EdTech 505 Week 9 Reflection: Birth of Evaluation on Technology

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The following passage was assigned to us to reflect upon:

How Evaluation of Technology Was Born

Twenty thousand of years ago, Thok was a renowned hunter of dangerous tigers, consistently bringing home meat for the tribe. As his reputation spread, more and more people from surrounding bands came to Thok’s cave for advice on how to hunt successfully, and safely. They would bring him gifts of food, clothing and such, to get him to sit still and answer their endless questions.

Soon Thok realized that it was safer to teach about hunting than it was to hunt, and he was making a better living as well. He stopped hunting, and took up teaching full time.

Years went by. Thok was becoming elderly — over 30 — and a bit infirm. Word of Thok’s wisdom had spread further and further. The crowds were huge. In fact, people at the fringes could no longer hear the great teacher. Thok’s livelihood was at risk, just when he was least able to leave teaching and return to the dangers of hunting.

Perhaps fear was the mother of invention. That very morning Thok had an inspiration. He saw a large banana leaf lying on the ground. Picking it up, he rolled it into a cone, and spoke into the small end of the cone, pointing the large end toward the crowd. It amplified his voice and everyone could hear! Banana leaves were a kind of magic, it was clear. Thus was educational technology born.

But the amazing events of that morning were not yet over. A young cave person, Val, was skeptical about this banana magic. So Val picked up a leaf that Thok had discarded, draped it on top of her head, and walked around that way for the rest of the day. By nightfall, Val had learned absolutely nothing new about hunting. She tossed the leaf aside, and told all her friends that the old man was wrong: Val’s research had demonstrated conclusively that technology had no role in education.

And that’s how the evaluation of educational uses of technology was born.

So how is this story related to EDTECH 505? Connect the story to our course.

Though not a scholar, I am quite skilled in the tradition of the parable, so I question, how deep should I go with this analysis.  The first point that deserves some attention does not necessarily relate to evaluation or this course, but in program design.  How is it that the crowds are getting bigger over time?  Obviously, the knowledge that he is sharing about hunting must not be very useful, if people keep coming back to hear more.  Ideally, once they learn the skills, they should be out applying those skills rather than coming back for another session of the same.  Even if he is presenting various levels of hunting strategies, he can’t address all of these levels in a group of heterogeneous homo-sapiens.    More design and purpose should be developed within the hunting strategies program, and it seems that no one is taking the time to evaluate this.

Now, focusing our attention on evaluation, obviously the banana leaf represents a tool that was used to increase voice projection so that people further back could hear Thok’s wisdom.  However, the perspective of the bystanders is an interesting one. What would their perspective provide for the evaluation process?.  For the people sitting behind him or to the side, they will benefit less from the use of his tool, while the people in the path of the trajectory of voice will benefit the most.  In this parable, the trajectory of voice represents technology trends, but the people that benefit more from it are those that position themselves in the trajectory.  Perhaps this was another missed opportunity for evaluation. 

Though Thok was sharing his knowledge about hunting, the tool that he chose to use added nothing to his ability as a hunter, therefore his audience would have no use for the tool either, at least not for accomplishing the tasks associated with hunting.  Val was only so fortunate that she did not try to kill a saber-tooth tiger with the banana leaf. Val also made the mistake of making a false judgement (or hypothesis) about the use of the tool, which she thought had the ability to transmit knowledge independently of Thok.  Since her premise was based in fallacy, the conclusion of her evaluation is also false. 

This last point relates to the course most by knowing whether you are evaluating a program that uses tools, or testing a hypothesis about the use of tools.  Val apparently did not know that she was testing a hypothesis.  What we can most learn from Val’s mistake is, while doing an evaluation, do not focus so much of our attention on the tool, but rather on the effect of the tool on the participants. 


EdTech 523 Reflection: Voices About Social Media

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In this week’s activity, we were suppose to assume the role of a school board member, principal, teacher, parent, or student (our choice) and choose a side to support or oppose the use of social media in education.  I will respond to the teacher’s questions with regard to this activity.

Can you recognize one or two voices and/or tones from the in the activity you completed this week?

I suppose that I do, but I am not in the thick of this discussion, as most of my online colleagues are, who are States side in the USA, while I am living abroad in Saudi Arabia.  It really makes a difference in perspective.  I’m sure there are many cases reported in the USA concerning the misuse of social media.  Ironically, most people automatically associate social media with Facebook first, then Twitter.  I was glad to see that some professional educators, no matter what their role was, were promoting alternative options for social media, some of which are more appropriate for school environments. 

This is the second country that I have lived in, within the Middle East, and I have also lived for periods of time in Latin America.  Living abroad has given me an interesting perspective of society in general.  I have a lot of respect for American society, based on what I have seen elsewhere, but we (American society) are struggling to make sense of the social media revolution, just like many other places in the world.  However, (in my opinion) the USA culture seems a little more hypersensitive about the negative social effects of social media.  I’m not sure if that is related to the news culture of the USA being more transparent, or possibly  more “scandal seeking”, or if we have a higher regard for the risks. Nonetheless, we hate to hear of victims of the abuse of social media, but that is exactly what we are talking about, the abuse of something that is intended to be used for good.

One time in this region, in Egypt, social media made international news; most people in America probably gaped when they heard that the government shut down the internet to keep the message of protest spreading.  We in America really cherish our freedom, and like it or not, banning social media is a form of infringement on freedom, even if it is for a good cause.  The difficult task is deciding when it is justified and when it is not.

Do you notice these voices and/or tones in your current discussion board responses with students, if applicable?

No, these issues haven’t come up, despite the fact that I have used Facebook and Google+ with my students and I have seen very little problems with inappropriate postings.  It’s not that my students are angels, it’s has more to do with the student discrepancies not playing out in school dramas, at least not yet.

Discuss potential changes in your approach to discussions in the future. Take into account the need to rely less on hearing your own voice in favor of supporting participants reflections and learning.

The landscape of education is changing is such a way that the term “social media” is either going to branch off or broaden to include “social virtual education”.  In my opinion, “virtual-osity” cannot be avoided in formal education.  Too much of our society is developing on its foundation.  In order to maintain a competitive edge in the world stage, the next generation must be considered for driving the machine. 

EdTech 505 Week 8: Review

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We are half way through the EdTech 505 course and I feel like I am beginning to get some traction under my feet so I can move ahead.  The whole concept of evaluation is a bit abstract, especially when it comes to setting up an evaluation.  However, I have become more comfortable applying my understanding an actual project in which I am involved.

. What can be improved to make the course more valuable for you?

I appreciate the broad approach to discussing evaluation because I feel that it broadens me as an individual, however, in the beginning it is more difficult to grasp because most of my mental energies are within the field of education.  Since the concept of evaluation spreads into many fields, it is hard to conceptualize when the examples come from other fields.  I believe it might have come to me a clearer and faster, if I had seen examples specific to education, or even more specific to the content area in which I teach. 
. What should be kept as is?

The structure and order of assignments have helped to bring more understanding along the way.  Even though it was daunting in the beginning, the course content is laid out in such a way that helps to organize pieces of the evaluation project at appropriate times.
. What has proven most valuable to you so far?

The assignments have helped me to organize my thoughts.  Often, at the beginning of an assignment, I did not have a solid direction or vision of what I wanted to accomplish.  These assignments have helped me process the pieces to form a vision. 

EdTech 505 Week 8: Request For Proposal

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505 Week 8 RFP

This week we had to prepare a proposal for a fictional company that is interested in pursuing a marketing campaign for their educational program development package.  The attached document is my proposal.

Newsletters K-12 Technology – Big Deal Media

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Newsletters K-12 Technology – Big Deal Media.

Good K-12 Resource

EdTech 505 Week 7: PSS Evaluation Model

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Use your new understanding about evaluations to address this question: Which evaluation model from chapter 5 would you choose for your own Evaluation Report-Course Project?

I’m warming up to the idea of doing something creative for one of these assignments, but the amount of time I would have to spend on my creative energies made me resist this time.  So for now, I will explain my choice by writing.   My ideas are not completely clear to me yet, but I find that writing my thoughts helps bring more clarity. 

This is my last year to teach in my current school because my wife and I will be moving back to the USA during the summer.  I am quite invested in one group in particular because I have been working with them for 2 years in a row.  This year in particular, I have established a strong presence of Web 2.0 tools with all students setting up Google accounts from the beginning of the year.  In terms of technology integration, I have been more progressive than most of the faculty.  Though many of my colleagues admire what I have done, no one in the English department has made strides to do the same.  An evaluation of this program, Peer Structure and Support, can help the school, and specifically the English department, to make a decision about more teachers implementing it. 

After reviewing the models, I believe the decision-making model would best suit my evaluation.  This selection is based on my consideration of 3 different factors: 1) the program can establish a continuation for technology integration into their approach to learning, 2) the program demonstrates how students can experience that learning is not a spectator sport, but that they can actually play in the game, and 3) the evaluation will lead to my own decision about further development of the program in my professional life. 

My students already have accounts set up in Google for school use.  When they enter 10th grade next year, they could easily continue using these accounts for multiple assignments.  The x-factor is whether or not the next teacher will facilitate these types of assignments or accept student work in digital formats.  This program asks students to create digital peer assessments by using Google Forms.  Showing that this has a positive impact on students will help other teachers see the benefit of such an initiative. 

Many of my colleagues continue to use teacher-centered instruction.  Evaluating this program will allow teachers to view the results of a learner-centered activity.  Both students and teachers struggle to see the constructivist view of learning, which engages the students to discover learning for themselves.  No longer do they have to look at the material through the eyes of someone else’s assessment, but they can learn to identify objectives and create their own assessments. 

Lastly, as I move on, I hope that this evaluation will validate my beliefs about the effectiveness of this program.  I know this is a bad sign for the evaluation, as I am supposed to remain as unbiased as possible.  Nonetheless, as I enter into a new teaching environment (still unknown at this point), I want to be able to make a decision about whether or not my next group of students can benefit from this program.

EdTech 505 Week 7: Vision and Evaluation

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The following account was taken from or course site; I will respond to the question that follows.

Recently, I was talking with three exceptional education teachers at a technology conference. These three colleagues described their classrooms to me. They invited me to visit. So I did.

I went into several classrooms. I approached one of the teachers and asked, “What are you doing?” “I’m teaching reading,” he replied.

Then I asked another teacher, “What are you doing?” “I’m showing these students how to have good study skills,” she said.

Then, I asked the third teacher, “What are you doing?” The woman put down her pen and said, “I’m helping all my students achieve their maximum potential in academics and social skills so that when they go out into the world they will be magnificent contributors.”

Now, all three of these teachers had the same job, but only the last teacher had vision. She could see beyond the daily grind of teaching and see her students contributing mightily to our society. In our lives and in our jobs, sometimes it’s hard for us to stay focused on the larger vision, to rise above the mundane, above the day-to-day.

In history, special people had that vision, one that has benefited us all. In my own work, I too sometimes get caught up in the details of the the daily grind. I go to meetings, read reports, and talk to colleagues. But there are times when the big picture is as clear as day, when I feel truly connected to issues and ideas much larger than myself, larger than any job, larger than any single organization.

How is this story related to EDTECH 505 and, more specifically, to the readings for this week? Do you have to have vision to be a successful evaluator? How does vision fit with choosing the most appropriate evaluation model for a particular program?

I understand this vision very well as an educator, even though I, too, get bogged down in daily tasks.  One of the main reasons I am studying EdTech is because I think it is the best way to prepare myself for the future of education.  The course work has revealed to me the importance of transferring digital literacy and virtual awareness to my students, empowering them as 21st Century learners.  However, applying this vision to the role and process of evaluation is a new challenge for me.

The readings of this week focused on selecting the right evaluation model for a project.  Though not all models are mentioned, several are discussed with details of their advantages and disadvantages.  In any evaluated program there are many variables to consider.  Focusing on each variable requires detailed attention.  Some models require that the evaluator is present through the process and even provides input with regard to the variables; this supports the overall goal because the “big picture” examines each variable closely.  In this case the system variables depend on each other for efficiency, and this affects the “big picture”.  However, not all evaluation models require this type of analysis. In other words, the variables are not entirely dependent on each other.  In education, it is easy to focus on the variables that we perceive to benefit or hinder a program, thus reflecting positively or negatively on the evaluation.  In reality, the benefits of an educational experience are vast, and they are not always seen during the period of an evaluation.  An example of this is the popular account of Albert Einstein as a school boy: bored, unengaged, underachiever, not the ideal participant in a program being evaluated.  However, somewhere along the way a spark of inspiration led him down the path that helped him to change the world.  Unfortunately, the opposite can be true of a poor educational experience and its long standing impact; these participants eventually  either overcome, persevere, fade away into the history of the world, or achieve some level of infamy.

In my evaluation project I believe that I am considering the big picture.  This is my second year with this group of students, but I know my time with them is coming to an end.  I believe the program can benefit them beyond the time that I am there.  The purpose of the evaluation is to account for the results in such a way that the torch can be passed along to next educational chaperone.  With regards to my current role, the downside is that I am close enough to the action that I may have a tendency to focus on the variables.  I will need to account for these variables in the evaluation, since the stakeholders will be interested in the overall impact, but in reality the variables are not completely dependent on each other.  Therefore, my vision will be challenged, not only by focusing on the variables in the program implementation, but also by my bias of the program itself.

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