The project that I began doing is very different from the project as it stands now. In Project Management, that is called scope creep and it is not a good thing.
In my case, scope creep has been my friend. I am lucky enough to have done this project for my employer, Kimball Union Academy.
Kimball Union Academy is an independent college preparatory school located in Meriden, NH. It serves approximately 300 students in grades 9-12. As an educational institution it looks for new ways to engage students. When I began the project, it consisted of an online support site for these students.
The Technology Director at the time charged a member of the department with creating an online resource containing support materials which at that time existed as PDF documents in a network folder. Students rarely, if ever, used these materials. My colleague created a site at wordpress.com : http://kuatech.wordpress.com
That was as far as the site went for almost a year. I took ownership of the moribund project and decided to make it my capstone project for the BSMIS program at Marlboro Graduate Center. My supervisor agreed to be the project sponsor.
I was dissatisfied with the plugins and themes allowed at wordpress.com and set up an old G4 desktop to act as a local server.
From this beginning, the project has evolved into an active multi-site WordPress installation, KUAPress. The platform is used by many of the faculty in their classes. I will not consider the project complete until some of the students are using it. The project then has evolved, and continues to do so. Scope creep is our friend.
Throughout the execution of the KUAPress project, the guiding premise has come from the NETS, the National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for students, faculty and administrators, which New Hampshire has adopted as its state standards. As an independent school, KUA does not have to follow these standards yet I submit that if it does not make an effort to do so, it will lose the competitive edge that it now enjoys.
The items which apply in particular to the KUAPress Project are items 2 and 5 of the NETS for students:
2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
- a. Interact, collaborate and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
- b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
- c. Develop cultural understanding of global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
- d. Contribute to project teams to produce original works to solve problems
And item 5:
5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:
- a. Advocate and practice safe, legal and responsible use of information and technology.
- b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning a and productivity.
- c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
- d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship
Students that I encounter in the course of my day do not know how to go about any of this. Most can post to Facebook, some do not even know very much about that. They do not know, for instance that posting photos on Facebook gives Facebook the right to use that material in whatever way they like.
Faculty, as a rule, know even less.
As a platform for learning, a blogging platform can be very useful. WordPress is particularly user friendly. Many navigate creating a site, posting, commenting without much trouble. I would like to say most do, it does seem very simple to me but I find that many do not read links or explore options without some guidance. An ongoing part of the project will be learning sessions with faculty and, I hope, students. Several times teachers have invited me to their classes for an orientation to the platform and these have proved useful to the students.
I am passionate about this project. I believe that the people with power in the coming years will be people who know how to present information and themselves, online. They will be people who know something about web publishing. Without the ability to create content or even the understanding of how it is done, students are in the position of being passive consumers of whatever information is presented to them.
As a college preparatory school KUA prepares students for college but the larger mission of the school is to prepare the leaders of tomorrow. The leaders of tomorrow will not only be using the Internet to receive information but to disseminate it. They will be working cooperatively with people on the other side of the world, collaborating on documents, projects of all kinds. They will be communicating and working collaboratively with people they’ve never met – online.
KUAPress can be the tool we use to help prepare these students for their adult responsibilities and it can also give students a voice which if they should wish it, can be heard across the globe.