An update on the TQP grant

TQP LogoI haven’t talked about the grant lately so I thought i would give an update.  For those who aren’t aware, I recently changed jobs, moving from being a technology director at a PK-12 school to working as a technology specialist on a Iowa Teacher Quality Partnership grant at UNI.  It has been a good change, providing a number of new opportunities.

I’ve been up to a lot of different projects lately, with the biggest being researching video conferencing technologies.  As part of the grant we are going to send pre-service teacher to five rural schools that are each about an hour to an hour and a half away from campus.  Our goal is to increase the amount of time pre-service teachers spend in the classroom, which means we are going to need to redesign our coursework some to allow for distance synchronous communication.  I’ve been looking at a Polycom HDX 7000, which is like most traditional Polycoms but this one has the ability to place calls in HD at relatively low bandwidth.  What I also like about this device is that it allows a user to connect a computer to it using a DVI cable.  This open so many more opportunities for instructors and their students as they begin looking at classroom planning and management.  Before this was limited to using services like Adobe Connect, which really only had mediocre results at best when it came to screen sharing.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time looking into how we can record a teacher’s performance in the classroom.  The key here is determining what we want to capture.  What is the most important thing in the classroom that evaluators need to see to determine a teacher is effective?  My answer is that we need to capture student learning and what led up to the student learning.  So I’ve been talking to people both on campus and some of the AEAs in the state to see what they had for suggestions.  Some key things I’m keeping in mind are:

  • Needs to be simple, but quality
  • Need to have a good audio source, which means the teacher needs to wear a wireless mic
  • Needs to be affordable so others can do the same thing in their classrooms
  • Needs to have a small footprint in the classroom

So I’ve been looking at cameras and coming up a little short here and there, but I have found a couple I would like to demo that are reasonably affordable, high quality (or at least they appear to be), and have an external mic input.  May not sound too glorious, but what we use for our pilot projects has the potential to be adopted statewide so I’m trying to think everything through as much as possible and think of the implications they have once we deploy.

Finally, the last big thing I and the rest of the TQP team are doing is making presentations to groups we want to have involved in this project.  We are getting out and meeting people both throughout the state and on campus.  Next week I’m meeting with one of our pilot schools to learn more about their technology plans and initiatives, hopefully learning something in the process and opening a door for the district should they have the need for my services, either for implementing a new project or even to troubleshoot a problem.

Its been a little slow from time-to-time, but things are starting to pick up and move forward and I’m getting excited for what’s beginning to unfold.  If you want to learn more about the Iowa Teacher Quality Partnership grant, click here.

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