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Strategies to Effectively Manage K-12 Technology Projects this SummerPosted by Kristina Young, Manager of Technical Projects & Ivana Ivanovic, Communications Specialist on 6/21/2022 8:05:00 AM
The last day of school is quickly approaching. While that often means slowing down for most K-12 employees, technology departments are gearing up to begin cyclical work and implement new projects. Summer is the opportune time to tackle projects because of minimal disruptions to learning and the rapid decline of help desk tickets from end-users. The following strategies will help you effectively manage your district's extensive list of technology projects this summer.
Evaluate Staffing Resources Consider the volume of projects a few months prior and estimate the number of hours it may take to complete each project. You should be asking some key questions: Do we have enough staff to reasonably complete all the projects within the prescribed timeframe? When will staff be taking vacations and for how many days? Should we enforce a vacation moratorium? You may need to hire temporary workers to support your projects, but having strong permanent staff to lead them will go a long way.
Complete a Magnitude Assessment Simply put, a magnitude assessment is a tool used to evaluate the risk, effort and value of a project, sometimes referred to as the Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM). Consider a range of factors when completing a magnitude assessment, such as the project's visibility and impact at the organizational level and the financial gains. Risk and effort require consideration of the time needed, vendor involvement, coordination efforts, in-house expertise and costs. Mapping all of these out will help technology leaders make thoughtful decisions when analyzing new projects. Ithaca College of Information Technology has created magnitude matrices to guide this process.
"Eat the frog" It may be common sense, but tackling time-consuming and high-priority projects first will save technology departments a lot of grief when the new school year rolls around. Procrastination tends to kick in when it comes to arduous tasks, but this is why a solid plan and the right team helps when faced with these kinds of projects.
Designate Leaders As a director or supervisor, it is your job to delegate. There is too much work to be done during the ten short weeks of summer. Identifying leaders under your supervision and designating them as leads for the rest of the team will ease the burden of managing multiple projects. Outline expectations and milestones so they know how to direct their team's work, address shortfalls as they arise and communicate progress up the chain.
Update Your Team's Knowledge Base and Document Repository If you have not already, it is time to spruce up that knowledge base or SharePoint where you can point your team to look for resources related to summer projects. Create a classroom technology readiness checklist that your teams can use to ensure all technology equipment is ready for use on the first day of school.
Planning K-12 technology projects can be a daunting task, but using these strategies can ease the burden. Your team will thank you for being organized and setting them up for success with documentation, clear leadership and the confidence they need to complete projects before school starts.
Contact our Technology Project Services team today to learn how we can help you tackle your summer project list!
Asset-Based Support for English LearnersPosted by Beth McKee, Instructional Initiatives Coordinator & Ivana Ivanovic, Communications Specialist on 6/16/2022 2:00:00 PM
It begins with a commitment from all
Creating opportunities for our English Learners (ELs) to succeed in all classes and across all content areas begins with access to curriculum, regardless of where students are in their acquisition of English proficiency. This begins with a commitment by all educators within a school community to provide access to rigorous content along with the necessary supports and scaffolds to the literacy and language demands that may serve as barriers to their students.
Using asset-based strategies to support ELs
Providing equal access and opportunity to high-quality instruction requires school communities to maintain an asset-based lens when thinking about their ELs. Instructional environments where EL thrive will:
- value home language and integrate it into instruction. There is strong evidence that development of home-language promotes long-term academic success as well as English acquisition.
- encourage genuine academic conversations. ELs need regular, authentic opportunities to use their second language for diverse purposes in order to develop communicative competence.
- utilize the power of background knowledge. Background knowledge is the hook where new learning hangs. And while this is considered one of the most crucial practices in supporting learning, it is important remember that our ELs bring a rich set of experiences and perspectives as well. Linking learning to a students’ personal, academic and cultural capital is key.
- provide multiple ways for ELs to access instructional content and to demonstrate their learning on assessments. Universal Design for Learning provides a framework that supports all students and compliments an asset-based approach to teaching English Learners.
- encourage participation in extra-curricular activities. Extra-curricular activities including athletics, art and music class and academic and non-academic clubs provide ELs with supportive spaces to develop language and foster school connectedness.
- engage and empower families. Families are invaluable stakeholders in our communities. Schools that lift barriers so that all families feel welcomed, valued, and accepted create environments where all students thrive.
Creating opportunity and equity for ELs
An asset-based approach to educating our ELs fosters a culture of belonging and creates an environment for academic, social and emotional growth and development. By providing rigorous instruction in all content areas, regardless of English language proficiency, school communities create opportunity and equity for their ELs.
Join Us in Celebrating STEAM Education During Remake Learning Days in Southeastern, PA!Posted by Demetrius Roberts, Director of STEM & Ivana Ivanovic, Communications Specialist on 4/27/2022 12:40:00 PM
As part of the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s (CCIU) regional efforts to grow STEM learning through the Pennsylvania STEM for Equity and Diversity (PA SEED), we need your help in launching Remake Learning Days (RMLDs) 2022 in Southeastern PA. RMLDs is a multi-day festival celebration in which community organizations host engaging learning opportunities for community stakeholders, families, students, and educators. The festival’s purpose is to increase community engagement and awareness of the educational shift toward inquiry and project-based experiential learning.
The festival is built on the premise that engaging real-world learning can happen anywhere and that it takes a village to provide our learners with a variety of meaningful experiences. Despite an extensive list of partners and programs for this year’s RMLDs celebration, there is still work to be done! PA SEED is partnering with the Remake Learning Network to support and grow RMLDs in Southeastern PA for the fourth consecutive year. In addition to partnering with Remake Learning, PA SEED has established additional partnerships with the Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem and the Berks STEM Connection to grow and expand RMLDs.
Many students in Southeastern PA do not have access to innovative learning opportunities that engage, excite and prepare them for 21st-century workforce skills. Some educators are still isolated in their classrooms and unaware of the STEAM professional learning opportunities available to them and their students throughout the region. Some parents still don’t understand the importance of finding quality STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), STEM and hands-on learning opportunities for their children.
How to Get Involved
Along with the Remake Learning Network, we recommend the following action steps to create demand and ensure remarkable learning experiences for all children during this year’s festival:
- Educators If you are an educator, innovator and/or civic leader in this region, we hope you join the movement to remake learning. Explore our calendar or opportunities hosted by a variety of organizations in the region. We also recommend that you write, tweet, post and share Remake Learning opportunities with your network.
- Parents and Caregivers If you are a parent or caregiver, advocate for future-facing, hands-on, engaging learning opportunities. Talk to your schools, libraries, community centers and anywhere where your student learns. Find events near you during Remake Learning Days, and continue to participate in them throughout the year. Discover online resources or out-of-school learning you can provide for your child at each RMLD event in Southeastern PA. You are an essential part of this movement to remake learning!
- STEAM Learning Advocates Finally, if you are outside of the Southeastern PA region, check out the website to see RMLD events near you. This year RMLDs have spread across the entire commonwealth of PA and in several other states across the county. Join us for events and explore, tinker, play and experience the future of anywhere, anytime learning in action.
We appreciate you taking the time to read this blog and considering joining us to celebrate STEAM education! For information about Remake Learning Days festival in Southeastern PA and beyond, please visit https://remakelearningdays.org.
Choosing to LeadPosted by Dr. Noreen O’Neill, Director of IES & Ivana Ivanovic, Communications Specialist on 3/28/2022 9:10:00 AM
“Are leaders born or made?” It’s an interesting question for those of us who share the responsibility to create exceptional educational experiences in Chester County and beyond. If leaders are born, then some of us are destined to lead, while others of us are excused from the challenges of leadership. Are any of us exempt from leadership because we weren’t born with the right disposition? Or is it incumbent on each of us as educators to lead and to model leadership for others?
I am part of a group of over 45 educational professionals who are beginning their journey toward becoming better leaders through the Admired Leadership program. It’s exciting to learn with educators from CCIU, Kennett Consolidated School District, Owen J. Roberts School District, Springfield School District (Montgomery County) and Tredyffrin/Easttown School District who are participating in this blended program. We met in person on March 17, and we will continue to meet virtually once a month until we convene again in person in August. The program is facilitated by Dr. Randall Stutman, CEO and founder of the Admired Leadership Institute and Dr. John Sanville, superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. For over 30 years, Dr. Stutman has studied more than 12,000 leaders to uncover the routines and behaviors of leadership excellence. Dr. Sanville has led the implementation of the Admired Leadership program and has seen the benefits to his district.
The best part of learning about these routines and behaviors is that they can be adopted by each of us! Can you imagine being able to replicate the behaviors of leaders who have followers and who achieve results? Dr. Stutman’s work gives us a bank of leadership behaviors that we can incorporate as everyday routines. In fact, he shared that we don’t need to use all these behaviors to become an admired leader. Simply incorporating some of them will expand our ability to inspire others to follow us and to deliver successful outcomes.
In preparation for our first session, we were asked to think of three leaders that we admired and why we admired them. One of the leaders that came to my mind was Eleanor Roosevelt, who overcame her own fears and challenges to become a humanitarian leader on the world stage. She would certainly not say that she was born a leader, but that she grew into leadership by facing her fears and conquering them. She said, “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
Fortunately, each of us can choose to be a leader; we are not exempt from this opportunity because of our genetics or temperament. We can commit to becoming great leaders so that we can have the greatest positive impact on our profession and those around us. As educators, we believe that everyone can learn … including ourselves. One of our responsibilities is to learn to become better leaders.
Equity By DesignPosted by Jessica Hull, Training & Consulting Specialist & Ivana Ivanovic, Communications Specialist on 2/16/2022 10:25:00 AM
What is Universal Design for Learning?
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn, according to CAST. The UDL framework promotes flexible and responsive learning environments that are empowering and supportive.
The UDL guidelines provide suggestions to support all learners while accessing and participating in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities. These guidelines are not just strategies, but a way of thinking, planning and delivering instruction.
How do we begin using the UDL framework?
We want to begin using the UDL framework by first defining specific, challenging learning goals. We can then identify potential barriers in the environment and identify resources to reduce and/or eliminate barriers to learning. This process allows each learner to use their strengths to contribute meaningfully in a manner in which they can feel independent, appreciated, and like they belong.
Here are some key questions to consider while planning lessons with UDL in mind:
- For engagement: Does the lesson work for the most marginalized and vulnerable learners? Think of a struggling learner - how will you plan for that learner to be engaged and motivated in the lesson?
- For representation: How will you present information so that every learner - not just the majority - will be able to access, comprehend and own the material?
- For expression: Think about the different ways learners may wish to show what they know - can learners choose a modality?
How does UDL promote equitable educational practices?
When we design for the variability of cultural perspectives and identities, educators can support academic equity for all. If educators provide the same supports for every learner, without first analyzing the learning environment, they can create systematic barriers. When we remove these structural barriers, all learners can participate independently to achieve learning goals, which demonstrates equity by design.