The North Carolina Virtual Public School is lucky to have Bryan Setser as CEO. He has an incredible vision for education and technology. In a recent blog post he lays out how education leaders can make decisions on what technologies to use and how to use them and at what cost they can be used. It is an amazing post that I am going to re-post here because you need to read the whole thing in context. While some of the links are specific to NC, I am sure you can substitute your states' or districts' equivalent organization.
How do you keep up with all of the emerging Web 2.0 tools out there? How do school leaders make decisions on which ones to use and which ones to abandon due to cost, usage, and/or http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.html issues out in school districts? Check out the blog this week about how these decisions can be made across tiers of user groups in your school districts.
Tier 1: Your school district has a website, uses email, blogs, and does a great job with paper mailers and flyers home to the community. You advertise in the local paper, and you have conducted some virtual meetings using http://www.gotomeeting.com/ and http://www.elluminate.com/ . You may have even used http://www.skype.com/ for a few lesson plans and/or to video conference. You know you are using some of the tools, but you feel like you just don’t have time to learn all of them, and it is just easier to pick up a phone and/or go see someone in person. In short, you need a plan to communicate and collaborate that moves your organization into the 21st Century.
Tier 2: Your school district uses all of the Tier 1 tools, but you also use http://docs.google.com/#all , http://www.facebook.com/ , and http://www.twitter.com/ . You are trying every new Web 2.0 tool out there to micro-blog, and your district is investing money in collaborative tools like http://www.webex.com/ and/or http://www.wimba.com/ . You even have purchased a learning management system like http://www.blackboard.com/ and/or may even be trying to use your own http://www.moodle.com/ sites across your district. You are all over the place, but you are trying to keep up with collaborative tools to communicate and connect with all of your stakeholders. In short, you need a strategy to accomplish your key meetings, conferences, and professional development opportunities while striking a balance between innovation and security with your technology director.
Tier 3: You have looked at all of the tools in both tiers, and you are starting to think about how to strategically use them. You have seen the recent branding sites on http://www.twitter.com/ of the North Carolina Virtual Public School - http://twitter.com/ncvps ; The North Carolina School Board’s Association - http://twitter.com/NCSBA ; The North Carolina Association of Educators - http://twitter.com/ncae ; and the North Carolina Association of School Administrators - http://twitter.com/_NCASA . You have also read the recent time magazine article on How Twitter will Change the World http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1902604,00.html , and you realize that you need a “tweet deck”- http://tweetdeck.com/beta/ , a file social application -http://filesocial.com/ , and a strategy built around key events, meetings, and projects. In addition, you realize that you don’t just want to upload your twitter icon to your website, you want to integrate your twitter strategy with key board meetings, following experts in the field, promotions, and parent sign ups to provide instant access to school events and proceedings. Your organization also realizes it needs internal messaging and file sharing. You have looked at Wimba’s collaborative suite http://www.wimba.com/solutions/k-12/collaboration_suite_for_k_12/ , and you realize that you can have instant messaging on their pronto tool http://www.wimba.com/solutions/k-12/wimba_pronto_for_k_12/ and have the ability to chat, talk, videoconference, and share applications desktop to desktop. Someone on your team is also recommending www.dimdim.com for a similar experience to http://www.wimba.com/ and you are weighing a cost, benefit analysis as we speak. Can’t afford Wimba yet? Your district has a strategic team and you’ve also decided to pilot some applications in Google under http://www.google.com/talk/ where you can also use these feeds to make your strategy more robust and still keep costs down: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=100173&hl=en. And you have formed a team to look out for products like this one http://wave.google.com/ to integrate the very best features of http://www.twitter.com/ and http://www.google.com/talk/ into your sites like http://www.blackboard.com/ and http://www.moodle.com/ where you can manage all of the communications and collaborative content as well as conduct formative learning assessments with students. Meanwhile your district’s technology team is making tiered list of which ports and places to pilot innovation and how such efforts will be monitored and leveraged to impact student learning. A robust discussion is also beginning on the appropriate levels of http://www.youtube.com/ , http://www.teachertube.com/ , and http://www.schooltube.com/ for targeted, focused use across the district.
Tier 4: You are incorporating all strategies in the three tiers above, but you also want live classrooms that you can archive for anytime, anywhere professional development. http://www.wimba.com/solutions/k-12/wimba_pronto_for_k_12/ does this process through its live classroom component as does http://www.elluminate.com/ . and http://vyew.com/site/ , a free tool for live classroom use in a virtual world. You then decide that these live classrooms need a place to reside, and you archive them inside of free e-learning communities like http://www.ning.com/ and/or http://www.gather.com/ . These are your first moves towards e-learning communities where learners and leaders can interact inside of an e-portal in order to use free open source tools and share closed source tools to certain groups of users: community, teachers, etc. A tier four district is starting to build capacity for anytime, anywhere learning, and it is starting to create succession planning with learning objects, decisions, charts, and 2.0 feedback objects that allow for training, re-induction, and archiving of important processes and documents beyond a Web 1.0 level. Moreover, this organization is becoming a learning organization. It looks at security breaches, usage levels, and value-add applications for student learning to track progress and success of slowly, yet strategically opening the networks. In addition, the district is starting to look strategically at 1:1 devices across tiers of users to make your students more mobile and accessible to content.
Tier 5: A tier five organization incorporates all of the previous tiers but now adds mobile applications for learning such as http://www.apple.com/mobileme/ , http://www.android.com/ http://www.apple.com/ipodtouch/appstore/ , and http://www.projectknect.org/Project%20K-Nect/Home.html that they build through the k-12 iTunes portal here http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2008/07/itunes-k-12-launches-with-resources-for-students-parents.ars where teachers, students, and parents can access a host of resources. This district is also investing in wireless hot spots and paying close attention to the construction and re-construction of facilities to make learning more portable. Gaming http://www.flvs.net/areas/flvscourses/ConspiracyCode/Pages/default.aspx and virtual worlds http://www.poweru.net/demos/poweru-1st-demo.php are also becoming part of the bandwidth discussion at the strategic level as this district seeks to make learning more immersive and engaging. Sites like http://www.qwaq.com/ allows users to immerse themselves in the learning experience and still collaborate over all of the web browsers and related Web 2.0 tools inside of a virtual space. This particular district is also leveraging the 1:1 devices to make learning portable through the http://www.ncvps.org/ and http://www.nclearnandearn.gov/ classes that the state provides to all of North Carolina students.
Which tier are you?
NCVPS Blog-5 Tiers of e-Communication and e-Collaboration for Innovative Education Solutions