Theory/practice divide grows

Things are heating up in anticipation of the summer. Simultaneously, we are wrapping up the current year and starting work summer work. I have the following going on now.

Evaluations: It’s time to write annual staff reflections for the IT department. Each individual completes a self-evaluation, I write a performance review, and then we meet to discuss.

Laptop Survey: We should perform an annual review of our 1:1 student laptop program so that we adapt and improve it over time. Unfortunately, we have not taken a close look at the program since its inception in 2003. This year, we will resurrect three comprehensive surveys from 2003, for parents, teachers, and students. This should provide us with useful information to reflect back to the community in the fall.

Arrivals and departures: Unbelieveable. We have about 30 personnel changes to make, what with the annual arrivals, departures, leaves of absence, long-term substitutes, and internal transitions.

Communicate fall plans: Present at closing faculty meetings to share new plans for the fall.

System replacement: Collaborate with laptop and desktop replacement for users.

Summer training workshops: Finalize schedule, teaching assignments, and open signups.

Web application programming: I am updating the bookstore, admission inquiry, curriculum map, and signup/volunteer applications. I am also going to migrate and adapt my community service script to this school.

insideCatlin redesign: Our intranet has grown like crazy this year, now comprising dozens of courses, tools, links, media galleries, and hundreds of pages of content. It is proving impossible for newbies to find what they are seeking on the site. We plan to transform the home page to provide clear guides to the content that users seek.

Public-facing web site platform migration: We hope to move our public-facing web site to Drupal with the help of a development/consulting firm.

AppleScripts: Finish developing AppleScripts to speed up laptop cleanup and deployment.

Core switch refresh: Follow the progress of this major project and participate when needed.

(I’m sure I’ve left off something important!)

While I am impressed with the manner in which the “blogerati” continue to raise the conceptual level of the ed tech discussion, I fear that this also makes it increasingly irrelevant to the daily work of practitioners like us. Last night, I caught up with my aggregator. Today, I have put together this list of urgent projects and routine tasks. The contrast struck me. I am all for questioning assumptions and redesigning education, but let us not forget the incremental changes that practitioners can make today to improve their work.

Theorists continue to raise the bar for the changes that we should make. They are right, but we also need to answer how to facilitate such discussions within the busy structure of daily school life. Our school is stable, successful, and thoughtful. We are not a technology school. We would like to improve broad aspects of our school — student workload, weekly schedule, global education, experiential learning, service learning, and affordability, among others. It’s hard to find time to focus just on technology, so we squeeze it in where we can, like so many other initiatives. As such, we must make changes over the long term, making technologies available to innovators and helping them share their work with colleagues. We measure progress over a span of years.

I question the focus and timing of the K12 Online Conference this year. It takes place for ten consecutive weekdays. Who can leave school for ten days of professional development in October? Who can follow hours of video presentations while continuing to work at school? This conference is no longer designed for practitioners. Sure, it’s possible that I might view these videos later on, but then the online community has moved on to other pastures. The strands seem more abstract than last year — will practitioners find enough meat to inform their practice?

(rant complete)

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