I have been a teacher for 17 years, and have always only looked at teaching and working within a school district through the searching eyes of a teacher. I cannot say that any longer. Learning about Enterprise Architecture has made it so that my lens is forever widened. What I have learned in this course has shifted me a bit- has rewired my thinking- and I think it is going to leave a mark. :) I enjoyed putting together my final project for this course, and found myself quite amused to look back at my first assignments and attempts at understanding the concepts of Enterprise Architecture. I'll admit that in the beginning there was a grappling curve. But then the big ideas began to settle in, and it was interesting to make their acquaintance. I'd like to reflect on the three most critical discoveries for this course:
1. Vision and Big Picture planning is everything- I always knew that- but the key is to remember that all the players are playing for the same team. Instead of seeing the organization as individual departments doing their jobs well as departments, each department has to be seen as part of the larger team moving toward the common vision. When that happens, it is possible for all of the mechanisms to move in concert toward that shared vision.
2. People are good at certain things- we call them experts- and if an organization plays to the strengths of its individuals, and then makes room at the table for all of the experts of various departments to gather and share what they know (and are planning and doing) for the common good and vision of the organization, well, that's where the magic happens. The key is to make sure that that meeting at the same big table happens... and that it happens regularly.
3. Micro planning is effective. I enjoyed going through the exercises of putting together an application brick and an application rationalization. This type of planning and data collection is smart and necessary in order for an organization to operate optimally. Looking at current state and future state of an organization is eye-opening, I still want to know how many school districts actually do that type of planning. It is impressive to go through that type of detail. It leads to incredible knowledge.
As an educational technology leader, I now have a more comprehensive understanding of the types of activities that should be going on behind the scenes of a large school district in order to make it so that teachers and students in the classroom experience cutting edge technology that leads them to the most transformational learning experiences. What I know is that it takes an INCREDIBLE amount of work and planning from several departments, to put together a seamless technology package. I have to give it to my school district: Dr. Vodicka's vision for technology integration in our school district, along with the ever-professional and knowledgeable DeWayne Cossey and his team, as well as Blueprint author and Director of Innovation, Matt Doyle, among other important key players, are setting up Vista Unified School District to truly be an excellent and innovative model of education. Having the chance to talk with these individuals regarding some of that micro planning provided me with perspectives I did not have before, and it has been enlightening.
I am truly grateful to have gone through this course on Enterprise Architecture. Dr. Danielson and Dr. Ottinger, our supportive instructors, succeeded in both breaking down EA for us so that it was relevant and comprehensible, and also ALWAYS challenging us, whether it be in discussion or assignments- to stretch ourselves and apply what we are learning. Much learning and growth has occurred for me during this semester. In recent meetings with our superintendent and also our IT director, I was able to talk big picture, and that is a good feeling. It is important. I definitely have a feel for the bigger picture of education now. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm a little sad for this course to end. One of the amazing strengths of this program is our cohort of students and all that we learn from each other. Working through this course together further strengthened and solidified this group and our sense of learning and accomplishment. I have great respect for the professionals in this group, who bring so many different experiences and perspectives to the table and offer their learning transparently so that I may learn from them as well. What started in EDL 630, under the inspirational leadership of Jeffery Heil, was further developed by our experiences with Dr. Danielson and Dr. Ottinger. Our cohort is strong and connected. Mad Gratitude :)
Provide an example of a successful (or unsuccessful) implementation due to strong (or weak) executive and stakeholder involvement. What occurred?
Our district is moving in the right direction in terms of planning for desired future state and making decisions. The Blueprint document has helped that a great deal, and is operating as the district architecture for now. One item that is particularly looking to be well-planned is VUSD's move toward personalized learning paths. Blueprint author Matthew Doyle is leading the way with this, and his communication has been early and often. The district has chosen several "Challenge Schools" that will pilot some products and processes for taking us into the world of personalized learning. So instead of just purchasing a product and rolling it out, there will be a period of research and experimentation, along with discussion and feedback among the various projects in the Challenge Schools and district leadership. Support and training are being provided, and corporate partners are involved as well. So far it is feeling like a team effort, involving schools, very different from each other in terms of program design and approach, and these schools serve students representing the wide spectrum of demographics. I have a good feeling about this process, as it is well-designed, patient, has an eye on the future, and solid communication is part of it. Stay tuned :)
The way I see it, large and important decisions do require patience, forethought, and communication. After all, it is an INVESTMENT in the organization to set the stage to make large decisions that affect an organization and its many stakeholders.
Challenges On The Road To Change
I don't believe identifying a chief architect in Step 1 will be an issue, but pulling together the team of trained EA architects might be. I would imagine that, specifically, Steps 2 and 3 of Phase I would be the most challenging for VUSD. Actually, "challenging" isn't quite the right word. I believe the cooperation, vision, and mindset of department leadership is in place to allow EA to be successful; these steps will simply require the most investment of learning, time, and the creation and implementation of some new processes and habits. With the current way the various departments operate, establishing implementation methodology, EA governance and links to all management processes would require total teamwork and re-mapping of how things are done. I wouldn't anticipate buy-in to be an issue.
I am not sure what would make these Phase I activities more successful, except team-building, with district visioning at the core, and much information and rationale for the reorganization of how the district would operate. The stakeholders not familiar with EA would have much learning to do in order to adopt and implement a new way of organizing, planning, decision-making, and leading. Our IT director confirmed for me that VUSD's current architecture is the Blueprint (LCAP), which contains the eight strategies to be addressed, with allocated funding linked to each strategy. It took some EA mindset for district leadership to create and agree upon the eight strategies, so the next jump to EA implementation shouldn't be too difficult.
Bernard, S. A. (2012). An introduction to enterprise architecture.
In VUSD we have a separate technology plan, but technology is written into our district architecture, the Blueprint For Educational Excellence (our LCAP), in strategies two and seven specifically. So it seems VUSD has taken both approaches. I wonder if eventually VUSD will lose the separate technology plan? Last week I had a very informative meeting with our IT director, DeWayne Cossey (THANK YOU DeWayne!) who shared helpful "perspective" information. In DeWayne's words, VUSD is "technology heavy" at the moment. He explained, very well, what he means by that. Here is my interpretation: Over the past few years VUSD's C&I department has been through some transition (partly internal, and partly due to implementation of Common Core) and curricular goals for the district are also going through transition. For that reason, as IT moved forward with purchasing technology for the district in its goal of becoming 1:1 with devices for students, and having the hardware and infrastructure to set up conditions for ubiquitous computing abilities, they chose technology based on usability rather than based on curricular goals. So the district is technology heavy, and on the C&I side, there is a bit of catching up to do in terms of setting those clear district curricular goals and also implementing PD for teachers that integrates both the technology and addresses the curricular goals. Maybe when C&I has settled into its transition and the PD is in place for teachers, It might be a natural next step to fully integrate the technology plan into the district strategic plan so that there is only one plan.
Follow The Tech Brick Road(MAP)
This week I completed a brick for technology. I didn't know what a brick was in the world of enterprise architecture before this week. I quickly learned that it is a method of analyzing, organizing, and planning for various very specific topics involving technology within organizations. It is a simple, dense method of looking at current and future standards and protocols, which allows for streamlined planning that leads to maximized financial and output efficiency. An organization would create a brick for every separate type of technology they have, and update it frequently. A brick looks like this:
This image as a definition came from the National Institutes of Health Enterprise Architecture. Once I understood what each of the categories embraced, this came into focus as a great tool. For my assignment I chose to put learning management systems for VUSD into the brick, as our district will need to adopt a new LMS in the near future. It was relatively intuitive to know what to include in each category, although at times there was some overlap that felt a bit ambiguous. I hope I completed it correctly. I can absolutely see how creating and using a brick for my own teaching tools and even teaching strategies would be very helpful. At specific school sites I could see grade level teams creating bricks to keep track of what tools they are using to teach and assess, so that they stay current and focused on their ultimate goals, retiring tools as necessary and replacing those with new tools that have been tracked and researched. A principal would be able to create bricks as a way to keep track of products that are used school-wide. At a district level I would imagine there could be many, many bricks for all of the various and many products used district-wide. But what a great, brief, visual to get a researched, balanced, at-a-glance look at a particular category for an organization. I would think that school districts would want to use tools like this to keep them on track and help to make decisions, especially when budgets are tight and money must be allocated judiciously.
Reflect on the work you did to collect information for the SBAC testing requirements. What stood out to you as key discoveries?
Wow- yet another week in this course that stretches my perspective as an educator. It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn each week in this course. It really is because I am asked to read certain things and complete projects in this course. This is stuff that I am very interested in, but given my busy life, I would never normally make time to read through the entirety of my district's technology plan in search of specifics regarding Chromebook screen size or network speed. But WOW!
One thing that stood out to me in this process of looking at whether my district is really ready for online state testing is just how much advance planning must take place. The "Anticipated Smarter-Balanced End of Support Date" chart was eye-opening for me. IT departments and executive leadership must plan their refresh plans carefully so as to not end up at test time with devices and systems that aren't supported any longer. That requires much in the way of End-In-Mind backwards mapping.
While teachers are worried about whether devices will work properly and whether all students will be able to log in, IT people are carefully considering the size and type of internet connection cable, and whether internet speed for online testing will be ideal. District admin are concerned with whether goals can be met with assessment given budgetary constraints, but as SBAC reports, "States implementing online, computer-adaptive assessments similar to the proposed Smarter Balanced Assessment System have done so effectively while adhering to tight budgetary provisions and implementation timelines" (Smarterbalanced.org, 2015) Students and parents are worried about whether students are really ready for assessments that test "Big Ideas" rather then the old "When in doubt, choose C" tests of the past. It takes an entire school district, including students and parents, to create and execute a successful digital testing experience, and based on what I researched and read, I think VUSD will do just fine.
Smarterbalanced.org,. (2015). Retrieved 30 March 2015, from http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Executive_Summary_Tech_Framework.pd
Importance of The Process
Why is it important for educational programs to use this type of approach? How has it helped you to understand and possibly lead an organization that might face these important decisions?
When I first saw the matrix assigned to us to study in the appendix of our text this week, my first thought was "Genius!" To people with a background in Enterprise Architecture, I'm sure this matrix which lines out the the data needed to complete an Application Rationalization process for an organization is considered to be EA 101. But for someone just getting her feet wet with EA, well, my reaction was more exuberant :) My next thought was, "I wonder if my school district does this?" I'd love to know, but I've been asking so many questions of our IT director lately, I don't want to become a pest. For that reason, I've asked him if we can sit down for a face-to-face chat soon, so I can show him what I am studying, and ask him all of my burning questions in context. But I digress...
The reason it is so important for educational programs to use this type of approach to prioritizing, selecting, and maintaining applications is that, if implemented properly, the approach removes the subjectivity from this important process of choosing applications for use organization-wide. Without this matrix, I can imagine a group of teachers, IT, and district admin sitting around the table, armed with their subjective rationale, ready to defend their stance. "Armed" and "Defend" are not concepts that should be present at a collaborative meeting of a TEAM, dedicated to making decisions for the school district. This approach provides data and information about each application, and hopefully provides a wide-lens snapshot of each application and the entire spectrum of applications, so team decisions can be made more objectively. It seems vital. Sometimes I wonder if teachers are even included in some of the decisions that are made, as at times we find ourselves looking at applications and thinking ... "How does this fit my needs or the needs of my students?" To be sure, I have ultimate respect for how difficult it is to make decisions for an organization, so I try to table my judgments, on decisions that are made, but it does make me wonder about the process and rationale being used to make them.
"Enterprises that ignore long-range planning risk dealing with escalating maintenance costs for out-of-date applications, a lack of access to information critical to decision making and regulatory compliance, and a loss of business agility in an increasingly agile world" (Gartner 2015). For a school district, the importance of going through a process with this approach is so important because our "customers" are our students. Our school district exists to serve them, and there are so many factors to consider, including financial, ease of integration with already prioritized applications and systems, pd required at time of roll-out, and what functions the application will allow and serve ... districts have to choose wisely so that students are served and can learn in the best way possible. I would hope that with what I am learning about this, I can be a valuable voice in our district when asked to contribute. In my new role as a digital resource teacher, it is already coming in handy. Our IT director recently granted me, my partner, and several content resource teachers a meeting in which he listened to our ideas regarding our district website, and how to make resources more easily accessible (with fewer clicks needed to access) for teachers. The resource teachers have worked so hard to put very organized resources together for teachers, but nobody can find them or knows that they exist. Our IT director, an ultimate professional, listened and took action immediately, creating a page just for teacher resources with all of our links, and is taking that proposal to HR for approval. It felt like teamwork with teacher input, and for that we all have much gratitude.
Gartner.com,. (2015). Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://www.gartner.com/it/initiatives/pdf/KeyInitiativeO
The idea of a single sign on to access the many digital tools we currently utilize in VUSD sounds amazing. We are part way there now, but there is still room for improvement. Being a GAFE district, it is nice that both students and teachers have a single sign on to access all of the Google tools we use most often. That is a huge help, as my students, colleagues, and I work most often within the various Google applications in creating work products, collaborating, and communicating. Where there is room for improvement is in all of the other applications we use as well. For the adults in the district, there is still another log in required to access our SIS, Aeries, and every other application ranging from LMS to various curriculum applications or web 2.0 tools; all require separate log in. As an adult, I seem to manage my various log ins well, although it is sometimes frustrating to have several tabs open as I work on a project, and inevitably get logged out of an application because I have timed out- which means logging in again and asking myself, "Ok- which account was that?" Of course I deal with that because I have to, and it doesn't impact me or my productivity profoundly.
What is a big deal though, is the classroom management and student achievement issues that arise as teachers try to manage the many student log ins required to use curriculum applications and web 2.0 tools. A teacher will inevitably have two or three students in a class that have trouble logging in, which slows down the learning for the entire class if a plan for management is not in place. I have read about many emerging solution services that will create a single sign-on for use of many popular educational applications. That sounds like it could be very helpful, and a viable solution, although it could be limiting if the solution service doesn't allow sign on to all of the applications desirable.
One drawback to a single sign-on approach is that of security. If a user's log-in information is compromised or hacked in some way, it puts many accounts in jeopardy all at once. That could be problematic for sure, which is why people always advise that you don't use the same password for all accounts.
With the amount of applications and tools out there, and more amazing tools being developed everyday, there may not be a comprehensive easy solution yet. In my opinion, single sign-on for education has more pros than cons in terms of productivity, classroom management, and student learning.
A funny video that many of us have seen before, but is appropriate here:
I have always been a teacher, and have always thought as a teacher. I am only now considering other points of view in K-12 education, such as the view of an IT professional or a school leader. As a teacher, I have always taken my cues from two groups: students and administration. When administration asks me to do something, consider something, try something, implement something, I do my best to meet their expectations. This school year especially, my school district has made an assertive push with technology. We have the infrastructure in place, the connectivity, and we are very near our goal of having 1:1 devices. I have fully embraced the excitement and opportunity for learning and growth with the integration of technology into the classroom. Therefore, I am shocked that our district administration has not made more effort to make sure teachers district-wide are aware of the student data privacy laws that are in effect. Most recently in California is the SOPIPA, which stands for the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act. This piece of legislation prohibits online educational services from selling student data or profiling students for advertising purposes or any other purpose than K-12 education. James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, who helped to create the law, said, "I think this is a blunt call to industry to say that school data is for educational purposes. Period" (Herold, 2014). I agree, and think it is a timely piece of legislation, as school districts get excited about the educational possibilities inherent in ever-evolving technology.
The advice I would give to the leadership in my school district is that it needs to become SOMEONE'S job to know SOPIPA and other student data privacy laws, inside and out. Our district needs a Technology Security Specialist, not to scare everyone or batten down the hatches, but to really know the parameters of these laws and to provide current and accurate information regarding these laws, to all stakeholders in the district. Teachers are overwhelmed with just trying to learn how to use technology, but it is clear that teachers need more than how-to; teachers need comprehensive information about how to implement technology and resources in a manner that is responsible and aware of the parameters of the laws aimed at protecting student privacy. This technology security specialist should work with the district to create clear policies and procedures for how teachers investigate and choose online tools and resources. I think this technology security specialist should have ample knowledge of educational and non-educational online resources and tools, and generate a comprehensive list of the most widely-utilized of these that contains pertinent information for teachers to reference when designing online learning experiences in the classroom. This policy should also create a procedure for teachers to follow when they discover a new tool that isn't on the comprehensive district list- like a work order. The tech security specialist could review the online tool and give it the thumbs up or thumbs down. This would take the guess-work out of trying to plan a lesson or design a classroom work flow. This would be ideal because everyone would win: the district would know it was taking a giant step toward ensuring privacy in regard to student data, teachers could move forward more confidently with technology integration, and students and parents could rest more easily, knowing their personal data is secure. Our school district wants to become the model of innovation and excellence in education, and we are well on our way. The district wants teachers to be innovative with technology, to transform the teaching and learning happening in their classrooms. If our district put something like a technology security specialist in place, as I have described, I feel it would be much progress toward that district vision and mission, proving that, "The old notion of trading privacy for innovation is a false choice" (Herold, 2014).
'Landmark' Student-Data-Privacy Law Enacted in CaliforniaEducation Week - Digital Education,. (2015).'Landmark' Student-Data-Privacy Law Enacted in California. Retrieved 9 March 2015, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2014/09/_landmark_student-data-privacy.html
The Need For Data
In education, data definitely plays a role in decision making. Understanding what types of data are out there and available is extremely important as there is so much that can be gleaned from looking at data. Decisions as to what types of curriculum should be taught, where a student is struggling conceptually, and how best to assess what a student knows and has learned can be made much more precisely after looking at and analyzing data. There seems to be a lot of data available these days as technological advances make that possible, but not everyone knows what to do with that data. I would definitely say that that is an area where I could use some growth. I get data sent to me in terms of test scores, etc., but I don't always know what to make of that information. I know intuitively that embedded in that data is information that should inform my teaching and creating of learning experiences. Sometimes that is obvious and sometimes it isn't. I simply need more training and experience in looking at data. I'm really good at looking at an individual, as a person, and looking at his or her work samples, talking with him or her, and assessing what skills he or she needs to work on. But when the human aspect is removed, when I can't have a conversation with the individual, and instead have to look at a column of numbers, I don't always know what to do with that. What I think is most powerful about data is summed up in this sentence taken from the Wikipedia definition of data architecture: "The Data Architect is typically responsible for defining the target state, aligning during development and then following up to ensure enhancements are done in the spirit of the original blueprint." As teachers, if we work with each student to define the target state (our goals), then proper coaching can ensue where students are assessed and encouraged to keep pursuing that target- ultimately leading to success and personal victory. Big Data definitely has its place in education. I truly believe it can serve our students well in terms of helping them to achieve, as long as all stakeholders receive training so that they understand what they are looking at when they look at this data, and they know what it means in terms of instruction and learning.
www2.ed.gov,. (2015). Retrieved 2 March 2015, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/implementation-support-unit/tech-assist/education-architecture-guidebook.pdf
Learning about the big picture.