This course challenged me in a way that probably no other college course has ever done. From the outset my brain had that foggy feeling though I was learning a foreign language. The content, originally, was uninteresting to me because I couldn’t find a way to relate it to my profession, but throughout the semester that changed. Interacting with my peers on the discussion board and pushing through the challenging texts and assignments led me to discover several things that will make me a better administrator. And besides that, I like a challenge.
One of the first takeaways for me from this introduction to Enterprise Architecture was seeing in detail the lack of structured and collaborative planning that currently exists in my district. From the first module forward I began to look at the procedures in our district more closely, understand how decisions were made, by whom they were made, and sometimes (but not often enough) why they were made. In fact, the why is one of the things I noticed most, because it is often not explicitly communicated to stakeholders when changes are made.
I have a background that has provided me with experience working with many key players in our technology department, from the director and assistant director, to ToSAs, to network engineers. Also, as a ToSA I have participated in discussions about curriculum planning and how technology is a part of that. What stands out to me is that there is a disconnect in communication between these two departments which has resulted in inefficiency and uniformed decision making. An analysis and planning process using EA strategies would undoubtedly move our district forward.
A second critical discovery I made this semester is that while there are many business-model approaches that are not translatable to a school or district, there are some that are. The importance for me is that business style practices should by and large not be employed in the classroom, but are overall good for upper level administration and planning. In module two’s discussion post we were asked about students being “widgets”. While I believe that school districts, particularly large ones like the one I work in, should adopt business-type strategies in management I do not believe these strategies should be adopted inside the classroom. Implementing an Enterprise Architecture model would help school districts “get the most from business, technology, and human resources” (Bernard, 2012 p. 32), allowing additional resources be allocated to school sites, personnel, and programs that support student learning.
Thirdly, I have learned that while I am not a business minded individual (I knew this already), there are several things I have learned this semester from a business-model course that will help me as an administrator. I recently took a personality quiz where we were asked to identify how we rank ourselves based on 20 different words. My results were interesting - I was pretty much straight down the middle divided between being an organized “math” brain and a more human-centered emotional brain. While I pride myself on being efficient and organized, I also have a sociology background. While I work as a tech coach I also tutor at-risk youth and serve as a support person for them on an emotional level.
As an administrator, understanding the need for planning and evaluating an enterprise with a holistic approach will help me guide my future school in a way that takes many stakeholders’ needs and impressions into consideration. EA has shown me that it’s important before making any decisions to look at the who, what, when, where, why, and how of an enterprise and attempt to understand it thoroughly before making decisions.
In addition to these business-model skills that I have learned from this course, the readings have also caused me to reflect about the benefits of being a person who wears her heart on her sleeve. Just as it is important to see an enterprise as a whole being, so is it important to see a child, a teacher, and a parent that way. Finding a balance between these two personality traits is what will make me a successful administrator.
A month ago our new superintendent made the decision to relocate PVUSD technology services department from beneath the business services umbrella to under educational services. The technology director (who has never been a part of cabinet) now answers to the assistant superintendent of secondary schools rather than the CBO. The best intent is there - to bring technology out from behind the scenes and place it right in the middle of what our schools are doing. Cabinet members are working to understand how technology can be directly integrated into the district plan, and that’s a good thing.
Our district does have a technology use plan that is separate from the district education plan. I believe that there still need to be two documents, however they need to be tied together and reference each other. Specifically, the technology use plan is important to outlining the network infrastructure, IT support team, devices, etc. Right now the technology use plan also discusses instructional technology, which I believe should be moved to the district education plan.
The move to place technology services under the ed services umbrella makes sense on some levels, but it’s short sighted. What really needs to happen is that there need to be two departments that collaborate and work together but function from different areas within the organization. Our current IT department should, in my opinion, remain part of business services, but instructional technology experts should be embedded within the curriculum and planning branch of ed services. While there are science, math, ELA coordinators and ToSAs there also should be branch for instructional technology, weaving all of the pieces together seamlessly. This coordinator would then communicate and collaborate directly with the IT personnel under business services.
Module 6 Reflection:
Completing a brick for this week’s assignment was a valuable process to me as a technology integration coach. I feel like this process could easily be translated to evaluate instructional technology resources that teachers may use to complete specific tasks. For example, teachers often ask me what the best screencasting tool to use with the kids is. Creating a screencasting brick would allow me to evaluate what applications are emerging, baseline, strategic, or needing to be retired.
Teachers often rely on me to find the best resources available for them to complete certain tasks. Though some will do digging on their own, teacher time is valuable and limited, and with the myriad of other responsibilities it’s a luxury to have a coach on hand to research and vet the best possible resource. Additionally, I could see our tech coach network creating a shared Google folder containing bricks made from a simple template that evaluate all kinds of instructional technology tools - from publishing, blogging, gaming, and multimedia projects.
Reflection: Module 5
At CUE two years ago another ToSA from my district and I discussed going into business and creating our own LMS - a platform designed with all the components that teachers need in one place. Though we’ve both got teaching backgrounds and I have a bit of experience with graphic design, we obviously lack the know how to make this happen.
Of course, two years later there are better platforms, yet my district seems hesitant to adopt any of them. From an EA perspective, it makes sense to find something that could serve as a Data management system, SIS and LMS where the district could house student information, teachers could take attendance, keep track of student test scores and data, assign and grade work, and communicate with students and parents. It would ideally be a user-friendly and visually appealing platform that would integrate seamlessly with GAFE and allow for user customizations.
This reflection asks how I could help clarify these systems, and I think the only solution for us it to move away from some of our current platforms. As a leader, an effective strategy I would employ would be to gather a group of individuals with different perspectives - IT people, administrators, data-heads, and teachers - and hold a series of meetings where ideas are shared and possible programs are evaluated. It can’t be something that is placed in the lap of the IT department but needs to be a conversation between teachers, leaders, and tech experts.
Module 4 Reflection
My first experience really looking at data as a classroom teacher was when my district implemented a “Data Teams” program about 8 years ago. Working with my grade level partners we would select an important skill and standard set at the beginning of the year, pre-assess the students on that skill, and devise a step-by-step plan to build students’ capacities in this area, differentiating for different levels. Though I was put off by the title of the project, I enjoyed the process very much. I worked in a very cohesive and collaborative group and each of the three years that we implemented the strategies our students became stronger.
Three years of Data Team cycles gave me a good sense of how to use formative assessment to develop lessons to support my students. Though we only had one focus each year, it made us better planners and teachers overall. Our district is now implementing the NWEA assessment system. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test is a computer adaptive test that gives specific data about each students’ general abilities in a content area and their comparative abilities for specific skills and standards. This data, available through Destination PD, will then be used to drive instruction for individuals and groups of students.
Though it’s in its early stages, the MAP test scores of students will hopefully be used in a way to provide support for many of our lowest performing students. The first round of the test was a struggle, mainly due to improper training of staff, but if teachers can get past the frustration and see the value in the data it can surely make a difference in their instruction and planning. This is the type of data that seems very important, especially in reaching our population of ELs, many of whom perform below grade level in English Language Arts and Math.
Reflection :: Module 3
Many teachers work their entire careers without fully understanding the district that they work for. I’ve worn several hats in my 13 years in PVUSD, and thought I had a pretty detailed view many of its working parts, but not until this course have begun to see how complex it really is.
In looking carefully at each different department and the many working parts that keep it all running as one big 20,000-student educating machine, I both question my previous assessment of the district as top-heavy mismanaged enterprise and also begin to see just how better it could be run. It’s a strange dichotomy, and while I now see evidence that a district this size could streamline in certain areas to provide more resources where they are most needed, I have yet to understand how that could take place. Though EA and this course is perhaps the most challenging I’ve ever taken, I maybe have a grasp on 5% of it, and I barely have time to complete the assignments while working fulltime and raising a child, I find myself eager to learn more simply because of the need that districts like PVUSD and others have when finding themselves in this predicament.
Reflection: Module 2
I am a visual learner and appreciate the frameworks and artifacts found in this week’s assignment. While many of them are still very abstract and challenging to grasp with an education background I am starting to understand more the components of Enterprise Architecture planning through these frameworks.
Learning about the federal government's use of EA frameworks allows me to start seeing it through a non-business lens. I think the biggest shift for me is that in education there is no profit to drive planning and decision making. As I mentioned in my discussion post, there is a lack of efficiency at the administrative level in my district, and I believe that there would be heavy resistance to implementing EA or other planning methods that could restructure what exists, resulting in the consolidation or elimination of jobs.
I haven’t had the opportunity to closely analyze and compare other school districts of similar size and demographics but PVUSD does feel very top-heavy. Much of the problem is that the very people who make decisions at the higher level are the ones who are working to justify their jobs - therefore would be interested in employing an approach like this. But clearly if we reorganized more efficiently the effects would positively impact our students, school sites, and teachers. But where do we even begin to start that discussion?
I am challenged by the content of this course so far, and am also finding it valuable and quite interesting. As I continue to learn, and begin to glimpse the benefits an approach like this could have for our district, my biggest concern is the struggle it would take to start making the shift.
Reflection: Module 1
I have worked as a technology integration coach in Pajaro Middle School for the past three and half years, and during my nine as a classroom teacher served as my school site’s technology liaison. Throughout this time I have witnessed and taken part in decision making about technology and technology use (having given input on the district technology use plan for example), even though I’m not a member of the IT department. One of the biggest challenges to decision making, in the area of technology in schools is bringing together leaders with different needs and identifying solutions that can be used for multiple purposes.
From what I have learned from Enterprise Architecture so far is that it is a way of looking at an organization in terms of a more holistic approach. Leaders and decision makers should evaluate what systems are in place and their function, determine overlap or redundancy, and better plan organizational approaches that serve more than one purpose.
I think about Instructional Technology a lot, because it is my focus. One struggle I’ve seen here in Pajaro is the number of different systems teachers use on a daily basis to accomplish tasks - one for attendance taking, one for planning, one for grading, one for giving assignments. We have no true LMS here, and in part I think that’s a good thing because from what I’ve seen there is no one comprehensive system for all of these purposes.
In terms of IT, it’s hard to wrap my head around Enterprise Architecture planning when systems don’t exist that accomplish the many tasks that we need to do on a daily basis. While things are becoming more seamless by allowing for students and teachers to use a Google Drive login, there still seems to be redundancy, in particular on the teacher’s end.
Another struggle I see is the lack of collaboration between our Technology Services and Educational Services departments. Some leaders (outside of the IT circle) still see technology mainly as an assessment tool rather than an instructional one.
Technology Services makes many decisions on its own, such as the staffing and distribution of district and site technicians, implementation of programs such as eSchoolPlus and SchoolLoop, and infrastructure and network decisions (which are largely funded by eRate). Educational services makes decisions that will meet their goals, but there is a definite hierarchy and several decision makers in the Educational Services department choose to make decisions for sites, even with regard to technology, without consulting people who might be more educated on the topic.
As technology becomes ubiquitous there is no choice but to bring these two entities together, encouraging collaboration and decision making based on input from two different types of minds. An Enterprise Architecture approach would facilitate this.