Author Archives: DMF

My Google Apps Presentation

Here is the outline of my Google Apps presentation for the VPA conference on May 11, 2010.

Why move to Google Apps?

  • FUD (and sometimes FUDD) Concerns
    • COPPA – “If you are using Google Docs within Google Apps Education Edition for your school domain, your school assumes the responsibility for complying with COPPA and the information that students submit. When offering online services to children under 13, schools must be cognizant of Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  COPPA is a regulation that requires parental consent for the online collection of information about users under 13.  Per the Google Apps Education Edition Agreement, any school administering Google Apps Education Edition acknowledges and agrees that it is solely responsible for compliance with COPPA, including, but not limited to, obtaining parental consent concerning collection of students’ personal information used in connection with the provisioning and use of the Services by the Customer and End Users. Parental consent and notification could take place in form of a permission slip granting use of Google Apps and/or other technology services at the school.”
    • FERPA – Google’s Privacy Policy
    • CIPA – A free message security service can make the system CIPA compliant.
    • Archiving – Google provides each user with over 7 GB of email storage.  A message discovery service is available for a fee.
    • Technology Schools Can Trust
  • The Case of Oregon
    • state-wide access to Google Apps for schools through the Oregon Virtual School District
    • Oregon negotiated a state-wide agreement with Google to address privacy and protection concerns for all of their schools
    • Accelerate Oregon – “a public-private partnership is dedicated to providing Oregon schools with the tools necessary to advance teaching and learning with Technology”
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2010 VT FOSSED Presentation

Here is my presentation from the 2010 Vermont Open Source & Education Conference.

The David Hargreaves papers referenced in the presentation (Education Epidemic and Working Laterally) can be downloaded for free as pdf files from the Demos website.

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The Online Learning Imperative

I ran into this nice policy statement by Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Education Excellence and the former governor of West Virginia, on why online learning needs to be aggressively advanced in public education.

As technology-based education programs spread, states and districts must monitor quality and hold virtual schools accountable for improvements in learning, just as they do brick-and-mortar schools. Indeed, quality online learning offers the opportunity for higher learning expectations than currently exist in most traditional systems. Operating in an environment where time can be variable and learning constant, online learning is in the unique position to focus on outcomes rather than inputs. Assuming that quality data systems and assessments are in place, state and school district funding can be based solely on student results and mastery. Effective online instruction joined with a data rich environment is an important step to bringing accountability for student outcomes to a much higher and meaningful level.

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Report of the Superintendent of Schools 2009

During the 2009 school year, new administrative job descriptions were adopted. This work culminated in the design and implementation of a superintendent evaluation process that will serve as a model for the evaluation of all administrative staff. The results of the superintendent evaluation were reduced down to specific organizational priorities. These priorities can be viewed on the BRSU website.

These priorities focus on strengthening our instructional systems, personalizing learning opportunities for students through the use of technology, and improving the efficiency of our operations. In terms of operational efficiency, the accounting services for the Manchester School District were shifted to the BRSU office in Sunderland. This change will save Manchester approximately $37,000 a year and will greatly enhance our financial reporting capabilities. The Mettawee School District transitioned their accounting services to the central office in 2008. Consolidating our back office operations saves money, streamlines audit processes, and provides greater oversight to board members and the public.

Another major structural change being implemented pertains to our early education programs. The supervisory union and its districts are navigating a new law, Act 62, which provides incentives for the expansion of early education programs. Based on these changes, we will be eliminating a full-time director position at the BRSU and some of the responsibilities for administering the school-based early education programs will be shifted to administrators in the schools.

We have made substantial progress in improving the efficiency of our operations, but there is still more work to be done in this area. Since 80% of our costs are attributed to personnel, our major strategy for achieving greater efficiency will be to seek opportunities to share personnel and services among our districts. I believe this points to the necessity for governance reform; our current structure of 9 districts and 10 boards is too cumbersome and inhibits our ability to respond to changing economic circumstances and declining student numbers. Governance reform is being considered at the state level, but our districts are not waiting for these decisions to be made in Montpelier. We are engaged in a serious review of our systems and will be organizing opportunities in the coming months for broad community input on this topic as our boards establish Ends policies.

Through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), our districts have received additional federal “stimulus” funds. These funds have been received through federal formula programs and must be spent in accordance with the guidelines of these programs. We have received approximately $90,000 in Title I and $400,000 in IDEAB or special education. All of these funds are one-time funds and must be spent in two years. The Title I funds are being allocated to the three BRSU districts that are eligible to receive these funds (Currier, Mettawee, and Sunderland), and the IDEAB funds will be spent centrally to reduce the costs of our special education programs. Most likely we will use these funds to establish special education programs at the supervisory union level in order to reduce costs for sending students out of the district for these services. We will also be reviewing the transportation costs of these programs to see if it would be more cost effective to run our own transportation services.

In spite of these additional funds, all of our districts have struggled this year to adopt budgets that are both fiscally responsive and sensitive to student program needs. The majority of our districts, however, have been able to achieve decreases in their expenditure budgets which is no small accomplishment considering many of our fixed costs are increasing. We will need your continued involvement and support to ensure we can navigate these challenging economic circumstances while at the same time ensuring our children obtain a quality education. Thank you for your support.

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Technology and the Future of Education

The following notes were shared with BRSU boards as part of a presentation on understanding the implications of technology on education in September 2009.

Most people acknowledge that technology is having and will have a tremendous impact on education. This impact needs to be considered when developing plans for the future. I can categorize this impact in two areas: learning, and operations.

Learning

Operations

  • Digitization (information systems and record management) – huge opportunity
  • Flattening – fewer intervening layers between management and staff
  • Communication and collaboration across traditional organizational boundaries; increased stakeholder participation;
  • Potential for greater efficiencies and lower costs

“Death of Education, the Dawn of Learning”

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Jean Ward on Vermont Edition

Our very own Jean Ward, BRSU Director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Professional Development, was interviewed on Vermont Public Radio yesterday.   Here is the link to the show.

Way to go Jean!

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Opening Inservice Remarks, August 25, 2009

It’s great to see you all. I hope you had a restful and enjoyable summer in spite of the rain.

I want to take a few minutes and talk about about some of the changes we have planned for this year. Some of them are administrative and others are more instructional.

MLP – We have implemented MyLearningPlan, an online system to manage professional development. MLP is a company that has a significant presence in 49 states – they are the market leader for this type of product. We are the first district in Vermont to use this system. We will see how it goes. I have observed the Vermont relicensure process now for over 10 years. Like you, I have witnessed many changes to the process over time. In spite of the talents, artistic and otherwise, of the members of our local and regional standards boards, I remain convinced there has to be a better way. Our system of relicensure is overly complicated, time consuming, and not necessarily supportive of continued professional growth. It is my hope that our experience with MLP will not only serve our needs, but also serve as a model for reform of the entire system.

We will be rolling out the “instructional catalog” feature of the system in September. This aspect of the system allows us to handle enrollment in SU or district-sponsored activities. Completion of these activities is recorded automatically in your MLP portfolio which will assist you in tracking these activities. Considering these are some of the most valuable activities from an organizational perspective, I am looking forward to promoting this aspect of the system. Keep an eye out for “Google Apps 101” trainings – we will use MLP to handle registration and enrollment in these workshops.

AMS – AMS is the new leave taking system. As opposed to MLP which is hosted on MLP’s servers, AMS is located in the BRSU office. Last year we used a similar system to handle leave requests for administrative staff across the SU, and this year we wanted to do the same for all staff. This has been a significant undertaking as we had to consolidate the leave records for each staff member into a single database. If you think there is an error in your leave balances contact Celeste Keel. If you have trouble logging into the system, email me.

Perhaps the most exciting innovation this year from an instructional perspective is bringing students into our Google Apps system preK-8. We will be rolling this out differently in each building because it requires the support of board members and parents, and also requires staff members to understand how this change can be harnessed from an instructional perspective. I have developed model usage guidelines for students and parents and will be developing some for staff members as well. I am looking forward to adding our students to the system because I think it puts in place a necessary precondition for instructional innovation – the ability of teachers and students to communicate electronically in order extend and embellish classroom activities with online resources.

Lastly, I wanted to discuss the governance work that is going on. Last year the five districts that operate schools adopted new board policy manuals. These districts now have common operational policies. We are about to begin the next phase of this work which is the creation of Ends policies. The boards will be tapping your expertise to come to an understanding of what their communities want to see as outcomes for each school. These outcomes or Ends will be set up in policy and will guide and focus the future direction of each school.

I see this governance work as being critical to the future success of our schools. We are in a time of great change in terms of the structure of public education. Some of these changes are the result of technology which will put pressure on schools to become more efficient in their operations while at the same time delivering instruction in a more personalized manner; what one of my colleagues refers to as the “disaggregation of one.”

I am confident the mission of public education will remain, to a certain extent, unchanged. The Vermont constitution defines that mission as discouraging vice and promoting virtue in order to serve the larger public good. I believe we will need to tap back into this historic mission and bring to the forefront the importance of this work. The work you do is vitally important not only to the future success of each student but for the success of our world. To that end, I want to thank you for your efforts on behalf of our students, their families and our communities. I wish you success in the coming year, and let me know if there is anything I can do to better support you in this work.

Thank you.

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August 13 Tech Session: Learning Communities and Web 2.0

Introduction – the Larger Context

Web 2.0 technologies are essential tools for educators to build collaborative learning communities in their schools, districts, states, and around the world. I believe such communities are necessary to expand educational opportunities for all students in an interconnected world.

Employing these technologies can enhance educational practice in several areas:

  1. Focusing and Extending Professional Development – Web 2.0 technologies are an effective means for educators to reflect upon new learning and to share that learning with other educators. Using these technologies, professional development opportunities can be expanded to have a larger impact on personal and organizational learning.
  2. Harvesting New Ideas on the Future of Education – New ideas about how we organize educational experiences for students are being published almost exclusively using Web 2.0 media. This is a large, global conversation. Educators need to be fluent in the tools necessary to aggregate, filter, and synthesize this information so that they can better understand the future vision of education and help contribute towards that vision.
  3. Improving Society – Students use these Web 2.0 tools in social networks 24/7. Educators need to be participants in the social networks of their students so they can shape the use of these technologies to serve the larger social good. This is the essential and historic purpose of schooling.

How to Move Forward

Looking at the various technologies available, I think it is essential that each educator establish their own personal account with Google. This will provide access to a variety of Web 2.0 tools under one account and allow educators to collaborate with each other in an easy manner.

  • Google Reader – use Google Reader to aggregate RSS feeds, take notes on them, and share feeds and comments with other educators.
  • Blogger – use Google Blogger to publish and share information about professional development and educational practices.
  • Delicious – use Delicious to bookmark or tag websites, and then share these tags and comments with other educators.
  • Twitter – use Twitter to share ideas and to follow the ideas of others.

Session Content

The focus of this session is on using specific Web 2.0 social technologies to assist members in creating professional learning communities within the Association and in their own organizations.

VSA Ning (http://vtsupers.ning.com)
-Ning features (blog, forum, video)
-subscribing to ning content
-create your own ning and more help

Using Feeds
Firefox
-setting up a Google account
-using Google Reader
-more help with Google Reader

Google Account Features
-blogging with Blogger
more help with Blogger
Google Voice
Google Wave

Microblogging with Twitter
-using a hashtag to create a group – #vsa
-Twitter clients (TweetDeck, DestroyTwitter – both of these require that you first install Adobe AIR)

Social Bookmarking with Delicious
-install Firefox Add-on
-using Delicious (create VSA group or tweet to #vsa hashtag)
more help with Delicious

Vocabulary/concepts
embed
RSS
feed
url
tags
Twitter hashtag (#vsa)

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