Monday, June 28, 2010

Beauty of the Gulf Coast

Beauty of the Gulf Coast

Who Is Accountable For The Education of Our Children?


In my opinion the biggest problem with accountability of our student’s learning is who we blame when students do not learn. Who is accountable for learning? The research is clear that highly qualified teachers are the most important ingredients in our schools to assure that students are achieving academically. However other accountability elements for our students’ achievement is the involvement of students, parents, educational systems and employees, and politicians fighting for funds and new ways to continue to improve education.

Many times the once partnership between the school, student, and parents has become a disenfranchised blame game. Parents are upset and many have become disregarded by the government and many school systems as irrelevant to their children’s education. However, I believe the parents are the second most important element needed for our children to be successful academically. Parents must support their children at home by making sure they finish homework, study for tests, and that students have readily access to updated technology access and equipment at home. Students are also important elements in student achievement. Students must want to learn.

The bridge must be mended between the parents and the school and government. However, parents also must be held accountable for sending their children to school ready to learn. Parents must be held accountably by helping their school help their children learn by providing the guidance needed at home to make sure there is follow through of the directions of the teacher of assignments at home, to make sure students are studying for tests, to make sure there is student friendly reading material around, and to make sure their children have access needed to do projects to computer hardware and software and internet access.

Parents should also have a choice in their children’s education.

Many others are also involved in the education of the children in local communities like the DeKalb County School System. These individuals are part of our local communities. It does take a village to raise and teach our children. In conclusions, all members of a community are equally involved to keep the educational system up and running through the taxes that the citizens of a community pay every year in property tax and every day in the penny sales tax across the county of Dekalb and other great counties across the state. Educating children in our community is a team effort and everyone in a community is responsible.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cheerleading Pledge for the Safety of Our Cheerleaders

Today cheerleading has become a year round sport. Girls and boys alike spend a great deal of time and money in gyms learning how to do very complicated stunts which will make the fans go wild. However, these stunts can also be very dangerous. As a national certified safety cheerleading coach I challenge each coach, parent and cheerleader to take the time to make the safety pledge. Nothing is more important than the safety of our students or our children. Please look at the hyperlink below and consider signing the pledge today.

iCheerSafe.com - take the pledge to cheer safely!

iCheerSafe.com - take the pledge to cheer safely!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Response to the Firing of the Care Ambulance Service for Dekalb County after my Formal Complaint

After reading the articles in the newspaper about the firing of the Care Ambulance Service which has the contract for DeKalb County I thought about the individuals who might lose their jobs and felt a great deal of empathy for these individuals.

However, I continue to stand firm on my original complaint regarding the response time to Adam’s Stadium when the Upton-Lee goalie had a head injury and “Doc” made the call to call for an ambulance. I do not regret making the complaint to the DeKalb County Officials. The safety of all the citizens in DeKalb has to be a top priority.

I continue to be very bothered by the time that continues to be given by the DeKalb County officials or the Care Ambulance Service for the response time. The response time was approximately 38-46 minutes according to individual who were keeping up with the time. Everyone in the stadium at this game knows this is incorrect information being provided to the press. How much incorrect information is provided to the press by government agencies like our school system and CEO's office to deceive the public? The stakeholders of DeKalb County deserve to be told the truth.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More Transparancy Is Needed Regarding The Jobs that The School Board and School System Cut in 2010

Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show that more than half of the employees laid off by DeKalb schools make less than $40,000 a year. They include nine custodians, 11 school resource officers, 12 secretaries and 19 maintenance workers.

An Open Records Act request of the 289 jobs included in the layoffs lists only 253 names. Only 12 percent of those employees make more than $100,000.
Most citizens of DeKalb County agree that the DeKalb County School System and the DeKalb County School Board need to be more transparent in the decisions that they make. Many times, they say one thing and then we find out through the media that what is said may not be in fact what is occurring.

DeKalb County School Employees cut:

Coordinators: 17
Directors: 7
Paraprofessionals: 100
Library clerks: 30
Technical specialists: 9
Communications: 6
Custodians: 9
School resource officers: 11
Maintenance workers: 19*

* Includes electricians, painters, carpet cleaners, maintenance workers, roofers.
Source: DeKalb County School System

DeKalb County school employee cuts by salary:
Under $20,000: 2 employees
$20,000-$30,000: 113
$30,000-$40,000: 28
$40,000-$50,000: 11
$50,000-$60,000: 22
$60,000-$70,000: 16
$70,000-$80,000: 16
$80,000-$90,000: 10
$90,000-$100,000: 4
$100,000-$110,000: 8
$110,000-$120,000: 5
More than $120,000*: 18

More needs to be done to cut positions at the top of the administrative chain of command when possible and professionals who work with the students need to be saved when possible. It is apparent that the majority of the jobs cut were at the schoolhouse level and not at the administrative level.

Classroom Observations of LoTi Techology Use in The Classroom

Observation 1: Team-Taught Biology Class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 11, 2010 as a student at Argosy completing an assignment I observed a Team-Taught Biology class for approximately thirty minutes during sixth period class. The students where involved in a lab activity. The students were going from table to table answering questions about specimens in containers that represented different species from different kingdoms. As I left the classroom, the teacher began to show a short video on Insects and to answer questions at the end about the Insect Video. This video presented technology information on the LoTi 2-Application level as it shows, records, concludes, determines, and illustrates learned knowledge in a minimum direction. LoTi-2 Comprehension is also used as there is understanding and describing information in the students own words after watching the video and during the lab. Loti-Knowledge is also involved as the learner must recall or recognize ideas in the appropriate form that were learned.

During the lab, the students were working in small groups answering questions about the species. Students were engaged in the learning process. There were no computers in the classroom except the teacher’s computer. During the video, the students appeared engaged.

Observation 2: Chemistry Class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 12, 2010 as a student at Argosy University, I completed an assignment by observing for approximately thirty minutes a Chemistry Class during fifth period. The teacher was reviewing for a final exam and was using the Jeopardy Game to do so. Students appeared engaged in the process. The class was divided into teams and the students appeared extremely competitive in the review game. The game was teacher directed.

The game appeared to present technology information on the LoTi-2 Comprehension level. The learners were recalling information that was previously learned.

Observation 3: Health Class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 13, 2010 as a student at Argosy University, I completed an assignment by observing a Health class thirty minutes during third period. The teacher was using a PowerPoint presentation to review for a test. At the conclusion of the PowerPoint presentation, she gave the students a test. The students appeared engaged for the most part. A few students had their heads down and were not engaged in the review process. The lesson was a teacher directed lesson that appeared to present information on the LoTi-2 Comprehension level. The learners were recalling information they had already learned. If the students did not know the information then the teacher would present the information again.

There were three computers in the classroom and during the class two students from Physical Education, classes came into the class and were working on assignments from other classes during their Physical Education class time.

Observation 4: Physical Science class at North Springs Charter High School

On May 14, 2010 as a student at Argosy University, I completed an assignment by observing a Physical Science class approximately thirty minutes during fourth period. The teacher was using a PowerPoint Presentation to give the students notes. The notes were information that would be covered on the last test. The last test was a review test of general science principles.

The lesson was teacher directed. The emphasis was on learning or recalling information that students should have already learned regarding general science principals. The lesson also appeared to be presented on the LoTi-2 Comprehension level. The learners were to recall information they had already learned in the past. The teacher was reviewing information that the teacher expected the students to be exposed to in the past that was important to review and make sure the students knew the information for the final test.

There were no computers in the classroom other than the teacher’s computer. Most of the students were engaged in reviewing or learning the information. A few students had their heads down and there were students who were off task.

Conclusion

All lessons observed were using LoTi-2 levels. All classes observed were Science classes at North Springs Charter High School. As an observer, I saw no indication of infusion, integration, expansion or refinement in use of technology in the classroom. Observations did not indicate use of higher levels of cognitive thinking skills, problem solving, and emphasis placed on higher levels of student cognitive processing and development, or technology access extends beyond the classroom. Students today use technology in every aspect of their lives. Teachers must also reach out at a refinement level to make sure that there is no longer a division between instruction and technology use. Today technology offers a seamless vehicle for information queries, problem solving and product development and teachers need to include technology more into their lesson plans as a way to use higher levels of cognitive thinking skills, problem solving, emphasis placed on higher levels of students cognitive processing and development and show students how to extend technological experiences beyond the classroom. Teachers must change the way teachers’ teach to meet the needs of changing students in a 21st century technological society.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Interview with Kathy Politis: The Instructional Director at the Fulton County School System

Upon interviewing Kathy Politis the Director of Instructional Technology at the Fulton County School System, it was easy to become aware of the complications involved in coordinating the implementation of the Fulton County School System’s Instructional Technology Plan.

Fulton County School System has all kinds of “technology stuff,” according to Kathy Politis. Technology stuff available for staff in Fulton County may be laptops, desktops, software, interactive whiteboards, LCD projectors, instant response system (clickers), etc. The best way to ensure technology integration according to Kathy is by making sure that when ‘stuff’ is purchased the system builds in the cost of training. Only when the system knows how best to use the technology for instruction and learning does any school system get the value out of it. Technology integration should be called technology for improved teaching and learning. The school system best ensures the integration when the school system thinks about the curriculum first and then applies the technology so that it improves higher order thinking skills, authenticity of task, and engaged learning.

Frequently we must also measure the effectiveness of current technology that is being used in our school system. Fulton County looks at time in use, but how often someone uses technology does not equate to how effective the technology is. Fulton County uses a system of Learning Walks that evaluates the classroom teaching and learning environment. There is one question within the learning walk that looks at whether technology is being used. The single score offers a better scale of effectiveness than simply measuring how often the computer in used by a teacher or in classrooms in a school.

School systems must approach the use of technology with the need to protect the network and equipment with the need for teacher flexibility in successfully integrating technology. Often Fulton County must weigh the instructional value against the systems’ nettwork bandwidth. For instance, a teacher may want to share a streaming video of a recent TV show. From a technical standpoint, the school system might indicate that it is not an appropriate use of the network as a streaming video can use up bandwidth that then prevents other teachers’ from accessing the web from research. In such a case, the school can help, as school leaders such as the Principal and Curric Support Specialists can make that decision as to the value of the streaming video and whether it should be used or not. It is important that every school have a technology committee to help make decisions that keep in mind that curriculum ALWAYS drives technology.

In Fulton County there is much technology being implemented. All Fulton County teachers have a laptop. Schools receive three computers per classroom (instructional unit). The school decides how those compute red are deployed in the school. Many schools opt to move some computers into a lab so a whole class can have access. Others distribute throughout classrooms. Some software is also purchased at the district level and made available to all schools’ computers. Decisions on software are made by Curriculum and Instruction to ensure the software aligns to state standards. Local schools often purchase hardware and software by local funds. However, the schools also must be careful to make sure that whatever the local school purchased is aligned to district protocols so there is a process in place for local purchases to go through a district evaluation.

There are major issues facing Fulton County School System like other school systems regarding reliability and security. Security is a big issue. The school system is bound by law to protect student information as well as protect students per Computer Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Students and teachers sign the Acceptable Use Policy at the beginning of every year as part of the Fulton County School System policies and procedures. Web 2.0 social networks must be used with responsibility so that when using blogs, wikis, etc., the students remains protected. Most IT can also can find a way to protect the systems equipment and allow the teachers the flexibility needed to use needed resources in their classroom.

Every Fulton County School has a School Technology Specialist (STS). The ideal level is for an STS is being an individual who exhibits a balance between being a hardware/fix/break expert and an instructional technologist. Through Fulton County School must be sure the equipment is working, it is equally important to be able to slate the best practices in how to use the equipment for maximum effectiveness in teaching and learning.

As part of every STS’s duties and responsibilities, she/he must assist with general maintenance to keep the Fulton County network running smoothly. This responsibility involves monitoring disk space, making sure that there is regular server back up, software manual availability and updating, addition/removal of staff users, setups of new workstations, print stations, assignments to default printers, and training of new personnel. The new personnel at a school must be trained in electronic mail, data exchange, information stored in the media centers, hardware and software. The job of STS also involves performing regular identification and determination of problems with the network. As the school technology specialist the individual also assists with coordinating and network-related repairs, handles requests with Technology Services personnel, handles the documentation of LAN wiring diagram including wiring closet identification, wiring closet equipment configuration, and wiring drop identification.

Every STS is also responsible for software administration. She/he assists in maintaining an inventory of all available software, previews and makes recommendations, regarding the selection of software for possible purchase and use in the instructional program, and is in charge of having software installed when needed. She/he also must provide training, information and other assistance to users for incorporation into instruction. Frequently as the Director of Instructional Technology, she/he provides assistance and troubleshooting when software is not working as expected, or with the extension of the software into the area of the curriculum. The STS must constantly assist with seeking the input on future needs on problems and identifying software selections. She/he also must keep current on new products available and developments in the field of educational technology along with assisting teachers with implementation of adopted district software as outlined in curriculum guides.

A school’s STS also have many responsibilities regarding hardware. She/he performs record keeping functions of hardware locations, quantities, types, and required repairs. A STS offers recommendations where future purchases and/or replacements of hardware is necessary and assists in maintenance of all equipment. Frequently a STS must troubleshoot file server and workstations system software using utility and virus protection software.

A STS is responsible to attend training sessions as necessary, to stay abreast of hardware and software utilized in the school. Then she/he is responsible to assist in the training of all the local faculty and staff in the Fulton County School System regarding school technology.

A STS also assists as a liaison between county technology personnel and school personnel to help school with planning future goals, needs expenditures and the implementation of district technology plan at the school level. Either other technology related technology duties are also assigned to the STS, the Principal of a school or designee regarding technology services of a school as needed.

A STS needs a four-year College Degree. The degree is preferably in Computer Science, Instructional Technology or a technology related field. Prior experience working with local-area networks, PC based applications; Apple Macintosh operating systems, Windows 2000, and Windows NT are also preferred.

This fall when teachers return to school all teachers in the Fulton County Schools will have a unique portal login. The portal will become the one-stop shop for whatever the teacher needs to do their jobs. A teacher will be able to easily access the tools they need such as Outlook, SAMS, Employee Express, eSchoolPlus, etc. but each teacher will also have access to netTrekker (a bank of curriculum resources). These may also be links on the teacher’s portal page to other curriculum tools like Galileo, Discovery Streaming, and Visual Thesaurus. Training will be offered through both online and f2f means. Just in-time training may be available within the tool itself such as what is now available in Employee Express. Other training will be available through Professional Learning with sign up available under the Learning Solution tab of Employee Express.

In conclusion, the Fulton County Schools Director of Technology (Kathy Polotis) is primarily concerned with the development, implementation, operation, monitoring, and evaluation of the technology programs for the school system. Kathy provides leadership in identifying hardware and software purchased, ensuring that they are consistent with the school system’s instructional technology plan and state technology guidelines. Kathy coordinates and may even deliver staff development on technology competencies needed for teaching in the Fulton County School System. Kathy also works collaboratively with other members of the school system to use technology and include technology applications as an integral part of the total instructional program.

Politis, Kathy, (2010). Fulton County School System Director of Instruction.