Sunday, December 8, 2013

School Evaluation Summary

MTI Elementary Technology Plan Summary

As many of you know, I have taken a leave of absence from MTI Elementary for graduate studies.  I still felt that I could complete this project due to having been on the School Improvement Committee for a number of years, having been the technology resource teacher for a few years as well, and contacting a few friends that still work there to get some up to date data.  A teacher that is currently on the school improvement plan and I reviewed MTI using the Maturity Benchmark Survey together and concurred on each section and sub-section.

The were a few surprises on this survey.  One surprise was, I did not realize that the district had posted their technology plan until I looked.  It was very comprehensive. Another surprise, even with a yearly survey to the teachers, it surprised me how little input the teachers and staff that work with students have on what apps/technology equipment are chosen. 

I expected MTI Elementary to be either in the island or integrated stage.   The survey showed that is is in the island stage.  At the beginning of the semester I would have consider MTI more integrated; but, after studying the different technology plans and articles I realized most of the teachers at MTI use technology as lesson enhancers and not as an integral part of the curriculum.  This is partly due to all decisions about technlolgy coming from the district staff.  Also, the lack of in-depth training of new technologies, whether they be small devices or applications, continues to strengthen many teachers dislike of change.

This survey confirms to me that the way public education is administered needs to change dramatically if we are going to assist students in learning 21st century skills. 

Below is MTI Elementary's Survey and Evaluation
MTI Elementary Survey

MTI Elementary Evaluation

Monday, December 2, 2013

Technology Use Planning Overview

Effective Technology Planning- 

1. A definition of technology use planning.
     Technology use planning in a school or school system is a multi-part process.  A committee of interested, knowledgeable, and  responsible teachers, technology staff,  and administrators would be needed to begin the planning.  The planning would involve reviewing current technology practices in the school/school system.  The review would include an inventory of current equipment, if it is being used, how often, and in what context is it used.  The review would also include what applications are being used regularly and if they are thought to be effective by the teachers and students using them. 

     Next, the committee would interview teachers and students for subjective ideas of what types of technology would be useful to help student learning.  While the interviews are going on, committee members would also be responsible for researching different areas of technology (equipment and apps) that would be useful in the classroom.  Each member would then bring back to the committee their recommendations based on interviews and research.  

    Then the committee could make a flexible 2-3 year plan.  The plan would include purchasing of new equipment and apps to be used with students and teachers, and ongoing intensive professional development for teachers to be introduced and immersed in the technologies that would benefit their classrooms.  Please notice that the equipment, apps, and professional development would be flexible in that it would fit the needs of the classroom/students.  An example would be the third grade classrooms have computer stations while the fourth grade has tablets, and the fifth grade wing has a 3-D printer.

    Technology use planning should be ongoing and have an open communication pattern between the committee members and all teachers.  This would increase the successful use of the technology in the school/school system.  

2. The new National Education Technology Plan 2010 as an effective tool in planning.
    The NET Plan 2010, if used in technology use planning, can be a very effective tool.  It covers learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity. The scope of the plan is nationwide and has some high aspirations for our nation's education- such as reshaping our definition of a classroom, making sure that every student and teacher has access to technology at school and home, and using learning analytics during a student's education lifetime to help them be successful.

   This overall plan has some wonderful concepts that could change education to be more meaningful and student centered.  So using this plan as a reference in technology use planning makes sense.  Each state school system will have to look at its resources to decide when implementation of different parts can be made.  Common Core seems to have made strides in many states, which begins to address the learning section of the NET plan 2010. The assessment section, using learning analytics plan, will be a complex challenge because, for it to be truly effective, it needs to be nationwide while protecting each student's information.  The teaching section, one of the most important models, should be a placed in technology plans immediately.  The professional development suggested in the plan would be instrumental in creating a successful technology infused learning environment.  Finally, the infrastructure and productivity, models will be changing to incorporate the 24/7 style of learning that is suggested in the NET plan 2010.  

    One of the benefits of using this plan as a basis for state/county/school wide technology use planning is that it should make it easier to find grants and donations to fund these changes

3.  John See's Paper on Technology Plans
     John See wrote a paper that covers what effective technology planning should do.  I found it to be full of common sense and practical. I agree with the premise that technology planning should be short term, no longer than 2 years.  His argument that technology is changing so fast that anything longer than that may be obsolete within 2-5 years is practical.

4. & 5. Technology plans should focus more on apps than equipment.
     I agree with this statement.  Mr. See's statement "It may be better to go to your school board saying this is what we want our students to be able to do-output.  Then tell them what technology you need in order to accomplish your goals ...", is right on.    It is the output, what students are learning, that is important.  Having a I Pads in a classroom with only games on it will not help a student who is struggling in math and reading.  It will not propel a high achieving student to grasp higher concepts in those subjects. 
    Technological equipment is changing at a fast rate, however with budget constraints and age appropriate needs, older equipment can be used effectively as long as the apps within that equipment are appropriate and the equipment can handle the apps size and programming needs.  As students mature so can the equipment. It is really important to have apps that enhance student learning and it makes sense to place more of a budget in this ever-improving type of technology.

6. My experiences with technology planning.

     At one point in my career at my Title One Elementary School, I was the co-chairperson for the school improvement committee and the technology representative for our school.  During that time, the committee made technology equipment a priority.  The school board made the decisions for apps at that time, so we did not have much say about what was on the computers.  Our school went from having a just a teacher computer to having 6 computers for student use in each classroom, several teachers applied for and received technology kits that included interactive equipment and Smartboards.  Each teacher got LCD projectors and a document camera.  Each group of 3 teachers shared a printer to help with quick copying or finally printing student work. The school got two sets of laptops that could be used by a whole class at one time.

   Many of these improvements were helpful.  They all came with challenges.  The committee had to actively budget for LCD projector bulbs and printing cartridges.  Teachers used the equipment like overhead projectors.  Some teachers used the printers to print whole sets of worksheets (it was for lesson plans and example worksheets) so they used their limit of ink before the year was out.  Some teachers did not let the students use the computers, or only used the computers for games at recess.  The teachers that got technology kits from the school board had to deal with some jealousy issues.  There was not enough wi-fi strength for the laptops to work  all at once.

    Even with these challenges, the improvements were successful.  Many teachers started to used the document camera, LCD projector, and computer as a teaching tool- incorporating videos, board approve apps, and websites to enhance learning.  The students finally had opportunities to use computers regularly in classrooms.  The computer lab was used by all grade levels so the whole class could create a project or do research at the same time.  A signal tower was built on the school property to assist with wi-fi strength.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Digital Divide/Digital Inequality

Digital Inequality

To review my Google presentation please click the following:

Digital Inequality in Title One Elementary Schools

I was surprised to realize, after reading many articles and papers on this subject that, at least in the USA, digital inequality is more of an issue than digital divide.  Digital divide, in my mind, is an equipment and access issue.  In the US, even in socially depressed areas, there is access to computers and the internet.  The access can be found in schools, libraries, if not in homes.  Digital inequality, is what people do with the technology that is available to them.  The research being done in the last couple of years has been in this area.

It helped me better understand, as a teacher, that the focus of teaching technology may need to shift to teaching students effective internet skills.  Effective means, teaching students how to discern what they find on the internet, using the internet for information, connecting with business and social media, how to present oneself on the internet, internet safety when banking, buying, or selling, etc...

The survey above was more difficult than expected.  The school system that I worked in for the last ten years has made several changes this year.  The teachers are stressed.  I sent the request out to friends and associates, believing that I would have a good response in a short amount of time.  After two weeks, I finally had 4 responses.  That was after a couple of requests to personal friends.  Others stated they would respond and then did not.  I understand that this happens, however, this is one of the skills we need to teach students.  Having a survey published with only four responses is not truly relevant.  Helping students discern who created the information, where it came from, and how many people it represents is an important life skill.

This assignment definitely changed my perception on this subject.  I originally thought that the biggest challenge for the students I taught was not having enough equipment.  Today students learn, quickly, how to use laptops, computers, kindle, i pads, etc.. usually faster than myself and contemporaries.  For students to succeed past elementary school, they need to learn  how to use the equipment for more than gaming and "talking" to friends.  As my survey shows, "many" teachers still think it is the digital divide that needs to shift.  I believe this is a subject that teachers need more information on to better understand how to help our socially depressed students have a successful future.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tech Trends

Tech Trends- Learning Analytics

Of all the new trends in the K-12 Horizon Report, the one that has the ability to make the greatest change to education is learning analytics.  This trend, which according to the Horizon Report, will be used by at least 20% of the education communities within 2-3 years.  When there becomes an open source of data that follows students across a nation or the world, that is life-altering.  Learning analytics is a trend that will have great influence over the next generation's style and type of education.  There are many implications and applications for this trend.  Here is a short analysis of what this trend is about and how it could be used in an elementary setting.

Tech Trend- Learning Analytics Analysis

Friday, October 18, 2013

EDTECH Research

EDTECH Research Project

Subject Area/Grade Level: Reading/Elementary School

Instructional Objective: Increase Reading Fluency and Comprehension with Elementary Students

Pre-Research Discussion:

Teaching in a Title One school for ten years has proven, to me,  that there is a correlation between reading well, understanding concepts, and a willingness to learn about new ideas.  
During the last three years of teaching third grade, 20-30% of the students were not reading at grade level by the end third grade and were not officially labeled as disabled reader.  These are the students that have the highest risk of dropping out of high-school in later years.  These students, who need more assistance and time to increase their reading fluency and comprehension, need these services when they are in  2nd, 3rd, and/or 4th grade.

The challenge is not assessing who needs the extra help.  That is relatively easy.  The challenges for a classroom teacher are getting proper professional development in this are, the ability to recognize each student’s challenges in reading,  having access to successful strategies that can be incorporated into small group settings, and finding/using effective technology -websites and software- that can reinforce relevant reading lessons for those students.

I would like to research successful strategies that teach reading fluency and comprehsion to  low-income students who are below grade level reading.  I want to understand the correlation between family support and reading fluency.  I hope to find techniques and skills that can be incorporated into small group settings, as well as, technology that will support these students learning the basics which will support their educational needs as they grow.

Post-Research Discussion: 

The research led me to understand that technology can help struggling students with reading fluency.  However, the technology must be consistent, individualized, times for around 20 minutes each session, and used as a supplement to teacher led strategies.  The research seemed to correspond that small group instruction with researched strategies can also help reading fluency.  The most effective way to help struggling students is using both.  

Annotated Bibliography
Begeny, J.C., and Silber., J.M.  An examination of group‐based treatment packages for increasing elementary‐aged students' reading fluency. Psychology in the Schools 43.2 (2006): 183-195.

This examination was postulated to improve elementary age students reading fluency in a small group setting using a four research driven strategies.  It incorporated: repeated readings, listening passage preview, word-list training, and phrase drill with error correction.  It was a very small model of fou students over a six week course.  The  instruction happened for 7-12 minutes, three to four times a week.  The examination showed that a combination of word-list training, repeated readings, and listening passage previews had positive effects on the group and the effects were retained two days after the lessons, which possibly showed that there was retention of strategies.

This article seemed useful for small group intervention;however, the examination is of such a small number that it’s usefulness is suspect.  Also the model was done with distractions at a minimum which is not a typical classroom of third graders.  I would continue to look for additional research to support this with  a larger population.

Blok H., Oostdam R., Otter M.E., and Overmaat M., (2002). Computer-assisted instruction in support of beginning reading instruction: A review. Review of Educational Research, 72 (1), 101-130.

This article reviews 42 studies on computer assisted instruction in the primary and elementary classroom. It broke down the studies into different reading sub-skills CAI’s. The review states that all studies showed a small improvement to reading skills which they defined as phonological awareness, letter identification and letter-sound correspondence, word identification and recognition skills, and text reading.  The review stated that what the students made on the pre-test was a good predictor for the post-test. The language of instruction being English was also shown to be significant.  The studies they reviewed were for a general population.  

I found this useful with defining the needs of a good reader.  The article began with an intial evaluation of a Stanford CAI program in initial reading ((Fletcher & Atkinson, 1972) which based computer instruction solely on the individual student’s performance and was supplemented with teacher instruction.  This study had better post-scores for those students.  Unfortunately, it was not financially feasible to continue, but this model may work in light of innovations in technology since that time. This article also brought up a new question- are CAI’s effective with ESL students?  I believe that is another topic for another day.

Macaruso, Paul, Pamela E Hook, and Robert McCabe. The efficacy of computer‐based supplementary phonics programs for advancing reading skills in at‐risk elementary students. Journal of Research in Reading 29.2 (2006): 162-172.

This article reported on a study done in ten Boston Title One first grade classrooms.  There was a control group that received only teacher based lessons in reading instruction and the experimental groups that received both teacher based lessons and CAI lessons using Lexile software called Phonics Based Reading (PBR) and another software program called Strategies for Older Students (SOS).  The study found significant gains for Title One students who received both teacher based lessons and the additional CAI lessons.  In fact, Title One students in the experimental group caught up with non Title One students by the end of the year.  The CAI was used 2-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time.  The program was individualized per student based on their performance and those students that completed the most sections made the most gains.

I found this useful because it reinforces the Stanford CAI evaluation from 1972.  Teacher based reading instruction along with an appropriate CAI program in phonological awareness that is regularly done and individualized, will help at risk students in lower elementary grades read significantly better.

Morgan, P.l L, Sideridis,  G., and Hua, Y.  Initial and over-time effects of fluency interventions for students with or at risk for disabilities. The Journal of Special Education 46.2 (2012): 94-116.

This meta-analysis modeling of 44 single participant studies sought to recognize which teacher led interventions had a positive outcome on students oral fluency.  There were 4 categories: goal-setting, keywords, previewing, listening, and repeated reading; peer/pair tutoring, and phonological awareness.  The study had 290 participants, mostly male and white, some Title One, spanning grade levels 1-11.  Approximately half of this number were in first, second, and third grade. This found that goal-setting  had the most significant and long-term positive effect on oral fluency in reading.

This article will be useful with small group intervention strategies for reading fluency.  Goal-setting can be used for all groups and the other interventions such as previewing and rereading can be used for those students that are struggling to read.  According to this study phonological awareness was not significant in helping with oral fluency.  This may not be used with teacher-led activities if other studies relay the same outcomes.

Schwanenflugel et al., Becoming a fluent and automatic reader in the early elementary school years.  Reading Research Quarterly 41.4 (2006): 496-522.

This article is  a study  to determine two things; a model of factors that help 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders become fluent readers and determine if text fluency corresponds to reading comprehension.   It  was conducted  with  Title 1 students  in Georgia  and New Jersey during 7th and 8th month of school.   Students performed eight task; four  traditional and 4 computerized . This study found that once students are considered fluent in reading then reading comprehension is based on other factors.  It also showed that a simple reading fluency model where text reading fluency  is just one factor in teaching reading comprehension is more successful in early elementary.

This article identifies tasks that can help a classroom teacher understand what is hampering students becoming fluent readers.  It also points to creating a multi-dimensional reading instruction to increase fluency.  Finally, it recommends that once a child is considered fluent than fluency strategies can be eliminated from instruction.  This assists teachers in creating differentiated lessons for small groups.  Those students that need help with fluency would be working on phonological awareness programs and other fluency teacher based lessons while more fluent readers could be working on other reading comprehension strategies.



I found myself very reluctant to start this project.  I looked up research before and found it to be difficult to find appropriate texts and articles for the subject.  Google Docs and Albertson Library helped immensely.  I found that by changing the wording during the search I found many more articles than expected.  I chose to not include any before 2001 and I felt this would be less relevant to present day technology strides.   


The research, once started, was fascinating in that individualized technology support can increase struggling student fluency, as long as it supplements teacher led reading instruction.  I felt that after reading up on this subject, focusing on fluency was the important aspect when working with struggling third graders at the beginning of the year and that comprehension will get better with better fluency.  The research gave me some tools to evaluate students and strategies that could be used in small group settings. I would like to do more research to find appropriate software and how to incorporate these teacher led strategies into 20 minute small group lessons.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

RSS in Education

RSS in Education

Real Simple Syndication (RSS) has been around a long time.  RSS searches the websites and blogs that a person follows and then stores the posts from those sites in one place, making it easier to find and read.  For many years it was not considered safe to use in K-12 education, but that is changing.

Below is my RSS in Education tutorial.  I decided, that when my school district  allows RSS and blogs in the classroom, they will need a set of tutorials for the students.  This would be the second in a series of tutorials using RSS and blogs.  My learner population would be 3rd-5th graders being introduced to this concept.  Each tutorial will be only five minutes long, to keep students actively watching and listening. After each tutorial the students would have opportunities to practice the new skill.  This tutorial is an overview of Feedly (an RSS aggregator) and shows (very quickly) how to add content and create a category. My goal is to have students become comfortable working with Feedly and logging on every day or two to check the topics that interest them.  After they became comfortable with this, next we would add blogs where the students would have writing activities that are shared with the teacher and class.  They would also be able to use their RSS feed, later in the term or year, to conduct research on current events.

What did I learn from this project?

As I was reading and thinking about this project, I had to picture if I would use RSS with elementary students.  It took me a day or two to understand that RSS would be an effective tool in the classroom. Students being allowed to find -appropriate- websites and blogs that they are interested in.  Allowing them time to check these feeds.  Using that as a base for writing activities and discussions.  Hey, this would be a learner directed classroom!  During my research into RSS, I read that blogs could be used for writing activities instead of pen and paper.  Hmm, the dog or  a baby sister, could not eat the blog! Students could also view this at home and so could the parents.  Yes, there are management issues with this tool, however this can be a powerful motivator to learning.  
I also learned how to get around Feedly while making the video.  I kept thinking, "Oh I know how this will work" and would start Screenr (the on-screen video recording service), only to have Feedly do something different.  So through this project, I feel more confident and comfortable using Feedly.   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Elements of Education Technology

Elements of Education Technology

On June 1st, 2004, the Association for Educational Communications and Technology posted the Definition of Education Technology. The definition presented in this pre-draft is as follows:
 "Education Technology is the study and ethical practice for facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources."(2004, page 1) 
The post included thirteen elements of this definition.  THIRTEEN!  Reading this gave me more insight to our responsibility as educators.  All thirteen elements are important to this definition and the use of technology in the classroom or on the web.  Attached is a short discussion on two of these elements that I felt were important on a personal level. Click here to see the below document in Google Docs

Reflection on The Definition of Education Technology:

I was awed by the depth of the definition.  At first, I thought the writers had just drawn out the definition with 13 elements, and while some elements are very closely related, each one is justified as being separate.   Though this is a specific definition for education technology, many of the elements make up good education policy.  I was familiar with most of these elements and used many of them to create lessons such as study, appropriate, creating, improving, resources, facilitating, managing, and learning.  The elements of ethical practice and appropriateness, their definitions from this document, have changed my teaching perspective.  The considerations when creating lessons have become broader.  It may make creating lessons and units more time consuming factoring in these elements but, I believe, it will make them more engaging and learner-oriented.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


This learning blog log is a showcase of my learning experiences and projects as I progress through my Master of Education Technology Degree here at Boise State University.  This will become a review of my journey as a novice in technology education to an apprentice.  I say apprentice because technology grows so fast, there will always be more to learn.

My name is Nora Lawson.  I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I have worked at a number of jobs over the years,but have had two careers.  I spent 10 years teaching at a Title One Elementary School and have been a massage therapist/bodyworker for 19 years now.

Presently, I am taking a two year leave of absence from teaching to pursue this degree.  I took the leave of absence because I was feeling burnt out -not from teaching.  I love teaching young people.  I needed a break from a school district that cared more about state test scores than helping young people become life-long learners.

Besides teaching and bodywork my interests are gardening, reading science fiction, mysteries, and current events; gardening, spending time with my husband and our 10 or so cats, and hanging out at the beach.

I am excited about all that I am going to learn in this program.  This will help me become a better teacher and help future struggling students become more successful in their education.

EDTECH 506-Personal Image

This image represents some of the important parts of my life.  The center photo is from a visit to Tennessee from a few years ago.  It represents the new journey that I have started this summer transitioning from a full time teacher of ten years to a full time graduate student and bodywork practitioner.  My In Touch Bodyworks logo denotes my style of bodywork- a good friend of mine designed that for my business.  The picture of "Max" in the herb box symbolizes my love of cats and gardening.  Although, I actually enjoy all types of animals - cats just seem to have gathered around me over the years.  The blueberry/peach cobbler (yum by the way) was made over the summer and I love to cook. Then there is Assateague Island- the place where I go to distress. Finally, the Echinacea plant with butterfly represents the importance of good health and love of nature.  I took it in Asheville, NC.  I also really like to travel.   

Thanks to reviewing other students' work I decided to practice using Adobe Fireworks.  I am really going to enjoy learning how to use this software.  I am also excited to be on this journey with my fellow students.