Final Report Numbers
Last week I posted our final report online and have been mulling over the implications since. Largely due to the RUS grant, our districts averaged a 400% increase in usage this year. We almost doubled our total usage across the whole service area for the second year in a row. This year 63% of our programs were free; the majority of those project or classroom-to-classroom connections.
Percentage of Teacher Use
However, while those numbers sound good, this year we looked at another number for the first time – percentage of teacher use. I have a couple elementary buildings where 100% of the teachers participated in at least one videoconference with their students; however the average across our two county service area is about 23%. This raises some questions in my mind.
- Is it our goal to have every teacher use videoconferencing? Should it be? Some of my new RUS grant building coordinators want every teacher to use it. They are all in elementary buildings.
- Middle and high school classes still prefer high end challenging content which is usually rare from content providers and it’s still impossible to pay for every class to participate in a program. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Is it possible to integrate enrichment videoconferencing across the board at the middle & high school level?
- Middle and high school classes also don’t see the value of classroom-to-classroom connections as much as elementary teachers do. They want a higher curriculum bang for their buck (or time), and connecting to another school doesn’t always provide that. Is there a way to create curriculum-rich, challenging, free projects for middle and high school classes?
Use & Work Load
In addition, what seems to be high use from my perspective is only 23% of teachers in my service area. If 23% usage is driving me crazy and I can’t keep up; something has to change to make additional growth sustainable. At what point will my building coordinators also feel that it’s driving them crazy and they don’t want to support anymore connections? The work load of supporting videoconferencing (curriculum wise) is shared between the teachers, the building coordinators, and support from the ISD (me). How can we support this in a way that is sustainable and makes room for additional growth? I’m hearing from many of my RUS grant buildings that they are basically pleased with the results of the first year and hope to get more teachers involved next year. How do we sustain that growth & prepare for it?
The plans simmering in my brain include the following:
- Raising the district contribution to our mini-grants from $25 to $50 to spread the funds further.
- Switching from supporting and making every connection to supporting only those that we’re running (i.e. MysteryQuest & ASK) and ones that the buildings have trouble connecting on their own. This is a huge shift for me and one that I wasn’t ready mentally for last September. But as my schedule filled up, I had to move to this model. Now we’re making it official policy. Are YOU ready for this change if you’re at an educational service agency? It’s coming your way too!
- More professional development, specifically that which helps building coordinators schedule & troubleshoot on their own and helps teachers design projects & match up with partners.
- Help my buildings become more independent. This is not only happening at my level; but at the district tech coordinator level as well. In several districts where the district tech coordinator used to help with every videoconference, they are now leaving it to the building coordinators and assisting only when there are problems.
- Often more content & dream up more projects, especially for middle & high school classes. My challenge here is that I really can’t add more projects that I have to coordinate and facilitate the videoconference. The projects need to be point to point and the teachers need to be able to do it themselves (like Read Around the Planet). This means good high quality teacher packets for projects that tightly match the curriculum.
So how are you addressing and sustaining growth in your area? Do you see these same challenges? Do you think every teacher should use videoconferencing? Please comment!