Blended Learning

The TAO Of K12 Technology Implementations

#EduIT

by Howard Chan @socratech 

Over the past decade, the explosion of technology initiatives in K12 has seen some amazing successes and colossal failures. Everything from the wildly popular use of Google Apps for Education, to the infamous LA school district doomed 1 billion dollar iPad rollout, K12 technology implementations have run the full spectrum of progression and frustration. And as we continue to roll out 1:1 and other technology initiatives, the discussion must evolve from “what to purchase” to a much broader set of questions that encompass a wide variety of stakeholders.

In order for technology implementations to be successful in schools, there needs to be a healthy communication loop, plan, and support with three groups of stakeholders. I call them the TAO: Teachers, Administration and Operations. The diagram above provides a guide of different items many of these groups deal with in successful technology implementations, but not always bounded in their domains. It is where you typically would see items being discussed, planned and supported. Feel free to use this diagram to help guide your technology implementations. As you can see, there are many variables at play when bringing technology into your school districts. But with building a strong team that includes all members of the TAO, technology implementations will continue to see successes in K12 school environments. I encourage you to add to this growing list as technology implementations continue to evolve by leaving a comment below.

*I already know this list will evolve to include parents, students, and community, but I view this list from the staff running the schools.

This stems from a past blog post I wrote below on the Evolving Role of the K12 Technology Department

There was a time when K12 technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of data information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and data was protected from security breaches. The thought of the technology department making decisions on any academic programs was as far fetch as teachers making decisions on technology infrastructure. How times have changed…

In recent years, those ideas above have quickly merged into what I call Education Information Technology, the concept of blending technology with education to support next generation schools and classrooms. The thought of separate entities are quickly becoming the old model, where nowadays, decisions have to be collaboratively made between academics and technologists. Technology decision makers have a crucial role in evolving the educational model for our schools and districts. With the proliferation of online tools, makerspaces, data dashboards and interactive technologies in the classroom, technology decision makers are dealing with far more implications than firewalls and routers. Not only are network infrastructure considerations critical to support the classrooms, but the instructional tools that teachers are using are leaning towards the technology pendulum at exponential rates.

The tech architecture now has multiple layers to design and evaluate, and requires a more comprehensive systems perspective from our technologists. Technologists are now asked to understand how instructional technologies such as learning management systems, social media sites, 3D printers, and video cameras are integrating with information data systems and network infrastructure. Technologists are now asked to balance a fair acceptable use policy to answer security and safety concerns, while providing teachers and students open access to the Internet and social networks. Technologists are now asked to filter student data points and design integrated systems to provide teachers dashboards of information. Technologists are now asked to evaluate digital tools and online curriculum to make decisions on blended learning models. Technologists are now asked to understand parent, student and teacher needs for end-user devices to support 21st century learning. Technologists are now asked to facilitate professional development and develop a culture around 21st century learning. It almost naturally brings up the question…

Do our technology decision makers need an education background to support the next generation school? From my experience, I have seen some amazing teachers handle all services in the technology department, and I have also seen amazing IT folks with compassion and understanding of educator needs. No matter what spectrum the tech decision makers come from, the head of technology need a new set of skills and framework to tackle the rapidly evolving 21st century learning environment.

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The Eduneer: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator

by Howard Chan @socratech

InnovationsOver the last few years in education, I have seen an explosion of branded “innovative” ideas that have many of its guiding principles rooted from engineering. Selfishly, it has been a validating feeling that my so-called “rebel” ways of teaching in the past, is seen as now necessary for the future of education. “Innovations” such as Design Thinking, PBL, Deeper Learning, STEM to STEAM, Makerspaces, NGSS Engineering Practices, Blended Learning, FutureReady, and most recently from the White House pushing Computer Science for All, the shift is finally happening.

I grew up in the heart of the Silicon Valley during the roller coaster period of the .com bubble of the late 90’s. Despite my family’s heavy education-career focused background (it was in my blood), I geographically gravitated to the “cool”, fast-paced and high-paying career of engineering. While there were plenty of rewards being an engineer, there were just as many difficult times living the “high-tech” lifestyle…but I will leave that for another post.

I spent a good decade applying my engineering practices as a network engineer, systems engineer and ultimately sales engineer. While the job titles rotated, it fundamentally was based on a key engineering principle: designing solutions for customers. It typically focused on how we can design, sell, train and support customers in their particular business…pretty simple conceptually. But we all know very few do it well, and I quickly learned to embrace failing forward as a key motivating principle to survive in this field. In short, I have failed many times…

Fast forward a decade, I made the leap of faith and became a 6th-grade classroom teacher. I was one of the few engineers that received grant money from the city to become a teacher. The city made a considerable effort to entice engineers to become teachers and paid for credentialing/graduate programs to make it happen. Fortunately for me, I was already soul searching, and it couldn’t have been more timely. I made the teaching leap but never let go of my engineering fundamentals.

The Silicon Valley days continue to stick with me, and it is inspiring to see education embrace many of those principles in modern day pedagogy and curriculum. Below are my guiding reflections in what defines the beautiful marriage between Engineering + Education into what I call the hybrid “Eduneer.” I look forward to seeing how these Eduneering principles continue to manifest in our classrooms and schools all over the world.

7 Guiding Principles: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator = Eduneer

  • Asks the Right QuestionsEduneering
  • Continuous Improvement Cycle
  • Relationships Matter
  • Systems Thinker
  • Seeks Technical Expertise
  • Outcomes Driven
  • Humility

Asks the Right Questions

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Who are my users? audience, customers, stakeholders?
  • Did my original question get answered? Or did it evolve to another question?
  • Who provided input on the question? Intentions?
  • What is the better question?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” -Albert Einstein

Continuous Improvement Cycle

  • Constant reflection
  • Risk taking while working in vaguery
  • Failing is just fine as we learned something from it
  • Fail forward
  • Quick iterations
  • Design Thinking
  • Engineering Design Process
“People who fail forward are able to see errors or negative experiences as a regular part of life, learn from them, and then move on.” -John Maxwell

Relationships Matter

  • Show love and demonstrate integrity
  • Socially Intelligent
  • Building a network – Who do you know?
  • “You can’t sell anything if you can’t sell yourself”
“Change happens at the speed of trust” -Covey
When I was in sales engineering, I was often partnered with a regional sales rep whose quarterly sales report meant life and death. They were typically driven by the bottom line and were not so concerned about solutions, but product sales. It was that two-team dynamic where I found customers naturally gravitating towards the sales engineer, whose role was to support the solution, not the product sales. These relationships were driven by two things; Can I trust this guy, and is he competent? When trust is built in the relationship, things tend to get accomplished.

Systems Thinker

  • Understand connections
  • Things don’t happen in isolation
  • Systems influence one another within a larger system.
  • Understand the bigger picture
“A bad system will beat a good person every time. Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” -W. Edwards Deming

Seeks Technical Expertise

  • Know your stuff 
  • Surround yourself with people who know their stuff
  • Constant learning
  • Build a personal learning network
“You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert.” -Waitley

Outcomes Driven

  • Project management mindset
  • GSD – Get “Stuff” Done
  • Measuring success, improvement and growth
  • Celebrate and reflect

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” -Thomas Edison

Humility

  • Work in progress mindset
  • Be gracious
  • Quiet confidence
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis