The guiding premise of this project, the inspiration, is the NETS, the National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for students, faculty and administrators. New Hampshire has adopted these as the state standards. As an independent school, KUA does not have to follow these standards yet if it does not make an effort to do so, it may lose the competitive edge that it now enjoys.
Two of the items in the standards for students are particularly germane:
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 and productivity.
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship
The project uses a multi-user installation of the open source blogging platform, WordPress, to support, encourage and facilitate this kind of learning by students, faculty and staff.
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 communicating and working collaboratively on documents, projects of all kinds with people they’ve never met, some on the other side of the world – online.
Students that I encounter in the course of my day do not have any idea how to publish to the web or do collaborative work in an online venue. Most can post to Facebook, some do not even know very much about that. 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. The KUAPress project will provide a way of modeling productive engagement with the world community and give students the opportunity to publish to the web in myriad forms.
The organization is already seeing the benefits of the project in the form of two active vibrant blogs in the science department, drawing visitors from around the world. Several English classes are using the platform to hold discussions outside of class time. Students are learning how to publish to the web, write in hypertext, format graphics and consider copyright issues.
The blogs presently on the site are all faculty driven and faculty “owned”. It is one of the goals of my project to help and encourage students to create their own sites.
I am passionate about digital literacy and citizenship and I do not believe we are preparing our students as well as it could in this important subject. Although KUA does work on teaching students about cyber-bullying, copyright issues, and guarding privacy the emphasis is on what not to do rather than on what can be done.
I hope that this project will change the way the administration views web publishing and will move them from viewing it as a danger to the school and students to seeing it as a necessary and important skill that all students should have in order to be well prepared for college and life.
Adolescents are a difficult audience at the best of times. The students at Kimball Union Academy are extremely busy. Their classes are challenging. At a boarding school, the scheduled events are many. Class time, sports and activities, dinner in the dining hall, study hours, lights out – it will take careful marketing to interest them in what might easily become another task. This age group is also reluctant I think to “put themselves out there” in anything but a superficial way such as status updates or chat. I will be following my marketing plan to try to promote web publishing to the student body at large as well as encouraging individual students that I identify as having a body of work or an interest that they wish to share.
I hope to meet with administrators in the College Counseling Department to show them the benefits to students of a digital portfolio and to work with them to get student work online. I will be presenting to the Academic Council to promote my project and to stimulate a conversation on policy. KUA has no written policy on web publishing. One of the long-term project goals is to see a written policy on that topic.
- Introduction to WordPress
- Configuring Your Site
- Posting (in detail)
Student Marketing Plan
Usability Study– KUA Tech Support blog
Usability Report – KUA Tech Support blog
TOWS Matrix and Strategic Initiative Report
Example Blogs: Digital Photography, Capstone, KUA Technical Support
Work Breakdown Schedule
Kimball Union Academy is an Independent college preparatory school located in Meriden, NH. Established in 1813 it serves approximately 300 students in grades 9-12. Some students attend for a post-graduate year after high school.
Revenue is primarily tuition driven although KUA has an endowment, which generates income. KUA has an active alumni community that contributes to the school.
2b. Competitive landscape
Kimball Union Academy competes for enrollment with similar schools worldwide. Independent schools such as Saint Paul’s, Holderness, Tilton to name a few similar college preparatory schools located in the New England area, compete for the same sorts of students. The students mainly come from well-to-do families who wish to give their children the best chance at a prestigious college. The school actively recruits foreign students.
One of the big attractions of these sorts of schools is their sense of history. Most have been established for quite a long time, in some cases well over a hundred years. Yet at the same time these schools must be seen as modern in their approach to education and have the latest technological tools available.
2c. Stakeholder map.
Students: The student body at Kimball Union is a varied group as any high school body will be, as a school with a proportion of international students it may even be more varied than normal due to cultural differences. Some characteristics are universal. They are busy. Most of their time is structured. They have little free time. They are self-absorbed.
Faculty: Faculty also have little free time. Most understand the importance of incorporating technological tools in their teaching. The English department in particular has seen blogging as an important tool that can be used in their classes to good effect. Most faculty see blogging as a purely text based tool, if they know much about it at all. Faculty have a great deal of influence over the project in that they can be proponents of the platform in their classes.
Parents: Parents are stakeholders, in that they have a vital interest in the activities of their children, and are ultimately responsible for them. I am not sure that they will have much influence as most consider, properly, that their children’s education and welfare is in the hands of the school.
Administration: The administration of the school is the most influential stakeholder group. In a very real sense this group holds the power of life or death over the project.
Supervisor: Jason Bourne, as a fairly new Technology Director of KUA (just over a year) with a background in technology sales, is treading a delicate balance between delivering the robust infrastructure demanded while keeping costs at a minimum. At the same time he is learning many aspects of his position on the fly. He has influence over the project in that anything I do is his responsibility, however his interest in it is low.
In order of importance: Students, Faculty, Parents, Administration, and Supervisor
In order of influence: Faculty, Administration, Supervisor, Students, and Parents
The project team consists of myself as Team Leader. Faculty members act as members of the project team as promoters of the blogging platform in their classes and teachers of the rudiments of posting, commenting and formatting as they learn these skills themselves.
I consider myself to be the right person for the project because I am passionate about it. It takes passion and commitment to change a school culture and the successful KUAPress project will accomplish nothing less. I have had extensive experience with the WordPress platform over the years. My experience working in the school environment gives me insight into technologies teachers and students can comfortably incorporate into the curriculum and how they can make use of the blogging platform to enhance the educational process. As well, my own experience publishing online has given me enthusiasm for the benefits it can bring.
3b. Communication plan
Communication between myself and the other members of the team, takes place on an ad hoc basis. Communication between Jason Bourne and myself takes place at our weekly department meetings as well as on an ad hoc basis.
4. Risks and assumptions
1. Only teachers will use the platform.
This is a real risk. Few students are tech savvy enough to even know what a blog is or what it can offer them in the way of a voice. In addition high school students are risk-averse when it comes to “putting themselves out there”. As teachers are using the blogging platform in classes, students tend to see KUAPress as something that is school related, an assignment. My plan to recover from this is to find one or two students who will like the idea of having their own web presence and encourage them as much as I can. I also have set up a photo blog and have asked the students and the teacher in the Digital Photography class to set aside one picture a week from each student that will be published to this blog. It is my hope that when students see their work displayed as art in an online format, accessible to the world, they will become more comfortable with the idea that they have something valuable to offer the world.
2. The server will fail.
This is always a risk. The platform previously ran on an elderly G4 with an external hard drive as backup, it now runs on a G5 Mac Mini Server with a redundant drive which I’ve set up as a Time Machine volume. In case of failure we now have backup Mac Minis for some of the new classrooms and one of these could be re-imaged and back online within hours. In a perfect world I would have set up a RAID configuration so that any hard drive failure would be almost imperceptible.
3.The administration will be offended by something posted or frightened by a comment and will shut the installation down.
I do consider this a risk and have from the beginning. In response to this risk I have been counseling faculty using the platform to impress upon students that the discussion is online and available to anyone. I train faculty to train their students to change their posting name to a nickname. Blog owners are taught to control comments. The formulation and publication of a web publishing policy will be the most important portion of the risk mitigation plan but I do not anticipate that coming to fruition very quickly.
4b. Key assumptions:
1. The most important key assumption is that the project will be a success, that at least some students will create sites or electronic portfolios and will find them of value and that these sites will in turn inspire other students to do likewise.
2. The second is that the school will find the project useful and valuable, both as an experience that can set graduates apart from graduates of similar schools and as a part of their marketing plan to prospective students.