Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kindergarten Goes Googly!

Don't underestimate the growth of a kindergarten student!

Mooresburg kindergartners have been on a fun-learning adventure! I was blessed to work with Jessica Drinnon (teacher) and 29 students as they fully embraced technology during the 2015-16 school year. The journey included Google docs to type stories & find supporting pictures, Google forms for assessments & data collection, QR codes for centers, Google Classroom to complete assignments & answer class discussion prompts, virtual reality with NearPod, and Padlet for Q&A, brainstorming & communication with other students. 

Is your head spinning?? Yes, kinders used all of these technology tools to support learning goals and no they are not privy to a full technology classroom. Full disclosure & the amazing part...
  • students are in a rural, low socioeconomic school (Title I)
  • majority of the students DO NOT have computer access at home
  • majority had never used a keyboard until entering kindergarten
  • classroom IS NOT 1:1 (1 device per child), in fact this is not even in the ball park
  • teacher had daily access to 5 computers in her class and a few iPads
  • students rotated to utilize technology
  • teacher scheduled the computer lab & used it when it was available
I point all of the above out because I have often heard...
  • I can't use a computer with young students because I don't have enough for all of them
  • the computer lab access is limited because I'm not a tested area
  • my students don't have computer skills
  • my students don't have technology access at home
  • my students lack keyboarding skills
  • my students are in a poverty area and learning to use technology is not feasible
  • I simply don't have time to teach by students technology integration because I have to teach my content

    Kinder group proves that lack of technology skills, limited access, and socioeconomic constraints aren't issues as long as a motivated teacher provides the inspiration and expectation!

As an Instructional Technology Specialist, I have goals for technology integration. They always start with the motivation level of the teacher because it takes a motivated teacher to integrate technology to support learning goals. Jessica probably thought I had lost my mind when I suggested Google Classroom. Yet, we grew together because she was willing to work with me and invite me into her classroom. She found a balance and infused technology to create a blended learning environment.

The students amazed us by taking each new learning activity in stride. Barriers were not a problem because the teacher didn't let them stop her from working with the students until they overcame them. The students encountered a few bumps along the way but you'd never know it because they persevered.We discovered that technology skills are developed when students regularly use technology as part of the learning process. Honestly, we never dreamed the students would do as well as they did but they rose to the expectations set by the teacher. More importantly, the teacher never gave up. This is significant because she chose to embrace new techniques and adjust pedagogy methods to include implementing technology. She didn't get discouraged and she gained inspiration from the students. 

Looking back, I can say the kinderpups rose above every challenge and embraced new learning ideas. All students were engaged in learning! They loved to "type" instead of "write". Did it take longer? Absolutely! Was it worth it? Absolutely! The kids were PROUD of their work! They were excited to demonstrate their Google skills during Camp Google on May 25, 2016. Plus, several ask their parents to let them use Google Classroom this summer. Yes, they want to "type" (aka write) over the summer! In my opinion, blended learning leads to engaged learners!! I was blessed to be a part of the process!

Read about Camp Google at:  

Thanks PCS for the kinder shirts & David Pauley/Greeneville City Schools for the Twitter cookie cutters that were used at Camp Google!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Top 5 Thoughts of Teacher vs I.T.S.

#1 Teacher: I'm well seasoned & you don't want to work with me...

I.T.S.: Age and years of experience truly don't matter to me! I want to work with a motivated educator who is open to suggestions and growth. The only educator that is to old to learn is one with a closed mind...age doesn't impact growth but mentality does hinder/support growth.

Teacher: I can't use technology because (enter tons of excuses)...

I.T.S.: I hear tons of excuses as to why people won't (not can't) use technology. I'll be honest and tell you that I nod and say I understand but I really want to say "can't never could but we can try together". Would we let a child who can't read make an excuse to never pick up a book? Bear with me, I'm not being ugly but I believe in being solutions oriented. Instead of being negative, let's work together to find a tool to enhance learning for your students. If you feel overwhelmed with what I suggest, stop me and say this is to much. I won't be offended. In fact, I'll appreciate the feedback because it let's me know that you are embracing a growth mindset that includes technology.

#3 Teacher: I'm terrible with technology, you'll think I'm stupid...

I.T.S.: Ignorance comes from an unasked question not from a lack of comfort. No one is innately terrible at using technology. It's easy to let fear or lack of exposure hold us back. It's hard for some educators to admit they struggle with technology because they fear they will look inept. You must practice to become comfortable with technology. I constantly tell teachers that they are the content experts because I freely admit that I lack the knowledge to know K-12 content in every classroom. Together, we make a great team! I honestly say that I'm good at what I do yet I'm constantly behind...after all, with technology, I wake up behind every morning. Since I freely admit it, does this make me inept? I don't think so, I think it makes me transparent. We are all good at some areas and we can all improve and grow together in other areas.

#4 Teacher: You grew up with technology which makes it easy for you to...

I.T.S.:  Unless you count the walk-man, I didn't grow up with technology. I do have an interest in technology and that means it stimulates me to learn and grow. As a parent, I see the world changing for my son. As a educator, I want students, like him, ready for their future. I want them to be able to register for college, participate in an online learning environment, and work in at a future company that may require technology access. This mindset motivates me to do my personal best to work with educators to introduce technology. I firmly believe we should meet students in the world they are growing up in and this means meeting their individual needs in a digital world. Students are entering schools accustomed to technology. They don't see technology as optional but it is becoming an expectation and we should meet them with a mindset open to new teaching method that infuse technology.

#5 Teacher: You don't want to work with teachers who struggle with technology...

I LOVE working with all levels of teachers, especially those that are changing pedagogy to infuse technology. I offer each teacher a suggested technique that I think will meet their needs. Once you master it, you'll see me again because my goal is to scaffold professional development to enable all of us to grow and that means I'll add to your technology knowledge base. I'll take any motivated educator...age and experience aren't relevant but motivation is the key!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Top 5 Myths/Reality

#1 Myth: I am at your school to fix technology...full disclosure, I'm to blame for this mindset

Reality: I am not a technician. When I first entered this position, I pigeon holed myself into the perceived technician role. When teachers had Promethean boards that didn't work or had a slight glitch with a computer or an iPad in distress, I did my best to remedy the problem. After all, I couldn't assist with technology integration if it didn't work. My thought process was in order to serve my educators, I had to ensure the technology worked. That being said, my favorite part of my career (and what it's really about) is to work with educators to utilize technology to support classroom learning goals, infuse technology tools into the curriculum and enhance student learning in a blended learning environment. I still occasionally fix technology because I want to be helpful but my primary goal is to infuse technology integration as a seamless part of the curriculum, not as option or as a reward.

#2 Myth: I expect educators to use technology all the time, for every activity...

Reality: I l
ove technology tools and devices! I get so excited that sometimes it enthusiastically leaks out! BUT I want educators to use technology to support learning goals, not because it's a shiny new toy. I firmly believe technology should enhance learning and support curriculum goals. Technology opens up the world to students!
My goal is to infuse technology into the curriculum because it enables student to complete projects in a way that is inconceivable with traditional methods. Yet, I truly believe you need a balance between traditional classroom pedagogy and technology integration. I feel strongly that all students need technology to function in today's technological world but that doesn't mean I think it's exclusive. If I mention 15 technology tools, I'm really hoping that at least 1 or 2 will work for you. My goal isn't to overwhelm you, it's to make sure that I am suggesting a variety of option because I want to meet your need.

#3 Myth: My students can't do...because of...

Reality: Students can achieve more than we can imagine. We are often the resistors and it's not because students lack the ability to achieve. It's because we lack a mindset to embrace change to step out of our comfort zone, especially when that change is scary. I started suggesting new tools and techniques for use with the kinderpups...the teachers ran with it. My thought, if kinders can do it, anyone can...I was surprised at how well they did!

Then the unforeseen happened. I believe in encouraging teachers and I was surprised when I heard teachers say, "that's not a tested subject so they have time to explore technology." I want to say, have you tried logging 25...age 5...students onto a computer when they not familiar with keyboards and have only recently learned to read. I refrain and smile while devising a plan of action to use technology with their content. Don't get me wrong, I take exception to these thoughts. BUT I understand they really stem from a lack of comfort and an uncertainty within the educator. The reality is that kindergarten is the foundation for all learning and we could learn from them. We have wonderful students that keep trying, they get frustrated but don't give up, they give honest feedback, they don't let a lack of access to technology or a lack of understanding the tool hold them back, and they ask for help. All of this would not be possible if I didn't have teachers who are open to infusing technology while embracing a growth mindset. These teachers are a blessing because they are Wonder-Woman style educators who transform education before my eyes!


#4 Myth: Learning has to be serious which requires lecture & book work...

Reality: A student having fun is participating in engaged learning. An engaged student takes an interest in learning and is less likely to be side tracked. Engagement can easily be accomplished with technology but also with group work, STEM projects and maker-space areas. As educators, we need to remember how to have fun with teaching and ask ourselves if we'd (realistically) want to sit through our own class. Chances are if you only use handouts and you are doing all the talking, this is a teacher centered class and not a blended learning environment. The positive, it's super easy to add infuse technology and it only takes you.

#5 Myth: Adding rigor means I need to add worksheets or book work...

Reality: Higher order thinking (HOT) comes from questions that require thinking (not a cookie cutter response), student discussion, project based learning, researching ideas, trial/error, and realizing that there is no such thing as failure if students are learning in the process. None of this requires a handout and technology integration can enhance the learning experience. I challenge each of you to be HOT educators!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Role as an Instructional Technology Specialist

Instructional Technology Specialist

As an Instructional Technology Specialist, my role is to remain positive, wear a big smile, add humor and laugh a lot in an effort to ensure learning is connected and engaging. My goal is to always be approachable and never be intimidating. I listen to teachers and I observe as these informal sessions can be used to gauge where I can be of assistance. Essentially, I am in the service industry. I provide a service to my teachers in hopes that it trickles down to students. I never want to overwhelm a teacher. I want to meet the needs of the classroom, teacher, school, and district and do my best to contribute to the education of the future leaders that we are teaching.  

Over the years, I have built relationships with several educators. I have learned that while we are all different, each us can be an attribute to education as long as we strive to do what's best for all students. I work with individual teachers/administrators and I enter classrooms for special projects (my favorite!). Yet, I have some teachers that aren't sure how I can assist them or they fear I will "make" them use technology and still others that think I'm a technician. I realize that expectations vary school by school because I wear many hats. I love the excited teachers that welcome me when I pop in to visit and embrace suggestions on technology integration tools. I love the nervous teachers that are still trying to determine where technology will fit within their teaching methods. I even like the challenge of the tech naysayers who still think technology may go away. I've learned that this group doesn't really hate technology, but they are simply not comfortable with it. What I don't like are misconceptions and uncertainty. I feel it's my job to bridge the technology gap and help educators feel confident to embrace technology.

With all this in mind, I consider myself optional...yes, I said optional. I can work with a teacher for days but I can't make them infuse technology. I have learned that technology is unique to the user and it has to apply to a teacher's goals plus be simple to infuse. I accept that some teachers feel technology is insurmountable. I understand that they really aren't negative. More times than not, this group needs personalized training and patience...just like our students. I remind myself that we're all different but we all can make a difference. 

Yet, I do wonder, how much of a difference can one person make?? There is one of me for 18 schools and my district is about 500 square miles. I stay busy and I work with tons of teachers on infusing technology into the curriculum. I stay swamped but I love it! I jokingly say that I am more popular now than I ever was in my youth. I have tons of teachers that contact me regularly and I am often stopped when I am in the building at any of my 18 schools. Principals infuse my role by asking me to conduct faculty training and this connection leads me to being contacted by faculty members. I plan, organize, and lead county wide professional development opportunities; again this provides exposure for technology integration. In addition, I present at local/state/national conferences and consult with other districts on technology tools and avenues for technology integration. While I feel in high demand from my "regular" educators, I often wonder exactly what do the educators that have never came in contact with me think I do and how do new teachers perceive me.  

When my services are requested or when I brainstorm after being inspired by fabulous educators, I run with it but like any educator. Yet, I wonder how I can effectively meet the needs of everyone...especially those that I've never met in person. With all of educators in mind, I strive to be a life long learner. I am a self-motivator and I have high expectations of myself. I think outside the box and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I am inspired by my teachers (especially the guinea pigs that are open to new ideas). I get discouraged too but I never let the pity party get me down long because I need to be the best me I can be in order to stay positive and assist educators. I do love technology and I believe it should be a seamless component of every classroom BUT I do not believe we're all the same. This means each of us must learn to infuse technology in a way that supports our specific curriculum goals.

As a former high school marketing teacher and college instructor, I had experience before I accepted this position but it didn't make me good at what I do. I'm good at what I do because I am inspired by educators who are open to new ideas and this encourages me to never give up. I'm good at what I do because my goal is to be a lifelong learner and I learn each time I work with an educator and each time I connect with my PLN. I'm good at what I do because I don't believe in failure but I do believe I learn every time I work with an educator or group of students. When something doesn't work out, I strive to find another solution and I grow with the experience. I am an educator first and a technology integrationist second because the technology has to support the student learning goals. In essence, my fellow educators, you make me strive to be the best me I can be.

I'm not Wonder Woman but I am empowered by growing educators!