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A Day Unlike No Other

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Stampede Park – facing south – June 21 @ 7:30 PM

Today I was to be study day at school.  I was supposed wake up with my alarm, shower, and head to work.

Last night I started to watch the news and around 11:30PM the news caster announced that CBE and CCSD school were to be closed Friday.  I had to grab my remote and rewind my live TV……did I hear her correctly?  I quickly got a text from a colleague and very soon our emergency phone out tree was activated.

Every teacher hopes and prays for that ‘snow’ day…..the one where you get that call, and get to stay all nice and warm in your pyjamas  stay in bed and drink coffee.  Today was not that day.  Sure there was no school, but it wasn’t because of a huge snow fall, its because the City of Calgary declared a local state of emergency.

Last night and early this morning I began tweeting using the schools account to get the message to people to stay home.  I wasn’t able post on the website as this can only be done on an internal computer.  Our district started posting updates on their twitter and facebook accounts as the situation was changing quickly.  Twitter and facebook quickly became the ‘go-to’ places for information as our own servers (e-mail and websites) could be shut down at a moments notice as they are in the downtown core and could be subject to a power outage.  One valuable lesson I learned today was how powerful social media is in emergency situations (maybe some thesis and research here???)

The images of the majestic Bow and Elbow rivers overflowing their banks leave you awestruck.

Every 30 minutes on the televsion (something you wouldn’t see outside of Alberta) were the loud beeping interruptions of the Emergency Alert System….you know..the one they would test on American television when we were little.  Seeing it for real gave a very somber and serious tone to the message.  The alerts hit close to home.  Communities outside of Calgary were affected first…then those closest to the water…then some a little higher…then a little more higher ground.

As the alerts came in, I started to see tweets and facebook messages from friends, and businesses that I frequent; posts like this from the Bavarian Inn, one of my most favourite restaurants in the region:

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The Bavarian Inn’s facebook update – June 21, 2013

The city is an awkward place to be right now.  Looking out on my verandah I see clear blue skies – it seems like any other regular evening (other than its a bit cool). However, there is a uneasiness in the air.  Most people are home, but the streets are quiet.  You can see military helicopters flying over the city, and I’ve also seen STARS air ambulance flying in from the south (the High River area is seriously affected).  Everywhere you go you hear stories – they are heartbreaking….

….people have flooded homes and have no ideas when they can return.

….the minimal items people chose to take with them at a moments notice.

….friends who live only a 15 minute walk away (but down in the valley) being woken up at 12:15AM by police knocking on their door and telling them they had to evacuate.

….ranchers and farmers who had to cut their fences and let their entire herd of horses free so that the animals could use their natural instincts and save themselves.

You also hear great stories of heroism in this fine city.

…..I know several people who work for emergency services – working 14.5 hour shifts to make sure things keep running.

….my dog’s day-care (and training services) have opened their doors 24-7 and taking in pets displaced by the floods.

…..restaurants are donating to the emergency shelters in town.  Many of them just say “Tell us what you need, and you have free food”.

The rain has stopped but the river is still overflowing its banks.  The next couple of days will be critical.  After that, the clean up will begin…..I’m sure that the generosity, courage, and resilience of this city (and province) will shine through….even though losses have been deep.

For those of you who know me personally I am well.  I have power, water, gas, and internet.  The city (and services) have done an excellent job keeping the flood-free areas up and running. I am safe, high, dry and comfortable.

Below are a few photos I took today.  All photos were taken on Friday, June 21st around 7:30 PM.

J.T.

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Calgary Stampede grandstand and racetrack.

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The Stampede grounds, Saddledome, and DT Calgary.

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Just outside the ‘Olympic Way’ gates to Stampede Park.

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The ‘Olympic Way’ entry to the Calgary Stampede.

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Looking NE following the Elbow river into Inglewood.

Long live the Lab!

Old-Computer

Do you remember the typing lab? I know I do.  Typing labs were built in every school and were around for decades.  In the blink of an eye the typewriters were gone, quickly replaced by computers.  Well, its been another couple of decades and it looks like computer labs are about to follow the same fate – they are quickly being replaced by mobile laptop labs.

I love the idea of the wireless technology.  The potential for collaboration and creativity when devices are brought right into the classroom is impressive.

If you have been following my blog you know that I really try and see both sides – sometimes, I’ve even been known to fight for the underdog, and in this case, its the computer lab.

Yes – the trusted old lab is facing extinction.  Its true!  All of our new schools that have been build in the past few years have been built without computer labs – schools are being equipped with fancy, new mobile computer labs (laptop carts) that can move around and offer all that wonderful potential into the classroom.

But hold on one second!  Under the flashy new hardware are underlying problems and issues.

In the days of shrinking budgets and financial accountability, I ask you to consider some of the following issues with mobile labs.

1) Portable technology is more expensive.  All you have to do is look at the flyers that arrive in the daily paper.  A laptop can cost up to 50% more than a traditional desktops.  They are also expensive to maintain.  Although a laptop may come with a 2 or 3 year warranty, the battery warranty is often only 1 year. After 2 years laptop batteries struggle to hold their charge, and often stop holding a charge all together.  It then becomes the responsibility of the school to fork over $80-$100 per machine to replace them.  In a school that receives 120 student laptops. That’s $12,000 (which is roughly 20-25% of a school’s entire budget for a year).

2) Portable technology is not as sturdy as a desktop computer.  A laptop’s greatest strength – its portability –  is also its greatest weakness.  Its is prone to being bumped, scratched, dropped, etc.  The hard casings of desktop computers help to shied their components.  I would say that a traditional desktop may have a lifespan twice that of a laptop.

3) Access and Energy.  I don’t know what the situation is like at your school but our computer lab is booked solid every single day. Classes are in and out and the computers are doing their job from 8:30 to 3:00 – students even come and use them before and after school and during lunch.  Laptops are not built for this duration of use. Even a brand new battery will not last an entire day without being charged, that means you loose 50% of your technology efficiency right off the top. The way the carts are set up, it is cumbersome and difficulty to detach a power cable and move it around with the laptop.

So where should we go? What I propose is a healthy blend of technology.  There is value in computer technology – in all its forms.  Personally, there are times I prefer to work on a desktop.  I like the keypad and larger keyboard.  I like having a larger monitor, especially when I have to do graphic design work.

What do you think? Has the lab met its end?  I don’t think so but we do need to evolve with the times and blending stationary and portable technology will be a key to a successful school experience for our students.

JT.

Well – here I am. One year into my Master’s degree in Educational Technology and Design.  What a difference one year can make!  I’m 3/4 of the way through my program with only two half-classes to finish this upcoming year.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The problem now is What If I Don’t Want this Tunnel to End?

I’ve always been a task oriented person.  That was my learning style, and that’s how I tackled life.  I was seeing my program as a ‘checklist’ of sorts —- ETAD 802……check! ETAD 804…….check?  and so on.  The courses were a means to an end – a walk across the stage, a hand-shake, a couple of photos and a nice piece of paper to hang on my wall.

My whole paradigm of my own learning shifted recently on a trip up to Emma Lake.

In a nutshell, the University of Saskatchewan has a campus up in Northern Saskatchewan (just south of Prince Albert National Park).  This campus was originally used by Arts and Ecology. Today many different programs go up to the campus for various course work.  There were 11 students who went up to the camp (2 of which I never met because they had to leave before I arrived).  My fellow students were all at different points in their program – one classmate had even finished her program in the spring, but was there for some video editing experience. When I head that she was coming?  My initial thoughts were…..”If you’re done?  Why would you come back? There’s no credit……You already have a degree……..Aren’t you tired and need a break??”.

As the time went on (and after many conversations) I realized two things – that my own time in the program will soon be ‘over’ and that the program is more than a degree – its a community – a family of learners.  There were several questions about what happens when you’ve finished the program.  Are you ‘out of the circle’….’over and done with?’

During one of our deep conversations over some coffee (and a beautiful view of the lake) we realized that we cannot simply rely on professors to keep us in the loop. Throughout our program they gave us the tools and capacity (and leadership) to carry the torch.  It’s up to us to work together to continue our learning community.  A few of us are hoping to start a podcast, and a few may hold twitter chats to stay current and connected.  I’m also planning on returning to Emma Lake next summer – as a graduate – to work on some projects and connect with my friends and colleagues – and just maybe – this ‘tunnel’ will go on a little longer.

J.T.

The Baby and the Bathwater

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain

There is a movement out there that I find a bit scary.  The movement is towards doing away with textbooks.  I’m not talking about the switch from print to digital textbooks, but that textbooks, in all forms,  should be done away with.

I find this notion of doing away with the textbook misguided and is pitting teachers against themselves.

What I’m worried about is this: throwing away the textbook is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  Do I agree with textbook companies making a bazillion dollars?  No.  Do I agree that one should teach solely from the textbook?  No.  However I have seen the reality – we all have.  Someone at your school (usually the new hire) is asked to pick up a math class – and that person is a language arts specialists.  It’s happened more than once and it’s the reality of our profession.

To expect this new or struggling teacher to design their program around inquiry based learning is shortsighted.  This person will be lucky to survive the year.  A GOOD teacher is someone who will learn as they progress through their career and try new approaches and refine their teaching.  These people will know themselves and the students they teach the best.

To all those of you who would do away with textbooks, I ask you this: Have you been a part of the process of developing a textbook?  I have.

I was an advisor and reviewer for Pearson’s Math Makes Sense series (7-9).  Long story short, I was asked to move beyond reading and responding to chapters and to be a participant in the organization and design of the final resource.  I was not a writer, but I was someone who gave my opinion and helped guide the process from a teacher’s perspective.  What I learned about the development of a textbook is the sheer amount of time, expertise, knowledge and debate that goes into the resource.  I recall one Saturday where the team debated the order of chapters for 5 hours.  The team members were representatives from government, administrators, universities, curriculum specialists, mathematicians, consultants, editors, instructional and graphic designers, and fellow advisors and reviewers Every inch of the book was scrutinized; field tested, and followed the basic principles of good instructional design.

The point I’m making is this; these resources are invaluable to some teachers – to most teachers.  To believe that the best practice is to move away from textbooks to inquiry based learning is simply unrealistic.

The reality is that (and I’ll eat my words should this change) we as teachers are charged with the task of meeting our curricular outcomes.  No matter how theoretical one may be, if we do not meet the outcomes we are not doing our job.  The curriculum allows us as teachers to meet these outcomes in a variety of ways.

If we follow the principles of Universal Design for Learning, we will quickly realize that an inquiry-based approach a will work well for some students, and not for others.  We must accept the fact that this is OK.  Just as inquiry based learning may work well for some, a strict, structured content-based delivery will work very well for others.  To further confuse the issue, students are constantly changing and growing. Throughout their school careers they will float on the continuum between problem/inquiry based and traditional content based learning.  As teachers, we must be flexible and willing to adapt our teaching strategies for our students, and not to paint ourselves in a corner and at the end of the day have nothing to show for it.

I commend those who try new things and are pushing the envelope with teaching and learning.  I believe that the worst thing that can happen to our profession is to stop having these debates. As we struggle, debate, and argue we  grow our profession.

J.T.

Assignment 5 was an exercise in survey development.  I have made many surveys before, however, not to this detail or scrutiny.  The original survey was created and shown to 8 individuals with an age range of early 20’s to mid-60’s.  Here is the link to my original survey.

 

Overall Findings

  • Developing a survey for sensitive programs requires time, patience, and the proper wording. Questions with improper wording may offend or identify individuals in a program.
  • Surveys that are sensitive in nature must be administered to a large enough population to alleviate the fear of being identified by particular questions (demographic).

 

Specific Findings/Modifications made

Page 1 (Introduction to Demographic Questions)

  • Changed text from “These few questions will allow me to organize the data appropriately.” to “The following questions are needed to organize the data”. Reason: Better grammar and clear language.

Question 1

  • Added ‘Consultant’ and ‘Counselor’ to the list of choices Reason: The survey may be used beyond the confines of the school, or may be used at other schools.  Also, Consultants play a key role in the Diverse Learning Teacher (DLT) program.

Question 2

  • Added periods to choices. Reason: grammar and consistency
  • In the last response, I changed “attend” to “attend, work at….”.  Reason: to allow the question to meet the requirements of people who both are involved with the school or the general community.

Question 3

  • No changes made.
  • One person responded that this question, along with question 2 may identify an individual.  I am considering adding an option “I prefer not to say” to the survey, but not at this point in time.  If the survey is given to a large enough sample, then the issue of identity is null.

Page 2 (Position Profile)

  • Changed text from “This section will gather data about your position within the school.” To  “The following questions provide information about your position within the school”. Reason: clearer language

Question 4

  • work/meet” changed to “work or meetReason: clear language
  • In the selections, “couple” is changed to “2 to 3”. Reason: to be consistent within the survey.

Question 5

  • How connected do you feel to…….?” Is changed to “How connected are you to the following people?Reason: the word feel implies and weights the question towards emotional attachment.  Although emotional attachment is a factor in this question, the revised wording clarifies the question.
  • “Somewhat connected.” is changed to “Somewhat connected – we seldom work together. Reason: The other options have descriptors.
  • Consultant and Counselor are added as choices. Reason: survey consistency.

Question 6

  • “SAP” changed to “Student Assessment Portfolio (SAP) – English Language Learners (ELL).  Reason: Identify the acronym.
  • “SRT” changed to “Student Resource Team (SRT)”. Reason: Identify the acronym
  • Added choice “Report Cards”

Question 7

  • Identify the level of support you need to complete the documents properly” changed to “Identify the level of support required to properly complete the following documents”. Reason: clear, concise language.
  • Add the word “full”  in front of  “support” in the first column. Reason: clarification – it will help to narrow down responses.
  • Adding “Student Resource Team (SRT)” and “Report Cards” to the list of documents. Reason: I missed these documents in the initial survey.

Question 8

  • Changed the end of the sentence from “……agencies have you attended meetings with?” to “………agencies have you met with this school year?”Reason: clarification of language and to specify a particular time period – to focus responses.
  • Changed any terms ending in ‘apy’ to ‘ist’. For example physiotherapy to physiotherapist. Reason: consistency in grammar with other terms in the list.
  • Changed “The Welcome Centre” to “English Language Learner (ELL) Reception Centre”. Reason: updated and correct terminology.
  • Added “High School Transition Meetings” Reason: this was identified by a respondent as an important addition.

Question 9

  • Added periods to “Somewhat familiar” and “Very familiar”. Reason: consistent punctuation.
  • Changed the word “ideas” to “concepts”. Reason: more formal language and better terminology.
  • Added the word “not” to the header in the second column. Reason: unclear header.

Question 10/11  (Similar question, just an alternate ending) – These changes are applied to both question.

  • Change opening statement from “In regards to….” to “With regard to….”. Reason: improved grammar and clarity.
  • Capitalized ‘n’ in “not-well supported”. Reason: improved grammar.
  • Added “Consultant” and “ Counselor” to choices. Reason: consistency in the survey.
  • Added a “N/A” column. Reason: It was pointed out by one of my respondents that not everyone will have an interaction with someone identified in these questions.

Question 12

  • Change opening statement from “What is your responsibility in the following?” to “Identify you level of responsibility to the following documents.” Reason: clarity and grammar.
  • Changed the choices from acronyms to full terminology. Ex. “IPP” to “Individual Program Plans (IPP)”.

Question 13

  • Change question ending from “…….rank the support you need in your job” to “…..rank the support you need to improve your practice.” Reason: ‘job’ was too vague.  I wanted to narrow down how teaching/learning can improve.

Question 14

  • Change question ending from “……following could better help you do your job with students.” to “….. following can help you do your job better”. Reason: unclear language.
  • Change capitalization in selections. Reason: grammar (proper nouns, etc).

Question 15

  • Added “in the past year” to the end of the question. Reason: to narrow down the response time frame and get a concise answer.

Question 16

  • Changed the question from “How does Universal Design for Learning impact your instruction?” to “What does Universal Design for Learning mean to you?” Reason: this is a more general question to appeal to more respondents (other than just classroom teachers).

 

After taking the responses into consideration and making the appropriate changes, here is the new survey.

 

Eye Spy

Image retrieved from: http://bit.ly/ykaP5o

Article review: Screen Design Guidelines for Motivation in Interactive Multimedia Instruction: A Survey and Framework for Designers

As my group project for Advanced Instructional Design evolves, so does my role within the group.  We started off by researching and applying keywords and tags to photos, and now we’re on to usability testing.  Somewhere in the middle I’ve volunteered myself for some graphic design (I have a TINY bit of Photoshop experience).  We needed to have a title banner run along the top of the gallery.  Since I take on each task as a learning opportunity, I wondered what role images, screen design, and layout have to do with Instructional Design.  I stumbled upon this article (which coincidentally references my professor’s materials on Instructional Design).  Here are some of the key points I’m keeping in mind for the graphic design of the banner, and the layout of our photo gallery.

Organization is key!

Motivation and retention are driven and influenced by organized materials.  Images/galleries should be well-organized and easy to navigate.  Well organized material also helps to maintain interest and promotes learner engagement.  Organization also helps to reduce learner fatigue.  Organization should be considered right from the start of any project.

Visual Characteristics

TYPOGRAPHY –  The organization of text can be broken down into further sub-sections such as tables, charts, and diagrams.  There are certain cues which affect the ‘learning’ of material.  Factors such as FONT, SIZE, BOLD, ITALICS,  the use of UPPER and LOWER CASE, the contrast between text and background, and consistency in typography all influence what we retain from a website. Improper typography can result in visual noise that can distract from the learning at hand.  Some other typography points that I learned were:

1)      Use highlighting sparingly, too much can be a distraction

2)      Blinking or moving fonts can be very distracting and hard to read.

 

GRAPHICAL IMAGES – Since this is the focus of the gallery, there were many important points learned in this section. Images used in materials should be of an appropriate size (images that are too small or large will distort the resolution and the image will lose it’s impact).  Images should be used sparingly – to point-out or highlight major details.  Images need to have captions and/or keywords to show their purpose and relate them to the material at hand.  Images should follow normal conventions (for example flow charts going from left to right or top down) to avoid confusion and remain within logical parameters.

 

COLOUR – Colour has a unique role in multimedia design as it serves both a concrete visual role as well as an emotional role (red-anger, blue=calm, etc).  Colour can promote learner/material interaction or distract from it. 

1)                  Colour choices should be limited and held to an over-all colour scheme.  Keeping to a colour scheme promotes unity and flow in multimedia design.

2)                  Colour choices should be consistent (backgrounds, text colours, etc).

3)                  Colour can be used to cue the learner for something new or to highlight importance.

4)                  Background colours should be kept to dark shades while foreground colours should be held to brighter hues.

5)                  Complimentary colour schemes should be avoided (blue/orange) etc.

6)                  Colour use is age dependent – know your target audiences.  Bright, high-contrast colour schemes can be used with designing for younger audiences while more muted colour schemes can be used for mature audiences.

 Boling, E. , & Lee, S. (1999). Screen Design Guidelines for Motivation in Interactive Multimedia Instruction: A Survey and Framework for Designers. Educational Technology. Volume 39. Retrieved from: http://www.medvet.umontreal.ca/techno/eta6785/articles/screen_design_guidelines.pdf

Tag! You’re it!

Article Review:

Fu, Y., Mao J., Su D., and Xu, Z. Towards the Semantic Web: Collaborative Tag Suggestions. Retrieved from: http://semanticmetadata.net/hosted/taggingws_www2006-files/13.pdf on February 2, 2012

Image retrieved from http://bit.ly/d2I6Dc

When it comes to organizing web objects, tagging has been a common method of classifying the object and identifying it for easy retrieval.  Tagging is a networked approach to organizing objects as opposed to conventional hierarchical structures.  Rather than a top-down cascading approach, tagging allows users to interact with objects as a network of data.

In browsing Google Scholar (which is my new favorite search engine for academic articles) I came across a very good article on using tagging as an effective way of organizing web objects.

The authors argue that tagging (as opposed to traditional methods of organizing data) allow users to move away from standard methods of fitting objects into  set-standard ‘molds’.  Tags used in combination with each other also allow for flexibility in searching.  The authors uses the example of Renewable Energy.  This tag allows users to search for items tagged under renewable, energy, and renewable energy.

Tagging allows for flexibility when searching for digital items.  Think about a physical photograph.  If the photograph is of a horse on the prairie,  which photo album would you put the photo in?  One of horses? One of the prairies? What about the time period?  What about a specific farm or location?  Digital tagging allows users to enter specific keywords that would draw a potential audience to that web object.  This is the case my team is experiencing with the Baker Slide collection.

When tagging an object, tags do not necessarily need to relate to each other.  The tags are meant to draw in the audience.  Think back to the horse on the prairie, ‘horse’ and ‘prairie’ are mutually exclusive to each other, however, they each draw an audience to the same photo.  The more keywords one searches, the more refined and specific the web object will be.

Xu, Fu, Mao and Su suggest that the number of tags be kept small, but fail to provide an ideal number.  In their research they used web objects that had between three and 6 tags.  They suggest using one tag from each of the categories below.  I will use the idea of the horse on the prairie as an example.

1) Content-based tags – These are tags that relate to what is contained in the photo.   They are specific terms.  These can be objects in the photo, or what the photo is about.   HORSE, WHEAT, etc.

2) Context-based tags – These tags are things which help identify the content.  They can be locations, places, and descriptors. PRAIRIE, ALBERTA

3) Attribute tags – These tags relate to the main idea, but may not be identified directly.  SMITH (for Joe Smith’s Horse), RAMSAY (as a descriptor of the land owner).

4) Subjective tags – These tags are how the creator feels about the images. PEACE, SERENE, COOL, etc.

5) Organizational tags – These tags help to organize, or define the organization to which the object belongs. Ex. BAKER SLIDES, etc.

The authors also set some criteria for good tags.  They say that tags should:

  • Include common words
  • High popularity
  • Identifying should be least-effort
  • Uniformity within a collections

In conclusion, Xu, Fu, Mao and Su believe that tags allow users to search for and reach web objects from multiple vectors (not a linear or uniform search). Tags allow for sharing and discovering web objects.  The authors also caution us to think and use tags appropriately and purposely to eliminate unsolicited searches and spam.  They also suggest that the same principles in using tags can be used in developing a ‘tag cloud’ – a grouping of tags to be used to tag a collection.

Assignment 4 – Logic Model

Logic Model: Diverse Learner Teacher (DLT) Program

 

Click the above image for a larger version.

Assumptions: -that all stakeholders are committed to the DLT program and its success.  Success is measured by meeting the needs of the diverse learners in our school population.  What does this look like?  That students are meeting their full potential and that through adaptations and modifications students can meet curriculum outcomes.  For any reason if students are unable to meet the curriculum outcomes, the DLT program will allow students to meet their full potential.  The second assumption is that all stakeholders are committed to the principles of Universal Design for Learning and what that looks like and means to our students.

External factors: Factors to the success of the DLT program include time, place,  and the level of involvement of classroom teachers.  The involvement of other students, language, length of time in Canada and attitude also will be contributing factors for success.

Inputs: There are several inputs to the DLT progam.  Most important are the DLT’s themselves.  They play a key role in the success of the program, and as you can see from the logic model above, influence every aspect of the rest of the model.  They are guided by the principle of Universal Design for Learning.  Supporting them in their school-based roles are administration, DLT consultants at the district level, and fellow DLT’s at various locations in the district.  Other inputs to the DLT program include classroom teachers, students, outside agencies, as well as guiding documents.

Outputs–> Activities: The activities can be summarized into 3 key areas.

1) Working with students – direct interactions between DLTs and students.  This can include one-to-one support, small group support, or large group support.

2) Working FOR students – this is an administrative role on assessment, observation and intervention.  This can include reccomendations for special placements and modified/adapted programming.

3) Working with teachers – This role supports teachers in their day-to-day practice and to help them design best-practices related to UDL.

Outputs –>Participation:  From the activities, participation includes:

-DLT team meetings.

-Individualized Program Plan (IPP) Workshops.

-Completed forms for Alberta Education and for District records.

Outcomes/Impacts

The primary goal of the DLT program is to improve student academic acheivement with a secondary goal of improved over-all student well-being.  All short and medium outcomes, lead to these end-goals.

Medium outcomes are based with outside agencies (such as Inter-cultural Wellness Workers, and Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists),  formalized learning plans (IPP’s/SAP’s), and improvements in teacher best practice (technology integration and professional development in UDL).

Short-term impacts are closely related to the participation of stakeholders.  These include classroom visits, filling out the appropriate paper work, developing student action plans, and working with teachers on exemplars and examples of best-practice in the classroom.

Program to be Evaluated: The Diverse Learning Teacher Program

Engage Stakeholders

Who should be involved?

Primary Stakeholders

  • School Administration team (Principal, Vice Principal, and Assistant Principal)
  • The Diverse Learning Teachers (DLT)
  • Classroom teachers
  • Teacher Assistants
  • Students directly affected by the DLT program (those on Individualized Program Plans, S.A.P.’s, etc)
  • Parents directly affected by the DLT program (those who have day-to-day interactions with DLT’s)

Secondary Stakeholders

  • Non-classroom teaching staff (option teachers, counselor, Career and Technology Studies teachers)
  • Students not directly affected by the DLT program
  • Parents not directly affected by the DLT program
  • DLT Consultants (Central Office)
  • DLT’s at other schools

How might they be engaged?

The primary and secondary stakeholders will be engaged through a series of surveys, interviews and consultations.  The data from these assessment tools will be aggregated into a final recommendation report.  Some of the primary stakeholders will also participate in the creation of the surveys and data collection.  Teaching staff will be asked for anecdotal feedback to the DLT program, and students will provide feedback on their experiences in the DLT program.  DLT Consultants may be ask to provide information on the District’s vision of how DLT’s are to operate at their schools and work-sites.  DLT’s operating at other work-sites will provide information on how the DLT program works at their school.

Focus the Evaluation

What are you going to evaluate?  Describe the program (logic model).

The program being evaluated is the Diverse Learning Teacher program that was introduced to our school September 2011.  The Calgary Catholic School District recently decided to adopt a path that includes Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the Alberta Education document “Making a Difference: Meeting Diverse Learning Needs with Differentiated Instruction”.  The DLT program replaced the former model of the Resource Teacher, the English as a Second Language teacher, and any other ‘resource’ teacher with a single, unified position – the Diverse Learning Teacher.  Replacing the former model with the new model required individual schools to restructure the way support services were delivered to teachers and students.  Each school chose to model the DLT program differently – keeping their unique situations in mind.  In our school, the changes were far-reaching.  There was a change in physical space (where the DLT’s were housed), time-table changes, and most importantly, a change in “the way we do business”.  The DLT’s were given extensive professional development at the beginning of the school year.  One DLT is the DLT Coordinating Teacher (DLT-CT) and is required to attend a matrix meeting once in a 6-day cycle.  Information gathered at these meetings is shared amongst the other DLT’s at the school.

One far-reaching change from the previous year is that the barriers between Resource Teachers and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers have been removed.  The DLT’s are now in a position to support ALL students, regardless of their needs.  These staff members also support the classroom teacher to deliver quality programs that adopt the philosophy of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  The end-goal is to meet the unique requirements of every student – not just those who have been identified as ‘ESL’ or coded.

What is the purpose of the evaluation?

The purpose of this evaluation is to gather feedback on current practice – the ‘what is going on right now’ at the school.  The evaluation will gather qualitative and quantitative data and make recommendations on what is working best, what is not working, and what is being done that can be done better.

Who will use the evaluation?  How will they use it?

The evaluation will be used by the Administration Team and the DLT team at the school to make revisions and changes to the program for the 2012-2013 school year.  It will be used to improve DLT service provided to students, classroom teachers, and parents.

1. Administration – Administration will use the report to make staffing and timetabling decisions.  They wil also use the information to make decisions regarding office space, student/teacher workspace, and will have input as to how the over-all program is deliver at our local school.

2. DLT – DLT’s will use the recommendations to keep or change current practices.  This information will help in their day-to-day interactions with teachers, set-up Teacher Assistant schedules, student and classroom timetabling, and to stream-line and make their work more efficient.

3. The DLT Consultants and the District – This group will use the information in the report to see how things are working at our school – to gather a snapshot of information.  The results in the report may be shared with other schools via DLT consultants to make improvements and enhancements both at the local and district level.

What questions will the evaluation seek to answer?

1. Is the current set-up and DLT program working?

2. Are the DLT’s properly scheduled?

3. Do the DLT’s feel they have the proper resources to do their jobs as expected?

4. What improvements, if any, can be made to the existing model of DLT?

5. Do students feel supported in their learning?

6. Do parents feel their children (especially those with special needs or ESL) feel supported by the school?

7.  What recommendations can be made for next year?

What information do you need to answer the questions? What will I need?

  • District
    •  Initiatives mandated from the District
    • Directives coming down from central office
    •  Best-practices and current research in UDL
    • What other DLT models are operating at schools throughout the district
    • Staffing (the number of DLT’s assigned to our school)
  • School Administration
    • Scheduling/Time-tabling
    • Space allocations
    • Support staffing allocations
    • Their vision and understanding of the DLT program
    • Supports in place for the classroom teacher and professional development in UDL
  • DLT
    • Current time-tables
    • A list of current duties
    • Minutes from meetings
    • Schedules
    • Anecdotal notes
    • Student records (SRT’s, IPP’s, SAP’s)
  • Teachers
    • Support schedules
    • Anecdotal notes
    • Teacher plans
    • An assessment of technology skills
  • Parents
    • Informal discussions
    • Feedback forms (parent forms from student program plans)
  • Students
    • Informal discussion
    • Student records
    • Anecdotal notes from teachers and DLT’s

When is the evaluation needed?

The evaluation needs to be completed (including a recommendation report) by the end of April.  Administration and DLT’s will need the information so that proper planning, staffing, and accommodations can be made for the 2012-2013 school year.

What evaluation design will you use?

The evaluation will be formative.  This is the first year of the DLT program and it is scheduled to continue for the foreseeable future.  As this is the rookie year for the program, a proper evaluation will help guide the DLT program for the 2012-2013 school year.

The model that I will use is Sufflebeam’s CIPP model.  This is an ongoing process and because it continues for the next school year, the program needs to be evaluated and recommendations need to be made.  The following questions will be used to guide the evaluation.

“What needs to be done?”

“How should it be done?”

“Is it being done?”

“Did it succeed?”

Collect the Information

What sources of information will you use?

  • Existing Information
    • Previous Resource/ESL models
    • Current DLT models at other schools
    • Resources put out by Alberta Education on UDL and Differentiated Instruction (DI).
  • People
    • DLT’s
    • Administration
    • Teachers
    • Students
    • Parents
  • Pictorial records and Observations
    • Observations of DLT and student interactions
    • Sit in on meetings between DLTs and administration
    • Possibly attend a Day 6 Matrix meeting of DLT Coordinating Teachers (DLT-CTs)
    • Observations of DLT / Teacher planning.

What data collection methods will you use?

  • Surveys
  • Interviews (both informal and formal (video recorded))
  • Observations
  • Photos
  • Document Review
  • Journal/Reflection

Instrumentation: What is needed to record the information?

Surveys

  1. Staff surveys
    1. Teachers
    2. Support staff
  2. Student survey (general student population)
  3. Parent survey (students directly impacted by the DLT program).

Interviews with:

  1. Administration
  2. DLT’s
  3. Students directly impacted by the DLT program

Observations/Photos of:

  1. Student performance
  2. Classroom operations
  3. Teachers teaching
  4. Teacher/DLT interactions
  5. Student/DLT interactions

Document Review:

  1. Individualized Program Plans (IPPs)
  2. English as a Second Language folders (SAP’s)
  3. Student Resource Team meeting notes (SRT’s) and SRT forms
  4. District job descriptions for DLTs and DLT-CT’s.

Journal/Reflections

  1. DLT entries
  2. Student entries
  3. Teacher entries
  4. Administration entries

When will you collect data for each method you’ve chosen?

  • Surveys
    • Start: Mid-March  End: End of March
  • Interviews
    • Mid-March
  • Observations
    • On-going  – Beginning of March to end of March
  • Document Review
    • Beginning of March to Mid-March
  • Journal Entries/Reflections
    • End of March – Beginning of April

Will a sample be used?

A sample will not be used.  The program is systemic and district wide.  It will be impossible to find a control group.  The assessment tools will be constructed to evaluate the entire population they are suited for (ex. The student survey will be made available to all students in the school).

Pilot testing: when, where, how?

There will be no pilot testing.  All assessments will take place in the general population.  The assessment tools will be designed specifically for our DLT program, however, certain items (such as survey questions, or interview questions) can be dropped so that the assessment tools can be used by other schools to evaluate their DLT programs.

Analyze and Interpret

How will the data be analysed?

  • Surveys  – Results will be tabulated.  Data will be synthesized into graphs and examined for trends.
  • Interviews – Interview responses will be collated into a report.  Trends will be monitored.
  • Observations – Notes will be taken during observations.  This data will be collated into a report and cross-referenced with interviews.  Trends will be monitored.
  • Document review – Documents will be organized, read, and summarized.  These documents will be compared and contrasted with the interview and observation results to find commonalities and discrepancies.
  • Journal Entries – the evaluator will review entries and reflections. The evaluator will look for commonalities and discrepancies between the journal entries, observations, and survey data.  Data retrieved from the Journal entries will help guide the evaluator in making recommendations for future planning.

Who is responsible to analyze the data? 

Because of the sensitive and far-reaching nature of this program, only the evaluator will analyze the data and make recommendations.

How will the information be interpreted?

The information will be interpreted by the evaluator.  Other program evaluators may be asked to help review the data and the final report.

 

Use the Information

How will the evaluation be communicated and shared?

The information will be presented in 2 phases.  Phase 1 will be presenting the information to the DLTs and Administration.  The report will be presented in a private room with these two groups in late-April (when the report is complete).  The presentation will display data from the surveys.  Results from the individual responses will be presented as quotations.

Phase 2 will involve presenting the results (data and anecdotal notes) to the general teaching staff.  This will be done at a staff meeting (end-April to mid-May).

 

Manage the Evaluation

Human Subject Protection

All data being collected is being completed by district staff and the evaluation is being completed for district staff.  Since all information is being kept internal, no release forms will be necessary.  Should there be a need to release the information beyond the confines of the Calgary Catholic School District, release forms will be completed.

Time-Line

  • February – Complete the Planning Program Evaluation Worksheet
  • Late-February – Develop Surveys and Interview questions
  • Early-March – Administer surveys, conduct interviews
  • Late-March – Conclude and tabulate surveys, synthesize interviews
  • Late-March – Early-April – Complete report
  • Early-April – Share evaluation.

Responsibilities

Data collection, analysis, and the final report are the responsibility of the evaluator.  Students surveys may be administered by homeroom teachers, and staff and parent surveys can be administered by school administration.

Budget

As this is a school based evaluation being completed by school personnel, no budget is being provided for the evaluation.

 

Standards

Utility

This program evaluation can have far-reaching impact.  The DLT program is new in our district this year and seeing “What we’re doing right” and “What we can do better” can provide strong guidance to the staff at my school and result in meaningful impact in our students’ academics and well-being.

Feasibility

This is a large undertaking and may require more than one evaluator.  As further materials are developed (surveys and interview questions) it may become more evident that the evaluation may need to take a narrow focus.

Propriety

All materials being developed, evaluation, and results will remain property of the Calgary Catholic School District.

Accuracy

Assessment materials will be looked over not only by the evaluator but also by a fellow program evaluator for the “sober second thought”.  These reviews will be completed before the assessment materials are administered to staff.  This will help minimize any evaluator bias.

How Smug is your Mug??

My last blog post for ETAD874 addressed the generation gap and technology.  I decided to take a different twist on this post and give and in-depth review of one of the on-line gallery tools my team is looking at to present to our client – The Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society.

From an initial consultation and needs assessment here is what the client would like:

  • The online publishing of the over 9300 Baker Slides.
  • To have these images organized and tagged (and if possible geotagged).
  • To have these images available for purchase.
  • To protect the integrity and authenticity of the images (possible watermarking of viewable images).
  • An interface that is easy to use and maintain.
  • An interface that is easy to access by the public.
  • An interface that is accessible or integrated with the overall web redesign that is taking place.

Our team came up with 3 possible ideas for the Baker Slides:

  1. Using FileMaker and constructing our own database of the slides.
  2. Using Flickr.
  3. Using SmugMug.

I had never heard of SmugMug.com until it was suggested by a fellow team member.  Another team member and I took on the task of developing a Sumgmug prototype.  Developing the prototype required some investigation into the workings of SmugMug.  Here are some of the findings.

SmugMug offers three levels for customers.  This blog entry will be reviewing the “Pro” version.  I will explain costing at the end.

Account set-up and Registration

Set-up and Registration was as easy as setting up an e-mail account.  The SmugMug main page offers multiple opportunities to sign-up for the free 14 day trial.  This trial is for the Pro features.  The initial sign up does not ask for personal information other than an e-mail address and setting up a password.  No personal information is required at this stage.  During setup, you are asked to set-up a domain within SmugMug.  It can be *anyword*.SmugMug.com.  Users have the ability to go into advance settings and map their existing web-address to their sumgmug site. Set-up is quick and easy, and you are ready to upload your images.

Images and Galleries

After registration you create an initial gallery.  SmugMug allows for users to have multiple galleries (for ‘big picture’ categorization and sorting of images).  It also allows users to assign individual photos to more than one gallery.  Gallery pages are organized into thumbnail images on the left hand side of the window (with right and left arrows to see more photos) with a larger image preview on the right hand side of the window.  Clicking on the thumbnail changes the image preview. Floating the mouse over the preview image brings up image options.  Users can click “thumbs up or thumbs down”, download the image, and get more information about the image (size and data on the image).  Beside the preview are options to make purchases.

Uploading images is quick and easy as users can select multiple files from a folder on their computer and batch upload into SmugMug.  Users can then click the thumbnails to see the preview of the photo, and from the preview users can geotag the photo, tag the photo with keywords (which then makes them searchable in an one-stop search bar), and add a caption to the photo.

On the public side of sumgmug, viewers of images have the opportunity to share the images via Twitter and facebook.  They also have the opportunity to comment on the image or on an entire gallery.  All comments can be moderated by the managing account.

E-Commerce

SmugMug Pro offers an e-commerce solution for the professional photographer who would like to sell their images.  Products offered range from common 4×6 photographs (with sizes increasing to the limit of the resolution of the uploaded file), mugs, posters, calendars, framed photos, wallet-size, and photo stickers.  All items are given a base price (price that SmugMug charges).  Users can then apply a mark-up percentage to the entire catalogue of items available or can take the time to set mark-up prices on each category or individual item available for purchase.  All items in the catalogue are produced on-demand so there are no overhead costs to inventory production.  Item check-out is similar to checking-out at any e-commerce site.  Customer service is handled by SmugMug, so users do not have to deal with any customer issues.

One of the negative components to SmugMug is that it is American based.  All transactions take place in $USD.  For the client, they need to set up a pay-pal account to receive their sales proceeds.  Canadians are charged 1.5x the U.S. shipping rate, which is discounted from other international shipping rates.  Base US shipping rates are quite reasonable.

Customization and Security

SmugMug offers users the ability to switch certain features on or off depending on how they would like to handle customization and security.  SmugMug allows users to:

  • Watermark their photos.
  • Disable the ‘right-click’ Save photo option.
  • Password protect certain photos/galleries.
  • Remove SmugMug headers and replace them with their own logos.
  • Moderate comments from the public.
  • Have a website free of ads and spam.
  • Enable viewing on iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices.
  • Embed a flash slideshow of their photos in blogs.
  • Upload an unlimited number of photos (max file size of 24MB’s a photo).
  •  Have a dynamic display of the most popular photos.
  • Choose from (and change at any time) 50 different themes.
  • Have full HTML control over their website.

Maintenance and Cost

Once the images are uploaded, organized, tagged, geotagged, and captioned appropriately, there is very little maintenance that needs to be done to the site.  Users can come in and change a theme with a few clicks to refresh the look of the site without major time and work.  Users can go into the site at any time and change galleries or edit photo information.

The costs for SmugMug are as follows.  Basic – $5.00/month or $40.00/year, Power – $8.00/month or $60/year, and Pro $20/month or $150/year.  Here is a link to a comparison chart of the different price points.

http://www.SmugMug.com/photos/photo-sharing-features/

Conclusion

Taking into consideration information provided from my fellow group members on the FileMaker and Flickr prototypes, I feel that SmugMug is the most appropriate choice for our client.  The features in SmugMug seem to check-off many of their ‘must-haves’ and most of the ‘would like to’s’’. The pro-version may be more than a semi-professional or hobby photographer may need, but the Baker Slides are a priceless historical collection of esteemed photos.  The money and time spent on developing proper galleries, which in turn the client would be able to keep control and security over, is important.  The e-commerce options also allow the selling of digital images as well as print photos (and other merchandise mentioned above).  Since the e-commerce is built into SmugMug and handled by their team, SHFS should be able to sit back and let the pictures sell themselves.  It could be as simple as waiting for the ‘cheque in the mail’.  As the SHFS is a not-for-profit, hiring or contracting work after the instructional design team has finished it’s work may not be in their budget.  SmugMug allows for an easy hand-over of the account settings and will require very little maintenance and upkeep.

J.T.