Note: This is the first installment of a three-part series.
"Miguel," a superintendent in a district I was visiting asked me, "could you develop a CD containing the top five technology tools to make a principal's life easier?" I was flabbergasted. A CD? You mean a compact disc? Who uses those anymore? The ubiquitous Web makes it possible to access a wealth of online resources. Sure, a CD containing free, open-source tools might be useful, but there is so much more you can do with free online professional learning tools. So, my initial response was simple:
The five top technology tools to make a principal's life better are not CD-based because such tools are not software. Even if they were, CD-based tech tools wouldn't be much help because 99 percent of principals don't have active-directory installation rights.
That kind of response doesn't go too far with a superintendent, however. When presented with that kind of request, you can't just counter with problems; you have to highlight solutions -- in this case, a method of providing the requested tools that's self-paced and enables administrators to work their way through the tools as their schedules permit.
In my opinion, that would be addressed best in the context of a Moodle -- a course management system. You could organize the information just as easily in a wiki, but Moodle makes it more convenient because of the site's interactive questionnaire and discussion forums.
Although each topic in the Moodle course I organized for the superintendent in question is actually presented in a face-to-face class, the entire course could be accomplished online.
Although there are many administrative tasks that could be made easier with the use of technology, these are the five I believe have the most potential to be enhanced by technology-related tools:
Let's explore those tasks briefly below:
Assessing Technology Implementation in Campus Classrooms
"Is it possible," asked the superintendent in my story, "to put together an assessment our principals could take so we could identify areas for professional development?"
A variety of technology assessments could be used by administrators. Although I definitely endorse the use of Dr. Chris Moersch's Levels of Technology Integration (or Levels of Teaching Innovation), sometimes it is necessary to accomplish your own assessment within the district. Many school districts are forced to report on that data due to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funds they use in their district.
For the description in the Moodle, I wrote:
This short assessment will help you gain insight into areas of strength and weakness, and enable you to better determine what professional learning opportunities you might seek out in the future. It also will help the district prioritize and customize professional learning for you.
For the purposes of the district in question, I adapted a sample technology self-assessment tool from Massachusetts and embedded it -- with a few minor modifications -- in a Moodle using the Questionnaire module. The Questionnaire module makes it easy to share surveys with staff, collect data, and view that data in graphical format. For example, here is a screenshot of the Massachusetts questions and responses so you get a feel for what it looks like.
In this case, it's important that administrators learn they can use in-house district tools to gather information. However, it is a simple matter to use other tools to collect information as well. Finding the right assessment is also a matter of finding one that is valid and reliable, not just a series of questions designed by a committee. In those situations, only the free LOTI Assessment will do.
Building Interactivity into SlideShow Presentations
"How did you add audio to your presentation?" is a question I often get now when I share narrated presentations with administrators. There are several ways to accomplish that; I like to share my favorite top three solutions according to their degree of difficulty. They all work in essentially the same way: a) You send them your presentation; b) You add audio to your presentation, if possible; c) You share the "embed" code on a Web page so the slideshow will play on your campus or district Web page.
Various other tools are available, but this is a short list of some great ones.
Surveys, Forms, and Spreadsheets: Data Collection Made Easy
Ever had to collect a lot of information from campuses, wanted to do it electronically, but instead ended up with lots of emails flying back and forth with Word or Excel spreadsheet documents attached? And then, someone has to put it all together some way or other? Skip that!
You've probably already heard of GoogleDocs and its built-in spreadsheet function. You make a spreadsheet, GoogleDocs takes your column headings and creates a form people can fill out online. When you view the data, it's already arranged in a spreadsheet. You just send the Web page link to the form and people fill it out. It once was incredibly difficult for non-techies to do that, but now it's very easy -- so easy, students all around the world are learning how to do it.
To facilitate your creation of GoogleDocs for information-gathering, set up a GoogleDocs area just for your district's use. Campus administrators love it because setting up a spreadsheet is something they know how to do, and turning that into a form people can fill out is a cinch with GoogleDocs. One thing: When dealing with secure, confidential data, you should avoid using GoogleDocs -- or any online tool that your district does not host on its own servers. But most of the data campus/district administrators collect is not confidential.
How to get started and what success looks like:
GoogleDocs enables you to turn your new spreadsheet into a Web-based form that others can fill out. All data submitted goes straight into your spreadsheet; you can work with it online or export it as an Excel spreadsheet, HTML document, PDF, and so on. And you can make the results available to your participants in all those formats!
Example #1 -- TechSalaries: What should your tech director be making?
If you do not want to use Moodle and the Questionnaire Module, consider these 10 alternative online poll/survey sites, all of which are free:
Collecting information via the Web has never been easier! Make sure your campus administrators know how to do this.
As you can probably surmise, organizing this content in a Moodle makes it easy to track campus administrator participation, as well as to stay in contact with them.
Article by Miguel Guhlin
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