Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Core Software in BVSD: From Many to Most Impactful

What tools are your students using in the classroom? What types of devices are in your school? Students in Boulder Valley have access to iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, netbooks, PCs, Macs, and more, in addition to their personal devices. This shift in the variety of tools that students use in turn impacts educational software: it needs to be available on any device, anytime, anywhere. This requirement has driven a fundamental change in Core Software in BVSD.

For several decades, the number of Core Software titles grew until they were unsustainable. We began to experience incompatibility issues between older software titles and newer computer technology. At the same time, the nature of how we delivered instruction using technology also changed. The need to purge and reassess became imminent. We realized that we needed to refine our software titles and adoption process, similar to how teachers continually refine their lesson plans.

That need prompted an inquiry process that began in September 2011 by a group of community stakeholders called the Educational Technology Leadership Council (ETLC). This group helped guide the vision of the ideal learning environment in Boulder Valley. Building on that vision, an internal cohort of administrators, teachers, and specialists inventoried our software titles, which topped out at over 80, and planned a course of action to make necessary improvements.

The next steps included district-wide surveys, conversations with stakeholder groups such as teacher-librarians, curriculum directors, tech contacts, as well as all levels of IT. The results of these conversations led to weeding titles that were antiquated, for examples those purchased in 1985. New titles were measured against the ETLC vision for the ideal learning environment and balanced with financial needs and meeting anytime, anywhere access for students.

As a product of this work, Ed Tech has created a Core Software website that showcases a “Supported Core Software List”. For each educational software title, this list shows where it can be accessed, its instructional use, and related information.  Scrolling down the page, there are titles that have reached their “End-of-Life” and are no longer supported by the district. If your favorite title is on this list, you can find an upgraded alternative in the “Replaced by” section.

Schools seeking training on Core Software titles have many experts and training opportunities available to them. For example, each school’s Tech Contact and Teacher Librarian have been offered training on many key software pieces—these staff members are excellent resources. In addition to the expert in each building, Ed Tech is offering several Professional Development Opportunities starting with a Core Software Open House on Wednesday, September 25th. Check out the BVSD Ed Tech website for more resources about Core Software.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tech Contacts: A Valuable Resource

Tech Contacts are individuals chosen to be liaisons between their schools and the district IT Department. Through their their role as technology leaders and with their support for technology integration, Tech Contacts help adopt processes, solve problems, and design steps for the future of technology in BVSD. This group meets once a month (usually the last Tuesday of the month) for a total of six times during the year. The Tech Contact site has resources and meeting details.

In the past, this group has shaped software purchases, device choices, and technology vision and plans. More recently, this group worked closely with IT to devise a plan for password changes, asked for weekly tips and tricks from IT, and requested that a professional development calendar be distributed to staff once a month. They have looked at software choices, advocated for the addition of Macs, iPads, and Chromebooks, and recommended Wi-Fi upgrades to our schools. This group will have input regarding the upcoming Tech Refresh model. IT leadership values Tech Contacts as a pertinent stakeholder group and uses their recommendations to inform technology decisions, so your school’s representation is very important.

Attendance at Tech Contact meetings have fluctuated throughout the year. Some schools send a representative each month, while some schools are not as present. If you want to have a voice in district-wide technology decisions, to receive professional development, and to influence the future direction of technology in BVSD, you should have a representative on the Tech Contact committee. Members of this committee did receive salary credit last year if they attended all meeting sessions. Please visit with Kelly Sain or Andrew Moore if there is a teacher from your school who would like to be a Tech Contact. We’d love to hear from you!