracing the Internet or use of technology retire and make way for those of us who want to properly challenge our students by expecting them to use what is available. I need to pause on what is mentioned on page 47, the Growing Demand for Skilled Online Instruction. The NETP was not my inspiration for choosing to earn a degree in Educational Technology, but I can attest to the importance of what they say. “Crucial to filling this need while ensuring effective teaching are appropriate standards for online courses and teaching, and a new way of approaching online teacher certification that functions across state lines.” What is currently in place is archaic and needs to be revised. I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) which essentially means I’ve proven that I care about students, what they learn, and how they learn. Even so, for me to teach online in a state outside of my own, I need to get a credential for that state. While that should not be a big deal, since the country went berserk over the Highly Qualified Teacher, just being a NBCT is not enough for some states. I’ve taken one of the Praxis tests to prove I actually know chemistry (and missed the high ranking by one stinking point.) Even so, for some states I have to jump through other hoops to prove that I know enough chemistry factoids to teach online. What exactly does online teaching look like? Can anybody walk into an online classroom to see what is being taught and how it is being taught? I have not figured out how to do that. I did manage to get hired by an online teaching company for a very short period of time. What I experienced while in that position is what was one of the primary motivating factors for me to earn a degree in Educational Technology. What I experienced were some of the worst ways to teach students chemistry. I fear that if the government pushes this move to online learning, that the companies who have already established a strong foothold in the online school market will be the ones who determine what online schooling will be like. Since so much of it that can be seen is merely theory and what is not seen is hidden from the non-paying public view, I fear that if what is described in section 3 is not carefully monitored, we will only be reinforcing the horrible behaviors we see manifesting themselves in the face to face classrooms of under-served populations.

Sections 4 and 5 are probably more applicable to a technology use plan than other parts of the document. Section 4 discusses ways to reach their technology goals and section 5 explains the resign and transform process. A few parts that were especially interesting to me include:

      – Figure 4, page 59, the Framework for software services in a technology-empowered learning environment
      – The idea of embracing continuous improvement, page 65
    – And the process of reorganizing teaching and learning, page 68

4. John See wrote technology planning articles at the website, National Center for Technology Planning (NCTP). We are to evaluate his comment, “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology?”

I agree. Mr. See says that we need to focus on the output more than the input. For those of us who do not think in those terms, what it means is we need to focus on the products our students can make and emphasize less on the machines they will be using to make those products. In some cases we should focus on the “input” if it is software that students will want to learn so they can grow along with it as it becomes upgraded. Even then, what we are focusing on is what can the student produce? Can they make a website? Does it matter which software they use to make the website? Given that there are now places online where for a small fee (or less) your website practically creates itself, unless they are planning to be the designers of that type of software, they probably don’t need to learn Dreamweaver or other expensive commercial software. I completely agree that we need to empower students to be problem solvers who can maneuver through technology’s barriers to produce a product that can be understood by anybody who encounters it.

The article says, “Trying to standardize your district’s purchases on one brand or model of computer and make it perform all present and future applications of technology is impossible.” Again, agreement. Technology changes too quickly for you to get hung up on loyalty to a brand. Heck, we can’t even get IBM quality Thinkpads anymore. (Trust me, my 2010 machine came from Lenovo.)

5. I also need to address, “What experiences have you had with technology use planning and what have you seen for outcomes (both good and bad?)”

I have included many examples of bad experiences throughout this dissertation. Some of my experiences I have not included are:

– Working at a school that chose to download and make accessible a Moodle environment (2009-2010)
– Working at a university that used Blackboard and provided free professional development to instructors so we could learn how to set up our own class (2005). Setting up my own class in Blackboard.
– Working at the same university where I could take classes for free in Dreamweaver, Access, and other software. (2004 – 05)
– Working at a school that let me download software off the internet and place it on every machine so my students could do the virtual DNA fingerprinting lab (2001 I think). Not only did they let me download it, but that night they pushed out a new image to all of the machines so I got to download everything again. Oh joy!
– I don’t know if this applies but I was allowed to create my own biotechnology class where I was able to integrate any technology I could afford or acquire through begging, borrowing, or dumpster diving. (1998 – 2004)

6. And finally, I am to “use this assignment to reflect upon technology use planning and how you might address it in your school or business.”

At the moment my school or business are merely hypothetical entities. My business, a survey company, lives on my laptop and Yahoo’s servers. I’ve had the company for 5 years and even though I don’t have any clients at the moment, I’m happy with what I’ve done and accomplished. At the moment I don’t want to do another technology plan for my business.

I am otherwise unemployed. I want to be hired as an online teacher so I can see how bad things really are. My first experience was dreadful and I am really hoping I was misunderstanding the way things were done. I would love to play a role in designing the software used for teaching online and am hoping that the degree I earn from Boise State will facilitate that to happen. I understand that I’m to create a technology use plan, but at the moment I am too worn out from all of this writing to be creative enough to state what I would do if I was able to follow the lofty goals that I have been reading and writing about for this entry.