What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

I have the great opportunity to work closely with six teacher leaders that specialize in technology integration.  Here is the starting line up (que up Chicago Bulls starting lineup music and atmosphere via mid to late 90’s)

Eastside Elementary – Jamie Lang – He has been on the EdTech scene for nearly 10 years and has a knack for enhancing K-5 classrooms with technology and always ready to test out new tech in the classroom. Blogging, Office 365, and Virtual Reality are just a few tools in his tech tool belt.

Eastside Secondary – Dave Vickery – Video instruction, STEM projects, Canvas Guru, and innovative thinker.  If your classroom needs a boost in engagement and ultimately student achievement, he is a go to. No idea is too big for Dave.

Northside Elementary – Laura Miller – She is ready to make a difference in K-5 classrooms and she will get the job done.  From Office 365 to Breakout EDU to Skype in the classroom, Laura is ready to integrate the 4C’s into your classroom instruction.

Northside Secondary – John Casotti – He is a Jack-of-all-trades when it comes to EdTech.  If you have an idea, he will make it come to life.  Minecraft, digital productions, and online learning are a few specialties.  His background in elementary ed adds an extra bonus for station rotation and small group instruction.

Westside Elementary – Layne Henn – Another veteran EdTech specialist, he has a niche for coding and technology toys in the classroom.  His enthusiasm for teaching and knowledge of EdTech will take a classroom from average to #FutureReady in no time.

Westside Secondary – Jenny Gasaway – If you are at roadblock in technology in the classroom, Jenny has a solution.  E-portfolios, TurnItIn.com, and Skype, are just a few of her specialties.  She has an eye for solid pedagogy and finding ways to use technology to add value to a lesson.

My descriptions of their skills and knowledge does not do them justice, they are a great group of teacher leaders to work with.  However, does having “Technology” in your job title come with misconceptions?  There have been a few discussions in the past few weeks that have made me think deeply about this very question.

  1. Does “Technology” in your job title lead people to believe your main job is to fix hardware and software?

A few iterations of the title are “Technology”  – Coach, Consulting Teacher, Specialist, or Integrationist.   Although the second part of the job title refers to the most important work this person will do, they may be mistaken for a person who primarily fixes technology. The tough part for individuals in this role is that they most likely know how to fix something, but they can do so much more.  Rather than asking “Can you fix this?” you can lead with “Could you teach me how to fix this and then help me use it better?”  If the tech issue is a barrier to further conversations and innovative lessons, then the issue can be fixed, but please extend to conversation to your technology leaders to learn more about integration and innovation.

  1. Is “Technology Integration” an outdated term?

Sioux City Community Schools have had the privilege to work with George Couros on multiple occasions and we have seen an increase in digital leadership that is directly related to his work.  He recently posed this question on Twitter, “Is “Technology Integration” an outdated term?” The responses that came in were very thought provoking. In today’s classroom, technology should not have to be integrated, but rather it should be embedded in our everyday curriculum, instruction, and assessment.  Technology tools and digital resources should be in every teacher toolbox, it is just a fine balance to strategically use technology to add value to your lesson and not just use it to use it.

  1. Do we need Technology Integrationists, Coaches, Consulting Teachers, or Specialists if teachers are already using technology in their classroom?

YES! YES! YES! And did I mention YES!  Everyone needs some support, some coaching, or some new ideas.  People in these positions, especially those mentioned above, hold something beyond skills in teaching with technology, they are innovative.  A technology (fill in the blank) often can see a lesson or unit with a different set of eyes.  They have a vision of what it can look like and they can make it happen.  Simply put, they can not only integrate technology into the classroom, but also provide students with opportunities to learn that would not be available without technology.  They can make content exciting and new, even if the content itself has not changed in years.  They make learning better.  We need them around.

Perhaps the job title should mirror the skills and knowledge a person in this position has. Innovation Consultant, FutureReady Coach, Master of Awesomeness.  I am not sure the best job title, but I do know the value of a person that holds it.  If you are lucky enough to have a technology integrationist/coach/specialist/consultant/etc as a resource, please collaborate with them and learn from them, or you may miss out on an opportunity to transform learning in your classroom.

Please leave your comments, feedback, and questions below.

To See or Not to See?

I am nearly three years removed from the classroom to pursue my adventures in teacher leadership, but the greatest memories from my career are still in the classroom. I became a teacher to make teaching different.  Not that all my education was a drag, but there were times where it didn’t meet my needs as a learner.  So, does being different make a difference?  In my “Being Different” blog posts I will share a few stories from my classroom where my teaching methods may have veered from the norm, and hopefully made a difference for my students.

The Day I Blindfolded My 9th Grade Biology Class

If you have ever had the honor to teach a 9th grade class, it is quite the experience.  Freshman have this relentless energy, social buzz, and new high schooler shine that can be a blessing in disguise if you can harness all of that for good.  Well at some point throughout the year I lost the reins and there was just a bit too much energy for me to handle.  The main thing that I noticed is that students enjoyed looking at each other.  Move students across the room, rearrange seating, change student groups, turn off the lights, station rotation, it didn’t matter at this point, if eye contact was made focus was gone.  Easy solution, eliminate eye contact and students will remain focused.  This is where the blindfolds came in.

My rationale for blindfolding my students did not simply come from my momentary struggle with classroom management, but also the rate of volunteer participation in class discussions.  We have all been in the position where we ask a question and crickets chirp.  Self-esteem, lack of confidence, fear of embarrassment, and social anxiety might play a part, but what if students couldn’t see each other, would that make a difference?  Well in this case I think it actually did!

But how did this all shake down you might be wondering?  It went a little something like this…

  1. “Hey students, we have a test today please put these blindfolds on so we can review.”
  2. Answer a bunch of strange question about what will and will not happen during this blindfolded time.
  3. Students put on blindfolds (I cut some dark fleece material into strips that could be tied on their heads that did a pretty decent job of blocking their vision.)
  4. After all of the blindfolds were on I began asking content questions or about key vocabulary terms. Here is an example.
    1. “Please raise your hand if you are NOT confident in explaining the term fitness in regards to natural selection.”
    2. Student who were not confident would raise their hand but I did not say anything or identify them. I simply said “Thank you, you can put your hands down now.” If no hands went up, then this was a formative assessment that the class felt confident with the content.
    3. Next, I would ask anyone who felt confident in explaining this concept to the class to please raise their hand.  I would give a student a high five or tap on the should and allow them to explain the concept.  Again no names were identified but a thank you followed.
  5. I continued step 4 until I had a chance for my students to lead the entire review.
  6. Remove blindfolds, give students a few minutes to readjust to the class and administer the exam.

Overall, I believe this was a great success.  I recall one student, who often struggled, commenting that this was one of the best reviews she had this year.  I do not have solid data, but I do recall the exam results being a bit better than those previous.  I can say with high confidence that this experience certainly was different and did make a difference. There was an increase in student participation, student acknowledging their confusion in content, and many students volunteering answers that normally did not.   However, for some reason I did not return to this method of review for the remainder of the year. I may have missed out on a great tool, or at least I could have gathered a little more data to see if there truly was a correlation between a blindfold review and student achievement.

Now I am not saying that every teacher who reads this should go out and blindfold their class, but do try something different.  Continue to make your class interesting and find out what works for your students.  Also, don’t be afraid to innovate.  I know teachers are always in a race against the curriculum, and it is easy to fall back on what you have done in the past.  However, every new year brings new classroom dynamics, new learner needs, and a clean slate to try something different.  After all, the art of teaching falls on the teacher’s ability to connect the curriculum to the learners in their room.  Perhaps a crazy idea, new approach, or just something a little different can make a huge different for your students.

Please leave your comments, feedback, and questions below.