This week we had to examine one area of technology for the organization we are analyzing and complete a brick for that area. The brick examines applications that need to be replaced or improved. The brick outlines the applications (or processes within the application) that need to be eliminated, ones that should be tracked to see if they would be a better fit for the organization, and ones that would be integrated within the next 2 or 5 years to improve overall functionality of the organization. This same process can be used in my practice as a teacher because I can examine the technology tools that I am currently using in my classroom and determine which ones are ineffective and look for better options. For example, I currently use Google Classroom to post information and assignments for my students to access, but Google Classroom’s functionality can be limited. Students have to scroll excessively to find older assignments, it’s difficult for students to share certain documents, and the activity feed does not automatically update. These problems are not overwhelming so I have not tried to find another application that could replace Google Classroom. However, completing a brick for this area of a course management system could potentially help me find a better resource to use. This brick activity can also be used for other instructional tools. Teachers are constantly looking for video tutorials to share with students to support learning, so looking for a credible, reliable video tutorial bank would also be another way to use the brick activity. Basically, you can use the brick activity with any area that teachers think they would like to improve. It’s a dissection of current practices to determine what is already being used and then it is an examination of possible future practices to replace the ineffective ones. I can see that the brick activity is very similar to Enterprise Architecture, but in a much more detailed and specific view. Enterprise Architecture examines the current state of technology within an organization and then outlines the future state that the organization would like to move towards. The brick activity does the same thing but only looks at one specific area of technology or application at a time. This activity would be beneficial for all teachers to use to improve their practices.
For this week’s assignment we had to examine the district’s devices to determine if they met all the requirements for the upcoming SBAC testing. The district I am analyzing has participated in SBAC testing for the last two years so they are familiar with the process and have had devices in place for a while. In order to find out the exact specifications for the devices that the district has, I met with one computer support technician to ask questions. I was worried some of the questions would be too difficult for her to answer, but she knew all the answers right away. I had to ask about the device model type, screen size, resolution, network connectivity, security and operating systems. She did not have to ask anyone else for the answers. She knew them all. This impressed me. I know it is her job to be familiar with the devices, operating systems and networks but the fact that she could answer all my questions quickly shows me that the IT department functions very well and has some amazing people working for the district.
Another discovery I made was that some sites have different supplemental devices. All sites have 1:1 chromebooks for all students. However, it turns out other sites have iPods and iPads as well. These devices cannot be used for testing, but it was good information to learn. It made me wonder why and how they received those additional devices and how other sites could receive the same thing.
Overall, my research this week showed me that the district I am examining has met all requirements for SBAC readiness. This has been refreshing to learn because most of the other areas I have examined in this class so far have shown me that the district has many areas for improvement and gaps. Although the areas for improvement and gaps are important to identify, it is equally important to identify the strengths of a district. This would be one strength of the district. They have an extremely strong IT department with knowledgeable staff who have prepared school sites for the upcoming SBAC test. This is no easy task either. The SBAC test is still very new for students and teachers so making the testing experience easier for all users is extremely beneficial.
This week we took a closer look at the different applications that are used within the organization we are examining. Last week we had to identify the applications that are used, but this week we had to scrutinize the application’s functionality, technical capabilities, process issues and costs. This is an excellent approach to examining applications because it evaluates each application individually against a standardized rating scale. This allows districts to determine which applications should receive immediate focus for improvements or replacements. This is the primary reason for using Enterprise Architecture in general as well. EA allows districts to examine what they currently have in place (current state) so they can look forward to what they need to improve (future state).
Breaking down each part of the EA of a district is extremely helpful for anyone, but especially helpful to current and future leaders. Often times staff can see that there are problems within a district. Sometimes these problems can be identified, but not always. From there, problem solving has to occur to make improvements and fix the problems. With an entire organizational structure, this task can be a daunting one. Using EA is a highly structured way for leaders to examine their current state of processes and the areas for improvement. The specific way of outlining each aspect of the organization provides a detailed view of each part of the organization that contributes to the whole. This results in informed decision making. Without a thorough examination of the current state of the organization, decisions to improve the organization may be too narrowly focused or will not take into account the outcomes of decisions.
Throughout the work I have done in this class, I can see how valuable EA is for making improvements within organizations. Honestly, my first few weeks reading about and discussing EA were difficult. I felt like it was such an abstract term that I could not fully grasp. After eight weeks of assignments and readings that have allowed me to directly apply what I have learned to a real organization, I am gaining a much better understanding of EA. I think the assignments will not only prepare me to apply what I’ve learned to different organizations, but it will equip me with some solid recommendations for improvements in my district.
This week we had to examine the organization’s applications and explain how we would prioritize them. With district applications, many are distinct and isolated from one another and information can not be transferred easily between applications. One way to clarify and unify distinct applications within school districts is by using Enterprise Architecture (EA). EA is used to align the business aspects, programs and information technology within an educational agency (Educational Enterprise Architecture Guidebook, 2014). Although I am not an administrator yet, I could use EA to examine the district and their applications to help clarify or unify their applications. There are multiple steps I would need to take to use EA (and I have done a lot of this work already for this class), but for aligning district applications, I would need to specifically focus on their Application Architecture (AA) . The AA delineates the current applications being used in the district and how they interact (Educational Enterprise Architecture Guidebook, 2014). I could create a visual representation of the applications within the district, how they interact and the overall structure. This would provide the district with a visual of the current applications and they will see possibly areas for improvement. Once I have developed the current state of the AA, I can look forward to the future state to examine how we can clarify and unify the district’s applications. I will have to examine if certain applications are missing, if they have some that overlap unnecessarily and if they are not working properly (Educational Enterprise Architecture Guidebook, 2014). This would be the time where I would also prioritize the applications and make suggestions about replacing or altering the applications that are least effective. While looking for new applications, I would need to keep in mind the interoperability of the all applications. This will mean that the new or altered applications I would recommend will ultimately bring the systems together instead of purchasing another isolated application.
Currently in the organization that I am analyzing, there are many distinct applications that are isolated, but there are also multiple applications that work well together. The student information system used throughout the district (Q/Zangle) is available and used in most departments. This application provides information for other applications such as OARS (student assessment application), Go Math Curriculum (digital math curriculum), and GAFE (email and collaboration application) so they work well together. However, the application for Child Nutrition (OneSource) is not currently available to office staff or linked to the student information application (Q/Zangle). Therefore, this organization can definitely benefit from using EA to unify applications to make information easily transferable from one application to another.
Educational Enterprise Architecture Guidebook. (March, 2014). Reform Support Network. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/implementation-support-unit/tech-assist/education-architecture-guidebook.pdf