Mobile Computer Lab Narrative


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Mobile Computer Lab Narrative

  1. 1. Fiona Griswold LIS 506 Dr. Kate McDowell December 8, 2009 Facilitating Change Project Narrative: A Mobile Computer Lab for DH Elementary SchoolBackground Since I enrolled as a Master’s student at the Graduate School of Library of InformationScience (GSLIS) in Summer 2008, I have followed and at times engaged in what seems theendless debate over the future of librarianship. In particular, I have spent quite a lot of timeconsidering the role of technology and digital libraries versus the role of print materials. Onereason for my ongoing interest is my hope to have, at the end of my time at GSLIS, the rightcombination of knowledge and abilities to be a competitive candidate for a position as a LibraryMedia Specialist in an elementary school. However, my knowledge of the organization of someschool libraries and contact with current school librarians has left me without any clearunderstanding of the need for the “traditional” library skills such as storytelling, cataloging andcollection development versus the “emerging” skills such as being able to instruct using Web 2.0technologies. With such a broad range of job descriptions for the school librarian, the best I canconclude is that I should try to know it all! Beginning in January, I will be engaged in a practicum at DH Elementary School tofulfill the early field experience requirement for my K-12 Library Information Specialistcertification in Illinois. When I was interviewing with the current LMS, I was surprised to learnthat there is no computer lab in the school. True, there are one or more computers in each of theclassrooms and three machines in the library for student use, but nowhere in the building is therea space with sufficient terminals that the librarian or a teacher could conduct a lesson for anentire class in, for example, Internet safety or online searching methods. I had assumed that, bythis point, all schools in such a district must have computer labs, even if the machines in themweren’t the most up to date, particularly as I knew that some of the district’s elementary schoolsdid have labs. At GH Elementary, for example, there is a computer lab. However, there are whatI would consider “problems” at this school as well in that the GH Librarian has no responsibilityfor the computer lab and seldom uses it. I began to wonder how and why the facilities at oneschool in a district could be so very different than those at another. These disparities seemedparticularly glaring in this district, which had a consent decree for many years after a lawsuit wasfiled to make sure that all students in the district had access to the same educationalopportunities. I found this variance among schools to be intriguing and decided to do moreresearch into the reason why there was not computer lab and to see what might be done to rectifythis situation. DH appears to be the sort of elementary school that would particularly benefit fromhaving a computer lab big enough that there would be one work station per child for even thelargest class--currently 24 children. The student population is very diverse in all respects.According to the 2009 Report Card for this school, of 391 enrolled students, roughly 39% areBlack and 4% are Hispanic. Just over half of the students meet the requirements to be classified“low income” (ISBE, 2009, p.1). In 2009, DH did not meet the conditions for Adequate YearlyProgress (AYP) as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Two cohorts, Blackstudents and economically disadvantaged students, failed to meet the minimum target percentageof students meeting or exceeding standards in reading as indicated by the Illinois Standards
  2. 2. Griswold / 2Achievement Tests (ISATs). However, DH also is home to one of the school district’s self-contained gifted programs for grades 2 through 5. A computer lab would benefit all DH’sstudents, but would particularly be appropriate for those students at both ends of the academicspectrum. It would provide additional sources of challenge and expansion of learning to studentsin the gifted program while providing those students struggling with reading skills withalternative means of instruction that might better suit some students’ learning styles.Potential Allies/Supports I believe that the majority of the stakeholders at DH would support the development of acomputer lab, mobile or otherwise, as long as the cost for implementation of the lab didn’tadversely affect other programs. Two groups, in particular, are likely to be strongly in favor ofsuch a facility: DH students and their parents. I have not yet met a student who would object to atleast occasional use of a computer, even if access was provided only for activities related to classlessons or assignments. Plus, for students in the gifted program and/or from families of a highersocio-economic status, computer use at school is likely to be an extension of computer use athome. For students from low-income families, however, the only opportunity to use a computermight be in the school computer lab as they are much less likely to have a computer, in particularone that has Internet access, in their home. It is widely recognized that the ability to understandand use computer and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) is likely to be arequirement for success in ongoing education and future employment. To address these needs, anumber of sets of standards have been developed in the attempt to ensure that all U.S. studentsreceive similar access to and instruction in the use of technology. The first of these are theNational Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S) revised (or “refreshed”) bythe International Society for Technology in Education in 2007. These six standards are intendedfor all student in K-12 and address areas such as “creativity and innovation, research andinformation fluency and technology operations and concepts.” The second set of standards is thatissued by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL): Standards for the 21stCentury Learner (2007). While these broadly address students’ information literacy needs, theyput special emphasis on technological knowledge, stating “Technology skills are crucial to futureemployment needs.” Further, the AASL standards state that “Equitable access is a keycomponent for learning…. All children deserve access… to information technology in anenvironment that is safe and conducive to learning.” While the majority of DH parents may notbe familiar with these standards, specifically, they likely all have some personal experience thatwould lead them to conclude that technology is key to education and future employment. A second group of possible supporters would be staff and administrators, both at theschool and district levels. It is clear from a number of documents that I found on the District’sWeb site that school and district staff understand that many District schools, including DH, arenot where they should be in providing student and teacher access to educational technology. TheTechnology Integration Plan (2009) points out a number of areas in which the district is fallingbehind, including statistics that one-third of the elementary schools do not have a computer laband only 20% of elementary teachers are integrating technology into lessons (p. 24). Professionaldevelopment in the area of technology use is also lacking: less than 20% of teaching staffreported that they have attended a technology workshop of some kind during the last 5 years (p.26). The Great Schools, Together (2008), available from the district’s website, also points to theneed to improve access to technology in schools such as DH. The plan contains mid-range goals
  3. 3. Griswold / 3such as “introducing computer technology and research at earlier grade levels and integrating it intodaily activities and lessons, K-12” (p. 8) and “ensuring all facilities have equitable access to andincorporation of technology as appropriate to support student achievement” (p. 12). However, theirtimeline for making these changes (in particular, for ensuring equality between all facilities) is adisheartening 10 to 15 years (p. 19). This long projection is related to the fact that, in the majority ofthe schools lacking computer labs, there is no space to create one, so the district is linking thecreation of a lab to the availability of funds for school renovation or reconstruction. I don’t think thatthe students and staff at DH can afford to wait 10 years while funds for construction are accumulated,making the mobile computer lab solution I’m proposing the ideal solution in the interim.Potential Obstacles/Opponents While I anticipate that a good number of staff and administrators at both the school anddistrict levels would be proponents of the plan to create a mobile computer lab, there are also likelyto be those who may not support, if not actually oppose such a plan. Some individuals in thetechnology department might be against the plan if they feel that their “turf” is being invaded bysomeone from outside their group. The technology group would also need to be on board to providesupport to maintain the lab, both in terms of machine maintenance and connectivity as the lab wouldrequire a wireless Internet connection to function. Administrators will likely have concerns aboutfunding issues for the initial cost of equipment and software purchase as well as maintenanceexpenditures for personnel and for equipment. To address these concerns, it will be important to havecost data, which I’m currently estimating at $22,000 to $28,000 for 25 laptops, projector, and cart, aswell as some options for cutting cost and identified sources of grants that could help finance theexpense involved. Finally, teachers may have some reservations as to what the creation of a computerlab would mean for their professional development and teaching responsibilities. The District’s TIPindicated that less the majority of instructional staff had not attended any technology workshopsduring the last 5 years. This could be for a number of reasons--few workshops offered, inconvenientscheduling, offered workshops not meeting needs or interests, or even a general lack of interest onthe part of staff. If the latter reason is valid for even some of the teachers at DH, then it is verypossible that they would feel that the computer lab would be forcing them to engage in learning andteaching with which they are not comfortable. The best way, I think, to try and diffuse someteachers’ concerns would be to point to the evidence of the benefits of computer instruction in theelementary grades, particularly for students who are “at risk” and for those who have been classified,“gifted”. Articles that have shown the potential for benefits of laptop use in the elementary classroom(Kemker, Barron & Harmes, 2007) and reading gains of 1st and 2nd graders achieved throughtechnology interventions (Knezek & Christiansen, 2007) will help teachers to understand some of thebenefits of using technology to teach their students. It will, of course, be critical to address thesepotential obstacles or opponents before moving forward with any plans to create a lab. Consensusand support for such a facility from the majority of stakeholders will be necessary if the project isgoing to succeed.Plan of Action My plan to implement this project and successfully create a mobile computer lab for DHElementary will consist of four stages. Stage I, or Research, will consist of gathering all thenecessary data and information to support my proposal. During this stage, I will collect relevantresearch studies that support the use of computer-based instruction in the elementary schoolsetting and show the benefits (such as improved scores on standardized tests) of such instruction.I will also locate the relevant standards at the state and national level that relate to theincorporation of technology into the curriculum. Finally, I will find examples of other
  4. 4. Griswold / 4elementary schools, preferably in Illinois, that have created mobile labs and will consult withlibrarians, technology support staff, and administrators at those schools in an effort to learn whatobstacles they faced and what lessons they have learned. All of this information will be used tosupport the proposal and project plan that is created in Stage II of the Action Plan: FormalPlanning and Consensus Building. During Stage II, I will spend time talking with all stakeholders about my plan to solicitconcerns and input about the proposal. In the case of instructional staff and administrators at DHand technology group members at all levels, I think the consensus building will be best achievedthrough informal discussions with small groups. However, to solicit input from parents willlikely require scheduling some a more formal meeting for me to outline my plans and parents toask questions and make suggestions. I will use the information gathered from these conversationsto try and circumvent obstacles in the formal plan that will be put forth to district-leveladministration and the school board. The formal proposal will contain all of the informationgathered previously as well as cost information for one or more lab configurations; identificationof grant funding sources to which I could apply for money to support some or all of the cost ofthe equipment purchase; a proposed timeline for implementation of the plan, including issuing arequest for bids and specs for the equipment, purchase and installation target dates, trainingoutlines and schedules for instructional staff first, then students; maintenance schedules for theequipment; outlines of additional technology workshops for staff; and procedures and dates forevaluation of the success of the project. Assuming the project is approved, the Stage III of the Action Plan will consist of issuingspecs and obtaining bids for the required equipment; applying for grants to cover the cost ofpurchasing the equipment; and finally purchasing, setting up and conducting initial training ofstaff and students in the use and care of the mobile lab. I am not certain, at this time, how longthis stage may last as I anticipate that moving forward from the bids to the actual purchase andreceipt of the equipment will be dependent on securing a large part, if not all, of the necessaryfunds through grants. However, once the equipment is purchased and the received, I will work toensure that the time required to put the lab into service and provide necessary training in the useof the equipment happens as quickly as possible, though this schedule will be dependent on thecooperation and interest of the DH instructional staff. Stage IV, the final part of the Action Plan will be Follow-Up and Evaluation. This stagewill be the longest one as it should continue indefinitely--at least through the useful life-span ofthe lab--and will consist of both short-term and long-term evaluation of the success of the projectas well as ongoing maintenance of the equipment and offering additional workshops to staff andstudents to ensure the most productive use of the lab in meeting the standards set forth in NETSfor students and teachers and in Standards for the 21st Century Learner, as well as any district-specific technology curriculum that might be implemented at a later date.
  5. 5. Griswold / 5Goals During the planning for the creating of a Mobile Computer Lab at DH Elementary that Ihave done thus far, a number of short-term and long-term goals for the project have emerged. Iexpect that these are only preliminary goals and that more will emerge as the project movesforward. The immediate short-term goal for the project would be to win approval and funding tomake the equipment purchase and to put the lab into service as quickly as possible. Ideally, thiswould occur before the end of the 2009-10 school year, but if funding proves difficult to obtain,then I would set a more realistic target date for lab availability of the start of the 2010-11 schoolyear (August 2010). Other short-term goals for the project would be to have all potential users ofthe lab trained in care and use of the laptops and peripheral equipment and to have the lab inregular, scheduled use by the majority of DH’s instructional staff. The long-term goals for the project would be tied to student achievement and teacherinstructional applications of technology. For students, my goals would be the following:  An increase in measurable knowledge of and comfort with technology, appropriate to their grade level  An overall increase in student academic achievement as measured by the standardized test scores that would, hopefully, correlate to the increased use of technology in classroom instruction.  Increased student demand for access to computers and other ICTs (such as digital cameras, camcorders, and scanners) and the software to support these technologies.For teachers, my long-term goals would be:  A sizeable increase in the number of lessons that incorporate technology appropriately being taught at all grade levels.  An increase in the number of teachers participating in and seeking training opportunities related to education technology.Eventually, I would hope that the demand for the lab was sufficient to justify the acquisition of asecond mobile lab if the school were not yet in a position to construct a permanent facility.Evaluation of Project Success Ongoing evaluation of a project to determine its success and provide research-based dataon outcomes is essential to justifying implementation of and funding for a project and to beingable to propose new project and apply for further funding. Some of the measures of success ofthe mobile computer lab are fairly easy to obtain. For example, based on the schedule of lab use,it would be possible to show the percentage of time the lab is in use during a school year (or anyother time increment) and to approximate how many people in the school have made use of thelab in a given time period. It would also be fairly easy to collect qualitative data that woulddemonstrate the success of the lab, e.g., examples of lesson plans that incorporated the lab ininstruction or samples of student work that had been produced after using the labs capabilities. Some other measures of success of the project, however, would require moresophisticated means of data collection. For example, it would be difficult to show that thecreation of the lab had any affect on students’ technical knowledge without a suitable instrumentfor measuring these variables and a starting point to which the results could be compared (such
  6. 6. Griswold / 6as a pre-test using the same instrument). Also, proving a direct relationship between the creationand use of the lab and an improvement in students achievement would require the creation of afairly sophisticated research protocol that would control for other factors. Still, achievement testscores could be tracked after the lab was brought online and compared to those from before thelab existed to see if any positive (or negative) trends could be identified. This would not prove acausal relationship, but would be interesting nonetheless. If and when the district were to identifymeasures of technology proficiency and readiness, as they have indicated are needed in theTechnology Integration Plan, then these tools could be used to examine the effects that might beattributable to the development of the computer lab.
  7. 7. Griswold / 7ReferencesAmerican Association of School Librarians. (2007). Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from LearningStandards.pdf.Champaign Unit 4 School District. (2008). Great Schools, Together: Unit 4 Long Range Strategic Plan. Retrieved December 2, 2009 from Unit 4 School District. (2009). Technology Integration Plan. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from State Board of Education. (2009). Dr Howard Elem School Illinois School Report Card. Retrieved December 5, 2009, from 402010_e.pdf.International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). NETS for Students. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from or_Students_2007_Standards.pdf.Kemker, K., Barron, A., & Harmes, J. (2007). Laptop computers in the elementary classroom: Authentic instruction with at-risk students. Educational Media International, 44(4), 305- 321.Knezek, G. & Christensen, R. (2008). Effect of technology-based programs on first- and second- grade reading achievement. Computers in the Schools, 24(3), 23-41.