Technology Proficient?

Recently a Media Specialist in another county emailed me to ask about our State Department of Education’s Teacher Technology Proficiency Survey.

“What do you think of the SDE’s technology proficiency test? … We are a little dumbfounded here that some of the technology referenced is unknown to us, and we are supposed to be mentors to our teachers.”

For background, in SC our teachers have to “prove” that they are proficient (80%+) in using technology in their practice as part of their teaching certificate.  The survey is supposedly based on the ISTE NETS for Teachers and has questions that deal with all things tech related, including Web 2.0 tools.

As a “tech expert” in my school, I assist our technology coach with the survey administration – helping teachers access the site, sign-in, and navigate the survey.  Listening to teachers during and after the test, I frequently hear “what the heck is a … ”

The following is an excerpt from my response to my friend’s query:

… Yes, the SDE tech survey isn’t “passable” to many in my school/district since almost all of the Web 2.0 tools they list are BLOCKED.  My teachers have no clue what wikis, nings, and other tools are.  Oh, they’ve heard me talk about them, but since they are blocked very few have explored them.

That said, let me ask you this?  How many of your district LMS/teachers are taking the time to try to learn what those tools are?  Did they make note of the questions/items they didn’t know about (or review their test & answers) to find out what they missed?  Are they just sitting back and waiting until the district provides them training or are they actively seeking to gain their own knowledge?

Two things:

1) teachers and LMSers CHOOSE to be in this profession.  As educators, how can we ask our students to be “life-long learners” if WE aren’t willing to walk the walk?  Also, the TEACHER/LMS is responsible for their PD, NOT our school or district.  Yes, they should be allowing us to attend PD, but we shouldn’t be waiting for them to always pay or organize the training.  If the teacher/LMS can’t afford to pay, find FREE alternatives.  There are so many free online PD opportunities and we have the ETV FREE workshops, too (March 29-31)!  Time is another excuse I hear and I don’t buy it.  People find the time to do the things they want to do, they can find the time to do PD.  And Web 2.0 tools can take as little as 20 min a week to try out a new tool.  Doesn’t mean you have to become an expert, but as LMSers we should be at least FAMILIAR with this stuff.  Don’t know where to start – why not use the AASL Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning?  OR I HIGHLY recommend attending the Upstate Technology Conference for PD in the use of education technology.

2) how can we advocate for these tools to be unblocked and/or taught in PD by our districts if all we do is sit back and complain and/or sit back and do nothing?  For all those who complain to you/me about the SDE tech survey how many have taken the time to protest to the powers that be at the district level?  You and I individually can’t really do anything – we are low “men” on the totem pole.  If we are being held to the topics in the survey in order to be considered Technology “Proficient” then our districts SHOULD be providing training in house AND these things shouldn’t be blocked by our filters.  Why aren’t the teachers/LMSers holding their district accountable?  If it’s on the survey doesn’t that mean the state thinks these things are important?  Then collectively we should be FORCING our districts to unblock and train on these tools.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox about teachers being in charge of their own PD, being sick of excuses and district filters.

I do sympathize and understand my teacher’s frustration with the survey.  I, too, struggled with some of the questions.  Not because I didn’t know the technology, but because of poorly worded or multiple correct (in my opinion) answer choices.  There were also questions that were tool/program specific instead of generic/category/process specific.  I know there was one that included a specific brand of library circulation software (and not the one my district uses) for which most teachers would have no clue what it was.  There were also questions for software that is traditionally used in elementary schools that high school folks wouldn’t recognize.  I’m really interested in knowing who authored this assessment and did they field test the questions before publishing it for administration to teachers?

Since I was tasked to administer a similar survey to our 9th graders (based on the ISTE NETS for Students), I have access to my school’s results (both teacher & student).   While our district hasn’t provided any instruction as to what we are to do with our results (as proficient OR not proficient) my school’s Technology Committee will be using the results from our teachers to designing our future in-house PD – using the categories most missed.  As a bonus, using the survey and the teachers’ needs as justification may help to get some of these tools unblocked!

AASL Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning

This is a little late seeing as the list was released months ago, but here are the Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning per the American Association of School Librarians.  Please be sure to visit the direct link to view how each resource supports the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learning as well as ideas on how to incorporate them into your curriculum.  For my teachers convenience, I’ve indicated which sites are open or blocked by our district.

Animoto (open) – turn your photos into music videos.

Classroom 2.0Classroom 2.0 (blocked) – “… the social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education.”

Curriki (open) – a collaborative lesson plan sharing community.

Diigo (blocked) – access, organize, and share your bookmarks without being tied to a specific computer!  Mine can be found under hloy22, but I haven’t make the conversion to Diigo – I still use Delicious (blocked), also as hloy22.

Edublogs (open) – free blogging platform for teachers and students – and the one I’m using now!

Facebook (blocked) – do I really need to try and explain what Facebook is to you guys?  A popular social networking site to communicate and connect with your friends and family.

Good Reads (open) – a social network for bibliophiles.

Google Reader (blocked) – tired of visiting your favorite websites only to see they haven’t been updated in a while?  Why not use Google Reader to visit those sites for you and gather the data in one place.

MindMeisterMindmeister for middle/high school students or for elementary students (both open) – online mind mapping tools.

Ning (blocked) – you can create your own online social networking site and/or join others already created.  For example, Classroom 2.0 is a Ning.

Our Story (blocked) – “Save stories, photos, and videos on a collaborative timeline.”

Partnership for 21st Century Skills (open) – “The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that advocates for the integration of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication into the teaching of core academic subjects such as mathematics, reading, science and history.”

Polleverywhere (open) – online survey maker.

Primary Access (open) – “PrimaryAccess is a suite of free online tools that allows students and teachers to use primary source documents to complete meaningful and compelling learning activities with digital movies, storyboards, rebus stories and other online tools.”

RezED (blocked) – “… the online hub for practitioners using virtual worlds, offering access to the highest quality resources and research in the field to establish a strong network of those using virtual worlds for learning.”

Second LifeSecond Life (blocked) – an extremely popular online virtual world.

Simply Box (blocked) – not familiar with this one, but apparently you “capture” websites or portions of websites and organize them visually.  You can share them with others, too!

Skype (blocked) – “Can you hear me? Skype is a basic and easy-to-use service that offers free voice, video calls, conference calls, instant messaging and group instant messaging. Download the software; connect to the Internet and you’re good to go.”  My Skype username is also hloy22.

SOS for Information Literacy (open) – “… a dynamic web-based multimedia resource that includes lesson plans, handouts, presentations, videos and other resources to enhance the teaching of information literacy.”

Teacher Tube (open) – school appropriate YouTube alternative with educational videos.

TwitterTwitter (blocked) – a social networking site where you communicate with your friends and family in 140 characters or less.  Allows for quick updates and/or sharing of ideas/resources.  My Twitter id is @heatherloy.

VoiceThread (open) – think, interactive PowerPoint.

Wikispaces (blocked) – collaborative sharing space/community.

Wordle (open) – create word clouds from text and see what words/phrases are used more frequently.  You can also create custom word clouds.

Zoho (open) – “Zoho offers an all-in-one online collaborative package; it provides online tools from mail and presentations to notebooks and wikis, with many tools in between.”

Disclaimer – the sites I’ve indicated as “open” in my district only apply to the first page of the site.  Any site that requires a login has the potential of being blocked when you dig deeper into the site (ex: Zoho individual resources are probably going to be blocked.)