Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Technology in the Classroom

Last night of Ed 404, lots of input, reflections on the past quarter and time to apply some of this to what's happening in the field. Especially useful was discussion of problem statements and methodologies. It was the perfect continuation of Monday night's presentations with plenty of food for thought and feedback. The next couple of weeks will provide an opportunity to synthesize my research notes and identify what's being learned by the students and the teacher with iPods in the classroom.

The elements for creating a framework to view the iPod Research Project through is still developing. I have considered a mini-ethnography, a methodological study for the best way to determine (or possible measure) learning, a study on the engagement of students when using the device, comparative case studies and a view through the lens of student perceptions. Possibly some mixed-method from the above. This is all in my head. I need to now get observations sorted out in print, determine what is valid information, develop a working lit review and think seriously about Chapter one. First of all is the story behind what I'm doing and why it's important that I'm doing it.

Meanwhile, Human Subjects Approvals for two universities, possible educational presentations, more visits to the school being studied and a scramble to get some firm idea of what has been learned and what is being planned. Presently, only online searches are implemented for specific reports and the devices are stored the remainder of the day. A constructivist, open-ended learning environment is new territory for staff and there is apprehension about going that far. Presently, teacher-centered learning is the modality.

There is no doubt however that there is an electricity in the air when the students get their hands on the iPods. The room instantly drops a few decibel units and the students become instantly engaged in something unexplainable, maybe unfamiliar. The students are having fun learning and can't wait to do something new with the devices. The conversations are collaborative, small groups are jumping ahead of the lessons with newly discovered shortcuts, some students are a bit behind. Still, those that are learning proudly share their new found knowledge with those needing help and bilingual students quickly translate to ELL students what they need to know.

So here, in the teacher centered room, is teamwork and collaboration that is self-perpetuating.
Constructivist activities are sprouting where they weren't intended, and students are learning valuable skills faster than they can be taught from the overhead. There is something going on here that needs to be harnessed, or more likely, let go.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

OD Plan for CCSAA

I have changed the acronym, worked on a video, completed my other class assignment and am down to two projects to go. I feel that I need to use this video in order to capture my audience that I am consulting but not to do the job of providing exact details. I am definitely using both organizational development and organizational knowledge material for both projects. My present classes overlap too well not to. I will follow the URLs posted for Ed 401 for my intervention plan and taylor it to suit the needs of the Central Coast Substance Abuse Agency.

Monday, March 2, 2009


The Central Coast Substance Abuse Center (CCSAC) is an educational facility in every sense of the word. Many of the clients (students) that enter the programs available by the agency are enrolled on a voluntary basis. Many are court ordered. Either way, the lessons learned inside the classrooms and offices of the agency literally become a matter of life and death for many. The purpose of my observations and presentation will be to answer the question of whether the CCSAC is in need of organizational development and what specific conflicts are causing the problems. I will need to identify the volume of the problem and outline a specific task with a specific time line as an intervention. I would make to make it so. As an educational leader/adviser, it is my responsibility to have an accurate sense of what the emotional pulse is of the members of this agency and be capable of communicating reachable goals through the process of group discussions and careful observation. This process needs step-by-step instructions for the agency to follow.

The agency is unique in that from a client standpoint, finding solutions to problems is approached through assessment, counseling, education and process groups. The process of healing from the ravages of substance abuse require a very proactive stance by the staff and client yet it is very important to remain sensitive to individual needs and feelings. The process of alternating between individual sessions and group sessions does create a reasonable balance of activities with 85% of the clients reporting back that their experience was a positive one. The staff on the other hand has no such schedule for their education and growth. They are limited to monthly departmental meetings of one hour and quarterly workshop sessions that utilize a one-size fits all approach to training. The workshop sessions often do not meet the needs of specific departments in the agency and are widely accepted as a "day off to goof around".

The irony is that what the agency prescribes for its clients is more effective in many ways than what it prescribes for its staff. The clients will hopefully learn important information that they can use in their day-to-day lives. The staff tends to be on their own, receiving their educations from formal schooling, accumulating college credits and applying their education to better their job advancement potential. This may not be what is best for on-the-job needs for development. This scenario also is reflective of what I witness in different school districts for all ages and subjects. As staff, once you are there, the majority of educational opportunities exist only for the clients or students. Professional development and any meaningful group-think process is very limited, especially with the budget crisis that is present.

An equally serious problem within the CCSAC is that communications are limited to a need-to-know basis with the decision of need resting in the hands of supervisory personnel. There is little transparency in how the operation is run and the one-way, top-down model of management is the standard operating procedure. There is conversation, but seldom does there appear to be change. The change that is incorporated into the agency primarily occurs on an individual basis, within a subculture that has developed to continue operations and allow for growth and learning despite obstacles present in management. This of course only benefits those privy to the underground network of players that make it possible. This network also plays a part in the eventual shift of consciousness that occasionally reaches the upper echelon of management.

The current state of organizational learning must be tied to the informal subculture of learning that exists within the agency. There is learning, it is shared but it is not shared equally, the client may or may not benefit from the learning and the agency often only accepts lessons learned long after they have already been informally initiated. The prognosis at this point is that there is an absolute need for a systematic and deliberate effort for management to streamline the process by which its staff gives and receives input for operational matters and personal staff needs. There is a distinct lag in the time that a problem arises and is addressed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Change of Stream - Research Limitiations

Due to extremely tight schedules for myself and Technology staff, I have not been able to arrange more than one personal interview. I finally opted to send a short questionnaire to the Technology Department Coordinator. I asked:

1. Could you describe the level of satisfaction you perceive the teachers and administration in your district to have with your services?

2. Do you feel there are any disconnects in communication between departmental organizations such as administration and the technology staff?

3. What changes (if any) would you like to see made within your organization regarding organizational development?

I have not received any response from this email. I spent two hours on two visits compiling information from an interview and observation of a staff meeting that will give me some valuable input, however, as I attempt to synthesize my notes, I am not comfortable with the depth of information I have accumulated. There are mostly descriptions of what people do and generalized policies, but no true insight is being brought to mind as I list basic facts and functions.

There is a way things are done, it is very straight forward, and the view I am seeing is strictly from a service-based operation with clear, well-defined goals. There is more of a set up and maintenance routine than interacting with teaching and administration routine (at least with the use of the technology). This may not be the staff that I should be asking about disconnects for teachers and admin. Asking the teachers and admin staff would probably be best but it is unlikely tracking down these individuals would be a chaotic process with time running out.

I feel I might be better served continuing forward with a study of the agency I did my original Ed 404 Pinata on regarding Drug and Alcohol Counseling and learning what is or is not occurring within the levels of organization and chain of command there. I have a much better understanding of the dynamics of that organization and have spent enough time in the organization to develop a more objective view of what is going on. I believe I have done enough information gathering and synthesis of information to introduce my most recent decision to jump ship on this project and follow through with my original where I have an equally strong start in research. Live and learn.

February 21, 2009 8:41 PM


Monday, February 16, 2009

Organizational Development and Unorganized Development

I have been reviewing the notes I have taken from the organizational observations and interviews. I was not really surprised by the disconnect I am witnessing between different subgroups within the same organization, which is a high school. The dissonance that seems to be present between subgroups appears in my place of employment and at the elementary schools I have taught at and done research in. There is a human tendency to isolate and settle into a routine that best suits the immediate needs being faced by members of the group. It is easy to lose sight of specific missions or goals and in the daily processes of getting priority issues taken care of. The members of the group I am presently observing appear to do a very efficient job of what they are asked. The disconnect occurs when services and communications are compromised and begin to break down at the individual, or classroom level.

I am not quite prepared to make a statement at this time for recommendation of actions to be taken. The reflection that I am becoming more concerned with is what part I can play in pulling the information out of players within the group I am studying. I have convinced myself that there will be a need to do another round of research. My preference is to arrange for several short personal interviews. If that is not a possibility, then I would be satisfied with an electronic interview through email. Specifically, I would like to know what problems different individuals perceive to exist. What I think I see and what I am truly seeing may be entirely different things.

I put the title of Unorganized Development up because of the evolution of organizations that is not of the intentional variety. There is development occurring at a personal level that certainly transcends specific authorities and becomes reality. I suppose this would be a form of tacit knowledge that morphs into explicit knowledge. When a leader recognizes the transformation of knowledge and directs the event into a tangible and specific direction, change occurs in a timely manner.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Learning With Empathy and Organizational Development

I can not imagine what makes some people do what they do. I want to understand but how do I reach into their heads? How do you become empathetic and walk in the shoes of another? This entire line of questioning is important for the growth and development of individuals and organizations. The organization is now more frequently being perceived to embody many of the characteristics of an individual and therefore must be approached and viewed as one would another single human being. This process complicates the already difficult task of being empathetic on a one-to-one situation.

I am due to observe tomorrow at a local high school from the viewpoint of a technology coordinator. I will ask some basic questions about chain of command and duties then work towards pinpointing deeper personal attitudes about how things work. I will hopefully spend ample time shadowing the individual while also devoting at least a couple of hours towards observation of the organization as a whole. I have been invited to attend a staff meeting and will undoubtedly be immersed in a short but intense preview of what the pulse of the organization is about.

It is difficult to not make assumptions and develop a mindset of what to expect. The term "entrenched bureaucracy" comes to mind any time I think of an organization. This bias is truly entrenched into my being as I have struggled through my own educational career as a teacher and student. I will make every effort to clear the slate and approach my observation in a somewhat ethnographic sense, observing the cultures and values of the people in the organization, while hopefully remaining objective. I am curious how these notes will look tomorrow after the observation.