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Friday, November 16, 2012

District Employees Participating in LEAN Training to Increase Efficiencies

Medina City School District employees representing business operations, finances, human resources, food service, technology and instruction have participated in a 3-day LEAN training at the Medina County University Center.  LEAN, a business concept, is about operating the most efficient and effective organization possible, with the least amount of cost and zero waste. 
LEAN has been used in companies such as Toyota, Wiremold, Porsche, Lantech, Pratt and Whitney.  LEAN is more than just techniques and implementing processes, it’s about changing mindsets to identify and eliminate waste.  LEAN can be applied to a variety of environments.
District Superintendent Dr. Randy Stepp stated, “We have worked hard to become a more efficient and effective school district in every area of our operations.  However, there is always room for improvement and I believe that the adoption of LEAN thinking and processes will help us to further maximize our efficiencies and eliminate waste.  It will cause us to truly look at what creates value and eliminate all other non-value added activities.”
The 3-day course that district employees participated in included LEAN 101, introducing the fundamentals of the LEAN process including waste identification, learning the 5S Steps for Success which include sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.  5S is a system of organizing the workplace and providing the basis for sustaining the organization.  Employees learned about the tools and systems to implement a successful Visual Management System.  Visual Management is an improvement tool that utilizes visual aids such as charts, signs and visual queues to focus an organization on its objectives.  Employees also learned about Standardized Work, one of the most powerful lean tools.  This tool forms the basis for continuous improvement by documenting the current best practices.  Lean Leadership will be introduced, teaching managers to always be in the mode of continuous improvement.  Problem Solving will be taught as most organizations solve problems in counter-productive ways.  Attendees learned how to address issues for the long-term, not using band-aids to resolve problems.  Additional LEAN concepts were introduced to district employees throughout the training.
Superintendent Dr. Stepp said, “My goal is for us to gain knowledge in LEAN thinking and processes so that we can best optimize our goals and outputs in every area of the district.  LEAN can be very far-reaching for us as a school district from administrative processes to classroom management.”
The presenter for the LEAN program is founder of Lean Concepts Inc., John Veatch.  Veatch began Lean Concepts, Inc. in 1998 with the mission to build a consulting organization that delivers measurable increases in efficiency and productivity.  District employees will participate in phase two of the training in January.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Going Green with Blackboard

Guest post by Brian Morgan, Assistant Professor, Integrated Science and Technology Department, Marshall University, and a member of the Ask Dr. C program, a free question and answer service for Blackboard Users.
There have been hundreds of articles published in the last few years on creating a “green” learning environment.  If you are trying to do everything you can to help in this effort, you should consider using Blackboard to assist in reducing the paper in your classroom and office.  I’ll cover a number of techniques, which involve using Blackboard Learn to go green, below.
Encouraging Faculty to Do More Online
Even with technology as prominent as it is today, some faculty still feel trepidation when offering any part of their courses online.  Many still do not understand that online environments, such as Blackboard, are secure and that no one is truly going to steal their intellectual property.  At Marshall University, the Information Technology department has created the MUOnline Design Center, staffed with instructional technologists and designers, to assist faculty in converting their materials to a digital format. These individuals also work with faculty to encourage new techniques in online teaching and the development of materials for the digital age.

Daily Quizzes
Many instructors like to give quick quizzes to ensure their students have read since the last class meeting, understand the material, etc.  Typically a 15 week, semester-based course can meet up to 45 times.  What if an instructor teaches four sections with 25 students enrolled in each section and gives 30 quizzes in a semester? Per semester, that amounts to 3000 sheets (6 reams) of paper.  Using the Blackboard Assessment tool in the place of paper can be every bit as, and even more, effective than paper-based quizzes.  The assessment tool can be deployed easily each class meeting and give students instant feedback on their assessment, something that is not easily done with paper-based quizzes.  This approach can save immeasurable resources over time.
In addition to assessments, the same can be said about assignments. Even though I teach in both a traditional and online environment, in either case, I require students to submit all of their work through the Blackboard Assignment tool, no matter the assignment. It cuts down on paper and, while I like to think that I am a very organized person, I am only organized as long as I have everything in my lap, on my computer! Not accepting paper for student submissions helps me stay organized.
Annotating Online
Requiring students to submit assignments via the Assignment tool allows me to use Microsoft Word’s comments feature to annotate a student’s submission before returning the document to them.  This allows a quick turnaround in providing feedback for students, cuts down on paper, and provides a permanent record of the remarks given to students.  Students do not have to wait for the next class meeting to get their comments back and start studying or revising their assignments.
File Storage/Decluttering your Desktop and Life
I know several faculty members on my campus who actually have file cabinets full of student files, class notes, and old exam papers in their offices.  Using Blackboard’s toolset can help an instructor organize and declutter their office, making them more efficient in future courses.  Routinely, I return to previous sections of Blackboard courses I have taught to retrieve files that I have stored online. I can then refer to annotations, past assignments, notes, and more.  Storing all of them within Blackboard makes sense, in part because institutions typically, or should (!), make routine backups of your course materials on their server.

Friday, March 2, 2012

District and Police Working Together to Assure Safe Environments for Our Students

The Medina City School District along with Medina City, Medina Township, and Montville Police Departments are working closely and collaboratively to assure the safety of students in the school district.  The school district takes all threats seriously at all times.  If any threats or situations should arise they will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action will be taken. 

The district encourages parents to talk with their children to reiterate the seriousness of threats or jokes and that they will not be tolerated; also to encourage their children to share with an adult an action or comment they see or hear that is unsafe or inappropriate.

Individuals can also use the Stay Safe Speak Up hotline to report incidences that affect the safety of students.  Reports can be done anonymously either by phone or online.  The toll free number is 1.866.listen2me.  The hotline can also be accessed by visiting the district web site and clicking on the Stay Safe Speak Up link on the front page.  The web site is http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1109427354997&s=0&e=001uuPTez86KB2bqr_fLhFblf9pX4QQVBhCjq7-KxD0dv8stbopcyMKMuJVt72w5VDJA0J8uwjQrZ97D4mPeyT37iBor_07d0HdlsBCvI4Rr8MuxATCvBCsY0Z6SWKOt4DR

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

District Chooses Blackboard as Learning Management System

Questions have arisen as to the district's choice of Blackboard as the learning management system.  Following is the rational behind the decision making process which resulted in the use of Blackboard.  The district researched numerous learning management systems looking for one that would provide a broad spectrum of capabilities. 

Following is a comparison of Blackboard versus Moodle.

Moodle is an LMS that does not require licensing fees but has a number of hidden costs associated with it such as hardaware to install and maintain servers, to training and support from third party vendors.  Blackborad costs are inclusive and offer the ability to streamline communications, eliminate local data storage, and provide a consistent online experience to our studnets, staff and parents. 

The open source nature of Moodle is good for teachers who are tech savvy and want to build online components in isolation.  Balckboard provides uniformity of a professionally designed and supported learning management system that is accessible to users regardless of technical ability. 

By purchasing Blackboard services through the Learn 21 consortium the district is able to offer a superior product that will grow with the district at a marginal and defined cost which includes technical support and professional development.  Additionally, with Blackboard the district is able to deploy the Blackboard Learn  mobile app which allows users to access their accounts from their mobile devices.  This is not possible with other learning management systems and takes the district closer to the ideal of becoming a mobile learning society.  Stacy Hawthorne, the district's integration technology coordinator stated, "The mobile app has been accessed every hour of the day since launching except for 2:00 AM to 4:00 AM.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Technology is expanding the educational experience for students throughout the district

Students and staff across the school district can be found using technology in new and expanded ways – from ipods and Kindles at the elementary level to the use of a learning management system called Blackboard at the high school.  Through the use of Blackboard teachers are able to interact and reach students outside of the classroom in a medium in which they are already comfortable.  Blackboard is teaching and exposing students to a technological skill that colleges and universities are looking for in incoming freshmen.  Blackboard also offers the school district 21st century collaboration and communication tools such as blogs, journals, discussion boards, and messaging. 
Northrop Title I teacher Kristy LeBlanc recently received a grant from the Medina City Schools Foundation to purchase Kindles for her students to help increase their reading fluency and expand the availability of grade level books.  Kindles also have the capability to read the text to the students modeling reading fluency and the use of the built in dictionary.
Second grade teacher at Canavan, Jolene Speckman is using technology in her classroom to engage her students and to reinforce concepts that the students are learning.  The students use iPods several times a week to reinforce concepts in reading, spelling, and math.  Using iPod touches and a Web 2.0 tool Socrative.com the students are able to interact real time with the content.  Student responses are visually represented for multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions for content the teacher has chosen.  They also use an online tool called Quizlet-Vocab which essentially provides flashcards and study games covering every subject area, over 8 million free sets of flashcards are available.
Medina High School Language Arts teacher Jennifer Oehler recently shared with the Board of Education that she uses Blackboard to post due dates for assignments, for students to turn in homework, and other relevant classroom information but most excitingly engages students in online learning with it.  Oehler allows students to anonymously post essays on Blackboard to allow for peer-to-peer critiquing. 
Medina High School parents and students should expect to see a class syllabus and weekly assignments posted on their students Blackboard account for every class.  Currently, Root and Claggett teachers are being trained in Blackboard and will begin to utilize it with their students next school year.  Blackboard opens the doors to online learning and technology that provides ‘real time’ access to the world.  On the advantages of peer-evaluations an discussions online, Oehler said, “I have found that students are more willing to provide constructive feedback when they can contribute to discussions or evaluations anonymously.  Students also consider the feedback more carefully because they know it has been reviewed without prejudice or bias.”  Oehler also makes use of the capability to embed educational videos and multimedia resources related to the content.  This is helpful for students who might need to review the material due to an absence, to prepare for a test, or to enrich their understanding.
Medina High School now has campus-wide wireless access and both Root and Claggett have widespread wireless access for students and staff.  The goal is for the wireless upgrades to be complete at Root and Claggett next school year with wireless access at the elementary schools the following year.  Providing wireless access gives students the advantage of learning on a variety of mobile devices from laptops to tablets to smart phones to mp3 players and everything in between.  Additionally, by opening the district campuses and securing the network the district can offer “students bring your own device” (BYOD) environment which accelerates the possibility of becoming a 1-1 district (one device for each student).  Through ongoing professional development teachers are learning to incorporate a variety of student-owned mobile learning devices into their lessons to excite and engage students in learning.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Advertising on school buses

The question of advertising on school buses continues to resurface in our community and many others throughout the United States.  In Ohio, the Ohio Administrative Code does not allow school districts to provide ad space on school buses, this falls within the Construction Code Standards for school buses. 
Currently, Senator Joe Schiavone has introduced SB 174 that would allow school districts to adopt a resolution establishing procedures for soliciting bids and awarding contracts for the sale of commercial advertising on school buses. 
Pete Japikse, director of transportation at the Ohio Department of Education said the bill is worrisome because of the possible unintended consequences.  It is the distraction issue that has many school districts and opponents of the bill concerned. 
According to Japikse, advertising on buses is not a huge revenue generator.  In fact, the Columbus transit service just terminated their vehicle advertising program because they found that the vehicle maintenance and repairs resulting from the ads exceeded the revenue generated.
We will be closely monitoring the progress of this bill and the actions of other states as everyone weighs the pros and cons of advertising on school buses.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Graduation Costs

Recently, a community member questioned why the district has graduation off site.  The community member suggested that the district hold the graduation ceremony at Ken Dukes Stadium.  Following is the rational for holding this most meaningful ceremony at the James A. Rhodes (JAR) Arena on the University of Akron's campus.

Ken Dukes Stadium holds 5,000 people; the JAR holds 5500 not including the graduates.  In 2011 the graduating class had 553 students; the graduating class of 2012 will be approximately 598 students.  Each student receives 8 tickets so that siblings and other close family members can attend their graduation ceremony.  The numbers alone do not allow for the use of Ken Dukes Stadium. Further, capacity would need to based solely on the home side, due to the fact that graduates need to face the audience.

The other issue is the weather.  If the weather is inclement immediate action must be taken to move the event indoors.  The high school gymnasium is not an option as the uppper bleachers have seating for 1400 and the lower bleachers cannot be used as that is where the graduates would need to be seated.  To secure an alternative location in the case of inclement weather would cost additional money to reserve the location. 

Following are the costs associated with graduation:
  • JAR Rental - $2500
  • Police and JAR staff - $1700
  • Equipment Rental - $1450
The past few years the JAR has discounted the rate for the school district. The district also holds the ceremony the same day as Brunswick School District to share in some related costs.

The district views graduation as a very important milestone in the life of our students and one that should be honored and enjoyed by family.  It is our goal to maintain this celebratory air of this momentous accomplishment.