Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Who Decides, the Students?

Zaino, J. (April 4, 2014). Why Students and Staff Should Have a Voice in IT Decision-Making. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2014/04/why-students-and-staff-should-have-voice-it-decision-making.

Jennifer Zaino begin her article, Why Students and Staff Should Have a Voice in IT Decision-Making, by describing the actions of one district in choosing devices to use in their "authentic learning" one-to-one program. The article is a blueprint for how to choose devices for a district, and explains why it is important to involve students and staff into the decision-making process. 55 Students had the opportunity to use a variety of devices, including laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks to gain thinking skills.

First, IT departments need to have, or build, honest relationships with technology vendors. this will give stakeholders the opportunity to know all the devices that can be reviewed. Zaino goes on to say that "Students need to be fully invested in the success of the project in which they're participating." If they aren’t students won’t take it seriously. Also, in order to engage students, IT departments that don't have much to do with the curriculum side of a district need to partner with instructional leaders. This partnership will hopefully eliminate any gaps between device usage and school learning.

Students were grouped. Each group was to evaluate one of the devices by researching everything they could about their device: cost, warranty, management, and usage. The ability for a device to handle online testing was one requirement it had to fulfill. It quickly became clear that a physical keyboard was an important element that kids identified. Students were given direct connection with vendor representatives to help build their technical expertise, and students even took a field trip to the vendor headquarters where they got to meet with representatives of the device manufacturers in order to get a better understanding of each device and its capabilities. One teacher said the field trip meetings were "critical" to the process. A committee made up of school staff also followed a similar process as the students. In the end the students, along with a committee of teachers, administrators, and technology staff, gave recommendations to the school board.

I found the process more involved than ours last year when we were looking for a one-to-one device for SD13. I really liked the connection Zaino talked about, having the students meet vendor reps and manufacturer reps. I’m sure it gave the students a feeling that their opinions counted. I’m not sure it was totally needed. I mean if a district were going it to tech for the first time and had to inkling of what they needed, it seems this process would be beneficial. But, we knew at the outset that the device needed to be online-test friendly, and therefore, needed a keyboard, so there goes all the tablets. Durability is alas a factor in a school, so detachable keyboards, and flip-around keyboards just didn't seem very durable. And unless cost is not a concern, I don’t see how a district could come up with any other decision than a Chromebook. They only thing a Chromebook doesn’t do well is take pictures and video, and that has been addressed by one manufacturer already. They have a flip-around camera, so students can hold the device, shoot images, and still see the image on the screen. Whether the camera is durable is another possible problem, however.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Article #7 Do You Text Your Students?

Chipp, Timothy (2014, December 15). Texting With Students Can Profoundly Impact Their Success. Retrieved from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2014/12/15/teacher-text-success-398/

The first thing through my mind when I saw the title, Texting With Students Can Profoundly Impact Their Success, by Timothy Chipp, was how appropriate can it be for a teacher and a student to share phone numbers?
Timothy Chipp wrote about an exploration by Scott Hamm, Chuck Ruot, and Wade Ashby about how to "entice learning outside the typical classroom setting." I completely agree that this is important. Learning doesn’t stop at 3:30 P.M., nor should it. Even after school, our brains keep mulling over that which we have experienced during the day. It never stops. Having reminders, questions, answers, and conversations throughout a school day and after could only help with retention. I often send email reminders to parents of students about an upcoming quiz or test hoping the students will remember to study. Having direct contact with students would be ideal.
Chipp explains that Hamm, Ruot, and Ashby have found that connecting with students on their terms is what is important. “And being on a student level means using text messaging instead of email, Hamm said.” This is what this article is all about. They feel students do not use email, therefore it is ineffective as a tool to communicate with students. Chip quotes Hamm, “They won’t pay as much attention to [an email] as a text message. It’s not on the same level.” The premise is students text, and so should teachers.
I have used email to communicate with some of my students, and the results have been beneficial. Questions about homework or projects get answered and don’t have to wait until the next day in class. Students don’t fall behind. Chipp quotes Ruot, “We can remind them of assignments, seek feedback from the students on some sort of assignment and even quiz them using the texts.” Does he actually take a grade from a text?
However, it is not appropriate for teachers and students to have this connection without some sort of third party (parents, administrators…) as a check and balance. Email works, because the teacher and student are protected. The email account is administered by the district. Any email can be seen by administration if they wish. With cellphones it is not so easy, unless the school district has issued teacher with cellphones in the way private businesses do, and I have never seen that. No one can easily know what communication is going on between two cellphones. For protection, I feel it is important for there to be a responsible third party to oversee the communication.
I have problems with this article. It seems as if Chipp is saying we should text our students, but nowhere does he address the issues that can arise. Nowhere in the article does Chipp mention the age of the students. I assume he is talking about high school or college, but does that make it any more appropriate?
Nowhere does Chipp mention some sort of cellphone buffer. He only mentions that Ashby uses “a simple cellphone application, the texted quiz answers and assignment responses automatically filter into their online Blackboard.” Is that simple cellphone application just SMS, or is it some sort of buffer between cellphones? I know Google Voice was a free service that never seemed to take off. Customers would get a U.S. phone number from Google that acted as a buffer between their real cellphone number (or even home or work number) and a caller. A user could give out the Google generated number to students, parents, or anyone else he or she wanted to, and that user could set which phone would ring - cell, home, work, or any combination of the three - when the called phoned. That way the caller would never have the users real phone number. When the service wasn’t needed between two parties the user could shut the number off for that particular caller, essentially breaking the link. However, Google Voice doesn't address the issue of administration monitoring.
The only time I have shared my phone number with a student was when our concert band and choir went on trip to St. Louis. Each chaperon was responsible for four students. At Six Flags it was not unusual for a student to run off with another group to go on a ride. Knowing which student was with which chaperone could be difficult. Cellphone communication was needed to communicate where and when to meet for dinner or to check in or to leave. Even then I was uncomfortable giving my number to students
I’d thought about using Google Voice for the St. Louis trip, but never got around to setting it up. Even though there are many problems that could arise from having shared phone numbers with students, my worst fear had to do with students prank calling me.
I want to be able to directly send my students messages as a group and individually. What we need is a service listing all our students and staff where we could send messages to groups and individuals. This service needs to include cellphone apps and notifications for easy use. And most importantly it needs to be administered by the district for safety.