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Futures Reflection

The Year 2014
11/1/2009 University of Colorado Denver John Bunker

Introduction
After leaving a career in resort management, I went in full pursuit of helping mold our students into outstanding 21st century learners. I ran into some roadblocks, however, and discovered the need for much greater integration of technology in my school. After checking around a bit, I found this was not only the case in my school, but many others around the state. With this in mind, I decided to make it my goal to work towards a seamless and transparent use of technology within our schools. Currently, while working toward my Master’s degree in Instructional Learning Technology at the University of Colorado in Denver, I am the middle school technology instructor for The Pinnacle Charter School in Federal Heights, Colorado. This has provided me with many opportunities in my pursuit of technology integration, but it has also opened my eyes to many realities our schools are facing when it comes to integrating technology with everyday learnings. Within school of about 1,700 K-12 students, we are blessed with three computer labs of 30 pc’s. We also have 2 mobile labs capable of being checked out and used throughout the school. Interactive white boards are also making their way into our school at a pace of six each year. I am experiencing the installation of a new Xen Citrix server which will allow all users within our school to have high functioning machines and allow both students and staff outstanding access from home. The infusion of technology into the school is happening, but I am also concerned that this technology may not always be used in the most effective way to help our students become successful 21st century learners. While it has been my direction from the school to teach the students how to use technology, I have taken it upon myself to make the use of technology an instructional tool. I’ve discovered how skilled today’s students are in technology, and I try to build on those skills to improve learning. I continually incorporate collaboration, exploration, and production of original, creative work within my lessons. My goal is to have the students use technology as a tool for their learning curriculum goals while focusing on 21st century skills (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). In writing of this paper, I will be taking myself five years into the future and exploring where my career has taken me and envisioning the future of our schools. My focusing on my goal, I believe it will help in creating a better road map to reaching it.

Futures Forecast – 2014
As one of two technology coaches at The Pinnacle Charter School, I have been working diligently on making the school’s 1:1 laptop program as effective as possible. It has taken a lot of work, but each student having their own school issued laptop is finally a reality. Now, it’s up to me to make sure the teachers use it enhance the learning of students, not simply as a word processor and research tool. This is proving to be a challenging task, but its benefits have been numerous. The enhanced communication, organization, access to information, and student production this program has provided has truly been outstanding. Students and teachers communicate by email, as well as turn assignments in to electronic drop boxes. Each teacher now maintains his or her own electronic course page which contains assignments, podcasts and vodcasts of lessons, resources for students and parents, and areas for online collaboration. Parents have been raving about the daily communication and access to resources through the school’s network. They also love being able to follow their child’s discussion threads and discuss their work which is accessible online. It has been a tremendous challenge training the teachers to use the resources they now have at their finger tips, but that’s where I come in. I have finally been able to get out of the classroom after writing a grant to for technology integration training. The key point within the grant is for training teachers how to use the technology with their everyday curriculum, and very little goes toward hardware. It’s a constant battle having some teachers actually get past the point of technology being used in the form of PowerPoint lectures, word processing, and research. Web 2.0 technologies are truly at the forefront of teaching today, and some teachers are still not grasping the capabilities of its benefits for student collaboration. The teachers who I have helped establish class wikis continually express their excitement over the projects their students are working together on in online teams. The most common theme I hear is how great the lessons build teamwork and allow for differentiation within those teams. The discussions students are having are full of insight and generally stay on topic. Students are creating podcasts daily, recording their lesson reflections and posting them on the class wiki. They leave constructive comments for each other and the teachers moderate civil, yet challenging, discussions. Some teachers are so enthused; they have been hosting virtual tutoring sessions from home in the evenings. While it’s been difficult achieving buy in from many teachers, once they get involved, they not only seem to buy into the 21st century technology as an educational tool but fall in love with it. They are actually having fun teaching with it.

I’ve been helping many teachers with different approaches to assessment also. Now, many are allowing the students to select their own differentiated methods of demonstrating learnings. Some students choose to produce videos, and others make professional looking full color brochures with their own art. I’ve also been a strong advocate for project based learning where the students are given a task and allowed to use various technological tools to complete it. When I am not working directly with the teachers, I spend time creating course modules. That’s what I am calling my latest program our online school. They allow the students to learn through interactive lessons which virtually guide students through short lessons, assess the learning objectives, and then navigate to the next correct module based upon the results. Even the administrators comment on how assessment is truly the driving force behind the instruction. These also allow for differentiated learning styles (Christensen, 2008). When students complete these online mini units in conjunction with live demonstrations, instruction, and mentoring from the in-room instructor, we have been seeing a significant increase in test scores. The trick is to really train the teachers to work with the students in this mentoring role (Warschauer, 2007). Not having a classroom this year has changed my daily routine quite a bit. I meet with each grade level team of teachers once a week to discuss the upcoming learning objectives and how we may be able to use technology with their lesson ideas. After a quick brainstorm, I usually come away with a few ideas and then help the individual teachers build their lesson plans, checking in with each of them several times throughout the week. I am also responsible for maintaining the several grants I have written over the past couple years. Grants have been my major source of funding for the programs I have initiated. These require quite a bit of work to maintain with frequent reporting to the different granting organizations showing evidence of our achievements made possible through them. Since so much of the monies apply directly to training and professional development, it’s not always the easiest for me to quantify my work as requested, but it is something that I am working on. The money the federal government has extended toward the training of teachers in the use of technology has proven to be a very effective use of funds in schools across the country. It’s been very fulfilling working as a technology instructional coach. I’ve been able to work directly with teachers to help assure technology is being used in the most effective way possible to meet the needs of our 21st century learners. While I miss working directly with the students on an everyday basis, I quite often team teach with the classroom teachers. I feel much more directed with my responsibilities now, and I believe

Reflection
As I think about what I want to be doing in the next five years, I tried to keep in mind that dramatic change does not happen quickly. Considering where my school is with technology today compared to only 3 years ago, we have made considerable gains but still have a long way to go. As I consider the reasons for slower growth, financial issues seem to come to the forefront. The school simply does not have the funds to pay for bringing in new technology. This makes me realize the importance grant writing will play in my future role. I will really need to focus on raising funds to implement the programs I would like to see in place. I foresee many of the challenges within schools not to be the purchasing of actual hardware but having the teachers trained to use it in a way that truly impacts the students’ learning. As I look around our school, I see interactive white boards being used just as a regular white board would be or just as a projector screen. The teachers do not have a good grasp of the capabilities such technology provides. Currently, the school provides no training to our teachers on this matter. In the near future, I believe this need will come to the forefront, grant monies will be made available with this in mind, and I will need to take advantage of this to bring my vision of transparent technology use to reality. As far as hardware, however, the next big challenge I can foresee would be bringing in a 1:1 laptop program. As a charter school with choice enrollment, I believe we stand in the perfect position to implement such a plan. Working closely with our school board and administration, I think this could become a reality, but it will take almost all of the next five years. Grants will also play a key role in bringing this dream to fruition. Now that I have thought about what I will need to be doing, I am better able to craft my map to get there. I’m going to require significantly more training and practice in grant writing. I also need to broaden my knowledge of various programs and other resources available for all of K-12. My experience with different software programs is currently very limited, but my ideas are vast. Putting these ideas into practice will require me to break away from my comfort zone with my current instruction and explore the unknown a bit more.

References
Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2008).Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York: McGrawHill. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills - Home. (n.d.).The Partnership for 21st Century Skills - Home. Retrieved October 295, 2009, from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/ Warschauer, M. (2004).Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. London: The Mit Press.