Tech Thoughts for the 10/14/10 New Superintendents Meeting

Here are some of my thoughts on technology and organizational change as it pertains to Vermont school districts.

Personalization of Instruction – the objective is to leverage new technology to achieve our progressive ideals; all learning is social, and we can now customize learning experiences at the individual level while at the same expanding learning opportunities for all students. See the National Tech Plan for a big picture perspective. My work in this area at BRSU has been at several levels, attended to at the same time:

  • Educate district leaders about the potential for new technologies to transform the structure of education. A great way to do this is to attend the BLC conference in Boston with a team. See my Disrupting Class blog activity as an example.
  • Technology Integration – equip classrooms and teachers with instructional technology and move organizational processes to cloud-based applications (e.g. professional development and teacher re-licensing with MyLearningPlan).
  • Put technology in the hands of students – 1:1 initiatives
  • Deploy teaching and learning online through cloud-based content management systems (CMS – we use SchoolFusion) and learning management systems (LMS – we use Brainhoney). See more information below under Areas of Focus.

Opening Up Education – move from a Corporate IT Infrastructure to an Educational IT Infrastructure

  • Remove directory services, mail and file servers and go to a cloud-based collaboration platform (we use Google Apps) and network attached storage devices (NASs – we use Buffalo) and/or cloud-based storage.
  • Remove filtering appliances or filtering services at the firewall in favor of simpler approaches such as OpenDNS and teacher-based filtering.
  • Deploy managed wireless access throughout all buildings
  • Abandon commercial and proprietary software in favor of open source software – OpenOffice or LibreOffice as a replacement for MS Office, Linux as a replacement for Windows or Mac.
  • Through social media applications such as blogs, feeds (Google Reader), social bookmarking (Delicious), Twitter, Facebook, and the VSA ning, develop a reflexive disposition towards sharing and creating information. Create content under a Creative Commons license.
  • Secure the necessary bandwidth to support the needs of your districts.

Areas of Focus for “Virtual Merger” Provisions of Act 153

  • Collaboration Platform – implement a cloud-based, organization-wide, collaboration platform (such as Google Apps) that includes students.
  • LMS/SIS – the LMS and student information system (SIS) market is changing rapidly and is being disrupted by cloud-based applications. LMSs are becoming more SIS-like, and SISs are adding LMS functionality. New LMSs are cloud-based and relatively affordable. Most SISs are primarily used to print report cards – do we need this functionality as we move to web-based platforms where students and parents can monitor learning progress in real time? We will need some basic “compliance” functionality (eg attendance, demographics, etc.) from a SIS but most SISs are not well-suited for supporting the personalization of instruction and have a high total cost of ownership. Examples of new LMS/SISs: Spiral Universe, Schoology.
  • Accounting-HR System – integrate accounting-HR in a single platform and provide web-based self service to employees and real time dashboard indicators of organizational status to decision makers. Two leading vendors in Vermont are Unifund and Tyler.
  • Instructional Management Systems – manage professional development, teacher evaluation, curriculum, special education, etc. Examples include MyLearningPlanCurrikiiObservationMcRELGoalView.
  • Transportation – systems such as Transfinder allow districts to better manage the location of bus stops and routes, and the maintenance of equipment.
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