Thursday, November 30, 2017

EdTech Planning and Funding

It's still November, and we've already begun the process of planning for next year's EdTech purchases. In some ways we have it down to a science. What's five years old? Time to replace it. Recycle those things that don't work very well anymore and re-purpose the rest. Then ask for input from administrators and teachers as to what they perceive are their EdTech needs for next year. Compile all of that and then contemplate changes or additions. Then prioritize, knowing funding will never cover everything but wanting to fulfill the most requests we possibly can.

That all seems pretty straight forward, but here's where the difficulties always arise. It's the answer to the email or the form field or interview question that asks something like:

Exactly what are students going to do with these devices or programs? How will the technology increase or at least enhance student learning?

I informally evaluate the state of our instructional strategies in classrooms and the understanding of the potential of technology for learning from these answers, and honestly, it's disappointing some years. Research, reading, mechanical tech skill development, weekly or standardized assessments, canned curriculum, and writing papers aren't very good answers. While yes, students should and do use devices for these purposes, these uses don't come close to realizing the potential of technology for learning. Tech is only a substitute for the same old way of teaching and learning, meaning tech's desirable but not really necessary, rather than tech's a trans-formative way to learn in ways that were never possible before, under which circumstances tech becomes a necessity.

Take a look at the SAMR model that describes a way to analyze how students are using technology in the classroom. Kathy Schrock has many resources related to SAMR: While all student tech use doesn't have to approach the redefinition level of this model, some of that use certainly should.

Take a look at the new ISTE Standards for Students: There is almost no correlation from the student uses listed above to the potential these standards provide for student learning. Students collaborating with others outside their town or state or country, creating musical compositions or business models, or contributing to the solution of real life problems are very real, viable, trans-formative things students can do with technology.

Finally, take a look at the other initiatives in your districts. How does technology integration fit in? It shouldn't be an isolated, add-on activity anymore. It should be intrinsic to learning. The excuse that teachers are too busy with other things mandated by the state and the district doesn't fly anymore. Technology is, can be, or should be a part of every other initiative in a district. It's how business is done in the real world, and the real world needs to be reflected in the work our students do in school.

Can you argue your district doesn't have enough technology to easily implement some of the instructional strategies I'm suggesting? You bet. This would certainly be true of my district. However, that becomes a lame excuse when the request for more EdTech is not based on transformation but is based on students doing research, taking assessments, accessing canned curriculum, and practicing mechanical tech skills. Continuing to use traditional and often antiquated instructional strategies may require a certain level of EdTech access, but it isn't a very compelling way to persuade those in charge of funding to prioritize and spend more money on EdTech.

Think about it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New Beginnings

I've been contemplating how hard it is to let go of what we've done in the past - Things we were proud of - To move on to the new. Why is this on my mind? Because I have an old website that I used for many years that had become horribly outdated. However, there were years of work and memories there, and I hated to just pitch it and start over.

I did it, though. I've decommissioned my old website, and I've started over on my new one. Is there much there? Nope. There isn't much at all. However, it is current and just waiting for me to edit it with useful information about EdTech and the Storm Lake Community School District.

Sometimes you just have to say, "Out with the old and in with the new" - No matter how nostalgic you are.

New SLCSD EdTech Website

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Where were you?

Eligible voters, all I can say is, "Shame on you." A less than nine percent turnout to vote yesterday. Come on! If we want our schools to be great, we ALL need to participate. We need to be informed. We need to ask questions. We need to show up, for goodness sake. It's no wonder that our national government has taken charge of education. Our local citizens don't seem to care if they have a say.

Clearly, voters who sat at home were not seriously contemplating, "What's best for kids?"

Congratulations to Peter Steinfeld and Erika Dierking who were elected to the Storm Lake Community School District Board of Education, and "Way to go," Stephanie Wilhelm, for choosing to run in this local election. Thank you to all three of you for participating. Thank you for being informed. And, thank you for asking the tough questions.

It's time to get involved, Storm Lakers. To butcher a famous quote, attributed to several in various forms: "If not now, when? If not you, who?"

Monday, September 11, 2017

"This is my home"

Interesting article in the Pilot Tribune last week.

I can't help picturing my own young adult children who are all peers of the Dreamers - who I moved several times, with absolutely no input from them, starting when the oldest was 2 years old. What if they were suddenly dropped in a foreign country where they didn't know the language, knew no one, and had no job or place to live?

America, where is our heart?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"We view our diversity as a strength..."

Hats off to Iowa City's Superintendent and his kind letter to his school community yesterday:

Message to Our Community

Dear Members of the Iowa City Community School District Family,

Today it was announced that the Department of Homeland Security rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and will stop processing any new applications for the program. To all of our students who are impacted by this decision – and to their friends, classmates and teachers who are also concerned because of this decision – know that the Iowa City Community School District stands by you. We serve all families in our District and we want our students to be safe, to feel welcome, and to learn and succeed in our schools and community. The Iowa City Community School District does not condone nor support any action that demonstrates intolerance, bigotry, or that promotes discrimination. As a District, we remain committed to celebrating and embracing our diversity, as that diversity makes us stronger.

Our District has a responsibility to provide a safe, secure, and nurturing environment for all of our students to participate in their education. We do not tolerate discrimination because these actions impact all of us and detract from an inclusive educational environment. Over the next few months as this issue makes its way through Congress, there will be teachable moments during which we can discuss the democratic process, how to resolve differences, how to deal with conflict, and how to reconcile diverse and contradictory values. Living in a democracy affords us this opportunity. Teaching our students how to process the outcome of the DACA decision is a privilege that we have as educators and adults.

As a district, we place great value in building an inclusive culture of learning where all students and families feel welcome, safe, and secure. Please know that the District will never give out immigrant status information and we are proud to stand with our DACA students and families. We view our diversity as a strength and celebrate the fact that over 70 languages are spoken throughout our buildings. We are proud to stand by, support and celebrate each and every unique individual within our District.

Thank you to everyone for helping our students understand this decision and how best to move forward. I have no doubt that questions and concerns will linger and that we will need to continue our vigilance in monitoring the health and safety of our students and schools. The District has resources to provide assistance to students and families who may need additional support. Please reach out through our School Counselors and Student and Family Advocates if you, a student, or a District family has unmet needs. We will do our best to provide support or assist them in finding the support they need in our broader community.


Stephen F. Murley
Iowa City Community School District

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Happy First Day of School!

As I was pulling out of my driveway this morning, a lone acorn rolled off the top of my car and over my windshield. A flood of first day of school memories washed over me.
  • The smell of new tablets and crayons and first day of school clothes
  • The view of the sunlight on the trees as summer starts to wind down
  • The excitement to see friends unseen since the last day of school
  • The trepidation of getting to know a new teacher
  • The anticipation for fall sports and marching band
I grew up in a household where fall rather than January was considered the beginning of the new year - where resolutions were made - and everyone knew that anything was possible.

May all of our students experience the joy of a new school year and the love of our SLCSD family. Welcome back!