I have been in graduate school for over half a year now. There are the challenges of keeping up with the reading, the workload, and the balancing of priorities in private life. This is all to be expected. What I have found is how graduate school has become my own version of Enterprise Architecture. I found my current state needing improvement. I then identified the desired state and what it would take to get there. Now that I am in the graduate program I find myself in a gap between the once current state and the desired state of completing my degree.
At the completion of this course, I will have four units of graduate work completed. It has become apparent to me, as an individual and for a system, is that nothing can be done in isolation. The success of any endeavor, or shall we say enterprise, will require effective communication. Through the exploration of Enterprise Architecture, I have seen how communication is the process through which every task and artifact gets completed. This is particularly the case in the Preliminary Stage, where the planning of the EA is conducted. A business can not have individuals or even groups working in isolation. Fear of change can force groups to isolate themselves, and that is just human nature. However, effective leadership and business practices can help all stakeholders within the organization to collaborate as part of the system. To me, where I currently stand I see the need for an ongoing system of communication and feedback to be the growth and vitality of any enterprise, even graduate school.
I know where I am in my educational goals. I am not foolish to believe that I have mastered any of the subjects from my course work. In fact, I am stuck between where I am and where I wish to be. I am in what EA would identify as ‘The Gap.’ I know enough to have a grasp, to be able to share my understanding and ask for guidance when I don’t comprehend a concept. In EDL 680 Introduction to Enterprise Architecture, for example, I am well aware of the vast complexity that is EA. At the same time, I can understand its vital importance to any organization. The Gap is that place where the Enterprise had identified where they want to be and understand the work that needs to be done to reach the desired state. The journey and the process from current state to the desired state creates a massive plan that requires communication at all levels of the Enterprise.
There can be a plan. In my life, the thought and energy that went to deciding to attend graduate school took several weeks. I needed to get the input and feedback from all stakeholder, my family. It is the same with EA, it is the process and the planning to moving from where the organization is to where it wants to be. EA is the growth and the change. Many organization become resistant to change. Some would argue that the very nature of teaching is resistant to change. However, the goal of instruction is to see a change in student outcomes. This resistance is due to a lack of communication. Leadership and learning both require that the desired state be clearly communicated. To be clear leadership is not a single voice, nor is learning. The role of the leader is to take the communications of the organization and be their champion. My desired state would be always to remember that a boss has a single voice, while a leader is the voice of many.
As another class comes to a close, I reflect on my learning and growth in leadership. Like in the EA example, I know where I am and where I want to be. I recognize the gap between the two states. The simple tool to cross this barrier, for me, is the 3Cs. The most successful tool I can bring to an organization, business, or a district will be communication, communication, and communication.
I’m an idiot when it comes to sports, especially football. I’m more a baseball guy, to be honest. But I do know they have coaches in football, and those coaches want to be successful. They need to win. Therefore coaches need a strategy; they need a play card. That is exactly what a Brick is, the strategy card. Now, you get many Bricks and an IT manager, the coach, can create the playbook and have all the information need to move a team from the baseline to a desired state.
Think of the Brick as the coach's play cards, go, team! Instead of plans for either the offensive or defensive teams, the Brick lists the growth plan for systems like Learning Management System or the Student Information System. The strategies of the system are all listed on one quick and easy sheet. The Brick allows a person to have all their special teams in one place. All the coach, the IT specialist, has to do is flip a few pages and then they are glancing at the planned growth of their district’s assessment system, for example. The coach’s play card maybe for one special team, one system, but there will be many strategies associated with that system.
The play card gives the coach a strategy to use to meet success. It is the responsibility of the coach to take the team from where they are to where they want to be, winning. The strategy of the game therefore is to start at the base line, envision the ideal state, and then identify the gap. The Brick will list baseline, desired state, the gap of the system applications or programs. The coach will then begin to collect enough play card, and then generate a playbook. In Enterprise Architecture, (EA) the model of The Open Group Architecture Forum, (TOGAF) has a place for these playbooks of system applications. In the Architecture Delivery, the information systems architecture is the coach’s playbook.
The team, the business, or even a school district needs to do more than show up on to the field; they must win. The information systems architecture is the coach’s playbook, and from here strategies are used to bring the district or business to success. It is important to note that the playbook is not used in isolation. Of course, I am referring to TOGAF. It begins with putting the architecture into context, where the team is, how is it currently playing and where does the team want to go. This is followed by the Delivery stage, and it is here where strategies are created based on an evaluation of systems, like system applications. In Transition Planning, the team is playing the game and projects start to happen. Governance would be the front office would oversee implementation and management. All the while, all parts of this process are in communication with the coach, or requirements management.
All metaphors aside, any enterprise needs a plan. True, in public education there are many reactionary actions. After all how many enterprises are mandated to change policies based on the public vote or local propositions? School districts, need to assess where their current states are if they are ever going to reach the desired state. This goes for all of systems, all of the bricks, of any district, from data management to library check out. Without any strategy, without a plan, there is no success. In education, success is often determined by the student outcomes.
Nothing was ever improved by sitting on the couch. You have to get up and go out the door. As one Hobbit said to the other “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” (Tolkien, 1994). It is, therefore, important to know your route as well as where you are going.
Before one can travel the road to success, you have to start. This is what is called the Baseline, where we are currently. These are the processes that are in place as well as the applications and programs that are use. It is important to know what you have as a resource and how to use this resource. Does ‘program X’, let’s just call it Accelerated Reader, really help to improve student reading? Knowing how an application functions is also part of the process. Back to our ‘program X', is it just a very expensive way to collect data on what books students are reading? Taking stock of one’s Baseline is the first step in the journey to greater success.
We know where we are starting from and now we need to know where we are going. This destination can also be called the strategic plan and so the next level of programs and applications are at a strategic level. These are programs and applications what are two or five years away from implementation. It is suggested that market leaders are identified and investigated at this level. What is the next best program that our reading intervention classes could be using? Cost and effectiveness must be an issue, as well as data management and standardization.
But like some New England poet, we might want to think about roads not taken on our journey towards success. This is what is called the emerging level. These are possible future programs and applications that will be examined for availability and need. These are programs new to you and me and may already be in common use in other districts. Asking questions like, ‘what are other districts using for successful reading intervention programs?’ becomes crucial at the emerging level. This is the place where you have taken the journey, you have reached your destination, and now you are looking toward the horizon, for the next best place.
There is always the next best thing out there. On the road to success, one must keep their eyes open for new and improved destinations. It should also be noted, that the journey is as important as the destination. How one reaches success is as important as the success itself.
Tolkien, J. R. (1994). The fellowship of the ring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
This might sound like an impossible dream, but I think I can improve my school district. I can be the one to bring Educational Enterprise Architecture to the district. I can be the to clarify the district’s systems. I also have the ability to unify systems through unifying people.
The first course of action would be to conduct a systems evaluation. This would be a large endeavor and would take some time. However, this is where the process has to start, with the programs and the applications. This would be a process aligned with the Reform Support Network’s Educational Enterprise Architecture. This would also require an investigation in the current architecture of the district-wide systems. The investigation of the current architecture would not be a single person’s responsibility. Here is where my role would be vital, through the process of collaboration, There would be a need for a create of a team to oversee and plan the process. EEA is not the job of a single person or a single department (Reform Support Network, 2014).
This is where my skills would be needed; I know what I don’t know. Clarifying the need for experts in my district's Instructional systems is another task I would take. There would be a need to create primary roles and secondary roles for the process of architecting. I would take on the role of the EEA crusader, recruiting other leaders on my adventure of facilitating the development of the EEA at my district. To be clear, the need to incorporate stakeholders is paramount. The creating motivation for this project will require me to create clear expectations of the process and results. I will also need to demonstrate the value of creating an EEA. I will have to define my crusade and set clear objectives (Reform Support Network, 2014). Like the Man of La Mancha himself, EEA is “to dream the impossible dream / To fight the unbeatable foe” (Leigh, Darion, & Wasserman, 1966). Getting stakeholders to share the same motivation is my impossible dream.
It may sound like a dream, but the school district must unify. Information technologies must unify. Systems and applications must consolidate. The stakeholders must unite. Chaotic systems are proving to be too costly. Silo-ism does not foster collaboration and efficient practices. Bringing primary stakeholders together will be my goal. I will not be the smartest person in the room. I won't have the highest degree or the most knowledge about the operating procedures of the district. I accept that. However, I will be the one with the skills and training needed to bring people and departments together to build a plan, the architecture. This is where my impossible dream will be successful, in the bring together of people.
My skill set is rather simple. I am the one in the room who is willing to be enthusiastic and embrace a banner of change. The PVUSD needs to improve and needs to change. Through clarifying and embracing an Educational Enterprise Architecture, I can make my district a better place. Oh! And I can save it lots of money. That will get someone's attention.
Leigh, M., Darion, J., & Wasserman, D. (1966). Man of La Mancha; a musical play. New York: Random House.
Reform Support Network (March, 2014) Educational Enterprise Architecture, US Department of Education.
“Think of the children,” is a rallying call often heard around this time of year, well at least this time of the year in every four years. Naturally, we all step in line and say ‘yes, for the children.’ But at some point, particularly in the state and Federal level informed decisions require quantitative, aggregate date. Political leaders don’t need to know about the children; they need to know about the data. The larger the budget, it would seem, the less personal information is required. An effective educational leader needs to know when to use what type of data. It almost appears that the closer one works directly with students, the more qualitative, narrative information is required. As an example, Student X wears the same shirt to school every day, has problems navigating a computer, and uses a gate-count system when doing simple math. Any experienced teacher knows that there was a lot of information I just shared, and some would say, this information is far more important than how her test scores add to the overall CAASPP results of a school site, district, or even a state. When it comes to data, it’s about how to use it when making informed decisions.
Education has always been about the data. If anyone tells you that education is about anything else, then they are trying to sell you something. Test scores are data, whether it’s this week’s spelling test or the latest on-line state mandated assessment, the fuel that runs education is data. Personal data needs to be stored in a Student Information System that requires compatibility and exchange, via an SIF. State test scores need to be accessed by, well the state apparently. This includes county, state, and federal agencies who use this data in countless ways. Some of the data is identifiable while a larger, big data will be de-identified. Finally, as the data get even bigger, and individualism is removed the aggregate data, large groups of students is collected by federal agencies allow for informed decisions to take place regarding policies like No Child Left Behind. But where NCLB went wrong is that education became generating data for data’s sake.
Let me be clear; it’s not about making data. In a recent conversation with a classmate, he and I talked about the online assessment tool called MAP. This program, from the North West Evaluation Association, claims to be a measure of academic progress. The test is a necessary interim adaptive assessment and is given four times a year. Much like any data collection product, it offers teachers the ability to personalize learning instruction. Of course, NWEA has a program called Skills Navigator, which is another online intervention program with proven effectiveness in improving MAP scores. MAP offers principals the ability to effectively evaluate site-based programs. District leaders are promised the ability to understand how each student in the district is doing. In the end, it is about making the data, and the MAP is the way my leaders collect that data.
At last count, there are something like 26 departments in our district. There are many guiding documents used by many departments in my school district. However, there appears to be a complete lack of communication between departments and the documentation that creates the process for planning. Many good people are working very hard to make sure their department has a course of action. So many departments with so many plans have created congestion to the point of stagnation, as systems compete they are in conflict with one and other.
In the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, the Technology department has created a guiding piece of architecture called The Technology Use Plan. The architectures of information, application, and technology are mapped in an attempt to create a coordinated plan within the department. Data collection, through a BrightBytes survey, from staff members, students, and parents in regards to competencies with district technology tools. What this means is that there is good news for the PVUSD. There is some context for the architecture. However, the plan needs delivery, and that is where nothing is done.
There was a movie once, where a guy is talking to another guy. The one guy, I think he was a prisoner is having a rough time in jail. The sheriff, the guy who is doing the talking, says, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” The problem with the PVUSD. Anyone reading this will say ‘well, that is true for many districts’ or ‘but your district is so big how can you expect such-and-such.’ To that, I say that PVUSD has run out of time to be operating on excuses. Planning and solutions can no longer just be tactical, reactive, and ad hoc. The Curriculum and Instruction department operate from its little silo imposing newer a better methods of data collection, otherwise, know as assessments. The department claims that students who take frequent tests are better at taking tests, like the SBAC. The Instruction Department functions as if a Chromebook is nothing more than an assessment tool for the Instruction department and not an opportunity for inspired teaching and learning experiences.
Where is the team effort? Where is the plan? PVUSD prides itself on having three separate school zones. This sort of separatist mentality is also evident at the District office. Silo-ism is the operation model Du Jour. (That’s right I just made the word silo into adjective and into an -ism, which is a verb) What is evident is the increased need for the head of Instruction to sit down with the head of Operations, which the Technology department falls under, and create a mutual document that would create a system plan on how to plan their system. It’s called EEA, Educational Enterprise Architecture. It’s a real thing, and districts all over the world do it all the time. My employer can’t keep doing what it did last year, which is what it was the same thing it was doing five years ago.
There is a gap between where we are and where we want to be. The district wants to be one functioning system. However, its culture and tradition built around acting as if it were three separate operating units and not one. SILOISM runs amok. Departments are entrenched, and each has their agenda. Until all stakeholders are involved in a single process to create unified method of planning for growth and expansion, the PVUSD won’t go anywhere.
The old saying is “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” I don’t know of any old saying for what to do if something is broken. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District also doesn't know of any saying for what to do when something is broken. The District seems broken and in need of repair. I have limited knowledge in Enterprise Architecture, or even AE Frameworks, but I know enough to begin to understand what a powerful endeavor EA can be.
If a model were to be made of how decisions are made in the PVUSD, it would be a mess. In my opinion, each department has the best intentions, but too many decisions are done in reactive isolation. Sure there might be a plan somewhere, like PVUSD’s Instructional Technology Use Plan, but as a teacher and a potential leader I know that plan is not followed. I know that some TOSA for the Curriculum and Instruction department are not Goolge competent. These are TOSA who are sent to train teachers on best instructional practices. Unfortunately, The Technology is still viewed, by many, as the wire-guys.
I have to believe that a complete look at all systems of the PVUSD would only help the district achieve whatever their goal is. My limited understanding of EA suggests that it is the process that PVUSD desperately needs. Stakeholders need to see how the district is ‘broken’ and understand how to the district can be fixed. I just hope I am not the only one who has heard of EA.
My current metaphor to explain TOGAF, ADM, and EA:
In math class, you show your work and in English all your work is invisible. The work of a school district's Technology Department is very much like the work in English class, all the effort in never seen. In the classroom, multiple platforms should communicate without effort. This effortless communication should occur at the school site level, too. But, with so many specialized needs communication is not alway guaranteed. Through beginning my own journey in Enterprise Architecture, I might begin to see the need where holistic strategies that could help my own school district (Bernard, 2012).
I am a teacher. I work in my little room, use a few programs on my Mac, and watch as students write on their Chromebook. Sometimes, the phone will ring, I send a kid to the office, and I mark down the absences in eSchoolsplus. On Fridays, I stay after school to enter grades into the computer. I could repeat this pattern every week and never see the invisibly connected infrastructure that supports all of these activities. The program that takes the attendance is the not same program that collects and keeps student grades. Macs are not Chromebooks and these two different machines require different support. I don't even want to know what is required, behind the scenes, to keep track of all student log-ins, from the Chromebooks to online programs like Accelerated Reader. When a teacher pauses to think about the invisible requirements that the modern day classroom puts on a district's IT department, the realization of the complexity of classroom technology can be overwhelming.
Now, as a Technology Liaison for my district, I have the ability to see the picture in a larger context. In fact, for several years now I have had the sole responsibility of running report cards for my entire school site. You see, our Learning Management Systems do not talk to each other. We have two LMSs, eSchoolPlus, and SchoolLoop. Teachers keep track of students grades and assignments in SchoolLoop, while eSchoolPlus is used everything else, including attendance. Every progress report and quarter grading period require me to download a .CSV file from SchoolLoop, change the file format in Microsoft Word, and upload revised .CSV file into eSchoolPlus. This downloading, revising, and uploading is done at every secondary site in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. In essence, report cards are still done by hand.
I am at the start of my exposure to Enterprise Architecture methodology and already I am left asking a lot of questions about how policies, procedure, and as Dr. Scott Bernard (2012) states "the battle of best practices" (Bernard, 2012, p. 35) plays out in my district. Let me give you an example that happened four days ago, on the first day of school. Let me set the stage, I have 38 students in my class, these are 6th graders new to our school. My task is to set the tone for the entire year and at the same time make the students feel welcomed and safe. I took the students for a walk around the school, pointing out important locations like the bathroom, and while walking two students are "play" fighting in line. I call both up to the front of the line, continue the tour, and when we return to class I wrote a letter home for both students. Later that day, one of the same students gets in trouble by not responding to me when called upon. I wrote a second letter home for this student. The second day of school at the kid with the two letters home is a no show. I look into his file and I find out that this student should be at another school site in a Special Day Class. I bring this matter to my school's new Assistant Principal, a former SDC teacher, and he informs me that the SELPA system does not talk to our district's LMS. I don't know much about EA but I have already recognized a problem EA could solve.
To put it plainly, "EA was described as being as both a management process and an analysis and design method" (Bernard, 2012, p. 49). The business of a school district is a complex and messy venture. Countless departments and school sites all have their own technological needs. Measuring success in multiple programs and processes is not always clear. The vicissitudes of public education make the planning for technology difficult at best. Perhaps EA is the process for success?
Bernard, S. A. (2012). An introduction to enterprise architecture. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.