Sunday, May 22, 2011

Amazing Technology Staff

Truly great teams are far and few between, sure there have been a few dynasties over the years and every once in awhile you get a team that dominates for one season, but the next year are non-existent. Debating great sport teams always makes for great conversation, but you can simply fall back on their record in my opinion. But how do you pick the greatest tech team of all time....who knew it was a competition? Actually, it's not, I don't need to compare my department to others to know if we are doing a great job or not. Every environment is different and the needs will vary, but I do know that I have an amazing staff in place for a number of reasons.

More Than A Tech
So let me elaborate (brag) a bit on those reasons for a moment. Our district techs have the title of Itinerant Technician, kind of old school terminology, but they do travel from site to site so the title has remain unchanged. These three guys are far more than a geek squad that come in, replace a power supply and then run to the next job. They spend time working with teachers and even students as technology integration is taking place in the classroom. They are not integration specialist (we do have a great one of those also), but they have a level of understanding of our software/hardware that allows them to assist if necessary. They understand that we are here for the students first, and this has allowed the shift from being a repair person to someone who may need to make a repair, but show the student/instructor a few surface layer how to instructions to get them rolling. They definitely need a new job description and title, as do our System and Network Admin. Their job responsibilities extend far beyond hiding in dark offices and they never lose focus of why we are here.

This is a novel idea, but I believe that Warren Bennis says it best, "trust is the glue that holds organizations together". Trust is something that has allowed our department to grow as a team over the years. Bennis talks more about how trust is earned not given and that is a process that doesn't happen in one day, but over time. I trust each member of our department and know that they communicate with our teachers and staff to provide the best service possible. Their trust for one another allows them to collaborate on issues that one individual may not be able to solve on their own and they push the department as a team to innovate, and work outside of their comfort zone. We are not perfect and continually try to improve, but we shoot for perfection and have fun on the journey.

B's Place
We recently had a get together at Bethany's place to celebrate another great school year together. Bethany Purcell wears a number of hats in the district and one is tech secretary, and also e-rate assistant. She is a shining piece of our team and unfortunately will be taking off her tech hat next year. The good news is she will be close by still and always considered a member of the team! The other good news is Liz Maher will be picking that hat up and bringing her graphic design/webmaster skills to the team, and will be a great fit.

Thank You!
I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank every member of the tech department for a great year and look forward to a busy summer in preparation for the 2011-2012 school year. Being part of an amazing team and the ever changing world of technology makes coming to work everyday very easy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Captain EO

Good Times
Recently I took a few days and went to Anaheim with the family. Traveling with a 7 and 10 year old is still somewhat challenging, but only for me, everyone else seems to not have any issues:-). We spent a couple days at Disneyland, jumping back and forth to California Adventure also. As always it was a great time, weather was nice and cool and even had some rain one of the days, which made for short lines.

The Moment
After adventuring into Tomorrowland I saw that the Captain EO musical, starring Michael Jackson, was open again as a tribute to the King of Pop! My wife and I were both excited and decided the kids really needed to see this, it is in 3D, so that helped convince them it was necessary. About halfway through I did the check on the kids to see how they were liking the show and they were not to impressed. The 3D wasn't that great and the characters were very "baby" looking. They weren't even very impressed by the entire floor shaking! So I figured I would use it as a teachable moment and compare it to today's 3D films and how technology has allowed for major improvements with creating realistic experiences in theatre and compared it to the more modern Bug's Life show....I even tried to bridge the gap to the simulated rides like Soaring Over California and how things change with the evolution of technology.

The Stare
My kids gave me the blank stare for a number of reasons at that moment,
1. Why are we getting a lesson at Disneyland?
2. You know this is boring also, quit trying to make it more exciting than it is.
3. We can watch this on YouTube and could be on the Matterhorn right now.
4. We get how talented and creative Michael Jackson was.
5. The 3D Earth Song Tribute at the Grammy's was way cooler.
6. Your old, we understand things were boring when you were a kid.

The Picture
I think you get how things went with the Captain EO adventure. I chalk it up to a good experience for them, even if they were not impressed. They are dialed into how things were different when I was growing up, doesn't mean they want to give up their iTouch for an Atari 2600, but they understand.

As educators, administrators, tech staff, we need to think about experiences with our kids or students, and step back and ask ourselves if we are creating and supporting an environment that we grew up in, or one that our students today are living in. The picture is different in so many ways.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

7 Layer Dip

Amazing Dish
It is hard to resist getting together to celebrate a birthday, watch a sporting event, or have a barbecue with friends, because you
know someone is going to present their best 7 layer dip. We have all had them, some better than others, but almost all have the same basic ingredients. Occasionally you will get a "new" layer in there, but in the end it doesn't really change the result and you still have the traditional 7 layer dip.

Adding Technology
When we talk about adding technology to our classrooms we can create a new 7 layer dip, by simply adding a new layer to our existing practices, or create an entirely new dish that is nothing like the original. If we truly want to change the way that we currently do business and move towards a student centered classroom, we must move away from the practice of layering technology over our traditional style of teaching.

I recently read a blog post by Nick Sauers titled Message for publishers in which he shares a video he created for the Association of Educational Publishers conference. His video challenges publishers in the same way that schools are being called on to change.

I agree with Nick's challenge to the publishing companies, it is easy for them to simply move their existing textbooks to an electronic format. But simply moving the text to an electronic version will not transform the classroom or better prepare our students for today's world.

New Recipe
There is nothing easy about creating a new dish from scratch. Brainstorming ideas, gathering ingredients, learning new methods of mixing, cooking, and presenting, all are very challenging tasks. But when everything comes together, I believe we will end up with a brand new dish and the end result will be of far greater value to our students. Who knows, before long that old 7 layer dip may be nothing but a memory.

I would like to thank Nick Sauers for his post Message for publishers and the video he created. Also thanks to the How To Cook for Beginners website for their amazing 7 layer dip picture.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Collaboration Coach Celebration

College Readiness for All
The role of the collaboration coach in AJUSD's "College Readiness for All" plan is of great importance.

If we are going to support the above tiles and allow technology to be a disruptive piece of our district's environment that transforms the way we provide instruction, then we need support. It was very clear to myself and AJUSD's Technology Integration Specialist, Tracy Watanabe, that she would not be able to be all places at all times. Having strong, collaborative, respected teachers at all of our sites would be critical in supporting the College Readiness plan and also assist Tracy with promoting technology integration and the movement toward a student centered classroom.

Year One A Success!
Celebrating the end of the first full school year with the Collaboration coaches is something that I wanted to share. Each of the coaches has done an amazing job with integrating technology into their own classrooms, but more importantly, sharing their knowledge with others at their sites. That is not always an easy thing to do when discussing student centered scenarios and adding disruption to a traditional setting. I applaud them for their efforts as well as Tracy Watanabe for working so closely with the coaches, principals for giving the coaches the time necessary for training and sharing, and all Technology Department members for the technical support. Enjoy a few of the coaches creations below.

Elementary Collaboration Coaches from Shauna Hamman on Vimeo.

To view more of the coaching chronicles click here.