Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Ken Decroo

Ken Decroo is a middle school science teacher and a professor in the Department of Education, Science, Technology and Math, at California State University, San Barnardino. Ken became a member of TAPPED IN in 1999 when he was introduced to it while participating in the Teach the Teachers Collaborative (TTTC).

Ken's Perspective

My name is Ken Decroo (KenD). I was introduced to TAPPED IN while participating in the Teach the Teachers Collaborative (TTTC) in 1999 and have been a member ever since. I teach SEI science at Harry S. Truman Middle School and graduate level courses in the Department of Education, Science, Technology and Math, at California State University, San Barnardino.

I am a life long learner. I hold two masters degrees, Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside and Instructional Technology, California State University, San Bernardino. I am finishing up a third MA in Administration at CSUSB. I am a bilingual teacher and work with students whose primary language is Spanish. I love what I do. There is nothing I would rather do than teach. I especially like the balance I get from teaching both middle school students and teachers.

I have pursued both these areas within the landscape of curriculum and instruction. I believe we cannot address any issue in education, anymore, without assessing how it supports standards based curriculum. I have attempted, in my practice, to reflect on how what I do furthers our curricular goals as a district. On the site level, I have actively supported a model that analyzes school performance, based on State and District assessments, with the goal of isolating content clusters that can be targeted with specialized techniques in Bilingual Education and Technology. The goal is support and improve student performance.

I have implemented this model at Truman, in my regular classes in my technology learning lab and in my technology/ELL consulting period, as a classroom teacher and as an Administrative Designee.

Since the onset of the Internet and its hybrid, the World Wide Web (WWW), educators have recognized its potential to engage students in constructive learning. When students go online, they enter a world of learning where they can find information about seemingly any subject. Interconnected around the world, there are literally millions of web pages representing the entire array of human endeavors. It is a vast resource of information that doubles every year. The shear volume of the Internet often makes the process of understanding, evaluating and using it seem overwhelming. Not all sources in this vast and diverse media are equal in reliability and quality.

Millions of web sites are created in both academic and commercial environments every year. In this expanding environment, it is the challenge for every educator to hone this vast resource to support existing curriculum. Few studies have examined the effectiveness of using web sites in teaching. The design of web sites has developed, in the last ten years, from simple linear presentations to interactive multi/hypermedia sources of information.

We are faced with the challenge of teaching our students the strategy of making sense of it and finding their way around it. But very often, it is just the opposite of this that plays out in the classroom. Our students, having grown up digitally, are comfortable in this media and find themselves in the reversed role of teaching their teachers how to use the Internet. This is less than an ideal pedagogy.

Within this landscape it has been my charge to infuse technology into the district curriculum. It is my belief that the concept of technology infusion needs more attention in order to harness its power to meet the target of improving student learning. Its essence is in using technology to support standards based curriculum. But confusion has arisen, among educators, as to what that actually looks like and how it works. A technology plan must be clear on what infusion is and how it works if it is to promote student achievement and learning.

Technology can only be successfully infused when curricular needs are defined. Several items need to be taken into account. 1) Identification of curricular needs must be data driven. 2) Each school has unique and site-specific needs dependent on a variety of factors. 3) In most cases, we already have the data to determine and address those needs.

The results of the standardized and district assessments give us an excellent starting point for determining the curricular target for a school site. We are able to evaluate student performance by content clusters that align to the strands of the California Standards. By identifying sub-group movement and sub-standard performance, we can implement technological methods and applications that can facilitate better learning. By determining the needs of a particular site based on this data, we can design a unique program to infuse technology into the curriculum, a technology plan. This allows a school site to better channel its technological resources to get more "bang for the buck." The plan must take into account the mission of the school, the curricular needs of the school, the actual and future technological assets of the school site, and the level of technological competence of the staff. Hence, methods and applications can be incorporated into a technology plan based on these needs taking into account the unique constituency of the school site.

I use TAPPED IN extensively in my University classes to develop an online professional community of learners. It allows me to hold virtual office hours and online classes in my TAPPED IN office. Further, my students are learning about technology by using it. TAPPED IN is an integral part of my practice as a university lecturer. My goal is to introduce and support my students in learning how to incorporate this powerful tool to help further their professional growth.